It’s really cool to believe in angels. It’s definitely cooler to believe in angels than in Jesus.
They’re everywhere today. Cutesy little figurines in the church merch section of the Christian bookstore. TV shows about guardian angels. In movies, angels are the moody romantic lead, the friendly guide, the likeable and smarmy comedic lead… Heck, a couple weeks back, there was even a movie about humanity having to be saved from God’s wrath (brought by a legion of angels, who possess people as though they were demons) by the archangel, Michael, who has rebelled against God and kills the other angels with machine guns!
Then there’s books. I don’t know about you, but generally when I see a book about angels, I get a little nervous. Usually the only ones I see are by folks like Sylvia Browne and other new age spiritualists.
I say all this to give you a picture of the apprehension I faced when I saw the invite to read Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah. Because I’d never read any of his work before, I decided to give it a shot, uncertain of whether or not it would be beneficial or about as sketchy as a book with fold-out end times charts.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Jeremiah’s book offers a refreshing, helpful look at the topic of angels as he takes readers through the Bible to discover who they are, what they do and why it matters.
Babies in Diapers Don’t Wield Fiery Swords
Jeremiah does not present angels as being huggable, friendly creatures, departed loved ones who now have wings or babies in diapers. Instead, he presents us with the Bible’s far more impressive and terrifying view.
Real angels have been and are and shall forever be awesome warriors for God, agents of his wrath and power. We don’t wonder in the least why people in the Bible who see angels are so often struck with terror at the sight (p. 37).
They guard the gates of the garden with a flaming sword (Gen. 3:24). The angel of the Lord, with hand outstretched, sends a plague upon the people of Israel after David’s sinful census (2 Sam. 24:15-17, 1 Chron. 21:14-17). In a single night, one angel kills one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrians (2 Kings 19:35, 2 Chron. 32:21, Isa. 37:36). King Herod accepts worship as a god, but is killed by an angel, devoured by worms from within after the angels touch (Acts 12:21-23). These are just a few examples that Jeremiah gives. I don’t expect to see these angels on a Valentines card anytime soon.
Ultimately, angels are servants, just as we are. They are created beings, like us; however, they are not spiritually progressed, evolved or transformed humans, they are a distinct class of beings (see p. 51).
And because they are created beings, they are never to be worshipped.
This point is one that can’t be overstated. As Jeremiah points out, even the apostle John had to be reminded twice by an angel:
After one ecstatic scene of heavenly worship at the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19), a guiding angel turned to John and asked him to write these words: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” The angel added, “These are the true words of God.”
At once, John “fell at his feet to worship him.”
The angel’s rebuke was quick: “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (19:10). [p. 54, emphasis in original]
Again, the angels are ruled by Jesus. They are not worthy of worship.
The One That’s Different
Perhaps one of the most intriguing chapters for me was the one dealing with “The Angel of the Lord.” Jeremiah writes, ”No doubt you’ve already noticed that often in an Old Testament passage the ‘angel’ who’s speaking is identified directly with God himself. The angel seems not just to be from the Lord, but actually to be the Lord” (p. 157). When I was reading through the Old Testament last year, this was one of the things that came up again and again. Who is the Angel of the Lord? Is he an angel that is more preeminent than all the others, or is he, perhaps, the pre-incarnate Christ?
John Calvin, M.J. Erickson, Lewis Sperry Chafer, C.F. Dickason and J.M. Wilson, each of whom are cited by the author, all lean toward the belief that the angel of the Lord may have been Christ. However, Jeremiah quoting Wilson reminds us,
Yet it must be remembered that at best these are only conjectures that touch on a great mystery. . . . The appearances of the angel of the Lord . . . culminating in the coming of the Savior, and are thus a foreshadowing of, and a preparation for, the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Further than this is not safe to go (p. 163).
Jeremiah, I think, wisely heeds this warning throughout as he keeps his conclusions fairly open-ended. In presenting the biblical evidence, the author presents two items that I found fascinating and curious.
The fascinating: “Appearances of the angel of the Lord ceased after the birth of Jesus Christ,” he writes on p. 167, “a further bit of evidence that he may indeed have been that angel.”
The curious: In citing Exodus 23:20-21 (“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.”), Jeremiah suggests that the angel could forgive sins.
In studying the passage, I found that this certainly be the case as the term “my name is in him” implies that the angel is of the same nature and character. This gave me a lot to think about, although I believe more study on my part is required before I can comfortably agree or disagree.
“The angels truly love the Lord, and will always love to serve him… and so will I.”
Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah is a helpful, thoughtful look at what Scripture says about the angels who, like us, were made to worship and serve the Lord our God. “The angels truly love the Lord, and will always love to serve him… and so will I,” concludes Jeremiah. Amen.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.