4-1 ANGELIC CO-OPERATION
A classic example of Angelic co-operation is found in the account of
the first Passover. Ex. 12:23 says that the Passover Angel would "pass
(hover) over the door and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto
your houses to smite you". 'The destroyer' refers to an Angel- Ps. 78
speaks of the "Angels of evil" who brought the plagues, and as the plague
of the firstborn was one of them, it follows that this too must have been
brought about by an Angel. The same Angel is referred to in Jer. 51:1-
the “destroying spirit” [“wind”, AV] who was sent forth by God to smite
Babylon; note how Revelation also describes Babylon as being destroyed
by a singular Angel. In another Angelic context we read: “O Lord my Lord;
will you be the destroyer of the remnant of Israel?” (Ez. 9:8 Heb.). “Let
the Angel of the Lord persecute them” (Ps. 35:5,6) has the same Angel
in mind. The destroyer Angel is perhaps alluded to in Job 18:13: “The
firstborn of death”. Job 33:23 LXX certainly is relevant: “Though there
should be one thousand Angels of death…”. This same 'destroyer' Angel
is referred to again in the context of being present with Israel to punish
them if they disobeyed in 1 Cor. 10:10 -"they were destroyed of the destroyer".
So we have here on this first Passover night the situation where one Angel
is commissioned to do a certain task- in this case kill all firstborn
in Egypt- and goes ahead with this task blind to any other consideration,
e. g. whether the people concerned were obedient Israelites or not. Therefore
another Angel was needed, presumably more powerful or senior to the 'destroyer',
to stop the faithful Israelites being killed. Of course God could have
given the 'destroyer' additional instructions about not killing the Jews;
but it seems to be God's way of working both amongst us and among the
Angels to assign each a specific role in the execution of His purpose,
and to take pleasure in seeing each Angel or saint working in loving co-operation
with another, after the pattern of the Angelic co-operation. The way David’s prayer stopped the Angel from destroying Jerusalem (1 Chron. 21:15) is similar to how the Angel intended to kill Moses but was stopped (Ex. 4:24-26) and how an Angel, also with sword in hand, intended to kill Balaam but was stopped (Num. 22:22,23). These incidents suggest that some Angels are given a task to do and they go forth to do this, regardless of, or not understanding, perhaps, any wider network of issues. The impression is given that they are stopped in their tracks by human repentance or intercession to God. This ‘tunnel vision’ is to be seen in God’s people now as they blunder around in trying to fulfil God’s will, needing others to ameliorate and modify their approaches.
Ez. 20:8-14 talks more about this destroyer Angel: "Neither did they
forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out My fury upon
them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of
Egypt. But I wrought for My name's sake, that it should not be polluted
among the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself
known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. Wherefore
I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought
them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes. . My sabbaths.
. the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. . but I wrought
for My name's sake, that it should not be polluted" .
The destroyer Angel went out through the midst of the land of Egypt to
kill the firstborn. He wanted to kill the Jews too because they were not
forsaking the idols of Egypt- i. e. they were preparing to take them out
of Egypt with them (Ex. 13:17 and Acts 7:43 lend support here). "I"- God
manifest now in the Passover Angel- "wrought for My name's sake" (v. 9)
against the Destroyer that this should not be done. He remembered how
He had "made myself known unto them" in the burning bush, by saying there
"I am the Lord your God "(v. 5). "Mine eye (the Passover Angel) spared
them from destroying them ",v. 17; i. e. from the work of the Destroyer
Angel, both in Egypt at the night of Passover and also in the wilderness.
Notice how God is spoken of as both wanting to destroy them and
also striving for His Name's sake (born by the Angels) so this should
not happen. It seems sensible to interpret this by reference to the two
powerful Angels active at this time, perhaps representing the groups
of Angels of good and Angels of evil (i. e. disaster bringing) which appear
to be in Heaven.
1 Cor. 10:10 speaks of an Angel called “the destroyer” who brought about
Israel’s punishments in the wilderness. And yet Ps. 78:49 speaks of these
as being executed by “A band of Angels of evil” (RVmg.). Likewise Rev.
