The World of Angels
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-6-77 12:00 p.m.
The theme for this year is “The Ethereal World”: the other world, the unseen and invisible world of spirit and personality. On Monday the message was The World Beyond Death; yesterday, The World of Satan; today,The World of Angels; tomorrow, The World Beyond the Skies; and on Friday, the day of the crucifixion, The World Beyond the Veil. Today, The World of Angels.
The closing verses of Hebrews are these: “The angels, are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who are the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14]. The angels, the ministering spirits sent forth from God to deliver, and to protect, and to bless, and to guard, and to keep, and to direct those who are in Christ, the heirs of salvation—do you believe in angels? Do you believe in a spirit world? Do you believe in intelligence and personality beyond matter? Yesterday, we spoke of that; the fact of spirit, the reality of personality, of intelligence. We saw it in a man’s human frame. There is something more to him than just matter, than dust and ashes. There is also in him a living and abiding soul. And when he dies, the corpse is before you, all of the human matter that makes up his physical frame. But something has gone, other and beyond; it is spirit.
We see it also, as I spoke yesterday, in the conflicts we have in our own hearts. They are never physically conditioned. You have no conflict between your foot and your hand, or your nose and your ear. But the conflict is always inward. It is spiritually conditioned. And that conflict is not only in us, it is in every part of God’s creation. There is war in heaven. There is conflict at the center of the universe.
Now, in this sermon yesterday, we spoke of the evil that is waging war, confrontation in us, and in the very courts of God Himself, presided over by the archangel and prince named Lucifer, or Satan, or diabolos, the devil [2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8]. Today we speak of the good angels, these hosts of heaven who minister in the presence of the Lord.
They are first of all a separate order of creation. Many times in our superstition, we think that the angels are our people who have arrived in heaven, and they become angelic. There’s no hint of that in the Word of God. The people who die and are taken to heaven are there people as here they are people. But the angels belong to an altogether different order. They are a separate order of creation. God made them, created them as such, as angels.
In the one hundred forty-eighth Psalm, the creation of the angels is described [Psalms 148:2-5]. In the thirty-eighth chapter of Job, it is said that they were present when God made the whole vast universe, and they rejoiced and sang at the handiwork of God [Job 38:4-7]. They were astonished and amazed at the great creation of what we see in the starry heavens.
In the first chapter of 1 Peter, the angels are described as being interested and desiring to look into this great plan of salvation that God purposed for the redemption of the world [1 Peter 1:12]. They are a separate creation, a separate host, and they stand in the presence of the Lord [Matthew 18:10]. There is one thing about them that is dimly outlined in the Bible as having occurred in the ages past. We spoke of that for a moment yesterday. There was a time in the eons of the ages gone by when the angels had a choice, either to serve God or to follow Lucifer, Satan. And one-third of them chose to follow Lucifer and fell from their holy estate [Revelation 12:4]. But the angels who remained faithful to the Lord are referred to in the Bible as the “elect angels” [1 Timothy 5:21], or the “holy angels,” or the “angels of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And forever they are fixed in felicity and holiness [Matthew 25:31]. Just as we shall be in the choice in our life, now we have a choice, either God or Satan, either heaven or hell. But when we come to the end of our days, that choice is forever fixed. We are forever, after death, either saved in heaven or lost in hell.
So it is in the life of the angels. In the dim ages past, they made a choice, and thereafter, their lives are forever fixed. Those who fell are with Satan, called demons [Revelation 12:4]. Demons are fallen angels. Those that remained true to God are in His presence, holy, undefiled, beautiful, in worship forever, serving the great God and King, our Savior.
There is diversity and rank in the order of the angels. Their number is beyond our computation. The Greek says there are “myriads times myriads times myriads.” Translated in our King James Version, “Ten thousands times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands” [Revelation 5:11]. The Greek word, “myriad,” refers to an innumerable host. There is no imagining of the number of God’s created hosts in heaven.
