I rarely engage in de-bunking the claims of specific individuals to spiritual insight or authority, but after several clear, Holy Spirit-led, scripture-based promptings both since and before discovering the following story, I feel I must. There are plenty of such claims out there which could be de-bunked, but this one is particularly sneaky — in part because it was featured on a site (WorldNet Daily) that often provides useful, brave, insightful information and which I know is frequented by many earnest believers, including me.
The other hugely sneaky aspect (a clue in and of itself!) is its ‘point of entry,’ i.e., the way in which the message is made more credible by lowering peoples’ defenses. More than some other stories, this one plays in a most clever fashion on human emotion, sympathy for victims, and a well-grounded impulse to respect those in authority (such as law enforcement). It also plays to our shared desire to make sense of seemingly senseless events and rally over to the ‘right’ side of something with patriotic, clash-of-civilization overtones to it. This is especially true when the story comes out on a national holiday such as the Fourth of July.
The article in question is entitled, “FBI Agent: I saw angels at 9/11 crash site,” recounting the spiritual vision and experiences of one Lillie Leonardi.
The ultra-short summary of this post is as follows: OK, fine, let’s assume that her claim is true. What kind of angels were they? And how, exactly, do she or we know that?
The term ‘angel’ merely means messenger. It says nothing about the allegiance or mission of said angels. Since we know that a third of the angels were thrown out of heaven with Satan, and that the stakes are really, really high (our souls) it behooves us to at least play the odds here.
If it was known that, within a particular breed of dog, one third were vicious killers who would leap up and latch onto your jugular without provocation and not let you go until they’d wrung the life out of you, while the other two-thirds served as reliable, friendly guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs for the sick, companions for the lonely, and guards for the vulnerable and there was no easy way to tell these two types apart with just a casual, intuitive inspection, wouldn’t you, a) seek to know precisely how you could tell them apart, and b) be extra-cautious until you acquired that ability to differentiate accurately?
Though I’m sure she was not aware of it, and no human person arranged it, Ms. Leonardi’s name provides another important clue to those with ears to hear. Potential translation: ‘Lilith of the Lion’. See Fuel Project episode #55 (Lilith) and 1st Peter 5:8 — “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The broader contextual ‘fit’ of both of those items to this situation is downright startling (e.g., the Fuel Project video deals with how Lilith is reflected in an American context, specifically in our national architecture and history.)
I want to emphasize up-front that I have nothing against this woman. She has served her country with apparent honor and distinction on what can only be considered the front lines. And she has suffered for it. We cannot know her heart, but she seems to be seeking God in an age where many couldn’t care less. I can empathize and sympathize deeply.
Yet part of the reason I can is that I have fallen (and, in other cases, almost fallen) into some very similar traps, albeit for different reasons. And trust me, they are always disguised. The fact that a sincere individual would put out a message like this should neither surprise us, nor cause us to revile her. She is, in many ways, a victim for whom we ought to pray.
We are in the middle of a particularly intense phase of an all-too-real and widespread spiritual war to which the concepts of conventional war often apply, e.g, ‘fog’, casualties, fifth columns, specific battles, battle fatigue, turncoats, cowards, and sinister propaganda. (One of the big reasons why Tokyo Rose’s message ‘worked’ on some U.S. troops in the Pacific theatre in WWII was because of her deep familiarity with American culture and her disarming American accent and style. Such is the case also when Satan targets God’s people, appearing to be one of the sheep.)
More foundational background will be useful before we get to the ‘guts’ of the story.
Many of you, I expect, have heard the old adage that, in order to be able to discover a counterfeit deserving of the name (i.e., one good enough to fool at least a few people) the best strategy is to study the genuine article closely. The more sophisticated the forgery, the more closely one needs to know the original. One can eat up a huge, almost endless amount of time and energy studying a constantly spawning array of counterfeit variants, but it will not be nearly as efficient and effective as immersing (Greek: baptiso) in the original, getting to a point where it becomes as familiar as the veins, spots, hairs and wrinkles on the back of your own hand.
