But to which of the angels has He ever said:
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1.13, 14
Things hoped for, things unseen
True saving and sanctifying faith takes as its object things inaccessible to our physical eyes, but visible through the eyes of the heart (Eph. 1.15-23). As the writer of Hebrews defines such faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11.1 my translation, emphasis added). It behooves us, for the sake of increasing in faith, to become familiar with those unseen, hoped-for things. Or, as Jonathan Edwards put it in his sermon, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven”, “Labour after more and more of those principles from whence the praise of the saints in heaven doth arise. You have already heard that the saints in heaven do praise the Lord so fervently, because they see Him; labour therefore that you, though you have not an immediate vision of God, as they have, may yet have a clear spiritual sight of Him, and that you may know more of God, and have frequent discoveries of Him made to you.”
Seeing Jesus, exalted in glory, depends, in the first place, on seeing Him clearly as He is revealed in the gospels, when He walked among us. Seeing that same Jesus, now glorified, exalted, and enthroned in majesty on high, requires some effort, an effort which will seem strange, unfamiliar, or perhaps even unwise to some.
But Paul exhorts us to such efforts when he writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3.1, 2). It is our duty and privilege to increase in “clear spiritual sight” of Jesus and the glory that surrounds Him in heavenly places. This is the burden of our study overall, and particularly in this part of our study, as we focus on what Scripture reveals about Jesus, exalted, enthroned, and ruling in majesty at the right hand of God.
Let’s consider yet one more facet of the ascension and exaltation of Jesus, to see why it is so important that we understand this.
Subjection of angels
Daniel showed us that, in the throne room of the ancient of days, a “thousand thousands ministered to Him” (Dan. 7.10). These were both angels and departed saints, each with their own specific calling in relation to the glory of God. The saints who have preceded us to glory, principally serve God in two ways, as is revealed in Revelation 4 and 5. First, as Edwards explained, they sing His praises; second, they bear our prayers before Him as if our prayers were bowls of incense. I do not presume to know all of what that means; at the very least, however, the saints in glory seem to have some role in making our prayers presentable to God. We have no instruction from Scripture directing us to pray to saints. But Scripture does reveal the saints functioning in somewhat of an intercessory role for us. Presumably, that role continues to this day.
Thus, the more we pray, the more the court of heaven fills with the fragrance of myrrh, aloes, and cassia; and our prayers already begin to bring glory to God in heaven through the work of the saints above.
But there is more.
Prior to Jesus’ exaltation, all angelic beings were subject to God the Father. We know that God sent angels from time to time as messengers or as helpers for His people. Jesus acknowledged that the angels were subject to the Father, Who could dispatch them to His aid, if Jesus so chose (cf. Matt. 27.53). Angels are frightening and power spiritual beings. When angels appear to human beings in Scripture, the people immediately fall down in terror. In fact, a common greeting of angels to humans is, “Fear not.” Angels are so powerful that, as Jerome once observed, a single one of them struck down 185,000 Assyrians in one night! They are so strong, that they can hold back and direct the winds of the earth (Rev. 7.1).
Peter tells us that, as Jesus assumed His throne in heaven, God the Father put the angels under His command. Jesus, he wrote, “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Pet. 3.22). The millions of angels are now available to Jesus to serve us as He pleases, to go where He sends them, to use them to serve those who believe, that we might fulfill our callings to be witnesses to Jesus, make disciples, build His Church, advance His Kingdom, and live to the glory of God.
We do not expect to see angels as we go about our daily tasks in pursuit of our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God (Heb. 13.1, 2). But can we see them, at the ready before Jesus, awaiting His orders to rush to our aid, in unseen and largely unacknowledged ways, to help and enable us to realize more of our Kingdom-and-glory calling from the Lord? The book of Acts gives us just enough of a glimpse at the workings of angels that we should be encouraged to believe that they are attending to and serving us; and that as long as it is the will of the Lord, we will have all their strength and power available for our every need.
And still there is more.
From the Old Testament, it seems that, although Satan’s rebellion against God was foiled early on, yet the deceiver and his ilk still had access to the heavenly realms, for accountability to God for their doings. This seems clear from Job 1 and 2. They were still under the power and authority of God the Father; but they had some, if only minimal access, to the heavenly realm.
With the ascension and exaltation of Jesus, all that changed. Jesus charged the great angel Michael to cast the devil and all his henchmen from out of the heavenly realm, once and for all, so that there was no longer “a place found for them in heaven” (Rev. 12.5-8). Satan and his angels were cast to the earth, where they wage a ferocious spiritual warfare against the saints of God.
A warfare that they might ultimately prevail in, were it not for one thing: Jesus has bound them in spiritual chains of restriction, preventing them from promulgating their lies to all people, and preserving His saints from their worst ravages (Matt. 12.22-29). Satan’s punishment now is to watch helplessly as Jesus plunders his holdings, winning souls for salvation, restoring the creation to its beauty, causing His goodness to abound in all kinds of cultural forms, and shrinking the bounds of Satan’s dominion day by day.
We are the beneficiaries of Satan’s fall. We have the Spirit of God, sent from Jesus and the Father. Angels are at work throughout the world.
And all this is orchestrated, directed, and sustained by the watchful eyes and powerful Word of our glorious and exalted King. The more “frequent discoveries” we make of Jesus, exalted in glory, the more our hope, our confidence, and our power to follow Him will increase as well.
1. How should we expect angels to help us in our walk with and work for the Lord?
2. What must we do to prevail in the spiritual warfare that Satan inflicts on us?
3. How can we glorify God through our prayers?
Next steps – Transformation: Thank God for angels and departed saints, ever before Him in glory, and ever at work for His glory through your life.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.