Membership Update - Dedicated to Reaching Others (September 2010)

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Late last Spring I began a Membership Series for our Gateway members (and anyone else) that is intended to help us grow and become more and more like Jesus Christ. I'm using a tool that we at Gateway call the GUIDE (which is a part of our Membership Covenant). It's an acronym that both describes what a "fully devoted follower of Christ" looks like, and at the same time lists biblical disciplines and practices that God has given us to guide us in our spiritual journey. You can read more about the GUIDE in my May Update.

This month I turn to the "D" of GUIDE, which stands for: "Dedicated to Reaching Others." We understand this to mean that "I will seek opportunities to develop relationships with everyday people, recognizing my role as an ambassador to the life-changing message of Jesus Christ."

As you probably know, "Reach" is an important part of our church's DNA, and has been from our very beginning. It's a part of Jesus' own mission: "And I, the Son of Man, have to come to seek and save those ... who are lost." (Luke 19:10 NLT) Every ONE matters to Jesus. No one is beyond his love or his desire to develop a relationship with them.

In the Great Commission Jesus told us, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19 NLT) The Apostle Paul wrote:

"So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!' For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NLT2)

Paul says reaching others is what Christ followers do. It's not up to some of us. It is a fundamental part of what it means to be a Christ follower - period!

But before you start sweating that out and wondering if that means we're supposed to all head out to the street corners and stand on our soap boxes, hear me out. That may be true for a few of us, but notice that our statement above says, "I will seek opportunities to develop relationships..." Reaching others is almost always done best and most effectively and most naturally through relationships. Most often it's relationships we already have, though Christ followers also seek to develop new relationships to share the life-changing message and love of Jesus Christ. It means looking at those around us to see whom we can become more intentional about growing our relationship and, at the right time, sharing our story of our journey with Jesus Christ.

Think about it - an ambassador represents his or her homeland to others. Paul tells us we are Christ's ambassadors, so we represent Jesus Christ and the hope and joy and life-changing love he offers us to others. God often uses us as the "go-between" to help one of our existing friends or relatives get to know our best friend and brother Jesus Christ. We aren't responsible for their relationship with Christ, but we are responsible for looking for natural opportunities to make introductions and even walk alongside our two friends as they get to know each other better.

Our dedication to reach others begins with wherever that person is in their relationship with Christ. From no relationship to a relationship that has slipped, to a relationship that is growing. A significant part of this dedication is coming alongside others in what I would call a mentoring relationship, regardless of where they are on their journey. Mentoring is simply being intentional about sharing with another person or persons about our journeys with Christ. It's an intentional decision to reach out to another, but it invariably becomes a two-way street as God's Spirit works in and through both of us to grow both of us. We may think it's all about the other person, but God has designed this act and process of reaching out to others, of being ambassadors for Christ, as a growth opportunity for both of us. We are always blessed as we allow Christ to use us to reach others, and, in fact, there are some blessings God has reserved for us that we will never experience unless we do reach out to others.

Ultimately, this dedication to reaching others isn't a program or something we do only when the church is making a push. God intends this to be a part of our lifestyle as Christ followers. He intends it to be a natural part of the culture of any church, and we certainly want that here at Gateway. We offer opportunities for you to invite a friend, including regular events such as our Sunday services, and special outreach events, such as Ladies Night Out or our recent Date Night or our regular Bring-A-Friend Sundays (the next one is October 24!). 

I know many of us have some feelings of insecurity or even fear about reaching out to others - I certainly do, and I have to work on it! Yet, Christ wants to use us, and God has already been working in the person we feel led to reach. Even if the results don't seem to go anywhere in our first tries, God is using us to plant seeds. Sometimes we see the fruit of our efforts, and sometimes others do - and we reap the harvest that others planted before us. 

But nothing happens if we do nothing. That's why this begins with us dedicating ourselves to this journey - of allowing God to work in and through us to make the choice to be Christ's ambassador to reach out to the relationships around us. After all, in Christ we represent the one and only way to help people live forever in heaven with Jesus. There's no more important work or task in our lives, because nothing else we do can affect the eternity of another like this. God has given you and me the greatest opportunity there is - to be a part of His life-changing plan to save lives and change the world!

Angels - Part 6: Fallen and Deceptive Angels

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Friday, September 17, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Today I'm wrapping these posts on angels looking at fallen angels, sometimes called demons, and their leader, Satan.