And they are in ranks and in order: some of them are archangels, such as Michael the archangel [Jude 9]. We shall be raised from the dead by the voice of the archangel [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Some of them are called “mighty angels,” such as in [Revelation 10:1], and in [Revelation 18:21] it refers to a “mighty angel.” Some of them are cherubim [Genesis 3:24; Exodus 25:20]. Some of them are seraphim [Isaiah 6:1-3]. But they are in ranks and in orders. They are separate and apart from each other. They have personality and assignments.
They have names such as we have. Some of their names we know. One is named Michael [Jude 9]. That means, “who is like God?” One is named Gabriel [Luke 1:26], which means, “the hero of God, the great, mighty, representative of God.” One of them is named Lucifer, “the son of the morning, the one who fell” [Isaiah 14:12]. In apocryphal literature, one is named “Raphael.” That is, “God heals.” And they have separate assignments. And when you see an angel named in the Bible, he is always doing the same thing. Whenever Gabriel is mentioned, he is always God’s announcer. He announces the prophecy of the seventy weeks to Daniel [Daniel 9:21-27]. Gabriel announces the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah [Luke1:11-19]. He announces the birth of Jesus to the virgin Jewess Mary [Luke 1:26-35].
Michael is always doing the same thing. Wherever he appears, he is a warrior and a representative of God. It is Michael who, in the Book of Daniel, stands to protect the people, the chosen family of the Lord [Daniel 12:1]. It is Michael the archangel who in Jude, is disputing with Satan about the body of Moses [Jude 9]. And it is Michael, who in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, is warring against the dragon and his angels [Revelation 12:7-9].
They are separate. They have assignments. And especially do they have ministering goodnesses and guardian, loving care for us who are the heirs of salvation: “The angels of God, are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14]. The angels of God are sent from God to protect us. In the judgment day upon Sodom and Gomorrah, angels were sent to protect Lot, righteous Lot and his family [Genesis 19:1, 9-11, 15-24]. When Elisha was surrounded by the Syrian army, the angels were round about to care for God’s prophet [2 Kings 6:8-17]. When Daniel was thrown into the den of lions, an angel from God came to shut the mouths of those ravenous, carnivorous beasts [Daniel 6:20-23].
The angels care for God’s little ones here in this earth. Who are those little ones of whom Jesus said their angels do always behold the face of the Father in heaven? That is, they stand close to God, emissaries from the great throne of the Almighty. He says, “These little ones, their angels do always behold the face of God” [Matthew 18:10], guardian angels. Is he talking about little children? Yes. Is He talking about us who have fled for refuge in Christ Jesus? I think yes. I think there is a guardian angel that watches over me. I think there is a guardian angel that watches over you. And all through your life, that guardian angel chooses some good thing of which most of the times we’re not aware. There are a thousand evil things that could have overwhelmed you that never came to pass because the hand of that guardian angel was protecting you [Psalm 91:11-12].
I have a thousand memories in my own life where I think a guardian angel of God sustained me, and protected me, and took care of me. And he will to the end. There is a guardian angel who watches over each one of us. “Are they not ministering spirits, sent to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14]. They comfort us.
When Jacob was fleeing before the face of his brother in a strange country [Genesis 27:41-43], away from his father and mother for the first time, as he laid down to sleep with a stone for a pillow [Genesis 28:11], he saw a vision of a ladder and angels descending and ascending? No. The angels were “ascending and descending” [Genesis 28:12]. That is, they were here with him. They started in this earth, not in heaven, but in earth. They were with him taking care of Jacob, Israel, in the days of his fleeing away from the face of his brother.
The angels comfort God’s people. When the Lord was tempted by Satan, after the temptation [Matthew 4:1-10], the angels ministered to Him [Matthew 4:11]. And in Gethsemane, when He prayed and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood, in that agony of that intercession, an angel came and comforted Him, and ministered to Him [Luke 22:41-44]. The angels strengthen us in our hour of trial and need.
