Christmas Part 4: Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:1-7)
Christmas Part 3: Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38)
Christmas Part 2: Why These Shepherds (Luke 2:8-18)
Christmas Part I: What can we learn from the Angels?
Today we are going to answer three questions
What do we know about angels?
What did they do in the Christmas story?
What can we learn from them about proclaiming the Gospel?
Let’s look at today’s text and then try to answer those three questions.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
The First Public Announcement of the Gospel
Angels in the Christmas Story
1) What do we know about angels?
We must first admit that a lot of what we think we know about angels doesn’t always line up with the 196 Scripture references that have a lot to say about them.
For instance…our two most popular images of angels are absolutely incorrect. Beautiful women with wings and halos and small chubby babys with harps and bows.
So inorder for us to get a good clear biblical picture of what they are doing in the Christmas narrative and what we can learn from them, it is important for us to use those 196 references to paint a clear picture in our minds.
What are angels?
The Hebrew word for angel is mal’ach, and the Greek term is angelos. Both words mean “messenger” (In fact, both are sometimes used for human messengers; cf. 1 Kings 19:2; Lk. 7:24; 9:52). Angels are also spoken of as “holy ones” (Ps. 89:5, 7), and they exist in “hosts” or “armies” (Ps. 89:6, 8; 1 Sam. 1:11; 17:45). They are also called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 38:7; Genesis 6:2?).
Where did angels originate?
Angels are not transformed dead people, as American folk-religion teaches. The psalmist tells us that they were directly created by God: “For He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:5). Paul tells us that by Jesus “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). Since angels are mere creatures, their worship is forbidden (see Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9; Heb. 1:2-4, 13).
Are angels physical beings, or only spiritual?
While angels can appear in the form of a human (called “angelophanies”), they are spiritual beings (Heb. 1:14; Mt. 8:16; 12:45; Lk. 7:21; 8:2; 11:26; Acts 19:12; Eph. 6:12; Rev. 16:14).
How old are angels?
God created angels before the world existed. They are already present at creation (Job 38:4-7).
How many angels are there?
Angels are very numerous. Daniel 7:10 states that there are “myriads” of angels (cf. Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Job 25:3). Hebrews 12:22 states that there are “innumerable” angels (ESV). Of course, a myriad is a figure for 10,000. Revelation 5:11 states that there are “myriads of myriads” of angels. If this number is to be taken literally, there would be 100 million angels in existence. However, we doubt that John was counting the angels in his vision with precision. This expression is probably synonymous with him saying, “I saw a ton of angels!”
Who is the “angel of the Lord”?
The oft-mentioned “angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16:10, 13; 22:12; 31:11, 13; Ex. 3:2, 6) is most likely a pre-incarnate Christ on Earth. He is mentioned interchangeably with Yahweh at times, and even performs actions that only Yahweh can perform. For instance, we should not worship angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9) or men (Acts 10:26; Mt. 4:10). However, Joshua falls down and worships the captain of the Lord’s host (Josh. 5:13-15). The captain of the Lord’s host uses the same language that Yahweh uses in Exodus 3:5 (“Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” Josh. 5:15).
Throughout the OT, God appears in the form of a man (Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1) or an angel (Gen. 16:7-13; 48:15-16; Ex. 3:2-6). In one instance, the angel of the Lord is said to forgive sins (Ex. 23:21), and yet, we know that only God can forgive sins (Mk. 2:7). Therefore, the angel of the Lord must be a manifestation of Yahweh himself. Some theologians speculate that this is a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Of course, this does not mean that God is an angel, any more than God is a man, just because he came in the form of one (Phil. 2:7). Since the word “angel” just means “messenger,” we should differentiate the actions of an angel from the nature of one.
Do angels reproduce?
Angels do not reproduce (Mt. 22:30). Since they never die (Lk. 20:36), they must have all been created before the existence of humans.
What do angels look like?
Angels can be mistaken as humans, because they sometimes manifest in a human-like appearance (Gen. 18:2, 16, 22; 19:1, 5, 10, 12, 15, 16; Judg. 13:6; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4). Hebrews tells us, “Some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2).
While American folk religion depicts humanlike angels as winged creatures, we never see this form of angel depicted in Scripture. While Erickson notes two examples of angels flying, it never mentions them having wings (Dan. 9:21; Rev. 14:6). The seraphim (Isa. 6:2) and cherubim (Ex. 25:20) have wings. These are non-humanlike creatures.
However, angels can also appear in a glorious form. Regarding one of the angels at the tomb of Jesus, Matthew records, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men” (Mt. 28:3-4). Paul writes that Satan (a fallen angel) can appear to be breathtakingly beautiful (2 Cor. 11:14).
Why do angels exist? What is their function?
Angels currently exist to serve believers (Heb. 1:14). Jesus claimed that children have “their angels in heaven” (Mt. 18:10), implying that they have a special ministry for individual people (cf. Acts 12:15? 2 Kin. 6:17?). Angels also exist to fight and intercede for God on Earth. Jesus claimed that he could summon “twelve legions of angels” to protect him (Mt. 26:53). They also worship God in his throne room (Rev. 4), which involves rejoicing over the advance of the gospel on Earth (Lk. 15:10). And finally, they are also spectators of God’s plan unfolding (Job 38:7; Luke 15:10; 1 Cor. 4:9; 11:10; Eph. 3:10; Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:12).
