4-1 Angelic Co-operation
A classic example of Angelic co-operation is found in the account of the first Passover. Ex. 12:23 says that the Passover Angel would "pass (hover) over the door and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you". 'The destroyer' refers to an Angel- Ps. 78 speaks of the "Angels of evil" who brought the plagues, and as the plague of the firstborn was one of them, it follows that this too must have been brought about by an Angel. The same Angel is referred to in Jer. 51:1- the “destroying spirit” [“wind”, AV] who was sent forth by God to smite Babylon; note how Revelation also describes Babylon as being destroyed by a singular Angel. In another Angelic context we read: “O Lord my Lord; will you be the destroyer of the remnant of Israel?” (Ez. 9:8 Heb.). “Let the Angel of the Lord persecute them” (Ps. 35:5,6) has the same Angel in mind. The destroyer Angel is perhaps alluded to in Job 18:13: “The firstborn of death”. Job 33:23 LXX certainly is relevant: “Though there should be one thousand Angels of death…”. This same 'destroyer' Angel is referred to again in the context of being present with Israel to punish them if they disobeyed in 1 Cor. 10:10 -"they were destroyed of the destroyer". So we have here on this first Passover night the situation where one Angel is commissioned to do a certain task- in this case kill all firstborn in Egypt- and goes ahead with this task blind to any other consideration, e. g. whether the people concerned were obedient Israelites or not. Therefore another Angel was needed, presumably more powerful or senior to the 'destroyer', to stop the faithful Israelites being killed. Of course God could have given the 'destroyer' additional instructions about not killing the Jews; but it seems to be God's way of working both amongst us and among the Angels to assign each a specific role in the execution of His purpose, and to take pleasure in seeing each Angel or saint working in loving co-operation with another, after the pattern of the Angelic co-operation.
Ez. 20:8-14 talks more about this destroyer Angel: "Neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out My fury upon them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I wrought for My name's sake, that it should not be polluted among the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes. . My sabbaths. . the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. . but I wrought for My name's sake, that it should not be polluted" .
The destroyer Angel went out through the midst of the land of Egypt to kill the firstborn. He wanted to kill the Jews too because they were not forsaking the idols of Egypt- i. e. they were preparing to take them out of Egypt with them (Ex. 13:17 and Acts 7:43 lend support here). "I"- God manifest now in the Passover Angel- "wrought for My name's sake" (v. 9) against the Destroyer that this should not be done. He remembered how He had "made myself known unto them" in the burning bush, by saying there "I am the Lord your God "(v. 5). "Mine eye (the Passover Angel) spared them from destroying them ",v. 17; i. e. from the work of the Destroyer Angel, both in Egypt at the night of Passover and also in the wilderness. Notice how God is spoken of as both wanting to destroy them and also striving for His Name's sake (born by the Angels) so this should not happen. It seems sensible to interpret this by reference to the two powerful Angels active at this time, perhaps representing the groups of Angels of good and Angels of evil (i. e. disaster bringing) which appear to be in Heaven.
1 Cor. 10:10 speaks of an Angel called “the destroyer” who brought about Israel’s punishments in the wilderness. And yet Ps. 78:49 speaks of these as being executed by “A band of Angels of evil” (RVmg.). Likewise Rev. 9:14 has one Angel controlling others, perhaps as our guardian Angel has control over many others to effect his plans for us. The one Angel had control over others, Angels specifically used to bring evil upon those whom God rejects. It may be they will be used again in the judgment of the last day. Or it could be that ‘Angels’ in Ps. 78:49 is an intensive plural, and the AV reading is correct: “by sending evil angels…”. The one great Angel of evil is “the destroyer” of 1 Cor. 10:10. This could imply that some of the references to a “Satan” who brings disaster, as in Job, refer to one specific Angel who does these things, or co-ordinates them.
