In this series the nature of angels has been examined. To review, the angels are created beings, spiritual beings, personal beings, super-human in strength and intelligence. Angels are an order of being that is distinct from man, separate from man, entirely different from man. Angels constitute a company rather than a race. They’re not a race as each one was created separately and individually. There are tremendous numbers of angels and they are highly organized, both God’s holy angels and the satanic order of beings.
It was also previously noted that there are different orders of spiritual beings, that not all beings in heaven are angels. There are other orders of created beings such as the cherubim, who bear some similarities, yet are quite different from the angels. The cherubim possess unusual features in that they had four faces and four wings. It was the prophet Ezekiel’s record of them (chapter 1) that described them as possessing four faces and four wings. Yet in a later chapter (chapter 41), he mentions the cherubim again, but in this account he observed only two faces and four wings.
Does that mean there is a biblical error?
People are always ready to say, “You see, the Bible contains a mistake! The Bible contradicts itself. Over there they’ve got four faces while here they have two.” Beloved, all one need to do is look at these things with a little spiritual wisdom and one readily perceives that there are different kinds of cherubim. Some have four faces while others have only two faces. There are things in heaven that are just beyond man’s comprehension and grasp. God allows only modest glimpses into the spiritual realm and the created beings. As much as I’ve studied, my mind still has a difficult time picturing a four-faced being with four wings who never turns around to change direction. We can, however, agree that these are impressive creatures, endowed with special abilities. Perhaps they are so designed in order to more quickly respond to and carry out God’s orders. That’s precisely what the cherubim do, in addition to acting as the divine guardians of God, guardians of His holiness.
The magnificent seraphim with their six wings were also discussed. Although they are somewhat similar to men in bodily appearance, yet they are also quite different. The seraphim are winged creatures that fly over the throne of God declaring God’s majesty, rejoicing in His attributes — leaders in the worship and glory.
II. THE NUMBER AND ORGANIZATION OF ANGELS (continuation)
D. The Moral Character of Angels.
All of the angels were created holy.
God saw everything that he had created, and, behold, it was very good…. [Gen. 1:31]
All that God created was perfect, holy and good in the beginning. God, being perfect, possessing all of His attributes in perfection, is incapable of producing evil or creating anything evil. All that He created was good; it was right. The angels were created good, i.e., moral and pure. When God created man, man was good. He wasn’t defiled, fallen or sinful. God, however, did not create robots.
As expressed in earlier studies of some of these doctrines, God created both men and angels as free moral agents, giving them the right to make choices. Whom does one serve? One can obey God or disobey God. God did not create man as a robot who lacks the ability to make choice(s). Robots are controlled by their operator and follow what they’re programmed to do. God didn’t make the highest form of His creation into objects unable to make choices, but made them free moral agents with the ability to choose to serve God or rebel. Man can choose to obey God’s Word or disobey.
The same situation was true with the angels in that they were given freedom to choose. They could be holy; they could obey God or they could follow the example of Lucifer and some did. All of the angels were created holy and there were none that were not created good. They had a choice to obey or disobey just as man did, but some of them made unwise choices and sinned, falling from their state of innocence.
Theologians like to talk about the state of innocence because when man began with Adam and Eve, man was innocent. He didn’t even know he was naked. His mind was not polluted, defiled or corrupt. The same was true with angels; they were innocent and undefiled. All the angels were originally holy, righteous, pure and just. All that God created was good, but some angels fell from their state of innocence, with Lucifer being the first. The Bible says that Lucifer yielded to the temptation of pride. He exalted himself above God and in his rebellion, some of the angels followed him. That topic will be dealt with later in this study. Suffice it for now to look at this passage:
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (the Greek word there is tartarus which is some sort of prison for fallen angels), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment…. [2 Pe. 2:4]
This scriptural passage speaks of the angels that sinned. Some sinned, some fell with Lucifer. Another passage found in the small book of Jude also speaks of those angels that sinned, who did not keep their own beginning but they left their proper habitation.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. [Jude 1:6]
These angels fell from the state of innocence and sinned. It is their moral character being considered. While all were created holy, some did sin. Let’s also point out, however, that most maintained their innocence. The vast majority remained faithful to God. Both good and evil groups of angels now exist.
