It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. There are a number of examples of this which between them build up a conclusive case:
- Gen. 18:10 describes the Angel saying to Abraham "I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and,lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son". On that first visit, the Angel must have enabled Sarah to conceive, and then He physically returned nine months later
- To encourage Jacob that God would bring him back to Canaan and preserve him in his life as a fugitive, he was given a vision of Angelic protection (Gen. 28:12,13) showing Angels ascending and descending from him to Heaven and back, thus showing that the Angels looking after him would move physically to and fro between him and the throne of God, receiving directions and power to implement them in his life. God manifested through Jacob's specific guardian Angel then goes on to say, v. 15, "I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken of unto thee". At the end of his life, as we showed earlier, Jacob mentions the presence of the Angel which he had sensed all through his life. But that one Angel controlled the multitude of Angels which he saw that night in vision ministering to him.
- Ex. 3:8 The Angel at the burning bush said "I am come down to deliver thee . . . to bring thee unto the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites. . ". We know an Angel was physically sent in advance of the Israelites to drive out those tribes, and so the phrase "I am come down" used by the same Angel here may therefore be taken literally- He literally, physically "came down". Although this phrase "came down" is often used to describe God manifestation, it may be that when it is used in connection with the Angels, it does have a physical, literal application.
- The Angel told Joseph to stay in Egypt" until I bring thee word" (Mt. 2:13)- as if He was going to physically go to Egypt, and once there inspire Joseph to have a dream in which this would be revealed to him.
- The Angels being physically with us in our lives means that we are always in the presence of God, as they represent Him. The fact that "the Lord spoke to Moses face to face " through an Angel shows that they represent God's face , and they are also likened to the eyes of God. Even when a man is wicked in some ways , he may still have presence of the Angels in his life. Thus although Israel were wicked in the time of Jehoahaz and were therefore punished by Hazael of Syria, because of the covenant with Abraham "neither cast He them from His presence (mg:face) as yet " (2 Kings 13:23). And therefore Jehoahaz is described as doing what was right in the sight (the eyes) of the Lord (i. e. the Angels with him), although he did not take away the high places (2 Kings 14:3-5).
- 1 Chron. 14:15 gives an incident similar to the scenario of the conquest, with the Angel physically going ahead of them and the people having to do their part in following. "When thou (David) shalt hear a sound of going (like the noise of the Angel cherubim in Ezekiel 1?) in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then shalt thou go out to battle; for God (the Angels) is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines". So once the Angels had physically moved forward and David had heard them doing this, he too could move ahead in doing the human part in bringing God's purpose about. David alludes to this as a regular experience when he speaks of God ‘going out’ with the hosts / armies of Israel (Ps. 60:10 RV). His hosts were as the hosts of God (1 Chron. 11:22)- he walked in step with the Angel Cherubim above him, as Ezekiel was to do later.
- The Lord Jesus speaking of "The Angels of God in Heaven" (Mt. 22:30) suggests that they spend a fair proportion of their time located there physically. God ‘comes near’ whensoever we call upon Him (Dt. 4:7 RV). Perhaps this refers to an Angel literally being sent out from Heaven to come near to us in working out the answer to our prayer.
- Psalm 57:3 "He shall send from Heaven, and save me". The word "send" is normally translated 'to send away, to let depart', implying physical movement away. This implies Angels are physically sent over space to answer prayer. The same word occurs in other verses where this same idea stands up well- e. g. Ps. 144:7 "Send Thine hand (an Angel) from Heaven. . . ”
- Gen. 24:40 "The LORD before whom I walk shall send His Angel with thee and prosper thy way" (Abraham to Eliezer as he journeyed to find a wife for Isaac). Here clearly the Angel was physically sent.
- Ex. 9:14: "For I will at this time send all My plagues upon thine (Pharaoh's) heart, and upon thy servants. . ". The plagues were physically sent forth in the sense that they were caused by the "Angels of evil" which were "sent among them" (Ps. 78:49). The Angels were therefore literally sent from God with the plagues.
-Ex. 23:20 "I send an Angel before thee" (Israel at Sinai).
- Luke 4:11 records how Jesus was reminded that the Angels would "bear (Him) up". Presumably this was to be taken literally- the Angels physically with Him would have literally held Him under the arms if He jumped from the temple. So we see the literal physical presence of the Angels in our lives.
- Daniel 3:28 shows Nebuchadnezzar recognizing that an Angel had been physically sent to Daniel and his friends in the fiery furnace.
- The sense of the physical presence of the Angel was shown in Peter's case in the matter of Cornelius. Acts 10:5 says that the Angel told Cornelius to send men to Joppa to ask for Peter, whilst the Angel ("The spirit", v. 19) tells Peter in v. 20 that He has sent the men, showing how God works through men. Thus Peter heard the voice of an Angel in his vision, and this awareness of the Angel is perhaps continued when Peter says in v. 33 " we are all here present before God"- i. e. before the Angel which both he and Cornelius were conscious had led them together. And later when Peter was in prison it was maybe that same Angel that led him forth. How relieved and safe he must have felt as he walked through those two streets with the Angel next to him! But the fact is that the Angel walked beside him through much of his life, although his eyes like ours were holden from seeing Him. So often in our lives we would have so much more courage if only we could see in faith that Angel next to us.
