When I was a little girl, I believed that when good people died, they went to heaven and became an angel. I can’t say exactly where that belief was rooted, though it was certainly reinforced in the cartoons I watched. I’m sure you’ve seen it, too; a cartoon character falls over a cliff and disappears out of the frame for just a split-second before reappearing with wings and a harp–floating towards the sky. The notion is also very prominent even in real life. When a loved one dies, the grievers left behind will often note that the deceased “grew wings” or became so-and-so’s “guardian angel”.
I understand how the thought would provide comfort. Unfortunately, there isn’t a shred of truth to it.
My dad has always loved to tease. He teased me as a kid and now he teases my kids. Long ago, on the eve of her seventh birthday, he told my daughter that she would wake up as a boy the following morning. It was the way of the world, he told her. Babies are born as either girls or boys and then–poof!–as soon as they turn seven, they switch. You and I giggle at the absurdity of it, but that notion isn’t much different than believing that human beings die and–poof!–become angels.
Like apples and oranges, humans and angels are two entirely separate beings. Scripture tells us that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). It does not say the same about angels. In fact, it tells us that angels were created in spirit form (Hebrews 1:14). They can, though, take human form and come to Earth to do God’s will. The Bible offers several accounts of angels doing just that. Angels came to Abraham, Lot, Jacob and Mary–among others.
Nowhere in the Bible does it state that we will–poof!–become angels upon the death of our earthly bodies. Paul talks about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15. In verse 40, he states, “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.” He goes on in verse 42, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable.”
Believers may or may not taste the death of our earthly bodies, but one thing is for certain: we will all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51). Not into angels with wings, halos and golden harps, but into imperishable souls who–together with the host of angels–serve at the command of the One True King.
I understand how those who grieve find comfort in believing that the deceased become angels. I wonder, though, if there isn’t greater comfort in knowing that believers who perish will live again–forever–not as a foreign being, but as the same eternal soul he or she was from creation, made glorious and powerful (1 Corinthians 15:43) by the blood of the Lamb.