WHAT IN HEAVEN’S GOING ON? SERMON SERIES
ARE ANGELS REAL?
FEBRUARY 27, 1994
Dr. S. W. Mitchell, a prominent neurologist from Philadelphia, tells the story of an evening where he was very fatigued, he was preparing for bed, and suddenly he heard a faint tap-tap-tap on his front door. He screams down the stairs, he opens the front door, and there, standing on this snowy night, is a little girl, shabbily dressed, distraught. She said, “Dr. Mitchell, my mother is dying! Would you please help?”
Dr. Mitchell gets dressed and he follows the little girl in the red coat through the snow. She points him to where her mother is lying. He gives her mother medical attention, he calls for some specialists, and while the specialists are coming, Dr. Mitchell compliments the mom on her daughter’s persistence and intelligence. The lady looks back at Dr. Mitchell, and with a very puzzled look, she says, “Dr. Mitchell, my daughter died a month ago. I don’t know what you’re talking about. In fact, her coat and her shoes are in the closet over there.”
Dr. Mitchell walks over, opens the door of the closet, and sure enough, there is the little red coat the girl wore, and her shoes. Dr. Mitchell touches the coat, and the coat is very warm. It’s impossible. There’s no way she could have worn that coat on a night like tonight. I ask you, are angels real?
A family was camping near Big Bear Lake in California. They were around the campfire, and the father began to pray. He said, “God, give us a safe vacation.” Then he read some scripture verses, and while mom and dad and the little ones were cooking, he walks beside the fire, takes a couple of snapshots. Right after that the silence is broken by six motorcycles that invade their camp. These guys jump off their bikes. One pulls a gun, and they are robbing them on the spot.
Out of nowhere, the person begins to shake. He drops the gun. The six people jump on their motorcycles and they speed off as quickly as they entered the camp. This family, they were flabbergasted. They were shocked. What happened? Why did these people leave without taking the money and the valuables?
When they got home, they had their film developed, and on one of the pictures stands a white angelic-looking creature. Now the family realizes what scared the bikers away. Are angels real? Do they exist?
A mother and daughter are walking down the street of a giant metropolitan city. Right before they walked under a big wall, the seven-year-old girl stops in her tracks, and the mother stops, and at that precise moment the wall comes crashing down. The mother, pale with fright, turns to her daughter and she says, “Honey, why did you stop? We would have been crushed if you hadn’t have stopped. What made you stop?” And she said, “Mommy, you didn’t see the big beautiful man in the white robe? He stood in front of me so I couldn’t walk any further.” I ask you one more time, are angels real?
Missionary John Payton and his wife tell of an account where they were surrounded by natives in the New Hebrides Islands. These natives were cannibals, and they were intent on burning their hut and killing them and having them for dinner. John and his wife prayed all night, and in the morning, they looked outside their hut and they saw the natives turn and walk away dejectedly. One year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christianity, and Payton said, “You know, chief, I’ve always wanted to ask you this question. Why didn’t you guys kill us, tear us from limb to limb, and have us for supper one night? Why didn’t you come in on us? It was just my wife and I.” The chief said, “Oh, no, Mr. Payton. What were those 100 strong men with their swords drawn around your hut doing? Where did these guys come from?” Are angels real?
I believe so. Angels are real. Angels are legitimate, because stories like I just related to you are occurring hundreds and hundreds of times around our globe every single year. People are having encounters with angelic beings.
Today, we’re going to ask and answer two important questions. Question number one: what are angels? Question number two: how do angels impact my life? How can they influence me? I’m beginning a series today entitled “What In Heaven’s Going On?” We’re going to talk about angels, and what is going on. Let’s tackle the first question. What are angels?
This past week my wife said, “Ed, when I think about an angel, I think of you.” She didn’t say that; just joking. When we think about angels, we think, oftentimes, of dimpled cherubs singing “Silent night, holy night,” around a Christmas-type scene with the stockings hanging down over the fireplace, and the Christmas tree and everything. Some of us think of these beings with beautiful wings like an eagle, with halos. We think of stained-glass images. Angels, I’m talking about.
Gallup recently said that 60% of Americans believe in angels. Recently there has been a new push, a resurgence, of people involved in the study of angels, and a lot of literature and articles and videos and documentaries have been done on this exciting subject.
