July 07, 2022

Is It Possible That We Have Entertained Angels Today (Heb. 13:2)?

Nathan W. Bingham & John Tweeddale
Is It Possible That We Have Entertained Angels Today (Heb. 13:2)?

Hebrews 13:2 instructs us to show hospitality to strangers, “for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Is it possible that Christians today have opened their homes to angels? Today, John Tweeddale explains the meaning of this passage.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining me on the Ligonier campus this week is Dr. John Tweeddale. He's the vice president of academics and professor of theology at Reformation Bible College. Dr. Tweeddale, when showing hospitality to strangers, is it possible, as Hebrews 13:2 says, that we may have entertained angels?

DR. JOHN TWEEDDALE: Yes, it is possible. But is that the main point of the passage? When you look at Hebrews 13:2, you've got to read it in the context of the Book of Hebrews and chapter 13 in particular. Hebrews is essentially a sermon and chapter 13 is the conclusion. And like a good preacher, in Hebrews 13, the author is landing the plane of his sermon and so he's giving a series of final exhortations.

And we have a clue to that because several times in Hebrews 13, you have these comments, "Do not neglect what you have been taught. Remember the teaching of your leaders." And so the author is trying to sum up what he has taught in the preceding sections. Well, all of this is introduced in the opening six verses of chapter 13, and I would encourage the listeners even to stop now and go and read Hebrews 13 verses one to six, because there's a series of exhortations that center on the command to love.

So for example, in chapter 13, verse one of Hebrews, you have a command to love the brethren. That is brothers and sisters in Christ, love the church of the Lord Jesus Christ as Christians were called to love all who are united to the Lord Jesus Christ. Love the church. Love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Then you have a series of exhortations that flesh out that principle of love. We're to love the persecuted church. We're to remember those in chains. We're to love our spouses. We're not to love money, and we're to love God first and foremost.

And right in the middle of these exhortations to love, we have a command to love the stranger, because essentially, that is what hospitality is. It's to love the stranger, to love someone, not like you, to love someone who may not reciprocate your love, but to sacrificially give and demonstrate the love of God in Christ Jesus. And the logic is simple. As God has loved us in Christ, we are to love others. And it's right in that context of loving the stranger that we have this enigmatic phrase in verse two of chapter 13, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for thereby some have entertained angels."

Now, what is all of this about? Well, I think the author here in Hebrews 13 is referring to an account in Genesis 18 and Genesis 19. In Genesis 18, Abraham, Father Abraham, the great patriarch of the faith, Abraham is served by three mysterious figures in Genesis 18. And we learn these three figures are the Lord of Glory himself and two angelic messengers. Then we're told in chapter 19 that the two angels go to Sodom and are refused hospitality. And so we have an illustration of a believing community. Believers show hospitality and, in many ways, unbelievers, or fruit of unbelief, is a lack of hospitality.

And so the point is this. You never know how God might bless you through others. And so be generous. And the argument is similar to the old adage, you never know who is watching you so be on your best behavior. The point is to show the love of Christ to anyone and to everyone, and you may in fact be entertaining angels. We have no idea. I think as modern people, we live in a world that is mechanistic and material, and we believe it's closed off to divine and supernatural intervention. But as Christians, we know that God intervenes in ways that we cannot fully know. But it's not for us to discern whether we're entertaining angels or not. The command is to love the stranger, regardless of who it is we're caring for. And I think that is the heart of Hebrews 13:2.