Though there are attempts in the Bible to describe what angels look like, the one inescapable conclusion is that they are awesome in appearance. This is because often the first thing angels say when they appear to people is “Do not be afraid” or “Fear not” (Matthew 28:5, Luke 1:13, Luke 1:30, Luke 2:10,and Revelation 1:17).
The short book of Jude, contains many examples to illuminate the main theme of his letter (concerning ungodly people in the church). However, some of these illustrations fail to accomplish that goal for us in our world today. They are more cryptic than clarifying.
The first is in verse 9, where Jude talks about the archangel Michael having a disagreement with the devil about Moses’ body. Now we may be familiar with the angel Michael; he is mentioned in the book of Daniel and Revelation, but there is no mention in the Bible about him and Satan verbally sparring about Moses. This verse is actually a reference to an ancient, non-biblical text, called “The Assumption of Moses.”
Similarly, in verse 14, Jude mentions a prophecy of Enoch. We also know of Enoch from the book of Genesis, but there is no mention of him ever prophesying. Again, this is a reference to an ancient non-biblical text, “The Book of Enoch.”
Jude was comfortable using examples from these two books because they would have been common knowledge to the people he was writing to. As such, these familiar references would have helped readers, in that day, better comprehend the points he was making.
That is not to imply that these non-biblical books need to be elevated to the same level as the Bible or used as a viable source for forming our theology. There were merely communication tools, along the lines of Paul, in his letter to Titus, citing a local poet’s disparaging remarks about his own people of Crete.
While all these references may be confusing to us now, they were clarifying back then.
The young girl gazes out into the desert; something is coming towards her. It is Solomon, her lover, traveling by carriage. He is accompanied by a protective band of weapon wielding warriors, tested and poised for whatever threat awaits them. With Solomon — and his army — she will be protected.
In a spiritual sense, this is how it is with God and us. He is coming towards us; with him, we will be protected. (That doesn’t mean there won’t be risks as we journey with him, because there will.) We will also be afforded a band of warriors, ready to battle on our behalf. In the spiritual realm, this is an army of angels.
Centuries later, Jesus tells Satan, “Don’t you know that I could ask my Father, and right away he would send me more than twelve armies of angels?”
While we might not see angels, we have good reason to believe that they are nearby, ready to protect us from both physical threats and spiritual foes.
Our God, who loves us, will make sure we are protected.
In The Error of the Sadducees and Pharisees, it was noted that the Sadducees’ error was taking away from the Bible, dismissing or ignoring certain sections. Paul notes that the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, angels, and spirits, even though all are addressed in the Old Testament.
In order to challenge or trick Jesus, the Sadducees smugly present him with a hypothetical situation. Jesus pointedly tells them they are in error because they do not know the Bible. He then corrects their errant thinking, amazing the crowd and silencing his critics.
Few followers of Jesus would admit to ignoring parts of the Bible or dismissing sections as irrelevant, but it is actually a common occurrence. When we read the Bible, it is naturally all too easy to focus on the parts we like and understand, while quickly skimming or even skipping the confusing and confounding passages. As a result, our understanding of God is diminished in the process.
It is the error of the Sadducees.
Our perceptions of angels are likely skewed by paintings we have seen. While many of these paintings are great works of art, they cannot begin to capture just how breathtaking and astounding angels must be.
Consider Daniel’s angelic encounter: “His body was like [a precious gem], his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” I’ve never seen a picture like that!
Now consider Daniel’s reaction to his angelic encounter:
- no strength, grew deathly pale, very weak (v8)
- trembling (v10-11)
- speechless (v15)
- overcome with anguish; helpless (v16)
- strength is gone; can hardly breathe (v17)
Plus, this was likely a “junior” angel, as he required help from a more powerful angel just to reach Daniel. How much more intense would it have been if the “senior” angel showed himself. It is no surprise then, that one of the first things angels say when they reveal themselves is “don’t be afraid.”
However, if an encounter with an angel produces this sort of intense, overwhelming, heart-stopping reaction, imagine what an encounter with the God who created them would be like.
