Are you ready to challenge your perspective on angels and the unseen realm? Join us in our latest Unseen series as we dive into the fascinating world of angels and unearth the truth behind these powerful spiritual beings. With expert insights from Professor Andy Angel and author Scott McKnight, you're in for a thought-provoking and eye-opening experience.
In this conversation, we debunk common misconceptions about angels - no, they're not just chubby babies with harps. Instead, we explore their true nature as divine messengers sent by God to bring news, comfort, and deliverance. We also delve into the riveting story of Elisha and the supernatural army, showcasing how God's incredible power protects and guides his people.
Embrace the wonder of the unseen and open yourself up to experiencing the supernatural like never before. Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, this episode is sure to challenge and inspire you to see the world in a whole new light. So, tune in and let's embark on this powerful journey together. Trust us, you won't see angels the same way ever again.
Perfect. So welcome to our online audience. I'm Steven Feith, lead pastor of Madison Church, and today, as I alluded to just a minute ago, we're beginning a new series, and it's called Unseen, which is all about exploring the realm of the unseen. It's about exploring the supernatural And, within the Christian faith, we believe that the material world around you, the things that you can see, touch, smell, hear that's not, it Like, that's not all that the world has to offer, not just the natural world, but that there's a supernatural dimension to this life, an unseen dimension. And so for the next few weeks, we're going to challenge ourselves and the prayer really is going to be God, open my eyes, and that's what we're hoping for and praying for and believing for Open my eyes so that I can see the unseen. Now it's not lost on me that talking about the unseen realm makes many of us uncomfortable for a number of reasons. You might have been very thankful that last week was the final part of our Holy Spirit weekend And now you're you're like okay, and now we're doing four weeks of. It's not the Holy Spirit, but it's just like the Holy Spirit. It's unseen, and you prefer the series in which we talk about these hard questions or relationships, and we're going to continue to talk about those things. After this series we do move into a couple series on relationships, but it's important, as followers of Jesus, that we continue to explore and unbox God. There is an element to our faith that deserves exploring. There's an element to our faith in which God can do bigger things than you expect him to do, that God can do things that you didn't even know were in the realm of possibilities. God can do all of those things, and so that's why it's important for us to slow down and walk into the unknown a little bit. Walk into where we don't always get the solid answers to our questions, but we explore really important questions. And so I just want to say, if the last few weeks have been hard for you because we're talking about these things, and if the next few weeks are going to be hard for you too, i'm just grateful that you're here, I'm grateful that you're continuing to engage with us. I know you can't tangibly examine the supernatural. We can't put the supernatural on this table and dissect it but you can tangibly experience it. You can't examine it, but you can experience the supernatural, and that's my hope for us, this series Is that, over the next few weeks, that you experience the supernatural in a way that you have not before. And we're going to talk about something I think you probably haven't heard a whole lot of talks about today, but throughout the Bible there are many references to invisible beings that we call angels. You've heard of angels before. Right, most of these angels that we read about in the Bible are good, but some are not so good, and we're going to talk about the bad ones, as my son Elijah calls them the bad angels. We'll talk about them next week. Today, i want to focus on the good ones, the good angels. Most people don't talk about angels, and that makes sense, right? Can you imagine a typical? you're waiting in line at the DMV and you do the Wisconsin, the Midwest thing, like how about this weather? Like it's supposed to storm today, so we canceled, postpone baptisms, and now it's sunny. You do that and then you move on to the next thing. What else can we talk about? You know, you see Jordan Love and Packers training camp. You know how are we going to do, how's the division stacking up, and you talk about that. You're still waiting in line because it's the DMV. And you know, naturally, like most of us do. Then you bring up angels and demons, right, like that's no, you don't ever do that, so we don't talk about it. But what's interesting here is that in 2016, gallipol surveyed a bunch of Americans and they found out that 72% of American adults say that they believe in angels. So, as you look around the room, i mean seven out of 10, that's not a small majority. That's a lot of you say I would believe in angels. Only 12% say that they're unsure and 16% of Americans confidently deny their existence, and so almost as many as 80% say yes, or maybe That's a big number, and so belief is prevalent. People believe in angels, and