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Our Heavenly Guides

A book on angels is an ambitious project much like taking on an accurate report on the Afghanistan conflict. Yet, as Joel J. Miller points out, angels are seen very early in Genesis 3 as 'guards serving the Lord's behest and as deceivers trying to foul humanity' (6). Taking his cue from both the Scriptures and ancient literature (focusing on the early church Fathers), Miller seeks to understand who angels are, how they came into existence and what their role is in the early church and today. Miller is clear to point out early on in the book that although there are differences between men and angels, angels often resemble or appear as men (even mistaken for men) (13). We got an acute sense of the purpose of angels in an illuminating sentence when Miller writes, "But their primary task is to reflect the knowledge and glory of God upon creation and point us to the source of that knowledge and glory" (19). In essence, the angelic host is like a shining ray of light that points toward the Creator himself, not seeking to take the glory but giving it to God alone. The kind of service that angels partake in is one of ministering to men, to Christ and to us in times of great desperation and need. These angelic messengers bring the truth of God's work in the world through their ministry.

Miller is quick to point out the discrepancies in the teaching of the fall of Satan and the the host of angels with him in the literature at the time. Yet, as the debate was ongoing as to the precise time of the their Fall, Miller point out that whether or not Satan fell before or after the creation is not the point. Rather, the importance is that the Fall actuallly happened and 'resulted in our own corruption through Adam and Eve' (40). It seems off the pathway in thinking about angels to include this point, but, at further glance, this is a very important point indeed. By not believing in the Fall and taking the path that humanity is not born into sin but rather actualizes sin by practicing it, we bring into existence an entire different worldview on redemption and how to live a righteous life. Yet, as Miller points out in the last page of the chapter on Falls From Grace, "God would send angels to nudge and draw and urge us on the way back home to the city of God" (45). Angels are meant to beckon us to look to God for strength but also to pull us away from the enticements that comes with sin, temptation and Satan.

Lastly, the angels rejoice in those who have been brought from darkness to light. Miller writes, "Though unable to fully comprehend the mystery, the angels thrill at our salvation" (95). As Miller continues to write, he sees the waters of baptism as providing the necessary place for this transfer to take place; the putting on of Christ and entering into his kingdom. While I don't agree necessarily with everything that is implied here about baptism, I think Miller's picture takes into the key passages about baptism in Paul's writings. Furthermore, the rejoicing and joyous celebration of the angels is a sign of God's goodness to never let go of his creation, no matter how marred and broken they are.

The more I read this book the more I enjoyed learning more about these heavenly hosts. I was a little bit confused by all the early church father quotations being so freely used but I think the book was well written. I hope this book has a wide readership for all kinds of people interested in angels and the world in which we live in.

Much thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Book Sneeze program for the free copy of this book in exchange for review.


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