E. The Ministry of Angels.
Angels exist and live among us; one might say they’re right alongside. The angels interact with men, far more than most realize. Someone has said that our closest neighbors are the angels, not the people next door or in the apartment upstairs. It’s an intriguing thought and the Bible appears to confirm that the angels are always present, interacting with men. The appearance of angels appears far more often in the Bible than men take note of. It appears to be something one is prone to overlook. One usually tends to think of angels as an Old Testament phenomenon but in reading the New Testament, one notes that angels put in frequent appearances. Angels are at work far more often than one realizes and many times their ministry is overlooked.
The Employment of Angels — What’s Their Job?
Just what do the holy angels actually do? As frequently depicted in artistic interpretations, do they simply lie about on clouds and play harps? Fortunately, knowledge concerning their activities is available to us through God’s Word. It is known that they worship God and always stand in His presence. The angels extol God’s greatness and continually declare His attributes and His perfection. Day and night, the seraphim declare, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.
From previous studies, it is known that the angels rejoice with God. They rejoice with God when He rejoices because their hearts are united to the heart of God. They rejoice with God over the sinner that repents.
…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. [Lk. 15:10]
The angels rejoiced when God created the world.
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? [Job 38:7]
As God flung the stars and the planets into space, at this display of His omnipotence, the angels rejoiced.
It is beyond man’s ability to imagine that God who is spirit, Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God that the book of Colossians says created all things, simply spoke the worlds into existence. That’s very difficult for man’s small, finite mind to conceive but that’s precisely what the Bible says happened. God said, Let there be…. and there was! He said, Let the earth exist…. and there it was! The angels were present when God spoke the entire universe into existence and they rejoiced at this display of divine omnipotence, (BTW do you think God Needed to speak for everything to come into existence? Or could the Almighty have done it with pure thought.) That the angels rejoice with God is known, however, there is more to be examined concerning their varied ministry.
1. The angels often appear as spokesmen for God.
The angels often appear as divine messengers, i.e., spokesmen for God, messengers from God. This is particularly true in the New Testament. For example, in Luke, chapter 1, an angel appears to Zacharias, the husband of Elisabeth, both of whom are well along in years. As Zacharias goes about his priestly ministry in the temple, the angel Gabriel appears to him. Let’s take time to note that this Gabriel is one and the same angel that appeared to Daniel in the Old Testament. He now appears in the New Testament, hundreds of years later but unaffected by age. The angels never age; they don’t die.
Gabriel has been dispatched to bring God’s message to Zacharias, saying that God has heard his prayers and that he will father a son. Now Zacharias is an old man at this time and questions saying, How is this going to be? In the natural, Zacharias and his wife were well beyond their childbearing years. In response to the doubts of Zacharias, the angel said:
And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. [Lk. 1:20]
God’s word is certain and Elisabeth bore a son whom the couple named John as the word of God had directed through the angel. Known to all as John the Baptist, he grew to be a mighty prophet of God. The point here is that angels serve in the role of messengers. As spokesman for God, Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and told him, This is what is going to happen. God sent me here to tell you this — to give you this message.
An angel also appeared to Mary, giving her a message concerning the child she was going to bear. Now it took an angelic appearance to present such a message. One can only imagine the impact on a young unmarried woman who has never been with a man. Then suddenly this angel appears telling her:
…The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. [Lk. 1:35]
Mary’s response to the angel’s announcement was quite different from Zacharias’ response. Zacharias wanted explanation as to how this was going to happen, but Mary’s response was:
… Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. [Lk. 1:38]
Mary’s submission to the will of God was immediate. That’s the way one’s response should be when God makes profound promises. One’s response should never be, “What! How’s He going to do that? Explain that to me.” One’s response should always be, “Lord, let it be unto me according to thy word. Just as you said it — let it be.” That’s the response that God desires.
