God's Rule by Means of the Angels
Secular humanism assumes that God does not exist, or if He does exist, He is irrelevant. Man therefore controls and determines his own destiny. Scientism is a similar philosophy-it assumes that the physical, material world is all there is. Scientific methods will therefore completely explain the universe fully and completely-given enough time and effort.
The Biblical world-view is far different. God brought to entire universe into existence-ex nihilo -out of nothing. An invisible spiritual dimension, inhabited by great numbers of angels, powerfully influences our daily affairs and the course of history. Not only did God bring everything into existence, but He actively maintains the universe-supplying both force and power input from "the other side" of the vacuum (See Personal Update Articles).
Genesis tells us that God's purpose for man was stewardship, exploration, and governance over the Creation on His behalf (Gen. 1:26-28). But a revolt among the angels, led by the mighty archangel Lucifer, threw the physical universe into disarray and spiraling decay. Infiltrating the human race through Eve, this destroying, murderous spiritual being, now known as Satan, seized control of earth's throne, thus becoming for a season "the god of this world (age)" (Eph. 2:2).
The issue of man's loss of control over the Creation is discussed by the writer to the Epistle of Hebrews in the New Testament. The writer describes the impeccable credentials of Jesus Christ who will restore man's dominion in the age which immediately follows the one in which we now live:
It has been testified somewhere, "What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him? Thou didst make him [man] for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his [man's] feet." [Psalm 8] Now in putting everything in subjection to man, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to man. But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who makes whole and those who are made whole have all one body. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, "I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. (Hebrews 2:6-15 Modified RSV)
A short cryptic verse immediately precedes this description of the restorative work of Jesus: "For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking." (Heb. 2:5) A little reflection will show that if the Millennial kingdom which immediately follows the return of Christ is not governed by the angels-then evidently the angels do now have a prominent role in how God governs the present age.
Can we find examples in the Bible of God's governing work through the agency of angels in the present age? Indeed we can! The book of Job begins with a description of the bene elohim, the angels, appearing in heaven before the throne of God. Among them is Satan. In order to develop deeper character in Job, his faithful servant, God allows Satan to test Job to the limits. Only Job's life is to be spared:
And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that Job has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand." So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and there came a messenger to Job, and said, "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "The Chaldeans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you..." Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, "Whence have you come?" Satan answered the LORD, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause." Then Satan answered the LORD, "Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face." And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power; only spare his life." So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD, and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. (Job 1:12-2:8)
Much sound theology is found in this passage: Satan can do nothing without permission from the Lord-He must always stay within appointed bounds. Yet he apparently does have power over raiding bands of nomads, over weather, and the forces of nature, and over Job's physical health.
This passage does not imply that Satan causes all disease and suffering, or that all natural disasters are Satan's mischief. But from Job we gain the insight that when Jesus calmed the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, He may have spoken to an angel: "One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side of the lake.' So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, 'Master, Master, we are perishing!' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, 'Where is your faith?' And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, 'Who then is this, that he commands even wind and water, and they obey him?'" (Luke 8:22-25)
Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon for almost a year before it fell on the 9th of Av, 586 BC. However in September 592, 6 years earlier, the prophet Ezekiel was caught up and taken "in visions of God to Jerusalem" by THE angel of the Lord (1). The prophet was shown the inner idolatries of the people, the priests, and the leaders which had made God's judgment inevitable. Ezekiel is shown the destruction of the city as the work of six destroying angels (Ezek. 9:2). But we know from history that the armies of Nebuchadnezzar were the visible agents of the city's destruction. Ezekiel is also shown a seventh angel at work just prior to the destruction-he was a "recording angel" who marked the foreheads of the godly remnant in Jerusalem with an invisible "X" (the handwritten letter Tav). Thus those who wept and groaned over Jerusalem's impending doom were spared. Not only did Ezekiel witness what was going on behind the scenes of Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem, he "time-traveled" in the Spirit some six years into the future to see this event before it happened! (For the full account see "The 9th of Av, 586 BC: Ezekiel and the Destruction of Jerusalem"),
Late in the reign of David, Satan incited the King to take a census of his army. Evidently David had lapsed to counting on his own resources forgetting that God was the power behind the throne. This census greatly displeased the Lord who gave David three choices as to the consequences of this sin,
Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you...Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me." Then David said... "I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man." So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented of the evil, and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, "It is enough; now stay your hand." And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was smiting the people, and said, "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let thy hand, I pray thee, be against me and against my father's house..." And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD heeded supplications for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
Here we see that an angel under the direction of THE Angel of the Lord was the behind-the-scenes cause that brought death by pestilence to 70,000 Israelites.
