O Angels, Who Are You?
Lord Jesus, as the day of Your birth draws near, continue to prepare my heart and the hearts of my fellow believers for the celebration of Christmas AND for your return on Judgement Day. Lord, we are gathered to worship you and to hear Your Word—Come to us and bless us! Amen.
God promises you that He will send His angels "to keep you in all your ways" (Psalm 91:11). God uses His angels to accomplish His will. In the case of Peter, God’s earthly work for Peter was not yet complete and he was about to lose his life. So, God sent an angel to deliver him.
Peter declares the glory of our Salvation—the abundant mercy of God, the living hope we have in Christ Jesus, the perseverance in this life to a great and wonderful inheritance reserved for us. Our place with God is even greater than that of the angels.
Text: Hebrews 1:5-14
For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him." And of the angels He says: "Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire." But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions." And: "You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail." But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
In Christ Jesus, the coming Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:
It is safe to say that there is a strong fascination with ANGELS that has developed over the past several years. We are fascinated by angels with good reason because some of the most fascinating events of Scripture include angels:
God placed angels (Cherubim) at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because of their sin…
Angels accompanied the Lord Himself to visit Abraham and renew the promise that Abraham would have a son and to tell him about the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:1ff)…
Beautiful golden sculptures of Cherubim angels were placed on the top of the Ark of the Covenant—one on either side with their wings outstretched to cover the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18ff). Other sculptures and embroidered designs of Cherubim were also included in the Tabernacle and later, the Temple (Exodus 26:31, 1 Kings 6:23, etc.)…
Six-winged Seraphim angels appeared in Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6:2ff) …
The angel Gabriel announced the coming births of John and Jesus to Zacharias Mary (Luke 1:5ff)…
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream assuring him that Mary had not been unfaithful and telling him that her Son would be the Son of God (Matthew 1:18ff).
The single angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds and then the whole company of angels appearing to the shepherds and gave glory to God (Luke 2:8ff)…
An angel stirred the water at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:4)…
Angels appeared at Jesus’ empty tomb on Easter morning to tell the women that He had risen (Matthew 28:1ff ~ and the other Gospel accounts)
An angel delivered Peter from prison, as we heard in this morning’s Scripture reading (Acts 12:1-11).
The apostle Jude writes to tell us that Michael, the archangel contended with the Devil over the body of Moses (Jude 9) …In Revelation, Michael and the other good angels are described as doing battle against the Devil and his angels in the devil’s original fall from heaven (Revelation 12:7ff).
All of these fascinating events from Scripture and many others like them, stirs up a person’s curiosity and interest about angels. At the same time, there is a certain limit to the knowledge we have about angels; and (true to human nature) where Scripture is silent, people often put in their own ideas and speculations.
When we use God’s Word to consider the angels and their work, it is a profitable consideration because it is for that reason that God has included news about the angels in His Word. The truth about angels is intended to help us.
On the other hand, when the topic of angels is considered apart from God’s Word that approach leads to all kinds of things, some of which can actually be soul-damaging. Once a consideration of angels goes beyond Scripture there is virtually no limit to what might come out of it. Centuries ago, theologians debated how many angels could fit on the head of a pin—a question without value and one which, therefore, has no answer in Scripture.
The current fascination over angels is very evident. We can be "Touched by an Angel" on TV.
The modern interest in angels has lead to the marketing of a perfume called "The Scent of Angels" which is supposed to be able to help you "spiritually" – whatever "spiritually" may mean in this case.
There are any number of people who want to help you "contact your angel." These encourage you to talk to them and assure you that your angel will hear you with a genuine interest and compassion and love, and that your angel will help you—all of which that sounds very much like prayer which is to be directed only to God.
True to the influence of the 90’s, today you can even get help with angels by using your computer and going to "angelaccess.com."
Some look upon the "angel-boom" as a good sign of increasing interest in God’s Word—perhaps. It is a good, if angel fascination goes to God’s Word for answers. With the angels’ involvement in the Christmas story fresh in our minds, this morning we go to the Word and seek the Truth by asking:O ANGELS, WHO ARE YOU? We will seek to learn their I. Identity II. Rank III. Purpose.
Our text this morning doesn’t give a great deal of information on the identity of the angels and how they came into being. It does, however, very clearly emphasize and confirm the angels’ existence by simply talking about them as if they are an assumed fact. “To which of the angels did He ever say…God’s angels…His angels…” references like these are repeated throughout the text assume that everyone understands that these angels DO EXIST. The angels ARE REAL. All of Scripture from Genesis through Revelation testifies to the fact that there angels who serve our God.
In all of Scripture we learn of only two names given to angels – Gabriel, who appeared to Zacharias and Mary; and also the archangel, Michael. Perhaps other angels have names, perhaps not—we are not told – those two ARE named.
Who are…or what are the angels? As with every other created being, we find the beginning of the angels in the Creation. In Genesis, we hear, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In the Gospel of John, he writes, “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was nothing made that was made”(John 1:1-3).
