THE ANGELS, GOD’S GUARDIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-18-79 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the untold and uncounted thousands of you who share this early morning hour with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Angels, God’s Guardians. There is a remarkable verse that closes the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews. It says, "The angels, are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" [Hebrews 1:14].
There is certainly and demonstrably another world beside the world of form and substance and matter that we can touch and see and feel. I see that poignantly in death. Here is a man’s frame, body, and substance, lying before me. Every part of him is there, every organ is in its place, every fiber and muscle and nerve are in perfect array; but something has happened to the man. He is gone. He is not there. He is not substance and matter and form. He is somebody else. The form, the substance, is just the house in which he lives. He has personality, and intelligence, and mind; but he has removed. He has been translated, he is gone. And what remains is just dirt, ground, corruption, decay. There is another world. It is the world of intelligence, the world of spirit, the world of personality, the world of volition and emotion, the world of cognizance and recognition, the world of motivation and movement. There is another world beside the one that we see in substance and matter and form.
Now, we are introduced to that world meticulously, minutely, in the Holy Scriptures. And that world includes, among others, a whole order of angels. They are created beings in themselves. They have been fashioned by the hands of God. They are not glorified saints who have been introduced into the presence of the Lord. They are a separate order of creation. For example, in the one hundred forty-eighth psalm, "Praise ye Him, all His angels…for He commanded, and they were created" [Psalm 148:2-5]. God created the angels, just as He created the whole universe around us [Genesis 1:1-25]. He also created the angels. We are told in Job that they were present when the Lord by fiat flung into space all of the firmament we see above us and around us. Job, in the thirty-eighth chapter, it writes, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth…when the morning stars sang together," and now these are the angels, "and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" [Job 38:4-7]. When God made this firmament, with its galaxies and its stars and its universes, the angels of God looked upon it and shouted in wonder and in joy.
One of the most unusual observations that you’ll read in the Bible is in 1 Peter, the first chapter, when Simon Peter is describing God’s plan of salvation, he says that "the angels desired to look into it" [1 Peter 1:9-12]. All through those ages past, when God was forming and framing this plan of redemption in Christ Jesus, the angels looked at it, and desired to search it out and to understand what it was God was doing.
There is one thing about the angels that happened in the dim, remote ages of the past. We’re not told much about it, but the Bible reveals enough that we know what happened. Some time in the ages and the ages before the world was made, some time they were given a choice, whether they would be faithful and loyal and true to God or whether they would follow Lucifer. And one-third of the angels chose to follow Lucifer. In the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, he drew one-third of these sons of glory after him [Revelation 12:4]. And the two-thirds, those that remain true to God, are called "the holy angels" [Mark 8:38], or "the elect angels" [1 Timothy 5:21], or "the angels of light" [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And the one-third that followed Lucifer, Satan [Revelation 12:4] are divided into two parts: some of them are free, they are called "demons" [Matthew 8:16]; and some of them are reserved in chains of darkness against the day of an ultimate and final judgment. Why that division in that one-third of the fallen angels we’re not told. Some of them afflict us, demons that drive us to despair. Some of them are in darkness, in chains, awaiting the great judgment day of the Lord [Jude 1:6].
Now of the angels that are holy and elect and good, the angels of light who are ministering before the Lord and who are sent to minister to us: their number is innumerable; they cannot be numbered [Hebrews 12:22]. The Apocalypse, in the fifth chapter, says, "They are myriad on myriades, thousands times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands" [Revelation 5:11] they are innumerable. When God created the heavenly host – and when you see that word "the Lord of hosts" it refers to the Lord of that angelic host in heaven – He created His angels innumerable, thousands times ten thousands and thousands of thousands. And they are in ranks, in serried ranks. Some of them are called "archangels." Michael, in the Book of Daniel, is called "one of, one of the princes of God" [Daniel 10:13], "one of." Michael is called an archangel in Jude [Jude 9]. It will be at the sound of the voice of the archangel that we are raised from among the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. There is an order of archangels in their diversification. In the eighteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, and in the tenth chapter of the Apocalypse, you will find a reference to a "mighty angel" [Revelation 18:21, 10:1]. Who he is, he’s not named, he’s just a "mighty angel." Then you will find a seraph and a seraphim [Isaiah 6:2-4], a cherub and a cherubim. There are orders and ranks in the angels. And in Ephesians, Paul names a whole group of the orders of angels [Ephesians 6:12].
