For decades I have enjoyed toying with the idea that those mysterious, invisible, multi-dimensional beings called angels look upon men with curiosity. I have wide-eyed wonder to think that perhaps I have entertained them without knowing it. I speak here specifically of that verse in Hebrews 13:2.
But what is this verse actually saying? Is it implying at all that humans have visiting angels in human form and we don’t know it? Are angels visibly in our midst?
Angels in Our Midst
While I would like to think, and have liked thinking in the past (I often treated vagabonds and homeless people kindly aware that perhaps they could be angels in disguise), that from time to time angels are in my presence in human form chuckling to themselves as they remain unnoticed, I feel the need to examine this passage a little closer.
Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
In context, Paul (the alleged author of Hebrews, though no one knows for sure) is giving direction in Hebrews 13 of what pleases God. We see him whistle-stop topics while he covers a multitude of behaviors all ranging around brotherly love. We are encouraged to “desire to act honorably in all things.”
The Purpose of Entertaining Angels
With this in mind, as Paul directs us to have the good of our brothers in Christ before us, can we assume he is literally speaking of entertaining angels in verse 2? Even when this text doesn’t say or have anything to do with angels and their presence in our midst? It seems like such a trite thing to mention. What purpose does it serve?
We can read in the Old Testament about Abraham having an encounter with three angels where he sat them down in his tent, washed their feet and gave them food and water. Two of these three angels proceeded to visit Sodom and Gomorrah and spared Lot and his family from the doom of those cities.
Even so, with further investigation, I think this passage in Hebrews is not talking about possible visits from heavenly beings. Actually, looking upon the aforementioned visit of two angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, we can get a further clue. Keep in mind, it is good Bible study practice when a verse or group of verses don’t make sense to us in Scripture, we should refer to other passages in the Bible. We should use the Bible to answer itself.
Showing Hospitality to One Another
Let us consider the culture during the time of the writing of Hebrews, as well as that of the Old Testament. People did not travel like we do today. In fact, up until thirty or forty years ago people certainly don’t travel like we do today.
There were no discount coach trips, package holidays or airplanes. There were no trains or automobiles. Or really even hotels to accommodate passers-by. And I think this is where entertaining angels comes in to play.
Paul was encouraging believers to show hospitality to one another. He was not simply saying we should have one another over for dinner. His intent was farther reaching.
Entertaining Angels…or Not
Some Bible scholars today would even say that Paul is merely saying that if we welcome strangers into our home, meet their physical needs, sit them down and fellowship with them, they might in turn be someone extra special and spiritually bless us beyond belief.
Others take the passage more literal and believe that God has the means of sending angels down in human form so they can interact and serve humans. And still some say the “some” mentioned in verse two is referring to Adam and Lot. They are the “some” that have entertained angels unawares. With this in mind, we are encouraged to welcome strangers like they did.
The Word Revealed in the Holy Canon
There are those who believe that once the Holy Canon was complete, and the Word was revealed, there was no need ever again for angels to come down to appear before men. In fact, they believe any visible angelic form is not to be taken lightly and is not a heavenly being at all but an apparition.
The word “angels” in verse 2 in Hebrews 13 is understood by them to be better translated as “messengers” from the Greek word “aggelos.” In this context, then, we should show hospitality to strangers because God may have sent them to us directly to give us a message. If we turn them away, we turn away God’s word meant specifically for us.
In either case, whether it is showing hospitality to angels or to messengers, it is an exciting concept! God has a plan for me; He wants to be actively involved in my life! I like that!
So, I figure whatever stance I might take on this, I will come up a winner. At the very least, I am reaping rewards in heaven for sharing with strangers and showing hospitality to them. Jesus did say in Matthew 25, “…To the least of this you did it, you did it unto Me…”
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…