"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." Revelation 5:11.
The subject of this message and several to follow is "Angels." In these messages we will discuss with you the Bible teaching concerning an order of supernaturally created, usually invisible, spirit beings, dwelling in heaven, in countless millions, active upon this earth, though unseen by men, and filling the atmosphere around this earth, and probably inhabiting some of the countless millions of planets and heavenly bodies which form the Universe. These beings are called in the Bible, angels, as well as by several other names. Now the word, angel, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, means simply "a messenger," and therefore gives us immediately the key to the most important task and function for which they were created. While they are engaged in many other activities, their prime duty seems to be that of praising and serving God, and carrying the message of Jehovah to His creatures.
Bible Full of Angels
It is impossible to believe the Bible without also believing in the existence of angels, for the Scriptures are full of angels from Genesis to Revelation. While great ignorance exists among many Christians who ought to know their Bibles, there are few subjects in the Bible which are more clear and definite in their detail, than the subject of angels, both the holy angels in heaven, and the fallen angels from heaven. Yet, all sorts of foolish superstitions have surrounded the teaching of the Bible concerning these beings. Traditions have corrupted the revelation until today, many people, like the Sadducees of old, completely reject the existence of angels, while others though mentally accepting the fact, make no effort to find out what the Bible has to say about them. In order to show how prominent the doctrine of angels is in Scripture, consider these facts. In the Old Testament, angels are mentioned 108 times, and in the New Testament, 165 times, a grand total of 273 times, four times as often as there are books in the entire Bible. To neglect such a subject, therefore, given such prominence in the Bible, cannot but impoverish your spiritual life and keep you blind to a revelation which the Lord considered important enough to mention almost 300 times in Scripture.
How Much Do You Know?
Will you ask yourself pointedly, right now, how much do I really know about the Bible teaching of these myriads of spirit beings who have so much to do with the carrying out of God's will on this earth, and whose personal ministry so vitally affects me when Jesus comes, and throughout all eternity? In the hope of stimulating you to study this subject for yourself, we bring this series of messages in which we shall try both to dissipate any superstitions and foolish notions about them, and then seek to give you the Holy Spirit's picture which speaks with authority and finality in the Bible. We shall trace their origin in creation, their number, their different ranks, and authority and division, the nature of their ministry, their association with us now, and in the hour of death, their present abode and home, and their part in the final consummation of God's purpose in the setting up of the Kingdom for eternity. First of all, will you notice then, the
Origin of Angels
Angels are first of all, created beings, though we do not know just how far back they were created. We do know, however, that they were created before this world was made, for Scripture tells us that they were present at the creation of the earth. In Job 38 we read one of the several references to this fact. God is speaking to Job and He asks,
"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Job 38:4-7.
It is unanimously agreed among Bible students that Job's reference here to "morning stars" and "the sons of God" is to the angels in heaven, as well as here upon the earth. The word, "morning stars" refers to these angelic beings, and we know also, that in many passages in Scripture, the expression "sons of God" has a special reference to the angels which God has created. They are usually invisible to the human eye, although from time to time for special definite reasons they assume human forms and appear unto men, especially in the days of the Old Testament.
The Number of Angels
Although these angels are invisible to the human eye, except when they assume this special visible form, the Bible nevertheless teaches that they do exist, and this in stupendous and incalculable numbers. This is mentioned again and again in the Bible, giving us some idea of the great hosts which today in heaven surround the Throne of God, the great company who are on the earth today, going forth between heaven and earth, carrying out God's orders. Daniel tells us in Chapter 7,
"A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him." Daniel 7:10.
Here is a plain, unmistakable statement that the number of angels in heaven alone runs into countless millions, The Hebrew, remember, had no word for million, but expressed it by saying, "a thousand thousands," and so the expression, thousand thousands, means a million, and ten thousand times ten thousand, of course, would be a hundred million. In the book of the Revelation we read:
"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." Revelation 5:11.
The writer of Hebrews also says:
"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels." Hebrews 12:22.
The LORD of Hosts
This too is the definite meaning of the expression so often found throughout the Scripture, "The LORD of Hosts." The word hosts, means literally "armies," and refers to the armies of heaven, the holy angels. In heaven, here upon the earth and in the atmosphere all about us is this great company of spirits, unseen but real, just as really persons and creatures as we are, but belonging to a different order of created beings. How many other creatures God has in this great universe which are neither material, physical like our bodies, nor spiritual like the angels, we do not know, but certainly God is not limited to the creation of only two classes of creatures, physical and spiritual. He may indeed have a thousand other forms of created beings utterly unknown and unimaginable to us, but nevertheless real creatures to give to Him glory, and to do His will.
