Our Friends, the Angels
August 12th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-12-87 7:30 p.m.
Our subject tonight is one of the most interesting to which we could ever give our prayerful thought and attention: Our Friends, the Angels. First, their creation – where they came from: all angels are created spirit beings. Psalm 148, verses 2 and 5: "Let the angels praise the name of the Lord, for God commanded and they were created" [Psalm 142:5].
In Colossians 1:16: "For by Christ Jesus were all things created." Then the apostle names angelic orders. "All things were created by Him and for Him" [Colossians 1:16]. They possibly were the first work of creation by the hand of the Lord for in Job 38, verses 4 through 7, we learn that they shouted for joy when God laid the foundations of the earth.
Now, that would mean that they, being created beings, they’re not self-existent. They are not omniscient or omnipotent or omnipresent, and they are certainly not to be worshiped. In Colossians 2:18, Paul expresses an emphatic interdiction against the worshiping of angels. They are created spirit beings.
Now, their categories and divisions: there are myriads and myriads upon myriads of angels [Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11], and they are organized into ranks and divisions.
First, there are both holy angels and fallen evil angels, but this was not always the case. God did not create them some holy and some evil. When God created them, they all were perfect; but like us, like all mankind, they had freedom of choice [Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 2:24; Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:7-9]. They were not robots. You are not a robot. You can choose your destiny [Numbers 14:3-10, 20-24; Joshua 24:15; Matthew 11:20-24, 23:37-39; Luke 13:34, 18:18-24; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Galatians 6:7-8]. The angels were made just as you are created. They are not robots. They had a choice.
Now, angels that chose to worship God were confirmed in that character forever [Matthew 8:28-29; Mark 5:2-12; Luke 8:26-33; 2 Peter 2:24; Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:7-9, 20:1-3, 7-8, 10]. They are holy and elect angels just as you are going to be [Matthew 22:30]. After our death or the coming of our Lord, whichever is first, and after our resurrection and judgment, we will be confirmed in that character forever [Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2].
It is also true about those that chose to follow Satan. They were confirmed forever in that character as we’re going to be confirmed who die without Christ. If anyone dies without Christ, after the great judgment day he is forever confirmed in that character; and that same situation that obtains with us obtained with the angels. The good angels are confirmed in that choice forever. The evil angels are confirmed in their choice forever. So in the sixth verse of Jude, he speaks of the angels who "kept not their first estate" [Jude 1:6]; and thereafter those fallen, evil angels are referred to as demons [Matthew 9:24, 12:24-39; Mark 1:34, 39, 3:15, 22, 5:12, 6:13; Luke 4:41, 8:27-38, 9:1, 10:17-22, 11:15-20, 13:32; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 1 Timothy 4:1; James 2:19; Revelation 9:20, 16:14, 18:2]. They are fallen angels [Ephesians 6:10-12].
Now, we’re going to speak of the divisions of the holy and elect angels. First, we name Michael. Michael is the one archangel that is named in the Bible. In Jude, verse 9, he is called archaggelos – archos, chief; aggelos, angel. He is the chief angel [Jude 1:9]. In Daniel 10:13, Michael came to help an elect angel sent from heaven with a message for Daniel, but he was interposed and interdicted by a powerful evil spirit and Michael came to help him. In Daniel 12, Michael is depicted as the great champion of the nation of Israel [Daniel 12:1]. In Revelation 12, which we read together, Michael and his angels will cast out Satan and his demons from the heavens [Revelation 12:7-9]; and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Jesus will come for His saints with the voice of the archangel, and the only archangel we know is Michael. So, when the Lord comes, not only will the sound of the trumpet, with the resurrection of the dead, with the rapture of the church, but He is also coming with the voice of the archangel. Can you think that we are going to live to see and to be a part of these incomparable revelations in the Bible?
Second, Gabriel: he is always the messenger of God. There are four times in the Bible when Gabriel is named, and he’s always named in that capacity. He is a messenger from heaven. In Daniel 8:16, he’s that. In Daniel 9:21, he is that. In Luke 1:19, he announces to Zacharias the birth of John the Baptist; and in Luke 1:26, he announces to the virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of Jesus.
Then there are the cherubim – cherub; plural: cherubim. They are angels of mercy. In Genesis 3:24, with the flaming sword, the cherubim guarded the tree of life, and we find it finally by the river of life in the New Jerusalem [Revelation 22:1-2]. In the tabernacle and in the temple, the cherubim were woven into the veil – in the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies [Exodus 26:31-37; 2 Chronicles 3:14]. In the temple [2 Chronicles 5:7-8], winged cherubim – and also in the tabernacle [Exodus 25:17-22] – were above the mercy seat, and their wings touched; and in Psalm 80, verse 1: "God who dwelleth between the cherubim." And in the temple, there were carved cherubim ornamenting the walls of the building [1 Kings 6:21-29].
