In 1953, German New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann published a book entitled, Kerygma and Myth. Kerygma is Gk for preaching.
- Challenged the church to “demythologize” the Bible.
- Compared the Bible to an ear of corn. There are kernels of truth inside, but in order to get to them, we have to pull away the husk. For Bultmann, the husk was what he considered the mythological, supernatural aspects, such as the existence of angels.
- Said that no one living in the 20th century who understood modern science, medicine, and used television sets, or even turned on incandescent lightbulbs could imagine a world inhabited by angelic, otherworldly beings. And he didn’t have access to personal computers, the internet, smart phones and or Xbox.
Even though we know that Bultmann’s ideas of the Bible run contrary to its own testimony, on some level we may find ourselves agreeing with Bultmann. I mean, Angels? Really? I have never seen an angel. Have you ever seen a star nosed mole or a dragon fish?
Whether or not I’ve seen an angel… What if angels are among us? The issue is: are angels real? And if so, how are we to understand them? What do they do? And how does that relate to my life?
Since angels are mentioned almost 300 times in the Bible, we will not cover this subject exhaustively. But I think when we are done, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the angelic world and their impact in ours.
The key passage I want to read is 2 Kings 6:15-17 — Arameans (modern day Syria, NE of Israel) are seeking to capture and probably kill Elisha, have the city, Dothan, surrounded…
15 When Elisha’s servant got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So 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.
John Patton was a Scottish Presbyterian missionary who sailed to the New Hebrides Islands / Nuvantu in the South Pacific in 1858… the natives of the island were cannibals, in the words of Patton, were “painted savages who were enveloped in the superstitions and cruelties of heathenism at its worst.” During those years he was often in danger…tribal chief sent men to kill him, but saw two dozen warrior guards surrounding his thatched hut. The chief asked where they went during the day… Patton realized it was a host of angels defending him. The natives were impressed and left him alone.
Elisha’s servant and John Patton needed eyes to see. So do we.
5 teaching points:
I. Angels are created beings that exist in the unseen spiritual realm (dimension), but who, on rare occasions, appear visible in ours.
- For example
- 3 angels spoke with Abraham, then visited Lot
- The angel who rescued Daniel in lion’s den
- Encouraged and fed the prophet, Elijah
- Apostle Peter was released from prison by an angel
- An angel announced the birth of Jesus
- Attended him after his temptation in the wilderness
- Announced the resurrection at the empty tomb and explained his ascension
- An angel guided Philip to witness to an Ethiopian
- PROVIDENTIAL ENCOUNTERS not accidental!
- Heb. 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels unaware.”
II. Our English word angel comes from the Greek word aggelos, which means messenger.
- Sent from God to do his will on earth.
- Make announcements (birth of Jesus), defend (2 Kings 6) or destroy enemies (Sodom and Gomorrah; angel of death in Egypt, 10th plague)
III. Angels are highly organized and physically intimidating heavenly beings.
- Eph. 1:20-21; Col. 1:16 – principalities, powers, dominions, authorities…
- Sometimes called the heavenly “host” – not greeters! But a military designation that means “army” (which like ours, is highly organized)
- Often, when they appear, people are terrified. Thus, the “Fear not!” Remember the shepherds out abiding in their fields?
- At least 3 classes:
- Warrior class: Michael is the “archangel”
- Messenger class: Gabriel – revelation for Daniel, Zecharias, son John, Mary son Jesus
- Cherubim/Seraphim: only winged creatures (3 pair) – where we get “cherub” [but NOT a little baby w/wings and curly locks of golden hair]
- There are a multitude of angels.
- Mt. 26:53, Jesus said he could have summoned 12 legions to prevent his arrest and crucifixion
- Rev. 5:11, “11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands (myriads – Gk, myriades – countless, innumerable), and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.”
IV. We do not have a guardian angel. We have guardian angels.
- Psalm 91:11, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
- Heb. 1:14, “Are not angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
- Hilary Russell and her parents, Susan and Richard, were on a mission of mercy that blustery winter day in 1978 as they drove from their Miami home to the deserted stretch of Miami Beach…
- This has influenced how I pray for my kids… for myself &others.
V. Angels serve, but they do not save.
- Hebrews 1:3-4, “3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.”
Jesus has rescued us from the ultimate riptide! Not a temporal rescue, but an eternal rescue. He didn’t just have to enter the surf; he had to endure the cross – where he provided purification for our sins. He was contaminated so that we could be clean.
This is why the angels now, as John reveals in Revelation 5:12, shout together with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!”
Have you seen the Polar Express? the scene when Santa appears and is about to leave for his new year’s flight… the elves go bananas…
Like Elisha’s servant, we need eyes to see… not just angels protecting us, but Jesus saving us!