From In The Shadow Of His Wings
In a broken world full of broken people, the need for healing of all kinds is not only desirable but a necessary starting point for any spiritual journey and relationship with God. A cripple cannot walk the road until their legs are made strong enough to do so. The blind cannot see the path until their sight is restored. The first step with God must be that of healing, (and as we saw earlier, healing is an event, or series of events, or a process) in one’s life which promotes physical and spiritual wholeness.
While angels can be the conduits of God’s healing presence, Biblically, one must recognize that God is the only source of all healing. Therefore, strictly speaking, angels cannot and do not heal. However, in the same way that humans have skills and gifts for healing (as do doctors), or be the ones through whom God does miraculous healing, as we see the disciples and apostles do in the Gospels and Acts, (e.g., Matthew 10:1; Acts 3:7-8, 5:16, 8:7, 14:9-10), so can angels. Alongside this direct involvement, is the more indirect activity of, for example, angels as ones who stand alongside us to lead us into a position or place where God can heal us directly.
How do angels help us in this area? There are five ways that human ministers are involved in the ministry of healing. First is by anointing the sick person with oil (James 5:14-15), and by encouraging regular participation in the sacramental grace offered through the church. The second is by prayer, and to stand with the person in need and intercede to God on their behalf for healing. Third is what we may now call faith healing – the miraculous gift of the charismatic healer with special God-given healing powers. Fourth is exorcism where demonic oppression is removed, bringing release and wholeness. Finally is magico-medicine, which are the various superstitious charms, potions, and rituals people use to heal themselves.
Not all of these can be called biblical, and so angels would not be involved in all of them. However, we will see that angels are involved in healing in some of these ways. We shall see angels serving as conduits of God’s grace and power, angels encouraging people to live the life of grace within the church, angels being involved in prayer, and angels being a part of fighting and removing demonic oppression.
Angels As Conduits Of Healing
As direct conduits of healing, angels can be involved in miraculous, divine intervention – incredible wonders and phenomena which in biblical times, caused amazement and awe. The miracles of Jesus, which the disciples and apostles were also gifted to do, not only lifted physical incapacity, oppression, and depression from people, but also made them reconsider both their lives and God.
Direct supernatural physical healing through angels is not common in Scripture, maybe because it really is the province of God, and mistaking creature for Creator in the realm of physical healing is not unknown. Just consider the reaction to Paul and Barnabas healing the crippled man – Paul was called Hermes, Barnabas Zeus, and people tried to sacrifice to them. (Acts 14:8-13) Humans and angels both are prone to being misunderstood and/or worshipped if involved in healing and miracles. Probably in the light of other warnings about the worship of angels and the extreme reactions they can sometimes bring forth from the even most devout of people, (Revelation 22:8-9), this aspect of angelic ministry is not emphasized. However, this does not mean it is absent, and a more subtle involvement in healing is often pointed to, both openly miraculous and otherwise.
Taking what may be called “miraculous” healings first, John 5:1-17 (especially v. 5) is the most obvious example of this. Little actual detail is given about how this worked with regard to angels, but it is of interest how the story then plays out. Jesus, after healing the man (5:8), tells him plainly to stop sinning or something else worse would happen to him (5:14). This story suggests that while Jesus heals, angels can also be involved in healing, and that any healing should result in a changed life.
Consider Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-25. They were unable to have children, and whatever the problem, they were both old now. It was the encounter with the angel that God used as a vehicle for reversing that condition, and allowing conception to take place. This was not only a physical healing, but also what one might call a “social healing,” since both the angelic visitation and subsequent pregnancy took away their shame and disgrace in the community, and showed God’s direct blessing upon their lives. (Luke 1:25)
However, healing can also be the provision of strength to overcome illness or infirmity. When you are ill or sick, you feel weakened and rundown. You need strength and energy to fight the sickness, and allow your body to recover. When physically drained and wanting to be revived, what we need among other things is the strength to recover. Angels can give people renewed physical strength and also strengthen those who are weak. We have already seen how an angel did this for Jesus in Gethsemane. (Luke 22:43) The angel came and gave strength to him, reinvigorating him to continue praying in readiness for what was to come. When we are run down, angels can strengthen us to face the tasks, illnesses, and battles of life. This also happened when Daniel collapsed and the fiery figure touched him to raise him to his feet. Who this figure is is not clear; however what he did in Daniel 10:8-10, is directly paralleled by Gabriel in Daniel 8:18 – Daniel was weak as if he was asleep, but Gabriel touched and revived him.
