Heb.1:14 Are not the angels all ministering spirits (servants) sent out in the service [of God for the assistance] of those who are to inherit salvation?
Are they not all spirits engaged in special service, sent on assignment for the sake of those who are going to inherit salvation?
Are not they all ministering spirits to render service, sent on a commission for the sake of those who are about to inherit salvation?
Surely the angels are no more than spirits in the service of God, commissioned to serve the heirs of God’s salvation. JB Philips
On the basis of the New American Standard Bible the word ‘angel’ is found 74 times in theBook of Revelation. To read those references is to smash this notion (so popular in our culture) that angels are these potbellied, puffy, rose tinted cheeked, long haired and white winged creatures who sit around all day on cumulous clouds playing harps or shooting love arrows into the hearts of young people. (SLIDES #3 & 4)
The truth is they are mighty in power, awesome in appearance and absolutely charged with Devine authority. This realm is perfectly disciplined, rigidly structured and unbroken in rank and organisation. The entire angelic realm is engaged eternally in one occupation and that is the execution of the will and purposes of the Sovereign God in both the heavenly and earthly realms. They are involved in everything from perpetual and unbroken worship at the throne of God to fierce warfare in the heavenlies – not to mention the unfolding daily events on this planet from national governments to the unseen and unknown saint praying in the closest.
You might be shocked to discover the relationship between trumpet blowing angels in the heavens and catastrophic events in the earth. Read chapters 8 – 11 of the book of Revelation. I think the New Testament makes it very clear that as we move deeper and deeper into the end of this age we can expect a tremendous increase in the intensity and acceleration of spiritual activity. For instance, Rev.12:12 warns: “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”
But this message is not about the demonic realm; it’s about the angelic realm especially in relation to prayer.
It is interesting that the party of the Sadducees did not believe there was a spirit world at all, while the Pharisees totally believed in its existence. It seems to me that the present church – especially in Western societies – believes like the Pharisees but lives like the Sadducees. We confess our faith in the spirit realm but live as if it doesn’t exist. We all believe in angels until someone says they had a visitation from one. All I will say is that, as we move along towards the end of this age we are going to witness more and more manifestations of that entire invisible realm of spirit – both angelic and demonic.
I read two stories to you this morning – one from the Old Testament, the other from the New. In each story we saw manifestations of the angelic world in this time/space world. The forms of the manifestations were different – one was fire in the form of horses and chariots, the other was a light, and I think it safe to assume a human form. In each story these angelic visitors performed miracles of deliverance which were totally impossible on the part of the people in need of that deliverance. But none of this is the real heart of either story.
Working from the Old to the New here is the heart of each story: ‘Then Elisha prayed….’ ‘Butprayer for him (Peter) was being made fervently by the church to God.’
It is a simple message but a profound truth: There is a direct relationship between the prayers of believers on earth and the activity of the angelic world. The first implication of this truth is that we need to exercise great caution when we are tempted to confess that nothing happens when we pray, or my prayers accomplish nothing, or praying is a waste of time. There is something I know this morning – something that goes far beyond what I think, what I feel, what I experience and what I have or have not seen – it goes straight into and is based entirely upon the authoritative testimony of the word of God. I can tell you that the first place our prayers make a difference is in that invisible world of spirit and then according to God’s sovereign will that difference becomes manifested in this visible time/space world.
In Genesis we meet a young man filled with deceit, confusion and fear, running away from home to escape the wrath of his twin brother whom he has deceived. All alone and in the dark he makes a bed in what amounts to a rock pile. And there in that hard place – a place you would least expect God to visit – God meets Jacob in a dream. He sees a ladder that reaches from the heavens to the earth. But upon that ladder there is an unbroken traffic of angels ascending and descending.
A few thousand years after Jacob’s experience Jesus would make a strange statement: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”Could it be that the real ladder that reaches from heaven to earth – that the real link that forever joins the heavens and the earth together is in fact the Lord Jesus Christ? Here is a wonderful translation of Jn.1:51 – Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
We can only conclude that it is Christ who brings heaven to earth, but equally this same Christ brings earth to heaven in that HE represents the needs of this broken planet before the very throne of God. We must further conclude that in this great work of Christ as the redemptive link between heaven and earth the whole of the angelic realm is totally involved in their constant coming and going from heaven to earth. And returning to the theme of this message, the prayers of the saints impact upon all of this work.
So where are your prayers right now – all those prayers you feel are fruitless and without significance? We don’t need to guess at the answer to that question. Rev.8 3 – 4Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
All of this being true how do we explain the response of that group of people who had been praying for almost a week for Peter’s release from prison? When told that their prayers had been answered they totally did not believe it had been. Many have concluded that they prayed without any expectation that God would hear and answer their prayer. I disagree. I think they prayed with expectation but stumbled over God’s answer because it came in a way that blew their expectation apart.
The lesson is – we pray with expectation that God will answer but we do not impose any expectation on what that answer looks like when it comes.
Let me close with this: from the Presbyterian Shorter Catechism: ‘Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.’
Do we really appreciate the depth of that statement? ‘Offering up of our desires unto God’involves a great deal more than simply articulating our desires before the Lord – in the way a child presents a wish list to Santa clause. To offer something up to God is to give it over, to relinquish and release all rights to God concerning it. At the heart of this is the issue of control. Prayer is not a means whereby we control God. Rather it is recognizing His sovereign control and willingly submitting our heart and needs to Him.
One of the most amazing illustrations of the relationship between prayer and angelic activity is found in the tenth chapter of Daniel. He fasted and prayed for 21 days. On that twenty first day a mighty warrior angel manifested in physical form. Listen to what he said: “From the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.” He then went on and explained why it took 21 days to reach him. Somewhere in the journey between the throne of God and this praying prophet on the banks of a river, this angel came up against a demonic principality identified as the Prince of Persia. The resistance of this demonic principality was such that the angel sent from God had to recruit Michael, a chief archangel to come and assist him in overcoming and breaking through this demonic resistance.
For the most part we believe that story because it’s in the Bible. But do we believe that when we pray things still happen in the angelic world – things that eventually will become manifest here?
A few points to remember: 1) We do not ever pray to angels. 2) We do not command or direct angels. 3) Angels are never our servants. We pray to God in and through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is God who then commands and directs the angels in relation to our prayers. The angels are God’s servants who perform acts of service unto us as directed by God. They serve God by serving us within the context of His sovereign will.
Closing Illustration: John Doe, Disciple – page 184
Heb. 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.