8-1 Our Guardian Angels
The Angels being "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" and the fact that "the Angel of the LORD encampeth around" those who fear God indicates that we do have at least one Angel in control of our lives personally. "Encampeth" means more 'to settle down'- the Angel does not rush into our lives at our frantic behest when we are in a sudden crisis, but has settled down around us for a long time in preparing that trial. How hard it is to accept this in practice! It would appear that all the people of Israel had a guardian Angel- this seems to be implied by Ex. 7:4 "(I will) bring forth Mine armies (of Angels), and My people the children of Israel", implying that there were two armies leaving Egypt- one of Angels, another of their charges. Thus we read in Ex. 12:41 "it came to pass that all the hosts of the LORD (a phrase often used about the Angels- but here concerning the Israelites too) went out from the land of Egypt". In the same way as the Angels were especially Israel's guardians in guiding them out of Egypt, it may be that the Angels minister in a guardian capacity to us especially in leading us out of the world to baptism (cp. the Red Sea). Heb. 1:14 offers tentative support in that the Angels are said to "minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation". At baptism we become heirs of salvation (Romans 4:13; Gal. 3:27-29)- those who "shall be heirs" are those as yet outside the promises of salvation. Confirmation of all this is provided by a careful reading of Dt. 33:2,3. This describes God coming "unto them" (Israel) "with ten thousands of saints"- i. e. Angels- and giving them "a fiery Law". The next verse records: "Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy Hand (Angelic language). . . every one shall receive of Thy words". Here the saints appear to be the people, thus showing that God's love to Israel was shown by each of them having an Angel (thousands of saints for thousands of people), who individually taught them the word of God, albeit all at the same time. The Angels in the court of Heaven are watching us, almost with baited breath. We are made a theatre unto the Angels, as if they are in the audience as we act out our lives (1 Cor. 4:9 RVmg.). David asked: “Let thy good spirit / Angel lead me in the plain country” (Ps. 143:10 RVmg.)- as if he realized that there were Angels / spirits of evil, as well as of good. Thus we too pray not to be lead into temptation- but rather, lead in the way of life. Angels do lead us in life, but they can lead us in either the downward or the upward spiral.
Abraham’s servant said that he walked ‘before the Lord’ (Gen. 24:40), reflecting how he too saw that he was following an Angel. He therefore urges Bethuel: “Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way” (Gen. 24:56). He felt he was on a roll, being led onwards by the Angel- and he didn’t want anything to interrupt that. The sensitive believer will perceive similar situations, time and again, as we seek to follow the leading of the Angel / cherubim before whom we walk. If we walk in step with the Angel, success is assured. Thus in Jud. 5:19,20 Israel’s fighting is paralleled with the Heavens and stars [=Angels] fighting for them. The Lord of Hosts of Angels was working in tandem with the hosts of Israel. And it’s the same for the new Israel. Heb. 12:22 speaks of how we, the hosts of the church, are paralleled with hosts of Angels: “…to innumerable hosts, the general assembly of angels, and the church of the firstborn” (RVmg.).
Angels And Our Spirit
Angels being "Spirits" it is reasonable to suggest that they have particular control over the spirit/breath of life and character (the spirit can also refer to the mind) which is within each of their charges. The intensity of their interest in us is demonstrated by the fact that they personally, consciously keep us alive every moment- "the God, in whose hand thy breath (spirit) is" (Dan. 5:23) is our Angel. They are the source of Spirit, they are made spirits to sustain men (Ps. 104:3,4); and we have seen that the hand of God is Angelic language. When "the spirit returns to God" (Ecc. 12:7) is this a reference to our Angel physically returning to Heaven, having been with us on earth for much of our lives? Heb. 12:22,23 is a passage that seems to defy convincing exposition: "Ye are come unto. . an innumerable company of Angels. . to the spirits of just men made perfect". This would equate the spirits with the Angels who had been their guardians. Two other references in Hebrews to "spirits" are to Angels (1:7,14). Other passages which seem to imply some consciousness after death would therefore refer to our guardian-Angel spirit; e. g. the souls under the altar crying to God after their death (Rev. 6:9,10).
