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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 28 - Acts 12:7 - Angelic Ministry and the Prison Light Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


It was night; night in a prison; a Jerusalem prison; probably as gloomy and damp as any prison might be; perhaps like that of Jeremiah.

Two chains bound the prisoner fast; yet he slept. Two soldiers watched in his cell; keepers at the gate kept the prison; yet he slept.

James had just been slain by Herod; Peter was seized and imprisoned that he might suffer in like manner, perhaps on the morrow; yet he slept; like our own Argyll on the eve of his execution. He had fallen asleep with the thought that tomorrow he should fall asleep in Jesus. There seemed no hope for him. The Church had no influence with man; no power but prayer; no access to any but God; no hammer with which to force open the gates, but prayer and faith.

Despair was at its height; yet perhaps, too, faith was at its height. The hour predicted by our Lord (John 21:18) seemed to have come. Yet the Church hoped against hope, and prevailed.'

Prayer had gone up, and an angel comes down. How quickly prayer is answered! How swift the passage of the angel from heaven to earth! How easily he finds his way to Jerusalem, to its prison, to the cell where Peter lay chained!

Suddenly a light shone in the prison; the first intimation that the angel had arrived. The dungeon is lighted up; and that with no earthly lamp. It is heaven that is shining here.

We call all this miraculous. So to us it seems. It is beyond us; beyond our experience and power; beyond what we call the processes of nature. But to heavenly eyes all would appear natural and simple; just what might be expected from the visit of an angel. An angel knows not prison gates, nor dungeon walls, nor midnight darkness. What are these to him? He "excels in strength"; he is a being of light; what more natural than that he should find his way in at gates of brass, and light up the deepest darkness. Yes; "a light shined in the prison."

It was angelic, yet it came from God, from heaven, from some celestial lamp which this glorious messenger carried with him, or from his own heavenly brightness, or from some sparkle of the shekinah glory accompanying him into the prison, as to the fields of Bethlehem.

I. Angels have to do with earth. They are heavenly; their home is heaven; they minister before God (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 68:17; Matthew 18:10). Yet they visit earth; they are sent down to do God's will; sometimes on errands of mercy and sometimes to execute judgment (2 Samuel 24:16; Isaiah 37:36). What the distance between heaven and earth may be we know not; but angels come and go with speed which we cannot understand. He maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. We find them in the likeness of men, and speaking with man's voice (if indeed that be not, after all their natural and proper form and figure Genesis 18:2; Daniel 9:22; Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:2). Yes, angels have always had much to do with earth, and shall yet have more, when in the great millennial day we shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon (i. e. in attendance upon) the Son of man. The family in heaven take a profound interest in the family on earth, and in that earth where they dwell. They destroy cities (Genesis 19:3); they preserve the godly; they deliver the righteous; they attend on little children (Matthew 18:10); they wait on time Son of man, strengthening Him in the garden and rolling back the stone from His sepulchre, and forming His retinue as He ascends to heaven. They are witnesses of the sufferings of the saints, "we are a spectacle to angels" (1 Corinthians 4:9); and they are present in our assemblies (1 Corinthians 11:10). They have far more to do with us, and are far nearer us than we imagine. Should not the thought of the presence of these pure spirits influence us in our outward demeanor, if not in our inward thoughts and feelings?

II. Angels are ministers of power. They excel in strength, and when they visit earth, they shew this. Two angels destroy Sodom; one angel smites one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians; and another angel slays twenty thousand in Jerusalem. They are God's messengers of power, both for succor and for destruction. They smite Herod, and they burst open Peter's prison. They bear not the sword in vain. Nor have they lost aught of their power in these last days, though they appear not visibly. They are still ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrew 1:14).

III. Angels are ministers of light. It was as such that the angel visited Peter's prison. His prison filled it with light. They dwell in light; they have garments of light; they are sons of light; they move in light; they carry light with them wherever they go.

IV. They are watchful ministers. They are ever on the alert to run their heavenly errands; and their interpositions are far more frequent in our behalf than we know of. They protect us unseen; they guide us unknown; they strengthen us as they did our Master; they keep us in all our ways, lest at any time we dash our feet against a stone. Minute and watchful and loving and condescending service is theirs. We may not pray to them, we may not worship them, but we may ask God to send them to encamp around us and compass us about (Psalm 34:7), and to keep us in our daily ways and dangers. They have much to do with us; let us feel that we have much to do with them. They are not indeed partakers of our flesh and blood; they never knew sin or sorrow or pain; yet they have had long experience, in their watching over and intercourse with men, which serves them instead of sympathy, and their love to us (which we seldom think of) goes far to make them feel for us and to comprehend our wants and trials.