Robert Jeffress - Touched By An Angel
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Both the old and New Testaments contain fascinating accounts of humans who encountered angels. So who are these mysterious invisible beings? And what is their purpose here on earth? Today, we'll explore the remarkable ministry of angels to both unbelievers and believers. And we'll also address the fascinating topic of guardian angels. Do supernatural beings protect and guide your life? My message is titled, "Touched by an Angel", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
In her wonderful book, "The Hiding Place", the late Corrie ten Boom tells about how God miraculously provided for her and her sister Betsy while they were incarcerated in a German concentration camp. When they were transferred to Ravensbrück, the worst of all of the camps, they immediately had to surrender any medicines that they had, but Cori says she was able to smuggle in a small bottle of liquid vitamin that was about half full. Vitamin deficiency was one of the worst hazards prisoners faced, and Cori's instinct was to hoard that little vial so she could care for her sister Betsy who was desperately sick and close to death. But Cori says others in the camp were sick too.
As she wrote, "It was hard to say no to eyes that burned with fever and hands that shook with chill". So she began to share that little vial of liquid vitamin. Soon the number receiving their daily drop was 30, and yet Cori says, "Every time I tilted the little bottle a drop appeared at the top of the stopper. Many times I lay awake trying to fathom the marvel of supply lavished upon us". What is it that kept that little vial filled with that liquid vitamin? Cori said she believed it was the angels God was using to minister to her and her sister.
You know accounts like that along with numerous accounts in the scripture remind us that angels are not fantasy, they are very real beings in the world today that God uses to accomplish his plan in our life. And yet as wonderful as angels are, they should be no substitute for worshiping Christ who rules over the angels. And that's the theme of the first portion of Hebrews 1 we've been looking at. Last time in verses 5-14 we saw how Christ is superior to the angels. Christ possesses a superior name, he's a superior object of worship, he will rule over a superior kingdom and he enjoys a superior victory. Well then are angels not important? Oh no, the writer says, angels are very important to Christians today.
Look at Hebrews 1:14, "Are they", talking about angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation"? I call angels God's AAA service: Always Available to Assist. You know how AAA works? You're stuck on the road, you call them and out they come with their truck. Well angels are like that. They are ready to render service at the command of God. For who? For those who inherit salvation. That's you and me if we are a Christian.
Did you know angels have a very real purpose in the life of unbelievers? In fact, the Bible mentions three ways that angels interface with unbelievers. First of all, angels can be ministers of God's goodness to non-Christians. Have you ever heard people say: well God doesn't hear the prayer of non-Christians, the only prayer he can hear from a non-Christian is the prayer of salvation. Now that is sheer baloney. God can hear any prayer he wants to hear, and sometimes he does listen to and even answer the prayers of non-Christians. Make no mistake about it only Christians enter into heaven, I think we've established that pretty well. Not only that, only Christians are called children of God - they have that unique relationship with God the Father, but that doesn't mean God doesn't answer the prayers of non-Christians.
You see God does not hate non-Christians. God loves non-Christians, and he does everything he can to win them to faith in Christ: and sometimes God uses good things he sends into an unbeliever's life to draw them to himself. We have a term in theology called "common grace". And common grace is the goodness of God that falls upon non-Christians as well as Christians. There is common grace that God extends to everyone, not saving grace but common grace. And what is his purpose in doing that? Romans 2:4 says, "For the kindness of God leads us to repentance". God bestows blessings upon non-Christians in order to lead them to accept saving grace from Jesus.
There are some of you here today, some of you listening to this message, maybe you're not yet a Christian and you're saying: "well I'm not sure I need to do all that trusting Christ thing, after all, I have a pretty good relationship with the man upstairs. I mean I have a good family. I'm fairly prosperous, nothing bad has happened to me. I can even point to an example of when God has answered my prayers, or he's delivered me from a disaster: everything's fine with me and God". Ladies and gentlemen, don't confuse God's goodness with God's forgiveness. God maybe good to you not because he has granted you salvation, but he wants you to come to faith in repentance and receive salvation. That's what we call common grace, and many times God will use angels to bring those blessings into an unbeliever's life.
Secondly, angels also serve as ministers of judgment against unbelievers. Turn over to Acts 12 for just a moment. You know when you look in the Bible you find that angels were ministers of judgment against unbelievers as a group. For example, Genesis 19 says angels were involved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Psalm 78 it says the angels were responsible for the 10 plagues that befell Egypt. In 2 Kings 19 there is a story about an angel slaying 185.000 Assyrian soldiers who were threatening Jerusalem. We fast forward to the Book of Revelation chapters 6 through 19, it's the angels who are instrumental in pouring out God's judgment upon the earth.
