THE MISSION AND ACTIVITIES,
AND THE DESTINY OF ANGELS
by Alan Bonifay
This will be our final article in this series on the subject of angels. It is our fervent desire that we have presented the truth as it is found in the Scriptures and that all who have read these things have benefited. We again use the Bible as our standard of truth as we delve into this subject once more.
In studying the mission and activities of angels we must keep in mind the dispensation or age in which a particular work was or is performed. Some activities that angels performed they no longer perform because the circumstances have changed, or the law for God's people has changed, or God's agents are no longer performing miraculous works. However, in a general study of their work it appears evident from God's word that they worked or do work in about five areas:
1. Miraculous protection of Israel and/or specific individuals in Israel.
2. Spiritual protection of God's people now performed in the spirit world.
3. Praise and worship of God.
4. The miraculous revelation of God's will.
5. The execution of God's judgments.
We presume the angels continue in their praise and worship of God. But no longer do angels miraculously protect Israel or the church. And no longer are angels revealing God's word because the revelation of God is complete. In the future, angels will have a great mission in executing the final judgment of God. Regarding the activities of angels, we can say the foregoing things with certainty. We are less certain about present day activities the angels may be performing. They may function now in the spirit world protecting God's people from the demons, keeping the demons from gaining an unfair advantage over God's children. They may also function in providential answer to prayer though this cannot be ascertained with certainty from the word of God. Having summarized these things, let us now look to them more in depth, noting specific works angels performed that are recorded in the word of God.
Protecting God's People
Angels drove spirit horses in 2 Kings 2:9-12 while taking Elijah home to heaven. Angels are connected also to spirit horses and chariots in 2 Kings 6:11-18 where they protected Elisha from the Syrian army at Dothan, and we find the horses and chariots in the visions of Zechariah as well (1:7-Il; 6: 1-6). According to Genesis 3:24, cherubim were set to guard the gates of Eden when Adam and Eve were banished. But these are not the only gates guarded by angels, for the word tells us that angels guard the gates of the Holy City in Revelation 21:12. At one time, angels served as princes over the nations (Daniel 10:13-21; 12:1). Just what these angels did in this capacity is not made clear, but it was an activity they were involved in. The New Testament teaches that angels came and strengthened Jesus when He was tried (Matthew 4:11) and that Paul also received encouragement from an angel while at sea in a storm (Acts 27:23-25). In Revelation 9:1 and 20:1-3, the scriptures teach us that angels bind and guard Satan, and the book of Psalms depicts angels as the protectors of the saints (Psalm 34:4-7; Psalm 91:11,12).
Revealing God's Will
The scriptures teach that angels gave the law of Moses, as Stephen speaks of the Jews having "received the law by the disposition of angels" in Acts 7:53. Hebrews 2:2 also points to "the word spoken by angels" in reference to the Old Law. During Old Testament days, other revelations were given by angels as well as is evidenced by a reading of Daniel 8:19. In this verse, Gabriel tells Daniel, "Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the appointed time the end shall be." Revelations from God were also given by an angel to Daniel in chapters nine and ten. But such revelations of God's will are not found only in the Old Testament. It happened in New Testament times too. The angel of the Lord told the apostles to "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." (Acts 5:19,20). "An angel of God" brought instructions to Cornelius in Acts 10:1-6. This incident is also an example of an angel bringing an answer to prayer, something that also is recorded in Daniel 9:20-23. Angels have also appeared to men in dreams to reveal the will of God to them as was the case with Joseph after Mary "was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Joseph learned what he was to do in this situation when "the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream." (Matthew 1:18-21). Joseph was instructed two more times in this same fashion, as is documented in Matthew 2:13-19. Sometimes angels led gospel preachers to sinners. This was the case with the evangelist Philip who thus received the opportunity to preach to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-38). Clearly angels have been instrumental in the revelation of God's will.
Often in the Scriptures, angels are described as the executors of God's judgments. In the spiritual realm, angels fought with Satan and his demons and cast them out of heaven (Revelation 12:7-9). On Earth also have angels been employed in the execution of God's judgments. God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, recorded in Genesis 19, was carried out by the hand of angels. God used an angel to punish Israel with pestilence in 2 Samuel 24:15-17. The work of angels in this area is not yet done, for the scriptures teach that the angels will accompany Jesus when He returns (Matthew 16:27; Matt. 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). This will be a time of judgment, and it will be the angels who have the responsibility of gathering together God's elect at that judgment (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 7:13). In explaining the parable of the tares of the field, Jesus said the harvest was the end of the world and that the angels would gather out all the wicked "and shall cast them into a furnace of fire." (Matthew 13:36-43). Obviously, the angels have not yet concluded all the work they will do in the execution of God's judgments.
Praise and Worship of God and other Present Time Activities
While the angels await the time for their last actions of judgment, they carry on in their praise and worship of God as described in Revelation 5:11-14. They also minister before Him, as Revelation 8:2 speaks of "the seven angels which stood before God." Also being done by the angels while they await the final earth day is the receiving of "the spirits of just men made perfect" into paradise (Luke 16:22; Hebrews 12:23). Our views on "Guardian Angels" have been made quite clear (see the first article in this series), but it may be that angels are assisting God's people today in some fashion. Ephesians 6:12; Psalm 34:4-7; and Matthew 18:10 are all passages which may well indicate such activity. But as all must admit that the veil of Divine Providence is in fact impenetrable, and we cannot define His workings there, so we must admit that clearly defining the role that angels play in that Providence is impossible. While this is not an exhaustive list of the work of angels, it is at least a representative one.
The Destiny of Angels
What is in store for angels in the future? The scriptures tell us. We have already noted that angels will be employed in the Judgment (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Matthew 25:31). But what of the destiny the angels themselves face? Just as is the case with mankind, the destiny of angels is determined by their obedience to God. Psalm 103:20 shows that angels obeyed God's commandments and hearkened unto the voice of His word. From Revelation 22:8,9, where the angel refuses to allow John to worship him, we learn that this angel is a fellow servant of God with John. As was John, this angel was clearly under law and was obedient to it. Hebrews 12:22 says the saints had "come...to" or joined company with "an innumerable company of angels." Finally, in Matthew 25:31, when Jesus comes to judge the world He brings with Him all the "holy angels." All of these passages clearly indicate that the obedient angels will be the eternal companions of the redeemed in the "new heavens and the new earth. "Such then is the destiny of good angels. The destiny of evil angels is far different. Ju 6 says, "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. "Peter speaks of the same thing in 2 Peter 2:4. And finally, note Matthew 25:41, 46: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment..."
And so we see the destiny of wicked angels. They will suffer together with wicked men for eternity, the punishment for each being of the same kind. Whether the intensity of the punishment will be the same, we cannot say. Perhaps it will not be. But no matter, the everlasting fire, the eternal destiny of evil men and evil angels, is much to be feared and abhorred.
The pure and holy, whether angels, or men, will be eternally happy while the rebellious and disobedient will be eternally miserable. Let us remember that the fate of wicked men and wicked angels is most certainly to be avoided. And let us remember what wonderful incentives we are given to prompt us to live lives of purity and holiness: that we may have eternal association with angels and purified spirits forever in the presence of Almighty God. It is a great joy to anticipate being forever associated with the angels in giving glory to God and to the Lamb that was slain to redeem us. May our Father help us to he worthy of such honor.
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