ANGELS, GOD’S GUARDIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-18-79 10:50 a.m.
And welcome also to the uncounted thousands and thousands of you who are watching this service, some of you on cable in other states, and some of you listening to it on the two radio stations that carry it. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, bringing the message entitled Angels, God’s Guardians.
The first chapter of the Book of Hebrews closes with a beautiful avowal: the angels—“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14].
There is another world beside the world that I can touch and feel and see with my naked eye. I am very and poignantly conscious of that world when I stand over somebody who is dead. There he lies before me; the substance of him, his physical frame; the matter of him; all of his organs in place; every muscle, every bone, every fiber, every nerve. He lies there before me intact, all of him—the entire substance of him. But he is gone; his mind, his personality, his emotion, his will, his life, his spirit. He is gone. There is somebody else beside just the physical frame, the substance, the matter. All of life is like that. It is controlled, not so much by physical substance, as by the spirit and the life that lives within us—another world.
I see that in human anatomy. I have no conflict between my hand and my foot. I have no conflict between my organs. They don’t fight against either other. But the conflict in my life that I daily feel is in my spirit. It is in my soul. It is in my heart. And that conflict rages all the time. There is another world than the physical, the substantive, the material. It is the world of the spirit. It is the world of personality. It is the world of volitional intelligence.
And we are introduced to that world beautifully, marvelously, in the revelation of God concerning angels. They are a separate and created order of the Lord. That is, angels are not sainted people who die and have been translated to heaven. As we are a created people, so the angelic orders have been created separately by the hand of God. The beautiful one hundred [forty-eighth] Psalm will say, “Praise ye Him, all His angels . . . for He commanded, and they were created” [Psalm 148:2, 5] the vast, innumerable hosts of heaven.
And whenever you read in the Bible “the Lord of hosts,” it refers always to the hosts of heaven. All of that innumerable, vast company who praise God, world without end—all of them have been created in their separate order.
They were present, Job says, in the foundation of the world. In the thirty-eighth chapter, God asks to Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth… when the morning stars sang together,” and now the reference to angels, “and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” [Job 38:4, 7]
When the Lord God created this world [Genesis 1:1-25], the angels were there watching Him. And when they saw the beauty and the infinite magnitude and the surpassing glory of the lacework of His hands, the firmament that the Lord flung out into space, the chalice of God’s heaven above us, they shouted for joy at what God had done [Job 38:7].
There is another unusual thing that they did, which is referred to by Simon Peter, in the middle of the first chapter of his first letter. Simon Peter says, that as God worked out, through the ages, our plan of redemption that “the angels desired to look into it” [1 Peter 1:9-12]. It was a wonder to them what the Lord was doing in preparing for, and bringing to consummation, the redemption, of our lost race. And the angels, watching the Lord, guiding through the millennia to the day when Christ died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]; the angels looked at that and were deeply interested in it, desiring to know what it was God was bringing to pass.
There is one thing about angels that is dimly revealed in the Scriptures. Somewhere in the age of the ages of the ages, before the creation of this universe, the angels had a choice as to whether they would follow the Lord or whether they would follow Lucifer. And the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse says that one third of the angels of God chose to follow Lucifer [Revelation 12:4]. And if you think that’s unusual, look at yourself. How many of us choose to follow Lucifer instead of God? Most of the world, but in heaven, only one third of the angels chose to follow Lucifer, and they fell—one third of them [Revelation 12:4]. The other two thirds are referred in the Bible as the elect angels [1 Timothy 5:21], or the holy angels [Mark 8:38], or the angels of light [2 Corinthians 11:14].
The one third who fell are divided into two parts [Revelation 12:4]. One: they are present in the world and they are demons [Matthew 8:16], and they desire and plot our destruction. Fallen angels are demons. The other part of that third who fell are reserved in chains of darkness, forever awaiting their judgment before God [Jude 1:6].
The difference between those that are free to afflict and to destroy us, and those who are in chains, in darkness, reserved against the judgment day of God—why the division? God never says. It’s just one of those mysteries that we read in the Bible, never explained. That choice on the part of the angels having been made is now made forever. Fallen angels are forever demonic; the holy angels live in eternal felicity and bliss. The choice that they made became eternal.
And you see that same thing in us. We have a choice. But when that choice is sealed in our death, it is forever and forever. We never have a second chance. When the decision is made and it is sealed in death, in the world to come the decision is never retrievable or reviewable or renounceable or changeable. It is set forever!
