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Earth Teaching Heaven - the watching angels and the parables of Luk 15.

OR Conference Luke 15 - 190823
length: 62:19 - taught on Aug, 23 2019
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Class Outline:

Friday August 23, 2019

 

The great secret of the destiny of the Gentile world was from all ages hidden, in order that now through the Church it might be made known.

 

EPH 3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

 

EPH 3:9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;

 

EPH 3:10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

 

The mystery of Christ is now made known to the church, and angels are being instructed in it by the watching the church.

 

The mystery of the ages is now made known to us, but there is another creation who are being schooled and instructed by what is transpiring here on earth.

 

To some this is just Paul getting overly excited and extravagant. Is it just Paul’s unrestrained enthusiasm that makes him leap to the heavens and call the angels to witness what he is ecstatic to know, or does Paul actually know that angels are watching?

 

But then Paul puts a divine stamp on it in vs. 11.

 

EPH 3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in [“the” - definite article tò„] Christ Jesus our Lord,

 

This was always a part of God’s divine purpose ... in this age, we would see and be a part of the mystery of the ages, hidden until the resurrection of Christ and the forming of the church, determined before the foundation of the world, the beginning of the purpose promised to Abraham and the nation of Israel; a new humanity and the kingdom of God within them, and … that this would be made known to the older “sons of God,” the angels.

 

JOB 38:4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

 

JOB 38:7 When the morning stars sang together,

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 

They shouted for joy when the earth was created. This shows their ability to understand God’s work and their capacity to appreciate it to the point of intense joy. As they continue to observe they see the fall of man, the flood, the Tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, the call of Moses, the nation of Israel, the call of David, the prophets of Israel, and then, the birth of Christ. In fact, God sends a multitude of them to announce Christ’s birth.

 

If they shouted for joy at the creation of earth, how much more did they rejoice when Christ established through His cross the creation of a new humanity and kingdom?

 

And every time they see a person enter that kingdom, they rejoice.

 

Jesus Christ draws after Him to earth the eyes of heaven.

 

Christ’s coming to this world and identification with it unite to it enduringly the great worlds above us. The incarnation of the Son of God gives to human life a boundless interest and significance.

 

Earth is but a tiny speck compared to the great size and mass of the universe. Yet, the greatest concentration of energy contained in our planet is within the nucleus of an atom. Roughly, 50 billion uranium nuclei would fit across one human hair.

 

EPH 3:10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

 

What lies at the center of Paul’s thoughts in this paragraph is God’s all-comprehending purpose in Christ.

 

The magnitude and completeness of that purpose are indicated by the fact that it embraces in its purview the angelic powers and their enlightenment. By understanding it, our human faith and our thankful determination gain confidence and courage.

 

EPH 3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in [“the” - definite article to] Christ Jesus our Lord,

 

“The Christ Jesus” - the Messiah. Paul is looking back through the ages during which the divine plan was kept secret. God had long ago designed His plan for mercy, pointing through the ages of Adam to Noah, Shem to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, and Joshua to John the Baptist in the direction of the only hope for mankind, the promise of the coming One and His kingdom.

 

The Messiah was the burden of the prophets, and not just His identification or the time of His coming, which they searched but could not see. The burden of the Messiah is the burden of goodness, truth, and holiness. The prophet called had to live what he spoke to Israel, the warnings, admonishments, and future predictions of God’s perfect will were his mantle and his conduct while he exhorted Israel to do likewise. The idolaters could not be warned by another idolater. Those without faith could not be admonished by others unfaithful. The call to faith, the call be believe God was a call from the kingdom of God, and the prophets, the servants of God’s kingdom had to be themselves submissive to the kingdom. To look at them was to look upon an outward manifestation of God’s kingdom.

 

Granting the existence of angels in the universe we should expect them to be profoundly interested in the work of Christ on earth.

 

Is Paul referring to fallen angels or elect? Actually, both want to know the wisdom of God, but for different reasons. The Art of War says to “know your enemy,” and that would be the only motivation for Satan to understand the workings of Christ in this world. But it doesn’t seem that Paul has them in mind here. The elect angels desire to know the wisdom of God’s doings on earth for men. Why they desire this and how that should affect us is the attempted goal of this study.

