Thursday, April 13, 2017

Concerning Angels – Part 2

In the previous lesson we discussed the appearance of angels, learned what angels are and are not, and defined some of the roles that angels fulfill.

The subject of angels is a dense one.  I started out the previous lesson thinking it would be easy, only to find myself unsure of where to begin and conclude.  There is still more to learn about angels, and this lesson will continue to just scratch the surface.

The Fallibility of Angels

We’ve all heard of someone being referred to as being a “perfect little angel” – usually in mocking tone – the implication being that all angels are pure and holy.

However, this is not entirely the case.  In the previous lesson we discussed the fact that angels are somewhat similar to humans in that they are apparently sentient beings with free will. Therefore, like humans, angels are imperfect and just as capable of making mistakes.  Angels can turn away from God.

Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
In addition to turning away from God, we see that some angels actively work to turn humanity away from God.  

Concerning Demons

“Demon” (from the Greek word daimōn, translated “devil”) is another name for these fallen angels.  While the origin of demons is not explicitly discussed in the Bible, there are verses that speak of the fall of angels and their leader Satan.

Revelation 12:7-9 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,  but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them  in heaven any longer.  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

After rebelling against God, Satan and his angels (as many as one third of all the angels – Revelation 12:4) were cast from Heaven.  Since that time, Satan has taken on the role of tempter and his primary goal is turning the hearts of men away from God (Genesis 3).  Like their leader the devil, demons actively seek to contaminate the human race, damage our relationship with God, and thereby condemn us to a fate similar to their own.

John 8:44  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

There is not much said about demons in the Old Testament, but some Scriptures describe “distressing – or evil – spirits from God” (1 Samuel 16:15-16, 23) or “lying spirits” (1 King 22:21-23) that afflicted kings and prophets of the age.

In the New Testament they are usually called “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7), “wicked – or evil – spirits” (Luke 7:21, Acts 19:12-13), “deceiving spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1), or “spirits of divination” (Acts 16:16).

As disturbing as it may sound, Satan and his demons have some degree of power in our world.  Satan is even sometimes called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31) or “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  While he does not have complete rule over this world – God is still above all – it is unsettling to realize that in some way that the devil rules over the people of this world.

The book of Job describes an instance in which Satan was allowed by God to do anything but kill him (Job 1:6-12).  In our time Satan and his followers are more subtle in their work.  They utilize deceit as a means to manipulate mankind into rebelling against God by appealing to the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:16).

Some pagan worshippers apparently had dealings with demons.  Whether this was done unknowingly or intentionally is unclear.  Regardless, it is certain that demons delight in the making false idols to draw away worship from the true God (Leviticus 17:7, Psalm 106:37).  I wonder how many false religions today owe their existence to the work of fallen angels?

Another tactic employed by the devil and his infernal cohorts is the twisting of the very word of God (Satan himself actually quoted Scripture in an attempt to corrupt Christ – Matthew 4:5-6) and the enabling of false teachers to spread their perverted gospels.

Revelation 16:14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Therefore, as Christians we are warned to be aware of spiritual threats…

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.

1 Peter 5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

But we are also encouraged with the knowledge that God has the ultimate power over all.

James 2:19  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

1 John 4:4  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

What about Demonic Possession?

Of course we cannot discuss demons without delving into the topic of demonic possession…
During a demonic possession, an unclean spirit would personally attack a human with various afflictions.  Demons could cause diseases such as muteness (Matthew 12:22), deafness (Mark 9:25), blindness (Matthew 12:22), and bodily deformations (Luke 13:10-17).  Additionally, we read of demons capable of inflicting mental problems (Matthew 8:28, Acts 19:13-16) such as ranting and raving (Mark 1:23-24, John 10:20), uncontrolled fits (Luke 9:37-42, Mark 1:26), and antisocial behaviors (Luke 8:27, 35).

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He healed people who had been possessed by demons (Mark 1:22-28, Mark 5:1-16).   Through such miraculous acts, Jesus established His power over Satan and his demonic forces.  Jesus needed only to issue a simple verbal command to expel demons.  Meanwhile, His disciples would invoked Christ’s name (Luke 9:49) or prayed (Mark 9:29) to cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A question that often comes up while discussing demonic possession is whether or not such things still happen in the modern age.  It is worth noting that the Gospel writers would often distinguish between sickness and demonic possession and point out that not all diseases were caused by demons.
For example, in Matthew 12:22 a man was brought to Jesus “who was demon-possessed, blind and mute…” in this instance the infirmities of this individual appear to be caused by the demon.  However, in John 9, Jesus healed a blind man who was “blind from birth”.  Apparently this was a natural, rather than supernatural affliction.

