Whenever God does something really big, it usually involves angels. This was true at the first Christmas, when a company of the heavenly host appeared to shepherds announcing good news of great joy.

It was also true at the first Easter. The women who went to the garden met angels at the empty tomb. The Gospel of Matthew describes an angel whose “appearance was like lightning,” and whose “clothes were white as snow” (Matt. 28:3). Similarly, the Gospel of Luke describes the sudden appearance of “two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning” (Luke 24:4). The angels were there to herald the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to give messages of guidance and comfort. Their very presence was a sign of salvation, for whenever God decides to “say it with angels,” he must be doing something important.

The word “angel” means “messenger,” and angels are God’s messengers. By all accounts, they are terrifying to meet. Apparently angels know this, because in the Bible the first thing they almost always say is what the angel said to the women at the empty tomb that first Easter Sunday: “Do not be afraid.” Angels are dazzling, adorned with a bright and shining majesty. There is nothing else like them.

That being the case, a new product recently introduced by Applied Digital Solutions (ADS) seems almost blasphemous. A few months ago, at an invitation-only event in New York City, ADS unveiled the future of electronic surveillance. The new technology is a “miniature digital transceiver”-a tiny microchip implanted under the skin, which can monitor vital signs and track a human being anywhere on planet earth. ADS promotes the new device, commonly referred to as the “Digital Angel,” as the ultimate solution for finding kidnapped children, locating lost skiers, tracking prisoners of war, and rescuing elderly persons who have fallen and can’t get up.

In its patent application, Applied Digital Solutions described its invention as “the world’s first digital tracking device,” a technology “unlike anything ever created.” What makes the device unique is its power supply, which is generated electro-mechanically through the wearer’s own muscle movement.

Since the product is still under development, it is too early to tell how the Digital Angel will be used. One possible use is firearm safety: a weapon could be developed that would only fire if a chip in the gun matched a chip implanted in the gun’s owner. However, many other potential uses are more sinister. One can imagine a government requiring newborns to be given digital angels as a safety precaution, or as an aid to law enforcement. One can also imagine vendors using personal microchips to locate potential customers, or financial institutions requiring them to verify each and every transaction. In the hands of a totalitarian government, this wireless guardian would be an unprecedented mechanism for social control and the invasion of personal privacy. Some will be reminded of the beast in Revelation, who “forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark” (Rev. 13:16-17a).

Applied Digital Solutions has no intention of becoming a tool for the antichrist. The company’s stated intentions are entirely benevolent. In the words of head scientist Peter Zhou, the Digital Angel will function as “a connection from yourself to the electronic world. It will be your guardian, protector… a hybrid of electronic intelligence and your own soul.” Personally, I’m not sure I want to be so closely connected to the electronic world. But even apart from the inevitably dehumanizing effect of becoming digitized, it is doubtful whether a Digital Angel is an improvement over the real thing.

The Bible teaches that angels are charged with the responsibility of watching over God’s people. Consider the following Bible verses: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Ps. 34:7). “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Other verses show that angels keep an eye what is happening in the church (1 Cor. 11:10) and watch over believers at the time of death (Luke 16:22). On occasion, they are called to rescue us from danger (see Dan. 3:28 and 6:22; Acts 5:19-20 and 12:7-11). In short, angels take care of God’s people from birth to death, at home and away from home. As the psalmist says, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).

Now that’s what I call a guardian angel! Although we are almost never aware of their presence, angels are always on the job-surrounding, delivering, protecting, helping, watching, keeping, and guarding. The Bible thus calls angels “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14).

The ministry of angels is a sign of the special divine favor that rests upon God’s people. I mentioned earlier that whenever God does something really big, it usually involves angels. By that reasoning, the life of every individual Christian must be of some importance. Apparently, our service is of sufficient value to God that he offers us the assistance of angels.

Guardian angels will carry out their ministry of protection and preservation right up until the next big event in the history of salvation: the return of Christ in all his glory. Angels will be involved then, too, for according to Scripture, “God will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt. 24:31). No doubt we will be amazed at the sight of them. But they will not be surprised to see us, for they watch over us all the time.

[Information on and analysis of the Digital Angel comes from John W. Whitehead’s “On Target” column in the Winter 2000 edition of a newsletter from The Rutherford Institute]

© 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org