Have you seen an angel lately? It is entirely possible you have, whether you knew it or not. The writer of the Book of Hebrews challenges us to be hospitable even to strangers since we might be entertaining angels without knowing it in Hebrews 13:1-2. It is amazing that in most surveys of the opinions of people, at least in the United States, that there are more people who believe there are angels in the world than believe there is a God. All through the Bible angels are very much a part of what is going on. It is also true that the Bible pictures different ranks of angels in their work. Two in particular are named over and over in Scripture. They are Gabriel and Michael. Most of the time when Gabriel is mentioned, good news is involved. It was Gabriel who brought the news to Zachariah that he and his elderly wife Elizabeth would have a son whom they would name John. He would be a prophet of God and the forerunner to prepare the way for the Messiah who was coming into the world as Savior and Lord. It was Gabriel who announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. He was the one to explain to her that even though she had never had sex with a man that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the child she bore would be “Immanuel” or God with us. He came again to help Joseph understand that Mary hadn’t been unfaithful to him and that she was to give birth to the Messiah.
Gabriel also came to both Joshua and to Daniel to assist them when their responsibilities were bigger than they could grasp. Michael came more often into view when there was a demonstration of power and most of the time in a powerful way to punish the wicked. So typically, Gabriel meant good news and Michael meant God was sending him to punish some evil worker in the world.
Isaiah saw Seraphim around the throne of God crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” These demonstrate some ranks among the angels but there are obviously others that aren’t so clear. What is absolutely clear is that the greatest of the angels is still a messenger from God and isn’t a lesser god, but servants of God. The primary meaning of the word “angel” is “messenger”. In the Book of Hebrews, the first chapter is devoted to the point that Jesus, the Messiah is God, who came in flesh to dwell among us and that He is far greater than the greatest of the angels and reigns on high with God the Father. “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same and your years will have no end.’ And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:5-14)
This segment of Scripture is glorious both because it demonstrates the nature of Jesus as the Christ as being God, the creator of all and the one who is Savior and Lord and because it shows the place angels have in the work of God in our age. The writer quotes freely from the Psalms and some from Isaiah the prophet to make the point about both the Son as God and to show his superior place over the angels. Among the Jews, to whom this book is addressed, the common view was that angels were the intermediaries through whom the Old Testament law was delivered to Moses. In demonstrating to those Jews who had committed their lives to Jesus Christ and being Christians, but who were now questioning whether or not they had made the right choice, he used the very Scriptures they trusted completely to prove that Jesus the Christ was far superior to any of the angels. While they worked in carrying out the will of God on the earth and had a wonderful and glorious place in God’s service, Jesus is the God whom they worked for as servants. The angels worshipped him as he came into the world as the Messiah. He was God forevermore and as God was unchangeable.
Where then do the angels fit into the scheme of things for us now? “They are all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” They are there to assist us and work on our behalf in our service to God. In a rather strange statement made by Paul in I Corinthians 11 discussing what was proper attire for men and women in their worship to God he said that the women should be veiled because of the angels. While the whole statement is difficult to understand, it does demonstrate that angels are present in our worship to the Lord. Jesus made the point in talking about children and our treatment of them, that their angels were always present before the throne of God in Matthew 18.
So, if angels are present in worship, if they might be ones we serve in hospitality, if they watch over children and those who are children in their faith in the Lord, then their work is wonderful among us and we should be constantly aware that their work is normally not observed but valuable. When John the apostle, who penned the Book of Revelation twice fell to worship the angel speaking to him, the angel reminded him that worship was for God. The angel told him that he was a fellow servant, not the one to be worshipped.
Have you seen any angels lately?