The angel also had to appear to Joseph because one can imagine what his response was when he found that his future wife was going to have a baby and he knew that he wasn’t the father. He was going to put her away, the Bible says. He was going to privately break their engagement because he was a just man and didn’t want to make a public display of her. The angel came to Joseph in a dream giving him assurance that Mary had not been unfaithful to him.
… behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. [Matt. 1:20]
the angel appears in the role as spokesman, a bearer of divine tidings.
Another passage where an angel appears as spokesman or messenger from God is found in Luke, chapter 2. At the outset of this series of messages, we said that the Greek word angelos (angel) actually means messenger. It can mean either a divine messenger or a human messenger, depending on the context.
In Luke 2, the account is that Joseph had to go to his home town in order to be taxed. Mary accompanied him, but when they got to Bethlehem, there was no room available at the inn so they have to stay in the stable. Use your imagination to picture what the stable was like. The Christmas nativity scenes make everything appear so clean and unblemished, etc., but have you ever been in a stable? Have you ever been in a stable at night when it’s full of horses, donkeys and camels, etc.? If the inn was filled and packed with people, be assured that the stable was filled with their animals also.
There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [Lk. 2:8]
It is also obvious that the time wasn’t December 24th or 25th because the shepherds wouldn’t have been in the fields that late in winter. Both shepherds and sheep would have frozen to death. At any rate, I don’t want to preach that now. Suffice it to say it’s not wrong to celebrate Jesus birth at some time in the year…
…the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. [Lk. 2:9]
The scene depicts shepherds in the fields watching over their sheep. Sometime during the night an angel suddenly appears to them.
10…the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly (As the angel makes his announcement — he’s a spokesman for God — as he announces the great tidings) there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men. [Lk. 2:10-14]
As the angel finishes his message to these shepherds, all of heaven appears to open with a gigantic angelic choir joining in the praise. Just try to picture this scene for a moment. Back in the 1700’s when Charles Wesley was reading this passage of scripture, it became the inspiration for the song which he wrote, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Today people have adapted it for a Christmas carol but it wasn’t written as a Christmas carol. The words and melody came to Wesley by divine inspiration. It’s a blessed song. “Hark, the herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies. With angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
I can just picture the heavens rolled back and angels everywhere rejoicing at the birth of Christ. Here again, the angels appear as spokesmen, i.e., divine messengers bringing great tidings, glad tidings that will be to all people. “God and sinners reconciled.” The multitude of angels appears rejoicing and praising God.
In Matthew, chapter 2, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him to take Mary and Jesus and flee into Egypt. Herod was plotting to kill the one born King of the Jews as he wanted no one becoming a threat to his throne. It was at that time that he ordered all the children in Bethlehem less than two years of age to be killed. An angel brought the message to Joseph to flee to Egypt with the child. Joseph wisely obeyed and remained in Egypt until Herod died. Once again, the angel appeared as a messenger with tidings from God.
Another passage found in Acts, chapter 10, reveals that an angel appeared to the Roman soldier, Cornelius. The Bible describes him as a man who prayed always. Cornelius was very devout, seeking God in his heart. Although he was an unsaved heathen, Cornelius had a heart after God. He wanted to know God and diligently sought God through prayer. An angel appeared to Cornelius telling him, Send to the city of Joppa for Peter. Send for Peter and he will come to you and give you the message of eternal life. Cornelius complied and immediately sent men to Joppa to obey the angel’s direction. The angel appeared as a spokesman for God with the result being that Peter came to Cornelius’ house and preached the word to him and all his family and household. As Peter preached, the Holy Spirit fell on them, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit. As they began to speak in tongues, Peter was astonished because these were Gentiles receiving the Holy Ghost! Peter was under the impression that this message was only for the Jews, but an angel gave him direction.
