ANGELS FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY
P.C. Johnson (U.K.)
DURING England's glorious summer of 2003, a national newspaper published a review of a book written about angels. This review made no mention of the large amount of information concerning angels given in the Holy Bible. According to Strong's Concordance, the Authorised Version of the Bible, lists 299 references to the angels. Surely a very significant volume of scripture worthy of our attention.
The Oxford Dictionary describes an angel as a divine messenger, or a ministering spirit, superior to man in power, ability and intelligence.
(1) WHO THEN ARE THE ANGELS?
Psalm 104:4 tells us:
"Who maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flaming fire."
Psalm 103:20 adds more:
"Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word"
Hebrews 12:22 speaks of a large number of angels:
"... an innumerable company of angels."
In Matthew 22:30 Jesus, talking on a different subject, says:
"For in the resurrection they (men and women) neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven "
These four quotations, among others, tell us that the angels belong to God, they are spirits and are of great power. They obey the commandments of God, do his will and are innumerable. They are referred to in the masculine gender, but are neither male or female. Colossians 2:18 tells us that we must never worship them and Jesus in Luke 4:8 says:
"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,and him only shalt thou serve."
(2) WHAT DO ANGELS LOOK LIKE?
It seems we all have an impression of angels as being apparently similar to human form, dressed in long flowing white robes, of beautiful appearance and having large white feathered wings. This impression is probably based on the many artists' paintings of past centuries. But what does scripture tell us about their normal appearance? Not a lot but enough to recognise them. In Matthew 28:3 an angel of the Lord is described: .
"His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment like snow "
Revelation 10:1 describes an angel:
"And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire."
John 20:11, 12 records how Mary Magdalene:
"...stooped down, and looked into the (Jesus's) sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain."
Some "angel" references state that the angel had a drawn sword as in Numbers 22:23:
"And the ass (belonging to Balaam) saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword was drawn in his hand"
These and other quotations give an impression of angels as having the stature similar to man, but there the likeness ends. The appearance of the angels is recorded as being very awesome, of a very bright white stature and glorious. The words like lightening, snow; a cloud; the sun, a rainbow and a pillar of fire, create in us a dazzling picture. In scripture the angels did invoke fear in some of those to whom they appeared.
It will be noted that the above quotations do not record that the angels have any wings. None of the 299 quotations in the Bible mention that the angels have wings. However, perhaps they do have wings, the Bible confirms that they can fly.
The Bible uses the word 'wings' mostly in a metaphorical sense. For example Psalm 91:4 tells us:
''He (God) shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust."
We would say today - God takes us under his wing - in other words, God looks after us.
(3) THE DEITY IN ANGELIC FORM
Many of the references to angels in the Bible are quoted simply as 'angel' or 'angels' with the definite article 'the' or 'his' or the the indefinite article 'an'. For example, in 1 Chronicles 21:15 we have the statement:
"And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem... "
Again, in Hebrews 1:7 we read:
"(God), who maketh his angels spirits... "
Other references to angel are quoted as 'angel of the Lord' or 'angel of God', again with the articles 'the' or 'an'. In these cases there may be a subtle difference in respect of some of the references. Where the article 'an' is used, or where angels (plural) is used, we can be sure it refers to one or more of God's angels. However, where the article 'the' is used, it may indicate the presence of The Deity, that is, God in angelic form. Consideration of the context will often confirm whether The Deity is present or not. For example in Genesis 22:15, 16 we read:
"And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, by myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, (Isaac) thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee."
In this quotation, as can be seen in the context, the angel was obviously God himself. In 2 Samuel 24:16, 17 it is stated:
"And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. And David spake unto the Lord (The Deity) when he saw the saw the angel that smote the people."
The whole context should be read, but the short excerpt shows that the Lord (The DEITY) was a separate being from the angel of the Lord.
In some cases the angels have the appearance of a man. Daniel records in chapter 9:21:
"Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, who I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation."
