GOD’S GUARDIAN ANGELS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-6-83 10:50 a.m.
And we no less welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled God’s Guardian Angels. In an expanse of time of about three years, preaching through the “Great Doctrines of the Bible,” themselves divided into about fifteen sections, and the section that consumes our interest these present Lord’s days concerns angelology. There are seven messages on the doctrine of angels. Next Sunday it will be The Smiting of God’s Angel, and the following Sunday, the seventh message, What Angels Learn in Church; that’s an interesting one, for me at least. And the one today, God’s Guardian Angels.
The first chapter of the Book of Hebrews, verse 14, closes with this word: the angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14]. God’s ministering spirits, the angels, sent forth from His presence to help us, encourage us, strengthen us, comfort us, guide us—God’s guardian angels. When I speak of these experiences now that come in my life, it is not as though I were chosen above all the other of God’s children. It is just that what I have experienced is typical of what all of us share in the gracious remembrances and providences of our Lord.
When I was a boy, a small boy, barely six years of age, I was standing at the foot of a cliff on a bank in the creek. And the next day, standing in that same place, I looked upon a large boulder, a great rock, that had fallen down from the face of the cliff—and fell in the exact place where I stood just before. And as a child, with no theological background at all, I wondered at the providence of God that saved me from that falling disaster; God’s guardian angel.
As the years passed in high school, there were three of us that made a trip in a car through Arizona. And having delayed our return, we drove back all day, all night, all day, all night. And we took turns about driving the car. And this is the wee hours of the morning. And having driven my assignment, I was asleep on the right side of the front seat in the car. And Winfield Prentice was driving the car. Suddenly, I awakened, and the car, at a furious race, was headed toward a precipitous turn in the road. And I looked at Winfield, and he was sound asleep. I immediately seized the wheel and pushed his foot away from the accelerator and turned the car, and so saved us. As a youth I wondered: who awakened me? God’s guardian angel [Hebrews 1:14].
Then in the days of my pastorate here, flying over the Amazon jungle—a vast area larger than continental United States—not a road in it, not a bridge across it, looking down on that jungle three hundred feet deep, if you fall in it, they never find you; cannot; flying down the Ucayali River with those long pontoons on the plane, then an hour crossover to the Maranon; the Maranon and the Ucayali, flowing together, make the Amazon—in the midst of the crossover, flying over that vast impenetrable jungle, it seemed to me that the engine exploded, and the plane fell. Why was it? Any one of a thousand differing conditions would have taken our lives; God’s guardian angel riding in the plane.
So the word of the author of Hebrews: “The angels are they not ministering spirits, protecting and guiding and serving us who are the heirs of salvation?” [Hebrews 1:14]. They, the perfect servants of God, ministering unto us, His imperfect children. Someday we shall be perfected and shall be given an exalted place above the angels, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:3: “Someday we shall judge the angels.”
God’s guardian angels: our Lord says that each one of us, when we come into this world as a child, we are assigned a guardian angel. In Matthew 18:10: “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.” Gabriel presents himself as the angel who stands in the presence of God [Luke 1:19]. And our Lord says that each one of us, when we come into this world, each one of us is assigned a guardian angel who stands and ministers for us in the presence of God [Matthew 18:10]. Throughout our life, we are cared for by our Lord’s guardian angels [Psalm 91:11-12].
In Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encampeth around about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.” And in the incomparably beautiful ninety-first Psalm: “God shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” [Psalm 91:11]. Throughout our life we are guarded and kept and ministered to by the Lord’s angels. And in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, we are told that when Lazarus died, the angels of God came down and bore his soul, carried the saint of God to heaven [Luke 16:22]. When I read that, I wonder, “Is that our guardian angel assigned to us as a child, watching over us in the days of our lives, and when we die, coming for us to take us to heaven?” That’s why I suppose they sing those songs.
Looking over Jordan,
What did I see?
