Even the most secular among us has noticed that angels are a recognized feature of the Christmas Story.
Perhaps one reason the world is so quick to accept angels during Christmas is that, in their thinking, angels fit in nicely with Santa, elves and other magical notions that seem appropriate to the season. But for the believer, anything in the Word is to be taken seriously.
The role these marvelous creatures have played in God’s plan for man throughout history is both significant and dramatic. I mention history in the plan of God because God reveals the future in the patterns of the past. We can look at the Old Testament and see the picture of the first coming of the Lord, which includes everything from His birth to His ascension. We can look at the first coming and get an idea of the characteristics of the Second Coming. One of the more notable elements is angels.
Angels were hard at work from the onset of the first coming, appearing to John the Baptist’s father, Zachariah, to Mary and to Joseph. It seems their primary role was to announce the will of God to these key players, and then move them in to it. Everything had been spoken through the prophets that needed to be spoken. The timing was right, the people were in place and the circumstances had come together. The only thing left was the faith-filled cooperation of these chosen vessels.
In Luke 1:5-22, we read how Gabriel appeared to Zachariah in the holy of holies, first quickly moving to arrest Zachariah’s fear. There’s no room for fear in such strategic spiritual times, because everything must go exactly as ordered. God had done His part, and now it was Gabriel’s job to see to it that everyone else did theirs.
Gabriel told Zachariah he had no reason to fear, because his prayers for a child had been heard. He proceeded to lay out the plan for John and how he was to be raised. But Zachariah clung to his fear and doubt, putting God’s plan of redemption at risk. Aroused by such unbelief, Gabriel shut Zachariah’s mouth so he couldn’t thwart the plan.
Without such correction, Zachariah would not have seen the glory of God in his family and would have missed his eternal purpose.
At Work on Our Behalf
In these last days, we must be ever conscious of praying prayers that agree with the Word of God and then remain in faith, knowing the angels of God are at work, hastening them to come to pass (Psalm 103:20). We must also be aware that we can shut their work down with words filled with fear and unbelief.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary, her response was different than Zachariah’s. Though she was “troubled” at the sight of God’s messenger, Mary wasn’t afraid. The Bible says Zachariah was “troubled,” and that “fear fell upon him.” Rather than challenge the angel of the Lord, Mary sought understanding, which brought a different reaction from the angel. He not only announced God’s plan for her and her Son, but, because he saw the virtue of her faith, He provided insights on how it would come to pass and told her about God’s plan that was unfolding with her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary was quick to recognize the will of God and His messenger. She was not caught up by the spectacular nature of the encounter, but was inclined to seek understanding and was spiritually capable of handling Gabriel’s explanation.
As the coming of the Lord draws closer the glory of the Lord will increase. Those who follow religion as a form, as it seems Zachariah did, will have their spiritual shallowness exposed in the presence of the glory. Those who have inclined their heart to the Word, as Mary must have done, are the most likely to be able to comprehend and interpret spiritual matters (Proverbs 4:1, The Amplified Bible).
Joseph’s world was absolutely rocked by the revelation that Mary was pregnant. He was tender toward her and wanted to guard her reputation and put her away quietly (Matthew 1:18-25). It must have been his intent to marry someone as dedicated to obeying God as he was because, what seemed to be indiscretions on Mary’s part were a real problem for him.
Joseph’s fear of the Lord ran much deeper than a fear of society’s scorn. Had he been worried about what the synagogue would think of him, he would have publicly disowned Mary and made it clear what he thought of such behavior. But his concern regarding what others thought was for Mary. With tenderness, he considered the best plan to help her through her situation. Joseph’s posture of such honor revealed a man who could be trusted with guarding heaven’s Most Precious Gift. He believed the impossible had happened. He quietly accepted his role and pressed forward, assuming this most awesome responsibility without question or complaint.
Part of his reward was supernatural assistance all along the way. He had three visitations of the angel of the Lord, as well as obvious angelic handiwork in protection and provision throughout his tenure as watchman over the young Messiah. Their instructions, followed by his obedience, kept the first family ahead of destruction.
Throughout the book of Proverbs, and especially in Chapters 2-4, we see that wisdom, understanding and honor for God result in riches and honor from God. It is an honor to have our eyes opened to the realm of the spirit. In these last days, as we honor God and His Word, we can expect to have an increase in angelic activity, both seen and unseen. Perhaps the angels that visited the shepherds are the best known. And yet, their depiction is most unscriptural. Everyone is familiar with the Christmas-card version of angels in the sky—singing sweet melodies. The Amplified Bible gives a clear picture of reality. Luke 2:9 says, “Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened.”
Well, I guess so! He had to assure them that he had good news.
But it gets better in verse 13!
“Suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God….”
It’s important to note the scripture never says they were in the sky or that they were singing. That may be nice on a Christmas card, but the fact is these were heaven’s fiercest troops, sent to watch over the first coming of the Lord. They were on duty, right here on the earth, assisting men in fulfilling the plan of God for the whole of mankind.
The angels at work among us today are just as fierce, just as purposeful and just as full of the glory as they watch over the Second Coming of the Lord. VICTORY