Messengers of God
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary” (vv. 26–27).- Luke 1:5–38
As we consider the biblical teaching on the angelic host, we see that there are various tasks that angels perform. Passages such as Daniel 10:12–14; 12:1 indicate that some angels help direct the affairs of nations and do battle in the heavenlies. Isaiah 6:1–7 and Revelation 4 tell us that some angels spend time in the heavenly throne room, continually worshiping our most holy God. But there is at least one more task that the angels perform, and that is to serve as messengers of God to His people.
Interestingly, the Greek word angelos, which we translate into English as “angel,” has as its most important referent the idea of carrying a message, not supernatural activity. Sometimes, Scripture refers to a human being as an angelos, for the term simply means “one who brings or carries a message.” But when we see angels bringing messages in Scripture, we should pay careful attention. After all, some of the most important events in the history of redemption involve God’s sending messages to His servants through the angels.
Consider, for example, the birth of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and the birth of the Savior to Mary (Luke 1:5–38). The interchange between Gabriel and Zechariah is remarkable. Seeing Gabriel struck Zechariah with great fear, which tells us how rare it was for angels to appear to human beings (vv. 5–12). We also see Gabriel exercising authority over Zechariah, telling him that he must name his son “John” and that John must not consume strong drink (vv. 13–17). This authority does not belong to Gabriel inherently, but the angel possesses it because he has a message sent from God. When angels speak on behalf of the Lord, their message carries the weight of His authority. The same is true of the prophets and Apostles who wrote sacred Scripture. We hold the Bible as our only infallible authority and final arbiter of truth because it is inspired by God and its writings speak on behalf of the Lord (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
The dialogue between Mary and Gabriel is also striking. She hears that she is to be the mother of the Messiah, the One who will sit on David’s throne and give victory to His people (Luke 1:26–38). As such, Jesus is the greatest messenger from God. He brings a message—the gospel—but He is far greater than any other messenger. He is, in fact, God Himself, and He took on human flesh in order to speak the Word of God to His people (John 1:1–18).
The authority of a message from an angel or anyone else claiming to speak for God depends on whether that person actually is speaking God’s message. As Paul tells us in Galatians, if even an angel proclaims a gospel other than the Apostolic gospel, that angel is accursed (Gal. 1:8). Whether it is an angel or human preacher doing the talking, the message is to be received only if it is in line with the teaching of the Word of God.
Passages for Further Study
2 Thessalonians 1:5–8