Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SUPERNATURAL AND NATURAL ANGELS

It's in this time of financial upheaval, plus scary national security issues, that a careful look at the promises of God brings courage and comfort. I hope this study will help us focus on things of the utmost importance in a world that appears as if it’s ready to implode (or explode).


BY HIS ANGEL


“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it BY HIS ANGEL unto His servant John.”

Today, the main focus will be upon the phrase “by His angel.”  We'll be considering the question:  Who was this angel?  One of God's many messengers?  Or someone else?  A careful look at the scripture provides the answer.

Up front, I say that there are myriads of myths and folklore concerning angels, both good ones from God, and bad ones from the realm of Satan.  In this study, we’ll remain focused upon “What does the Bible say about…angels?”  We’ll further NARROW that focus to angels who are sent to deliver a message.

Angels are seen all over the scripture.  We automatically envision awesome supernatural beings who were created by God, who glow with heavenly brilliance, and who serve God day and night near His Throne.  And we ask the question:  Who is the angel who brought the Revelation to the Apostle John?  Is this the famous Gabriel, who once announced to a humble Jewish girl, Mary, that she would give birth to God’s Son, Jesus?   Or is he the strong warrior angel, Michael, who is mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy?

Upon a closer examination of scripture, we find there are multitudes of angels, and not all of them are the same.  Nor do they have the same job descriptions.  Nor do they carry the same message.

The word transcribed “angel” in Revelation 1:1 is the Greek “angelos.”  It’s literally defined as “messenger.”

To get a clearer picture, we’ll consider the LOCAL and HISTORICAL use of the term “angelos” or “messenger.”

If I were a General in an army, and oversaw flanks or divisions along a creek and near a wooded area, then noticed that they were in danger of an enemy ambush, I would send an “angelos” or a “messenger” to them and warn them of the danger.  Thus, the “angel” would arrive at the troop base, share his message, and a slaughter could be prevented.  (Please note, by this description, that “angelos” is a practical MILITARY term used by the Greeks to designate a “messenger.”)

Let’s look deeper into what’s happening here in the first verse--by comparing it to another place in Revelation.  We’ll gain additional understanding about “the angel” which brought the message to the Apostle John.

Chapter 22:8-9--”And I, John, saw these things, and heard them.   (Speaking of what he had seen all the way through The Revelation.)  And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of THE ANGEL which showed me these things.  Then said he (the angel) unto me, “See thou do it not: for I am thy FELLOWSERVANT and OF THY BRETHREN THE PROPHETS, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.”

The angel who showed John the Revelation was NOT one of God’s supernatural beings known as “angels.”  This angel CLEARLY said that he’s a FELLOWSERVANT; he’s John’s BRETHREN--a brother in the ministry of a prophet.  The “angel” was a man.  There’s more…

THIS MAN had to have been in a GLORIFIED/TRANSFIGURED FORM from heaven, because John was impressed enough to attempt to worship.  This “angel”--“messenger”--was perhaps LIKE Moses and Elijah.  These two appear, in glorified splendor, with Jesus at the MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION.  Matthew 17:1-8.  Mark 9:1-9.

How could Moses and Elijah, in glorified/transfigured bodies, be seen with Jesus?  The resurrection had NOT yet occurred, but THERE they WERE with Jesus!  Plus, both of these men had a unique way in which they arrived in heaven.

When Moses died, there was a mystery about his body.  God Himself attended to Moses’ body.  See Deuteronomy 34:5-6.  Was Moses taken to heaven???--and that was why no one knew the location of his grave???   Apparently, this is what occurred, because Moses is one of the men who appeared with Jesus in the transfiguration.

What about Elijah?  This man was taken to heaven without passing through death’s door.  Elijah was lifted ALIVE into heaven by a chariot.  2 Kings 2:11. (When we get to Revelation 11, we will explore what happened to Moses and Elijah in more detail.)

[There’s another man in the Old Testament who was taken to heaven without passing through death.  That man was Enoch.  (We'll also look at Enoch--and what this means a little later in this study.)]

BACK TO MOSES AND ELIJAH--Remember that they both appeared with Jesus on the MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION. 

In Revelation 22, when John tried to worship an “angel”--the angel PREVENTED him from doing so.  This “angel-messenger” SAID he was a FELLOWSERVANT (John was also “servant--BONDSLAVE” of Jesus, like the angel). 

The angel SAID that he was OF THY BRETHREN (making him a “human-kind” of brother to John) and OF THE PROPHETS (being of “the “prophets,” the angel could have been someone like Moses or Elijah--in a glorified/transfigured form from heaven, yet indeed a man.)  The angel, the fellowservant, who is of John’s brethren, the prophets, remains unnamed.  We can’t guess who he could have been.  Was he Enoch?  Moses?  Or Elijah?  We don‘t know.

In the Old Testament, there’s also “the angel of the Lord.”  Men BOWED TO WORSHIP when they saw this “angel”--who also carried a sword--and this angel ALLOWED himself to be worshiped (Remember, the angel who GAVE the message to John FORBADE any worship).

