I grew up in a small town in Oregon and my travel experiences were pretty limited. As a family, our travel primarily consisted of weekend camping trips to local lakes. Once a year we might venture out to the Oregon coast to camp for the week. Even more rarely, we would visit friends in the big city of Portland, a four hour drive to the North.
Even as a young person, though, I knew I wanted to see more of the world. I recall my first drive down to Southern California as a high school student and I was in awe of the immensity of it all. I thought the massive freeways and soaring buildings were incredible. That visit kindled my desire to see more places.
When it was time to go to college I chose a school in Chicago, in part, because I had never been there before. In order to get there I took the first plane ride of my life, which was exciting in itself. However, the real thrill was the plane circling around Chicago on approach to O’Hare airport. I leaned in close to the window, trying to take in every building and every glowing light; not to mention the sandy waterfront of Lake Michigan and the green waters of the Chicago River. It was beautiful, scary, and overwhelming all at once.
I think of this experience when I read 1 Peter 1:12. Peter explained that prophets long ago sought to understand the salvation that would come to us, the message of the gospel. He added, “Even the angels long to look into these things.” I find this shocking, because the angels have already seen so much. I was astounded by seeing Chicago for the first time because I was from a small town. The angels, though, are not sheltered. Rather, they minister in the presence of God Himself!
This gospel must be incredible if the angels long to look into it! If the angels were on a plane flying over the gospel, their faces would be pressed up against the window trying to get a better look. They long to see and know the glories of God found in the gospel.
With this in mind, I have often wondered what Sunday mornings look like for the angels. Ephesians 3:10 makes it clear that God is making His wisdom in the gospel known to the angelic realm through the church. We also discover (note 1 Corinthians 11:10) that the functioning of our church gatherings are observed by the angels, even with the ability to offend them! The angels are part of what takes place when the church gathers.
Additionally, in 2 Kings 6:16-17 we read about Elisha and his servant who found themselves in a city surrounded by an enemy army. The servant was afraid. However, Elisha corrected him saying, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then, with a prayer, the servant’s eyes were opened and he saw the countless angels with “horses and chariots of fire.” The angels were there, in force and power, unseen.
Again, what does Sunday morning look like for the angels? Countless angels long to look into the gospel, and God provides them the opportunity through His church. This last Sunday, did they get a glimpse of that gospel at your church, or mine? Or, did they leave disappointed that their longing was missed, and that the gospel was absent.
I have a theory. I have no empirical means to test this theory, but I think the weight of the scriptures mentioned above supports it. Simply put, on any given Sunday there is a small country church, at the end of a sleepy dirt road, attended by a handful of people, where the gospel is preached. Likely, the preacher spends the day before Sunday, not in a well-appointed study, but on the bumpy seat of tractor. His sermon is not fancy or filled with rhetorical flourish. But his sermon is the gospel. And, unbeknownst to him or his humble congregation, the unseen countless hosts of heaven gather round, pressing their faces against the windows to take in every beautiful word.
Likewise, down the interstate in the suburb of the closest metropolis there is a church with a stream of cars clogging the local streets, seeking to gain access. Volunteer parking crews guide the mass of humanity into the acres of spaces. Greeters open doors, lattes are poured, and voices fill the large atrium lobby that leads to the massive auditorium. Every seat is filled as the house lights dim and the stage explodes with light and sound. And, unbeknownst to the church or its gathered crowd, in the angelic realm there is simply nothing. Crickets. There is nothing to see here. There is no glory to behold.
The poor angel assigned to this church (see Revelation 2:1) scurries out quickly after the service to meet up with those at the country church, “Tell me what you heard! Tell me what you saw! Describe this glorious gospel which flowed so freely!”
A day will come when our silly fascination with “how many showed up” will give way to the glory of God. Until that day we can pray that we might have eyes as Elisha’s servant, opened to the powerful work of God - eyes to see the glory of the power of the gospel clearly proclaimed, whether in the humble place, or in the place of honor.