What Do Angels Do?

October 2, 1999

*Mention the resources:  D. Jeremiah, H. Lockyer, J. MacArthur, B. Graham -- books
Introduction:
1. In a previous issue of Moody magazine, they featured an excellent cover article critiquing this idea of “angelmania.”
- The article included a quote from Ed Glasscock, a theology professor:  “The Bible never really explains angels.  It just makes casual references to their activities.”
2. I would agree with that – after a person studies all there is to study of the biblical data on angels . . . he/she is left with far more UNANSWERED questions about angels than detailed knowledge.
3. We do know this much: That angels do minister to humans and even intervene from time to time in human affairs, but as to HOW this happens, we know very little
- We know so little because God hasn’t revealed as much about this subject as he has others – like the discipline of the tongue that we studied this morning!
- We all understand that the Word of God is not all that God knows, but that it is all that we need to know for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and the details we have are “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
4. In fact, God discourages us from looking into all spiritual matter beyond what is revealed for us in His Word:
• Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
5. However, there is a considerable body of information in Scripture about these wonderful creatures, the angels
- And since we will spend eternity with them in heaven, and since they are part of God creation and He has said some things about them, it is helpful for us to understand all we can from Scripture about the angels and how they function.
6. Last week we studied:
I.  What Are Angels?
- the word simply means “messenger” – and can be used for human messengers
- there are a great numbers of angels – the bible numbers them in the millions (over 100 million)
- we also pointed out that there are different CATEGORIES of angels.
1.  Generic – “Angel” – [non-descriptive/most fit this category]
2.  Seraphim – only mentioned once in Isaiah 6 – connected with worship/praise of God
3.  Cherubim – mentioned far more times in the Scripture (67) – identity is unclear
4.  Archangel – 1 Thes. 4:16; Jude 9

II.  What Is the Nature of Angels?
A. They were created by God.

B. Angels are spirit beings.
- They are persons – i.e. they are being with all the attributes of personality: intellect, feelings, and volition -- they have personalities
- From Ezekiel 28 – evidently, the archangel who fell and became “Satan” was the most intelligent of all God’s creatures
• 12:28 – described as “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty”
- while they are spirit beings, they are not omniscient
• Peter 1:12 reminds us that gospel contains truths the “the angels desire to look into.”
- They also express emotion
• Luke 15:10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
C.  They were all originally good.
- Tonight, we want to take some time and study – What Do Angels Do?
I.  What do angels do?
- The life and world of angels is as involved and as active and as complex as our
- While they live in another dimension, our worlds intersect from time to time – after all, Hebrews 1:14 calls them “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
- Martin Luther believed that an angel is a spiritual creature without a body created by God for the service of Christendom and the church
- Whether that is really the MAIN function of angels or not, we simply are not told, but it certainly is ONE of their duties.
“As ministering spirits who minister to the elect, angels are no doubt active in human affairs, though usually unseen.  Undoubtedly they do many things on our behalf, but nowhere does Scripture encourage us to look further into how this occurs.  We are n4ever encouraged to try to discern the unseen work of angels in our lives.  We’re merely reminded to exhibit a Christ-like hospitality, because we never know when or in what for an angel may be our guest. Colossians 2:18 warns believers not to become angel-worshipers, and not to develop our doctrine from visions.” (MacArthur, The Glories of Heaven)
-  There are various groupings of their duties and activities.
A.  Angels continually praise and glorify God.
• Psa 103:20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word!
• Rev 5:11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
- “glorifying” God is the purpose of all creation
• Romans 11:36 For FROM Him and THROUGH Him and TO Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