Now they have names; they are personalities, just as we are. Gabriel has a name. His name means "the hero of God," or "the mighty one of God" [Daniel 8:15; Luke 1:11]. Michael has a name, "Who is like God" [Jude 1:9]. And outside of the Bible, in Jewish literature, there will be Raphael, "God heals"; Uriel, "God is aflame"; and Lucifer, "the son of the morning." They are individuals, each one; and each one has a name. They have assigned tasks. And they’re presented to us in the Bible as always doing the same thing. If Gabriel is presented, Gabriel is always doing the same thing. If Michael is presented, Michael is always doing the same thing. And the thing is so diverse and different. When Gabriel appears in the Bible, he is always God’s announcer. He announces to Daniel the revelation of the seventy weeks [Daniel 9:24-27]. He announces to Zacharias the coming birth of John the Baptist [Luke 1:11-19]. He announces to Mary that she is to be the virgin mother of this foreordained, foretold child Messiah [Luke 1:26-35]. On the other hand, Michael is always God’s warrior. In the Book of Daniel, Michael stands to war and to champion his people Israel [Daniel 10:13, 21]. In the Book of Jude, Michael is disputing with Lucifer over the body of Moses [Jude 9]. In the Book of the Revelation, in the twelfth chapter, it is Michael who is leading the hosts of heaven as they fight against Lucifer and his angels [Revelation 12:7-9]. All of these angels and these angelic hosts of God have personality, they have assignments, and they do the bidding of the great Lord of hosts.
That is why the Book of Hebrews speaks of their assignments for us in our lives. "The angels, are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?" [Hebrews 1:14]. The angels of God watch over us, and take care of us, and champion us, and war for us. The angels of God guard us and protect us. They were sent, two of them, down to Sodom in order to deliver Lot, and to protect Lot, when the judgment of God fell upon the Sodomites [Genesis 19:1, 15-17]. It was a host of the angels of God who surrounded Elisha and his servant Gehazi when the Syrian king sent an army to take them [2 Kings 6:15-17]. It was an angel of the Lord that came down into the lion’s den and shut the mouths of those voracious, carnivorous animals, in order that Daniel might be protected [Daniel 6:22]. It is the angel of God that takes care of and watches over these little children; each one has a guardian angel [Matthew 18:10].
Jesus was asked, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" [Matthew 18:1]. And Jesus called a little child, set him in the midst [Matthew 18:2], And said,
Truly I say unto you, Except you turn and become as little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. . .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.
May I parenthesize here to say, when I read that, I tremble for those who are guilty of child abuse. I read in the paper, I read that the most prevalent of all of the crimes that men commit is the crime of abusing children. They beat them, they mistreat them, and every year there are thousands of children who die under abuse. When I read this passage in the Bible, I tremble, "Take heed," God says, "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" [Matthew 18:10]. The representative of that child is in the very presence of God Himself, a guardian angel. And I presume that as we grow older, maybe "a little one" could also refer to us who in this pilgrimage find ourselves ever so weak and so need of help. Therefore I suppose that if there is a guardian angel that represents a little child, I would suppose that there is the same guardian angel who watches over us all the days of our lives.
