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天使的真相

作者:道格·巴契勒 牧师日期:2016-12-09 15:10:42浏览数:6569
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亚兰王与以色列民争战,他的军队时常偷袭,却皆以失败告终。不知为何,他的绝密作战计划总会被以色列王所知晓。于是有一天,亚兰王对他的将领们说:“我们这里有谁帮助以色列王?”(王下6:11)

将士们回答:“我主我王,无人帮助他,只有以色列中的先知以利沙,将王在卧房所说的话,告诉以色列王了。”(第12节)

原来如此。于是亚兰王决定绑架上帝的使者。一天晚上,他派出重兵围困了多坍——以利沙所停留的小镇。清晨,以利沙的仆人一起床,便发现他们已被重军围困——成千上万亚兰士兵的铠甲上闪闪放光,无数战马四蹄跺地响声一片。于是仆人急忙跑向以利沙,并大声喊着说:“哀哉!我主啊,我们怎样行才好呢?”(第15节) 以利沙走到窗前,或许揉了揉惺忪的睡眼,然后平静地说:“不要惧怕!与我们同在的,比与他们同在的更多。”(第16节)这位年轻的助手,被逼近的庞大军队吓得不知所措,但以利沙却祷告说:“耶和华啊,求你开这少年人的眼目,使他能看见。”上帝立即回应了他的祈求,于是“耶和华开他的眼目,他就看见满山有火车火马围绕以利沙。”(第17节)

烈火战车中的这些士兵究竟是谁?那围绕全城的超自然的生灵,正是上帝所差派的天使。对此,大卫王为我们提供了线索:“虽有成万的百姓来周围攻击我,我也不怕。”(诗3:6)大卫王为何会如此自信?因为“耶和华的使者,在敬畏祂的人四围安营搭救他们。”(诗34:7)

当我们研究圣经所谈这些极其真实、但在很大程度上非肉眼所能见的天使时,恳求上帝也同样开我们的眼睛。

无处不在的天使们

稳妥一点说,我们中的许多人,其实都见过上帝的信使,但却没有意识到。经上记着说:“不可忘记用爱心接待客旅,因为曾有接待客旅的,不知不觉就接待了天使。”(来13:2)像其他人一样,我相信自己已蒙了天使们的保护。

但这并非我确信天使存在的原因。我相信有天使,是因为圣经清楚地告诉我们,天使是存在的。从创世记到启示录,我们能读到全部有关天使的信息,至少有250处经文提到天使。单是圣经的最后一卷,就有80处提及天使。圣经中如此之多关于天使的章节,这实在是值得我们仔细关注的一个主题。

从希伯来语mal’ak和希腊语angelos而来的单词“天使”,亦称“信使”。事实上,这个单词有时会用来形容某人被派作使者。人们常常误以为,天使像普通人一样。但这些天上的使者比世人高大一些。而且他们长得并非都一样,其中一类名为“基路伯”,就是那些在亚当夏娃被逐出伊甸园后,把守大门的天使。这些有翼的天使也称为“守望者”。另一类被称为“撒拉弗”,意思是“燃烧的”。 先知也经常在异象中看到,这些天上的生灵侍立在上帝的宝座前。

天使乃是被造的生灵。有人认为,创世记6:2节中提到的,那些同“人的女子们”交合生子的“上帝的儿子们”就是天使。但我们知道,天使不能生育,他们并非人类。大卫把他们描述为上帝创造的美妙生灵,经上说,上帝“以风为使者,以火焰为仆役。”(诗104:4)相比之下,人类要“比天使微小一点。”(诗8:5)

虽是被造的生灵,但天使比世人要更加强大。彼得描述他们为“力量权能更大。”(彼后2:11)你知道一位天使在一夜之间杀死了185,000名亚述士兵的故事吗?(请看王下19:35)当大卫因数点以色列民犯罪时,全地发生瘟疫,以色列人死了七万。对此,圣经说:“大卫举目,看见耶和华的使者站在天地间,手里有拔出来的刀,伸在耶路撒冷以上。”(代上21:16)这一切仅仅由一位天使完成。