Do you ever wonder what God thinks of you? Unfortunately, I suspect that most people who consider such a question reach the wrong conclusion.
But what if an angel were to show up and provide a supernatural perspective about you?
An angel tells Daniel that he is “highly esteemed.” This doesn’t just happen once, but is said three times on two different occasions. As a result of being highly esteemed, great insight about the future is revealed to Daniel.
A few centuries later, an angel tells a young girl that she is “highly favored”; her name is Mary. As a result of being highly favored, Jesus is born and the world is forever changed.
Although we can’t earn our salvation, we apparently can be esteemed and favored by God for our actions and dedication; implicitly, the opposite must also be true.
While we may never have an angel visit us to say what God thinks of us, the Bible does reveal this truth. But to find out, you can’t read it as a legal document or an instruction manual; embrace the Bible as a narrative, God’s narrative to you.
Happy Easter! Today is the time when we remember — and celebrate — Jesus overcoming death and rising from the dead.
Each account of Jesus in the Bible records this:
Matthew: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him’.” [Matthew 28:5-7]
Mark: “Don’t be alarmed,” [the angel] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” [Mark 16:6]
Luke: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’.” [Luke 24:5-6]
John: simply confirms that the tomb where Jesus’ body lay was found to be empty; recording that he then appeared to Mary Magdalene, ten of the disciples, and lastly to Thomas. [John 20]
Have a Happy Easter!
In this Christmas season our thoughts turn more intentionally and more frequently to Jesus, the reason for this annual celebration.
In consideration of the first Christmas, my thoughts are warm and cozy, happy and joyous, and idyllic and serene, with angels singing, kings bearing gifts, and happily contented shepherds shepherding. This is all true, but one reality is often overlooked.
Jesus was homeless.
Jesus was born in someone else’s barn, amid unsanitary conditions and with the stench of animal feces permeating the air. It seems unholy and unworthy, but that’s how it was.
Not only was Jesus born homeless, his early childhood was homeless as well, living an intenerate life as his parents fled to Egypt to save him from a premature execution. Even when it was safe to return, they did not go to their hometown, but instead settled in Nazareth.
His ministry has also marked by homelessness, traveling from place to place with no home or a “place to lay his head.” So it was when he was arrested, tried, and executed: homeless.
With this in mind, wouldn’t Christmas be a great time to do something in memory of him for the homeless?
John (referred to as John the Baptizer) was Jesus’ cousin and a couple of months older. John preceded Jesus in ministry, pointing people to Jesus.
John did his work admirably and without fault, albeit amidst criticism. He was eventually imprisoned because of what he said.
With all the amazing things Jesus did and the miracles he preformed, you’d think that he would have freed John from jail. He could have, yet he didn’t. At least he could have visited his cousin, yet that doesn’t appear to have happened either.
So, John is sitting in jail, pondering his fate (he would soon be executed); his faith in Jesus begins to waiver. We know this because in what is likely the darkest days of his life, he sends his followers to Jesus, asking if Jesus is the “one” or if they should be expecting someone else.
John seemingly wants validation for his work and confirmation that his life of service to Jesus was not in vain.
Jesus replies, providing John with the assurance that he sought.
Sometimes God acts strangely, not giving us what we want or expect, but he does give us what we need — just like he did for John.
A reoccurring statement in the Bible is “Here I am.”
This was often said to God when he calls out or speaks to one of his children.
- Twice, when God called to Abraham, Abraham responded with, “Here I am.” [Genesis 21:1 and 22:11]
- Abraham’s grandson Jacob had similar experiences. Once an angel came to Jacob in a dream (on God’s behalf) and another time God spoke to Jacob in a vision at night. Both times Jacob replied by saying, “Here I am.” [Genesis 31:11 and 46:2]
- Some 400 hundred years later, God spoke from the midst of a burning bush and Moses said, “Here I am.” [Exodus 3:4]
Abraham, Jacob, and Moses were all expectantly ready to listen to God. We need to do the same.
Lastly, this phrase is spoken to us by Jesus. He says,
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” [Revelation 3:20]
Jesus is saying that he is ready for us; he is waiting; all we need to do is open the door for him.