Therefore, while it rare to see an angel enact a supernatural healing, it is not excluded as a possibility. Far more likely is that when you are in a state of weakness and vulnerability, an angel can give you strength when you most need it, just as one did for Jesus in Gethsemane.
Angels And Being In The Body Of Christ
Encouraging people not only to go to church but to live the life that God offers within the body of Christ is a clear way to place people within a situation conducive to healing. This is not to say that people outside the church or the people of God are not healed – the Bible is clear that this does happen, often to the chagrin of those who think it shouldn’t. (2 Kings 5; Luke 4:22-29; Mark 7:25-30) However, it is common sense to think that just as the best place for the healing of a sick person is a hospital, so the best place for spiritual healing is the church. And yes, the church is also a place where physical and emotional healing can happen. Angels drawing people to Christ and into the church is part of the wider healing process, and so it is no surprise that we see angels, alongside us, proclaiming the gospel to the world: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on Earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” (Revelation 14:6)
This area will be covered in far more depth in the chapter on guiding, but a specific example of this would be in Acts 5:18-21: “[The Jewish authorities] arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’ And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.”
Too often we focus on the miraculous angelic escape and forget what the angel then said. Coming out of jail, I would think the last thing on the apostles’ minds was to go back into the lion’s den – the temple – and start all over again. Yet they were told to do just that, and the angel called it preaching Life. Many commentators have said this is an odd term to use, but see a parallel in Acts 3:15, where Jesus is called the Author of Life. F. F. Bruce, (Acts), though, sees the beauty and poetry behind the phrase, calling it “an apt term for the message of salvation.” Not just sin and salvation, but Life with a capital “L” (some translations miss this subtlety, but just calling it “new life”). This, to me, is a wonderfully holistic and pastoral way of viewing salvation through Christ. And this is what angels call us to preach to the world.
Suffice to say that one of the consistent post-Pentecost activities of angels is to advance the gospel, by exhorting the apostles, especially in the face of opposition, to preaching, and focusing on telling the message of the Christ so that others might be saved. And so with us, while many forms of counselling and support are available to those around us, we may sometimes need an angel to prompt and refocus us to the fact that the best foundation for any pastoral care is Jesus Christ, and we must direct everybody, Christian or not, to this truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and Life is only found through him.
Yet for those who are already Christians, a slightly different tack may need to be taken. Classically, the church is the ark of salvation, where the saved people live together under Jesus. It is also where we are called to live holy, whole, and healthy lives. To be an active member of the body of Christ, you need a lifestyle and attitudes which draw you in and allow you to feed and be inspired. It is difficult to be spiritually nourished if you live a life which is spiritually self-destructive. The role of angels to inspire holy living is, implicitly, a call to a healthy Christian life alongside other Christians, which allows you to be touched by the grace that God lavishes upon his church. Angels bring words of encouragement, warning, and guidance that direct people in how they should act and live. (e.g., Genesis 16:7-12, 21:17; Luke 1:26-38; Acts 27:23-24) The presence of angels also reminds us that we are on a stage. We live our lives before a heavenly audience, and so we should be aware of how we act. We have already read how Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:10 demands proper order in church because of the angels, and the encouragement to holy living in 1 Timothy 5:21, since we stand before both God and his angels. But for now, we can consider the call in 1 Corinthians 6:3: “Do you not know we will judge the angels?”
Christian brothers and sisters should act rightly toward each other, in a wise and godly way, and not, through malice and broken relationships. Because we will judge angels, we need to learn how to judge each other now, and bitterness and vengefulness toward fellow Christians is not the way to live. Reflecting on the angels and angelic life should lead us to consider our own ways, especially in relationship to others. And on this point, the fellowship between angels and humans is a beautiful relationship, which we should model to each other. We should consider how angels love and serve us, pleading for us before the face of the Father. And surely, if they do that for us, should we not do it for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and for non-Christians too? Our faith, like the trust of the angels in God, should be outwardly expressed, not inwardly turned.