The angels deliver us. They are sent from God to open doors for us. It was an angel who was sent to Simon Peter when, in prison, the next day he was to be executed [Acts 12:1-6]. An angel opened the iron door and broke the shackles of that apostle, and he walked free into the street and into the city [Acts 12:7-10]. It was an angel that Paul said stood by him in the midst of the storm and of the night, saying, “Fear not, Paul, for I have delivered thee and all those that are with thee” [Acts 27:23-24]. The angels of God open doors and take care for us.
And the angels of God are sent on constant missions to do God’s bidding in our lives. It was an angel from heaven that stayed the hand of Abraham when he was about to slay his only son by Sarah, named Isaac [Genesis 22:10-12]. An angel of God did it. It was an angel from heaven that rolled away the stone when the Lord Jesus was laid in the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea [Matthew 27:57-60], and I think in contempt, sat upon it [Matthew 28:2], as though a stone could encase and hold down the Prince of Glory, the Son of God.
And it will be angels who are sent at our dying bedside to carry our souls to heaven. Ah! Think of being escorted into the presence of the great King, into the glory of the assembly of God’s saints, think of being escorted into the beautiful city by God’s angels! But the Book says so [Luke 16:22;]. It is the angels who will bear our souls up to heaven. That’s why that beautiful song:
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 eternal home.
[“My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast,” Jefferson Hascall, 1860]
That’s why, in the Negro spiritual, the most famous one ever sung:
I was lookin’ over Jordan, what did I see
comin’ for to carry me home?
A band of angels comin’ after me,
Comin’ for to carry me home.
[From “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” Wallis Willis, Choctaw freedman-printed 1873]
“Are they not ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14].
May I conclude? It is a remarkable thing, to me, an astonishing thing to me. Wherever the angels appear in God’s Book, they will appear one, or they will appear two, or they will appear maybe three, but always, by a one, or a two, or a three. The only exception might be that when the Lord Jesus was born and an angel announced His birth [Luke 2:8-16], that there suddenly was with that one angel a heavenly choir [Luke 2:13-15]. But outside of that, in the Book, they always appear just one, or two, or maybe three.
But dear people, at the end of the age, at the consummation of the age, the Book says that when the Lord comes, all of the holy angels will come with Him [Matthew 25:31]. That will be the first time we have ever, in the revelation seen recorded the appearance of all the heavenly host together. Oh! What a day!
And the Revelation says that when they come with the Lord they will sing a new song. And what is it? “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor, and riches, and power, and dominion, and glory forever and ever” [Revelation 5:12]. O God, to be there and to listen to that chorus! Just like the great climactic scene of some vast opera, or some glorious oratorio! The whole world ends in its consummation with all of the angels of God descending with the Prince of Glory and singing, “Worthy is the Lamb” [Revelation 5:12].
O Master, may we be there? And may we too say “Amen, glory to God?” So Master, may we live in the assurance that God is with us? His guardian angels take care of us. And someday we shall join their innumerable throng worshiping our Lord world without end. Amen.
A. There is another
world besides what we can touch, feel and see
Seen in death of a man
Seen in human anatomy – conflict felt in life is in the spirit
B. The world of the
spirit, personality, intelligence
1. Seen in the
revelation of God concerning angels
II. A separate order of creation
glorified saints who have gone to heaven
Created beings (Psalm 148:2, 5, Job 38:4, 7, 1
thing dimly outlined in Scriptures – a choice
chose to follow Lucifer(Revelation 12:4)
choice fixed forever
III. Number, diversity and rank
A. Infinite in number(Revelation 5:11)
orders(Daniel 10:13, Jude 9, 1 Thessalonians
4:16, Revelation 10:1, 18:21)
They have names
Each one has an assigned task
IV. Ministering to God’s people(Hebrews 1:14)
guarding(Genesis 19:1, 16, 2 Kings 6:13-16,
Psalm 34:7, Daniel 6:22, Matthew 18:1-5, 10)
B. Comforting(Genesis 28:12, Matthew 4:11, Mark 1:10, Luke 22:43)
Delivering (Acts 12:7-10, 27:23-24)
D. Carrying out the
mandate of God(Genesis 22:12, Matthew 28:2, Luke
V. Their appearance at the end of the age