What Do Angels Do Now and How Important Are Angels? #315
Happy Friday to you, friends! Today I am walking a tightrope of sorts. I truly believe that our current culture – inside of the church and outside of the church – over-focuses quite a bit on angels compared to their relative importance. Don’t get me wrong, angels are important – appearing or being mentioned almost 300 times in the Bible, but the writer of Hebrews today is going to demonstrate for us the relative importance of angels. We will be reading Hebrews 1 as our focus, and also reading 2nd Kings 19, Psalms 135-136 and Hosea 12.
Warning! I am about to mention politics without being political in the least. Please stand by. Today one of President Trump’s spiritual advisers made the comment during a prayer that angels from Africa and South America had been dispatched to America to help with the election. A friend in one of the pastor Facebook groups I’m in created a poll that asked, in a tongue in cheek sort of way, what sorts of serious situations might warrant the calling in of African angels. It was a witty post, and I don’t think he was making a political statement either, but it does raise a very interesting question: What do angels do in modern times – are they still active?
This is not the PRIMARY focus of Hebrews 1, so it won’t be our primary focus either, but the writer of Hebrews does answer that question, so let’s read our focus passage and listen out for the answer.
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?
So angels are sent out by God to serve those who will be saved by Him. That is a very interesting description of their role. What does that look like, in a practical sense? Here are three pictures of angels ministering/serving:
- An Angel appears to Paul in a difficult time to strengthen and encourage him: 23 For last night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. It is necessary for you to appear before Caesar (Acts 27:23-24)
- An angel appeared to Jesus twice to encourage and strengthen Him – once after going through the desert wilds and being tempted by Satan, and once in the Garden of Gethsemane right before the crucifixion.
- Peter was released from prison in Acts 12
- Daniel was rescued by angels from the lions in the lion’s den in Daniel 6
So – we can see from this that angels can protect, encourage, strengthen and perform miracles on God’s behalf. Can they help out with elections and politics? Well, I’ll just say that an answer to that question is above my paygrade!
So, how important are angels? In Hebrews 1, and in multiple places in the Bible, followers of God are taught that angels are lower than God and Jesus and they are not to be worshipped. I think there a dangerous fixation on angels in our contemporary culture, something professor George Guthrie makes very clear in his commentary on Hebrews:
A parallel between Hebrews’ audience and many modern people is a fascination with and high respect for angels. My wife and I frequent a local bookstore and café where, sans bambinos, we can browse the books after enjoying a fine meal, tea, and pastries. On a recent visit, knowing I would soon be writing on this section of Hebrews, I decided to count the works in their religion section addressing the topic of angels. In this “secular” store making no claim to specialize in religious books were eighty-five different works! They had intriguing titles, such as Angels A to Z, Know Your Angels, Ask Your Angels, Angelic Healing, Angelic Voices, Angel Magi, Angels: An Endangered Species, Meditating with the Angels, and (my personal favorite) Big George: The Autobiography of an Angel. They ranged from those attempting to present a biblical explication, like Billy Graham’s Angels, to Angels and Aliens—clearly of a different stripe.
This fascination with angels is also evident from the popularity of the television drama Touched by an Angel, a show about heavenly beings who help people in a variety of difficult circumstances. There are magazines, such as Angel Times, dedicated to recounting the contacts numerous moderns have had with angelic beings. My wife recently talked to a lady who, since a professed encounter with an angel during a near-death experience, has been collecting angel figurines. Angels are clearly both popular and big business in Western societies. The question is, how should the church respond to this cultural trend? Keeping in mind that the author of Hebrews uses his first audience’s respect for angels to speak to their need for a higher opinion of the Son, I believe there are at least two applications we can draw from his contrast of Christ and the angels. (1) We must build on a biblical understanding of angels. Christians need to know what the Scriptures reveal about angels; thus, the topic should be addressed from pulpit to classroom podium.31
Much contemporary angelology has strong New Age overtones. Based on dubious metaphysical and psychological experiences, it often is divorced from biblical revelation. Many see any spiritual encounter, regardless of its nature or message, as communicating truth, and even some professing to be followers of Christ are buying into the broader culture’s infatuation with angels. Yet, as 1 John 4:1 warns, we are not to believe every spirit, but should test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Paul also reminds us that even Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
So – angels are important, and have important roles in the Heavens, on earth, and in the lives of believers. They are powerful, and remarkable, but, as the writer of Hebrews repeatedly makes clear, the angels are lower than Jesus. Lower in power, in importance, and should be lower in our attention levels. It is okay to be interested in angels, but let your ultimate focus be on Jesus and Him crucified and risen from the dead and coming again. Remember Hebrews 1:4
4 So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:4