The Gospel of Luke
Part 4: More about Angels

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)

Review:

Last week, we discovered all that we can learn from Luke’s introductory first four verses and how that should reinforce our confidence in the Bible as an accurate document from God. Luke tells us he researched it, recorded it accurately and put it in chronological order. He says we can trust it.

Then we finally started in to the meat of the historical document, covering the story of Gabriel appearing to the priest Zacharias while he was in the Temple offering incense for the sins of the people. Even though his wife Elizabeth was barren and both of them were older, Gabriel told him they would have a son. Because Zacharias doubted what Gabriel told him, Gabriel locked his vocal chords and he was unable to talk until after the son was born and dedicated and named John.

More about Angels:

Having introduced the topic of angels, talking about Gabriel and mentioning the other named angel, Michael, this morning I want to look at what the Bible tells us about angels.

First, I need to admit that Terry challenged me after class, that there is a third named angel in the Bible. Who would that be?  - Lucifer.

Well, yes and no. In most translations, you will not find the name Lucifer. However, in the King James and the New King James, he is mentioned in Isaiah, one time. So the most literal translations do not mention Lucifer, but if you want, you can conclude that there are three named angels. The New King James says:

How you are fallen from heaven,
    O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    You who weakened the nations! --Isaiah 14:12

The Hebrew word translated as "Lucifer"   is helel, which means literally “star of the morning” or “the shining one”. How the translators decided to use the name Lucifer is sort of circumspect. The idea of the morning star comes from the bright star early in the morning which then disappears as the sun comes up and over powers its light. It shines and then disappears. This idea came to be a symbol for bad guys, like the king of Babylon, who was often referenced as the star of the morning. Not a compliment.

Early Church tradition had given the name Lucifer as a name for Satan, where Satan was what he was, and his name was Lucifer. The translators for the Vulgate and then the King James and ultimately the New King James, decided it would be more apparent who was being talked about if they used the name Lucifer rather than the title "Star of the Morning". However, the Hebrew says Star of the Morning, not Lucifer. The more literal modern translations went back to the meaning of the actual Hebrew word. So I will stand on my claim that Lucifer is not named in the Bible, really.

Last week we discussed the four times that Gabriel is named -- two in Daniel where God instructed Gabriel to explain things to Daniel, and two in Luke where Gabriel announces the coming of both John the Baptist and Jesus.

So now, on to a discussion of angels. There seems to be a lot of interest in angels. My guess is that most of you have watched a TV show, read an article, or heard of a book or movie about angels in the last year or so, probably more recently.

There are about 289 references to angels in the Bible. At least 34 of the 66 books of the Bible contain references to angels.  Here is what we know about angels.

One indication of the awesomeness of angels is how people responded when they encountered an angel. Consider Daniel, a very wise and very godly man. Daniel was also very courageous - taking his stand against ungodly kings time and again, even to the point of being thrown to the lions. Yet when confronted with an angel, he was so frightened that he fell on his face.
So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.” --Daniel 8:17
The Organization Of Angels:

Little is known about the different categories of angels. Several different words are used that seem to indicate different functions:

Cherubim:

We are told about Cherubim, at the Garden of Eden:

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. --Genesis 3:24
And then when God told Moses how to build the Ark of The Covenant:
There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. --Exodus 25:22
Most of references to cherubim refer to the carved likenesses on each end of the cover to the ark in the tabernacle. As Exodus 25:22 indicates, this was where the very presence of God dwelt with His people.

Some scholars believe the cherubim to be the highest order or class of angels, though this is difficult to prove. They are thought to be "living creatures who defend God's holiness from any defilement of sin".

Both the cherubim and seraphim seem to have a primary function as "divine attendants" in contrast to other angels who serve as messengers and/or spiritual warriors.

Seraphim:

We are also told about Seraphim. When Isaiah saw a vision of God in heaven, he described what he saw.

Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. --Isaiah 6:2-4
The book of Isaiah contains the only reference to seraphs in the Bible. Awesome creatures with six wings, whose voices shook the temple, they are seen praising and proclaiming the holiness of God. Seraph means "burning ones" in Hebrew. The New Century Version describes them as "heavenly creatures of fire".

The Archangel(s):

In Jude, when Jude was warning not to pass judgment, he uses the example of Michael:

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” --Jude 1:9
When Daniel prayed for three weeks without an answer, and help finally arrived, the angel explains his delay:
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. --Daniel 10:13
Only Michael is specifically referred to in Scripture as an "archangel". The word "archangel" comes from αγγελοσ [aggelos] meaning "angel" and αρχο [archo] meaning "to rule". Some scholars believe Michael is the head of all of the unfallen or holy angels. Notice that Michael is described as "one of the chief princes", apparently indicating there are other angels of similar rank and authority.

There are only two angels mentioned by name in the Bible. We dealt with Gabriel last week.

Michael - is mentioned five times by name:

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. --Daniel 10:13

However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince. --Daniel 10:21

Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. --Daniel 12:1

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” --Jude 1:9

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war... --Revelation 12:7
Michael, whose name means "who is like God", is seen in Scripture as directly involved in the battle against Satan and the fallen angels who follow him. Many scholars believe that the references to "rulers and authorities" in Ephesians refer to various ranks of angels. When Paul describes the position that God placed Jesus, he describes it as:
...far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. --Ephesians 1:21
Paul then was explaining his purpose in life:
...so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. --Ephesians 3:10
The Ministry Of Angels:

What do we know about the ministry, the function, of angels in God's creation?

Take to heart:

All of this is interesting and we have just touched the surface of a study angels, but what significance does it have for us? Here are three truths that we need to take to heart:

The Holiness Of God

The ministry of the cherubim and seraphim drive home the holiness of God, that His purity and righteousness are beyond our comprehension. When Isaiah beheld God on the throne and heard the seraphs proclaiming His holiness, Isaiah's own sinfulness and that of all mankind was driven home to him as never before.

Angels remind us that we serve a holy God:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” --1 Peter 1;14-16
The Word Of God

Gabriel reminds us of God's heart to communicate to us. God wanted Zacharias to hear what He had to say so badly that He sent Gabriel with the message. Even then, Zacharias did not believe!

How about you and me?

As we asked last week, Are we "listening" to what God has to say to us through His Word? Are we believing and obeying what He has said?

The War Of God

Michael reminds us that there is war going on - a war for the souls of people. Ever since the initial rebellion of Satan, Michael has led the angels of God in fighting against him. We need to remember that this is a spiritual battle of which we are a part. And a spiritual battle can only be fought with spiritual weapons. Two spiritual weapons God has given us are His Word and prayer. Ephesians uses war tools to explain it.

And take helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints... --Ephesians 6:17-18
Are you "in the battle"? Are you using the weapons God has provided?

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Resuming in Luke 1:

Now let’s look at the verses we skipped last week concerning John the Baptist.

In reading about the events with Zacharias and Elizabeth, there are also important things to learn related to their son, John the Baptist.

Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, …  an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.  Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.  It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

...  Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,  and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. … “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy." …

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.  And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.  But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.”  And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.”  And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.  And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished.  And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, …  All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him. …

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    For you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,
    Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
    to shine upon those who sit in darkenss and the shadow of death,
   To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel. --Luke 1:8-80 (excerpted) There are several significant statements made about John the Baptist in this chapter. This is a clear reference to the prophesy in Malachi 3:1 & 4:5-6, that the coming of the Messiah would be preceded by the coming of a prophet like Elijah.
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. --Malachi 3:1

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” --Malachi 4:5-6
Jesus would later confirm that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this prophesy
They asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? “But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.” --Mark 9:11-13
Then Jesus made no bones about it in Matthew:
And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. --Matthew 11;14

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Next week - we will look at the verses in Luke 1 that deal with Mary. To prepare for that, read Luke 1 and Matthew 1:18-25. Reconcile all the information about the announcement of the coming birth of Jesus.