I contend that certain divine beings, which I will call angel-types were referred to as “shepherds” frequently throughout the Bible. There are about 111 “shepherd” passages in the Bible. In several instances, literal shepherds (with sheep) are obviously in view, but in other instances, the term is being used figuratively of someone other than literal sheep herders. When we read about things like “shepherds of Israel,” for example, many wrongly assume that what was in view were the various human leaders who were set over Israel. I contend, however, that these are references to angel-types who had been given various roles of oversight over humans, and who were corrupt and doing a poor job of it. The aim of this article is to demonstrate the high likelihood that many of these “shepherd” mentions are talking about God’s extreme dissatisfaction with the job the angel-types were doing of overseeing the various nations of the earth.
Let’s take a look.
The first metaphorical use of “shepherd” seems to come when Jacob (Israel) refers to God has his “shepherd” while blessing his sons:
Genesis 48:15 And he [Jacob] blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
Jacob later refers to God again as a shepherd and a stone. This will be important in our later discussion:
Genesis 49:24 yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The first time we see the metaphorical “shepherd” language referring to a human is when Moses (at the end of his life) asks God to appoint someone to take care of the people:
Numbers 27:15 Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” 18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.
The next metaphorical use in the record is also of a human. It is a reference to King David, where God says he will be both a “shepherd” and a “prince” over Israel:
2 Samuel 5:2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’”
Note the unexpected “prince”—a surprising title for one who shall be king. If David were a “prince” in literal human terms, would that not make him the son of a king or queen? Indeed, it would, but David’s parents were not royalty. There is likely something else in view here, then. That is, that whatever the role of “shepherd” meant to God, it must have been somewhat related to the idea of being a “prince”, which term is used not only of some humans in the Bible, but also of angels. (Study these passages if you want to know more.)
And while we’re here, let me note that “shepherd” and “prince” don’t seem to be the only terms used of these divine overseers in the texts. “Watchmen”, for example, is a term that will come up in at least one passage (See Isaiah 56:10 below), the context of which is angelic.
Now, let’s return to our consideration of the “shepherd” texts. In this following passage, we see “shepherd” and “prince” used together again:
2 Samuel 7:7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.
In the passage above, we see that the literal shepherd, David, was chosen by God to be a metaphorical “shepherd” and “prince” over Israel, and that he would also make David’s name a rival for the names of the “great ones of the Earth”. This must have come across as something of a jab to those careless and corrupt divines who had been tasked with overseeing humanity, who had been made “a little lower than the angels.” For here, a mere human was being considered not only a shepherd and prince, but one of “the great ones of the earth”. We’ll get back to this later, because it’s a theme that continues to build throughout the Bible, and it ends up with righteous humans being glorified into angel-types themselves, replacing those corrupt and fallen angels after a final battle.
Before we leave the passage above, let us also note that these shepherds (vs. 7) were also called “judges” and had previously been commanded by God to “shepherd my people Israel”. I do not believe this is a reference to the human judges set up by Moses, but to the divines appointed by God. We’ll keep following this idea as we go.
In the next metaphorical passage we find while moving left to right through the Bible, the prophet Micaiah tells of a vision concerning the death of Israel’s (evil) king Ahab:
1 Kings 22:17 And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’”
How shall we take this? Had God considered Ahab to be a shepherd, now absent after his death? Or was he rather referring to the shepherdless state of Israel, without regard to Ahab? I believe this is another reference to the rebellion, corruption, and apathy of those angels God had put over his people, but even if it’s not, I listed this passage because it the first clear statement of this “sheep without a shepherd” idea, that will repeat again and again throughout the Bible. It was important to God that his sheep be shepherded well.
And that brings us to the next metaphorical passage in order—which just happens to be the most famous “shepherd” passage in the entire Bible. Consider the qualities of this ultimate “shepherd”.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
If God were David’s “shepherd” and David were Israel’s “shepherd”, then how shall we suppose that David was expected to rule over Israel? Shouldn’t he imitate God’s shepherding qualities and habits? Indeed, he should. But let’s look a little further into God’s role as the “shepherd” over Israel. Our next metaphorical “shepherd” passage in order of appearance is Psalm 28:
Psalm 28:8 The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Who were “his people”? Who was “his heritage”? For that, we go back to the time at which the world was “divided” in the days of Peleg—when the people of the Earth had refused to obey God and to spread out upon the Earth. As we know, God forced them to separate and set them into nations spread all around the Mediterranean Sea. What most people don’t know is that Moses gave a short-but-invaluable commentary on this event here:
Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
9 But the Lord‘s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.
Here we see that Jacob (otherwise called Israel) is God’s heritage and “portion”. Portion of what, we may ask? It was his portion of the divided mankind. The other portions he put under the care of “the sons of God” (bene` elohim). But God himself was going to be the shepherd of Israel. Our search has already shown that Jacob was the first on record to call God a “shepherd”. Let us recall that he called him both a “shepherd” and a “stone”:
Genesis 49:24 yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
Is it merely a coincidence that at the beginning of Deuteronomy 32, Moses refers to God as a “Rock”? See it here in this important context (with my notes in red):
Deuteronomy 32:1 “Give ear, O heavens, [Note that the heavenly hosts—angel types—are being addressed here, and that the earth is to hear it, too.] and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2 May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!
