Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Bookmark and Share

Kept by God (and His Angels)!

Rev. Angus Stewart


The holy angels are inseparably connected with the birth of the Lord Jesus. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel comes to the temple to tell Zacharias, the elderly priest, that he will be the father of John the Baptist, Christ's forerunner; six months later, Gabriel announces to the virgin Mary that she will give birth to the incarnate Son of God. Three times Joseph is directed by an angel in a dream in Matthew 1-2: he was told to marry Mary, to flee from Herod (who was influenced by the devil; Rev. 12:4) into Egypt some months after Christ's birth in Bethlehem, and to return to Israel after Herod's death.

Moreover, on the very day Christ was born, an angel appeared at night to some shepherds near Bethlehem to declare the Saviour's birth. Whereupon the single angel was joined by many of his fellows: "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, good will toward men" (Luke 2:13-14). This is the only recorded biblical reference to angels on earth worshipping the Most High; everywhere else angelic praise is mentioned, it occurs in heaven. Strikingly, Scripture reveals that not only did that angelic delegation to Bethlehem adore God; not one of the heavenly host failed to praise the newborn King: "When he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Heb. 1:6).

Near the start of His ministry, angels ministered to Christ after His temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:11); near the end, an angel strengthened Him in His human nature during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). It was an angel who rolled away the stone from Christ's tomb (Matt. 28:2)—not to let Him out (for the risen Lord had already departed) but to let His followers see that He had left! The disciples' last sight of the Lord Jesus—His ascending into heaven, arms outstretched in blessing—was accompanied and explained by two angels (Acts 1:10-11).

The Son of man not only frequently spoke of good and fallen angels; He also battled with the devil and his demons, especially during His temptations, in His exorcisms and at His crucifixion.

John 1:51 is especially revealing, for Jesus told Nathanael and Philip, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." The ministry of angels upon Christ, apart from the few examples given, was not visible and even then they were not seen by the disciples prior to Christ's resurrection, for they were either absent or sleeping when angels appeared. But they and we, by faith, can understand something of the continuous care, protection and guidance the God of heaven and earth provided for His incarnate Son through their invisible ministry.

Our Lord's references to angels ascending and descending upon Him was an allusion to Jacob's dream in Bethel (Gen. 28:12). The angels who protect Christ, their head, invisibly watch over Jacob or Israel and all Christ's "little ones" (Matt. 18:10; Heb. 1:14). Through His heavenly messengers, the Almighty aids our weak faith by assuring us of His own covenant presence with us, preserving us from evil, according to His eternal and sovereign will. May the Triune God—who reminds us of His care by His angels—keep you, believer, by the grace and Spirit of Jesus Christ in 2012. "The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore" (Ps. 121:8).