Before Adam and Eve sinned, their home was in “Eden, the garden of God” (Ezekiel 28:13). Here they were visited, not only by holy angels, but God Himself held communion with them, and they talked with Him face to face.
After the fall, man could no longer talk with God. Neither could any sinful being see His face and live. Even to Moses, the man of God, He said, “Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).
It was not, however, the Creator’s will to cut man off from communication with heavenly beings. And in the darkness and uncertainty following the entrance of sin, man has ever felt the need of “some ministering spirit, some heavenly visitant from the world of light, to instruct him in the things of God.” Hence it is but natural that man should ever be reaching out for some method of communication with heaven. This need of the human soul the Lord supplies by means of the ministration of angels.
To the inhabitants of this world the angels are messengers (see margin Judges 2:1) sent from the courts above. Around the throne of God in heaven there is an “innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22) that go and come at His command.
Says John, “I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne” (Revelation 5:11).
David says, “The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye His hosts; ye ministers of His, that do His pleasure” (Psalm 103:19–21).
In an earthly kingdom the conditions are similar. The monarch resides at the capital of his kingdom, which is the seat of government. Here trusty messengers bring to him reports from every part of the realm. As questions of moment are settled, the decisions are placed in the hands of those who are empowered to act in the name of the king. Thus affairs of the kingdom receive proper attention, no matter how broad or widely scattered the dominion may be.
We can readily see that the Lord employs His servants, the angels, in a similar manner. “He always works by means, or agents. The angels are His officers, or messengers, whom He has appointed to represent Him and to have charge of the affairs of this earth. They watch over God’s people, and administer to their wants. They bear the prayers of the saints up before the Lord, and come again to answer them according to His direction.”
The statement of the apostle Paul is very clear on the ministry of angels: “To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:13, 14)?
To Jacob, on his lonely way as he fled from his father’s house, the attendance and ministration of heavenly angels was made very real: “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).
On his return journey, many years after, as he was about to meet his brother Esau, whom he had so cruelly wronged in his younger days, and whom he greatly feared, “the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim” (Genesis 32:1, 2).
The meaning of Mahanaim is two hosts, or camps, referring to the great camp of Jacob’s band, and the camp of the angels of God. This was evidence to the patriarch that the camp of heaven was by his side to protect him in the dreaded meeting with his brother.
Angels are at times sent from heaven in answer to prayer. In Daniel 9:21, 22, we read that as the prophet was praying, the angel Gabriel was sent to answer his prayer.
Another instance in the life of Daniel gives the most realistic account of angelic ministration. The prophet was deeply burdened regarding the sins and the captivity of his people. For three weeks he had fasted and prayed to God that the way might be opened for Israel to return to their own land. Then the angel appeared to him and said:
“Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes [margin, the first Prince], came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:12, 13). [Emphasis supplied.]
Daniel’s “three full weeks” (verse 2) of fasting and prayer for his people had not been in vain. The angel (doubtless Gabriel) said to him that from the first day of his fast his words were heard. Gabriel had been with the king of Persia for three weeks—just the time Daniel had been afflicting his soul.
What a lesson regarding answer to prayer! During his three weeks of fasting and prayer Daniel had no evidence that his prayers were bringing any answer. Yet every day of this time this mighty angel was engaged with the king in his effort to bring about the very results for which Daniel was praying.
During all these days Satan opposed the efforts of Gabriel to move the heart of the king. The task was too unequal, and Michael, the Son of God Himself, came to the court of the king to complete the work. Gabriel is thus released, and goes swiftly to Daniel, to assure him that his prayers are heard, and to give him the instruction for which he has been pleading.
Michael, equal with the Father in all the power of heaven, is soon able to bring the king of Persia to terms, and the release of Israel is assured.
We read and talk of the romance of history, and of the titanic forces employed in modern warfare. But what earthly event can compare with this scene, in which the actors were, first, Daniel, the aged prophet in prayer; secondly, Michael and Gabriel, two of the strongest beings from heaven itself; thirdly, the king of Persia; fourthly, Satan and his powerful angels. Truly it was a royal battle, the nature of which was little suspected by the human characters interested in it.