The only idea we have of those cherubim is symbolical. Isn’t that one of the strangest things in the world? We have lost what the cherubim look like, but they appear graphically in Ezekiel 10, verse 1, and in Ezekiel 9, verse 3 where they are identified as the living creatures of the first chapter. You know, those that went in every direction at the will of God – they are plainly symbolical there. We don’t know what the cherubim look like.
Now the seraphim: Isaiah 6, verse 2 and  – this is the only reference in Holy Scripture to the seraphim. They have to do with holiness and sanctity. They cry forever, day and night, "Holy, holy, holy" [Isaiah 6:2-3]; and one of the seraphim – the word means "the burning ones" – one of the seraphim took a coal from off the altar and laid it upon the lips of Isaiah that he might be a holy spokesman of God [Isaiah 6:6-7].
Now we speak of their ministries. What do these angels do? What are their assignments from heaven? In Hebrews 1, verse 14 – the concluding verse of that first chapter – the inspired writer says of these angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?" They are our servants. They are our ministering spirits to help us, strengthen us, and encourage us, and watch over us in our lives.
Now, we’re going to name them according to the Word of God. First, there are guardian angels. In Daniel 6, verses 19 and 22, Daniel says, "God hath sent His angel and hath shut the lions’ mouths" [Daniel 6:22]. An angel from heaven guarded and kept sacred the life of Daniel.
In 2 Kings 6, verses 15 to 17, Elisha prayed, "Lord, open his eyes that he may see" [2 Kings 6:17]. When Gehazi the servant said, "O my lord, my lord, we are surrounded by these hosts of the King of Syria," Elisha, unperturbed, quiet in the presence of the Lord, said, "Open his eyes." And when God answered that prayer, the mountains were full of the horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha – guardian angels.
In Acts 5:17-20, the apostles are in prison. Now, I quote, "But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, speak in the temple to all the people the words of this life’" [Acts 5:19-20]. You see that guardian angel again in Acts 12:-11. Peter is out of his chains. They fell from his hands. He’s out of the prison cell; the iron door opened of itself. Now, I quote, "And when Peter was come to himself, he said, ‘Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me’" [Acts 12:11].
In Psalm 34:7: "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about those who fear Him, and delivereth them." In Matthew 18:10: "These little ones, I say unto you" – speaking from the lips of our Lord – "that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven." A little one can be a little child; a little one can be a humble believer in the Lord Jesus.
Do you believe in guardian angels? I want to take a leaf out of my life in no wise thinking now that God is unusually good to me above anyone else, for when I speak of these things in my own life, I but am representative of you. Speaking of guardian angels – and there are areas in life that are representative, and I speak of them, and I am talking about these ministering spirits, these guardian angels that God sends to take care of us who are the heirs of salvation. Now these are just things that are typical in human life and representative in mine.
I was driving through Tennessee and on a highway, and in front of me was a truck with a long, long, long empty bed. And going at a fast pace, why, I pulled to the left to go around the truck, and out of nowhere he suddenly turned to go into a dirt road. Never in the earth would it ever occur to me that a great big, heavy truck like that would turn from the big highway to go into a dirt road, and I was there and prepared to die. Of course, I slammed on my brakes and pulled the steering wheel to the left; and in a providence I cannot understand – there had been a shower just before and the pavement was wet – and my car spun around and stopped right before that truck. How could such a thing be? A guardian angel.
Now, in another category: I was walking from this entrance over here, through right underneath where I now stand, and out to the Kadane Plaza over there. And when I entered underneath the auditorium here, when I entered that passage, a black man got in step with me; and he walked by my side, and he walked with me all the way through and clear out on the other side. When he left me, he went to another place, robbed the man, shot him, killed him; and the policemen, being alerted, shot him, killed him. When he walked by my side, the same gun that he used to kill that other man he robbed was in his pocket when he walked by me. Why didn’t he rob me? We were down there alone walking through that passageway. A guardian angel.
When that jungle received that plane that fell out of the sky, and I am in it – 6,400 feet up there in the air, and it seemed to me a little engine exploded. It had pontoons on it. The pontoons looked to me to be as big as the plane itself, and beneath, the jungle 300 feet deep. That jungle in the Amazon is as big as continental United States – not a road in it, not a bridge in it – but when you sink, you sink out of sight. How is it? Could there have been one different facet? There was no possibility of our being alive, the pilot and I. The guardian angel.