A band of angels
Coming after me
[“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” Wallis Willis, 1862]
Oh come angel band
Come and around me stand
Oh, bear me away
On your snowy wings
To my immortal home.
[“My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast,” William Batchelder Bradbury, 1860]
God’s guardian angels.
We are introduced to the angels throughout the Word of God. Colossians, the first chapter says that they are created. They are created beings, just as we are created human beings [Colossians 1:16]. That’s why the twenty-second chapter of the Apocalypse, when the sainted apostle John fell down to worship at the feet of the angel, the angel said, “Nay, for I am a servant of God like you” [Revelation 22:8-9]. We are not to worship them or pray to them. We are told in God’s Word in the [twelfth] chapter of the Book of Hebrews that they are without number [Hebrews 12:22]. They are multitudinously innumerable: the thousands and the thousands of uncounted hosts of the angelic glory that stand before God [Revelation 5:11].
And I have the impression that they are almost omnipotent—God’s angels. For example, when Jerusalem was encompassed by the Assyrian army, in answer of the prayer of good King Hezekiah [Isaiah 37:14-20], God sent His delivering angel, and he passed over the Assyrian host that night, and the next morning there were one hundred eighty-five thousand dead Assyrian soldiers [Isaiah 37:36]; omnipotent. When I read the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, there is one angel that lays hold upon Lucifer, Satan, and chains him and binds him for a thousand years—one angel [Revelation 20:1-2]. And when I think of the power of those emissaries from heaven, what could our Lord mean when He said: “If I but call, there would be twelve legions of angels come to stand by My side” [Matthew 26:53]. Seventy-two thousand angels; think of it! No wonder when the Book says that when our Lord was raised from the dead the third day, an angel from heaven came and rolled back the stone, and in contempt sat upon it [Matthew 28:2]; the power of God’s angels.
And they’re individuals, as we are. They are created beings who have personalities, names, and assignments, as we have. They are in ranks. There is the archangel, the great ruling angel [Jude 9]. Then there is angelon ischuron, the mighty angel [Revelation 10:1]. Then there are the cherubim. Often through the Old Testament and in the Apocalypse, do we read about the cherubim. In the garden of Eden, they guarded the tree of life [Genesis 3:24]. In the Holy of Holies, in the tabernacle, the cherubim faced each other as their wings covered the mercy seat [Exodus 25:20]. They were woven into the curtains of the gate and the door and the inner veil [Exodus 26:1, 31-34]. They are presented in magnificent and powerful array in the Book of Ezekiel, chapters 1 through 10—the cherubim [Ezekiel 1:1-10:22].
And I think it’s the most unfortunate thing that you could imagine that the King James Version translates the zōa as “beasts” in the Book of the Revelation. “The four beasts” [Revelation 5:8]—oh, no! There is a Greek word for beasts. These are God’s cherubim. And they represent the earth as they worship before the Lord God of hosts—the cherubim [Revelation 5:8-9]. Then there are the seraphim—the burning ones, the shining ones [Isaiah 6:2, 6-7]. The wonderful prophet Isaiah saw them when he looked upon the Lord high and lifted up. And the seraphim sang their Holy, holy, holy to the Lord God of hosts, the angels of glory, the hosts of heaven [Isaiah 6:1-3]. And the whole earth moved at the sound of the seraphim as they sang the holiness and praise of God [Isaiah 6:4].
They have names as we have. We are called by our names. God calls us by our names [John 10:3]. In the third chapter of 1 Samuel, the Lord calls, “Samuel, Samuel” [1 Samuel 3:4-10]. God calls us by name. In the tenth chapter of the Book of John, the Lord says, “I call My sheep by name” [John 10:3]. The Lord knows us as somebody. We’re not globs and blobs and impersonal entities in the sight of God our Lord. We are somebody. The humblest, smallest among us are great and precious in the sight of our Lord. He calls us by name. He went to a tree in Jericho and looked up and said, “Zaccheus” [Luke 19:5]. Where did He ever know Zaccheus? God knows us. “Zaccheus!”