In terms of knowing the real God, our job in this regard is both hard and easy. Hard in that He is infinite and ultimately unknowable in the depth of His total being. (If this were possible, we would be God ourselves.) Easy in that he gave us His Son, the Word of God (Jesus) about whom the Word of God (the Bible) speaks plainly.
It’s also ‘easy’ in another respect. Unlike a national currency, the paper versions (and value) of which morph and change over time, God is unchanging. We may imagine that we are ‘chasing’ him, but that is not the reality. He is the Rock. Seeking is different from chasing. He is the one doing the chasing whilst we (all too often) are the blind ones running away or running ‘serpentine’ (not a straight line).
In his classic tome, ‘Biblical Theology,’ which we’re reading at church for a discipleship class, under the heading, ‘The character of God: the importance of God’s unchangeableness,’ author Wayne Grudem states the following, referencing such texts as Malachi 3:6, James 1:17 and Psalm 102, among others. (H/T: BC):
If we stop for a moment to imagine what it would be like if God could change, the importance of this doctrine becomes more clear. For example, if God could change (in His being, perfections, purposes or promises), then any change would be either for the better or for the worse. But if God changed for the better, then He was not the best possible being when we first trusted Him. And how could be sure that He is the very best possible kind of God might He become? Might He become, for instance, a little bit evil rather than wholly good? And if He could become a little bit evil, then how do we know He could not change to become largely evil- or wholly evil? It is hard to imagine any thought more terrifying. How could we ever trust such a God who could change? How could we ever commit our lives to Him?”
(Now, some skeptics might ‘get off the bus’ here, so to speak, saying: “Exactly! That’s why I left church. He’s not the same God in the Old Testament!” To which I would reply: Commit yourself to any systematic Bible-reading system for at least six months (e.g., Professor Grant Horner’s), and sincerely invite the Holy Spirit into those sessions and get back to me. Either, a) you will lose interest and momentum, thereby diagnosing your own spiritual condition, b) you will change your mind, c) you’ll show me something in scripture I haven’t seen before and we’ll both be better off for it. But I digress…)
In a related vein, regarding counterfeits of the unchanging and Most High God, YHWH, and speaking specifically of the end times (the Great Tribulation and its lead-up) Jesus said:
MATTHEW 24:23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs [literally, false-anointeds; false kings] and false prophets [i.e., those claiming to be speaking for God] will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
This is probably a very familiar text to many of you, but some ‘un-packing’ may be useful. First lets notice the at-once reassuring and scary fact that “even the elect” may be led astray “if possible”… which, ultimately, is not possible. I.e., what God has begun will not be thwarted, even though we need to do our part. He already knows His own without a shred of ambiguity. Even more so: In an eternal sense, we are “already” there. Not our ‘already’ but His. (Thinking outside of time is hard!)
Secondly, birds, throughout scripture (in addition to their literal sense) serve as symbols of unclean spirits, a.k.a., demons. I don’t have time to unpack that one at the next level, but check it out for yourself. (The parable of the mustard seed is just one example of consistent misinterpretation in this regard. In its proper context, Jesus is speaking of a church which is infested with unclean spirits. In this worldly church type, such spirits have literally come home to roost and raise their young. The unclean mess under our backyard bird feeder should give enough of a picture of what this parable is meant to signify.)
Vultures and related birds (e.g., eagles, which in one text are said to “suck blood”, are dominant if cowardly carrion eaters — a ‘super’ version of this more general dirty-bird/demon typology. We’ve dealt with other interpretations of this passage before (e.g., the G8 in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009) and they are not mutually exclusive with this one.
In a very simple sense, the crash site of Flight #93, on September 11th, 2001 involved both a corpse (singular: the ‘body’ of an airplane) and many corpses, (of the passengers, the crew, and their suicidal, jihadist murderers). It was also, literally, “in the wilderness” — a remote field in western Pennsylvania, surrounded by woodlands. According to Jesus and His Holy Word then, it’s one of the last places one should be seeking a spiritual intermediary to take one to God. His (Christ’s) return will instead be “like lightning” — known to everyone in unambiguous fashion all at once.
