Robert Jeffress - The Angels and You
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. All throughout history, people have claimed to witness miraculous events that can only be explained by the divine. Could the supernatural occurrences be the work of angels? Well, we shouldn't be surprised when we encounter God's invisible forces. And today, we'll look at several practical ways in which angels minister to Christians today. My message is titled "The Angels And You" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In his book, What the Bible Teaches About Angels David Jeremiah tells the story of missionary John Paton and his wife who served in the new Hebrides islands. And as missionaries to those islands, John Paton and his wife one night found themselves surrounded by natives who were intent on burning down the missionary compound and killing the Patons. John says all he knew to do was to pray. And so, for a sleepless night, all he and his wife could do was to pray for divine protection. The next morning, they looked outside, and to their surprise, that tribe had left without any explanation.
A year later, the chief of that tribe that had tried to kill the Patons became a Christian. And John Paton asked the chief to explain what happened that night. "Why didn't you attack us"? And the chief said, "Oh, that's easy. Because of those hundreds of men who were surrounding your home". John Paton said, "What men"? He said, "We saw hundreds of men in white shining garments with swords drawn, and we knew we were no match for that force". John Paton and wife are convinced that what those natives saw was in fact a band of angels God had sent to protect them.
Every day, there are things that happen to you and me that really can only be explained by the presence of the angels. Hebrews 1:14, and talking about angels, it says, "Are they not ministering spirits sent by God to render service on behalf of those who inherit salvation". That's why stories like that should not surprise us. Angels are working for you and me every day and in every way, and yet as wonderful as angels are, they are no substitute for Jesus Christ.
And that's the point Paul is, or the writer of Hebrews is making in Hebrews 1. Remember the book of Hebrews was written to show how Christianity is superior to every religion in the world, including Judaism. Jesus Christ is the superior priest, who is offered a superior sacrifice to obtain a superior salvation. And so, the writer is going through a detailed study of how Jesus and what he offers surpasses every element of Judaism. Jesus is superior to the prophets. Jesus is superior to the priest. Jesus is superior to the Levitical sacrificial system. And yes, Jesus is superior to angels. Nevertheless, angels are important, even though they are servants of Jesus Christ.
And so, we've taken that occasion to launch into a little mini series on what the Bible says to us about ministry of angels. Now, last time, we looked at what angels do in the lives of unbelievers. It surprises a lot of people to know that God has a purpose for the angels in the life of non-Christians. We saw, for example, that angels are ministers of God's judgment. There are occasions in the Bible where God renders judgment against a single unbeliever or an entire community of unbelievers like Sodom and Gomorrah, or he uses angels to kill 185.000 Assyrian forces. God has a ministry of judgment to unbelievers.
Secondly, angels are ministers of eternal death to unbelievers. Remember that picture in revelation 20 of the Great White Throne judgment. The Bible says all unbelievers from the beginning of time will be raised from the dead for the purpose of everlasting judgment. And the Bible says if any man's name was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire and tormented there day and night, for ever and ever. Who is it that takes that unbeliever and deposits him into this very real lake of fire. Matthew 13:49-50 says, it will be the angels. But finally, angels sometimes are ministers of God's goodness in the life of a non-Christian. God actually sometimes uses angels to bring good things into an unbeliever's life for the purpose of leading that unbeliever to faith. Romans 2:4 says, "For it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance".
Now, sometimes I get challenged when I say that, God's kindness to unbelievers. I thought God hated unbelievers. No, he loves unbelievers. He wants them to come to faith, and sometimes he uses angels to bring that goodness into their lives. Now, when people challenge me on that, sometimes they'll cite 1 Peter 3:12, which is actually a quotation of Psalm 34:15-16. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears are open to their cry, but the face of the Lord is against evil doers to cut off the memory of them from the earth. Some people say, "See their pastor". God listens to the prayers of Christians, the righteous, but he doesn't listen to the prayers of non-Christians.
Well, these verses describe God's general attitude toward unbelievers. It's true that generally, God does not listen to the prayers of unbelievers. That is his general pattern, but that doesn't mean he does it every time. Sometimes God acts against that general pattern, and he does something exceptional. I'd like to illustrate it this way. Anybody who knows me well at all knows I would rather endure a root canal than sit down and watch a three-hour football game on television. That is one of my least favorite things to do. That's my general disposition toward football on television. But that doesn't mean I never watch a football game. It would surprise some of you to know that there's sometimes a game I'm interested in. And I'll turn on the television, and I'll watch it briefly.
