The word for angel in Hebrew and Greek means simply a messenger, and is employed in the Bible to denote any agent God sends forth to execute his purposes, be it a man, an impersonal agent or a spiritual being created by Him.
The word angel is also applied in the Bible to spiritual intelligent beings without the connotation of being a messenger from God, and in this sense we read, for example, of Satan having his own angels, rebellious spirits like himself (Revelation 12:7-9).
Angels are spirits, they are limited in time and space like man, but they are not limited by matter because they have immaterial bodies; like man's spirit, they are immortal. They are invisible to human eyes because of their immateriality, but on rare occasions God has given men, and even an animal, the ability to see them.
They are very numerous and are spoken of in the Bible as being of different ranks in dignity and power ( Zechariah 1:9, 11; Daniel 10:13; 12:1; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9). Whenever angels were actually seen by man it was always in a human form (Genesis 18:2; 19:1, 10; Daniel 3:25; Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10), and expressions such as "like the angels" (Luke 20:36), the titles that are applied to them and the fact that they are called sons of God (Job 1:6; 38:7) like Adam (Luke 3:38), seem all to indicate a close resemblance between them and man (Judges 13:6; Daniel 10:16).
The question asked and the verse of Scripture quoted at the heading of this article obviously concern angels only as spiritual beings identified as messengers (from God) to minister to men. We shall therefore limit our comments to these from here on.
Like other verses of Scripture which are somewhat isolated in that they are not explained in any other part of the Bible, there is more than one view on the scope of this verse, depending on who is meant by "those who will inherit salvation".
It can be argued that the salvation mentioned here isn't necessarily the salvation of one's soul: this is not inherited but given by the grace of God to those who believe in the Lord Jesus, and these have salvation now whereas the verse refers to those who in the future shall inherit salvation. On the basis of this argument some sustain that this verse is looking forward to the time when God turns again to the nation Israel, and to the gentile world (after the church is removed from earth). Israel as a nation will be saved, as heir to the promises made to their forefathers, and angels minister for them.
Others sustain that salvation lies in the future also for those who are saved by faith; it is yet to be inherited even if its blessings can already be enjoyed in anticipation. It is that salvation spoken of by Paul which is now "nearer to us than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11) or, in Peter's words, is "ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5).
In the absence of further explanation of the scope of the ministry of angels mentioned in this verse, we must rely on the examples given in Scripture of the action of angels on the lives of men, particularly in the New Testament, to try to understand their ministry.
In the Old Testament there are many mentions of angels, spiritual messengers from God to men and seen by them. There are some cases where the Angel of the LORD is doubtless a manifestation of the Divine presence, "foreshadowing of the incarnation," a revelation before the "fulness of the time" of the Son of God (e.g. Genesis 16:7-11, 18:2,22; 32:24-30, Joshua 5:13-15).
In the widest sense angels are agents of God's providence, but they are specially concerned in carrying out His great work of redemption. There is no notice of angelic appearances to man until after the call of Abraham. From that time onward there are frequent references to their ministry on earth (Genesis 19; 24:40; 28:12; 32:1). They appear to rebuke idolatry (Judges 2:1-4), to call Gideon (Judges 6:11, 12), and to consecrate Samson (Judges 13:3). From the days of Samuel angels generally appear to prophets (1 Kings 19:5; 2 Kings 6:17; Zechariah 1:12; Daniel 4:13, 23; 10:10,13, 20, 21), yet the Gentile king Nebuchadnezzar was given the opportunity to see one (Daniel 3:25).
In the New Testament the incarnation of Christ introduces a new era in the ministry of angels: they come with their Lord to earth to do him service while here. They predict his advent (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-38), minister to him after his temptation and agony (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43), and declare his resurrection and ascension (Matthew 28:2-8; John 20:12, 13; Acts 1:10, 11). The Lord said that, if he wished, he would ask the Father and He would send more than twelve legions of angels to defend Him from his aggressors (Matthew 26:53): but He had to suffer in the hands of men, according to Scripture, to fulfil his mission, so He didn't do so.
Whilst on earth, having called near a child, Jesus set him in the midst of his disciples and said to them: "… Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost." (Matthew 18: 10,11). He warned against despising children, as God has angels employed before His presence to minister for their good within the purpose of His design to save that which was lost.
The Lord Jesus also told us that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10). Angels are involved in God's plan of salvation and there is joy over the repentance of every sinner, and when he dies they bear his soul to paradise (Luke 16:22).
After His resurrection, "Christ is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." (1 Peter 3:22, Revelation 22:9,16). He employed the ministry of angels to deliver His apostles from prison and danger (Acts 5:19, 12:7-11, 27:23); He also employed them for taking the message of the Gospel to the eunuch of Ethiopia and to the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 8:26 and 10:3-11:13). We won't know the full extent of the work angels now do until we get to heaven.
The instances of assistance by angels to men in the book of Acts is an indication that they do indeed minister to the saints of the church of Christ. We are told "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels." Hebrews 13:2. The writer probably had in mind cases like the experiences of Abraham, Lot and Gideon, but leaves a suggestion that this could happen again with anyone of us, encouraging us to practise hospitality.
When seen, angels were not always recognised for what they were. More importantly, as spirits, they can carry out their work for God effectively yet unseen by people. There have been rare instances where people have felt the presence of angels protecting them. Certain events have happened where, for example, enemies of the Gospel have suddenly been diverted from their evil purposes against God's people without a plausible reason, or what might have been a fatal accident was prevented by a providential "coincidence". We shall never know for sure whether angels were involved.
One day the Lord will return in glory with His angels, to start His kingdom on earth. His angels will then begin another aspect of their ministry: the removal and punishment of the ungodly who will be alive in the world at that time: "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:41,42). Thus the angels will open the way for a good beginning of the thousand year kingdom.
Many suppositions are made, confusing reality with imagination. If we are wise, we shall limit ourselves to what God reveals in His Word, which is specifically appointed for us.