Is Your Life Affected by Angels?
Are angels merely figments of the imagination? Or do they really play an important role in the lives of men?
IT WAS a cool autumn night, and not far from the small Judean town of Bethlehem shepherds were in the fields tending their flocks. Suddenly the shepherds were shocked to full attention. A dazzling light gleamed all around them, and in the midst of the resplendent brilliance stood a creature such as they had never seen before. Great fear seized them all. Was the creature that stood in front of them merely a figment of their imagination?
No, clearly it was not, for it spoke to them, saying: “Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city. And this is a sign for you: you will find an infant bound in cloth bands and lying in a manger.” What a thrilling announcement! The one long looked forward to who would become the Messiah had been born.
But this was not the conclusion of the glorious display or of the heavenly announcements. The faithful recorder of these events explains: “And suddenly there came to be with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: ‘Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of good will.’”—Luke 2:8-14.
The angels unquestionably affected the lives of these humble shepherds, resulting in their coming to be among the first ones to see the newborn babe Jesus, who was to become the heavenly King of God’s everlasting kingdom. What a marvelous privilege!—Dan. 7:13, 14.
This well-known incident raises important questions, such as: Who are angels? Where do they come from? Are they disembodied humans? What services do they perform in behalf of people on earth? Is your life affected by them?
ORIGIN AND CHARACTERISTICS
Many persons have been taught that angels are the departed dead that once lived on earth. The death of the body is said to release an immortal soul that lives on as an angel in heaven. At the funeral of a young ten-year-old girl a Roman Catholic priest some time ago explained, as reported in the New York Daily Mirror: “God wanted another angel and He took Dorothy. Dorothy had been picked by God to remain with her parents just this length of time. Then he called her to serve Him at this Christmas time.”
Is this true? Are angels persons who once lived on earth? Are they disembodied humans? No, not according to God’s Word the Bible. These inspired writings reveal that long before this earth had been prepared for human habitation Almighty God created spirit sons or angels. This is revealed by His inquiry made long ago of his servant Job, which, according to the Jewish Targum, reads: “Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding. When the morning stars joyfully cried out together, and all the bands of angels began shouting in applause?”—Job 38:4, 7, 1957 Edition, footnote.
God not only created these spirits long before he did man, but he also made them a higher form of life than human. “Angels,” the Bible says, “are greater in strength and power.” And God’s Word explains that man was made “a little lower than angels.”—2 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 2:6, 7.
Not only were angels made superior to humans, but even among themselves there are various ranks or classifications. First in position is Michael the archangel, whom the Scriptures show is none other than the Word, or Chief Spokesman for God, who became the man Jesus Christ. (Dan. 12:1; John 1:1; Rev. 12:7) Then there are seraphs, whom the prophet Isaiah saw attending Jehovah in a vision of His temple. (Isa. 6:2, 6) Also described in the Scriptures are the cherubs, representations of whom were placed on the ark of the covenant housed in the Most Holy compartment of the wilderness tabernacle and later in the temple built by Solomon. (Ex. 25:18-22; 1 Ki. 8:6, 7; Ps. 99:1) And, finally, there is the great body of angelic messengers.
The combined number of these spirit creations of God reaches many millions. In a prophetic vision of Jehovah’s throne the prophet Daniel saw “a thousand thousands that kept ministering to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand that kept standing right before him.”—Dan. 7:9, 10.
Like humans, these spirit creatures can communicate in a spoken language; the Bible referring to “the tongues of men and of angels.” But, unlike humans, they are without sex and are, therefore, incapable of reproducing their own kind. Jesus revealed this when he explained that in the resurrection of the dead, men and women are not “given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.” Each angel was a direct creation.—1 Cor. 13:1; Matt. 22:30.
Humans who have died could not be included among these angels, because at death a man’s personality does not continue to exist. “The living are conscious that they will die,” the Bible says; “but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” And of the death of man, the Scriptures say: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” No part of man continues alive. The Bible states emphatically: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.”—Eccl. 9:5; Ps. 146:4; Ezek. 18:4.
This does not mean that none from among mankind receive heavenly life. At his resurrection from the dead Jesus Christ was given a spiritual body, and did ascend to heaven. (1 Pet. 3:18; Acts 2:31-33) However, Jesus was exalted far above the angels, and those who are taken from among mankind to share heavenly glory with him will also be exalted far above the angels. The Bible shows that these members of Christ’s bride, who will share with him in ruling the earth and bringing it to a paradisaic condition, number only 144,000.—Heb. 1:4; Rev. 14:1, 3; 5:10; 20:6.
The Hebrew and Greek words translated “angel” in the Bible simply mean a messenger. Angels are God’s spirit messengers, and their services are often in behalf of humans. Jesus Christ described what great concern they have for God’s servants, when he said: “See to it that you men do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” The psalmists also gave the comforting assurance: God “will give his own angels a command concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” And again: “The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them.”—Matt. 18:10; Ps. 91:11; 34:7; Heb. 1:7, 14.