圣天使与恶天使

并不是所有的天使都效忠于上帝。有圣天使也有恶天使。曾经,所有的天使都侍奉上帝,但众天使中最有权柄的一位,名叫(Lucifer)路锡甫,他背叛了上帝,变成撒但,与上帝为敌,并说服了三分之一的天使,加入了其叛乱的阵营。经上说:于是“在天上就有了争战。米迦勒同祂的使者与龙争战,龙也同它的使者去争战。”(启12:7)龙代表魔鬼,而米迦勒则象征着基督,超越所有天使的那一位。

通过这场战争,能帮助我们了解自己所处世界之罪恶的根源。这一切都源于一位堕落的天使。“它的尾巴拖拉着天上星辰的三分之一,摔在地上。”(第4节)

我们得到警告,“所以诸天和住在其中的,你们都快乐吧!只是地与海有祸了,因为魔鬼知道自己的时候不多,就气忿忿地下到你们那里去了。”(启12:12)世界的痛苦、忧伤和罪恶,都始于这位堕落的天使。当亚当和夏娃听从撒但而不听从上帝时,魔鬼就在我们的星球上设立了他的堡垒,并暂时获得统治地球的权力,以实施他叛逆上帝的阴谋。保罗描述魔鬼的工作:“因我们并不是与属血气的争战,乃是与那些执政的、掌权的、管辖这幽暗世界的,以及天空属灵气的恶魔争战。”(弗6:12)我们正与堕落的天使交战,他们每天都在试图拦阻上帝的旨意,并使我们犯罪。

总有一天,这些真实的恶天使会被除灭。耶稣用绵羊和山羊的比喻道出了他们的结局。“王又要向那左边的说:‘你们这被咒诅的人,离开我!进入那为魔鬼和他的使者所预备的永火里去!’”(太25:41)他们也知道自己的末日业已临近。堕落的天使,魔鬼,曾问耶稣,是否“时候还没有到,祢就上这里来叫我们受苦。”(太8:29)圣天使与恶天使都是非常真实地存在着,并非如人们想象那般,只是虚构。他们如同看不见的无线电波,虽然肉眼不能见,但依然环绕在我们的周围。

有人会问,如果上帝是全能的,为什么祂不动动手指,就把那些恶天使除灭呢?这是因为祂的品格受到了质疑。魔鬼已将那些可怕的指控都指向了上帝,若上帝只是简单地焚毁那些控告祂为不公平的恶天使,便会令祂的追随者只是出于惧怕来跟从祂,而非出于爱。信任是真爱的基础。圣经说:“上帝就是爱。”(约壹4:8)并且,“爱里没有惧怕;爱既完全,就把惧怕除去。”(18节)爱必须是侍奉上帝的最高动机。因此,在路锡甫和他的天使们面临刑罚和毁灭之前,上帝要允许他们在宇宙中尽显其恶。

极具讽刺的是,那些受恶天使影响而处于危难之中的人,恰恰不相信恶天使的存在。那些嘲笑魔鬼及恶使者只是些伪装成长着一对蝙蝠翅膀和触角的淘气鬼的人,更容易被魔鬼所欺骗。即使是油画中看起来微小、裸身漂浮在云彩上的天使丘比特,其实也只不过是中世纪的人们虚构出来的。事实上,并没有小天使,他们皆是高大、雄伟、大能的生灵。

相信天国中那些美丽的天使所做的奇妙之工,对我们来说是好的。但同样重要的是,我们要提防恶天使。耶稣之所以告诉我们祷告时要说:“不叫我们遇见试探;救我们脱离凶恶。”那是有原因的。(太6:13)

天使的能力

天使的其他能力还有什么?其一,他们形体是非常美丽的。当耶稣从死里复活时,有主的使者从天上下来,“相貌如同闪电,衣服洁白如雪。”(太28:3)

天使的速度极快。“这活物往来奔走,好像电光一闪。”(结1:14)这让我想起地球上最快的昆虫,蜻蜓,时速可达30多英里,就如同你以每小时90英里的速度奔跑一样!

