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Sun, Jul 08, 2007

115 - Angelic Assembly [c]

Revelation 5:9-11 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:40 mins 26 secs

Angelic Assembly; Rev. 5:9-11

 

There is a genuine war that goes on in an invisible realm, one that we cannot see, that we cannot touch, that we cannot taste, yet nevertheless we know that it is going on because of what God has revealed to us in the Scriptures. This is not some abstract doctrine that deals with another realm of creatures that might seem somewhat mythological to some, it is very real because the focal point of all history that took place on the cross was not only the centrepiece of human history where the sins of mankind were paid for, but it is the centrepiece of this cosmic conflict that began in eternity past when this creature named Lucifer rebelled against God. So to understand where we are in our place in history we must fit it within the context of not only human history but also the entire scope of how that fits within this broader conflict.

There are different categories and ranks of angels. We should note that there seems to be this angelic council that surrounds the throne of God and there is discussion that takes place between God and these angels that come before Him. This is referenced in Psalm 89:5-8 Psalm 89 is an important chapter because it is a meditation on the Davidic covenant. As there is this covenant that is given by God to David there is also reference to the fact that this is witnessed to by "the heavens." Just as Moses had called upon the heavens and the earth to witness the Mosaic covenant so there is a heavenly witness to the Davidic covenant. When we have that word "heaven" it is not talking about the physical heavens, the starry skies or the space that God created in Genesis 1:1, it is talking about the inhabitants of the heavens which is the angels. The first four verses of Psalm 89 gives us an introduction and focus our attention on God's grace in giving the covenant to David. Then there is a pause and the subject shifts in verse 5 which is a statement of praise for this covenant. NASB "The heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD, A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, And awesome above all those who are around Him? O LORD God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You."

The synonymous parallelism in verse 5 is between the heavens in the first line and the assembly of the holy ones in the second line. The heavens simply stands for that group which inhabits the heavens, which is the angels. What we learn in the second line is not just that there are angels but that they exist as an assembly, a group that would gather together and encircle the throne of God. Then in v. 6: "For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty …" Here we have the phrase "the sons of the mighty," and the phrase in the Hebrew is bene el, which is similar to the phrase in Genesis 6:3, bene ha elohim. This is a term that always refers to angels in the Old Testament. Literally, it is "Who among the sons of God is like the Lord?" Then in v. 7, "A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones." Again, we are told that they meet as the council. "And awesome above all those who are around Him?" Literally in the Hebrew it means all those who encircle or surround Him. So the picture we have here is very similar to the picture we see in Isaiah 6:3. In v 8 there is a re-emphasis on the word "faithfulness" which goes back to the reference to His faithfulness in v. 5, and the point of all this is that the angels serve as courtroom witnesses. There is this heavy emphasis in various passages on this courtroom terminology. The very term that is used to describe Satan is a legal term for an adversary in the courtroom. When we come to understanding the ultimate framework for understanding how God is dealing with His creatures it is within this framework of justice. It presupposes that there are legal absolutes that God has established to which He adheres in dealing with His creatures, and He calls upon the angels as witnesses within the outworking of human history. That is why when Moses reminds the Jews in Deuteronomy of the covenant established at Mount Sinai he calls upon the heavens and the earth as witnesses. We know from the Mosaic law that a contract needed two witnesses so he calls upon the angels to be one witness to this covenant between God and Israel. This is the same thing that is going on here in Psalm 89, that the heavens, i.e. the angels, the assembly of the saints, are witnesses to God's faithfulness in carrying out the Davidic covenant which promised an eternal seed, and eternal dynasty, and eternal kingdom to the descendants of David. This culminates in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the greater son of David who will return in the future and establish the throne of David in the Millennial kingdom.

Jus as a side note, if we skip down to Psalm 89:14 we have one of the most crucial theological statements in all of the Psalms: NASB "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You." This emphasizes the foundation of the throne of God. All of God's dealings are righteousness and justice.

There is another picture of this convocation or council before the throne of God in other passages in the Old Testament. One of them is in Job chapter one, verses 6-12: NASB "Now there was a day when the sons of God [the angels] came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them."

That tells us that the terms "sons of God" includes both fallen angels and the holy angels. It also tells us that even at this time all of the angels, both fallen and holy, will meet together before God.

"The LORD said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' Then Satan answered the LORD and said, 'From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.' The LORD said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.' Then Satan answered the LORD, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.' Then the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.' So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD."

Then in chapter two, verse 1, there was a subsequent event. "Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD."

There is another term that is used for this group of angels, primarily referring to the holy or elect angels, and that is the word in Psalm 89:8 where we read: "O LORD God of hosts…" The word in the Hebrew is tsaba. The plural of it is tsabaoth. "Host" is a term that describes an army. Even today it is a term that describes the army of Israel. The holy angels are referred to as the army of God. Once again this shows that this military terminology is used to describe the angels and the angelic army. So when we see the fact that the Bible uses on the one hand judicial terminology related to some sort of judicial challenge, of judgment on the angels, and on the other hand there is conflict terminology, warfare terminology, military terminology, used to describe this conflict, and that human history sits squarely in the middle of this huge warfare that has taken place among the angels, and we have a role to play within it. We can't understand human history without seeing this.

Another picture is in 1 Kings 22 which deals with the war that develops between Syria and Israel. Verse 2 NASB "In the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. [3] Now the king of Israel said to his servants, 'Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?'" In the midst of this is Ahab the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah. Jehoshaphat shows a little orientation in v. 5: "Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, 'Please inquire first for the word of the LORD'."  In other words, God check it with the prophets whether we ought to go to battle at this particular time. Ahab isn't very pleased with this but he calls together his prophets and by this time he has basically staffed his prophets with yes men and so they all tell him that God is going to give him victory. So the king of Israel says, Let's get somebody in here we can trust, and Micaiah son of Imlah is brought in in order to give the truth. Ahab doesn't like that because, he said, Micaiah never substantiates anything Ahab says. He doesn't tell Ahab what he wants to hear. But Micaiah is a genuine prophet of the Lord.

So in the midst of this Micaiah comes in, and we read in verse 17 NASB "So he said, 'I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. And the LORD said, 'These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.'" This indicated that the leader of the army of Israel would be killed. [18] "Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?' [19] Micaiah said, 'Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.' [20] The LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. [21] Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' [22] The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice {him} and also prevail. Go and do so.' [23] Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you."

What this shows, just as we saw in Job, is that there is this heavenly assembly, and before Satan can do anything to Job he has to get God's permission. The same thing is happening here as we see the sovereignty of God in His control. Evil is not totally chaotic, it is under the control of God and God is going to allow Satan and the demons to do what they do, but under His control for the outworking of His purposes in human history. So 1 Kings 22 shows once again that what is happening in human history on the battlefield between Israel and Judah versus the king of Syria and what shapes the events of human history is something that is going on in the angelic realm. So we can't understand human history at all without locating it within the broader scope of the angelic conflict. 

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