Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Angels can't really sing -- and here's why

Recently, my blog dealt with the fascinating topic of angels. I stated that there are often misconceptions about who they are and how they function in God’s greater plan. In this post I’m continuing with the theme of angels but focusing on one facet — their alleged melodic sensibilities and singing skills.

Now I realize that some folks will likely get their “feathers in a ruffle” over what I’m going to say in this post. My intention is not to offend anyone but to unfold a logical argument for why I believe angels don’t — and actually can’t — sing.

Let me make a couple disclaimers. The first is that I have never spoken to an angel (to my knowledge anyway) so there is the possibility that I’m dead wrong. If that’s the case, I will someday learn otherwise. Second, if angels do happen to sing it certainly wouldn’t offend me; however, the Bible does not say they do and I think there’s some good reasons why.

Okay, some of you are already protesting, “Now just hold it one second, Ryan! My Bible says that they do sing.” Your proof-texts likely include Job 38:7, which states that during the creation of the universe, “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” My rebuttal is that the text mentions “morning stars” but not “angels.” Could the text not be referring to the evocative sounds emanating from stars that astronomers have recorded through a technique called stellar seismology? These resonances supposedly supply scientists with clues about what may be occurring within the stars’ interiors. Mind-blowing stuff!

Another biblical passage is Luke 2:13-14, which describes the appearance of the angelic host to the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields at the birth of Jesus. The Bible says, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” But, notice the text states they were “saying” not “singing.” It was a proclamation of praise, not an angelic choir’s cantata. Now I’m not disputing that the angels were worshipping and praising God, but that does not suggest they were singing — just exalting or proclaiming.

In the Book of Revelation, on a couple of occasions humans are presented as singing, while immediately thereafter heavenly beings are described as speaking. The twenty-four elders surrounding the throne of God, each holding a harp, “sang a new song” to the Lamb of God (Rev. 5:8-10). Next, the living creatures, elders and myriads of angels begin “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Rev. 5:11-12).

In Revelation 15, those who have overcome the beast (presumably symbolizing the evil Roman emperors), stand beside the sea of glass with harps as they “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (verse 3). These are apparently martyrs who have paid the ultimate price for their faith and now dwell in God’s presence. Revelation 14:1-3 describes 144,000 redeemed people who are singing a new song, the words of which nobody else can learn, because of their virginity, purity and special status “as firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (verse 4).

Therefore, in the Bible there is a sense in which only humans, and particularly the redeemed, possess the privilege and capability to sing praises to God. The glorious mystery of the prophets fulfilled in Christ, as revealed by the Holy Spirit, involves “things into which angels long to look” (1 Pet. 1:12). However, angels are unable to fully grasp what it feels like or even means to be saved. Only the redeemed can sing redemption’s sweet song. Only the saved can sing about amazing grace. This incomparable gift is beyond the scope of angels’ personal experience.

That is why I believe singing is reserved for the human race. Believers are blessed with the gift of song to praise God and, in turn, receive spiritual encouragement. God has endowed human beings with an innate, natural affinity for music and singing, especially in regard to worship (Eph. 5:19-20). This is one way we are unique in God’s created order — and distinct from the angels.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Believe in Angels

What comes to your mind when you think about angels? Do you believe in them?

There are many myths, traditions, folklores and misconceptions about angels. Without a doubt, angels are a fascinating topic indeed.

In Scripture, angels appear often, about 200 times in the New Testament alone. However, we aren’t provided with a large amount of details concerning them and so we have to read between the lines and make some inferences. At the most basic level, angels play the role of God’s messengers. In fact, the Greek word aggelos means just that—messenger, envoy, one who is sent, or one who brings news.

The Bible shares a number of important things about angels that should encourage us as we seek to influence the world with righteousness and wage war against evil. Here are a few facts to be aware of:

First, angels are spirit beings created and sent out by God to serve those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). Though they can take on physical form when necessary to interact with the physical world, they are essentially spiritual beings without bodies.

Second, angels are supernaturally powerful beings (Rev. 7:1; Psa. 103:20). The Bible describes them as opening prison doors, rolling away the stone from the tomb, engaging in war with evil, and even binding Satan.

Third, angels are personal beings with the capacity to love, express joy, demonstrate intelligence, and delight in doing God’s will as they carry out his orders.

Fourth, angels are not gods. They are created, finite beings that are lower than God, though superior to us (Psa. 8:5-6).

Fifth, angels are not the spirits of people who have died, nor do we “receive our wings” upon death. A common misconception is that people turn into angels when they die, but humans and angels are distinctly different orders in God’s creation (Psa. 148).

Sixth, angels are sent to aid believers in the struggle against sin, evil, and the power of satanic darkness (Psa. 91:11-14). In God’s divine plan and purpose, he commissions and sends angels to guides us toward his will and help sustain and strengthen us when we’re under spiritual attack.

Seventh, on occasion God directs his angels to be our guardians. However, the popular idea that each of us has a full-time guardian angel watching over us at all time is not based in the Bible. If guardian angels existed, we would have difficulty explaining how it is the people get injured in accidents, murdered, and suffer in countless ways. What we do know is that children have their angels in heaven who always see the face of the Father who is in heaven (Matt. 18:10).

Some angels appear dressed in white clothing (Acts 1:9-11). Some have the appearance of men such as those who came to visit Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18). We are instructed: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2). Angels may be present and unperceived at any time (2 Kings 6:15-17).

There is a classification of mighty commander angels called “archangels” such as Michael, Gabriel, and even Lucifer (who fell and became Satan) (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 12:7). At the end of time, Christians will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3).

It is important to note there are other created spiritual beings that are not necessarily angels per se including cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Exod. 25:20), seraphim who have six wings (Isa. 6:2-6), the four living creatures surrounding/protecting God’s throne (Rev. 4:6-9), and the twenty-four elders also in the throne-room (Rev. 4:10-11).

Angels apparently serve three main functions. The first is service to God (Psa. 148:2). The second is service to Christians (Heb. 1:14). Angels are the messengers of God and serve at His will to help protect us through the Holy Spirit. And the third is performance of God’s Word (Psa. 103:20).

Thank God for his marvelous and mysterious angels!