Just one other in an altogether different category. The executive committee of our fellowship of deacons called me to the Dallas Country Club for breakfast. I sat down with them – about, at that time, about eight or nine – and they made the announcement to me that we had to sell the Spurgeon-Harris Building. Our church owed ten and a half million dollars, and we were paying twenty-three and one-half percent interest on it; and the men said to me there is nothing possible but to sell the Spurgeon-Harris Building – that building right there – and try to pull that debt down to where our church can carry it. One of the heaviest of all of the intercessory burdens I ever took to God in all of my life: I agonized before the Lord, wept before the Lord, cried unto God.
And at that time, the YMCA Building which is right there covered half a block from that street to this street – from Patterson Street to San Jacinto Street, 14 stories high. They offered it for $717,000 – the YMCA Building. So, with the help of a guardian angel – the church couldn’t buy it; they were in the process of selling the Spurgeon-Harris Building. With God’s help, a partner and I bought that building then the street next to it, the San Jacinto Street that runs right into the middle of it. The San Jacinto Street – out of the blue of the sky, the city decided to sell it, and we bought San Jacinto Street. Then the Baptist Building came up for sale, and we bought the Baptist Building. Our church already owned the SMU night teaching ministry building on that far corner. And we put the property together, and Lincoln Properties took it and paid off our debt, and not only that but gives us the income from those parking buildings that amounts to about $1,400,000 a year and keeps rising every year.
There’s no way in God’s world that you could explain that except in the intervention of Heaven. God sent His ministering angel, and he helped us; and we kept our Spurgeon-Harris Building, and we have these properties out of debt. We owe some on our Ruth Hunt Youth Building, but it’s small enough for our people to pay for. This is God’s ministering spirits sent to help us we who are the heirs of salvation.
Now, let me conclude from the Bible. There are carrying angels – plural. In Luke 16:19-22, there are angels that carry Lazarus into heaven – not escorted him, they carried him into heaven. There are angels that carry us to God.
There are strengthening and comforting angels. In Luke 22:43: "And there appeared an angel unto Jesus from heaven, strengthening Him." In Acts 27, verse 23: "For there stood by me this night the angel of God whose I am – and whose I am – saying, ‘Fear not’" [Acts 27:23-24]. (And I forgot to put my glasses on.)
There are watching angels. There are watching angels. 1 Timothy 3:16: "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels." They witnessed the salvation drama – all the things that attended the life of our atoning Lord. In 1 Peter 1:12, Peter, speaking of the marvelous salvation wrought by the suffering of our Lord and the glory which followed after says, "Which things angels desire to look into."
In 1 Corinthians 11:10: "For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels." You women who are here in church, Paul says the angels look upon you, and you are to be decorous and nice and gracious. The services of worship are to be worthy of our Lord. I’d say that would be a nice incentive to have nice services, don’t you? To have a riotous service – to have one that is full of all of the things that sometimes go on in a worship hour – to me, it is unthinkable; and our services ought to have order and decorum because of the angels who watch us.
In 1 Timothy 5:21: "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that thou observe these things without partiality." In 1 Corinthians 4:9: "For I think that God hath set forth us, the apostles, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels and unto men."
Now, the role of angels at the end of the world: they take a great part – angels both good and evil – in the denouement of the age. In Revelation 7:1, four angels hold the four winds of the earth. In Revelation 7:2, an angel ascends from the east with a seal to mark the 144,000 [Revelation 7:3-4]. In Revelation 8, verses 2 to 6, seven angels sound their trumpets of judgment. In Revelation 14, verses 6 and 7, an angel proclaims the everlasting gospel. In Revelation 14, verses 14 to 20, an angel with a sharp sickle gathers the grapes of judgment. In Revelation 15, verse 7, seven angels are given the seven golden vials full of the wrath of God.
Now, what do they do in the denouement of the age at the end of the consummation? Number one, in the rapture of the church – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first.
And we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The only archangel named, as I said, is Michael. And the angels – you see, I don’t know, but I just love to think about these things – when Michael sounds the trumpet, did you hear me say a while ago the angels carry us to heaven? The angels bear us on wings of love to heaven. When Michael sounds the trumpet and Jesus comes, the dead in Christ rise first and those angels are going to waft them to glory, going to bear them on wings of angels into heaven.
After the coming of our Lord, immediately the earth is visited by what we call the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation. In the first half of the seven years of the Tribulation, three-and-a-half years, there is the war in heaven that you read about wherein Satan and his demons are cast out into the earth [Revelation 12:1-9]. That’s the first of the three-and-a-half years.
Then the second half of that three-and-a-half year Tribulation period, the demons under Satan are going to bring unmitigated misery and damnation and horror into this earth. In Revelation 9, verses 1 to 11, from the abyss they come in the form of locusts with stings like scorpions. In Revelation 9:13-21, the demons appear as riders on horses. In Revelation 16:13-14, three unclean spirit leaders gather the forces of the earth for the great and final battle of Armageddon. That is the Great Tribulation, and it ends in the second coming of Christ.
