Angels Center Stage
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 13:49-50 (Holman) “So shall it be at the end of the age. The angels
will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, and throw
them into the blazing furnace. In that place there will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth.”
In the parable of the dragnet, fishermen divided the catch, keeping the edible fish, and discarding the non-edible. “So shall it be at the end of the age.” The Lord Jesus will keep the righteous nearby, and cast away the evil.
We believers, the ones who have been found by Jesus, tend to forget how terrible it is to be lost. Chrysostom said believers should daily meditate on Hell. He felt this would make us more sensitive about the plight of lostness.
Hell is not a popular or pleasant topic. We try to ignore it, hoping thoughts of it will go away, but they don’t. Perdition is a reality we have to deal with.
The pros and cons of this debate are predictable. We say to skeptics, “You don’t know for sure Hell doesn’t exist.” They respond, “You don’t know for sure it does.” This argument could go on continually, all the while heading nowhere.
In this debate, the deciding factor is what the Bible teaches. Scripture has proven to be accurate in everything it has predicted to date. We can thus take it for granted the Bible is accurate in its description of future punishment (McGee).
Our text describes a dazzling event of Judgment Day. Angels will be assigned the prominent role of finally separating the evil from the righteous.
In our era, between the two comings of Christ, the work of angels has been primarily invisible, their outward perceptible visits being few and far between.
Angels help believers. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Angels assist us, but our era is more the age of the Holy Spirit than of angels. God Himself has always been our chief Helper. Angels also aid us, but usually stay in the background now.
However, a day is coming when the voice of one of their own, the archangel Michael (I TH 4:16), will herald an explosive burst of angelic activity.
On that day angels will openly invade human affairs. Myriads of angels will be unleashed to the fore in plain sight before a stunned assembled universe.
It is appropriate angels will be the separators. They lived through this kind of division once before, when Lucifer and his angels were cast out of Heaven.
Angels know firsthand how serious spiritual division is. Its consequences last forever. We too would be wise never to be flippant in our attitude about final separation. Don’t be presumptuous. Be constantly evaluating our faith-walk.
Christianity appeals to so many human impulses that people are drawn to it for wrong as well as right reasons. We need to ponder what drew us to the faith.
When in church, a good question to ask is, “Why am I here?” In times of introspection, ask, “Why do I embrace Christianity, what is my spiritual motive?”
With regard to our everlasting destiny, having been a church member or having claimed to be a Christian will prove or settle nothing. The criteria of Judgment Day entails what it was about church and Christianity that drew us in.
Some follow Christianity because it stresses morals, ethics, and justice. A society is blessed by these issues, but they are not the criteria of Judgment Day.
Some attend church for status, deeming visible churchmanship more vital than true spirituality. A good life is impressive, but not Judgment Day’s criteria.
In some communities, church attendance is good for business. Some come for a social group because church meets the needs of the lonely. Business and fellowship are important, but neither of them is the criteria of Judgment Day.
The criteria for Judgment Day will be the love we showed for the King of the Kingdom. Did we in this lifetime know Him, receive Him, and desperately want Him more than all else in the world?
Matt. 13:51 “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they told Him.
Jesus had flooded the Twelve with information in these seven parables. The sower taught most people would reject Jesus. The wheat and weeds taught good and bad would live together for an extended time between Messiah’s two comings.
Mustard seed and yeast taught the Kingdom would permeate and influence the whole world. The buried treasure and priceless pearl taught the Kingdom’s infinite worth. The dragnet taught a final separation will for sure occur.
The Twelve thought they understood these truths, but their knowledge was at best very limited. Even as late as Jesus’ ascension, they still did not understand the nature of His Kingdom and asked, “Lord, at this time are You restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Had I been Jesus, I might have asked the Father to extend my time to stay on Earth in order to teach the Twelve a while longer.
Learn a vital lesson here. These men were, with Paul, the best theologians, Bible scholars, and preachers ever, but had to make progress in incremental stages.
If the Twelve, as great as they were, struggled to find their intellectual footing, we would all be well served to stay ever humble. We all probably have a lot farther to go than we like to admit. Never be complacent. Always want more.
The Twelve did not yet fully understand the true teachings of Jesus, but someday would. They never did quit wanting to know the ways of their Master better. They stayed eager to search out His truths. To Jesus this was enough.
Their knowledge was imperfect, but what they lacked in information, they made up for in desire, wanting to know more about Jesus, and to know Jesus more.
Does this describe how we feel about Jesus? Do we want to know Him more, and to know more about Him? We do not know Jesus as we should if we are not passionate about loving Him and understanding the ways of His Kingdom.
We prove what we love most by what we give ourselves to. We don’t show what our first love is by knowing what we ought to love and trying to persuade ourselves we do. What we spend time, energy, and money on is what we love.
Jesus’ question in our text was an invitation, His way of opening a door to knowing Him better. He was saying He wanted the Twelve (and us) to ask more, to come closer to Him. The Twelve eventually proved they were willing to enter the more-door unceasingly. Are we entering it? Beware the bored. Seek more.