The biblical story about Satan, or the devil, is not clear. The Bible does not set out to tell that story. Many of our ideas about Satan and his dark angels come from popular folk lore or classic literary works such as Dante's Inferno or Faust. Isaiah 14:12-15 (NLT2) seems to give the best picture of what happened, if, in fact, it refers to Satan and not Israel, as some have suggested:

“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths.”

Jesus said, ‘…I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! 
Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions (sometimes symbols for the devil and his demons) and crush them. Nothing will injure you.’” (Luke 10:18-19 NLT2)

We don’t know for sure where Satan came from, though he was probably a cherubim and possibly the highest of all the angels; he fell to earth at God’s bidding due to his sin, and continues as a superhuman opponent of God and his people. Demons appear to be angels who followed him and fell with him. It appears about one-third of the angels fell with Satan, according to Revelation 12:3-4. The name Satan in Hebrew means “adversary.” His other well-known name is the devil, which means “accuser” or “deceiver.” It is his title, but it really describes what he does. In fact, lies and deception are his primary instrument in human lives. Scripture also offers several other names for him:
  • the Wicked or Evil One (Matthew 6:13) 
  • the Enemy (Matthew 13:25, 28, 39) 
  • Murderer (John 8:44) 
  • Deceiver (Revelation 20:10) 
  • Beelzebub (Matthew 9:34, 12:24) 
  • Belial, or Beliar, “worthless one” (2 Corinthians 6:15) 
  • Ruler of this World (John 12:31) 
  • Prince of this World (John 12:31) 
  • Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2, 6:12) 
  • the Great Dragon (Revelation 12:9) 
  • the Ancient Serpent (Revelation 12:9) 
  • Abaddon, Apollyon, the Destroyer (Revelation 9:11) 
  • the Tempter (Matthew 4:3) 
  • Father of Lies (John 8:44)

There is certainly a great deal of interest in angels these days. An incredible number of books have been written about them in recent years. Yet, not all are written from a Christian perspective. But, if we’re talking about angels they must be God’s good angels, right? Not necessarily, for notice there are evil or fallen or dark angels. People are claiming to be told by angels to write books about angels, to seek your angel, etc., but this doesn't fit with the ministry God has given angels.

Certainly this interest in angels indicates a spiritual hunger in our land today, and that is positive. Yet, not all angels are answers to spiritual hunger. Angels can deceive us, even when they are not trying to do so. John of Revelation describes a dazzling appearance of the resurrected, glorified Christ (Revelation 1:14-17). John worships him. Yet, at the end of the book we again see John falling down to worship, but this time it is an angel, who objects to him doing so and tells him to worship God (Revelation 22:8-9). If John could be unintentionally fooled, how easy is it for us to be fooled. So, how do we recognize the wrong kinds of angels? Here are some suggestions:

  • Are angels identified by non-biblical names? In the Bible only two angel names appear: Michael and Gabriel. 
  • Are the angels given an extrabiblical description? In other words, what do they look like? The Bible is very minimal about angelic descriptions because the emphasis is on the message. Angels do not draw attention to themselves but to their message from God. Too much detail means the angel has become the focus of the appearance rather than the message, and that is not biblical. 
  • Are the angels performing roles beyond what the Bible reveals about them? Many of the claims of modern-day angels far exceed the biblical norms. 
  • Are angels sources of additional information beyond the teaching of the Bible? For instance, the Book of Mormon includes revelation to Joseph Smith by an angel. Much of this new revelation contradicts the Bible. Paul himself wrote, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:8). 
  • Are the angels in any way proclaiming another gospel, another way to heaven, a “revised” form of Christianity? In the Book of Mormon this is certainly true. We must be careful.
I hope these posts have helped clarify what we know about angels (and what we don't know). They are certainly beautiful creations of God, serving Him constantly and faithfully (except those who are fallen). Someday we will enjoy God's creation alongside the angels, and I'm sure that will be an amazing and glorious time. And the stories they can tell, since they have seen just about everything!

Angels - Part 5: Organization, Guardian and Encounters

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Today I want to look at some miscellaneous topics about angels and wrap up tomorrow looking a fallen angels.

Medieval scholars argued over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. That was mere speculation, however. So, what can we ascertain about the
number, organization and rank of angels?

