In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus speaks of when He will come “in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” As we traditionally ponder the Lord’s final coming in these closing Sundays of the Church Year, it may be helpful to review what the Bible says about the angels.
The 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. See them 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.
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.. 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 “the angel of the Lord encamps round about those that fear him and delivers them,” says the Bible. 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 with Jesus right away. Their 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.” Like God’s own secret service, the angels continue to watch over you and me, and they will escort our souls to heaven too.