We continue our study of Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) by examining chapter 10 entitled, “Good Angels.”
The term ‘angel’ means ‘messenger.’ There’s a mysterious element to angels that often leads to either overemphasizing or ignoring them altogether. Scripture often mentions angels, and while we can’t satisfy all our curiosity about them, there are certain truths we can know. MLJ begins with 10 general points:
- Angels are created beings- they are distinct from God (Hebrews 1), and while they are spiritual beings, they are part of God’s creation. They have not eternally existed like the Trinity (Col. 1:16).
- Angels have bodies- they have spiritual bodies that will be similar to our spiritual bodies in eternity, and are also able to take on the form of human beings (Gen. 18).
- Angels are (probably) sexless- MLJ says we shouldn’t be too dogmatic, but he leans toward them being neither male nor female. Angels are always referred to as ‘he’ and, in Matthew 22:29-30, we are told that in the resurrection we will not be given in marriage, but be like the angels.
- Angels never die- Luke 20:36 argues that in the resurrection we will not be able to die anymore because we will be equal to angels (we do not become angels after we die).
- Angels are inferior to the Son, but superior to men- Hebrews 1 argues that when Christ became man, he was made “a little lower than the angels.” The author of Hebrews is quoting from Psalm 8 which says, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the angels…” (vv. 4-5).
- There are many different designations for angels in Scripture-
- spirits (Eph. 6:12)
- holy angels (Luke 9:26)
- elect angels (1 Tim. 5:21)
- ministering angels (Hebrews 1:14)
- cherubim (Psalm 99:1; Ezek. 10:1-22)
- seraphim (Isa. 6:2)
- There are too many angels to count- Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to defend him (Matt. 26:53). When Christ was born, the shepherds heard “a multitude of heavenly hosts” (Luke 2:13). In Revelation 5:11, John sees “many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands…”
- There is an order among angels- Scripture describes a chief-like “archangel” (1 Thess. 4:16). In Jude, Michael is referred to as the archangel. Michael also shows up in Daniel 10, where he has the special task of fighting for Israel against the Prince of Persia (vv. 13, 21). We are also given the name of another angel, Gabriel. He stands in God’s presence ready to deliver whatever message he is given. He is the one who told Mary she was with child (Luke 1:26). He also gave the message to Zechariah about the birth of his son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:19).
- Angels are powerful- we are told that angels “excel in power” or are referred to as “mighty ones” (Psalm 103:20).
- There are good and bad angels- 1 Tim. 5:21 refers to the elect angels. Matthew 25:41 speaks of hell being prepared for “the devil and his angels” (see also Ephesians 6:12), so Scripture affirms there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ angels.
What Do The Good Angels Do?
MLJ addresses a few things good angels do (fallen angels will be discussed in the next chapter). First, they spend time “adoring God and the Lamb.” In Revelation 5, they are gathered around the throne singing, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Next, the angels look into the question of salvation. In 1 Peter 1:12, after explaining the good news of our salvation, Peter states these truths are “things the angels desire to look into.” Ephesians 3:10 tells us that through the church, God is showing angelic beings the wonders of Christ. The redemption of man is “something so marvelous, and so wonderful, that these created angelic spirits, who have always spent their eternity in the presence of God are…looking on at this thing which is most astonishing to them…were it not for you and me, for those who are redeemed, they would know nothing about the grace of God…” (110).
The angels are also watching us. Paul argues in 1 Cor. 11:10 that women should cover their head “because of the angels.” MLJ argues that this shows that there are angels present when God’s people gather.
Angels are used in a variety of ways to do God’s will. In Hebrews 2:2, we see that the law was given to Israel through angels. At times, angels reveal God’s plan as seen in the life of Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and others. They minister to the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14) and protect God’s people (Psalm 91:10-11, Daniel 6:22). They execute God’s judgment (Acts 12:23), and will one day gather God’s elect when he comes back for his people (Matthew 24:30-31). In Luke 16:22-23, we see that an angel carries off the beggar, after his death, to Abraham’s bosom. MLJ uses this to encourage believers:
And when we come to die they will be there to receive our spirit and take us to Paradise…Never again, Christian people, imagine that when you come to die you will be going into some awful loneliness…the angels of God will be there to receive you (112-113).
We are not told of such a comfort for the rich man who went to hell…he simply “died and was buried.”
Knowing such wonderful servants of God exists is encouraging. However, let us make sure our trust is not in the angels themselves, but in God who is empowering and guiding them. Ultimately, he is using them to do his work, and all glory goes to him! In Revelation 19, John sees a wonderful, heavenly scene. An angel comes to him and John falls down to worship him, but the angel corrects him: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (v. 10). The greatness of these truths about angelic beings is another aspect of creation that should lead us to worship our Creator!
Next time we’ll cover chapter 11, “The Devil and the Fallen Angels.”
Other posts in the “Great Doctrines of the Bible” series:
- Mind, Heart, and Will: Examining the Great Doctrines of the Bible
- How Can We Know Anything About God?
- Does the Bible Claim to be Authoritative?
- The Existence and Being of God
- The Warnings and Comforts of God’s Attributes
- A God We Can Trust
- Lloyd-Jones On The Mystery Of The Trinity
- The God Who Knows: The Eternal Decrees of God