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The next two lessons are taken from a teaching that Randy Clark did on angels in Beleem Brazil in Sept of 2002. As he spoke, God seemed to say to me, "Teresa, listen to this." Since God thought the teaching was important, I took notes, writing as fast as I could and getting as much of Randy's teaching as I could take down in my notes.
Even though I am not the source of the content of these two lessons, I feel it is very important material and I want to share it with you. So I have "fleshed out" my notes from Randy Clark's teaching on angels to present to you as lessons 3 and 4.
God has always intended for angels to co-labor with the church in furthering God's plans and advancing God's kingdom. God set a foundation for this way back in Genesis 28, when Jacob had a vision of a ladder ascending into Heaven. Let's look at this from Genesis 28:10-15, and especially note verse 12:
10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you."
Note that the following verses, 16 to 22 show the impact that this encounter had on Jacob. This divine visitation lead Jacob to a genuine conversion that actually changed his behavior. The schemer and manipulator suddenly made a deep and serious commitment to God, including a commitment to tithe. Encounters with God are usually life changing, and Jacob's certainly was!
This was a divine encounter where Jacob actually came directly into God's very presence. And when God showed up, angels were also present. Did you notice the activity of the angels in this encounter. According to verse 12, they were ascending and descending the ladder that joined Heaven to earth. In short, God dispatched angels from Heaven to earth to do His business, and when they completed their assignment, they returned to Heaven (e.g., back to God's presence). Then He would send them down again to do more of His work. The picture of angels ascending and descending denotes a lot of angelic activity taking place on earth. It establishes angelic activity in our realm.
Jesus enters into this picture way back in the time of Jacob. God spoke to Jacob in this vision or divine visitation. He made promises to him and told him of things to come. He talked about the vast number of future generations that would come from Jacob to be the Jewish race, God's chosen people. Then He changed tense from plural to singular to talk about the "seed" (singular) by which "all the families of the earth shall be blessed." This is a reference to Christ--He is the one who descended from Abraham, who laid down His life as a sacrifice for man's sin and then rose from the dead, forever conquering sin and death. He is the one who made it possible for all people, not just the Jews, to enter into a personal relationship with God. That was the blessing that Gen 28:14 was talking about--Salvation and right relationship with God.
We see the angelic activity in the midst of this promise of the coming Savior. It has been God's plan to release both salvation and angelic activity (angels working together with the church) on the face of the earth since way back to the time of Abraham and probably before.
Now let's jump forward to the time when Jesus met Nathaniel. Please keep Gen 28:12 (the ladder with angels ascending/descending) in mind as we go to John 1:48-51:
48Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?"
Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
49Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
50Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, "I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." 51And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Note the repetition of the theme from Genesis 28:12--we see the heavens opening again. We see angels ascending and descending again. In other words, the "greater things" of John 1:51 than a prophetic word of knowledge (e.g., the operation of the prophetic) was the presence and activity of angels working with man. Let me develop this a little.
Angels ascending and descending from Heaven to earth paints a picture of angels ministering to and ministering with mankind. When Jesus walked on the earth, He took on human flesh and He became a man. In fact, this was such a new thing to Him (being human) that He constantly referred to Himself as the "Son of man" in the gospels. Jesus had been God for all eternity, but He had only become a human being for maybe 30 years, it was new to Him, that is why He used the title "Son of man" so much. The point here is that Jesus was human (fully a man as well as being fully God) when He walked the earth. And when Jesus was a human, we have records of the angels ministering to Him.
Angels came and strengthened Jesus after He was temped in the wilderness, after He had fasted 40 days (Matthew 4:11). They came and strengthened Him again when He went out to the Mount of Olives to pray. He looked ahead to suffering and dieing on the cross, knowing He would be tortured and beaten, knowing He would be separated from His Heavenly Father while He bore the sins of all humanity. It was such an intense struggle for Him to look at all this and say "Not My will, but yours be done," that He sweated drops of blood. He was in anguish (Luke 22:44). And in the midst of all of this, Luke 22:43 tells us that an angel came and strengthened Him.
And when Jesus was arrested, one of the disciples drew his sword to defend Jesus. And Jesus told him, in Matt 26:52-52, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" This shows that Jesus had access to the heavenly resources of angels, and could call on them any time He wanted to, but it also shows that He would only call on them when their activity would be used to carry out God the Father's will.
So now back to the passage in John 1 where Nathaniel espouses that Jesus is the Christ. In John 1:47-48, Jesus operated in the prophetic and in word of knowledge. That, in and of itself, was enough to convince Nathaniel of His Lordship. But Jesus does not simply accept the situation. Instead He said that (verses 50-51) that we will see God do more than just release the prophetic on His church. The "greater things" that we will see is the ministry of angels working with us (Heavens opening and angels ascending and descending). In other words, Jesus' coming to earth, His death and resurrection not only opened a way for us to be saved, it also opened the doors for the angelic to come and co-labor with us in spreading God's kingdom.
We will develop this more in our next lesson.