By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
Beware, cautions the Book of Hebrews, because we never know when we’re in their presence.
We forget them until Christmas, when greeting cards show their gossamer shapes hovering in the rafters of a Bethlehem barn.
The Bible says that angels were present from the very beginning of creation. Churches in the Western liturgical traditions will observe the Feast of the Archangels on Sept. 29, a day of special prayers in honor of the heavenly creatures who watched God separate the heavens and the earth.
Witness to salvation
It is, perhaps, easier to say what angels do than to say what they are. The Hebrew of the Bible and the Arabic of the Quran call them messengers.
“That’s most often how they’re depicted in scripture,” said the Rev. Don Elliott, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Corinth (EPC).
The joyful news that salvation was at hand came from the lips of the archangel, Gabriel.
“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son,” the angel says to Mary. “And you shall name him Jesus.”
It’s much the same in Islam.
“Angels observe, listen and report,” said Ali Almasri, a lay leader at the Tupelo Islamic Center.
Angels have a special place in salvation history, Almasri said.
Paul has angles present at the giving of the Ten Commandments (Gal. 3:19), and Daniel sees them in his apocalyptic vision (9:21 and 10:13). Matthew and Mark both say angels ministered to Jesus while he fasted in the desert, and Luke says one comforted the carpenter in his final hours (22:43).
Throughout the Bible, angels preside over the unfolding of God’s plan.
“Psalm 103 speaks of their constant concern,” said the Rev. Bettye Clifton, pastor of Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Guntown.
“Mighty in strength and attentive,” the Psalmist says of angels. “Obedient to every command.”
They have no free will in Islam, but in the Book of Revelation, as well as in 2 Peter 2: 4, we learn that one son of light waged war on heaven.
On judgment day, one angel who held the ranks, Raphael, will blow the horn that means death to those humans who served the rebel, Almasri said.
Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, according to one of Western civilization’s more saccharin cinematic musings.
It’s indicative, perhaps, of the overly sentimental, incautious thinking that surrounds angels, ministers say. Latter-Day Saints are alone among Christians in believing that angels are resurrected humans.
The angel Moroni, Mormons believe, lived as a man in the 5th century and returned to earth as an angel, revealing to Joseph Smith the location of the tablets that became the Book of Mormon.
It has to do with humans being spirit children of Heavenly Father and being incarnated on earth to become more like him, said Gina Thorderson of the Tupelo LDS Church.
The mainline Christian position, like that of Judaism and Islam, holds that angels are beings completely unique.
“Something distinct from creation as we know it,” said Elliott. “Not co-eternal with God, but created,” said Clifton.
Lucifer’s rage was rooted in jealousy of humans, who scripture crowns as the pinnacle of creation.
“Angels are here to minister to people,” said Thorderson. “They’re encamped around us,” said Clifton, quoting Psalm 34.
Fifty-five percent of Americans believe they’re protected by guardian angels, including one in five who claim not to be religious, according to a recent poll by Baylor University.
Angels, it would seem, are everybody’s friends.