Angels in Ezekiel
The case of the Angelic keepers of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 9 mentioned earlier is another example of all this. "The Lord (the angel of v. 1) said unto him (the v. 3 man in linen), Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations. . and to the others (angels) He said. . Go ye after him through the city and smite" (v. 4,5). So as at the Passover we have one Angel protecting and others executing judgement, each limited in the role assigned them. These ideas are brought together in Ez. 20:17 where concerning Israel in the wilderness God says "Mine eye (i. e. an Angel- the Angels are the eyes of God going to and fro in the earth) spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness". When God gave Israel an Angel to go with them who would bear His Name in Ex. 23, God warned them that this Angel would not pity them but would be easily provoked by their errors. I suggest that this Angel was the 'destroyer' which went with them, while the Angel of Is. 63 which "in His love and in His pity redeemed them; and bare them and carried them all the days of old" (v. 9) was the one which we read here in Ez. 20 spared them from destruction- i. e. from the destroyer Angel which went with them. Presumably this shows that the Angel of mercy was more powerful than the Angel of righteous anger and justice, the destroyer, and that only occasionally was the 'destroyer' allowed free reign, e. g. when the people lusted as recorded in 1 Cor. 10:10. This would reflect the basic characteristics of God Himself- mercy more powerful than judgement in His character. And amongst us the potential elohim, perhaps there is the same mixture of 'destroyers', sincerely upholding the high standards God expects and feeling justified in acting to that end, and the 'Angels of mercy' who restrict their action except in severe cases. But amazingly God works through and in all, to His glory. Both types of elohim are sincere, not even misguided, but rather fulfilling the role in God's way of working which they have been called to play.
The word ‘strengthened’ occurs several times in Dan. 10. An Angel ‘strengthens’ Daniel, and then comments that “Michael your prince”, another Angel, had also helped him- he had “strengthened himself with me” (Dan. 10:21 RVmg.). But then the Angel comments that “As for me…I stood up to confirm and strengthen him”, i.e. Michael (Dan. 11:1 RV). The Angel who strengthened Daniel was helped by another Angel, Michael, strengthening him; and then that Angel strengthened Michael. This is possibly a window into the nature of our existence and relationship with each other in the future age!
Angels and Assyrians
Sometimes this way of working may seem inefficient in human terms, but it is efficient to the production of God's glory through our loving co-operation, after the pattern of the Angelic co-operation. It has been shown clearly that Isaiah 13 concerning the fall of Babylon is more relevant to the destruction of Sennacherib's Assyrian army in Hezekiah's time, 'Assyria' and 'Babylon' being interchangeable terms (1). Thus we read in v. 3,4 of the Angels coming against Israel in judgement, and mustering the Assyrian armies against Jerusalem: " I have commanded My sanctified ones, I have also called My mighty ones for Mine anger, even them that rejoice in My highness. . the weapons of His indignation, to destroy the whole land. . the Lord of hosts (Angels) mustereth the host of the battle". Yet we clearly read elsewhere that "the Angel of the Lord" went out and smote the Assyrians. So we have some Angels sent with a mission to bring the Assyrians there and others sent to destroy them. Other Angels are actually described as the armies themselves, the weapons of indignation against the land of Israel. And another Angel 'destroys' them. So here we have the wondrous ways of God, absolute unity in absolute diversity.
This notion develops into the suggestion that there are two groups of Angels- Angels of evil (Ps. 78:49) and of good. Thus God creates both good and evil- and Isaiah 45:5-7 emphasizes that He makes a distinct creation of both- using these separate groups of Angels. However we stress that the Angels of evil are not sinful Angels. This division is perhaps hinted at in 2 Chron. 18:18, where "all the host of Heaven" are seen standing around the throne of God himself "on His right and on His left". The exact way in which these two groups of Angels work is unclear, and this perhaps explains the difficulty all Bible students face in understanding the undefined "power of darkness", hints of which lurk throughout Scripture (e.g. evil spirits, the forces of evil unleashed at the end of Revelation etc. ), and also in defining the apparently super-human power of righteousness which the Psalms and New Testament especially speak of. At present these topics seem to defy close definition- until we appreciate the Angelic basis behind them?
