Angels - Part II
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” —Matthew 18:10
This verse, perhaps more than any other, speaks to the reality of guardian angels assigned to “little ones,” which most people believe to be children. But are these angels different, tasked with a singular job to protect, than other angels mentioned in Scripture? First, let’s take a look at the “little ones” mentioned in this verse.
Earlier in Matthew 18, Jesus set a child in the midst of His disciples and said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children,” and later, “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me.” As the disciples looked on the small boy in their midst, the Lord likened childlike faith and humility to that of new believers.
So in Matthew 18:10, when He speaks of “their angels,” Jesus was referring to angels charged by God to oversee those who have recently been born again. Their angels behold the face of the Father, studying God’s face and watching, intently, for the slightest hint of His command—a flash in His eye, the start of a nod from the Almighty—and when they receive it, they rush to aid, protect, and minister to His little ones in the faith.
Think back on those days and weeks after you received salvation, when everything in life was new and joyous because you had been born again. All you could think about was what the Lord had done for you and how He had saved you and blessed you. Many people describe this time as floating on air, and, very possibly, they were—upheld again and again upon the hands of angels.
In Psalm 91 we read, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Scholars say part of this verse should have been translated “bear thee up upon their hands,” indicating the same readiness of a parent next to his child who is learning to walk, or a caregiver at the side of an elderly person attempting a staircase. In a show of preparedness and protectiveness, arms and hands are outstretched, ready to stop the stumble, lift, and uphold.
Likewise, when you first accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, your angels who behold the face of God were charged by Him to bear you up on their hands lest you dashed your foot against anything that would harm your new faith in Christ.
Christians And Angels
As we mature in the Lord, it can be tempting to keep things like angelic assistance at arm’s length. It’s fine, we say, that angels warned Lot to get his family out of Sodom, or that God sent His angel to shut the mouths of lions for Daniel. And we like to hear, especially on Easter Sunday, how the angel descended from heaven and rolled back the stone of Christ’s tomb. But does God still send angels to help people today? The Word of God answers that question with this one: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14).
We’ve all heard dramatic testimonies from people who have survived what should have been certain death. Some, like these, even made the news:
I believe God sent His angels to shield and nurture those newborns trapped in the rubble, stand beside that young woman to do the heavy lifting, and cushion the fall of those two men after the Lord impressed on their hearts to jump.
Bible scholar Albert Barnes said this of angels: “They no longer appear as they once did to be the visible protectors and defenders of the people of God. But no small part of the aid which we receive from others comes from sources unseen by us.”
- Thirty-four years ago, The Chicago Tribune reported this: “Four babies who were buried alive just hours after their birth when the Juarez Hospital in central Mexico City collapsed during the first of two killer earthquakes …. All were trapped for four to seven days, yet suffered only minor injuries.” Once the newborns were rescued, their pediatrician said he didn’t know how the babies had survived. Being asleep most of the time helped, he said. “The rest is a miracle.”
- Three years ago, a 19-year-old girl lifted a burning truck off of her father who was trapped underneath. He had been working on the vehicle when the jack slipped. When the truck collapsed on him, gas spilled and a fire started. “It was some crazy strength,” the girl said, that enabled her to lift the 3-ton GMC truck high enough to pull her father out.
- Last December two men, traveling down a highway in Ohio, riding in two different parts of their food delivery truck, suddenly jumped out of their vehicle, simultaneously, just seconds before a swerving semi slammed into their truck and smashed it to pieces. First responders said the men would have certainly been killed had they remained in their vehicle. “We heard a voice,” the men said, “and it was to get out of the truck.”
Angels are commanded, ordered, and sent, but they are not without interest in the heirs of God. Scriptures show angels curious about our salvation and our faith.
In I Peter 1:12, we read, “which things the angels desire to look into,” a phrase related to our redemption. Pulpit’s Commentary says, “The salvation which God’s elect receive is so full of glory and mysterious beauty, that not only did the prophets of old search diligently, but even angels desire to look into it.” When we say “look,” we’re not talking about a glance. The Greek verb used in this phrase means “to stoop sidewise,” and pictures a person standing on the outside of a place who bends at the knees and leans forward to peer inside. The same verb is used in John 20:11, when Mary “stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre.” Bible scholar John Edward Huther said the use of this verb “indicates that the angels stand outside the work of redemption, inasmuch as it is not for them, but for man.”