We are told in the Bible something of the ministering spirits of these guardian angels. They comfort us, and they strengthen us. When Jacob fled away from the face of his brother Esau, he came to a place and laid down at night, with a stone for a pillow [Genesis 28:11]. And that night he saw a ladder from earth leaning against the balustrades and the battlements of heaven. And the Book says that he saw angels – do you remember the order? – he saw angels ascending and descending on that ladder [Genesis 28:12]. He never saw angels descending and ascending; he saw the angels ascending and descending. The angels were with him, sympathizing and loving and caring. When the Lord was tempted in the wilderness [Matthew 4:3-10], the end of the story is, "And angels came and ministered to Him, and strengthened Him" [Matthew 4:11]. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel ministered and encouraged and strengthened the Lord [Luke 22:43]. These guardian angels care for us [Hebrews 1:14].
They deliver us. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Simon Peter is incarcerated, there are chains on him, his feet are in stocks, there are Roman guards to see that he’s delivered to execution the next day. That night, while all were asleep, an angel came and aroused him, and his chains fell off, and delivered him to freedom. An angel did it [Acts 12:6-10]. In the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul says, in the midst of that awesome storm, Paul says that, "There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul: not only you, but all these that are with thee have I given thee" [Acts 27:23-24] – the angels delivering us.
I wonder if I could have the temerity to take one little inconsequential incident out of a thousand that I could mention in my own life, of how I think a guardian angel watches over us. When I was in high school, one of those boys, of the little friendship group, was given a beautiful large car, an automobile, an amazing thing to somebody who grew up as poor as I was. So, there were three of us who decided to take an extensive trip through the west. And tarrying too long, spending too many days, we were driving back home, not stopping. Day and night we were driving. In the middle of the night, on a road in Arizona, one of those boys, Winfield Prentice, was driving the car, let’s say, one or two o’clock in the morning. And I was seated on the front seat by his side. The other boy in the back seat was sound asleep, and I was asleep. And Winfield was driving the car. For a reason I don’t understand or know, I awakened. And the moment I awakened, that car, going very rapidly, was headed toward a turn beyond which a cliff, just like that. And Winfield Prentice – I looked at him, he was sound asleep, and that car headed toward that turn and that cliff – I immediately grabbed the wheel. And when I did so, he automatically took his foot off of the accelerator, and I swung the car around. And we made the curve, and made the turn, and completed the journey. A little simple thing, but I’ve wondered who tapped my shoulder. Who awakened me just at that moment? Who did that? Why should I have awakened just at that moment? There’s a thousand times in your life, each one of you, when something tragic could have happened, but it didn’t. Somebody was watching over you. Somebody was caring for you. Somebody was protecting you. Somebody was ministering to you. That is God’s guardian angel.
He walks with us, and he talks with us, and he whispers to us, and he leads us, each one of us has a guardian angel. And of course, in how many ways are they ministers before God, sent on missions from the Lord to work for Him and for us. It was an angel from God who stopped the hand of Abraham when he raised the knife to plunge it into the heart of his son. An angel called to him [Genesis 22:10-12]. It was an angel that God sent to roll the stone away from the cave, from the sepulcher, in which our Lord was buried, and I think in contempt sat upon it [Matthew 28:2]. It will be angels that God will send for us in the moment of our death. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, Jesus says, "The angels came and bore away the soul of Lazarus to heaven" [Luke 16:22]. When time comes to die, the angels will be there to take us to heaven. That’s why that beautiful song the old people used to sing:
My latest sun is sinking fast,
My course is nearly run;
My latest trials now are passed,
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;
O bear me away on your snowy wings
To my eternal home.
["My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast"; Jefferson Hascall]
Angels coming for us. Some of those spirituals are so true to the Bible:
Lookin’ over Jordan, what did I see,
Coming for to carry me home?
A band of angels, coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.
["Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"; Wallace Willis]
Angels will bear us up to heaven, and introduce us to the saints in glory.
