Every year around the beginning of December I contend with Christmas as a pastor. You get this vibe that it’s obligatory to step away from whatever book you have been living in up until that point and provide a Christmas message that everyone hasn’t heard.
While dutifully working up to the Christmas service I encountered a reality I hadn’t focused on before. Jesus wouldn’t die for angels. The gospel doesn’t apply to them. Hebrews 2:16 says, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.”
You might think angels would be a more likely candidate for help. At least you would think they should be included in the plan of redemption, but they are not. Consider the fact that they too are created beings. They are rational, moral agents with eternal conscious existence to look forward to.
In other ways however they are strikingly different than us, and from where I sit, remarkably superior. This goes for both the holy and fallen angels.
They are intimidating in their glory (Luke 2:9) and terrifying in their power (2 Kings, 19:35; Revelation 9:2-6). In general they are captivating, beautiful, fast as lightning, full of wisdom, and keenly intelligent. Beyond that, they can fly, and that’s very cool.
They are spiritual beings; ancient compared to humans, immortal, familiar with heaven, and suited for the very presence of God.
However God himself did not spare his own son but allowed him to become human flesh so that he could redeem those humans whom he had chosen before the foundation of the world. He continues to love those saved-but-still-sinning creatures, sustain them, and bring them from election to glorification on his perfect timetable.
He didn’t do that for angels. They had one opportunity to sin, made a decision, and had their fate sealed for eternity immediately. One chance. Angel that sinned are the most hopeless creatures in the universe. They are, in effect, the only hopeless creatures in the universe.
Even the ones that were prevented from following after Satan are not redeemed, but rather preserved their original state of perfection. However, even though they never sinned, they still receive less than us. Hebrews 1:14 says “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” They never sinned, but are sent to serve sinning believers until their final redemption. Even holy angels get no special treatment, no part of the inheritance with Christ, and none of the overwhelming joy that comes from being objects of divine mercy and grace.
Reading about angels in the Bible is both fascinating and terrifying. But at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade places. Besides, I’m confident my resurrection body will be able to fly.
Update (February 13, 2014):
Evidently this is not a new thought with me (big surprise). I just came across this quote from one of my favorite Puritan writers “It was wonderful love that Christ should rather die for us than for the angels that fell. They were creatures of a more noble extract, and in all probability might have brought greater revenues of glory to God; yet that Christ should pass by those golden vessels, and make us clods of earth into stars of glory — Oh, the hyperbole of Christ’s love!” – Thomas Watson