Angels, God’s Guardians
November 14th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
ANGELS, GOD’S GUARDIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-14-76 7:30 p.m.
We welcome you who are now listening to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas over KCBI, the radio station that belongs to our Bible Institute, and over KRLD, the great radio station of the Southwest. There are thousands and thousands of you who are listening to this hour and to the pastor as he brings the message on Angels, God’s Guardians.
Now will you turn with me to the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews? Hebrews chapter 1 and we are going to read out loud together verses 10 through 14; begin at chapter 1, to the end of—begin with verse 10 in chapter 1, to the end of the chapter. And if on the radio you are sharing the service with us, we encourage you to read it out loud with us. Get a Bible, and read it out loud with us. All of us together, the Book of Hebrews, toward the end of your New Testament, beginning at verse 10, now together:
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands.
They shall perish, but Thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
And as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
The angelic guardians ministering to us from the Lord; the angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” [Hebrews 1:14].
In the sermon last Sunday night on Demons, the Hounds of Hell, I mentioned the fact in the beginning, that there is more to this world than just substance and matter; there is another world. There is another intelligence; there is another reality and it is the world of spirit. I tried to illustrate it with a man who dies. His body, his physical frame, is there before you, every piece of him, every part of him, it all is there, but he’s now a corpse, he’s a cadaver. What has happened? Nobody knows. All of the medical authorities in the world could not define for you what is death. There is something gone; there is a something other that constitutes a man. He is not just body, he is not a lone physical frame; he is also soul and spirit. There is another world beyond the world of substance and matter, and that is the world of spirit.
Then last Sunday night, I spoke of the introduction we have to this other world in the Holy Scriptures. It begins with God, and God is spirit [John 4:24]. Then it continues with the Holy Spirit of God brooding over the dark and chaotic world [Genesis 1:2]. Then it continues throughout the Holy Scriptures, describing that other world that belongs to heaven.
Tonight, I speak of the angels, the guardians of God. They are a created host. We do not become angels when we die, but the angels are a separate creation. For example, in Psalm 148: 2, 5 the inspired psalmist writes, “Praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts . . . Let them praise the name of the Lord: for He commanded, and they were created.” We do not become angels, but angels are a separate creation of Almighty God. Now in Job we read that they were present when God made the universe, when He flung these planets to swing around their orbits. In the thirty-eighth chapter of Job, God asks him, “Where wast thou when I created the earth, when I laid its foundations [Job 38:4], when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God, the angels of glory, shouted for joy?” [Job 38:7] When the Lord created this vast illimitable universe it was perfect [Genesis 1:31]. It fell because of sin. But when God created it, it was perfect. And when the angels of God looked upon it, they were amazed at the creative workmanship of the Lord, and they shouted in amazement, and astonishment, and in joy [Job 38:7]. I learn from that, that they were created first; the heavenly hosts were created first, and then God made this vast, illimitable universe [Job 38:7].
I read again in 1 Peter that as the Lord worked out the plan of redemption, they followed that working out in as great an amazement as they saw the creation of God in the beginning. They did not know what God was doing. They did not understand it. But as the Lord worked it out, and they saw the developing redemption of the Lord through the ages and the ages [1 Peter 1:1-11], it says in 1 Peter 1 that “these things the angels desired to look into” [1 Peter 1:12]. It was an astonishment to them how God was working out the marvelous redemptive program for us. And watching it, they desired to know it and to look into it. Can you imagine therefore the reception that our Lord had in heaven, when after He was crucified for our sins, was buried, and was raised the third day for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25], when He returned back to glory, what a triumph was accorded Him as He was received back into the gates of heaven by the angelic hosts, who had watched with deepening interest the plan of redemption unfolding through the ages?
There is only one sort of a hint in the Bible concerning a vast decision that those angels, created by the Lord, made in some distant and unknown age in the past. There was rebellion in heaven. Sin was found in Satan. And according to the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, one third of all of the vast angelic hosts fell in that rebellion with Satan, and those angels are what you call demons [Revelation 12:3-4]. They are the followers of Lucifer. But two thirds of the great angelic hosts remain true to Almighty God, and they are eternal in their felicity, in their joy, in their holiness, and in their happiness. They are called “the holy angels” of God [Mark 8:38]. They are called “the elect angels” of God [1 Timothy 5:21]. They are called the angels of light [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And now forever their status is fixed. That is the same way it shall be with us.
We also have a tremendous decision to make in our lifetime, as in the life of the created angels of God. And when that decision is finally made, it is forever fixed. After death, we are either saved and in the bosom of the Father [Luke 16:22], or we are lost and forever shut out in outer darkness, in the kingdom of damnation [Matthew 22:13]. And as it is with us, so it was with the angels in heaven; having made their final decision, their status is forever fixed; some of them lost and forever, and some of them in the presence of God, praising Him world without end [Revelation 7:11].
