Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION TEN: BIBLE STUDY
This ninth lesson teaches about angels. It seems as if everyone everywhere is interested in angels. Are they real? What are they like? What do they do? Are they connected with this world? Fascinating subject matter! In this lesson, I will examine four general areas: angel’s characteristics, classification and ministry, Satan, and spiritual warfare. Hang on. It gets intense.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF ANGELS
First question: do angels actually exist? Both mankind and the Bible say yes. There is a universal belief among cultures of the spiritual world and beings that have influenced humanity and our history. They have been called various names such as aeons, demons, demi-gods or simply angels.
The ancient Tongan religion believed in lower gods called ‘otua Pau’u (mischievous gods) that inflicted evil on the earth. Human souls, after separation from the body, were believed to exist in a shape like a body and dwelled in the happy regions of Pulotu.
They could return to Tonga to inspire priests, relatives or to appear in dreams. Sometimes they could appear in the form of a ghost. Every culture has their version of angels. But, what does the Bible say?
The Bible assumes the existence of angels. The name means “messenger”. Sometimes the word refers to men as messengers (Matthew 11:10). Generally, the messenger is seen as one who serves. Other names include “men, God’s host, the holy ones, sons of God, watchers, princes, principalities, powers, thrones, or dominion” (Genesis 32:2; Psalm 8:7; Genesis 6:1, 2; Job 1:6; 38:7; Psalm 103:20; Daniel 4:13; 10:13; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:10). There are over 270 biblical references to angels. They are not strangers to its pages.
Created by God
Directly created by God, angels are a superhuman order of heavenly beings (Psalm 147:2, 5; Colossians 1:16). The time of their origin seems to be the beginning of the first day of creation (Job 38:4-7; Colossians 1:16; Exodus 20:11; cf. Psalm 33:6). Since angels do not reproduce (Matthew 22:30) the complete angelic host was created at once. They are countless in number, do not die, are spirit beings, without bodies - though they can assume bodily shape (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11; Luke 20:36; Hebrews 1:14; Luke 24:39; Genesis 18:1-19:1).
Angels are wise, powerful, have personalities, are moral beings, are superior to men but vastly inferior to God (2 Samuel 14:20; 2 Peter 2:11; Mark 8:38; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:6).
As to rank, angels are highly organized and subject to authority. There is at least one archangel (Michael), plus cherubim, seraphim, principalities and powers and thrones and dominions (Jude 9; Daniel 10:13; 8:16; Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 6:2; Ephesians 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22). There is also the Angel of the Lord mentioned in the Old Testament who is Jesus Christ in an appearance to this world prior to the New Testament (Genesis 16:7-14; 31:11-13). I next turn to the classification and ministry of good and evil angels.
II. THE CLASSIFICATION AND MINISTRY OF ANGELS
It may be of no surprise to you that the Bible teaches there to be both good and evil angels. I will first take up the description of good angels, and point out a seven fold ministry they exercise. There ministry is very widespread, indeed.
1. Good angels are called holy and elect and their eternal dwelling place is in heaven (Matthew 25:31; 1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 28:2; Luke 2:15). They have an intimate and unique relationship to God. They enter His presence to receive instruction and commands. They were joyful during creation, and one of their occupations is to exalt and praise God.
God used angels to give His divine revelation to humanity. God uses angels in many ways, but their most extensive usage is as His servants to carry out His orders. Angels are fascinated at watching God’s unfolding drama of salvation, and actually rejoice when sinners accept Christ as Savior (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Psalm 29:1, 2; Genesis 13:19; Psalm 104:4; 1 Peter 1:12; Luke 15:10).
2. Second, angels had a special ministry to Christ. They announced Christ’s birth, guided and warned Christ’s parents, strengthened Him In His temptation and crisis, proclaimed and helped in His resurrection, predicted and will proclaim His second coming. Angels will praise and worship Christ when He brings judgment on the world during the Tribulation (Hebrews 2:7; Colossians 1:15, 16; Philippians 2:9, 11; Hebrews 1:6; 1 Peter 3:22; Luke2:10-15; Matthew 2:13; 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2-6; Acts 1:10, 11; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 5:11, 12).
3. Third, angels minister to Christians in a wide and wonderful way. They watch over and protect us. Though the Bible does not make a clear statement, it points to the reality of guardian angels by telling of their many ministries toward believers. The Bible says:
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about those who fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7; see Psalm 91:11).
For example, when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, he told him that God would send an angel ahead to find the right woman (Genesis 24:7; see Genesis 22:12, 15; 19:1-15; 28:12). God sent an angel to guide His people Israel, help Elijah, deliver His own from the fiery, hot furnace and Daniel from the sharp, tearing teeth of lions (Exodus 14:19; 1 Kings 19:5; Daniel 3:28; 7:22).
Christ speaks of guardian angels when He declared the angels of little children have access to God (Matthew 18:10). The New Testament says angels are ministering spirits sent to help the people of God (Hebrews 1:14). In a dramatic delivery, angels freed the apostles and Peter from prison, and encouraged Paul in his fears (Acts 5:19; 12:5-7; 27:23, 24).
The question arises: are there guardian angels for believers today? According to the Bible, yes (Hebrews 1:14). Many times believers have experienced unusual deliverances from fear and danger and received boldness and confidence in ways too difficult to explain on a natural basis. The Bible even says that many have entertained angels and were not aware of it (Hebrews 13:1). It is very comforting and assuring to know of the kinds of ministries that God’s angels have toward believers.
4. Fourth, the Bible teaches there are angels present in churches. Unfortunately, we are taught that evil angels are also present to interfere, cause conflict or even doctrinal error (1 Timothy 5:21; Revelation 1:20; 1 Corinthians 11:10; 2 Corinthians 11:10-13). This fact should impress on our hearts the need to promote holiness and pure doctrine, and look to the demonic force behind church quarrels. God cares about and angels report our wrong attitudes within the church family and careless handling of the Bible from the pulpit.
5. Fifth, God uses angels as agents to punish those who oppose His will. For example, angels blinded the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:1, 11). When Herod Agrippa was lifted up in pride and accepted the worship of people, an angel struck Herod dead by filling him with maggots (Acts 12:23). Christ declared that angels would be the reapers in the final judgment (Matthew 12:39). Angels will pour out God’s wrath during the Great Tribulation as well as bind and imprison Satan (Revelation 16:1; 19:17, 18; 20:1, 2).
Just to gain a glimpse of the massive power of angels, you might recall the Old Testament example of when King Sennacherib of Assyria sought to capture Jerusalem from King Hezekiah. God sent the angel to devastate the Assyrian military camp by destroying 185,000 armed soldiers in just one night (2 Kings 19:35)! Incredible power! That equals almost the entire population of Western and America Samoa combined! Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of support in your struggles?
6. Sixth, angels shape history. The book of Daniel speaks of the guardianship of angels over nations (Daniel 4: 17, 23). Angels are the agents of God who work out God’s dealings with the nations through the drama of world history. Regarding the nations of Greece and Medo-Persia, an angel told Daniel future history and about evil angelic rulers over each nation. Michael was appointed as an angelic protector of Israel (Daniel 10:12, 13, 21 through 11:3).
From the Bible teaching, the violent conflicts between good and evil angels determine the history of nations. The great wars of the centuries, with their bloodshed, heartache and tragedy, were already settled in the heavenlies before they were settled on the earth. Somehow the wars in heaven intermingle with the bloodshed on earth by human armies. During His earthly ministry, Jesus said He could call on 10,000 angels for His defense, and the armies of Heaven will follow Him to earth at His return (Matthew 25:53; Revelation 19:14).
You and I can look with courage, knowing of the intense care and support of good angels in our lives. However, I am sobered by the reality of evil angels lurking about, and causing great distress and havoc in this world in general, and our lives in particular. Let’s see, from the Bible, who they are, and what they do.
1. Fallen angels do exist (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7-9). Originally, God created these angels good because all His creation was good at its completion (Genesis 1:31). Sadly, they became corrupt following the creation week. These angels know Christ, are unclean and fierce - and believe the Bible literally (Matthew 8:29; 10:1; 8:28; James 2:19)! It is so unfortunate that even Satan and his evil, fallen angels believe the Bible to be true, but most of humanity rejects it! Amazing!
2. Some fallen angels are bound in prison and others are free. The former group are confined to a place called Tartarus, and kept for special judgment because of a specific sin they committed (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; 1 Corinthians 6:3; Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41). The members of the second group are free to roam under the ruler ship of Satan. The Bible refers to fallen angels as demons (Matthew 12:24-27; 25:41). I stress that these are Satan’s angels and he is their prince and leader (Matthew 25:41; 12:22-26; Revelation 12:7-9).
3. Demons are spirits without bodies and evidently have a need to inhabit a body for maximum performance (Mark 5:1-13; Luke 11:24-26). Being great in number, they give Satan the appearance of being all powerful, knowing and present everywhere - which he is not (Luke 8:30; Ephesians 6:11, 12). Demons may cause physical and mental disease, personal injury, and lead people into immorality (Matthew 9:33; 12:22; Mark 5:4, 5; Luke 8:35; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Luke9:38, 42; 1Timothy 4:1-3). I want to quickly point out that demons do not cause all mental or physical illness.
These wicked creatures spread false doctrine and have power to work miracles and they encourage idolatry (1Timothy 4:1; Revelation 13:12-15; 1 Corinthians 10:20). During the life of Christ there was increased demon activity, and evidently there will be at His return (Revelation 9:20; 13:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). Their ultimate end, much to our relief, is the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41).
4. Demons serve Satan in two basic ways: possession and influence. Possession refers to a demon occupying a human body, and is the counterpart of a Christian being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The effects of demon possession are varied (e.g. Mark 5:1-5; Acts 16:16-18; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15). Demons enter only willing victims who have opened themselves up to their influence. It appears that believers cannot be possessed by demons (1 John 4:4). It is inconceivable that the Holy Spirit and an evil spirit could inhabit the same body at the same time, and the Holy Spirit is a permanent occupant of believers.
