In Acts the apostle Peter is arrested with the intention of putting him on public trial after Passover. But God has different ideas and sends an angel to rescue Peter from this coming humiliation (Acts 12:1-10). In the next verse Peter marvels at how “the Lord has sent his angel“ (NIV, emphasis mine) to rescue him. However, turning to the last book of the Bible one learns that although the appearance of a single angel on Earth may be something to be revered, this does not really diminish the angelic population of Heaven:
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Rev 5:11).
Numerous appearances of these angels are recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. Whether they appear singly, in pairs, or in groups (e.g. Gen. 16:7; 19:1; Ex. 14:19; Num. 22:22-27; Judges 6:12, 22; 1 Kings 19:7; 2 Kings 1:3; 6:17; 19:35; Dan. 6:22; Matt 28:2; Luke 1:11; 2:9; 22:43; Acts 5:19; 8:26), we are left in no doubt that angels are sent from Heaven to help God’s faithful escape from inescapable situations. Sometimes, as in the passage quoted above, they feature in visions (Gen. 28:12; Zech. 1:11; Matt. 2:13; Acts 10:3; Rev 1-21). Jesus even promises Nathaniel that he will one day see them (John 1:50-51).
I know that there are numerous apocryphal and non-biblical sources to which I could refer (e.g. Tobit 12), but here I would just like to refer once again to Stephen Seal’s novel The Harrowing of Hell. This is a story of epic proportions about liberating those who can accept Christ’s love from ‘prison’. Here the angelic armies are involved right from the start, and their important role in God’s redemptive plan means that they are a part of the action right to the end.
Today is a ‘feast’ day dedicated to Michael and All Angels and it has been fascinating to review what the Bible has to say about them. It’s highlighted for me that angels did not just deliver the prophecy of Jesus’ birth (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:26-38; cf. Judges 13:3), but also that they are, indeed, part of Heaven and of divine providence. However, BEWARE:
“…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).