Similarly, Jesus will "bring with Him" from Heaven "them also which sleep in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:14) when the Heavenly Jerusalem (the believers) comes down from Heaven at Christ's return (Rev. 21:1). However, we know that Jesus will bring the Angels with Him. Being the guardians of those who have died, in this sense those people come with Christ from Heaven, although of course literally and personally they cannot seeing they "sleep in Jesus" in the dust of the earth. Num. 16:19 describes "the common death of all men" as being "visited after the visitation of all men"; visiting is very much Angelic language, and thus indicates that an Angel consciously causes a man to die (by taking his breath away). Job came to recognize that every moment he existed was a trial to him, sent by his satan-Angel (see Chapter 9). Thus he complained "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?" (7:1). The Hebrew for "appointed time" is exactly the same as for "host" as in hosts of Angels. This neatly connects the idea that the exact duration of his life was controlled by God's Angel-host, as was every trial which he experienced. This would be the work of the "wonderful numberer" Angel of Dan. 8:13 who controls all time periods. Job 14:13,14 says the same: "O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave. . if a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come". His appointed time was his life; and the phrase is again the same word as "host", frequently used regarding Angels. "The ways of man are before the eyes (angels) of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings" (Prov. 5:21). God pondering us (root 'to roll flat') is surely the language of limitation, and applicable to the Angels. Moses being gathered to his people by an Angel (Dt. 32:50) may also refer to his spirit/Angel returning to where the guardian Angels of his ancestors were. This solves the considerable difficulty of his ancestors being physically dead and decayed, and being buried in a different place from where Moses died.
The very close association of the Angels with their charges is shown by the Angels (the beasts and the elders, see Chapter 3) identifying themselves with their charges by saying that Christ had "redeemed us" out of every nation, and given them the hope of being king-priests in the future Kingdom (Rev. 5:9,10). Unto the Angels the world to come has not been put in subjection, nor do they belong to specific nations, but because they identify so closely with us they can speak in this way. Rev. 5:9 RVmg. speaks of the Angels praising God that He had purchased men unto Himself “and madest them to be [AV “made us”] …a kingdom…and they [AV “we”] shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9,10). If the RV is correct, we have a picture here of our Angels thanking God in advance for the salvation which He has prepared for us their charges. The great Angel Michael is described as "your (Daniel's) prince"- i. e. Angel (Dan. 10:21). It would seem from this that our 'guardian' Angel changes according to what we are trying to achieve for God. Similarly the great Angel of the Exodus appears to have been Moses' personal guardian because Moses and the Angel were working for the same ends.
John saw under the altar “the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God”(Rev. 6:9). Seeing that there is no conscious survival of death, could this not refer to the guardian Angels of the former martyrs, crying out for the blood of their charges to be avenged? They are so closely identified with them that they can ask for “our blood” to be avenged. It’s apparent enough that this is not the people themselves speaking- for they are dead. Surely then it refers to their Angels, who identify so strongly with them? Perhaps in the same way, Rev. 5:10 has guardian Angels thanking Jesus for making “us” king-priests to reign on earth. And when the believers are finally glorified, there is an ecstatic voice in Heaven, exalting that the Lamb’s wife has made herself ready (Rev. 19:6). Surely this must refer to the Angels rejoicing that their charges have finally made it to salvation? We, for whom they laboured perhaps for centuries, preparing our genetic pool [note how the Angels “prepared” Edom unto destruction long before it happened, Ez. 35:6), and the myriad of circumstances we would meet which were designed to bring us towards the Kingdom. No wonder they will be so ecstatic.
Notice the fascinating repetition within 1 Sam. 3:4-6,10,16: the Angel calls Samuel’s name, and he replies “Here am I”. Then Eli calls his name for the first time, and Samuel likewise responds “Here am I”- insisting that Eli has already been calling him, when in fact it had been the Angel. Clearly the Angel spoke to Samuel with the voice of Eli! Could this imply that that Angel was Eli’s guardian? At very least it reflects how closely sensitive and understanding the Angels are to their charges on earth- they can imitate the exact intonation of their voices! By all means compare this with how the early believers were sure that what appeared to be Peter standing at the door was his Angel- they imagined that his guardian Angel looked exactly like him.