- therefore, ANYTHING that takes away any of the glory from God is not pleasing to God
 That’s why we have to be careful with how we respond to angels
 Man is created a worship being – and as a result of the curse of sin – we have a tendency to turn our attention away from God to other things
>  Even good things
- That’s the reason why the first of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”
- And the second say, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”
POINT:  Worship is not about the CREATION, worship has to do with the CREATOR!
(rest of list from ZPEB)
B.  Angels announce and forewarn (fulfilling their role as “messengers”)
1.  Announcements
a. Conception and birth of Isaac (Gen. 18:9)
b. Birth of Samson (Judes 13:2-24)
c. Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13)
d. Birth of Jesus Christ  -- to Mary and to the Shepherds (Luke 1:30; 2:9)
2.  Forewarnings
a. Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18--19)
b. Threat of Herod to the infant Messiah (Matt. 2:13)
- it’s important for us to remember here what Hebrews 1:14 says, angels are “spirits” – which implies that they do not have material bodies
- however, they may appear in VISIBLE FORM when God chooses to let them
- and whenever Scripture describes any such angelic appearance, the angel ALWAYS appears as a man
>  Masculine pronouns are invariable used to refer to them!
C.  Angels guide and instruct.
1.  Abraham’s servant Eliezer when finding a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:7)
2.  Cornelius was told by an angel to send for Peter (Acts 10:3-5)
*  Now that we have the completed Scriptures there is no need for this.—we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3)
D.  Angels minister to believers.
• Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
Q:  How do they minister to us?
1.  Carry the souls of believers to heaven
• Luke 16:22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.”
- Imagine that for just a moment!
- The trip can’t take long because Paul said, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”
- This is the ultimate “first class” air trip!
2.  Wage war in a different dimension (spiritual) for the same side
• Dan 10:13 "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”
• Dan 10:20 Then he said, "Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia;
• Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war,
3.  Protect believers from harm.
• Act 5:18 and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 "Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life."
• Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.
- This is a good time to raise a common question:  “Do believers have guardian angels?”
- Has God assigned a particular angel to watch over each individual believer or over each child?
- One verse is commonly given for belief in guardian angels.
• Matt. 18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.
- John Broadus (as does John MacArthur and other commentators) commenting on this verse believes that Jesus is referring to child-like believers or those young in the faith and is using actual children as His object lesson.
Broadus, “There is in this no sufficient warrant for the popular notion of “guardian angels,” one angel especially assigned to each individual; it is simply said of believers as a class that there are angels which are their angels; but there is nothing here or elsewhere to show that one angel has special charge of one believer.”
“It cannot be positively asserted that the idea of guardian angels is an error, but there is no Scripture which proves it true, and passages which merely might be understood that way do not suffice for the basis of a doctrine” (Broadus, Matthew, p. 385)
 BUT, SCRIPTURE TEACHES THAT ANGELS MINISTER TO BELIEVERS AND THAT THEY DEFEND BELIEVERS. 
Important Point:  We’re never told how to discern this.  They do minister to us.  HOW specifically they do, we do not know – and GOD DOESN’T TELL US!

- the issue is more of a problem with “mysticism” & bad theology than anything else
ILL:  The missionaries who were being stalked by cannibals – when they decided to attack – the cannibals saw men in white robes and flaming swords – they feared and fled.
Questions:
1) How do know those men were angels?
2) How do know they were “good” angels?  -- they protected the missionaries
 Really, how do know it wasn’t demons coming as “angels of light” NOT wanting the missionaries dead, because they fully intended to ruin the testimony of Christ is a greater way by tempting the missionaries to sin
 OR to destroy their faith in some other way and render them useless in God’s kingdom
3) How do you it wasn’t their imagination – corrupted by sin and the guilt/fear of having killed other humans – that turned them back?
ILL: Gideon and Midianites – the Midianites thought they saw thousands – there were 300 men of Israel
Q:  What happened?  God used their imagination to deceive them and Gideon won the battle
Point:  You don’t know for sure because God gives us no specific criteria for making that decision
• You can only be certain about the biblical examples!
MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven, “That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an angel whose invisible hand mysteriously steadied you when you were about to take a tumble down the stairs.  But it means you cannot possibly know for sure whether it was an angel or not.  We do know for sure that it is God whose providence preserves us from various disasters.  Whether in a given instance He employs angels as His instruments or not, it is God who should be the focus of our praise and gratitude, not the angelic beings” (p. 150).
- Yes, the Scriptures do teach that angels minister to the saints and that “SOME have “entertained angels WITHOUT KNOWING IT”
- That’s why we need to be careful with how we treat people (especially strangers) because it could be an angel.
- But God clearly indicates those situations are RARE (i.e. “some”) and the key to understanding this verse is the phrase “without knowing it.”
- It is certainly possible, according to God’s Word, that you might play host to an angel
- But in all likelihood, if that occurs, you would never know it
Point:  Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to have an angel-fetish or to look for evidence of angels in everyday life
“The tales that fill today’s angelic-encounter books (and TV shows) are unverifiable stories – extraordinary displays of divine providence, perhaps, but not necessarily authentic accounts of angelic intervention.  The whole fixation is of questionable value, and undoubtedly it is causing far more spiritual harm than good.” – MacArthur, p. 151
-  Angels not only minister to believers by protecting them from harm, but also
E.  Angels assist in judgment
• 2Ki 19:35 Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out, and struck 185000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.
• Act 12:23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.
• Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
• Mat 13:39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 "Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
II.  Implications to our everyday life
A. Go to the Scriptures to get your theology of angels, not experience
• 2 Peter 1:18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have a more sure word of prophecy . . .”
B. Don’t be concerned about HOW God does what He does; be concerned about WHY He is doing it – for His glory and your benefit!
C. Be asking the question: How do I need to change and grow as a result of what He’s doing?


