Saturday, December 18, 2010

Angels - What are they? Where do they come from? Do we become them when we die?

Probably the most universally recognized "religious" symbol in the world is that of an Angel.  They are drawn as fat little cherub-like babies, brilliantly illumined figures with long flowing hair, holding trumpets, holding harps... All sorts of images exist of them.  Equally as known as their visage are common misconceptions and cliche phrases about what they are.  

Now let me state up front I am aware that this may hurt a few feelings and I assure you that my intention is not to hurt feelings.  Probably the most common statements heard are that:

1.) People who go to Heaven become Angels when they die.
2.) The people who have become Angels are watching down over us from Heaven.

Let's address those two statements, although I'm sure there are PLENTY more, by looking first at what Angels are according to Scripture.

Angels are Created Beings.
Colossians 1:16 - For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 

They are created beings.  God created them.  We know this because God created ALL things.  Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology defines Angels as follows: "Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies."  It does seem that Angels are male.  They are never referred to with a feminine gender anywhere in Scripture.

Angels have a certain degree of moral choice available to them because 1/3 of them were able to sin and join Lucifer in his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-18).  Although they sinned against God, no redemption is available for them.  For those that joined Satan in his rebellion, they remain to this day condemned and damned for all eternity. 

2 Peter 2:4 - For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

Jude 6 - And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

Psalm 103:20 tells us that the purpose of Angels is to glorify God and do His will.  Angels readily await to be dispatched to do the will of the Father. One way in which Angels do the will of God is that they do watch over Believers and war against demonic powers.  

Angels DO watch over us... however, those Angels are NOT our loved ones who have passed away.  Angels are not omniscient nor are they omnipresent.  But they do watch over Christians.  Whether or not each person has a specific "guardian" angel assigned to them is unclear from Scripture, but whether it be one for each believer or just the idea in general that angels are watching over us the same result is clear.  God has provided for our care. 

There are only two Angels given specific names in Scripture.  Gabriel (Luke 1:19)  and Michael (Jude 9).  Other than that Angels are referenced by three different terms.  ((The following types/ descriptions was also taken from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology.))

a. The “Cherubim”  The cherubim were given the task of guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24), and God himself is frequently said to be enthroned on the cherubim or to travel with the cherubim as his chariot (Ps. 18:10; Ezek. 10:1–22). Over the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament were two golden figures of cherubim with their wings stretched out above the ark, and it was there that God promised to come to dwell among his people: “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of testimony, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel” (Ex. 25:22; cf. vv. 18–21).

b. The “Seraphim”  Another group of heavenly beings, the seraphim, are mentioned only in Isaiah 6:2–7, where they continually worship the Lord and call to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).

c. The Living Creatures: Both Ezekiel and Revelation tell us of yet other kinds of heavenly beings known as “living creatures” around God’s throne (Ezek. 1:5–14; Rev. 4:6–8). With their appearances like a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle, they are the mightiest representatives of various parts of God’s entire creation (wild beasts, domesticated animals, human beings, and birds), and they worship God continually: “Day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”’ (Rev. 4:8)

Angels remind us that the unseen world is very very real and we must be very careful in dealing with it.

In Galatians 1, Paul warned that fallen Angels may even appear and try to distort the truths of the Gospel and deceive people.  He said that we are to consider such a one anathema.  Which literally means damned and accursed.  
Just as the Sadducees in Jesus’ day said that “there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit” (Acts 23:8), so many in our day deny the reality of anything they cannot see. But the biblical teaching on the existence of angels is a constant reminder to us that there is an unseen world that is very real. It was only when the Lord opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant to the reality of this invisible world that the servant saw that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17; this was a great angelic army sent to Dothan to protect Elisha from the Syrians). The psalmist, too, shows an awareness of the unseen world when he encourages the angels, “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Ps. 148:2). The author of Hebrews reminds us that when we worship we come into the heavenly Jerusalem to gather with “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Heb. 12:22), whom we do not see, but whose presence should fill us with both awe and joy. An unbelieving world may dismiss talk of angels as mere superstition, but Scripture offers it as insight into the state of affairs as they really are.  Even Satan himself disguises himself as an "Angel of Light" (2 Corinthians 11:4).

1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is but one God and one mediator between God and men and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are not to pray to or seek out contact with Angels.  If God needs to contact us utilizing Angels He will do so and make it clear that is what happened because they will speak His truth and nothing contradictory.  I'm not certain whether I feel they do or do not appear in visible form today but they are present nonetheless.

When we are protected from some danger, our slipping foot gains footing somehow... or a car swerves and misses us somehow when a crash should have been inevitable.  Anytime we are spared from some apparent danger we can attribute it, I think, to God commanding His Angels concerning us.  

Psalm 91:11-12 - For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.  12 They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

Now, how about our loved ones that pass?  Well the Bible says that their bodies go into the ground and their they wait for the return of the Lord Jesus.  We further know that the moment a person dies their soul goes to either Heaven or Hell.  Believers' souls are immediately taken to Heaven. 
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 - Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—  7 for we walk by faith, not by sight—  8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

So if your loved one has passed on and they had been born again through Jesus Christ, take heart, they may not be watching down over you but they are in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ and they are ever before His throne praising Him and they suffer no more, neither will they ever taste death again.  And when Christ comes again they will receive their physical bodies back only now they will be glorified and perfected, unstained by the sin curse of this world.

I understand that a cliche like "God got a good angel", "They are an Angel now and watching over me.", etc.. I get that it is intended to bring comfort to the grieving.  And I'm not trying to be callous but rather trying to point you to a living hope!

I would simply suggest that rather than dwelling on your loved one being an Angel and speaking to them and such, seek your comfort from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Cast your burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain you.  

Psalm 55:22 - Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Hebrews 4:16 - Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

 Trust in the Lord.  He is your refuge.  You need not believe that your deceased loved ones are watching down over you in order to find peace... there is a greater peace available and His Name is Jesus!  He is greater than the Angels (Hebrews 1).  He is the King of Kings and the Savior of sinners.  He has come and died so that you might have life!  If you don't know Him, repent of your sin and trust in Him.  (Visit for the specifics of your sin)

As for Christians who are using these unbiblical cliches to comfort others.  Please, you are doing them more harm than good.  If you are unsure what to say in those difficult times, labor in the Scriptures all the more to determine what God's Word has already spoken about our comfort and peace available in Him.  If you can't think of a good verse to share or anything Biblical to say, don't pop out a saying that isn't true... Just be there for the grieving... be a friend to them... try and care for their needs as best you can and pray with them.  Ultimately, from my experience, most people who are grieving are looking for truth but they are also looking for someone to simply be there for them.  Christians have a unique opportunity in that we are often those friends who are there to comfort AND we are armed (or at least we should be armed) with the truth of God's Word which is the best source to turn to in ANY situation.

Hope this helped you glorify God for His provision of Angels for you and cleared up any misconceptions you may have had.

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