Sunday, September 22, 2013

The vastness of the angelic realm

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

As we begin today's post I want to present this insight from noted theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem on the creation of the angels:
"Angels have not always existed; they are part of the universe that God created.  In a passage that refers to angels as the host of heaven (or "armies of heaven"), Ezra says, 'You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host....and the host of heaven worships you' (Neh. 9:6; cf. Psalm 148:2,5).  Paul tells us that God created all things 'visible and invisible' through Christ and for him, and then specifically includes the angelic world with the phrase 'whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities (Col. 1:16)."1

Why it is important to note that God created the angels
God's creation of the angels is more important to our understanding of the scriptures than we realize.  Just the fact of the reality of their existence is crucial to our understanding of scripture, Jesus Christ and even logic itself.  Dr. Richard Fairman notes the following insights concerning the importance of God's creation of the angels:

1. Scripture mentions angels in at least 34 of its books. If angels do not exist, then Scripture loses its inspiration.

2. Christ teaches about angels (Mt. 12:25; 18:10; 26:53, etc). If angels do not exist, then Christ loses His integrity.

3. Logic allows the existence of angels since no human can know all the possible creatures that could exist."2

Dr. Fairman's comments give us traction for understanding the significance and relevance of the angelic realm to the Christian worldview. In regards to some other issues associated with this statement about God creating the angels, some additional headings and scripture passages are in order:

1. God made numerous angels
We know from the latest population statistics that on this planet there are over 7 billion people. The amount of people who have lived since the days of Adam and Eve is easily over ten billion.  According to biologists, there is in the neighborhood of 1-5 million species of plants, animals and microscopic organisms.  When we think of life in this visible realm, we use numbers such as thousands, millions and billions.  But what of the invisible realm? Consider the following scriptures:
a). Deuteronomy 33:2 "He said,The Lord came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them."

b). 2 Kings 6:16-17 "So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

c). Psalm 68:17 "The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness."

d). Daniel 7:10 “A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened."

As you make your way through the Old Testament, the number of angels is shown to be quite impressive.  What begins in the realm of thousands quickly turns to millions and then billions of angels. When we turn to the New Testament record, the numbers of angels created by God continue to be revealed...

e). Hebrews 12:22 "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels."

f). Revelation 5:11 "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands." 

Whenever you arrive at the New Testament, you discover that in Hebrews 12:22, the word translated "myriads" can refer to either tens of thousands or by extension an innumerable host.  In Revelation 5:11, is we multiply the phrases used to describe the numbers of angels around the throne, we come up with around 100 trillion angels! Depending on how literal you take those numbers, we can say at least when it comes to the number of angels in the invisible realm, we have to use numbers like trillions or even larger numbers.  
Point of application

As fascinating as these numbers are, we may wonder why scripture goes to such great lengths to make us aware of the virtual innumerability of the angelic realm? 

1. The Massive power of God.  
We know each individual angel possess much power (for example, one angel wiped out 185,000 soldiers in 2 Kings 19:35).  Now think of the scale of power and strength represented by hundreds of trillions of angels? It causes us to appreciate statements such as this in Psalm 148:5 "Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For He commanded and they were created."
2. The Majesty of the Son, Jesus Christ
In similitude to the above point, the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ is shown when we consider the sheer number of angels created by God. Hebrews 1:4 states - "having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they."  Colossians 1:16 notes - "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him."

3. Ministry available to the Christian
This last point will be the subject of later blogs, but one verse is worthy of consideration when we realize how much the Lord has provided for every Christian for their spiritual and moral advancement.  To have at our disposal the angelic realm is a mind-blowing thing when you begin to consider how much larger the angelic realm is than the human one.  Hebrews 1:14 states - "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?"  This statement in scripture does not tell all the ways angels minister, nor does it state how many ministers to each Christian, however it does state we have access to such ministry.  God in His abundant grace ministers mainly through His Word, his people, prayer and then the uncountable numbers of angels whom he dispatches to do His bidding. 
1. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Zondervan Publishing House. 1994. Page 397. 

2. Richard Fairman. Unpublished class notes from a New Testament class I took at Bible College in 1995. 

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