We are to live in an obedient and godly manner because we are in front of other created beings who lived in an obedient and godly manner. Angels are held up as a standard to live by. Consider the angels and consider how they live under God, and then compare your own life to their obedience and holiness. Reordering life, leads you into a more holy life, which is a better place to receive healing, and angels can help us on that journey.
Angels And Prayer
One of the most amazing things we are told in Scripture in that angels pray for us. Prayer touches upon every area of pastoral care and the Christian life. However, that the Bible links prayer to healing is obvious, with Jesus making this exact point. (e.g., Mark 9:17-29) But when considering prayer and healing, I am drawn to reflect on James 5:14-16: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
We can note that angels (who not only would have the qualifications of elders, but who surely would have a similar compassion for the sick) will pray over us in Jesus’s name, and their prayers will raise up the sick person, restoring him to health. The Greek here has an interesting double echo. The word for “raise” or “heal” is sōsei, which has the root of sōzō, which means to be saved or rescued. It is also worth seeing here the link with forgiveness and confession. Clearly if one sees sin as a form of sickness or illness, so forgiveness and cleansing from sin is a part of the healing process. Isaiah 6:6-7 shows how angels are a part of this process, which is a healing in itself. Isaiah bewails and confesses his sin before both God on his throne and his angels: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’”
Clearly, angels do not forgive sin, and salvation is not found through angels. However, just as Christ gave the right to humans to pronounce forgiveness, (Matthew 18:18), and set them free from their burdens, we see forgiveness is declared and pronounced by the angel on behalf of God, alongside the restorative action of touching Isaiah’s lips. Angels, like humans, can effectually proclaim forgiveness in God’s name. When forgiveness is declared, it is true and has happened, and this advances the healing journey. Mark Morton, reflecting on Psalm 32:3-5 said: “By acknowledging our sin and confessing it we are recognizing the problems, affirming our desire for change, and inviting the Holy Spirit to execute that change. The process of confession is therefore a process of healing through which we are reconciled to ourselves, to our neighbor and to the Lord.” (Personal Confession Reconsidered)
I know for myself acting in both a pastoral position and the position of the one confessing, to be told by a Christian who knows and loves you, “You have confessed. You are forgiven!” is truly powerful and profoundly releasing. Can you imagine how Isaiah felt when God sent his angel, and was told by this holy being, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for!”? Angels stand before the Father and see us, and they hear us when we pray. They encourage our repentance, they proclaim our repentance, and they rejoice as we repent, and they do all of this before the God of forgiveness. The angels’ joy is heaven’s joy at the lost sheep being found by God. (Luke 15:3-7)
Angels are righteous (holy) beings, so their prayer is powerful and effective. I sometimes think that the angels praying for us are the engine room of spiritual life. Many of us know that when a body of people pray for us, we can see and feel a tangible change in our life and circumstances. Angels pray unceasingly, from a pure and righteous relationship with God. As you are encouraged by a friend praying for you, so too should we be encouraged that angels are doing the same. What an honor to thank God for!
Angels And Demonic Oppression
How the removal of demonic oppression links into healing may not, at first glance, be obvious. But when one considers that the removal of demonic oppression is central to some of Jesus’s healings, it beings to make far more sense. Luke 8 has the already discussed story of the healing of the demoniac and the casting of Legion into the pigs. How the story ends is of interest here:
When they came to Jesus, they found the man, from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’s feet, dressed and in his right mind. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:35-39)
The man was now sane and acting calmly (full inner healing), and begging to go with Jesus. Jesus, however, tells him to go and speak to people of what had happened to him. Here is a removal of demonic oppression resulting in healing, (the Greek word, again, has the dual sense of restoration and salvation: Acts 2:40, 47), wholeness, a desire to follow Jesus, and a willingness to speak of the wonders of God to others. Similarly, for example, Matthew 9:32-33 tells of a demon cast out from a mute allowing him to speak; Mark 9:14-29 tells of a tormented boy healed by the exorcising of an unclean spirit; and Luke 13:10-16 has the crippled woman healed by the removal of Satan’s oppression in her life.
Fighting demons, removing demonic oppression, and expelling evil spirits from peoples’ lives can lead to healing and a new life following Jesus. Angels fight and defeat demons. It is natural, therefore, that this work they do would have an effect in the area of healing in peoples’ lives.
