Following WWII the king and the Prime Minister of England joined a slew of British bigwigs to honor Air Chief Marshal Lord Hugh Dowding, the officer credited with saving the country from total destruction by German bombers. In his speech Dowding recounted how his understaffed squadrons of fighter pilots overcame impossible odds and kept England safe. He commended his men for rarely sleeping so the planes could stay in the air most of the time. Then he shocked the audience by telling of instances when some of the courageous airmen were killed in their cockpits by enemy bullets but their aircraft continued to fly on, returning fire. He claimed that occasionally other pilots reported seeing a figure of some sorts operating the controls. The Marshal could offer only one explanation. Even though he probably knew many would scoff, he was convinced angels had manned some of the planes whose pilots had lost their lives. Of course he had no proof and was merely stating his opinion but, considering his prestige and experience, one must respect his conviction on the matter. While the secular world dismisses such things out of hand, any believer who studies the Bible shouldn’t be too skeptical. The Scriptures avow that angels are capable of intervening in the affairs of mankind. They have done, are doing and will do so as history draws nearer to its climax. Yet notwithstanding the thrill we get hearing about their miraculous exploits, we can’t overlook what’s most important: What, exactly, is our relationship with angels supposed to be like? How can they assist us in leading a Christian life today? In what ways do they shield us from Satan and his evil guerillas? There’s a war going on, for heaven’s sake! Paul implied in Ephesians 6:12 that perhaps we should ride around in armored tanks. He wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” This is no light skirmish we’re in the middle of so we need to consider how the body of Christ can gain help from the Father via His angels.
One of the falsehoods promoted in modern society is that the devil’s a figment of our ancestors’ superstition-fueled imaginations. Others opine that the show’s over and Lucifer has long since left the building. But that’s not what God’s Holy Word teaches us. It says that Jesus’ archenemy helms one of the most powerful and efficient war machines in the universe. He controls principalities, powers and dominions. No part of the planet is exempt from the consequences of his despicable schemes. He’s in the process of gathering the nations together to participate in his final attack on the armies of Christ at Armageddon. Frankly, he doesn’t care whether humans believe in his existence or not because he doesn’t give a flip about us in general. His only goal is to defeat God and assume the throne. Yet Jesus assures us in John 12:31 and 16:11 that Lucifer’s already vanquished. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Christ “has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!” while Peter declared that Jesus “…went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him.” So are we to label Satan a blithering idiot who doesn’t realize he’s licked? No, but I think it’s fair to consider him the ultimate example of how runaway pride can convince even a high-ranking entity they’re invincible. One of my favorite flicks is “Little Big Man” from 1970. Toward the end of the movie director Arthur Penn presents a profound depiction of Custer’s Last Stand. Though the inevitable outcome is obvious to the Indians and his soldiers on the scene, the general struts around arrogantly, insisting to anyone within earshot that he’s still on top of the situation. He’s still dangerous because he has a weapon but he’s nevertheless doomed. That’s how I imagine Lucifer’s disillusioned mind is working. For him defeat, no matter how apparent, is not an option.
In technical terms Satan can be called a lame duck devil because God has yet to remove him from office. He’s still lurking around with his putrid posse in tow but it’s only for a while longer. Eventually the great I AM will use his angels to judge and totally eliminate Lucifer from the universe. Revelation 12:7-9 is explicit about what’s already gone down: “Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels. So that huge dragon – the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world – was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him.” Evidently Lucifer survived being dumped out on this planet, declared himself ruler and started planning his comeback while designating this orb his headquarters. But his freedom is soon to be curtailed. Revelation 20:1-3 explains: “Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. He seized the dragon… and tied him up for a thousand years. The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.) What I gather from that footnote is the Heavenly Father is so merciful and patient He’s going to give Lucifer one last chance to repent and acknowledge His majesty before throwing the switch. Only God knows how the devil will respond.
Some might complain, “I still don’t get it. If Satan’s already whipped then why’s he still allowed to tempt me into doing bad things? His being free on bail to stir up trouble isn’t helping me with my sinful nature at all.” The truth is, that’s a cop out because the Bible is quite specific when it instructs us on how to achieve victory over the devil on a personal level. Because Christ lives in us we have a lot more stamina and ability than we reckon. In Ephesians 4:27 Paul commands: “Do not give the devil an opportunity.” He’s saying it’s up to us to make sure all our doors and windows are bolted shut so the ugly imp can’t wiggle his way into our lives. Peter taught us in 1 Peter 5:8-9 to “Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” In other words, dealing with Satan is like handling toxic waste. One can’t be too careful. He then adds, “Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering.” He’s telling us we shouldn’t think we’ve been singled out for special attention. It’s a big boat we’re in. The most practical advice appears in James 4:7. There we’re told to “…submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Don’t roll over. Put up a fight. Don’t go willingly into his darkness. You see, he’s a coward at heart. If you resist his advances he’ll give up and go find someone easier to manipulate. God knows him better than anyone else so we’d do well to heed the Bible’s advice.
