February 5, 2015

Touched by an Angel?

by Lyndon Unger

Hi-Ho Cripplegate readers!kermit_the_frog

 

As you know, I have been somewhat sporadic in posting on the Cripplegate as of late.  The reason for this is that Fred Butler and I have been re-working our responses to Michael Brown’s book Authentic Fire and and preparing them to become a book.  Being the somewhat perfectionist Bible-geek that I am, I’ve re-tooled all the posts from which this book has spawned and have added over 50 pages of new material.  Most of it is in rather obsessively copious endnotes (it’s going to be released on Kindle, so footnotes aren’t an option), but I recently wrote a footnote that turned into quite the study project.  Knowing that the book Authentic Fire is somewhat “old news” but questions about Charismatic issues are not, I’ve added a whole lot of content to the upcoming book that will hopefully make it a far more valuable resource than just a book critique.  I promise you that if you pick up a copy, the endnotes will be more than worth the price alone.

The endnote was part of a response to Steve Alt’s appendix in Authentic Fire.  Alt suggests that God still communicates with believers via angelic messengers (among other things).  I started responding to the point, but then I fell into my rut: I realized that I hadn’t ever really dug into what the Bible says on that specific issue and I don’t like not knowing.  So I decided to set aside a few hours for study.  After all my study, I came to a conclusion that actually surprised me.  When I get surprised I’m guessing that I learned something that other people probably might be interested in as well (and possibly don’t know), so I figured that I would share my findings with all  my wonderful fellow Bible geeks here on the Cripplegate.

So what does the Bible say about angelic visitations?
Trout

Here’s the fruit of a few hours of study that will end up as an endnote that few will likely read:

Here’s a list of every single non-theophany angelic visitation in scripture: Gen. 18:1-19:22, 32:1; 1 Kings 13:18; Dan. 3:24-28, 6:21; Zech. 1-6, Matt. 1:20, 2:13, 2:19, 4:11, 28:1-7, Mark 1:13; Luke 1:18-19, Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:8-15, 24:23; John 20:12, Acts 5:19, 8:26, 10:3, 12:7-10, 12:23, 27:23, Revelation 1-22 (The whole book is essentially a singular vision involving angelic communication). I don’t include theophanies (i.e. “the angel of the Lord/angel of God”) in the Old Testament since he was Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes back to earth to visit, I dare suggest that people are not going to miss it.

Processing all that data, there are a few things to notice:

1. In all 4,000+ years of Biblical history, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, the Old prophet at Bethel, Daniel, the prophet Zechariah, Joseph, Mary, Mary’s cousin Zechariah, Jesus, the Shepherds, Mary Magdalene, “the other Mary”, Herod, Peter, Philip, Cornelius, and Paul all experienced angelic visitations from God. The old prophet at Bethel was lying (1 Kin. 13:18) and Herod got killed by his visiting angel (Acts 12:23).

 

Angel Gun

That leaves fifteen people in all biblical history.

2. Of those fifteen people, two were patriarchs.  One was the relative/companion of a patriarch.  Two were Old Testament prophets. Two were the parents of the Messiah. One was a parent of John the Baptist; forerunner to the Messiah. One was the Messiah. The shepherd’s were witnesses of the birth of the Messiah. Mary and Mary were witnesses of the resurrection of the Messiah. Three were apostles of the Messiah.

That leave one guy: Cornelius. That’s one guy who wasn’t a patriarch, a relative/companion of a patriarch, prophet, apostle, or directly involved in the birth or resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Still, Cornelius was part of the foundation of the church (namely the inclusion of the Gentiles).

3. Historically speaking, the patriarchs were involved with the initial establishment of the nation of Israel.  Daniel and Zechariah were involved in the captivity and return from the captivity (another highly significant time in Israel’s history).  The rest of the people were involved in the birth and resurrection of Jesus or the establishing of his church.

Anyone else seeing a pattern?

It sure looks like angelic messengers were only active at three distinct periods in biblical history: the establishment of Israel, the return from the Captivity, and the life of Christ.

Just to cover my bases and anticipate complainers, I recognize that Hebrews 13:2 suggests more people than the ones I’ve listed have received angelic visitations. The problem is that Hebrews suggests that the people who get angelic visitors are unaware of who’s visiting them.  Contemporary people who fall into that category aren’t going to be talking about their visitations since they don’t know it happened.  The fact that the author of Hebrews knows about angelic visitations doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who were visited somehow “figured it out”.  It may be, and I’d argue more likely, that the Holy Spirit revealed that specific fact to the author.

Angel

So, on the basis of the Biblical data alone, I wouldn’t say that angelic visitations are incredibly rare. Actually, I’d say that they’re over until the tribulation. I have rather compelling Biblical grounds to suggest that anyone who claims to have been visited by an angel is wrong.  Something certainly happened but whatever it was, it wasn’t a visit from an angel.

