Kevin Conner points out that the ministry of angels is primarily twofold: worship and service (Foundations p93). Angels have access both to heaven and earth. In heaven they worship God, and perform His will, in earth they are sent forth as ministers to and for the heirs of salvation.
They are ”ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who are the heirs of salvation”(Hebrews1:13-14).
The following outline is based on Willmington’s Guide to the Bible where the following outline of Angelic ministry in the earth is presented.
Concerning the saved the angelic ministry includes:
Angels inform, instruct, and interpret concerning both the will and Word of God.
Note the following individuals who received that kind of ministry from angels.
Daniel (Dan. 7:16; 10:5,11)
Zechariah (Zech. 1:9, 13,14,19; 2:3; 5:5-10; 6:4,5)
Zacharias (Lk. 1:11-17)
Mary (Lk. 1:26-33)
Joseph (Mt. 1:20; 2:13,19)
The shepherds (Lk. 2:9-12)
The women at the tomb (Lk. 24:4-7)
The apostles (Acts 1:10,11)
Philip (Acts 8:26)
Cornelius (Acts 10:3-6)
John (Rev. 17:1; 21:9)
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” Psalm. 34:7.
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. 91:11 ).
(a) Angels protected Lot from the Sodomites (Gen. 19:10,11).
(b) Angels protected Elisha from the Syrians (2 Ki. 6:15-17).
I record a modern day account of angelic protection in Dr. Billy Graham’s book, “Angels: God’s Secret Agents” :
The Reverend John G. Paton, a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, tells a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave. They thanked God for delivering them.
A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, ‘Who were all those men you had with you there?’ The missionary answered, ‘There were no men there; just my wife and I.’ The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard—hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation. Could it be that God had sent a legion of angels to protect His servants, whose lives were being endangered?”
“And as he [Elijah] lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat” (1 Ki. 19:5 ).
“For there stood by me [Paul] this night an angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul” (Acts 27:24 ).
Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus. (Matt 4:11 NLT)
“But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them [the apostles] forth” (Acts 5:19 ).
“And, behold, an angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shone in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands” (Acts 12:7 ).
Angels minister to the believer at the moment of death.
“And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:22 ).
The ministry of angels in relation to the unsaved
The ministry of angels as instruments of God’s will in the earth also extends to the unsaved.
They judged the Egyptians (Ex. 12:13,23).
They judged the Sodomites (Gen. 19:13 ).
They judged the Assyrians (2 Ki. 19:35 ).
They judged Herod (Acts 12:23 ).
They will judge the earth during the tribulation.
They hold back the four winds of heaven (Rev. 7:1 ).
They pronounce the seven trumpet judgments (Rev. 8:2 ).
They cast Satan and his angels out of heaven (Rev. 12:7 , 8 ).
They announce the eternal hell awaiting all unbelievers (Rev. 14:10 ).
They predict the fall of Babylon (Rev. 14:8 ).
They announce the fall of Babylon (Rev. 18:1 , 2 ).
They pour out the seven vial judgments (Rev. 15:1 ).
They announce Armageddon (Rev. 19:17 ).
They accompany Christ at his Second Coming (2 Thess. 1:7 , 8 ).
They gather the unsaved for eternal hell (Mt. 13:39-43 ).
They bind Satan in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1 ).
Angelic Activity recorded in the Bible
Both Old and New Testaments give abundant evidence of angelic appearances. These include:
Angelic Activity And Ministry In The Old Testament
- Three angels visited Abraham and Sarah. (Genesis18:2)
- Two angels rescued Lot from the destruction of Sodom.(Genesis19)
- Jacob experienced the ministry of angels throughout his life.(Genesis 32:1, 48:16)
- Angels were involved in the giving of the Law at Sinai.(Deut.33:2, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19)
- An angel destroyed 70,000 Israelites when David sinned in numbering the people.(2 Samuel 24:16-17, 1 Chron 21:12-30)
- Elijah was strengthened by an angel who brought food and drink to him (1 Kings 19:5-7, 2 Kings 1:3,15)
- God permitted an angel to slay 185,000 Syrians in one night in judgement.(2 Kings 19:35, Isaiah 37:36)
- Daniel was preserved by an angel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:22)
Angelic Activity and Ministry In The New Testament
In the ministry of the Lord Jesus.
- An angel appeared to Mary (Luke1:26-28, Matt.1:21-23), to Joseph (Matt.1:20-21, 2:13,19) and to the shepherds (Luke 2:13-15) to announce the Saviour’s birth.
- Angels ministered to Him after the temptation (Matt.4:11)
- An angel strengthened Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Twelve legions of angels were available to Him if He requested help.(Luke 22:43, Matt.26:53)
- Two angels were seen at His empty tomb after the resurrection. An angel rolled the stone away. (Matt 28:2-7, Luke 24:23, John 20:12)
- Two men in shining garments spoke to the disciples at His ascension (Acts 1:10-11, Luke 24:50-51)
- Angels will accompany Jesus at His return. They will gather the elect and separate the wicked from them. (Matt.16:27, 25:31, 13:41-43,2 Thess.1:7-9).
