One of the hottest topics for book sales in the last years has been the study of spirit beings (witches, vampires, etc.) as well as angels. Much of the material in popular books and paperbacks on the subject of angels is based on fables, personal experiences and religious information gathered from sources other than the Bible. As fascinating as this might be, we must limit our ideas about what angels are like and what they do to God's Word. If we go beyond the Word about angels, we have no guarantee that our conclusions about them will be accurate. However, when we remain with the Scriptures, despite the little information we have, we can be sure that we have the true picture of what angels are like. What we do know can be summarized as follows:
- We know that they are created spiritual beings that have a variety of characteristics such as free will, the ability to communicate, individual personality, a variety of supernatural powers, and are pure spirit.
- We know that the Bible only mentions a few by name (Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer) but there are countless numbers of them.
- There is a hierarchy of angels with some being in higher positions than others for some reason.
- The Bible tells us that a number of angels led by Satan rebelled against God and were judged, cast out of heaven, and are presently awaiting their final punishment when Jesus returns.
- We understand that angels have major functions:
- They are messengers (what the word angel means).
- They minister or serve people on earth.
- They praise God in the heavenly dimension.
I haven't provided all the details and references here but these facts pretty well cover what the Bible tells us about angels. There are wild stories, movies, and testimonials from people who claim to have seen or been saved by angels, but the only thing we know for sure is what God Himself reveals to us (angels are not allowed to reveal themselves without God's permission).
I'd like to build on the information that the Bibles gives us and list some of the things, that in one way or another, angels teach us.
Angels teach us humility
For to which of the angels did He ever say, 'YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU? And again, 'I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME'?
- Hebrews 1:5
II Kings tells the story of King Hezekiah and how in one night, one single angel destroyed the entire Assyrian army (185,000 strong). We read about angels being transformed into men and delivering messages to human beings. Angels are powerful, intelligent, eternal beings and yet in the Hebrew letter we see that God says that He never referred to them as "My son." In Romans 8:15 the children of God refer to Him as "Abba" or daddy, and yet no angel has ever had this relationship with God. The disciples of Jesus, weak and sinful as they are, have a better place than the angels, who are superior in intelligence and power, and yet accept their role in serving man without question.
Humility is accepting the role we have been given without murmur or complaint. It is the ability to love and serve those who are weaker and undeserving without arrogance or resentment. Humility is the ability to put ourselves under, to bear under, to have a reasonable assessment of our talents and position. It is also the realization that whatever we have has been given to us.
We can learn about humility from these powerful spiritual beings who have accepted their role as messengers and servants of beings who are inferior to themselves; and who have joyfully done so because of faith.
Angels teach us meekness
But Michael the archangel when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'
- Jude 1:9
Deuteronomy 34:6 tells us that Moses was perfectly healthy when God called him home, and that his body was buried in a place where no one could find it. This was probably done to avoid the Jews and others from turning it into a shrine or some form of idol center. This may explain the dispute over his body between Michael the archangel and the devil. The devil may have wanted to reveal it in order to create a stumbling block for the Jews.
In the end the only word spoken by this powerful being (more so than Satan because he is of light and Satan of darkness) was to call on the Lord to rebuke (forbid or charge) him. Satan could not provoke Michael to say or do something which God would not permit Him to do. He had the power to destroy Satan but he didn't have the permission to do so.
Meekness is the ability to keep our self-will under the control of another. Self willed people want their way and they want it now. Self-willed people think their way is the best and only way, and rarely consider that someone else might have as good an idea. Self-willed people do not take a challenge to their authority very well.
Meekness is that quality whereby someone doesn't eliminate self-will (impossible to do) but is ready to allow another's will to dominate their own. Michael did it with Satan. Jesus did it in the garden (not My will but Thy will). We can do it also by searching to do God's will in every situation rather than our own. Practicing this will also enable one to submit to others as well.
Angels teach us patience
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these thing which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things into which angels long to look.
- I Peter 1:10-12
Peter is explaining the great advantage that we have in knowing the full revelation of God in Christ. We know God's plan is to save us by sending Jesus to die for our sins, and resurrecting from the dead to guarantee our own resurrection from the dead. We know that faith is the proper response to God's offer of salvation, and that faith in Jesus is expressed by repenting of one's sins and being baptized in Jesus' name. We also know that Jesus will return to judge everyone, and take the church into the heavenly realm forever.
We know and teach this; we also live by this truth, and it is a constant source of encouragement for us to remain faithful and fruitful. Peter is saying that in the Old Testament however, the prophets who waited, served, and suffered did not know these things; even the angels longed (desired, yearned) to know but didn't. The prophets lived a short time and died; they wait in sleep for the end to come. The angels, however, remain conscious, and for thousands of years they also had to wait, serve, and remain faithful to God. Remaining faithful is an act of will over a period of time, and angels teach us that even the most powerful of beings need to be patient and wait upon the Lord.
Next time you're frustrated because God has not answered your prayer or given you direction, think of the angels, who longed to know God's plan, had to wait for thousands of years before their desire was satisfied. The point to remember here is that eventually their patience was rewarded, and so will yours be if you wait upon God patiently.
Hebrews 1:14 tells us that angels, "are ministering spirits sent out to render service to the...(saints)." Notice that the Hebrew writer speaks in the present tense, that this is something that angels do in the present era, not just in the past. We're not exactly clear on how they minister to us today:
- help us in our work for the church
- provide protection from Satan
- assist us in our living and dying
These were the ways they helped God's people in the past and may continue to do so today. We do know that their existence is real and dedicated to our personal well being. We also are able to incorporate some of their characteristics into our conduct as Christians:
- we learn to humble ourselves before God as they do (if they who are more powerful do, so should we)
- we learn to allow our wills to be set by Christ, and not in competition with others (probably why there is no fighting between the millions of angels, nobody is trying to get their way all the time)
- we learn to be patient, knowing that in due time (God's due time, not ours) the Lord will come, and we will finally be released from death
We learn one last lesson also, and that is that no one escapes judgment - not even angels.
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,
- Jude 1:6
This should teach us to live soberly, live purely, live dedicatedly and faithfully until He comes. God will judge all, even the angels, so this teaches us that we must be ready when He comes. If this lesson touches your heart, and you know that you are not ready to meet the Lord in judgment, why not prepare yourself for that great day by repenting of your sins and being baptized, calling on the name of Jesus? Or, if you are a Christian who has been unfaithful, why not be restored to a right relation with God by asking for forgiveness?
As you do either of these things, realize that the angels are rejoicing as you come to Christ the Lord.