Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
October 2, 2022
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)
September 29th is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, known as Michaelmas. October 2nd is also celebrated as the Feast of Guardian Angels. So, it is fitting for us to take time today to learn about angels.
Scripture calls St. Michael the archangel, meaning that he is the chief of angels. He battles Satan and casts him out of heaven with the blood of Christ. His name means “who is like God?” And he is commonly stated to not be a created angel at all, but Christ, the Second Person in the Holy Trinity. Only Christ can be said to be like God, because he is God. Only Christ can cast Satan out of heaven. Only Christ is the prince of the people of Israel (Daniel 10:13; 12:1). So, like the Angel of the LORD, who is himself God, Michael is also said to be a title given to Christ. However, most claim that he is only the chief of all the angels, doing the bidding of Christ.
Angels are created beings. They were created during the six days of creation, yet Scripture does not tell us on which day. They are spirits and do not have bodies; however, angels often take on visible forms, always appearing as men and sometimes with wings. Angels are not divided into men and women as mankind is. Jesus tells us that they do not marry, so they also do not have children. Yet, there are very many angels. Scripture does not tell us how many, but rather uses expressions like “ten thousand times ten thousand” (Daniel 7:10), and “innumerable angels” (Hebrews 12:22). So, it is clear that God has a mighty host of angels ready to serve him.
People do not become angels when they die. Angels are a different order of creation from humans. Humans have both a body and a soul. Angels are only spirit. Yet, angels are mighty and are able to affect the physical world.
The word angel means messenger. And angels certainly are messengers. An angel announced the conception of John the Baptism and Jesus. Angels announced the birth and resurrection of Jesus. And God has sent angels to warn his people of danger, like when an angel warned Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Yet, angels do much more than relay messages for God. Scripture tells us that they are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Psalm 103 states that angels are mighty ones who do the Lord’s word, obeying his voice. So, angels are mighty creatures who serve us at God’s pleasures. Psalm 91 even promises us, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” So, we have the promise of God that angels will protect us from danger, both physical and spiritual.
And Scripture gives many examples of angels doing just that. God sent his angel to close the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown into their den (Daniel 6). God sent angels to rescue Lot and his family from Sodom before they rained down burning sulfur to destroy those wicked cities (Genesis 19). God sent an angel to kill 185,000 soldiers of Sennacherib as they camped against Jerusalem (2 Kings 18). And there are more instances than time allows of angels rescuing believers and demonstrating great might in Scripture, as well as many other instances throughout history.
Of course, angels especially serve Christ Jesus. Angels ministered to Jesus after he was tempted by Satan, having fasted for forty days. An angel strengthened Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, before his crucifixion.
Angels are believed to escort Christians to heaven when they die, because in Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus, angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16). And Jesus teaches us that at the close of the age, he will send his angels to separate the evil from the righteous, taking the righteous to his kingdom, but casting the evil into the fiery furnace of hell (Matthew 13).
Scripture also warns of Satan and his angels, often called evil or unclean spirits and demons. We know that Satan was originally created to be a good angel, yet he fell. Revelation 12 states that when Satan fell, a third of the stars fell with him, indicating that a large number of angels fell and became demons. Satan is often called Lucifer, which means light-bearer and is also a name for the planet Venus. Satan is compared to Venus because Venus often rises in the east before the sun as if it is the morning star, but when the true morning star appears, Venus disappears from sight. So likewise, Lucifer tried to exalt himself above Christ, but was cast down from heaven (Isaiah 14:12). Revelation also says, woe to the earth and sea, because Satan roams here in his great wrath.
So, Scripture teaches us that there is much more to this created world than what we can see and observe. There are innumerable good angels, sent by God to do us good. And there are also many evil angels, minions of Satan, who mean us harm.
So, with this knowledge, we should be humble. The angels of God have not sinned. They do not possess our shame. And they are much more powerful than we are. Yet, they serve God willingly, even serving us for Christ’s sake. So, we too should be humble, and gladly serve and obey God. We should not take angels for granted and test God, but walk in the way God has given us confident that angels stand ready to protect us.
