What did He mean when He said that He will deny us before the angels of God? “Before the angels of God” is a theological circumlocution that simply means “before God.” In this context, the “angels of God” constitute the heavenly court over which the LORD presides. The throne of judgment is in view.
In Yeshua's teaching, the one who "wishes to save his life"; is the disciple who chooses to deny association and allegiance with Yeshua in order to avoid persecution, loss, or threat to life. He denies the Master to save his life. But there is a broader scope of application behind this saying.
Thousands died on crosses along with anyone else that Rome did not like. All over the Empire, political dissidents, terrorists, and people that resisted Rome’s authority found themselves nailed to execution stakes. Roadside Roman crosses were a common sight outside population centers, a gruesome reminder of Rome’s authority and terror.
When Yeshua asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” It was the correct answer, but Yeshua warned the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. Why? Was that not that the whole point of His proclamation, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”?
The declaration still requires the same leap of faith. To this day, those who confess Yeshua as the Messiah are called “believers” because we believe He will accomplish the messianic work and take up the throne of His father David on the evidence of His resurrection from the dead.
The disciples hoped from the outset that they had found the Messiah, but Yeshua Himself had never confirmed their hopes. Instead, He seemed to confound every messianic expectation. Instead of raising an army to liberate Israel, He evaded the crowds and fled from those who wanted to make Him king.
With a gesture, he indicated the funeral bench on which Nicodemus and Joseph had left the body. The women’s eyes fell upon the Master’s abandoned grave clothes. They saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth which had been on His head.
The Master felt the malevolent power of evil bearing down on Him. “And behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). “The cords of death encompassed [Him] and the terrors of Sheol came upon [Him; He] found distress and sorrow” (Psalm 116:3). In that hour, He did not want to be utterly alone.
The Roman government instituted a policy of arresting people suspected of faith in Messiah and interrogating them before a tribunal. If a suspected “Christian” disowned the name of Yeshua and bowed to an idol, the Roman authorities released him or her. If not, the disciple faced a death sentence.
Yeshua warned His disciples that a time of strife would come during which family members might betray them: “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name.” When will these things happen?