What does the Bible teach about angels? How do angels appear to men? How do angels interact with the world?
"Stars are the windows of heaven where angels peek through," says a cute, old song. Once a friend received this e-mail, "When you find a penny, an angel has tossed it to the ground when you are frowning to give you a smile." At the end of the message, it said, "I hope that you feel as lucky as I do as I am so very fortunate to be graced with angels such as you in my life." And I guess this, too, would be viewed as cute by many people, but this doesn't mean it's true.
Too many people carelessly base their beliefs on what they've always heard or what sounds good. Angles are in the movies, on cards, everywhere. At least the popular conception of angels is. What does the Bible really say about how we should think about angels? You can explore the subject of angels in literature and on the internet. Most of what you find is based on fables, myths, and popular supposition. We hear stories about guardian angels, angels of protection in time of war, and people being helped by angels. There are movies like, Angels in the Outfield, or Michael, or TV's Touched By An Angel. There are collectible angels, angel booklets, and sand pictures of angels. What is the real story? What can we know for sure about angels?
Well, one of the most fascinating subjects of Bible study is that of God's spiritual army and his messengers, his angels. We read in the Bible of mankind's various encounters with invisible beings and some of them are rather astonishing. We find elaborate descriptions of cherubim in Ezekiel and an interesting overview of seraphim in Isaiah and we see angels serving the physical needs of various men and women in stories throughout scripture. And we see different examples of administration in the angelic realm as well.
The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about angels. There are more than 29 recorded Old Testament accounts of angelic visits or interventions, plus Jesus. And both the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul noted direct and indirect New Testament encounters with angels dozens and dozens of times. They do play important roles throughout the epistles and the Book of Revelation as well. We find examples of angels fighting wicked demons who are trying to thwart God's plan. Angels are God's messengers and his spiritual army and there are a lot of them.
Make no mistake – angels DO exist and they minister to the heirs of salvation. But because they are invisible, we tend to forget their role in God's work and they are not as most people commonly perceive them to be. We've all heard stories of supernatural intervention and some of those stories you may have even told yourself. Many angels serve God and serve his people and their responsibilities and assignments vary as circumstances change and vary. So, it really is an interesting study, that of angels, and this particular topic was requested by some of our young adults here in the congregation (Cincinnati, Ohio). So let's take a look inside the covers of our Bibles and note some very interesting and profound verses that give us insight into these servants of God.
I've titled this sermon, "Angels – God's Messengers and Spiritual Army." Now this is not the quintessential sermon on angels, but we are going to cover a lot of ground, so sharpen your pencils. Maybe, later on, you can go back through some of the scriptures that we'll talk about or mention or allude to because there is a lot in the Bible about God's spiritual messengers, about his spiritual army. The scriptures abound with information and accounts of these spirit beings, and in the time we have for the sermon today, obviously, we can't cover every comment or occurrence of angels in the Bible. But I think we'll catch the key verses and the key accounts that will help you to understand the angelic realm a little better or a little more, especially with what we see in society today when it comes to angels and the common perceptions of what they are and what they do.
I've sectioned the sermon into six main areas for you so that as you are writing down some of these points, you can go back to it at some point and go through the notes if you wish.
Section 1: Angels have been around since before the creation of the earth.
They have been in existence for probably countless millions of years. Scientists have speculated about the actual age of the universe and our solar system. Stephen Hawking, a well-respected geophysicist of our modern times, suggests that according to his calculations, "the age of the universe is about ten or twenty thousand million years." This is twenty billion years. Now, it would take a few billion here or there, I don't know, but the universe is old. Right? It's been here for quite some time. We know of some of the very recent history of the earth, mainly the last one hundred or two hundred million years when God formed prehistoric life here, like dinosaurs. But what did he do for the other 19,800 million years? It's a long time and we've only been here for a very minuscule tiny fraction of a bleep of time compared to the overall picture. But the angels have witnessed this creation coming into being and it appears they've been in existence throughout this physical creation. Look at Job 38. Read the first seven verses. Of course, Job is in a bit of an attitude at this point.
