What The Angels Saw
When the Bible says Christ was “seen by angels,” it is important to remember that angels are not God. Angels do not know all things. They are not present everywhere. They are not all-powerful. They are servants who are given power to execute the will of God.
Angels are created beings with finite knowledge. The Bible says, when talking about our salvation, “even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12). So, the angels cannot really fathom the depth of what God has done in Jesus Christ. Yet, we are told that there were certain things they saw. Exactly what did the angels see?
They saw Christ in heaven
None of us existed before we were conceived in our mother’s womb. But when Jesus Christ was born, that was not the beginning of His existence. Before that His glory filled the heavens, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Since before the beginning of time, God has always been and always will be—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Scripture says, “All things were created by Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16)—that includes the angels! He created them, brought them into being by the word of his power, and in their first moments of consciousness, the angels would have seen the glory of the Son of God.
The prophet Isaiah was given a glimpse of heaven, “I saw the Lord,” he says, “and He was seated on the throne.” He describes the angelic activity around the throne, as cherubim and seraphim calling out to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isaiah 6:3).
John’s Gospel tells us that what Isaiah saw was the glory of Jesus (John 12:41). Before the Son of God entered our world, He was the center of the adoration and worship of the angels. Jesus refers to this in a prayer, "the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:5). The angels saw Christ in heaven.
They saw Christ in the manger
Then, to the astonishment of the angels, this same Christ who was the center of heavenly praise, rose from His throne and disappeared from view. The marvel of the incarnation is that the Son of God left this glory. The eternal son of God, who was with God and who was God, not only left heaven, but in a miracle shielded from our understanding, took on human flesh from Mary—His mother, and was born as a baby in Bethlehem, "the word became flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14).
In Christ we see the glory of God united with our flesh in such a way that they become one. On the night of his birth the angels appear in a multitude. They are praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). Do you realize who has come to you? Do you realize what you have been given? The angels saw Christ in the manger.
We see the grace of God in Christ
Christ was seen by the angels in His glory, in the manger, in His temptations (Matthew 4:11), in the agony of His impending death (Luke 22:43) and in His resurrection (Matthew 28:2). And the angels will see Christ on the day when He comes in all His glory (Revelation 5:11).
Though they see the face of Christ, angels have never known what it is to be redeemed. They have never known the joy of forgiveness. They marvel as they contemplate what it must be like for a sinner to experience the grace of God. The angels long to look into these things.
But Christ did not come for angels. He did not assume the form of an angel. His blood was not shed for angels. All this was for us, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). This Gospel staggers all of heaven, and if it staggers the angels, how can any of us be indifferent to it?
This week's Scripture: He was seen by the angels... 1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)
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This LifeKey is based on the message “Christmas as the Angels Saw It,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith on December 21, 1997, from the series “Christmas Stories.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.