Current Issue

In the beginning all we knew was beauty and love and total joy. In our innocence, nothing else was possible. How long this lasted I cannot tell you—eons . . . lightyears . . . as far back as the mind can stretch, then beyond. Time as you humans know it did not exist.

Our lives, the lives of us angels, centered around the Eternal Three—until Lucifer, an angel friend of mine who was close to God, grew discontented and turned against our Leader.

I would not live through that time of fear and trouble again for ten thousand years of bliss. For in the battle, evil had a weapon that God could not use. Evil had lies, a way of twisting facts and creating falsehood (John 8:44). God had only the truth.

Here’s how your Bible describes what happened: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough. . . . The great dragon was hurled down— that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, . . . hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:7–9).

The first battle had ended. But the war had just begun.

Bitter knowledge

God planted a garden in Eden and placed your first parents there. I will never forget the moment when they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Disguised as a serpent, Satan held out a promise to Eve. “Eat the fruit from this forbidden tree,” he told her, “and you will become like the gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). It was an obscene distortion of truth. For putting her trust in the enemy, Eve did, indeed, learn of evil as well as good. But it is a bitter knowledge. And your children are still reaping the tragic results to this day.

I watched Adam and Eve leave the Garden. No longer could they eat from the tree of life, which would have kept them alive forever. God stationed some of my angel friends with flaming swords at the Garden gate to prevent the couple from going back inside.

Though Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, God did not leave them without hope. He gave them a promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). They had something else, too, though they didn’t know it. We angels had a new role. God assigned us to watch over the feeble children who peopled earth. We’ve protected you more times than you could imagine. Yes, you! You rarely see us, but that doesn’t mean we’re not with you!

You’ve read Psalm 34:7 and 91:11, telling of our care for you. What you call miracles, we call just doing our job. Of course, we get a certain satisfaction out of pulling off a particularly spectacular (to human eyes) rescue. But it’s all in a day’s work to an angel. We do far more than you realize, the piddley, routine things: correcting the direction of a speeding car, cushioning the fall of a child from a tree. And, yes, often, guarding God’s children from the anger of Satan and his followers.

As earth-time rushes to its end, the devil goes about like a roaring lion, looking for people to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And today, as it was in the time of Noah, the hearts of men and women and even children are evil continually (Genesis 6:5, 6; Matthew 24:37– 39). Brilliant minds, contorted and controlled by evil, have created such instruments of death. We shudder to watch, and yes, sometimes we turn away from the pain. You see the lifeblood of innocents spilled into the ground and you wonder where God was. But you cannot know until you reach the other side how many times we have stopped the evil.

The Bible calls us “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). I rather like that. It’s our pleasure to minister to you and care for you. This care goes far beyond protecting you from bodily harm, for we are continually watchful of traps Satan sets for your spiritual life. With your permission, we delight in protecting you from the enemy.

What I treasure most is this part we play in your salvation. In your Bible, the small book of Zechariah tells a wonderful story. Joshua the high priest enters God’s presence. Satan, standing nearby, points out that Joshua’s clothes are filthy with sin. Believe me, Satan keeps track of the wrongs you people do! He loves to toss your faults in God’s face.

But God doesn’t condemn Joshua, nor does He argue with Satan. Instead, He reminds Satan that He saves those who give their lives to Him. He tells one of His angel attendants to remove Joshua’s clothes. Then He says to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4). It was that angel’s privilege to dress Joshua in clean new garments, symbolizing his new life in God.

The greatest event

How the minds of you humans do work, always wondering about the biggest, the best! You ask what was the most exciting time in all eternity. What a question! The birth of the Christ? No. The creation of your earth? A time of wonder, to be sure, but no. There are other worlds of which you know nothing . . . and suns and solar systems and galaxies . . . wonders far greater than your little earth, as beautiful as it is.

But for sheer exuberance, for pure-assunlight joy, nothing equals the Resurrection of your Savior and our Lord.

You must realize how closely we watched His early years. How ready we were to help Him. How the Father held us back when Satan tempted Him, for the One you call Jesus could have no advantage over other earth-children. Yes, He was fully God-come-down-to earth. But He was also fully human, a Child who learned to walk by holding to His mother’s fingers. Who stubbed His toes and blinked back tears.