9:14 has one Angel controlling others, perhaps as our guardian Angel has
control over many others to effect his plans for us. The one Angel had
control over others, Angels specifically used to bring evil upon those
whom God rejects. It may be they will be used again in the judgment of
the last day. Or it could be that ‘Angels’ in Ps. 78:49 is an intensive
plural, and the AV reading is correct: “by sending evil angels…”. The
one great Angel of evil is “the destroyer” of 1 Cor. 10:10. This could
imply that some of the references to a “Satan” who brings disaster, as
in Job, refer to one specific Angel who does these things, or co-ordinates
Angels in Ezekiel
The case of the Angelic keepers of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 9 mentioned earlier
is another example of all this. "The Lord (the angel of v. 1) said unto
him (the v. 3 man in linen), Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set
a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the
abominations. . and to the others (angels) He said. . Go ye after him
through the city and smite" (v. 4,5). So as at the Passover we have one
Angel protecting and others executing judgement, each limited in the role
assigned them. These ideas are brought together in Ez. 20:17 where concerning
Israel in the wilderness God says "Mine eye (i. e. an Angel- the
Angels are the eyes of God going to and fro in the earth) spared them
from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness".
When God gave Israel an Angel to go with them who would bear His Name
in Ex. 23, God warned them that this Angel would not pity them but would
be easily provoked by their errors. I suggest that this Angel was the
'destroyer' which went with them, while the Angel of Is. 63 which "in
His love and in His pity redeemed them; and bare them and carried them
all the days of old" (v. 9) was the one which we read here in Ez. 20 spared
them from destruction- i. e. from the destroyer Angel which went with
them. Presumably this shows that the Angel of mercy was more powerful
than the Angel of righteous anger and justice, the destroyer, and that
only occasionally was the 'destroyer' allowed free
reign, e. g. when the people lusted as recorded in 1 Cor. 10:10. This
would reflect the basic characteristics of God Himself- mercy more powerful
than judgement in His character. And amongst us the potential elohim,
perhaps there is the same mixture of 'destroyers', sincerely upholding
the high standards God expects and feeling justified in acting to that
end, and the 'Angels of mercy' who restrict their action except in severe
cases. But amazingly God works through and in all, to His glory. Both
types of elohim are sincere, not even misguided, but rather fulfilling
the role in God's way of working which they have been called to play.
The word ‘strengthened’ occurs several times in Dan. 10. An Angel ‘strengthens’
Daniel, and then comments that “Michael your prince”, another Angel, had
also helped him- he had “strengthened himself with me” (Dan. 10:21 RVmg.).
But then the Angel comments that “As for me…I stood up to confirm and
strengthen him”, i.e. Michael (Dan. 11:1 RV). The Angel who strengthened
Daniel was helped by another Angel, Michael, strengthening him; and then
that Angel strengthened Michael. This is possibly a window into the nature
of our existence and relationship with each other in the future age!
Angels and Assyrians
Sometimes this way of working may seem inefficient in human terms,
but it is efficient to the production of God's glory through our
loving co-operation, after the pattern of the Angelic co-operation.
It has been shown clearly that Isaiah 13 concerning the fall of
Babylon is more relevant to the destruction of Sennacherib's Assyrian
army in Hezekiah's time, 'Assyria' and 'Babylon' being interchangeable
terms (1). Thus we
read in v. 3,4 of the Angels coming against Israel in judgement,
and mustering the Assyrian armies against Jerusalem: " I have commanded
My sanctified ones, I have also called My mighty ones for
Mine anger, even them that rejoice in My highness. . the weapons
of His indignation, to destroy the whole land. . the Lord of hosts
(Angels) mustereth the host of the battle". Yet we clearly read
elsewhere that "the Angel of the Lord" went out and smote the Assyrians.
So we have some Angels sent with a mission to bring the Assyrians
there and others sent to destroy them. Other Angels are actually
described as the armies themselves, the weapons of indignation against
the land of Israel. And another Angel 'destroys' them. So here we
have the wondrous ways of God, absolute unity in absolute diversity.
This notion develops into the suggestion that there are two groups
of Angels- Angels of evil (Ps. 78:49) and of good. Thus God creates both
good and evil- and Isaiah 45:5-7 emphasizes that He makes a distinct creation
of both- using these separate groups of Angels. However we stress that
the Angels of evil are not sinful Angels. This division is perhaps hinted
at in 2 Chron. 18:18, where "all the host of Heaven" are seen standing
around the throne of God himself "on His right and on His left". The exact
way in which these two groups of Angels work is unclear, and this perhaps
explains the difficulty all Bible students face in understanding the undefined
"power of darkness", hints of which lurk throughout Scripture (e.g. evil
spirits, the forces of evil unleashed at the end of Revelation etc. ),
and also in defining the apparently super-human power of righteousness
which the Psalms and New Testament especially speak of. At present
these topics seem to defy close definition- until we appreciate
the Angelic basis behind them?