Job 38:1-2 – And the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Who is this talking about things he does not understand?
In verse 3, God tells Job, "Now Job, prepare yourself like a man. I will question you and you're going to answer me."
vs. 4-6 –"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determines its measurements? Surely you know? or who stretched the line upon it? Who laid its cornerstone?
vs. 7 – "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
Whereas the NIV says in verse 7,
vs. 7 – "When the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?"
The NRSV says,
vs. 7 – "When all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?"
This passage shows us that the angels sang together when the foundations of the earth were laid, when the glue, the fastening that holds the universe together was incorporated. They were created before the physical universe that we see and long before you and me. They saw it happen and they shouted for joy as God's plan unfolded. So they've been here since the creation of the earth, the creation of the universe.
Section 2: The angels are very, very numerous.
Some would say innumerable, uncountable. The angels are very, very numerous. There's not just a hundred of them or a thousand of them or ten thousand of them or even a million of them. The angels are very, very numerous. King David recalled 20,000 angels, or spiritual chariots in Psalm 68:17. He noted that it was just like when Moses went up Mt. Sinai and he said,
Ps 68:17 – The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even twenty thousands of thousands: the LORD is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place.
David was writing in Psalms about the thousands and thousands of angels, these spiritual chariots. You see, Moses was taught of an amazing spectacle when he went up Mt. Sinai to receive the law; an awesome sight as he proceeded up Mt. Sinai. Let's turn to Deuteronomy 33 for a moment. Read verse 2.
Deut. 33:2 – And he said, "The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand came a fiery law for them."
This is the time the law was being delivered, as the Living Bible says,
Vs. 2 – He was surrounded by ten thousands of holy angels.
So even when the law was delivered on Mt. Sinai, those spirit beings were there, accompanying the Ancient of Days and Jesus Christ as that law was delivered, the Word, or the God of the Old Testament.
Dan. 7:9-10 – I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of days was seated,
Of course, the Ancient of days represented whom we know as God, the Father.
vs. 9 – his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head was like pure wool: his throne was a fiery flame, his wheels a burning fire.
Now remember that description of Daniel about those wheels under his throne. We're going to read about that again later.
vs. 10 – A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the court was seated and the books were opened.
The prophets of old were witnesses to all kinds of visions about God, about his throne and about his angels and Daniel saw a total of a million plus another hundred million serving God, those just right there at the throne. You may remember from Revelation 5:11-12 another account of God's throne. Feel free to write down the verses and, if you don't have time to turn to them, that's fine. John writes:
Rev. 5:11 – Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels about the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,
This is the same number that Daniel mentioned when he saw the throne – ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands.
vs. 12 – they were saying with a loud voice: 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!'
These angels at the throne are praising the Lamb, praising God, the same huge figure that Daniel mentioned. And then Hebrews 12. Let's read chapter twelve for a moment as we realize that the angels really are very numerous. This here is an account or a reminder of Moses going up Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, but then an additional point is added here.
Heb. 12:18-24 – For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,
We have come to a different mountain than to what ancient Israel did.
vs. 19 – and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.
When they heard the voice of God, they trembled and said, "Now we can be quiet. Too much."
vs. 21 – And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ' I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.' But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
When we come before God's throne, we come before an innumerable company of angels at that time.
vs. 23 – to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven,
You see, we, as the church of the firstborn, have got a reservation and we can keep that reservation if we live according to God's way of life. If we live according to God's plan and do what he tells us to, that registration, that reservation will be held for us.
vs. 23 – to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
vs. 24 – to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
So, an innumerable number of angels. In verse 22, the Jerusalem Bible says,
vs. 22 – the heavenly Jerusalem where millions of angels have gathered.
So, as Hebrews shows, through Jesus Christ's sacrifice, we may now come directly before the throne of grace—the heavenly Jerusalem, not just Mt. Sinai—to the holy of holies, right where those angels are—as the church of the firstborn registered in heaven. We come to the mountain of God, not just Mt. Sinai as Moses did. You notice in those verses the interesting references to Moses, Mt. Sinai, and the angels. What Moses experienced at Sinai typifies going before the throne of God as he ascended the mountain and saw the many, many angels that were accompanying God on the way.