God Loves Variety
But all these angelic beings are not the same, either in appearance or in rank, in position, in power, or in work. As there are no two human beings exactly alike, so the Bible suggests that no two angels are exactly alike, but all have distinct personalities, belonging to special groups or ranks, classified as to their position and their ministry and their work. The hosts of heaven are perfectly organized. Each member of that celestial army knows his own place, and his own work and ministry. There are higher angels and there are lower angels in rank. There are those who have a special mission to perform, and seem to be limited to this mission. It is not a difference of perfection or of holiness, but simply a difference of authority and rank and work. Why this is, we do not know, but God has so decreed it by sovereign creation, and thus revealed it to us in Scripture. That this is we know, from the many passages of the Word. In Colossians we read:
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." Col. 1:16.
Fallen Angels Also
Not only are these angels in heaven organized in companies and ranks called "thrones, dominions, principalities and powers," but even the fallen angels, the demons under the leadership of Satan, are still thus organized and Paul tells us of them in Ephesians 6:
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12.
Not only are the angels organized in different companies and ranks for special definite service, but individual angels have individual tasks. Gabriel, the mighty angel, had a definite ministry in conveying the most important messages to man which God would not entrust to lesser beings. Michael, the chief or the arch-angel, has a definite and apparently exclusive commission, to watch over the nation of Israel and to protect her, and is never mentioned except in the role of protecting God's ancient covenant people, Israel. Some of these high ranking angels are called "princes," denoting their high office. Satan before his fall, himself was a high ranking angel, probably the highest in heaven, and was called "Lucifer," the special guardian of the Throne of God, before he was lifted up with pride, and cast out from the presence of Almighty God. But more about him later in subsequent messages.
Before we close this introductory message on the subject of angels, we would like to call your attention to some unfounded traditions and foolish superstitions which have been fixed in the minds of a great many people concerning these angelic beings. First of all will you note, therefore, that angels are always spoken of in the masculine. There are no female angels, but they are invariably referred to in the masculine gender. While they are sexless beings according to the revelation of Scripture, only in the fact that they do not marry or inter-marry and have no offspring, they are nevertheless always referred to as masculine. They were all created at one time, in the beginning, and there has been neither increase nor decrease in their number. There is no multiplication among angels; hence, will you notice, there are no baby angels. Those nice, pretty pictures which you see in works of art and even painted on church walls and ceilings and stained glass windows, of cute little baby angels with little sprouting wings has absolutely no foundation in the Bible at all, but are an indication of a misunderstanding of the Scriptures. Why, I ask, are angels so often presented with feminine faces when there are no female angels? Why do we imagine little winged baby cherubs when they do not even exist? Think these things over when you look at some of them in our religious books.
Neither do the angels generally have wings. There is no verse in the Bible which presents angels as having wings. They are said to fly in a few instances, but any reference to wings of angels is quite absent. Of course, you will refer me immediately to the cherubim and the seraphim which are mentioned a few times in the Bible, especially in the Book of Ezekiel, and called also beasts or living creatures, as appearing over the ark of the Covenant with wings overspreading the Mercy Seat, but I remind you that these are an entirely different order of beings. They are never called angels, and I do not believe that they are angels, but another order of spirit beings for a special purpose and ministry to God. They are called "beasts" or "living creatures," and have a ministry distinct and peculiar, wholly different from the angels. Sometime later, the Lord willing, we would like to take up the peculiar nature and ministry of the cherubim and the seraphim. Angels do move swiftly, however, and we know that they can travel with the speed of light.
"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. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." Hebrews 1:5-7.
This is only one of over two hundred and fifty times in which the Bible mentions angels, the angels of God, indicating the prominent place they occupy in the revelation of Scripture. In this first chapter of Hebrews the writer is showing the superiority of the Lord Jesus over the angels, the highest created beings which came from the hand of God. We have pointed out already that they are created beings, all created at one time, wholly subject to and forever worshipping the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Son of God. In our first message on "Angels" we emphasized the importance of studying what the Bible says about these spirit beings. No one can profitably neglect what the Bible has to say about them, for God wants us to know all the Scripture and to be fully and completely informed about all matters of which the Bible treats, and especially the subject of angels, for they are going to be our constant attendants and companions throughout eternity. We also pointed out that they are created beings who were already present when God formed the world. We saw that they exist in countless numbers in heaven, on the earth, in the atmosphere, and probably inhabiting the millions of planets and heavenly bodies just as they once lived here upon the earth.
