INTRODUCTION – Angels in bookstores and gift shops this time of year;
The portrait we saw in Sierra Madre – – my frustrating search for a portrait
Kids’ quotes about angels
The truth is – Angels are an integral part of the Christmas story and an integral part of our lives and ministry until the Lord returns.
This is evidenced by:
I. Christmas carols and angels: Hark the Herald Angels Sing Angels from the Realms of Glory Angels we have heard on high God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Silent Night (“Heavenly hosts sing alleluia”) O Holy Night What Child is This O Come All Ye Faithful The First Noel Go Tell it on the Mountain
II. The Christmas Story and Angels An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias (John the Baptist’s dad; Jesus’s uncle of sorts) in the temple – to inform him that his prayers had been heard, and that God was going to give him a son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:11)
An angel (Gabriel) visited Mary in her home – and informed her that she would soon be pregnant with the Messiah – the Son of God (Luke 1:26)
An angel of the Lord visited Joseph in a dream – and informed him that Mary’s pregnancy was not caused by a human, but by God Himself; and that this particular child would be none other than the Savior of the World (Matthew 1:20)
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in another dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt to escape the evil intentions of king Herod (Matthew 2:13)
An angel of the Lord appeared in yet another dream to Joseph and informed him that Herod was now dead and they should return to Israel (Matthew 2:19)
III. The Christmas story and Satan and his demons
Mention of Satan & his demons is seemingly absent in the accounts of Jesus’s birth & early childhood in the gospels – – not one mention.
A good argument can be made for demonic inspiration behind King Herod’s decision to have all the male boys – two years and younger killed, though the text in Matthew does not state that Satan or his demons were behind this decision. The account of this horrible genocide is in Matthew 2:16-18. Basically when King Herod realized the Magi – whom he had sent to figure out where this baby was – split after seeing and worshipping Him – and didn’t come back to tell him what he wanted to know – – well he became enraged and ordered “that all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity – two years and under” were to be murdered immediately – – so hopefully he could snuff out his competition;
Revelation 12 on the other hand does seem to speak to Satan’s hand in this horrible tragedy. And it also speaks to his wrath and evil intents toward each of us. (turn to it) Let’s read it and make a few Observations:
A. Who is the woman? At first glance – Mary. But most scholars believe it is Israel for various reasons such as the 12 stars representing the 12 tribes of Israel, etc.
So how did Israel cry out “being in labor and in pain to give birth”? O.T. prophecies as early as Gen. 3;15 – -that the Messiah would come forth from Israel hundreds of years before it happened; and during those years Israel experienced many tribulations and attacks from their enemies, and judgments and discipline for their sin and rebellion and unbelief. I’m sure there were times where those that believed and longed for this Messiah to be born – wondered if it could ever happen with such a wayward people.
So we have a nation struggling to fulfill its destiny. Then in the next paragraph we see who is behind much of the struggle. ( read vs. 3,4) Some believe that “a third of the stars of heaven” refers to a third of the angels who chose to follow Satan and then became demons. Others believe this is just a metaphor to show Satan’s great power. It is this last sentence in vs. 4 that helps us see that Satan himself was behind Herod having all those male children murdered.
Vs. 5,6 introduce us to the Messiah and His mission (read it)
Vs. 7-9 help us see the cosmic battle going on between the angels and Satan and his demons (read it). While Satan and his demons have supernatural power, it is not without purpose that 3 times it is repeated in this passage that they were “thrown down” by Michael and his angels. Their power is even greater. And indeed Satan’s greatest power is his ability to deceive the world.
In vs. 10-12 there is great news for disciples of Jesus Christ; and very bad news for those who aren’t disciples of Jesus Christ (read it)
Finally in vs. 13-17 – – we see how Satan continues to wage war against Israel and against disciples of Jesus Christ (read it).
So what are the implications of all this talk of angels and demons surrounding the birth of Christ – the Messiah; and surrounding those who follow Him?
1. There were obviously huge implications for His ability to fulfill His mission on earth. The angels fought to see Him fulfill it to the T. The demons and Satan himself tried their best to destroy or at least derail Him.
2. Angels are amazingly Christ centered. They bring no attention to themselves. They live to please and obey and worship Jesus Christ. Any claim to know or see or hear from angels wherein this is not the case should be discounted or at least suspect.
