In today’s post I would like to share with you how the ministry of angels includes heavenly worship/service, divine judgment, announcement and instruction to believers, answering prayers, and the protection and care for believers.
Photo Credit: Luther Wittenberg Bible (1534)
I. HEAVENLY WORSHIP AND SERVICE
In the midst of Daniel’s vision of four beasts in Daniel 7, Daniel saw an event which is an example of how angels worship and serve God.
I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One[ref]This “Ancient One” is a “name for God that emphasizes his eternality; He is the God who had existed from eternity past, has planned all things, and is working out his plan” (Wiersbe, Be Resolute, p. 112).[/ref] sat down to judge. His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like purest wool. He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, and a river of fire was pouring out, flowing from his presence. Millions of angels ministered to him; many millions stood to attend him. Then the court began its session, and the books were opened. (Dan 7:9–10, NLT, emphasis added)
In this vision Daniel sees our Lord and there are “millions of angels” ministering to him and attending him. These are “God’s servants, angels who execute His will” (J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 1, 1351. (By the way, if you are looking for a good commentary on the whole Bible I highly recommend The Bible Knowledge Commentary because it covers the entire Bible, is concise, yet explains important parts of Scripture.)
A similar vision to Dan 7:9-10 occurs in the book of Revelation (a book which contains a lot of material about the ministry of angels). During the time between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, John saw the praise that angels were giving to the Lord about what was occurring and what was about to occur in the book of Revelation.
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev 7:11–12, NLT)
Another example of angels worshipping and serving our lord is at the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry when he saw mighty seraphim (a type of angel) that were attending the Lord while saying to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isa 6:3).
Yet another example is in the book of Hebrews. When the Father brought his Son into the world God said, “Let all of God’s angels worship him” (Heb 1:6). So, angels don’t just worship God the Father, they worship the Son Jesus Christ.
II. DIVINE JUDGMENT
Angels are not just heavenly worshipers; they execute God’s judgment. An example of this was when the nation of Assyria said they were going to conquer and destroy the nation of Judah (2 Kings 18:19-37; 19:10-13). Yet, God had a different plan and sent the angel of the Lord to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 soldiers (2 Kings 19:35).
Another example of angels executing God’s judgment will be at the beginning of the Millennium. The apostle John wrote,
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while. (Rev 20:1–3, NLT)
At this point in the book of Revelation, Satan had been allowed to cause havoc and chaos on earth. As a result, God sent an angel to punish Satan for 1,000 years while Christ and his saints reign on earth.
For another example in addition to many in the book of Revelation of angels inflicting harm on people, see Acts 12:21-23.
III. ANNOUNCEMENT AND INSTRUCTION TO BELIEVERS
Angels don’t just do harm to bad people, but instead give encouraging words and instruction to God’s people.
Throughout the Bible angels announce the future births of babies. Examples of this were Ishmael (Gen 16:11), Isaac (Gen 18:19), Samson (Judg 13:3), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:11).
Additionally, the most important announcements by angels were about Jesus Christ. Angels described his birth (Luke 1:26-33), directed his escape to Egypt (Matt 2:13, 19), predicted his temptation (Matt 4:11), trial at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43); resurrection (Matt 28:2, 6), and ascension (Acts 1:10-11)
Angels also provided instruction to believers. The Law (referring to the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was given to Moses by angels (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). A ministry of angels in the book of Revelation was to explain mysteries (Rev 17:7). Additionally, angels revealed the Gospel (Gal 1:8).
IV. AGENTS OF ANSWERED PRAYER
Another ministry of angels is that they answer the prayers of God’s people. However, there is some clarification that needs to be made here. Christians do not pray to angels. We pray to God and then God decides whether or not he wants to answer those prayers. God might send an angel to answer the prayer, but angels simply do God’s will. The best example of how angels answer Christians’ prayers is in the book of Daniel. Daniel had learned that the nation of Judah would be exiled for 70 years in captivity (Dan 9:2) so he began to pray for his people and future restoration. Daniel wrote,
I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision. (Dan 9:20–23, NLT, emphasis added)
God heard Daniel’s prayer and gave a command that the angel would be sent to Daniel to provide insight and understanding. Angels work under the authority of God and follow his direction. There are other examples in the Bible of how angels serve God by answering the prayers of God’s people in Dan 10:12-22 and Acts 12:5-11
V. PROTECT AND CARE FOR BELIEVERS
Angels protect and care for believers in four ways. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Angels are servants to God’s people (Heb. 1:14), and until we get to heaven, we will never fully know how much they have helped us” (Wiersbe, Be Distinct, p. 70). I find a psalm comforting about angels,
If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hangs so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. (Psalm 91:9-12)
Let’s look at the ways angels help us.