Importance of the Study of Angels
In every age there have been those who have denied the existence of angelic beings, together with the rest of the supernatural. The Sadducees of Jesus' day denied the existence of these ministers of God, as well as the reality of the resurrection. It is often said that belief in angels is immaterial to salvation, that it is one of the non-essential doctrines of little consequence. But such shallow statements only betrays ignorance of the very subject we pass judgment upon. For the Bible is crystal-clear on the importance of the truth of angels. All the saints of the Old Testament believed in them. The prophets and the seers of old with one accord bear testimony to their activity in the revelation of God. To state, therefore, that there are no angels is to reduce the Bible to a book of fables and superstition, to label the writers of Scripture as ignorant and deluded fanatics, but worse than that, it means to impugn the truthfulness and the authority of Jesus Himself. Our Lord Jesus constantly affirmed and asserted the existence of angels, referring to them time and time and time again. Skeptics have tried to answer this problem by saying two things; first, there are those who claim that Jesus Himself did not know any better, and He accepted the existence of angels without proof. The second argument is milder, but just as dangerous. They tell us that Jesus knew better than to believe in angels, but knowing the deep-rooted superstition and belief of His hearers in the existence of angels, He did not attempt to correct them, but rather adapted Himself to the age of ignorance and assumed to believe it when He really did not. Either one of these arguments would destroy both the veracity of the Bible and the dependability and the truthfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Active in Jesus' Ministry
The facts of Scripture, however, are the exact opposite. The whole life and ministry of the Lord Jesus may truly be termed an angelic ministry, since angels seemed to be with Him from the very beginning to the end. His birth was announced by an angel, and heralded by a great multitude of the heavenly host. When He was being threatened by Herod, it was an angel who warned Joseph to flee into Egypt. In the temptation in the wilderness angels came to minister to Him. In the garden it was an angel who strengthened Him. At the tomb angels waited to announce His resurrection. At His ascension He sent back two heavenly messengers to assure the hearts of the disciples of His return, and when Jesus does return, it will be with the hosts of heaven, the armies of the angels. The doctrine of angels is so closely bound up with our faith in Christ that I make bold to say that a man can no more be saved without believing in angels than without believing in Christ Himself, for the same Bible clearly teaches both, and to reject part of the Scripture means to destroy the whole.
The Nature of Angels
We take up next the interesting study of the nature of these powerful beings created by God. We must remember as we study their peculiar and different nature that they are created beings. As such, they have all the limitations of creatures, and do not share any of the divine attributes which only the Creator possesses. Angels, therefore, are not omniscient, but they are limited in their knowledge, and dependent upon their information and knowledge concerning all things upon the revelation of God just as we are. That they are exceedingly wise, since the unfallen angels have not been perverted by sin, is very clear in the Bible, but they do not know all things. The Bible tells us that they cannot comprehend the divine plan of salvation, but angels have desired to look into it. They are also ignorant, according to Jesus, of the exact time of Christ's return, although they will be very, very active in the glorious event.
Moreover, angels are not omnipresent, but like all creatures, can be present in only one place at a time. They cannot be in heaven and on earth at the same instant. Many references in the Bible, however, do suggest that they travel with exceeding swiftness, with the rapidity of light, but they cannot transport themselves from one place to another without the lapse of time. Jesus could do this in His resurrected body, to be sure. He was with His disciples in Emmaus one moment, and immediately after He was in the upper room with the apostles in Jerusalem. But not so with angelic beings.
They must take time to travel from place to place. In the ninth chapter of Daniel we have the angel Gabriel informing Daniel, that as he began to pray, he (Gabriel), was sent to bring the answer to Daniel, but he did not arrive until Daniel had almost finished his prayer. Since we do not know where Gabriel was when the commandment to go to Daniel was given, we cannot, of course, speculate on the distance which he traveled, and therefore, with what speed he came; but it is well to remember, because from time immemorial there has been a tendency to worship angels as though they were God. This is strictly forbidden by the Almighty. Only God is to be worshipped, never a creature, whether it be a man or a woman, a saint or an angel. It is just as wrong to give worship to an angel as it is to worship an idol of stone or a human being.
They Are Not Omnipotent
But just as angels are swift in going from place to place, but not omnipresent, wise but not omniscient, so too, they are exceedingly powerful but not omnipotent. Great and mighty supernatural feats are ascribed to angels, but the prerogatives of deity are never theirs. They cannot create, they cannot redeem, but all their powers are only by the special permission and will of God, and while they are real persons and individuals just as much as we are, they too are limited just as we are; the only difference being one of degree and extent of these creature limitations.
From time unknown theologians have discussed the question as to the corporeality of angels. Do they have bodies, or are they only spirits as we usually think of them? Now most of you, I am sure, would be inclined to answer immediately, No, angels are spirits and therefore have no bodies at all. However, I am sure that a little thought and study of the Bible will definitely reveal that angels do have bodies. The difficulty is this, that when we think of bodies, we immediately, invariably, think of something we can feel and see and apprehend with our physical senses, but the only bodies in existence are not material or physical or tangible bodies. We know that there are also spiritual bodies, intangible, invisible to the material senses. God Himself is said to have a form (whatever that form may be). We are told that Christ, though He were in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation. What this form of God is, no human knows.
The Lord Jesus Himself suggests that angels have bodies. When He appeared to the disciples after His resurrection they thought they had seen a spirit, and He says to them:
"Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Luke 24:39.