We have seen that the Angels represent the face and presence of God; the fact they are physically present in our lives means that we should live in a sense of awe and humility at the nearness of God to us. Often this presence of the Angel is used as a means of motivating us to higher endeavour for the Lord. We have seen that Jacob conceived of his guardian Angel as "the fear of my father Isaac" . This then is one of the ways we should fear God- to live in constant respect and awareness of the Angel in our lives. Paul uses the idea of charging brethren "before the elect Angels that thou do these things without preferring one before another" (1 Tim. 5:21), as if to say that the physical presence of the ecclesia's guardian Angels should inspire humility and obedience in the running of ecclesial affairs. Similarly the first time Moses struck the rock, he was standing in the presence of the Angel- "Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock" (Ex. 17:6), but it would seem that the second time Moses took the rod "from before the LORD (the Angel)" (Num. 20:9) and went alone to the rock; this lack of Angelic presence perhaps accounts for his rashness at this time.
Despite their limitations, we know that the work of our guardian is so over-ruled that they will never tempt us above what we are able to bear. The trials they chose for us are in accordance to the spiritual strength they know we posess- thus the Angel leading Israel through the wilderness "led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines; for God (the Angel leading them) said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt; but God led the people about through the way of the wilderness" (Ex. 13:17,18). So we see the great fear our guardian Angel has that we will return to Egypt (the flesh), and therefore He gives us trials which will prevent this, although at the time we feel like Israel that the trials are actually enough to make us want to return to the world.
However there is also the sense in which the Angels have limited knowledge about our spiritual capacities; "We are made a spectacle. . to Angels" (1 Cor. 4:9) implies that the Angels look on at the sufferings God has brought on us through our guardian Angel, and intensely scrutinize how we are acting as if earnestly watching a theatre play (so the word "spectacle" implies). Thus they are anxiously looking for the outcome of their trials on us, not knowing the final result. The fact that only at the judgement will the names of the worthy be confessed to the Angels by Jesus (Rev. 3:5) makes it appear that the ultimate outcome of our probations is not known to our guardians, hence their eagerness in our lives to see how we react. It is not until the harvest that they are sent out to root out of the Kingdom all things that offend.
This would explain why the Angels seem capable of over-estimating our spiritual strength- not least in the assuring of Israel that they would reach the land, and that He would never break the covenant. Later we see that these things were conditional on Israel's obedience. Jer. 2:19-21 further indicates the Angels' surprise at the weaknesses of their charges- "The Lord God of Hosts (Angels). . . broke thy yoke, and burst thy bands (in Egypt); and thou saidst, I will not transgress (Israel's covenant of obedience to the Angel). . . I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed (done by the Angel, Ps. 80:8; note the angelic context of Ps. 80): how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?".
There appear to be guardian Angels not only for individuals but also for groups of believers- e. g. Israel, or an ecclesia. The stars of the ecclesias in Rev. 1:20 are defined as the Angels of the ecclesias. The seven lamps are the seven spirits / Angels of God before His throne (Rev. 4:5)- yet they are clearly representative of the 7 ecclesias on earth of which Revelation has earlier spoken. There seems no reason to doubt that literal Angels are being referred to, especially as elsewhere Angels are also likened to stars-e. g. Job 38:7; and the king of Babylon "exalted (himself) above the stars" (Is. 14:13); i. e. the Angels. Hence their punishing of him, and his subsequent recognition of the Angels' power. There seems no more symbolism attached to the phrase "Angels" in Rev. 1, seeing it is in the context of the candlestick parable being interpreted: "The seven stars are the Angels of the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20). The apparent rebuke of the Angels is because they are so closely associated with their charges. However, to some degree the words of Jesus in the letters may also apply personally to the Angels- e. g. "I will. . . remove thy candlestick" (2:5) may imply God would take away the Angel's charge from his care unless the Angel repented-i. e. changed his way of dealing with the ecclesia. The frequent calls to "repent" in the letters can easily apply to the Angels changing their mind or way of dealing with the ecclesia (see Chapter 7 for more examples of Angels repenting).
This would explain the confusing fact that part of the letters are addressed to an individual and other parts to the whole ecclesia. Thus 2:16: "I will come to you . . . and fight against them"; or "unto you (i. e. the Angel). . . I say and unto the rest" (2:24). Similarly the command to "strengthen the things (the faithful believers- strengthened spiritually by the Angel) which remain" (3:2) cannot apply to a whole ecclesia which has many apostate members.