Comparing Old Testament passages which tell about “the angel of the Lord,” we discover that this phrase refers to Jesus Christ.  “The angel of the Lord” is an Old Testament manifestation of Christ, BEFORE HIS INCARNATION into a human body.  Exodus 3:2-5.  Numbers 22:22-23 and Numbers 22:31-34.  Joshua 5:13-15.  Judges 13:16-22. (HOMEWORK--Look up these passages and discern truth about “the angel of the Lord” as an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.)

In the Revelation 10:1, we see YET ANOTHER angel.  From the DESCRIPTION of this angel, we can again determine that He is JESUS CHRIST.  His face was like the sun, His feet like pillars of fire.  Compare that description to Revelation 1:15-16 (which we will soon study).  There, the prophecy says that Christ’s feet were like fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace (those would indeed be fiery feet!) and His countenance (face or features) was as the sun shining in its strength.

Do you remember seeing a CONSISTENCY of scripture, and the WORD PICTURES that are used (which I brought out in “Golden Rules of Interpretation”)?  What the scripture says in one spot, it will echo in another.  We can be positive that the “mighty angel” of Revelation 10 is indeed Jesus Christ--with his face like the sun and his feet as pillars of fire (like fine brass, as if they BURNED in a furnace).

I’m making many distinctions about ANGELS.  This is BECAUSE we can determine, from THE CONTEXT of the scripture, who the various angels really are.  Some are indeed specially created beings--supernatural messengers of God.  Some of God’s supernatural angels make announcements, like Gabriel.  Others of God’s supernatural angels are involved in warfare against the devil and his fallen angels, like Michael.

Some references to angels are seen to be Jesus Christ Himself--“the angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament, and the “mighty angel” of Revelation 10.

Other angels, or messengers, such as in Revelation 1 and 22, refer a FELLOWSERVANT or OF THY BRETHREN THE PROPHETS, in relation to the Apostle John.  By the exact wording here, the angel was of human-form, although definitely in a glorified/transfigured form, sent from heaven by Jesus, to take The Revelation to John (who we will soon see, was exiled to the island of Patmos).

In the final analysis, from the Greek word “angelos,” we see that the angel is simply a messenger.  In the military aspect, an angel was an agent, sent from the Upper Brass, who ran dispatches between the lines in a military engagement.  An angel could quite literally be a soldier of the lower ranks, who followed orders given to him from those higher up in command.

God has an army, too. Lines of communication in God’s Army are carried out by:

1. His own supernatural beings, heaven’s angels.

2. By Jesus Christ, likened to an angel messenger, in some places in scripture.

3. By human beings--glorified/transfigured--and sent to earth as messengers, like Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.  This is the reference which fits the angel who was sent to the Apostle John.

4. Furthermore, we believers in Jesus may become angels, too.  We can go with messages from one flank of God’s Army to another--to deliver warnings or directions from someone in higher command--and by doing that, we become “angelos”--NOT supernatural, NOT YET resurrected to glorified bodies--but “angels”--because we deliver a message.

I didn’t mention those angels who are sent by God to minister to His people--ministering angels, guardian angels.  The focus of this study has remained upon angels who are sent to deliver a message.  So although much more could be said, I will close this topic for now.

God sends his angels to keep us safe!


WHO IS A FRIEND OF GOD?

As we continue, we’ll look at the SECOND VERSE of Revelation chapter one, then lay some foundational understanding about what it means to be a “friend of God.”

Revelation 1:2:

“(John)Who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”

John bore RECORD of the word of God.  “Record” is the Greek “martureo” which simply means John performed the act of a “witness.”  A witness testifies about what he’s seen and heard---like being on the stand in a court of law.

John SAW and HEARD the Word of God--as God spoke Revelation’s prophecy.  John WITNESSED the TESTIMONY of Jesus Christ (also from the Greek “martureo”)--Revelation’s prophecy is a WITNESS to, a record of, and a testimony concerning Jesus.  ALL the things John saw and heard include many things (events, signs and symbols).  Like a circle, this verse swirls around, repeating itself, and EMPHASIZES that ALL of the book of Revelation focuses upon God’s Word, and upon the works and acts of Jesus Christ.  John saw and heard it.

Most simply stated, John, as a witness, saw and heard the prophecy, and he recorded all that he saw and heard.


IS THERE MORE ABOUT JOHN? WHO WAS THIS MAN?

There is a tradition in Church circles, where the Apostle John has been called the “beloved Apostle of Jesus.”  There's a REASON why.  This will be shown later in today’s study.

The idea of “beloved” is a reference to a special relationship of John to Jesus.  The concept points out a close “friendship” or “intimacy” that John experienced with his Lord.  Was John more intimate and closer to the Lord than the other disciples?  Was there something a little extra special about his friendship?

This study will, in no way, belittle what the other disciples of Jesus experienced, and it will not belittle ANY relationship of Christian believers to their Lord.  Many places in New Testament letters, whole congregations were addressed with the term “beloved.”  The term denotes closeness and intimacy.  This simply shows that we can ALL be close and intimate with Jesus, IF we so choose.