The broad canvas of angels defeating demons is shown in Revelation 12:7-12, where Michael and his angels defeat Satan and his demons, throwing them out of Heaven. Demons cannot withstand the angelic army of God. The army is mighty and large, Jesus has twelve legions at his disposal, (cf. Luke 2:13 – multitude; Acts 7:42 – host), and they fight for him. Even though Jesus is clearly the focus of the text, and Satan’s defeat is the result of Christ’s triumph, it is Michael who comes with his angels to fight. The heavenly warriors are not led into battle by Jesus, but Michael. It is worth stopping here and pondering this. Michael led the charge, not Jesus. This can only be because Jesus gave Michael the power and authority to fight this battle. (Another example of secondary means, perhaps.) Jesus empowered Michael (whose name means “one who is like God”) for this task, a might task – perhaps Jesus even placed his name in Michael. (cf. Exodus 23:21) And similarly, all angelic ministry starts and ends in the commission and empowerment of God, not within the angels’ own being. Michael knew who was his Lord and God, and in whose name he was fighting. When fighting Satan, Michael knew where his authority came from. Jude 9 says: “but when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”
In the midst of battling Satan, Michael calls upon the name of the Lord as a rebuke to Satan. It was not of himself, but the Lord who rebukes and defeats Satan. Michael and his angels represent the heavenly victory of Christ, but they can only fight this battle because of Christ’s triumph. And Christ’s triumph means Michael triumphs. Satan and his demons do not have what it takes to defeat the heavenly army, and they are cast down out of Heaven. There is no place in Heaven for Satan and his demons, (Revelation 20:11), and Heaven becomes a demon-free zone, a place of peace which God’s people will inhabit. (Revelation 21:4)
And yet, Satan, though defeated, is not to be disregarded. He is the great dragon, the serpent, the devil, who accuses the brethren. Satan is no fairy tale monster, but a real adversary, who has demons to help him. Satan continues to be troublesome and destructive, and so we need the help of God to stand against him. The Satan and his demons are cast down is significant. What Saint John indicates in Revelation is that what happens in Heaven will have its parallel impact here in Earth. Satan has been defeated, but he is here on Earth, which explains why churches are suffering, and why Christians and non-Christians alike are tempted away and become dissatisfied, looking for secular power, security, and fulfillment. We are in a battle, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6, and our foes are not flesh and blood, but demonic powers.
Yet, this is not the whole picture. Leon Morris says, “John reminds us that the conflict is not simply one between demons and men. Angelic forces are also engaged.” (Morris, Revelation) Yes, we are in a battle, but we are not alone. The victorious angels, under Christ, battle with us, and alongside us. The victory is assured. Skirmishes still happen, and causalities still sadly occur, but we can always call upon God to send his angels to fight for us.
Yet is this our experience? Sometimes the battle leaves us quite wounded. Where are angels then? There are few things to mention here. First is that we do not know how bad things could have been if the angels had not battled on our behalf. We only see one part of the story. Probably the more painful part and this can color our view. Yet this is natural – our pain informs our attitudes. This is human, but we should nonetheless raise our eyes and give thanks that things could always have been much worse. Second, and linked to this, is that well-known story of the footsteps on the beach of life, and for much of life there are two sets of footprints – ours and God’s. The complaint comes though that in the bad times of life, there is only set of footprints – I walked alone. But, said God, this was “when I carried you.” Similarly, sometimes angels have walked with us, and we have not known it.
What these both say is that we do not always see the help. Daniel 10 is a good story which helps us in these situations. He had been praying and fasting for three weeks, and then he was given a vision. The vision was so tangible and real that those around him, who could not see it, nevertheless sensed the presence and ran to hide. The fiery figure loved, blessed, and affirmed Daniel before saying to him: “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days.” (Daniel 10:12-14)
As soon as Daniel started to pray and fasted for answers, wisdom, and understanding, Heaven heard the prayer and responded. However, Daniel only got the vision three weeks later. The prayer, in human terms, wasn’t answered instantly. In heavenly terms, the response was immediate. The delay was caused by a battle between the fiery figure and the prince of Persia, and a resolution only came when Michael came to support the fiery figure. It took a battle and it took time for the answer to come.