I hope that helps sort through some debates that you may find yourself involved with in days to come!

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Robert Sakovich

    Good work, Lyndon. I am glad you tackled Hebrews 13:2, too. It’s funny because that text is pretty clear that people didn’t know they were entertaining angels…really the intent is just that we are hospitable to all because in the course of doing so we might unwittingly entertain angels. Now if only we could do a study on how many pudgy little baby angels show up in Scripture…ha!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Robert! Funny thing about some of the artists in previous centuries who painted the pudgy angels was that they thought they were painting Cherubim. “Fat babies with wings” isn’t exactly how the Bible describes the Cherubim.

  • Johnny

    Some good thoughts on this topic. I’m just glad that ‘weeping angel’ image wasn’t one of those creepy animated gifs that pops and scares mild readers like me…

    • Lyndon Unger

      I try to be sensitive to the sensitive. You’re welcome!

      • Chris

        But Lyndon, the image of a Weeping Angel becomes a Weeping Angel. Thanks a lot! Now I can’t blink ever again.

        You should’ve posted a compass and protractor instead.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Compass and protractor?

          You KNOW that then I would have got accusations of putting strange masonic symbols in the article or not knowing how to spell, right?

  • Linda Rice

    Lyndon, I so appreciate your diligent study!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks!

  • MR

    It seems like the majority of false religions originate from supposed angelic visits.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Very true. If only the Cripplegate was around around 200 years ago, maybe this post would have been forwarded to Mr. Smith (among others).

  • Confusing part right after the picture of the dude with the gun:
    /*That leaves fifteen people in all biblical history.
    2. Of those fourteen people, two were patriarchs.*/

    Maybe you should modify that to Of those 15 people?

    I agree that we likely entertain angels unawares. Good study!

    • Fred Butler

      The prophet at Bethel lied. He didn’t see an real angel, hence 14. That’s how I am figuring it.

      Oh. And can I complain with how much I hate Disqus?

    • Lyndon Unger

      I fixed it. Simple typo.

      • Great, thanks!

        • Lyndon Unger

          Did you spot the typo in your correction?

          • No! What’s your correction?

          • Lyndon Unger

            You changed “fourteen” to “15” instead of “fifteen!”

            Ha!

  • Erik Pedersen

    Brilliantly done Lyndon.
    Spot the typo ?
    🙂

    • Lyndon Unger

      Yup. I saw it before I read the comments. There’s always three or four, no matter how many times you edit.

  • Jeff Schlottmann

    After my mother divorced her abusive husband, she believes she watched Jesus walk into her room and sit next to her on her bed and comfort her. She refuses to believe that it was not Jesus. She claims to be saved, but rejects the church, and no man(God) is going to tell her what to do. It’s sad.

    Oh and I don’t mind the typos. Keeps it real.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Jeff. I have heard many a story about similar stuff. “Jesus” has sanctified many a sin in the last few centuries. I’m sure he’s rolling in his…

      …No wait.

      Never mind.

  • Mark Peters

    Lyndon, thank you for the intelligent insight to this subject. My hat is off to you for taking the challenge and researching this topic in the Bible. Excellent work

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Mark! It’s one of those things that gets thrown out a lot but the Bible says a surprising amount upon…namely not a whole lot.

      What it DOES say is fairly condemning of the modern claims of angelic visitations.

      • Mark Peters

        Lyndon, you know it is the same with people who claims they have all those spiritual gifts, signs and wonders etc., that stopped when the Apostle and the 120(?) all passed away. This also includes the verses speaking of signs and wonders. People who claims these things are doing it for their own ego, advantage, cheating people out of their money.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Some people have accused me of thinking such things, yes.

          It is certainly strange how the apostles were poor but their modern counterparts are anything but.

          • Mark Peters

            Excellent point about how poor the apostles were. Bu they were surely rich in the Holy Spirit. (In a good way)

      • Robert Sakovich

        That and dreamers of dreams are both spoken of in not so flattering terms in the NT…yet people still seek that stuff. Sad that the level of Biblical illiteracy is so high.

  • Josh

    This is quite intriguing. Paul said the demons or those of Satan might mask themselves as angels of light. I have engaged in dialogue with Mormons and topics of Islam and assumed that it was possible that Joseph Smith or Muhammed truly were visited by “angels” as alluded to by Paul.

    Also I figured true angels did visit some people because they are called “ministering spirits for those who will inherit salvation.” I never tried to look much further into it because it seems most people who claim to have “visions” seem to know very little about scripture or have little to no grasp of the gospel.

    Thanks for the read!

    • Lyndon Unger

      I’m glad to help out however I can!