In terms of numbers of angels, the Bible speaks of “multitudes” of angels praising God at the birth of Jesus, and this was only a part of the heavenly host (Luke 2:13-15). At his betrayal Christ said he could call upon God for twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53), which would calculate to about 72,000 angels (6,000 x 12). There are some references in scripture that the number of angels is comparable to the number of stars in the sky. Hebrews 12:22 speaks of “an innumerable company of angels” which probably is as close as we are going to get.

Angels seems to be gathered in an organization. There are hints at assemblies or large gatherings, an army of angels that is obviously organized, and several different titles, probably for various levels of organization for both good and bad angels: thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers, angels, world rulers, wicked spirits (Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 15).

The ranking of angels is not very clear from the Bible. There seem to be broad classes of angels with ranking within each class. Classes might include cherubim, seraphim and living creatures. Cherubim seemed to hold the highest position. Among the cherubim, Satan appears to have held the highest rank (Ezekiel 28:12, 14, 16).

Archangel implies a ranking of first among angels, since the Greek prefix
arche means first. This title is applied directly only to Michael (Jude 9). However, he is also called “one of the chief princes” (Daniel 10:13), implying that there are others of high rank, but we cannot say for sure whether they are archangels or not.

There is also reason to believe that there is a descending rank among the following: thrones, principalities, authorities, powers, world rulers, wicked spirits, and angels. Some of these titles apply both to good and evil angels.

Guardian angels are probably the most popular kind of angel that most of us are familiar with, because we all know how fragile life is. It is comforting to know they are there to watch over us.

The idea of guardian angels was fairly well developed in Judaism by New Testament times. Judaism taught that each individual had their own personal angel. The early church fathers and later Christian theologians held similar beliefs. Some “Catholic children are still taught that a good angel sits on your right shoulder and a bad one on your left, and you get to choose between the two at every moment of your life.” (Gary Kinnaman,
Angels: Dark and Light, p. 83) Catholic beliefs are based on Genesis 48:16, Matthew 18:10 and Tobias 3:25, which is one of the apocryphal books which appear at the end of the Old Testament of Catholic Bibles, but is not included in Protestant Bibles.

While Protestants (and Gateway is a part of the overall Protestant movement) are certainly not opposed to the concept of guardian angels, we have to acknowledge that scripture is not very clear about this. Only a few references suggest the possibility of guardian angels, and none directly states this to be true. Psalm 91:11 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” The devil used this passage to try to tempt Jesus. This passage does indicate there are angels around us to protect us, but it is not clear there is one guardian angel assigned to you. In the passage in Acts 12 where Peter is freed by an angel from prison he returns to the house of Mary. The servant girl who answers the gate is startled and rather than let him in she rushes back to tell everyone its Peter. When they say she’s crazy she continues insisting it is him. Then in vs. 15 they respond to her with this: “It must be his angel.” The implication is that the early church believed each person had an accompanying angel that resembled him or her. These passages and a few others hint at guardian angels, but, again, they do not come out and state this as a biblical teaching.

As Protestants we cannot unequivocally say there are guardian angels, at least by biblical standards. Yet, we can acknowledge several allusions to the possibility of them. In addition, there are passages that indicate that angels are there to protect and watch over us, even if no one angel is assigned to each one of us. In this case, each of us will need to draw our own conclusion.

Sometimes, the Bible indicates,
angels appear in disguise. In Genesis 18 and 19 Abraham entertains three “men.” They sit with him, talk with him, and eat with him. Only as they share their message with Abraham does it become known that they are angels. Two of these “men” then go on to Sodom where Lot provides them shelter. Neither Lot nor the men of the city recognize them as angels. Yet, the men of the city that try to take the two are struck with blindness. Obviously, these angels appeared to be completely human, yet they were angels.

Just as other stories in the Bible corroborate this truth, that angels do often take on the appearance and activity of humans to accomplish their purposes, so it would appear they continue to do so today, as many individuals will attest. I suspect we really don't have a clue just how active and prevalent angels are in our daily lives on behalf of God.

Angels - Part 4: the Ministry of Angels

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 12:01 AM

I'm continuing my postings on angels, related to a series we've been offering at Gateway on Heaven. I began on Sunday offering an overview of angels. On Monday we looked at what we know about the origin and nature of angels. On Tuesday I listed the various kinds of Bibles as found in the Bible. And today, Part 4, we're looking at the ministry of angels, again as detailed in the Bible.

