Angels at Sodom
[These are the notes for tonight's message on Angels at Sodom, which is part of Pastor Joel's ongoing series on Angelology.]
So far, we’ve covered all the bigwigs in the Heavenly Host. We covered Lucifer, Gabriel, Michael, the Cherubims, Seraphims, and the Angel of the Lord. Now we’re going to spend some time with the, shall we say, regular angels, and we’re going to explore some crazy angel stories in time past. Then we’ll look at the function of angels in the age of grace. Then we’ll look at some crazy angel stories in the ages to come.
But first, an overview of the characteristics of regular angels.
They are not much different than the elite Cherubims we studied. The only great distinction is that the Cherubims have wings, and we do not have record of regular angels having wings or more than one face. The Cherubims are probably more powerful, which might explain why in Daniel 10 the demonic realm tried to stop the regular angel from reaching Daniel but not Gabriel in Daniel 9. This might also explain why Michael the archangel helped that angel in Daniel 10 because he is more powerful. But what they all have in common is that angels are all free moral agents, free-willed, and independent in thought, evidenced by the fact that a third of the angels willingly chose to join Lucifer in open rebellion against God whereas the two-thirds chose, in their free will, to remain obedient.
All heavenly angels worship God. I loved Neh 9:6 Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. The Bible is very clear that angels are to never be worshipped. Even Paul talks about that in Col 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels… The obedient angels who stayed obedient to God during the angelic rebellion are, no surprise, called “obedient.” David had this wonderful verse in Psa 103:20Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. That verse also highlights how they all excel in strength. Compared to all of us, who are made lower than the angels, they excel in strength, but it would appear that some angels are more powerful than others.
Here’s another fact that will surprise no one. The angels do not marry. The Lord said in Mat 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
Angels are examples to us in many ways, particularly worship and obedience, but Peter and Jude remind us of their example of meekness, which is strength under control. Peter wrote in 2Pe 2:11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. Angels don’t have all knowledge, but they’re curious. Peter wrote in 1 Pet. 1:12 about how angels desired to look into all the things God was doing during and after the Lord’s earthly ministry. They’re also called wise. A handmaiden said to a king in 2Sa 14:20 …my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth. They’re called “holy.” The Lord said in Mat 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory… They’re also called elect, hosts, clouds, stars, sons of God, holy ones, and they’re also called saints. Before Moses died and he gave his final blessing to Israel, he spoke of the time when he met the Lord on Mt. Sinai, and he said in Deu 33:2 that The LORD came from Sinai… and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. Those “saints” were angels. In fact, I would make the case that when Paul writes about the Rapture in 1Th 3:13 and he says, “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints,” he may very well be talking about bringing not just believers but the entire heavenly host with Him as well. The Rapture will pretty much empty almost all of Heaven. We can’t comprehend the glory.
In any event, when the Lord met Moses on Mt. Sinai, he brought tens of thousands of angels with Him and Moses called them “saints,” “holy ones,” and we’re going to look next week at the fact that the Lord wasn’t the only one who gave the law to Moses. Angels also dictated parts of the law to Moses. Stephen in Acts 7 talked about how they received the law by the disposition of angels. Paul wrote in Gal. 3 how the angels ordained the law. The angels also provided guidance and protection. They’re watchers and witnesses.
We know that even though they are ministering spirits, they’re also shape-shifters. They can transform themselves into physical men. When they are as physical men, you cannot tell that they’re angels. You remember how, during the tribulation, the writer of Hebrews tells the Jews to Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. When angels transform themselves into men, you wouldn’t know they were angels. Yet, when regular angels appear in their natural state, they are terrifying, which is why the first words out of their mouths are usually, “Fear not.” I think people were afraid largely due to the brilliance of their glory. When Matthew described the angel who rolled the stone away from the Lord’s tomb, he wrote in Mat 28:3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow, which wasn’t that much different in appearance to the Lord Jesus Christ at His transfiguration. David described their appearance as a flaming fire in Psa. 104:4. John described an angel in Rev 10:1. He wrote, “I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire.” But my favorite is the angel John describes in Rev 18:1 He writes …I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory! That was the angel who celebrated the fall of Babylon. Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen… I have only ever pictured the Lord lighting the Earth with all of His glory, but a single angel has enough glory to do the same thing! Isn’t that amazing?
