Angels, Aborigines, Australians and the Hope of All Nations
1. The angels are with us


This three part teaching is a compilation of a number of themes I believe the Holy Spirit has been communicating to me for over a month. It began one night when I was repeatedly waking up with thoughts about angels. Although these beings have an important place in the biblical worldview[1]I have never been able to connect with this fact in any significant way[2]. My avoidance of angels has not been helped by the unbiblical practice of folk asking for their assistance in prayer meetings[3]. Nevertheless, as the Lord spoke to me in the night I sensed some truths about angels that I had never considered or remembered reading before. This has strengthened my conviction about the importance of angels and led me to consider that perhaps the angel armies are indeed being prepared for a mission upon the earth – that will touch my life[4]!

From meditations about angels, I moved to a time when Jesus laid the Australian aboriginal people on my heart. The social deprivation of the indigenous people of this land is as undeniable[5]. The Lord began to awaken me to hopelessness as the root spiritual cause of continued aboriginal suffering. This state of shame is embedded in a negative cultural attitude of mainstream Australia and connected to a battle in the heavenly places between spirits, good and evil powers over the destiny of this nation.

Finally, I started to see things about the nations[6]. Christ was giving me an awareness of an end-time[7] move of the Spirit bringing all nationalities and races together under his headship, especially in prayer and mission. The result of this would be a massive outpouring of glory on the earth.

When all of this is put together this three part article: “Angels, Aboriginals, Australians and the Hope of All Nations”, is designed to explain how the peoples of the world are being united in Christ by an astounding heavenly wisdom that is bringing the kingdom of God to earth with power.

Angels and the Rule of God

During the night I first began reflecting about angels, my mind was taken back to one of my most unusual experiences in prayer when I had a clear sense that Jesus was addressing the angel of the church in Perth in a particular way[8].As seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6; 1:4; Col 3:1, 3; Heb 12:22-24) we share with “ministering spirits”[9] in the council of God where decisions are made about the implementation of the kingdom of God upon earth. This is the perspective opened up in the visionary chapters of Revelation[10], whose language gives us a vital key to understanding the companionship that angels and Christians share.

In the Old Testament, angels appear frequently as agents of the divine rule (theocracy)[11]. Their ministry is paralleled by that of the prophets who enforced the government of God by warning and promise[12]. For example, there is an angelic “watcher, a holy one” (Dan 4:13, 17, 23), a sentinels of YAHWEH with authority to punish sin. Likewise, Isaiah speaks of human “watchmen” (Isa 62:6-7) or prophetic intercessors[13] calling on the LORD to rule and protect his people.

In the New Testament, this conjunction between angels and prophets reaches out to encompass all Christians. Since, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10) and believers hold this testimony[14], it means all share in the prophetic call.

It comes as no surprise therefore that angels identify themselves as fellow ministers with us. The angel sent by Jesus to bring revelation to the apostle John, says, ““I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.”” (Rev 19:10; 22:9). Throughout the Old Testament prophets are presented as servants of God[15], now a commonplace term for believers in Christ[16]. “Servant” is an exalted title that joins angels and redeemed human together in a holy partnership with many dimensions.

Sons of the Father

The apex of the unity between angels and humans is most deeply communicated in their sharing with us the highest of all created honours, being “sons of God”[17]. In an intriguing text, Jesus says, ““See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”” (Matt 18:10). The emphasis here is that these angels[18] have personal access to the Most High God on behalf of the persecuted followers of Christ. The intimacy forged between “guardian” angels[19]and believers in the service of God points to the amazing truth that we have share the same Father.

Paul says “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14-15). It appears that Paul sees the holy angels in heaven and redeemed people on earth as sheltering under the one Fatherhood of God. It is in intercession (as a prophetic watcher) that Paul is conscious of the supernatural family union between angels and men because here he is intimately aware of God as his “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Earnest prayer is also the spiritual atmosphere where a connection between the angelic and human mission seems to be formed[20].

This bonding between the heavenly and earthly sons of God is, in the wider thought world of the New Testament, only possible because the prayers of the saints are united with the heavenly intercession of Christ himself[21].Foundationally, this linkage depended upon the role of angels in the earthly life of Jesus.

