by Rev. John H. Farmer
Our Heavenly Hosts
We so often speak of a deceased loved one as now an angel living in heaven with God. That statement, while at times comforting, is far from what the Bible teaches. I understand it, however, insomuch that it tends to take away the sting of a painful loss.
Angels never become human. Humans never become angels. Here’s a bit of borrowed research over which we can focus.
At 75, I’m often thinking about Heaven; so, let’s take a look at what we believe about heaven’s other eternal citizens as we review the named Biblical angels.
Gabriel is the best-known angel of the Bible: a messenger of God, appearing in both Old Testament (Daniel) and in the New Testament (Luke).
Gabriel appeared twice to the prophet Daniel. One of those appearances was to explain the meaning of a vision that the prophet had experienced (Daniel 8:16). The second was to explain a prophecy that God had revealed to Daniel but that the prophet did not understand (Daniel 9:21).
Gabriel was privileged to announce the future births of John the Baptist and Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, he appeared to Zechariah to announce the coming birth of John the Baptist to his aged wife Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-19). Gabriel said about himself: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news,” (Luke 1:19). Previously Elizabeth had not been able to bear children.
Gabriel appeared to Mary in Luke 1:26-38. This is the revelation of another miracle, a virgin birth. He told Mary that she was blessed among women to be the mother of the “Son of God.” He further informed her that her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant. “For there is nothing that God cannot do,” (Luke 1:37).
Jude describes Archangel Michael as “the chief angel” (Jude 9). Jude records that even Michael does not condemn the Devil, but leaves that to God. The Book of Revelation describes a war in heaven with Michael leading his angels in a battle victory against the dragon (Satan) and his angels. The devil is thrown out of heaven and sent to earth (Revelation 12:7-9). We also learn that the fiery, ever-burning hell is reserved for the devil and his angels.
Michael is described in the Book of Daniel as “Israel’s guardian angel” (Daniel 10:21). A prophecy regarding Michael’s role in the end times struggle against evil is revealed in Daniel 12:1.
While Tobit is not in the canon of Protestant or Jewish Bibles, it is in Catholic and Anglican Bibles and is recognized in some of the Orthodox churches. The angel Raphael is revealed in the Book of Tobit.
Raphael is more of a “Touched by an Angel” angel. God dispatches Raphael from heaven to answer the prayers of two Jewish supplicants exiled in Nineveh. Through the work of this angel a blind Tobit is made to see and a young woman is given relief from an evil spirit that keeps killing her husbands. The happy ending is supplied when Tobit’s son marries the young woman. They live happily ever after and Raphael returns to heaven after revealing his true identity and refusing the earthly rewards offered by Tobit.
Apollyon (the destroyer) is the “angel in charge of the abyss” (Revelation 9:11). His Hebrew name was Abaddon… not a good angel.
Revelation 12:9 describes Satan’s fall from heaven. The Apostle Paul tells us in First Timothy 3:6 that Satan was condemned because of pride. Satan appears before God as the accuser and meets with the Lord in the first chapter of Job. Satan’s job is to make trouble for us but his days are numbered as we see in Revelation.
There are nameless angels who work for God as messengers and warriors. The popular evangelist Billy Graham refers to angels as “God’s secret messengers.” His 1996 book, Angels (revised), is a good read. There-in Graham affirms that angels “think, feel, will, and display emotions” and “at death, the faithful will be ushered by angels into the presence of God.”
Angels visited Lot in Sodom to warn him and protect him (Genesis 19). Angels protect God’s people, too (Psalm 91:11). Angels are created beings (Psalm 148:2-5); don’t marry (Luke 20:34-36), and are created holy (Genesis 1: 31; Jude 6).
I personally believe that God has used angels to direct my path at any number of critical junctures. Angels have redirected me from what I was doing or about to do, to some other location, some other issue over which God was ministering. Twice I have been traveling upon a planned route only to arrive at a stop sign or traffic light and turn in the opposite direction to that which my journey would have taken me.
While certainly not always the case, on several occasions I have been aware that when a person lay dying, they would see and hear angels, and that dear one responded to them as they were escorted from this earth to eternal life. In those cases, I also know that the dying person was a person of deep, abiding faith.
Much of the 2007 years-long-death-dialog prospered with my late friend Dr. George Gordon Ritchie Jr., about one being “drawn toward a light, and welcomed by angels.”
Think back along your pilgrimage. Look back over your shoulder. Ask whether or not you might have seen, heard or been visited by angels? You most likely have!