CHAPTER 4: The Court Of Heaven
We are obviously treading on Holy ground in trying to understand
how God's work is organized in Heaven, and yet we believe there
are enough hints for us to make some broad suggestions which hopefully
will help us appreciate more how God is working in our lives.
Rev. 14:17,18 describe an Angel coming out of "The temple which
is in Heaven" and another coming out of the Altar (Christ). Does
this imply that although all Angels are subject to Christ in rank,
some are in His control and others in the Father's ? Jesus will
return with "His Holy Angels". Presumably when He returns not every
single Angel in Heaven will return with Him. The Father's Angels
will remain. As Jesus is in control of our daily lives through our
guardian Angels, it would seem a fair assumption that the guardian
Angels of the saints of all ages are in the specific control of
Jesus, and these are the "reapers" of the spiritual harvest which
will return with Him to judge us. If we are judged by our guardian
Angels (see Chapter 8-1), then they must be Christ's own Angels
which return with Him.
The court of Heaven
The notion of a court of Heaven is a major Biblical theme. The
visions of 1 Kings 22:19-23, Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4 show God seated
on a throne with Angels before Him, bringing information and requests
to Him and departing with commands to obey; the idea of a council
in Heaven is clearly hinted at in Job 1; Gen. 1:26; Ps. 89:7. God
sitting on a throne implies that each request or piece of information
presented is 'judged' and an appropriate decision made. The 'case'
of the adversaries to God is presented by a 'satan' Angel. Ps. 11:4,5
describes the scene: "The Lord's throne is in Heaven (mirrored by
the Mighty Angel of Israel being enthroned over the Mercy Seat in
the temple): His eyes (Angels) behold, His eyelids try,
the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous (who are in His
presence by their Angel), but the wicked and him that loveth violence
His soul hateth". Rev. 12:10 may be understood in this context:
"The accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before
our God day and night". When we read that Enoch “had witness borne
to him that he had been well pleasing unto God” (Heb. 11:6 RV),
this is courtroom language. Could it not be that his representative
/ guardian Angel in the court of Heaven had made this testimony
to God Almighty? Likewise Lk. 21:13 speaks of how when a believer
is persecuted, “it shall turn to you for a testimony”. What does
this really mean? For me, the most satisfactory explanation would
be that the Angels give a positive testimony of the faithful believer
in the court of Heaven.
Once one starts reading Scripture looking for these allusions to
the court of Heaven, evidence multiplies. Take, from many possible
- Mt. 18:14 RVmg.: “It is not a thing willed before your Father
which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish”.
- The Angels were given “charge concerning thee” (Jesus)- in
the court of Heaven, God’s purpose was declared and His charge
made clear concerning His Son (Lk. 4:10 RVmg.)
- "Elohim has taken his place in the divine council
In the midst of the elohim he holds judgment" (Ps. 82:1).
"Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Yahweh,
Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones
For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?
Who among the sons of God is like Yahweh,
A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones
Great and awesome above all that are around him?" (Ps.
"The heavenly host bows down before you" (Neh. 9:6)
- “Dost thou hearken in the council of God?” (Job 15:8 RVmg.)-
note how this is said in the context of Job, where we have the
most classic statement of the operation of the court of heaven
in the opening chapters.
- The sparrows are represented in the presence of God (Lk. 12:6
Gk.); even animals have their representative Angels there. This
is ‘how’ in one sense a personal God sees and knows all things;
because His Spirit / Angels are in His presence reporting all
things to Him. At least this is how we are invited to perceive
it. The sparrows aren’t forgotten in the presence of God, and
we are of more value than many sparrows (Lk. 12:6,7); Matthew
has: ‘Your Father feeds the sparrows; are you not of more value
[same Greek as in Luke] than many sparrows?’ ; ‘no sparrow falls
to the ground without your Father knowing...you are of more
value than many sparrows” (Mt. 6:26; 10:29,31). The sparrows being
in God’s presence is paralleled with His feeding them [Gk. ‘to
bring them up’] and being aware of what is happening to them on
earth. God feeds / raises the sparrows through His Angelic messengers.
was told that the destruction of his power was a “matter by
the decree of the watchers [i.e. Angels, the eyes of the Lord],
and the demand by the word of the holy ones” (Dan. 4:17). The
Chaldee words translated “matter, “decree” and “demand” are
all legal terms, implying a legal answer / response, “a judicial
decision” as Strong defines “the demand”. Something came before
the court of Heaven- presumably the matter in question was Nebuchadnezzar’s
pride and his position on the Jews (Daniel’s advice in 4:27
to shew mercy to the poor may be a reference to what the King
should’ve been doing to the Jews- perhaps by enabling their
return to their land?). And a ‘judicial decision’ was made and
“a watcher and a Holy One came down from Heaven” to operationalize
it (Dan. 4:13). If this is the extent of Angelic attention to
the heart of a Gentile king- how much more earnestly are they
debating the states of our hearts and our actions, and issuing
decrees for action accordingly?
