Angels serve the purposes of God, not man. We are seduced into Satan’s rebellion against God when we give angels our worship, even in well-meant ignorance.
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18)
I believe absolutely that angels can and do intervene in the affairs of mankind. This is part of their purpose in God. Having a daughter narrowly escape death twice, I have no doubt that they are real and can achieve the miraculous to save and deliver. The notion of ‘guardian’ or ‘ministering’ angels – a wonderful gift of grace to struggling humanity – has, however, been perverted by wrong teaching or lack of guidance and instruction. A simple internet search will reveal a growing plethora of websites, products, books, and ‘manuals’ on how to identify and interact with your ‘personal angel.’ While the motive behind it may be intrinsically ‘good’—a desire for the spiritual things of God—angels have, tragically, become a doorway to deception. Satan has used what God has designed for our good to seduce us to destruction.
An overview of angels.
It’s impossible to do a full study in this short devotional, but we can capture the fundamental truth to guide us. When God first created man, He made him a little lower than the angels. Through Christ, man will ultimately—because we are in Christ and will rule with Him—take a higher place than the angels. In other words, we will be elevated once we exist fully in spirit. Until then, however, God’s hierarchy remains in place. Jesus alone, the ‘firstborn’ of God’s new creation, has returned to His original position in heaven as the Son of God and King of Glory. This places Him above the angels. For now, however, mankind remains in his original position a little lower than the angels. It’s critically important that we hold fast to this truth, because not doing so is the first step to deception.
Angels were created to serve God. There are different types of angels – worship, ministering, guardian, avenging, arch-angels (rulers of spiritual kingdoms), etc. This means that angels are each assigned specific roles – their purpose in God. The angelic realm is also structured in a hierarchy, with different ranks and levels, each more powerful than those below. What’s critical here is to know that everything relating to the ‘good angels’ applies identically to the ‘bad angels.’ When Satan rebelled, and was expelled from heaven, he took approximately a third of the angels with him. What this means is angels of light, who serve God, and angels of darkness, who serve Satan. Very simply, some angels work with God for our good, and the others work with Satan to destroy us. There is no nuetral ‘Switzerland’ in the kingdom of God.
Error #1 – Angels serve mankind.
Hebrews 1:14 is often the starting point of this error: Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? The misunderstanding here comes in with the notion of ‘serve’ which renders angels as serving mankind rather than God. They are sent by God to minister – to help us, encourage us, etc. There is an aspect of servanthood attached, but it has the same relevance as the servanthood of Christ. Jesus lowered Himself to minister on earth at the Father’s command. The angels do the same. While angels do minister to us, they are not the servants of mankind. They serve God alone. In ministering to mankind, they obey the commands of God to do so.
Their purpose is never to obey the commands or requests of mankind. This is a foundational error with which the devil and his angels seduce us into deception. It is the beginning of what has become in general a ‘cult of angels’ that sweep in the unsuspecting under the guise of ‘biblical truth.’ Nowhere in the Bible is there ever a mention or example of human beings having angels at their beck and call. Were this the case, history might have been written very differently. A good example is that of Elisha and his servant going out to meet the Syrian army. Elisha prays and his servant sees the angelic host sent to aid them. But Elisha did not command them, God did. He had no control over their being there or what they actually did. All Elisha did was acknowledge and reveal their presence.
Error #2 – We can pray to or summon angels.
This deception is a small shift from the previous error, but far more dangerous. Many of the ‘angel manuals’ or teachings encourage us to talk to our angels. We should get to know them by name and interact with them. Worse, we should thank them and call them or ask them for help when we need them. Once again, the Bible makes no provision for any human being summoning an angel or having any communication with them outside of that designated by God – as an example, the discourse between Daniel and the angel who came with a message from God. This error puts us immediately into the realm of rebellion and idolatry. The moment we ‘thank’ anything outside of God, we are effectively giving that ‘anything’ the glory that is due God alone. We are rebelling against God who states over and over that He alone is our help.
In the spirit realm, the moment we establish a relationship of intimacy with a spirit being other than God, we effectively put them in the place of God. He intends that spiritual intimacy be reserved for Him alone. Anything that comes between God and our worship of Him is a false God. What we’re effectively saying is that we don’t need God because He has given us angels to take His place. We may think we are giving ‘honour’ to beings created by God to aid us, but we can never glorify God by default through His created beings. Angels are not a short-cut to God’s help. They are created to help us, but it is only at the command of God. If we feel the need for angelic aid, the only thing we can do is ask God to send his angels.
Error #3 – Angels serve God’s purpose by serving ours.
