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Billy Graham on God’s Secret Agents

In this story from March 1976, renowned evangelist Billy Graham tells us why we need angels in our lives.

Feather illuminated by light as it falls from the sky

Some time ago, when I decided to preach a sermon on angels, I found practically nothing in my library. Upon investigation, I soon discovered that little had been written on the subject in this century. This seemed a strange and ominous omission. Bookstores and libraries have shelves of books on demons, the occult and the devil.

Why was the devil getting so much more attention from writers than angels? Angels have a much more important place in the Bible than the devil and his demons. Therefore, I undertook a Biblical study of the subject of angels. Not only has it been one of the most fascinating studies of my life, but I believe the subject is more relevant today than perhaps at any time in history.

The Bible says, “For He will give His angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11, RSV) Are there supernatural beings today who are able to influence our affairs? Dr. S.W. Mitchell, a celebrated Philadelphia neurologist, had gone to bed after an exceptionally tiring day. Suddenly he was awakened by someone knocking on his door.

Discover Billy Graham’s Wisdom on Aging Well in His Book, Nearing Home

Opening it, he found a little girl, poorly dressed and deeply upset. She told him her mother was very sick and asked him if he would please come with her. It was a bitterly cold, snowy night, but though he was bone-tired, Doctor Mitchell dressed and followed the girl. As Reader’s Digest reports the story, he found the mother desperately ill with pneumonia.

After arranging for medical care, he complimented the sick woman on the intelligence and persistence of her little daughter. The woman looked at him strangely and then said, “My daughter died a month ago.” She added, “Her shoes and coat are in the clothes closet there.” Doctor Mitchell, amazed and perplexed, went to the closet and opened the door.

There hung the very coat worn by the little girl who had brought him to tend to her mother. It was warm and dry and could not possibly have been out in the wintry night. Could the doctor have been called in an hour of desperate need by an angel who appeared as this woman’s young daughter? Was this the work of God’s angels on behalf of the sick woman?

When the Reverend John G. Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.”

The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation.

During my ministry I have heard or read literally thousands of similar stories. Could it be that thee were all hallucinations or accidents or fate or luck? Or were real angels sent from God to perform certain tasks? Just a few years ago such ideas would have been scorned by most educated people. Science was king, and science was tuned in to believe only what could be seen or measured.

The idea of supernatural beings was thought to be nonsense—the ravings of the lunatic fringe. All this has changed. Think, for example, of the morbid fascination the occult has for modern society. Walk into a bookstore; visit any newsstand; go to a university library. You will be confronted by shelves and tables packed with books about the devil, Satan worship and demon possession.

This theme, which intellectuals would have derided a generation ago, is now being dealt with seriously by university professors such as John Updike and Harvey Cox. Some polls indicate that 70 percent of Americans believe in a personal devil. The Bible does teach that Satan is a real being who is at work in the world together with his emissaries, the demons.

In the New Testament they intensified their activities and bent every effort to defeat the work of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. The apparent increase in satanic activity against people on this planet, today may indicate that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ Is close at hand. The eminent British surgeon-psychiatrist, Dr. Kenneth McAll, is an authority on the subject of Satanology.

He spent many years in China, but was forced to return to England, where he took up psychiatry. When he became convinced that hundreds of his patients would not be helped by his surgeon’s scalpel or his psychiatrist’s couch, he remembered the demonism he had observed firsthand in China in the 1930s.

Today he is an international figure who acts as a liaison between the medical profession and the Church on matters having to do with Satanism, demon possession and exorcism. Doctor McAll is convinced that ostensibly innocent pastimes such as fortunetelling, Ouija boards, tarot cards, white magic, seance experiments and astrology are but the thin edge of the wedge into the realm of Satanism and should be studiously avoided by children and adults alike.

He insists that there are now hundreds of documented cases of individuals who began by dabbling in these things innocently and who ended by being either partially controlled or totally possessed by Satan. Because all the powers of the evil world system seem to be preying on the minds of people already disturbed and frustrated in our generation, I believe the time has come to focus on the positives of the Christian faith.

The Bible testifies that God has provided assistance for us in our spiritual conflicts. We are not alone in this world! The Bible teaches us that God’s Holy Spirit has been given to empower us and guide us. In addition, the Bible also teaches that God has countless angels at His command. Furthermore, God has commissioned these angels to aid His children in their struggles against Satan.

I am convinced that these heavenly beings exist and that they provide unseen aid on our behalf. I do not believe in angels because I have ever seen one—because I haven’t. I believe in angels because the Bible says there are angels; and I believe the Bible to be the true word of God.

Angels belong to a uniquely different dimension of creation which we, limited to the natural order, can scarcely comprehend. God has given angels higher knowledge, power and mobility than us. They are God’s messengers whose chief business is to carry out His orders in the world.

The Bible states that angels, like men, were created by God. It seems that they have the ability to change their appearance and shuttle in a flash from the capital glory of Heaven to earth and back again. Intrinsically they do not possess physical bodies, although they may take on physical bodies when God appoints them to special tasks.

The traditional concept of angels with wings is drawn from their ability to move instantaneously and with unlimited speed from place to place and wings were thought to permit such limitless movement. The empire of angels is as vast as God’s creation. If you believe the Bible, you will believe in their ministry.

They crisscross the Old and New Testaments, being mentioned directly or indirectly nearly three hundred times. As to their number, David recorded 20,000 coursing through the skyways of the stars. Even with his limited vision he impressively notes, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.” (Psalm 68:17)

In the New Testament John tells us of having seen ten thousand times ten thousand angels ministering to the Lamb of God in the throne room of the universe. (Revelation 5:11). From the earliest antiquity, when the angel guardians of the gates to the glory of Eden sealed the entrance to the home of Adam and Eve, angels have manifested their presence in the world.

