Scriptures

Do Angels Exist?

Introduction

When it comes to the subject of angels, there’s no better place to start than by looking in the Book of Hebrews where the writer shows his readers that the Son, Jesus is,

‘superior to the angels’.

And if I were to offer a title for this part of the study I would entitle it,

‘The worshippers and the worshiped’,

because such a title highlights this important distinction between Christ and the angels, based on Hebrews 1:6+14.

‘When he brings the Firstborn into the world he says, let all the angels of God worship him’. Hebrews 1:6

‘Are they not all liturgical spirits sent forth to do service?’ Hebrews 1:14

Let me begin by pointing out that, in this part of the letter, there are two things which I believe are very significant and which certainly ought to be noticed.

1. The abruptness with which the writer introduces the subject of angels. Hebrews 1:4.

No sooner has he written about the superiority of Christ over the Old Testament prophets, then we are confronted, hurried, we might even say, into this discussion about angels. Now, I think that this is rather surprising, and I suspect that, for many Bible students. The reason for raising the subject at this point isn’t very clear, or even why it’s raised at all!

2. The other surprising thing is the amount of space which the writer devotes to the discussion of angels, especially in the light of the briefness with which he has dealt with the prophets.

In real terms he dispenses with the prophets in just two verses, Hebrews 1:2-3, but then he launches into a passage of 28 verses to talk about Christ and angels. It appears that he is responding to a discussion about angels which has been going on among these Hebrew Christians.

The question is why write so much about angels?

I believe that I can suggest the very probable reason, but before I give that reason, let me make a few general comments on this subject of angels, because it seems to me that this is a subject on which a good many church members, and preachers, are rather reluctant to commit themselves.

If you were to ask them, what do you believe about angels?

Do you actually believe in angels?

I suspect that a large number of them would certainly hesitate to give an answer, and might even be very reluctant to answer at all! I wonder why it is, that the subject is so seldom discussed these days?

Why it is ignored?

And I use the word ‘ignored’ rather than ‘overlooked’, because it seems to me that the topic is deliberately avoided.

Do you suppose it is because it is thought that these days it is ‘old-fashioned’ to believe in angels?

Is it because we are reluctant to let people think that we are theologically behind the times?

That may be part of the answer. Especially when theological students find statements like this in their text books.

‘It might seem there would be little profit in attempting any discussion of the angels, those higher beings that have been traditionally recognized in Christian faith and theology. As they have been usually represented, they belong to the mythology and poetry of religion, rather than to theology. In the Bible itself, it would be hard to know whether the mention of angels should be understood as implying the activity of some higher order of beings, or whether it is simply a picturesque way of representing the action of God, or his self-communication in the world.’ (John MacQuarrie; ‘Principle of Christian Theology’ p.215)

If you examine modern works of theology you will find that they have little or nothing at all to say about angels.

They will discuss God, Man and even the Devil, but they stop short at angels! Now, why is this?

Can it be that because in a world as sophisticated as ours, angels just don’t fit in!

It is as if those country-cousins have come in from the woods to visit their rich city-relations and they are an embarrassment! And we wish they would go away, back to where they came from!

Don’t you find it a little bit strange that people today will accept the possibility of ‘alien visitors from outer-space’ and U.F.O.’s! They will believe in the occult and in superstitious astrological forecasts. They will talk in a way that shows they believe, that it matters and really makes a difference under which so-called ‘star-sign’ they were born.

They will listen eagerly to anyone who will talk about having had an

‘out of the body experience.’

The list is almost endless but, mention angels, and you become some sort of religious fanatic! Such is the world in which we live!

Now, it doesn’t surprise me that liberal theology dismisses a belief in angels as out-dated and old-fashioned, because it is little more than the Sadduceeism of Jesus’ time dressed up in modern clothes.

You will remember that, among the sects and parties of New Testament times, the Sadducees were the ones who did not believe in angels or spirits and who denied both miracles and resurrection and life after death. Matthew 22:23-32 / Acts 23:8.

But why Christians should hesitate to confess to a belief in angels is something of a mystery to me?

1. Of course, there are some who think that angels are mysterious beings, about whose nature and function little has been revealed.

They say, that, for that reason, we should

‘not seek to be wise above that which is written’. Ecclesiastes 7:16

How often that text has been abused! And that is how they avoid discussing the subject! But how mistaken they are! And how anyone can claim that little has been revealed is truly amazing, when you know that angels are mentioned 213 times in the Old Testament, ‘Malak’, and 188 times in the New Testament, ‘Angelos’, a total of over 400 times.