The Bible mentions angels over 300 times, but it does not give a super-detailed description of angels. It does, however, give an angelic arrangement. What are angels? The word “angel” in the Bible refers to a messenger, God’s messenger. Angels are not omnipresent, meaning they cannot be everywhere at one time. Sometimes they’re at the throne, other times they’re influencing my life and impacting your life. You’re talking about frequent flyer miles? These people are gold-medallion eternity winners! Quabillions and trillions of miles they fly back and forth, back and forth. They work for God. They give God glory. They don’t point at themselves and say, “Look how strong I am! Look how big my sword is! Look at this shield! Look how much I can bench-press!” They always are pointing to God.
I want you to notice something. Angels are created beings. They’re created beings. Colossians 1:16 says the following words: “For by Him all things were created.” In other words, at one time there were no such things as angels. But God created angels to worship Him and to minister and to help you and me. We don’t become angels when we die. A lot of people erroneously believe, “Once I get to heaven, suddenly God will give me a fifteen-foot wing span.” Angels are created beings. Their numbers remain constant. God has made them on our behalf. “For by Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.”
Angels also can take on forms. Most of the time they’re invisible, but sometimes they take on the form of people and individuals. The Bible says that we have entertained angels without even knowing it. It says, “Whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him.” The first thing I want you to notice about angels: they are created.
The second thing I want you to notice is that they are organized. That’s the angelic arrangement I’m talking about. First, we have the CEO angel, the head angel. His name is Michael, the arch-angel. Second we have Gabriel. Gabriel is God’s messenger, a messenger of good news. Gabriel was the angel that appeared to the Virgin Mary and said, “Mary, you will have the Messiah.” That’s Gabriel.
We also have the cherubim, and the cherubim are angels that are surrounding the throne. And we have the seraphim; they are angels that are beside the throne of God. They really know how to worship and express love to the Lord. They’re organized. They really are.
But – notice this third thing about angels – you should not worship angels. If I worship an angel, if you worship an angel, we are worshipping the creature rather than the creator. The Holy Spirit of God indwells our hearts. Angels cannot indwell our hearts and lives. The Holy Spirit ministers in us, angels minister to us. The Holy Spirit ministers to us spiritually, angels minister to us physically. Remember, angels give glory to God. They help us, but they have nothing to do with indwelling us. Thus we should not pray to them or worship them. If we hear about an encounter with an angel, or maybe we have a personal one-on-one connection with an angel, we should glorify God because of it, and think about the outrageous love of God. He’s concerned about you and me so much that He has commissioned angels, millions and millions and squillions of them, to take care of us in different circumstances. I see some people laughing because I used the word “squillions.” LeeBeth, our seven-year-old, that’s a word she made up: squillions. Who knows how many squillions of angels there actually are, but that’s a fact.
The second question – and we’ll really concentrate on this one – is this: how do angels impact my life? Here I am in the 1990s. We saw some of the interviews, we heard the song that said “angels watching over me.” Is all that really true? What does God’s word say about angels? How do they really impact my life?
If angels are going to impact your life and my life, I have to be aware, aware, aware of four things. Say “aware.” You’ve got to be aware. First, I’ve got to be aware of their presence. If I am really going to get in on what God has for me regarding angels, I’ve got to be aware of their presence. Most of us have no clue, no concept that angels are all around. If we had the eyes of God right now, we’d see that thousands upon thousands of angels are floating around, ministering, helping us while I speak. We read a verse like Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth.” We read these things and we don’t realize how near the angels are. We think, “Well, that was maybe in Biblical times, or that was during that spiritual awakening, or during this moment.” That line of thinking is false. Angels are alive and well, and they’re as active today as they were thousands and thousands of years ago.
Recently, I took a trip on an airplane. Seated a couple of seats away from me was a mega superstar. I’m talking about big-time, huge-time. While this mega superstar was seated about three seats from me, I noticed a businessman walk on the plane – you’re talking about hilarious – and he has this magazine with this person on the front cover! He walks in, “Eh, um, ‘scuse me please,” and he gets his bags and puts them under. The flight attendant says, “I’m sorry sir, that must go in the overhead or beneath your seat, or we’ll have to check that.” He was kind of cussing, “Oh, I can’t believe it!” and he finally jams it underneath his seat, he takes his coat off, and he’s ready for the flight.
Then he taps this mega-superstar: “Hey, uh, is there a pillow up there?” He hands him a pillow. Then he takes his magazine out and he’s reading this article – I looked back – about this mega-superstar. He has no idea he’s right in front of him. He’s reading the article, and you could tell this guy was into it.