Remember the verse when Jesus was being threatened in the New Testament in Matthew 26:53? Jesus' life was being threatened, and he said,
Mt. 26:53 – Or do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father and he will provide me with more than twelve legions of angels?
Seventy-two thousand angels just to help one person. When evil forces are attacking you, it would nice to have more than even just one angel assigned, wouldn't it? How about a legion? And as we'll see, sometimes that's necessary.
Jacob saw two armies of angels in Mahanaim. We read about that in Genesis 32:1-2. Elisha saw the mountains surrounding him filled with the spiritual chariots and horses of God in 2 Kings 6. The mountains filled with the angels of God.
When we put all these scriptures together, we actually come up with the conclusion that the angels are so many we can't count them. Visions of the prophets put the count at 100 million, a thousand million, a hundred thousand million. There are these huge figures that keep coming out, but what is really being indicated is that it is a huge number. Of course, some of the translations of the original text simply say, "an innumerable multitude" or a countless number. So there are plenty of these angelic beings, spirit beings, serving God and helping him to carry out his mission.
I'd like to move on to the third section, the third point.
Section 3: Angels appear as young men when manifesting themselves to mankind. And don't let modern misrepresentations of angels fool you. Generally, throughout the Bible when the word angel occurs, the angel has the appearance of a man. And, in addition, there are only three angels mentioned by name — Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer. This is unlike the world's concept that angels appear as women or cute-winged babies. Actually, the Bible indicates that angels have no gender in Matthew 22:30.
Angels actually don't have any gender, but when they appear in the visible form, they appear as a man or a young man. In the scriptural accounts when angels are seen, they appear as youthful men, not older men. Sometimes they appear in partial glory, such as Moses saw on Mt. Sinai when they were shining brightly. They don't appear as old men or young children. It's interesting that this world has decided that angels look like young babies and children as the popular artists have recorded. The scriptures never indicate this depiction. The cherubim and seraphim have wings. The cherubim have four wings and the seraphim have six wings. I wonder why the classical paintings give them two wings and turn them into babies. I'm not sure.
Well, notice this account of angels visiting Abraham in Genesis 18.
Gen. 18:1-2 — Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him;
And the Lord was there, so one of these three appears to be the Lord, the Eternal.
vs. 2 – and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,
Of course, when you bow down, it is used generally in worship and one of them was the Lord that appeared.
vs. 3-5 – and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in your sight, do not pass on by your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant." And they said, "Do as you have said."
So they had afternoon tea. OK? Chapter 18:22 now.
Gen. 18:22 – Then the men turned away from there . . .
And, of course, we're noting that they were men that appeared to Abraham.
vs. 22 – . . . and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
So the one that was the Lord stayed and the other men left and went to Sodom.
Gen. 19:1 – Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening,
So we see that two of them were angels and the Lord stayed with Abraham.
vs. 1 – and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.
But note that both of these angels looked like men and the third one of these was actually the Lord.
You may not even be aware of times when angels have intervened for you, looked out for you, protected you on behalf of God, especially if they appear as normal, younger-looking men.
You just never know.
Hebrews 13:2 reminds us,
Heb. 13:2 – Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Of course, Abraham entertained angels there in Genesis 18 and who knows the number of times we've been involved helping somebody and not realizing that somebody who was a part of the team or somebody who was a part of the group was actually an angel. It's not always obvious when an angel may be present. They may look like normal young men of our day and so, as such, we may not even be aware of what actually took place and what happened.
Angels looking like men, once again, appeared to Christ, too, to explain Christ's disappearance.
Jn. 20:11 – But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.
vs. 12 – And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
Jesus was gone and two men dressed in white were sitting there instead.
vs.13 – Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."
vs. 14 – Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
You see, these angels were seen at Christ's tomb, once again as young men, as Mark elaborates in his account.
