Angels

Mission of Angels

 The Mission of Angels on various occasions has already been mentioned in connection with other topics. Hence some of the same references, may be duplicated here, but in a different setting.

 a. The Scope Under Consideration.

 Except for possibly an occasional reference, this installment will not have to do with any of the special groups or individual angels previously discussed, namely: (1) the "Cherubim" and "Seraphim" of the Old Testament; (2) the "Four and Twenty Elders" and the "Four Living Creatures" in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament scriptures; (3) the angels that have sinned and been cast out of heaven, or their leader, "called the Devil and Satan"; (4) "the angel of Jehovah" of the Old Testament; or (5) "the angels of the seven churches" of Asia in the early chapters of Revelation (whether, referring to men or to celestial beings).

 Instead, our attention shall be directed toward that vast undifferentiated mass of created celestial beings referred to simply as "the holy angels," "angels of God," "angels of heaven," or the like, that exists in mindboggling numbers. In Revelation 5:11, John said he saw and heard "a voice of many angels, round about the throne [of God] ... ; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousands and thousands of thousands,"—called "innumerable hosts of angels," in Hebrews 12:22 - of whom Jesus said he could beseech the Father and he would send him "more than twelve legions of angels," (Matthew 26:53). John saw and heard them praising "the Lamb that hath been slain" (Revelation 5:12); and in Hebrews 1:6, we are told that when the Father "bringeth in the firstborn to the world he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him." And since his resurrection and ascension into heaven, they have been made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:21-22).

 As angels of God and of Christ, they are "all ministering Spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14) – besides any other missions there may be for them in God’s vast and seemingly limitless universe. For the most part, their appearance is not described. And sometimes they have been present or near by without being seen. But mostly when being seen by humans they appear to be men, and have not always been recognized as angels – at least, at first – so that "some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2) And they may be present without being seen (see Genesis 22:21-35; cf. 2 Kings 6:14-17).

 In what ways they may render service to us individually, we are not told. But we are given examples in both the old and New Testaments of some instances of service already rendered, and some general missions are foretold. We shall therefore now take note of references to these.

 b. Old Testament References:

 (1) Genesis 19:1-22: Here we have an account of "two angels" (vs. 1,15) who came to Sodom to destroy it and to rescue Lot and his family from destruction of the city. But they are also spoken of as "men" (v.10,12,16) and had likewise appeared as such to Abraham in company with another who came to be identified as Jehovah (see Genesis 18, and 16-22 in particular). These two occasions may be referred to in Hebrews 13:2, cited above.

 (2) Genesis 28:12; 31:11: Angels appeared to Jacob in dreams. In one, he saw them ascending and descending between heaven and earth on a ladder, symbolic of their presence and ministries in both realms and the close relation between the two (cf. John 1:51). In the other, the angel may have been "the angel of Jehovah" (see 31:13).

 (3) Psalm 34:7: "The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." This may be the specific angel called "the angel of Jehovah." Or, it may here be a term for the angels (plural) of Jehovah as a class, as we speak of "the horse," meaning horse as a class. If the latter should be the meaning in the text, see 2 Kings 6:14-16 as a possible example.

 (4) Psalm 78:49:"He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, a band of angels of evil." This curious passage is a partial poetic description of God’s vengeance upon Egypt by means of terrible plagues before leading up to deliverance of Israel form bondage there. It does not mean the "angels" were evil, but that they were employed as agents of God in bringing evils of afflictions upon the inhabitants of the land – as on the case of "the angel of Jehovah" at times (see 2 Samuel 24:15-17; 2 Kings 19:32-36). Or, it may even be a figurative expression, calling the evils themselves his angels or agents

 (5) Psalm 91:11-12: "For he will give his angels charge over thee, To keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, Least thou dash thy foot against a stone." This Psalm as a whole is poetically descriptive of the blessed state of the righteous – describing their spiritual security in terms of physical safety. Its preceding vs. 9-10 in the American Standard Version (using its marginal rendering of v. 9) reads as follows: "Because thou hast said, Jehovah is my refuge, Thou has made the Most High thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come near thy tent." Then following vs. 11-12. As quoted above, with angelic ministry involved. Satan quoted this to Jesus (with a significant omission) in one of his temptations, making it a physical promise to him – "If thou art the Son of God: (Matthew 4:5-6).

