Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Angels or impostors?

Back in January, I was at a multi-church “Holy Convocation.” The guest preacher was a pastor from California. I don’t remember his name or the name of the church he pastors.

In the Friday evening service, he told a story about one time when he was in the Philippines. He was taking a cab to the Manila airport to fly back to the U.S. The taxi driver asked if he was by chance a pastor, and he said yes. The driver told the minister he had been praying all day for God to send a pastor to ride in his cab, because his daughter was very ill in the hospital and he wanted someone to pray for her. He asked if the pastor had a few minutes to spare to stop by the hospital on the way to the airport and pray for his child.

The pastor agreed, and they drove to the hospital. I don’t recall if the pastor said the man took him to the girl’s room, or just told him the room number and waited in the cab. But the pastor went in and prayed for the girl, who may have been in a coma (I don’t recall, it has been almost 3 months since I heard this story). In any event, after he prayed for her, she got better (awoke from the coma, or her vitals went to normal, or the fever left and she said she felt OK – I don’t recall).

A woman walked in and asked the pastor what he was doing there. He said that his cab driver, the girl’s father, had asked him to come pray for her, and had brought him to the hospital. The woman identified herself as the girl’s mother, and asked the pastor to describe the cab driver. He gave a physical description, and the mother said that it matched the girl’s father, but that he had died several months prior. When the pastor left the hospital, he couldn’t find the taxi or driver, and had to call for another cab to get to the airport.

As we were driving home after the service, someone who was riding with me told me about an experience he had as a child. This took place in Veracruz state in Mexico.

When “Juan” was small (7 or 8 I believe he told me), he was out riding his bicycle in the evening and had an accident that left a huge gash in his knee. He made it back to his house and called for his mother, who rushed him to a clinic she knew of nearby. They weren’t sure if it would be open at that hour, as it was already dark when they arrived (probably between 8 and 9 at night). They could see a light on and went to the door the light was coming from. A nurse who said her name was Laura took a look at Juan’s knee, then led them down the hall to a room where she proceeded to clean the wound and suture it. She sent them home with instructions to take him to see a doctor at the main hospital in a couple of days to get the stitches out.

When they went to the hospital a few days later to have the sutures removed, the doctor asked who had put them in. They told about going to the clinic and finding one nurse still working late, and that Laura sutured the knee and had told them to come to the hospital in a few days to get them out. The doctor called in some other people to hear the story, and asked them to describe the nurse. It turns out that the clinic they went to had been closed for several months, and that the description they gave of the nurse matched the description of a nurse named Laura that had worked with them at that clinic, who had died two years prior to Juan’s accident.

This is where my theological questions come in. I don’t know if I’m being overly analytical, but I feel my concern is valid. I believe we must submit every experience to the rule of Scripture.

If this cab driver and nurse were angels of God, why would they falsely identify themselves as specific deceased persons? I know there are many Biblical occurrences where angels appear in human form (the two men in white clothing in Acts 1 is one that immediately comes to mind) without the whole shining-light-making-people-fall-on-their-faces bit. But I don’t know of any instances where they impersonated specific human beings – they were always John Does. The only thing I can think of that comes close would be what I heard of as a First Century Jewish belief that each person had a guardian angel, that would appear in the physical form of that person if and when the angel manifested himself physically (I’ve heard this as an explanation for the gathered believers saying it must be Peter’s angel that Rhoda saw outside Mary’s house in Acts 12).

Or could these have been fallen angels, masquerading as angels of light (doing something good like taking a pastor to pray for a sick child, or stitching up a cut knee) with the purpose of getting people’s interest sidetracked into angelic apparitions? I know there have been many cases of people getting their focus off Christ and onto angel feathers, gold dust, and even supposed angels showing up in services (I’m specifically thinking of Todd Bentley’s claim that he was accompanied by the same “angel” that followed William Branham).

Your thoughts?

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