In the Company of Angels: What the Bible Teaches What You Need to Know, by Andrew J. Bandstra. Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1995. 133 pp., no price given (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Robert D. Decker.]
In general this book by Andrew Bandstra, Professor of New Testament Emeritus of Calvin Theological Seminary, contains many helpful insights into the subject of Angels. The points made are tightly argued and based on careful exegesis of Scripture. This is a very welcome contrast to the speculation one finds in so much of what’s written on the angels.
Upon reading this little book one will be impressed not by how little about the angels there is in Scripture, but by how much. One will also, as was the reviewer, be chagrined by how little thought he/she gives to the role God assigns to the angels in His work of saving His church in Jesus Christ.
The book is written in a very readable and popular style, consistent with the author’s impish sense of humor (the reviewer took two courses with Dr. Bandstra at Calvin College). An example of this can be found on page 23, where Bandstra writes, “‘We confess that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present.’ By way of contrast, angels are created beings and therefore not all-knowing or all-powerful or everywhere present. But the Bible doesn’t directly speak about these limitations, so we had best be careful here lest Barth and Calvin clobber us for idle speculation about the ‘nature’ of angels.”
In this same connection one wishes Bandstra had written more forthrightly and with authority based on the biblical givens. There is overuse of the words “seem” and “may” and “probably” and the like.
Now to some specifics. The first chapter is introductory in nature. Here Bandstra tells us that he wrote the book because he wanted to examine what the Bible teaches us concerning the angels. In chapter two Bandstra shows how Scripture describes the nature of angels in the context of what they do. Angels are spiritual beings, created beings, and, therefore, limited beings. Further, they are holy beings and individualistic beings. By this latter designation Bandstra means that, according to Scripture, angels are not organically related, as are humans, who are all descendants of Adam (Acts 17:26,Romans 12:12-21). In chapter three the author discusses the biblical names given: angels, sons of God, spirits. In this chapter, Bandstra also discusses the special groups of angels: the cherubim, seraphim, and archangels.
In chapters 4-10 Bandstra deals with the role or function of the angels. Bandstra shows from Scripture that angels are “messengers of God, those who praise God, guardians of believers, those who encourage obedience, and ministers of justice.” In this section Bandstra contends that the Old Testament “Angel of the Lord” is not some kind of “temporary pre-Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity,” but only one of several ways in which Christ was present in the Old Testament (cf. pp. 48-50). Bandstra presents a compelling argument in chapter 6 for the truth that “God provides his care for us through angels” (p. 64). There’s a fascinating discussion of the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, especially the phrase, “as it is in heaven,” in chapter 7 (pp. 71ff.). The author calls attention to various passages of Scripture where God uses angels to execute his righteous judgments both positively and negatively (chapter 8). Bandstra continues this theme in chapter 9 but concentrates on the role of angels in God’s giving of His law. Bandstra presents an interesting discussion of “some disputed issues about angels” in chapter 10. This reviewer found himself in disagreement with Bandstra’s interpretation of “the angels of the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20) and his interpretation of the twenty-four elders described inRevelation 4 and 5. The former, Bandstra contends are literally angels who watch over the church and not the ministers of the churches, and the latter in Bandstra’s view are a special class of angels and not representatives of the church universal, both Jew and Gentile.
Bandstra concludes this good little book by affirming the existence of angels and with a discussion of “the benefit of believing in angels.” Angels, Bandstra says, “help us to think more theistically about God.”