Tuesday, September 29, 2009

St. Michael and All Angels

Today is the festival of St. Michael and All Angels. Here is the Treasury's explanation of this day:

The name of the archangel St. Michael means "Who is like God?" Michael is mentioned in the book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ's own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come" (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death.

Johann Gerhard gives four reasons why angels readily serve the believers though they are much nobler and higher than we:
1) Because they are confirmed int he good and therefore gladly and fully obey God's will. God's will and order is that they serve us (Heb. 1:14). The army of the heavens--sun, moon, and stars--maintain their order given them by God for man's sake. All the more will the heavenly army of the holy angels maintain its order.

2) Because our nature is raised in Christ above all angels and archangels (Eph. 1:20, 21; Heb. 1:4). Therefore the angels do not refuse to serve us men, in honor of the human nature assumed by Christ. As an entire race is brought to honor by a marriage, so the marriage of the Son of God with humanity has restored the human race to honor (Matt. 22:2). What wonder, then, that the angels serve us, since the Son of God, the Lord of the angels, came to earth that He might serve us?

3) Because love is pure and perfect in them, the angels joyfully serve us, as does the Lord, who Himself is Love (1 John 4:8), in whose image the angels were created, and who declared: "I will rejoice in doing them good" (Jer. 32:41).

4) Finally, because we shall someday be with them in heaven and join their choir in praising God, the angels are happy to serve us here on earth
(Treasury, p. 767.)

3 comments:

Peggy said...

I've wondered if my father and grandparents who have passed have already become angels. Are they able to guide me in my journey? Is this the difference between a Saint and an Angel? Can this thought be consistent with God's promise to send Christ on the Final Day to raise the dead?

Greg said...

Peggy,
Thanks for your question--it's good to know that there are people who read this here blog.

I'll attempt to respond to your comments in this brief comment box. If you'd like to speak further, don't hesitate to let me know.

First of all, you wrote: "I've often wondered if my father and grandparents who have passed have already become angels."

The simple answer to your question is, "no, they haven't, nor will they." Humanity was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), as the crown of His creation. Angels, however, are distinct creatures, messengers of God. The explanation to the Small Catechism lists four things that Scripture teaches about angels:

1) They are spirit beings who were created holy (Gen. 1:31).
2) Some angels rebelled against God. They are the devils or demons (2 Peter 2:4).
3) The good angels are many and powerful. They serve God and help us (Dan. 7:10; Luke 2:13; Ps. 103:20-21; 91:11-12; Heb. 1:14).
4) The evil angels are also many and powerful. They hate God and seek to destroy everything that is good, especially faith in Christ (Mark 5:9; Eph. 6:12; Mark 4:15; John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8-9)

You also ask: "Are they able to guide me in my journey?"

The Scriptures speak about the angels' protection in serving God and man, but not really about guiding us. The Holy Spirit guides us as He sanctifies us and keeps us in the true faith through the Gospel.

Your next question: "Is this the difference between a saint and an angel?"

Again, human beings and angels are distinct creatures. Angels are purely spirits that can appear in bodily form from time to time at the LORD's command. Human beings, however, are created in both body and soul. But this only begins to answer the question.

Because the good angels have not sinned, they are called holy angels, since they were a part of God's good creation (Gen. 1:31).

What is a saint? Quite simple, a Christian. Someone who is baptized into Christ, and has been given His righteousness, sancitfied by the Holy Spirit, is now called a holy one of God. St. Paul his epistle to the Epohesians with these words: "To the saints who are in Ephesus." That is to say, to all those who make up the church.

Luther taught that we are Simultaneously Saint and Sinner. We are sinners according to our old sinful nature, the old Adam, but at the very same time, we are already saints in Christ Jesus, the new man that rises from our baptism to live in righteousness and purity, and who desires to serve God. You, Peggy, are already a saint in Christ Jesus. As opposed to the Roman Catholic understanding, sainthood is not something you can earn, but is a free gift of God in Christ Jesus.

Finally, you ask about the resurrection.

Christ will come again on the last day, and will raise up all the saints, and give them new and glorious bodies that will last forever. We will not rise to become angels, but to be pure and immortal human beings, as we once were before the fall. God has promised a new heaven and earth, which we will inherit for all eternity, with all of God's creation, fully restored. Will angels be there praising God right along with us? Absolutely. But our loved ones who have gone before us will most assuredly NOT be those angels. They will be praising God with their immortal bodies.

I hope these comments have helped. I offer just one more word.

Your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ are waiting peacefully for the resurrection. While their bodies have been committed to the ground, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," their souls are already with Christ--and we would not want them to be any other place.

Again, Peggy, I thank you for your question, and pray that this answer is helpful.

Michael Carlson said...

Follow your heart.