What Was the Purpose of the Angels at Jesus’ Tomb?

During key events in human history, these periods have often been marked by celebration or recognition. For instance, when a king or queen rose to the throne, an elaborate coronation event normally took place.

Likewise, at certain periods in a country or nation’s timeline, people will announce and celebrate the coming of a bicentennial or centennial. Such pronouncements often herald in new ages of change and development.

This presence of fanfare and recognition at key eras in human history is reflected in Scripture as well. In the Bible, angels are often visibly present as God ushers in new epochs.

In many such instances, angels not only serve as witnesses to the events but often have active parts as messengers from the Lord.

At Jesus’ resurrection, the angels served as witnesses to the importance of Christ’s bodily resurrection as well as messengers to the women that He had risen.

Angels as Witnesses at Major Events in History

One of the purposes of angels being present at the tomb was to show the significance of Jesus’ resurrection since angels are described as being present at major events in the Bible.

For instance, Scripture teaches that at the creation of the world, the newly created angels observed God’s work and shouted for joy (Job 38:4-7).

Later, after the Fall of man, cherubim angels, were stationed to guard the Tree of Life against possible thievery from mankind (Genesis 3:24). At the giving of the Mosaic Law, another major event in the Bible, angels were present.

Scripture even indicates that angels were involved in giving the Law (Galatians 3:19). At Christ’s birth and during His ministry, angels would appear (Luke 2:8-15; Matthew 4:11).

During the beginning years of the Church, a new period in human history, angels were very active (Acts 8:26; 12:11).

In the future, they will be involved in the Tribulation period and will be present at Jesus’ Second Coming (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 8-11).

The presence of angels in the Bible signals important, miraculous, and life-changing events. Angelic appearances should serve as “red flags” to readers of Scripture that something important is happening.

This was the mindset of individuals in biblical times, as they recognized the uniqueness of the presence of angels because it was and is uncommon for angels to appear to people.

Mary knew God was doing something special when an angel appeared to her with the message that she would bear a child as a virgin (Luke 1:30-31).

Likewise, the women followers of Christ knew a miraculous event had taken place when they saw the angels at the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-9).

Therefore, it is no surprise that angels were present at the resurrection of Christ, for it was the most important event in history and is the foundation of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:14-20).

Just as angels had been present at Christ’s birth, so also were angels supernaturally present at the resurrection to mark the significance of the event.

Angels as Messengers

Another purpose for the angels’ presence at the tomb was to deliver the message of Christ’s resurrection. The angelic job of acting as messengers is quite evident in Scripture. In fact, the word “angel” in Greek means “messenger” (Strong’s Greek Concordance: 32).

Interestingly from this word derives the term “evangelism” where the gospel message is vital. Throughout the Bible, people encounter angels who deliver them a message.

For instance, the angel Gabriel delivered prophetic messages to Daniel about the future (Daniel 8:15-26; 9:21-27). Similarly, in the New Testament, Gabriel delivered the prophetic message of Christ’s birth to Mary (Luke 1:30-32).

At the resurrection, an angel delivered glorious news. As Matthew 28:5-7 states,

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you” (NIV).

The women heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection and became some of the first people who spread the Good News that Christ had risen (Luke 24:5-10).

Angelic Involvement at the Resurrection

All four gospel accounts describe angels at the tomb where Jesus was raised. Although many Christians are familiar with the events of the resurrection and angels declaring that “He is risen,” the appearance of the angels invoked fear and wonder into the onlookers.

For the pagan Roman soldiers, the earthquake and appearance of an angel rolling away the stone from the tomb was enough to cause them to faint (Matthew 28:4).

The women who visited the tomb on the day of Jesus’ resurrection were also afraid of the angelic visitors (Luke 24:5). In fact, the women were so frightened by the angels that they left the tomb trembling (Mark 16:8).

Because of the fear of the women followers of Jesus, the angels had to reassure them by stating, “Do not be afraid …” (Matthew 28:5). Fear was a common response to the appearance and presence of God’s angels.

Obviously, the angels did not merely appear to cause fright among the Roman soldiers or the women followers of Christ. Their presence showed the significance of the resurrection.

Not only that, but the angels also reminded the women about Jesus’ own words, in which He had prophesied His own resurrection (Luke 24:6-7).

At the resurrection, the angelic messengers delivered the most important message about the greatest event in all of history: Jesus had risen from the dead! (Matthew 28:5-6; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).

The Presence of Angels Is Significant

Although there is nothing in the Bible, which specifically states why the angels were present at the tomb, based on what is known in the rest of Scripture, the presence of angels is significant.

Throughout the Bible, angels appeared during major, historically changing events, such as when God created the world and delivered the Law to Moses.

Their appearances were so rare that a person would know something significant was happening when they saw an angel, which usually incited fear in the individual.

Jesus’ resurrection is central to the gospel message, and the angels were present at the empty tomb to give credence and testimony to the fact that He had indeed risen.

The reason that Jesus’ body was gone was not because it had been taken or moved, but rather His crucified body was gone because He had risen from the dead.

Because the angels were at the tomb, the onlookers knew this was an act of God, as the rest of the New Testament affirms (Acts 3:15; Romans 4:24; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:21). As a new epoch in history, Jesus’ resurrection was confirmed and announced by God’s angels.

For further reading:

What Are All the Names of Angels in the Bible? 

Why Didn’t the Disciples Recognize Jesus after His Resurrection?

Do We Know When Angels Were Created?

What Do Angels Look Like?

What Does the Bible Say about the Angel Gabriel?

What Is the Fear of the Lord?

Why Do We Say ‘He Has Risen’ During Easter?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/rudall30


Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.   

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