Just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we read in Genesis 18:1,2:
"And the Lord appeared unto him (Abraham) and he (Abraham) lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him:"
Here the whole context shows that the Lord himself (The Deity )had the appearance of a 'man'. The other two 'men' were angels. Again, in the same time frame, Genesis 19 records how Lot was visited by two angels in the guise of men.
A few angel references relate to a human being. In Acts 12, Peter, we read was in prison and was released by an angel. He returned to his friends who thinking him dead thought it was his spirit in angelic form.
(4) THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS
A few other references relate to evil angels or the Devil's angels. See Psalm 78:49 and Matthew 25:41. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us:
"And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light ".
Paul warns us here to beware of Satan's attempts to deceive us. We should be especially careful in respect of false doctrine and false religious notions. With prayer, we should check and cross check in scripture, obtaining at least two confirming quotations as the case may be. If none can be found then reject that subject. The Lord will soon raise it again if it came from him. We have to be sure we have God's truth and not one of Satan's numerous deceptions.
(5) WHAT DUTIES DO THE ANGELS PERFORM?
Luke 2:10,11 relates how an angel appeared unto the shepherds at the time of the birth of Jesus the Christ:
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you 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"
Years later after the crucifixion of Jesus, Matthew 28:5, 6 relates how early on the first day of the week (our Sunday) the two Marys were at Jesus's sepulchre when an angel rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulchre and said unto them:
"...Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay."
(b) Guides and Guards
Exodus 23:20 records Gods words to the Children of Israel on their journey to the promised land.
"Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared"
Psalm 91: 11 promises to the faithful:
"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
Psalm 34:7 records the same theme:
"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth them.."
Again,when Daniel was in the lions' den, he tells us in chapter 6 verse 22:
"My God hath sent his angels, and hath shut the lions mouths, that they have not hurt me."
Acts 12 records how Herod imprisoned Peter. In verse 7 we read:
"And,behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. "
The angel tells him to dress and leads him out of the prison, the gate out of the prison opening of its own accord, and the angel departed.
(e) Destroyers and Punishers
In Matthew 13:41 we are told:
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity and cast them into a fumace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. "
Again, in Samuel 24:16 we are told:
"And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand... "
When the passover was first held by the Children of Israel just before they left Egypt, we are told in Exodus 12:23:
"For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the (lamb's) blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. "
(f) Miracle workers
Acts 5:17-42 records the apostles being imprisoned by the high priest for teaching belief in Jesus the Christ. In verse 19 we read:
"But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth."
(g) Capable of flight
Daniel 9:21 records:
"Yea,while I was speaking in prayer, even the man (angel) Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly... "
Revelation 8:13 also tells us:
"And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven."
(h) Ministering Spirits
Matthew 4:1-11 records how Satan tried to tempt Jesus. Afterwards, we are told in verse 11:
"Then the Devil leaveth him (Jesus) and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."
Hebrews 1:14 provides further details:
"Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation."
This ministry has reference to the well being and physical safety of believers. This care begins at birth and continues throughout life.
Just before the crucifixion of Jesus, Luke 22:43 tells us:
"And there appeared an angel unto him (Jesus) from heaven, strengthening him."
Paul records in Corinthians 4: 9:
"...for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels and to men. "
This should influence our behaviour, because we are continually under observation by the angels.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes 10:20 in eloquent prose confirms the same:
"Curse not the king, no not in thy thought, and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice,and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."
(j) At death, believers are carried to paradise by the angels
Luke tells us in chapter 16 verse 22:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar (Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom:"
Further, Luke records in chapter 23 verse 43 that when Jesus was on the cross, he said to one of the malefactors who was also crucified beside him:
"... Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Revelation 2:7 also confirms this story:
"..To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God "
Dr Scofield summarises this activity of the angels. Since Jesus rose from the dead, the previous faithful dead, previously described as in Abraham's bosom, together with all subsequently departed believers now dwell in the paradise of God.