And thus it was with the angels. The decision that they made—these who followed Lucifer, Satan, and those who followed the Lord, their state is forever and ever [Revelation 12:4].
We learn in the Bible that the creation of the angels in number is without measure [Hebrews 12:22]. It is beyond our comprehension. The Bible refers to them in the fifth chapter of the Revelation as muriades muriadon—millions times millions. The King James Version translates it “tens of thousands times tens of thousands, times thousands of thousands” [Revelation 5:11]. They are a host that cannot be counted—innumerable.
And they are in serried ranks. They are not all the same. Some of them are called archangels. Michael, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Daniel, is referred to as one of the princes of the hosts of God [Daniel 10:13]. And Michael is referred to as an archangel [Jude 1:9]. There are great serried ranks, and some of those angels are princes and rulers over the hosts, such as Michael the archangel [Jude 1:9].
It will be at the sound of the trumpet, of the voice of an archangel that we are raised from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Think of the power of those mighty servants of God. At his voice, the whole earth which is now a cemetery, literally, is brought to life in these who are raised from the dead at the voice, at the sound of the call of an archangel [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. In the tenth chapter of the Apocalypse, and in the eighteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, there is reference made to “a mighty angel” [Revelation 10:1, 18:21]. I wonder who he is—a mighty angel.
And of course, in the Bible there is the cherub and the cherubim [Ezekiel 10:1-20]; and there is the seraph and the seraphim [Isaiah 6:2-6]. They are in serried ranks.
And the angels have names. They are personalities. They are individuals, such as you are.
- One of them is called Gabriel [Daniel 8:16; Luke 1:11, 19]. His name means the “hero of God” or the “mighty one of God.”
- Another one of the angels is called Michael [Jude 1:9]; his name means “who is like God?”
- Another one of those mighty angels is called Lucifer, who is the “son of the morning” [Isaiah 14:12]; who led the rebellion against heaven [Revelation 12:7-9]; who said, “I will be God” [Isaiah 14:14].
- In Talmudic and Jewish literature, another angel is named Raphael, meaning “God heals.” Another, Uriel, which means “God is a flame.”
They have names. They are individuals such as we are; created of God there, created of the Lord here. They are people. They are somebodies. They are personalities, just as we are.
Then, as they are revealed to us in the Bible, they have different assignments. Whenever Gabriel is introduced in the Word of the Lord, he is always doing the same thing. When Michael is introduced to us in the Holy Scriptures, he is always doing the same thing. And the things they do are so very different. Every time Gabriel appears, he is announcing something from God. He is God’s great announcing messenger. It was Gabriel who announced to Daniel the secret of the seventy weeks [Daniel 9:24-27]. It was Gabriel who announced to Zechariah that he should have a son whom he was to name John the Baptist [Luke 1:11-19]. It was Gabriel who announced to the virgin Jewess Mary that she was to be the mother of that foretold, foreordained Child Christ, the Messiah [Luke 1:26-35]. That’s Gabriel.
Michael is also ever doing the same thing. He is God’s great warrior, champion. In the Book of the [Daniel], Michael is the champion and the prince and the warrior of the people of God [Daniel 12:1]. In the Book of Jude, Michael is “disputing with Lucifer, with the devil, concerning the body of Moses” [Jude 9]. And in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation, Michael is leading the hosts of heaven in their war against the dragon and his angels. And Michael, praise God, prevails [Revelation 12:7-9]. Always, each angel has his assignment. And as he’s presented to us, he’s always true to that mandate of God.
Now in our text, it avows that these angels, the angelic hosts of heaven, they are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation” [Hebrews 1:14]. They are protecting angels. They are guardian angels.
In the story of the life of Lot, it was two angels who rescued Lot out of the judgment of God upon the Sodomites [Genesis 19:1, 15-17]. In the beautiful story of Elisha, who was quiet when the king of Syria surrounded the little town of Dothan in which he was staying? [2 Kings 6:13-14]. It was Elisha who prayed: “Open the eyes of Gehazi, my servant, that he can see.” And when God opened the eyes of Gehazi , the whole world was filled with the host of heaven round about Elisha [2 Kings 6:15-17]. That is the beautiful thirty-fourth Psalm: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round them that love God, that fear Him” [Psalm 34:7]—protecting, guiding, keeping.
And that’s why I had you read that sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel: “O Daniel,” said the king, “is thy God able . . .? [Daniel 6:20]. And Daniel replied: “O king, live forever. God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the mouths of these voracious, carnivorous lions” [Daniel 6:21-22]. And they were like tamed, soft, purring kittens at his feet. An angel did it.