Whenever Amy walks into the living room, and if she hears a football game blaring from the television, she is convinced that an intruder has broken into our home, killed her pastor and seized control of the remote control. That's my general attitude, but it's not always my attitude. It's the same here with the angels, and God listening to the prayers of unbelievers. God generally does not hear the prayers of unbelievers, but sometimes he acts in an opposite way. But even though God has a plan for the angels and unbelievers, what I want you to see today is angel's major purpose is in the lives of believers like you and me. And in the few minutes we have this morning, I would like to look at four very specific ministries of angels in your life and in my life.
First of all, God uses angels to sustain and encourage us. That means to provide for our physical needs, especially in times of stress. Ken and Susie ware were ministers to Lausanne, Switzerland. And on a particular Saturday morning, they had no money and had no way to have groceries for themselves and their infant child. And so Susie ware says all that she knew to do was to pray. And she prayed very specifically. She said, "Lord, we need five pounds of potatoes. We need two pounds of flour. We need pears, carrots, and veal cutlets. Please send them. Amen". That was her prayer. A few hours later, she says they heard a knock at their door and she opened the door. And there was a strange man there in his 30s or early 40s. She said with a radiant glow about him, and he said to her, "I'm bringing what you ordered". And he had a basket with him. She said, "What are you talking about? I didn't order anything". He said, "I brought you what you ordered". She ushered the man. He emptied the basket. And it was exactly what she had prayed for.
She and her husband were so astounded that when he left, they went to the apartment window to watch him leave. They never saw him exit the apartment building. They opened their door from the apartment and looked down the only hallway, he wasn't there as well. They were convinced even to this day that what they experienced was the provision of God sent through an angel.
Now, we listen to those fantastical stories and say, I just can't believe that. I just don't believe that happens. I see some of you are skeptical as well. Why should we be skeptical if we know that God uses angels to bring judgment and death against a single person or 185.000 Assyrian soldiers, why should we be surprised that those same angels don't have the ability to provide for our needs? We see that in the life of Jesus, by the way. The angels provision for his physical needs. Matthew 4:11 says, "After 40 days of testing in the wilderness, in which Jesus had been fasting," the Bible says, "Then the devil left him and behold the angels came and they began to minister to him".
We shouldn't be surprised that angels do the same for us as well. You know, one of the greatest illustrations of the angels ability to sustain and encourage us occurs in 1 Kings 19. Turn there for just a moment, would you, to 1 Kings 19. Now, we're not going to belabor this because we looked at this passage in depth last year in our study of the character of Elijah, but just remember the setting in 1 Kings 19. Elijah has just had that successful battle on mount Carmel to prove who was the true God, the God of Israel. And remember he had killed the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah. It was the high point of his life and ministry.
But there was one person who wasn't excited about the outcome of that battle, queen Jezebel. When she heard that her false prophets had been killed by Elijah, she set her sights on God's prophet and said within 24 hours, this guy is dead. And when Elijah heard that, he began to run. Verse 3 of 1 Kings 19 says, "He became afraid and he ran for his life. And he came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah. And he left his servant there," verse 4, "And he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die. And he said, 'it is enough: now, o Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers'".
How do you explain Elijah's wanting to die? You know, I often say that he wasn't really serious about that. If he had wanted to die, he could have stayed right there with queen Jezebel. She would have finished him off. He ran. The reason he was so discouraged and depressed was he was physically exhausted. Vince Lombardi one time said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all". Whenever we get run down physically, that affects our emotions, it affects us spiritually as well. Elijah had just expended great emotional strength in that battle for the gods on mount Carmel. When he ran, he had become physically exhausted. God understood that. He knew what Elijah needed. What Elijah needed most was not to read a chapter out of his Bible. He didn't need to pray. Instead, he needed sleep, and he needed nourishment.
Look at 1 Kings 19:5-7, and Elijah lay down and he slept under a juniper tree. And behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, "Arise and eat". Then he looked, and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. So he ate, and he drank, and he lay down again. What happened there, he was by himself out in the wilderness. The first thing he did was go to sleep. You know, somebody once said sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap. Some of you right now are discouraged, it's because you're not getting enough sleep. It changes your perspective on everything. We need to rest. But he also needed to eat.
And once again, the angel provided a bread cake baked on hot stones. You've heard me say before, this is the first case of angel's food cake ever found in history right here. The angel baked the cake for Elijah. God knew what he needed. And the important point is he used an angel to provide for Elijah's physical need, but it wasn't just his physical need. By this miraculous provision by the angel, God was saying to Elijah, "I'm not through with you yet. I still had my eye on you. I know where you are, and I'm still going to continue to use you". We shouldn't be surprised that angels do that for us as well.