We also know that angels all have distinct personalities and emotions, even strong emotions. We read about the “great wrath” of the devil when he’s cast down to the earth mid-way through the Tribulation. We also read about the great love shown by Gabriel when he interacted with Daniel and Mary. We made the point that God isn’t the only one who loves you. The entire heavenly host, the innumerable company of angels, all of heaven, loves you beyond words.
Here’s a question I have. Heb. 12:22 talks about the “innumerable company of angels,” and yet, we learn in Rev. 12:4 that the tail of the dragon, “drew the third part of the stars of heaven”. Lucifer persuaded a third of the angels to follow him in rebellion. The question is, how can there be an innumerable company of angels if Lucifer convinced a third of the angels to follow him in rebellion? Doesn’t a third mean that there is a finite number of angels? A study of the word innumerable is interesting. David, in Psa_104:25, wrote of the great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. Surely, there is a finite number of creatures in the great and wide sea, isn’t there? In Luke 12:1, when the Lord spoke to the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees, Luke observed that “when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another”. Well, surely, there’s a finite number of people that was there, right? Innumerable does not mean infinite. Webster makes the point that innumerable, in a loose sense, simply means “very numerous, not to be counted, cannot be enumerated or numbered for multitude.” In other words, there were so many people, one could not physically look at them and properly count them all. There were too many people – beyond our ability to count them all. The same is true for angels. There are so many of them, that if we were to see them all, we could not possibly count them. I don’t think we could with human eyes actually see all of them from any vantage point.
So how many angels are we talking about? A trillion? A quadrillion? They say the biggest number is called a googolplex, which is so large, you could fill the entire universe with books of zeroes and still not reach the end of that number. Is it possible that God could have that many angels? Yes. Anything is possible. Well, how could you have more angels than you could possibly have room for them in the known universe? Because beyond the universe is Heaven itself, which I suspect is so vast, I think it’s possible you could spend millions of years traveling Heaven and still not see everything. Between our universe and Heaven, we’re talking about so much vastness of space that you could have a googolplex of angels. More than we can calculate.
The Book of Genesis
It’s amazing the variety of angels we’re given in the first book of the Bible. Of course, when we read Genesis 1, we can’t help but think of Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. I had suggested that the morning stars may have been a broad term for the Cherubims, and the sons of God may well be all the other angels. I suspect that the singing and shouting spoke of the same event. The Lord used shouting to describe the over-exuberance with which the angels sang praises. They were so overjoyed they went beyond singing to the point of screaming their praise!
But the first angels we encounter in the Bible is after the fall in the Garden in Gen. 3:24 when the Lord drove out Adam and Eve, “and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden because if they ate of the Tree of Life, their physical bodies would live forever, which would essentially make Adam and Eve immortal sinners. But why did God plant His Cherubims there? And why a flaming sword? Did God really need to plant two of the most powerful beings in the entire universe to guard the Tree of Life from a couple of tiny human beings? We established weeks ago that those Cherubims are massive, wings as loud as the voice of God Himself. They’re like skyscrapers. We’re nothing compared to them! As if the presence of the Cherubims wasn’t enough, we also have this massive flaming sword spinning in every direction! Why this massive show of force here? Couldn’t a couple of normal angels get the job done? On the one hand, it may be possible those Cherubims were placed there to instill fear and reverence in Adam and Eve for His judgment, for His heavenly government, and for all His power demonstrated in the display of His mighty Cherubims. I might also suggest that those Cherubims weren’t there to simply keep out the humans but perhaps the demonic realm as well. Imagine the damage Satan could’ve done to the human race if he got his greedy little hands on just one fruit of that tree and gave it to Adam and Eve. By creating immortal sinners, he would’ve put a real kink in God’s plans. No one, not even the demonic realm, could possibly get by that sword and those massively powerful Cherubims.
