On Jacob’s homeward march to the land of Canaan, the Bible tells us that “the angels of God met him.”
“Angels” are still a trendy subject in the tabloids, magazines, bookstores and television. A number of years ago, TV favorites included Highway To Heaven and Touched By An Angel. In the theaters, Christopher Lloyd helped win ball games as an angel in Angels In The Outfield. A holiday favorite from years ago was It’s A Wonderful Life. The underlying idea in all of these shows is that angels are people who have died, gone to heaven, and are then sent back to earth to help people with their problems. Often these “angels” are portrayed as having problems of their own, and sometimes they are trying to “earn their wings.” Cartoons routinely picture characters sprouting wings and floating up to heaven to become angels.
Such programs generally cater to a cleaner audience. But it’s still sad if people get their religious beliefs about angels, or about God, or about doctrine from the silly nonsense served up by Hollywood.
Angels are spirits which God created in the beginning to praise Him and to serve you and me. Usually these angels are invisible. Sometimes, in the days before all of the Bible was written down, angels would take on the appearance of a person when they brought a message to God’s people. Angels came to the house of Lot in Sodom. Angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Angels told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead. Visible or not, the angels are as real as the air that we breathe.
Some of these angels rebelled against God in the very beginning – Satan and his angels who are now called demons. They try to lead us away from our Savior. But Jesus and His Word are stronger than the devil.
The word “angel” really means messenger. Sometimes the angels are called seraphim or cherubim. An archangel is a ruling or chief angel. Michael is an archangel in the Bible. One other angel we know by name – Gabriel. Since the word “angel” means “messenger,” the Bible sometimes uses the word “angel” to refer to human messengers of the gospel, such as the pastors of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. Often, especially in the Old Testament, “THE Angel of the Lord” is the uncreated Messenger, God the Son.
The Bible does not tell us how many angels there are, but there are a lot. “Ten thousand times ten thousand” is what John saw in one vision. Even one angel is more powerful than any army. The angels of God are sinless. Angels are not everywhere at one time like God – but angels are swifter than anything on earth. The angels are very smart, very wise. But even the angels like to gain more wisdom and insight into God’s plan of salvation, says the Bible. They enjoy looking into the word of God. Angels are joining us as we worship this morning. The ushers are unable to count them, however.
The angels are sad when we sin. They rejoice when one sinner repents. They are disturbed by problems in the Church. The angels watch over us. Bad things still happen to you and me in this world – and God makes even these bad things work for good. But we will never know how many bad things did not happen – and how many good things did happen – because of the angels.
The Bible does not say whether God has assigned a specific guardian angel to each of us – or perhaps several. It is not true that people become angels when they die. Angels are angels and people are people. When Christians die, their souls are immediately with Jesus. Their glorified bodies will be reunited with their souls on the last day when Jesus comes again. We are not to pray to angels. We are to pray only to God. But the Bible does say that the angels pray for us. We do not rely on angels to tell us what to believe about God. We now have the entire Bible for that. The Bible tells us that when poor Lazarus died, “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” Such is God’s love for you and me – that He provides us with His own secret service to watch over us, and to finally escort our souls to heaven.