Imagine waking up this morning and tanks and missiles are pointed at your house with soldiers encircling your property. How do you feel? What would you do?
Something similar happened about 3000 years ago - 2 Kings 6 when the King of Syria became furious because he thought someone in his ranks was a spy. When he was told the Israelite prophet Elisha could hear the “words you speak in your bedroom,” he sent horses, chariots and an immense army to surround Dothan, the city Elisha and his servant were in – v. 15. Elisha’s response is startling – v. 16. I picture his young assistant rolling his eyes and saying something like, “Are you kidding me? There’s just you and me here. I don’t see anyone else.”
Then Elisha prays this 10-word prayer –v. 17. The answer comes quickly – v. 18. Innumerable horses and chariots of fire were around Elisha!
Most of us determine reality through our physical senses, but for Elisha the spiritual world was what was real. Notice Elisha didn’t ask for the angels to show up but instead for his servant to see they were already there.
Right here and right now, there is an invisible world that is more real than the world we live in. “There’s more to life than what you see.” Angels and demons surround us; we just can’t see them. We’ll start by seeing what the Bible teaches about the good angels and then we’ll learn about evil angels.
Angels make an appearance over 300 times in more than half of the books of the Bible. Angels are created spiritual beings, with individual existences, personalities and high intelligence. Let’s ask and answer some questions.
• Who created angels? Psalm 148: 2, 5 “Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts…For he commanded and they were created.”
• When were angels created? Job 38: 4 - 7 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation…and all the angels shouted for joy?” Angels were witnesses to the creation of the world, which indicates they were created by the 3rd day and possibly much earlier
• How many angels were created? Hebrews 12: 22 - angels are “innumerable.” Daniel 7: 10 “ten thousand times ten thousand” =100 million!
• Do angels have wings? Isaiah 6: 2 “Above him were seraphs, each with six wings…” While we’re not certain if all angels have wings we do know the seraphim, a class of angels, have wings.
• Do angels have names? Only 2 angels are named in the Bible, perhaps because of the important roles they played – Michael and Gabriel.
• Do “good” angels still have free will? It’s difficult to be dogmatic about this but it’s likely after Lucifer’s uprising in heaven when 1/3 of the angels fell with him, the good angels remain committed to do God’s will. Angels may have free will but their will is consistent with their natures. Good angels will freely choose to do good and bad angels will freely choose to do evil.
• Do we become angels when we die? Common in our culture today when someone dies - “Heaven gained another angel.” There is no biblical basis for this. Human beings are made in the image of God and unique in our nature. We don’t change into something else to enter Heaven. “I am grateful to know that my loved one is in heaven, but she hasn’t become an angel. Angels are their own created order. Humans don’t become angels when they die. But she is with the angels in heaven doing what everyone there does which is worship Christ.”
Activities of Angels
1. Worship. Their primary responsibility is to praise God. Isaiah 6: 2, 3 “Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory!’”
Close your eyes and imagine the scene - Revelation 5: 11, 12 “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’”
2. Work. The word means “messenger.” Angels obediently carry out God’s plan - Psalm 103: 20 “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word!” These worshipping workers are often sent to help God’s people. An angel appeared to Elijah when he was fleeing from Jezebel. It was angels who helped sustain Jesus when He was in the wilderness for 40 days. It was an angel who brought good news about the birth of Jesus and an angel announced the resurrection.
Billy Graham - “Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.”
3. Walk. While angels are normally invisible - Psalm 34: 7 “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and he delivers them.” There are times when angels take on human form - Hebrews 13: 2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” This is one of the reasons we’re called to be nice to those we don’t know, to embrace those who are different from us by opening our hearts and our homes.
4. War. We need to remove the image of angels as cute chubby cherubs because angels are called by God to be executioners of His justice. The common human reaction to being face-to-face with an angel is fear. The first words out of an angel’s mouth are often, “Fear not!”
2 Kings 19: 35 “That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death 185 000 men in the Assyrian camp. “When the Lord rides victorious into the Battle of Armageddon, He will be followed by armies of angels. When angels go to war, they always win!
Cautions about Angels
1. Don’t put angels above the Bible. While angels deliver messages from God, they never supersede or contradict the Bible. If they do, they are messages of deception sent by the devil. Books suggesting we can speak directly to angels and get new insights are deceiving people today.
2. Don’t worship angels. Good angels never draw attention to themselves. They can get our attention, but they always do it for God’s sake, not their own. When Biblical angels discharge their duty and deliver their message, they withdraw from human contact. We’re never encouraged to seek or establish an ongoing relationship with them. They don’t stay long because they don’t want us to focus on them - they want us to worship God.
