Don’t shoot the Angels
Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Angels have always been a unique topic. Most Christians believe in angels and view them as distant but helpful spirits. However, many of those same people avoid even talking about spirit entities outside of God. It takes us too close to idolatry, which is not just a modern problem, but as John shows us, was a problem for himself1: and the early church as well.
Here is a biblical definition of the word translated “angels”:
“In many languages a term for ‘angels’ is borrowed from another dominant language, but in other instances a somewhat descriptive phrase may be employed. The most common expressions for the ‘angels of God’ are ‘messengers’ and ‘messengers from heaven.’ Sometimes these angels are called ‘spirit messengers’ and even ‘flying messengers.’ In some instances they have been called ‘the holy servants of God,’ but an expression such as ‘servants of God’ or even ‘messengers of God’ tends to overlap in meaning with expressions used to characterize the role and function of the prophets who were sent as messengers from God. In some languages a term for ‘angels’ is contrasted with that for ‘prophets’ by calling angels ‘messengers from heaven’ and prophets ‘messengers from God.’ The ‘angels of the Devil’ are often called ‘the Devil’s servants.’”2
Spirit messengers, in shorthand.
Look at the passage from Hebrews again. This is a passage that points out the connection between vulnerability and authority. Angels, who do not suffer, serve in God’s presence. Yet it is human beings, who were “made a little lower” than the angels, to whom authority over the world was given. It is not strength, but vulnerability… or perhaps the ability to suffer, that is rewarded with authority in God’s Kingdom.
This passage is not primarily about you and I. It is about Jesus. Jesus supersedes our own authority not because of His power, but because of His ability to suffer. This may be why He resisted the devil’s temptation in the wilderness. Without suffering, there is no authority rewarded.
Why is that? I don’t know for sure. But Jesus speaks about His own authority like this:
““Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” ”
Jesus ties together willingness to suffer for… responsibility, with authority. He has “bought” us and gained authority over us through His suffering for us. He took the bullet the angels never would.
Who do you suffer for?
Are you willing and able to suffer for those God has put you in charge of?
- “I John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” ” ↩
- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 143). New York: United Bible Societies. ↩