Saturday, May 07, 2005

A More Excellent Name

"Angel" paraphernalia is everywhere. "Angel" statues and pictures usually look nothing like a Biblical angel is described (Isa 6:2, Ezek 10:10-14). Many people are fascinated by little cherubs that look like overweight babies or diaphanous women. I can't venture into a card store or a gift shop without being inundated with images like this or this. Book stores offer volumes that purport to bring messages from angels to us. Check out the synopsis for Sylvia Browne's audio recording, Angels and Spirit Guides: How to Call upon Your Angels and Spirit Guide for Help (warning, unbiblical junk ahead--have barf bag handy!):

"New York Times bestselling author of Adventures of a Psychic live lecture! Includes a powerful meditation led by internationally renowned psychic Sylvia Browne. Reveals how to call upon your angels and your spirit guide! On this uniquely forthright and captivating audio program recorded live, psychic/bestselling author Sylvia Browne addresses the fascinating concepts surrounding angels and spirit guides. Every religion has angels, Sylvia tells us. Different from spirit guides (we each only have one of those), angels are spiritual messengers who are available to help us if we will simply ask for their assistance. Sylvia goes on to discuss the properties of angels; the true nature of God, good, evil, and the other side; and explains how we can overcome guilt, accept ourselves, and thereby understand our own particular 'contract.'

In the second half of the program, Sylvia leads a meditation that invokes the presence of our angels and individual spirit guides, and invites them to communicate with us. We feel their protection, receive their healing, and with Sylvia's encouragement, learn how to ask them for the help we desire" (emphasis mine).

"Every religion has angels," Browne says. How very interesting, since the Bible tells us that over a third of the angels who were in heaven fell in the Satanic rebellion (Rev 12:3-4). Some subtle twisting is going on in the above paragraphs: angels in the service of the Most High are indeed messengers (aggelos means 'messenger, one who is sent') and "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation" (Heb 1:14). However, the Bible never instructs people to ask angels for help or to attempt communication with them. While it is a function of angels to aid the elect, they are under the command of the Lord, not men, and believers are only told to call upon the LORD. There is no other name than Jesus Christ by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12), and praying to other gods (in this case, any of God's creation) is idolatry. What is prayer but communication to a higher being, a request for strength or assistance we cannot produce ourselves? Demons will take advantage of opportunities such as this. A person opens himself up spiritually by asking "guidance" from an angel rather than from the One True God. You might as well send an engraved invitation to the demons ("New and ready for prompt move-in: house swept clean and put in order!").

"Psychics" like Browne, whose sorceries and witchcraft are forbidden in Scripture, like to couch their heresies in Biblical phraseology to deceive the unwise and unlearned.

Col 2:18-19
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Do you know Who is so far above the angels? Jesus Christ. The entire first chapter of Hebrews extols the accomplishments, glory and very being (the I AM) of Jesus. (You know how I can get about Hebrews...I'll try to contain myself.)

Hebrews 1
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,
"You are my Son,
today I have begotten you"?
Or again,
"I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son"?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him."
Of the angels he says,
"He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire."
But of the Son he says,
"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."
"You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end."
And to which of the angels has he ever said,
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Notice in Hebrews 1 that Jesus is contrasted with the angels. Paul warns in Titus 1:14 that the church should guard against "Jewish myths," which included--from what I understand--angel worship in the first century. (We see similar perversions of Judaism today in the ancient and pop studies of Kabbalah that are not rooted in the right understanding of Scripture.) As long as Satan is unbound we will see perversions and counterfeits of the truth and of God's ways.

We can be centered in the midst of a whirlwind. We can have a Rock in the midst of the storm: Jesus has inherited a more excellent name than even God's holy angels, who behold His face before His throne (Matt 18:10)! The writer of Hebrews is not finished with the comparison of Jesus with the angels, however. In Chapter Two he warns the believers against neglecting so great a salvation, and reminds them that everything has been put in subjection to Christ, who was, for a while, like us--a little lower than the angels:

Heb 2:1-9
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

"What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet."

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

When He ascended to the Father, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, where He lives to make intercession for the saints (Mark 16:19, Heb 7:25). We have no need to pray to anyone else. Only prayers to the Lord, made humbly and from a righteous stance through Jesus' blood, are efficacious anyway.

1 Thess 1:6-10
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 John 5:20-21
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Some Charismatic teachers are fond of yelling at the devil and pretending to trample on him. This is not wise--and we are warned about this kind of behavior in the Word:

Jude 8-9
Yet these false teachers, who claim authority from their dreams, live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at the power of the glorious ones. But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse Satan of blasphemy, but simply said, 'The Lord rebuke you.' (This took place when Michael was arguing with Satan about Moses' body.)

Angels are created higher than we are--but we are to serve the Lord and worship HIM only (Matt 4:10). We are under the wings of God, taking refuge, and we do not stand by our own power. Let us be thankful for the work of God's angels for our benefit, but let our eyes not be turned from the One True God to worship His creation or to accuse and revile principalities and powers. Our task is to fix our eyes on Jesus, hear HIS voice, and do what He says.