Some may object, (based on the many well-documented, jaw-droppingly amazing instances, both ancient and modern, in which good angels protected God’s people against all odds), that we really can’t know in this case. I think we can. I can understand their objections, to a point. This is not about angel-bashing, but discernment.
Yet one of the final straws that led me to write this post was just happening to be in my car and have the radio on today as David Jeremiah began his teaching (out of Hebrews 1) regarding angels. He makes this point better than I can, so I commend an uninterrupted ‘listen’ with notepad and Bible handy. It will enhance your thinking on the subject in general and on this story in particular (which his teaching does not mention… most likely recorded much earlier.)
Here’s another part of why I was led to write this post. Before I learned of this story, the following passage showed up in my daily reading and ‘popped’ in unusually vivid fashion — in a way I’d not read it before. Proverbs 5 is obviously about physical, fleshly adultery in its ordinary sense. But it’s about the spiritual kind as well:
PROVERBS 5:1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, 2 that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. 3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, 4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; 6 she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. 7 And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, 10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, 11 and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, 12 and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! 13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. 14 I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”
The ‘forbidden woman’ is a type for all false religion — all idolatry. She shows up throughout Proverbs and other places in scripture. Her lips drip honey (a symbol for God’s Word, see Judges 14, 1st Sam 14, Ezekiel 16 and Revelation 10) indicating that she can and does quote scripture and talk about God and spiritual things, perhaps often.
Yet her “sharp, two-edged sword,” unlike God’s Word, is bitter. It leads to death. It is more like a two-edged (forked) tongue, i.e., like a serpent, double-minded and destabilizing. Her speech is “smoother than oil”, indicating that it evokes feelings which imitate the Holy Spirit. That Spirit is represented as, or associated with oil throughout scripture (e.g., see Matt 25, Gen 28, etc.) In other words, she can be very ‘religious’, even in a Christian guise.
For those untrained in recognizing the real thing, ‘she’ provides a potent, if deadly substitute for THE Spirit and THE Truth. (What, after all, is adultery all about if not ‘potency’ — a supposedly ‘better’ but ultimately deadly substitute for the covenantal spouse of one’s youth?)
The writer of this Proverb goes on to talk about ‘teachers’ and ‘instructors’, further confirming that this is not just about simple advice to a young man to keep his pants on, but rather that it is about deeper learning. I.e., it’s about doctrine and knowing God’s written Word so that one will not even think of this spiritual seductress (a Jezebel ‘type’) as a reasonable substitute for one’s spiritual spouse. Study of God’s Word will help the young man addressed in the passage to identify her immediately as a total counterfeit — worthless and criminal. (If we were to use a storekeeper analogy, the advice would be not to put these kinds of bills in the drawer but to call the police.)
There’s much more which one could find in this Proverb, but you get the idea. Put on this other set of lenses for its meaning and more will become plain.
Armed now with some ways of thinking about the WND story in a more scripturally grounded fashion, let’s return to it now. What I’m about to lay out draws from several different stories in different media (e.g., the UK Daily Mail), plus material on Ms. Leonardi’s own website and other research. Across those sources, it becomes clear that she…
…was raised a “devout [Roman] Catholic”. Featured prominently in her garden in one video is a blatantly second-commandment-disobeying statue of the entity impersonating the humble Biblical Mary (whom Jesus said specifically and repeatedly we should not worship). Her story is endorsed by a Roman Catholic priest.
…now says she “practices” an unspecified “spiritualism,” which seems to have grown stronger as a result of her experience with a controversial psychotherapeutic technique involving the ‘reprogramming’ of sight which she underwent while suffering from PTSD. Unspecified spirits spoke to and through her during that process and she devotes another entire book to those insights. (Revelation 22:18 alarm bells should be going off whenever someone writes three books about a spiritual experience claiming to bring new insight not grounded in scripture.)
