Unlike Mary, or Zechariah, you’ve probably never been visited by an angel. You’ve never seen one either. Then again, you might be like that quick-witted and very wise husband who once told me—in his wife’s presence—that he had married one!
For the rest of us, we might wonder what role angels might play in our lives today.
Understanding angels better actually enhances our spiritual lives in several practical ways. They increase our appreciation for God, provide a sense of comfort, remind us of the spiritual warfare in our world and model genuine worship. All of these roles are crucial for us to study as we seek to grow in both wisdom and love for God.
We also need to keep in mind the spiritual battle that is taking place around us. The apostle Paul reminded the believer that our ultimate battle is against the spiritual rulers and the forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:11). Similar to how historians study the famous conflicts of World War II and the Civil War, we need to look at angels through the lens of this battle.
In order to better understand the spiritual battle taking place in our world today, we need to examine the opposing sides. So, let’s start with the good guys.
Before God began His creative work on day one, Job 38:7 informs us that God had already created an unfathomable number of angelic witnesses to His creation. Imagine: they sang His praises while He created the universe!
God created angels with intelligence, emotions, will and speech—as well as a singing voice— and all of these give evidence of their choice to follow God or rebel against Him.
They were created as moral agents, having a will to exercise in choosing between right and wrong. The Bible informs us that one-third of the angels chose to rebel against God and follow the highest cherubim, Satan, after he attempted to steal God’s throne and glory.
He lost, of course, and God cast him and his followers to earth.
Meanwhile, the angels who chose to remain loyal to God were confirmed in their holy condition and are now secure for eternity, serving the Lord to this day by fulfilling His purposes on earth.
Let’s examine a few of the responsibilities given to angels:
ANGELS OBEY THE COMMANDS OF GOD.
The Greek word for angel is angelos, which literally means “messenger.” That term fits perfectly with the task we most often see angels performing in the Bible—delivering messages to people on earth.
An angel appeared to Balaam in the Old Testament to stop him from cursing Israel. Two angels rescued Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Angels appear throughout the nativity scenes of Jesus, announcing His birth to His parents and other eyewitnesses.
ANGELS DELIVER THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD.
In both testaments of Scripture, we witness shocking examples of God’s divine judgment being delivered by His angels.
In Exodus 12, at first glance it appears that the Lord struck down the first-born of Egypt in the final plague for refusing to release the captive Israelites. However, verse 23 indicates that the Lord sent a “destroyer,” which can be translated, “death angel.” Evidently, an angel was given the task of traveling through Egypt by night, killing the firstborn males of all those who did not have a special mark on their doors that God had given to His people. It’s interesting that in Psalm 78:49, the author indicates that the Lord sent more than one angel; “letting loose . . . a company of destroying angels.”
Further along, in the New Testament, another angel was used to deliver God’s judgment to a man who allowed himself to be worshipped. His name was Herod, and following his speech recorded in Acts 12, the people responded, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:22b). Rather than refuse this worship, or deflect it back to God, Herod accepted the worship of his people, and Luke records: “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (Luke 12:23).
These angels weren’t assassins, working on their own behalf, but assigned by God to deliver the stroke of judgment, as God commanded.
ANGELS ASSIST THE LIVES OF BELIEVERS.
Be encouraged by the fact that God does not always send his angels to deliver judgment; often, they are sent to provide comfort.
Hours before Herod was killed by the angel, the apostle Peter had been put into prison. Herod had planned to put him to death the following day.
While Peter awaited his execution, Luke records: “(he) was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains; and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared …and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands” (Acts 12:6-7).
Now, this doesn’t mean we can expect an angel to release us from prison or an especially difficult situation. But we can certainly be encouraged that as we pray for deliverance from some form of suffering, or even death, God has a host of angels at His beck and call. He just might send one your way to bring special deliverance.
ANGELS CONTROL THE KINGDOM OF SATAN.
In Revelation 20, when Satan is defeated, it is an angel who holds the key to the abyss into which Satan is thrown. I find it intriguing that it only takes one angel to tie up Satan and throw him into the abyss. There is no need to speculate the winning side; no need wondering to whom belongs the ultimate victory.
All praise to the Commander of the armies of heaven—King Jesus!