OUR GUARDIAN ANGELS
D. M. PANTON, B.A.
Angels ministered to our Lord at all the critical moments of His life on earth, and so revealed what they do, though to a lesser degree, for all the children of God. "A multitude of the heavenly host", actually seen by the shepherds, chanted His birth; angels fed Him after the ‘forty days’ fast in the Wilderness; an angel strengthened Him when life threatened to give way in Gethsemane; angels sat in the empty tomb; and He was "carried up into heaven", manifestly by angels*, and angels spoke openly to the Apostles after the ascent.
We know nothing whatever about the angels except what the Bible tells us; and one utterance sums up for ever their function and destiny. "Are they not all ministering spirits?" (Heb. 1: 14); the word indicating liturgical service, the angelic priesthood of the Heavenly Sanctuary. One-third of the angel host fell with Satan (Rev. 12: 4): the rest are the elect angels (1 Tim. 5: 21), safeguarded from eternity by the act of God, and whose whole life-function is service of the Most High. It is beautiful to remember their qualifications for service. Spotless purity - they are called "holy angels"; immense power - they "excel in strength", one angel alone destroying an army of 185,000 men (2 Kings 19: 35); intense activity - before he had finished his prayer Gabriel reached Daniel from the Throne of God (Dan. 9: 3, 23); and amazing capacity - we never read of their sleep; their life is no idle dream, no indolent enjoyment, but incessant activity for God. And the ‘ministry’ here named preceded the creation of man. It passes all bounds of imagination to know the exact duties of angels in the universe; but in our own world there is the angel that has power over fire (Rev. 14: 18), and other angels that control the winds (Rev, 7: 1); and we know the summary of it all, - "His angels do his commandments, harkening unto the voice of his word."
But now their most absorbing function emerges. "Are they not all ministering spirits" - all of them, not a few of them only - "sent forth to minister unto them that shall be heirs of salvation?" It would be difficult to exceed this wonder of God’s care for us. Such is God’s love for His saints that He sends these glorious attendants on His own Throne to watch, invisibly, on our needs, as is made so apparent to us in the case of our Lord. And Satan is keenly alive to it; for he quotes the promise to Christ, - "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" (Ps. 91: 11). In the words of Dr. F. B. Meyer:- "They keep pace with the swiftest trains in which we travel. They come unsoiled through the murkiest air. They smoothe away the heaviest difficulties. They garrison with light the darkest sepulchres. They bear us up in their hands, lest we should strike our foot against a stone. Many a bright and holy thought, whispered into the ear, we know not whence or how, is due to these bright and loving spirits.” “The good Lord forgive me,” says Bishop Hall, “for that, amongst my other offences, I have suffered myself so much to forget the presence of His holy angels.”
MINISTRY IN YOUTH
It is exceedingly beautiful that one class of believers, and one class only, is singled out for peculiar angelic care. Our Lord says:- "See that ye despise not one of these little ones [that believe on me, ver. 6] ; "for I say unto you" - the special emphasis of our Lord’s own authority - "that in heaven their angels" - the angels allocated to them - "do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18: 10). Such is our heavenly Father’s tenderness for young believers - whatever their physical age - that, unlike other angels, these guardian spirits have access to the Throne of God at any moment, to receive the suited instructions for their young charges direct from the mouth of God. So critical is early faith, so concerned is God, so beset with dangers is the path of young believers, that their angels have immediate access to God at all hours of their ministry.
MINISTRY IN DEATH
is equally beautiful that we find the precious presence of angels at the other
end of our new-born life. Lazarus "died, and he was carried away*
by the angels into Abraham’s bosom" (Luke 16: 22) - a Jewish name for
Revised Version: carried away (see Greek); not carried up
as in rapture (Luke 24: 51). The angels carry us away to the Gates of
Hades, the entrance to the lower world, and so into
[** It is the SOUL - not the spirit of man, as Mr. Panton has here indicated - that descends into Hades. "Because thou wilt not leave my SOUL in Hades," says David. "He forseeing this spake of THE RESURRECTION of the CHRIST, that neither was HE - [For, the SOUL is the Person; not the spirit or body] - LEFT IN HADES." And therefore, King David, nor any other dead saint of God, can ascend into Heaven before the time of RESURRECTION. "For David ascended not - [that is, he did not ascend at the time of Christ’s resurrection: as many Protestants today suppose; for these words were spoken ten days afterwards. David is presently in Hades - the place of the dead. See Acts ch. 2.; and therefore we read of Jesus saying to His disciples: "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and will receive you [that is, all believers who are "accounted worthy" - (as other scriptures plainly teach us) - at the "First Resurrection"] - unto myself; that where I am, THERE YE MAY BE ALSO" (John 14: 2, 3) ; cf. Rev. 20: 4-6 ; Heb. 11: 35 ; Phil. 3: 11 ; Luke 20: 35, 36 ; 14: 14, etc.) - Ed.]