Growing with Christ

The Gospels record two occasions when Jesus is assisted by angels; both of these involve severe, and possibly mortal, distress. The first occasion is Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Though bereft of human support, Mark records that during Jesus time of prayer and fasting, “he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.” (1:13)[22]. The other situation is even more extreme; in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus implores his disciples, ““My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”” (Matt 26:38). Invoking the language of prophetic intercession, Jesus implores his closest companions[23] to “stand in the breach” on his behalf (Ezek 22:30). Falling asleep, they fail to minister to their Lord, but in the midst of his anguish, and as he is most intensely aware of his filial relationship with God[24] a faithful watcher appears, “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43).There are many astounding features of these incidents, perhaps the greatest involves the impact the Incarnation[25] had upon the angelic consciousness.

To discern this impact we must first consider the broader biblical perspective on angels. In Job God says, ““Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy[26]?” (Job 38:4-7). The angels were overcome with thankfulness at the wisdom and goodness of God’s created order[27]. Such angelic emotionality is echoed in Revelation. “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!”” (Rev 5:11-12). At the sight of the new heavenly creation around the Lamb the angelic joy reaches its highest level of adoration, and our Gospel texts explain why[28].

Without sin and ageing, the angels who ministered to Jesus during his earthly trials had total recall of the eternal Word in the age before he entered our mortal flesh. They remembered the instant of their first awareness and how they stood in awe at the wisdom of God who had created them through his Son[29]. Therefore, when Jesus was near death in the wilderness and in Gethsemane, the angels who sustained him must have been filled with total amazement at the humility of their Creator. The angels, as fully personal beings, were being drawn empathetically into the sufferings of Christ[30].

Subsequent to Jesus resurrection and ascension into heaven, the angelic world, which once ministered to his weakened flesh, now worships his glorified flesh[31] in heaven[32]. The angelic host have learned and grown in their spirituality and we have reason to believe they are still growing[33]!

The book of Revelation describes itself as, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (Rev 1:1). When Jesus speaks repeatedly “To the angel of the church in [city such and such]” this is simultaneously a message to each congregation[34]. The implication is that angels and human beings are designed to grow together in love for God as they receive and respond to heavenly revelations and commands. The holy unity between the celestial and terrestrial servants of God is not static but is meant to increase with time. The context of this growth is all important.

Ministers of the Gospel

Whether it is the angelic visitations throughout the Old Testament era, or the presence of angels to Jesus the apostles and the early church, the common factor is an intense prayerful environment seeking the progress of the kingdom of God against worldly opposition Both holy angels are redeemed humans are surely together as “sons of the kingdom”[35] and are part of a great army. This vast army[36] does not triumph by physical force[37], but by participation in the victory of Christ.

The Old Testament commonly employs the title, “LORD of Hosts” as a designation for God’s sovereignty exercised through the host of the angel armies[38]. In the new covenant era, however it is clear that the character of the “army of God” is refashioned through the passion of Christ[39]. Angels and humans are united together as one corporate servant of Jesus through sharing in “the fellowship of his sufferings”.

This becomes clear when we read “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev 14:6). The angel is an evangelist! As Jesus proclaimed, “they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” (Mark 13:26-27)[40]. We are presented in scripture with the dynamic image of one great army of witnesses, angelic and human, who in their service of God present Christ, crucified and raised[41].

One Great Fellowship

Although it may seem strange to us, the New Testament writers clearly saw angels in unison with the gathered church as it worshipped the Lord. The link between the angels of the churches and their conduct in Revelation 2-3 is an example of this. Another appears in 1 Corinthians 11:10, “a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” Even more striking is the vista presented in Revelation, where an “angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,” (Rev 8:3)[42] In a manner beyond our comprehension, angelic powers intensify the efficacy of our intercession before God[43]. The active presence of angels in fellowship with the worshipping church is a vital and beautiful part of the Christian worldview.

In terms of the presence of the power of the kingdom of God the words of an older aboriginal prophet come to mind, “family worship breaks all barriers”. As the obedient church on earth unites with the angels in adoration of the glorified Lamb, the wisdom of the eternal plan of God breaks forth confounding the principalities and powers[44]. The glory of God is actualised in our midst, bringing repentance, renewal and revival.

Hoping for a Conclusion

The readers of this article may be convinced that angels occupy an important part of God’s plan in relation to us, but what is their connection point with us? I believe it is hope.

In a passage of broad scope Paul says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (i.e. resurrection). 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22-24). This passage implies[45] that the angelic world is longing to see the completed redemption of the earthly sons of God, their resurrection[46].