Before creation God existed—from eternity. He’s always been here, HE ALONE!. It was only after He created things that anything else came into being, and ALL things that exist (we are told) were created by God. Before God Creation we have God alone. After Creation, we have angels. God CREATED THE ANGELS. They are part of His invisible creation. Paul writes to the Colossians, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible…” (Colossians 1:16)
If we go to Genesis we will not find a verse to say, "on this day God created the angels," but we can be sure they are created beings. Therefore, since God created everything in the space of six days, the angels too were created at some time within the 6 days of Creation. “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and He rested the 7th day…” (Exodus 20:11)
The angels were a separate creation and they remain such. They are not people who have died, nor are they people yet to come to the earth. They are spirit-beings, created by God totally separate from His creation of mankind. In Genesis, God gives a very clear account of how He specially made Adam and Eve. The angels were separate from that, unrelated to the creation of people.
It’s a good thing that the angels aren’t related—merely human beings in some other form. Sometimes in our modern day we hear much about people who have died becoming angels, or people yet to be born being angels before they are born. If the angels were related in that way to us, human beings, there would be far less comfort and assurance than what we have in Scripture. As we go forward in our meditation this morning we will see how important it is that these angels be specific creatures, created by God for a very wonderful purpose on our behalf.
In verse 14 of our text, the writer to the Hebrews says, “are they not all ministering SPIRITS” [v.14]. The angels are spirits with no flesh & blood on their own. God at times gave them flesh & blood so they could appear to people like they did when the came to Abraham. But this was only to show themselves to the people. God also pictures the Cherubim angels with two wings in the tabernacle…the Seraphim with six wings. Again, these pictures are for our benefit so that we can see and have a concept of an angel since they are spirits and we would not otherwise be able to see them.
In art, you can find almost any kind of depiction of angels. Some look very pretty, some look delicate. An angel is not delicate at all! Paul describes them as “…MIGHTY angels…” (2 Thessalonians 1:7). In Psalms we hear, “Bless the LORD you His angels who excel in strength….”(Psalm 103:20).
If we want to create a picture in our minds of these spirit beings whom God has created to serve Him, we should picture something POWERFUL and MIGHTY—STRONG, ABLE TO DELIVER like the angel whom God sent to deliver Peter for whom the Peter’s shackles simply fell away from him. Angels are POWERFUL creatures of God.
There are MANY of these powerful angels. We read in Revelation, “I heard the voice of many angels around the throne…and the number of themwas ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” (Revelation. 5:11). Think of "the multitude of the heavenly host" that appeared to the Shepherds on Christmas night (Luke 2:13), how Jesus told Peter He could ask for more than 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). The angels are MIGHTY they are MANY they are spirit-beings created by God to serve a specific purpose in His service.
When we speak of the rank among angels we think, perhaps, of Cherubim & Seraphim & Archangel. Beyond these, we don’t know of any other ranks among the angels. But more importantly than the differing ranks among the angels is how they rank in the larger picture of things. Where do they fit into God’s plan…into His scheme of things…into the whole world picture? It is very important to remember that the angels are CREATURES—CREATED by God. They ARE NOT EQAUL TO GOD.
In our text, the writer to the Hebrews uses the angels as something wonderfully amazing to the people, esteemed by the people as something they can’t even fully comprehend, BUT he says, Jesus is STILL GREATER! The inspired writer uses passages from the Old Testament to demonstrate that this is true. He asks, “To which of the angels did [God] ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You?’” [v.5] The answer is, "NONE." God never said that to any of the angels. He said it to Jesus, His Son. “And again, ‘I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son’” [v.5] To none of the angels did God ever say this…but to Christ.
“Let all the angels of God worship HIM.” [v.6] The writer to the Hebrews establishes the supremacy of Jesus. When we read through these passages we could wonder, "What does this tell us about the angels? This is talking about Jesus." It is talking about Jesus but that is the point. Angels are themselves NEVER the focus. The angels were created by God to be servants to Him. They are His servants, His messengers to do His bidding. They ARE great indeed! But they pale in comparison to Christ. The lesson we take from this is that we should keep Christ and the work of our Lord God first and foremost in our hearts and lives; remembering that God does call Jesus His Son; remembering that He did say to Jesus, “sit at my right hand ‘till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” [v.13]; remembering that God has anointed Christ to be our Savior. All these things to which Hebrews calls attention glorify CHRIST! It tells us His Work is the purpose of God’s Word, He and our Salvation are the most important things and the angels are ministering spirits to serve Him!
Before our text, the writer to the Hebrews has said, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:1-14).
The angels are BELOW CHRIST, because Christ is our Savior. The Lord God far exceeds angels. He alone is worthy of our worship. The way God talks about angels supports this as well. He never refers to them as being something on their own. Angels are always spoken of as being "HIS angels," "the angels OF GOD." They are His creation, His servants, they have their power from Him, they are not independent, they’re not on their own. The angels are not worthy of our honor and praise because they are simply serving God.
