"I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father."
Do you believe in guardian angels? From ancient times people have considered the possibility that there are certain heavenly beings sent by God to watch over us. Today we consider what the Bible says about angels, if there are specific ones assigned to each person, and how they can help us.
Angels are mentioned throughout the Bible in both Old and New Testaments. The name angel means "messenger." That is their primary function in the Bible. They see God face to face and in that way they are superior to humans. They are not eternal like God. They have a beginning. When God created the heavens and the earth, he made the angelic spirits. They have a free will. They can turn away from their creator. There are many indications in the Bible of an angelic fall, under the leadership of Satan.
Those that remained with God are his messengers throughout history. Angels came to Abraham. They appeared before Balaam as he tried to ride his donkey up the mountain. The beginning of the book of Job tells us that the "Sons of God" came back from patrolling the earth. These are the angels. On the Ark of the Covenant, God told Moses to carve two angels. The idea was that God would sit on their wings as his earthly throne. The prophet Daniel tells us more about the angels, mentioning two by name: Michael and Gabriel. These are the archangels, or chief angels. Isaiah had a vision of God's throne in heaven. He saw fiery angels, each with six wings, flying around the throne singing glory to God.
Angels made appearances in the life of Jesus: at the annunciation of his conception, at his birth in their sermon to the shepherds, at his temptation in the wilderness, and later at his resurrection at the empty tomb. They brought important messages about the importance of these events. An angel helped Paul escape from prison, releasing his chains and opening the iron doors for him.
Do angels visit us today, invisible, yet moving among us powerfully? Matthew seems to say that in today's Gospel reading. With regard to children, he writes that Jesus said, "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" (Mt 18:10). This suggests that there are angels watching over the people of the world, reporting what we do and what happens to us to God the Father.
A wise pastor said, "When you see all the dangerous things that little children do, the fact that they are not all dead by the age of twelve proves that there are guardian angels, and they are very busy."
Some Christians we have a specific angel assigned to us for the rest of our lives. We see this in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," where Jimmy Stewart is saved from drowning and converses with Clarence, his guardian angel. The Bible does not say if this is so.
There are biblical inaccuracies in the movie as well. The idea that dead people are promoted to being angels because of their good works is a false teaching. When someone dies, don't tell the children they have gone to become an angel. Just tell them that their soul has gone to be with the angels. This is a more accurate way to comfort a child.
Another error in the movie is the idea that "whenever a bell rings, an angel is getting its wings." This is found nowhere in our Bible. It makes for a funny scene in the movie when the Nick the bartender opens and shuts the cash register, ding, ding, ding, and says, "Get me! I'm giving out wings!
Jesus mentions the guardian angels to show that God honors children above all others, and promises to defend them against evil. He even sends his invisible messengers to watch over them. He says they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Why are children so precious to God? Is it because they are cute? No. He points to a child and says, "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
It's not the cuteness, it's their humility. When Jesus called that child to his side as he was preaching, what do you suppose that child did? What do most children do when you talk about them with a crowd of people listening? They get shy and try to hide. They don't know what to say!
God honors the humble children because they know they have nothing to say in the presence of a holy God. They are totally dependent on others, and they know it! That's why they cry. It's a siren, saying, "Come help me!" That's what God wants us to see about ourselves. Don't be so secure in yourself, thinking you are a good Christian and will never fall into temptation and lose your faith. A third of the angels once left God and followed Satan, the chief of them all. They witnessed God's awesome power and still abandoned him. What makes you think you are so secure that you will not do the same?
The fact that God sends guardian angels shows what a dangerous situation every one of us lives in. We live an instant away from facing a just God who demands obedience from his people. Look what happened to the angels who rebelled! Forever banished! We do well to fear the same fate.
This God is also the Good Shepherd who searches and rejoices over every lost sheep that he finds. He saves his people from catastrophe by sending angels to protect them. He saves them from eternal death by sending His Son to die in their place. He sent no angel. It was Jesus, God himself, who took away our sin and set us free.
The angels always see the face of the Heavenly Father. We will too. So let's get rid of everything that would keep us from entering that holy place. As Jesus teaches, let us warn everyone about the consequences of living a sinful and unrepentant life. In that way we live as a kind of angel, or messenger, to others.
Yes, there are angels. They are powerful and active in our modern world. They serve our holy God, protecting us from evil beyond our ability to see. Angels are another sign of the goodness of our loving God. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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