A. Angelic Presence
At this time in Israel’s history the prophet Elisha was helping the Israelite army to defend itself against the advances of the Aramean army. Elisha knew all the plans of the Arameans and would tell the Israelite officers so that the Israelites would not be hurt. This made the king of Aram very angry so the king of Aram sent troops to find Elisha and seize him (2 King 6:13). When the Aramean troops found Elisha they gathered a great army with many chariots and horses around the city which Elisha was in (2 Kings 6:14). The next morning Elisha’s servant got up and saw the Aramean troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. He asked Elisha, “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” (2 Kings 6:15). Elisha replied,
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (2 Kings 6:16–17, NLT)
Elisha was doing God’s will and God had his angels protect Elisha. Another example of how angels protect believers can be seen in Dan 3:24-27.
B. Guardian Angels
Most people have the idea that there are “guardian” angels that protect us and keep us out of harm’s way. Yet, is that a biblical idea? There are a few passages that suggest believers have guardian angels. The first is when Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of heaven and who would be the greatest and told the disciples,
Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones [referring to children]. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. (Matt 18:10, NLT)
It seems clear that children have guardian angels. However, it’s not clear whether it’s a group of angels that watch over all children or whether each child has his own angel. Another factor that is not clear is if the angels guard children once they become adults! Is this only a ministry angels have to children and not adults? In my opinion, the text is not specific enough.
Perhaps Heb 1:14 and Dan 6:22 should be under this category too, but I am not sure.
C. Death and Angelic Ministry
Angels also have a ministry to believers after death. Luke tells the story of a rich man and Lazarus and where each of them go when they die. Luke starts off the story explaining that both the rich man and Lazarus died. Lazarus’ body was “carried by the angels to be with Abraham” (Luke 16:22). In the book of Jude a mention is made about Moses, “But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.)”[ref]”We have no information about the conflict between Satan and Michael over the body of Moses. When Moses died, the Lord buried him and no one knew where the sepulcher was located (Deut. 34:5-6). No dobt the Jewish people would have made a shrine out of the sepulcher and fallen into idolatry, so God kept that information to Himself. The text tells us that ‘not any man’ knew the place, so perhaps Satan did know the place and tried to claim Moses’ body for himself. Inasmuch as Satan does have a certain amount of authority in the realm of death he may have felt ha had a right to interfere (Heb. 2:14-15).” (Wiersbe, Be Alert, p. 175)[/ref] (Jude 9, NLT). The Bible Knowledge Commentary (which is a great two volume set I recommend you have) helps unpack Jude 9, “The archangel Michael was sent to bury Moses’ body, but according to Jewish tradition (the pseudepigraphical book, The Assumption of Moses), the devil argued with the angel about the body, apparently claiming the right to dispose of it. But Michael, though powerful and authoritative, did not dare dispute with Satan, so he left the matter in God’s hands, saying, The Lord rebuke you!” (Pentecost, “Jude,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 921).
With that said, angels minister by caring for believers after death (at least that was before Jesus’s death and resurrection).
D. Angels Unawares
The book of Hebrews tells believers that they need to be careful because angels might be around and not be noticed.
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! (Heb 13:1–2, NLT)
The background for the word “angel” is the idea of a “messenger.” It is good that Christians show hospitality to strangers because those strangers could be messengers from God. These two verses might be a reference to the story of three angels appearing to Abraham and Sarah in Gen 18.[ref]”Moses (Gen. 18) gave the story of Abraham showing generous hospitality to Jesus Christ and two of His angels. Abraham did not know who they were when he welcomed them; it was only later that he discovered the identities of his illustrious guests. You and I may not entertain angels in a literal sense (though it is possible), but any stranger could turn out to be a messenger blessings to us. (The word angel simply means ‘messenger.’) Often we have had guests in our home who have turned out to be messengers of God’s blessings.” (Wiersbe, Be Confident, p. 172)[/ref]
VI. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. I pray to Jesus, not to angels.
If there’s just one thing that you get out of my posts about the characteristics of angels and the ministry of angels, is that we worship Jesus Christ not angels. Christ is the one who died for our sins and took punishment we deserved. He is the object of our worship, not angels.
B. When I feel lonely and far from God, I should remember the ministry of angels.
While we do not worship angels, we can be comforted knowing that they are near us and with us. They watch over us, guard us, and protect us.
Question: Are there other ministries of angels described in the Bible that I might have missed? If so, leave a comment cause I would love to discuss it with you.