“From an Angel’s Perspective”
by Bill Itzel
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but this story begins long before this universe began. Before “The beginning”, God created us…the angels. Like the first man and woman, we had a completely free will. We could choose to serve our Creator forever, or choose to follow our own way. Satan, the devil, was the highest cherub, but he chose to rebel against his God and, in pride, fell from that position. Unlike man, however, once an angel falls, there is no redemption. There is no salvation. When Satan fell, he took 1/3rd of all the angels with him. That means 2/3rds of our kind still serve the Creator God as their sovereign.
God created man “In the beginning” and since the fall, angels have had charge to protect God’s elect and help carry out God’s sovereign will on this planet. Because of the fall, man’s free will was no longer free. He was in bondage to sin. Every man and woman who would ever live would be born dead in trespasses and sins, captive to its passions, and slave to their father, the Devil. But God is an omniscient God and He knew man would fall. He also planned to provide a way back to Him, a way to restore what had been lost, a plan of salvation.
As Angels, we serve the God of heaven, the God who, although is one God in essence, is three in persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God chose, for His own glory, to save some of the rebellious creation who had, in their sin, positioned themselves as His enemies. He would not bring them to Himself against their will, but would free these elect from the blindness of their sin, so that they would see and choose to obey Him. He would set them free from the power and penalty of their iniquity and buy them out of the slave market of sin. However, “buying” necessitates paying a price. God is holy, and He cannot just unilaterally forgive sins. He would be the most unjust of judges to just let sin go unpunished, so all of the sins of His elect must be paid for. God had a plan.
God gave glimpses of His plan throughout 4000 years of earth’s history and in prophecies of a coming deliverer for His people. He had chosen the Hebrew nation, a stiff-necked and heard hearted people, yet he loved them and showed mercy to them time and time again. They continued to disobey God and worship other gods, so God would send prophets to warn them of judgment. They would either kill, or at least ignore the prophet so God would send the promised penalty. The people of Israel would repent, and God would show mercy. This pattern would continue throughout the entire history of God’s chosen people.
Just over 2000 years ago, God’s ultimate redemption plan, designed before time, was to be implemented. Israel once again found themselves in captivity under Roman rule. The Romans, although the dominant world power, were mere pawns in God’s sovereign plan. It was at this very time that the Father set the wheels of His program in motion. Now, as angels, we serve at the very throne of God, but that doesn’t mean we understand God’s plan. His ways are not our ways. All I know is that everything He does is for His own glory. We just obediently follow His orders…but what He did 2000 years ago took all of us by surprise. The Holy Spirit overshadowed a young girl named Mary, an Israelite and she became pregnant with a baby. This had never been done before and I knew it would be a shock to the humans, but nothing prepared me for who this baby was. This baby was no ordinary baby, this was the Son of God, the second person of the trinity…trapped forever in a human body!
This was the creator of the world the size of a pea, growing inside of this human girl. Gabriel was sent to tell her the good news, and needless to say she was surprised. He told her to name Him Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. I knew God had a plan of redemption, but couldn’t figure out how this involved God becoming a baby. This seemed like such a strange way to save mankind from their sins. At first, no one believed Mary, and even the man she was engaged to, Joseph was ready to break off the marriage. Had Israel not been carried away into captivity, this man, Joseph, would have been King of Israel, He was in the Kingly line of David, but found himself a lowly carpenter in Galillee. We had to intervene and once again Gabriel was sent to open Joseph’s eyes up to the truth in a dream. Once Joseph understood God’s plan, all we had to do was protect the baby there in Galillee.
One of the other angels reminded me of the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This was a problem since Bethlehem was 80 miles from Galilee and in Mary’s condition, would take a week or more to get there. Then God moved in the heart of the Roman Caesar to call for a census. This meant that Joseph…and Mary would have to travel to Bethlehem. It was a long and dangerous journey so we had our hands full making sure the baby Jesus was safe. They arrived in Bethlehem and stayed with Joseph’s family there, but as you can imagine, the place was packed with visitors for the census. Since they arrived late, there was no room in the nice comfortable upper room of the home and were relegated to the lower level where the animals were kept.
The day came for the baby to be born and we were astounded to see the very creator of the universe so helpless. The King of Kings was wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough. Just then, the Father called me and several other angels to announce the King’s birth to the world. I was a bit perplexed to find that we would not be headed to the Temple or the Palace in Jerusalem, but instead to a nearby hillside inhabited by a few hundred sheep and a handful of shepherds. Gabriel alone addressed the shepherds and gave them the good news of the Savior’s birth. They were very afraid at first so the rest of us stayed invisible until we got our cue. Then we stepped out of the darkness of night and lit up the hillside saying “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” We then went back to heaven to await our next assignment.