One other thing: I speak now of the angelic host at the end of the age. At the end of the age they are very prominent, and they shall be seen by their uncounted thousands times ten thousands and thousands of thousands. One, the angels are the reapers. Jesus says, in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, that it will be the angels who take out of the kingdom all that offends and that hurts and that ploys and destroys. The angels are the reapers; they will take out of God’s field all of the tares [Matthew 13:26-30]. They are, I suppose you would call "destroying angels." It was two of those angels that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19:1, 15-25]. It was an angel with a sword drawn over Jerusalem that caused David to cry for deliverance [2 Samuel 24:17]. It was one angel that passed over the Assyrian army of Sennacherib, and the next morning there were one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers who were corpses; just one destroying angel [2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36]. That’s why when the Lord said to Simon Peter, "Put up your sword; if I willed, the Lord has twelve legions of angels, seventy-two thousands of angels, at My command" [Matthew 25:31]. Think of that. One angel destroyed one hundred eighty-five thousand soldiers of the Assyrian general Senacharib; and He says, "Seventy-two thousand angels are at My command." Ah, the awesomeness of that angelic host.
And finally, when the Lord comes, when He appears, He is descending with all of His holy angels. And He uses that word "all." All of His holy angels will come with Him when the Lord descends in glory [Matthew 35:31]. I’ve often thought of that word "all," when He comes with "all of His holy angels." And thinking through the Word of God, I think – I think it’s emphatic, for heretofore and without exception, when the angels appear in the Bible, it is always one, or two, or a small company, or the angelic choir that sang at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem [Luke 2:13-14]. It is always a small group, one or two, or that one choir; but when the Lord comes from glory, all of the angelic hosts will accompany Him. Those archangels, and those seraphim, and those cherubim, and all of those mighty angels; think of the consummation of this age. Ah!
To me, it is like the grand finale, when at the conclusion of some mighty opera, the entire chorus and all the characters in it are on stage singing a marvelous and final song. Or like some glorious oratorio, and at the end of it their voices are raised in some incomparable praise to the glory of God. I think it shall be like that when Jesus comes for His own. All of the holy angels will be with Him, and we shall join in that everlasting song, praising the name and the worth of our living Lord. No wonder the Bible exclaims, and Paul quotes, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, those things God hath prepared for those who love Him" [1 Corinthians 2:9].
And that is our humble and earnest invitation to you today – to share in the triumph of the ages. "Lord, number me among Thy redeemed. Put my name in that Book of Life. Count me among those who have found hope and refuge in Thee. This day, this hour, I make the decision to open my heart to the Lord Jesus, that He live in my life, that He walk with me, that His holy angels guard and keep and deliver me, and someday take my soul to heaven. I want to be a Christian. And in avowal of that commitment, before this great throng this morning, and before the angels who look down upon us from heaven, I accept Christ as my Savior." There will be others coming into the fellowship of this dear church. A whole family you, or just one somebody you, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, in the balcony down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles; make the decision now in your heart. And in this moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, when you stand up, stand up taking that first step. It’ll be the mightiest, finest, most meaningful step you ever took in your life. Take it. Down that aisle, down that stairway, "Here I am, pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m on the way." May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
ANGELS, GOD’S GUARDIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. There is another world besides what we can touch, feel and see
1. Seen in death of a man
2. 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
A. Not glorified saints who have gone to heaven
B. Created beings (Psalm 148:2, 5, Job 38:4, 7, 1 Peter 1:12)
C. One thing dimly outlined in Scriptures – a choice
1. One-third chose to follow Lucifer(Revelation 12:4)
2. Their choice fixed forever
III. Number, diversity and rank
A. Infinite in number(Revelation 5:11)
C. They have names
D. Each one has an assigned task
IV. Ministering to God’s people(Hebrews 1:14)
A. Protecting, 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)
C. Delivering (Acts 12:7, 27:23-24)
1. Road trip, driver asleep at the wheel – an angel woke me up
V. Their appearance at the end of the age
A. God’s reapers(Matthew 13:41-42, Genesis 19:13, 2 Samuel 24:16, 2 Kings 19:35, Matthew 26:53)
B. Will accompany Christ when He returns in glory(Matthew 25:31, Mark 8:38, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 1 Corinthians 2:9)