yet let's go back to that question like why, then, don't we talk about them more? And this isn't to make you feel guilty about not talking about angels more, because in 10 years in Madison, this will be the second time that we've talked about angels from this platform on Sunday morning. And so we are just and I am just as guilty about not talking about these things. And you might say well, what's the big deal? Angels, well, they're written about over 200 times in the Bible, and so if there's one topic about something that's written over 200 times. This isn't a one off. There isn't six verses, seven verses about angels, angels over 200 times angels are referenced, and so we're going to dig into this Now. I love what Professor Andy Angel says about angels and the reason that we don't talk about them more often. He writes that belief in God is generally socially acceptable. But even among religious people he's talking about you and me in the room even among religious people, there can be something of an embarrassment surrounding the subject of angels. So it could be that the reason you're not comfortable talking about angels, demons, the unseen, is because you grew up and you heard some weird things about them that don't quite like jive. You're kind of like maybe embarrassed to talk to your very rational, smart science friends about angels, and you didn't have to grow up in or around the church. You didn't because angels are all over the place in pop culture. You think about movies, tv shows, books, i mean angels come up a lot and a lot of people have theories about what angels are like and sometimes they're just weird a little bit. Today I want to talk to you about angels according to the Bible And so, if you can, if you can think about everything you think you know about angels and just put that on hold. Okay, some of it might be true. I'm guessing a lot of it's not true, as goes with a lot of topics we talk about at church with faith in the Bible. A lot of what we heard isn't true. But we're going to look at the Bible today and talk about angels And I want to begin by saying what aren't angels or who aren't angels. Angels are not plump little babies playing hearts. Was this your image of an angel before? Now? I'm about to demolish it, so you don't have to raise your hand. They are not this. Actually, if you want a little homework for today, or if I start getting boring, pull out your phone and Google Biblically Accurate Angel and search Google Images. But I want to warn you. It's terrifying and you're going to understand why. When angels show up to people in the Bible, the first thing they say is not hi, i'm Michael, hi, i'm Gabriel. It's do not be afraid. And when you see this image, if you go and do this, i wouldn't buy it. They say do not be afraid. Yeah, right, okay, wrong guy, you're not looking for me, you're looking for someone else. Absolutely terrifying. And so they're not little kids with little harps. You sit on clouds all day. This one was clothed because this is church, but you know, oftentimes I think we imagine like booty up on that and no, this is, we're not going to do that. So another misconception. So they're not little babies. Another misconception that a lot of people have have been told is that when someone goes to heaven, they become an angel. This might have been something that you believe. You die, you go to heaven, you become an angel. This is not true. Humans you and me are different. We're created differently And angels are different being. You are a human being, an angel is a spiritual being, and I don't want to disrespect your dead Mima, like God. Rest her soul. Mima is in heaven with God, not as an angel, but as Mima, her soul. She's with God And this should be a relief for some of you because, like, if Mima was an angel, doesn't that mean that she could like just pop in on you and you wouldn't know she was there? I mean, you really want grandma to be able to like sneak around your house and listen to all your private conversations? I know I don't like no, not at all. I don't want her to know all of the things I'm thinking or talking about or doing. So people and angels are different beings. They're not little babies who play harps. And finally, angels are not God. They're supernatural, but they are not divine. Angels are not omnipresent. That means angels aren't everywhere at once. An angel, according to the Bible, like you and me, can only be one place at one time, and so that's who angels are not. Now let's go to who angels are. The most common word for angel, and both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, means messenger. So when you're reading your Bible and you come to the word angel, in the original language it usually means messenger. And so if you're reading Hebrew or Greek and you're reading blah, blah, blah, a messenger of the Lord, that's the simplest definition for angels. They are messengers and they are sent from the heavenly realms, the unseen dimension of our life, to our dimension, to our life, to fulfill the purposes of God. We read often that they're not just messengers, but they're servants who do what God asks. In Hebrews 1, 14, we read therefore, angels are only servants, spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation. So that's really cool. God loves you so much. God cares about you so much that he's got a staff to help