But here’s the bigger point. The first angels that are revealed to us in the Bible are the Cherubims, and the last angel we encounter in the Bible is probably a Cherubim, too. The last reference to an angel is the Lord saying in Rev 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches... The Lord sent His angel to testify to John. Which angel is He referring to? Who is His angel? Could it be Michael the archangel, the “over angel,” “chief angel,” “the prince of angels?” Or how about Gabriel? Remember how he told Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, in Luk 1:19 “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings…” Based upon that verse, my guess would be that His angel is Gabriel. He may be the very angel who interacts with John all throughout Revelation, but we don’t know. Bullinger suggested that Gabriel has to be one of the seven angels who blow the trumpets in Rev. 8, because it says they stand before God. Who knows. Regardless, whether Gabriel or Michael, the Lord’s angel cannot be anything other than one of the elite angels in all the heavenly host, which would have to be a Cherubim. So the first angels we encounter in Genesis are Cherubims, and it’s likely that the last angel we encounter in Revelation is a Cherubim.
But then the second angel, we encounter in Genesis is the Angel of the Lord, which we covered last week. That Angel of the Lord was a Christophany, a manifestation of the Lord in human form, but on a kind of stealth mission in which He refused to give His name. But then in Revelation, we have the full revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory. We have the foretelling of Christ literally coming down to this Earth, not in stealth, but in all His glory defeating His enemies and reigning here on the Earth.
Then we have a third reference to angels in Gen. 19, regular angels this time, in a story that exposes such depravity in man, it turns my stomach. We’re going to look at the angels who came to Sodom and interacted with Lot. You might remember Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He moved with his kindred and with Abraham and Sarai to Canaan in Gen 12. He took refuge in Egypt from a famine, along with Abraham and Sarai, and then returned, first to the "south," and then to their original settlement between Bethel and Ai in Gen 13. But the hills of Bethel were no longer conduce to their needs. So they separated. Lot chose the fertile plain of Jordan, going as far as Sodom. Gen_13:10-14. The next thing about Lot we’d read in Gen. 14 is how he was captured by four kings of the east and rescued by Abraham. Then we find Lot here at the gates of Sodom.
Gen 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground… Here we’re given the first introduction to regular angels, and they don’t even appear as they normally would. They’re walking around like common men. The interesting thing is that with the story of the Angel of the Lord that came before this, we had learned that God, who is a Spirit, has the ability to transform Himself into a physical man and interact with us. We accepted that. He’s God. So with that precedent already set, we get to this story, and we can quickly figure out what’s going on here. We’d naturally conclude correctly that these angels must have the same ability. These angels, who are ministering spirits, must somehow have the ability to change into human physical forms just like the Lord. So these angels must also have the ability to do the same thing, because the Lord made the angels. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that He gave the angels an ability that He also has. So it’s amazing to me that we have in this one verse, angels, our first introduction to normal angels, and they’re walking around as men, and we don’t even need an explanation as to how that’s even possible. The Lord is trusting the Spirit and all of us to figure all of this out on our own. And notice, too, that as soon as he met those angels, he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. Doid this mean he instinctively knew they were angels, or was this a common courtesy he extended to everyone? I’d argue common courtesy. He did not know they were angels. We mentioned Heb. 13:2 about entertaining angels unawares. When angels transform into men, you won’t know they’re angels.
Gen 19:2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. This verse also seems to indicate that he didn’t know they were angels. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have spoken of a servant’s house or given them any instructions. Had he known, he would’ve sought instructions from them. Nor would he have expressed all of his concern for their safety. But this dialogue just might explain why Lot sat at the gate of Sodom to begin with. To warn people. Stay away from this city, because these people are all flat-out evil.