The angels are familiar with God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:10), a plan to bring the angelic and human spheres to complete unity when Christ returns. In union with us[47] the angels are living in hope of the consummation of God’s eternal plan to bring all creation into the perfect oneness of love which has existed forever between Father, Son and Holy Spirit[48].

The Spirit is speaking about a dynamic of hope which will move the church forward towards the End, aligning it with the angelic armies of God and bringing the message of the gospel to all nations in a mighty global sweep of mission soon to be released upon the earth. This is the topic to be developed further in the next two studies.

[1] There are 172 appearances of the noun angelos for “heavenly messenger” in the NT.

[2] Though angelology is a standard part of systematic theology, my supposed speciality, I have somehow always avoided lecturing on them.

[3] God frequently sent angels in scripture, but I cannot think of an occasion when they are specifically asked for.

[4] Over the last few years I have been persuaded that certain portions of the Gospels, often relegated to the Second Coming, are actually operative now. Mark 13:26-27 is an example, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Since Jesus said to the high priest, you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”” (Mark 14:62), it makes best sense to think of the angels in Mark 13 as gathering people to Christ from the time of his ascension into heaven onwards.

[5] They are less likely to meet minimum literacy and numeracy standards or continue their schooling to Year 12. They are more than 6 times as likely to be in the child protection system and 14 times as likely to be under juvenile justice supervision. Indigenous Australians are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to need help with core daily activities because of disability. They make up 10% of homeless people but only around 2.5% of the total Australian population. Life expectancy is close to twenty years below average.

[6] Which, in the New Testament, refers not to nation – states but to people/ethnic groups (Greek ethne).

[7] In scripture, the “last times” is a term used of the entire new covenant period, e.g. Acts 2: 17; Heb. 1: 2;9: 26; James 5: 3; 1 Pet. 1: 20; 2 Pet. 2: 3.

[8] The biblical precedent for this is his speech to the angels of the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. Some commentators have tried to interpret “angel” here as a human leader, but angelos everywhere else in Revelation has the spirit-being sense. The central content of the message I believe that Jesus was sharing with the angel of the Church in Perth had to do with the removal of shame and embracing Christ alone as our glory.

[9] “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14).

[10] Revelation 4-5 presents heaven as a scene containing myriads of diverse angelic beings, a vast multitude of redeemed people join with them around the throne of God from chapter 7 onwards.

[11] For example, the angel of God led the people out of Egypt into Canaan (Ex 23:20, 23 ; Num 20:16), Joshua encounters “the commander of the army of the Lord” (Josh 5:14) on the eve of the conquest of Jericho.

[12] A particularly clear case involves Samuel, to whom God spoke, “the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (1 Sam 8:7). Note also how prophets rebuked kings from the time of Saul to the exile.

[13] That prophets are watchman is explicit in Ezek 3:17; 33:1-9; Hos 9:8. In my opinion, those usually termed “intercessors” today actually exercise a form of prophecy.

[14] E.g. Acts 4:33; 1 Cor 1:6; 2 Ti 1:8; 3 John 12; Rev 1:2, 9; 12:11, 17; 20:4.

[15] 1 Ki 14:18; 18:36; 2 Ki 9:7; 17:13, 23; 21:10; Ezra 9:11; Jer 7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4; Ezek 38:17; Dan 9:6, 10; Am 3:7; Zech 1:6.

[16] Matt 10:24-25; 25:19ff; John 12:26; 15:15, 20; 18:36; Acts 2:18; Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 4:1; 2 Cor 6:4; Gal 1:10; Ph 1:1; Col 1:7; 4:7; 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 2:24; Tit 1:1; Js 1:1; 1 Pet 2:16; Jude 1; Rev 1:!; 2:20; 6:11; 7:3; 19:5; 22:3, 6 and especially Rev 10:7; 11:18.

[17] For angels as sons of God in the OT, see Gen 6:2, 4; Deut 32:8; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps 82:6; 29:6. There are numerous references to Christians as sons of God in the NT.

[18] There is no assumption in scripture that all angels can approach God so closely.

[19] Their role is not specified, but the approach to God in the heavenly court suggests an intercessory function.

[20] Note the interesting link in Acts 12:5, 7, 14,15, “Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church… an angel of the Lord stood next to him… Peter was standing at the gate…they kept saying, “It is his angel!”” Paul is granted an angelic visitation in response to prayer in Acts 27:23-24.