Angels minister in both heaven and earth, but what are some of the specifics that they do? We’ll look at their ministry in three areas: in relation to God, in relation to Christ, in relation to Christ followers.

In Relation to God: 
Angels’ primary ministry seems to be that of worship and praise of God (Isaiah 6; Revelation 4:6-11). Much, if not all, of this praise is in the form of song. Angels serve God and His purposes and are His messengers. Angels seem to carry out certain aspects of God’s government, including controlling nature (Revelation 7:1, 16:3, 16:8-9) and guiding nations. Angels protect God’s people, delivering them from wicked works (Psalm 34:7; Isaiah 63:9). God uses angels to execute His judgments, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1, 12-13), or bringing plaques on Egypt (Psalm 78:43, 49), or destroying many Assyrians in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 19:35).

In Relation to Christ: 
While all that was said about God above would apply to Christ, there appear to be some special ministries of angels in relation to Christ. Angels predicted his birth (Luke 1:26-28) and announced his birth to the shepherds (2:8-15). They protected Christ as an infant when they warned his parents to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (Matthew 2:13-15). They strengthened him after Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4:11). Angels announced Christ’s resurrection. Once he was resurrected the angels worshiped and served him. Angels have predicted his return (Acts 1:11). Angels will accompany Christ when he returns (Matthew 25:31).

In Relation to Christ Followers: 
Angels minister to Christ followers as signs of God’s love. They are “sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). God uses angels to reveal His will to people. They guide people, as in the case of the angel who told Joseph to take Mary as his wife and virgin-born son as his own (Matthew 1:20-21). On a few occasions the Bible shows angels providing for the physical needs, such as food, of people (Hagar and her son, Genesis 21:17-20). Angels protect people from physical danger, as in the three youth in the fiery furnace (Daniel 6:20-23) or when Israel’s king sent an army to capture Elisha at Dothan and an army of angels protected Elisha (2 Kings 6:16). Angels encourage, as in the case when an angel freed the apostles from prison and then encouraged them to continue preaching (Acts 5:19-20). Angels are sometimes agents in answering prayers.

An important distinction, however, is necessary. The ministry of angels is “primarily external and physical, whereas the ministry of the Holy spirit is internal and spiritual. Angels minister for us; the Holy Spirit minister in us (John 14:16-17; Hebrews 1:13-14). They guard our bodies and pathway; He guards our spirits and guides us in the right way. They may be agents to answer prayer, but He is the Prompter and Director of our prayers (Romans 8:26-27; Jude 20).”

What Angels Do Not Do: 
Though we’ve looked at many of the things angels do, we need to also say a few words about what angels do not do (from Angels: Dark and Light, Gary Kinnaman, pp. 78-80):

  • Good angels never try to change Scripture. Messages of angels never change or contradict the Bible. 
  • Good angels refuse to be worshipped. Good angels can be respected, but never worshipped. Neither are they objects of prayer. They may help God answer prayer, but nowhere in the Bible do we see any suggestion that we are to pray to anyone but God. Good angels always point people back to God, never to themselves. 
  • No one in the Bible ever initiates conversation with an angel. Pay particular attention to this. People may talk to angels, but angels always talk first. Some new age authors suggest you are to call on your angels like calling on a friend on the telephone. Good angels are always there, but they don’t answer our calls—only God does that! 
  • Angels are not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. They are not all-powerful, though they are very powerful. They are not all-knowing, though they are very intelligent. They are not everywhere at once, though they can be at any one place immediately. 
  • Angels do not violate the free will of humans. Angels play an important role in the purposes of God and affairs of people, but they do not control people or violate their free will.
Join me tomorrow as we look at the organization of angels and a little more about how they work in our world today.

    Angels - Part 3: Kinds and Positions

    Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , | Posted On Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    Today is day 3 of my posts on angels, related to a series we've been offering at Gateway on Heaven. I began on Sunday with an overview of angels. Yesterday I offered a deeper look into the origin and nature of angels. Today we're looking at the various kinds of angels mentioned in the Bible and their positions.

    To begin, let me just make it clear that Jesus Christ is not an angel. He is superior to the angels. He is God, and angels were created by Him. Hebrews 1 & 2 presents a biblical argument for Jesus Christ being superior to the angels.

    Angels are a little “higher” than human beings. Hebrews 2:5-7 quotes Psalm 8:4-6 that human beings are “a little lower than the angels.”