This is very dangerous territory indeed. The presumption is that based on the preceding ones but is an entirely new level of deception. It works like this: God sends angels to serve us. They are therefore sent to do what we want. Because they are sent by God, they serve His purposes by serving ours. In other words, God wants them to do whatever we ask or command them to do. This is the full extent to which many – including believers – have fallen. It denies the very crux of the cross and sovereignty of God. It raises our purposes above those of God. Where God demands surrender and humility, we raise ourselves up as equal to God by attempting to usurp His authority over the angels. In other words, we make ourselves ‘like God’ – just as Satan did.
Our example here is Christ. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53). What was the reason why Jesus did not ask? It was the purposes of God. He lived in surrender to the perfect will of God, even at the cost of His own suffering and death. As the Son of God, He absolutely could ask and had no doubt that He would receive. But it defeated the purpose of God in His life. Angels are never sent to make our lives more comfortable. They are sent to strengthen, succour, and empower us to live the purposes of God. We, like they, are servants of the King. It is rebellion and idolatry – making a god of self – to think otherwise. We cannot presume where Jesus would not.
The spiritual danger of angel cults.
Cult seems like a harsh word, particularly when most people are drawn by the relationship of angels to God and His purposes. On the surface, it seems wholesome and biblical. The danger, however, lies in the truth that there are dark angels as well as those of light. Simply do an internet search on ‘angel products’ or similar keywords. Online, we can purchase any image, ornament, candle, book, key ring, etc. with an angel theme. The options are virtually limitless. Those pulled into this deception surround themselves with idols from screensavers to jewellery. They all look good – they’re ‘holy’ angels after all – but they are the trappings of worship. Worse, they do it in both ignorance and in the presumption that it is a provision of God. The reality is that Satan has continued the work he started in heaven.
We know that when he aspired to God’s position, he seduced a third of the angels to support him. Those who remained with God must be a constant reminder of his failure and defeat. What better way continue the battle than by seducing mankind to give glory to the angels instead of to God? The massive and almost obsessive fascination with the angelic realm perverts the things of light by misrepresenting them. It is Satan’s ploy to ‘convert’ us to his cause and to cut us off from the pure purposes of God. A cult is defined as: a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object; a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society. Because of the spiritual implication behind the angel obsession, both these definitions combine to create a cult of dangerous proportions.
How to avoid angel deception.
The Bible tells us that Satan can masquerade as an angel of light. The reality is that few of us have the spiritual discernment to tell the difference. What may seem good may be the worst evil imaginable. There are, however, some biblical guidelines – some ‘for instances’ that can help us ‘test the spirit.’ The first is that an angel always speaks and does the Word, will, and purpose of the Lord. If these don’t line up, it’s not of God. Period. If, for example, we are encouraged to ‘build relationship’ with our angel, it’s directly in opposition to the teaching of the Bible. It’s deception and not of God. The second is that angels only appeared in visible form if there was a particular purpose in doing so. Hebrews 13:2, for example, points out that we are more often than not completely unaware of angelic activity or visitations.
Where there was a visible manifestation with an actual identification, there was always a corresponding response of reverential fear and awe. In other words, the angel came ‘officially’ as a representative of God. His authority was confirmed by the reflection of the glory and power of God. This does not stir up the kind of fear that demonic spirits would do. It is holy fear – the fear of the Lord. Examine the instances of angelic visitations and you will see this clearly. If ‘your angel’ does not inspire a reverential fear and awe of the Lord, it’s not of God. Finally, angels never remained. They never hung around to become best buds or establish relationship. They did what God commanded and left. Any angel that is willing to stay is not of God. It’s a familiar spirit seeking legal right to remain.
Angels and our heavenly reward.
Today’s verse is the warning that sums up the rather scary seduction that is sweeping so many into deception. Paul warns us to be cheated out of our earthly reward. The angel cult leads us into rebellion and idolatry. It turns us from true worship in humility and surrender. Our pride is our greatest weakness – our assumption that we know what is good and what is not. Ignorance leads us to foolishness that exalts ourselves and fallen angels to the place that is God’s alone. The spiritual realm is not an amusement park created for our gratification. It’s a harsh battleground and a struggle to the death. If we elevate ourselves above the angels before God’s time, we risk our promised eternity. We must not be deceived into joining Satan’s rebellion.
Almighty God, Lord of All, we come in humility and repentance today for moments where we may have been deceived. Open our eyes, Lord, and reveal to us where we have gone astray. Help us to discern what is of You and what is not. Guard us from the temptation of presumption. We thank You for Your angels and for the assurance that they are there to aid us. We know that all Your purposes are for good, whether they are visible or not. Help us to look to You and not the angels in all things, and to rest in faith that when they are needed, You will be sure to command them. Above all, create in us a hunger to worship You in Spirit and Truth, so that our eternal reward will remain assured in You.