但天使比蜻蜓要快得多,他们的速度明显比光速还快。注意但以理遇到的这位天使:“我祷告的时候,先前在异象中所见的那位加百列,奉命迅速飞来,约在献晚祭的时候,按手在我身上。”(但9:21)想想那个画面,当但以理祈祷时,上帝差遣了一位天使,瞬间从数千万光年以外的天国,来到了但以理的身边,如此之快!

有时,圣经还指出天使是有翅膀的。当以赛亚见主坐在高高的宝座上时,他也看到了天使,“其上有撒拉弗侍立,各有六个翅膀:用两个翅膀遮脸,两个翅膀遮脚,两个翅膀飞翔。”(赛6:2)在圣殿中镶嵌在约柜上的基路伯有翅膀:“二基路伯要高张翅膀,遮掩施恩座。”(出25:20)

尽管天使不像我们凡人一样,但他们也有身体;住在一个我们难以理解的维度中。有趣的是,使徒保罗告诉我们,“血肉之体不能承受上帝的国。”(林前15:50)在复活的时候,我们都会拥有一个崭新的身体,如天使一样,不再死亡。

我们可以通过对电磁光谱的学习,以简单的方法去理解虽然肉眼看不见,但却实际存在的事物。我们的肉眼可以看到彩虹的全部颜色,这是可见的光谱,我们称这种波长的光谱为“光”。但有很大频率范围内的光谱,是我们肉眼根本看不见的。科学家很久前就发现了伽玛射线,红外线,微波,无线电波等等。今日我们知道,在我们的周围有成千上万种不同频谱的光。因此,同样的,就不难相信,有一个属灵国度是我们还不能完全理解的。

那么,究竟有多少天使存在呢?圣经没有给我们一个确切的数字,但我们知道有很多。正如,当耶稣在客西马尼园被捕时,他对那些惊恐的门徒说,“你想我不能求我父,现在为我差遣十二营多天使来吗?”(太26:53)那将是接近80,000个天使!

使徒约翰在异象中,“看见,且听见,宝座与活物并长老的周围有许多天使的声音;他们的数目有千千万万。”(启5:11)这个词在希腊语中,代表一个不能数尽的数量。同样,这里说:“你们乃是来到锡安山,永生上帝的城邑,就是天上的耶路撒冷。那里有千万的天使。”(来12:22)请记住,这里提及的只是圣天使,此外还有恶天使。

不可敬拜天使

天使是明亮的、强大的、智慧的、迅速并且令人生畏的,他们皆是具有独特性的个体。但对于这些有着令人着迷之特性的天上生灵,圣经说:我们决不可敬拜他们。他们虽是神圣秩序中的一部分,但并不是神圣的。如前所述,天使是被造物。与圣父、圣子、圣灵的永恒相比,天使是有一个起点的。圣天使将活在永恒中,而恶天使则是有着注定结局的有限生灵。

圣经警告我们,“不可让人因着故意谦虚和敬拜天使,就夺去你们的奖赏。”(西2:18)当一位天使出现在约翰身旁,他俯伏要下拜时,请注意那位天使的回答:“千万不可!…你要敬拜上帝。”(启22:9)

十诫明明地告诉我们,“除了我以外,你不可有别的神。”(出20:3)这也包括天使,甚至在天使的形象前祷告,也是被禁止的。“不可为自己雕刻偶像;也不可作什么形像仿佛上天、下地和地底下、水中的百物。不可跪拜那些像;也不可侍奉它。”(第4,5节)

我们知道,曾有一位天使要求被敬拜——撒但在旷野试探基督时,他向耶稣保证,如果救主只敬拜他,全世界都会是耶稣的。当然,耶稣拒绝了魔鬼的邀请。祂回答说:“撒但退去吧!因为经上记着说:‘当拜主你的上帝,单要事奉祂。’”(太4:10)

