Angels Abounding

The Hum of Angels

Try this in a Bible study; you might be surprised how many of us have had angel experiences.

Here’s a list of some angel appearances that remind us that God is present with us even when we do not know. I want to put my conviction about the constant presence of angels into a contorted sentence: the exceptions to God’s absence in the many appearances of angels are a reminder of God’s presence when the angels appear to be absent! I hope this makes as much sense to you as it does to me: God is present and we dare not let the absence of angels in our own personal life make us think God is absent.

I begin with Jesus and the angels.

  • When Mary was chosen to be mother of the Messiah, the angel Gabriel appeared to her.
  • When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, angels sounded the songs of glory.
  • When Joseph was chosen to be father of the Messiah, the angel (Gabriel?) revealed the name “Jesus.”
  • When Jesus was in danger with the powers of Jerusalem, an angel told Joseph to take the family to Egypt.
  • When their time in Egypt was over, an angel told Joseph to take the family back to the holy land.
  • When Jesus had undergone his ordeal in temptation, the angels attended to him.
  • John’s Gospel tells us that believers would see heaven open up and angels descending on and ascending from Jesus, the Son of Man.
  • When Jesus was tested to the limit of capacities in Gethsemane, angels attended to him.
  • When Jesus was raised, angels announced the resurrection.
  • When Jesus ascended, angels informed the men from Galilee what had just happened.

Notice that little sketch of angels and Jesus. Before he was born, at his birth, at major moments in his life, at his resurrection and at his return to the Father there are angels. I don’t want to turn our attention away from exalted glory of Jesus himself, and I don’t want to suggest we are somehow a parallel to Jesus. Nor am I saying “as with Jesus, so with us.” I’m not saying that angels attend us from before our birth until our final entrance into God’s presence. But what I am saying is this: Christians are in Christ. Because angels attend to Jesus at all times and because we are “in” Christ, we participate in the angels’ presence with Jesus. We can now take one more heart-stirring step: the entirety of our life is bathed in that angelic presence because we are in Christ.

This abundant evidence of God’s love for us in the life of Christ helps explain the abundant presence of angels in the early church.

  • Arrested by the authorities for their preaching and healing, the apostles were delivered from prison by angel of the Lord.
  • Philip was guided by an angel and he evangelized the Ethiopian eunuch.
  • Both Cornelius, a Gentile godfearer, and Peter, an apostle, encountered an angel to bring the two together so Peter could tell him about Jesus.
  • Peter was rescued from a prison cell by an angel.
  • In the midst of a storm on the Mediterranean, an angel appeared to the apostle Paul to assure him both that no one would perish in the storm and that he was destined to stand trial as a Christian before Caesar.
  • The apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation as a result of an angel’s revelation.
  • We are told in Revelation that each of the seven churches has an angel looking over it.
  • One event after another in the visions of John in Revelation is about angels announcing and carrying out the mission of God. Angels are mentioned in Revelation more than fifty times.

What does this tell us? Just beyond the thin veil between the world we see and smell and taste is a world far richer, far deeper, and far more inhabited. That world is filled with the hum of angels. At times God pulls back the curtain for a moment for us to observe that God’s very presence is surrounded by thousands and thousands of angels. They are also a sacrament of God’s love for us.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.