Angels seem to understand the tremendous value of salvation, perhaps because they witness its progression throughout the believer’s life, from repentance to reward. In Luke 15:10, Jesus said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Throughout a Christian’s life, Scriptures support angels at work to protect (Ps. 34:7), warn and rescue from impending destruction (Gen. 19), deliver (Acts 12:7-8), and give strength to resist temptation (Lk. 22:43).
And, when his physical life comes to a close, angels stand near the child of God, their arms outstretched and ready, so that when he draws his last breath, the heir of God is immediately carried to glory.
Bible scholar Albert Barnes said, “If anywhere heavenly aid is needed, it is when the spirit leaves the body. If anywhere a guide is needed, it is when the ransomed soul goes up the unknown path to God. And if angels are employed on any messages of mercy to mankind, it is proper that it should be when life is closing, and the spirit is about to ascend to heaven.”
Jesus confirmed this angelic assistance in Luke 16:22 when He said, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.”
At no point in death is the child of God left unaccompanied or alone: The beggar died and was carried—the action is continuous. Angels carried Lazarus “into Abraham’s bosom,” which Charles Ellicott says rested on the idea of a great feast, in which Abraham was the host. “To lie in his bosom, as St. John in that of our Lord’s, was to be there as the most favored guest.”
Those who are born again need not fear death. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” It’s precious to Him because it demonstrates the mighty power of God’s salvation through the redemptive work of Christ—something angels witness each and every time they carry a believer home, into His bosom.
Angels And Christ
“Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb. 1:4-6).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, ranks far above the angels by virtue of His nature:
As my husband points out, angels were prominent during the Lord’s earthly ministry and in connection with His death and resurrection. We see them present at the birth of Christ (Lk. 2:10), His temptation (Matt. 4:11), and His agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:43). They guarded His empty tomb (Jn. 20:12) and assured Christ’s disciples that He would return (Acts 1:10). Their presence during His time on Earth proved that the Messiah was not an angel, but Lord of angels.
- Jesus shaped creation; the angels only witnessed it (Job 38:4-7).
- Jesus is the Creator; angels are the created (Jn. 1:1-3).
- The Son sits at the right hand of God—a show of superiority. God’s angels stand in His presence and serve the redeemed (Heb. 1:13-14).
- Jesus is given a throne and a kingdom; angels are referred to as servants (Heb1:7-8).
- Angels offer worship to the Son (Heb. 1:6).
“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
Some Christians use this verse to claim command over angels, as if they have the authority or the right to activate or send them. But if we look at Matthew 26:53 carefully, Jesus said “… pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me ….” And Psalm 91 says, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee.” God is the one who gives His angels charge, not the believer. When it comes to commanding the angelic forces, God does the sending. Like Christ, believers should ask the Father who is able to dispatch, if need be, legions of angels. (By the way, a Roman legion was made up of some 6,000 trained soldiers, so Jesus used the phrase “more than twelve legions”— more than 72,000—with intent to show the inexhaustible number of angels available to Him, as well as to those who follow Him.)
Angels Who Asked A Question
“And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?” (John 20:13).
What an interesting exchange: two angels asking Mary why she is crying. Obviously they didn’t know; they didn’t understand her sadness. Pulpit said, “Here we witness angelic wonder at human incredulity. Angelic ministry to human sorrow; for the mystery of our tears does not arrest the sympathy of these triumphant spirits.”
Angels must marvel at our unbelief. Surely they wonder at our innate ability to doubt God. Why? Because these beings stand in the presence of the Almighty day and night. Everything about God and heaven is truth to them—His glory, majesty, righteousness, power, and, above all, His word. So when these angels see Mary crying, they questioned her sadness and her tears because they had heard Jesus say that He would rise on the third day, so of course He would rise. Just as they had heard God say, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
The angels might not have understood why Mary was crying, but thank God, Jesus did. And He used his first words as the risen Saviour to ask her the same question the angels had asked, “Why weepest thou?” Pulpit says, “The first words He uttered after He rose from the dead were intended to console human weeping over the most irremediable of human sorrows. They are the beginning of a fulfillment of the divine promise ‘to wipe away tears from off all faces.’” Only Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on to ask, “Whom do you seek?” a question that only faith in Christ and Him crucified can answer.
People will always be the focus of the Lord’s concern, not angels. And angels, throughout the Bible, have always pointed people toward God. From the first mention of the angel “of the Lord” in Genesis, to the heavenly being sent to John on the Island of Patmos in the book of Revelation, their message is consistent and clear: worship God.
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God” (Rev. 19:10).