you. God can do it all himself, but he has a staff to come alongside you and help. And I want to clarify, because it might sound like these guys are enslaved right when we're describing servants. They're not. We'll talk more next week about the angels who decide to not serve God and to not be his messenger. That's next week's talk. So angels have free will, like you and I, and they choose to serve God. Well, where do angels even come from? Well, god created them. We can go back to Genesis 1, 1 when we read that God created the heavens and the earth. But if that's not convincing enough for you, paul unpacks it a little bit more in his letter to the Colossians. Paul writes for through him, god created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. Okay, so it's the supernatural and it's the natural. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see, such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. And so angels like you and I, created by God. Well, what do angels do? Because we have these messengers, they serve God. We know who they're not. We know they're created. What do they do? Well, they do. A number of things we see in the New Testament. Some of the big ones are that angels come to announce news, like in Luke 119, when the birth of Jesus. The angel comes to marry and says, hey, you're going to have a baby. Other times we read about them telling like the women at the tomb, when they're going to prepare Jesus's body for, kind of, the final burial, and the angels are there saying he's not here, he has risen. And then there are other times when, like angels, come to the apostle John and give him a revelation of the future. Angels are sent to bring comfort and encouragement in various times. So at the Old and New Testaments, they are sent to provide reassurance or they even strengthen someone who is struggling. Angels are sent to rescue and deliver, not in a salvation sense. Okay, angels can't save your soul, only Jesus could do that and he has done that. But they are sent to help a person who is in trouble, as in Acts 12, 7, when Paul and Peter are imprisoned and the angels come and help them. Angels are sent to direct people on God's mission. They help people see where God is already at work and how to join him. Now, we just covered a ton of kind of like fast questions about angels and kind of a baseline. That's kind of angels 101, if you will. But there's a question that I hope you're asking and it's why does any of this matter? Like, am I going to be tested on this later? Like, am I going to see an angel later today? And none of those things might happen. But why does this matter? And I'll tell you why I think that it matters. Angels remind us that we're not alone. We're not alone. Knowing that God sends messengers on our behalf to work for His purposes in our lives can give you confidence in the challenges that you are facing. Not only is God with you, not only is the Spirit of God leading you, but at times you may have angels protecting you, you may have angels comforting you. Why does this matter? Well, because angels reveal some of God's purposes. Once we seek the truth out about what is happening in the world, we are able to ask God how do you want me to respond? And sometimes angels come alongside of us and they help us with how we are to respond. And finally, i think the big thing here is that it redirects our fear to faith. No matter the battles that you're facing, you do not have to be afraid. No matter that bad diagnosis, the things unknown, whatever is happening in the world that particularly bothers you, the things that scare you or drive fear, angels remind us, as does God, that we do not have to be afraid And, whether we realize it or not and again alluding to next week, whether we realize it or not, we are living in a spiritual battle, but that doesn't mean we need to be afraid, because God has equipped us to fight these battles. And, as I said at the beginning, our prayer for this series is God, open my eyes, help me see the unseen. And so opening our eyes to the unseen reminds us that we're not alone. It helps us reveal God's purposes and redirects our fear to faith. And I'd like to look at a story in the Bible that highlights this in a very big way, and I want a precursor here before we could dive into the story. I don't know if I would expect this to be your experience, what we're going to read about today. Okay, so this is going to be a really big story. It's going to highlight what we're talking about. It's going to highlight angels and all of the things that we're talking about, but I would not expect this to happen to you tomorrow. I would think that would happen on a lesser and smaller scale, although again we want to unbox God right, so maybe it could happen to you in this really big way. So we're going to go to 2 Kings, chapter 6, which is in your Old Testament. We're talking about Elisha today, and it's at this point in history. If you want to follow along in your Bibles or in your phones, you can do that. But for context, there's this king of Aram, and the king of Aram in this country is at war with the king of Israel, and yet every time, and by all purposes, aram should just be able to really manhandle Israel. It's almost like a modern day when we look at paper, like a Russia and Ukraine right, and on paper you would think that Russia's this big world power