在救赎的计划中,天使看自己为人类的伙伴一样。那位来到约翰身旁的天使也说:“我与你和你的弟兄众先知,并那些守这书上言语的人,同是作仆人的。你要敬拜上帝。”(启22:9)

荣耀上帝

我们可以从以赛亚书第6章和启示录第7章中看到,天使最大的快乐之一,就是荣耀上帝。当天使向牧羊人宣告基督的降生时,他们是怎么说的?“在至高之处荣耀归于上帝!”(路2:14)天使们再也找不到比荣耀上帝更大的快乐了。而我们的被造也是因着这同一目的。“所以”,保罗写道:“你们或吃或喝,无论作什么,都要为荣耀上帝而行。”(林前10:31)我们应该像天使一样,在赞美那位拯救我们的上帝中,找到最大的快乐。 天使乃是服役的灵,为顺从上帝的旨意而活。他们时常围绕着主。你可以在一些教堂中看到这些图像,那是天上圣所的缩影。当上帝指示摩西在旷野建造圣所时,天使令圣所增辉不少。基路伯被安置在约柜上,圣所的金墙和幔子上都绣有天使作为装饰,随处可见。事实上,在天国中,有无数的天使环绕在上帝的宝座旁,听候差遣。

天使们也极其重视那拯救我们这失丧世界的救赎计划。彼得说,对于我们的救赎,“天使也愿意详细察看这些事。”(彼前1:12)上帝的军队随时准备着,要为我们的得赎而战斗,他们要拯救我们免遭灭亡。“天使岂不都是服役的灵,奉差遣为那将要承受救恩的人效力吗?”(来1:14)当我们知道这些神圣的使者,是被差遣来服务我们时,这是何等大的鼓励啊!

守护者

耶稣对天使的简短提及,使我们知道,在每个人的身边,都至少有一位天上的守护者,在看顾着我们。基督说:“你们要小心,不可轻看这小子里的一个。我告诉你们,他们的使者在天上常见我天父的面。”(太18:10)即便是最软弱的基督徒也可以确信,有从上帝而来的天使保护着他们。

“听从祂命令,成全祂旨意、有大能的天使,都要称颂耶和华。你们作祂的诸军,作祂的仆役,行祂所喜悦的,都要称颂耶和华。”(诗103:20,21)在这段话中,大卫肯定了天使的保护。

对于那些负责守护上帝儿女的天使,大卫的描述使人最得安慰,他说:“耶和华是我的避难所。你已将至高者当你的居所,祸患必不临到你,灾害也不挨近你的帐棚。因祂要为你吩咐祂的使者,在你行的一切道路上保护你。他们要用手托着你,免得你的脚碰在石头上。你要踹在狮子和虺蛇的身上,践踏少壮狮子和大蛇。”(诗91:9-13)

在圣经中,还有许多关于天使的鼓舞人心的记述。要是一一讲述圣经中拜访了夏甲、罗得和雅各,喂养了以利亚,在狮子坑搭救了但以理,对撒迦利亚说话,向马利亚宣告好消息,从牢狱中释放彼得,将腓力引到一位埃塞俄比亚人面前,在沉船上鼓励保罗,安慰在旷野禁食40天以及在客西马尼园中的耶稣的这些天上的生灵的故事,怕是要花费我们数小时的时间——事实上,有关天使的记述贯穿了整本圣经。

约翰·佩顿牧师是新赫布里底群岛的布道先锋。他曾讲述过一个被天使保护的惊心动魄的故事。在其布道中心的附近,住着一个充满敌意的食人部落。一天晚上,那些人打算烧毁佩顿牧师的家,并杀死他们。于是佩顿牧师和他的妻子在那个可怕的夜晚,整夜祈祷,恳求上帝搭救他们。结果天亮的时候,他们惊讶而百思不得其解地发现,那些攻击者们都已离开。感谢上帝,是上帝拯救了他们。

一年后,食人部落的首领奇妙地归向了耶稣。佩顿牧师还记得那晚发生的事,于是便问这位酋长,那天晚上,是什么原因令他和他的族人,没有烧毁自己的房屋。不料那位酋长却惊讶地反问道:“和你们在一起的那些人到底是谁?”