I thought about this scripture verse and other verses like it. We as Christians, we read God’s word and we read about angels, we read about the Holy Spirit of God, we read about the ministry, we read about the love and encouragement, and we don’t realize that angels are right there around us. They’re surrounding you and they’re surrounding me. They are present. Just because we can’t see them with our eyes doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Our eyes are so limited anyway. We’re limited as human beings. People talk about how great human beings are made and everything. Yeah, before sin entered the picture, we were made in an incredible way. But we’re limited.
I think about our dog Domonique. Man, Domonique is much more superior than I am in many aspects of life. He can hear a lot better than I can; he can see in the dark. I’ll be outside – “grrrrrr” – and about five minutes later someone will walk up behind our fence or something. We cannot see the dimensions of a nuclear field or an atom or electricity, yet we know it’s there. One day, the Bible says, when we get to heaven, the scales will drop off and God will say, “Ed, you remember that time? Did you see that angel? Look back on your life.” I’ll go, “Whoa, incredible. There were angels all around me, angels watching me, and I had no real idea that they were there.”
I’ll read to you another exciting verse of scripture. Hebrews 1:14: “Are not all the angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Then Matthew 18:10 – you might want to write these down; we don’t have time to turn there – “See that you do not look down on these little ones,” Jesus is talking about children, and He says, “for I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.” That’s talking about guardian angels, folks. I believe the moment a child is brought into this world that God assigns a guardian angel over them, and the Bible says, as Christ says, angels over them. Are you aware of their presence? If you want angels to impact your life you have to be.
But not only do you have to be aware of their presence, secondly, you have to be aware of their power. These beings are powerful. They’re sexless, they cannot get married, but they’re super-powerful. I’m talking about big-time powerful. I call them God’s Secret Agent force, or Secret Service force.
Ever watched President Clinton run on CNN? If you can call it running. He has these Secret Service guys around him with these uzis. The Secret Service, they have a way of kind of blending into the scenery, don’t they? If we could see our lives as we walk along the brief stage of history, as we do what God wants us to do, if we could see, again, with the eyes of God, we would see this angelic Secret Service force around you and around me. The Bible tells us in Psalm 91:11-12 – you’re talking about an exciting section of scripture – the Bible says, “For He will command His angels concerning you.” The angels act on God’s command – not of their own free will, on God’s command. “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all of your ways. They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike you foot against a stone.”
I believe this will happen in heaven one day. When I get to heaven, God will say, “Ed, come here a second. Do you remember when you were almost in that accident? Do you remember when you were almost in that tragedy? Do you remember that temptation, and you almost fell? Well, you didn’t know it at the time, but my angels helped you, they assisted you. They were your Secret Service force, and they helped and they ministered and they took care of you.” God will say the same thing to you. We’re talking about powerful stuff here, folks.
Think about angels in the life of Jesus. Angels announced his birth, angels told the shepherds, “Hey, don’t freak out, calm down,” angels ministered to Jesus after the temptation, angels were there in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was being crucified the next day, angels were around the cross as He was dying for your sins and mine. Easily He could have called on legions and legions of angels to take Him down from the cross, but He didn’t. Jesus said, “Not My will, but Your will, Father.” Then angels rolled away the stone for the resurrection, and angels were around Jesus when they ascended with Him to heaven. So angels are here. They’re around us. They are powerful creatures.
I ask myself this question, and I ask God this question, and so do you. “Where are the angels when tragedy strikes? God, where were the angels when the little girl was taken and brutally killed in Plano? Where were the angels when that father was murdered in Irving Mall a few months ago? God, where were your angels?” Hebrews 11 gives us some insight on that line of thinking. While you’re turning to Hebrews 11, I want you to listen to me. We live in a fallen world. We live in a sin-saturated world. Our world is imperfect; Satan is powerful and he is strong. Every time I see a tragedy, I’m reminded that Satan is powerful. But we serve a God who is more powerful. He’s already won, even though Satan is free right now to act and move and roam, and he is stealing and killing and destroying.
Hebrews 11 is a chapter that describes the Hall of Faith. You’ve heard of the Hall of Fame, haven’t you? Athletes, they really try to get into the Hall of Fame. They think it’s the ultimate to be in the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Faith? People, I’m talking about the great patriarchs and matriarchs of the Bible, who by faith endured and conquered amazing things. The angels of God, these heavenly beings, helped them in these situations. They closed the mouths of lions, they won wars for them. They did some incredible, supernatural things. But in verse 35 in Hebrews 11, the course and the mood changes. Verse 35 in Hebrews 11 says this: “Others,” that’s talking about others of faith, others of passion, others who were spiritual risk-takers, “were tortured and refused to be released.” In other words, these people called on the angels of God. They said, “God, send your angels to cover me! I’m getting ready to be burned at the stake or torn apart by lions!” They were tortured and refused to be released so that they might gain a better resurrection. God does not tell all the angels to rescue all His followers all the time. The word tells us here in no uncertain terms that the people who suffered without the physical assistance of the angels when they were tortured and killed received a better reward in heaven.
