Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Angels Among Us

One of the strangest battles of World War I was waged on August 23, 1914--the Battle of Mons—when four divisions of the British Expeditionary Force met German troops over the sixty-foot-wide Mons Canal in Belgium. After withstanding six hours of bombardment, the British forces withdrew amid terrible scenes of conflagration. Here's what's strange about the retreat. London newspapers shortly afterward carried the accounts of British soldiers who reported seeing heavenly guardians aiding in the retreat and saving the army from annihilation. Some of the hospitalized soldiers spoke of “the secret army of Mons,” as guardian angels and many became believers in Christ because of this strange event.[1]

When we read such stories, we're intrigued and perhaps even encouraged about the reality of angels among us. But we don't base our doctrine or build our theology on personal accounts or individual experiences. Our beliefs are grounded in Scripture alone. Years ago, a Time magazine poll showed that 69 percent of American adults said they believed in the existence of angels, and 32 percent claimed to have felt an angelic presence at some time in their life. Even more surprising, the numbers jumped higher when they polled teenagers—three out of every four American teenagers said they believe in angels.[2]

Contrary to what some believe, angels are not dead humans trying to earn their wings. The Scriptures portrays these creatures as fearsome and awe-inspiring. If we are going to be biblical then we’ve got to expunge all those images from the Precious Moments figurines out of our heads. Angels are anything but cute, pudgy, Cupid-like creatures with haloes and harps. If God gave us the ability to wear a set of goggles which would allow us to see the invisible spirit world we would be astounded at the activity around us. There is no telling how many times angels have intervened on our behalf and we were totally oblivious.

So what can we know about angels? Quite a lot actually. Angels were created by Christ (Col. 1:16) in a higher order than humans (Ps. 8:5); they are normally invisible but they can appear as men (Matt. 1:20; John 20:12); they are powerful but not omnipotent (Ps. 103:20); they are immortal (Luke 20:36); some have wings (Is. 6:1-6); they are sent to minister to humans (Heb. 1:14); they deliver special messages (Luke 1:31); they escort believers to heaven at the time death (Luke 16:22); they battle against demons (Dan. 10); they execute God’s judgment (Rev. 8) and so much more!

Interest in angels is at an all-time high in our culture, and many people long to have an encounter with them. However, while seeing an angel would be a remarkable event, even the angels themselves are far more concerned that we heed God’s messages to us than they are that we see them face to face. In fact, we have one up on the angels—we are redeemed!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:20-21 that the angels “long to look into these things,” concerning salvation. The angels are so eager to understand God’s grace that they stand on tiptoe and bend down from the battlements of heaven to marvel at the unfolding plan of salvation. Why would the angels marvel at our salvation? The answer is clear. There are no “saved” angels because salvation is not for them, but for us. Jesus died to redeem fallen men and women, not the angels. There are elect and non-elect angels; there are good angels and bad angels; there are obedient and disobedient angels, but there are no “saved” angels. Only humans can be saved. Only humans can be redeemed. We alone of all the creatures in the universe can experience the wonders of God’s saving grace. This fascinates the angels, and causes them to study and ponder the mysteries of a salvation they do not share.

[1] David Jeremiah, “Lord of Hosts,” Turning Points, Friday March 7, 2014, p.35.  
[2] Greg Laurie, “What About Angles?” 8 July 2009 <http://www.harvest.org/devotional/archive/devotion/2009-07-08.html>

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