In Revelation an angel brought to John wonderful things to see and hear. John was going to fall down and worship that angel but he was stopped. “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book…WORSHIP GOD!’” (Revelation 22:9)
We are fellow servants of God WITH the angels. So we are on the same plane as the angels because we are serving God. Here lies a danger with today’s fascination with angels. Many times the angels have now become the center of attention. They have become the ones to whom people turn for help instead of God. Yes, God does promise to send His angels to help us, but they are not the ones to whom we address our prayers. They are not the ones that we glorify as the ones who have the great power to help. GOD is the one who is helping us through His servants, the angels.
It is not hard to find a greater fascination with angels than with the God who sends them. The angel becomes the thing…with perhaps passing reference to God. Angels impress because of their power and their might and their ability to help, but they can’t bring salvation. They can announce the news of salvation, they can protect in earthly matters, but they cannot save us…they cannot convert the heart…they cannot bring eternal life.
The interest and fascination with angels always needs to be subservient to the interest and fascination with our Lord and Savior—who has done all things well, dying and living again for our salvation.
The last verse of our text says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” [v.14] The angels’ job—their work—is to serve YOU. They are sent by God to minister—to serve—those who will inherit salvation. The angels do this in many ways. They worship God as they did on Christmas night. Psalm 103 encourages, “Bless the LORD you His angels…”(Psalm 103:20). The angels cried out praise in Isaiah’s vision, “HOLY HOLY HOLY is the Lord of hosts…” (Isaiah 6:3). The angels worship and adore Him because of the redemption and the wonder of salvation which God has provided. In this way, the angels become an example for us. We follow their lead and also join to worship and adore God! The angels serve us by showing us praise and glory to God where it belongs. “There is joy," Jesus says, “in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). The angels rejoice to see salvation come and be preserved in our hearts. They rejoice and praise God—they serve us.
The name "angel" itself means "messenger." One of the angels’ primary purposes is to serve God and us as messengers. So we see angels bringing news to Abraham, to Zacharias, to Mary, to the shepherds, etc. The message which the angels bring is always GOD’s Word. Here again we have a danger in our modern angel-philosophy.
There is nothing wrong with speaking of an angel bringing messages to people as long as that message is the Gospel and of God’s bidding. Too often, the euphoria concerning angels also leads their message to be presented as nothing more than good morality. If you watch TV shows and specials about angels and the stories of angels bringing messages to people, listen to what they are saying. More times than not they are saying how WE can live—a morality, a way of a good life here on this earth, something WE CAN DO. That is NOT the message angels are sent to bring. His angels bring the news of God’s Word—the Good News of the Gospel—and of God’s deeds.
The angels also served us by serving our Savior. They came to Jesus and ministered to Him after He had gone 40 days and 40 nights without food in the wilderness and being tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:11). An angel came to Jesus and strengthened Him as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Perhaps the way in which we most often think of angels serving us is as our protectors. God promises, “He shall give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12).
The angels are sent by God to provide protection and rescue for us in the things of this earth—again, not spiritual protection, that God does with His Word. God can and does provide protection and deliverance without angels, as well, but He tells us that He sends His angels for the purpose of guarding us, lest we come to harm against His will.
Each one of us can, perhaps, think of times that we were spared from harm. We don’t know exactly how everything worked out, but with the promise of God saying He will send His angels we can be sure that the angels were working on our behalf—even though we never saw them with our own eyes. We see them through faith, knowing that what God promises He does.
Do each one of us have our own particular "guardian angel?" God doesn’t say that we do. I, personally, like to believe that we have many. However God assigns the work to His angels is not an issue. The important thing is that God says HE WILL SEND HIS ANGELS to guard and protect us and to take away our fear with the knowledge that His powerful servants are serving us.
The angels will also gather us and all believers on the Last Day (Mathew 24:31) to be judged by Christ and then taken to heaven.
“Are they not ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?’ [v.14] ALL these things are part of the angels’ work for YOU. God created special spirit-beings with power….great numbers of them…He sends them out…to serve YOU! What an amazing thing! What an amazing truth to realize that our great God has sent such great servants to serve us.
So as we consider the angels, we can have a godly fascination with them. By all means, if you have an angel on the top of your Christmas tree keep him there! Use it as a reminder that the angels proclaimed the Gospel to the shepherds. Think of that message!—don’t glorify the angel, but think of the message the angel brought. By all means remember and take heart in the fact that God does send His angels to keep you in all your ways! Remember that the angels are powerful spirit beings to serve YOU…but who sent them? God did! All glory belongs to Him. He is the one Who established the message which the angels bring. He is the one who gives the power to the angels to protect.
For all of the service we receive from the angels—much of which we don’t even realize…thanks be to God for providing it to us, through His servants and ours—the angels. Amen!
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt