Feb. 12, 2006
INTRODUCTION – Last Sunday we began our series in the gospel of Matthew. My sense is that this gospel is to be our launching pad in this new year for exploring our theme of “Pursuing the King and His Kingdom”. As I have been wrestling with the latter half of chapter one this week and thinking through the book and our pursuit as a whole, it seems prudent to me that we be willing at times to stop and strengthen our foundation when we come across a subject in this gospel that might not be as strong and vibrant in our life together as it ought to be.
Instead of expounding this passage today, I want to strengthen our foundation in one of the subjects it introduces to us – and that subject is the subject of angels. The word “angel”appears six times in Matthew; the word “angels” 13 times. If you wanted to study angels in the gospels, Matthew or Luke would be the books to study (Luke has a few more references than Matthew). Mark and John hardly have any comparatively speaking. If you wanted to study angels in the whole Bible you would find around 300 references to angels scattered across 34 books; 165 of those in the New Testament.
Because in the month of December I spent a lot of time studying the events surrounding the birth of Christ, I kept encountering the mention of angels. About that same time, one night I did something that I rarely do – I read one of Anne’s emails from the Elijah List that gave a review of the book “Open My Eyes Lord” – a practical guide to angelic visitations and heavenly experiences by Gary Oates with Robert Paul Lamb. While I wasn’t familiar with those authors, I was struck by the many endorsements of people I respect, and intrigued by the excerpts from the book in this review. Then I did something more rare than reading an email from the Elijah list – I got on the phone and ordered the book!
Now for those of you who know me, you know I’m not one to base my spiritual life on experiences or lack of. But the longer I go, the more I am recognizing that often it is an experience (whether ours or someone we respect) that opens us up to an aspect of theology or biblical truth that we have been blind to – or perhaps ambivalent to – until that experience jolts or awakens us.
One thing is for sure as we pursue our King and His Kingdom – angels are an integral part of His establishing and expanding that Kingdom. And unfortunately many of us are not as aware as we should be about their role and activity – especially in our own lives, families, in our corporate life together, and as we fulfill our ministry in the world. And because we in the church are not as aware as we should be, those outside the church are mired in myths and misconceptions about these glorious and powerful beings.
As I was rummaging through my file on angels I came across this page from the magazine “Family Circle” – – it is a collection of quotes from children on their thoughts regarding angels. (read it) Valentine’s Day and angels…
Children do not develop their perceptions in a vacuum. Probably the only difference between their views and many adults in our society is – the children are more free to express their views.
I’ve broken the truth about angels down into three parts.
First I want to talk to you about where angels came from.
Second, I want to talk to you about who they are and what they are like.
And finally I want to talk to you about what they do, or what their true purpose for existence is, and how we can be more aware of their activity.
I. First let’s talk about the origin of angels. The truth about the origin of angels is God created them for His purposes. Unlike God, they have not always been existent. The scriptures are not clear on exactly when they were created. But the scriptures are very clear that God created them. Turn to Psalm 148:1-6 (read it)
Just like God spoke a word and the heavens and the earth, the plants and the animals were created, so also He merely spoke a word and the angels came into being. Col. 1:16 says, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.” God created the angels for His own purposes – – not to roam about freely doing their own thing.
Unfortunately there were some angels led by an angel named Satan or Lucifer who decided they were above fulfilling God’s purposes. These angels foolishly thought they could overtake God’s throne and rule, and evidently tried according to Isaiah 14. And were thus banished from heaven. But my purpose this morning is to talk to you about good angels – not demons or bad angels. All of this to say that there are now two companies of angels – one whose sole purpose and intention is to worship and serve God. The other whose sole purpose and intention is to keep as many people as possible from worshipping and knowing and serving God.
And by the way there has never been another act of rebellion by good angels since that one initial act before the creation of man and woman. Nor do we believe that there can or will be. So the truth about the origin of angels is that God created them for His purposes, and they are all under His rule and power – even the bad angels or demons can only do what God allows them to do, and ultimately they too will serve His purposes.
Transition: Now who are these angels, and what are they like? As is often the case, when I delved into this study I was surprised at how much God has revealed to us about them.
