“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The word ἄγγελος (angelos) means “messenger” in Greek, before it comes to mean “angel” in the sense of a semi-divine/non-human messenger of God. Messengers (angeloi) are stock characters in Greek tragedy, where they generally report the dramatic, grisly, and often upsetting events that have occurred “offstage.” They thus play a crucial dramatic role, despite the fact that they often go unnamed and possess very little power or authority within the world of the play itself. The messenger of Sophocles’ Antigone is a particularly interesting case: he’s a somewhat comic figure, marked by cowardice and indecision, yet occasionally capable of manipulating and redirecting the powerful tyrant Creon. He’s no “angel” in the Christian sense, yet he’s an important and complex figure who speaks words of great significance.
A messenger can be good or bad, the bearer of glad tidings or horrific tragedy. In scripture, messengers can be human, such as John the Baptist (Matt. 11:10), or supernatural such as the angels of the seven churches in Revelation. Regardless of whether they have wings or not, messengers carry information from one setting into another. In Revelation 2 and 3, the angels of the churches receive information from the Lord to communicate to their respective earthly communities.
Messengers, earthly or otherwise, exist because we cannot be everywhere at once or know everything as it happens. When it comes to Revelation, that is especially true. The churches know that they are struggling, but not the full reason why. In Revelation John informs them that their struggles have underlying causes that are not of this world. The turmoil of the heavens is felt through human suffering.
Perhaps our holiday tendency to decorate our homes with sparkling angels bearing sweet smiles and beautiful wings is a reflection of our own limitations. There is more to this world than we know. Unforseen events occurring “offstage” impact our lives in unexpected ways. Even so, angels give us hints of hope and words of encouragement. We don’t need to know everything to persist in following Jesus.
Questions for Reflection
When have you been an angel: communicating new information to an individual or group? What was it like? Was the news good or bad? What about the experience sticks out for you?
About the Blog
In this season of plague, flood, fire, hungry cats, and Advent, we invite you to reflect on the words (such clever words!) of the Prophet John in the book of Revelation.
Perhaps you have encountered the #Liturgisaur on Instagram or Facebook. He is a small, green, pants wearing, one armed dinosaur who makes the rounds in Gladwin County and beyond, highlighting the various ministries of Christ the King Lutheran Church.