Two weeks ago, we learned that when we pray, we affect the heavenly realms. We ran through just a few examples of the many cases when people prayed and the heavenly realm was engaged in direct response to those prayers.
Tammy reminded us last week of the angel that appeared to Moses through a bush that was on fire, but didn’t burn up and how the Lord spoke to Moses through it when he chose to walk over to it.
Most commonly, God sent angels to accomplish His will. What are angels, though? In our culture, we seem to have lost an awareness of the spiritual realm around us.
Although we have wine and spirit stores where spirits are sold, we don’t often consider what those spirits actually are. (spirits are distilled instead of fermented; higher alcohol content/distinct flavor)
Throughout Biblical cultures, angels are referred to often (angels, not angles). Specific classes of angels are written about as if everyone reading simply knew what a cherubim or seraphim or archangel were and even knew what they looked like as they were symbolized within the temple.
We find angels referred to 216 times in the Old Testament (Hebrew word mal’āḵ) and 188 times in the New Testament (Greek word angelos or archangelos). Although angels are referred to so frequently and are such an integral part of God’s miraculous works on earth and interactions with humans, very little seems to really be know about them in our culture.
It’s kind of like if I write a text or direct message to you about hot dogs. We both are very familiar with what a hot dog is and so we aren’t going to go into any level of detail describing what a hot dog is within our communication at all. From reading our communication with one another, it would be difficult to really figure out what a hot dog is and to get a complete and accurate understanding of hot dogs.
If someone who had never saw nor heard of nor eaten a hot dog read our messages, they would be confused and uncertain about what in the world we were talking about.
I believe this is no different when it came to the writers of the Bible. The one writing and the ones initially reading the writings just knew what angels were and so little is written to describe them in detail. It was unnecessary.
However, for us in the western world reading those writings thousands of years later, we have lost the understanding of the reality of the heavenly realm around us. When we read about angels, we don’t have the same common understanding that existed when they were first written about and even the same level of understanding of spirits in the heavenly realm as even exists in the eastern side of the world today.
I believe that God desires to begin to awaken our senses and to increase our awareness of what is happening in the spiritual realm around us and for us to become familiar once again with the angels around us and their critical role within the Kingdom of God and within our personal lives.
It reminds me of this Old Covenant encounter with the heavenly realm that released peace in the midst of the fear of what appeared to be certain death in the natural realm. This encounter also clearly reveals the interaction between the natural and heavenly realms as we pray.
2 Kings 6:8-20
8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
9 The man of God (Elisha) sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God 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 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.
For all of you Star Wars fans, this is literally the original, “These are not the droids you are looking for.” scene. The very man who this strong force was sent to murder lead that very same force right into the center of their own enemy’s camp.
20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”
22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Instead of slaughtering that strong force, instead a table was set before them by their own enemies. Instead of dying, they were blessed. As a result, God’s people were given favor by their own enemies and the raiding came to a stop. No one died that day despite the bent toward war that they all possessed initially.
This whole account should remind you of a worship song from earlier, right?
This is how we fight our battles! It may look like we’re surrounded, but we’re surrounded by the angelic army of the Lord! There’s a table that He has prepared for us in the presence of our enemies! This is how we fight our battles!
The angelic horses and chariots of fire could have easily destroyed that strong Aramaic force, but instead, they only executed the will of God via the prayers of Elisha and temporarily blinded them. This is such a clear and amazing account of prayer and both the heavenly and natural realms all operating together.
When we pray, we affect the heavenly realms!
What are angels, though?
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
Angels are not cute little babies floating around with wings and demons are not little red guys with horns and tails walking or flying around with pitchforks. We do not find anything in the Bible to support this image of either.
We do see that angels are mighty warriors who execute the will of God and serve the people of God. We see them as warriors not only in the book of Revelation, but also when Joshua encountered one at Jericho, David at Jerusalem, Balaam warned by his donkey, and others as well.
In fact, the angelic encounter that Joshua had might sound a little familiar to Moses’ encounter with the angel at the burning bush last week.
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
To Joshua, this was just a man with sword in hand. However, he had just personally met the commander of the army of the Lord who was about to bring down the mighty walls of Jericho! This is yet another interesting account where humans do something quite simple in the natural world in obedience to God and God does something hugely significant in the heavenly realm that releases victory in the natural world for His people!
Angels are distinct and unique creations from humans. Angels are not people who have died. When we die, we do not become angels. The scripture that might be misinterpreted to teach this might be:
Matthew 22:30/Mark 12:25
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
The context of Jesus’ teaching here was the challenge of the Sadducees who believe that there is no resurrection of the dead. One woman was passed down as the wife of seven brothers and they were questioning Jesus to see whose wife she would be in Heaven at the resurrection. Jesus didn’t say that we become the angels in Heaven, He taught that we will be like the angels in heaven who neither marry nor divorce.