 

An angel spoke with the prophet Zechariah in his vision, acting as God’s executive. They cannot be mere window dressing for the universe, apocalyptic machinery, or telegram messengers. The Lord said that He could call down twelve legions of them to fight for Him in His most solemn hour. He also said that the angles of children constantly behold the face of the Father.

 

Paul actively denounced their worship. John, in his vision, when he fell down of the feet of one was told to get up:

 

REV 19:10

“Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.”

 

HEB 1:14

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

 

HEB 2:16

For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.

 

Their relationship to the church is one of service, but also one of observation and a hope at knowing.

 

1PE 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven —  things into which angels long to look.

 

Though their insight and knowledge are high, they are limited. Their keen and burning intuition could not penetrate the mystery of God’s intentions towards this world.

 

Though existing in heaven, lively spectators of the glory of God, perfectly obedient, without stain of sin, and a great capacity for knowing their Creator and Master, they still could not see the unfolding of the mystery, that is until now, until the church.

 

We read “long to look” from Peter and we think they can’t know, but only long to know, but this must be incorrect. Paul says they are now knowing. If we take ourselves as an example, students of the word of God can say they know God through Jesus Christ and that they long to look even more and longer into that knowledge. As Paul wrote, His riches are “unfathomable.”

 

Angels keenly watched the apostles.

 

In opposing the arrogance of the Corinthians, Paul’s great sacrifice for the cause of Christ led him to conclude that eyes were bent upon him other than those of his fellow men.

 

1CO 4:9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

 

Why the apostles? Wouldn’t learning the wisdom of God’s working in this age be better seen in them? If you desired to understand the wisdom behind a particular skill, would you observe someone who didn’t possess it?

 

Through the church, we are told the angels of God are “now” having His manifold wisdom made known to them. It is not through theology or theory that they are arriving at this education, but through observing the living church herself.

 

It seems that the mission of the Son of God on earth created a problem for them and they follow its development with intense and sympathetic interest. The problem is that God allowed conflict in His universe. Satan fell and some angels went with him. Elect angels always do God’s will. They are perfectly submissive. They know the Sovereignty of God well. Immediate destruction by God’s wrath in response to revolt likely would have made sense to these obedient angels. But God delayed the destruction of Satan and His angels and God created men in His image.

 

The men also revolted and again, destruction was not immediate, but something else. Hebrews says that God did not give help to angels or subject to them the world to come. After the revolt of man, God helped them. He came to them and covered them with garments of animal skin and then gave them instructions on sacrificing to Him. It was obvious that God had something in mind for fallen man, but what?

 

With great care they watch the conflict between good and evil and the varying progress of Christ’s kingdom amongst men.

 

Many things, doubtless, that engage our attention and fill a large space in our church records, are of little account with them; and much that passes in obscurity, names and deeds unchronicled by fame, are written in heaven and pondered in other spheres. Nothing Christ did or said missed their attention. And, no brave believer who has ever withstood the attacks of the flesh, the world, and the devil has missed their notice.

 

Are they watching you?

 

No advance is made in any saint’s character and habit that they do not notice and rejoice over. They notice Christians whose knowledge and wisdom increase, whose efficiency in doing the work of God increases. They look intently at the work and application of the gospel; those who live by the gospel and bring it to those who will believe or reject it.

 

How do they know which work is right and which is wrong or a fake? They dwell in heaven, where only holiness is. They are not trying to learn to identify holiness, they can plainly see it. They are trying to learn the multifaceted wisdom of God that is manifested in God’s dealings with humans, none of which are born holy.

 

When the cause of Christ and the salvation of mankind go forward, when righteousness and peace triumph, the morning stars sing together and the sons of God shout for joy.

 

In the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the angels in heaven rejoice over its founding.

 

LUK 15:10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

 

These two parables are grouped with a third, the parable of the prodigal son. He is a sinner who repented. The father rejoiced at his returning home, and the angels would have been at that party with Him.