Thirdly, angels can be ministers of eternal death, not just judgment, but eternal death. Did you know angels will be the final executioner for unbelievers, the Bible says? In Revelation 20 we have the most, I think, terrifying passage in all of the Bible. It's about the Great White Throne judgment. The Bible says all of the unsaved dead who have ever lived were resurrected for a judgment, and they stood before the Great White Throne. Verse 15 says, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life he was thrown into the lake of fire".
What does that mean: his name written in the Book of Life? The only people's names who are recorded in the Book of Life are those who have trusted in Jesus as Savior, and if your name is not there when you die and you stand before that judgment, there are no second chances. You will be thrown into the lake of fire. The Bible says earlier: where the beast and the false prophet are, and you will be tormented day and night forever and ever, and there is no escape. There are no second chances after death. If any man's name was not written in the book he was thrown into the lake of fire. Who will throw the unbeliever into the lake of fire?
Look at Matthew 13:49, 50. Jesus said it will be the angels who do it, "'so it will be', Jesus said, 'at the end of the age the angels shall come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous and will cast them into the furnace of fire and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth'". It's a horrible thought, but the last thing an unbeliever sees before he's cast into hell will be the face of an angel. Angels are very real forces. They have a role in the life, the death, and the eternal judgment of unbelievers, but to us the question is: what do angels for us who are Christians? And I promise we're going to get to the answer to that question, but before we do, I want to answer an age old question that perhaps you've wondered about, and that is: do Christians have guardian angels? Is there one specific angel God has assigned to us to watch out for us? Is that what the Bible teaches?
When people talk about guardian angels they usually refer to one of three passages that appear to teach a guardian angel is assigned to each of us. The first one is Matthew 18:3, 4, "And Jesus said: truly I say to you that unless you are converted and become like children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven". You know we have this idea that children, they're just too young to be saved. I hear parents say that all the time: oh, I need to wait until my child gets older. We have this mistaken idea that children need to become like adults to be saved. Jesus said just the opposite: adults need to be like children in order to be saved.
You know it's much easier to be saved as a child than it is an adult? Statistics tell us that 85% of people who ever become Christians do so before the age of 15. The older you get the harder it becomes to be saved. Children don't have all that baggage with them. They're not filled with pride, too much pride to say: "oh, I don't need a Savior, I'm good enough". They accept the Gospel readily. Let me get to verse 5 here, "And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble it's better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea".
Who is Jesus talking about when he talks about little ones? Well he's talking about children, but not only children, he's talking about new Christians. Well they may be 70 years old but if they've just come to faith in Christ they are little one in God's family. What Jesus is saying: make sure you don't make anybody stumble, especially a child or a brand new Christian. Why? Verse 10, here we get to it, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of my Father who is in heaven". Don't despise these children. Don't despise these new Christians because their angels in heaven are beholding the face of God. Those angels in heaven are there to protect children.
You know I saw, remember I'll never forget an illustration of that in our own family. One day when we were in Wichita Falls I was supposed to have lunch with somebody and the lunch appointment canceled and I didn't have anything else to do during lunch so I went home for lunch. People say: well, what's the big deal about that? I never went home for lunch. Ever under any circumstances went home for lunch, but I walk in to the kitchen and Amy's in the kitchen cooking and Dorothy was maybe 3 or 4, and she was sitting there eating her lunch, and all of a sudden Dorothy began to turn blue. And she was choking while Amy was over cooking, so I went over and did the little Heimlich maneuver on her and the beanie weenie projectile went out of her mouth, almost hit Amy over there.
And you know we thought: why is it that I just happened to be home that day? What forces were at work that caused that lunch appointment to cancel and brought me home at just the right time? I think it was the angels who were watching out for Dorothy that brought all of that to being. Now, we do have angels watching over us, but does verse 10 actually say there is one angel that watched over Dorothy or your child? No, it just simply says there are angels in heaven. That's not a strong argument necessarily for a one, singular guardian angel.
Well here is another verse people use - Acts 12:15. This is about Herod. Before he got his case of angelitis he had ordered that Peter be in prison for preaching in the name of Jesus. Now look at verses 6 and 7, "And on the very night when Herod was about to bring Peter forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and the light shone in the cell, and the angel struck Peter's side and roused him saying, 'get up quickly'. And his chains fell off his hands".