This passage in Acts 10 is a good response to all those who come saying, “Well, I think God’s unfair because He’s going to send those people in India, Timbuktu, or Indonesia, or Pango-pango, He’s going to send them to hell and they’ve never had an opportunity to hear the gospel. They’ve never heard the name of Jesus preached to them and God’s just not fair to send them to hell.” The Bible reveals that if people have a heart for God, if people truly seek after God, if they search for Him with all their heart, God says that they will find Him. If He has to send an angel to them, He will. God will do whatever it takes. If they have a heart for God, they’ll find God. If they want to know God, God will send an angel if that’s what it takes to give them the gospel. God will send them where they can get the gospel or send for a modern-day Peter. Perhaps He will send for you. This I know, God is not unfair. God is righteous and just in all that He does and if people want to know God, He’ll make a way for them to know Him. Of that one can be assured. Again, the angels appear as spokesmen, divine messengers, who came to Cornelius with the message, Here’s how you can be saved. Send for Simon Peter.
A few chapters over in Acts, chapter 27, an angel appears to Paul while he’s on a ship — a sinking ship at that. They’ve been on board a ship for some two weeks and the ship is in the midst of a storm. The ship is sinking in spite of their efforts. In order to lighten the load, the crew has thrown everything overboard, all cargo, etc. Yet the ship is going down, when an angel appears to Paul, saying:
Be comforted, the ship is going to sink but everybody who stays with you is going to be saved. Paul’s response was, 25Be of good cheer; an angel of God has spoken to me and said we’d all be safe even though the ship is going to sink. And Paul says, I believe God. I’m just going to believe God’s word that even in the midst of all this storm and rough seas and even though it looks like we’re perishing and the ship’s sinking…. [Acts 27:25]
Natural circumstances would appear that Paul and all on board were “done for.” But Paul said, I believe God. Again, the angel appeared as a spokesman with a very comforting message to Paul at precisely the right time.
The employment or ministry of the angels is that of spokesmen for God, bearers of divine messages. That’s how they appear throughout the Bible.
2. The angels minister to the saints.
The angels offer protection, give assistance, bring deliverance, and provide aid or help. The role of the angels includes ministry to the saints. The Bible has this to say about the role of angels:
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? [Heb. 1:14]
Angels are sent forth by God to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation, or as Williams translates it:
They are sent forth to serve for the sake of the elect. [Heb. 1:14, Wms.]
That’s a powerful verse revealing that God dispatches His angels to minister to those who shall inherit eternal life. They minister for God to those who will inherit eternal life, offering protection and preservation. Many can remember personal past experiences of having had a narrow escape, possibly even barely missing death. In retrospect, we wonder how we missed being killed in some near tragedy. These incidents could have even occurred in the days before salvation, but remember:
Known unto God are all of his works from the beginning of the world. [Acts 15:18]
God knows the end from the beginning. He knows. You were chosen for salvation from before the foundation of the world. God knows who is going to be saved and He preserved us even back in B.C. (Before Christ) days. It should not surprise us that angels are dispatched to shield and protect the elect of God for they are sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.
Only recently I read an article in a popular Christian magazine where a couple was relating an experience they’d had. They were wallpapering an upstairs bedroom and they had their little toddler crawling around on the floor. The couple was busy — cutting, pasting and hanging the paper and had opened a window for ventilation. Their young toddler was having a good time taking little strips of the wallpaper and dropping them out the window, watching them flutter down in the breeze. The baby climbed higher and higher onto the window sill so that he could watch the paper flutter all the way to the ground. The parents had just turned to check on the baby only to see him topple out the window. They began screaming, running down the stairs as fast as they could. The article described the feelings the parents experienced in their hearts, i.e., the fear that the baby had fallen down onto the concrete that was just under the window. As they got downstairs and ran out onto the porch, the baby was sitting down on the steps with its arms crossed – just sitting there! Mom and Dad grabbed the baby so thankful that it was all right. Then the toddler said, “The big man caught me.” Mom and Dad were so thankful, so grateful. They considered, “What a coincidence that a big man was standing out under our window.” They lived in a rural area, surrounded by countryside. This was not a suburb where someone might happen to pass on the sidewalk. The parents began to look all about for “the big man.” Where is this big man? Where could he have gotten to so quickly? Have you guessed? There was no big man to be found. Undoubtedly, God sent His angel to preserve the life of this young child.