[21] See especially Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25.

[22] Matthew places the angelic presence at the very end of the temptation (4:11).

[23] Peter, James and John who were his intimates e.g. Mark 5:37; 9:2; 13:3.

[24] ““Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.” (Mark 14:36).

[25] The Word becoming flesh, God becoming a human being e.g. John 1:14; 2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2:6-7.

[26] Since this is the original creation event, “the sons of God” here must be angels.

[27]This teaching is closely echoed in Psalm 104:4-5, “he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.5 He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.” The identity of the “ministers” as angels is spelled out in Hebrews 1:14.

[28] I have omitted for reasons of length a discussion of the angelic excitement at the birth of Jesus, “13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” ” (Luke 2:13-14).

[29] “in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Col 1:16).

[30] This is a hypothesis difficult to prove, but apart from joy (discussed above), they exhibit emotions like indignation (Luke 1:19-20) and horror (Rev 19:10; 22:9) and as such must be sensitive to moral/emotional pain.

[31] In the sense that in various places in scripture “flesh” means humanity in its weakened state through the Fall.

[32] Whilst the identity of the “sons of God” in Gen 6:1-4 is contentious, there are good biblical reasons for thinking they are rebellious angels. It is conceivable (if not demonstrable) that these “marriages” between spirits and humans were a Satanic attempt to subvert the possibility of the Incarnation by the creation of a race of hybrid beings whose flesh could not be redeemed and glorified.

[33] If angels are emphatically united to Christ, just as he could only be “made perfect” through suffering (Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:28), this must be the case for them.

[34] Attempts to identify “angel of the church” as something other than a spiritual being e.g. the human leader of the church, fail, because “angel” everywhere else in Revelation is clearly a heavenly being.

[35] In Matthew 13:8 Jesus divides humanity between “the sons of the kingdom” and “the sons of the evil one”.

[36] One might think of the chariots of fire that surrounded Elisha when the king of Syria sought his destruction, “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”” (2 Ki 6:16).

[37] “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zech 4:6).

[38] The title appears in 232 verses in scripture, only twice in the New Testament, one of which is a quotation from Isaiah, the sole exception is James 5:4.

[39] For instance, whilst the New Testament can use military metaphors of the individual Christian as a “soldier”, and probably of the redeemed who accompany Jesus when he returns from heaven (Rev 19:14), the church is never presented as an army in its struggle against the world.

[40] There are substantial reasons for believing that this ingathering happens during the present time of gospel proclamation with power, and not simply when Jesus returns again. In Mark, those who “see the Son of Man coming” are folk who are alive during the time of Jesus (Mark 8:38-9:1; 14:62).

[41] It is not to be supposed however that angels are self-motivated or self-empowered. Like Jesus (3:17, 34; 4:34; 5:23etc.), and his disciples (e.g. Mark 3:14; 6:7; Luke 11:49; John 20:21), they are “sent” (Luke 1:19, 26; Acts 12:11; Rev 22:6, 16). One valuable insight into how they are sent is found in the vision of the council of God in Revelation 5. At the centre of this scene is Jesus, the Lamb of God, with him is the Spirit of God (“the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (5:6) is a paraphrased form allusion to Zechariah 4:2-7, where the Holy Spirit is the power who establishes God’s kingdom) and multitudes of worshipping angels sent forth to do his bidding. As the narrative of Revelation unfolds, it is apparent that the Spirit is sent by the glorified Christ (cf. John 7:37-39) to inspire and energise both angels and believers in the ministry of the gospel.

[42] A parallel scene is presented in Revelation 5:8, “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”.

[43] Given the focus on the gathered church in Revelation, it is best to see that the angels are assisting corporate prayer.

[44] Ephesians 3:8-10 is especially relevant here, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”.

[45] Angels are not far from Paul’s mind, for he mentions them in verse 38.

[46] If the angels played a vital role in Jesus’ passion, they must have longed eagerly for their beloved Lord’s resurrection. Since we will be raised “in Christ” (1 Cor 15:22), they must earnestly desire our resurrection also.

[47] “the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18).

[48] Cf. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”” (John 17:20-25).

The readers of this article may be convinced that angels occupy an important part of God’s plan in relation to us, but what is their connection point with us? I believe it is hope.

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