Two outstanding examples of rescue by God’s angels are recorded in the Bible book of Daniel. The first occurred when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had three young Hebrew servants of God seized and thrown into a superheated furnace because they would not bow down to his huge golden image. When a fourth figure appeared in the furnace to protect the men, Nebuchadnezzar said: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent his angel and rescued his servants that trusted in him.”—Dan. 3:19-28.
The other instance occurred when the aged Daniel, a friend of those three faithful Hebrews, was thrown into a pit of lions because he refused to stop praying to his God Jehovah. The next morning the king hurried to the lions’ pit and inquired: “‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you are serving with constancy been able to rescue you from the lions?’ Immediately Daniel himself spoke even with the king: ‘O king, live on even to times indefinite. My own God sent his angel and shut the mouth of the lions, and they have not brought me to ruin.’”—Dan. 6:16-22.
Angels also ministered in behalf of Jesus. After his being tempted by the Devil at the beginning of his earthly ministry, “look! angels came and began to minister to him.” And on the very last night of his earthly life, while he was praying to his heavenly Father, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” The angels were right at hand to serve Jesus, causing him to say: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than twelve legions of angels?”—Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matt. 26:53.
An outstanding example that shows in what particular activity the angels have been assigned to assist God’s servants is found in Acts chapter five. Jesus’ apostles had been zealously preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and of his Christ, and so to stop this activity the Jewish “high priest and all those with him, . . . laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public place of custody.” Ah, but note what happened! “During the night Jehovah’s angel opened the doors of the prison, brought them out and said: ‘Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.’” God’s angel took an active part in seeing that the preaching work was not interfered with.—Acts 5:17-20; see also Acts 12:3-11.
But more than that, the angels even directed God’s servants to come in contact with righteously disposed persons. For example, on one occasion “Jehovah’s angel spoke to Philip, saying: ‘Rise and go to the south to the road that runs down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ . . . With that he rose and went, and, look! an Ethiopian eunuch . . . was sitting in his chariot and reading aloud the prophet Isaiah.” Philip was directed to approach the chariot, and when he explained the Bible truths concerning Jesus, the man happily embraced them and was baptized.—Acts 8:26-38; see also Acts 10:1-22.
IS YOUR LIFE AFFECTED?
There can be no question that angels played an important role in the lives of men in times past, but what about today? Is your life affected by angels?
You may not think so, but it actually is. God’s Word makes clear that we have now reached the last days of this wicked system of things when, as the prophecy describes, Christ would “send forth his angels” to “gather his chosen ones together.” Not only have the angels been gathering the “chosen ones,” who will eventually become members of Christ’s heavenly bride, but they are also sharing in separating people of the nations, as Jesus explained: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, . . . he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”—Matt. 24:31; 25:31-33; see also Rev. 14:6-10.
Although remaining invisible, the angels are very active in this separating work, noting the righteously inclined hearts of sheeplike persons and, as they did in the first century, directing God’s earthly ministers to them. Undoubtedly experiences similar to one related by a Kingdom publisher in the central United States occur frequently. The Witness relates that, while engaged in the house-to-house ministry, this happened:
“She told me she had thought of taking her life that day, but instead was praying to God to help her some way when I rapped on the door. This was a miracle to her, because there I stood, with my Bible in hand ready to share God’s Word with her.” Arrangements were made for a return visit on the woman and her husband, with the following result.
“That evening is one we will never forget. They were so eager to hear God’s Word and when we explained how they could learn more by a systematic study of the Bible, they agreed that was what they wanted. . . . After four studies, they are witnessing to their families and neighbors, so eager to share the wonderful new truths they have learned.” Experiences such as this are an evidence that the ministrations of angels are still being performed in behalf of those who earnestly seek God.
But even those who do not exercise faith in Jesus Christ and in the everlasting Kingdom of which the angel Gabriel told Jesus’ human mother that Jesus would be ruler—those too will soon come in for angelic attention. However, it will be no more pleasant for them than it was for the 185,000 Assyrian warriors who in one night were struck dead by the angel of Jehovah. It will mean their destruction! “At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels,” the Bible tells us, “those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus . . . will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.”—2 Thess. 1:6-9; 2 Ki. 19:35; Luke 1:28-33.
Certainly, then, now is the time to take steps so as to be affected beneficially by the angels. How? By heeding the “everlasting good news” that Jehovah’s witnesses are preaching under angelic direction. And by obeying the command of the angels, as recorded in Revelation 14:6, 7: “Fear God and give him glory.” Make it unmistakably clear that you have responded to this angelic admonition by your outspokenly encouraging others to worship God as he directs in his Word of truth; urge them to submit now to God’s reigning Son Jesus Christ. In that way you will prove that you are in harmony with God’s holy angels, and their service to God will also be a blessing to you.