…has had an attending personal angel friend since her youth who calls himself Michael. I don’t doubt the fact of attending angels, but in light of the roles in which we see the archangel Michael portrayed in scripture (Daniel 10 & 12, Jude 9, Revelation 12), this is a HUGE claim for any individual to make. The secular equivalent would be like my stating that Colin Powell and I have been close friends since childhood and speak regularly by the phone. It might be true. But it’s unlikely.
…says that the angels she saw were wearing Roman Centurion uniforms; I should hope this one would be plain on its face. The Romans were not exactly on the side of light during Jesus’ ministry
…says emphatically in a video on her website that, quote “as far as I’m concerned, he ['Michael'] is THE conduint [sic] to God” (If this doesn’t set of alarm bells for you, nothing will. It is the very definition of antichrist blasphemy: putting someone or something in the unique, mediatorial role which Jesus the God-man is, has and will always play. The real archangel Michael would strongly rebuke her, I suspect.)
There are lots of other issues and angles I noticed, but this will suffice. “Danger Will Robinson” as they used to say on one of my favorite (if kitschy) sci-fi shows back in the day. (Ironically: Lost in Space).
Brothers and sisters, time is short. Our lives are short. As the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:5) makes abundantly clear, our ultimate sacrificial gift is our time and rapt attention to God Himself (arguably the purest expression of love: looking to our Abba/Daddy).
Yet we are prone to distraction, prone to wander. By (sinful) nature, we desire novelty and special insight. We trust our feelings and experiences more than the unchanging Word. (Thank you, Star Wars. Not!)
Yet the Word of God provides precisely that: novelty and special insight. I used to think the Bible was boring. Not so. The Word of God is infinitely deep, rich and rewarding to those who seek Him with a sincere heart. His Word and Holy Spirit reveal Him to us.
Let us not depart from the Words of His mouth in this troubled time, but use them, as Paul outlines in Ephesians 6. The battle is joined. Our true commander awaits our loving obedience.
UPDATE: One item I overlooked which briefly ‘drew me in’ to this story… until I thought about it. Ms. Leonardi mentions that, near the crash site, she saw a Bible, virtually unscathed, which had apparently been ejected from the aircraft on impact. As she watched a sudden gust of wind ‘flipped’ it open to Psalm 23. She recalls reading and thinking the first, familiar and comforting line, “The LORD is my shepherd…”
I know I’m not alone in having had similar experiences with God’s Word, some of them utterly profound (like when my cancer-ravaged brother dropped his Bible on his hospital bed and it opened to Job chapter 1-2; the memory of that one has grown to be both funny and comforting as the years have worn on since his death).
My question about Ms. Leonardi’s experience though (and this is the kind of question we should always ask ourselves) is: Was the Psalm 23 text meant to confirm or oppose what was going on around her?
Think about it: Lots of crazy, hard-to-process stuff is going on in the sensory realm (sights, smells, sounds) and right in the midst of it drops God’s Word itself, reminding the reader that “The LORD” (i.e., in the original: YHWH) “is my shepherd” and no one else, not these angels. His sheep hear His voice, even amidst the din of the world. He draws us away from the wolves. His Word does not need the assistance of a Roman Centurion army.
The other contextualizing bit I neglected to address when I first posted this revolves around the received Roman Catholic notion that “Marian” apparitions have attended many of the world’s most awful tragedies over the last century (e.g., WWI, Balkan Wars of the ’90s, Rwanda Genocide, Russian Revolution, etc.) and that those ‘prove’ ‘she’ is fixing them.
My question there is the same as the one at the top of this post: OK, fair enough that something was seen… but for whom were these beings-of-light fighting, exactly? And how can we know that?
Or to put it another way, proximity to a battle, and apparently soothing words about it do not prove whom you’re dealing with. It is characteristic of arsonists and other psychopaths that they will return to the scene of the crime to “help” the victims. It’s also a brilliant military tactic to put on an enemy uniform in order to kill a lot of them. Y’all get the idea; ‘nuf said.