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Sun, Jan 02, 2005

30 - Angels and Judgment

Revelation 1:20 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 42 secs

Angels and Judgment

 

Revelation 1:20, "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches."

 

This study is important because the structure of the next two chapters is in some way based upon an understanding of who these angels are. As we go through the background of the role of angels in history and prophecy and we look at the role of angels in the book of Revelation what we are going to discover is that this enhances our understanding of the individual role of the believer in the angelic conflict. While it is not necessarily a major problem to identify these angels as pastors, because of course, the bottom line is the individual congregations receive the communication of this information in Revelation 2 & 3. But if we go beyond an understanding that this is pastors and recognize that the term "angel" (AGGELOS) actually refers to officers of the heavenly court, then what it does is it puts us and our Christian life within the framework of the congregation in a different perspective than one we have perhaps thought of before.

 

We saw last time that angels communicated judgment from the Supreme Court of heaven. The period of the Tribulation which is covered in Revelation chapters four through nineteen is a series of ongoing judgments, and it is these judgments that are announced by various angels. So they communicate the various judicial decisions that come forth from the throne of God. Second, they warn of impending judgments. They warn of these judicial pronouncements, so they function again in a role that is similar to an officer in a modern day courtroom. Third, they carry out of mediate these judgments. It is Supreme Court of heaven that pronounces the judgment but it is an angel that carries out the function, the actual operation of the judgment. Whether it has to do with some sort of geophysical disaster or whether it has to do with some sort of disease or sickness it is carried out by an angel.

 

If we look at analogy to a modern courtroom we see something that is parallel—not identical but a reflection of this heavenly function. It is my view that all law proceeds ultimately from heaven. It is God's way of structuring His relationship with man from the very beginning. In the garden of Eden God had a legal structure. The verbiage and terminology that is used in Genesis 1:26-28 where God said, "Let us make make man in our image and according to our likeness," was later adopted in human contracts so that in the human realm they were modeling there contracts, their legal relationships, on the way God had originally set things up with man. Once Adam sinned in the garden there was a restructuring of that initial covenant. We call the first covenant the creation covenant, the second covenant as the Adamic covenant, then later the Noahic covenant. But God uniquely restricts and defines His relationship with man according to these legal contracts. When you look at all the other religions of the world you don't have a god who binds himself contractually to a certain standard of behavior operation. That tells us that ultimately all law flows from an absolute which is the character of God. This is one reason why there is this battle over whether you can have the Ten Commandments in a courtroom. The very presence of a plaque or poster or statue that has the Ten Commandments on it is an expression of the idea that law is based on something that goes beyond the Constitution, beyond society, and beyond culture. Law is based on an eternal absolute that is grounded in the character of God. To those in our society who have rejected the existence of God and rejected absolutes it is a tremendous insult for them to see the Ten Commandments. It is an affront to their desire to be independent and autonomous and to run their life according to their own arbitrary whim. So this is what motivates this move to remove the Ten Commandments.

 

When we look at Scripture we see that all of Scripture is structured in a kind of legal framework that supports this analogy of a courtroom. In modern courts the person who is responsible for communicating information from the judge to the jury and who is responsible for maintaining order in the courtroom is known as a bailiff. But in the Federal Court you have a US Marshall, and his responsibilities go far beyond that of a bailiff in a state court. A US Marshall serves as a body guard or honor guard for the federal judge. He serves warrants and carries out the official decrees of the judge and of the court. This is something that is analogous to the role that we see angels play throughout Scripture.

 

The first time that we see any angelic being in the Old Testament other than Satan are the cherubs that are assigned to the entry way to the garden of Eden at the end of Genesis chapter three. After Adam and the woman had sinned part of the judicial decree for their punishment was that they were barred from having access to the tree of life. So God places a sentry, a guard, a cherub with a flaming sword, and that sword throughout Scripture is a picture of having authority over life. This cherub has the authority to take the life of any human being who tries to enter Eden and to take of the fruit of the tree of life.

