Posts Tagged ‘Angels’

Son of God

And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” (Mark 3:11)

In the Bible, the title “son” or “sons of God” can refer to angels (Job 1:6), kings (2 Sam. 7:14), or people (Acts 17:28) but what did the gospel writers mean by it when it applied to Jesus?

When demons met Jesus, they announced he was the Son of God and then they did whatever he told them to do. Demons wrestle with angels (Dan. 10:13), they deceive kings (1 Kings 22:22-23), and they beat up people (Acts 19:16), but they obey God (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-5). In the gospels, they did the same thing with Jesus (Matt. 8:31-32) and those who speak in his name (Luke 10:17).

So demons can resist or defeat other “sons of God” but when it comes to the Son of God, their reaction is the same as it is to God. The Son of God is greater than kings and angels.

Better Than Harps and Clouds and Halos

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

I don’t want to be naked, not naked like Paul is describing it above, at least I don’t want to be that kind of naked for very long. Though Paul is mixing the metaphor a bit, what he is getting at is that we’re not souls in a physical body which we’ll be released from when we die. A disembodied soul is what he means by being “naked.”


This is from the TV movie “The Littlest Angel” which is about a shepherd boy who goes to heaven and becomes an angel. I remember it from my childhood but now I see how wrong it was.

When I was a kid, the idea you got from movies and TV was that when we die we go to heaven to become angels. Sometimes we have to earn our wings by doing something to help the living so what we really become is guardian angels. That sounds nice and makes for okay TV movie plots, but in reality it is a far cry less than what really awaits us.

According to Paul’s terminology here, we have a “tent” that is our earthly home. But it isn’t a flesh spacesuit we take off when we die. It is imperfect and, whether we know it or now, we long for the heavenly version of it. But that heavenly version isn’t clouds, halos, harps, white robes and earning wings and becoming angels. No, we will judge the angels (1 Cor 6:3) and what we have is what the angels long to examine (1 Pet 1:12).

We get something much better than what the angels get. When some of the angels rebelled, God created hell for them (Matt 25:41) and appointed a day when they’d get sent there (Matt 8:29) to be punished for their rebellion. He didn’t make a way for their sin to be forgiven. Angels won’t be redeemed.

But God decided to redeem a portion of humanity even though we’re a little below the angels (Heb 2:7). The cost to accomplish this, the eternal Son to set aside his glory, took on a real human body and human soul so that he could die a real human death. And what did Jesus gain for us? Clouds and halos for eternity? No, that would be boring. Jesus not only got us an escape from hell, which would be very good, but he also gained us new life. That new life consists of a new heart in this life and a resurrected body for eternity. The taste we get now pales in comparison to what it will be like for us in the resurrection. That’s what Paul is getting at in the quote above. What is mortal will be swallowed up in life, not in long white robes and not disembodied spirits floating around either.

So what happens after death and before the resurrection? We are with Jesus (2 Cor 5:8) which is better (Phil 1:21). According to the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16 we will be comforted with the saints, not tormented with the sinners. But according to Paul above, we still long for our resurrected bodies. We’re not complete if we’re just a spirit and we’ll long for the completion.

I shall sleep sound in Jesus, filled with His likeness rise,
To love and to adore Him, to see Him with these eyes:
’Tween me and resurrection but Paradise doth stand;
Then—then for glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land. – The Sands of Time are Sinking, Anne R. Cousin

Firsthand Knowledge

Who did John the Baptist go before, to prepare the way for? The standard Sunday school answer is correct here. Jesus. But consider how Gabriel introduced John:

And he [John] will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he [John] will go before him [?] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. – Luke 1:16-17

Pay attention to the pronouns in this sentence. John will turn many to the Lord their God. And he will go before him. Before whom? The only “him” in this sentence that makes sense is “the Lord their God”. That’s who John is preparing people for. Look that phrase up in the Old Testament in a concordance. It is used over and over as “the LORD their God” meaning Yahweh. John didn’t prepare the way for Jesus who prepared the way for Yahweh. Jesus is God and I know that to be true because of who said all of this. “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (1:19) Gabriel know it firsthand and angels don’t lie.

A Study in Cherubim

What is a cherub? If have even heard of the word, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear it is most likely chubby babies with wings. That’s because Raphael painted them that way in his “Sistine Madonna”:

And now they are everywhere looking all cute. You just want to pinch those fat little cheeks, don’t you? Except, that isn’t what a cherub is. So what really is a cherub? Ezekiel saw some and here’s part of how he described them:

[T]hey had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another…As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies…As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning. (Ezekiel 1:5-14)

The reason you know these are cherubim is because Ezekiel says so in 10:20, “These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim.”

They’re not supposed to be cute, they are fearsome. God put one at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were evicted (Genesis 3:24). There were two cherubim on the top of the mercy seat (Exodus 7:89) and just like in Ezekiel’s vision, the continuing reference to the cherubim is that the Lord is seated above them.

So about all Raphael got right was the wings, just not enough of them. Perhaps. The way Ezekiel saw them, they had six wings, but consider how they’re described in 1 Kings:

In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other…And the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one touched the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; their other wings touched each other in the middle of the house. (1 Kings 6:23-24, 27)

These cherubim have two wings. Now lest you get the impression that these were uninspired, artistic representations, don’t forget that Bezalel and Oholiab were inspired to construct the tabernacle including the ark (Exodus 31:1-11). They didn’t make up what the cherubim looked like and when Solomon had the temple constructed, they had the ark with the cherubim. No reason they would make the look different if they had a model right there.

So what do we gain from this study of cherubim? I think there are a handful of things.

Ezekiel saw a vision. When prophets see visions, things mean something but not necessarily that cherubim are covered with eyes and have four wings. As we’ve seen elsewhere cherubim only have two wings. What Ezekiel’s vision is trying to communicate is that God is all-seeing and that’s why where his throne touches the earth that structure is covered in eyes. God sees. Cherubim are real creatures but the vision Ezekiel got of them was communicating more than their outward appearance. They’re spiritual beings and so their outward appearance is not something physical like ours.

The temple and tabernacle were earthly images of heavenly reality (Hebrews 8) and the same is true of what Ezekiel saw. He saw something true and real in heaven and tried to explain it in earthly terms. That’s what the temple did too. There is something real in heaven and the earthly things show a picture of what that is really like without duplicating it. It can’t be duplicated on earth.

And what is kind of cool is where these two things come together. In Genesis 3 God places a cherubim at the entrance to the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life. But if the cherubim are associated with God’s presence, then God didn’t post a guard and take off. Everywhere else in the scriptures, God’s glory shone above the cherubim. In Genesis 3, the cherubim guarded the way to the Tree of Life but also into God’s presence. In Revelation 21 and 22 the Tree of Life is back and, as you’d expect, it is associated with God’s presence. In Revelation 21:22, John notices that the city that he was shown has no temple, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” The point is that God dwells with man in this city. In chapter 22 he says that there is a river that flows out of the throne of God through the middle of the street of the city and on either side of it is the Tree of Life. There is no cherubim this time. Everything that is evil has been thrown into the lake of fire and in this city “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (Revelation 21:27). There is no need of a guard now.

Endnote: This is not license to spiritualize everything in scripture which is usually the accusation as soon as you say anything like this. No, you have to pay attention to what the author is doing. Visions are not like watching TV where you get live coverage of the event. However, history is history and so when Moses says that Noah built an ark, an ark was built. Ezekiel tells you that he’s seeing a vision, Moses clues you in that he’s recalling historic events. Best to keep them straight. Notice that Moses never described the cherubim in Genesis, he only said that they were there; probably indescribable.