And the Lord said to Saul, Paul, in the city of Damascus: “You go to a street called Straight, and there ask for one Ananias” [Acts 9:6-12]. He knows us by name. So the angels of God have names. There is Michael [Daniel 10:13, 21, Revelation 12:7], his name means, “who is like God.” There is Gabriel, “the man of God” [Luke 1:19, 26]. In the tradition of the Talmudic literature, there is Raphael, “God is my healer,” and Uriel, “God is my life.”
And a wonderful thing about angels, wherever they appear, each one is doing his separate assignment and always doing the same thing. When Gabriel appears, Gabriel always is doing the same thing. When Michael appears, Michael is always doing the same thing. And when Ischuron appears he is always doing the same thing [Revelation 5:2; 10:1]. And each thing is so different from the other assignment. For example, Gabriel is always a messenger from God. He is bearing a message to Daniel, the prophet statesman [Daniel 9:21-27], or he’s bearing a message to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist [Luke 1:11-20]. Or he’s bearing a message to Mary, the virgin mother of our Lord [Luke 1:26-38]. Always when Gabriel appears, he’s doing the same thing.
When Michael appears, always he’s doing the same thing. In the Book of Daniel, he is warring for God’s people, the champion of the people of the Lord [Daniel 10:13; 12:1]. In the Book of Jude, it is Michael who is disputing with Lucifer, Satan concerning the body of Moses [Jude 1:9]. And in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, it is Michael, God’s warrior, who is fighting Satan and his fallen angels [Revelation 12:7-9]; always doing the same thing. And that mighty angel, angelon ischuron, as he’s called in the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 5:2; 10:1], always doing the same thing. He is the instrument of God for judgment and for prophecy.
They are separate beings. They have their individual assignments. They are named. And they serve God, our guardians [Psalm 91:11-12]. Their service for us and their sweet ministries for us are precious beyond any way I have power to describe it. They are our saving deliverers and our protectors and keepers. In the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was two angels who took Lot and his wife and their two daughters by the hand and led them out to safety and to deliverance [Genesis 19:15-17]. Two angels did that.
When Abraham, in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis, raised his arm and with a knife stood ready to plunge it into the heart of his only son Isaac, it was an angel that held his arm, that stopped the sacrifice of Isaac. An angel did it; delivering [Genesis 22:10-12]. Do you remember when Gehazi came to Elisha, God’s prophet, in the little town of Dothan? Surrounded by an army from Syria who had come to seize them and capture them, Gehazi awakening in the morning, seeing that army surrounding the city [2 Kings 16:14-15], said,
Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And Elisha said, They that are with us are more than they that are with them.
And Elisha prayed, saying Lord, open the eyes of the young man.
And God opened his eyes, and the whole heavens were filled with angels of God, the chariots of fire around about Elisha
[2 Kings 6:15-17].
It is no less so and true in the story of Daniel. The king, arising early in the morning [Daniel 6:19], came to the head of the lion’s den and said: “Daniel, is thy God able to deliver thee?” [Daniel 6:20]. And Daniel, God’s prophet statesman, answers from the depths of the pit: “O king, God hath sent His angel, and has closed the mouths of the lions” [Daniel 6:21-22], angels; God’s guardian angels.
Is it not so in the story of Simon Peter in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Acts? An angel opened the iron doors and Simon Peter walked out a free man to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. An angel did it [Acts 12:6-10]. Is it not true in the beautiful passage you just read out of the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts? In the midst of the tumultuous storm [Acts 27:20], Paul says, “Be of good cheer, for there stood by me this night the angel of God” [Acts 27:22-23].