 

We then see a couple of angels accompanying the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ when He comes down to bring judgment on Sodom and Gommorah. The Lord stays behind with Abraham but it is the two angels who go to Sodom and bring Lot and his family out, and they are the ones responsible for executing judgment on Sodom and Gommorah. Then later on in the Old Testament there is a situation where David decides to conduct a census of the people in violation of the plan and the will of God and as a result of that God is going to bring judgment on the nation. He gives David the option as to how he would like this judgment carried out, and so there was an angel carrying out that judgment on the nation at that time. So throughout the Scriptures there are angels carrying out the judicial decisions from the Supreme Court of heaven. Of course, not to mention the angel of death that visits the tenth plague on the Egyptians during the time of the exodus.

 

The third line of evidence has to do with the role of angels in the angelic conflict. What is the role of the angels in the angelic conflict?

 

1)  We recognize that the term AGGELOS [a)ggeloj] or angel means a messenger. But the primary use of the term AGGELOS or its Hebrew counterpart refers to supernatural intelligent beings that God created to serve Him in the administration of the universe. We know from Job 38:4-7 that God first created the angels. The second thing we note is that is says all of the sons of God sang for joy. So we know that there wasn't a break among the angels yet, they were still in a harmonious relationship, still united. It says then that he goes on to create the rest of the universe. Then comparing that Scripture with others, like Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we know that the highest of the angels was known as Lucifer the son of the morning and that he sinned by becoming arrogant. He wanted to be the one to rule the angels.

2)  At some point after the creation of the universe Lucifer fell into arrogance, and he enticed a third of the angels to follow him in his rebellion against God.

3)  After some indeterminate period of time the angels were allowed a period of time either to follow Satan or to remain loyal to God. When this time finished God convened a trial and He sentenced these fallen angels and Satan to the lake of fire. Matthew 25:41—"was prepared," past tense indicating it was already in existence.

4)  Why aren't the angels in the lake of fire? If they were sentenced to the lake of fire before man was ever created, then why aren't they there now? Why has that sentence been postponed?

