Have You Been Visited By Angels?

Have you ever had an experience that makes you wonder:

Did I just encounter an angel?

One spring during college I studied abroad in Spain. My flight was delayed more than a dozen hours. The person who gave me directions sent me to the wrong train station. I walked through Madrid with all my bags, boots cutting into my heels, exhausted. My efforts at Spanish failed at every turn.

I sat on the edge of a fountain spent and confused. Tugging off a boot, I looked at my blood stained sock.

God, I prayed, I need help.

At that moment, a woman sat next to me on the fountain’s edge and spoke near perfect English. She took me to her home, fed me lunch, drove me to the proper station, and sent me on my way.

Her name was Maria.

Sometimes I secretly wonder if she was an angel.

This week Dr. Craig Blomberg answers some dicey and touchy questions from the #LENTCHALLENGE. From angels to prophets to an angry God, this week’s reading touched on toes and nerves as we wrestle with the question, “What do I most need to read but least want to hear?

IMOSTNEED

There is a lot of talk about angels through the Gospel of Luke. Who are the angels? Does God appoint people as angels? Can an ordinary person become an angel? Can they leave heaven and come to earth any time? 

Angels are created beings that are different from humans (e.g., they do not reproduce) but can appear in human form at any time it is the father’s will for them to do so. They appear in Luke, and elsewhere in Scripture, primarily as messengers. In fact, the Greek word angelos means both “messenger” and “angel.” They also appear as beings who surround God and praise him eternally. People are not appointed to be angels, nor can human beings become angels.

Why does the Old Testament God seem so pissed?

There are more references to God’s love in the Old Testament than in the New Testament and the person who speaks most about hell is Jesus. So the question itself is based on mistaken ideas about the contents of the two testaments. Both testaments depict a God who is perfectly loving and perfectly holy and just. But justice ultimately demands judgment against those who unleash horrible oppression against others.

What does change from the Old Testament to the New Testament is that literal physical warfare (and the principles surrounding it) morphs into spiritual warfare so we don’t hear about the same kind of military battles. But God has not changed.

How can I know I am among the chosen ones? (Matthew 22:14)

The answer is in the context of the passage. Matthew 22:1-13 form the parable of the wedding banquet. In verses 1-10, lots of people are invited to the feast for the king’s son but refuse to come for flimsy reasons. Then a man who would have had the chance to borrow a proper garment if he didn’t own one refuses to come appropriately dressed (vv. 11-13).

So those who are chosen are those who actually respond to the invitation and respond on the king’s terms, not their own. This is not Paul’s “effectual calling” as in Romans 8:29-30, but a use of the word “chosen” that simply means that God chooses those who respond properly to his invitation to follow Jesus.

In Luke 11:51, Jesus refers to a specific murder of a prophet, Zechariah “who perished between the altar and the house of God. ” Was Jesus calling out a dirty secret that only the Pharisees/other religious leaders would have known about? Was He proving His omniscience to them? 

It appears he is referring to the story in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21 about the murder of Zechariah son of Jehoiada. But Matthew 23:35 has a very similar teaching of Jesus in a different context in which he refers to Zechariah son of Berekiah. This is the Zechariah who wrote the second-to-the-last book of prophecy in the Old Testament (Zech. 1:1). Maybe he met a similar fate, though we are not told about it.

Jewish oral tradition preserved all kinds of information that was never written down in the Old Testament. Either way, it is unlikely that Jesus is talking about anything that wasn’t widely known. So in that sense, it is more like John calling out Herod’s sin, except that here we are talking about something the Pharisees’ ancestors did. But Jesus is likening these Pharisees to those Israelites of old who likewise murdered God’s messengers.

9781587433214Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of Craig Blomberg‘s brand new book, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions.

Dr . Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Handbook of New Testament ExegesisJesus and the GospelsThe Historical Reliability of the GospelsPreaching the Parables, Making Sense of the New Testament, and commentaries on Matthew1 Corinthians, and James.

Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals. In this book, biblical scholar Craig Blomberg offers answers to questions like:

Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt? 

Can We Trust Any of Our Translations of the Bible?

Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?

What verse has you stumped?

Have you ran into a passage that’s tricky to interpret? What’s a question about the Bible, theology, or Christianity that has been lingering in your head? Leave your questions as comments below.

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