Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Biblical importance of the angelic realm

Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

I wanted to begin today's blog with a quote from one of the ablest theological minds, Charles Hodge, on the importance of studying the angelic realm:
"So much is said in the Scriptures of good and evil angels, and such important functions are ascribed to them both in the providence of God over the world, and especially in the experience of his people and of his Church, that the doctrine of the Bible concerning them should not be overlooked."1

Anytime we engage in the study of the angelic realm, three branches are generally recognized in the subject (some may list more or less): angelology (study of angels, their nature, function and ranks); demonology (study of demons, their nature, function and ranks) and Satanology (Satan's nature, function and efforts against mankind and God).  To get us off the runway and into the air on this subject, I want us to consider why studying the angelic realm is important.

1. Massiveness of the subject in the Bible
A great tool to have when studying any topic of scripture is a Bible Concordance.  A concordance functions much like a telephone book, in that you can find the verses where any word or any subject is listed.  The added bonus is that many Bible Concordances today will print out a portion of the passages and give you all the Bible books and number of times each word appears.2  The magnitude of times the angelic realm appears in the scripture is extraordinary and thus warrants its study.  Consider the following statistics (I found these just searching through the Strongest Strong's NIV exhaustive concordance):

a. Angels and their various ranks and descriptions are found roughly 400 times in the scriptures. Angels of all sorts are mentioned in 17 of the 39 Old Testament books and 19 out of 27 of the New Testament books.

b. Demons and their various ranks are found in 6 of the 39 Old Testament books and 12 of the 27 New Testament books.  In the concordance I consulted I discovered nearly 75 places in the scriptures on the subject of demons.

c. Satan, who is also called the Devil, Serpent, Dragon and other names appears in 6 of the 39 Old Testament books and in 19 of the 27 New Testament books, reeking havoc in at least 115 places throughout scripture. 

d. When you add up all of the places in the Bible where angels, demons and Satan appear, you come up with close to 600 places.  Such a large number of mentions in the Bible tells us that it is important for us to study the angelic realm. But notice a second reason why this subject is important...

2. Major scale of spiritual warfare
Ephesians 6:11-12 issues this command - "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."  Should not Christians of all people be more aware of the nature of the spiritual battle that they are involved? As a practical example, lets say you were to take a trip to a foreign country that is experience increasing pockets of violent outbreaks.  Would you not read up on the current conditions of the government, intelligence information on where attacks have taken place, as well as updates on where the most safe places would be? Would you not want to know whom you could trust as well as who to avoid? If that is the case in the incidence of travel, how much the more in the daily Christian walk.  Knowing the proverbial "lay of the land" in the spiritual Christian walk will make for a more Biblically informed and wise people who are effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.

3. Maintain a proper balance on the angelic realm
Having been involved with or having interacted with various Christians from many denominational and theological persuasions, there are two ditches people fall into when it comes to the angelic realm:

1. Ignorance.  Some denominations and some theological traditions don't talk about angels, demons or Satan.  

2. Obsession. Other groups go to the other extreme and see demons behind every bush, blame everything bad on the Devil and come close to paganism by giving angels too much prominence.  

To see these two general attitudes, walk into the average Christian bookstore or listen to the topics being preached in more well-known pulpits.  It seems to me (at least in the circles I operate), that the tendency would be more in the ignorant direction.  Our culture is unusually pre-occupied by mostly the demonic side (and a skewed view at that) or operating in a paganized view of angels and demons.  We as believers need to be aware of what the Bible teaches in order to moderate our priority of the angelic realm.  

4. Mandate of scriptures say that the subject of the angelic realm is practical
In the opening verse of today's blog I mentioned Hebrews 13:2 which commands Christians to exercise hospitality. Why? Because among other things, we may be entertaining angels unawares.  Reference to angels is listed among the very practical topics of Hebrews 13:1-4 such as loving the brethren (13:1); hospitality (13:2); visiting prisoners (13:3) and marriage (13:4). Certainly in other passages such as 2 Corinthians 13:4-5 and Ephesians 6:10-18, knowledge of the angelic realm can be useful in practical everyday Christian life.

5. Majesty of God
Perhaps the most important reason to study angelology, demonology and satanology is due to how each subject in one way or another points to God's glory.  Satan for sure is the chief adversary of God and His people, however knowing that He was defeated at the cross shows the glory of Jesus Christ.  For sure the demonic realm can certainly discourage and afflict God's people, however knowing that nothing, not even they, can separate us from the love of God actually points the way to the majesty of God's love. (Romans 8:37-39) Satan's far lesser kingdom functions as a black cloth to highlight the far greater Kingdom of God.  In God's Sovereignty He permits Satan to carry out his diabolic schemes so that in the end, His glory is shown in even greater proportion. (Philippians 2) Angels (the good ones) function in relationship to God like rays of light do for the sun.  The rays of the sun lead the viewer back to their point of origin - the sun.  Likewise the good angels continually point believers back to the glory and majesty of God.  In fact the angels of heaven are termed "fellow servants" with the saints of God (Revelation 19:10)

More tomorrow....

1. Charles Hodge. Systematic Theology - Volume 1. WM. B Eerdmans. 1965 edition. Page 637 
Dr. Charles Hodge was a professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the late nineteenth century.  Before Princeton went liberal in the late 1920's, it had been known for years as a bastion of Bible believing orthodoxy.  At Princeton, three theologians were noteworthy for their contributions to conservative bible believing Christianity from the 1880's-1920's: Charles Hodge, B.B Warfield and J. Greshem Machen. Dr. Hodge wrote a three volume work on Systematic Theology that to this day is a standard reference work for any and every subject in the field. 

2. Any Bible concordance will aid you greatly and there are number available to purchase at either a Christian Bookstore,, or CBD (Christian Book Distributors).  Some of the ones I have found helpful are: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (based of KJV) and NASB Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (based of NASB text).  Most of the major English versions have their own concordances as well, such as the ESV (English Standard Version); NLT (New Living Translation); NKJV (New King James Version) and NRSV (New Revised Standard Version). Most of these resources are produced by Zondervan. 

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