5)  The Scripture does not directly answer the question. We can deduce the answer by looking at a number of different things that go on in the Scriptures. What we have first of all is a challenge to God's authority. At the very root Satan's sin is a desire to be like God, so he challenges God's authority. He desires to demonstrate in this appeal of God's decision that God is really some nasty old mean tyrant who just wants to do things His way, that God doesn't really want to allow His creatures to really fulfill their potential and to really be able to do everything that given him the ability to do. So Satan is just accusing God of being a nasty old meany and not letting him do everything that Satan knows that he can do. What God wants to demonstrate in the process of human history is that the creature can't ever be who he wants to be unless he is doing it under the complete authority of God. Satan's claim is that the creature can autonomously find happiness and meaning in life by being everything that he wants to be. What God is going to demonstrate in history is that when the creature acts independently of God, no matter how innocuous the act may be, it will always culminate in crisis and catastrophe and judgment. There will be all kinds of negative consequences to that action. What God is demonstrating as well in this is that only genuine humility on the part of the creature can lead the creature to real happiness and stability in life. We see a picture of this in Jesus Christ. The character qualities that are emphasized in the Lord Jesus Christ are completely antithetical to the character qualities that are emphasized by human viewpoint and by Satan's cosmic system. So what God is demonstrating through Christ foremost and through us secondarily as we reflect His character is that only when the creature acts in ways consistent with God's character can there be real stability and real happiness. In Philippians 2:5-11 we are told that Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death. This is just the opposite in terms of character quality of what Satan exemplified. In the previous verse Paul writes that Christ Jesus, "who being in the form of God [being in the essence of God] did not consider it something to be grasped at." This is what Satan did. He wanted to grasp at it; he wanted to be God. Jesus Christ who is God did not think holding on to or asserting His own deity was something to be held on to and He was willing to humble Himself to the point of becoming a creature so that He could demonstrate the kind of character that a creature should have in terms of humility. So what we see in terms of Satan's challenge to God's authority is answered in Jesus Christ's obedience to God's authority. A second way in which the angelic conflict is played out has to do with Satan's challenge to God's love. Satan challenges God's love in the sense that he is asking how a loving God can send His creatures to eternity in the lake of fire. He is saying that he just wants to run thing the way he wants to run them, and what is so wrong with that? This is the same thing that is found in the disobedient human  heart. We just want to live our life the want to live it, so God should quit meddling with me! That is what we hear people say. They just want to be left alone, they don't want God interfering. And what God is demonstrating in human history is that no matter what man tries to do—and in all of human history God will show every kind of creaturely independence—it always fails. Not only does it always fail but it always results in some sort of crisis, some sort of catastrophe; it always brings about unintended consequences of extreme suffering for the creature. In the garden it wasn't the eating of the fruit that was inherently evil, it was the act of disobedience. But it was disobedience in a form that seemed trivial, and everything that we see in human history is the result of that simple act of eating a piece of fruit. So what God is demonstrating is that His focus is on the victim, that He is concerned about what happens to the human race, the creature, as a result of this sin. And what makes Satan's sin so egregious I because of what it did to the other angels and because of what it does in terms of all the suffering in human history. It is all the result of a creature wanting to act independently of the creator. So God is using human history to demonstrate the flaws in Satan's logic and to demonstrate that the creature can never ever act independently of the creator. Third, Satan is challenging God's justice, His fairness. He is saying that God isn't really fair to the creature, that He hasn't really given him a chance to sow what he can do. Satan wants an opportunity to show that he can rule the universe. Dr Louis Sperry Chafer pointed out in his Systematic Theology that one of the greatest evidences of Satan's failure is all of the suffering and disorder and war and calamity in human history. See, Satan wants to prove that he can be god, that he can run everything, that he can bring peace and prosperity, and order into the world, that he can rule it as well as God can rule it. But what he didn't realize was that when he tempted Adam to sin and then Adam sinned and they began to procreate until eventually there are millions of sin natures running around who all want to be god, that he had created a whole bunch of competition. Everybody wants to be god and nobody wants to listen to Satan as their authority either. So now he has to bring order into this chaos that he created. So Satan has challenged God's justice. He wanted to show what he could do in running the universe; he wanted to replace God. What God is demonstrating is that no one but Himself, no one but God can rule the universe. The creature, like Satan who is brilliant and has more knowledge than any human being could ever amass, is still finite in his knowledge and ability, and he can only be in one place at one time. So he can't do what he is attempting to do. When the creature operates on the basis of arrogance the ultimate result is always self-destructive. Only when the creature is in complete submission and obedience to the creator can there be harmony and genuine love, and all of this flows through true humility.