God’s guardian angels: they not only deliver us and save us, but they comfort us and encourage us. I am sure you have noticed this in your reading in the life of Jacob, in the life of Israel, when he was sent away by his mother, escaping the fierce wrath and hatred of his brother Esau [Genesis 27:41-44], when he came to a place that he called Bethel, he lay himself down to sleep [Genesis 28:11]. And as he slept, he dreamed a dream. He saw a ladder from earth leaning against the balustrades and the battlements of heaven. And do you remember what the Bible says? On that ladder, he saw the angels of God descending and ascending? No, oh no! He saw the angels of God ascending and descending [Genesis 28:12]. They were here. They are here [Psalm 91:11-12]. God’s guardian angels are here. And when the Lord opened the eyes of Israel, they were ascending and descending; comforting, strengthening [Genesis 28:12].
Is that not so in the life of Elijah? He sat himself down and lay himself down under a Juniper tree and asked God that he might die [1 Kings 19:4]. And early in the morning, an angel prepared for him a breakfast and a cruse of water and took care of God’s despondent, discouraged prophet [1 Kings 19:5-7]. That’s the angel of God. There’s no one of us but that have experienced that—the discouragement, and the frustration, and the heartache, and the despondency of our pilgrim ways. Then God sends His guardian angel, and he comforts us, strengthens us, and encourages us. Isn’t that true in the life of our Lord? The story of the temptation of our Savior [Matthew 4:1-10], closes with, “And the angels strengthened Him” [Matthew 4:11]. And isn’t that the beautiful presence from God in the garden of Gethsemane when He agonized before His crucifixion? [Luke 22:41-42, 44]. An angel came and ministered to Him [Luke 22: 43]—angels, God’s comforting angels.
And they direct us in our ways. Any one of us, anytime, before any choice or any decision, any one of us can ask the help and direction of God’s guardian angels who will be there to guide us in the way. We have but to ask. It was a guardian, guiding angel who spoke to Hagar and pointed to her a well of water that could save both the mother and Ishmael, her son; an angel did that [Genesis 21:16-19]. It was a guardian angel that guided Israel through the wilderness. Exodus and Numbers, both books, speak of that directing Angel [Exodus 23:20; Numbers 20:16].
Wasn’t it an angel of the Lord that spoke to Philip, guiding him to the conversion of that treasurer of Ethiopia? [Acts 8:26-39]. And was it not a guiding angel that spoke to Cornelius: “Send down to Joppa for one Simon the tanner who will come and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved?” [Acts 10:3-6, 11:13-14]. Directing angels; just ask, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know where to turn, and I don’t know what to say.” He will send an angel who will guide you and direct you in the way to follow and the word to say.
God’s guardian angels: and I haven’t time to speak of the wonderful reception when our Lord returned to heaven [Acts 1:9-10], after His resurrection from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. It says in the Book of Ephesians that when our Lord returned to glory, He took captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men [Ephesians 4:8]. The imagery is of a Roman triumph, but our Lord, having conquered sin and Death and the Grave [1 Corinthians 15:54-57], returned to heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. And I can vividly imagine the hosts of the angels welcoming our Savior back to glory. Oh, marvelous, incomparably sweet and precious, the company of angels who serve our Lord and who serve us [Hebrews 1:7, 14].
I close. They appear at the end of the age.
- In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, time and again our Lord will speak of the angel reapers at end of the age [Matthew 13:30, 39].
- In Matthew 13:39: “The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”
- In verse 41 of this thirteenth chapter: “The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend” [Matthew 13:41].
- And in verse 49: “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the just” [Matthew 13:49].
These judgment angels.
- It was the angels we spoke of who brought judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19:1, 24-25].
- It was the angel of God that passed over the Assyrian host and left one hundred eighty-five thousand dead [Isaiah 37:36].
- It was an angel of God that struck Herod Agrippa I that he died in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 12:23].
- And it is an angel of God that will seize Satan and chain him for a millennial period [Revelation 20:1-3].
It is the angels of God who, at the denouement of the age and the consummation and judgment of this earth, will be the representatives of our Lord God to cleanse the earth of all of unrighteousness and establish the kingdom of heaven in purity and perfection and glory [Matthew 13:41]. And it will be with the hosts of heaven, the angels of God, that our Lord returns to this world [Revelation 19:11-14].