Quite what this passage exactly means is unclear, and commentators have widely varying opinions on the matter, as well as the precise identity of the fiery figure. Presumably he is an angel (angels could have the appearance of lightning: Matthew 28:3), who then enlisted further angelic help on his difficult mission. This battle echoes the angelic fighting of Revelation 12, which required war to be waged. Angels fighting angels means there is no easy push over, even though the final result is always known. The Lamb wins!
Nevertheless, the point stands, that prayer is heard instantly, Heaven responds instantly, but it can take time for that to be visibly shown in our lives on Earth. Prayer may not be immediately answered by angelic ministers but this delay should not be interpreted as a lack of action on God’s part, or the part of his angels. Sometimes waiting for an answer we experience a delay, yet, and this is worth remembering, the fiery figure and Michael won the day and the answer arrived, eventually.
Angels, Healing, And Heaven
Two final points need to be made, which further enrich what it means to be healed, and how angels are a part of that process. First, one must mention worship. It is worth knowing that worship is much more than singing to God. It is an activity that brings communion with God and transports us into his presence. And in his presence, is healing. Worship is the principal act by which we are changed ever more into what God calls us to be – his image. It is a life-shaping and life-changing act: “Worship is a door open in Heaven. We lift up our hearts, listen to what God is saying, join the angels and archangels and all the saints in Heaven in praising God’s eternal holiness. Worship is a door open to the inner depths of life. Worship is a door open to the rhythms of life. Worship is a door to our hearts open in obedience to God. And as we worship, we are changed.” (Bradshaw, New Patterns For Worship)
As we worship, we are changed. We are transformed steadily into his image and likeness, where our marring by sin is rubbed away, and the true image given by God, holy, healed, and whole, shines through. God, through his angelic ministers, heals, and removes obstacles that people may face in life, and this freedom becomes a spur to worship, praise, and serve God with even more vigor. But further still, and ancient and modern liturgies overflow with this truth, angels are themselves leading and inspiring us to, and in, worship, taking us to meet with God. “Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of Heaven, we laude and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee and saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory.’”
The worship given by the angels in Heaven is awesome to consider, and it is here in Heaven we see the last part of the healing journey, and at the very end, angels remain at our sides, taking us to glory.
The glorious life of Heaven is often in our sights, but also often strangely absent too, especially in the midst of trial and suffering and seemingly unanswered prayer. Sometimes we do not see or experience a fullness of healing here on Earth, and so our eyes need to turn and look toward Heaven for the completion of the process. Through this, angels can help to paint a picture of the full and ultimate healing that we will find in Heaven. We can be assured that our souls will be taken to Heaven. Luke 16:22-23 gives comfort to those facing death: “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”
Lazarus was carried by the angels to the heavenly feast, to eat at Abraham’s side. Leaving aside the honor of being a guest at that blessed table, angels took Lazarus there, in a heavenly and angelic cortège, and made sure he would not miss out on what God has promised for him. Compare this with the simple bleak summary for the rich man, who died and was buried. This is comfort, and many funeral liturgies use this idea to console those mourning. Anglican funeral prayers echo the idea of angels carrying Poor Lazarus. The soul is comforted with assurance of being Heaven bound: “Go forth on your journey from this world, aided by angels, archangels, and all the armies in the heavenly host, and bring us at last to the wholeness and fullness of your presence.”
Angels will carry our souls to the heavenly society, with the angels. In Heaven there will be no more pain or tears, and Revelation 12 says there is no place for dragons/demons in Heaven. We will rest in a place without evil, or the threat of evil; a place with only joy and worship, and a welcome to feast in a community transformed by God’s grace.
“Aided by the angels, may your portion be in peace today and your dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem.”