The positive news is we don’t have to wage war against evil by ourselves. When we surrendered to Christ the Holy Spirit rented a room in our hearts. Being the third person of the Trinity, there’s no one more powerful we could desire to assist us in our struggles. All we have to do is rely on Him. Not only Him but the enormous battalion of angels that vastly outnumber Lucifer’s limited but potent brigade of rebels. In an earlier essay I brought up the story of Elisha at Dothan where he found himself surrounded by an intimidating number of enemy forces. Elisha was no “don’t worry, be happy” numbskull. He knew he was in a tight spot yet he had peace of mind due to his unflinching faith. His young servant, however, was freaking out until God allowed him to see the true reality of the situation. The point is that if God would open our eyes to the spiritual world two things would become instantly apparent. First, we’d be startled to see ghastly demons lurking around in the shadows. Secondly, we’d be relieved to see even more powerful, shotgun-wielding angels ready to defend us. We Christians must act as if we, too, can see those protective angels. Vance Havner wrote, “Our primary problem is not light, but sight. Light is of no value to a blind man. Reading books galore on the subject will not reveal the angels unless our eyes are touched by faith.” We can’t let our fear of demons overwhelm our belief in angels. While we’re most definitely caught up in a ferocious war raging all around us we can’t let ourselves forget who triumphs in the end – our Savior. Our attitude should be that of the old general who, upon being told he and his troops were cornered, shouted, “Excellent! Don’t let any of the enemy escape!” Whenever you feel you’re under attack lift your eyes to the heavens and envision the angel army that encircles you. They’re really there.
Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. When Abraham sent his servant to his kinfolk to retrieve a bride for Isaac he told him, “The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you. He will make your journey a success…” (Genesis 24:40) Regarding God’s chosen people Isaiah 63:9 said, “The messenger sent from his [God’s] very presence delivered them. In his love and mercy he protected them; he lifted them up and carried them…” And when Moses was entertaining doubts God said to him, “…My angel will go before you…” (Exodus 23:23) The Bible even addresses our naiveté. Paul, in Hebrews 13:2, wrote: “Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.” In other words, we probably wouldn’t recognize someone who’s really an angel if they sat next to us in church! They’re capable of providing most anything we might need in a pinch. Read where one of them gave Elijah food and drink when he was on the lam from Queen Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. Hebrews 1:19 reassures us: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?” We have no reason whatsoever to think they aren’t able to minister to our needs today as they did for Israel’s patriarchs and their families ages ago. If we could but tune in to the heavenly airwaves we’d likely hear them singing one of Bill Withers’ classic tunes to us: “Lean on me/when you’re not strong/and I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you carry on…”
Keep in mind angels aren’t all sugar and spice. They’re also heavily involved in the judgment end of things. When it came to dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah God employed angels to do the dirty work. Two of them announced to Lot, “The outcry against this place is so great before the Lord that he has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 19:13) Jesus had plenty to say about how the angels are going to be used in the future to dole out justice on those who refuse to accept God’s only begotten as their Savior. In Matthew 13:41-42 He stated, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all the lawbreakers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In Matthew 12:36 He said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak” and in Luke 12:2 He proclaimed, “Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known.” God’s taking note not only of what we say and do but the thoughts coursing through our minds we incorrectly assume no one knows about. And the angels will testify to the authenticity of the raw data in the Lord’s hands. It’s going to come down to whether we honestly believed in Jesus or if we foolishly thought we could hoodwink the great I AM. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 says to believers, “…rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” For divine justice to be done there has to be a final judgment. There’s no order in creation if its creatures are not held accountable for their gift of free will. And without order there’s only chaos. While many unbelievers seem to be living happy, fulfilling lives without bothering to give props to God for blessing them, there will come a day when God calls in their loan. The grace period will be over. Billy Graham preached, “In the great day of God’s judgment men will ask Him for mercy, but it will be too late. In that day if men were to seek God, they would not be able to find Him. It would be too late. They could cry out for angels to deliver them, but it would be of no avail.” Not a pleasant thing to ponder, no matter who you are.
If the angels’ only function was to execute God’s judgment on those who denied Christ then we would be right to pity them for they’d never know what a good day felt like. But that’s not the case. The Bible tells us they rejoice over every soul saved. In Luke 15 Jesus taught several parables on the subject. A shepherd left 99 sheep behind to find the one rascal that wandered off. When he found it and brought it back to the fold you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. A woman lost a valuable coin in her house and she turned it upside down looking for it. When she located it behind the dresser she performed a happy dance till the cows came home. Jesus summed up both stories with: “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10) It stands to reason they rejoice over each and every person’s redemption because they love us with the same genuine affection the Father in heaven loves us with. They know how dreadful hell is and they’ll do anything in their power to keep us out of there. Yet they also know it’s our decision to make.
A wealthy young man kneeled before Jesus one day and asked Him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. After Peter delivered a strong sermon at Pentecost people asked him “What should we do?” An African nobleman inquired of Philip, “What is to stop me from being baptized?” A nervous Philippian jailer queried of Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” It’s something most every human being has asked the heavens throughout the history of mankind but the answer is always the same: Jesus Christ. How can we make the angels rejoice? How can we be reconciled to the Holy God Almighty? How can we be forgiven of our multitude of sins? These simple questions demand a simple answer and Jesus provided it. He made things easy. It’s us who’ve made it so dang complicated. Paul and Silas expressed it clearly in Acts 16:31; “…Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” You don’t have to straighten up your act beforehand. Bring all your hurts, habits and hang-ups with you. Come as you are. The blind man did. So did the leper and the thief on the cross. Therefore you can surrender to Christ right where you are without hesitation. You’ll make the angels jump for joy. And when it’s your turn to die an angel will be at your side to give you peace when you need it most. That same angel will then escort you into the presence of God where you’ll live with Him forever. How can we not thank God for his blessed angels!