We’re so limited, you see. We see life in just thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty years, and we think that’s really big time, and that’s really a lot. God sees it in a matter of eternity. One of the angels’ responsibilities is that the moment we close our eyes and we give out this life and we graduate to the next life, the angels will surround us and escort us to heaven. Go back to the life of Christ. You see, when Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins, and that night even before He died, He said, “If it’s Your will, God, let this cup pass from me.” What did Jesus say? Again, I’ll say it. “Not My will, but Your will.”
We don’t always understand God, folks. But I’ll tell you one thing: He can always be trusted. Things happen that I cannot explain: why God chooses to commission His angels to rescue one person and not to rescue another person. We will never know until we get to heaven, and that’s why we have trust God. But He does rescue, and He does have angels, and they’re powerful and they’re there.
The presence of angels, the power of angels. Thirdly, we have to become aware of the perspective of angels. This third point should really motivate you and motivate me to live the kind of life that Christ wants. How many here watched Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan go at it? I’m talking about not in Norway, but by means of television. Do we have anyone that traveled to Norway? None? Okay.
The eyes of the world were on these two. There were so many things involved: the pageantry, the beauty of ice skating, plus their conflict and the attack, etc., and on and on. Millions and millions and millions of people watched every move they made, even the color and how the shoelaces were actually negotiated in the skate of Tanya Harding. What if I told you that your life, your life, from the moment you were born until the moment you die, has been watched closer than the world watched Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? What would you say? “Wow. Whoa. Whoo. I had no idea. Man. That’s kind of scary.” And you push the rewind button: “Hm, what did I say and what did I do there?” It would kind of freak us out a little bit, wouldn’t it?
We have people much more important than mere human beings watching us. The Bible says we have the angels watching every single move we make. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 4:9, “We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe,” Paul writing this, “to angels as well as men.” This word spectacle comes from the athletic games that the apostle Paul must have loved to attend. Thousands of people would watch these games. The apostle Paul says that as we walk and as we talk with Christ, zillions and quabillions and trillions of people are watching us – these people are angels, heavenly beings – live the Christian life. I don’t know about you, but that motivates me and encourages me and strengthens me to really live a life that reflects the glory of the Lord.
We’ve got to become aware of the presence, the power, and the perspective. You see that, the perspective? They’ve got a different perspective on life. Finally – and I’ll close with this one – if we’re going to let angels and this “What’s going on in heaven?” impact our lives, we have to become aware of their party. I’m talking about an angelic party. There are some of you here today, and you’ve been playing games with God. You are not sure, if you were to die right now, that you would spend eternity in Heaven. One of the angels’ tasks not only is to take us to heaven, it’s also to separate the wheat from the tares, the saved from the unsaved. There are angels – I’m talking about death angels, and angels who carry out God’s judgment. We don’t like to talk about it a lot – “Let’s change the subject, Ed,” – but it is a fact. God loves you, and God is concerned about you so much, that He wants you to know Him personally, He wants you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. The angels want this because the angels reflect the glory of God.
The Bible says the angels, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, are planning a party, a bash, a celebration like we have never seen in our lives, just for you, just for me. But the party will not happen until we repent and cry out and say, “Jesus Christ, I give the reins of my life to you. I unclench my grasp on the reins; you take them.” The moment we ask Christ to come into our lives, the moment we do this spiritual u-turn – that’s what the word “repent” means – and we tell the truth about ourselves, a party will occur in heaven like we have no comprehension. Engraved invitations to all the angels and the saints up there, and the food is the best thing you’ve ever had in your life, and that party will continue until it culminates when we die and we close our eyes on this life and open them to the new life. We’re escorted to this giant party in Heaven, a banquet table is prepared and it goes on and on and on and on. God wants that for you. He really does.
So this angel thing should motivate a lot of people – some, here, to receive Christ, others here to live a pure life, some others here to be aware of their deliverance and their power. I pray that as you leave this place you can say in the depths of your being, “Ed, I realize angels are real, and I realize what kind of impact they can have on my life, and now I’m ready for that to occur.”