Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist and among the most influential Christians in America, recently came on the Hank Unplugged podcast to discuss with Hank Hanegraaff his book Angels: Who They Are, What They Do, and Why It Matters (Bethany House, 2017). Here is a snapshot of their conversation.
HANK HANEGRAAFF: You know, Jack, one of the things that you talked about when I saw you in Florida a couple of weeks ago was your passion for angels. They are the first in the highest place in the ladder of created beings. They have a transcendently important influence on our lives. They are invisible, but they are significant in our lives. So, you wrote a book about this. Why are you so passionate about the subject of angels?
JACK GRAHAM: Well, I never, first of all, talked about or ever planned to build or grow or lead a big church, and I never thought I would write a book about angels! I believed in angels. I acknowledged angels. I probably preached a sermon or two on the work of angels, especially at Christmastime — the angel’s announcement. But, I first wrote a book called, Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity (Bethany, 2014). It was about the unseen world. The invisible world all around us. I dealt with spiritual warfare, which you have a great book on that as well.2
But in Unseen, I included a chapter on angels. I said that angels are three things. First, they are warriors. They are strong and powerful beings. You often see them engaged in battles—these are spiritual battles, of course, primarily, where angels have been involved.
I also said that angels are worshipers. That is their primary role. It is all about Jesus. It is never about the angels. They defer to Jesus. I am preaching through Hebrews right now — Jesus is superior to the angels, but God created these beings to honor and glorify Him (Hebrews 1–2); 24/7 around the throne of God, the angels are glorifying Him. They are worshipers.
And then, not only that, I said they are witnesses. The word angel (Greek angelos) means messenger. They come bringing big announcements, such as with the Christmas season and you know they come with big announcements. In the Book of Revelation you see the announcements that angels are making, and often these were announcements of judgment.
I said those three things, and there was so much interest in the chapter that the publisher came to me and said, “Would you do a whole book on it?” I said, “Absolutely not!” I did not necessarily want to be the guy writing the angel book because there is a lot of quackery. I mean you go start buying books on angels, or looking them up, there is a lot of weird stuff — bizarre things being said about angels. But I actually had a conversation with a dying woman. A dear friend of mine. In fact, it happened at Bay Hill, where we were down there several ears ago. She said to me, “Jack, please write this book.” She said, “You know, I am about to be with the angels. I am going to see them. I am going to be with Jesus, and I’d like to know about who they are, what they do, and you need to consider doing it.” That moved me. So, I got a legal pad out and started studying the angels.
I discovered there are around 300 references to angels in the Bible. I mean there are stories about angels that we just pass right over when we read them. We do not even recognize they are there. Now, the angels are ok with that because, again, they do not want to be The Story, but they are all throughout The Story, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Interesting enough, they are in the story of Jesus often. We see Jesus interacting with angels. For example, a lot of people would not realize that an angel came to minister to Jesus after the great temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). In the Garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed before the cross, an angel ministered to Him (Luke 22:43). Then we read that the angels are not only there for the Son of God but they are there for the children of God, those who are believers (Hebrews 1:14). There are great passages of Scripture that tell us they are always present and always around us (Hebrews 12:22–24, 13:2).
I began to think, “Look, this is real!” Angels are real. It is such an encouragement to know, because what angels tell us is that God truly is in control of the universe. He bids these angels to do His work, to witness His power and His glory, and to minister to the saints, as the Scripture says, “those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). These are wonderful and powerful beings. They are not typically soft. You know, sometimes people like angels because they view them as a kinder and gentler version of God. You know what I am saying? They think, “Well, you know, I can’t get to God, but you know I got a cuddly little angel here.” Well, angels are not all that cuddly. They are more like ninja warriors, when you read about them in Scripture. They are doing great things and moving powerful currents of history as they go. God in His providence chooses to surround us — you, me, and believers — with these angelic beings who care for us and who minister to us in ways that we may not even know.
There are times in our lives, maybe if you think about it, you look back and see how God intervened in some way, something happened—that almost accident, that near disaster that was averted—and you wonder, “Was that…did that… could that have been an angel that helped me?” I believe it happens more than we know. When we get to heaven, we will see it full force.
HANK: Yeah, as you were talking, I was thinking about the reality of what you were just saying. When you buy a new car, a particular brand of a car, suddenly you see that car everywhere. If you have an eye for angels in the Scriptures, you see them everywhere. You see the cherubim guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden in Paradise (Genesis 3:24). You see the angels heralding the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:8–14).
JACK: The Ten Commandments (Acts 7:53; cf. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:1–4).
HANK: Yeah, and then you see in the very last book of the Bible, the very last chapter, you have an angel who shows John the river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1–5).
You also alluded to something that caught my attention just now — that is there is a sense in which we can speak of having a guardian angel. If they are not dispelled by the impiety of our lives, we have guardian angels. We have in the Scriptures the text that probably is familiar to lots of people: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:14). It seems to me that you can even talk about having a guardian angel?
JACK: Yeah, in fact, when I was studying that, Hank, I should have called you. I know you have studied the subject because that is an interesting verse. It is just part of a verse. It is kind of the only verse that would allude to the idea that you would have an individual angel who would be your angel. It is difficult to build an entire theology on that one little verse, but it does seem to indicate that there are such angels. What I have ended up saying about whether we have one angel— Do I have an angel named “Fred” whose looking after me? I do not know. But I do know I have a guardian of angels. Some of us must need more than one, right? The truth is that angels do watch over us. So, I will be happy to meet my personal angel attaché in heaven, but it is a reality that you can count on the fact that angels are all around us.
Of course, there are many things that we as believers have experienced that angels have never experienced. First and foremost is salvation and grace. You know there is an old Gospel song that says angels “fold their wings” when those of us who have been redeemed sing of redemption, salvation, and the blood of Christ. Angels desire to look on these things (1 Peter 1:10–12).
Sunday I was preaching about Jesus being our great High Priest. I did a series on the Prophet, Priest, and King out of Hebrews. I talked about Jesus now ascended, and He is our heavenly priest. Can you imagine the reception the Lord Jesus received when He was welcomed home to the throne of God? The angels roared. The saints of God celebrated. It just captivates me, and it is a transcendent subject to see the massive movement of angels in history and in eternity, but also what a blessing to know that God cares enough that not only does He give us His Spirit who lives within us, His Word, His Church, Christian friends, but alongside us, God has so assigned angels to assist Him in helping us.
To listen to the full interview, click here.
To order a copy of Angels, click here.
- All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted otherwise.
- Hank Hanegraaff, The Covering: God’s Plan to Protect You from Evil (W Publishing Group, 2009).