牧师回答:“只有我和妻子,没有别的人啊!”酋长争辩说,那晚,他看到有数百人身穿着闪光的衣服,手中拿着利剑,站在那里,将小小的布道中心围在中间。所以,部落的人因害怕才没敢进攻。这时,佩顿先生终于明白,是上帝派遣了祂的天使,保护他们。

在这个世界上,我们并不孤单。天上的生灵,正看着的我们的一举一动。他们不但保护我们,而且在我们走迷方向时,他们将与上帝一同引导我们,回归正路。总有一天,我们会面对面地见到他们。我十分期待能见到我的那位守护天使,你呢?虽然我们不能敬拜他们,但我们却真该为这些服务于我们这堕落世界的天使,而感谢上帝。


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英文:

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

The King of Syria was waging war against the nation of Israel. He tried often to attack by surprise, but his army was continually foiled. Somehow, his top-secret war plans were being divulged to the king of Israel. So one day the Syrian king confronted his generals, saying, “Which of us is for the king of Israel?” (2 Kings 6:11).

They replied, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom” (v. 12).

Now enlightened, the king of Syria decided to kidnap the Lord’s agent. One night he sent a large army to encircle the little town of Dothan, where Elisha was staying. Early in the morning, Elisha’s assistant arose and discovered they were completely surrounded. When he saw the glitter of armor on thousands of soldiers and heard the snort of stomping horses, he rushed to Elisha and cried out, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (v. 15).

Elisha walked to the window, perhaps rubbing his eyes from the sleep, and calmly responded, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). His young assistant must have been bewildered because of the huge army threatening them, but Elisha prayed, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” God immediately answered His messenger’s prayer. “Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17).

Who were these soldiers in chariots of fire? These supernatural beings that surrounded the town were angels sent from God. King David gives us this clue: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6). Why could David be so confident? Because, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).

I also pray that God will open our eyes as we consider what the Bible says about these very real but largely unseen beings.

Angels Everywhere
It is probably safe to say that many of us have actually seen these messengers from God but didn’t realize it. The Bible says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Like many others, I believe I have been providentially protected by angels. 

But that’s not why I am convinced of their existence. I believe in angels because the Bible plainly teaches that they exist. From Genesis to Revelation we read all about them. At least 250 Bible passages speak of angels. The last book of the Bible alone has 80 references. Surely, with so many Scriptures about them, it is a subject worthy of our careful attention.

Both the Hebrew word mal’ak and the Greek word angelos, from which we get the word “angel,” simply mean “messenger.” Indeed, the word is sometimes used to describe a human who is dispatched as an emissary. People often mistook angels for ordinary people, but these heavenly messengers are greater than mortal beings. And they are not all alike. One class of angels is called cherubim, such as those who guarded the gates of Eden after Adam and Eve were expelled. These winged angels are also called “watchers.” Another class is called seraphim, which means “burning ones.” These celestial beings are often seen before God’s throne or by prophets while in vision.

Angels are created beings. Some have suggested that the “sons of God” uniting with the “daughters of men” reference in Genesis 6:2 is referring to angels. But we know angels cannot procreate. They are not human. David portrays them as brilliant beings created by God, “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire” (Psalm 104:4). Humans, by contrast, “have been made a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).

While created beings, angels are much more powerful than earthlings. Peter describes them as being “greater in power and might” (2 Peter 2:11). Did you know that a single angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night? (See 2 Kings 19:35.) When David sinned in numbering Israel, an angel went through the land as a plague and killed 70,000 men. The Bible explains, “Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 21:16). This was the work of just one angel.

