Rev. Langerak is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The original and preeminent inhabitants of heaven are angels. Magnificent creatures, their power, freedom, and glory is unsurpassed. Essentially, angels are spirits—ethical, rational, and living souls created in the beginning with heaven, their home (Job 38:4-7). Though non-corporeal, they are described with earthly and heavenly features, reflecting their transcendence and work as intermediaries. With bird-like wings (even multiple pairs) and star-like brilliance, angels are the mighty steeds (cherubs) and holy, fiery ones (seraphs) of the heavens. Yet, angels can appear on earth in an instant, take human form, eat, walk, and talk; are full of eyes; and have one, two or four earthly faces—of a lion, calf, man, and eagle (Ezek. 10:12-14; Ezek. 41:18; Rev. 4:6-8).
As members of God’s household with us, angels too are called the sons of God (Job 1:6). The Lord dwells with them and they surround His throne (Rev. 5:11; Ps. 80:1). Beholding His face continually, angels worship Him, and share in the glory of His truth, holiness, and love (Matt. 18:10). Specifically, angels are designated servants in God’s house, and their obedience exemplary (Matt. 6:10). Standing on the four corners of the earth, they are agents of God’s providence, acting in, through, and even miraculously outside the laws of creation when required. Full of eyes, they know His revealed will perfectly. With wings they immediately deploy anywhere in the universe to accomplish His will unencumbered by any physical laws. An innumerable throng, they are the mighty wings of God and so many glorious fingers of His Fatherly hand (Heb. 12:22; Ps. 18:10).
More specifically, angels represent the brute creation’s groaning interest and particular role in fulfilling God’s covenant with His elect in Jesus Christ—the supreme example that providence serves grace. Woven into the very fabric of the universe and continually hovering over the mercy seat of God’s temple, they are creation’s most powerful agents to observe, announce, guard, and ensure the fulfillment of the covenant on behalf of its heirs (Ex. 25:20; Ex. 26:1; Heb. 1:14). With decency and good order, every angel has an assigned station and calling in this regard (Eph. 3:10).
Some angels are messengers of the covenant. They announce God’s covenant promises, assure doubting saints, comfort the distressed, interpret visions, direct the course of the gospel, sanctify prayers, and rejoice over the penitent (Gen. 22:15; Gen. 31:11; Dan. 8:16; Acts 8:26; Acts 27:23; Rev. 8:3; Luke 15:10). They announce the birth of covenant leaders, encourage them in battle, and instruct covenant parents in their upbringing (Judges 13:3-5). One such messenger is Gabriel, sent from God’s presence to Daniel, Zacharias, and Mary (Dan. 8:16, 9:21; Luke 1:19). Similarly, as messengers, human prophets and pastors are called angels.
Other angels are warriors of the covenant, protecting God’s people and taking vengeance on their enemies. They rescue saints from destruction, protect from murderous siblings, lead to godly wives, deliver from prison, lions, and fiery furnace (Gen. 19:15; Gen. 24:7; Gen. 32:1; Acts 12:7; Dan. 6:22; Dan. 3:28). These angels are watchers of men, present in true churches, care for its little ones, and escort believers to heaven (Dan. 4:13; I Cor. 11:10; Matt. 18:10; Luke 16:22). They form an impregnable fiery army around the church and destroy apostates, heathen nations, armies, and kings (Ps. 68:17; I Cor. 10:10; Acts 12:23). One such angel is Michael, appointed champion of the church, who withstood antichrists, disputed with Satan, led an army that cast him from heaven, and at the end will battle Satan’s champion (Dan. 10:20; Dan. 12:1; Rev. 12:7-10; Matt. 13:39).
Angels took a special interest and role in the ministry of our Lord. They brought the first good tidings of His incarnation and birth, ministered to Him in temptation and distress, and explained His resurrection and ascension (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43). Fitting, because Jesus is THE Angel of the Lord, THE messenger and champion of the covenant, who mediates, proclaims, establishes, guards, fulfills, and avenges it. Made a little lower than angels for suffering of death, He now is crowned with greater glory and power, set over all the works of God’s hands, and shall return with His angels to reap the harvest (Heb. 2:6-9). And we shall join in singing, “Worthy is the Lamb…. Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, and power be unto our God forever. Amen.”