Be assured that the angels are at work! Sometimes I think that our children keep them working overtime. Each can no doubt think of experiences where God has preserved and kept. It could very well be that it was the angels at work because God sends them forth in that type ministry. They work as God’s agents in that capacity.
Some years ago we were living in an old house with very high ceilings. The chandelier fixtures were extremely heavy, made of leaded glass. Our daughter, was just a newborn. My wife’s custom was to place the baby in one of those travel seats and position it on the dining table, right under that big, heavy chandelier. As my wife worked in the kitchen, she could see the baby all the time. On one particular occasion as my wife was in the kitchen, the baby started screaming. It wasn’t just a little whimper, but enough of a scream to get my wife in there to minister to her. When a baby screams like that, parents know something is wrong. My wife went to the table, picked up the baby, walked out of the dining room through the kitchen when she heard a loud crash, sounding like an explosion. When she turned to see what had happened, that huge chandelier had fallen. It had come loose from the ceiling and had fallen right onto the table where the baby had been. No more than 30 seconds had lapsed since my wife had removed the baby from the exact spot where that chandelier crashed. I shudder to think what would have happened had the baby been there when the chandelier fell. This I know, and I don’t care what people say or think, I sincerely believe that it was an angel of God who got the baby to cry. God moved and got my wife’s attention so that she got the baby out of danger and just in the nick of time, too. The Bible clearly states that the angels are at work. A familiar passage is:
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. [Ps. 91:10]
…He will give His angels charge over you…. that’s what God says. There shall no evil befall thee…. Why? Because the angels are all about. Praise God! They minister on behalf of believers …for the heirs of salvation…. That’s not to say that men can command the angels to do their bidding; the angels do God’s bidding. It’s a blessing to have that comfort to know that God says the angels are not only His guardians but also guardians of the believers. The cherubim stand guard over the throne of God, the holiness of God, and God’s given His angels charge over believers as well. What a blessed assurance!
I could not begin to tell the many reports of protection, of preservation by angels that have come from almost every part of the globe. Believers relate their testimonies, events of things that have happened in their lives where they knew that angels were present to preserve or protect them. More than once I’ve heard testimonies of people who knew they were accompanied by angels when in some critical or dangerous situation. Reports include such instances as seeing the fright in the faces of the malefactor(s) as they were thwarted in attempts at robbery, etc. Although the believer could not visibly see any angelic being(s), apparently the culprit(s) could because they suddenly turned and ran.
An interesting report concerned a missionary who had been dispatched to an uncivilized part of the world. It was an area of head hunters who practiced cannibalism and apparently they had decided to practice their craft and have the missionary as the main course for dinner. Drumbeats were sounding and the missionary knew that he was in trouble. As the natives approached to capture the missionary, they were suddenly frightened away. Although the natives got within sight of him, they never approached. They just stood, looking and eventually dispersed back into the jungle again. Later one of the head hunters got saved, and he asked the missionary where the army on white horses came from, the army that was standing all around the missionary on the night they came to attack. The natives planned to boil him — have missionary stew. When the natives approached, they were amazed to find an army surrounding them. Now the missionary did not see the army but obviously, the natives did. Again, God had given His angels charge over the missionary to protect him.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. [Ps. 34:7]
The Bible contains numerous accounts of angelic protection. As early as Genesis, chapter 19, when God is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He sent angels into the city to get Lot and his family. Now that’s grace, because in previous studies we learned that Lot was a compromiser and backslider. Also to be seen here is the power of intercessory prayer as Abraham prayed for Lot. I’m convinced in my own mind that it was because of Abraham that God sent the angels to get Lot and his family out of the city, (Just as when you pray for your family, it moves God, maybe not for their sake but for yours.) The angels tarried a long time with Lot just to get him to leave Sodom. There’s a case where God uses the angels to minister as servants. God sent them to bring Lot and his family out of Sodom before He destroyed the place. I also believe God is going to notify His people before He puts the hammer down on this city or our nation. Even if He has to send an angel to do it, I believe that God will notify His elect.