Matthew 25:31: When Christ comes again, He will appear with all His holy angels, and the Greek says "all" as well as our English New Testament. When the Lord comes again, He will appear. Now this isn’t the rapture. That’s before the Tribulation. When the Lord comes again, openly, publicly, He’s going to appear with all of His holy angels. Second Thessalonians 1, verses 7 and 8: "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels" [2 Thessalonians 1:8]. In Matthew 24:30-31: "The angels with a great sound of a trumpet will gather God’s elect from one end of the earth to the other" [Matthew 24:31], and in Revelation 20:1-3, an angel with the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand binds Satan and casts him into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. That’s the introduction to the millennium.
May I pause to make a comment? You can’t stay here all night, but let me make one comment along the way as I go. I’m almost through. It says specifically in that twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation that an angel – singular, one – an angel with a key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand lays hold upon Satan and binds him and casts him into the abyss for a thousand years – one angel [Revelation 20:1-3]; and the Bible specifically says that there are muriades and muriadon, myriads upon myriads upon myriads and thousands of myriads [Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11]. Ah, and one angel – one – laid hands upon Satan, chained him, and cast him into the bottomless pit.
You know, just thinking about the power of an angel – when Hezekiah came before the Lord God and spread out before God the threatening letter from the forces of Sennacherib and prayed God for deliverance [2 Kings 19:14-19; 2 Chronicles 32:20; Isaiah 37:14-20] – the army of the Assyrian surrounded Jerusalem and poor Hezekiah pleading before God – and that night one angel, one angel, passed over the camp of the Assyrians, and when the morning sun arose, 185,000 of his soldiers were corpses [2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 37:36]. They were dead – one angel just passing over. Ah, when I think of the end of the age and the power of these angels, dear God, no wonder the apostle says, "There stood by me this night the angel of the Lord whose I am and whom I trust saying, ‘Fear not. Don’t be afraid’" [Acts 27:23-24].
Now, to close. This is an appeal for us. In Hebrews chapter 13, verse 2 – I can never remember to put on these glasses. In Hebrews 13, verse 2: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." That’s one of the most amazing verses. Don’t forget to be kind, and gracious, and generous to people who are strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. Of course what he’s referring to is Genesis 18 and 19 – the angels that came and visited Abraham [Genesis 18:1-33] and the angels that came and visited Lot [Genesis 19:1-29]. They looked like just people. They had assumed the form of humanity [Genesis 18:1-2, 19:4-5].
Now, I want to take a sentence out of Clement of Rome. In his epistle to the Corinthians in AD 95 – he was a contemporary of John, the sainted apostle John – Clement of Rome. He appeals to the people in Corinth to be kind to strangers using those same examples, and I quote from him. Now listen to the quote.
Clement of Rome wrote in 95 AD, "For his faith and hospitality, a son was given to Abraham in his old age [First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 10:6-7]. And for his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved from Sodom [First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 11:1]." "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares [Hebrews 13:2]."
They are with us, and they are present; and when we’re kind to somebody, it may be we are kind to an angel. God says and we’re never to be afraid [Matthew 10:26-31; Mark 4:40; Mark 5:36, 6:50-52; Luke 1:13, 30, 2:10, 5:9-10, 8:50, 12:1-12, 32; John 6:20; Acts 18:9, 27:24; Romans 8:15; Hebrews 11:23, 13:6; 1 Peter 3:13-16; 1 John 4:18; Revolution 1:17, 2:10]. No matter the exigency or the trauma, God’s ministering spirits are close by. Don’t be afraid. I tell you it blesses me this study of the Bible and to read it and especially for my heart to prepare these Wednesday evening messages.
Now, Denny, let’s sing us a song, and I’ll be standing right here. If you children want to stay, fine, you don’t need to leave. I’ll be standing right there; and a family to come and put life and home and love and children in our dear church, welcome; a couple coming to be with us, worshiping God and praising the name of the Lord with us; a one somebody to give his heart to Jesus – as the Spirit shall press the appeal, you answer with your life. Do it now and welcome; and as I so many times say, may the angels attend you in the way as you come while we stand and while we sing.
OUR FRIENDS, THE ANGELS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Psalm 148:5, Revelation 12:7-8
I. Their creation
II. Their categories
A. Holy angels and evil angels
B. Holy and elect angels
III. Their ministries
A. Guardian angels
B. Carrying angels
C. Strengthening, comforting angels
D. Watching angels
IV. Role of angels at the end of the world
B. Great tribulation
C. Second coming of Christ
V. And appeal to us