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Joseph H. Waggoner succeeded James White as the second editor of Signs of the Times®. He served in that capacity from 1881 to 1886. During that period, he also launched and served as editor of two other periodicals,American Sentinel and Pacific Health Journal.

The angels of God take a deep interest in all the work of their Commander, the Son of God. Theirs is a service of love; in whatsoever He delights, in that they delight. He spent years of suffering on earth, and laid down His life for the salvation of man. How deeply, then, must their feelings be enlisted in behalf of man, and in the work of the gospel! Though the work of preaching the gospel is not committed to them, they have an important part to act in aiding the minister in his work. . . .

We learn from the Scriptures that it is the office of the angels to oversee the works of God, especially the cause of God in this earth; to watch over His children, minister to their wants, and defend them from their adversary, the devil. As there is “an innumerable company of angels,” some of them are always before the throne of God, to go at His command.

Says John: “I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne” (Revelation 5:11).* David says: “The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth overall. Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye His hosts; ye ministers of His, that do His pleasure. Bless the Lord, all His works in all places of His dominion” (Psalm 103:19–22). Here it is declared that God hath His throne in the heavens; the angels are represented as waiting before Him, ready to go at His pleasure as messengers to all parts of his dominions.

We have here a scene presented similar to that which we would behold in the court of an earthly monarch. The king sits upon his throne, with his officers and servants around him. Messengers are constantly being received by him from the different parts of his dominions. When he determines what is needful to be done, he dispatches a trusty messenger to perform it in his name. He also has officers in different parts of his kingdom, who faithfully report to him the state of things in their several districts. Thus the king is able to attend to the wants of his subjects, and to oversee their actions, in all parts of the dominion, however large it may be. And thus it is that the Lord employs His servants, the angels. He always works by means, or agents. The angels are His officers, or messengers, whom He has appointed to have charge of this earth. They watch over His people, and minister to their wants. They bear the prayers of the saints up before the Lord, and come again to answer them, according to His directions.

The proof of this is abundant. Thus Paul says: “To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:13, 14).

This is a direct confirmation of the position above taken. Upon this subject David says, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7). This grand truth is beautifully illustrated in Jacob’s dream. As he was traveling alone in the wilderness, he lay down upon the ground at night to sleep. “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). This dream was given to teach Jacob that the angels are constantly passing between heaven and earth. And this is just as true now as it was then.

We have another illustration of this truth in the history of Daniel. He was mourning over the sad state of the people who were captives under the king of Persia. For three whole weeks he fasted, and prayed to God to open the way for his people to return to their own land. At the end of this time an angel came to him and said: “Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes [the first of the chief princes, Hebrew], came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:12, 13). As soon as Daniel began to pray, God sent an angel to perform his request. The angel went to the Persian court, and sought to influence the king to further the work which had already been commenced in behalf of his people and city. The king seems to have been opposed to this, and the angel was not able to prevail with him. At last the chief of the angels united with him, and they were successful. No man in the Persian court saw those angels. The king himself was not aware of their presence, or of their influence upon him; yet they brought him to do just what he had not been inclined to do.

This is the way in which the angels co-operate with God’s children in their efforts for the conversion of souls. Our hearts are moved to pray for a son, a companion, or a friend. God sends an angel to impress the heart and trouble the mind of the subject of our prayers. Or we are in distress; we cry to God, and He sends an angel to deliver us; nor are they slow in coming. See an instance in Daniel 9:21–23: “Whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee.”

When the prophet began his prayer, Gabriel was in heaven; but before he ceased he was at his side. Ezekiel, describing the rapidity of their movements, says they “ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning” (Ezekiel 1:14). . . .

Many other instances are recorded in the Bible where God has sent His angels to minister to His children. They are so numerous that we can barely refer the reader to a few of the most interesting of them. Does Abraham send his servant on an important mission? He says to him, “The Lord . . . shall send His angel before thee” (Genesis 24:7). Does Jacob bless his children at his death? He says, “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads” (Genesis 48:16). Does the Lord direct the Israelites to go into the land of Canaan? He says to them, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20). Is Elijah about to perish in the wilderness? “Then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head” (1 Kings 19:5, 6). Is Daniel to be delivered out of the lions’ den? He says, “My God has sent His angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me” (Daniel 6:22). Is the gospel to be opened to the Gentiles? An angel is sent to Cornelius, and also to Peter, to accomplish the work (Acts 10). Is Paul’s life in danger? An angel of God stands by his side to assure him of safety (Acts 27:23).

What more shall we say? Time would fail us to mention a [tenth] of such instances where the angels of God are directly mentioned as having acted an important part in the affairs of men. If this was so in the times when the Bible was written, is it not so now? If not, why?

This article is an excerpt from Joseph H. Waggoner’s 1891 book, Angels: Their Nature and Ministry (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press®, 1891), 24–33.

* Bible quotations in this article are from the King James Version.

The Ministry of Angels

by Joseph H. Waggoner
From the June 2024 Signs