Revelation 22: 8, 9 “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’”
3. Angels are not to be prayed to. They may deliver answers to prayer but we should not direct our prayers to anyone other than God Himself. The Bible never records where a human being initiated conversation with an angel.
4. Angels never replace Jesus. Jesus is centre stage; angels are just the supporting cast. Referring to what Jesus accomplished and how people respond to the gospel, Peter says angels are peering out of heaven because they are fascinated by salvation. As powerful and wonderful as angels are, they are inferior in position and power to Jesus Christ.
Understanding Evil Angels
Who are the demons? Simply put, they are evil angels who sinned against God and continually work evil in the world. When God created the angels, they were all good. However, when Lucifer, one of the archangels, rebelled against Almighty God, he took about 1/3 of the angels with him. We refer to them as demons or evil spirits. 2 passages in OT likely describe the fall of Satan -
• Ezekiel 28. While these words are directed to the prince of Tyre, there seems to be another application. Describes a scene played out in Heaven a long time ago – v. 2, 8, 14, 15.
Isaiah 14. The most glorious angel was a being named Lucifer, which means “Day Star” While this chapter is also directed to a man (the king of Babylon), the language is too specific to refer only to a human – v. 12 - 15.
Lucifer is called “Satan,” “the devil,” “the serpent,” “the ruler of this world,” “the evil one” and “the prince of the power of the air.”
Revelation 12: 9 - 5 different names: “The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
What Demons Do
1. They attack the person of God. Satan’s number one desire: “I will make myself like the Most High.” Since he failed in his plan and was cast out of the presence of God, Satan and his evil angels are set on relentlessly attacking the person of God.
2. They attack the purposes of God. The devil and his demons are diametrically opposed to everything God is accomplishing today. When referring to his derailed plans to visit a church, the Apostle Paul attributed this delay to the devil - 1 Thessalonians 2: 18 “We wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.”
The evil one is all about annihilating the church or neutralizing its effectiveness by causing chaos and conflict. Satan knows if he can get a church to fight against itself, it will lose its effectiveness as a conduit of God’s truth and grace to a hurting world.
3. They attack the people of God. This attack is often different from the first two. When demons assault the person and purposes of God, they do it very boldly. When they attack the people of God, the devil and his demons are often more subtle in their strategy. Demons often follow a 3-phase attack:
• Tempting Phase. Without blaming everything we do on the devil, we need to recognize part of his strategy is to tempt us. If he can get us thinking something in our minds, he knows it’s a short step for many of us before we put it into action.
• Deceiving Phase. Demons have been deceiving people since the Garden of Eden. Satan deceived Eve by challenging God’s goodness. Satan directly denied God’s truth and he made disobedience seem desirable by using deception.
• Accusing Phase. After tempting and then deceiving us, the evil one waits for us to listen to his lies. Once we sin, accusations fly our way. Some of you feel guilty for what you did years ago and you’re still kicking yourself for it today.
Others of you feel worthless. You don’t think God could ever forgive because of what you’ve done. Are you swimming with shame and gutted by guilt? Romans 8: 1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Remember when the Adversary attacks, born again believers have an Advocate!
4. They attack the pursuers of God. The devil and his demons will do all they can to keep the pursuers of God from making a decision to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. They will fill your mind with doubts so you won’t surrender and be saved. Satan often snatches away the seed of the Gospel when it is sown in the heart of a hard person.
2 Corinthians 4: 4 “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
A Battle Plan
If you’re a born again believer, hold on to the promise - 1 John 4: 4 “For He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.” Here’s a battle plan. We don’t have to be unsettled about the power of the devil and his demons. 1 Peter 5: 8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Peter is calling us to get serious, to be spiritually alert and watchful. The force behind the command is to stay awake! Be ready! Watch out! The devil and his demons hate
Christ and hate Christians.
James 4: 7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We must submit to God before we can stand against Satan. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Satan is God’s opposite or his equal. He is a defeated foe. Peter says he is like a roaring lion but he’s nothing like the real roaring lion, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Revelation 5: 5, 6 - These 2 images could not be more jarring. Lambs are weak and lowly and sacrificed for others. Jesus is both the supreme Lion and the sacrificial Lamb. And as the Lamb, He is standing next to the throne because He is alive and the war has been won. He is a lamb-like lion and a lion-like lamb. When He cried out, “It is finished,” it was with a victorious lion-like roar that defeated death and the devil, thus providing deliverance from our sins.
Revelation 19: 11 - 16