Sunday, November 30, 2008

Angels, Our Allies

(Raphael, Michael the Archangel)
Are Angels real? Do they exist? If they exist, then were they once human beings? Can they reproduce or intermarry with us? With each other? How many are there? How are they organized? All of these and more questions are addressed here.
Rev John G. Paton and his wife were missionaries to the New Hebrides Islands off the coast of Australia, and found themselves surrounded one night be hostile locals who threatened to burn down their house and kill them. The Patons prayed all night, and in the early morning the locals suddenly left for no reason. A year later the chief decided to follow Jesus, and Rev. Paton asked him, what had happened that night. The chief, surprised, turned and asked, "Who were all those men?" Rev. Paton did not know. The chief continued, "Your house was surrounded by men in shiny garments with drawn swords, as if they were circling your house." They had decided not to attack because of that.
A man was a colporteur (seller of Bibles) in Persia, and one day a man confronted him, "Is it legal for you to be selling Bibles?" The man replied it was, and he was correct. But the accoster continued, "Then why are you always surrounded by soldiers?" The man objected, saying he was never accompanied by soldiers as he sold Bibles. The accoster continued, "Yes you are! Three times I have tried to kill you, but each time you are surrounded by soldiers, so I have decided not to kill you." That must have sounded reassuring.
Who were the men with swords at the Paton's hut? Who were the soldiers?
We're going to answer the questions "Who are angels?" and "How are they organized?" and finally "What do they do as our unseen allies?" Of course there are as many pages to fill as the hundreds of millions of "elect" angels Scripture speaks of, and we can't say everything here, so hopefully this will start someone in the right direction who is interested in studying this subject further from a Biblical point of view.
Also, we normally use one passage of Scripture and study it exegetically, but this is a topic of systematic theology, taking the entire canonical-biblical view of angels.
First, Who are angels? Do they exist?
Angels are a part of most ancient cultures and their religious beliefs, though known by various names. Some called them demons, aeons, genii, or a host of other names that describe spirit beings. Plato and Socrates believed in spirits, and Socrates claimed that a spirit accompanied him wherever he went.
The Bible mentions angels in over half the 66 books, at least 228 times, and if you include some passages on the Angel of the Lord it mentions them over 250 times. The Hebrew and Greek words for "angel" mean "messenger" in both languages. They are God's messengers for all His deeds, both helpful and for judgment. Jesus knew and taught on the existence of angels (Matt 18:10, “see that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of my Father who is in heaven,”[1] and 26:53, [Peter had removed a sword and cut off Malchus’ ear] “or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”) A legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers, so twelve times 6,000.
How did they come into existence? Are they former persons who have died? Or were they created? They were created by the Triune God—Col 1:16, “for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
When?—before the creation of the world (Job 38:6–7, [God speaking to Job about the foundation of the earth] “on what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”)
How?—created in holiness (Jude 6, “and angels, who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day”)
Do they have personality? Yes. They have the three (3) qualities necessary for being a person:
1) Intellect (1 Pet 1:12, angels long to look/ desire to look into how a human preaching the gospel through the power of the Spirit leads to salvation); 2) Emotion (Luke 2:13, a multitude appeared suddenly of angels, praising God!); 3) Will (Jude 6, “and angels, who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day”)
What is their nature? They are spirit beings (Heb 1:14, “are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”)
Reader’s Digest reported how Dr. S. W. Mitchell, a popular neurologist in Philadelphia (in 1970’s), came home and crashed on his bed one night after a long, exhausting day. He heard a knock on the door and answered it, to find a girl poorly dressed who told him her mother was very sick, and begged him to come with her. He was exhausted, and it was cold and snowing outside, but got his coat on and went with her. Upon arriving at the house he found her mother desperately ill with pneumonia, and was able to stabilize her and call for further medical assistance. Before leaving, he complimented the woman on the intelligence and persistence of her daughter. She looked at him strangely, and said, “My daughter died a month ago.” She added, “Her shoes and coat are in that closet.” Dr. Mitchell stood up, perplexed, and went to the closet the mother mentioned, and there hung the very coat worn by the little girl who had brought him to tend to her mother, only it was dry and warm.
Was this an example of an angel assuming the appearance of the woman's daughter, with all the angel was able to observe of that person, so that the mother could be healthy and trust in Christ? It is possible according to Scripture.
Continuing in "who they are," the Bible answers:
Can they reproduce? The Bible tells us they do not reproduce (Mark 12:25, “for when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven”)
They are masculine and in one instance feminine gender (Genesis 18:1–2; Zechariah 5:9 is debated, but probably female angels, two female angelic beings carry the scroll).
They do not die (Luke 20:36, [speaking how cannot marry or be given in marriage in the next life] “for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection”). So they cannot be persons who have passed on from this life to the next. They are distinct from human beings (Psalm 8:4–5, God has made man for a little while lower than the angels). Remember this when in certain Christian circles people like to taunt Satan, a fallen angel, one so powerful Michael the only Archangel would not engage him. James 4 tells us to resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Let God deal with Satan, and us deal with God’s kingdom. For we know that angels have great power (2 Peter 2:11, angels are greater in power and might than we are).