Gen 19:3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. Isn’t it amazing that these angels, when they were transformed into men could function as men and eat! Not only that, they would sleep like real men, too.
Look at Gen 19:4 But before they lay down (did this not mean the entire household including the angels?), the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: Gen 19:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. A couple of things here. These men were seen by the people of Sodom and none of them had any inkling that these men were angels, just like Lot. They all thought they were regular men. What we read in these two verses reveals a level of depravity hardly found anywhere else in Scripture, which perfectly encapsulates all the reasons why God chose to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. All these men came to Lot’s house and said they wanted to “know” these new men, and it is “know” in the sense of horrific sexual assault. This city was so beyond depraved in their thinking, beyond the realm of any trace of human decency, that all the men of the city, both old and young, came out to Lot’s house to commit one of the most heinous crimes against another human being, and the entire city wanted to participate in it. When vs. 4 says all the people from every quarter, the common thought is that Moses still has in mind only the men. Even in Gen. 13:13, the finger is pointed squarely at the men of the city. Moses wrote that “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” But when you consider these two passages in Gen. 19, it’s near impossible to put into words the barbaric depths of depravity on display here. I liked what Matthew Henry wrote. He said, “It was the most unnatural and abominable wickedness that they were now set upon, a sin that still bears their name, and is called Sodomy. They were carried headlong by those vile affections, which are worse than brutish, and the eternal reproach of the human nature, and which cannot be thought of without horror by those that have the least spark of virtue and any remains of natural light and conscience.”
Gen 19:6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, Gen 19:7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Gen 19:8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. I don’t even know what to say about these verses. It sickens me that this situation was so grave that he would willingly offer his daughters like this. Makes no sense to me that he would offer his two daughters to these Sodomites who wanted to abuse these two men. Maybe he offered them because he knew they wouldn’t take them. It made no difference. Offering anything to people this depraved does nothing to appease them. They’ll only want more. And they’ll be even more aggressive and violent about getting it. They’re so depraved that they’ve reached a level of madness in their thinking. I’m reminded of how Solomon said in Ecc. 9:3 that excessive indulgence of doing evil leads to “madness in their heart while they live.” The thinking heart can become mad in excessive indulgence of evil. What we have in the men of Sodom is nothing less than the madness of the human heart, which morphed into this psychotic sexual sadism, all because of their extreme indulgence of the flesh, which leads to even greater extremes, which leads to a madness of the heart and the mind.
Gen 19:9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge (they’re making fun of Lot, basically saying, this guy is pretending to be a judge over us): now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.Gen 19:10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. Gen 19:11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. I loved how these angels handle this crowd. Just as the Lord put a quick end to the Tower of Babel in Gen. 11 by confounding the languages, so too, these angels put a quick end to this mob of Sodomites by blinding them all, and yet, even in their blindness, in their depravity and violent ways, they still “wearied themselves to find the door”! Just unbelievable!
Gen 19:12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: Gen 19:13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. Now we finally know why these angels were sent and why they came in the form of humans. They were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah but before that happened, they were to interact with Lot and give him direction about saving his family before the city would be consumed by fire.
Gen 19:14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. Here’s a question I have. If all the men from every quarter, both old and young, if the entire city came out to join in on this horrific act, then would this not mean that his own sons-in-law were there? And despite the miracle that happened, the blinding of the entire population, which prevented them from carrying out that heinous crime, his sons-in-law were still so depraved in their thinking that these boys doubted Lot and just assumed he was mocking them. Is it not amazing how the depths of depravity can corrupt one’s thinking?
Gen 19:15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. The boys his daughters married were a lost cause, and the angels knew it. So they hasten Lot to take his wife and his daughters and run out of that city before it’s consumed by fire. I’m sure his daughters were not thrilled about being dragged away from their husbands. Gen 19:16And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. Why did they linger here? I’m sure Lot wanted to save his daughters’ husbands for their sake, but there was no hope for them. And these angels had to take them by the hand and forcibly drag them out of the city!
