Robert Jeffress - The Truth About Angels
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. People today, both Christians and non-Christians alike, are fascinated by the subject of angels. In fact, the sensational stories abound. And yet very few people actually know the truth about the role of angels in our lives. Today, and over the next few weeks, I want to shed light on what the Bible teaches about these mysterious beings. My message is titled: "The Truth About Angels", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
People have always been fascinated with the subject of angels. Recent polls reveal that 70% of Americans believe in the existence of angels. 46% of Americans believe that they have a guardian angel. 32% believe that they've had a personal encounter with an angel. Back in 1975 when Billy Graham wrote his groundbreaking book on angels he claims he couldn't find any books, any material anywhere on the subject: but now more than 40 years later you can go to bookstores and see whole sections devoted to angelology, the study of angels. But is this increase in interest in angels in our country, is it a sign of a growing spirituality in our country or is it an indicator of something else?
Our friend Dr. David Jeremiah writes: "The syrupy sweet spirit tingling taste of a little angelism can ruin people's appetite for the good solid food of God's word and his Gospel of grace and truth". Even Time Magazine agrees with that assessment when it writes: for those who choke too easily on God and his rules, angels are the handy compromise: all fluff and meringue, kind, nonjudgmental, and they are available to everyone like aspirin. Another writer says: angels offer spirituality devoid of Jesus and God: belief in God has been so de-popularized in America that now belief in anything can happen. The search is on for spirituality, but without God.
How many of you find angels interesting, the topic? I mean we all do. I mean there are television shows, there are movies about angels, people are interested in angels and so for the next couple of weeks we're going to look and see what the Bible says in general and what Hebrews says specifically about angels. I'm calling this series within a series: the truth about angels: God's AAA service for believers. That's what angels really are. We'll see in just a moment, but before we look at verses 4-14 let's talk about the Bible in general and what it says about angels. Did you know there are 275 references in the Bible to the subject of angels?
When I was in seminary we had a course that every seminary student had to take on angelology, the study of angels. It's such a major topic and subject: there's a whole course devoted to it. Now I'm not going to make you enroll in seminary, I'm going to tell you in about 20 minutes everything I learned in a semester, ok. You can get it in 20 minutes, everything you need to know about angels. And so do you have your pen ready? First of all, the reality of angels. You know there are some people who overestimate angels and their importance, but there are other people who deny the existence of angels. They think: oh, this is just mythology. Angels, why, they're invisible. And they think invisible means not real.
You know that's a tragic mistake to assume that something that is not visible to the naked eye is not real. I mean electricity is invisible, but just stick your finger in a socket, you'll discover the reality of electricity. You can't see it, but it's certainly there, isn't it? Now think of other things we can't see, germs, genes, chromosomes, so many of the foundations of science are invisible to the naked eye, but they are nevertheless real. So it is with the angels. Now I want you to look at several things the Bible tells us about angels. First of all about their creation. Angels have not always existed. They are not like God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who've existed from eternity past. There was a point in time in which angels were created.
Colossians 1:16 says, "For by him", that is Jesus, "all things were created both in heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things have been created by Jesus and for Jesus". Jesus created everything we see and those things we don't see including the invisible angels. The phrase "Thrones, dominions, rulers" is a reference to angels. When did this happen? At what point in history did God create the angels? Well remember in Job 38:4 God asked Job a question. He said, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation"? And then he adds in verse 7, "When the morning stars sang together and all of the angels shouted for joy".
Now we know God formed the foundation of the earth on the third day of creation so that means the angels had to be in existence by then. So they were created sometime before the third day of creation. How many of them are there? Well Hebrews 12:22 speaks of thousands upon thousands, but the Bible also speaks of in Psalm 68:17 ten thousands upon ten thousands. In fact in Revelation 5:11 John says, "And I looked and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of those angels was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands". That Greek word "Myriad" represented the highest level of number in the Greek system: 10 thousand. And so when John says "I saw myriads upon myriads", he was saying: I saw ten thousands upon ten thousands. There are literally hundreds of millions of angels.
We've talked about their reality and their creation, let's talk about their personality. Did you know angels have a personality? Say what do you mean by that? I want you to think for a moment, think about the difference between me and this wooden podium. Hopefully you can see a difference between the two of us. But beyond physiology, this podium has no personality. I have a personality like you do.