I said before that the Bible never attempts to prove that God exists, His existence is always taken for granted. Well, so with the angels. They are not presented as some strange phenomenon, they are not the subject of progressive revelation, that is to say, they are not first hinted at, and then gradually exposed to view, little by little.

They are there almost as soon as you open your Bible, in Genesis 3:24 and they remain there through to the very last chapter of the book in Revelation 22:8. And if you are a serious student of the Bible you cannot avoid seeing them.

You may, of course, decide to ‘let sleeping angels lie,’ but they are still there! Perhaps you have heard that there are several places in both the U.S.A. and Canada, where you may visit what are virtually ‘dinosaur graveyards’, valleys where huge numbers of dinosaur bones have been discovered.

I heard that one young man suggested to his father that they might drive out and see the bones in one of these valleys. But his father said,

‘I don’t believe in dinosaurs and I don’t want to see any!’

Well, we may close our eyes, but the angels will not go away!

2. There are other Christians who take the position that there was a time, in a former dispensation, when angels were active, but, they tell us, since Jesus has become our Mediator, there is no longer any need for the ministry of angels.

And so, again, they very neatly sidestep the need for any further discussion! With a stroke, angels have been taken out of circulation, made redundant, moth-balled, if you like. Of course, to some people that explanation may sound very wise and scholarly, but it is not scholarly at all.

There is simply no logic to that argument, because in this letter to the Hebrews, written about 35 years after Jesus became our Mediator with God, the writer states, that angels are,

‘ministering spirits, sent forth to serve those who are to obtain salvation.’ Hebrews 1:14

So, there is no reason to suppose that the intercession of Christ, as High Priest, in any way affects the service which angels are said to perform.

What are we to make of the words of the Lord Jesus himself, when He says, speaking of the children,

‘Their angels always behold the face of my father’. Matthew18:10

Now, I am not saying that a belief in angels is necessary to salvation, nor do I claim to understand all that the Bible reveals about them. But I am somewhat surprised at how little is said about them these days, because a failure to understand what the Scriptures teach on the subject means a loss of the encouragement which the doctrine can offer.

Let me mention that verse in Hebrews 1:14, it is a very significant verse, because it indicates that angels have a twofold ministry.

‘Are they not all liturgical (worshipping) spirits, sent forth to serve.’ Hebrews 1:14

The two words used are ‘leitourgika’, which gives us the word ‘liturgy’, and ‘diakonian’, which has to do with service. The original meaning of the word ‘leitourgekos’ was, ‘worship offered to God’, and it tells us how angels relate to God.

The word ‘diakonia’, on the other hand, tells us how angels relate to the heirs of salvation, they ‘render service’. They are worshipping spirits, whom God sends out, to serve the heirs of salvation. And that surely means you and me.

If you now ask me if I believe in guardian angels, I answer yes! And if you now put the question,

‘how do you recognize a guardian angel?’

I answer,

‘that is not my problem!’

As an heir of salvation, mentioned in the verse, I am one of those who is to be cared for. I am neither required nor expected to be able to identify an angel!

And I would further point out that, whoever else may reject belief in angels;

1. Peter didn’t.

‘Now I know that God has sent His angel’. Acts 12:11

2. Paul didn’t.

‘This night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong’. Acts 27:23

3. In fact, all of the apostles believed in them.

‘An angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out’, Acts 5:19

4. What is more, the ministry of the Lord Jesus Himself was intimately associated with the angels.

a. They foretold His birth to both Mary and Joseph. Luke 1:25-28.

b. Announced His birth to the Shepherds. Luke 2:8-14.

c. Called Mary and Joseph back from Egypt. Matthew 2:19+20.

d. Ministered to Him after his temptation in the wilderness. Matthew 4:11.

e. Strengthened Him in Gethsemane. Luke 22:43.

f. Rolled the stone from the tomb. Matthew 28:2.

g. Met the disciples who came to the tomb. Matthew 28:1-7.

h. Were present at His ascension. Acts 1:9-11.

i. And will accompany Him when He returns. 2 Thessalonians 1:7.

5. And, for that matter, Satan believes in them. Psalm 91:11 He quoted the promise to Jesus,

‘For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.’

If we examine the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and you will see that the range of service they rendered was staggering. And the Hebrew Christians, to whom Jesus wrote, had no problem believing in them either.

1. We know that, over the centuries, the Jews had developed a very complicated angelology, that is a system of belief about angels, and had come to place an exaggerated importance on the ministry of angels.

I have to smile whenever I use that term ‘angelology’, because it sounds, to me anyway, rather ridiculous expression. It is not in my Oxford dictionary, it is a word which someone has ‘cobbled together’ to give us another ‘ology’!