II. The Nature and character of angels A. Names of: Angels are called by a variety of titles such as holy ones, strong ones, angel of the Lord, angel of God, My angel, angelic watcher, etc. Only two angels in the Bible have personal names, or perhaps we should say the names of only two angels are revealed in the Bible. Both appear in the Old Testament in the book of Daniel, and at several places in the New Testament. Can you remember their names?? Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel seems to function as a special messenger. It was he who had the privilege of announcing to Zacharias that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child who would be great in the Spirit and would be the forerunner of the Messiah. It was Gabriel who announced to Mary that she would bear a child who would be the long awaited Messiah. Michael on the other hand functions as a mighty warrior and in Jude is called an archangel. He will be very prominent in the battles that will precede the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. By the way, Cupid is not a word or angel found in the Bible for you romantics in the audience…
B. Number of: How many angels are there? There appear to be millions (perhaps billions) of them. In Daniel chapter 7 Daniel was lying on his bed and he had a dream and some visions. He describes that dream in great detail, but I just want to read vs. 9, 10 “I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames. Its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing. (vision of Jesus Christ – the Son of God) And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him.” “myriad” is a word that is used to describe something that is almost countless or innumerable.
Do you remember when Jesus Christ was being arrested in the garden of Gethsemane and impulsive Peter drew his sword and chopped off an ear of one of the soldiers’? What did Jesus say to Peter after He reached down and healed the soldier’s ear? After ordering him to put his sword back into its sheath He said, “Or 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?” A legion equaled 6,000 troops so we’re talking over 72,000 angels not occupied with something else – ready to move at a moment’s notice.
C. Their appearance: What do angels look like? Well sometimes they look like humans such as in Daniel 10:16, which says, “And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, and said to him who was standing before me,…” Most of the time the scriptures will only say the angel appeared to someone – without any description. Sometimes there will be a descriptive adjective or two.
For instance in Judges 13 an angel announces to the woman who would become the mother of Samson (a woman who by the way had been barren for quite some time) that she would have a son and that he would be a deliverer for Israel. When she described the angel to her husband she said, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome.” Sometimes people are literally terrified and collapse in fear and dread, as was the case with the Roman guards who were guarding the tomb where Jesus spent a couple of days before He rose from the dead. Matt. 28:2 says, “And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.”
D. Sex or Gender of Angels: Some people ask whether all angels are males? As far as I can tell, the answer is yes. Contrary again to popular culture and even some of the stuff in Christian bookstores, there is not one instance in scripture that talks about female angels. But there are plenty of instances where male angels minister very compassionately and powerfully to women; and the women do not seem to mind that God did not send them a female angel!
E. Strength of Angels: Are angels really strong? You bet they’re strong! Psalm 103:20 says, “Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word.” They are definitely super human and supernatural, but they are not all powerful like God is. An example of that is in Daniel 10:12 where an angel said to Daniel, “Do not be afraid Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia (a demon) was withstanding me for 21 days; then behold, Michael – one of the chief princes, came to help me….” This by the way is also one of the verses that points to a hierarchy among the angels.
Transition: Well that is a little bit about their origin, and what they are like. Now let’s look at what they do. III. The Work of Angels: I want to start out with the bad news first. A. Angels Mete out Judgment: Contrary to popular culture, angels are not every man, woman and child’s best friend. The truth is angels mete out punishment and judgment to those who refuse to bow the knee to the one true God. During King Hezekiah’s reign the powerful Assyrians came up against him. Their spokesman Sennacherib made all kinds of threats. And there was little King Hezekiah could do but pray. God heard his prayers and it says in vs. 35 of II Kings ch. 19, “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.”
King Herod in the first century, after Christ’s death – grew rather full of himself; and God finally had enough of it. Acts 12:23 says, “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” Jesus in a number of different passages talks about the end of the age. And He makes it very clear that angels will be His agents of punishment and judgment. Listen to Matt. 13:37-42 (read it) Now to the good news for those who have bowed the knee to Jesus Christ.
B. They lead us: First of all, angels lead, guide, and or instruct us to do this or that. Sometimes they do it in normal every day life. Sometimes they do it through dreams and visions. When Hagar fled from Sarah, and was drowning in hopelessness, it was an angel who directed her to go back to Sarah, and who assured her it would all work out. When Abraham commanded his servant to go find a wife for his son Isaac it was an angel that led him to the right woman.
When Joseph was prepared to send Mary away to keep her from being shamed because of her pregnancy out of wedlock, it was an angel that explained to him that God was the one who caused her to conceive and that he was to go on and marry her.