You see there are three elements that constitute a personality. To have a personality you have to have, first of all, intellect. You have to know things: you have to have accumulated knowledge. This podium knows absolutely nothing. Secondly, you have to have emotion. You have to be able to feel things. This podium can't feel anything. Thirdly, you have to have a will. That is the ability to make a choice to make a plan and to execute that plan. I do that. This podium can't do that. This podium while I'm preaching cannot be thinking: gee, I wonder what I'll do for lunch today. I think maybe I'll have a roast beef sandwich. It's not thinking that: but I'm thinking that right now. And I know some of you are thinking that right now. There's a difference between me and this podium.
Did you know angels have all three elements of a personality? First of all, the Bible says that they have intellect. They know things. In some ways their intellect is greater than ours because they've been around a longer period of time. They've accumulated certain knowledge. Did you know that even the fallen angels, the demons, have intelligence, intellect, they understand things about Jesus Christ that many humans don't understand? In Mark 1:24 and 34 the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Did you know demons are very orthodox in their theology? They believe all of the right things about Jesus. You know even though angels understand a lot of things, perhaps better than we do, there's one thing they have no clue about, and that is our salvation.
The angels are curious about why the great God of the universe would humble himself, send his Son to Calvary to die a humiliating death on our behalf. In 1 Peter 1:11-12 Peter's talking about the prophets, how they had limited knowledge. He says, "The prophets seeking to know what person or time the spirit of Christ within them was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ in the glories to follow: it was revealed to the prophets that they were not serving themselves, but you in these things in which now have been announced to you through those who preached the Gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven: things into which the angels long to look".
What Peter is saying is the prophets didn't understand everything they were writing about, but now the apostles had preached to you the story of Christ and his redemption, the salvation he offers, subject matter which the angels long to look into. They don't get it, they don't understand it. In fact, did you know one of the chief reasons Christ saved you was so that all creation, Ephesians 2 says, all creation in heaven, on earth, and under the earth can see what a magnificent God we serve? Jesus Christ and his coming to earth is exhibit a to all of the created being, both in heaven and in earth: maybe on other planets. I know I'll get letters about that.
I don't know if there are other people out there or not, but what I do know is if there is life in other places in the universe, God is pointing to planet earth and saying: if you want to know what kind of God I am and how much I love humanity, look and see what I did in sending my son Jesus to die for this race that I created, the human race. That's what the angels don't get. We are exhibit A's of God's love and compassion. Angels have intellect. Secondly, angels have emotion. Job 38:7 says they express joy. Isaiah 6:3 says they have the ability to worship. Luke 15 says: verse 10 that they rejoice when somebody comes to faith in Christ.
Thirdly, the Bible says angels have a will. That is they have the ability to choose a course of action and to follow it. For example, Lucifer, satan, the chief angel in Isaiah 14 - remember what led to his downfall? He said: I will ascend to God's holy mountain and I will be like the Most High. Five times he says: I will, I will, I will. He made a choice, and he suffered the consequences of that choice. Revelation 12:4 indicates that a group of angels chose to follow him in his rebellion against God and were cast to the earth and under the earth as well. And, by the way, that decision is an irrevocable decision. There is no demon who will ever be redeemed to be an angel and there is no angel who will ever fall to be a demon again. It is a once-forever decision that is made.
Third, their appearance. Angels are spirit beings according to Hebrews 1:14. They don't possess bodies most of the time, but even though they don't possess bodies most of the time they do have some of the limitation that we experience especially in regard to time and space. For example, Daniel 9:21-23 speaks of angels flitting about from one place to another. Daniel 10 speaks about an angel that was delayed because of another spirit. We can deduce from these verses that angels unlike God are not omnipresent. They can't be more than one place at a time.
Where do angels reside right now? Well there are some in heaven, we know. We'll talk about the subject of guardian angels next time. I think their location has to do with their rank. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there is a ranking of angels. Some angels are given special assignments over nations. For example, Michael is called the Archangel, the special protector of the nation of Israel. Perhaps there are other angels who are assigned to other countries to fulfill God's purpose for that country. Although angels are mostly invisible, at times they actually take on human form. They appear as people. Sometimes people we don't recognize. Hebrews 13:2 says, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it".
Do you remember the stories in the Old Testament about Abraham and Sarah and others who entertained people that they later found out were actual angels in disguise? That's why you better be nice to everybody around you. Look at the person next to you. Do you realize they could be an angel? You say: naaah, demon yes, angel no. No. Bible says be nice to strangers: sometimes they take on human form. Sometimes, sometimes their appearance can be downright frightening. Think about those four soldiers on duty guarding the tomb of Jesus and the angel who rolled the stone away. I mean they were frozen in panic.
