How legitimate are reports of experiences with angels?
Angels have been a hot topic for several decades. The Inspirational gift market has made a mint from sales of figurines, necklaces, and cute placards extolling the protection and ministry of angels. Guideposts started publication of a magazine called, “Angels On Earth,” and anthologies of stories about angel sightings line bookstore shelves.
My story with an angel encounter could fit right in one of those collections.
I was fifteen and my little local church was fracturing down the middle over, of all things, home bible studies. The traditional group was certain the younger set weren’t acting in proper ways in what was seen as clandestine meetings off church property. One woman with a particularly strong set of opinions, spoke viciously to me about another church member and her wayward ways.
Trying so hard to do Bible things Bible ways and follow the principles of Matthew 18, my mother told me I should confront the woman about her gossip and criticism in private. So I walked to the woman’s house after school the following Wednesday. My efforts were disastrous. I was going down the tubes as fast as everyone else, she told me. This other church member was influencing me to stray from the truth. When I raised my voice in earnest protest, she put a finger to her lips. “My husband isn’t a Christian. He’s asleep in the bedroom. I don’t want him to hear about this conflict.”
I left her home upset and undone. It was the first time I had seen the darker side of church family life. As I walked to my home, I cried. I sobbed. “I love you, Lord, but I hate Your church. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. If this is the way the church acts, take me to Heaven now. I don’t want to be a part of it.” I was so distracted, I was hardly aware that I was approaching a busy four lane street. I started to jaywalk without even stopping to look for oncoming traffic.
A definite force, stronger than a gust of wind, pushed me backward several steps onto the shoulder of the road, making me stumble. Just then, a car whizzed past at 45 miles per hour. If the car had struck me, I would have been killed.
Was it an angel?
I can’t prove that it was. You would have to go only on the report of my experience. I believe it was. But I don’t know that for sure. I do know that an unseen force pushed me out of harms way.
What does the Bible say?
Do angels exist? Do angels protect and minister to God’s people? As always, it’s important to base my beliefs and check my experiences against the Word of God.
Angels are mentioned in the Bible. They:
- Deliver messages from God: An angel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist and to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1)
- Rescue from harm: An angel unlocked the doors of a prison and led the Apostle Peter to safety (Acts 12)
- Protect from danger: An army of angels surrounded the Aramean Army and protected Elisha and his servant (2 Kings 6).
- Worship at the throne of God (Revelations 5:11,12).
- Remove evil from the earth at the end times (Matthew 13:41,42).
I could mention so many other examples. Angels sent to Lot’s house. Angels ministering to Jesus after his temptation in the wilderness. The angel Gabriel announcing the conception of Jesus to Mary. Yes, angels are certainly present in the Bible.
Do each of us have a guardian angel?
Consider Matthew 18:10:
“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”
And check out Hebrews 1:14:
“Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.”
Note carefully that while angels are sent to care for and protect God’s people, the Scriptures never say that each individual has his or her own guardian angel.
Is there a misconception with the current fascination with angels?
If there really are angels, then all these stories, figurines, and posters are good things, right? Not necessarily. Look carefully at the verses I’ve shared. Angels are God’s servants. We err when we give an angel more credit than we give God. Angels are His emissaries, His tools to accomplish His purposes. Angels do not take the place of God. They are not superior to God. Leaving God out of the equation is akin to elevating an angel to the same level as God.
Hebrews 1 makes it very clear that Jesus has pre-eminence over the angels. Our focus should always be on God and His Son Jesus Christ.
We cannot leave God out of the equation. That’s why I would rather say, “God protected me” or “God sent his angel to protect me” rather than, “My guardian angel protected me?” Am I being picky? Yes. Does it matter? Absolutely. We need to give credit where credit is due. Giving an angel credit for our protection is about as silly as giving a hammer credit for driving a nail. Angels are God’s messengers, God’s servants. They do what they do by and only by God’s bidding.
Regarding my experience, what should I say?
Most likely it was God’s angel that pushed me away from that speeding car. I can say with much more confidence that God protected me that day. Like a wind where I only see the impact of an unseen force, I could not see God but I did see the results of His presence and His activity. How and by whom He accomplished that is His business, not mine. I’m more than grateful for the result, no matter how it happened!
Another piece of evidence to God’s presence and involvement that fateful day is in the long term effect that event has had on my life. I believe much more than just my earthly existence was at stake. God certainly saved my life. He also saved the reputation of His holy bride, the Church, in my perceptions.
After I got safely to the other side of the highway, these thoughts went through my brain:
God is mightier than the church. He loves the church far more than I do. He wants for it to succeed. He will take care of His church and He would take care of me.
That moment was pivotal in my life and in the life of that congregation. Forty years later, I serve beside my husband in the located ministry. Believe me, we’ve seen lots worse things than opinionated, gossipy women and rebellious, we-want-to-do-it-our-way young adults. Yet the message of that day has helped me hold on and stand firm more than once. I’m able to weather the storms of working in the local church because I got a front row experience of God’s saving power and that He really is mightier than people who don’t get along with each other.
I love the Church with all her shortcomings because God loves the church and gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25).
What happened to that little local church? Ten years later, it had quadrupled in size. Today, it is a mega-church, serving the east side of Tucson, Arizona in amazing ways. God mended the rift and made the church stronger for the mending. He really did love that church and was mightier than the forces that threatened to tear it apart.
How has God’s unseen presence protected and ministered to you?
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