Having limited knowledge, the Angels are capable of acting too hastily- thus Job 4:18 "His Angels He charged with folly" (the Hebrew for 'folly' can imply 'over-action'). God uses the inter-play of the Angels to restrain them in their actions, seeing they are often dependent on authority from each other in order to implement their plans. Rev. 9:13-15 exemplifies this: "I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar (i. e. from the mighty Angel that dwelt there? (2) ). . . saying to the sixth Angel. . . loose the four Angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four Angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day. . . ". There seems no reason to doubt that these, along with most other mentions of 'Angels' in Revelation, can be taken as literal Angels. The fact that they were "loosed" implies a possible restraint from action- as if the action they desired to take was held back by another ("the sixth") Angel "preparing" or 'adjusting' (Greek) them for a certain period.
The Wilderness Wanderings
When we come to examine the Angelic work behind the leading of Israel through the wilderness and their entering of Canaan we find a complex picture. The 'LORD' in Exodus very often refers to an Angel, but we find a number of actions of the 'LORD' which are not according to those set down in Ex. 23 concerning the Angel described there. In Exodus 23:21 the Angel is described as not forgiving their sins, but in Ex. 32:30-32 Moses goes up to the 'LORD' (Angel) in the mount and asks for forgiveness for the people's sin with the golden calf. The 'Lord' in the mount must have been an Angel because Moses saw his back parts- and there is no way this is possible of God Himself in person, "whom no man hath seen ,nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). "No man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18). This 'Lord' on the mount gave Moses the Law- and elsewhere we are told that the Law was ministered by Angels. The Angel on the mount then says He has sent "Mine Angel before thee" (to Canaan), Ex. 32:34. So we have one Angel sending another here. The details of Angels in this part of Scripture are looked into later in this study. The fact is that an Angel was sent to prepare the way for the Israelites to enter Canaan. Similarly in Ex. 23:27 God says He will "send My fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come". Jacob likens his guardian Angel to "the God before whom my fathers walked" (Gen. 48:16), who is called "the fear of Isaac" (Gen. 31:42,53) when Jacob describes the personal presence of God in his life. So the "fear of God" is associated with an Angel; God sent His fear, an Angel, before Israel into Canaan, as promised explicitly in Ex. 23. The fact we read a phrase like "the Angel of elohim" in Gen. 21:17 confirms that individual angels can be messengers of other Angel-elohim, and that there is a degree of hierarchy in the Heavenly organization.
Elsewhere, God says that the fear amongst the Canaanites prior to Israel's approach and the weakness of those nations was due to "the hornet" being sent before Israel (Dt. 7:20; Josh. 24:12); it would seem then that this is a reference to the Angels softening up the Canaanite tribes, perhaps through inciting the Egyptians to raid them and ruin the economy (3).
Revelation abounds with examples of Angels talking and co-operating with each other in order to execute God's purpose; e. g. in Rev. 16:5 one Angel comments on the wisdom of another Angel's action- "the Angel of the waters (4) said (to the third Angel of v. 4), Thou art righteous. . because Thou hast judged thus". In a less obvious way, this is taught in other Scriptures, especially in Genesis. Gen. 1:26 is a classic example- "God said, Let us make man in our image". Here we have the Angels making a joint decision, as they did at Babel: "The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded (again, the language of limitation, as if God had to make closer inspection- the 'LORD' must therefore be the Angels). . Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language" (Gen. 11:5,7). And in Gen. 18 we have an example of Angels discussing their policy with regard to one of their charges in the physical presence of the saint: . . "and Abraham went with them (the Angels) to bring them on their way (they were therefore in his presence). And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him. . " (v. 17-19). This conversation was presumably inaudible to Abraham. Who knows what conversations go on between our guardians as we sit with Bibles in our hands, obedient to God, and our Angels decide how much to reveal to us in accord with how they know we will behave in the future? The cherubim and living creatures are representative of the Angels. The four Angels or groups of Angels that comprised them had wings which "kissed one another" (Ez. 3:13 A. V. mg. ) and moved with a soft, smooth sound, despite all four being distinct in some ways. Thus the loving co-operation of the Angels in their work is emphasized.