Mk. 16:5 – And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe
And so we should just get a little better picture here now of how angels are seen when they are interacting with man. Two angels explain Christ's ascension to the apostles in Acts 1.
Acts 1:9 – Now when he had spoken these things, while they watched, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
vs. 10 – And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, . . .
As Christ was taken back to the throne of God,
Acts 1:10 — behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
Once again, we see the form and the likeness of two men, the white apparel, of course, representing God and righteousness.
Notice how little angels usually say. Just a quick message and then they are on their way or they are gone. This has been a trend so far in most of the scriptures we've read and is the trend throughout scripture. The angels don't say a whole lot. I remember some ministers talking about having encounters with evil spirits and mentioning that demons tend to want to talk a lot and go on and on, and gab on and on, focusing attention on themselves. Angels don't behave like this. They deliver the message and they're gone.
And so, point three shows us that generally we see angels appearing as young men or youthful men, often dressed in a white robe as they represent God.
Section 4: More credit than due is often given to angels.
Many people want to give angels the credit. It's as if people want their own little cherub, baby cupid, or angel with wings to lift them up from adversity or to do their own personal bidding. And people often do this without calling on God for help. The angel becomes more important than God himself in their lives. Some people look to angels almost as their own personal genie. Now the Catholic Church teaches that we have our own guardian angel assigned to us. The scriptures don't say that. Some people have a near obsession or near worship of angels. Angels are real, but one must be cautious about giving the credit to angels when the real credit for miracles and answered prayers should go to God. Angel worship has been around a long time, actually, thousands and thousands of years. But as Christians, we're to adhere to the commandments and should be reminded of the first commandment, "No other gods before me," is what God told his people.
Now the apostle John records caution about bowing down or giving more credit to angels than is due. Gnosticism teaches that angels are necessary intermediaries between God and man. As Holman's Bible Dictionary states, "This false teaching claims that knowing about angels enables one to gain blessings in this life and obtain the level of divine in the next." That's the Gnostic teaching regarding angels, like it's a necessary part of the belief system to know about angels and to worship them. We mustn't forget that Christ alone is our mediator to God the Father. Christ alone is our mediator, not angels. We do not have to go through them to get to God's throne.
True angels do not want to take our focus away from God and point it at themselves. They don't draw unnecessary attention to themselves. They want God to be given the credit. Angels are careful not to develop a relationship with us, to be seen as our personal guardian or something like that, that we rely on them. Because the person would start to rely on the angel and not God. And it seems that different angels may minister to the same person at different times. It will vary depending on the circumstances. The Bible doesn't state that we each have our own personal or guardian angel.
Let's look at Revelation 22, if you'll turn there for a moment. Notice verses 6-9.
Rev. 22:6-9 – Then he said to me,
This is what John is recording – his vision.
vs. 6-8 – "These words are faithful and true." And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things which must shortly take place. "Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
And what did the angel say in verse 9?
vs. 9 – Then he said to me, "See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."
The angel was pretty uncomfortable with that. "Don't do that!" We're not to worship angels. We only worship God and the angels are very sensitive to this, the true angels. We're not talking about demons, of course.
Col. 2:8, 18 – Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men,
Watch out for the tradition of men.
vs. 8 – according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
You always have to evaluate your belief system and what people tell you is true against the word of God.
vs. 18 – Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
We are to worship and honor God, not his angels. The angels are God's messengers, his ministering spirits that serve God's people and his church. They appear to mankind when necessary to pass on a message or take care of a duty for God. And when they do this, they usually appear as a younger man. God is seen as a more mature figure, the Ancient of Days, as you will recall from the scripture we read in Daniel 7:9-10. The Ancient of Days is our father in heaven; whereas the angels are seen as younger than that.
Section 5: Spiritual warfare and the office and authority of angels.