Or think about Gabriel when he appeared to Mary and to Elizabeth. Remember what Gabriel always had to say, first thing he always had to say whether it was to Mary, Elizabeth or to shepherds watching their flock by night? He always had to start out with: fear not! Fear not! I mean that just wasn't an angelic greeting. He was saying: please don't have a heart attack on me here. Fear not, I'm here with good news. I've got good news for you. A lot of times when an angel showed up it was with bad news, but Gabriel said this is good news. Sometimes the appearance of angels, the form they take is unbelievable.
In Revelation 10 we're told about the mighty angel who put one foot on a continent and put another foot in the sea. Now that's one big angel. So they can appear in a number of ways. Angels are wonderful, they are helpful, but they are never to be taken as superior to Jesus Christ. Jesus is superior to these curious beings called the angels. In what way are they superior to the angels? Well starting in verse 4 the writer to Hebrews points out four ways Christ is superior to the angels. How is he superior? Look at verse 4, "Jesus having become as much better than the angels as he has inherited a more excellent name than they". First of all, Christ possesses a superior name over the angels. A superior name.
Now I want you to look at this phrase, verse 4, "Jesus has become much better than the angels". In what sense has he become better than the angels? Well at one point when Jesus was on earth, he was lower than the angels. When he took on human form, now listen to this, he didn't give up his deity but he took on humanity. He voluntarily limited himself: he limited his rights while he was on earth. So for a while he existed like you and I exist right now. We are lower than the angels, but now that he is in heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords he is superior to the angels just as we will be one day as well. Secondly, Christ is a superior object of worship. He's a superior object of worship. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to pray to angels or to speak to angels or to request the assistance of angels. We are to speak and pray and worship God.
Look at verse 6, "And when again God brings the firstborn into the world he says", and he quotes from the Old Testament, "And let all the angels of God worship him". When Jesus came to earth he didn't worship the angels, the angels worshiped him. Remember the apostle John? He was tempted to worship the angels when he was on Patmos receiving the Revelation. Remember Revelation 19:10 says, "And I, John, fell at the angels' feet to worship him, and he said to me, 'do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren, who hold the testimony of Jesus, worship God'".
You know interestingly the only person in the Bible who ever encouraged somebody else to worship or speak to angels was satan. Remember when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness? What did satan say to Jesus? Oh, go to the angels, they will minister to you. They will protect you. Seek help from the angels. No, we're to never worship angels - we're to worship God who created and rules over the angels. Number three, Christ is superior because he rules over a superior kingdom. Verses 7-12, look at verse 7, "And of the angels he says", again an Old Testament quotation, "Who makes his angels winds and his ministers a flame of fire".
Angels, like wind and fire, are servants of Christ: they are constantly going back and forth doing his will. We don't have time to look at it, but verses 10-12 tells us that one day Jesus is going to roll up the heavens and earth like an old garment and discard them, and there's going to be a new heaven and earth that he will reign over, and we will as well. Finally, Christ is superior to the angels because he will enjoy a superior victory. Verse 13 says, "But to which of the angels has he ever said: sit at my right hand until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet"? Did you know one day Jesus is not just going to rule over the earth and the heavens, not just rule over believers but unbelievers in hell as well. His enemies will become his footstool, the Bible says.
Now what is the purpose of angels? Verse 14 tells us, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation"? That's why I call them God's AAA service: always available to assist. In his book that I mentioned earlier on the subject of angels, Billy Graham recounts the true story of Dr. S.W. Mitchell, a celebrated Philadelphia neurologist who had gone to bed one night after an exceptionally tiring day. Suddenly Dr. Mitchell was awakened by someone knocking on his door.
Opening the door he found a little girl poorly dressed and deeply upset. She told him her mother was very sick and asked the doctor if he would please come with her. It was a bitterly cold night in Philadelphia, it was snowing, Dr. Mitchell said he was bone tired, but he dressed and he followed the girl. As reader's digest reports the story, Dr. Mitchell found the mother desperately ill with pneumonia. After arranging for medical care he complimented the sick woman on the intelligence and persistence of her little daughter. The woman looked at him strangely and said: my daughter died a month ago. She added: her shoes and coat are still in the closet there.
Dr. Mitchell amazed and perplexed went to the closet and opened the door. There hung the very coat worn by the little girl who had brought him to tend to her mother. It was warm and dry, Dr. Mitchell said, and could not have possibly been out in the cold on that wintery night. Is it possible that Dr. Mitchell had witnessed the ministry of an angel, an angel who chose to appear in the form of that mother's daughter to bring help to her when no help was available any other way? We shouldn't be surprised at those kinds of stories. The Bible says angels are real. They are here to minister, to help those who've inherited salvation.