I love this picture of the angel over the city for several reasons. It depicts angels as being real, powerful, and very concerned about our cities and the people that live in them. The sweet, fluffy angels you see on Hallmark greeting cards present angels as an endearing Christmas-time myth rather than as powerful emissaries of God.
Why is there skepticism about angels being real and active on earth? Because we live in the scientific age, which has programmed us to doubt the existence of other-worldly beings. Last time I checked, the whole of Christianity is founded on other-worldly stuff!
A survey of angelic appearances in the Bible show us they function as messengers, guides, comforters and protectors. There are also warrior angels. They often show up at times of birth and death, and in moments of danger and crisis. A few examples: the angel at the tomb of Jesus who encouraged the two women who came looking for Jesus. The angel who appeared to Zechariah to tell him his wife would bear a son in her old age.
How about Cornelieus? “He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” (Acts 10).
And of course, the angel who let Peter out of prison (Acts 12): “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.” This one makes me smile because I regularly encounter being zapped with a small electric shock by an angel to wake me up at night. It’s God’s means of inviting me into a night-watch conversation with him. (I’m not saying this is what he does with everyone – I have no idea how many people experience electric zaps. I suspect I’m not the only one).
The way I see it, you receive what you believe. If you believe in Jesus, you get salvation. If you believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are available to you. If you believe that angels still function today as they did in Bible times, then you will benefit from their encouragement, presence and guidance. But if you reject any one of these things, you will not receive the blessing they bring.
In the past year I have had many encounters with angels. It is now a regular part of my life. Prior to that, I would occasionally be aware of the presence of an angel as I was worshiping, and one time I had an open vision of an angel on the platform of Anaheim Vineyard while Todd Hunter was leading a ministry time (somewhere around the year 1990).
But after listening to some teaching and stories from people who regularly encounter angels, I asked God to bring that into my life if he desired. In a matter of hours, I received a visitation from an angel.
It would be ridiculous to worship an angel, but very sensible to treat them as friends. Many people in the Bible had conversations with angels. The messages I receive from angels are not unlike hearing directly from God. It isn’t an audible voice, but a strong impression, and sometimes very specific. You know that the thoughts you are receiving and not originating in your own mind. And you are aware of the presence of another being in the room besides yourself.
The advice I’ve received is to welcome and honor angels. Just a simple, “I welcome you and honor you.” It’s not unlike welcoming the Holy Spirit. Another thing you can try is asking God to introduce you to your personal angel if he so desires. You can also ask the Lord to reveal the name of the angel that is assigned to you. God dispatches the angels for different purposes in all kinds of times and places. Don’t worry about getting obsessed with angels. If you get too angel-happy, they probably will not show up because they don’t like to be worshipped. They know that kind of honor is reserved only for God. Just remember they are one means by which God helps and strengthens us (see Bible).
In my limited experience, it is very clear that there are different types of angels who have different responsibilities, realms of authority and assignments from God. Angels such as Gabriel are at the top of the angel hierarchy. They carry a huge amount of power and the scope of their work is global. But most of the angels that I regularly encounter are the kind that are sent to minister to each one of us on a regular basis.
I receive great comfort and encouragement from the presence and words of angels. I know that the beginning of experiencing angels was my repeated prayer, “God I want more of you. Please show me more of yourself and show me what to do.” I want and need every kind of help God wants to give me because life is challenging! Why would we refuse an obvious and proven means of God’s blessing such as angelic beings?