Here the Lord Jesus clearly states that angels do not have bodies of flesh and bones. But at the same time, He does not say that they have no bodies at all, but rather infers that their bodies are different, that is, not of flesh and bones. Paul in discussing under inspiration, our resurrection body teaches the same thing. He says in 1 Corinthians 15,
"But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." 1 Corinthians 15:38-40.
There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. A body, therefore, need not be physical at all. How many different kinds of bodies God has created for all His creatures we do not know now. It may be that on the myriads of planets on this universe there are thousands of other kinds of creatures whom God has made; creatures which are neither human nor angelic, neither physical nor spiritual. Just because God has not revealed anything about this does not mean that they do not or cannot exist. Personally, I do not believe that all of the countless millions and probably billions of planets stretching out for millions of light years into space, some of them thousands of times bigger than our own earth are uninhabited. Many scientists believe that our nearest neighbor, Mars, is inhabited by some sort of intelligent beings. God has not been pleased to reveal anything about this to us definitely, and I realize that much of this is mere speculation, but I have always felt that it will be one of the many surprises which God is reserving for us when we reach the glory, to see that God's creative power did not cease, nor was it exhausted when He made men to dwell on earth and angels to dwell in heaven. Now I realize, and I hope you will take it in that spirit, that this is speculation, but it certainly exalts the Creator to even imagine other creatures which we cannot even conceive of as having been created to bring Him praise and glory throughout all eternity.
The Appearance of Angels
The possession of bodies, for angels, seems to be a pre-requisite for their work. Angelic beings, both angels and demons, seem to be relatively, if not totally powerless without these bodies. When they appeared in the Old and New Testament they always appeared in bodily, visible form, when they communicated with man. In a later message when we speak of the fallen angels, we shall find out that these demons also once had bodies before they fell and rebelled against God. But after these angels rebelled against the Almighty, one of their punishments was this, that God took their bodies away from them, and thereby rendered them powerless, except as God permitted them to assume another bodily form. In Genesis 6, the sons of God (angelic beings) through a vicious union with the daughters of men produced a race of incarnated beings called giants. Now the word, giants, in Genesis 6 is "nephillim," from the Hebrew word, "Naphal," which means "to fall." Giants, then, are fallen ones, demons possessing human bodies. So serious was this matter that God destroyed the whole population of these fallen beings and consigned these wicked spirits into a prison house from which they will not be delivered until after the Church of Jesus Christ has been raptured. (See Jude 6.)
In Jesus' day demons always appeared in men. The man possessed with demons at Gadara is only one of many instances which demonstrate that they need bodies in order to operate. You will remember, because of the curse of God upon these fallen angels they are disembodied spirits, and therefore, always are seeking a body through which to operate. When Jesus cast them out of this man at Gadara they dreaded returning to their disembodied state so much that they besought the Lord that they might enter into a herd of swine. These evil spirits would rather live in the bodies of swine than be disembodied. Again, when Satan came to destroy the Lord he needed a body, and he entered into Judas. The Bible tells us, "Then entered Satan into Judas," and we know furthermore that when Satan makes his last final desperate attempt to destroy the Lord Jesus in the tribulation period, it will again be through a man, the man of sin, the antichrist, the incarnation of the Devil himself.
So we believe that angels do have bodies. What kind of bodies we may not know, but they need be neither physical nor spiritual bodies. God is not limited to those things which we poor humans can understand. When we get to glory we shall know. If it is hard to accept this, then let me remind you that it is not easy to imagine either what our resurrection bodies will be like. We are told that at the resurrection we will receive bodies like unto Jesus' body. That was not a body like ours. He could leave the tomb without breaking the seal; He could be one place now and miles away the next instant; He could walk on the water and not sink; He could eat but did not have to; He could rise straight up into the air into heaven from Mt. Olivet without wings or any other propulsion.
We shall be like Him. How it thrills our hearts as we wait for Him! One of these days we shall hear the shout, drop off these old, weary, aging, pain-wracked bodies like an old garment, and with our new bodies that will never grow hungry or cold, that will never thirst nor suffer, never be weary nor tired, that shall never be subject to passion or sin, we shall rise to meet Him, and all the loved ones with Him. How I do thank God for that soon coming day. My friend, are you ready for that day? If not, then you will never have a redeemed body, but will be raised with your old sin-cursed body, to be cast into the lake of fire forever. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Trust Him now, before it is forever too late.
"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Jude 6.
The angels have homes where they dwell, called in this verse in Jude, "habitations." This word, habitation, in the Greek means "a dwelling place," or a house. The angels, then, according to this verse have dwelling places as we might suppose, since they are creatures, and we have pointed out they have bodies as well. They, therefore, must have places in which to abide. While the Bible is clear that heaven is the home of many angels, it does not mean that all angels dwell in heaven. The word translated heaven in Scripture is usually heavens in the plural, and includes all the three heavens recognized in the Bible. There is first of all the atmospheric heaven around the earth. Then there are the astronomical, planetary heavens, containing the countless numbers of stars and planets and other heavenly bodies, and then finally, there is the third heaven. Beyond these other two we mentioned is this third heaven, called the heaven of heavens, and usually referred to as the immediate dwelling place of God, the place of His Throne, and the original of the pattern of the tabernacle, the Temple which God gave to the children of Israel. From this we might suppose that it consists of three compartments, the outer corresponding with the Court of the Gentiles; the inner answering to the Holy Place, and the innermost place represented by the Holy of Holies. It is probably in this outer court where Satan is said to come before the Almighty as we have in several passages in Scripture.