Good and Evil Angels
Not all angels do the bidding of God. There are good angels and bad angels. At one time all angels served the Lord, but the highest angel of heaven, named Lucifer, turned against God. He became Satan, the enemy, and persuaded a third of the other angels to join in his rebellion. The Bible says, “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought” (Revelation 12:7). The dragon symbolizes the devil, and Michael symbolizes Christ, the One who is over all the angels.

Seeing this battle helps us understand the root of sin in our world. It all began with a single fallen angel. “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (v. 4).

We are warned, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil [and his evil angels] have come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (v. 12). The pain and suffering and sin in our world began with the fallen angels. When Adam and Eve listened to Satan instead of God, the devil was empowered to set up his headquarters on our planet and was given temporary dominion over the earth to carry out his rebellion against God. Paul describes their evil work against us: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We are at war with fallen angels who daily attempt to thwart God’s will and get us to sin.

Someday these evil angels, who are very real, will be destroyed. Jesus spoke of their end in the parable of the sheep and goats. “Then He [God] will say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). They also know their doom is coming. Fallen angels, or demons, would ask Jesus if He had “come to torment [them] before the time” (Matthew 8:29). Good and bad angels are very real and not just a figment of our imagination. They are like invisible radio waves. Though we cannot see them, they are still all around us.

It’s been asked that if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He just wipe out all the evil angels with the snap of His divine fingers? It is because His character is at stake. The devil has leveled dreadful charges against God. If the Lord simply incinerates all who call Him unfair, it would lead all of His creatures to follow Him out of fear instead of serving Him out of love. Trust is the foundation of true love. The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (v. 18). Love must remain the supreme motive for serving God. So God allows Lucifer and his angels to fully demonstrate their character to the universe before they are punished and annihilated.

Ironically, those who are in the greatest danger of being influenced by evil angels are those who do not believe they exist. People who laugh at the idea of the devil and his angels as make-believe ghoulish imps with batwings and horns are more susceptible to his deceptive work. Even the paintings of good angels that look like tiny, unclothed cupids floating on clouds are medieval fiction. Angels don’t have little baby angels. They are large, powerful, and majestic creatures.

It’s good for us to believe in the wondrous work of heaven’s beautiful angels. But it’s equally important for us to be aware of the evil angels. Jesus told us to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” for good reason (Matthew 6:13).

Angelic Abilities
What are some other capabilities of angels? For one, they are physically brilliant. When Jesus rose from the dead, the angel who came from heaven had a countenance “like lightning” and “clothing as white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).

Angels are also fast. “The living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning” (Ezekiel 1:14). It reminds me of one of the quickest insects on earth—the dragonfly—which has been clocked at more than 30 miles per hour; it would be like you running at 90 miles an hour!

However, angels are much quicker than dragonflies. Heaven’s messengers evidently move faster than the speed of light. Note Daniel’s experience with an angel: “While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering” (Daniel 9:21). Picture what happened: Daniel prayed to God and while he was still praying God sent an angel from heaven, thousands of light-years away, to Daniel’s side. Now that’s fast!

Sometimes Scripture refers to angels with wings. When Isaiah saw the Lord in heaven on His throne, he also saw angels. “Above it [the throne] stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew” (Isaiah 6:2). The cherubim that were fashioned to be on top of the ark of the covenant in the temple had wings: “The cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings” (Exodus 25:20).

Angels also have bodies, although they are not mortal like our own; they live in a dimension we find hard to comprehend. Interestingly, the apostle Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). At the resurrection we will be given new bodies that, like the angels, will never die.

We can begin to grasp, in a small way, the realities of things unseen by studying the electromagnetic spectrum. The visible spectrum are light rays we can see with the naked eye—all the colors of the rainbow. We call these wavelengths “light.” Yet there is a large range of frequencies we cannot see. Scientists long ago discovered the existence of gamma rays, infrared, microwaves, radio waves, and more. We now know there are thousands of frequencies bombarding us from all around. So, likewise, it shouldn’t be too difficult to believe there is a spirit realm that we don’t fully understand.