- The members of this court of Heaven have various names- Holy
ones (Hos 12:1; Zech 14:5); spirits (1 Kgs 22:21-23; Ps 104:4);
messengers/angels (Ps 91:11; 103:20); ministers (Ps 103:21; 104:4);
servants (Job 4:18); those on high (Job
21:22); princes (Jos 5:14; Dan 10:13). Supremely, Is. 9:5 LXX
speaks of Messiah as "the Messenger of the Great Council"
[megales boules angelos].
- "Let us make man" (Gen. 1:26), "Behold, the man
has become like one of us" (Gen. 3:22) and "Come, let
us go down" (Gen. 11:7) are examples from early Genesis.
Franz Delitzsch (1) analyzes the Hebrew constructions here at
great length, concluding that these verses manifest a "communicative
plural", implying God conferring with His council.
The idea of Angels being sent out from this council to operationalize
Divine commissions opens up so many Scriptures. An Angel was sent
before Israel to keep them in the way (Ex. 23:30)- an evident allusion
to the Angel-cherubim keeping the way to the tree of life. But did
all Israel remain “in the way” whilst in the wilderness? Evidently
not. Did the Angel fail? No. The Angel was given power and strength
in order to potentially enable Israel to remain “in the way”, just
as our Angels are given that same power. But Israel refused to work
with the Angel; they didn’t make use of the Angel’s efforts to keep
them in the way.
What is so awesome is that the Hebrew word sod, 'council'
or 'court', is something open to us as mortals. In Biblical times,
Kings had their sod, their gathering of intimate advisors
and ministers. But we, mere mortals on earth, are invited
to be part of the sod of God Almighty, having His purpose
and plans revealed to us (Ps. 25:14; Job 29:4). But sod
members weren't passive listeners; they gave their advice and requests,
and the King factored that into His decision making. This is a picture
of the power of prayer from those who have understood the way and
essence of the King of Heaven.
There is evidently a hierarchy amongst the Angels as there will
be among us in the age to come. It is interesting to see how the
Angels relate to each other, and how their actions complement each
other in order to bring about the trials of our lives. Once we grasp
this idea, we can try to analyse the Angelic action in our lives
and imagine all the different parts played by various Angels to
bring it about. This system is maybe hinted at in Ecc. 5:8, where
the hierarchy of corrupt human rulers and judges is contrasted with
the righteous hierarchy of Heaven: "If thou seest the oppression
of the poor, and violent perverting of judgement and justice in
a province, marvel not at the matter: for He that is higher that
the high ones (A. V. "highest" is plural) regardeth; and there be
higher than they" (the high ones). Thus:
- The Most High One
- The Higher than the High Ones
- The High Ones
The "high ones" referring to Angels, it may be that
the phrase "Most High" also refers sometimes to God manifested through
an Angel who is higher than all the others, perhaps foreshadowing
Christ, who was also made higher than the Angels. The idea of the
Heavenly organization being like a court is often developed in other
references to the Angels- e. g. there appear to be accusing and
defending Angels who stand around the throne of God and obey His
judgements (2). A close study of the
record of Sodom's destruction will reveal that the 'Lord' spoken
of there was one of the Angels who arranged the judgements on Sodom.
"The Lord said, Because the cry (NIV 'Outcry') of Sodom. . is great.
. I will go down now" (Gen. 18:20,21). Perhaps this outcry of Sodom
was from the Angels who were shocked at its sinfulness, whose concern
prompted the senior Angel into 'coming down' in judgement. It may
be that 1 Cor. 6:3,5 refers to this idea of different levels amongst
the Angels. We are to “judge” our brethren, not in condemning them
but in discerning between them, in the same way as we will “judge
Angels” in the future. Then, we will not condemn them, but perceive
/ discern the differences between them.
It was Rudolf Rijkeboer who drew my attention to the significant
difference between representation and symbolization in Revelation
(3). The 24 elders of Rev. 4:5 represent rather than symbolize the
believers, whose guardians they are. These Angels represent the
saints in the court of Heaven. In this lies the practical meaning
of all this; that we, our 'case', our thoughts and deeds, are represented
in none less than the court of Heaven; and there they are judged,
discussed, and responded to.
(1) Franz Delitzsch, A New Commentary on Genesis (Edinburgh:
T. & T. Clark, 1888), pp.98,99.
(2) This is the thesis
of David Kingston Angels and the Court of Heaven (1988).
(3) Rudolf Rijkeboer, Jesus' Last Message
(Voorburg, Holland: De Broeders In Christus, 1998) p. 36.