Secondly, angels can reveal God's will to us. The Bible says sometimes God will use an angel to reveal his will to us. But you know, we saw in Hebrews 1 that this book, the Bible, is God's complete and final revelation. Everything we need to know about God is found in this book. There is no new doctrine. There is no new revelation that people are receiving from God. Jude verse 3 says, "The faith, the body of faith has been once for all delivered to the saints".
When somebody gets on television or somebody stands in an arena and says, "God has given me a fresh revelation, a new revelation about himself," turn off the television set. That's a heretic speaking. God hasn't given any new revelation about himself. It's all right here in the book, everything we need to know about God. But it is true, God gives us personal revelation of how we should conduct our lives. Every day, we need the leadership of God in our work, in decisions about our family, our finances, our education, and a thousand other areas. And the question is, how does God provide that leadership that we need?
Romans 8:14 says, "All of those who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God". If you're a child of God, you know the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is going to lead you. But how does he provide that leadership? Well, sometimes he does it through the principles in his word. Sometimes he does it through the wise counsel of other believers. Sometimes he does it through the desires that he places in our hearts. Sometimes he does it through circumstances, but sometimes, he actually will use an angel to reveal his will to us. I'll admit that's not the norm, but it does happen. If you don't believe me, just consider these examples in the Bible where an angel revealed God's will.
Mathew 1:20-21, it was an angel who revealed to Joseph that he was to take Mary as his wife. It was an angel who revealed to the women that they needed to come to the empty tomb where Jesus had been. It was an angel who guided Phillip where to go on his way to Gaza, between Jerusalem and Gaza in Acts 8:26. Remember in Acts 27, Paul was on a ship headed to Rome and they had got involved in a storm and the people were afraid they were going to die. And an angel revealed to Paul that they would not die. It's not the norm, but I do believe sometimes angels are used to reveal God's will to us.
I was reading this week the account of that pastor A.D. Vanhoose of the Bible center in Evansville, Indiana. Pastor Vanhoose says that he had gotten to the place in his ministry where he'd become tremendously discouraged. The church was growing, but the finances were drying up. And he said, one afternoon he locked himself in his church study and he demanded that God give him an answer whether he was to stay or leave his ministry. He said, suddenly, he felt a presence in the room. And he demanded that whoever it was reveal himself immediately.
The pastor says, he saw the chair in front of his desk suddenly become illuminated, a bright light enveloped it. And he said, right in the center, there was a black dot that grew, and grew, and grew until it became the image of a man. And the man spoke to the pastor and said, "I am here from God. And I'm to tell you, you were to stay in this church. God has many things he still wants to do from you".
Pastor Vanhoose says, today he believes he had received an angelic visitation. Again, that's not the norm but we know from scripture, it has happened before and God can reveal himself any way he chooses to do so. Now, one word of caution here, when it comes to angels visiting us and giving messages to us.
Remember 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, "For even Satan can appear as an angel of light". Any so-called leadership or message we receive from an angel must be measured against the Word of God. And any message that comes from an angel that contradicts the Word of God, that doesn't come from God, that comes from Satan. You know, a few of my comments have been in the news recently. They've pulled up some of my greatest kits from the past and pulled those out again in reference to other religions.
Perhaps, you've seen some of them. And I mentioned two religions, Islam and Mormonism. And I said, they came from the pit of hell. Why would I make such a statement like that? I wasn't just spouting off. There is a reason I singled out those two religions. You know what those two religions have in common? They both claimed to have received their message from an angel. Mohamed in the seventh century says it was a series of angelic visitations that gave him the revelation that we find now in the Quran and became the basis of Islam. He says an angel delivered that to him.
Joseph Smith says in 1823, that it was an angel, the angel Moroni, who appeared to him and was the keeper of the golden tablets that became the basis for Mormonism. Those two leaders of religions that are diametrically opposed to the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both have as a common point the claim of angelic revelation.
Now listen to what the apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8. If anyone, if even an angel from heaven preaches to you another Gospel other than Christ Jesus, let that person be a curse. Literally, let him be anathema , let him be damned. Paul was a lot harder than I was on those kinds of faiths. Listen to me, the Bible says Satan is a liar and a deceiver. He is doing everything he can to keep people from finding the one way, not a way, the one way to God, which is through faith in Jesus Christ.