    "And furthermore, it is not angels who will control the future world we are talking about. For in one place the Scriptures say, 'What are people that you should think of them, or a son of man that you should care for him? Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them authority over all things." Now when it says 'all things,' it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority." (Hebrews 2:5-8 NLT2)

    But, what does “a little lower” mean? Possibly it refers to man’s nature as mortal and subject to death, as compared to angels. Angels are God’s messengers, sent forth by God to minister to people. People, however, have the ministry of witness, of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, of preaching and teaching of him that others may come to a saving relationship with God through Christ. There does not seem to be any mention of this kind of ministry for the angels in the Bible. In addition, the Bible seems to indicate that in the coming Kingdom human beings will rule over angels, or at least have some role of judgment related to angels. (1 Corinthians 6:3 (NLT2): "Don’t you realize that we will judge angels?...")

    Within the broad category of angel there seems to be at least two special classes or orders of angels, which are spelled out below:

    Cherubim - “…angelic beings of the highest order or class, created with indescribable powers and beauty.” (C. Fred Dickason, Angels: Elect & Evil, p. 61) It seems impossible to adequately describe these celestial beings. They are seen in Genesis 3:24, guarding the gate at the Garden of Eden; Exodus 25:17-22, as golden images on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant; Ezekiel 1:1, 28, 10:4, 18-22, as very complex creatures with four faces and four wings and the overall appearance similar to a man. Perhaps because they never carry messages for God, cherubim are never referred to as angels. Their main purpose and activity appears to be summed up this way: “they are proclaimers and protectors of God’s glorious presence, His sovereignty, and His holiness.” (ibid., p. 63)

    Seraphim - The Hebrew term means “burning ones,” and probably refers to their all-consuming devotion to God vs. any particular kind of ministry. They are mentioned only in Isaiah 6, where they are calling out to each other, around the throne of God, "'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!'" (6:3, NLT2) These angels seem to perform a priestly function for God. They proclaim His holiness and that human beings must be cleansed of their sins in order to stand before God and serve Him. Hence, Isaiah is cleansed through the hot coal before he can speak to God.

    Living Creatures - The identity of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:6-9 is unclear. While their appearance is similar to that of cherubim, there are several differences. There are also some similarities with the seraphim and their actions more closely reflect that of seraphim. Whether they are a type of seraphim or another type of angel is uncertain.

    In the Bible only two angels have names: Michael and Gabriel. Michael seems to be the greater, serving possibly as a military leader while Gabriel is the leading messenger. Let’s look at each of these a little closer:

    Michael - He is the only angel designated an archangel and is classified as “one of the chief princes” (Daniel 10:13). He is assigned to the welfare of the nation of Israel, as others are assigned to other nations by God or Satan (Daniel 10:13, 20). He is the military leader of an army of angels in combat with Satan (Revelation 12:7).

    Gabriel - His name means “mighty one of God,” speaking of his great strength from God. He has permanent access to God, standing in His presence (Luke 1:19). Each of the four times he appears in the Bible he seems to be God’s special messenger of His kingdom program.

    Raphael, Uriel, and Jeremiel - These three angels are mentioned in the apocryphal writings (which are typically included in Catholic Bibles, but not Protestant or Jewish Bibles), but are not mentioned in the Bible.

    Notice that each angel's name ends in "el." In Hebrew this means "of God." Even the names of angels show us their intimate connection to God.

    Tomorrow we'll look at the ministry of angels.

    Angels - Part 2: Origin and Nature

    Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Monday, September 13, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    Today I'm continuing my postings on angels, related to a series we've been offering at Gateway on Heaven. I began yesterday with an overview of angels. Today I'll take a little deeper in the origin and nature of angels.

    In Genesis chapter one's account of creation there is no mention of the creation of angels. We don’t know if angels were created before the universe or while it was being created, though there are some indications in scripture that it was probably before (Job 38:4-7). We can definitely affirm angels were created by God (Psalm 148:2-5, Colossians 1:16) for everything that exists was/is created by God. They were created as angels, not as people who went on to become angels. Interestingly, while angels and stars in the Old Testament are not the same, they are often used in parallel or are closely associated with one another. In Isaiah (14:12-15) and Revelation (9:1-2), as well as in Luke (10:18-19), there are allusions to angels, including Satan, where the word "star" is used.