Where Do Angels Dwell?
Since angels are the inhabitants of the heavens, we may ask which one of these or more are the dwelling place, the habitation, of the angels. About the atmospheric heavens there is no question. Satan is definitely called the Prince of the Power of the air. He was cast out of the earth when he sinned, and since he cannot dwell in the heaven of heavens, his one place became the atmosphere around the earth, and the Bible seems to indicate that the air about us is filled with angelic beings including these demons. We know also that angels dwell in the third heaven, the unfallen angels, for they are ever present as standing about the Throne of God and the Lamb, ascribing praise and worship to their Creator. But do these two places exclude the other heaven as a habitation of spirit beings? We refer, of course, to the astronomical heaven, the stars and the planets and the heavenly bodies. While we have no definite statement as to this, there is more than a suggestion that many of the planets are inhabited, either by these angelic beings or other creatures of God not revealed to us as yet. One thing we know, however, angels have dwelling places, definite places in the Universe, called their particular habitation or abode.
There is a very illuminating and suggestive passage touching on this very subject in Isaiah 14. Here we read concerning Lucifer, the shining angel who before his fall was one of the highest, if not the chief angel of God, who rebelled and fell, and we read this of him:
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." Isaiah 14:12-14.
Now please notice two things in this passage definitely. First, Lucifer had a throne which was not in heaven but somewhere else, and this was his dominion. Then he was lifted up with pride at his great beauty and the power which God had committed to him, and he determined to leave this habitation, and notice, rise above the clouds, (the atmospheric heaven) and above the stars, (the planetary heaven) to the very third heaven, and seek to be like unto God and to dethrone his Creator. For this rebellion he was cast down from heaven, and became Satan. All this is perfectly clear from this chapter. But in addition, in Ezekiel 28, we have some more information concerning the place, the abode which Satan left to rise above the clouds and above the stars. Now will you please notice, that since he arose above the clouds and the stars, we must infer that his habitation in the beginning was below the stars, and the clouds, and that would again suggest this earth on which we live today. Ezekiel, in chapter 28, is speaking about the King of Tyre who was the embodiment of Satan himself, and then he goes beyond the King of Tyre, using him as a figure and says concerning Lucifer who became Satan:
"...Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God;... Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." Ezekiel 28:12-15.
This of course can refer to none other than Lucifer, the son of the morning, who fell by rebellion against Almighty God. Now gathering the many suggestions in these passages, we come to this conclusion. Lucifer was the great shining angel. He was perfect as he came from the hand of God. He dwelt on the earth in Eden which, of course, we know was on the earth, and aspired to the Throne of God and ascended into heaven with the distinct object of rebelling against God. As a result of this rebellion, he was cast out of the earth, he was made a disembodied spirit, and destined to be finally cast forever into the lake of fire. Now in harmony with this is the record of Genesis 1. In the first chapter of Genesis 1 we read:
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Gen. 1:1.
We know from Scripture and from the nature of God that this original creation was perfect and without flaw, but when we come to the second verse in Genesis 1, we find quite a different picture, for here we read:
"And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep..."
Here then is a picture of utter ruin, chaos, and darkness, in sharp contrast to the perfect and complete and beautiful earth which God must have created in the beginning. The Holy Spirit tells us definitely in Isaiah 45 that God did not create the earth waste and void as we find it in Genesis 1:2, but instead, speaking of the earth, we read this:
"...God himself that formed the earth and made it; ... he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited..." Isaiah 45:18.
Now pay very close attention to this statement. The expression, "He created it not in vain" is the same expression which is translated "void" in Genesis 1, verse 2. Then notice too that the expression, "without form," in the first part of Genesis is the same word which is translated in Isaiah 45 as "to be inhabited." So if we translate the second verse of Genesis 1 literally we read this: "And the earth was void and uninhabited, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." But, Isaiah 45 tells us distinctly that He did not create it waste, but He created it to be inhabited. Now we hope that we have made this clear. Isaiah, using the same two identical words as those found in Genesis 1, verse 2, says that God did not make the earth waste and void, but let me repeat, in Genesis 1:2 we read that it was waste and void. Remember the same two identical words are used. Now since the Bible cannot contradict itself, we must seek an explanation, and we have the key in one word in Genesis 1:2. The expression, "The earth was without form" should read "The earth BECAME without form and void." If then God did not create it void and waste and uninhabited, but it became so, then something must have happened to make it thus. And that of course is our only explanation. In the beginning, countless ages ago, make it as many millions or billions of years as you want to, God created this earth. He made it perfect. On it He placed these angelic beings, (now fallen angels) under the leadership of Lucifer, the son of the morning. Then after a time, no one knows how long, these beings rebelled, and as a result they were cast out of the earth, the earth was cursed, God' withdrew the light from it, and it became waste and void and uninhabited as we find it in Genesis 1:2. How long the earth lay this way we do not know, probably millions upon millions of years, while the prehistoric vegetation decomposed into the oil and the coal and the gas which we are using today. That God did destroy the earth at this time by a tremendous cataclysmic judgment is also borne out by all the findings of geology in corroboration of the Word of God
How Old Is This Earth?