The angels protected Daniel when he was cast into the den of lions (Daniel, chapter 6). Daniel was a separated, holy living, righteous man, a just man and God saw to it that this man of faith was protected. He was never evilly spoken of in the scriptures. Daniel was a man who refused to compromise and God was not going to abandon him. God dispatched angels to encamp around this man and preserve him. That’s precisely what the angels did when the king cast Daniel into the den of lions.
A scriptural passage in 1 Kings, chapter 19, relates how an angel ministered to Elijah. After he had killed all the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel declared she was going to have Elijah’s neck. Elijah feared for his life and ran and hid in the midst of the wilderness. He was in a state of exhaustion, fell to the ground, even despairing of life. An angel had been dispatched by God and said, Get up and eat this. An angel fed Elijah out in the middle of the wilderness. Eat this, the angel said, because you’re going on a long journey and you’re going to need this food. The power, the energy that Elijah received from eating that special food enabled him to go forty days without tiring or without hungering. Undoubtedly, this was special food that God fed Elijah through the angel. While it is not known what the food was, we do know with assurance that God will take care of His people. In times of famine God’s people will be satisfied.
9O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 10The young lions do lack and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. [Ps. 34:9-10]
All the people in the world, including the princes and kings of the world, might lack and suffer hunger
but God promises He will feed His own. If that means He has to send an angel with some of that special food, He will do it. Or if He has to multiply the cruse of oil and the meal, He will do that as well. God will multiply the bread and fishes or give us manna or even send an angel. Rest assured, God will feed us! That much I’m sure of — God will feed His people. We’ll not suffer. I’m committed to standing on the promises of God:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. [Matt. 6:33]
If one will just seek first His kingdom, it won’t be necessary to worry about, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? Jesus says that if one will seek first the kingdom then those things will not be objects for concern or anxiety. The kingdom has to be first though and one’s priorities in order. If one is unwise, seeking to reverse the order of priorities, then one cannot trust the Lord for provision.
Another passage (Acts, chapter 12) where God sends an angel is the account of Peter being miraculously delivered from prison. Most are familiar with that account as it’s been a topic of discussion in the past. Peter is imprisoned, chained and locked behind iron doors. Suddenly, an angel walks through the iron bars and walls, sets Peter free, bringing him out of the prison.
Acts, chapter 5, contains yet another passage. Again, God sends His angel into the prison and brings out the apostles.
There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. [Acts 5:16]
The apostles were praying for the sick and multitudes were being healed. Demons were being cast out; the oppressed were being set free.
Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,)…. [Acts 5:17]
The high priest and those who were in authority were generally Sadducees and this religious sect denied anything supernatural. They didn’t believe in angels, demons, spirits or the afterlife.
…and were filled with indignation. [Acts 5:17]
Or as the margin reads, they were filled with envy because the people were flocking to the apostles.
Here’s a group of fishermen, tax collectors, uneducated people. Today they’d be termed “laymen.” Many of the common people were going to hear the laymen preach and multitudes were being healed and delivered. These pompous, arrogant priests were filled with envy.
18And (they) laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth…. (just set them free), and said, 20Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. [Acts 5:18-20]
Go preach, go teach in the temple and teach them everything — all the words of life.
21When they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23saying, the prison truly found we shut with all safety…. [Acts 5:21-23]
The lock was still securely on the door, the prison door was closed and the guards were standing outside before the doors. The guards were still at their posts but when the doors were opened, the apostles simply weren’t there — no explanation. It’s an interesting passage but the point is God obviously sent the angels to deliver the apostles from imprisonment. If God wants His people free, no prison door will hold them — no jail, no rope, no chain, no fiery furnace, and no lions’ den. If He has to send an angel to free His servants as He did to the apostles or as He did for Peter in Acts 12, He will do it. If God has to send an earthquake to free His own from jail as He did in Philippi (Acts 16), God will not hesitate to do so. The angels are ministering spirits; they offer protection. They minister preservation to the children of God.