But I'd like to take the time to more deeply explore John’s friendship with his Lord.

To more fully understand what I am trying to explain, we'll take a tour through the scripture.  What does being a “friend of God” really imply?  Is there something deeper to understand?

In Genesis 18, Abraham entertained three angels in the plains by the oaks of Mamre.  After feeding those three and talking with them, Abraham perceived that even though the three LOOKED like men, they were actually angels.  (He entertained angels “unaware” for a short time, until he perceived differently.  Compare with Hebrews 13:2)

Two of the angels got up and went to Sodom and Gomorrah--because they had a special mission to perform on those cities.  (Their mission shows how Abraham’s visitors are indeed angels, and not mere men.)  The Lord remained with Abraham (one of the angels was the Old Testament appearance of Jesus).

The Lord said (Genesis 18:17), “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?”  He then explained to Abraham the coming destruction of the two wicked cities.

Abraham is known in scripture as “the friend” of God.  2 Chronicles 20:7.  Isaiah 41:8.  James 2:23.

Being a “friend of God” carries the idea that a friend is ALLOWED TO KNOW what the Lord PLANS TO DO.  A friend of God is told by the Lord what is going to happen.  Abraham, as “God’s friend,” received some profound prophetic truths--even the Gospel was “preached unto” Abraham!

In John 14, 15, and 16, Jesus is in the Upper Room with His disciples at the Last Supper.  In John 15:14-15, Jesus told them, “You are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth, I call you not servants; for the servant knows NOT what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for those things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus BEGAN telling His disciples about WHAT WAS COMING.  Jesus said, (in John 14:2) “In My Father’s house there are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.”  In John 16:7, Jesus adds, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I NOT go away, the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will NOT come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”

Jesus shared much with his "friends"--the disciples--at this point.  I’ve touched upon only small bits of what He said.  (HOMEWORK--Read John 14, 15 and 16.)

The concept of friendship implies INTIMACY.  In God’s eyes, being His friend meant that the person would be given the treat of knowing what was going to happen.  A friend of God is NOT left wondering what’s going on, but instead, receives special insight into God’s plans and intentions.  The friend of God is comforted by this special understanding.

Now, let’s look into an extreme example of such a friendship.

Who in the Old Testament was known as “the beloved prophet”?  Daniel.  Daniel 9:23.  Daniel 10:11.  Daniel 10:19.

Who in the New Testament was uniquely known as “the beloved Apostle”?  John.  John 13:23.  John 19:26. John 21:7.  John 21:20.

Daniel wrote the apocalyptic book of the Old Testament, which bears his name.  It deals with the time of the end, the nations which will be involved, Israel and the “little horn”--a reference to the Antichrist.

John wrote the apocalyptic book of the New Testament--the Revelation.  It deals with the age of the church, the end times, the tribulation judgments, Israel and “the beast”--a reference to the Antichrist.

BOTH Daniel and John were called “beloved.”  Both received an extensive vision of the end times.

The concept of a friend, BOTH in terms of Abraham and in terms of Jesus’ disciples, is tied to their receiving prophetic insight.  The idea of picking ONE in an area, and making that ONE a “special prophet,” stands out in the Old Testament example of Daniel, and in the New Testament example of John.

The idea of friendship with God, and becoming a special prophet, should not surprise us.  God consistently uses a system of phrasing and similarities of idioms throughout the whole Bible. That God chose Daniel for the Old Testament apokalypsis, and John for the New Testament Revelation, is consistent in His dealings with men, and consistent in that they both came to be known as “beloved.”  Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever.

Knowing what is going to happen in the future, even IF the pathway is VERY HARD and TRAGIC (like when Jesus spoke of His coming death to His disciples--and like the horrendous events described in Revelation)--brings comfort and hope.  Yes, the times will be appalling, tough, cruel.   Yes, it will appear like the devil has won and that there is no salvation.  Yes, there will be suffering and death.  BUT, THE END IS THIS--JESUS SHOWS HIMSELF TRIUMPHANT.  That’s the message of VICTORY and COMFORT, which God wants all of us to see.  He gave us a treasure in this book of Revelation!

He gave it to His “friend” John, the “beloved Apostle.”

Are we “friends” of God?  Are we “beloved”?

Of course, we are!  We SEE and KNOW the future!  God made certain that we can HOLD His EXACT MESSAGE in our very own hands.  We KNOW what’s going to happen, and we can be blessed and comforted by it.

Have a wonderful day, you “friends” of God, whom Jesus calls “beloved.”

And here's another GEM:   "To the praise of the glory of His GRACE, wherein He has made us ACCEPTED in the BELOVED."  Ephesians 1:6.  God accepts us TOTALLY in His BELOVED Son, Jesus!   Now, that should make us rejoice!

AS an ending thought, IF you are NOT a friend of God, you can easily BECOME one.  Take a moment to ask Jesus to forgive you for all the wrongs you have done, then invite Jesus to come into your heart to dwell.  He will.

And you will immediately know His peace.

All glory be unto Jesus Christ forever and forever!

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