Monday, March 13, 2017

Angels and Demons

Recently, I found myself in a discussion about, of all things, Satan. And the discussion began with the concept of God's redemption.

At first, it doesn't seem like those two things would go together very well, but the discussion was actually quite an interesting one. A friend and I were talking about Heaven and about redemption, trying to figure out how it could be that God either saves or condemns persons. Trying to figure out how even the "worst" among us could possibly be redeemed. Is it possible for a murderer to go to heaven? What about a thief? What about a child molester? What about the man or the woman who hurt you

Could you see that person in heaven? I believe the answer is yes. 

This view shocks many persons, even many inside the church. (Even many pastors, which is always a bit weird.) But what we have to remember here is that God is not like us; He doesn't see things the same way we do. And what we're talking about here is, essentially, sin. Just sin. Sin like every other sin that all of the rest of us are guilty of. And just as we would say that even though we lie, cheat, steal, gossip, etc. but still have a heart after God, we have to be willing to admit that someone may be guilty of murder, theft, rape, abuse, assault, etc. but still have a heart after God. 

The very same grace we are relying on for our redemption, they are relying on for theirs. Who are we to say that God's grace is not for them? That is our human arrogance.

But from this thought came an honest question: okay, then what about Satan? Will Satan be redeemed?

It's naturally where our minds go, right? If the worst of the worst stand on the threshold of Heaven, does that mean that Satan himself could one day find himself restored to God's good graces? 

The short answer is: I don't know. I wouldn't even know where to begin to know.

Because angels are not humans. The Bible gives us all of this beautiful theology about God's relationship with mankind, and although there are angelic beings at various intersections, the Bible says virtually nothing about God's relationship with angels. And very little about men's relationship with them. So everything that we can possibly know about God, about grace, about redemption, about Heaven, can only be applied to us. It's a theology of men; we cannot extrapolate it to concoct some theology of angels.

This raises the real heart of the issue, I think: most of us are pretty confused about angels. We don't really understand what they are. The angels we see in the Scripture seem pretty human in a lot of places, so maybe they are kind of like us. Maybe they are. But even if that is true, that does not mean they have the same covenant relationship with God that we do. We also get this idea that if angels are essentially like us, maybe they are us. Maybe angels are saints, the ones who have gone before us and come back to help guide us. There is no Scriptural evidence for this; it is a cultural myth. 

The angels, we think, are on our side. God has sent them to help us, to provide us some measure of spiritual guidance and holy intervention. At times, it can seem this way, but we should not be deceived. The angels are for God, not for us. (More on this later this week.) 

And, of course, we kind of skip past anything about angels that we can't quite make sense of. Ezekiel, for example, gives a rather powerful (but terrifying) description of the angelic beings that he saw - four faces, wheels for feet, etc. We have nothing on earth that looks like this, so clearly, Ezekiel was just crazy. A little too much time in the valley of dry bones for him, we think. But should we think that? 

Angels are pretty interesting. And, of course, so are demons. It's not something we understand very much about, and it's not a subject on which I can claim to know really anything at all. But some of the Scriptures can be fun to look at. So let's do that for a few days.

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