Although I have to admit that I don’t know any other word to use! It was probably the ancient Persians who first developed a system of doctrine about angels, but, be that as it may, it is certainly true that the Jews themselves had, by New Testament times, come to hold very firm views about them.

Some of the things they believed were true, because they were based on Scripture. For instance, they believed that there are millions of angels, and that is certainly true because the writer of this letter writes, in Hebrews 12:22, of

“You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly”.

Unfortunately, however, by New Testament times, Jewish teachers had begun to ascribe incredible authority and influence to the angels.

They taught that;

1. Angels are intermediaries between God and men.

2. They control the destiny of both nations and individuals. In other words, angels manipulate human destiny.

3. They also control the movement of the stars.

4. They have power over the elements.

5. And they execute judgment on God’s behalf.

Now, once people credited angels with such authority and power, it is easy to see that it would be a very small step to the

‘worship of angels’, Colossians 2:18

And we can understand, also, that angels could very soon be allowed to take the place of the Lord Jesus. As men began to depend more upon them, than on Jesus, in very much the same way that Catholicism has come to depend more on Mary, whom they have named ‘the mediatrix’, rather than on Christ as their Intercessor.

At the very least, we can see how they could come to regard Jesus as being

‘one of the angels’

just like the rest. This is why the writer of the Hebrew letter concentrates on correcting this heresy and why he spends so much time in dealing with the subject at the very beginning of his letter.

He is determined, at the outset, to prove the Superiority of the Son over all angelic beings, because the outcome of this false doctrine is that, as well as belittling and demeaning the Lord Jesus, those who held it were actually denying His deity.

In his statement concerning angels, which commences at Hebrews 1:4, and continues to Hebrews 2:16, the writer points out seven respects in which the superiority and supremacy of Christ over the angels is clearly revealed.

And it’s important that we should have this firmly fixed in our own minds, because there are religious groups around today, which teach the same heresy, whilst parading under the Christian name.

a. The so-called ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teach that Jesus was the first-created being, an angel named Michael.

b. Mormon leaders taught that

‘Adam is our god and the only god with whom we have to do’,

and that Jesus was the offspring of Adam and Mary.

c. Christadelphians believe that Jesus had no pre-existence until he was born in Bethlehem, He was merely an idea in the mind of God.

So, this heresy is not dead, even yet. The writer of this letter show that Jesus is not merely an angel, but is far above the angelic order, and he does it by pointing out seven respects in which His supremacy is clearly revealed.

Here are the seven points which the writer makes.

1. He has, by inheritance a more excellent Name than the angels. Hebrews 1:4.

Hebrews 1:5 tells you what that Name is,

‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘YOU ARE MY SON’.

2. They are called upon to worship Him, Hebrews 1:6 God said,

‘Let all the angels of God worship HIM.’

3. Their function is to serve, whilst He is destined to reign.

They are sent out as servants, the very word ‘angelos’ means ‘messenger’. But God says of the Son,

‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’. Hebrews 1:7+8

4. They are created beings, whilst He is the Creator.

Listen how the Son is addressed in Hebrews 1:10.

‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.’

5. As created beings, their existence is a dependent existence, whilst His existence is un-derived and eternal.

‘But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’ Hebrews 1:12

‘For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.’ John 5:26

6. He is exalted far above the angels.

‘To which of the angels has God ever said; ‘Sit at my right hand.’ Hebrews 1:13

7. He has authority far beyond anything granted to angels.

God has

‘crowned the Son with glory and honour and all things have been put under his feet’. Hebrews 2:5-8

If we then, summarize these arguments, showing that the Lord Jesus is not an angel, but far above them in nature and authority, this is what we find.

He is:

1. Different in nature, He is eternal

2. Different in relationship, The Son.

3. Different in status, He is to be worshipped.

4. Different in dignity, He occupies the throne.

5. Different in title, My Son.

6. Different in power, The Creator.

7. Different in function, Destined to reign.

And finally, if we look at Hebrews 2:9, we see that, whilst He is, in every way above the angels, He became, for a little time, lower than the angels but for a great purpose,

‘that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone’.

In other words, Jesus became a man, in order to suffer physical death. As a spiritual being He could not have done this. But He became flesh. Became man. Or, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:3,

‘God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.’

So, what is the conclusion?

The writer of this letter is saying to these Hebrew Christians;

Whatever else you make of the angels and even considering the service they have rendered in the past, Jesus, the Son of God, is not and never was, an angel. He has done what no angel could ever do.

Though He is essentially higher than angels, He stooped to the level of fallen man, and became a man, in order to raise you above the level of angels.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;'"

John 11:25

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