Cliff's Edge

What the Angels Thought

What must have gone through the angels’ minds?

Clifford Goldstein
What the Angels Thought

Earlier this year I stood by the field outside Bethlehem where an angel announced to shepherds the birth of Jesus. (OK, if it wasn’t that particular field outside Bethlehem, then it was another field outside Bethlehem.) After the angel told the shepherds that “you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12), a host of angels—who must have, like cosmic fireworks, lit up the night sky—began to praise God and sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (verse 14).

What must have gone through the angels’ minds? These cosmic beings lived in heaven, with Jesus as their divine leader—for how long? Perhaps millions, even billions, of years (based on earthly timekeeping). They knew that “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). They, too, saw Jesus as “the brightness of His [the Father’s] glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). 

And now, their Creator, the one whom they worshipped in His celestial glory, had condescended to become not only a human baby but a human baby of Jewish peasants living in an impoverished backwater of the Roman Empire. But that was only the beginning. He whom they knew and praised and worshipped as their Creator—He was now going to suffer through decades of life amid a fallen creation and, then, offer Himself to die in order to redeem that creation?

Even we—short-lived blobs of protoplasm with sin-darkened minds 6,000 years from the tree of life and (barely) eking out an existence on one tiny planet amid billions of galaxies—are astonished at the thought of the Creator dying for us. But what about these angels, who knew not only the glory of the preincarnate Christ but the glory of heaven, where He interacted with them? Talking about how the angels reacted when, millennia before the Incarnation, they were first told about the plan of salvation, Ellen White wrote: “Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven. The glory and blessedness of a world redeemed outmeasured even the anguish and sacrifice of the Prince of life. Through the celestial courts echoed the first strains of that song which was to ring out above the hills of Bethlehem—‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ Luke 2:14.”*

Remember: the entire creation—at least 93 billion light-years in diameter (that’s as much as we can see, at least for now)—is involved in the great controversy. Sin began in those same heavenly courts where the angels worshipped Jesus, the same angels who, outside Bethlehem, praised God for the Incarnation.

And whatever they thought at His birth, imagine what the angels thought when the One whom they praised and worshipped in heaven had, on earth, cried out in anguish, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).

If we, sinful, fallen, corrupt, are astonished at the cross, can we imagine what sinless beings, who knew Jesus in His heavenly glory, must have thought?

Probably not.

* Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 65.

Clifford Goldstein

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.