      I’d suggest that with the “ministering spirits” idea, you take a look at 2 Kings 2:9-12 and compare it to 2 Kings 6:8-23. The same flaming horses and chariots show up both times. I’d suggest that angels are there, all the time. They’re doing whatever it is they do, but we don’t perceive them. Only in a VERY select few times in all history have people been allowed to see them in action, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not always busy about the Lord’s work.

  • Ed Dipple

    Don’t know if it was an angel , but a spiritual being appeared in my room and gave me a rebuke telling me I could not do the thing I had just purposed to do . I could see it but I couldn’t see it , it spoke to me not in words but in concepts . It seemed to be hundreds if feet tall yet still in my small room . The voice I heard sounded somewhat like the sound of an earthquake .
    Once before I started hearing a heavenly choir singing the most beautiful comforting music I have ever heard . Later one of my mentors openly wept when i told him about this . He said that at the very time I had this experience , he was praying for angels to surround me and comfort me .
    So you think we were both wrong ?

    • Lyndon Unger

      Ed, I don’t doubt that you had some sort of experience.

      We all have difficult to understand/categorize experiences. The bottom line is that Scripture gives us parameters through which to interpret our experiences, and scripture tells us to not rest our trust in God on our own spiritual experiences.

      Remember that Peter was one of three living Jews in his day that personally met Moses, Elijah and saw the glorified Messiah, albeit temporarily. Peter was also one of the handful of people in all history that heard the audible speaking voice of God the Father (not an angel, or a prophet, but direct speaking from Yahweh himself).

      Peter recalls his experiences in the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:16-21 and tells his readers that the written word of God is where they should be focusing and what they should be pursuing.

      Peter makes the point that the unmediated spoken words of God the Father that he heard are equal, and even categorically synonymous to, the written word of God. You need to pursue knowing God via knowing the Scripture, conforming your thinking and behaviour to Scripture, and seeking to understand all things (including religious experiences) through the worldview of God as revealed in Scripture.

      I don’t know what you saw or didn’t see.

      I don’t know what you heard or didn’t hear.

      I don’t dare pretend to have those sorts of answers…but I don’t have any actual reason to think that anyone does.

      I do know that attempting to figure out exactly what happened is a waste of time since God never promises us that we’ll “figure out” the meaning or nuances of strange and spiritual experiences. The only guys that did so in Scripture were the prophets and apostles, and neither you nor I are anywhere near THAT category.

      The understanding of the Bible that I get from the study I’ve done above suggests that the possibility of you actually seeing an angel is about as remote as taking a shower on the ninth floor of a hotel and getting trampled by a herd of zebras.

      Not impossible, but really, really, REALLY unlikely.

      I’d also warn you against “innocent” spiritual experiences. I know several people who got visits and visions for years, and they all seemed to be pointing them to holiness/Christ/etc. Lots of “godly” folks around them thought they were legit because there was no obvious heresy or resultant sin…

      …but what was actually going on was a very patient effort at cultivating trust. The forces behind those visions and visits were giving them “innocent” experiences so that the people would start relying on them and dropping their guard. Once the people got in the habit of trusting those experiences, they always changed for the negative. I know one woman where 20 years of “innocent” visions led up to 1 wicked one, and the fallout was absolutely nuclear. Several families destroyed. Several churches as well.

      Satan is both patient and an excellent strategist who’s been playing the game since before mankind existed. He deceived Eve while she was sinless and operating in an unfallen mental state.

      Don’t think you can outwit him.

      • Ed Dipple

        Never , I have the Rauch ha kodesh and Yeshua to do that for me . Do you really believe that a message to stop what I am doing because it is awful in the sight of God and I must pray for those concerned , could come from Satan?

        • 4Commencefiring4

          Judging by what you described, I’d have a tough time calling it an angel visitation. Even aside from the numbers Lyndon provided for us in this study (which make it all but impossible that you or I will ever be visited), the particulars of your experience do not match what we know of angel visitations: you heard him, but didn’t hear him; he spoke, but in “concepts” instead of words; hundreds of feet tall, yet fit in your room, etc. Angels in the Bible usually appear rather “normal” and communicate in words. None are particularly tall.

          Not trying to be a wise guy here, but there’s a lot of people who’ve seen similar things after taking hits on a doogie. Not that I’d know anything about it….

        • Lyndon Unger

          Yes. Of course.

          Satan quoted the scripture to Jesus. He can state true facts for the purpose of deceiving.

          Ruach Ha Kodesh and Yeshua ensure you’ll never be deceived?

          (That’s a clue for lurkers to start paying attention to this thread)

          • Ed Dipple

            Rauch ha kodesh is the Hebrew name of the Holy Spirit for the Hebraically challenged

          • Lyndon Unger

            I gotcha. I still have a dagesh in my teeth from breakfast (because I…).