Now, this next section to me is one of the most amazing. Spiritual warfare you and I do not see, but it is going on. Spiritual warfare and the office and authority of angels. As Christians, we know we are in a spiritual war and that our battle is not against flesh and blood, that we war "against spiritual wickedness in high places." Let's look at the some of the passages that help us to see that in more realistic terms. Deception is never blatantly of good and evil. It can seem right at the time, but there is often a dark side to the cute and comical that we might see represented in the world around us when it comes to spirit beings. And so each of us needs to be aware of deception that can come in many forms, for our adversaries are powerful. People perceive Satan as a funny caricature with a pitchfork or as an ugly, fearsome-looking creature. Most images we have are from art and Hollywood. The Bible says that Satan can appear as an "angel of light" deceiving many.
In the book of Daniel, we see a great struggle between good and evil in the spirit realm. Angels often travel in large armies in order to consolidate their strength when dealing with and fighting against Satan's army. You'll recall some of the verses we noted earlier that showed legions of angels together at one time.
Let's look in this section five at several subsections of angels mentioned by name and at this warfare of heaven. And so, I'm starting with 5A.
Section 5A: The archangel, Michael.
Michael is called the archangel in Jude 9. He may be the only archangel, as Jude implies, or Gabriel may be one, also. Read Jude 9, an amazing passage.
Jude 9 – Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
So Michael and the devil were contending over Moses' body, what was going to happen to it. Michael is one of the chief princes of God and his job responsibility includes looking after the nation of Israel and he fights for the people of God in time of war. It wasn't really the work and efforts of superior human generals that won the Second World War for the allies. God was involved the eventual outcome of these great battles to further his plan.
When there's a major crisis in the nation of Israel and, therefore, in the church also, Michael gets involved.
Dan. 10:13 –"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me,"
This chief prince, the archangel, Michael, assisted Daniel in his time of need.
Let's go to Revelation 12 as you flip back and forth a little bit here.
Rev. 12:7-8 – And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
So Michael and his angels removed the dragon and his demons. Once again, Michael fights for God, for the church, for God's people. Now perhaps, Gabriel and Satan are also archangels, although no biblical reference actually says this, but in any case, all three angels, one now the devil, are very strong and powerful. In Jude 9 we noticed that Michael did not dare rebuke Satan, but asked the Lord to do it.
In Daniel 10, which we are going to go back to now, Michael was sent to help an angel who could not overcome the demon prince of Persia. The demon prince in Persia was too strong and Michael was sent to help. In Daniel 10:20 we see that the demon prince of Greece was also involved. You start to see the spiritual world going on here, the battles. Michael provides the extra force needed to stand firm. Let's take a look at this incredible, unseen spiritual battle for a moment in Daniel 10:1.
Dan. 10:1 – In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision.
So Daniel saw this vision and it troubled him greatly — really, really disturbed him.
vs. 2 – In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.
It got to him really bad. What was going to happen to his people if they didn't repent?
vs. 3 – I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
Basically, he fasted for three weeks, pleading with God to intervene.
vs. 4-5 – Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes
Of course, he's been fasting for three weeks.
vs. 5-6 — and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.
See, when this certain man, or this angel, spoke, it sounded like a stadium full of people at once, speaking in unison.
vs. 7 – And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.
They knew that something was going on, but they didn't actually see this vision.
vs. 8 – Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength.
I think what he's saying is that he fainted. It was just too much.
vs. 9 – Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
It looks like he fainted. So, not only hadn't he eaten, but he was also seeing these awesome visions. He knew that his people were to be punished and it was just too much for him. You know, you kind of feel sorry for him. I mean how would you withstand it?
vs. 10-11 – Then, suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you."
So, after three weeks, this angel was sent to Daniel to comfort him.
vs.11 – While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.
And, of course, I think we all would be.
vs. 12 – Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, (three weeks ago) and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.
So we see that Daniel's prayers were heard, but nothing could be done about it yet, through three weeks of fasting. Why? Because there was an immense spiritual battle going on during those three weeks.
vs. 13-14 – "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come."
What Daniel was actually seeing in the vision was an end time prophecy, an end time vision.
vs. 15 – When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless.
It seems he's down and out for the count again.
vs. 16 – And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men. . . .
So, he kind of looked like an angel or a man.
vs. 16 – touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, "My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength."