4 “The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he. [God is exalted here as being just and upright, but this is not being said for its own sake. Rather, a contrast is about to be drawn with some other people.]
5 They have dealt corruptly with him;
they are no longer his children [“bene`” in Hebrew] because they are blemished;
they are a crooked and twisted generation. [Who are “they”? They are beings called God’s “children” (ben), who had become corrupt and who had been shunned by God as being no longer his children. They are referenced below as the bene` (plural) of God.
6 Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
7 Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons [bene`] of God.
9 But the Lord‘s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.
God had put these sons of his in charge of the other nations after the Tower of Babel incident, but he was taking Israel as his own portion. He was to shepherd Israel, and the sons of God were to shepherd the other nations, but while God remained just, the others ruled unjustly. This is what prompted God’s condemnation of them in Psalm 82, where some may be surprised to see that these “sons” were angel-type beings that God called “gods”:
Psalm 82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods,
sons [bene`] of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
At this point, we have slammed into fast-forward mode in our information gathering, for in our simple study of “shepherds” (and princes and watchmen and such), we are suddenly informed not only that these sons of God were called “gods”, but that they had rebelled against his justice and had ruled wickedly, that he was sentencing them to die “like men”, and that God himself would thereafter be the shepherd over not only Israel, but that he himself would “inherit all the nations,” taking them back from the rule of these angelic “shepherds”.
Ponder all the trouble that the other nations presented for the nation of Israel throughout the stories of the Old Testament. Consider how they would not let Israel cross their lands during their journey to the Holy Land. Consider how they attacked Israel from time to time, even ransacking the Temple of God, and carrying off the Jews to other places. All this was the work of nations under the influence of these lesser gods, these corrupt “sons of God”.
So is there any evidence that these “sons of God”, these “gods” among whom God had divided the nations of the Earth, were ever called or considered to be “shepherds” by God? We will now leave our passage-by-passage search of the metaphorical uses of “shepherd”, and consider only those passages wherein it seems that these particular beings were in view.
As it happens the very next metaphorical use of “shepherd” in the Bible (after Psalm 28 above) could possibly be related, so I list it here:
Psalm 49:13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
As you may know, in Revelation 20, “Death” is personified, as if it were a being. Is this what is happening here? Is this not just a reference to literal death, but a double entendre, including not only literal death, but also some being who was in charge of the realm of the spirits of the dead? We’ll leave this question for now as we continue forward with what may be learned about angel-types having charge over humans as “shepherds”.
Of course, there is that most special person, Jesus, who was at once somehow God and man—who was the “arm of the Lord” and “the Presence” and “the Name” and “the Angel of the Lord”—and so many other things, including the “Son of God”. In his relationship with God, the complete understanding of which is simply beyond our full grasp, he was also referred to by “shepherd” language:
Isaiah 40:11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
And in this very same psalm, where mention of his shepherding was thought worth mentioning, these words about those other “princes” and “rulers of the earth” also appear:
Isaiah 40:22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
We know from other passages that certain heavenly beings were known as “princes” and “rulers”. And we have seen that King David was also considered by God to be a “prince”, apparently in this same order of honor, since he was most certainly no prince in the normal sense of the word. And here we have what I believe to be another reference to the Psalm 82 condemnation of these Sons of God—these gods—whom God vowed to destroy for their unjust ruling over the nations.
Indeed, we know that God’s love for the humans of the Earth is well attested by the writers of the New Testament, yet here in this same passage, we see a curious statement concerning the nations:
Isaiah 40: All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
How can this be? How can God feel this way about the people of the Earth in Isaiah, and yet the following passage also be true at the same time?
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I believe that the answer lies in the use of the word “nations”. At this point in my study, I believe that whenever God used that term in scripture, he sometimes had in view those heavenly beings who had been given charge over the nations. That is, he’s viewing it from the top (the gods) down, and not from the bottom (the people) up. So when one of the unjust sons of God ruled unjustly over some particular nation, God counted that god as “less than nothing and emptiness” because of the terrible job he was doing.