3. The angels guide us.
God uses the angels to bring guidance as when they guided Joseph and the holy family from Judea. The angelic messenger came to Joseph, telling him to get out of the jurisdiction of Herod and go to Egypt for the safety of the child, Jesus. The angel gave Joseph words of guidance.
Acts, chapter 8, contains the account of how an angel guided Philip who was engaged in preaching a revival in Samaria. People were being saved, healed and miracles were occurring when an angel arrived and said, I want you to leave this place and go out into the desert of Gaza.
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. [Acts 8:26]
As Philip obeyed the angel, he met the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. Philip joined himself to the chariot, and preached Christ to the Ethiopian. As a result, the Ethiopian was saved and brought the gospel of Christ back to his home in Ethiopia. In so doing, the gospel message was spread yet farther. Again, the angels were used to bring guidance as God directed Philip.
4. The angels minister comfort.
The angels aid, bring comfort, strengthen and encourage the believer. Acts, chapter 27, tells of Paul who was being sent to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar to hear his petition. Paul gave a word of warning to those in authority about sailing at a time that was considered dangerous.
9Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 10And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. [Acts 27:9-10]
When events began to occur just as Paul had said and the ship and those on board were sinking, God sent an angel to bring words of encouragement and comfort. God’s word through the angel was:
23For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 24Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. 25Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it should be even as it was told me. [Acts 27:23-25]
Angels also came and ministered to Jesus after His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew, chapter 4). As Jesus resisted the devil, He was in a time of genuine spiritual warfare as the devil tempted Him in every possible way. It was following that time that the angels arrived to minister not only to Jesus’ physical needs, but also bringing comfort and encouragement.
The account of Jesus’ time of anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane was a time of intense mental and emotional suffering. As Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and to the cross, an angel appeared to Him.
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. [Lk. 22:43]
Jesus was in a time of wrestling with the flesh as He realized that He had to go to the cross. Jesus had a human nature as well as His divine nature. It is important to realize this. The biblical account goes on to tell how that Jesus’ perspiration became great drops of blood during this time of great suffering. It was at that time that an angel arrived to strengthen Him.
This account should be encouraging to every believer because during those especially trying times that come to everyone, God will send an angel to strengthen and uplift. Perhaps this has happened in the past without your being aware, but saints, God will stand with believers when they go through the trials, the rivers and the floods. God is with His own and will send an angel, if necessary, to minister, strengthen and bring comfort. The Bible says:
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? [Heb. 1:14]
Heirs of salvation — that’s you and me! Hallelujah!
5. The angels also watch over the church.
There is a sense in which the angels not only watch over the believer but they also watch over the church. The angels are concerned about the church, the assembly. The angels are concerned about the ministry of the church, its message. The angels are concerned about the order in the church. Let’s look at a passage in 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, which is quite interesting. In order to understand what’s being said, we need to read the context. Paul says:
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. [1 Cor. 11:1]
Follow me as I follow Christ is what Paul is saying.
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. [1 Cor. 11:2]
The church is supposed to observe the ordinances. That’s a topic on which we’ve had previous teaching.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. [1 Cor. 11:3]
Paul is talking about order in the church. The Corinthian church had allowed some things to get out of order. There was chaos and confusion when it came to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. People were prophesying out of order, with no one interpreting. Things were out of order and part of this epistle is to set things in biblical order, in divine order, the proper form for the church. Paul does not rebuke the Corinthians for manifesting the gifts and prophesying, he is simply saying that everything needs to be done in order.
31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted…. 39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40Let all things be done decently and in order. [1 Cor. 14:31, 39-40]
Praise God for the tongues! Paul is setting the order for the church, and in these scripture passages, he’s speaking about divine order.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. [1 Cor. 11:4]
When a man prays, when a man prophesies, his head should not be covered. Now that’s just the opposite of the Jewish custom which imposed that a man covers his head during prayer. When the Jewish male went into the temple, his head was covered. Now in Christianity it’s quite a bit different. A man should not have his head covered but Paul says in verse 5:
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth (Bear in mind he’s talking about in the church — order in the church.) with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. [1 Cor. 11:5]
For a woman to not have her head covered when she prayed or prophesied in the church, Paul said was a disservice to her head, which is her husband, i.e., her man. It was the same as having her hair cut off which for a woman was considered shameful.
