“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” – Heb. 13:2
In our opening text, entraining strangers is mentioned synonymously with entertaining angels. It is likely that the passage is in reference to the incidents of Abraham and Lot who were hospitable to the angles of God who visited them. As a result, many teach that this verse is a message of Christian duty – to be hospitable to our fellow brother and sisters in the material/physical sense. But, in Abraham’s life, what was of more substance; receiving his guests with kind hospitality or receiving the message which the angels came to impart? Though the two may go hand in hand, to emphasize the former at the expense of the latter is to miss the substance of the message. As we will see, entertaining angels is more than offering food or opening one’s home to a stranger – rather it is openly receiving the Word and Spirit which the stranger comes bearing.
Angels are key figures in the advancement of God’s kingdom program. In the book of Revelation, one of the most important books ever recorded, angels are mentioned over 70 times. Predominant among these are the angels of the seven churches (Rev. 1:20), the mighty angel who had in his hand a little book open and who set his right foot upon the sea and his left foot on the earth (Rev. 10:1-2), the seven angels who sound the seven trumpets (Rev. 8:6), and the seven angels having the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1). These and the various angels which John encounters throughout the book are the spiritual instrument through which the deep things of God are communicated and accomplished. Beneath the symbolism and allegories of the book lies one and only one purpose which the angels of God facilitate – the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Believers and non-believers alike have for long been fascinated with angels. And yet the subject is wrought with misunderstanding and popularized fictions which have no biblical foundation. Religious teachings, books, Christian television, and church murals among others have depicted angels as tall man-like beings clothed in white and having wings and halos. Growing up, I was also taught that believers had the authority to command angels, sending them to accomplish their bidding. And so we prayed commissioning angles to do this and that, to go here and there advancing our will. However, such concepts are distortions of God’s word.
First, it is helpful to understand that that the term ‘angel’ refers more to their office rather than their nature. For example, if one occupies the office of the presidency, this speaks to their role rather than their nature or being. Similarly, an angle is one who occupies the office of a messenger. The Greek word for angel is “Aggelos” which simply means “a messenger” and “one who is sent”. The root word “ago” means “to bring”, “carry”, “to take with one” or “to lead with one’s self as an attendant”. Thus, the phrase ‘angle’ is not identified with a particular nature or order of created being. Angels are simply personal representatives of the sender. This is why an angel can be a messenger of either good or evil. Thus, we read of angels of God, angles of men and angels of Satan.
While in prison, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus which the original Greek refers to as “angels of John”. “And when the messengers (Greek: Aggelos – angel) of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John” (Luk. 7:24). So, were these men angels? In the true sense of the word, yes. They were angles because they were messengers bearing a message from John.
In other instances, we read of angels of Satan. Jesus mentions that the devil and his angels are destined for fire (Mat. 25:41). Paul also speaks of an angle of Satan that was sent to buffet him. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger (Greek: Aggelos – angel) of Satan to buffet me” (2 Cor. 12:7). The point I wish to drive home is that anyone sent with a message is an angel – a messenger.
The use of the term ‘messenger’ instead of ‘angel’ throughout scripture would clarify much misunderstanding. Majority of the mentions of angels in scripture is with regards to the angels of God, which is where we wish to focus our conversation.The going forth of the angels of God signifies a message, an activity, or a ministry coming from the Spirit of God. Every time an angle of God appears in scripture, a word is released, a plan of God is set in motion, and the dispensation of God out of the realm of the Spirit is revealed.
The ministry of angles proceeds from the heavenly realm of the Spirit. Angels are themselves spirits (Psa. 104:4). They are “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14) having been ordained with a divine commission to serve God by assisting those who are to inherit salvation. Thus, the service and ministry of this messenger company is in the invisible realms. Today, we are backed by an innumerable company of angles who are members of the heavenly family working with us to advance the divine purpose of God’s kingdom. However, more often than not, we have neither been conscious of them nor beheld their witness. Thus the call to entertain angels.
Here, we should bear in mind that angels can manifest in different forms. In other words, God can use angels in various ways to relay His message and fulfill His purpose. Therein lies the challenge of classifying angelic begins which those who study Christian angelology attempt to do. To Moses, the angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush (Exo. 3:2). Similarly, the angel of God went before the camp of Israel as a pillar of fire (Exo. 14:19). However, to Abraham and Lot the angels of the Lord appeared as men. To Joseph, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream on various occasions (Mat. 1:20, 2:13). To the shepherds, an angel of the Lord appeared as the light of the glory of the Lord (Luk. 2:8). To Elisha and Ghazi, the angels of God appeared as the horses and chariots of fire (2 Kin. 6:17). To John the angels of the Lord appeared in a vision. The various encounters of men and women with angels are too numerous to list here. But, in them we witness the mystery and diversity of the ministry of the Lord’s angels to His people.
On this matter, J. Preston Eby writes: “God’s messengers, His angels, may be either men in the flesh, or the spirits of departed saints, or any other order of creature from above or beneath, who bears a message from God… Those whose bodies are asleep in Christ, those who are apprehended of the Lord, those who are called and chosen as a part of God’s firstfruit company, those who are faithful – continue to serve, though veiled from our view except on rare occasions, when they may appear visibly to men still in the flesh.”
What joy it is that our present service and ministry is not confined by the limitations of this material realm. There are various instances in scriptures where men in the flesh are referred to as angels. In Luke 7:27, John the Baptist is referred to as an angle by our Lord Jesus – “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger (Greek: Aggelos – angel) ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’”. John was appointed in that age to declare a message of repentance for the coming Kingdom. He was an angle of God who was preparing the way of the Lord. Paul also writes of his gratitude to the Galatians stating: “you received me as an angel of God” (Gal. 4:14). Regarding Stephen, those who sat in the council listening to his anointed testimony “saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).
Furthermore, this company of the Lord’s messengers are made up of the spirits of departed saints who continue to advance His divine agenda beyond the days of their flesh. Of these, Jesus states: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Mat. 22:30). Daniel also refers to the angel Gabriel as a man – “while I was speaking in prayer, THE MAN GABRIEL, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering” (Dan. 9:21).
In one instance, John the revelator had an angelic encounter which is insightful to the things we now speak. In Revelation 22:8-9, as John fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who ministered to him, the angel rebuked him saying: “See that you do not do that. For I am YOUR FELLOW SERVANT, and of YOUR BRETHEREN THE PROPHETS”. In that moment of John’s error, this angel reveals himself as one of the prophets and of his fellow servants. Perhaps he was one of the prophets of old or a fellow saint who ministered during the time of John’s exile in Patmos.
Dear sons, truly we have been caught up to the spiritual Mount Zion and have come to an innumerable company of angels among whom we minister. The Lord of hosts, who is Lord over the heavenly and earthly hosts (the visible and invisible), is now orchestrating this activity and the more we move into the realm of the spirit, the more we will become aware of these heavenly hosts who stand with us and support us in the divine cause of the Kingdom. And how we need to entertain them who come bearing this heavenly ministry.