I.  What do angels do?
“As ministering spirits who minister to the elect, angels are no doubt active in human affairs, though usually unseen.  Undoubtedly they do many things on our behalf, but nowhere does Scripture encourage us to look further into how this occurs.  We are never encouraged to try to discern the unseen work of angels in our lives.  We’re merely reminded to exhibit a Christ-like hospitality, because we never know when or in what form an angel may be our guest. Colossians 2:18 warns believers not to become angel-worshipers, and not to develop our doctrine from visions.” (MacArthur, The Glories of Heaven)
A.  Angels continually praise and glorify God.
• Psa 103:20
• Rev 5:11-12
B.  Angels announce and forewarn.
1.  Announcements
2.  Forewarnings

C.  Angels guide and instruct.
• Genesis 24:7
• Acts 10:3-5
D.  Angels minister to believers.
1.  Carry the souls of believers to heaven
• Luke 16:22
2.  Wage war in a different dimension (spiritual) for the same side
• Dan 10:13; 20
• Revelation 12:7
3.  Protect believers from harm
• Act 5:18-20
• Psalm 34:7
Q: “Do believers have guardian angels?”
• Matt. 18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

Broadus, “There is in this no sufficient warrant for the popular notion of “guardian angels,” one angel especially assigned to each individual; it is simply said of believers as a class that there are angels which are their angels; but there is nothing here or elsewhere to show that one angel has special charge of one believer.”
“It cannot be positively asserted that the idea of guardian angels is an error, but there is no Scripture which proves it true, and passages which merely might be understood that way do not suffice for the basis of a doctrine.” (Broadus, Matthew, p. 385)
MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven, “That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an angel whose invisible hand mysteriously steadied you when you were about to take a tumble down the stairs.  But it means you cannot possibly know for sure whether it was an angel or not.  We do know for sure that it is God whose providence preserves us from various disasters.  Whether in a given instance He employs angels as His instruments or not, it is God who should be the focus of our praise and gratitude, not the angelic beings” (p. 150).
“The tales that fill today’s angelic-encounter books (and TV shows) are unverifiable stories – extraordinary displays of divine providence, perhaps, but not necessarily authentic accounts of angelic intervention.  The whole fixation is of questionable value, and undoubtedly it is causing far more spiritual harm than good.” – MacArthur
E.  Angels assist in judgment
• 2 Ki. 19:35; Acts 12:23; Rev. 20:1-3;
Matt. 13:39-42

 

 


II.  Implications to our everyday life
A. Go to the Scriptures to get your theology of angels, not experience.
• 2 Peter 1:18
B. Don’t be concerned about HOW God does what He does; be concerned about WHY He is doing it – for His glory and your benefit!
C. Be asking the question: How do I need to change and grow as a result of what He’s doing?