6)  Human history provides evidence to support God's case in a legal court of appeal. First of all we see that Satan's guilt, his disobedience, brought about a judicial sentence from God. He was sentenced to the lake of fire some time in eternity past based on our understanding of Matthew 25:41. Furthermore, we also see that Adam's guilt also invoked a judicial sentence. The structure of Genesis 3:14ff where God outlines the consequences to the serpent, to the woman and to the man, fits the concept of a judicial sentence. These are the consequences, the punishment for their actions. The issue at stake is God's integrity—His righteousness and justice. Over and over again throughout Scripture we see this emphasis on God's righteousness and His justice. Furthermore, we see this analogy to the courtroom played out in basic terminology that is used. For example, the new term that is used to refer to Lucifer is the Hebrew word satan, which means "the accuser." So it is a legal term, it refers to someone who is bringing an accusation into a courtroom. We see this in Zechariah 3:1-7, "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD [Yahweh, the Lord Jesus Christ], and Satan [the accuser] standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD [God the Father] said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke you, O Satan; even the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you: is not this [Joshua] a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spoke unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes [a picture of the imputation of righteousness, the removal of guilt]. And I said, Let them set a clean turban upon his head. So they set a clean turban upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by. And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts; If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my charge, then you shall also judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give you places to walk among these that stand by." The picture is of a courtroom scene, standing before the Supreme Court of heaven with Satan as the accuser and the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who is defending Joshua. We see the same thing again in 1 John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Satan is the one who accuses us, but it is Jesus Christ who is our advocate, our defense attorney. We also have the idea of courtroom in the idea of covenants throughout the Bible. There is the initial Edenic covenant, not mentioned in Genesis 1:26-28 but is referred to later on in Scripture (Hosea). There is the Adamic covenant in Genesis 3, the Noahic covenant in Genesis 9, the Abrahamic covenant reiterated in various places in Genesis, the land or real estate covenant, the Davidic covenant, the New covenant. These are all contracts. Sometimes when we talk about the Bible we talk about the Old Testament and the New Testament. Testament is a legal term, a contract. So at the very root of all human relationship to God there is a contract. God has bound Himself to us contractually. This doesn't happen in any other system of religion, so what we have is a unique setup. God is under girding all human relationships with a legal structure. That doesn't remove it from being personal but it gives a basis for stability and structure to our relationship with God. We know that we can trust Him, He is not going to go off and do something different next year or next century, He is going to fulfill what He said in His covenants. He had bound Himself legally, and this is why we as Americans with a legal system based on a Judeo-Christian background have a respect for the law that is unique in history. So once again we see that the Bible is structured in terms of a legal framework. Furthermore, we have various scenes that are reminiscent of a courtroom. We have the scenes in Job chapter one when the angels, the sons of God, come before the Supreme Court of heaven. Then Satan the accuser comes in and accuses Job. Zechariah 3:1-7 also has that same imagery. When we look at salvation, salvation is couched in legal terms. The reason we need salvation is because of sin. The terms that we use for sin are terms that come out of a legal context. HAMARTIA [a(martia] means to miss the mark, it is the basic word for sin. It means to fall short of a standard and it would be used of a violation of law. We have in the Old Testament the word "transgression." This is the Hebrew word pasha, which refers to a crime or criminal action, the violation of a law. The Greek counterpart to this word is PARAPTOMA [paraptwma] which indicates, again, the violation of a standard. Another word that is used of sin is ADIKOS [a)dikoj], not righteous. Terms for sin refer to a legal violation; words for salvation also refer to a legal satisfaction. Propitiation indicates that the law has been satisfied, and when it comes to the character of God what that means is that the character of God has been satisfied with the work of Christ on the cross. The word "imputation" is legally crediting something to someone's account, so that when we trust Christ as our savior the perfect righteousness of Christ is legally credited to our account. Now there is a positive balance and when God looks at out character He looks at the character of Christ and declares us justified. We are righteous, that is what it means to be justified by faith. It means that when God looks at our record He is looking at the character of Christ, not ours, and he says we are justified. Terms like "forgiveness," APHIEMI [a)fihmi], a concept we are familiar with in 1 John 1:9, is another legal term. All of this indicates that our relationship with God is couched in legal terminology, it is all governed by legal concepts. Then we get into other aspects of Scripture and we find that there is a word group that shows up a lot, especially in John's writing, and it is based on the word MARTUREO [marturew] from which we get our English word "martyr." It means "witness," of one who provides a testimony. John 1:7, talking about John the Baptist. John writes, "These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life through his name." What is written? These "signs" are written, and there are basically seven signs that are given in the Gospel of John to indicate that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. These are, as it were, seven witnesses that John is marshalling. In almost a legal sense he is going to trot them out one at a time to demonstrate that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be and that if we believe and accept the fact that he is the Messiah, the one who died on the cross for our sins, then we can have eternal life. So the Gospel of John is filled with this legal terminology. Cf. John 3:11, once again we see that it is this legal terminology of witness and testimony that we see in his vocabulary. Cf. also John 5:30-37 where we have 13 references in eight verses dealing with "witness, testimony, righteousness." 1 John 5:9-12 is another example that our whole relationship with God is wrapped up in legal terminology. This gives us great confidence as believers that we can count on God. There is an absolute out there that is greater than us that is unshakeable, and it is grounded in the character of God. Furthermore, this means there is accountability. So we have judgments in the Scripture: like the judgment seat of Christ, and evaluation for believers; the judgment of the sheep and the goats at the end of the Tribulation; the great white throne judgment at the end of the Millennium. When we come to the bema seat and study concept of rewards and inheritance for believers there is terminology such as inheritance that is referred to again and again through legal terminology that we would find in a will or a testament at the time of death. Again and again and again God is using legal terminology to define that relationship. In conclusion, what we see is that in all of this God has wrapped up human history in this mantle of legal terminology and it must fit into some broader category, and this is the appeal trial of Satan.