Now there is an angel ministering to Peter, releasing him from prison. So what does Peter do? Well it was Wednesday night perhaps: he decided to go to the church prayer meeting. And they were meeting in the house of Mary, and they were there in their prayer meeting praying for Peter's release. Now this is one of the funniest things to me in the entire New Testament. So Peter goes to Mary's house. He knocks on the door. Of course they're all in their prayer: "oh Lord, please deliver Peter. We know thou arts the One who can do anything"... And he's there knocking on the door. And finally a servant girl named Rhoda comes and she opens the door. She drops her jaw when she sees: it's Peter. She runs in. "Rhoda, be quiet, we're praying. Don't you see"? "But you don't understand"! "Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet".
She kept on insisting, verse 15 said, and finally they said: you are out of your mind! That can't be Peter! Isn't that just like us? We pray and we pray and we pray for God to do something and when he does it: "oh, well, that can't be God, that's something else". No, God had answered their prayer. They said: "oh no, it can't be Peter", but she kept insisting that it was, and they kept saying, "it is his angel". Now some people actually take that verse to say: "oh, it was Peter's guardian angel. He has a guardian angel". Is that what they were saying? No, I mean if it was Peter's guardian angel, why would he look like Peter and why would he sound like Peter? I think what they were simply saying was it was his spirit that was knocking: it couldn't be the real Peter.
One more verse that people use to talk about guardian angels. Psalm 91:11-13. This is the passage we read in our scripture reading. Look at verse 11, "For God will give his angels charge concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down". Do those words sound familiar to you? He will give his angels charge concerning you? Remember those are the verses that satan quoted to Jesus when he was tempting him in the wilderness. He said: why don't you throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple. After all, and then he quoted this Psalm, his angels will guard you in all of your ways.
Of course Jesus responded with scripture: you shall not tempt the Lord your God. But this Psalm, Psalm 91 is not considered to be a Messianic Psalm, just referring to the Son of God, this is a promise that God gives all of us. He has given his angels charge concerning you and me to guard us in all of our ways. And that's one of the things angels do for us - they guard our steps in all of our ways.
You know that my dad, I've said it many times, had one job all of his adult life: worked for one company, worked for Braniff Airlines. And one of the perks of working with an airline is you got to travel free, you and your family as long as there was space available, as long as there was an empty seat. But you know, I grew up, you know going to airports thinking we were going to get on a flight, and at the very last moment a paying passenger shows up and takes away your seat.
On September 29th, 1959 I was just a few months away from turning 4 years of age when my dad made a day trip on a pass to Houston, Texas. He was scheduled to come back on the very last flight from Houston Hobby that night. He was at the ticket counter, had received his boarding pass, was ready to get on when a paying passenger showed up at the last moment and took his seat. My dad was so disappointed. He wanted to get home that night. He called my mom and said that he had missed the flight. That night Braniff Flight 542 took off at 10:44 pm from Houston Hobby Airport. 25 minutes later over Buffalo, Texas the left wing of that electro-turbo jet tore off the plane sending the plane careening into the field below killing everybody on board.
What is it that prevented my father from getting on board that plane? He believed until the day he died it was the angels who were caring for him. Not that God loved my father more than he did the man who died on the plane, but he understood that it wasn't God's plan for him to go at that time. Had he gone at that time it would not only affected him and his family and me, and ultimately you could go on and on and on to the effect it would even have on this church. It would have all worked together in some way. No, the angels were at work.
You think about the intricacies: what caused that man to show up at just the right time? The timing of the stop lights, the pressure on the accelerator, all the things that were working out to accomplish God's plan. The point is God has a plan in your life he's working out and he uses angels to accomplish that plan in ways we could never fathom.
So pastor, do we have a guardian angel? You know I don't agree with John Calvin on everything, but I think he's right when he says that whether or not there is one specific angel assigned to us really isn't that important. Calvin says: if anyone does not think it enough to know that all the orders of the heavenly host are perpetually watching for our safety, I don't see what he could gain by knowing that he has one angel as a special guardian. Translation: if you think the idea of one guardian angel is great, how much better is knowing there are whole legion of angels available to meet whatever need you have in your life. The God who controls the fate of nations of America, of Israel, and everything that is happening in the world, that same God controls the fate of your life as well.
A couple of weeks ago during the invitation time a woman came forward and she said to me: "I would like to join First Baptist Dallas. She said: I've been listening to Pathway to Victory and I know this is the church where I want to be. A year ago I was diagnosed with cancer and told I just have a few months to live". But she said: "I've got great peace about this because I know that my life is in God's hands". Your life is in God's hand, and a great promise we have is that of Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, a plan for your welfare not for your calamity. A plan, to give you a future and a hope". God uses angels to accomplish that plan. How is it the angels minister to us specifically? Next time we're going to look at three specific ways the angels minister to us in our everyday life.