    Angels were created for God’s purposes. They primarily glorify Him and serve Him, doing His will in many matters (Hebrews 1:7). Angels were created good, for God said everything He created was good (Genesis 1:31).

    Since angels are creatures (i.e., they are created by God) they can only be in one place at a time—they are not omnipresent, though they are immediately present. They are primarily spirit in nature and are subject to time (Daniel 10:10-14). Angels have greater power than human beings (2 Peter 2:11) and can even control some aspects of nature (Revelation 7:1, 16:8-9), but they are not omnipotent. They are sometimes taxed to accomplish their duties, such as the ongoing struggle with evil angels (Revelation 12:7). Yet, all angelic actions and power are due to God’s choice, His assignment. Angels are not all-knowing—omniscient. They do not know when Christ will return (Matthew 24:36) and are amazed and interested to learn more of the wonders of salvation (1 Peter 1:11-12). Angels are not perfectly holy, for some turned from God’s will and fell into the bondage of sin (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:3-4).

    Angels are intelligent and have emotions. Scripture shows them expressing joy at God’s creation (Job 38:7) and the salvation of a repentant sinner (Luke 15:10). Angels also have a will of their own. While they were created to do the will of God, many chose to go against His will and followed Lucifer, or Satan.

    Scripture describes angels as “ministering spirits” (Hebrew 1:14) and therefore being spiritual beings, or without material, fleshy bodies. Yet, they cannot be in more than one place at a time. Scripture really gives no insight into what form their “bodies” do take. It appears that angels are without sex. From Matthew 22:28-30 we know that they do not reproduce and are not a race. They are generally referred to in the masculine sense in the Bible, but that may be more a limitation of human speech than anything else. When they do appear in the Bible they generally take on the form of a man (Genesis 18:2, 22). Angels are immortal, never ceasing to exist or dying (Luke 20:36).

    Angels are normally invisible (Colossians 1:16). Yet, they do appear on occasion. The Bible gives many examples of angels appearing in dreams and visions. But, on occasion they also appear to our natural sight. Sometimes they are recognized as angels (Daniel 8:15-17; Matthew 28:1-7), and sometimes they are not recognized, at least not right away (Numbers 22:23, 31; Judges 6:11-12, 21-22, Hebrews 13:2).

    Generally, when angels do appear to people, they appear as men. Abraham entertained three men in the plains of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-8). He did everything with them that you or I would do in the presence of another person, including talking and eating. But, they were angels. Mark and Luke describe the angels at the empty tomb in male terms (Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4). Only in Zechariah 5:9 do we see angels in the form of women.

    Sometimes angels may appear similar to men, but have some strange or different aspect about them. In chapter 10 of Daniel an angel is described that resembles a man, but many other special attributes. The angel that appeared to the two Marys at the empty tomb frightened them because “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).

    There are also examples of angels appearing as unusual living creatures, with Revelation describing one with many eyes, faces resembling a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle, and six wings.

    When humans are confronted by angels their reactions vary. Mary became agitated when Gabriel announced the news of the Christ to her (Luke 1). Zacharias was afraid when the angel appeared to him in the temple (Luke 1:12), as were the shepherds who received the message of Christ’s birth while tending their flocks out in the fields (Luke 2:9). Yet, others, such as Joseph, seem to give no special reaction to the presence of an angel.

    Most artwork depicts angels as having wings. Certainly the Bible shows that some angels have wings. Both seraphim (Isaiah 6) and cherubim (Ezekiel 1:5-8) are shown to have multiple wings. There are also references to angels “flying” (Daniel 9:21; Revelation 14:6-7). Yet, many angel passages say nothing of wings, and in those where angels take on human form there is certainly no mention of wings. The question of all angels having wings is really up in the air.

    What about the spiritual state of angels? Well, we know they were created holy by God, but some chose to rebel against God. Scripture shows Satan to be the leader of the rebellion, which apparently began with evil thoughts of pride from unexplained origins led him to try to overthrow God (Isaiah 14:12-17). When Satan failed he took a great number of angels with him. From that point on there is no further mention of angels “changing sides.” It seems they became set in their spiritual states. Those who fell seem to have no option for redemption for Jesus says they are consigned to the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41). Since then, these two groups of angels have been at war, both on the spiritual plane, the world plane and the individual plane.