Another verse that perhaps could be used to falsely teach that we become angels when we die is when Stephen was being stoned to death:
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Again, that little word “like” is once again used and cannot be ignored. Stephen was not becoming an angel when He was being questioned. He was filled with the Spirit of God and God’s glory was radiantly shining through him as he testified in the charges being brought against him. This was the same glory that he saw as he was being stoned to death and the same glory that beamed from Moses as he would leave the Presence of God.
The last verse that might be used to teach this is also a verse that seems to indicate that we have a guardian angel, or an angel assigned to our lives personally. Whether or not we have guardian angels is a disputable matter, but this verse seems to indicate that we do.
Another verse that seems to back up the guardian angel idea is when Jesus speaks about children here:
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
On to our last scripture about not becoming angels when we die, though. King Herod had just killed James and had Peter imprisoned. The church was praying for him through the night and in response, God sent an angel to release Peter from prison. When the angel left Peter, he went to Mary’s house where they were praying:
13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
Although they seemed to understand that as they were praying, angels were at work in response to their prayers, they failed to consider what actually happened. An angel released Peter from prison. It was not his angel at the door knocking, but Peter, Himself.
Again, it was not Peter who became an angel who was knocking, it was Peter in the flesh. And, even if Peter had died, this verse did not say that it was Peter as an angel knocking on the door, they said that it must be Peter’s angel that was knocking. An angel and not Peter. We do not become angels when we die.
Whether or not we have guardian angels assigned to us for life, angels certainly do serve us and minister to us.
Although angels minister to us and serve us, they are greater than we are. The Bible says that we were created a little lower than the angels and that when Jesus was born in the flesh, that He was made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:7-9).
This creates an interesting dynamic, but explains part of an angelic encounter with Samson’s parents that always puzzled me before this revelation about angels. An angel visits Manoah’s wife and brings good news about her coming pregnancy and instructs her to raise this child as a Nazirite with some simple instructions on how to do so.
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”
9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?”
“I am,” he said.
12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?”
13 The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”
16 The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)
Manoah, a man created lower than the angels, detained an angel of the Lord by simply asking him to stay for dinner. Manoah’s simple request was a detaining command to the angel sent by the Lord into the service of Manoah and his wife. This Hebrew word for detain literally means to restrain, withhold, or detain. It isn’t a word that would be used for a willingness of the angel to stay for a little visit and hang out with them for dinner. It is a forceful word.
17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.
We often see angels in the Bible with a natural manifestation of fire or wind as we read earlier with Elisha. It’s my opinion that the sound of a violent wind and the fire that separated into tongues at Pentecost was physical evidence of a the angelic activity in the heavenly realms when the Holy Spirit was poured out into their lives.
He makes winds his angels,
flames of fire his servants.
When we read about what the angels are doing in the book of Revelation during the tribulation, we see just how powerful of creatures they truly are as they execute the wrath of God.
They are also messengers who often bring words from God or to explain revelations from Him or to take us into heavenly places; even straight into the temple of Heaven and the throne room of God. They come to us in visions or even in person. Ezekiel, Zechariah, Daniel, and John in Revelation are great books to read about detailed angelic encounters.
Although angels primarily exist in the spiritual, unseen realm, they can manifest physically. When angels do physically appear to people they sometimes have clothing that is bright white and can appear in such a way as to cause those who see them to be afraid.
They can also appear in such a significant way that people bow down to worship them. In every instance where this happened, the angel would rebuke the person and demand that they never are to be worshipped. However, angels also can appear as normal people. In fact, Paul wrote:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
It is very likely that we have all had angelic encounters and didn’t even realize it. We may think that we are showing kindness to a stranger, but are actually doing so to an angel of the Lord. That’s kind of cool to think about!
We also know that angels listen to execute the word of God!
Psalms 103:20 (NLT)
Praise the LORD, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands.
When we pray and when we speak the word of God, we are interacting with and impacting the heavenly realm. Angels are released and assigned to execute the plans and the will of God on our behalf as they serve us and minister to us. Angels are eagerly waiting and listening for the word of God to be spoken so that they might bring it to pass.
This is another reason for us to get vocal in proclaiming God’s word! Yes, it is important to read it quietly and to memorize it and store it away in our hearts and minds. However, when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, it sure didn’t stay there, did it? In warfare, Jesus wielded the word of God, the sword of the spirit by speaking it out and refuting the scripture that Satan quoted to tempt Him.
Four times in the book of Revelation when John saw Jesus, he saw Him with a sword coming out of His mouth. Declaring and proclaiming the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, is an act of warfare! It destroys the work of the devil and pierces through darkness with great light and releases angels to bring those promises to pass!
Speak the word of God!
The valley of dry bones would still be a dusty old valley of death and dried up bones had Ezekiel not opened up his mouth and simply spoken the prophecy that God gave to him. It was when the disciples were speaking the word of God that people were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit and this happened several times, not just on the day of Pentecost!
Prayer, communicating with God, is simple. However, the prayer of a person made righteous by Jesus is powerful and effective and results in affects far greater than we may often consider reaching into the heavenly realms!
Pray passionately, pray unceasingly, and pray purposefully!