In Isaiah 56, right after assuring “the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord” (vs. 6) that not only will he take care of them, but that in the future he would “gather yet others” besides Israel, God speaks of certain watchmen who were failing to do their jobs:
Isaiah 56:10 His watchmen are blind;
they are all without knowledge; [See note on vs. 8 below]
they are all silent dogs;
they cannot bark, [a good watch dog barks at threats. These watchmen were not doing that.]
dreaming, lying down,
loving to slumber.
11 The dogs have a mighty appetite;
they never have enough.
But they are shepherds who have no understanding; [Psalm 82:5 says of the corrupted gods, “They have neither knowledge nor understanding…”]
they have all turned to their own way, [Psalm 82:5 says that “they walk about in darkness”.]
each to his own gain, one and all.
12 “Come,” they say, “let me get wine;
let us fill ourselves with strong drink;
and tomorrow will be like this day,
great beyond measure.”
Many will reject the idea that this passage is talking about angel-types because they do not believe that angels have physical bodies that could do things like sleep, eat, and get drunk. This error is addressed in this article. And let me note at this junction that these bad “shepherds” are also called “watchmen” in this passage, as if the term were somewhat synonymous in God’s eyes. We’ll come back to this later.
By the time of Jeremiah 12, God has grown disgusted with his “heritage”, Israel. He considered Israel to be his “vineyard”, and claimed that it had been trampled down and destroyed by certain “shepherds”:
Jeremiah 12: My heritage has become to me
like a lion in the forest;
she has lifted up her voice against me;
therefore I hate her.
9 Is my heritage to me like a hyena’s lair?
Are the birds of prey against her all around?
Go, assemble all the wild beasts;
bring them to devour.
10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard;
A little further down in the same passage, we see that these “shepherds” of verse 10 were also “evil neighbors”; they were not those who belonged in Israel, but who belonged elsewhere, and this rules out the human “judges” of Israel as being the shepherds in view:
14 Thus says the Lord concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. 15 And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. 16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. 17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord.”
So if these “shepherds” were from neighboring nations, and if God was holding them accountable for their bad shepherding work, what reason do we have to believe that all this language is about something other than the same thing we have seen God complaining about all along—regarding the bad work of those angels, those “sons of God” [bene` elohim] he had previously put in charge over all the nations but Israel?
GOD’S COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE SHEPHERDS/ANGELS
I think it wise at this point to step back and consider the body of language throughout the scriptures, wherein God complains against the “shepherds”. As you read, I invite you to ponder just how consistent these passages are with God’s complaints that are listed in passages specifically mentioning the angel-types by other names:
Jeremiah 10:21 For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.
Jeremiah 12:10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard;
they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
Jeremiah 23:“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 25:33 “And those pierced by the Lord on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall be dung on the surface of the ground.
34 “Wail, you shepherds, and cry out,
and roll in ashes, you lords of the flock,
for the days of your slaughter and dispersion have come,
and you shall fall like a choice vessel.
35 No refuge will remain for the shepherds,
nor escape for the lords of the flock.
36 A voice—the cry of the shepherds,
and the wail of the lords of the flock!
For the Lord is laying waste their pasture,
37 and the peaceful folds are devastated
because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
38 Like a lion he has left his lair,
for their land has become a waste
because of the sword of the oppressor,
and because of his fierce anger.”
Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. [note the similarity to the criticisms against the gods in Psalm 82:3-4 below] 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; 6 they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
[Reminder of Psalm 82:3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”]
Nahum 3:18 Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them.
Zechariah 10:3 “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle. [“Lord of hosts”–this is the language of the heavenly host (or armies) of angels.]
Zecharaiah 11:3a The sound of the wail of the shepherds,
for their glory is ruined!
There are many complaints indeed, and these are only the ones that make use of the “shepherd” language. There is much more to be considered on this topic, but let’s fast forward to the end of the story, wherein it becomes easier to see that these bad angels were getting replaced with new ones—these bad “shepherds” with a righteous master shepherd, and his under-shepherds.
Now, what follows in this article will not be as thorough as what came above, for there simply isn’t time in short article to consider this massive subject. But here’s a brief argument.
GOD PROMISES NEW SHEPHERDS
By various language, God promised on multiple occasions to replace these negligent and corrupt “sons of God” and “shepherds” and “watchmen” and such with good ones. Consider these passages–and note how they tend to point toward the time of the New Covenant and the regathering of all the nations under Jesus as the supreme shepherd:
Ezekiel 34:13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.[a] I will feed them in justice…23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. 25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.
