MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS
Are the Angels Dead?
Hebrews 1.14 What are the angels, then?
They are spirits who serve God and are sent by him to help those who are
to receive salvation.
are seldom pleasant occasions.
The most testing
of such events for me as a young man was the burial of a young child
knocked down in a road accident. The agony of a mother having to finally
acknowledge her loss must pierce all but the hardest hearts. The
reverberating pain I felt then has never left me - nor should it, for if
it does then my sense of humanity will have been dulled to a sub-human
Sometimes, however, my sadness has been
mixed with irritation when a well-meaning person, seeking to alleviate
their own pain, would comfort the parents of a dead child with, "She'll be
alright! She's gone to be with the angels" or some such platitude.
The idea of angels is ancient. In the Jewish tradition it goes back nearly
three thousand years to the earliest Bible material such as Genesis 16.7
when the runaway slave Hagar is sent back to Abraham by "the angel of the
Lord." Isaiah has a vision in which he sees God surrounded by "flaming
creatures" who praise God so that "the sound of their voices made the
foundation of the Temple shake."
By the time of
Jesus the concept of angels had been highly developed. It can be hard for
us to fully appreciate the nature of the world in which such beings were
needed and valued. It was a world perceived as swarming with superhuman
spirits, who were not subject to space and time and who were constantly
bent on mischief or evil. Their leader, God's adversary, was Satan - a
fallen angel who had once been on a par with Michael, Gabriel and Raphael,
the chief angels.
Although one couldn't often see
or hear these spiritual beings, the evidence for their existence was
clear. Why else would anyone fall sick? What other explanation might there
be for the strange and unpredictable ailment we today call epilepsy? The
nature of these evil spirits was demonstrated by the bizarre and often
dangerous behaviours of lunatics. It was self-evident that no man or woman
would, of their own volition, cause the terrible evils of robbery,
insurrection and war. They had to have been tempted by Satan's emissaries
to do what they did.
This spirit world is still
with us. Beneath a veneer of sophistication and technological awareness
there still lurks, it seems to me, a primal fear of the dark angels of the
Evil One. Some African Christians, to my certain knowledge, will use a
computer in the morning and in the afternoon seek the eviction of an evil
spirit which has infected them or a loved one.
What's the harm in that, you may ask? And why shouldn't an aged "auntie"
in a third-world slum, or the backwoods of Tibet, or in a posh Los Angeles
suburb comfort a bereaved mother with, "She's with the angels now"? Don't
we still need, as did our forefathers, the comfort of God's messengers to
care for us and fight off the sadistic attentions of Satan's
spiritual hordes? Isn't the recent Western fashion
for angels a good thing in helping bring secular materialists back to God?
My answer is that the harm is - nothing or everything, depending upon
which world you and I live in.
If you and I choose
to live in the same, unchanging world which men and women have inhabited
since the dawn of time, then the angels and their adversaries are with us
and around us and influencing us every waking and sleeping moment of our
lives. In this ancient world, spiritual vigilance must surely be our
But if the world we today perceive is
no longer an abode of angels and demons - well then, "She's with the
angels now" isn't much comfort, is it?
well-intended comfort of spirit-angels may have become a deadly trap, a
subversive virus invading our minds.
Let me put
it this way. God's angels have not died. They are with us all day and
every day. If we will see them and listen to their messages, God can still
speak to us, even in the 21st century.
are not the disembodied creatures of old. They are, quite literally, you
and I as we sit in church on Sunday or go to work on Monday. God's speaks
to us through the human condition, through our friends, through
(surprisingly) politicians - through the babel of noise we call "the
media" in our global village. And God speaks to others through us and our
lives. He has no other messengers but us.
danger, then, lies in turning our attention away from God's true
messengers to a hidden world, a hypothetical world, a world beyond us
which we can't influence directly or indirectly, a world glimpsed only in
sudden moments - a world here this instant and gone the next.
No, the angels are not dead. They are alive and well and among us. We are
angels, carrying God's love and goodness to others - or we are demons,
wreaking pain and suffering on those around us.
other words, we're the only comfort available to a grieving mother. We're
the only angels of love, joy and compassion this world has or will ever