7-6 Angels on Earth
Angels are of course active in answering our prayer, obeying the commanding voice of God Himself in Heaven- answers to prayer "go. . . out" by prayer and fasting (Mt. 17:21). The answer to prayer is therefore likened to a 'going out'- of the Angel and command from the throne of grace? This language of 'going out' is frequently used in the Old Testament about the going forth of the cherubim Angels. Isaiah 37 is shot through with allusions to the Angel cherubim destroying the Assyrian host (see Chapter 10). The Angel went forth (v. 36)- perhaps referring to Him physically going forth out of the temple where He dwelt to slay the Assyrians outside the walls of Jerusalem. This phrase 'went out' is nearly always used about literal physical movement, which we have seen is what Angels literally do. Thus in the Ezekiel visions of the cherubim, they and the lightnings "went forth", physically and literally, in performing God's work. "Let my sentence come forth from Thy presence (Angelic language); let Thine eyes (Angels) behold the things that are equal", seeing they are involved with the 'coming forth', according to the parallelism of this verse. Similarly Job's satan Angel "went forth" from the presence of the Lord (Job 1:12). And so it happened that there were Angels on earth, as it were. Zech. 2:3 also has an Angel going forth to answer the prayers concerning restoring the fortunes of Jerusalem (see Zech. 5:5 too). Ps. 81:5 describes the Angel going out through the land of Egypt in order to "remove (Israel's) shoulder from the burden". Ps. 81 is 'Angelic', following Ps. 80, which is another such Psalm. Heb. 1:14 also offers support: the Angels are "sent forth" to minister to us- by answering prayers? In the court of Heaven, God “thrusteth away the desire of the wicked” (Prov. 10:3 RV)- as if their prayers are rejected there. Peter was delivered from prison as a result of the Angel being “sent forth”- from the court of Heaven, by the prayers of the other believers at their prayer meeting (Acts 12:11 RV). When those same believers commented: “It is his Angel” (:15) they were perhaps not mocking Rhoda; rather they were thanking God that Peter’s guardian Angel had indeed been sent forth due to their prayers. Again, Angels on earth.
In response to Hezekiah’s prayer, an Angel ‘went forth’ on earth and slew 185,000 Assyrians (2 Kings 19:35). Hezekiah was aware of the court of Heaven responding to his prayer; for he had commented that God would there “reprove the words” of Rabshakeh (2 Kings 19:4). The Hebrew for “reprove” is a legal term, meaning to convict, judge, plead etc. Hezekiah knew that the court of Heaven was considering Rabshakeh’s words, and his prayer was a plea for those words to be convicted in Heaven’s court, and an answer sent out. And this is what happened. Later, we read of Hezekiah asking that same court to “remember” his good life- again using a word capable of having legal overtones, of considering witness. And God replied by saying that He had “heard” that prayer- the same Hebrew word is translated ‘to make a proclamation’, as if He had considered Hezekiah’s ‘plea’ and would respond (2 Kings 20:3,5).
This close association between Angels and answered prayer resulted in many of the early believers conceiving of God in terms of an Angel, as we have seen Jacob in particular did. Hannah is another example; she prayed to the Lord of Hosts (Angels) to "look on the affliction of Thine handmaid" (1 Sam. 1:11); and the Angels are God's eyes through which He looks on us. She came to pray "before the Lord" (v. 15)- i. e. before the Angel dwelling over the ark. Angels are associated with conception- the cases of Samson, John and Jesus quickly spring to mind.
There is a vision described in 1 Kings 22:22 of the Angels presenting their various plans of how to slay Ahab. God says to the one whose plan He accepts "Thou shalt persuade him (Ahab), and prevail also: go forth, and do so". Thus the Angel still has to "prevail" or 'struggle' to operationalize a command from God which they know is His will to perform; and we have to do likewise, not least in the preaching of the Gospel, both obeying and prevailing. This makes more sense of Jer. 51:12, which says that "The Lord (of Hosts/ Angels, v. 14) hath both devised and done that which He spake" about Babylon. Consider the implications of Ez. 12:25: “I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall be performed. It shall be no more deferred: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I speak the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord” (R.V.). There seems to be the suggestion that God ‘speaks’ a word / plan / intention; and when He decides to operationalize it, then He speaks it again- presumably in the court of Heaven.
We cannot leave the subject of Angels and prayer without returning to Daniel 10. Verses 2 and 3 show Daniel praying for three weeks- presumably for the fortunes of Israel to be restored. As the days went by, it would have seemed natural to assume that the prayer was going unanswered. However, the Angel told him that "from the first day. . thy words were heard" (v. 13), but the delay was because "the prince of the Kingdom of Persia withstood Me (the Angel) one and twenty days"- i. e. three weeks. So his first prayer was heard, but it took the Angel three weeks to work out the answer in practice. How many of our prayers are like that! The Angel then describes how he confirmed and strengthened Darius (11:1) to the same end to enable the prayer to be answered- as if when our Angel sees someone set in a course of action which will lead to the answer of our prayer, they are confirmed and strengthened in it. The same idea is found in Dan. 9:23; a command being given from God to answer a prayer as soon as it's prayed, but there being a delay to the answer due to the Angels effecting the answer. "At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment (from God to answer your prayer) came forth, and I (the Angel) am come to show thee". The wonder of all this needs some reflection. Our words, the thoughts within human braincells, call forth the Angels from the court of Heaven. “When we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel [from the myriads standing on the right and left hands of His throne] and brought us forth out of Egypt” (Num. 20:16). Yet the voice that Angel responded to was the voice not so much of specific prayers but of the situation of the people. And the same is with us...
The concept of the court of Heaven is a major key to understanding the book of Revelation. Events on earth are described in terms of their connection with the Angelic system in Heaven which has arranged them. “The accuser of our brethren” being cast out of Heaven (Rev. 12:10) would therefore refer to how in the court of Heaven, an Angel represents the system who accused the brethren on earth. This isn’t to say that the Angel representing the accuser is sinful. “It was given unto” the beast to have power to persecute the saints (Rev. 13:7), just as the Lord had perceived that His persecutors only had the power that was “given” unto them [thereby associating the saints’ final time of trial in the last days with the Lord’s sufferings]. But the power was “given” by the Angels in the court of Heaven, empowering people on earth to carry out what they permit. The 12 gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem are identified with 12 Angels, whereon are written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12). This suggests that the tribes of Israel are reflective of the situation in Heaven, where there are Angels representing each tribe. Dan. 8:24 speaks of Israel as “the people of the saints” (RVmg.), although v. 13 speaks of “the saint” (RV “holy one”) as an Angel. 1 Sam. 17:45 parallels the Angelic hosts, and the hosts of Israel’s armies; they were to follow where the host of God went, just as David’s army had to follow the sound of the cherubim “marching” over the mulberry bushes (1 Chron. 14:15). And whilst we follow where we are led, we are identified with our Angels to the extent that what is done to us is done to them. To defy the armies of Israel was thus to defy the armies of Heaven (1 Sam. 17:45). Thus the four faces of the Angel cherubim were reflected in the four standards of the camp of Israel; the people were intended to “keep in step with the Spirit”, following where they went, as they had done in the wilderness years. They were to walk “each one straight before him” (Is. 57:2 RVmg.), as each of the cherubim went straight ahead (Ez. 1:12). And we too are to follow where our Angel potentially enables us to go. The Angel went in to Jericho to take the city; and the Israelites went “straight” ahead, following the Angel, and thus took the city (Josh. 5:13,14; 6:20).