(k) Angels appear in human form
The book of Hebrews in chapter 13 verse 2 informs us:
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
We must be very careful here. Any stranger that comes into our lives could according to this quotation be an angel carrying out any of the above activities.
(l) Angels acquaint us with the law
In Stephen's discourse recorded in Acts 7, just before he was martyred in verse 53 he says:
"Who (the Jews) have received the law by disposition of angels, and have not kept it."
Paul also tells us in Galatians 3: 19:
"Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed (Messiah) should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. "
For the true christian the law is an instruction and guide in righteousness. It confirms our knowledge of good and evil which we all have had since Adam. See Genesis chapters 2 and 3.
(6) WHERE ARE THE ANGELS?
As shown above the angels' activities would require them probably to be here on earth. Their normal abode is in the third heaven (see 2 Corinthians 12) in the presence of God. Revelation 7:11 informs us:
"And all the angels stood round about the throne, (of God) "
(7) THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
The Archangel Michael's name appears five times in Scripture. In Daniel 12:1-3 we are told in a prophecy for the time of the great tribulation:
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people (the Children of Israel) and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever":
Daniel 10: 13 describes Michael as:
"Michael, one of the chief princes"
These two quotations tell us of a special relationship between the Archangel Michael and the Children of Israel in the latter days and that Michael is one of the chief princes. There must therefore be other chief princes, perhaps archangels, unmentioned or named in scripture as far as we know. The first passage also tells us about conditions, happenings, resurrections and troubles in the latter days.
In Jude verse 9, hidden in a glimpse of history concerning the Devil, is a most important precept of our Lord:
"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him (the Devil) a railing accusation, but said, TheLord rebuke thee ".
The phrase 'railing accusation' may be better understood as 'a reproachful condemnation'. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 come to mind:
"Judge (condemn) not, that ye be not judged":
The words of Jesus surely emphasise Jude's words.
As mortals, we may consider (quite wrongly) that the Devil should surely be condemned, and who perhaps better to do this (save God) than that mighty prince the archangel Michael. But, no no no, certainly not. If the archangel Michael refrained from a 'railing accusation', and we are told that he 'durst not', how then, can we, as very minor sinful human beings, even consider such a sin, in condemning any of our fellow men or women? If we are tempted to do this, we might remember Michael's words to Satan 'The Lord rebuke thee'. If we do condemn someone and thus sin, the words 'The Lord rebuke ME' are appropriate, as well as a very necessary supplication for forgiveness.
It may seem to some, a minor sin, to accuse anyone of wrong or whatever, but remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:22:
"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgement: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire".
These divine words of our Lord need no explanation and cannot, indeed must not, be ignored.
(8) THE ANGEL GABRIEL
The angel Gabriel's name is recorded four times in scripture. By the nature of the quotations we can see that Gabriel was employed by God in distinguished services. Daniel 8:16 records:
":And I (Daniel) heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision".
Again in Daniel 9:21 which is here repeated:
"Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly touched me about the time of the evening oblation ".
The context of these two quotations is in the revelation of very significant prophesies. Note how Gabriel appeared as a man to Daniel and also the physical effect Gabriel had on him. Verses 17, 18 and 27 of Chapter 8 of Daniel show that Daniel was afraid and finally fainted and was sick.
Luke 1:11-20 records how Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias and told him that Elizabeth his wife would have a son. Subsequently she gave birth to John the Baptist. In verse 12 we read:
"And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. 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".
As with Daniel, Zacharius was afraid. Gabriel also appeared to Mary as recorded in Luke 1:26-38 to tell her that she would have a son who would be the Son of God, Jesus. We are told in verse 29 that Mary also was troubled. Whilst on this chapter of Luke, it is worth noting Gabriel in verse 37:
"For with God nothing shall be impossible".
