HAVE YOU EVER SEEN an angel? You may have, and not been aware of it.

They look like people. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’ (Hebrews 13:2). The writer of Hebrews may be referring to Abraham and Sarah (the account is in Genesis 18). Their grandson Jacob spent an entire night wrestling with an angel (Genesis 32:22–32). But angels can also appear in different forms. They’re often associated with fire (for example Exodus 3:2). The prophet Balaam encountered an angel who was invisible until he wanted to be seen (Numbers 22:22–35).

Actually it’s not that angels look like us, it’s that we look like angels. The angels were instrumental in the creation of the world (Job 38:4–7), and of humans: ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”’ (Genesis 1:26).

Angels feature throughout the Bible. Sometimes they’re obviously supernatural (for example Luke 1:11); sometimes they behave like ordinary men (for example Judges 6). The word ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’. They’re God’s messengers, doing His will: ‘He makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire’ (Psalm 104:4).

Their power is awesome. One angel destroyed an entire Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35). Essentially, they have the limitless power of God at their command and can use it to do whatever is required.

At Work in World Events

There’s a fascinating incident in the book of Daniel. An angel tells Daniel, ‘From the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty- one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me’ (Daniel 10:12–13). It conjures pictures of the Persian prince as some superhero engaged in a cosmic battle with the angel who eventually had to call for help. But the prince of Persia was just a man. When you read the chapter you see what happened.

Daniel had been mourning (and evidently praying) for three weeks (v. 2). That’s 21 days. Perhaps this was because he’d heard that work had stalled on rebuilding the temple back in Jerusalem (Ezra 4:1–5). There was no apparent answer to his prayer, but actually the angel had been despatched immediately to help. The prince of Persia was ‘withstanding’ the angel, because the angel was not using force—he was working ‘behind the scenes’, unbeknown to the prince.

‘The Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind’ (Daniel 5:21). ‘The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will’ (Proverbs 21:1). We don’t know all the methods God uses, as He guides world events towards the ultimate goal of the establishment of His Kingdom (see for example Daniel 11), but it is evident that the angels are playing a crucial role—patiently working behind the scenes, unbeknown to the world’s politicians and generals.

At Work in Individual Lives

Angels are not just concerned with world events—they’re concerned with you and me. King David wrote Psalm 34 when he’d been saved from the Philistine king: ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them’ (Psalm 34:7). Jesus Christ said of his followers: ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 18:10).

And one of the most breathtaking verses in the entire Bible: ‘We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). For those who have committed their lives to Christ, life can be very difficult—he never suggested that it wouldn’t be. But they have the assurance that there’s nothing in their lives which is out of God’s control. God is watching over them, looking after them, guiding them and educating them, even in life’s dark times. The angels are instrumental in this care. This is their job: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14).

Jesus’ teaching focused on the coming Kingdom of God, and how we can be there. In the Kingdom, his followers will be given eternal life (Matthew 19:29). He was once asked about the practicalities of eternal life. He replied, ‘Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection’ (Luke 20:35–36).

Those people who will be given immortality in God’s Kingdom are described as ‘a kingdom and priests to our God’ (Revelation 5:10). They will be like angels, and they will work alongside the angels in the tremendous work of restoring the earth.

There are things in this world that we can’t see and we don’t know about. This side of the Kingdom, we‘re likely to never knowingly see an angel. But what comfort and encouragement there is in the knowledge that they are there.

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