The New Testament begins with a great soap-opera. An engagement, an unplanned pregnancy, and a depressed young lover ready to end the relationship. That’s where we find the ministry of angels in the first chapter of Matthew. God chose to validate Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Spirit to Joseph via an angel in a dream. Not only that, the angel announced the gospel to him: that child will save God’s people from their sins.
Luke writes that another angel announced the gospel, Messiah has arrived, to some shepherds and a great army of angels joined him in worship. Later, before Jesus even began His ministry, Satan appeared with temptations but Jesus stood strong and Mark tells us angels were sent to minister to Him.
Even today when one sinner turns in repentance there is joy released in the presence of the angels of God (Luke 15:10) because they represent believers to God (Matt. 18:10). Not only that, when that child of God is ready for his entrance into heaven, it’s angels who escort them (Luke 16:22)!
Angels were active at the end of Jesus’ ministry as well. When He was crying out to God on the Mount of Olives, His Father sent angels, again, to strengthen Him for the mission. At the empty tomb an earthquake allowed an angel entrance to descend from heaven and roll back the stone. It was that angel who spoke to the women at the tomb with a message for the disciples of His resurrection and instructions where to see Him again.
The ministry of angels didn’t end with the resurrection, it continued throughout the book of Acts with the formation of the early church. Philip, Cornelius, Peter, Paul, and John all had angelic encounters to direct, deliver, or instruct them on their assignment. John, whose book reveals the end of days, has three times the number of angelic appearances than any book of the Bible.
Is there a role for angels in the church today? Paul thought so. He admitted that he felt like he was on display, a spectacle to the world, as he suffered in ministry (1 Cor. 4:9) before angels and men. However, he helps us in the church to understand that ministry. In his instructions to Pastor Timothy regarding the correction of elders (1 Tim. 5:17-21) he cautions them that God, Christ Jesus, and the highest angels are observing. Judging is part of the church’s authority and we’d better get it right because we’ll be judging the world and the angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3) after Jesus’ return.
Lastly, the love we show within the church reflects the love we show outside the church. That’s the bottom line. When we join together in corporate worship, angels join us (Heb. 12:22-23), and when we show hospitality, love to others, we should keep in mind that it could be angels we’re entertaining (Heb. 13:1-2). Love one another, church, all of heaven is watching.