Summary: About 200 years ago, leading thinkers began to insist that we rely only on our reason and not the church's teachings. Science and technology came to shape our thinking about how the world works. Before long, angels began to disappear from peoples' consciousness.
April 30, 2016
I Believe in Angels
Text: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27).
I have never heard a sermon on angels. Think back. Have you ever heard one?
Although we have not had much to say about angels in the churches, the world at large is getting quite interested in them. A well-known philosopher announced "angels" as his subject at a gathering of intellectuals in Aspen, Colorado a few years ago and a crowd filled the auditorium! You may be aware that Billy Graham wrote a book about angels, which became a best-seller, almost immediately. What do we make of all this? Why have angels been ignored in the past in both our churches and in society, in general? Surely, one explanation is the times we live in, which is influenced to a great extent by the so-called "enlightened” and “politically correct."
About 200 years ago, leading thinkers began to insist that we rely only on our reason and not the church's teachings. Science and technology came to shape our thinking about how the world works. Before long, angels began to disappear from peoples' consciousness.
Another reason for this loss of conviction about angels is the way they are regularly portrayed. "Cherubic" winged infants flitting about puts them in the category of fairies and fantasy. No wonder they seem unbelievable.
But things are changing. For one, we are not so sure anymore that science, technology and human reason can solve all our problems. The world seems to be in terrible shape in spite of all our enlightenment. Therefore, many who are disillusioned with a secular modern world are turning to the supernatural—and that includes an interest in angels. Hence, many Christian book stores have on their shelves, books with stories of presumed angel encounters. Indeed, New Age devotees sometimes speak of the angel of a tree or a flower or a potato chip and have long conversations with them!
As the limits of human reason begin to dawn upon us, however, we have to be careful not to go to the other extreme—irrationalism. Truth may be beyond the reach of reason—truth from revelation that is not against reason.
To live by Scripture rather than the rationalism or irrationalism of the day, means that we have our own way of thinking about angels. The fact that we have neglected them, or been taken in by the movie, TV, greeting card or New Age version of them, tells us we had better get back to those basics.
I want you to suspend, for a bit, your skepticism and see if you can get into that "strange new world of the Bible," as a great theologian called it. Here we can call, as well, upon C.S. Lewis as a good guide. One road into that new land is charted by our hymn book. It's full of angels! Remember your own words as you sang "about the cherubim and seraphim falling down" before God. Or, in Spirit of God, descend upon my heart, how you asked God to "teach me to love Thee as the angels love." Well, how do the angels love?
For one, angels praise God! So we sing in our doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . . Praise God above ye heavenly hosts" The heavenly hosts are the angels. In the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the reference to the cherubim and seraphim is from the 6th chapter of Isaiah: “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon the throne. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings...and one called to the other "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
These awesome beings do not sound much like the Hallmark card cherubs!
The first thing the biblical angels do is praise God. As a deacon in a Kansas City church many years ago, one of the high points in worship came at communion time when, after the consecration of the elements with Scripture reading and prayer, the congregation broke into song with "the seraphic hymn," as the prayer concluded: “Thee mightily God . . . we magnify and praise, with apostles and martyrs . . . with the innumerable company of angels round about thy throne, the heaven of heavens and all the powers therein, we worship and adore thy glorious Name, joining in the song of the Cherubim and Seraphim. "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabbath, Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory . . . Hosanna in the highest!" Who can say that the angels themselves are not teaching us, in these high moments, about the praise of God?