 

The joy that there is in the presence of the angels of God over the repenting sinner, is not the joy of sympathy or pity only; it is the delight of growing wisdom, of deepening insight into the ways of God, into the heart of the Father and the love that surpasses knowledge.

 

The rejoicing occurs over what God does (searches out the sinner) and the response of the sinner to the glorious light that he sees. Mercy and grace go out through the whole land. Some, who were certain they were doomed or lost, come upon God’s mercy and grace and believe and accept it and are delivered. God’s mercy and man’s deliverance through that mercy causes the angels to rejoice.

 

The living church has become their Bible. And just as we continue to look into the Bible and learn more and more of its treasures, never reaching the bottom, and if we lived for a thousand years we would still continue to dig and look and find new and deeper wisdom, so the angels of God are always learning from the believers who live the spiritual life and rejoice over them.

 

You are never alone and you are always seen, and when no one on earth knows your sacrifice and gains and triumphs, myriads of angels do.

 

I don’t think it needs to be said that we should not do things to be noticed by angels, for as soon as that is your motivation, then your motivation is you, and you can be sure they will stop looking your way for instruction in wisdom.

 

God could have withheld this knowledge from us. But He wants to know it, obviously. For what reason I think is obvious. You are not ever alone. “I am with you always,” God confirms, but He also says, “My servants in heaven are watching you and cheering for you, and so while you do not see Me now, but love Me, know that I am using you to teach them, and so feel the excitement and worth of your life by this understanding.”

 

LUK 12:8 "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God;”

 

Might the Lord at the right hand of God be directing the gaze of the angels in our direction, or would He be presenting us to them in heaven, or both? Both are great. Matthew states that Jesus said, “I will confess him before My Father in heaven.”

 

Presented to the Father and His angels, the angels will see in heaven one who they watched in time with sympathy and eagerness. To them, the believer who lived the spiritual life is a rock-star.

 

Obviously, the church is revealing something that the angels could not learn in heaven. How can a fallen creature, made in the image of God, be restored to perfect holiness? They cannot be forced. Being in God’s image, they would have to choose righteousness and holiness, but being fallen they could never choose it, never mind attain it if they so desired.

 

Therefore, our world presents a problem unique in the universal kingdom of God, or God’s universe. Unraveling this problem opens up the manifold wisdom of God. Cheap doctrine invented in the minds of men only cut the knot, but the revealed wisdom unties much of it, but be cautious, not all of it.

 

“His love, in its pure essence, those happy and godlike beings know. They have lived for ages in its unclouded light. His power and skill they may see displayed in proportions immensely grander than this puny globe of our presents. God’s justice, it may be, and the thunders of His law have issued forth in other regions clothed with a splendor of which the scenes of Sinai were but a faint emblem. It is the combination of the manifold principles of the divine government that the peculiarity of the human problem appears to lie. The delicate and continuous balancing of forces in God’s plan of dealing with this world, the reconciliation of seeming incompatibilities, the issue found from positions of hopeless contradiction, the accord of goodness with severity, of inflexible rectitude and truth with fatherly compassion, afford the greatest minds of heaven a spectacle and a study altogether wonderful. So amongst ourselves the child of a noble house, reared in cultured ease and shielded from moral peril, in visiting the homes of poverty in the crowded city, finds a new world opened to him, that can teach him divine lessons if he has the heart to learn. His mind in awakened, his sympathies enriched. He hears the world’s true voice, “the still and sad music of humanity.” He measures the heights and depths of man’s nature. A host of questions are thrust upon him, whose urgency he had scarcely guessed; and wide ranges of truth are lighted up for him, which before were distant and unreal. The highest have ever to learn from the lowest in Christ’s school, the seeming-wise from the simple; even the pure and good, from contact with the fallen whom they seek to save.” [Marcus Dods]

 

On earth God’s believing children are below the angels, but only for a time. Still, on earth, they serve us. And we see that they are willing to learn from us.

 

They waited and saw rather than jumping to false conclusions about God’s unfolding plan. 

 

While watching the plan of God unfold on earth, the angels were not skeptical, nor did they devise theories for things they couldn’t understand.