It is so easy to under-estimate the amount of work the Angels are doing in our lives; Jacob recognized that his Angel physically fed him all his days, and that it was not just at the crises in his life that the Angel had been present; he describes the Angel as "ever redeeming me" (Gen. 48:15,16), as if the whole process of life is one continual redeeming process by the Angel, as He designs trials for us which will perfect us in order to gain redemption, as well as physically redeeming us more times than we realize. Nebuchadnezzar realized after his humbling that one of his reasons for pride had been due to him not realizing the extent to which the "great Babylon which (he) had built" (Dan. 4:30) and the Kingdom he had gained were in fact the total result of the work of the Angels; "He doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven (the Angels), and among the inhabitants of the earth" (v. 35). Israel too were humbled by the Angel in their lives: "The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee. . He . . suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna. . that He might make thee know that. . by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (Dt. 8:2,3). It was the Angel that led them, and provided manna (Ps. 78:23-25), and who needed to "know what was in thine heart" (Dt. 8:2)- God Himself knows the heart of men (Ps. 44:21; Jer. 17:10). Israel came to rely on God's command to the Angels to provide manna for their life. "He commanded the clouds (Angels). . and rained down manna " (Ps. 78:23,24). These commands were the "every word of God" that Israel came to rely on for their food.
So recognizing the extent of Angelic work in our lives should in itself be a humbling experience, not least because if we recognize we are led by the Angels through life, we cannot plan ahead in our own strength. When Israel crossed the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud that led them went behind them so that the Egyptians could not see ahead of them to where the Israelites were, although the actual distance was not great at all (Ex. 14:19,20). This means that the pillar of cloud, which represented the Angel leading them, was too thick to see through, and so it follows that if the Egyptians could not see through it when it went in front of them, neither could the Israelites for most of the wilderness journey. And if our lives are truly led by the Angel, we should not expect to see the way ahead stretching in front of us, but just rest assured that we are actually being led.
Because of the great importance of Angels or a specific Angel in our lives, many of God's people seem to have conceived of God in terms of an Angel. Jacob (Gen. 48:15) and the patriarchs are clear examples. The extent of this is shown by Jacob vowing to his Angel at Bethel that "if God (the Angel) be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go. . . so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord (Yahweh) be my God" (Gen. 28:20,21). That the 'God' was definitely the Angel is shown by Gen. 31:11,13: "The Angel of God spake unto (Jacob). . . I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me". So was Jacob promising his Angel that if He protected him, "then shall Yahweh be my Elohim (Angel)"- i. e. 'then I will recognize Yahweh is behind you, and I will relate to Him as I do to you'?
Two Way Process
It even appears that the Angels learn and increase their knowledge from watching our response to what knowledge they have already revealed to us. "Principalities and powers" is a phrase apposite to the Angels (1), and it is clearly used regarding the Angels who gave the Law in Col 2:15. Eph. 3:9,10 makes the amazing statement: "To make all (both Angels and Christians- A. V. "Men" is not in the original) see what is the fellowship of the mystery (that both Jews and Gentiles can be saved), which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God (and therefore from the Angels too). . . to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the ecclesia the manifold wisdom of God". We share the heavenlies with the Angels- and in any case, why cannot 'the heavenlies' refer to literal Heaven also in a sense? As Christ was resurrected and ascended to literal Heaven, the Heavenlies of Eph. 1:20, so we are baptized and spiritually ascend to Heaven straight afterwards (Eph. 1:20). The principalities and powers to whom the mystery was made known cannot be the human rulers of the world- 1 Cor. 2:7,8,14 are conclusive on this score: "We speak the wisdom of God (cp. Eph. 1 "the manifold wisdom of God") in a mystery (cp. "the mystery. . which hath been hid" in Eph. 1). . . which none of the princes of this world knew (principalities and powers!). . . the natural man (i. e. the princes of this world) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God (the "mystery" of v. 7), for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned". Because Angels control world rulers, "principalities and powers" can refer both to them and the Angels behind them.