The point being that it is unclear whether or not some of the diseases and mental illnesses we see today are caused by demonic possession.  However, it’s worth pointing out that the age of miracles has apparently ended (1 Corinthians 13:8-13) and the ability to cast out demons is listed among the miraculous abilities (Mark 9:38-41).  Therefore, if mankind no longer has the ability to cast out demons, then perhaps it can be assumed that God no longer allows people to be afflicted by demons in this way.

Interestingly enough, following the book of Acts there is no mention of exorcisms in the latter part of the New Testament.  It’s almost as if that particular threat from the demonic realm was phased out altogether.  Perhaps the power of demons is significantly limited now that they are bound in Hell…

2 Peter 2:4  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

We know that some will still claim even to this day to have the ability to cast out demons in Christ’s name.  However we are warned against such false teachers by Jesus Himself.

Matthew 7:21-23  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Should we fear demons today?  Not if we are in Christ!  Christ’s power over demonic forces is just as potent today as it was when He walked the Earth.

James 4:7  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Angel Worship

While it’s obvious that seeking communicate with demons or otherwise dabbling in the occult is forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10-11, Leviticus 19:31), one might think that conversing with righteous angels might be an acceptable practice.  I’ve heard of some individuals seeking to direct prayer to their “guardian angel”.

We can read of instances in which mankind encountered angels and began to worship them.  In such cases we can read of the angels actually rebuking them for doing so!

Revelation 22:8-9  Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.  Then he said to me, “See that you 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.”

It’s important to make clear that the worship of anything/anyone other than God is forbidden by Scripture!

Colossians 2:18  Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind…

Humanity and Angels within the Spiritual Hierarchy

How often after a loved one has died have we heard somebody seeking to comfort us by saying “Heaven has gained another angel”?  We must realize that humans do not become angels after they have died! As we have studied in both parts of this series of lessons, angels are created beings distinctly different from mankind.

For further proof of this truth we can look to the words of Christ Himself when He was discussing marriage in the afterlife.

Matthew 22:29-30  Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

Notice that while making this point Christ differentiates between angels and human souls.  Humanity and angels are distinct and unique creations!

Within the spiritual hierarchy, we read that mankind is ranked just below the angels…

Psalm 8:4-6  What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

…And yet, as we just read, the psalmists said that mankind holds a favored position.
Isn’t it amazing to consider that humanity actually possesses a few distinct advantages over the angels?

First, we know that mankind is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  This cannot be said of the angels (whose appearance we discussed in the previous lesson).

Additionally, we see that mankind was actually made privy to knowledge withheld from the angels through the revelation of the Gospel.

1 Peter 1:12  To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

We tend to think of the angels as always being positioned above humanity, holding some unattainable degree of righteousness over us.  However, it’s incredible to realize that Scripture tells us humanity will actually be charged with judging the angels!  Obviously not just any humans, but rather it will be the Saints – the Church – that will take on this role.

1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels…?

What an awesome responsibility for mankind to take on, exercising authority over some of Heaven’s original inhabitants!

The Eternal Fate of Angels

So what happens on the Day of Judgement and beyond?

The righteous angels will accompany Christ when He returns.

Matthew 25:31  When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

From there, the “holy angels” will enjoy the pleasures of the “new heavens” (2 Peter 3:13).

As for the demons, those fallen angels…

Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day...

And there they will remain in torment.

If any of this sounds familiar, that is because the eternal fate of angels is more or less identical to our own destiny…

One final point to consider:

When it comes to deciding how one will spend eternity, it appears that humanity have a privilege that angels never had. To my knowledge there is no Scriptural evidence of fallen angels ever repenting or even having a chance at repentance...  Once they turned their back on God, there was no chance of rejoining Him.  It’s almost as if the angels were given one chance to choose whom they would serve, whether it be God or Satan.

That is the same choice that we face every day of our lives, isn’t it?

On that last day Jesus will judge the nations…

Matthew 25:41  Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…

Will that be our eternal fate?  Or will we be those “on His right hand” who gladly hear Him say…

Matthew 25:34 …Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…

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