And he's down again.
vs. 17 – "For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me."
This was, quite honestly, more than Daniel could take. It was too much.
vs. 18-20 – Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me." Then he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come."
You didn't realize, Daniel, fasting for three weeks, he couldn't come because of this huge battle going on.
vs. 21 – "But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince.)"
Only Michael could help in this regard and he was there fighting with the other angels to overcome the evil, spiritual, demonic princes. Go forward a couple of chapters to Daniel 12:1-2. Here is an end time prophecy, once again.
Dan. 12:1 – "At that time (the end time) Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;"
Michael is there for the church; he's there for God's people, and he fights.
Dan. 12:1 – "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered,"
So, you see, there's good news at the end that Daniel was now being given.
vs. 1-2 – "Everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame and everlasting contempt."
But Michael, verse 1, will stand up for the people of God. He is there as the great prince.
Section 5B: How about Gabriel?
He's different from Michael, possibly an archangel. He may be a cherub. He is definitely a leading angel, one of the more important ones, shall we say, and he is used not to fight, not to gather armies, but to bring good news to mankind and to make special pronouncements. He doesn't fight. He appears to be a spokesman for God. Notice a couple of references to Gabriel – Daniel 8:15-16 while we're in Daniel
Dan. 8:15-16 – Now it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, "Gabriel, make this man understand the vision."
So Gabriel was commissioned to explain it, like a spokesman.
Dan. 9:20 – Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel,
These visions really troubled him because they were to be punished for their sins.
vs. 20-21 – and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly (supernaturally), reached me about the time of the evening offering.
And so Gabriel, once again, was to deliver a message and help explain things. We don't have to turn there, but, of course, in the first chapter of Luke, we see a whole account there where Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, was sent to speak to Zechariah and let him know that his wife was pregnant and would be bearing a child, John the Baptist. That's in Luke 1:19. Gabriel delivered the message to Zechariah about John the Baptist. And, of course, in verse 26 of Luke 1, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. And what happened in Nazareth? That's where Christ was conceived and born and the angel said to Mary, "Rejoice. You are going to have the son of God." Once again, it was Gabriel that came to deliver the special message, a message of hope, a message of vision, and to be the spokesman in that regard. Gabriel announced the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus to each of their parents. Some say that it was possibly Gabriel who announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds in Luke 2. It was done in his style. The angel who appeared to the shepherds spoke in kind of the same kind of style that Gabriel used. But anyway, Gabriel is the messenger, the spokesman, a little different role in the angelic realm to what Michael has.
Section 5C: The Seraphim.
You see, there are different kinds of angels. The Seraphim have six wings, cover their faces with a set of wings, and cover their feet with a set of wings, and they fly with a set of wings. They seem to resemble a human body, but with wings. They hover above God's throne and they sing praises to God a lot. I'll read to you from
Revelation 5:11 – the voice of many angels round about the throne
vs. 13 – And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
And you find passages in Revelation like that where they are praising and praising the Lamb and God for their righteousness, like a massive angelic choir at God's throne.
Isaiah 6, let's look at that for a moment, at the seraphim.
Isa. 6:1-3 — In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
So the seraphim are above God's throne there and are praising him.
Section 5D: The cherubim.
They have four wings, not six, and they dwell under God's throne, holding it up. Actually, they transport God's throne supernaturally with wheels that are full of eyes, if you can wrap yourself around that one! They seem to have a head and each head has four faces. Now remember that Lucifer was once an anointed cherub at God's throne. You can read about that in Ezekiel 28. Lucifer once was an anointed cherub; he used to be one of these. So I guess, if he still looks anything like this, it would be with four wings.
God rode on a cherub to save King David. You see, cherubs are under the throne and they transport it; they get God to where he wants to be. 2 Sam. 22:7-11. David is being abused and set upon and mishandled, taken advantage of by his enemies. David is reaching out to God for help.
2 Sam. 22:7 – "In my distress, I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God. He heard my voice from his temple, and my cry entered his ears."
