|Volume 19 Number 7 July 2017||
The Christian and Angels
In today’s modern world, we hear a great deal of talk about angels, and it seems that much of it is without any real biblical basis. Part of the reason is that the Bible actually speaks very little about angels. They are mentioned quite often, but no text specifically teaches about angels, and little is actually said about their role in God’s plan. We hear few lessons on angels in the church. Consider the following thoughts on this subject.
First of all, we must realize that they are created beings; thus, they are not like God. Nehemiah wrote, “You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host” (Nehemiah 9:6). The host of heaven must include the angels; thus, they are created beings. We also read of the sons of God shouting for joy when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7). The sons of God must be a reference to angels since they were there when the earth and all its host (including man) was created. Angels are the servants of God with the power to do whatever God sends them to do. When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, an angel shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:22). Angels are not glorified human beings. Nothing indicates that when faithful children of God die, they become angels.
There is an unknown multitude of angels in existence. Jesus stated in Matthew 26:53 that He could have called twelve legions of angels to His aid. A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 men; thus, Jesus said He could have called 72,000 angels. While that number probably should not be taken literally, it does indicate that a vast number of angels are performing God’s service. The writer of Hebrews said that Christians have come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to an “innumerable multitude of angels” (Hebrews 12:22). In John’s vision, he said that the angels around the throne of God numbered “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11). It seems that angels are higher than man, because the writer of Hebrews writes that when Jesus became man, He was made “a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7).
One common misconception regarding angels is that they are females flying around with wings. This is likely due to the fact we generally consider women to be kinder and more compassionate than men; thus, angels must be female. In actuality, angels are spirit beings, and therefore, are sexless. Jesus spoke regarding the resurrection in Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”
Another misconception is that angels are always good, but that is not true either. Some were not satisfied with their proper duty and station, and God reserves great punishment for them at the Judgment Day (Jude 6). We find that Satan also has his angels, and hell fire is reserved for them (Matthew 25:41). In the Old Testament, there are several examples of angels punishing the disobedient (2 Samuel 24:15-16; 2 Kings 19:35; Numbers 25:9; Ezekiel 9). While they are exceedingly powerful, they are under the control of God. In 2 Samuel 24:16, an angel stretched out his hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, but God spoke and said, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 that Jesus will come again “with His mighty angels” and take “vengeance on those who do not know God.” The writer of Hebrews said that God used angels as His ministers to cleanse like fire (Hebrews 1:7). Thus, the common perception of kind, loving angels only helping people is not truly biblical.
Angels also have a love for lost souls. The angels in Heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). At the birth of Jesus, the multitude of the heavenly host praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Only a deep love for the salvation of mankind would produce such a response. Apparently, angels serve a function for God’s children who die. When the beggar died in Luke 16:22, the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom.
This brings us to our final consideration. What are the functions and duties of angels? Many have a conception that each Christian has a guardian angel. His purpose is to protect Christians as they go through life. If that were true, it seems that they are not doing a very good job, since Christians are continually plagued with misfortunes and accidents of various kinds and severity. However, angels do have a duty to render service to Christians, but we cannot be sure as to what that is. Angels ministered to Jesus at the major events of His life (e.g., temptation, Matthew 4:11; Garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:43). The writer of Hebrews asked regarding angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Furthermore, Jesus said regarding little children, “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” (Matthew 18:10). So we can safely say that angels do provide a service for us as God’s children, but we simply cannot be certain as to what that service entails.
They also stand before God and worship; however, they are not to be worshipped by man. At the end of the Revelation, John fell down to worship the angel who had revealed all the things within the Book of Revelation to him. The angel immediately admonished him, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). Thus, we see that as great as angels are, they are simply servants of God, just as we are. Only God is worthy to be worshipped.
While we may be somewhat fascinated by angels, let us not be distracted from our service to Christ. We should never be tempted to worship angels or magnify their greatness as if they are somehow similar to God. Nevertheless, this should serve as a sobering reminder to us, that “if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4), how much more will God punish us if we live in rebellion to His will?