The day of wonderful answers to prayer is not of the past alone. God is as ready to hear and answer now as He was in the days of Daniel. The sincere Christian who prays in faith, and expects and looks for answers, will receive answers and know that he receives them. Yet the response from heaven may be so far-reaching that we would be startled if our eyes were opened. The delay that tries the faith of the suppliant may arise from necessary work upon other hearts as hard and as stubborn as that of the king of Persia or the Pharaoh of Egypt.
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones [servants of God, not necessarily children]; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
The Bible clearly indicated that a guardian angel is appointed to every follower of Christ. So in every conflict with the powers of darkness, it is a comforting and inspiring thought that we have not only a Father in heaven, but we have also a powerful angel by our side. We have always within immediate reach a power sufficient to beat back all the assaults of the enemy. These angels bring to us light and courage, and in all cases are at hand to protect us.
Satan himself recognized, in the experience of Job, the efficiency of this angelic guardianship. The Lord called his attention to the integrity of Job, and Satan replied, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side” (Job 1:9, 10)? Of the character of Job the Lord said, “There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man” (verse 8). Hence powerful angels were placed like a guarding wall about him, to protect him and all he possessed from the power of Satan and his hosts of evil. He was practically placed beyond their malign influence. “No evil could approach him except as God gave special permission.”
Satan claimed that if this protection was removed, and his possessions were destroyed, “He will curse Thee to Thy face” (Job 1:11).
“And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand” (verse 12).
Yet through all the calamities the evil one was permitted to bring upon him, he was not forsaken by the heavenly messengers. They were there to see that Satan should not afflict Job beyond the permission given by Jehovah. Even though tempted to sin, he retained his integrity, for it is said, “In all this Job sinned not” (verse 22).
So, although God in His wise providence allows His children to be tempted, tried, and afflicted, they are never forsaken. Heavenly messengers maintain a constant communication between them and their heavenly Father, and no evil is permitted to come upon them only so far as it is for their good and the advancement of His work in the earth.
The psalmist tells us how God protects His children: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7).
Peter’s guardian angel released him from prison more than once. At one time Herod had cast him into prison, intending to kill him as he had James. But the Lord had yet a work for Peter to do.
“And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me” (Acts 12:6–8).
The apostle did not understand what was transpiring, “but thought he saw a vision.” “And when Peter was come to himself [when he realized it was all real and true], he said, ‘Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews (Acts 12:9, 11).”
Then Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where the disciples were “gathered together praying” (verse 12). They were doubtless beseeching God for the release of the imprisoned apostle.
As he “knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda” (verse 13). When she heard his voice asking admission, she did not let him in for very joy, but, instead, ran and told the praying disciples that Peter stood at the gate. At first they could not believe the words of the maid, but she insisted that he was really there. “Then said they, It is his angel” (verse 15).
“They did not mean that it was Peter’s spirit, for they supposed he was yet alive and in prison. They meant … what they said, that it was his angel—the one who attended him.”
The ninety-first Psalm describes the position of God’s people during the time of trouble. Of the mission of the angels during this time, we read, “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy food against a stone” (Psalm 91:11, 12).
They Hear Our Words
An angel is always present and hears what we say. “Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before [in the presence of] the angel, that it was an error” (Ecclesiastes 5:6). The angels of God can not be deceived.
They See Us
“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). We are never alone. We could see our angel visitor if our eyes were opened. (See 2 Kings 6:3–23).
Angels in the Gospel
When the work of creating the earth and its inhabitants was finished, “the morning stars [angels] sang together” (Job 38:7).
When man sinned and was driven from Eden, the “angels ceased their songs of praise. Throughout the heavenly courts there was mourning for the ruin that sin had wrought.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 62.