So God saw what was happening to David.
vs. 8-11 – "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also and came down with darkness under his feet; He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and he was seen upon the wings of the wind."
So you see, these cherubs under the throne deliver God. He was angry at the way David was being treated and he was going to go take care of it. And he rode upon a cherub and flew. That's actually repeated, if you want to write it down, in Psalm 18:7-10.
Ps. 18:10 – And he rode upon a cherub, and flew; he flew upon the wings of the wind.
Psalm 80:1 Let's read that one.
Ps. 80:1 – Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you lead Joseph like a flock; you who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!
So God dwells between his cherubim. They're under his throne; they're moving him where he needs to go.
And now this brings us to an awesome description of these cherubs in Ezekiel 1. Let's turn there. These cherubs are right at God's throne and here's what Ezekiel saw God riding upon. It's actually a rather frightening, awesome kind of a vision that Ezekiel sees. It kind of reminds you of the ones Daniel had.
Ezek. 1:3 – the word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar (remember that); and the hand of the LORD was upon him there.
vs. 4 – Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
What is this on its way?!
vs. 5-9 – Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves' feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. They had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.
So it was always like whichever way it went, the one that was looking that way was the way it went. Something like that.
vs. 10 – As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man, each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.
vs. 13 – As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of torches. Fire was going back and forth among the living creatures; the fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning.
vs. 24 – When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings.
vs. 26 – And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, . . .
So what is being described here, what is Ezekiel seeing in this vision?
vs. 26 — . . .in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it.
vs. 28 – Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
Notice that "One" is a capital "O." Who is this "One" speaking? The glory of the Lord is what he was seeing. Now, I saw on the History Channel just last week a program about Ezekiel's visions. Now here's what the History Channel's scientists said Ezekiel saw. It could have been one of three things, they said. The first one, which I could not believe, was that Ezekiel had eaten too many wild mushrooms that day. Can you believe that? Secondly (I wrote this down), Ezekiel happened to see a visiting tribe that had masks on and chariots. Thirdly, it was a UFO. But there was no possibility in their minds that this was a representation of God's throne being delivered. Amazing!
Ezek. 10:8 – The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man's hand under their wings.
You see, these were the cherubim that Ezekiel was seeing.
vs. 9, 12 – And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around.
vs. 14-15 – Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar.
vs. 20 – This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim.
So, at first, he wasn't sure what he was seeing. When you read through Ezekiel and get into chapter 10, you realize that these were the cherubim carrying God's very throne.
Section 5E: The four living creatures?
Have you heard of the four living creatures in Revelation? These are in the midst of God's throne and round about his throne. They have six wings like a seraphim, are full of eyes; they never rest and they praise God continually – the four living creatures.
Rev. 4:2 – Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
Once again a capital "O;" this is God sitting on the throne.
vs. 6 – Before the throne, there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.
They had eyes in the backs of their heads.
When our boys were younger, I told them I always knew what they were doing. They couldn't fool me; they couldn't run anything by me; they couldn't get anything past me because I had eyes in the back of my head, I told them. "What am I doing now, Dad?" "What are we doing now, Dad?" They were trying to get me to tell them. Well, these guys really do have eyes in the back of their heads. They see everything, all around and at all times.
vs. 7-8 – The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
Section 5F: The twenty-four elders.
So, you've got Michael; you've got Gabriel; you've got Lucifer, who is now Satan; you've got the four living creatures; and then you've got the 24 elders. They are dressed in white clothing. Each has a golden crown on his head and they sing praises to God and sing hymns on our behalf.
Rev. 4:4 – Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones, I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
vs. 9-10 – Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever, . . .
The 24 elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him. And they say, verse 11, (and, of course whenever the living creatures do this, then the 24 elders do the same thing)
vs. 11 – "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created."
Now, jump to Revelation 5:6.
Rev. 5:6 – And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb (We are right here at God's throne.) as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
vs. 7-8 – Then he came and took the scroll out of the right hand of him who sat on the throne. Now when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
These elders and these living creatures collect the prayers of the saints. That would be an amazing scene, wouldn't it, to have a vision like this and see this spiritual empire that God has, not only warriors and armies and those fighting for God's people, but messengers and spokesmen? Some are dedicated just to worshipping God and others to gather the prayers of the saints.