It was believed up until a few years ago by theologians, that this world was only six thousand years old, but science vehemently opposed this and claimed it was certain it was many millions of years old. Now, of course, today we know there is no conflict here at all. The mistake which theologians made was to count the creation of the earth from Genesis 1, verse 2, whereas they should count it from Genesis 1:1. Man has been here only six thousand years, for he was created after Genesis 1, verse 2, but the first verse of Genesis goes way back beyond that. Between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 there is an indefinite period of time, probably countless millions of years. Failing to recognize this, theologians took sharp issue with science which claimed the age of the world to be much greater. But science also made a grievous mistake. They assumed that since the earth was millions of years old, therefore, man too must be millions of years old, and so they invented the theory of evolution, but there is absolutely no record of man upon this earth farther back than six thousand years. No authentic remains of any man dating beyond these six thousand years have as yet ever been found, or will be found, for God created man in His own image on this earth six thousand years ago.
How About Dinosaurs?
But, says science, we have remains and fossils of animals, dinosaurs, brontosaurs, mammoth elephants, which we know are more than six thousand years old, in fact we know that they are millions of years old. Now we gladly grant all of this and admit it readily. But we happen to be talking about humans over six thousand years old, not the lower animals. Let science produce one of these. Those fossil remains of these gigantic monsters date back, not to Genesis 1, verse 2, but to that prehistoric creation in Genesis 1:1, when Lucifer and his angels dwelt here upon the earth. The earth then was inhabited according to God's original purpose. But then millions of years ago sin entered by Satan. The earth and its vegetation and the animals were destroyed, and today we are digging up those ancient remains. But, says another one, there is every evidence that a great ice age once covered this whole earth. Again, my friend, you are thousands of years late with your discovery. The Bible teaches that way back in the distant past the earth was a great frozen mass covered with ice. Did you ever notice that the Holy Spirit says in the verse that we quoted:
"And the earth was without form and void; and DARKNESS WAS UPON THE FACE OF THE DEEP." Gen. 1:2.
DARKNESS means that there was no light. Naturally without light, without a sun, heat was shut off, and the earth was a frozen mass. It is not stated in so many words, because God expects us to use our heads, to know that if there is no heat everything must of necessity freeze. And so during the interval of many centuries and millenniums, maybe millions of years between the fall of Satan and the recreation of the world as we have it recorded in the first of Genesis, this earth was covered with ice, and therefore the first thing needed when God prepared to restore this earth and populate it again was to impart heat and melt the frozen mass, and that is just exactly what He did, for the first thing God said was LET THERE BE LIGHT. This was the first thing, and all of the rest follows in order.
No Conflict With Science
There never is any conflict between the Bible and the findings of true science. I am speaking of true science which deals with facts, not guesses and speculations. Whenever there is conflict between the Bible and science, it is either because we do not understand the Bible correctly or else science must be wrong. The right interpretation of Scripture is always infallible, and if science disagrees, you need only to wait, and so-called science will prove itself before very long to have been in error. Science, so-called has changed its views concerning the origin of this earth, the evolution of man, and kindred subjects so many times, while the Old Book just stands, and says without the change of a letter, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
Angels Do Have Homes
Now we have made this digression in order to show that angels do have homes and definite abiding places. If the angels lived at one time on the earth, is there any objection to supposing that they may also inhabit other planets? Our earth is only an infinitesimal speck among the heavenly bodies. Our nearest planet is the moon, 240,000 miles away. The next nearest neighbor is Mars, 37,000,000 miles. Then comes Jupiter and after it Saturn is next at 750,000,000 miles. Neptune is 2 billion, five hundred thousand miles, and these are just a part of our own solar system, and this system is a pinpoint in the Universe beyond. The nearest star is 25 billion miles, and beyond that millions of others, and on and on and on to a distance incomprehensible, with suns and planets which make the earth a speck of dust in comparison. Is man the only creature inhabiting these vast, uncharted worlds? Some day we shall know. Are these bodies the habitations of angels? Or are they the many mansions Christ is preparing? How we would like to know, but listen, we shall some day. When that glad day arrives and we receive our new spiritual bodies, the Lord will display to us the hidden glories which our frail, mortal minds cannot possibly comprehend now. How I thank God that soon we shall see Him, the Creator of all—the Saviour, and enter in upon an eternity of surprises and revelations. But, oh how sad for you who are lost to be forever banished into outer darkness. Trust Him now, and be saved today.
