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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

What Does it mean, 'Some Have
Entertained Angels Unawares?'

by Tony Warren

Hebrews 13:1-2
  • "Let brotherly love continue.
  • Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares".

    There are a few things we should understand when searching for the true meaning of this verse. Number one, the word angel here is the Greek word [aggelos], meaning messenger. It is not divinely inspired as angel, that is the anglicized form of the Greek word meaning messenger. It is also the exact same word that is correctly [u]translated[/u] messenger throughout scripture. Example:

Luke 7:24

  • "And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?"

That word that is translated messengers is the exact same word that is anglicized as angels in the New Testament. It's talking about human people, not angelic beings from heaven.

Number two, the word translated "entertain strangers" is the Greek word [philoxenox], meaning to be friendly to those who you don't know. It's taken from the root words [philos] meaning friend, and [xenos] which here means someone with whom you are not acquainted. This is the only place where this is translated entertain strangers, its normal translation is hospitality. This verse is declaring that we should always be hospitable or friendly to those who we do not know, because thereby some have entertained (or hosted) messengers. All believers and particularly Pastors are God's Messengers [aggelos], and some have been a guest of another believer who was unaware that they were the elect of God. The hospitality that Christians show should be to all men, that the love of God will be illustrated in their good conduct. In fact, that Greek word [xenos] in certain contexts can mean any of three things. It can mean a stranger (an alien or pilgrim), or by implication it can mean a guest (being a visitor in your household), or by extension it can mean to be a host (to entertain or be a host to a stranger to your household).

We can use the understanding of this word as a goad for us, that in all we do, we show forth the [agape] love or charity which Christ has shown to us. For we do not know in which of these roles we may be at any time. Whether a guest, or a host, or a stranger ourselves, in any role we find ourselves we should show God's love by being neighborly and benevolent. This is what is so often difficult for many Christians to do in our day. It's not coincidental that when we read of what is required of Christians, this Christ-like virtue is given a lofty platform.

Romans 12:13

  • "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality".

That is the exact same word [philox'enos] that is translated as "entertain strangers" in Hebrews 13:2. God is exhorting us to be friendly to strangers. As faithful Christians we are to have a gracious disposition and remain hospitable to all men. This is another way to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is especially needful to those seeking leadership in the church (as Bishops, pastors or elders). God demands that they must be a lover of Hospitality (-Titus 1:8, 1st Timothy 3:2). He must be friendly to strangers, gracious to those who he is not really familiar with. He must have the selfless charity or love of Christ in showing hospitality to those who he may come upon such as wayfarers, visitors, travelers or strangers. As the prophets of old would treat piulgrims as honored guests.

    I believe that the belief in some circles that these messengers in Hebrews chapter 13 refer to angels that come down from heaven is incorrect. Once the Holy Canon was completed, there are no more miraculous visitations and revelations through supernatural Angels of God come to earth. No revelations through miracles, through dreams, visions, tongues or any other supernatural manifestation. An angel speaking to you, or indeed to anyone else today would be a revelation, and indeed an addition to the word of God. No matter what he uttered, or how little he uttered, it would be a divine revelation from God. That's why they're called [aggelos] (Messengers), specifically because they conveyed the word from God to men. There are no more divine revelations by Angels or other supernatural or miraculous events. The message of God today comes from the scriptures "alone," revealed to us through the Holy Spirit of Truth that is dwelling within the regenerated. Sola scriptura! We are witnesses (messengers) testifying of that completed and revealed word. We can expect no revelation by an Angel visitation, a miracle or vision, until our Lord returns to earth on the clouds of glory.

1st Thessalonians 4:16

  • "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:"

Our Lord returns to earth at the end of the world, on the clouds of glory, with the voice of the Chief Messenger. The actual meaning of the Greek Chief Messenger is anglicized (as opposed to translated) here as Archangel. Christ is decidedly not a arch or chief angel, but He is the chief messenger, the prophesied messenger of the Covenant (Malachi 3:1). Likewise, we are His messengers in service to God under Him. Thus the meaning of us being mindful to be hospitable is that there are those who are elect of God (messengers) who we do not know are messengers. But we are to be friendly to all strangers, as some have entertained the messengers of God (the Elect) unaware. The same principle as Jesus put forth in Luke 30:36 when saying that we should be neighborly. We are to be kind and show forth the Grace of God in love to our fellow man. Both to the brethren, and to the stranger.

1st Peter 4:8-10

  • "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
  • Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
  • As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

In Christian love the faithful are to be congenial and courteous to his fellow man. As we have received, so we should be compassionate to give of ourselves rather than repine from such hospitality. We are obliged to be good stewards (caretakers) of the Grace that God has laid upon us, by reflecting that grace onto others. Indeed, true hospitality necessarily requires generosity as it is the selfless giving of ourselves in a way that naturally the flesh doesn't want to give. It requires the love of God, which is the greatest of all Commandments, and is born of the Spirit. Likewise, the second commandment is part and parcel of it, namely to love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 25:40

  • "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

What's the greatest good we can desire for the stranger? It is that he come to know Christ, as we know Him! There is no higher good that we can hope for. To show this bounteous nature of Christ in hospitality is to show the love of God as He did to the least of these. Now and then, one of these strangers is going to ultimately be an elect of God, a messenger (not angel) whom we are privileged to have entertained unaware. You may never even know He was elect, or who's life you affected by your kindness until that great day of the Lord. We don't need a thank you, nor should we fret or feel discontent against this obligation, as it is our duty as conscientious stewards to do this. We are ministers of God's benevolence and should always be prepared to give an answer for the reason of the grace and hope that is in us. With meekness and fear we show forth His hospitality toward us in brotherly Love.

Bring it to mind and never forget that Christian charity is also illustrated in our hospitality toward strangers! Even as seen in the prophets of old.

Hebrews 13:1-2
  • "Let brotherly love continue.
  • Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares".


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Copyright ©1999 Tony Warren
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