Section 6: Angels serve the needs of mankind and God's people in very physical ways.
Well, let's just have one last point here real quick. Remember Hebrews 1:14 where we are told that,
Heb. 1:14 — . . .angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
They are sent forth to minister to me and to you and to all of God's people. Angels have a role to play. Of course, what we read in Hebrews is that eventually, we will even rule over angels when we become a part of God's family. Right now they are content to minister to us. Even the manna, which ancient Israel received, was provided by the angels. That's in Psalm 78:25. It's called "angel's food" by David. God had the angels deliver the food. They minister to the people of God; they provide their needs and take care of them.
Remember, Elijah, in I Kings 19 when he was being set upon by Jezebel and he fled for his life into the wilderness and he wouldn't eat. He wanted to just die out there in the wilderness, but an angel came and touched him, prepared him a meal and said, "Arise and eat." The angel provided Elijah's physical needs, the food he needed after going so long fasting.
And you'll notice the angel didn't preach to him or tell him to repent; he just gave him the food to strengthen him. It's later in the chapter that Elijah hears the word of God and gets set straight. The angel doesn't do that. Angels don't usually take care of spiritual matters for God. God's ministers or Jesus Christ will do that. Angels don't take that authority upon themselves unless they are specifically assigned.
Of course, remember the physical protection Daniel was given by God. Angels locked the mouths of the lions. It's very physical, testing him, locking the mouths of the lions. Remember when Peter broke out of jail in Acts 12? The church is praying for him throughout the night and an angel came and removed the shackles. I don't know why, but the angel said, "Here, put your coat on. Put your shoes on." I think Peter would have been happy just to run out of there. The angel made him put his coat on and put his sandals on before they left the prison. You see, making sure once again that the physical needs and comforts are taken care of at that time. It's God's angels who provide our physical protection.
Let's notice a psalm of David:
Ps. 91:11-12 – For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Angels are there to protect us and to look after us. Let's go back a few chapters to Psalm 35:1, 5.
Ps. 35:1, 5 – Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Let them be like chaff before the wind, and let the angel of the Lord chase them.
The angel will even chase away our enemies for us. And I think you've heard of those stories where a young woman in the church has been walking home from work late at night. It's dark and she sees thugs coming straight to her across the street. You've heard these stories. They get within about ten feet of this single woman when suddenly they get fear in their eyes and they take off running the other way. She didn't see anything. They sure did! And so, angels will chase our enemies away for us, take care of us, "lest we dash our foot against the stone."
God created angels as ministering spirits, but some did rebel at the behest of Satan; however, two-thirds remained loyal. God's angels truly bring protection, announcements of great events and warnings before enforcing God's wrath. They are powerful beings who do God's bidding and are never to be worshipped.
The truth about angels has been twisted and distorted into a confusing assortment of fables and myths today. We need to ask God for his help and protection that his angels are able to provide. So much can go wrong in an instant of time that can change our lives around dramatically. You know how quickly things can happen to us in this physical world. The intervention of angels has probably saved us from death or injury on more than just one occasion, times we may not even know about. And over the years, we've heard of miraculous things happening to our members — direct physical intervention while driving down the freeway or a strong force stopping us from doing something foolish. The scriptures abound with dozens and dozens of accounts of the intervention of angels. We really have barely scratched the surface, but I have given you a lot for your notes for you to take and look at, if you want to look at it again in more depth. Angels are involved in helping God carry out his plan and they watch over each of us in God's church.
I hope this sermon has helped to give us a true perspective on angels, the power, the might, the service that they provide, the protection they give us, the battles that go on in heaven on behalf of God's people. Each day we should ask our Father in heaven to afford us the help and protection that his angels provide. Pray for protection. Ask God to look after you, to set his angels about you.
Covering these verses today helped to remind us that this is a very important element of God's creation, something not seen and yet more permanent than we currently are.