Angels, Seekers of Truth
Throughout history, people have been fascinated by angels, those mysterious beings who pop up in Scripture at important times. Around the Christmas story, there are lots of angels.
They worship God the Trinity. They serve at God’s bidding. They never sit in God’s presence. They never share God’s rule. They are never worshiped and they explicitly reject worship. We are fascinated by them, and they are curious about us.
In his first chapter, the author of Hebrews wants to show us how God the Son is superior to everything in creation, including the angels. The angels are absolutely at the top of the tree when it comes to created things. The angels are created, while the Son is uncreated. They are ‘spirits,’ while the Son is God Almighty. They are ‘ministers,’ while the Son is LORD. Psalm 103:21
As the Son made material reality, so He also made immaterial reality. We are told very clearly that it was God the Son who made everything, "by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” He created the heavens, the heavenly realm, the spiritual realm. That spiritual realm is as much a created reality as this material creation of which you and I are conscious. The creation of heaven and angels came first. Colossians 1:16
To refer to them as winds, or more correctly spirits, tells us something about their nature. They are invisible, they are strong and they are fast. Like a fierce wind, they drive everything before them. To refer to them as flames of fire, puts them in a certain relationship with God, because He is consuming fire. We must, however, distinguish these spirits from God who is Spirit. God as Spirit is everywhere present. Angels are spirits, but they are always somewhere, somewhere in created reality. Hebrews 12:29
They are endowed with wisdom and knowledge, with intellect and will. These creatures are wiser and more knowledgeable than we are. Yet again, it is essential to distinguish between the knowledge of the angels and God’s knowledge. When thinking about Him, we say that God’s knowledge is as vast as His Being. He is infinite. We even say God is Wisdom and Knowledge. However, angels, like us, have some knowledge of some things, and no knowledge of other things.
They are very fortunate, always seeing the face of our Father in heaven. That means they are aware of all the self-revelation of God which is available, straight from the throne of God. They are seekers of truth. We can take from this that the angels are always growing in their knowledge. They learn as they stand in God’s holy presence. Just being there must provide a wealth of insight into the mind and will of God. Matthew 18:10
This is how Peter puts it: “…those who preach the good news to you by the Holy Spirit from heaven, things into which the angels long to look.” They are eager to learn more of this salvation because we see it far more clearly. They have not sinned, therefore they have never been pardoned. Our experience of the grace of God is different from theirs. 1 Peter 1:12
Some passages indicate that angels take their curiosity as far as coming to church with us. One very odd chapter of Scripture, written by Paul, deals with social practices within that church. The reason for some of them has probably been lost in history. At one point, he insists on proper conduct “because of the angels.” Because of the angels? This certainly implies that when in church, we are in the presence of angels. Did you ever think about them coming to church with you? They might be more anxious to hear the sermon than you are! 1 Corinthians 11:10
They look on with interest, awe and wonder at the proclamation of the Gospel of grace. Paul writing to the Ephesians says that through the church, “the manifold wisdom of God is now made known” to whom? “…to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. That language normally refers to the spiritual beings all around us, who also inhabit heaven. Ephesians 3:10
Then the word angel means messenger. They are constantly involved in God’s activities in the world. In the Bible they are seen transporting messages from heaven to earth,
- sharing things with Abraham, Genesis 15-19
- giving the law through Moses to the children of Israel, Hebrews 2:1-2, Acts 7:53
- sending messages to Mary announcing the conception of the Son of God in her, Luke 1:28
- warning Joseph about Herod's desire to destroy the Christ child, and so on. Matthew 2:15
Surely, they learn something about their missions. Add to it all they do today, unknown to us. In our times of pain, what we usually ask is, “Why, God?” They are often sent to comfort us. They might well know the why. Still their knowledge is limited, unlike God’s. They may know more than us, but not everything.
There is one topic of curiosity to both of us, the timing of Christ’s Second Coming. When speaking about that, Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven,….” Mark 13:32
Even angels don’t know when our Lord will return! We both wait expectantly for His appearing. Come, Lord Jesus!
Liam Goligher began serving as Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in May of 2011. Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and ten grandchildren.