When the plan of salvation through Christ, which was to give the human race another chance, was proclaimed to the angels, they made heaven ring again with the song that later sounded over the hills of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
Before the fall, angels were the teachers of Adam and Eve. They told them of the fall of Satan, and of the ceaseless efforts he and his fallen companions would make to cause them to sin and fall as he had fallen.
Since the fall, the interest of holy angels in the human family has intensified. As before the fall they were to warn our first parents of the danger that lurked in the wiles of Satan, so after the fall they were to instruct man in the plan of salvation that had been devised in his behalf.
As man had failed to stand the test while surrounded by every influence that could guard him from evil, he must now regain the character he had lost by disobedience in a world that had fallen under the dominion of Satan.
To meet these adverse conditions the angels were appointed as guardians, ministers, and messengers from heaven to aid fallen humanity in its struggle with evil. Then how deep must be the interest of angels in the welfare of man, and in the advancement of the gospel in the earth!
Angels have ever acted a prominent part in the spread of the gospel. Though the preaching of the gospel has been given to men, yet angels have an important mission to perform in aiding and guiding the earthly minister in his work.
The case of Cornelius is an example. Cornelius was a Gentile. He was also an officer in the Roman army. It was said of him that he was “a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:22).
But Cornelius knew nothing of Jesus Christ. It seems that he was seeking for light from heaven, for he “prayed to God always,” and to such a man help will always be sent when needed. In this case the angel appeared to the Roman officer while he was fasting and praying. He instructed him to send for Peter, saying, “He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do” (verses 2–6).
Cornelius therefore sent two servants and a devout soldier to the place where Peter abode in Joppa. The next day, as the three men were nearing Joppa, Peter “went upon the housetop to pray” (verse 9). There he saw a vision, and a heavenly messenger instructed him to go with the men in response to the call of Cornelius, notwithstanding he was a Gentile.
So Peter returned with them, and found the house of Cornelius filled with his “kinsmen and near friends” (verse 24). And as he preached the gospel to them, “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (verse 44). And they believed and were baptized.
In this instance the actual intervention of angels, both to Cornelius and to Peter, was necessary to bring about this result.
An incident in the life of the deacon Philip is to the point. Crossing the desert near Gaza was a eunuch, an officer of great authority in the court of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. He was returning from Jerusalem, where he had been to worship. As he rode in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah’s prophecy in regard to Christ, but did not understand it. At the command of the angel, Philip met the eunuch at this time. He was invited to a seat in the chariot, and there he explained the passage from Isaiah, and preached Christ to the Ethiopian officer.
As a result, the eunuch believed, and as they passed a pool he asked for baptism. “And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38).
And the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and carried him to Azotus, But the eunuch went on his way rejoicing, a new channel through which the light of the gospel was to be carried into darkest Africa.
This whole transaction, which was so important in carrying the gospel into new territory, was due to the appearance of the angel to lead God’s minister on this important errand.
Angels appeared to Daniel, and revealed to him many important truths pertaining to the work of the gospel, some of which refer to the times in which we now live. Especially is the instruction of the angel Gabriel important, as it concerns the atonement, or the investigative judgment, and the sacrifice of the Messiah. (See Daniel 8:13–17; 9:10–27.)
It was Gabriel also who came to Mary to announce the birth of Christ, and to Zacharias to foretell that of John the Baptist. (See Luke 1:11–19, 26–33.)
A powerful angel appeared many times to the apostle-prophet John, as recorded in the Revelation, presenting before him important events and truths pertaining to the work of God to be done in the earth, and in regard to the triumph of God’s people and their great reward.
In Revelation 14:6, 7, an angel is seen flying “in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.” [Emphasis supplied.] And other angels followed, each having a special message to proclaim.
Special messages have gone to the world at special times. God sends His angels to direct the minds of His ministers to the lines of truth He would have them proclaim. Angels stand by their side as they speak the truth to the people. Angels are beside the listeners to impress their hearts. So through it all, as in the cases of Cornelius and Peter, and of Philip and the eunuch, angels are moulding the work of the ministers, and pressing home the truths to the hearts of the people.
Past, Present, and Future, by James Edson White, 69–83.