The Destructive Power of Holy Angels

Posted Nov 17, 2016 by Adrian Ebens in Character of God Hits: 647

In addressing the subject of the character of God the following quote is often quoted.

A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere. GC 614.2

A surface reading of this passage suggests that it was an holy angel that killed the firstborn of Egypt and caused a terrible destruction on Israel when David numbered the people. If we read more closely in context we shall see something very different.

We note first the structure of this paragraph. Two examples of destruction are provided.

  1. The destruction of the first-born in Egypt
  2. The destruction in Israel from David’s sin.

Then a reference is made to destructive power. The same destructive power used by holy angels when God commands is used by evil angels when God permits. In order to connect the two examples of destruction to good angels the sequence of how this power would need to be reversed. It would read as follows:

A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive power exercised by evil angels when God permits, will be exercised by holy angels when He commands. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine command, to spread desolation everywhere. GC 614.2 adapted.

The fact that the power of holy angels is referenced first as an example of the use of power to then explain the destructive work of evil angels when God permits tells you to what Ellen White is connecting the examples of destruction.

Now when we read this passage in context of the previous paragraph it makes complete sense.

When He leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor. The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. God's long-suffering has ended. The world has rejected His mercy, despised His love, and trampled upon His law. The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.  {GC 614.1} 

     A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere.  {GC 614.2} 

The previous paragraph gives you the context of what Ellen White is talking about

  1. When He [Christ] leaves the sanctuary
  2. The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control
  3. the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn.
  4. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one
  5. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose.

The whole paragraph speaks of God withdrawing His protection and allowing Satan to do his work of destruction. So the work of destruction mentioned in GC 614.1 is all about God allowing Satan to destroy those who refuse to listen and remain defiant. So when we read the next two examples in GC 614.2 it is evident that the work of destruction is done of Satan and His angels

A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. GC 614.2

If we believe that it is good angels who killed the first born and killed some of the Israelites because David numbered Israel then the final sentence is out of place

There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere. GC 614.2

The use of the words divine permission corresponds to the phrase  “will be exercised by evil angels when He permits” and that concludes the thought of the first and second paragraph about the work of evil angels and their destruction of people who refuse to listen to the appeals of God.

In reference to the first born of Egypt we are told who did this work

Just before the firstborn were slain in Egypt, the Lord instructed the Israelites to gather their children into their houses with them, and to strike the lintel and the two side posts of their doors with blood, so that when the destroying angel went through the land, he would recognize the houses thus marked as the dwelling places of Christ's followers, and pass over them.

Today we must gather our children about us, if we desire to save them from the destructive power of THE EVIL ONE. The conflict between Christ and Satan will increase in intensity until the end of this earth's history. We are to have faith in the blood of Christ, in order that we may pass safely through the perilous times just before us” 2SAT 199

So what destructive power do holy angels use?

Men will continue to erect expensive buildings, costing millions of money; special attention will be called to their architectural beauty, and the firmness and solidity with which they are constructed; but the Lord has instructed me that despite the unusual firmness and expensive display, these buildings will share the fate of the temple in Jerusalem. That magnificent structure fell. Angels of God were sent to do the work of destruction, so that one stone was not left one upon another that was not thrown down (MS 35, 1906). 5BC 1098.

When Jericho fell, no human hand touched the walls of the city, for the angels of the Lord overthrew the fortifications, and entered the fortress of the enemy. RH July 19, 1892

Notice how angels helped Jonathan and his armour bearer:

Angels of heaven shielded Jonathan and his attendant, angels fought by their side, and the Philistines fell before them. The earth trembled as though a great multitude with horsemen and chariots were approaching. Jonathan recognized the tokens of divine aid, and even the Philistines knew that God was working for the deliverance of Israel. PP 625

How did the holy angels fight with Jonathan? They shielded Jonathan and his attendant.

How did holy angels use destructive force with the Egyptians?

Exo 14:25  And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

If holy angels used destructive force to kill people why were they taking chariot wheels off Egyptian chariots? Why didn’t they just smash them to pieces? The evidence is there for those who have ears to hear and read these passages faithfully. Let no man deceive when using this quote from Great Controversy page 614.2. It is taken out of context to make holy angels who keep God’s commandments into killers according to human perception and thinking.