            That message could come Satan, although there are several other less nefarious options (like the conscience).

          • Actually, it’s ruach, not rauch.

            And interestingly, of the three verses in the Old Testament which mention the Holy Spirit by name, none of them include the article “ha.” Psalm 51:11 (Heb 13): we-ruach kadeshka; Isaiah 63:10 and 11: eth-ruach kadesho.

          • Lyndon Unger

            Mike Riccardi!

            Don’t confuse a guy who drops pseudo Hebrew with actual Hebrew. The “Hebrew roots” guys (or Charismatics who got on the G*d bandwagon) don’t like getting corrected about their confusion regarding their newest chic gnosis.

            In unrelated news, did I ever tell you about the guy at my local thrift shop who got a super cool tattoo on his arm in Hebrew? It doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

          • 🙂

            And I’d love to hear the rest of that story!

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    I was entertained and touched by the theologically incorrect tv series Touched By an Angel.

    • Lyndon Unger

      I actually never watched it, though I enjoyed the original with Michael Landon. Especially the episode where he becomes a werewolf.

      • Robert Sakovich

        Did that really happen? I remember Highway to Heaven…it never bothered me as much as the other one for some reason. I guess it didn’t help things that Della Reese went on to become a “pastor” for a new age church where she married the Irish lady to the TV director (and they went on to make “The Bible” and “Son of God”…yuck)

        • Lyndon Unger

          Yeah. It seriously happened on the Halloween episode. Scared me to death.

          I was less discerning back then…when I was like 8 years old.

  • E S Gonzalez

    Please excuse this random post, but I’m curious … how do you gentlemen who produce this site’s blog posts determine how long the Comments discussion remains open/active?
    I’d actually hoped to join another blog discussion, but 14 hrs after the first comment, the discussion was closed. Bummer.

    • Generally, the comment threads for a given post are open for a week. We close them after that because it’s very rare that discussion on a particular post remains on topic and helpful for more than that time. Also: troll protection. Closing the comments after a short time keeps the contributors from having to take up one of 200 conversations begun over the past 4 years any time anyone with an ax to grind decides he wants to grind it today.

      In cases in which threads are closed earlier than the seven-day mark, that’s usually because a moderator (usually the author of that particular post, but not always) has made a judgment call that the usefulness of the thread has run its course before seven days have passed. In this case, that threshold was crossed before the 14-hour mark.

      • E S Gonzalez

        Indeed. Thank you for responding.

      • Robert Sakovich

        The real questions here are: a) did y’all expect it to blow up that quickly? and b) is that the record time for having to close comments here? I feel kind of guilty for some of my participation in it. Sorry for escalating things where it might not have been necessary.

        • Lyndon Unger

          If you’re talking about the Voldemort post (that “post that shall not be mentioned”), then I bet it was a record time. That thread was woven into a pair of CUCKOO PANTS!

  • Vinod Anand S

    Another good post from you, Mr. Unger. Cleared many doubts. Thanks.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks so much!

  • KarenJewel

    Your post makes sense, but I suspect that angels do still intervene. This is my reason for believing so. When I was in college in a very small town, I look a bike ride around that town. I came to a road that went downhill. It was a beautifully tree lined intriguing road. Mysterious, even in broad daylight. Well, I had to explore. So I started biking down that hill. A moderately steep hill. It suddenly became very hard to pedal, as though I was pedaling through thick mud. I became aware that I was being warned not to go down there. So, I obeyed and turned around and went back up the hill to return to campus. As soon as I turned around, the pedaling went back to normal.

    I am convinced an angel intervened, and pulled me away from a dangerous situation. I’ll always wonder what would have happened if I had insisted on continuing down that hill.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Well, I didn’t suggest that angels do nothing. I only suggested that the Bible gives me reason to believe that when they do something, people won’t be aware.

      Your story seems to fit the mold, seeing that you don’t actually know that there were angels involved in your experience. It’s possible, but we don’t and likely can’t know.

      Did I understand you right though? Were you peddling DOWN hill and got stopped? Like did Gravity stop working?

      What was the road? To where?

      • KarenJewel

        I wasn’t disagreeing with you or thinking that you were saying angels were absent. I was offering my experience as a possible example of angel activity. 🙂 It is true that I don’t know that an angel was involved. I can’t know for a fact. Though I am convinced that it was an angel.

        LOL The road was still there. It actually felt as though someone was holding onto the back of the bike, not allowing me to move forward. At the same time it felt as though I was pedaling through a thick goo. It was very difficult to push the pedals. All this occurred as I attempted to go down hill down the road which was mildly steep. Steep enough that gravity should have pulled me forward rather than force me to stop. It was an unforgettable experience. Burned into my brain, though it happened over 35 years ago.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Thanks for clarifying KarenJewel. I misread you there!