Having limited knowledge, the Angels are capable of acting too
hastily- thus Job 4:18 "His Angels He charged with folly" (the Hebrew
for 'folly' can imply 'over-action'). God uses the inter-play of
the Angels to restrain them in their actions, seeing they are often
dependent on authority from each other in order to implement their
plans. Rev. 9:13-15 exemplifies this: "I heard a voice from the
four horns of the golden altar (i. e. from the mighty Angel that
dwelt there? (2) ).
. . saying to the sixth Angel. . . loose the four Angels which are
bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four Angels were loosed,
which were prepared for an hour, and a day. . . ". There seems no
reason to doubt that these, along with most other mentions of 'Angels'
in Revelation, can be taken as literal Angels. The fact that
they were "loosed" implies a possible restraint from action- as
if the action they desired to take was held back by another ("the
sixth") Angel "preparing" or 'adjusting' (Greek) them for a certain
The Wilderness Wanderings
When we come to examine the Angelic work behind the leading of Israel
through the wilderness and their entering of Canaan we find a complex
picture. The 'LORD' in Exodus very often refers to an Angel, but we find
a number of actions of the 'LORD' which are not according to those set
down in Ex. 23 concerning the Angel described there. In Exodus 23:21 the
Angel is described as not forgiving their sins, but in Ex. 32:30-32
Moses goes up to the 'LORD' (Angel) in the mount and asks for forgiveness
for the people's sin with the golden calf. The 'Lord' in the mount must
have been an Angel because Moses saw his back parts- and there is no way
this is possible of God Himself in person, "whom no man hath seen ,nor
can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). "No man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18).
This 'Lord' on the mount gave Moses the Law- and elsewhere we are told
that the Law was ministered by Angels. The Angel on the mount then says
He has sent "Mine Angel before thee" (to Canaan), Ex. 32:34. So we have
one Angel sending another here. The details of Angels in this part of
Scripture are looked into later in this study. The fact is that an Angel
was sent to prepare the way for the Israelites to enter Canaan. Similarly
in Ex. 23:27 God says He will "send My fear before thee, and will destroy
all the people to whom thou shalt come". Jacob likens his guardian Angel
to "the God before whom my fathers walked" (Gen. 48:16), who is
called "the fear of Isaac" (Gen. 31:42,53) when Jacob describes
the personal presence of God in his life. So the "fear of God" is associated
with an Angel; God sent His fear, an Angel, before Israel into Canaan,
as promised explicitly in Ex. 23. The fact we read a phrase like "the
Angel of elohim" in Gen. 21:17 confirms that individual angels can be
messengers of other Angel-elohim, and that there is a degree of hierarchy
in the Heavenly organization.
Elsewhere, God says that the fear amongst the Canaanites prior
to Israel's approach and the weakness of those nations was due to
"the hornet" being sent before Israel (Dt. 7:20; Josh. 24:12); it
would seem then that this is a reference to the Angels softening
up the Canaanite tribes, perhaps through inciting the Egyptians
to raid them and ruin the economy (3).
Revelation abounds with examples of Angels talking and co-operating
with each other in order to execute God's purpose; e. g. in Rev.
16:5 one Angel comments on the wisdom of another Angel's action-
"the Angel of the waters (4)
said (to the third Angel of v. 4), Thou art righteous. . because
Thou hast judged thus". In a less obvious way, this is taught in
other Scriptures, especially in Genesis. Gen. 1:26 is a classic
example- "God said, Let us make man in our image". Here we have
the Angels making a joint decision, as they did at Babel: "The LORD
came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men
builded (again, the language of limitation, as if God had to make
closer inspection- the 'LORD' must therefore be the Angels). . Go
to, let us go down, and there confound their language" (Gen. 11:5,7).