And then, in their guardian care, look at this that the Lord Jesus says concerning our little children.
Jesus called His disciples and they had asked Him: Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And He sat a little child in their midst,
And He said, Truly—verily, amen—I say unto you, Except you turn, and become as little children, ye shall 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.
And whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. . . .
Take heed that you 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 18:1-5, 10]
May I parenthesize here? I tremble when I read that, thinking of the newspaper reports of the uncounted thousands and thousands of little children that are mistreated and mishandled and abused by their parents. They say, in the papers, that that is the number one of all the crimes that are committed in America—child abuse. And they say in these statistical reports, they say in the papers, that there are more children that are wounded and hurt and crippled and killed by the mistreatment and abuse of parents than for any other cause.
It makes me tremble when I read this: “Take heed that you 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]. Each one of these little children has a representative at the very throne that beholds the face of God; an angel, a guardian, keeping, protecting, caring, loving angel—each little child.
There are those, who reading the Book, say that refers also to those who become as little children trusting in the Lord—that we have a guardian angel, not only in our childhood, but as we walk in the presence of the Lord, leaning upon Him, believing in Him, that each one of us has in the presence of God a guardian angel; and how precious to think that the angels of God watch over us. They strengthen us and they comfort us and they encourage us.
In the story of Jacob of Israel, as he fled from the face of his brother Esau, he lighted upon a place, and he sat a stone there for his pillow [Genesis 28:11]. And that night, as he dreamed, he saw a ladder. The bottom rested on the earth, but the top of it leaned against the balustrades and the battlements of heaven. And the Book says that Jacob, Israel, saw the angels of God ascending and descending that ladder [Genesis 28:12].
Do you notice the order? It isn’t they “descended” and then “ascended”; they were with Jacob as he fled from his brother, a stranger, full of fear, foreboding, dread. The angels of God were ascending [Genesis 28:12]. They were with him. And descending—they stayed with him, the guardian angels of the Lord.
When the Lord was tempted [Matthew 4:3-10], the angels came and strengthened Him [Matthew 4:11]. And when the Lord prayed in Gethsemane, an angel appeared, comforting Him [Luke 22:43]. These are the angels that care for us. They deliver us in times of great trial.
Do you remember the story of Simon Peter, when Herod Agrippa had beheaded James, the brother of John the disciple, one of the twelve? [Acts 12:1-2]. The same Herod seized Simon Peter to place him in prison that he be executed the next day [Acts 12:3-6]. But that night, an angel came and awakened Simon Peter and his chains fell off. And the angel guided him through the doors into liberty, delivering him [Acts 12:7-10].
In the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul says in the midst of that frightful storm by which their boat was driven for fourteen days and nights [Acts 27:14, 27, 33], Paul says, Fear not,
For there stood by me this night the angel of the Lord, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Saying, Fear not . . . for I have given thee not only your life, but all the lives of those that are with thee.
[Acts 27:23, 24]
The guardian, protecting, guiding, keeping saving angel of the Lord.
If I could be forgiven for so small and inconsequential a thing, could I choose one out of I think a thousand instances in my own life, where I think a guardian angel has watched over me? When I was in high school, one of the boys had an unusual thing. The family gave him a beautiful, large car. Three of us made a trip with that young fellow in his new car through the western part of the United States. We tarried too long. We stayed longer than we ought to have stayed. And coming back, we were driving rather furiously, and we did not stop. We drove all day and all night and all day and all night, coming back home. We were driving through Arizona, and Winfield Prentice was at the wheel. This is about, say, one or two o’clock in the morning, and he was driving. I was seated by his side, and the third boy was on the back seat, sound asleep. And I went to sleep, and Winfield Prentice was driving the car.
Why I should have awakened, I do not know, but I awakened with a start, and the car was headed for a turn—a swift turn, an angle that was sharp and beyond, the cliff. And I looked, and Winfield Prentice was sound asleep and that car going at a furious pace, toward that turn and toward the cliff. I seized the wheel, and startled, he lifted his foot from the accelerator. And I turned the car and swung it and kept it in the road.
I have thought of that so many times. Do you suppose an angel tapped me on the shoulder when I was sound asleep? “You better open your eyes. You better wake up. You better grab that wheel”—angels of God watching over me.
There are a thousand instances in your life when things could have been so different, when they could have turned into such tragedy in your life—every one of you. Why did it not come to pass? A guardian angel watching over you.
