Angels of Heaven - Thy Will Be Done
by the Rev. David Sonmor, minister serving the Western Canada Conference
in the February, 1995 Issue of Our Daily Bread

Angels have become a popular topic in the past few years. In a recent poll in Time magazine the question was asked, "Do you believe in the existence of angels?" 69% of the respondents answered yes and 25% answered no. A second question asked, "Do you believe you have a guardian angel?" 46% said yes, and 21% said no. What is it that this majority of people believe in? 55% indicated that angels are "higher spiritual beings created by God with special powers to act as his agents on earth. " 15% described them as "the spirits of people who have died." 18% said, "an important religious idea but merely symbolic." And 7% said, "figments of the imagination." What do you think?

The idea of the existence of angels is, of course, not a new thing. It just seems to have become very interesting in recent years as more and more people have come out into the open and talked about their personal experiences with them. In fact, angels have been experienced and talked about throughout the centuries of written history. If there is such a thing as a universal idea, common across cultures and through the centuries, the belief in angels comes close.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and Sumerians have all depicted the presence and activity of angels in their religious and cultural teachings. Angels appear in more than half the books of the Bible: It was an angel who told Abraham to spare his son Isaac from sacrifice; it was angels who saved Daniel from the lions' den and appeared before him to give him "wisdom and understanding"; it was an angel who rolled the stone away from the entrance to Christ's tomb. They are mentioned in 175 verses in the New Testament alone.

Muslims believe that angels are present in mosques to record the prayers of the faithful and to testify for or against people, on the day of judgment. The Muslim Holy Book, the Koran, indicates that, although they are described as having wings, that is only a symbol and that, "They are beings expressive of qualities or powers, which may be typified by wings." Their work is described in the Koran as follows: "They are messengers or instruments of God's will, and may have a few or numerous errands entrusted to them."

In the Middle Ages the fear of death and eternal damnation, among Christians, inspired a belief in winged spirits, who could move easily between the layers of the universe. They were said to spin the stars and planets and to make plants grow and help creatures reproduce, so were seen as workers who helped God keep the physical universe operating.

There has been much speculation on the nature of angels. The Bible portrays them most often as being young men frequently not recognizable as anything else. The cherubim and seraphim, and the creatures seen by Ezekiel, who are described as having wings, are also often considered to be angels and hence the idea that angels have wings has come to be believed. Nowhere though has it ever been declared that a person on earth saw an angel with wings. Even John, in his visions, describes an angel as flying through heaven, but he never saw him, he only heard him crying out as he went. Swedenborg saw angels coming toward him through the vastness of heaven, but when they got close they did not have wings, they just looked like extremely beautiful human beings.

The Hebrew word for angel, malak, is quite different than the word for cherubim which is keruibim and the word used for the creatures seen by Ezekiel is chai, which means living, moving, creeping thing, which is quite different from the meaning given for angel, which is messenger or agent. In the Greek used in the New Testament the word used for angel is aggelos, the word used for creature is ktisma and the word used for cherub is cheroubim and as with the Hebrew, means "those grasped or seized." So we can see from the original languages that different things are being presented and so it is not right to assume that they are all the same thing.

Our church teachings indicate to us that all angels, indeed all the spirits in the spiritual world, were at one time human beings; therefore, none were created as separate beings. So we fall into that 15% who believe that angels are "the spirits of people who have died." But Swedenborg goes beyond that idea and states, "Such is the state of the spiritual person that when he is with the angels in Heaven, he is as it were, one among them; for we have been so crated that while living in this world we may at the same time be in heaven. In this state all our thoughts and ideas of thoughts, and even our words and actions are open, even from the Lord, and contain within them what is celestial and spiritual; for there is in every person the life of the Lord, which causes us to have perception." This indicates that we don't have to be dead in order to be angelic. This makes sense if we believe that we are both natural and spiritual beings at the same time. While we are in the body we are for the most unaware of our spiritual nature but that doesn't mean that it does not exist or is not growing and developing. This makes sense, too, of the stories that are told by people who claim there has been angelic intervention in their lives when for a moment they were aware of an angelic presence which gave them a message preventing them from some harm or perhaps curing them from some disease.