(9) FALLEN ANGELS
In Revelation 12:7-12 we read about war in heaven between the archangel Michael and his angels and Satan and his angels. Verse 9 tells us:
"Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Isaiah 14:12-17, Luke 10:18, and Jude verse 6 also refer to this expulsion, and should be read. 2 Peter 2:4 adds more information:
"God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell"
(10) ACTIVITIES OF THE ANGELS AT THE SECOND ADVENT AND BEYOND
The angels will accompany Jesus at his second advent. Matthew 16:27 says:
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels "
Matthew 25:31 tells the same story. 2 Thessalonians confirms the same in 1:7:
"... when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels."
Scripture also tells how the angels will gather believers and separate the wicked from the faithful. Mark 13:27 reveals:
"... then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven."
Ezekiel 37:21, 22 is among many other passages of scripture that tell us:
"Thus saith the Lord God,' Behold, I will take the Children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:" (the promised land)
In Matthew 13:49 we are told:
"So shall it be at the end of the world (age): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. "
The Revelation of St John the divine, lists a large number of angelic activities about the time of the second advent, too many to relate all of them here. In addition to those above two notable quotations must be added. Revelation 14:6:
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."
And Revelation 20:1-3:
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled and after that he must be loosed a little season."
The activities of the angels at the time of the second advent, will dramatically affect the whole of mankind. In Matthew chapter 13 Jesus relates several parables. Verses 24 to 30 give the parable of the wheat and the tares - quoted here with abbreviations:
"The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while he slept, his enemy sowed tares among the wheat... when the blade sprung up ... then appeared tares also... the servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them (the tares) up?.. but he said nay... let both grow together until the harvest ...I will say to the reapers, gather first the tares to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn "
Jesus explains the parable to his disciples in verses 37-43 in chapter 13: the sower is the Son of man, the seed are the children of the kingdom, the tares are the children of the wicked one, the enemy is the Devil, the harvest is the end of the world (age). In verses 41-43 we read:
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father."
God has been patient with mankind for some 6,000 years now, but by and large man has refused to accept God's truth, preferring unrighteousness. The quotations above tell us that this unrighteousness is to be removed from man and all creation at the second advent.
How could anybody possibly object to the complete and final removal of all evil from this world? Does anybody want to be a victim of murder, robbery, violence, illness, assault, hunger etc etc. No of course we don't.
Isaiah chapter 11 gives us a wonderful picture of Christ's kingdom on earth over which King Jesus will reign supreme. In chapter 40 verse 31 Isaiah prophesies:
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run. and not be weary they shall walk and not faint"
Revelation 1:13-15 and Matthew 24:31among many other references refer to the glorious brightness, the voice of the archangel, and the sound of the trumpet, at the second advent of Jesus the King.The sun is used in scripture to describe brightness, and we can relate to that. Having heard the moving sound of trumpets recently at royal occasions here in England, the sound of the trump of God and the voice of the archangel echoing round the earth from one end of heaven unto the other, will surely overwhelm all mankind and creation. There wil be no disbelievers then.
We see then that God's angels are presently very active. They affect our lives far more than we realize. Isaiah recalls how God looked after his people Israel in their troubled history in chapter 63 verse 9:
"In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence (God) saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old"
In all possibility many more, of the 'angel of God' and 'angel of the Lord' references and perhaps others, may well indicate the presence of The Deity. He has appeared unto men as scripture records in the guise of an angel or a man, and of course as Jesus the Christ. Remember, Jesus said that the HolySpirit (who is also God) would be with us after his (Jesus's) ascension into heaven. It would be well to always keep in mind, that our Lord God is a constant companion, protector, guide and friend, never leaving us. Revelation 1:13 to 15 gives a description of Jesus the Christ at the second advent:
"And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, (Jesus) clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters."
Keep this vision firmly in mind. Isaiah 40:5 tells us about the second advent:
"And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh (everybody) shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
In the words of Revelation 22:20 we have the supplication:
"EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS"
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