Now we conclude. At the end of the age, at the consummation and denouement of the day, angels will be in appearance. We will see them, and God says they have tremendous assignments at the end of the age.
For example, the Lord will say in Matthew  that the angels are the reapers [Matthew 13:39]. The tares and the wheat now in the kingdom of heaven grow together, but at the end of the age, God will send forth His angels, and they will take out of His kingdom all that offend and hurt and do unrighteously [Matthew 13:40-41].
The destroying angels of God are awesome, when I read of them in the Bible. Two angels—two angels destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; just two [Genesis 19:1-24]. When David saw an angel of the Lord with his sword drawn, standing over Jerusalem in judgment, he bowed before God [2 Samuel 24:16-17]. Then follows the story of his intercessory sacrifice on Mount Moriah at the threshing [floor] of Araunah [2 Samuel 24:21-25].
Do you remember the story when Sennacherib held Jerusalem in a vise, his army surrounding the city? And Hezekiah pled before God [2 Kings 19:14-19; Isaiah 37;15-20]. That night, that night, one angel, just one, passed over the Assyrian army. And when the morning broke, there were 185,000 corpses in the Assyrian host [2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36].
That’s why, when Jesus said to Simon Peter: “Simon, put up your sword. If I would, God would send Me twelve legions of angels [Matthew 26:51-53]. You think of that. Twelve legions would be 72,000, and one angel, just one destroying angel passing over the hosts of Assyria, 185,000 of those soldiers died; 72,000, the destroying angels that shall purge this world and leave nothing but holiness and righteousness and godliness and happiness and joy and praise forever [Matthew 13:41].
And that leads to that final consummation of the age when the Lord shall come in glory. The Bible avows, when He comes “all of His holy angels will come with Him” [Matthew 25:31]. And you know, it seems to me that Jesus kind of emphasizes that word “all.” “When the Son of Man shall come, and all His holy angels with Him” [Matthew 25:31].
Heretofore, the angels have always appeared, maybe one, maybe two, maybe three. The most that I have ever been able to find in the Bible is the angelic choir; some of them who sang when Jesus was born in Bethlehem [Luke 2:13-14]. But almost always, when you read of the angels in the Bible, it will be one, or two, or a small company. But when the end shall come, and the Lord shall descend in His shekinah glory, all of the hosts of heaven will come with Him [Matthew 25:31]. I just cannot imagine such an incomparably glorious and heavenly scene. The Lord surrounded by the millions, and the thousands and the thousand times ten thousands of thousands of thousands of angels [Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11].
First, one of the angels shall speak, and we that have fallen into the dust of the ground shall rise—the resurrection of God’s sainted dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Then, all of us who remain and are raptured up with these who are raised to meet our Lord in the air” [1 Thessalonians 4: 17]; we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of that trump” [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]— to meet our Lord with God’s redeemed in the air. And then, we shall join that vast, innumerable throng, hosts from heaven in the praise of the glory and wonder of our Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; Matthew 25:31].
When I think of that, I think it like some tremendous opera and after the play is over, at the end of it, all of the characters assemble on the stage, and they sing together some glorious final song. I think of it sometimes in terms of an oratorio: after the soloists have sung, and the different parts and arias and choruses are sung; coming to the end of it, the whole choir and the orchestra raise their voices in some marvelous paean of praise to God.
I think of the end of the world like that, when the Lord shall come and all of the hosts of God’s redeemed descend with him [Revelation 19:11-16]. No wonder Paul said, quoting Isaiah: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has heart imagined those wonderful things God hath reserved in store for those who love Him” [Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9]; some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
And that is our invitation to you: to walk with us, to pilgrimage with us, to praise God with us, to serve the Lord with us, on our way to heaven; join us. Bring your family. Bring your little children. All the days of your life, let God be your best friend, faithful companion, holy and heavenly Savior. Give your heart to the blessed Jesus [Romans 10:8-12]. Let Him, in His precious blood, wash the stain of sin out of our souls [Revelation 1:5]. Let Him give us strength for every trial and decision. Let Him, with His own precious hands, bless us, heal us, strengthen us, comfort us, guide us, protect us. To put your life with us in our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]: a family you, a couple, or just one somebody you, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, preacher. I have decided for God, and I am on the way. I give you my hand. I have given my heart to the Lord” [Romans 10:8-12]. Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing our appeal, stand up, making that first step. It will be the greatest step you ever made in your life. Down one of those stairways; down one of these aisles, “Here I am, preacher. I am on the way.” May God bless you. May the angels of heaven attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.