In Matthew 24 [Matthew 24:30-31], in Matthew 25 [Matthew 25:31], in Mark 8 [Mark 8:38], in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians [2 Thessalonians1:7], and throughout the whole Book of the Revelation, our Lord is depicted, He is revealed as coming down in glory from heaven, accompanied by the hosts of angels. Heretofore, we’ve seen them in the Bible. We have seen them by ones [Genesis 16:7], and by twos [Genesis 19:1], and by threes [Genesis 18:2]. One time there was a choir of angels singing at the birth of our Lord [Luke 2:13-14], but when Jesus comes again, He will be accompanied by all of the innumerable hosts of God’s angels in heaven [Jude 1:14].
I want to read for you a Greek sentence. In the fifth chapter of the Revelation, verse 11: “I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts—no, the cherubim—and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” [Revelation 5:11]. That’s a magnificent translation. Chiliades was an arithmos—our word arithmetic comes from it. And the number—the arithmos—outpouring of them: muriades muriadōn. In Greek, an “u” in English becomes a “y.” Myriads multiplied by myriads, uncounted tens of thousands. Chiliades, chiliades is the word for thousands; and chiliades chiliadon muriades muriadōn; myriads of myriads of myriads; chiliades chiliadon, and thousands times thousands times thousands [Revelation 5:11].
Lord, could it be, could it be that these eyes will see the glory of heaven when it is rolled back like a scroll [Matthew 24:35], and Jesus our Lord comes down, accompanied by the myriads times myriads times thousands times ten thousand of the innumerable hosts of glory? [Revelation 5:11]. Lord, it is more than my poor heart could understand or receive or enter into; the great, good, glorious things God hath prepared for them who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
And that’s our appeal to your heart. A family you coming to the Lord and to us, or a couple you, or just one somebody you, “Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life.” Down one of these stairways, if you’re in the balcony there’s time to spare; down one of these aisles if you’re in the press of people on this lower floor; “God has spoken to my heart, and, pastor, I’m coming.” Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand, stand, that first step will be the greatest and most meaningful you’ve ever made in your life. A thousand times welcome, and may the angels of God attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
A. My experiences
typical of what all of us share
text – “ministering spirits”(Hebrews 1:14)
servants to help us, His imperfect children (1
angels assigned to us as children (Matthew 18:10,
for us throughout life (Psalm 34:7, 91:11-12)
for us when we die (Luke 16:22)
II. The Bible introduces them to us
not to be worshiped(Colossians 1:16, Revelation
B. Innumerable(Hebrews 12:22)
power (Isaiah 37:36, Revelation 20:1-2, Matthew
III. Their rank, names, assignment –
individuals as we are
– archangel; angelonischuron, the mighty angel; cherubim; seraphim(Genesis 2:24, Exodus 25:20, 26:1, 31, Revelation 5:8,
God knows us by name(1 Samuel 3:1-10, John 10:3,
Luke 19:5, Acts 9:6-12)
Their names – Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel; Raphael, Uriel
one has a separate assignment(Revelation 5:2,
10:1, 12:7 Daniel 9:21, 10:13, 12:1, Luke 1:19, 26, Jude 1:9)
IV. Ministering to God’s people
delivering(Genesis 19:15-16, 22:10-12, 2 Kings 6:15-17,
Daniel 6:20-22, Acts 12:6-10, 27:22-23)
B. Comforting(Genesis 28:12, 1 Kings 19:4-8, Matthew 4:11, Luke
C. Directing(Genesis 21:17-19, Exodus 23:20, Acts 8:26, 10:5-6,
Ephesians 4:8, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
V. Their appearance at the end of the age
reapers(Matthew 13:39, , Genesis 19:1, 24-25,
Isaiah 37:36, Acts 12:23, Revelation 20:1-3)
accompany Christ in His final return to earth (Revelation
19:11-14, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, Matthew 24:31, 25:31, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Luke
1. All the myriads(Revelation 5:11-13)