 (6) Ezekiel 9:1-11: This is part of a series of visions given to Ezekiel in regard to abominations in Jerusalem and God’s punishment upon its guilty inhabitants (see 8:1-4). In chapter 9, he saw "six men" every one "with his destroying weapon in his hand" (vs.1-2), charged with executing God’s wrath; but the description of what Ezekiel saw was more as if they were angels rather then actual men. "And one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side" (vs.2,3,11), was also a part of what Ezekiel saw in connection with the "cherubim" of the next chapter, and both of his hands were filled with coals of fire from between the cherubim to scatter over the city (10:2,6-7).

(7) Daniel 3:19-28: Nebuchadnezzar had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego cast into a fiery furnace, and then saw with them one whom he said was "like a son of the gods"; and when they were delivered unharmed, he said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him." etc.

(8) Daniel 7:9-12: This was one of Daniel’s night time visions. Said he: "I behold till thrones were placed, and one that was the ancient of days did sit:….thousands of thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him." These, presumably, were angels at his beck and call. (Cf. Revelation 5:11.)

(9) Daniel 8:15-27: Gabriel (an angel of the Lord, Luke 1:11,19,26) was called upon to explain to Daniel a vision he had just seen but did not understand.

(10) Daniel 9:20-27: "And while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before Jehovah my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, while I was speaking my prayer, the man Gabriel [evidently the angel Gabriel, as per the foregoing]. Whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me, about the time of the evening oblation. And he instructed me. And talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment went forth, and I came to tell thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore consider this matter, and understand the vision." (Then the information conveyed by Gabriel.)

(11) Daniel 10:10 - 11:1: "And behold a hand touched me [said Daniel after a vision that had left him without strength and he had fallen into a deep sleep], which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, thou man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright; for unto thee am I now sent: and when he had spoken this word, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thy heart to understand and to humble thyself before thy God, thy words were heard; and I am come for thy words’ sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia [would he be a fallen angelic prince?] withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes [in fact "the archangel" Jude 9], came to help me and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days…. Then, said he, Knowest thou wherefore I am come unto thee? And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I go forth, lo, the prince of Greece shall come. But I will tell thee that which is inscribed in the writing of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me against these, but Michael your prince. And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him."

This unidentified personage speaks of himself in such a way as to make him rank close to Michael, the archangel. And this same personage gave Daniel the remainder of the information in Chapter 11 an on to 12:4. Also, in 12:1 he speaks of "Michael"…., the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people" – namely, the righteous of Israel – a patron angel of the people of God, it would seem – involved in behalf of God and the obedient subjects of God against Satan and his minions. (Cf. Revelation 12:7-8.)

c. New Testament References.

  1. Luke 1:5-23: The angel Gabriel sent to a priest named Zacharias, to foretell the birth of John the Baptist.
  1. Luke, 1:26-38: The angel Gabriel likewise sent to "a city of Galilee, named Nazareth," to a virgin named Mary, to foretell the birth of JESUS, "the son of the Most High.".
  2. Matthew 1:18-25: An angel of the Lord appeared in the dream to Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, to assure him that it was by the Holy Spirit that she was with child, and that he should not fear to take her unto himself.

 (4) Luke 2:8-20: An angel of the Lord, joined suddenly by "a multitude of the heavenly host," appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night near Bethlehem, to announce the birth of Jesus in that city and to instruct them as to how to find him

 (5) Matthew 2:13-15: An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to have him take the child and his mother to Egypt to foil the effort of Herod the king to destroy him.

 (6) Matthew 2:19-23: An angel of the Lord likewise appeared to Joseph in a dream when Herod was dead, to have him take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel

 (7) Matthew 4:11: After the baptism of Jesus, 40 days of fasting, and successfully resisting temptation of the Devil, "behold, angels came and administered unto him (See also Mark 1:13.)

 (8) Matthew 13:36-43: In his explanation of the Parable of the Tares, Jesus said "the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels…. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of the kingdom all things that cause stumbling and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire," etc..

 (9) Matthew 13:47-50: In the Parable of the Net, he said that "in the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, and then cast them into the furnace of fire," etc..