We speak now of their number, and of their name, and of their rank. The numbers of angels, in the fifth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, is called “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” [Revelation 5:11]. The Greek is “myriads, upon myriads, upon myriads.” That is, they are innumerable; they are without number. They are the hosts that follow the Lord in heaven. And they have ranks: some of them are called archangels; one of those archangels is called a “prince” of the people of God [Daniel 10:13, 12:1]. Another one is called “Michael the archangel” [Jude 9]. And another one in a passage is to raise us from the dead with “the voice of an archangel” [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Some of them are archangels. Some of them in the Bible are called mighty angels. Several times in the Apocalypse it speaks of a mighty angel . . . “as of one who stands with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land [Revelation 10:1-2], and raises his hand to heaven . . . saying, The time shall be no more” [Revelation 10:5-6], a mighty angel. Some of them are called cherubim [Genesis 3:24]. Some of them are called seraphim [Isaiah 6:2]. But they are different ranks of the angelic hosts in heaven.
They have names, as we have; one of them we know is called Gabriel [Luke 1:26], that is, “the hero of God,” or “the mighty one of God”; Gabriel. Another one is called Michael [Daniel 10:13; Revelation 12:7], “who is like God,” Michael. One of them is called Lucifer, that is, “the son of the morning” [Isaiah 14:12], the one who fell. And in non-canonical literature, one of them is called Raphael, “God heals.” The angels are named as we are named, and each one of them has a name, though their infinitude is beyond our comprehension.
And they have assignments. And in the Word of God you will find that the same angel does the same thing all the way through the Bible. For example, Gabriel is the announcer and the herald of God; wherever he appears in the Bible, he’s bringing an announcement. He’s heralding a great truth. It was Gabriel who brought to the statesman-prophet Daniel, the revelation of the seventy weeks [Daniel 9:21-27]. It was Gabriel who made the announcement to Zacharias that he should have a son in his old age [Luke 1:11-20]. It was Gabriel who appeared to the virgin Mary in Nazareth, that she should be the mother of this foretold and foreordained Child [Luke 1:26-38]. Wherever Gabriel appears, he’s doing the same thing. He’s the great messenger from the throne of God.
When you follow the life and ministry of Michael it is the same thing. Wherever Michael appears, he is the great champion of the people and is doing battle for God. In the Book of Daniel, for example, he helps the angel who was hindered by the demon of Persia [Daniel 10:13]. It is Michael the archangel who is disputing with Satan over the body of Moses [Jude 9]. And in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, it is Michael the archangel who is fighting with the dragon and his demons, and it is Michael who prevails [Revelation 12:7-9]. So all through the Word of the Lord, when you see these angels appear on the sacred page, they have their separate assignments. They have their distinctive rank, and they’re always doing the same thing for the Lord.
In my text, in the Book of Hebrews, they are described as “ministering spirits [Hebrews 1:14], angelic spirits, who were sent forth to minister to us who are the heirs of salvation.” They are all guardian angels, and God sends them from the gates of glory to help us and to minister to us. For example, they protect us, the angelic hosts from heaven. Two of them were sent to Sodom to take Lot and his family out lest they die in that holocaust [Genesis 19:1, 15-22]. It was when Elisha was surrounded by the armies of Syria that unperturbed, unafraid—Gehazi his servant looked upon him in amazement, and Elisha said, “But sir, they that are with us are more than they that are with them” [2 Kings 6:15-16]. And Gehazi the servant looked around the city of Dothan, everywhere that he looked there were the armies of Syria! And Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, open the eyes of this young man.” And the Lord opened his eyes, and the mountains were filled with chariots of fire round about Elisha [2 Kings 6:17].
In the lions’ den, it was an angel from God closing the mouths of the lions [Daniel 6:22]. And in this beautiful passage in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, verse , it says, “These little ones, despise them not; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 18:10]. Is He talking about little children? Yes. Is He talking about young converts? Yes. Is He talking about us who somehow are always in God’s sight? My little children, He is talking about us, too. In the presence of our Father God in heaven, there is an angel who is close to the throne, who beholds the face of our heavenly Father, and whose assignment is to watch over us; angels watching over us [Hebrews 1:14].
You see, God sends them for our strengthening and for our comforting. When Jacob, who had never been away from home—when Jacob was sent to Haran, escaping the wrath of his brother Esau, he laid down at night alone, took a stone for his pillow, and that night there appeared to him a ladder. And the top of it leaned against the balustrades of glory and on the ladder were angels. Do you remember what it says? “And there were angels ascending and descending” [Genesis 28:12]. Where were they? They were in earth; they were with Jacob. They were guardian angels and started there ascending to God and back down to Jacob. And when he awoke, he said, “This is an awesome place; surely God is here” [Genesis 28:16-17]. And he named it Beth–el, “the house of God” [Genesis 28:19]. Comforting us: when the Lord was tempted in the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-10], there was an angel ministering to Him [Matthew 4:11]. And in the garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed [Luke 22:41-42]—and His sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground—an angel ministered to Him [Luke 22:43-44]. Is not that our text? Who are these angels? “They are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation” [Hebrews 1:14].
