By Elizabeth Prata
I had posted all last week different essays about Angels according to the Bible. I’d presented biblical evidence on who angels are, what they do, and so on. It is a huge subject. In fact, there is one whole section of systematic theology called Angelology in which people have studied for years. So my few essays didn’t cover nearly a surface level of the topic. But with Advent coming up, I’d wanted to give some context and background to the truth of angels.
Tradition has given us some false notions about angels, like, they’re babies flying around in diapers, or, they have wings. Nope, lol. They are considered majesties in the Bible, says 2 Peter 2:10-14.
The first herald of the coming Messiah was not brought by a group of angels appearing at night to the shepherds in the field. That is the one we think of first, but the initial announcement of the Lord’s coming was angel Gabriel’s announcement to Zacharias that the Forerunner in the spirit of Elijah was coming first.
Gabriel told both Zacharias and Mary his name, which, being familiar with the Old Testament, would know this angel Gabriel had appeared to Daniel long ago and had delivered incredible messages.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17“It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Six months later, this same named angel named Gabriel appeared to young Mary. She had been betrothed to Joseph. A betrothal was considered the same as a marriage, minus the consummation. Here is Gabriel speaking to Mary, commonly known as the Annunciation: (Luke 1:26-33,
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
In both appearances the angel assured the person not to be afraid. It must have been startling for Mary, doing whatever she was doing, to look up from it and suddenly see a supernatural being before her. As for Zacharias, he was ministering in the temple, and was equally in need of assurance, yet if there is ANY place one might expect a heavenly visitation it’d be as priest ministering unto the Lord in His house! But Zacharias was startled and sinfully doubtful.
Now we turn to Matthew 1:18-25 for the next angel appearance in the Nativity. The Bible doesn’t record this angel’s name. Some commenters believe it “must” be Gabriel, and it likely is, but since it’s not recorded we cannot be dogmatic. It’s an angel sent from God to bring a message.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, since he was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20But when he had thought this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22Now all this took place so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN WILL CONCEIVE AND GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, AND THEY SHALL NAME HIM IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he named Him Jesus.
How blessed Joseph is to be eternally named in the Bible as righteous! The appearance of the angel to Joseph wasn’t in person but in a dream. He was asleep. We know this because verse 24 says Joseph “awoke from his sleep”. However, Joseph knew it was real and immediately did as he had been commanded.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
It was by night, and the next phrase said the glory of the Lord shone all around. What a contrast! The darkness of night providing the backdrop of the bright glory of the Lord. We know these are beings from heaven, because verse 15 said they went back into heaven. (As if there could be any doubt!)
Notice that the Shepherds said ‘let us go immediately’. Just as Joseph obeyed, the Shepherds also took immediate action.
We turn to Matthew 2:13-14. The nativity story continues a year or two later. The babe is now called a Child.
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.
Again, we do not know the name of this angel. Perhaps Gabriel, perhaps another.
There are two items to note about these and other biblical angelic messages: first, the angels say “Fear not!’ as an introduction. They are powerful beings who can perform supernatural things such as sudden appearances and disappearances. They can stand on the sun, hold back the winds of earth, fight in the second heaven against powers and dominions opposing God. If an angel appeared as an angel and not as a man as they also sometimes did, I am sure we would need the assurance not to be afraid!
Bible verses: Angelic appearances that frighten the person, Fear Not spoken.
Secondly, the recipient of the angelic message from God obeyed immediately. They obeyed right away. No thinking about it, no negotiating, no putting off the appearance saying “I’ll get to you later”, no casual “How you doin’?” The Bible people, as opposed to those claiming an angelic visitation in these apostate days, fell down, they listened, then they obeyed. All angelic appearances in the Bible are like that, not just the Nativity.
Here are links to other angel essays I’ve written during Angel Week. I pray you consider all the characters in the Nativity story from the main characters of Mary and Joseph, to the 3 Kings, Zacharias the priest, Herod the King, and the angels, and of course Jesus. Plus Anna and Simeon. They each are mentioned for a reason, as we enter Advent. Consider their placement in this true narrative, and how it forms the truest and best story there ever as or will be.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about Angel Activity in the Nativity.