Gen 19:17And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. Gen 19:18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Gen 19:19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Gen 19:20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.Gen 19:21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Gen 19:22Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar (tso’-ar). Lot begs to go hide in a smaller city instead of fleeing to the mountain and he’s granted that request. Gen 19:23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 19:25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. 19:26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
Now that we’ve covered the third type of angels referenced in Genesis, I want to come back to this thought we had at the beginning where we considered the comparison between Genesis and Revelation. I love that comparison!
I have this paragraph from J. Sidlow Baxter comparing the two books that I’ve always loved. Baxter: “A comparison of Genesis to Revelation proves that this book is a completed revelation of God to man. They complement each other.” Baxter: “In both, we have a new beginning and a new order. In both, we have the tree of life, the river, the bride, the walk of God with man; and in both paradises we have the same moral and spiritual ideals... Mark the contrasts between the one book and the other. In Genesis, we see the first paradise closed (3:23). In Revelation we see the new paradise opened (21:5). In Genesis, we see dispossession through human sin (3:24). In Revelation we see repossession through divine grace (21:24). In Genesis we see the curse imposed (3:17). In Revelation we see the curse removed (22:3). In Genesis, we see access to the tree of life disinherited, in Adam (3:24). In Revelation we see access to the tree of life re-inherited, in Christ (22:14). In Genesis we see the beginning of sorrow and death (3:16-19). In Revelation we read, ‘there shall be no more death, neither sorrow’ (21:4). In Genesis, we are shown a garden into which defilement entered (3:6-7). In Revelation, we are shown a city of which it is written, ‘There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth’ (21:7). In Genesis, we see man’s dominion broken, in the fall of the first man, Adam (3:19). In Revelation, we see man’s dominion restored, in the rule of the new man, Christ (22:5). In Genesis, we see the evil triumph of the serpent (3:13). In Revelation we see the ultimate triumph of the Lamb (20:10, 22:3). In Genesis, we see the walk of God with man interrupted (3:8-10). In Revelation, we see the walk of God with man resumed, and a great voice says from Heaven ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He dwell with them….’ (21:3).”
I love all of that. But then you consider the comparison between Genesis and Revelation in terms of the references to angels. We’ll start with this story we just read. In Genesis, men deceived by Satan and about as depraved as you can get, they try to attack the angels, but in Revelation, it’s the angels that go on the offensive. They assist God in carrying out all of His judgment upon the Earth. We also pointed out a few weeks ago that in Rev. 12, it’s Michael and his angels who instigated that war in Heaven. They suddenly fight against the dragon. And the dragon fights back. And the dragon prevails not, and Satan and his demons were all cast down to the Earth. That war was started by Michael and his angels. It’s thrilling to see the angels go on the offensive. We pointed out that the second reference to an angel in Genesis is the Angel of the Lord, which was a Christophany, a manifestation of the Lord in human form, but on a kind of stealth mission in which He’d refuse to give His name. But then in Revelation, we have the full revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory. The first angels we read about in Genesis are the Cherubims and the last angel we read about in Revelation is a Cherubim. The Cherubims in Genesis were blocking access into paradise. The Cherubim in Rev. 21 invites John into the new paradise to explore and measure the greatness of it. Then we also pointed out the rejoicing of the angels at the beginning of all things. In Revelation we have the angels continually rejoicing at the end of all things, rejoicing in song about the lamb being worthy to open the books, and rejoicing about the final destruction of Babylon. We also mentioned earlier Heb. 12:22 and the phrase an innumerable company of angels. The context of that verse is heavenly Jerusalem, New Jerusalem, the great finale to everything. After we get a new Heaven and a new Earth, New Jerusalem will come down from Heaven, and all the angels, all the innumerable company of angels will all be there shouting for joy as much as when the Earth was created.