3. As we set about to fulfill our calling as Christians and as a local fellowship, we can be encouraged and confident that angels are fighting for us. This is not all on our own shoulders. The more we get in step with His call on us; …… the more we give ourselves to being about what He is about – – the more we will experience what the writer of Hebrews says about angels in ch. 1 vs. 14 “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
4. Issue of angels assigned to certain cities per ch. 2 & 3 of revelation?
5. Angels teach us that passionate defined worship of Jesus Christ is what we were made for. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this: but there are many conflicting voices out there for how we should look at life and even what we should think of Jesus Christ. But you know – even the sharpest theologian and the most sincere writer and the most brilliant philosophers see through a glass darkly as Paul writes in I Cor. 13. But when it comes to how angels view life and the person of Jesus Christ – they do not have that problem. Angels see Him as He is without any hindrance; without sin and mortality and our finiteness to blur their vision. So when they speak of Him, we ought to be all ears. And they do speak of Him often based on what we see in the new testament.
6. We are expected to live in sober awareness of their presence and watchful eye at all times. Listen to these scriptures: I Cor. 4:9 – “For I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” Simon Kistemaker in his excellent commentary on I Corinthians says of this passage: “..when God’s people endure suffering and face death, angels support and strengthen them. Angels observe everything …..” I Cor. 11:10 – “Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” I Tim. 5:21 – “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.”
7. We will have little success in learning to live this way if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from all the faulty thinking and attitudes we have re: angels. I mean who cares if angels are watching me if all they are is these fat little effeminate creatures that sit on clouds all day and play their silly little harps; and shoot romantic arrows at each other on Valentine’s Day? But if my concept of angels is that they are so mighty and powerful that they can : – literally blind a mob of horny out of control men who were trying to break in to Lot’s house and rape his male guests, who unfortunately for the mob happened to be angels – who looked like men…. – or remember the time when King David sinned by having all the people of Israel counted? And he knew he had sinned, confessed it to God; and God sent the prophet Gad to let him know that he was going to be judged; and then God sent an angel, and he somehow caused a great pestilence or sickness to kill 70,000 people of Israel; and then the scripture says, “When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand.” (II Sam. 24:16,17) – or what about the time when the Assyrian army was ready to attack Judah – – and King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed together, and II Kings 19: 35 says, “Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.”
You say, well that was the old testament days.
– Well what about Jesus – remember when He was arrested in the garden of gethsemane by the mob led by Judas, and they were all armed with clubs and swords and Peter reached for his sword and swung at one of them and cut off his ear; and Jesus said to Peter, “..do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (roughly 72,000 angels!) You say, well that was Jesus…
– Well what about the time after Jesus rose from the dead and the early church began to grow when the Jewish authorities arrested some of the apostles and threw them in jail. Vs. 19 of Acts ch. 5 says, “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” When the high priest and his associates and the council and the senate sent officers to bring the apostles to stand trial they “found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors” but no apostles inside.
– Do you ever worry about evil gov’t rulers and their seeming invincibility? Well King Herod was one of those kinds of rulers. One day he gave a speech and the people cried out “the voice of a god and not of a man!” Acts 12:23 says, “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
– Jesus Christ – when teaching about the kingdom of God and the end of human history on earth – said these words in Matthew 13:49 about the role angels will play, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus says when He returns
– His angels will gather every man, woman, young person and child who has not embraced Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord – – and will physically grab them – – now we are talking about potentially billions of people – – and will throw them all into the fires of hell with no effective resistance. Folks – that is raw and almost indescribable power.
Now if your concept of angels is not in keeping with these accounts – then can I suggest that you make the necessary adjustments? I mean the stakes are pretty high – don’t you think?
The Bible doesn’t really say how many angels there are; but I can tell you this – – there are plenty to get the job done. These supernaturally powerful beings exist for one purpose – to worship, obey and glorify Jesus Christ. If those are your objectives in life; then you can be confident that these amazing creatures will not only be watching your life; but will be guarding it as well; If these are not your objectives in life; then again you might want to make some pretty quick adjustments.
The angel of the Lord that appeared to Joseph – the husband of Jesus’s mother Mary – said this to him when he was about to draw some wrong conclusions about Mary’s pregnancy – – “… for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
That’s what Jesus Christ came to do. That’s what only Jesus Christ can do.
Have you asked Him to do that for you?