- If the physical movement of Angels from Heaven to earth to perform certain tasks can be taken literally, Rev. 9:1,11 and certain other passages taken on a more literal slant: "I saw a star (symbolic of an Angel) fall from Heaven unto the earth: and to Him was given the key of the bottomless pit. . . the Angel of the bottomless pit" (Rev. 9:1,11).
- 1 Sam. 2:21 describes the LORD "Visiting Hannah" so she would conceive- perhaps another reference to the physical sending of an Angel as in the case of Sarah.
- Dan. 9:21 "I am now come forth to give thee (Daniel) skill and understanding" said Gabriel, implying He had been sent forth from Heaven to earth by God to explain the vision to Daniel.
- The deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib's army is often attributed to the work of the Angels (see later). The gathering of the Angels together to do this is likened to shepherds being rallied from different parts of the moor or from their various houses to come and frighten off a lion attacking the flock. Thus the idea of a hasty, physical moving together is conveyed: "Like as the lion (Assyria) and the young lion roaring on his prey(Jerusalem), when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him. . so shall the LORD of hosts (a common title for God manifested in the Angels) come down to fight for Mount Zion. . as birds flying (i. e. gathering together and moving together), so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem" (Is. 31:4,5).
- When Michael came to help the other Angel overcome the prince of Persia, that Angel “was not needed there with the kings of Persia” (Dan. 10:13 RVmg.). It seems that once the job was done, the Angel wasn’t physically required there any more.
- Israel in Egypt had light, but Egypt was in darkness (Ex. 10:23). And yet later, at the time of the Exodus, it was the Angel in the pillar of cloud and fire that gave light to the Israelites and darkness to the Egyptian pursuers. One possible conclusion could be that the guardian Angel of each Israelite was physically with them at the time of the plague of darkness, giving them light and yet darkness to the Egyptians.
- The vision of Jacob's ladder showed the Angels coming and going, sometimes physically present with us, sometimes not. We read that the Angels are "sent forth" to gather us to judgement; thus Jesus will come at a time when the Angel is not physically next to us; we know it will be at a time when we are not particularly prepared for His coming- at a mundane moment like when working in the field or sleeping, so that to some extent all the virgins are slumbering, as in the parable; i. e. we will not be in a moment of crisis when we have the Angel physically next to us.
- Gen. 28:13-15 are the words of the Angel to Jacob: "I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of". How much clearer can we get?
- The command for sisters to wear hats at ecclesial meetings was "because of the Angels" (1 Cor. 11:10)- because of the physical presence of the Angels there?
More sense can now be made of the passages which speak of God "coming down" through the Angels, e. g. at Babel, if the Angels physically descend to earth to implement God's will and manifest Him to men. The idea of God "visiting " His people through an Angel also takes on a literal element- thus Isaiah 10:3 speaks of the "day of visitation" in the context of God's destruction of the Assyrian hosts through His Angel.
The frequent references to Israel being removed from His sight, or eye (e.g. 2 Kings 17:23) may refer to the way that an Angel was permanently present in Israel, the land in which the Angel eyes of the Lord ran to and fro. By going into captivity, Israel were thus removed from God’s Angelic ‘eye’. This would explain how Israel were never out of God’s sight in the sense of His awareness of them. And yet language of limitation is being used here- because the Angel dwelling in Israel no longer ‘saw’ the people. This idea may be behind the references to God’s eye not sparing nor pitying Israel (Ez. 7:4)- when in fact God Himself did and does spare and pity Israel. The implication would then be that His grace and pity is even greater than that of His Angels- which is an encouraging thought to us here on earth who struggle to believe in the extent of God’s personal grace to us.
God departing from Saul may mean that the Angel physically left him- the Hebrew for 'depart' can imply physical movement (it is also translated 'withdraw', 'pluck away' etc. ). At times in our lives we may feel the presence of God coming and going; the present writer certainly does. It would seem logical that such feelings are connected with the presence or absence of our Angel, although the Angel leaving us does not necessarily imply God's displeasure with us. The Angel may return to God (cp. Angels ascending and descending on Jacob's ladder) to report on His actions or to seek further commands; or they may depart from us in order to give us a feeling of spiritual depression so that our faith is tempted all the more. Job and Jesus on the cross are prime examples of this- hence the real anguish of Christ's cry "My God, My God (His Angel? see later), Why hast Thou forsaken Me?". In this case, an added trial of the crucifixion would have been that Jesus did not feel at His spiritual strongest to face the ordeal. Job explains how all things in life come and go in rhythms, and so also does our spirituality (12:15; 34:29; 36:32; 39:3- the context of each of these needs to be studied to get the point). So Jesus was perhaps on a spiritual 'low' cycle due to the Angel not being with Him. Maybe Christ's question on the cross alluded back to the Angel's promise to Joshua that He would never forsake him. Joshua needed this to be repeated to him many times, implying he questioned whether the Angel really would never forsake him. Jesus maybe had the same experience- in which case the stress would have been 'Why have you forsaken Me?- when you emphasized to my great type in Joshua that you wouldn't?'. But maybe the words of David to Solomon in 1 Chron. 28:20 later came to His mind: "My God (cp. "My God, My God") will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord". Recognizing He had now been forsaken, Jesus agreed "It is finished". Indeed, from the moment He left the Upper Room the work was finished and therefore the presence of the Angel departed (Jn. 17:4 "I have finished the work. . ").
However, with these suggestions we have to square the fact that the Angels of Christ's "little ones", "do always behold the face of My Father in Heaven" (Matt. 18:10). There seem two options here: