Local News: Belhaven University in Jackson is hosting a Community Dance Concert on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Concert Hall. According to Belhaven’s web site, Belhaven’s dance faculty, students, and alumni will “join together with other local dance artists to offer an inspiring and exciting evening of dance.” General Admission for the evening is $10, seniors and students pay $5, and complimentary admission is offered for Belhaven faculty, staff, students and their immediate families. The doors will open at 7 pm. For more information, go to www.belhaven.edu.
“Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
–Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 244
Sunday, September 29, is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels on the Church Calendar. Angels are a subject that fascinates many people, even non-religious people, and angels are frequently portrayed in Hollywood—sometimes reverently, and sometimes not so much. How does the Biblical account of angels differ from the popular perception of angels as mild-mannered, haloed creatures floating around on clouds, playing harps?
1. What the Bible tells us about angels
The Bible doesn’t give us every minute detail about angels we might wish to have, but here’s a basic run down of what we know about angels from Scripture:
• Angels were created by God before the creation of human beings.
• Angels are spirits, although they do at times appear to humans in the form of humans themselves. Since they are not, so far as we know, bodily creatures, they are not male or female. However, whenever they appear in human form in Scripture, they always assume the form of men. Contrary to popular portrayals, when human beings die, they do not become angels. People will not exist for all eternity as disembodied spirits; they are promised resurrected bodies at the last day.
• Angels were used by God in Scripture to give messages to people. For example, an angel told Samson’s parents that they would give birth to a son, the angel Gabriel told Mary she would become the Messiah’s mother, angels told the shepherds in Bethlehem the Messiah had been born, an angel greeted the women on Easter Sunday announcing Jesus had risen from the dead, and an angel told the disciples after Christ’s ascension that he would return.
• Angels were often used to execute judgment. God sent an angel to kill Balaam as he traveled to meet the king of Moab, angels were used to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, an angel passed through Egypt killing all of the firstborn sons before Israel’s departure, after David’s census which displeased the Lord, and an angel was sent by God to destroy Jerusalem.
• Angels were used in Scripture to help people in times of need. When Christ was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, angels ministered to him. When he was in the Garden of Gethsemane at the point of despair, an angel came and ministered to him. When Peter was locked in jail (Acts 12), God sent an angel to release him. When Daniel was in the lion’s den, God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6).
• God created angels as good and perfect beings, but some angels rebelled against God and fell. Scripture indicates that Lucifer, the creature now known as the devil, originally occupied the position of God’s most favored angel. When the devil rebelled, many other angels rebelled along with him. Demons are fallen angels whose agenda is to oppose the work of God. Though God decided from the beginning to redeem Adam’s race after its rebellion, Scripture never indicates any comparable plan of redemption for fallen angels. They are given justice.
• Angels are not all-powerful and are not to be worshipped. John is tempted to worship the angel in the book of Revelation, but each time he falls at his feet, the angel reminds John that he is simply a fellow servant and that God alone is to be worshipped. Indirectly, this indicates that we are not to pray to angels, but to God only.
2. Who is Michael the archangel?
The archangel Michael is referenced in the book of Daniel, the book of Jude, and the book of Revelation. The name Michael literally means, “Who is like God?” He is described as the “prince of Israel”. In Revelation, he is described as the one who will lock Satan in the abyss for a thousand years. In Jude, the story is relayed how, after Moses’ death, Michael disputed with the devil over the body of Moses. It is believed that, in the hierarchy of angelic beings, Michael is the highest-ranking angel.
Although some groups teach falsely that Jesus Christ is the incarnation, not of Almighty God, but of the archangel Michael, Scripture is clear that such is not the case. Jude’s main point in his story about Michael is that the archangel didn’t presume authority to rebuke the devil himself, but rather said, “The Lord rebuke you.” We know from reading the gospel, though, that Christ did exercise direct authority over the devil. He didn’t cast out demons in the name or authority of anyone—he simply used his own authority. Whereas Michael is a creature—albeit a highly exalted one—Christ is the supreme creator of all things and when he encountered demons, Christ’s presence terrified them.
3. Why have a day to celebrate Michael and the angels?
Angels are not the cutesy, cuddly things they have often been portrayed as being in art. As was mentioned earlier, angels were frequently used by God to execute judgment. It’s no coincidence that people, when encountering angels in the Bible, often are struck with fear. Angels had a reputation for being mighty warriors. When angels are sent to people, they often must begin by assuring their audience to not be afraid.
Human beings should have a healthy respect for angels. Unlike human beings, who struggle all life long to muster up some measure of obedience to God, the angels in heaven serve God in uninterrupted obedience. This is one of the reasons why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. In heaven, God’s will is always done; the angels never cut corners, deceive, or disobey. That’s not to imply that angels are “mechanical” creatures without a will of their own. Angels freely and “voluntarily” obey God, but they do so because, holy creatures that they are, it is their highest pleasure to do so. May God make us like his angels in heaven—creatures who obey as readily and as willingly as they do.