Jesus says not to despise one of these little ones, because their angels always see the face of His Father in heaven. But who are these little ones Jesus speaks of? Earlier Jesus said that unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven and he warns against tempting one of these little ones who believes in him. So, one of these little ones is clearly one of his Christians. We should not despise our fellow Christians. Yet, Jesus could hardly tell us to become like children without himself having an affection for children. And indeed, he does. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and by no means hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
But what does despising children or your fellow Christians have to do with the angels? Jesus says that they always behold the face of His Father in heaven. But what does that mean? God the Father does not have a face you can see. He is Spirit. What does it mean that angels behold the face of God the Father in heaven? And what does that have to do with little ones who believe in Christ?
First, Jesus clearly says that whoever has seen Him has seen his Father (John 14:9). So, these angels obviously keep their eyes on Jesus, the Son and image of God. Yet, there is something else even more telling.
God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle and its furnishings. The most important of these furnishings was the Ark of the Covenant upon which sat the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat was pure gold. And it had two golden angels called cherubim on either end, who faced each other with their wings pointed toward each other, so that the tips of their wings touched. Upon the Mercy Seat, God declared that he would dwell. The ark and the Mercy Seat were put in the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could go once a year and sprinkle the blood of atonement on the Mercy Seat. Now, Scripture tells us that this tabernacle and the ark with the Mercy Seat were copies of heavenly things, meaning, this Mercy Seat with the cherubim facing the seat of God is a picture of what is going on in heaven. And these angels see the blood of the atonement sprinkled on this seat where God dwells.
We now know that the bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament all prophecy of Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is true God and true man. The cross then became the Mercy Seat of God as God’s own Son sprinkled his blood to make atonement for the sins of the whole world. And although you can’t see them, the cherubim are there gazing at this sight.
That is what it means that their angels always behold the face of Jesus’ Father in heaven. The angels are always gazing at the sprinkled blood of Jesus, which speaks peace and forgiveness to all people. That means that when the angels look at you, they do not see your sin, but they see you dressed in a white robe washed clean in the blood of Christ (Revelation 7:14).
Jesus said that whoever confesses him before men, he also will he confess before the Father in the presence of the angels in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 9:26). And when Jesus confesses you before the angels, he confesses that he has washed all your sins away in his blood. Jesus says that there is joy among the angels over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). That means that when you become like a little child and humble yourself, repenting of your sins and believing in the blood Jesus shed to save you, the angels rejoice and sing.
For this reason, we should at all times seek to be reconciled with one another, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven each of you (Ephesians 4:32). When you hate your fellow Christian, you are hating him for whom Christ shed his blood. And the angels see it. The angels do not hate those who have been washed clean in the blood of Christ. Rather, they love them and seek to protect them for the sake of Christ’s blood.
Likewise, we should take care not to despise our own children. If parents were to refuse to give food to their children, what would you call them? If parents refused to clothe their children, to give them a proper bed, to clean their filth, and to educate them, what would you call them. You’d call them child abusers, wouldn’t you? And you’d be right! Yet, what is more important? The needs of the body or the needs of the soul? What then would you call parents who refuse to teach their children the Gospel, who refuse to bring them to church to have Jesus’ blood sprinkled on them, to be washed and fed that spiritual food? It’s spiritual child abuse. For this, negligent parents need to repent and consider the angels, who stand ready to protect their children for the sake of that shed blood, which is meant for their children. They should also consider that these angels will be charged with separating the righteous from the wicked on the Day of Judgment.
When we consider our sins and our failings, especially that we have despised those for whom Christ shed his blood and for whom the angels dedicate such care, we can be filled with shame at the thought of guardian angels. Do they see my wickedness as they watch over me? Will they testify against me to God for my sins? And so, we should humble ourselves and repent of our hatred and laziness. The angels in heaven rejoice at such a repentance. And we should confess Christ Jesus, who shed his blood for us. The angels hear Christ’s confession of those who confess him. And you should take confidence that as your Father in heaven does not look at you apart from the blood Christ Jesus shed to take away all your sins, so too the angels look at you through that shed blood, and are ready to protect you for the sake of that holy blood, and finally, for the sake of Christ’s blood, to escort you safely to your eternal home in Christ’s kingdom. Amen.