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The Messiah's Messengers

06.18.17 | Catechism - Sundays

    Key Passages:

    Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 40:1-5; Luke 1:5-38; 2 Samuel 7:12-17; Matthew 1:18-25

    Memory Verse:

    Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death of the cross.

    Scriptural Background:

    As we move ahead in our study of the life of Jesus, we will begin at the beginning - not His birth, but the angelic announcements of His birth. These are significant announcements because of the supernatural way God conveyed them and because they verify Old Testament prophecies made about Jesus and the one who would prepare the way for Jesus. You see, God sent His messengers - angels - with these announcements.

    The people of Isreal knew of the promised Messiah. They had read of Him in the Scriptures, and some were waiting for this one who would redeem Israel (Isaiah 53:4-6, 6:1-3). The people also knew that before the Messiah appeared, God wouls send a messenger - one who would come to bear witness to the true Light (John 1:6-8). This messenger would prepare the way for the Messiah. A faithful remnant of the Jewish people waited for "Elijah" the prophet who would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers )Malachi 4:5-6) and who would prepare the way for the Lord whom they had waited for (Malachi 3:1).

    Little did Zacharias, the aged priest who served in the Temple of the Lord, know that he would have a son in his old age who would be the forerunner for the Messiah, as prophesied by Malachi. Nor could he have imagined how he would learn of this truth. You see Zacharias was a righteous man. He nad his wife, Elizabeth, had never been able to have children (Luke 1:5-7). But that was soon to change in a most amazing way. How? God sent a messenger - the angel Gabriel - to Zacharias while he was ministering in the Temple. The angel told Zacharias not to be afraid. He said Zacharias and his wife would soon have a son whom they were to name John. John would be great in the sight of the Lord, and many would rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:13-15).

    As God's messenger,  the angel testified that the son, John, would come in the power and spirit of Elijah. He would fulfill the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6. He would make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17). This son, John the Baptist, was not the Christ but came to give witness to the Christ (John 1:20). John the Baptist was the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and He would make straight the way of the Lord (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3).

    In another, more spectacular announcement, God again sent His angel Gabriel, this time to the city of NAzreth, to a young woman, a virgin, who was betrothed to be married to Joseph. The angel assured her to be afraid, for she had found favor with God. She would conceive a child, a Son, who would be called Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). This child would be great, called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:26-32). What a mystery! Mary was not yet married to Joseph and had never known a man physically (Luke 1:34). But Mary would conceive in a miraculous way by the power of the Holy Spirit. And thus the prophecy of Isaiah - that a virgin would conceive a Son and name Him Immanuel, which means God with us - was fulfilled (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23.

    The angel Gabriel also told Mary that her Son would reign over a kingdom that would never end. And He would reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:32-33). Again we see in Jesus Christ the fulfillment of a promise made long ago through God's prophet Nathan to King David that a house and kingdom would be established through his descendants forever (2 Samuel 7:16).

    These very important messages were sent through supernatural messengers by the will of God to announce the forerunner of the Messiah and the Messiah himself. Angels are unique creations of God, spiritual beings, who do the will of God. In the accounts mentioned above, Gabriel came to herald God's news that the Messiah was coming - very soon.

    Historical / Apologetics Background

    We know from Scripture that there is a spiritual realm beyond the physical realm we live in, with both good and evil things that are happening in the spiritual realm is hard to grasp since we don't see or hear what is happening there. On top of that, the Bible does not give us much detail about these spiritual beings and their activities. However, we do know that these beings do God's will, heed His Word, do His pleasure (Psalm 103:20-21), praise Him (Isaiah 6:3), worship Him (Hebrews 1:6), minister to God's people (Hebrews 1:!4), and serve God. These are not all necessarily angels, but can be described as "angelic beings" created by God. The Bible gives different names for these created beings that include seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), cherubim (Genesis 3:24), an archangel (Jude 9), and angels (Revelation 5:11). As we continue our discussion here, we will use the term "ange;" knowing that there are disctinctions amoung them.

    A comprehensive study of angels would go beyond the scope of our lesson. We do not know that they basic meaning of the Greek word angelos is "messenger." And in the accounts of our lesson today, we learned God used His angel Gabriel as a messenger to proclaim good news to God's people - first to Zacharias about John the Baptist the forerunner to the Messiah Himself.

    We understand that angels serve God and act as His messengers. But the Bible also tells is there are angels within the spiritual world who do not serve God, but act as His enemies. These are usually referred to as demons, and it is commonly accepted that these demons were once angels created by God who rebelled against God. It is also believed that these angelic demons were led by Lucifer who was cast out of heaven because of his sin of pride and desire to be like God (Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:12-15).

    These fallen angels led by Lucifer are a very real threat to Christians. That is why Paul warned the Ephesians (and us!) to put on the whole armor of God. These demons appear to be organized and ready to fight. We read that there are principalities, powers, rulers, and spiritual hosts of wickedness vying for our attention and loyalty (Ephesians 6:10-13). These fallen angels serve as messengers, as well. But their messages are filled with deception, death, and destruction. The Bible even warns us that Satan can masquerade as an angel of light leading people astray (2 Cor 11:13-15). 

    Many ask the question, "When were the angels created?" The Bible doesn't give an exact answer in a single verse, but we can take what we know from the whole counsel of Scripture and come up with a reasonable answer. We know that God created everything in the span of six days (Exodus 20:11), and although the creation account in Genesis does not specifically mention angels, they are created beings that had to be created during the Creation week (Nehemiah 9:6; John 1:1-3; Col 1:16). The book of Job speaks of the "morning stars" singing and "sons of God" (also terms for angelicbeingss) shouting for joy as the foundations of the earth were being created (Job 38:4-7). Consequently, the angels could have been created in Day 1, when God made light and the darkness, on Day 2 when God separated the waters to make the firmament, of on Day 3 when God made the dry land.

    Another question asked is, "When did the angels fall?" Again, we don;t know for certain. Since God proclaimed everything He made to be "very good" at the end of the Creation Week (Genesis 1:31), there could not have been any evil angels present then. And we can safely assume that it was after Day Seven since God set that apart as holy (Genesis 2:3). God did not choose to reveal to us how long it was before SAtan fell into sin and then tirned to tempt Eve, but it probably wasn't too long since there were no children born ebfore Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden.

    We do know angels are god's creation. Some fell into sin, many did not. And after 400 years of silence from God (between the Old Testament and the New Testament), the silence was suddenly broken when God sent His angel/messenger to communicate the hope of the coming Messiah to Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph. The promises given to Malachi, Isaiah, and others hundreds of years before were about to be fulfilled! Our God is faithful to His promises as revealed in His Word. Let us continue to study that Word and share it with others as we rejoice with the angels and praise God for His goodness in sending the Savior.