God’s Holy Angels: Part 2

Holy angels are wondrous creatures that God created to worship and serve him. The Hebrew mal’ak in the Old Testament and the Greek angelos in the New Testament translate messenger, and both are used for human and heavenly messengers. When the context points to a heavenly being, the Bible often translates mal’ak and angelos as angel. It always refers to God’s holy angels. Demons are also angels, but they are called by other names, never simply angel. In God’s Holy Angels: Part 1, I discussed Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah and Mary in the Christmas story. Here, I revisit that story and elaborate on what Gabriel’s appearance tells us about angels. I identify three teachings, but perhaps you can think of more.

First, God’s heavenly messengers are sensitive, compassionate beings, as opposed to robotic and detached. Angels detect and respond to human emotions and nuanced communications. When Gabriel greeted Zechariah and Mary, he responded immediately to their fear and reassured them that they were safe—he brought good news. Then he told them what God was going to do with and through them. Gabriel’s sensitivity and compassion were completely compatible with his powerful presence and function as God’s messenger.

Second, angels are intelligent, personal beings with God-given authority. Zechariah and Mary both questioned him, but Gabriel only chastened Zechariah. Gabriel recognized that the priest’s question was more a challenge than inquiry and that it exposed his rebellion against Gabriel’s authority as God’s messenger. Gabriel silenced him. Gabriel also saw Mary’s heart when she humbly asked, “How will this be . . . since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).   Gabriel assured her that God would enable her to conceive. This tells us that Gabriel and other angels can differentiate submission from rebellion and that they respond with God-given authority. Even so, Gabriel did not exceed the limits of God’s charge to him. Though obviously an intelligent, high ranking angel, Gabriel restricted his interactions to his mission. He had the knowledge and ability to discuss a number of subjects such as his relationship with God, angelic life in the heavens, or angelic involvement in human existence—but he didn’t! To explore such topics would exceed the limits of God’s charge and would constitute a rebellion against God. Rebellion against God is sin, and Gabriel is a holy angel who obeys God in all ways all the time.

Third, Gabriel was a messenger of God but he was not an intermediary for Zechariah and Mary to God. Neither Zechariah nor Mary asked the angel Gabriel, who stood in the presence of the Lord, to communicate with God on their behalf. Each spoke directly to God.  After John’s birth, Zechariah praised God (Luke 1:68–79). After the angelic visitation, Mary prayed, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation” (vv. 46b–50). Mary, Zechariah, and all God’s people speak directly to him. Jesus Christ is our mediator, and we do not need angels to intercede or speak on our behalf.

God’s holy angels communicate on his behalf. They are sensitive to people’s responses and respond with God-given authority. They limit their interactions to the purpose of their mission and never draw attention to themselves. They inspire worship and belief in God. Once their mission is accomplished, they disappear.



Categories Angels & Demons, Theology | Posted on November 27, 2012 by

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