A well-known account of angels bringing about a military victory for Israel is found in 2 Kings 18ff and 2 Chron. 32. In about 701 BC Sennacherib King of Assyria assaulted Jerusalem when Hezekiah was King. Despite his successful conquest of neighboring cities and other plundering and pillaging campaigns, it was not time for Jerusalem's judgment and would not be for another century. God answered the intercessory prayers of the King and the prophet Isaiah in a spectacular way:
"Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, says the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David." And that night THE angel of the LORD went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went home, and dwelt at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, slew him with the sword, and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
Herodotus, the Greek historian, says that the Assyrian army was suddenly infested in mice overnight. Perhaps God's appointed mice brought about a sudden attack of a virulent form of bubonic plague. Without a sword being drawn 185,000 Assyrians died in short order and Sennacherib was killed shortly after by his own sons.
The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of guardian angels who protect the elect of God (Heb. 1:14). The story of Job's testing is clear evidence that most of the time we all enjoy wonderful and continuing protection from evil. If Satan had his way with us, we would all be shredded and destroyed in very short order.
Bookstores these days feature rows and rows of popular books on angels. The spirits they describe are a far cry from the mighty spirit beings the Bible reveals. God rules the universe, nothing is outside His control-and there are no accidents.
"It is important to recognize...that God doesn't just sit in heaven and push buttons on a control panel. He uses "messengers," better known to us by the Greek word: angels. The Biblical view of the universe is not the modern one of vast reaches of barren space interrupted every couple of million miles or so by flying dead boulders. The Biblical view of the universe is that it is teeming and throbbing with life everywhere. The cosmos is heavily populated with "legions" and "myriads" of angelic beings, of various ranks (Colossians 1:16) and "species" (see, for instance, the descriptions in Ezekiel 1:5-25 and Revelation 4:6-8). Angels are associated with astronomical phenomena throughout the Bible (Judges 5:20; Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:13; Matthew 24:29; Jude 13; Revelation 1:20; 8:10-12; 9:1;12:4) as well as with the activity of the weather: wind, storms, and lightning are spoken of in connection with the actions of God and the angels in both blessing and curse (Genesis 8:1; 41:27; Exodus 10:13,19; 14:21; 15:10; 19:16; Numbers 11:31; Psalm 18:10; 104:3,4; 107:25; 135:7; 147:18;148:8; Ezekiel 1:4ff; Matthew 24:31; John 3:8; Acts 2:2; Revelation 7:1-3; 8:5,7; 16:8, 17, 18). Clearly, the Biblical world view does not attribute changes in weather to impersonal "forces" or "processes:"
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers [angels],
flames of fire his servants. (Psalm 104:3, 4, NIV)
"God controls the government of the universe," said Calvin. "No wind ever arises or increases except by God's express command." Further, "since angels are the powers of God, it follows that they never cease from their office of working. For God never can rest: he sustains the world by his energy, he governs everything however minute, so that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his decree (Matthew 10:29)...God works continually by angels...so that all creatures are animated by angelic motion: not that there is a conversion of the angel into an ox or a man, but because God exerts and diffuses his energy in a secret manner, so that no creature is content with his own peculiar vigor, but is animated by angels themselves." Martin Luther, as usual more pithy and direct, took seriously the psalmist's statement that the wind has wings. After a particularly severe and violent storm, he offered his opinions on the subject: "The devil provokes such storms, but good winds are produced by good angels. Winds are nothing but spirits, either good or evil. The devil sits there and snorts, and so do the angels when the winds are salubrious."
"The Biblical world view is uncompromising: God is running the world. Every atom in the universe is under His command. His Word created and sustains in Him. That is why He can assert His power and authority in such absolute terms:
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity,
I, the LORD, do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)
Who can speak and have it happen
if the LORD has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
(Lamentations 3:37, 38, NIV)" (2)
1. THE Angel of the Lord (with the article THE) is a theophany, or Old Testament appearance of the Son of God in human form, seehttp://www.ldolphin.org/AngelL.html. This angel reveals himself to Joshua as Yahweh Sabaoth, the commander of the armies of the Lord, in Joshua 5:13-15. A glimpse of these vast resources of God was shown to Elisha's servant in 2 Kings 6:15-17. Angels appear prominently in the book of the Revelation taking a major role in events of the tribulation period, see Rev. 2-3; 7:1-2; 8:3-12; 9:1, 11, 13-14; 10:1-7; 11:15; 14:6, 8, 15-17; 16:2-17; 17:7, Rev. 18:1, 21; 19:9, 17; 20:1; 22:6, 8, 16.
2. David Chilton, Power in the Blood, (Wolgemuth and Hyatt, Brentwood, TN, 1987), p. 66-67.