15 January 2005

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." –Luke 2:13-14

Today, we have before us Luke's account of the angels' herald, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Much is said about angels in the Bible, so during this holiday season, we share some thoughts with you upon our spiritual friends, the angels around us.

Angelology is a fascinating subject that has entertained the thoughts of God's people for centuries. We must be careful though, concerning the subject, for angels are not to be worshipped or adored. Perhaps this is the reason that we have not been given the ability to see these spiritual creatures that are all around us. If we saw them, our response might be as John's, on the Isle of Patmos, when he was forbidden by the angel to bow before him. John was told to worship God only(Revelation 19:10; 22:8,9). To try to contact them, attract them, or speak to them, borders on the occult and we are warned in scripture to worship and communicate with God only! There are 365 passages in the Bible that speak of angels and from these alone we must, as the Lord would have us, draw our conclusions as to the nature, purpose and identity of our angel friends.

Their nature is purely spiritual. Though some of them may assume the appearance of humans, as they did to Abraham in the desert, they inhabit a spiritual realm.

The word angel means messenger. Thus, we have one of the primary purposes of angels: to deliver messages to God's people. It was a host of angels that carried the message of Christ's advent into this world to the unsuspecting shepherds on that special night as they watched over their flocks. It was an angel of the Lord that appeared to the wife of Manoah to announce her forthcoming conception of a son who came to be known as Sampson. It was an angel that spoke to Zacharias concerning the birth of John the Baptist. An angel was sent to Joseph concerning the conception of Mary. And to Mary herself, Gabriel was sent to inform her of her favour with God, that she would bear the Christ child. The greatest message that has ever been told was entrusted to God's faithful servants, the angels.


The office of messenger is not all that the angels are entrusted of God to accomplish. We find them as comforters. It was a message of comfort that the angel brought to Joseph, concerning the conception of Mary. We find the angels comforting our Lord during His greatest trials, after His temptation in the wilderness and His agony in Gethsemane. Perhaps they have comforted and strengthened us at times that we did not know about.

Numerous times, we find the angels acting as warriors that make up God's great, invisible army. The expression, "Lord of hosts" is used over 200 times in the Old Testament which literally means: Lord of a multitude of organized soldiers. When Ellisha's servant was fearful of the army that surrounded them, he asked the Lord to open the young man's eyes so that he could see the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire(2 Kings 6:17). If our eyes were opened today, imagine what we could see! The companion phrase in the New Testament is Lord of Saboath which means, Lord of a great host.

A most powerful force our Lord holds at his beck and command. One angel alone defeated 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in the camp of King Sennacherib in one night. If one angel did this, imagine the power of the heavenly host which numbers are so vast that we are never given their exact number. Some have suggested that there are as many angles as there are stars in the sky, others have said that there are as many angels as there have been people born into the world. John writes of his vision of many angels numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand encircling the throne which numbers to 100 million. But actually, the total number of angels John saw may far exceed 100,000,000, because "ten thousand" was the highest numerical figure used in the Greek language. Thus, it was possibly an expression of a number that he could not number. To be continued.

Angels around us: Part 3

Though the angel was not to be worshipped, their semblance was to be found throughout the Old Testament temple. The Ark, which rested in the Holy of Holies, was overshadowed by two golden Cherubims peering into the mercy seat with outstretched wings. Surely, this must have been a picture of their protective duties towards the objects of God's mercy as well as their desire to look into God's covenant blessing with His people. Their figures were also carved into the various pieces of the furniture depicting their providential influence in redemptive history in the lives of God's elect. This time of the year, we see pictures of angels on cards and paintings, some scriptural and others which are a figment of the imagination. For instance, there is no mention of plump, baby cherubs in the Bible. As cute as they can be depicted and as much as we might like to have them, they simply are not to be found. Every angel that we read about appeared as a mature being. No one wanted to cuddle or hug them because their appearance before unsuspecting mortals incited fear, reverence and weakness. There is equally no mention of a female angel. No effeminate or feminine qualities are ever attributed to the angels of God. They are always referred to in the male gender. Perhaps that is the reason Jesus could say this about the resurrected body: "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven."

Not all angels have wings. The seraphim described in Isaiah 6 had wings. The cherubim have wings. The angels that John saw in his vision of Revelation 4:8 had wings. But we read of other instances where angels did not have wings. In Genesis 18:2, the three angels that appeared to Abraham are described as three men. That is what the inhabitants of Sodom saw, just three ordinary men. Thus, they can appear to us in just this way which is an incentive for us to, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Perhaps we have all seen an angel in our lives but we did not know it. Perhaps that person who helped you during a time of great need was an angel that appeared as a mere mortal sent by your heavenly Father! "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them(Psalm 34:7)."

Angels around us: Part 4

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said, unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." –Luke 2:8-14

I am sure our minds can not fathom the beauty of this scene as the very inhabitants of heaven condescend to mortals announcing the advent of our Lord and King into this world. To unsuspecting shepherds, their glorious brightness split the night sky with a brilliance no tongue could describe, though try they did. Their message was well understood by the shepherds: Jesus Christ, the Messiah had been born into the world! The sign was unexpected. With such an entourage to proclaim His advent into the word should we not expect Him to be found in a king's mansion clothed with gold and silver raiment? He was not found there then nor shall we find Him there today. He came into this world, meek and humble. Such are the graces and glory of His followers. Their message was also: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." It is the duty and pleasure of the angelic host to offer a continual strain of praise to God and so should it be to His lesser creatures as they approach each day. Glory to God in the highest means that God is the highest inhabitant of the universe. Praise belongs to Him for He is good, holy, kind, pure, merciful, gracious, ad infinitum. It seems that the angels are saying, "Observe what goes on here in heaven as we ascribe praise unto our creator, God perpetually ... .and by the way, we have a message sent to you in the midst of our praise ... 'peace, good will toward men." Thus, the veil is opened into heaven for the shepherds to see the typical, everyday affairs of heaven, with their message attached.

Peace and goodwill are the byproducts of salvation. They are what we receive when we find Christ, the One the angels sang of on that night for a living relationship with Him is salvation in the simplest terms. Salvation is the greatest gift that could be given to the lost who were facing the wrath to come. There was not one syllable in the angel's voices as to what it would cost the shepherds or any of the recipients of this gift. It was free ... .by grace. Yet, it was the most expensive gift that ever has or ever will grace the halls of time. It cost the Father, the One in the highest, His only begotton Son ... that was His glory! To some, the earth has never seen peace and there is no good will toward men. Let us tell them of Jesus and continue the angelic chorus!