and Ukraine isn't. So this would be quick, but it wasn't. It's a very similar situation, which Aram should have been able to come in and just wipe out the Israelites, but they're not. As a matter of fact, like every time Aram does something, the Israelites are one step ahead of him, and so this makes the king obviously very mad, like he wants to take over, he wants to conquer and he's losing. And on paper he should not. And so enraged he concludes what any leader would have concluded. If they're always one step ahead of me, i must have a spy on my counsel. There's somebody who's taking our secret plans and handing them to the Israelites. That can be the only reason. And so I'm reading from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase the message beginning with verse 11. The king of Aram was furious over this, those plans that keep getting leaked. He called his officers together and said Tell me who is leaking information to the king of Israel. Who is the spy in our ranks? But one of the men said No, my master, my dear king, it's not any of us, it's Elisha, the prophet in Israel. He tells the king of Israel everything you say, even what you whisper in your bedroom. If he wasn't mad before, he's mad now. So it's like not only are the plans for war getting leaked, but you're listening in on some private, intimate conversations. I mean, everything is just available to this guy. So he's really mad. And he says Okay, if Elisha is the problem, let's go get him. We continue reading. The king said go and find out where he, elisha, is and all send someone to capture him. And the report came back He is in Dothan. And then he, the king of Aram, dispatched horses and chariots and an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city. So this is interesting. You can kind of see that like anger really gets away from this guy because we read like he's mad, i'm going to go kill Elisha. He said go find where he is. I'm going to send some men. And they come back and I say here's where Elisha is. And he says you know what? I'm still mad. And so, instead of sending a few men, he sends the army to Elisha's house. This is like you just in your own house and you're waking up one day and you look outside. You're like am I still sleeping? He doesn't just want to capture Elisha. Okay, that might have been the first thing. I'll just capture him, we'll put him in jail and it'll be over with. No, it's sailed on him. The anger has sailed on him. He wants to kill Elisha. And so Elisha we continue to read Elisha's still asleep. So early in the morning a servant of the holy man referring to Elisha got up and went out. He's going to work, surprise Horses and chariots surrounding the city And the young man exclaimed oh master, what shall we do? And Elisha said don't worry about it, there are more on our side than on their side. And you just got to pause for a second and really feel for this servant. You know, you wake up in the morning to go to work. You take a shower, brush your teeth, put your clothes on, get your boots on, grab a coffee and a bagel. You head out the door and it's like boom, this is different. There are people you're freaking out, they're going to kill us. You go back in and you say master, elisha, there's an army out there, they're going to kill us. And Elisha says don't worry about it. Yeah, you wouldn't. Would you struggle with that? Because I would struggle with that. Don't worry about it. Did you just hear what I said? There's a whole army out there, don't worry about it. And then you can just almost imagine this is a sidebar You almost imagine Elisha saying calm down. He's like don't tell me to calm down. You know we keep reading. Elisha prayed oh God, open his the servant, open his eyes and let him see. That should sound familiar. That's our prayer for this series Oh, god, open his eyes and let him see. And the eyes of the young man man were open. And what a wonder. The whole mountain side was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha. So Elisha could see it. Elisha had the confidence in this. There were angels all around them, The army, the physical natural army thought Elisha was surrounded, but in reality God had this army already surrounded, not with natural weapons, but with super natural ones. And so we continue reading. Elisha goes to God strike these people blind. And God struck them blind, just as Elisha said. And then Elisha called out to them This is great, they're blind, right, they're blind. And Elisha comes out of his house and he says to them not that, that way, not this city. You guys got it all wrong. Follow me, i'll lead you to what you're looking for, the man you're looking for. And he led them to Samaria. Again, this story is wild. It's hilarious. There's an army. Elisha tells the guy to calm down, don't worry. He prays. There's a bunch of chariots of fire. He strikes these guys blind to some degree. They cannot see. Elisha comes out and says I know you're looking for Elisha. This isn't his house. You got the wrong Elisha, but I'll show you where Elisha is. And so he leads them to Samaria, where they are surrounded then, by the Israelites, an actual army. And before you think that Elisha just led them to get slaughtered, let's keep reading. When the king of Israel saw them this is the king, the military leader of Israel he says to Elisha Father, shall I massacre the