How many angels are there? The Bible doesn’t give us an exact number, but we know there are a lot. For instance, when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, He said to His fearful disciples, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). That would be nearly 80,000 angels!

Here’s what the apostle John saw in vision: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11). This terminology in Greek indicates a number that cannot be counted. Here is the same idea: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22). Keep in mind that these are references to the good angels. There are plenty of bad ones out there as well.

Not to Be Worshiped
Angels are bright, powerful, intelligent, fast, and awesome. They are individuals with their own unique personalities. But for all the fascinating qualities of these heavenly beings, the Bible says we are never to worship them. They are part of the divine order, but they are not divine. As mentioned, angels are created beings. While God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are eternal, angels have a beginning point. Good angels will live on throughout eternity, but evil angels have finite lives with a certain ending.

The Bible cautions, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels” (Colossians 2:18). When an angel appeared to John, he bowed down to worship. Note the angel’s response: “See that you do not do that. … Worship God” (Revelation 22:9).

The Ten Commandments plainly tell us, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). That would include angels. Even praying over images of angels is prohibited. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (vv. 4, 5).

We know that one angel has demanded worship. When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, he promised Jesus the whole world if the Savior would only worship him. Of course, Jesus refused to comply with the devil’s invitation. He responded, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’ ” (Matthew 4:10).

Heavenly angels see themselves as our partners in the plan of salvation. The angel who visited John also said, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9, emphasis added).

Glorifying God
One of the paramount joys of angels is to glorify God. We see this in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 7. When the angels came to announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds, what were their words? “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14). Angels find no greater pleasure, and we were created for the same purpose. “Therefore,” writes Paul, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We ought to find our supreme happiness in glorifying the God who saves, just like the angels.

Angels are ministering spirits who also live to obey God’s will. They constantly surround the Lord. You can see this symbolized in the earthly temple. It was a miniature model of the heavenly sanctuary. When God instructed Moses to build a sanctuary in the wilderness, angels adorned the temple. Angels were placed over the ark. Angels were embroidered into the curtains and engraved in the golden walls of the holy place. They were everywhere. In reality, angels surround God’s throne in heaven waiting to do His bidding.

The angels are especially interested in the plan of salvation for our lost world. Peter speaks of our salvation as “things which angels desire to look into” (1Peter 1:12). This host of heaven is God’s army ready to do battle for our redemption. They participate in saving us from destruction. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). What an encouragement to know that these divine agents are sent to serve us!

Guardians
A brief reference made by Jesus about angels shows how each one of us has at least one of these guardians of heaven watching over us. Christ said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). Even the weakest Christian has the assurance that “their angel” has access to God.

David affirms the defense of angels when he writes, “Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure” (Psalm 103:20, 21).

Most comforting are David’s words of the protective care angels provide God’s children. “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot” (Psalm 91:9–13).

There are so many inspiring references to angels in the Bible. We could go on for hours about the stories of these heavenly beings in the Bible who visited Hagar, Lot, and Jacob, who fed Elijah, who saved Daniel in the lion’s den, who spoke with Zechariah, who announced good news to Mary, who freed Peter from prison, who guided Philip to an Ethiopian, who encouraged Paul in a sinking ship, and who even comforted Jesus after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and in Gethsemane. Angels are all through the Bible.

Pastor John G. Paton, a pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. A hostile, man-eating tribe surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Paton family out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. They thanked God for delivering them.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?”

The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that he had seen many men standing guard—hundreds in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the tribe was afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them.

We are not alone in this world. Heavenly beings observe everything we do. Not only do they protect us, but they cooperate with God in guiding us into truth when we stray. Someday we will meet them face to face. I’m looking forward to meeting my guardian angel; aren’t you? While we should never worship them, we certainly should thank God for angels who live to serve our fallen world.