MINISTRY IN CONVERSION
Meanwhile, in our earthly service, there is the extraordinary sympathy of the angels with all evangelism. "I say unto you" - it is again a special revelation of our Lord, as it would have to be - "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15: 10). The revelation is overwhelming. It means that all men are under their constant gaze - nothing is hid from their eyes; but, through all, there is one thing they see supremely, and one thing above all others that gives them joy - a repenting soul; and their attention is so close and constant that their ranks are thrown into joy not only by three thousand converted at Pentecost, but by one soul alone in an attic on his knees. There is never an evangelistic mission without its attendant angels; and so closely are they aware of the facts that their joy does not wait till a sinner enters Heaven, but bursts forth at the one crucial moment of that sinner’s whole eternity - the moment when he repents.
MINISTRY IN RAPTURE
Their next service is the one for which we are now waiting their first public act on earth for some two thousand years, but public only to us, not to the world. "In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather the wheat into my barn: the reapers are angels" (Matt. 13: 30). As there is no proof that there will be Elijah’s horses and chariots of fire, so at any moment the watchful may have the sudden consciousness of angel arms around them, as they flash upward. Thus Enoch "was not found, because God translated him" * (Heb. 11: 5). Nor does their work for us end there. The whole host of the angels has to come to our assistance, for Satan disputes the ascent - even as he disputed the return of Moses’ body for the Transfiguration (Jude 9) - with the consequent overthrow of the whole host of Hell, and our safe arrival in the Parousia.
[* Enoch is the first mention type of the selective rapture of the saints of God; and there is no hint anywhere in Scripture - (as far as I can see; and contrary to dispensational teaching) - of two raptures: one for Old Testament saints, and another for New Testament saints. Nor is there any hint of discrimination between New Testament saints (supposedly having greater privileges) than those in Old Testament times: "And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, RECEIVED NOT THE PROMISE, God having provided some better thing concerning us, THAT APART FROM US THEY SHOULD NOT BE MADE PERFECT" (Heb. 11: 39, 40). That is, "perfect," as in RESURRECTION. "For neither can they die any more: for they ARE EQUAL UNTO THE ANGELS; and are sons of God, being SONS OF THE RESURRECTION" (Luke 20: 35). - Ed.].
MINISTRY TO THE JEWS
next act will be their first open action on a great scale - so far as we know -
on earth. "After the tribulation of those days" - it is therefore
to a fresh band of the elect to whom the angels now turn, the Church [of firstfruits] having been completely removed from earth - "the Son of man shall send forth his angels with the great
sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the
four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24: 31).
The moment the Tribulation is over, and the Jew, having seen Christ,
is saved, angels will openly shepherd
MINISTRY OF JUDGMENT
of the most wonderful functions of angelic power still remains. The Church [of
the firstborn] has gone:
[* Note. The word "wicked" is not limited to describing the unregenerate only. "I write to you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother” ... “Put away the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Cor. 5: 11, 13).
** The casting into the "lake of fire" is after the Millennial Kingdom has ended, and therefore, after the Great White Throne Judgment; that there will be regenerate believers judged at this time - who were not "accounted worthy" of the "first resurrection" - is shown by the words: "Books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of LIFE: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works." … "If any was NOT FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LIFE, he was cast into the lake of fire," (Rev. 20: 12b, 15).]
THE HOLY SPIRIT
fact remains on the whole ministry of angels of immense importance. Nowhere in the Bible is there any record of
men seeking out angels with the approval of God, or, approved of God, trying to
get into touch with them uninvited: man’s whole Fall
itself arose through intercourse with a disguised angel. The Holy Spirit, who throughout the Bible is
never in any way associated with angels, is the only Spirit with Whom we are to have contact:* our sole contact with the unseen, as far as we ourselves initiate it,
is God. This is the death-blow of all
Spiritualism. Nevertheless we are in
perfect accord with the Holy Angels, and they are already a part of our Heaven,
which we shall share together. "Ye are come unto
[* Yet there is no example in the New Testament of the Holy Spirit Himself being directly addressed, though on occasion (like angels) He addresses men (Acts 13: 2). If we are saved [and obedient (Acts 5)], He is in us, whereas God is to be addressed in heaven: as the model of all prayer has it, - "after this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father which art in heaven" (Matt. 6: 9). To pray inwards oils the road for spiritisms and false worship. "He will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him" - not them that ask the Holy Spirit. We are not to initiate communication with any spirit whatsoever on earth.]