lot? Way too giddy? How about a hello? How about a what's up? How about what's going on here? But he's like let's do it, this is our chance. Let's kill them all. And Elisha says not on your life. You didn't lift a hand to capture them And now you're going to kill them. No, sir, make a feast for them and send them back to their master. So we prepared a huge feast for them And after they ate and drank their fill, he dismissed them. Then they returned to their master and the raiding bands of Eoram didn't bother with Israel anymore. She's actually really smart of Elisha because, like what happens in war, right, you kill people, they die. You send more people, you kill them, they die, and the conflict goes back and forth. In this case, elisha gives them all food and drinks and sends them home. Now can you imagine being a part of that army. You were struck blind, you were led into the hands of the enemy and then they fed you and sent you back. I'm guessing morale was rather I don't want to call it low, but I'm guessing if the King of Aram was like, you got to go back out and fight them. No, no, no, no. That was weird, that was trippy. We're ready to fight. We got it and then all of a sudden we went blind and then when we get our sight back, we're surrounded by all of these people and we all thought we were going to die and instead they threw a party for us, like we're not fighting them. And the moral of the story and again, before we started it, i said this is going to be a very big example of how God can use the unseen and the supernatural around us. But the point is that what you and I can walk away with today, while it might not always be that big, is that Elisha could see what God was up to in the supernatural world. He had a vision that God had given him, he had a wisdom that God had given him And through being obedient to God and even loving his enemies remember, the King of Israel was like let's do this. And Elisha, who says let's love on our enemies. That should sound familiar, because, eventually, the Messiah that they serve is going to say something like love your enemies. Because of this, his nation found peace, war ceased, god sent an army of angels to the rescue, and does he still do that today? I think so. I don't know why you would conclude otherwise. There's no reason to think that one day it ended. We see throughout the Old Annoe Testament again a continuation of angels working. So, then, the question for you and I this morning and for the next few weeks do you dare pray the prayer open my eyes, lord, so that I may see? Because, remember, we talked about how this is weird and it can make us uncomfortable, talking about the unseen realm. We want something that we can examine. Are we open to the experience? Before you pray this prayer and I know God is eager, god is eager to answer this prayer for you open your eyes so that you may see. Very eager, but do you really want to see? Do you really want to see what's going on? And remember, angels are terrifying right Now. I hope you will. I hope you'll pray God. Open my eyes, reveal to me mysteries, god, i want to experience life like I've never experienced it before, and it is possible. Scott McKnight is a New Testament scholar, writes a lot of books. One of his books is about angels. It's called The Hum of Angels. And in his book The Hum of Angels he tells a story of a time he visited a bird supply store. So, mcknight, he's into birds and he likes bird watching. He got into this hobby, but it's what he does. And he goes to the bird supply store and he mentions to the owner that he had a hummingbird feeder but he never, ever saw hummingbirds. And so McKnight concludes that there just aren't hummingbirds near where he lives. And he's asking the owner about that. The owner says well, where do you live? And McKnight tells them where he lives. And the owner says no, there are hummingbirds all over your village. The owner tells him, you just have to have the eyes to see them. And once you develop the eyes to see the hummingbirds, you will see them everywhere. So McKnight followed the advice and he was training his eyes to see hummingbirds. And then eventually he was able to see these fast darting birds and they were filling his feeder back up And he sees them. He writes I see hummingbirds all over the place. And in drawing a comparison and this is the story he uses to launch into the rest of his book he writes The Hum of Angels surrounds us And we only need ears to hear it or eyes to see it. They're all around us, the supernatural working. Good and evil are all around us. Do we dare pray? open my eyes, lord, so that I can see. So they can train my eyes to see this. The writer of Hebrews suggests that more often than not, we have encountered angels. They write don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it. We'll unpack that later. I want to leave you with the challenge. Today, as we begin this new series, i want to challenge all of us to write this prayer down Open my eyes, lord, so that I may see. And I want you to pray at the beginning of every day. And I want you to pray it at the end of every day as you earnestly and authentically seek God out in the wonder of what is unseen. Let's ask God to open our eyes to the unseen realm so that we don't get blinded by our own circumstances and miss the larger cosmic story that each of us are a part of.