The subject of angels is so prominent in the Scriptures that one feels a total inadequacy in dealing with it fully in the brief time that we have in these particular messages. We have pointed out in the previous chapters, that angels are real creatures, created by God before the worlds were made. They have homes and habitations in which they dwell. They also possess some kind of a body, and they also eat food. In Genesis 18, angels were entertained by Abraham in his tent, and he prepared a feast for angels and they ate of the meat and the bread which he had prepared, but angels also have a very special diet. The Bible speaks of "angels' food." In Psalm 78 we are told what it was. The author of Psalm 78 tells us as follows:
"And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full." Psalm 78:24-25.
The manna on which Israel subsisted for forty years in the wilderness is called by God, "angels' food." It came down from heaven. God opened up the angels' breadbox for His people, for a period of forty years, and when we get to heaven we too shall eat angels' food, for we read in Revelation 2:17
"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna."
Now in the time we have left, we want to speak more especially about
The Ministry of Angels
When the prophet Elisha was surrounded by the armies of Syria in Dothan he prayed to God to open the eyes of his servants, and when his eyes were opened he beheld the mountain filled with horses and chariots of fire, to protect Elisha. If we too could see today that which Elisha saw, we too would be filled with wonder and amazement at the marvelous sight, for round about us too are myriads of angelic beings, ministers of God, unseen by us, but nevertheless very real. Angels are always busy everywhere. They are the most busy creatures in God's universe. They are never said to sleep or to rest, but are ceaselessly active day and night.
Time would utterly fail to enumerate all of the activities of these angelic beings. We have already seen that they are ceaselessly active in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are just as active in the life of the believer who belongs to Jesus. From the cradle to the grave they are our constant attendants, observing all that we do and even beyond the grave they attend us. In Hebrews 1 we read:
"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Hebrews 1:14.
This ministry for the elect of God begins at childhood. Jesus says in Matthew 18:10 concerning little children:
"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."
Now Satan would destroy all God's elect if he only could and God would permit, but God has charged these angels with the responsibility of protecting His own, or we would fall before Satan's onslaught in a moment.
All Through Life
This ministry of angels seems to continue all through our lives, all along the way. When God was about to destroy Sodom, He made it known to Lot by angels in order that he might escape from the fire and the brimstone. When Daniel was in the lion's den, he was protected by angels, for Daniel himself testifies:
"My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths..." Daniel 6:22.
When Peter too was in prison in the fifth chapter of Acts, it was an angel who came to deliver him, for
"The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth." Acts 5:19.
This was repeated later again in the life of Peter when once again an angel led him out of the prison. What a comforting thought for the believer, to know that God has ordered His angels to not only protect us, but to deliver us in times of trouble. If we only realize that the armies, the hosts of heaven, are really at our disposal, we should place less confidence in the arm of flesh and physical weapons to defend ourselves. It is not in vain, therefore, that we are told that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. Notice too that angels are,
Interested in Our Redemption
While angels can never know the joy of being redeemed, they nevertheless are deeply interested in the plan of our salvation and redemption. In 1st Peter 1:12 we are told that they desire to look into this great plan of salvation. It speaks to us of the curiosity of the angels as they marvel and wonder at God's plan for our redemption. Moreover, they rejoice when a soul is saved, for Jesus tells us plainly that
"There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Luke 15:10.
Angels to Guide Us
But maybe you say—That was way back in olden times—but if you are inclined to believe that angels were active only in the Old Testament and ceased in the dispensation in which we live, we remind you that the New Testament has even more to say about angels than the Old Testament. Philip was guided by an angel from Samaria to meet the Ethiopian on the way to Gaza. Cornelius, the seeker after truth, was visited by an angel and told to send for Peter that he might present to him the plan of salvation. On Paul's journey to Rome when he was on the way to prison, an angel appeared to assure him that no harm would befall the passengers of the sinking ship.
Present at Worship
Angels too we are told are present at the worship services of the people of God in their assemblies and in their churches. Paul tells us in his letters in speaking of the woman's place and her conduct in the assembly of the church, that they are to keep their head covered because of the angels. Correctly translated this passage so often misunderstood should be, "because of the presence of the angels." God has ordered the angels to be present at our worship that they may observe our conduct in gratitude to God as we worship Him.