7)  We see that angels observe human actions to learn about God's character, especially His justice and His grace. These are the issues that are challenged by Satan. For example, 1 Corinthians 4:9, "For I think that God has displayed us the apostles last, as men condemned to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." So our life is made evident to the angels; they are watching us. 1 Peter 1:12, "To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into." The angels are curious about this. They are learning things about the character of God and about this whole legal structure from watching and observing. 1 Timothy 5:21, "I charge you before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality." The angels are watching the local church, and in this case they are watching the pastors of the local congregation.

8)  Angels observe human history as confirming witnesses to God's covenants and as agents for executing the judgments contained in those covenants. What is meant by this is that God sets up a contract with us and says that if we violate it there will be certain judgments. The angels are witnesses to the contract that God sets up and they are the ones who carry out the judgments contained in those contracts. What is our precedent for this? Galatians 3:19, "Why the law then? It was added because of transgressions … having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator." No angels were mentioned in Exodus 19 & 20, but Galatians 3:19 and other passages tell us that angels were there, though not mentioned in that passage. The mediator here is Moses. "… until the seed would come {the Lord Jesus Christ] to whom the promise had been made." The law was given because of sin on the part of the nation Israel and it is given through the angels. The Greek word here is DIATASSO [diatassw]. DIATAGMA [diatagma] is the noun form. The TASSO or TAGMA has to do with something that is ordered or structured. DIA is the preposition meaning "through." So it is focusing on something that is organized, structured, and outlined. The other passage where we find the noun is in Acts 7:53, "Who have received the law by the direction of angels, and have not kept it." The idea here is that the angels organized and ordered the law. What does that mean? Hebrews 2:2, "For if the word spoken by angels" – the angels spoke the word, the giving of the law. When did this happen? Deuteronomy 5:22, "These words the LORD spoke unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more." So God spoke verbally and audibly to the Jews when they were assembled below Mount Sinai. It is not something they heard internally. Deuteronomy 33:2, "And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints [a noun form of kadash, "holy ones," angels]: from his right hand went a fiery law for them." When the Lord came at Sinai, Moses says, there were ten thousand angels with Him. When we put all of this together what we realize is that God gave the law to Moses and then apparently there were angels who communicated and exegeted the law to the Jews at the base of Mount Sinai. They made sure that they understood how the law was to be applied and understood. That is what Hebrews 2:2 is talking about. Three times in the New Testament there is reference to this. It is ignored in the Old Testament. What is going on here? It is that angels are serving as officers of the court to make sure that things are understood. The conclusion is that there is a legal operation taking place here. In the Old Testament when God gave the law to Moses He gave two copies. One copy went into the ark of the covenant and one copy went to the people. What is happening with the book of Revelation is that the Lord Jesus Christ is giving the revelation to John who is making seven copies of the whole book for each church. At the heavenly level the Lord Jesus Christ is giving an angelic witness a copy of the critique sheet for each congregation. That angelic witness is standing as a functionary of the heavenly court as a witness of God's grace and integrity in each congregation. God is evaluating each congregation. These seven epistles are not like we have from Paul and Peter and John earlier in the New Testament which are talking about how to live the Christian life. These are evaluation statements. To the church us said that it still has time to change its mind in certain areas and to apply doctrine and move forward. To the angel is said that if these churches don't straighten up and apply doctrine, then it is their job to execute judgment and take out the congregation. That is what happened historically to these seven congregations. They failed to apply doctrine and they went through the process of judgment. This is a cycle that we see again and again in human history. People become complaisant with what they have, complaisant with the doctrine that they have been taught, and eventually they begin to take it for granted, they begin to take God's grace for granted, and before long the spiritual life isn't significant for them and they become distracted by all the details of life. The next thing you know they are in reversionism, the churches begin to deteriorate, get into ritualism and legalism, deny the deity of Christ, the creatorship of God, deny creation, and before long they are under judgment and God takes out the congregation and eventually the nation.