How many different types of angels are there?
This is difficult to answer. In the spiritual realm, if you used the word “angel,” it might be similar to using the word “car” on Earth. What TYPE of car? What size? What speed? The biblical evidence inclines us to believe that angels come in different shapes, sizes, and strength. A hierarchy of angelic beings is referred to with the word “thrones” (qronoi), “powers” (kuriothtes), “rulers” (arcai), and “authorities” (exousiai), or world-rulers (kosmoskrators).
The seraphim (pronounced SARE-uh-feem) are a distinct type of angel, which surround God (Isa. 6:2).
The cherubim guard the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24), and they are depicted as looking downward at the atonement in the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:22).
The living creatures are seen in various places as worshipping God (Ezek. 1:5-13; Rev. 4:8).
There are archangels like Michael (Jude 9; cf. 1 Thess. 4:16), who is also called “the chief of the princes” (Dan. 10:13). This implies a ranking system even among angels. Since Michael (an archangel) refuses to rebuke Satan (Jude 9), this might imply that Satan was even greater in power than him.
Are angels greater than humans?
Even though angels are more magnificent and ancient than humans, the Bible teaches that God values humans more than angels. For one, angels are “ministering spirits” to help humans (Heb. 1:14). While we are currently in a fallen state, we will later be glorified above angels (Heb. 2:7). Eventually, we will judge angels at the end of human history (1 Cor. 6:3). Moreover, God died for all humans, but he “did not spare the angels when they sinned” (2 Pet. 2:4).
Why can’t we see angels?—or spiritual warfare?
It appears that sometimes we are permitted to see angels. For instance, Elisha had a window into the realm of the supernatural (2 Kin. 6:15-17; Num. 22:31). However, God has probably prevented this as normative for a number of reasons:
First, we might be tempted to worship angels. This occurs a number of times in the Bible. When humans see the majesty of angels, they are tempted to become obsessed with them (Rev. 22:8; Col. 2:18). Even now, angels are generally unseen, and people still worship them (e.g. occult practice).
Second, we might be tempted to fear angels. Imagine if you could constantly see angels and demons around you wherever you went. For those with generalized anxiety, you might thank God that he has spared you from such experiences!
Third, we might be distracted by angels and ignore God. By becoming overly preoccupied with angels or demons, we would be distracted from God himself.
So to sumerize what Scripture teaches us….Angels
- Are ultimately messengers
- With military type rank
- They are always seen a adult males
- They don’t all have wings, but some can
- They were created by Jesus in the beginning and therefore are not to be worshiped.
- They minister to us and we hold a higher place in the Kingdom then they do.
- They are holy and unholy, but aren’t be redeemed. Angels and Deamons
- They are all around us, but we can’t necessarily see or interact with them.
- There are millions of angels that do not die and don’t reproduce.
- They can appear as human and we might not even know they are angels.
- They long to understand the love of God through salvation, for that is what separates them from us.
2) What did they do in the Christmas Story?
Angels are never mentioned for their own purpose, but are always brought up for something else. Erickson writes, “Every reference to angels is incidental to some other topic. They are not treated in themselves. When they are mentioned, it is always in order to inform us further about God, what he does, and how he does it.” This is because angels are servants of humans (Heb. 1:14).
The angels in the Christmas story come to deliver the greatest news in human history. They are proclaiming the human birth of their creator. The one they new face to face, had served since the beginning of time, was now leaving the heavenly throne and becoming flesh before them
They were serving as witnesses to the greatest act of mercy and love for mankind in hx.
They were also proclaiming and declaring war on our behalf. The armies of God showed up to announce that God’s battle to defeat the power, presence, and penalty of sin had begun on this earth. The Savior had been born.
3) What can we learn from them about proclaiming the Gospel.
There is a pattern to the proclamation of the Gospel that we can learn from and model as God’s chosen messengers today.
1) A messenger came – we are sent to people today with the message, empowered by the Spirit and will the glory of God in us.
2) The men were terrified – often the initial response to God’s people and to the Gospel is fear or turning away. “I’m not interested…well Christians ______ and I don’t think that’s good….If I believe, and am scared I will have to give up ________.
3) The messenger calmed their fear with a good and accurate message – it is imperative that we present the real good news of how Jesus was born to save us from the presence, power, and punishment of sin…the message needs to be specific and accurate. Believe Jesus is Lord, Die to yourself, Follow Jesus is all areas of your life.
4) The message was confirmed by other messengers! – Missional Family Groups, Depth Groups! God uses his church to affirm his love for others…introduce those separated from Jesus to the church…”His heavenly Host” here on earth.
5) The men responded to the message in faith – The angels didn’t hold their hands and lead them to the manger. It was the responsibility of the ones who received the message to respond in faith to what they heard. To investigate, and eventually become messengers to their community.