So, all of the angels, however many billions of them that exist, were tested by God as to whether they would choose to serve God in obedience or choose to reject God out of prideful disobedience. Not a few, perhaps a third, possibly more or possibly less, chose irrevocably to reject God. In doing so, they chose to serve their own interests, which generally might be described as opposing the will of God. It was the will of God that both angels and men would share God’s own life in heaven so that both spiritual and material creatures would be with God for all eternity.
Given that it was the will of God that each one of us would be in heaven and therefore it is His will that all find salvation from their sins through Jesus Christ (1Tim 2:4, 2Pet 3:9) it should not surprise us that the good angels would strive for the salvation of mankind and the fallen angels would work to oppose God’s will, that they would do their best to convince us to join them in the miserable depths of hell. If the old adage that misery loves company rings true, then the motivation of the demons is an expression of this truth writ large.
But what does it mean that the good angels work for the salvation of mankind? It is not as if they could be crucified like Jesus. Since they have no body they can’t die and since they are not human they could not suffer and die on our behalf for our salvation even if death was a possibility for them. No, salvation is possible through Jesus alone because He alone is true God and true man. In his humanity Jesus could suffer and die for our sins taking on our punishment and in His divinity Jesus could offer infinite atonement – atonement for an infinite number of infinitely grievous offenses – that no mere human or angelic creature could.
Instead making atonement, the ministry of some angels for the salvation of mankind comes through specific divine interventions such as the angels that led Lot’s family away from Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:1-29), Raphael’s healing of Tobit and protection of Tobiah on his journey, Gabriel’s announcement of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus (Lk 1:10-25, 1:26-38), the liberation of the Apostles from prison (Acts 5:17-20, 12:5-11), guiding the Apostles in their ministry (Acts 8:26, 10:1-6) and so forth. But the role of angels in the salvation of man transcends such extraordinary events. The good angels intercede for us in numerous ways in our everyday lives. While we might seek Michael’s, Gabriel’s, or Raphael’s intercession for specific causes, it is our guardian angels that are particularly tasked with our personal wellbeing.
Indeed, it is the sure and certain teaching of the faith that each one of us has a guardian angel assigned to us personally. This belief stems from Jesus’ own words: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Mt 18:10-11). These guardian angels assist us such that the mission of Jesus – “to save that which was lost” – might come to fruition.
Indeed, it is clear from the context of Jesus’ teaching in Chapter 18 of St Matthew’s Gospel that these angels assigned to us, who see the face of the Father, serve us that we might not be lost. Prior to saying this, Jesus teaches about the gravity of sin “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna” (Mt 18:9) and after He launches into the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Mt 18:12-14) concluding “it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”
In other words, the Lord has assigned each of us a guardian angel whose primary purpose is to help us obtain heaven. They, having chosen to serve God, will do the will of God in our lives. But they generally cannot act contrary to our will. If we reject God through indifference or through serious sin, our guardian angels respect our choices just as God respects our free will. No matter how deep we dive into the depths of depravity, however, they never abandon us for that would be an act of disobedience. Thus, our guardian angels will be at our side through thick and thin. As friends go, they will be more loyal to us than any human friend could ever be. In fact, they will be more loyal to us than even the best of family members. They, having chosen to do God’s will, remain by our sides to help us, if we are willing, to also do God’s will.