6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn (Let her cut her hair off if she’s not going to wear her head covering.), but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. (Let her cover her head.) 7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. (Woman wasn’t made first, man was. God created Adam and then woman from Adam.) 10For this cause (Now let’s see this. Remember, woman was created from Adam’s rib. She was man’s helpmeet and since this is the case, since man is the head of the woman) ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. [1 Cor. 11:6-10] (PS. don’t shoot the messenger!)
the word power here is an unfortunate translation in the Kings James. The marginal reading in the Bible says, “That she ought to have a covering on her head, a sign that she is under the authority of her husband. She ought to have her head covered as symbolic of her submission to her husband’s authority because the head covering is a sign of submission. It’s a sign of being in submission to God’s order.”
Why should the woman be covered? This is what Paul brings out …because of the angels. Now that’s unusual, isn’t it? Yet farther along in the passage, Paul says that it’s uncomely that a woman pray to God with her head uncovered and that even nature teaches us that a man should not have long hair. If the man has long hair it’s a shame but if a woman have long hair, it’s a glory unto her. Long hair is a glory for a woman …for her hair is given her for a covering. Now it’s not the artificial covering that Paul was talking about in earlier verses of chapter 11.
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. [1 Cor. 11:16]
Again, that’s an unfortunate rending because it actually reads:
16If anybody is disposed to be argumentative about this, I want you to know that the churches don’t have any other custom other than this — that a woman’s head should be covered when she prays or prophesies in the church. [1 Cor. 11:16]
On the other hand, a man’s head should be uncovered. A man should have short hair. He should look like a man and a woman should have long hair — she should look like a woman. The point here is pointing out what Paul said about the angels. A woman’s head should be covered …because of the angels. The angel of the Lord went out by night and smote the army of the Assyrians, leaving 185,000 soldiers dead. Punishment of the wicked as the Assyrians gathered themselves against Judah to bring death and destruction, and God destroyed them instead.
Another interesting passage is found in Acts, chapter 12. In this instance, angels were used as divine instruments to smite the wicked.
21And upon a set day Herod (now this is the king), arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. (This must have been quite a speech because look at what the people said.) 22And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. 23And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. [Acts 12:21-23]
Josephus, the Jewish historian, brings out some points about this event. According to Josephus, this occurred during a time of some of the Roman games. The Romans literally lived for their gatherings in their coliseums where these games took place. Great multitudes gathered for these events. The account tells that Herod arrived, decked out in array the likes of which had never been seen before, with silver embedded in all his clothing.
When the sun shone on him, there was a glow all over him. When Herod spoke the people said, “We thought he was a man, but he’s a god to speak like that.” Herod was one of the most wicked men who ever lived, yet he spoke with such opulence that the people thought he was a god. “He’s more than man — he’s a god!” Because he received all this worship and adulation, God smote him. God sent an angel and struck him dead. Josephus said that Herod was stricken with tremendous pains in his abdomen and had to be carried out of the coliseum. He writhed in pain for days before he finally died. Here’s an example of an angel of God being sent as an instrument to punish the wicked.
Another scriptural passage relates that God will use the angels in the last days to sever the wicked from the just.
49So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, 50And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [Matt. 13:49-50]
The angels will gather the people, separating the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, the just from the unjust. The just will receive their due reward and the unjust will be cast into the lake of fire.
6. The angels accompany the righteous in their transition from this world into the next.
Most are familiar with the passage about the rich man and the poor man. The rich man died and woke up in torment but the poor man, who was a righteous man….
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom…. [Lk. 16:22]
The angels accompany the righteous as they make the transition at death from this life into the next life. The angels come for the believer, accompanying him into glory.