There is a remarkable story about a woman named Ann Cannady who in 1977 had been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer. She was scheduled for surgery but it was doubtful if surgery would really help. Her husband's first wife had died from the same type of cancer, so it was a very frightening situation for them. They did a lot of praying. She prayed not for a cure but for a quick and painless death, as she did not want her husband to go through another long and difficult time as he had endured with his first wife. One morning, just three days before the surgery, her husband answered a nock at the door. Standing there was a very large black man with deep blue eyes. He introduced himself simply as Thomas, and then he told Ann that her cancer was gone. He came into the house and told them that they should stop worrying about the cancer. Then he quoted a statement from Isaiah 53:5, "and with his stripes we are healed." When Ann asked who he was he said, "I am Thomas. I am sent by God." He held up his hand towards her and she felt a tremendous heat coming from it; then she collapsed and felt a strong white light travel through her body from her feet upward. She passed out and when she awoke her husband was leaning over her, comforting her. Thomas had gone. She immediately called her doctor, who did not believe her and said that stress from worrying was causing her to say things she did not mean. She finally agreed to show up for the surgery if the doctor would agree to do another biopsy before proceeding with the full surgery. This was done and the doctors were amazed to discover that there was absolutely no sign of any cancer left in her. There has been no recurrence of the cancer in the seventeen years that have passed since that occurrence.

The Bible names specific angels such as Michael and Gabriel. Swedenborg says that specific angels are not given specific names just for themselves, but carry the name of the angelic society they come from, on the basis of the function and divine principles that are more prevalent with them. The names represent ministries in heaven.

Being spiritual as part of our humanness means that we are in constant association with people in the purely spiritual condition. "There are with every person at least two evil spirits and two angels. The former excite our evils and falsities, and the latter inspired goods and truths in us. Everything good and true that the angels inspire is of the Lord." It is by means of these two types of spirits that we are kept in a state of equilibrium or balance between good and evil, which is a state of freedom that leaves us the ability to choose which direction we want to go in. The angels would never attempt to influence us beyond the point that we ourselves want to be influenced. Evil spirits, on the other hand, want to control us and enslave us and without protection from the Lord by means of the angels we would be unable to resist them. "The angels who are with a person never make the attack, but always and continually the evil spirits. The angels only avert and defend."

We tend to think that angels are only involved in extra special events or miracles that cannot be account for in scientific terms but in reality they are constantly and quietly working to protect us and to t guide us in the way of the Lord. Isn't it comforting to know that we have such wonderful friends!


Scripture:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, "Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads."

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel...

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

And the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing.

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."


Revelation 7:1-12

Reading from Swedenborg:

It is the angels' office to inspire charity and faith, and to observe in what direction the person's delights turn, and in so far as they can, without interfering with the person's freedom, moderate them and bend them to good. They are forbidden to act with violence and thus break the person's cupidities and principles; but are enjoined to act gently. It is also their office to rule the evil spirits who are from hell, which is done in innumerable ways,  of which the following only may be mentioned. When the evil spirits pour in evils and falsities, the angels insinuate truths and goods, which, if not received, are nevertheless the means of tempering. Infernal spirits continually attack, and the angels protect; such is the order The angels especially regulate the affections, for these make our life, and also our freedom. The angels also observe whether any hells are open that were not open before, and from which there is influx which takes place when we bring ourselves into any new evil. These hells the angels close so far as we allow, and remove any spirits who attempt to emerge therefrom. They also disperse strange and new influxes that produce evil effects. Especially do the angels call forth the goods and truths that are with us, and set them in opposition to the evils and falsities which the evil spirits excite. Thus we are in the midst, and do not perceive either the evil or the good; and being in the midst, we are in freedom to turn ourselves either to the one or to the other. By such means do the angels from the Lord lead and protect, and this every moment, and every moment of a moment; for if the angels were to intermit their care for a single moment, we would be precipitated into evil from which we could never afterward be brought out.

Music: Words of Love
1999 Bruce DeBoer