7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
woe (v.7) — the prophetic condemnation to death
Verses 8-9 repeat the Lord’s instructions from Matthew 5:29-30.
The reason I cut off this study where I did is because verse 10 has often confused me and I wanted to make sure I studied it well. I’m not sure I’ve figured it out yet. The commentaries are of two minds. Here’s Gaebelein:
At the first glance it would seem as if these little ones have angels in heaven. There is a passage in Acts 12 which is the key to solve the difficulty here. When Peter, rescued by an angel, led forth miraculously from the prison house, knocked at the door of the praying assembly and Rhoda maintained that Peter stood outside, they said, “It is his angel.” They believed that Peter had suffered death and that his angel stood outside. What does “angel” mean in this passage? It must mean the departed spirit of Peter. This fact throws light on the passage before us. If these little ones, who belong to the kingdom of heaven, depart, their disembodied spirits behold the Father’s fact in heaven; in other words, they are saved. — Gaebelein, pages 382-383.
I’m not sure I agree, because the passage in Acts isn’t really much connected to this one. There are plenty of other places in Scripture where angel means angel. I don’t see any reason to pick out that particular passage to explain this one. I also doubt very much that there are children in heaven, not because children can’t be saved (I believe they can) but because I don’t think they remain children for eternity.
Look up from earth to heaven; those representative, it may be guardian, angels nearest to God, are not those of deepest knowledge of God’s counsel and commands, but those of simple, humble grace and faith … Even that which is little and looked down on by people is under the watch-care of God, and He assigns His angels to guard those who have trusted Him. — Pentecost, page 266.
This didn’t satisfy me either. I’ve been taught that guardian angels, if that really is a ministry, were for Israel alone. Is that really what the Lord was referring to?
I asked Ricky Kurth, and here was his response:
I think the Word of God works on many different levels. I think the Lord was talking about actual children, and how their innocence insures their salvation before they come to the age of accountability, and [of] the faith that little children are able to express once they do come to that age, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
But when the Lord “called a little child” (Matthew18:2), that phrase “little child” (v.4-5) is symbolic of His little flock, whom He called “little children” (John 13:33 cf. 1 John 2:1,12-13,18,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21), for as people who exhibited child-like faith in Him, theirs is the kingdom of heaven as well as [it is for] the innocent.
As for “their angels,” Hebrews 1:14 says of angels, “are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Well, little children and believers are the heirs of salvation, and so I believe that each one in Israel had their own angel. Remember, there are well over 100 million angels (Revelation 5:11).
But there is no evidence in Paul’s epistles that angels have a ministry to members of the Body of Christ as they did to Israel. All Paul says about them is that they are learning about God’s grace from us (Ephesians 3:10).
The Jews were “the children of Israel,” and God treated them like children, giving them a law filled with “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” That’s how you treat children! Children must be “under tutors and governors” (Galatians 4:1,2). Well, if the Law was their tutor, angels were the governors that ministered to those heirs of salvation.
But as Paul goes on to say in Galatians 4, we have received “the adoption of sons” (v.5) and so we are sons, not children. Because of that, I don’t think we have an individual angel assigned to us as the Jews did.