Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. Luke 1:11-38 (NIV)
Many, many people throughout the Bible had encounters with angels. Just two of these were Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Zechariah, because he doubted what the angel said to him, was punished by becoming mute until he acknowledged the message. Mary, on the other hand, was humble and willing to accept everything the angel said to her.
Today, book stores are filled with books about encounters with angels. And one television program after another recounts tale after tale of the same type of thing. From some of their descriptions, most likely these were true angel encounters. But others, very likely, met up with a demon in disguise.
Encounters with angels can take on many forms. Most of the ones described in the books and television programs involve situations in which a person was saved from disaster by a celestial being. I experienced one such encounter myself. I was driving on a freeway in Houston, Texas, some years ago. My oldest son was sitting in the passenger seat. Ahead of us was an old, dilapidated truck filled with tools. The truck hit a bump, and a large shovel flew out of the back, bounced once and was headed, blade first, straight at the windshield of my car. If it had continued in its trajectory, it would have gone through the windshield and most likely have decapitated my son. It happened so quickly, I was in the middle of trying to turn my wheel when, about two feet from the windshield, the shovel made a sharp right turn in mid-air and landed harmlessly on the shoulder of the road, totally defying the laws of physics! I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an angel knocked that shovel away and prevented my son from being killed.
But there are other stories told about supposed angels that take on other forms. Angels that develop an on-going relationship with people. Angels that talk to people, telling the future, guiding them further and further away from God. These are not heavenly angels. These are Lucifer's angels. The fallen ones. Remember, Lucifer was the most beautiful angel God created. He was the one who wanted to be God. And he was the one who was cast out of heaven, along with his followers. But he – and those who serve him – can still appear to be beautiful (2 Corinthians 11:14). And they can use this beauty, this seeming innocence, to lead the unsuspecting astray.
How would a person be able to tell whether they were in the company of an angel or a demon? Through a very simple test. Does the encounter glorify God? Or does it glorify the angel? It’s just that simple.
Should you believe in the existence of angels? Yes! Should you worship them? No! Again, remember that angels are God's creation, and that they serve Him in many ways that are beneficial to you and me. Keep watch for an encounter with an angel, but don't make them the central focus of your life. Again, worship the Creator, not His creation.
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
From Dogwood Ministries, Inc.
Used with Permission