beach stairs

Good Morning!

Angels serve God in a multitude of ways. We studied in the first week about their various characteristics such as their appearance, their number, their abilities, and how they communicate. Last week in the Week 2 Lesson of Angels of the Realm, we studied a few examples of angels fulfilling their roles as ministers and guardians on God’s behalf to his children who love and revere him.

Angels also continually worship God around His throne and work unseen in the heavenly realm. The Christian scholar Clement of Alexandria and the seventeenth-century German astronomer, Johannes Kepler shared a theory that angels coordinate the movements of the cosmos. In addition, theological scholar Origen wrote that angels are in charge of the four elements: earth, wind, fire, and water as well as the plants and animals. Some have even theorized that angels are pure spirit and exist in a fifth dimension.

Sometimes in scripture, we are able to see glimpses of the impact that angels have upon the elements and in the cosmic world. For instance, in John 5:1-15, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on the Sabbath and decides to take a walk to the pool of Bethesda. This pool is believed to have been used as a mikvah: a ritual bathing area.

“In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]” John 5:3,4 NASB

The belief was held that a stirring of the water by angels brought about healing. Their close connection and proximity to God meant that their touch offered special divine power. The invalid was attempting to enter the pool at such a time when Jesus entered his life offering him a far greater healing.

A much older story of angels is found in the book of Genesis. In this tale, Jacob has been instructed by his father Isaac to go to Paddan Aram and find a wife among his mother’s own people instead of marrying a Canaanite woman. Jacob obeys and leaves Beersheba for Haran. While on his journey, he lays his head on a rock for the night and has an incredible dream.

“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: ”I am the LORD the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” …When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”” Genesis 28:12,13,16,17

Jacob dreams of a portal opening from this world to the next, a cosmic place where angels dwell and are at work between heaven and earth fulfilling God’s commands. Jacob’s vision provided him with the knowledge of God’s assurance that as he left his homeland he would return. In addition, God introduces Himself to Jacob and invites him to receive the blessing of faith that had been given to his forefathers. The stairway also showed Jacob the accessibility of God. But as revealed, steps would be required. Each rung for Jacob would be a step on his journey towards God. This experience would not be the last for Jacob.  He would have another equally strong and lasting impression of God.  However, his next encounter will leave him with a reminder for life but that story is for another day.

The tale of Jacob’s ladder is used in part by Jesus during his recruitment of Nathanael, sometimes called Bartholomew, as a disciple. Jesus calls Nathanael a true Israelite commending him for his studious and faithful ways and then tells him that he saw him under the fig tree. Recognizing that Jesus is extraordinary, Nathanael declares that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel. Jesus responds by telling his newest recruit,

“I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

Nathanael would have immediately recognized this phrase as a reference to the story of Jacob’s dream of the ladder. Jesus affirmed Nathanael’s faith in him and told him that the ladder of which Jacob dreamed is fulfilled before him. Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth and the true mediator between God and humankind.

Angels played a part in each of these encounters and each man walked away forever changed.

For a deeper study into angelic encounters and the angel of the Lord, click here for Angels of the Realm: Week 3 Lesson Plan.




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