Do you believe in angels? (pt 1)

This post, and several others that will follow, are adapted from a 4-week message series called “Encountering Angels and Demons” that I wrote and taught at The Bridge.

John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present–but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station.  Could God have sent a legion of angels to protect his servants, whose lives were in danger? [1]

Dr. Mitchell, a celebrated neurologist went to bed after an exceptionally tiring day. Suddenly he was awakened by someone knocking on his door. Opening it he found a little girl, poorly dressed and deeply upset. She told him her mother was very sick and asked him if he would please come with her. It was a bitterly cold, snowy night, but though exhausted, Dr. Mitchell dressed and followed the girl. Upon arriving at the house, he found the mother desperately ill with pneumonia. After arranging for medical care, he complimented the sick woman on the intelligence and persistence of her little daughter. The woman looked at him strangely and then said, “My daughter died a month ago.” She added, “Her shoes and coat are in the clothes closet there.” Dr. Mitchell, amazed and perplexed, went to the closet and opened the door. There hung the very coat worn by the little girl who had summoned him. It was warm and dry and could not possibly have been out in the wintry night. Could the doctor have been called in the hour of desperate need by an angel who appeared as this woman’s young daughter? Was this the work of God’s angels on behalf of the sick woman? [2]

Billy Graham’s wife, having been born and raised in China, when tigers still lived wild in the mountains, tells the story of a poor woman who went up to the foothills to cut grass. To her back was tied a baby, and a little child walked beside her. In her hand she carried a sharp sickle to cut grass. Just as she reached the top of a hill she heard a roar. Frightened and speechless she looked around to see a mother tigress springing at her, followed by two cubs. This illiterate Chinese mother had never attended school or entered a church. She had never seen a Bible. But a year or two earlier a missionary had told her about Jesus, “who is able to help you when you are in trouble.” As the claws of the tigress tore her arm and shoulder, the woman cried out in a frenzy, “Oh Jesus, help me!” This ferocious beast, instead of attacking again to get an easy meal, suddenly turned and ran away. Had God sent an angel to help this poor ignorant Chinese woman? [3]

Hundreds, if not thousands of similar stories can be found in books, magazines and memoirs.  The Bible says in Psalm 91, “He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways” and in another version, “For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.” Are there truly supernatural beings as the Psalmist suggests who are able to influence the affairs of men and nations? Are all of these stories mere coincidence, accident, fate or just luck? Or are they examples of real angels sent from God to perform certain tasks?

As Christ-followers, we take our instruction and direction from the Bible.  The character and values and passions of God are in His book. In it we can read a historical record of Israel’s trials and triumphs as a nation, meet fascinating people like Deborah, David and Paul, encounter Jesus, the promised Messiah and son of God and see his shortly earthly life unfold, and yes – we even read about angels.

The Bible mentions angels almost 300 times in 34 of the 66 total books! They are mentioned in both the OT and NT, and yet, it seems few in the church know or talk much about them.  However, movies, songs, games, books, even majors at colleges around the country today focus on angels and demons. Go into any bookstore, and you’ll find shelves lined with books dealing with the paranormal, mysticism and mystical creatures such as angels, demons, and ghosts. ESP, UFOs, ouija boards, the occult, channeling, belief in spirit guides and an overall angel craze is evident. We’re all searching for direction, guidance and purpose, and the spirit world fascinates.

We’re going to look at what the Bible has to say about angels, and in the future posts we’ll spend some time talking about demons, the devil and mystical creatures. It should be an interesting time – and one that I know will challenge each of us as we explore little read, and little known scripture passages and teaching about these parts of creation.

Let me really honest and tell you that this topic is not black and white. While all of what I’m going to share over the course of the next few posts comes from the Bible, for every interpretation about a verse, there are numerous others that say the complete opposite. I’d encourage you to really spend some time yourself with these verses and ask God to show you the truth. I share here what I have found in the research and reading I’ve done, but by no means am I an expert.

Angels are real. Angels were created by God, likely before the world and man. Colossians 1:16 says “for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.” Angels are among those invisible things that God created. They do not possess physical bodies, but it seems they can take them on when God appoints them to special tasks. Because God cannot create evil, they were created good.  In another post we’ll look at what happened when some angels rose up against God, bringing evil into their ranks.

Angels are innumerable. David recorded and counted 20,000 angels in the psalms, and the book of Revelation tells us armies of angels will appear with Jesus at the Battle of Armageddon.

Angels have distinct purposes and roles in God’s world and their name gives us hints as to that purpose. The original word malawk used in the OT for angel means “messenger”. In fact, malawk is also translated as “Malachi” – the last book of the OT! Is it a coincidence that the final book of the OT, paving the way for Jesus’ birth, is called messenger? Hardly!

Intrigued?  Tomorrow’s post will look at the many roles angels played in the OT, Jesus’ ministry and the rest of the NT, and it will answer the question “What’s the point – why concern ourselves with angels?”.  Consider subscribing to the blog so you don’t miss a post, and I’d love for you to leave a comment below!

[1] www.sermonillustrations.com

[2] B. Graham.  Angels: God’s Secret Agents (Doubleday & Co., 1975).

[3] Ibid.

  • Jamie

    Kristen,

    I visit and read all the time but never stopped to say Hi yet. I love reading your blog.

    Hugs, Jamie

    • Jamie – thanks for stopping by and reading – and thanks for saying HI! We miss all you guys, and are glad to at least stay in contact through FB, email, etc!