Witness the unprecedented and unrepeated pageantry at Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments were handed down. When God moves toward man, it is an event of the first magnitude and can include the visitation of angelic hosts. In the billowing clouds that covered Sinai, an angelic trumpeter announced the presence of God, The whole mountain seemed to pulsate with life.

Consternation gripped the people below. The earth seemed convulsed with a nameless fear. As God came to the mountaintop, He was accompanied by thousands of angels. Moses, the silent, lone witness, must have been overcome with even a limited vision of the forces of God, “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I exceedingly fear and quake.’” (Hebrews 12:21)

The history of virtually all nations and cultures reveals at least some belief in angelic beings. Some of the descriptions of angels in the Bible, including the one of Lucifer in Ezekiel 28, indicate that they are exotic to the human eye and mind. The Bible seems to indicate that they do not age, and it never says that one was sick.

Except for those who fell with Lucifer, the ravages of sin that have brought destruction, sickness and chaos to our earth have not affected them. The Bible also teaches that angels are sexless. Jesus said that in Heaven men “neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)

This may indicate that angels enjoy relationships that are far more thrilling and exciting than sex. The joy of sex in this life may be only a foretaste of something that believers will enjoy in Heaven that is far beyond anything man has ever known. Angels speak. They appear and reappear. They feel with apt sense of emotion.

While angels may become visible by choice, our eyes are not constructed to see them ordinarily any more than we can see the dimensions of a nuclear field, the structure of atoms or the electricity that flows through copper wiring. Can you imagine a being as white and dazzling as lightning?

Gen. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, describes a vision of angelic beings, stating that every angel was surrounded with an aura of rainbow light so brilliant that were it not withheld, no human being could stand the sight of it. The angel who rolled away the stone from the tomb of Jesus was not only dressed in white, but also shone as a flash of lightning with dazzling brilliance. (Matthew 28:3)

The keepers of the tomb shook and became as dead men. Incidentally, that stone weighed several times more than a single mall could move, yet the physical power of the angel was not taxed in rolling it aside. Who has not thrilled to read the account of the three Hebrew youths, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They refused to worship the king of Babylon.

They learned that the angel presence can be observed on occasion by people in the unbelieving world on the outside. After they had refused to bow, the angel preserved them from being burned alive or even having the smell of smoke on their garments. The angel came to them in the midst of the flame without harm and was seen by the king who said, “I see four men … in the midst of the fire.”(Daniel 3:25)

As an evangelist I have often felt too far spent to minister from the pulpit to men and women who have filled stadiums to hear a message from the Lord. Yet again and again my weariness has vanished and my strength has been renewed. I have been filled with God’s power not only in my soul, but physically.

On many occasions God has become especially real and has sent His unseen angelic visitors to touch my body to let me be His messenger for Heaven. Some people believe strongly that each Christian may have his or her own guardian angel assigned to watch over them.

This guardianship possibly begins in infancy, for Jesus said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father, Which is in Heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) The great majority of Christians can recall some incident in which their lives, in times of critical danger, have been miraculously preserved—an almost plane crash, a near car wreck, a fierce temptation.

Though they may have seen no angels, their presence could explain why tragedy was averted. Few people realize the profound part angelic forces play in human events. Angels are watching; they mark your path. They superintend the events of your life and protect the interest of the Lord God, always working to promote His plans and to bring about His highest will for you.

Angels are interested spectators and mark all you do, “for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” (I Corinthians 4:9) God assigns angelic powers to watch over you. What fact could provide a greater motivation to righteous living than that? I must say to myself, “Careful, angels are watching!” Not only does God love you, but the angels love you too.

They are anxious for you to repent and turn to Christ for salvation before it is too late. They know the terrible dangers of hell that lie ahead. They want you to turn toward Heaven, but they know that this is a decision that you and you alone will have to make. It is clear in Scripture that angels will be God’s emissaries to carry out His judgment against those who deliberately reject Jesus Christ and the salvation God offers through Him.

While all men are sinners by nature, choice and practice, it is their deliberate rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that causes the judgment of eternal separation from God. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Philippian jailer asked the Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul gave him a very simple answer. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:30, 31)

This is so simple that millions stumble over it. The one and only way you can be converted is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior. You don’t have to straighten out your life first. You don’t have to try to give up some habit that is keeping you from God. You have tried all that and failed many times. You can come “just as you are.”

The blind man came just as he was. The leper came just as he was. The thief on the cross came just as he was. You can come to Christ right now wherever you are and just as you are—and the angels of Heaven will rejoice! Are you ready to face life? Are you ready to face death? No one is truly ready to die who has not learned to live for the glory of God.

You can put your confidence in Jesus because He died for you, and in that last moment—the greatest crisis of all—He will have His angels gather you in their arms to carry you gloriously, wonderfully into Heaven. In popular thinking, you and I have heard people speaking of death as “crossing the Jordan.” It is found in spirituals and hymns.

It comes, of course, from the victorious march of the Israelites who crossed the Jordan to enter the Promised Land. They passed over Jordan on dry ground. By analogy we can consider that the ministering angels will see us safely across the Jordan River of death as we enter the promised land of Heaven. Hundreds of accounts record the heavenly escort of angels at death.

When my maternal grandmother died, for instance, the room seemed to fill with a heavenly light. She sat up in bed and almost laughingly said, “I see Jesus. He has His arms outstretched toward me. I see Ben (her husband who had died some years earlier) and I see the angels.”

She then slumped over, absent from the body, but present with the Lord. The Scripture says there is a time to be born and a time to die. And when my time to die comes, an angel will be there to comfort me. He will give me peace and joy even at that most critical hour and usher me into the presence of God, and I will dwell with the Lord forever. Thank God for the ministry of His blessed angels!

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