The next question is "How are they organized?"
First, they are innumerable. Hebrews 12:22 tells us, “but you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” Revelation 5:11 says, at the throne are 10,000 X 10,000. 10,000 x 10,000 = 111,110,000. That's hundreds of millions of angels that are around the throne, or "elect," or good angels, not counting those who fell with Satan (one third). There are many hundreds of millions of angels.
How are they organized? Michael is the only archangel named (Jude 9)
There are Chief princes, and territorial Angels (elect and fallen) over domains. Daniel 10:13, is one of the most insightful passages on angelic warfare. Gabriel explains his journey to arrive and answer Daniel’s prayer, “But the Prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for 21 days, then behold, Michael, one of their chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia”). Michael seems to have a special relationship to Israel (Daniel 12:1).
There are Ruling Angels (Ephesians 3:10, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”)
There are Guardian Angels (Hebrews 1:14, “are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”). There are angels who watch over adults and children as well. Matthew 18:10 “see that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of my Father who is in heaven”)

Last night when we were coming home from Thanksgiving weekend with family, we were driving on I-20 West, and suddenly a car approached us from the opposite direction in the same lane. I thought at first I saw it wrong, but sure enough it was coming at us 65 mph, as we were heading towards it 65 mph. I flashed my brights and it swerved into the next lane, and thankfully there were two West-bound lanes. We and others called the police and they corrected the driver. We didn't think much of at afterward, and my wife and I laughed, but then we thought of what could have happened. Angels assist God in helping all the time. One of our senior saints told me of how she almost ran into a grain cart on the highway after driving over a hill at 55 mph, and swerved into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid it, and fortunately there were no cars there. She doesn't know how she reacted quickly enough to swerve but it happened--all so fast. Angels are our allies, worshipping who we worship, serving who we serve, and assisting us as God commands to see God's mission of redeeming humanity accomplished, and God getting the glory.
There are Seraphim around God’s throne (Isaiah 6:1–3, Seraphim with six wings flying), and Cherubim, one of whom was placed with flaming sword to guard the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:22–24).
There are the Elect Angels (1 Timothy 5:21, there are elect or chosen angels—those who did not fall, but by Divine Decree were set apart as a remnant just as human beings are elect to be saved for God), and those who fell with Satan, the dragon in Revelation 12:4, “his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to earth.”
(revelation illustrated)
After seeing who angels are and how they are organized, the remaining question is "What do they do as our allies?" They worship who we worship, serve who we serve, and minister to us as believers.
They ministered to Christ, and we receive the blessing of their assistance only as we serve Christ as well. In a sense, we get our AAA rewards for life's roadside assistance (Angel, Angel, Angel) because we are associated with Christ.
For those who do not claim Christ, and are never going to, and are not of the elect, they get no “roadside assistance,” but only directions to the final judgment. The only angels you will see if you don't decide to accept God's mercy in Jesus, but decide instead to pay for your own sin yourself, are the angels pouring out God's judgment at the end. Creation is judged because we were given dominion over it, and our race sinned, and so all creation groans (Romans 8). Why suffer judgment in the end if you can escape it through trusting in Christ, that His death and resurrection pays for everything you owe?
The angels Predicted Christ's birth (Luke 1:26–33), announced it (Luke 2:13), protected the baby (Matthew 2:13), strengthened Christ after temptation (Matthew 4:11), prepared to defend Him (Matthew 26:53), strengthened Him in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43), Rolled away stone from tomb (Matthew 28:2), announced the Resurrection (Matthew 28:6)
Because of our serving Christ, angels also minister to us as followers of Jesus. They have a general ministry of aiding (Hebrews 1:14, “are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”). They Observe Christians’ experiences (1 Corinthians 4:9, “we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men”). 1 Timothy 5:21, our charge to use our gifts are made with angels as witnesses. Those who swore to lead and shepherd God's people, we have made that in the presence of angelic witnesses. It is not to be taken lightly.
They encourage in time of danger (Acts 27:23–24, “For this very night, an angel of the God whom I love and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid Paul, you must stand before Caesar and behold God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.”). They are interested in evangelistic effort of Christians (Luke 15:10 “they rejoice at one sinner coming to repentance!”). In Acts 8—Philip had assistance from APS—Angelic Positioned Satellite, an angel instructed Philip on how to find the Ethiopian Eunuch—south on the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza! Angels care for righteous at death (Luke 16:22—Lazarus the beggar was carried away by angels; Jude 9, the conflict between Michael and Lucifer was over the body of Moses).
Angels are seen praising God in Luke at Jesus' birth, announcing His resurrection after He was crucified for all the sin of those who will believe, and in Revelation 5 they still praise the lamb Who was slain! Are they interested in God's mission or what!
As I said earlier, the sad truth for any who reject following Jesus is that angels will only minister to you with God's judgment. They are messengers of God's judgment (Genesis 19:13, Revelation 14:6–7), inflict punishment (Acts 12:23), and act as reapers in the separation at end of the age (Matthew 13:39).
What should our response be to this posting on angels? If you already know the Lord, be encouraged, and remember these passages that show God has everything taken care of, and protects us and guides us. We don't need to focus on spirit beings, but on the mission of God's heart in reaching the lost people and training the found, and glorifying God. If you don't follow Jesus, start following Him today by confessing your sin and believing in what He did in His death and new life, and you will have new life too. Acts 16:31 says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." As Luke 15 tells us angels rejoice, make them throw a party for you today.

[1] All Scripture here is from the NASB version of the Bible, except for my own translations.

1 comment:

Dion said...

Great post. Loved that you referenced scripture throughout. Gives authority for something the world views as "spiritual" and "mystical".