The God Of Angels
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12ESV
Question 19 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What is God’s providence towards the angels?” It gives the answer, “God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.” Last week we examined the doctrine of providence generally. This week we focus specifically on God’s providence concerning angels.
Two things are always in the forefront in any examination of the providence of God: God is all powerful, ruling absolutely over all His creatures, and God is all good, and never does anything evil. Thus, God created all of the angels completely good. Yet, for His own good purposes He permitted some of these good angels to fall away from their goodness and make themselves evil. Scripture affirms that God “permitted some of the angels … to fall into sin and damnation”: Rev. 12:9, so the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. This fall was willful on their part – they became evil because they wanted to and chose to be evil. And this fall was irrecoverable. God has chosen to not provide a way of salvation for angels.
We know the fallen angels as demons. Sometimes they are called evil spirits (Acts 19:12); unclean spirits (Luke 8:2); or deceiving spirits (1 Tim. 4:1). Having fallen, the demons remain spiritual beings, but their natures are now completely corrupted and perverted from what they were. They appear as the mortal enemies of mankind, delighting in acts of deception, cruelty, and wickedness. However, their fall and their ongoing evil acts are not accidental or outside of God’s control, or even merely permitted by God. As the Catechism declares, God sovereignly rules over fallen angels not by a bare permission, but by “limiting and ordering… all their sins to His own glory.” The book of Job is a powerful presentation of this truth, as God not only permits but limits and orders Satan’s evil actions to turn out for God’s glory and for Job’s ultimate vindication and blessing. As Martin Luther has said, “The devil is God’s devil.”
However, according to God’s wise and holy providence, only some of the angels fell. The rest have been established by God “in holiness and happiness.” The angels who refused to join in Satan’s rebellion have been confirmed in righteousness. They are no longer able to fall, even as Christians will one day be confirmed in holiness and no longer able to sin. These righteous angels are sometimes called elect angels (1 Tim. 5:21), or holy angels (Mark 8:38). Like man, they were created to serve God, to work and to be happy in their work, as they enjoy the favor and blessing of God forever.
Psalm 104:4 teaches that God makes His angels like the wind and like fire in serving Him. The book of Hebrews reveals that the angels are sent to serve those who will inherit salvation, (Heb. 1:14). This is exactly what we find throughout the Scriptures in the lives of Jacob, Joshua, Daniel, Zacharias, Mary, Peter, and many others; angels serving God by helping men to know His will and live out their faith. The powers that angels display seem to be amazing to us. The Assyrian army is destroyed in one night, the walls of Jericho fall down flat, Daniel’s prayers are answered, the Syrian army is struck blind, Seventy thousand men in Israel fall in a plague, Sodom and Gomorrah are consumed, the chains fall off of Peter and the prison doors open, Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, and so on and on! And yet how much more amazing to consider that these powerful beings were created and are ruled over by our great God so that all that they are and all that they do are perfectly ordered for His glory and for our good!