Angelic Feeling Toward Us
We have seen that the guardian Angels are emotional beings, capable of changing their plans in accordance with how moved they are by our prayers, and to an extent they fellowship the sufferings they bring upon us- so the Angel in the burning bush could tell Moses "I have seen the affliction of My people (for whom I am guardian). . and have heard their cry. . for I know their sorrows: and I am come down to deliver them. . and to bring them up out of that land (again, the work of the Angel)"( Ex. 3:7,8). The purpose of God in Christ is to "bring together in one all things, which are in Heaven (Angels) and which are on earth (us their charges )", and in the day of judgement we will perhaps be united in some special spiritual sense to our Angel who has redeemed us through this life.
Angels And Trials
This is one of the most important aspects of the Angels' work which is most important to understand. The tribulations which come upon God's people are described in Daniel 8:13 as being under the control of "Palmoni" (A. V. mg. ), or the 'wonderful numberer' as that can be translated, implying that there is one powerful Angel who co-ordinates the timing of all things, and other Angels ask this Angel for information concerning the time periods worked out for the saints in their charge, as here in Daniel's case. Job seemed to have sensed very keenly the "appointed time" for his trials to end and for his "change" of nature to occur. We have seen that the phrase "appointed time" is the same word as "host" used regarding the Angels. But like Job, because we can't see the Angel physically it's easy to get bitter about the trials brought upon us by them, as Balaam got bitter with the ass until he physically saw the Angel causing the trial (Num. 22:23).
Because the Angels are of limited knowledge, it seems that they bring some trials upon us in order to find out more about us- e. g. the Angel said to Abraham when He saw he was prepared to offer Isaac "Now I know that thou fearest God" (Gen. 22:12). This is language of limitation- God Himself knows all things, but the Angel wanted to test Abraham. Indeed, the apocryphal Book Of Jubilees claims in so many words that it was an Angel called Mastema who was responsible for the idea of testing Abraham in order to determine his level of obedience.
In the same way it has been suggested that Job's satan was an Angel wanting to find out more about Job, not understanding how a man with all the blessings Job had could sincerely worship God. God therefore gave this Angel the power needed to try Job to see whether this was the case. The idea of an Angel being called a satan (adversary) is familiar to us in Num. 22:22 where the Angel stood in the way of Balaam for an adversary. The fact the Angel brought the trials would explain why all through the book the trials are credited to God. Satan coming "from going to and fro in the earth" (Job 1:7) would connect with the descriptions of the Angels being God's eyes going to and fro in the earth (Zech. 1:11). Job 1:16 describing God sending a flame of fire to minister one of the trials is understood in the Angel context when one recalls that He "makes His ministers a flaming fire" (Ps. 104:4). The series of "messengers" who come to Job announcing the trials (Job 1:14) may possibly also be Angels. Job associates his trials with God's eyes being upon him (e. g. Job 7:8) and we have seen that the eyes of God seems to be a synonym for the Angels.
"To know. . . whether"
Deut 8:2,3 is on the same theme: "Thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee (the Angel did this) these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna. . "; the Angel gave them trials in order to find out what was in their heart. God "knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Ps. 44:21); "I the LORD search the heart" (Jer. 17:10), and therefore He does not have to tempt us -which James 1 says He Himself doesn't anyway- in order to know what is in our hearts. But His Angels do. We see exactly the same with Hezekiah when the ambassadors from Babylon came to see what was in his house- "God (his Angel) left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart" (2 Chron. 32:31). Perhaps this means that the Angel physically left him, which would imply that the contents of our heart tends to be conditioned by our sense of the presence of the Angel, or of God's near presence, and God wants to see what our heart is really like without our sensing of His presence being immediately close to us. This may have been why the Angel left Jesus on the cross, so that His spiritual mind would be fully manifested to God and the Angels. The Angel with Israel in the wilderness initially thought "Surely they are my people, children that will not lie" (Is. 63:8)- but found Himself mistaken to some extent after testing them. The fact an Angel was called 'satan' in Num. 22 and in Job's case means we can maybe have another look at Luke 22:31, where Jesus tells the disciples "satan hath desired to have you (lit. :'demanded you for trial') that he may sift you as wheat". Wheat is normally a symbol of the righteous after a process of tribulation or judgement. The satan here could be an Angel, demanding them for trial from God, as Job's satan Angel did.
(1) See H. A. Whittaker Bible Studies p. 375 (Cannock: Biblia, 1987) for detail on this.