Monday, June 1, 2015
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Over the course of the next several days we will be diving into understanding how angels function to point people to God's greatness. I thought before beginning with that series, it would behoove this blogger to present practical reasons for undertaking the study of angels in the firstplace. A quote from one of the ablest theological minds, Charles Hodge, will set the tone for why this subject is of utmost practical importance:
"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.
e. Whether good angels, fallen angels or Satan himself, the nature of angelic beings is that of spirit - that is, they are rational, intelligent beings without a physical body. (Psalm 104:3-4; Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 1:14) Occassionally (good angels) can assume for a temporary period of time a physical form of sorts (Genesis 18:2; Mark 16:5; Hebrews 13:2) By and large though, angels are spirit beings whose numbers far exceed those of us humans. Such a large number of mentions and the extraordinary facts of the angelic realm in the Bible reveal the importance of such a study. 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:
a. Ignorance. Some denominations and some theological traditions don't talk about angels, demons or Satan. The danger of this ditch is viewing life and reality in only physical terms. The urgency for Godly living and fighting the good fight of faith presuppose the existence of Two Kingdoms: the far greater and ultimate kingdom of God and the lesser and dangerous kingdom of darkness. To be ignorant of the angelic realm means ignorance of the supernatural realm, a Christianity that operates with one arm tied behind its back if you will.
b. Obsession. Other groups go to the other extreme and see demons behind every bush. They blame everything bad on the Devil. When the ditch of obsession over the angelic realm occurs, Christianity can skirt 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 scripture: The study of the angels is indeed 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. In 2 Peter 2:4, mention is made of the cosmic rebellion of the angels who followed after Lucifer in his bid to attempt a coup against God as recorded elsewhere in scripture (isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28; Revelation 12:4). Now why does Peter bring to the reader's minds the angelic realm along with other examples of rescuing Noah out of the flood and Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? The inclusion of the angelic realm is to demonstrate the universality of the principle laid out in 2 Peter 2:9 "then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment." In ways not fully explained, God preserved the holy angels from further corruption by casting out Satan and the fallen angels. Likewise God also preserved Noah, and Lot and thus preserves Christians today living in this godless world. (Philippians 2:15-16) Peter sees the practicality of including knowledge of the angelic realm in the exercising of ourselves in Godly living. So studying the angelic realm is important because of its massiveness in the scripture, major scale of spiritual warfare, maintain a proper balance in our view of the supernatural and the mandate from scripture to be more aware of the the invisible realm. But now lets consider one more practical reason for studying the angelic realm...
5. Majesty of God is reinforced in our hearts and minds by the study of angels
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 (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). 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)
We have taken the time to briefly sketch out what the Bible has to tell the reader about the angelic realm - good, bad and ugly. The aim was to express practically why anyone would study angels. The last reason especially will be the motive for the next upcoming posts on how angels function in pointing the way to the greatness of God. I hope and pray the reader will return tomorrow as we launch this new series.
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, Lifeway.com, Amazon.com 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.