**************
Later message:

APPLICATIONS

(Erickson)
A.  It’s a comfort to know we have powerful, unseen helpers.
cf. 2 Kings 6:17
B.  We ought to follow their example of praise and worship of God.
But we ought to do so more.  We have been redeemed!
cf. Rev 14:1 And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they *sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.
C.  It ought to sober us because some of them fell and we ought to “take heed lest (we) fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
We ought to thank God for the privilege no angel has:  sharing the good news of Jesus Christ!

(use with III.  Angel of the Lord)
D.  Most angels are unnamed.
There are a few notable exceptions:
1.  Michael — The archangel, commander of the angelic army.
Rev 12:7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.
2.  Gabriel — the chief messenger angel
Dan 8:15-17 And it came about when I, Daniel, had seen the vision, that I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, "Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision." 17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, "Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end."
Gabriel also appeared to Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Mary
3.  Satan
We studied the origin and fall of Satan a few weeks ago as part of our Wednesday series through our Confession of Faith.
cf. Isa. 14; Eze. 28

B.  Angels have various names.
1.  Sons of God (Elohim)
Job 1:6 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among “them.
2.  Holy ones
Psa. 89:5 And the heavens will praise Thy wonders, O LORD; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
3.  Watchers
Dan. 4:13 'I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.
4.  Council
Psa 89:7 A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, And awesome above all those who are around Him?
5.  The assembly
Psa 89:5 And the heavens will praise Thy wonders, O LORD; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
6.  Host or hosts
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Lord of hosts” which means simply Lord of armies
7.  Spirits
Heb. 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
8.  Principalities, powers, thrones, dominions, and authorities
Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him.


III.  Who Was the Angel of the Lord?
69 times the Scripture refers to this angel, also called the angel of God.
At times the Scripture seems to indicate this angel is the Lord Himself, at other times one of His messengers.  Which is it?
Three main views exist about this angel (Erickson):
A.  An angel with a special commission
Those who hold to this position point to the passages where the Lord and the angel of the Lord are distinguished.
For ex., Gen 16:11: “The angel of the LORD said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.”
B.  A theophany (appearance of God in human form)
Far more biblical scholars hold to this view than to the view that this is merely an angel with a special commission.
Several Scriptures indicate this angel was much more than a mere angel:
Gen 31:11 "Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am.' 12 "And he said, 'Lift up, now, your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 'I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.' "
Exo 3:2-6 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.  3 So Moses said, "I must turn aside now, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up." 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 6 He said also, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
cf. The three men coming to see Abraham in Gen. 18.  One of them was the LORD.
 Some scholars have reconciled the distinction from the Lord and the identification as the Lord in this way.  They believe that the angel of the Lord was really...
C.  A Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ)
The rationale for this view is as follows:  the angel of the Lord is distinct from the Lord Himself as seen in Gen. 16:11 (Hagar).  Yet the angel of the Lord elsewhere is clearly God Himself.  Therefore, what you have is Person Who is God Who is distinct from God.  This can only be explained, so the view goes, by equating the angel of the Lord with the Logos, the preincarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
“He [the angel of the Lord] introduced Himself as the Deity, and yet as distinct from God” (G.B. Funderburk, “Angel”, in ZPEB, vol. 1, p. 162).
Others explain the apparent problem this way:  “Where there are apparent distinctions between God and the angel of the Lord, God is referring to himself in third-person fashion” (Erickson, p. 443).
Whichever it is (and I’m not sure, though I lean toward the Christophany), isn’t it wonderful that we have a God who was interested enough in His creation to appear as a man and communicate His will in a way that man could understand.
God didn’t have to appear to Hagar or Jacob or Moses, BUT HE DID because He is intimately involved in the affairs of men and HE CARES.  He cared about poor Hagar and Ishmael who were thrown into the wilderness by an irate Sarah.  He cared enough to communicate and He’s still the same God.  He still cares.  He cared enough to send His Son to die for us on the cross to redeem us and give us life.