Demonic influence, on the other hand, is outside the individual. Pressure, suggestion and temptation by many methods are the chief tactics demons use. Things such as pornography, anti-Christian propaganda and temptations that appeal to the flesh are the tools used by demons. Their intent is to hinder the purposes of God and extend the influence of Satan. They mislead and wage persistent war against Christians (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:12). They appeal to our weakness such as pride, the desire to get rich, famous, and powerful (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). They incite violence, wickedness, and deceit.
Ill. THE DOCTRINE OF SATAN
I must not approach the subject of Satan with careless levity. The Bible takes his existence very seriously and so do I. He is a personal, spirit being. There are over 40 titles and names for Satan which include: Lucifer, Satan, Devil, Serpent, Abbaddon, Apollyon, Dragon, the evil one, Beelzebub, and Prince of this World (Isaiah 14:12; Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 4:1; Genesis 3:1; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 12; Matthew 13:19; Mark 3:22; John 16:11; Ephesians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4). In Revelation chapter 13, Satan is referred to as a dragon, and his henchmen as a beast and false prophet. The names point to his vile, wicked character and ruthless, deceitful operations.
Satan savagely opposes God, and seeks at every turn to thwart God’s purposes. Satan introduced evil into the universe and world and promotes it today. The best explanation of his creation and fall are in Isaiah 14:1-20 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. Satan was originally created by God as a good angel. He rebelled and fell from grace into eternal judgment. He is seen in the Old Testament, every book of the New Testament mentions him and Christ taught his existence (Matthew 4:1-11; John 8:44). He appears over 52 times in the Bible. Let me be clear: Satan despises the human race, and seeks their destruction.
Satan originally had an exalted position with God, and was the protector of God’s throne. He resided in the holy mountain of God, was powerful and perfect in wisdom, beauty, character and conduct (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But, while in heaven, Satan became filled with violence, pride and untruth, and sinned in rebellion against God Almighty. He yearned to share God’s position, control the host of heaven, and God’s chosen people. He envied and desired God’s glory, power and authority (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ephesians 1:20, 21; 2 Corinthians 12:2). The core of Satan’s sin was that he wanted to be like God, which still characterizes his work on earth.
He is a master counterfeiter of God’s work. Satan exerts power within the realm of nature, politics, religion and the spiritual realm (Job 1:16-19; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Revelation 12:10).He has his preachers, a church, and doctrine (1 Corinthians 11:13-16; Revelation 2:9, 13; Revelation 2:24; Genesis 3:4, 5). In his corrupt and wicked nature, Satan deceives the world and accuses Christians of sin. He is a master faultfinder regarding Christians. We must remember, however, that Satan’s power is limited to only what God permits (Job 1:12).
The good news is that Satan has a destiny and final destination. Concerning his destiny, Satan, at his rebellion he was cast out of the holy mountain of God with the angels who followed him. He now dwells in the heavenlies exercising influence over the world system. From there he and his fallen angels will be cast down to earth during the Tribulation. The next leg of his journey is that he will be bound and confined to the Abyss, or Hades.
Following the Millennium, he will be released for a short period to lead a final rebellion against God, then he will be cast into his final, eternal place, the searing lake of fire (Ezekiel 28:14-16; Luke 10:18; Ephesians 6:11,12; Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3; 20:7-9; 20:10).
IV. THE BELIEVER’S DEFENSE AGAINST SATAN
With such a powerful, cruel foe against us we can become very fearful. But, God has not left us defenseless, because we are His children, His people. We are to treat Satan very seriously, yet rely on our position in Christ and His indwelling presence. Satan is a defeated foe and we are to take up God’s spiritual armor resisting and being alert for Satan and his brutal tactics (Jude 8-10; Ephesians 1:3; 6:10,12; 1 John 4:4; John 16:11; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8). We should not, however, become obsessed with Satan. That is his distraction to turn us away from service to God and His program.
From Ephesians 6:13-20 we learn how to put on God’s spiritual armor to guard against the pitiless attacks of Satan, and to resist. We practice truth and righteousness in everyday life. We evangelize and trust God when worry hits. We rest in salvation through Christ, believe and trust the Bible, and finally, pray.
Two final notes are in order. The first is that some think that God and Satan are in a ferocious battle, and no one knows who will win the ultimate battle, or even present battles. This belief is not true. God is the victor, always has had the ultimate power, and is never in danger of losing ground to Satan.
The second deals with question, “If God is a loving God, why does He permit Satan to do evil?” The ultimate accusation is that God is just as evil as Satan. Such a thought is horrible. The operative word is, “permit”. God does not cause Satan to do evil; He merely permits, temporarily, Satan and his minions to raise havoc.
This has to do God’s creating creatures with the freedom to choose. With that freedom comes the potential of choosing evil, which Satan (and humans) freely chooses. The choice and consequences of evil rests solely with Satan (and humans) – never with God.
I have just examined with you the fascinating yet sobering subject of angels, Satan and our defense against him. As we close, be encouraged against vicious Satan and the diabolical war he wages against God and Christians. One of our great defenses against Satan is knowing the Bible. In the next chapter I will show you how to study the Bible - the most amazing document ever to be in the possession of humanity.
NEXT, Chapter Ten: Bible Study
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