    One other note about angel’s nature relates to a survey Gary Kinnaman did of people who claimed to have had angelic encounters. While this information is not directly from the Bible, it generally seems to be consistent with biblical norms. In his accounts of what seemed to be good angels, by tests that I will mention later, angels are “almost always very tall, usually around ten feet. They are bright, glowing white, often with a slight bluish tint. Their faces are indescribable, so their gender is unrecognizable. They are usually dressed in a full-length robe and frequently girded with a belt or sash of gold.” (Angels Dark and Light, p. 52) Unless they appear as humans, their appearance often seems transparent. Their appearance always seems to be very brief. Communication with angels is usually in terms of speech as we know it, but virtually always some form of direct communication. In most reports the angels do not have wings. When we look at the Bible we notice many of the same general features. By that I don’t mean the details, but rather that descriptions of angels in the Bible, when they are not appearing as humans, are vague. The emphasis is never on the angel’s appearance, but on the angel’s message. For example, when Gabriel appears to Zechariah and later Mary in Luke 1, his appearance is completely left out. Nothing is mentioned, which would seem to indicate the message clouded out the messenger.

    Tomorrow I'll look at the position of angels and the different types of angels.

    Angels - Part 1

    Posted by Randy | Labels: , , | Posted On Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    We're in a series on Heaven, and it's been really exciting for me to learn so much about our resurrected lives on our future home on the New Earth. In my third message I'm talking a little about angels, but I really only touch on the subject. A few years back I did a program on angels, and I've dug up the material and plan to share some of it over the next few days on this blog. I'm starting below, but check back each day as I put up more material.

    The movie It’s a Wonderful Life with the angel Clarence Oddbody has become a Christmas tradition for many. While serving as God’s messengers, they are also getting credit for helping people lose weight or find their keys. A Wisconsin homemaker has a collection of 11,161 angel artifacts. There are angel clothes, brass cherub flushers, angel mouse pads and screen savers for our computers, angel soap, angel towels, Cherub air freshener, angel night-lights, angel sheets and pillows and angel suitcases. There are people who claim to help you get in touch with your guardian angel.

    Yet, for all our interest, even our need, for angels, we must be careful. Virtually every major religion through the years has had its own form of angels. Christianity is no exception. And while the Bible has a great deal to say about angels, we want to be careful as Christians that we don’t get caught mixing our angels to create something that is not pleasing to God. In fact, the Bible indicates that not only are there good angels, but evil ones as well, that are very skilled at fooling people until it is too late. So, if you are interested in being aware of the angelic presence around us, do it from a biblical viewpoint so all that you do will give God honor and praise and not lead you astray.

    Angels are found in 34 of the 66 books of the Bible (17 - Old Testament, 17 - New Testament). The word “angel” is used 108 times in the Old Testament, 165 in the New Testament.

    Two classes of angels are shown in the Bible:
    • the "elect" (1 Timothy 5:21) and "holy" (Matthew 25:31) who worship God and serve Him completely
    • the evil angels, including Satan, their leader (Matthew 25:41), and demons (Matthew 12:26-28), who oppose God and all His servants, both humans and angels.

    Charlie Shedd says two words come closest to a true biblical understanding of what an angel is: "manifestation" and "servant." Servant is fairly clear, and the word "manifest" means "to reveal, prove, display, and put beyond doubt the nature of that which is being manifested." Since God is love and angels exist to manifest and serve him, then what angels do is to reveal, prove, and display God’s love.

    Our word "angel" is derived from the Greek word angelos, which means, very simply, "messenger." In the Greek world just before New Testament times, the role of the human angelos was fairly simple: "he delivered messages, answered questions, and expected payment for his services—and he was protected by the gods." These ancient human angelos could also serve as envoys, making treaties and delivering official communications. In the New Testament an angelos is a celestial being with a divine message from God. This idea generally comes from the Jewish understanding of angels.

    In the Old Testament the term most frequently used for angel is malak. It, too, means messenger or representative. Malachi, one of the Old Testament prophets (and the last book in the Old Testament) is a name that literally means "my messenger." However, even though malak is translated messenger, its meaning is broader than our modern day understanding. There weren't phones and email, nor did they have mail or cars, so delivering a message was not easy. Sometimes it took weeks to deliver a message. The malak represented the concerns and desires of the one who sent him. Sometimes, because of the distances and length of time involved, the malak had to interpret the message and its meaning. Angels in the Bible often directly represented God to their intended audience.

    Come back tomorrow for information about what we know about the origins of angels and their basic nature.