Angel

Preaching and Worship Resources about Angel

Angels are supernatural spirits who serve as God's heavenly choir of praise and as God's agents — particularly as God's messengers.

In Scripture

In our image "Then God said, `Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;'" (Gen. 1:26).

Heavenly beings shout for joy "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4, 6-7).

"Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor" (Ps. 29:1-2).

Guardians "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone" (Ps. 91:11-12).

"Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will" (Ps. 103:21).

Description "Seraphs were in attendance above [the Lord]; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: `Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory'" (Isa. 6:2-3).

"Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him" (Matt. 4:11).

"And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it" (Matt. 28:2).

Good news of great joy "The angel said to [the shepherds], `Do not be afraid, for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people'. . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, `Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'" (Luke 2:10, 13-14)

Joy "`Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents'" (Luke 15:10).

Struggle against the spiritual forces "Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

Image of the invisible God "[God's beloved Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him" (Col. 1:15-16).

Spirits in the divine service "Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1:14)

"God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4).

Worthy "When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song: `You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;' Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, `Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'" (Rev. 5:8-9, 11-12).

Points to Ponder

Historical Except for a flutter of their wings in Advent and on Easter Sunday, angels disappear from much of Christian worship for the rest of the year. This may be owed, at least in part, to liberal Christianity of the 19[th] and 20[th] centuries which, while not quite denying the existence of angels, didn't want to talk about them either. The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth cites example after example of liberal European theologians who had no room in their theology for angels. Then Barth writes: "These modern theologians are not prepared to take angels seriously. It does not give them the slightest joy to think of them. . . . And if we are told in Hebrews 13:2 not to neglect hospitality, since some have entertained angels unawares, these theologians are almost anxiously concerned to refuse angels a lodging in their dogmatics . . ."

Hollywood Just the opposite happened in Hollywood. Seemingly every Christmas season, there are reruns of Frank Capra's 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life, in which an angel named Clarence Odbody saves the life of a suicidal businessman played by Jimmy Stewart. The film is regularly ranked among the top 100 films ever made in America. In 1971, William Peter Blatty published The Exorcist, a book that reintroduced demons into North American culture and triggered a series of four films. In 1977, the film Star Wars offered a kindly Alec Guinness giving the benediction "The Force be with you," and spines that had not known the contour of a church pew for years began to tingle. In the same year, the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind featured angels from outer space, moving and beckoning in an atmosphere of music, light, and wonder. But Hollywood was not done. Since the 1970s there have been a number of films and TV series that present angels, including the popular series "Touched by an Angel" (1994-2003), prompting people to note that when religion dropped wonder, Hollywood picked it up.

All things in heaven; the invisible things Scripture treats angels as creatures: they are part of "all things in heaven" that Colossians 1 describes, in this case "the invisible things."

Angels are spirits, but they can appear to humans, as at Jesus' resurrection, and speak to them. They are numinous spirits, evoking human dread to such an extent that when angels show up in Scripture the first thing they commonly say is "Do not be afraid."

Heavenly council If the "us" in Genesis 1:26 refers to the members of the "heavenly council," as many scholars suggest, then angels were in on the creation of the world. In any case, in Job 38 God reveals that when the cornerstone of the earth was laid, "the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy." Morning stars singing and angels shouting for joy — all the sounds, all the brilliant light, everything is full of jubilation.

Bad angels There are also bad angels to battle against in Ephesians 6, and an apparent revelation in 2 Peter 4 that they had once been good. Which brings to mind an old tale: Lucifer (Satan) is roaming outer space and runs into the archangel Michael, once his colleague in the old days of heaven. "What do you miss most about heaven?" Michael asks. With a great wistfulness, Lucifer says, "I miss the sound of the trumpets in the morning." Revelation 5 adds singing and harp-playing to music in heaven. No doubt we are to think of music as part of blessing God or praising God that the psalmists love to call for.

Joy Angels are highly active around Jesus' birth and at his resurrection — surely times for singing and shouting for joy.

The Screwtape Letters In C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, the "patient" whom Screwtape and Wormwood (uncle and nephew in the demonic realm) have been trying to corrupt nonetheless dies before they can succeed. He is ushered into heaven by angels: "when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour of his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not `Who are you?' but `So it was you all the time!'"


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.