 

They have been watching from the beginning, from GEN 1:1. As they traced the course of human history in those “eternal times” during which the mystery lay wrapped in silence, the angel watchers were too wise to play the sceptic, too cautious to criticize an unfinished plan and arraign a justice they could not yet understand. We would be wise to do the same concerning the remaining parts of God’s plan that we cannot understand. And, perhaps more importantly, the parts of our own lives that we can’t understand. Don’t jump to conclusions that have no basis, for in that way, they will surely be wrong. Wait for the unfolding of God’s plan in your life with you remain faithful and patient. 

 

With a dignified patience the watching angels waited the uplifting of the curtain and the unraveling of the entangled plot. They looked for the coming of the Promised One. So, in due time they witnessed and, for their reward, assisted in His manifestation.

 

With the same docility these high sharers of our theological inquiries still wait to see the end of the Lord’s plan and to take their part in the outcome of the time drama, in the revelation of the sons of God. Let us copy their long patience. God has not made us for the purpose of mocking us. He will reveal to us the reasons for what He has done in our lives. We must trust Him.

 

As the Lord approached Peter dressed in a servant’s apron with a basin of water to wash Peter’s dirty feet, and Peter protested:

 

JOH 13:4 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter."

 

Compared to us, the angels have a disadvantage, they are not the heirs of salvation. They must learn from us because they are not the beneficiaries of the Lord’s help. They are not fallen angels for which God became an angel and saved. They witness and observe the wisdom of our salvation, but they never will possess it.

 

Yet, compared to us, the angels have an advantage. They are far above the smoke and dust of the earthly conflict. The doubts that shake the strongest souls among us, the cries of the hour which confuse and deceive us, do not trouble them. They behold us in our weakness, our fears, and our divisions; but they also look on Him who “sits until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.”

 

They see how calmly He sits, how patiently expectant, while the sound of clashing arms and the rage and tumult of the people go up from the earth. They mark the steadiness with which through century after century, in spite of rising waves, the tide of mercy rises higher still, and it has ever continued to rise on the shores of the earth. Thrones, systems, civilizations have gone down; one after another of the powers that strove to crush or to corrupt Christ’s church has disappeared; and still the name of Jesus lives and spreads. It has traversed every continent and sea; it stands at the head of the living and moving forces of the world. Those who come nearest to the angelic point of view, and judge the progress of things not by the froth upon the surface, but by the trend of deeper currents, are the most confident for the future of our race in His kingdom. The kingdom of Satan will not fall without a struggle - a last struggle, perhaps more furious than any in the past - but it is doomed, and waning to its end. So far has the kingdom of Christ advanced, so mightily does the word of God grow and prevail in the earth, that faith may well assure itself of the promised triumph. Soon we shall shout:

 

REV 19:6 "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.

 

REV 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."

 

Parable of the Lost sheep and the lost coin:

 

LUK 15:10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

 

The context is that Jesus should prefer the society of notorious sinners. The Pharisees could not understand that a teacher of holy life could treat these abandoned characters with grace and preference. Our Lord’s explanation is ample and thorough. It was of extreme importance that His demeanor towards sinners should be made perfectly intelligible, and that its reasonableness should be put beyond a doubt. He devotes, therefore, the three parables recorded in this chapter to this purpose.

 

Drawn into Luke’s historical record is a contrast between chapters 14 (dinner with Pharisee) 15 (dinners with sinners).

 

There is however a contrast with chapter 15 drawn in Luke’s recorded history that goes back to chapter 14 where we find Jesus dining, not with the lowly, but at the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath. A Sabbath dinner at the house of one of the leading Pharisees is a very special occasion, and to be invited is to be greatly honored.

 

Remember now, angels are watching and they rejoice over one sinner who repents. They rejoice when a sinful and evil heart is turned to behold and embrace God’s goodness.

 

At this dinner, Jesus heals a man suffering from dropsy (a disease of the heart, kidneys, or liver that causes water to collect in limbs or in the abdomen. When this happens the disease is at an advanced stage.) Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath?” Likely, some of the others in attendance frowned on this gracious work of Christ, seeing it as performing work on the Sabbath.

 

Jesus’ reply to their grumbling:

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