And God sends them to deliver us. However our trial, our persecution, our hardship, our frustration, our disappointment in this life, angels are sent from heaven to deliver us. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Acts, it was an angel who smote Simon Peter on the side, and awakened him [Acts 12:7]. The next morning he was to be executed by Herod Agrippa II; and the angel led him forth out of the prison, and into the freedom of God’s beautiful world [Acts 12:8-10]. And in the Book of Acts, in that awful shipwreck, the apostle Paul stood and said to the centurion and to the men who commanded the ship, “Be of good cheer, for there stood by me this night an angel of the Lord, who said to me, Your life and all of these that are with you shall be given you for a prey” [Acts 27:22-25]. Angels of God watching over us.
I had in my sermon, starting in the days of my childhood to this present moment, stories and illustrations in my own life where God sent an angel to be guardian over me. One of them, and the only one I’ll refer to, is one you’re familiar with, flying over the Amazon jungle, a vast impenetrable forest, larger than continental United States; not a road in it, not a bridge in it—flying in a little one engine, two-seated airplane, something happened. Sixty-five hundred feet in a crossover, the engine exploded, it seemed to me. When you sink in the Amazon jungle, you sink out of sight; no one could ever find you. A guardian angel brought it down; a guardian angel set it in a place of a little tiny village. And a guardian angel lifted us up, and when he did, before me was a rainbow, though there was no rain, there was a rainbow that followed us, preceded us, all the way back to Yarinacocha; angels of God watching over us.
And how many times in your life could it have been a tragic accident, a deep and lasting sorrow, and God sent an angel, watching over you? Thus does the Lord care for His people. They are “ministering spirits, sent to us who are the heirs of salvation” [Hebrews 1:14]. It was an Angel that was sent to Abraham that caught his arm when he was to plunge that knife into the heart of his only begotten son, the child of promise, Isaac [Genesis 22:10-12]. An Angel spoke to him. It was an angel that rolled away the stone before the sepulcher of our Lord and in contempt, it seems to me, sat upon it, as though a stone could hold in a grave the Prince of glory, the Son of God [Matthew 28:2]. And it is an angel who will come for us when we die [Luke 16:22]. Did you hear that sweet song that Martha sang?
My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past,
My triumph is begun!
O come, angel band, come, and around me stand,
O bear me away on your snowy wings
To my immortal home.
[“My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast,” J. W. Dadmun, 1860]
When we die, God will send an angel for us—guardian angels [Hebrews 1:14], watching over us:
Looking over Jordan, what did I see,
Coming after me? A band of angels
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.
[from “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” Wallace Willis, 1862]
It will be an angel who will come for you, “And the angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom” [Luke 16:22].
It will be the angels who accompany Christ when He comes again at the end of the age, at the consummation of the world. How many of them? Heretofore in the Bible they have always appeared just one, or just two. The only time many of them appeared was in the angelic choir; singing, proclaiming, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem [Luke 2:13-15]—but in the Bible, almost always it will be one or two—and that one exception of a choir when Jesus was born. But when the Lord comes again, according to the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 25:31], according to the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation [Revelation 5:11-12], when the Lord comes again, He will come with all of the angelic hosts of heaven. Think of that. Think of that! The myriads and the myriads, and the thousands times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands when the Lord comes for His own [Revelation 5:11], I cannot imagine it! My finite mind cannot grasp it. But when I try to think of it—when the Lord comes and all of the angels [Matthew 25:31] with Him, and all of the saints in glory [Jude 14]—I think of a grand finale in an opera, or in a drama, or on a stage, or by a great choir. And when the great finale comes, they’re all there, singing and praising God to the top of their voices. That’s the way it’s going to be when Jesus comes again. If they sang at His birth [Luke 2:11-15], if they welcomed Him into glory when He was raised from the dead [Acts 1:9-10], think what it will be when the Lord comes again with the hosts of heaven [Jude 1:14]. Oh, I want to be there! Don’t you? Included in that number, waiting for Jesus, when He comes, or raised from the dust of the ground to meet Him in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
And that’s the appeal we press to your heart tonight. This night, this holy hour, giving yourself in faith [Ephesians 2:8; Romans 10:8-13], in love, in commitment to our blessed Savior, come, and welcome. In this balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the throng of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Today, pastor, I have made my decision for Christ, and I’m coming.” A family you, to put your life with us in this dear church; a couple you, or just one somebody you; make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down that stairway, or coming down this aisle. And may the angels of God attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.