And in Gen. 18 we have an example of Angels discussing their policy
with regard to one of their charges in the physical presence of
the saint: . . "and Abraham went with them (the Angels) to bring
them on their way (they were therefore in his presence). And the
LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For
I know him, that he will command his children and his household
after him. . " (v. 17-19). This conversation was presumably inaudible
to Abraham. Who knows what conversations go on between our
guardians as we sit with Bibles in our hands, obedient to God, and
our Angels decide how much to reveal to us in accord with how they
know we will behave in the future? The cherubim and living creatures
are representative of the Angels. The four Angels or groups of Angels
that comprised them had wings which "kissed one another" (Ez. 3:13
A. V. mg. ) and moved with a soft, smooth sound, despite all four
being distinct in some ways. Thus the loving co-operation of the
Angels in their work is emphasized.
Angelic co-operation: Conclusions
It would be worth speculating whether every time God is said to 'remember'
something, this language of limitation refers to Angels, who have the
capacity to have their memories limited, and to need to remember things.
After God remembers, He often does an action which necessitates other
Angelic action, as if one Angel- the one which 'remembers'- commands other
Angels. One wonders whether this is the case when God
"remembered" Noah in the ark and sent a "wind" to drive back the waters.
The Angel "Who maketh His Angels Spirits (winds)" was therefore sending
an Angel in control of a wind to execute His work. The idea of the Angels
being in control of the winds and all elements of the natural world
is a common one , seen most clearly in the book of Job.
We will consider later how it may well be the Angels referred to when
we read other language of limitation about God, especially with regard
to God repenting or changing His purpose about something.
In the practical business of being stimulated to see how the Angels work
in our lives, it is interesting to think of how our guardian Angel may
ask other Angels to help Him in giving us the help He sees we need. Thus
when the "Angel of the Lord went forth in the camp of the Assyrians" or
"the Lord sent forth an Angel which cut off all the mighty men of valour
in the camp of the king of Assyria" (2 Chron. 32:21) we infer that this
was Michael, the Angel Prince who stands for God's people Israel ,going
into action. Whilst the action is rightly attributed to Him, there seems
no doubt that He brought this about by the use and control of other Angels,
activated (as in many of the visions of Angelic judgement in Revelation)
by a loud cry from the Angel which brought other Angels into action- "through
the voice of the Lord (singular) shall the Assyrian be beaten down" (Is.
30:31). But the language used elsewhere in Isaiah to describe the destruction
of the Assyrians is reminiscent of the cherubim, implying multitudes of
Angels at work to bring about God's purpose in this. And encouragingly,
if our Angel has not the strength or authority to give us a blessing which
He sees we need, He can ask another Angel to bring this about- thus Daniel's
guardian Angel had to ask Gabriel to help Daniel understand the vision
which He knew Daniel so desperately wanted to have interpreted (Dan. 8:16).
It may be that this request by the guardian Angel was not for the best
for Daniel, because it seems to have been denied by God- v. 27 says that
at the end of the interpretation or "understanding" being given by Gabriel,
"I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding" (v. 27 N.I.V.).
In that case, it would seem that when Gabriel said "Understand, O son
of man. . " (v. 17), Gabriel Himself either did not appreciate that giving
Daniel the understanding would not help him, or He obeyed the request
from the guardian Angel unquestioningly.
Or alternatively, was Gabriel saying in v. 17 that Daniel was to understand
that the vision would not be fully understood till the last days, as in
Dan. 12:4? This would mean that it is in the hands of the Angels as to
at what time, both individually and as the body of God's people generally,
we gain spiritual understanding of certain parts of the word, in the same
way as the Angels debated "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I
do?. . ". This may be very relevant to the various
interpretations of Revelation held by God's true people down through the
years, each interpretation giving great encouragement to a certain group
of saints, despite their details varying considerably. This process
would then be seen to be under the direct control of the Angels.
(1) See H. A. Whittaker
Isaiah (Cannock: Biblia, 1988).
(2) Horns are connected
with Angels in Zech. 1:18; Hab. 3:4, and by the four horns on the
altar suggesting reference to the Angel cherubim; see also Chapter
(3) See J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges
(Constable, 1931) for copious details on this.
(4) That a specific Angel
controls “the waters” is implied by the way flood waters are described
as praising God (Ps. 42:8; 148:7), water trembling at God’s presence
(Ps. 77:17; Hab. 3:10), and the deep waters mourning (Ez. 31:15).
How else can waters sensibly be personified as having such feelings,
unless these figures of speech are in fact based upon the real existence
of a personal “Angel of the waters”?