I mentioned at the beginning of this study that there’s something in me that’s reluctant to delve into this topic. Why?
Several years ago, Billy Graham wrote a book on angels (which I’m sure is light-years ahead of anything you’ll read here). He’s mentioned before that this is by far his bestseller. People are fascinated by this stuff. There was a time when angels were all the rage and fashionable: the popularity of figurines, paintings, and statues testify to this. Add to that all the fiction that has this as a subject; there are tons of movies which show some portrayal of them. And of course one of the major religions of the world (with over a billion followers) claims to be based on the appearance of Gabriel to an alleged prophet.
That’s why it’s important for me to have this disclaimer near the end of the study. Angels are indeed fascinating creatures. All the biblical accounts describe them as awe-inspiring beings. The typical first words out of an angel’s mouth in an encounter are “Don’t be afraid.” They are literally luminescent with God’s glory, and they’re bursting with power.
Therefore, I don’t blame John too much for his slip-up in today’s passage. He saw all these incredible things with an incredible tour-guide, and his natural instinct was to bow down before this being in worship. If I was in his situation, I'd likely do the same.
But although it was understandable, it was completely unacceptable to the angel. This being had seen with his own eyes what had happened when an angel started thinking that he was worthy of worship. He had a zero-tolerance policy concerning this.
What were his first words after he forbade John from continuing? “I am a fellow servant.” I assure you, that’s not the first thought that went through John’s mind here: “Yeah, this guy is just like me!”
But as awe-inspiring as angels are, they're fellow servants with us. We both serve the living God. They’re just creatures. They had a beginning, just like we do. They’re eternal, but so are we. They’re completely dependent on their Creator for their existence and for everything they need, no less than we.
And most important, they're not to be an object of worship. They're not to be prayed to.
We should be grateful to our Father for providing servants which sometimes protect us, strengthen us, and even provide for us. But to any extent they do that, they’re just the means by which our Father is gracious to us. There’s no precedent for thanking the angels themselves. Maybe someday, maybe we will. If we ever do, it’ll have to be after we’re past the point of being tempted to idolatry.
Now, are we really in danger of worshiping angels? In the same way John was? Well, considering the infrequency in which they make their presence known, not really. We don’t see enough of them to worry about that.
But there’s a broader sense in which it’s a real concern. That’s the sad irony about all the fascination with angels which has been on display. You can almost hear the angels screaming: “Quit paying attention to us!!!!!!! Pay attention to God alone! Worship him alone! Find salvation in him alone!”
I’m happy to study anything which the Bible teaches us. If the Bible tells us anything about any subject, it’s worth examining. But let’s not take our eyes off the more important aspects of Truth, what’s really essential. Please.
Father God, you alone are worthy of all praise, honor, glory and thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all the help you’ve ever given me through angels, both human and non. You are so good to your children, aren’t you?