When Jesus’s life as a baby boy was in danger because of a demonized King named Herod, it was an angel that instructed Joseph to take his family to Egypt for a time.
When the Jewish officials arrested Peter and some of the other apostles – being filled with jealousy at the impact they were having on the people – it was an angel of the Lord that opened their jail cells in the middle of the night and instructed them to leave and stand in the temple and “speak to the people all the words of this life.”
Some would say, now that we have the Bible, we don’t need angelic help in making decisions, and I say to that – God have mercy on your unbelief and your arrogance. If you truly want to worship and obey the King and be used mightily in His kingdom on this earth, you need every possible resource God has made available to you – one of which is the leading, directing ministry of angels.
C. Angels protect us: Not only do angels lead us, they also protect us. Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Do angels protect everyone? What does it say? “those who fear Him” Let’s look at another Psalm – Psalm 91
Angels surround and protect those who as a lifestyle fear and obey the Lord. I’m not talking about perfection, but intent and consistent effort. Well what about so-called Guardian angels? Turn to Matthew 18:1 context 1-6 children; then vs. 10
Can we pray to angels for protection? Whenever in scripture people have tried to pray to or more often worship angels, they are quickly rebuked and corrected. We are not to pray to them. But we can pray to God to send His angels to protect us. David seemed to have done that in Psalm 35:1-6. (read it)
When I take my daughter to school at least two mornings a week, I always pray that God would surround her and that school with angels.
When I become aware that any of you are going into tough or dangerous or perhaps demonic situations, I often pray that God will send His angels to protect you.
D. Angels minister to and strengthen us – especially as we are more and more pouring our lives out for the King and His kingdom.
At the end of Jesus’s 40 day fast and temptations from Satan, He was very weak and exhausted. Matt. 4:11 says, “Then the devil left Him’ and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.”
In the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus anticipated the horrible price He would have to pay in a matter of minutes for our salvation – He agonized in prayer. And Luke 22:43 says, “Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.”
Hebrews 1:14 says of angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” In the course of a day our Father God evidently is constantly sending out angels to minister to His Sons and Daughters.
Now I have never seen an angel (as far as I know). But I know they have ministered to me on many occasions, and I often pray they would minister to you.
Every Tuesday morning I drive down here around 5:20 and turn the heater on and start the coffee. Some time in their I will ask God to send angels to wake the men up. I do that because angels have often woken me up through a variety of means over the years. How do I know it was angels? Well, I can’t prove it. But I can tell you demons are not into me waking up early. And you can’t prove it wasn’t angels.
Here’s the deal folks. Jesus Christ – the Head of the Church and the Captain of the Army of God – is absolutely bent on fulfilling His purposes for His church and the earth before He returns. Many prophetic voices from many streams of Christianity and many nations have prophesied that before Christ returns He is going to renew and revive His church in a way we have perhaps never seen before.
In Luke’s account of the establishment of the church and its expansion after Christ’s ascension, wherein we see the church on top of its game, there are 21 references to angels. Wherever you see a revived church you will see an increased awareness of the ministry of angels, because angels are God’s primary instrument to instruct, lead, guide, protect, minister to and strengthen us so we can fulfill our mission.
Is there a danger of getting too infatuated with angels or seeing angels? I suppose. But I am more concerned this morning about our tendency to be oblivious to their presence and ministry. Dare I say that we as a church cannot fulfill our calling in this community without the active and even increasing ministry of angels? One of the reasons I believe that – is because I know some of the people He is going to send us to to minister to – or perhaps send to us to be ministered to – are going to be significantly messed with by demons. If we are more afraid of demons than we are confident of the ministry of angels, we are not going to be willing to jump in the fray.
CONCLUSION – One of the things I haven’t really taught on this morning is that angels are a worshipping bunch of creatures. They live to worship Jesus Christ. You can see that in scattered places in the scriptures, but especially in the book of Revelation. Josh and I have noticed over the last weeks that our favorite worship leader and song writer on the face of the earth – Matt Redman – seems to be in touch with this. (Derek Prince’s introduction?)
I would like our elder couples to spread out around the room. And if you want to be more mightily used by God in His kingdom; more in love with the King; and more aware of and confident in the ministry of angels through it all – I would like to encourage you to come down front for ministry.