Angelic co-operation: Conclusions
It would be worth speculating whether every time God is said to 'remember' something, this language of limitation refers to Angels, who have the capacity to have their memories limited, and to need to remember things. After God remembers, He often does an action which necessitates other Angelic action, as if one Angel- the one which 'remembers'- commands other Angels. One wonders whether this is the case when God "remembered" Noah in the ark and sent a "wind" to drive back the waters. The Angel "Who maketh His Angels Spirits (winds)" was therefore sending an Angel in control of a wind to execute His work. The idea of the Angels being in control of the winds and all elements of the natural world is a common one , seen most clearly in the book of Job. We will consider later how it may well be the Angels referred to when we read other language of limitation about God, especially with regard to God repenting or changing His purpose about something.
In the practical business of being stimulated to see how the Angels work in our lives, it is interesting to think of how our guardian Angel may ask other Angels to help Him in giving us the help He sees we need. Thus when the "Angel of the Lord went forth in the camp of the Assyrians" or "the Lord sent forth an Angel which cut off all the mighty men of valour in the camp of the king of Assyria" (2 Chron. 32:21) we infer that this was Michael, the Angel Prince who stands for God's people Israel ,going into action. Whilst the action is rightly attributed to Him, there seems no doubt that He brought this about by the use and control of other Angels, activated (as in many of the visions of Angelic judgement in Revelation) by a loud cry from the Angel which brought other Angels into action- "through the voice of the Lord (singular) shall the Assyrian be beaten down" (Is. 30:31). But the language used elsewhere in Isaiah to describe the destruction of the Assyrians is reminiscent of the cherubim, implying multitudes of Angels at work to bring about God's purpose in this. And encouragingly, if our Angel has not the strength or authority to give us a blessing which He sees we need, He can ask another Angel to bring this about- thus Daniel's guardian Angel had to ask Gabriel to help Daniel understand the vision which He knew Daniel so desperately wanted to have interpreted (Dan. 8:16). It may be that this request by the guardian Angel was not for the best for Daniel, because it seems to have been denied by God- v. 27 says that at the end of the interpretation or "understanding" being given by Gabriel, "I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding" (v. 27 N.I.V.). In that case, it would seem that when Gabriel said "Understand, O son of man. . " (v. 17), Gabriel Himself either did not appreciate that giving Daniel the understanding would not help him, or He obeyed the request from the guardian Angel unquestioningly.
Or alternatively, was Gabriel saying in v. 17 that Daniel was to understand that the vision would not be fully understood till the last days, as in Dan. 12:4? This would mean that it is in the hands of the Angels as to at what time, both individually and as the body of God's people generally, we gain spiritual understanding of certain parts of the word, in the same way as the Angels debated "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?. . ". This may be very relevant to the various interpretations of Revelation held by God's true people down through the years, each interpretation giving great encouragement to a certain group of saints, despite their details varying considerably. This process would then be seen to be under the direct control of the Angels.
(1) See H. A. Whittaker Isaiah (Cannock: Biblia, 1988).
(2) Horns are connected with Angels in Zech. 1:18; Hab. 3:4, and by the four horns on the altar suggesting reference to the Angel cherubim; see also Chapter 11.
(3) See J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges (Constable, 1931) for copious details on this.
(4) That a specific Angel controls “the waters” is implied by the way flood waters are described as praising God (Ps. 42:8; 148:7), water trembling at God’s presence (Ps. 77:17; Hab. 3:10), and the deep waters mourning (Ez. 31:15). How else can waters sensibly be personified as having such feelings, unless these figures of speech are in fact based upon the real existence of a personal “Angel of the waters”?