Angels to Carry Us Home
But the most glorious climax of the entire ministry of the heavenly angels comes at the time when we shall need them the most. I know of no more comforting truth in the entire Scripture concerning the angels than their ministry to us at the hour of our death, should we die before the Lord comes. Remember, when a saint dies, his soul and his spirit go directly into heaven, while his body is temporarily placed in the grave until the resurrection at the return of Christ. Now will you please remember that in order for the spirit of the saint to go into heaven, it is necessary for it to pass through the atmosphere, the air which surrounds this earth. But the atmosphere surrounding our earth is the particular abode of Satan and his fallen angels, the traditional enemies not only of Christ, but all who belong to Him. He is called in the Scriptures, "The Prince of the Power of the Air." We might, therefore, logically expect that the passage of the saint at death, from earth to heaven would be sharply and vigorously contested by Satan and by his angels. It is his last and his final opportunity to harass and attack the believer on his final journey home. Were it not for the promises of God, therefore, the saint might never even reach heaven, but God has made a wonderful provision. There is a special army, a special host of angels, whose particular duty it seems to be to escort the souls of his people, the saints, at death, into their heavenly home and the presence of their Saviour. The Lord Jesus Himself assures us in the record of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 concerning this matter:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Luke 16:22.
Carried By Angels
Not escorted by angels, but carried by the angels, into Abraham's bosom. Notice that carefully. CARRIED BY THE ANGELS. What an experience that must have been for Lazarus and what an experience it must be for all of God's homegoing saints. It almost makes one want to die, for it must be a glorious experience to have an army of heaven to bring us home. It certainly takes the fear of death away from us. Instead of a dreaded experience, it will be the most glorious thrill as a fit climax to a life of trial and struggle. Carried by the angels. We read of the world's great when they come home, how the crowds are waiting, the cannons saluting, the flags waving, the army marching, and the great man is riding in a special car with other great ones, surrounded by secret police on every hand and an array of military protection. But that, my friend, is nothing compared to the thrill of dying, for the believing Christian. To come home, to leave these old clods of clay, to be loosed from the earth, to say good-bye to all that hinders, and then surrounded by heavenly hosts be carried by the angels, God's own ministering spirits amid the shouts of triumph of the saints in heaven awaiting us and the innumerable company of angels, to be ushered into His blessed presence, to see Him and hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." When one thinks of this, one may well exclaim with Paul, "Oh, death where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?"
Is This Dying?
We ask the question, therefore, "Is this what death really is?" "Is this dying for the believer?" Yes, my friend, this is death for them that trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. David could say way back in the Old Testament,
"Yea, though 1 walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Psalm 23:4.
We have the additional information in the New Testament that the angels themselves will form a cordon of protection round about the saint as he goes off to the glory. Oh, you suffering one, torn by the fear of death, this is God's picture of your home going. You aged ones, almost at the end of life, living in the last shadows of the sunset, soon you will hear the approach of the angels, softly treading angels, who will gently pick you up, painlessly loose the earthly fetters that bind you to this low sphere, and up, up, up, up, and up, past suns and stars and moons and constellations, up and up into His presence until you see Him.
And then! Forever these angels shall be our servants attending our every wish, granting our every desire, until we return to receive our new bodies at Jesus' second coming amidst the angels as guests. What a glorious consummation! Therefore, let trials come. Let Satan do his best and his worst. Even in death he cannot harm us; even in death there is victory for the believer.
Betwixt and Between
Of course, we know that the blessed hope for the believer is not going home by the way of death, but by the way of the rapture, and all of us long for that time, and hope that we may belong to that generation who shall escape death, for death is still an enemy, and that we may be found when He comes, and at the shout and the call of the trumpet, rise to meet Him in the air, changed instantaneously, without dying. But the Lord has left us this comfort also, that should we have to die before that glad and glorious day of His returning, we shall have the thrill of knowing, that He who is the conqueror of death has made provision, even for the soul of the saint of God when he comes to the last great divide. Undoubtedly this is what Paul had in mind when he said:
"Whether we live, therefore, or whether we die, we are the Lord's."
God has provided something good for each of His children at the end of the way. Yes, indeed, death is still the last enemy, but how we praise God that He has given us the victory, even over the last enemy.
But in closing we also want to mention one other thing which we have kept to the last in order that it might be served as a warning. To those who are still without Christ, those who have never received Christ as their personal Saviour, shall find that the angels are not only God's ministers, to comfort and to protect and to deliver and accompany the saints, but also the messengers of God for judgment upon all who reject Him. You will recall in the book of Acts that a certain King by the name of Herod rejected God and the judgment of the Almighty fell upon him. The record is a striking example of the ministry of angels in the judgment of the wicked. We read in Acts 12:
"And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." Acts 12:21-23.
And when the Lord comes again it will be through the ministry of angels that He will gather the wicked together to be cast forever into the lake of fire. Ah, my friend, do you realize that you are intimately associated with angelic beings, either for salvation or for condemnation. Believe the Lord of angels today, receive the Lord Jesus Christ, and THOU SHALT BE SAVED.
From Angels and Demons: Their Nature, Origin, Ministry, and Classification. Four Radio Sermons by M. R. DeHaan. [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Radio Bible Class, no date].
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