Notice how God thinks about this shepherding thing. In verse 15 above, he explicitly says that he himself will be the shepherd, but just a few verses later (23), he says that he will set over them a shepherd. (And this “servant David” is actually a reference to Jesus, which I don’t have time to go into here.) God doesn’t have in mind a role of shepherding, therefore, that has only one shepherd, but that makes use not only of himself, but also of Jesus. And if that’s the case, will it also make use of certain sub-shepherds Jesus might appoint himself? Yes, I think it does. Consider the following two passages where shepherds (plural) are indicated:
Jeremiah 3:15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.
Jeremiah 23:3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.
And in the following prophecy about what he would do under the New Covenant, “watchmen” is plural:
Isaiah 62:6 On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
But who are these “shepherds” and “watchmen” associated with the New Covenant? I believe that primarily refer to the apostles of Jesus.
It’s very clear that Jesus was the master shepherd, and that he was appointing apostles to help in that work. Jesus explicitly tells Peter “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). And Peter himself instructs the elders of the congregations thus:
1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
So God had said he should shepherd his people himself, and yet Jesus is considered the “chief Shepherd”, and Jesus tells Peter to “feed” his “sheep”, and Peter tells the elders of the congregations to “shepherd the flock”. This is the multi-level organization that we see, and it satisfies all the Old Testament predictions of God setting up shepherds under a new covenant.
But how would the rebellious and self serving angels take this? Would they not be offended that they were being replaced? And wasn’t Jesus already promising to replace them with humans? Hadn’t he promised this for the righteous humans?”
Mark 12:25 For when they rise from the dead, they … are like angels in heaven.
And this for the unrighteous angels?:
Matthew 25:41 …the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Indeed, the old shepherds were being replaced with new ones—ones that started out human, and who would be glorified with heavenly bodies. These were humans whose exploits would continue to be a guide and a light to humans long after their departure from this planet. They are “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). They are now the inhabitants of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and:
Revelation 21:24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
To this very day, these people, by the example of their acts of faith done so long ago, continue to lead “the sheep of his pasture” into that Holy City. These are the new shepherds, unlike the old. Under this new world, this new order of things, there are no ore angels in oversight on the earth:
Hebrews 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.
No, that was the old way of doing things, but there are no divines on the Earth today. Light is no longer shed upon the earth by the direct oversight of divine beings, but by the Holy City itself, the facts of which we know about from the Bible. And the Bible is here to stay. It is spread across Planet Earth, translated into practically every language, for all to read. And to this day, many take it upon themselves to share its message with others–even though God has not commissioned or commanded them to do so. Sadly, some think they are so commanded, on account of an erroneous assumption that the Great Commission was meant for all believers for all time. The point, however, is not that they are wrong about having a commission, but that they do share the message (at whatever level of understanding they have). Regardless of how perfect their understanding, they take with them the Bible itself, which may be examined by their hearers at their own risk.
We no longer need deities such as those “lights” established in Genesis 1, nor the various angel-types set over the nations after Babel. That way of doing things—of guiding those on the earth—had its flaws because it depended on beings who were themselves imperfect and subject to various temptations. And their succumbing to those temptations is pretty much the story of the whole Bible. But Jesus has provided a better way–a way in which no angels shall be corrupted by the goings-on on the Earth, and by which the Earth shall never again be corrupted by angels.
The Temporary Ekklesia Theory holds that that new class of shepherds (apostles and elders) was taken up in 70AD as a proof to the rest of the world that God is faithful, and that righteousness, love, and faith are indeed rewarded. There are no God-appointed shepherds on Planet Earth today, for there is no need of any. Indeed, even in the First Century, there were not God-appointed shepherds everywhere on Planet Earth, but only in that region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The apostles were most obviously temporary, and the elders less so. Even so, if they were really so crucial to the well-being of humankind, then why didn’t God get apostles and elders into every culture on Planet Earth in that First Century?
It would do no good to bring them shepherds in later generations if no person could be found righteous in God’s eyes without shepherds in his own generation. The shepherds, both old and new–both angelic and human–were temporary features of God’s oversight of Planet Earth. The new shepherds we read about in the New Testament (apostles and elders) were all spiritually gifted as they had received a “taste of the heavenly gift” ahead of their full glorification and translation into heaven. The have since been fully perfected and glorified, and their role in heaven is so important that God has put the names of the apostles on the very foundations of the Holy City:
Revelation 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The shepherds have most certainly been removed from us, and forever memorialized in their new home. While we still have many questions after reading their writings, we have hardly any about what it means to live righteously, for that matter is so well-covered in their writings as to be unmistakable. We do indeed walk in their light, and we can indeed follow them into the fold upon our deaths.