 (10) Mathew16:27: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of the Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds.’ (Cf.25:31-46.)

 (11) Matthew. 18:10: " . . . for I say unto you, that in the kingdom of heaven their angels do always behold the face of my father who is in heaven." (Cf. Acts 12:15)

 (12) Matthew 24:30-31: "… they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (See also Mark 13:26-27; also 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

 (13) Matthew 25:31-32: "But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations" – to be judged (va.33-46). (Cf. Chapter, 16:27; also Jude 14-15.)

 (14) Matthew 28:1-10: On the morning of Christ's resurrection, "an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it." etc. (See also Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-7,22-23; cf. John 20:11-13.)

 (15) Mark 8:38: "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of the Father with the holy angels." (See Luke 9:26; 12:8-9; cf. Matthew 10:32-33.)

 (16) Luke 15:10: "I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth,"

 (17) Luke 16:22: "And it came to pass that the beggar [Lazarus] died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom."

 (18) Luke- 22:43: "And there appeared unto him [Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane] an angel from heaven, strengthening him." (Cf. Matthew 4:11

 (19) Acts 1:10-11: " While they [the apostles during the ascension of Christ] were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men [evidently angels] stood by them in white apparel," and assured them of his return in like manner

 (20) Acts 5:19-20: "An angel of the Lord" opened the prison doors and released the apostles, who had been incarcerated for preaching the gospel of the resurrected Christ.

 (21) Act. 7:53: Stephen, in a speech before the Sanhedrin, said to the court, "Ye … received the law [of Moses] as it was ordained by angels, and kept it not." (Cf. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2.)

 (22) Acts 8:26: "An angel of the Lord" instructed Philip, the evangelist, to leave Samaria and go south to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he contacted an Ethiopian eunuch and converted him to Christ. (vs. 27-39).

(23) Acts 10:3-7,22,30-32: "An angel of God," "a holy angel," "a man … in bright apparel," appeared to Cornelius and instructed him to contact the apostle Peter for words whereby he and his house might be saved.

 (24) Acts 12:5-11: "An angel of the Lord" delivered the apostle Peter from prison and averted his being put to death by Herod

 (25) Acts 12:15: When Peter had been released from prison and appeared at the house of Mary the mother of John Mark, with a maid answering his knocking "at the door of the gate" and reporting that it was Peter, she was told, "It is his angel." (Cf. Matthew 18:10.)

 (26) Acts 12:23: "An angel of the Lord" smote Herod so that he died, because he did not give God the glory when he accepted acclaim as a "god"."

 (27) Acts 23:6-9: Pharisees and Saducees disagreed as to whether there is such a thing as an angel – also as to whether there is a "resurrection" or "spirit" – with the apostle Paul believing with the Pharisees in all three

 (28) Acts 27:23-24: "An angel of God" stood by Paul one night on board a stormtossed ship on the Adria" (an arm of the Mediterranean) to guarantee the safety of himself and all on board.

 (29) 1 Corinthians 11:10: The apostle Paul wrote that the woman ought to have "a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels" – likely because of their concern that all be submissive to God (See Luke 15:7,10).

 (30) 1 Thessalonians 4:16: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" – meaning the archangel will be included with the angels that accompany our Lord upon his return at the end of earthly history.

 (31) 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: "The lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels" (King James Version), when he comes to take vengeance on the wicked and be glorified in his saints.

 (32) 1 Timothy 3:16: "He who was manifested in the flesh [see John 1:1-1,14; I John 1;1-4; 3:5]" was "seen of angels" – evidently while on earth, (see Matthew 4:11; Mark 1:13; also Luke 2:13; 24: 4-7; Act 1:10-11; cf. John 1:51).

 III. CONCLUSION.

  The ministries of angels have been varied through human history, but used mostly in God’s providential guidance and protection of his people – "sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). And appearing as men – as "strangers" – men have on occasion "entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2). It is possible for us to be the recipients of their ministries and not know it. It is also probable that the spirits of all the righteous are at death conducted by angels to the Hadean paradise as in the case of Lazarus (Luke 16:22). And, of course, they will be employed in separating the righteous from the wicked at the time of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the world, as indicated by numbers of New Testament passages. Finally, it seems that we shall then join them in the heavenly world. (Hebrews 12:22-24).

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