I was chosen, along with several other angels to accompany and protect Jesus as He grew. The baby Lord cried when He was hungry or needed to be changed. He slept in His mother’s arms and Joseph used to sing Him to sleep; he had a very nice singing voice for a carpenter. God chose two very honorable humans to be His earthly parents. Although she was young and this was her first child, Mary was a wonderful mother to the Lord. Joseph always treated Jesus as if He was his own son, and eventually got a job in a carpenter’s shop there in Bethlehem.
One day, about a year later, Magi from the East came to the house where the family lived. These were the “king-makers” of the day, and their presence served as the royal coronation Jesus never had at his birth. They brought gold to signify His Kingship. Being the adopted son of Joseph who was in the regal line of David, Jesus had a right to the throne and one day will rule over Israel and all the world forever just as Isaiah’s prophecy says, “A child will be born…He will be called Mighty God…and of His Kingdom, there will be no end.” They also brought Him frankincense, which was a symbol of His holiness and righteousness and to show His willingness to become a sacrifice. Even though the religious leaders of His time wouldn’t understand it, these Magi knew He would be the Holy Sacrifice. That brings me to the last gift, myrrh, which symbolized bitterness, suffering, and affliction. I didn’t fully understand the last one at the time, but knew God had a reason for it. Jesus would be Prophet, Priest, and King to His people and Savior to all in the world who would repent of their sins and trust in Him as their Savior and follow Him obediently as Lord.
The very night that the Magi left, Joseph was visited by the Lord in a dream to get up immediately and take the Savior to Egypt. It seems the usurper-king Herod set out to kill the Child who was a threat to his throne and decreed that all babies under the age of two were to be slaughtered. Once again, we were on the move, not only to protect the child, but to fulfill a prophecy: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” We stayed there until the death of Herod and I was chosen to tell Joseph to go back to Galilee, to the city of Nazareth where Jesus would grow to be a man.
As you might expect, Jesus was a very obedient boy. This did annoy His earthly brothers and sisters as He was the child that quite literally, could “do no wrong”. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. He didn’t use any of His powers as God which I thought a bit odd. It would have made His work a lot easier, but I learned from another angel that when He took on the human form, He laid aside the exercise of His divine powers and let the Holy Spirit empower Him to do all he needed to do. From what I understand, this was to be an example of how the “Church” was to live in the future. The “Church” was a mystery to me at this point, but I don’t know all of God’s plan until it is revealed.
When Jesus was about 30 years old, His earthly ministry began. No one, but Mary and Joseph and His brothers and sisters knew Jesus was the Messiah. Joseph had gone to heaven by this point and his brothers and sisters refused to believe in Him. His brother, James, always seemed curious, but had not yet made up his mind to believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus did many miracles and had many followers, but when He began speaking of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, most fell away and only a few close disciples that He had chosen stayed with Him to the end. The Jewish leaders had no love for Jesus because they were corrupt and He was exposing their legalistic ways. We knew of a plot to kill Jesus and several times helped Him escape their clutches. Three years into His ministry however, there was a change in our orders. We were told to stand down as Jesus was arrested, beaten, spat upon, and put on a trial for trumped up charges. We couldn’t believe that we were not allowed to step in. I just knew that God was planning something spectacular, perhaps, waiting until the very end and then letting us wipe out the Pharisees and Romans like God did once before in the great flood. Ten thousand of us stood by, but the order to rescue Jesus never came. We were dumfounded. When Jesus said, “It is finished” and took His last breath, we were all called home and told our work there was done.
Again God’s ways are not our ways, but we all sensed something was wrong. Even two days later, it felt as though the enemy had won. I knew that couldn’t be true, but was pondering it all over in my mind when I got the call that there was one more job for me to do. God sent me to go down and roll the stone away. Perhaps He wanted me to take the body and hide it like we did with Moses centuries before. I wasn’t to be invisible but was to shine in my most terrifying bright light, which was enough to knock out all the guards. As I approached the tomb to get the body of Jesus, I looked and He was gone! He was alive! He had walked out of the tomb and His body was completely healed except for the holes in his hands, feet, and sides. I waited for His disciples to arrive, but it was a couple of women who came first. I told them, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. Over 500 people saw Jesus alive before He ascended back into heaven.
Today, the Father sits on His throne ruling sovereignly over His creation, The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of His people on the earth today (That’s the Church I mentioned earlier), and the Son makes intercession as the one Mediator between God and man. As for us, the angels who serve the one true God, we wait for the day when we will return with Christ to call His Church home and start the final countdown to the earthly kingdom where Jesus will rule over creation from His throne in Jerusalem. Until that day comes, and we don’t know when that will be any more than the humans on earth, we will spend our time watching the church and learning about God’s mercy and grace toward them, and sing around the throne, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for almost 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship, not only in their home church (Mt. Airy Bible Church), but around the country. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.