GOD’S HOLY ANGELS
by Demetri J. George
About a month ago while we were driving in our car, our children asked the question, "Are God's Angels strong?" I did not have the answer for them at that time. Then that same week Father Joseph assigned this paper on Angels to me. God saw fit that I should spend this past month studying about His Holy Angels. This study has given me a knowledge that will comfort me forever. I hope I can communicate this knowledge to you through The Word.
The title of my paper is "God's Holy Angels." I use the words, God's Holy Angels, to emphasize the special place Angels hold in God's creation. We use the word angel lightly here on earth as an endearing term, and of course there is Satan and his fallen angels. My paper is not about the fallen angels. It is about the faithful Angels, God's Holy Angels.
Angels belong to a uniquely different dimension of creation, which our limited minds find it difficult to understand. God has given His Holy Angels special knowledge, mobility, and power to act as His ambassadors, His messengers, and His ministers helping to perform His Holy work.
What do we know about Angels? Our knowledge of Angels comes chiefly from the Bible where they are mentioned hundreds of times. The Bible tells us that there are literally untold numbers of Angels. Many times the Bible speaks of thousands of Angels. For example ten thousand Angels came down on Mount Sinai when God gave Moses His law. So we may be immediately relieved that there are enough Angels to act as guardians and messengers to us all.
It is also evident without doubt that there is an organization of Angels in terms of authority and glory. The Bible mentions nine classes or orders of Angels: Archangels, Angels, Princedoms, Powers, Virtues, Dominations, Thrones, Seraphims, and Cherubims. There is great theological discussion as to the significance of these orders. Do some Angels have a higher place in Heaven? Do some Angels have a special place at God's side? Do some Angels have a special function?
One answer seems to be in the word, "order". Just as in all of God's creation there is order, so He created Angels in an orderly fashion. They seem to be organized according to function just as a large company may have a maintenance department, a secretarial staff, and a public relations department or an army has artillery, tanks, and infantry. So the divisions or orders of Angels have special functions as messengers, guardians, and comforters.
There is even a special class of Angels to specifically glorify God. Seraphim comes from the Hebrew word, "love". We see in the Bible the Six-Winged Seraphim glorifying God.
Cherubims glorify God and also act as guards. They guarded the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve had to leave the garden.
God has made known to us the names of three of His Holy Angels: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
Michael is the patron saint of some of our churches and is shown on the Iconostasis just south of the North Door. He is an Archangel and his name implies chief or first Angel. His function in God's order of Angels is in the department of administration. He also has the most important job as the chief of staff in the war against Satan. In the Book of Revelations it says, "There was war in Heaven, Michael and his Angels fought against the Dragon. The Dragon fought and his angels prevailed not and the great Dragon was cast out." This is depicted on our Icon; Michael leads his Angels in the continued struggle against Satan, the Dragon, and all evil forces.
Gabriel is the messenger Angel. He has delivered all the most important messages. He is shown on the South Door of the Iconostasis. In the Book of Daniel, Gabriel tells of the End Time and what it will be like. Gabriel told the aging Zacharias of the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist. Gabriel told the Beloved Virgin Mary of the forthcoming Birth of Jesus Christ.
Raphael is only mentioned in the Book of Tobit, a book found only in the Orthodox Bible. Raphael guided Tobias, son of Tobit, to drive away the demon and find the right way of life.
God has given His Holy Angels special powers. He has given them great mobility and speed. So Angels are pictured with wings on Icons. He has given them great strength. An example is the strength to move the stone at the sepulcher at Jesus Christ's Resurrection. He has given them great knowledge of where and when to help each of us. Angels may be invisible or visible. If the Bible says the Angel of the Lord appeared, visibility is implied. If the Bible says the Angel of the Lord came in a dream, invisibility is implied. With these great powers God's Holy Angels have done great things. They saved Daniel from the lions. They helped Peter escape from prison. They saved Paul from shipwreck at sea.
So we have the answer to my children's question, "Are God's Angels strong?" The answer is, "Yes, God's Holy Angels are strong. They are powerful. They are wonderful."
The question may be asked, "Why did God create the Angels? Certainly God does not need them." The answer might be the same as why He created light, earth, water, trees, animals, and man himself. The Book of Genesis says, "It was good." God created Angels because He thought their presence would be good, and their presence has been good. Their presence has been good in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. However, their presence is not limited to Biblical times. Angels are present today. They are doing good works today. Angels are here today delivering messages, guarding us from danger, and giving us comfort in time of grief.
Not long ago while driving to Houston, we had a flat tire. I did not know how to work the jack. It was raining. There was little traffic on the highway. A man drove up on the feeder road. We just happened to stop in front of his house. He asked if he could help and he quickly fixed our flat. Was this coincidence or did an Angel tell him to come?
How many times have you thought about a friend or relative, called him, and found him in need of help? Did an Angel give you this information?
When I was in the service, stationed at a desolate place in West Texas, Fort Hood, I was driving to the camp on a lonely road at two o'clock in the morning. My car stopped in the middle of the road. It would not start. It would not steer. What was I to do? In less than a minute, a car appeared with two young men. They said, "We're mechanics at Fort Hood. Let's see what's wrong." They looked under the car and said, "All it needs is a bolt and we just happen to have the right bolt." They got the bolt, fixed the car, and drove off into the night. I myself drove off also in less than five minutes from when I had stopped. I never saw those men again. Were Angels involved in helping me? I think they were.
When my father died, our family was at his bedside. We said, "Let us read from the Bible." We read the first place upon which the Bible opened. It happened to be the most comforting of all chapters of the Bible, Chapter 14, The Book of St. John. It reads, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Did an Angel come to comfort us? I think he did.
I believe Angels are real. They are plentiful. They are strong. They are here today. They guard us from physical danger and protect us from evil. They give us important messages. They comfort us in time of grief.
Dr. Demitri J. George is a member of the St. Michael Church of Beaumont, Texas, where he teaches Church School.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America