What are Angels Doing in Heaven with God?
ANGELS ARE LEADERS IN REDEMPTIVE WORSHIP
What are angels doing in heaven with God? We need to look again at Hebrews 1:14 and take special notice of the term ministering (niv) or even better, divine service (nrsv).
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
The word behind these two English translations commonly refers to serving in God’s temple in a priestly manner. The writer to the Hebrews knew his hearers were familiar with the work of priests in the temple. So angels are described as commissioned by God to lead us earthbound humans into worship of God. And if we push to the end of the verse, we see they are sent by God as part of our redemption. These worshiping spirits are sent by God to help in our redemption so we can join them in worshiping the God of redemption.
So the second most important description about angels is this: they lead God’s people in redemptive worship. The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, makes this obvious. Angels in heaven are saturated with worship of God as a result of the Lamb’s redemptive work. Notice (and please read) these beautiful verses of angel-led worship and intercession:*
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” . . .
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” . . .
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
This is a rich idea: angels are worship leaders. Images of angels can be spotted on some altars in the great cathedrals. In this art, angels are depicted offering incense, that is, the people’s prayers. They are leaders in prayer, intercession, and worship.
Here then is my summary of our first two words: angels are God-saturated and worshiping messengers sent by God on mission with a message that can lead to our redemption. Angels are not the subject of the story. They are ministers in a story about God. Fascination with angel-messengers can inch dangerously close to idolatry.
The error of worshiping angels rather than God has emerged throughout his- tory. In fact, the apostle Paul told the Colossian church not to worship angels. The apostle John had to be told not to worship an angel when one appeared to him* Angels worship God and are sent on mission to lead us in that worship. Angels that don’t summon us to see God5 are not doing God’s work. Rather, they are the rebellious, bad angels, often called “demons” or “evil spirits.”
* Revelation 5:11-12; 7:11-12; 8:3-4
* Colossians 2:18; Revelation 22:8-9