This new home will be accompanied by a new body – a resurrection body – and as we have already seen from Luke 20:36, this will be like, or equal to, the angels. What does this enigmatic phrase mean? Well, Jesus, unhelpfully, doesn’t tell us, but actually assumes that his hearers know exactly what he is talking about! Commentators have come up with various options. Clearly it is linked with the gift of immortality that the resurrection affords us, but it also resonates elsewhere. John Nolland says that the word “like the angels” (isangelloi), which is unique to Luke, speaks of “a certain kind of heavenly glory and dignity of form, that comes with it freedom from demise through bodily decline, disease, or accident.” (Luke) Nolland rightly highlights that it is something more than a change of status, but includes somehow possessing some of the qualities of the angels, and from his quote we see that it must be the result of some kind of healing/wholeness process which can never be overturned or reversed. However, it is not nature alone that it speaks of, but, as Morris pinpoints, it is also a statement of a place within the heavenly society with other sons of God, since it means being “taken up into the fullness of life in the family of God.” (Luke) This also then speaks of a healing of relationships, with God and with the wider family of God (saints and angels). The healing is more than just about our nature, but is also of our characters and lives, and thus our ability to relate to others.
At this point I should dispel any thoughts that being like the angels means we will become ghostly beings in the ether wandering the Earth, or chubby cherubs with wings. What this phrase points to is the absolute fullness of a totally healed and whole, sin-free human body – like the body Jesus had after his resurrection. This body was one which could both eat and be touched, and yet could walk through walls, appear almost out-of-nowhere, and not be instantly recognized – some interesting parallels to the bodies that angels seem to have when on Earth. N. T. Wright’s book, Surprised By Hope, spells out the physicality of the New Heaven and New Earth. To be sure it is a new and fully-redeemed physicality of which we have no current experience, but physical it is. The near unanimous orthodox verdict of the past 2000 years is that angels have bodies of a kind, but we do not know what that body is, other than it is spiritual, but can take on physical form when required. (The fact that Satan can be tormented in fire (Revelation 20:10) indicates that he (as an angelic being) has a body of some kind which can be punished, like the beast and the false prophet, who are with him.) Angels, too, have the propensity to fall (as the demons demonstrate), and despite being “holy,” Scripture tells us that God can still charge them with folly. (Job 4:18) However, angels are now confirmed and perfected by God’s grace, and by nothing of their own, and in this grace-filled state cannot fall. Yet remove God’s grace, and they would be as likely to fall as we do. Angels then are not so far removed from us: perilously close to falling, yet by God’s grace a million miles away from doing so. This too is what it is to be like unto the angels, and Jesus’s resurrection body and his appearances also give a glimpse into what it will mean for us.
Yet in the face of personal suffering, one can doubt that God can heal like this. It is hard enough to accept that in this fallen world in our hurting bodies we are said, even now, to be “a little lower than the angels.” (Psalm 8:5-6: literally, “heavenly beings”) How often do you feel as if you are a little lower than the angels? It is hard enough knowing who we now are, let alone see what we will be. If we do not see the power of God in the present, maybe we begin to doubt that he has that power. How do we know that we will be fully healed? What is the evidence and proof that God gives that he can transform us? Pastorally, we need to be able to give confidence that God can, does, and will do these amazing things, and there are two ways to do this, again showing how pastoral angelology cannot be held in isolation from other parts of theology. First is the resurrection of Christ, which is the one proof that death does not and cannot prevail over created beings. The second is that God can take a created being and make it immortal, sinless, worshipful, and joyful, living in an evil-free zone. Angels show what God can do to a created nature. Since we are told that we, in our resurrected bodies, will be like unto the angels, then looking at the angels will start to show what fullness of healing and fullness of Life is, and by this we can have confidence that God will complete the good work begun in us. Isangelloi means that God will give us not only healed and whole bodies, but also healed and whole relationships with himself and everybody else in Heaven. It points to a total restoration of every aspect of ourselves and our lives, and this is a truth we can encourage people with.
The whole Christian life is a journey of healing on numerous levels – physical, emotional, and spiritual – all with the aim of bringing us closer to God and his will. Angels help us on our way along the road and they model what a healed life looks like both now, and how it will ultimately be in Heaven. Angels are a gift from God to prove that what he did in Christ works for all created beings, and the perfection of the angels is the perfection we too will enjoy.
However, journeys are rarely short affairs, especially the journey of life. On that journey we will need sustaining, and the strength to face both good times and bad. Paul exhorts us to run the race to the end, and not stop half-way. However, too often it is a common pattern of life to run out of steam and energy, and then give up. And God’s angels know this and part of their ministry is to help us in this weakness. So how can angels provide us with spiritual and physical sustenance on our journey?