In the early Church.
- An angel opened the prison doors to release the apostles to witness (Acts15:19)
- Philip was sent by an angel to the desert to witness to the Ethiopian (Acts8:26)
- An angel instructed Cornelius to send for Peter to hear the gospel (Acts10:3, 30-32)
- An angel rescued Peter out of prison the night before he was due to be slain (Acts12:5-11)
- Paul experienced the presence of an angel in the storm at sea on his way to Rome (Acts27:23)
- The scriptures do imply that all have a guardian angel (Matt.18:10)
- The final ministry of angels is to escort the departed spirit of the saint to Paradise, the immediate presence of God (Luke16:22)
The angels cannot preach the gospel because they can never experience redemption. God always sent men and women to bring the message of redemption. Hence the angel who visited Cornelius in Acts 10, rather than relating the gospel message, told Cornelius to send for Peter. The privilege and responsibility to witness is given to men. The responsibility of angels is to aid them in this great venture. Angels however, do desire to look into the mystery of our great salvation (1 Peter1:9-12), and they rejoice when sinners repent and believe (Luke15:10)
Angels in the Book of Revelation
- Innumerable angels worship God and the Lamb (Rev.5:11)
- Four angels restrain the winds of judgement until the sealing of God’s servants (Rev.7:1)
- Seven angels sound the seven trumpets of judgement (Rev.8:2)
- Michael and his angels engage in war with Satan and his angels and cast them out (Rev.12:7-10)
- An angel announces the fall of Babylon (Rev14:8)
- Angels are used as harvesters in the time of the end, both of the good and the evil. These harvests are symbolised under wheat and the tares; good and bad fish (Rev.14:17-19, Matt.13:41, 13:49-50)
- A mighty angel binds Satan in the bottomless pit for 1000 years (Rev 20:1-4)
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
In the Old Testament we find the appearance of an angel referred to as “The Angel (or Messenger) of the LORD (Yahweh)”.
Most scholars accept that this was in fact Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, before He became flesh (this is called a Christophany).
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defines a Christophany thus:
“A Christophany is an appearance of the preincarnate Christ in the Old Testament, or after his ascension. (A Christophany is thus a special case of a theophany.) The Bible does not always clearly identify the figure as Christ, for example sometimes using the phrase “the Angel of the LORD”. Consequently, identification of a given incident as a Christophany, as opposed to a vision of an angel, is a matter of debate among biblical commentators. The Hebrew word here is “malach”, and this means, “one sent” or “messenger”. So this is not necessarily referring to some winged creature.”
The Angel of the Lord is distinct in several ways from a normal angelic messenger:
i. people worshipped Him as God and He received that worship, which an elect angel would certainly refuse
ii. He spoke as God, in the first person, and not just as bringing a message from God.
- The Angel of the LORD ministered to Hagar and she recognised Him as “the God who sees”.(Genesis16:7-14)
- Abraham received 3 angels, one of whom was the Lord. (Genesis 18)
- The Angel of the LORD prevented Abraham sacrificing Isaac (Genesis 22:11-18)
- Jacob wrestled with a Man, identified by Hosea 12:4 as being the Angel, who Jacob recognised as God. “I have seen God face to face”.(Genesis 32:22-32)
- The Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush and reveals Himself as Yahweh (Exodus3:2,14-15)
- Balaam saw the Angel of the LORD with a drawn sword (Numbers 22:22-35)
- The Captain of the LORD’s Hosts who appeared to Joshua was worshipped by him (Joshua 5:13-14)
- The Angel of the LORD warned Israel concerning their disobedience (Judges 2:1-4)
- Gideon was visited by the Angel of the LORD who revealed Himself as “Yahweh Shalom” – “The LORD is Peace” (Judges 6:11-22)
- Samson’s parents were visited by the Angel of the LORD, whose name was Wonderful and He accepted a burnt offering from them.(Judges 13)
- The appearance of the fourth man in the fiery furnace, declared by Nebuchadnezzar to be like the Son of God, is also considered an appearance of Jesus Christ before His Incarnation (Dan 3:28).
- The Angel-Messenger of the Covenant is the Lord Jesus Christ (Malachi 3:1)
- “The Angel of the LORD encamps around all those who fear Him and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).
Eternity alone will reveal the extent to which angels have been working on the saint’s behalf. However it should be constantly remembered that man is forbidden to worship angels as Colossian believers did (Col.2:18).
When John tried to worship the angel in Revelation 22:8-9, the angel said,
“Do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. WORSHIP GOD!”
Jesus is far greater than angels:
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb 1:3-6 )
“Eternity will bring all holy creations together in one great worship service, when the redeemed shall join with the angels in the heavenly Zion and worship and serve God eternally.” Kevin Conner