BEHOLD A HOST! (part 2)

Angels do not originate any plans; they carry out God’s. They do not marry, nor do they procreate. The Apostle Paul says, “In him (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities…” (Col. 1:16). God’s creation includes a realm on earth where visible beings exist and a heavenly sphere invisible to us. Angels appear to have ranks, just as armies do. The book of Daniel tells us that the archangel Michael serves as the prince of Israel, overseeing its affairs and standing in defiance of powers arrayed against it. 

Satan, formerly Lucifer, apparently chief-of-staff in Yahweh’s army, imitated God’s pattern of government when he was thrown out of heaven. Michael, on the way to answer Daniel’s prayers, was interrupted by the prince of Persia, who battled with him for twenty-one days. Satan is one of a multitude of demons, but he has more authority than any of them, just as in heaven he exercised more power. This might explain why Michael, when fighting with the devil over the body of Moses, did not personally confront him but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9).

There exists, then, a great ongoing cosmic conflict, not star wars, but angel wars, not World War III but a titanic struggle of far greater magnitude and with much more at stake—the army of God and Satan in constant battle over the lives of people on earth, the planet visited by a Babe. St. Paul tells us mortals that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Destinies of nations are not settled in legislative assemblies, or on thrones, or in an oval office, but in heavenly places. I wonder if 9-1-1 prayers are often answered by angels.

Heaven was never more excited than with the birth of God’s Son. Now they wait for the next big day, the marriage of that Son, the desire of the ages, the Beloved. They are not given the full picture. They love probing the depths of the Gospel to find further clues of God’s outrageous love for humans (I Pet. 1:12). They will never call God “Father” as the redeemed are privileged to do. Jesus did not become an angel. He was born into the race of humans to rescue us from the clutches of an angel once called Lucifer. The Child came, according to John, “to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8). The birth of Jesus was an act of aggression.

Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth to announce how God was going to use her to give birth to the Messiah. This visit proved more pleasant than the one five months before in Judea with a doubting priest. An unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to give him the go-ahead with his betrothed. The star that led the wise men to the Child could have been an angel (Jude 13, Rev. 1:16, Rev. 9:1, 12:4). When they left, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream” to save Jesus from the slaughter of infants by Herod. When he died, an angel guided the family back to Israel. And, yet, another dream (and perhaps an angel) warned Joseph not to live in Judea. How remarkable are these servants of God, who figure often in stories surrounding births, and especially in the birth of the ages. How reverently they carry out the will of the Most High God. 

Births are critical times, new beginnings, when important breakthroughs take place—for individuals, families and nations. Could it be that when angels proclaimed the birth of heaven’s hero, God emptied out the place? Some believe that His army includes as many angels as there are stars. So if 17 trillion members of God’s Air Force filled the atmosphere surrounding Bethlehem one night, we can understand why “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9). And if “all the angels shouted for joy” at the creation of the world (Job 38:7), we can only imagine the deafening cataclysmic roar at the birth of God’s Son.

The mysterious invisible realm is no less real than the visible realm. Ceaseless activity of good and evil surrounds us and is only apprehended through eyes of faith. But we easily over-spiritualize that realm. We have re-crafted them so mellow as to tame them out of sacred terror. And yet we cannot focus for long on them or we might worship them. They are here momentarily, then gone as quickly. We focus on what they focus on–the God of glory and the Lamb! Worship is central in heaven, and angels are non-stop worshippers. These holy creatures, strong, swift, and subtle as wind, obey God implicitly. “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word” (Ps. 103:20). 

May we join them this beautiful Christmas season in giving praise to the Child of Bethlehem, the Savior of the world, and may we, like these ministering spirits, serve as dutifully and as accurately as they. And maybe you, like the servant of Elisha, will sometime have your eyes opened to see one of these mighty ones! 

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