It was hard for us to see Him in a human body. I don’t mean the sweat and the dirt. It was hard to see the Eternal Word, our all-powerful God, limited to the fragile flesh of humanity (John 1:1–3, 14). For in that body, bones could break, blood could spurt, and the heart stop beating. Then the One who is, would not be.

He had a goodness about Him that some children hated—and, perhaps, feared. We protected Him at times. After all, we’d been protecting human children since the birth of Cain and Abel.

But the earthly life of Jesus came with no guarantee of success. It was a risk. If the outcome had been certain, His years on this planet—in fact, the whole plan of salvation—would have been a charade.

We did not, we could not, know for certain that good would triumph. Satan was a formidable foe. And though weakened, he remains such even now.

So Christ’s life on earth was not a game. A contest? Perhaps. A deadly contest.

And we watched it all. Every moment of the last days before His death.

My emotions?


Grief beyond conscious thought.

And, yes—anger. Profound anger!

Listen! Don’t you know that any one of us could have slain the lot of them in a heartbeat? Remember what happened to 185,000 Assyrian soldiers when God sent an angel of death to their camp (Isaiah 37:36)? But God refused to let us help Him. To save you, Jesus had to die in your place. There was no other way.

The Father? He suffered too. More than I—I have no doubt. Suffered with His Son. Suffered like His Son. Near the end, when darkness shrouded all Jerusalem and hid Christ’s quivering, naked body from the rabble, God was in the darkness with Him. The sorrow of it is that Christ did not feel Him there. No, Christ had to die alone.

It was the weight of sin that strangled out His life, you know. He died the second death, separated from the Father by your sins.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; italics added).

His cry rent the universe. We wept with Him, as did all heaven—the Father most of all.

So . . . let me catch my breath . . . You asked my greatest joy, and I—but without the pain, the joy would not shine so bright.

The Resurrection is the greatest joy. It is this, as much as the birth or death of our Lord, that separates time into before and after.

Guarding the grave

Satan in his stupidity rejoiced when Christ died. But he feared too—as well he might! Under his direction, the priest leaders went to Pilate and begged a hundred men to guard Christ’s tomb. “His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead,” these men told Pilate. “This last deception will be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:64). So Pilate had a seal put on the stone and posted soldiers all around the grave—as if ten thousand men had the strength of a gnat against one angel of God!

I don’t mind admitting that we were subdued during those long hours before the Resurrection. We watched the bored, uneasy soldiers. We drew close to Christ’s disciples, crowded together as they were in fear and grief. We stayed with the women who mourned, who struggled to understand.

The Resurrection

And then before dawn on the first day of the week, God sent me to Christ’s grave. We angels generally try to hold back heaven’s glory when we approach you earthlings, but not this time! Faster than light I sped to that rocky hillside. I didn’t even see the soldiers, so intent was I on the One who slept inside the tomb.

I rolled away the rough-hewn boulder and stood before that square dark hole, and held my breath. Then I cried out, “Jesus! Wake up! Your Father calls You.”

A shout of triumph echoed from one end of heaven to the other as Jesus walked from the tomb. Your human eyes didn’t see it, but heaven’s glory bathed that little patch of earth as I rushed to embrace our risen King.

Christ stayed on earth for 40 more days, just long enough to finish preparing His disciples to carry on His work after He left. You can imagine with what anticipation we waited to welcome Him. Yet we dared not think only of ourselves, for Christ’s disciples, confused and sorrowful, remained on earth. We watched them, their eyes following our Lord until He disappeared from their sight. One of my companions and I slipped back to comfort them (Acts 1:11).

The next years were a time of excitement as the early Christian church grew from a handful of uneducated, inarticulate men and women to a bold, vibrant fellowship that joyfully marched from one country and people to another. Satan was angry, but there was no stopping these men and women of God.

What’s next? you ask. Christ’s return, of course. All heaven is busy preparing for that event. It can’t happen too soon for me. It will happen as Christ promised. God will send us, His angels, to gather the saved from one end of the earth to the other (Matthew 24:31).

Open your eyes and see what is happening all around you. The time is near. Soon the message will peal across heaven, “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; . . . let him who does right continue to do right” (Revelation 22:11). And life on earth, as you know it, will be finished.

In your Father’s house are many mansions. One of them is just for you (John 14:1–3, 14). And my angel friends and I are coming with Him to take you home.

How I wish it were today!

An Angel's Story

by Penny Estes Wheeler
From the December 2012 Signs