Summary: An Advent season topical message about angels
When Mary and Joseph learned that they would become the parents of the Messiah, it was by an angelic messenger. Christina Rossetti penned these familiar words:
Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine.
Love was born at Christmas;
Stars and angels gave the sign.
There’s been a lot written about angels, and not all from a biblical perspective. Angels figure prominently in the Christmas story, so let’s consider who they are…
Angels are immortal spirit beings, created before the world began, to serve God. They are under divine authority to “do God’s bidding and obey His word” (Psalm 103:20). While non-material, they are able to change their appearance and manifest themselves in physical form. We see them hovering around the throne of God in Isaiah 6, worshipping God, and calling to one another: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty” (6:5).
We know angels primarily in how they relate to us. They are God’s agents of judgment, protection, information, direction, and prevention. God uses them to influence individuals and nations. The NT Greek word angelos means “messenger”; angels are divine channels of communication.
In our text, the author of Hebrews is clear that Christ is superior to the angels. We should not confuse angels with the Holy Spirit. Angels do not indwell us, and they are not gods. While God on occasion sends angels, there are no instances where people call on them in Scripture. We can ask God for angelic protection, but we don’t pray to angels or worship them. When they appeared to men, they often had to remind men of this.
When people die, they don’t become angels. Well-meaning people often say when a loved one dies, “God has a new angel in Heaven.” That’s comforting, but incorrect. Angels will escort us to God’s presence. We look to the day when God creates a New Heaven and Earth, where we will live in glorified bodies, but not as angels.
We see in Scripture how angels provided for Elijah; one stood guard with a sword at Eden; a multitude of angels announced the coming of Jesus to shepherds; they protected Daniel in the lions’ den, encouraged childless Abraham and Sarah, wrestled with Jacob, transported Phillip, killed Herod Agrippa, freed Peter from prison, and defeated the enemies of Israel. We will see them again at the Second Coming of Jesus.
Angels watch over us. I told a friend who drives too fast on the highway that his guardian angel probably has an ulcer! I remember when Gerald Ford was President, his teenage daughter Susan complained about the presence of the Secret Service, particularly when she was trying to have fun with friends, but the President’s kids need protection. We are King’s kids and we have celestial bodyguards. Psalm 34 says that angels “encamp around those who fear God.”
When we read in Scripture of “the Lord of hosts”, the “hosts” refer to God’s angelic army. This is a military term, and there appears to be some kind of military organization, a chain-of-command. Angels are warriors. At His arrest, Jesus said He could have called for 12 Legions of angels. At the top is Michael, the Archangel, the first prince of Heaven. There is Gabriel, God’s chief messenger. He appears four times in Scripture, always bearing good news…and nowhere does it say he plays a trumpet! Next, we read of the Seraphim, whose mission is to offer praise to the Almighty. Their name comes from the Hebrew word for “love.” Finally, there are Cherubim, depicted on the Ark of the Covenant. Ezekiel saw them in a vision depicting the coming destruction of Jerusalem.