DO HUMANS BECOME ANGELS AFTER PHYSICAL DEATH?

Despite my best efforts to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings or challenge their way of thinking, I know this article will very likely do both of these things. Therefore, please understand that I do not take lightly the subject matter that I am about to undertake.  The title of this article is a question that is not new but is not often addressed or answered.  We have all heard someone say “Well, they earned their angel wings today” or read someone’s email or post on social media that talks about a human becoming an angel because the person has experienced physical death.  Unfortunately and undoubtedly Hollywood has contributed to this notion.  One obvious example is the old traditional holiday flick “It’s a Wonderful Life.”[1] Clarence is the character in the movie who is trying to help George get his life straightened out so that Clarence can earn his wings.  He references his previous human life and shares the frustration he has experienced not having earned his wings at the time of their meeting.  The fact is that humans and angels are completely different creations of God and a human cannot become an angel.  Now that some of you already have your blood pressure going up, take a deep breath and allow me to use scripture guided by the Holy Spirit to show you the difference.

When we look at God’s Word we find that from the beginning there is a distinction between humans and angels.  Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.[2] So Adam was made in the image of God but there is no scripture that supports that angels were made in the image of God.  While God’s creation includes angels, they are entirely different than humans.  His Word makes it clear that they are part of His creation when it says The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”[3]

Angels were created to serve God, to be his special messengers to carry out His will.  And while scripture is clear that Jesus Christ was sent to save the lost there is no indication that Jesus’ redemption of humans was applied to angels. When we look in the first book of Peter where this is clearly stated as follows:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”[4] 

This passage closes with “Even angels long to look into these things.”  If angels had been previously human, they would have no need to look into the gospel because as humans they would have already experienced the saving grace offered by our Heavenly FatherTo which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”[5]  This further clearly states and supports the fact that angels were created by God to serve a completely different purpose from humans and as such they do not have a need for the gospel.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coin and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it.   And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”[6]   While the angels rejoice it is because of their specific role assigned by the LORD and not because they have previously experienced salvation.

Paul tells us herefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  For we live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”[7]  So when a human passes from this world in to eternity, if they have received salvation, they go home to be with the Lord.  Our spirit passes from the body to eternity and with it we carry our soul (the essence of what makes us who we are).

Luke gives a very convincing illustration of this when he wrote There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. ‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’  ‘But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’  ‘He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  ‘Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  ‘He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”[8]

Even in death the rich man wanted Lazarus to serve him yet he is told that there is a great chasm between heaven and hell and there is no way to cross from one to the other.  The passage tells us that the angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s side.  If he became an angel why would he need angels to carry him to Abraham’s side?  It is because it was Lazarus’ spirit that was taken by the angels to be by Abraham’s side.

Let me close with this thought.  Scripture tells us And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”[9]  The “proper dwelling” referenced in this verse is the heavenly realm not the earthly realm.  Based on the way it is written it is likely referencing the angels that followed Lucifer when he was exiled from heaven (one third of the angles in heaven followed Lucifer).  Paul asks us why would God have humans judging angels that were formerly human? The reason we will be able to judge angels in heaven is because we will be higher than the angels due to our being like Christ.

God created both angels and humans to serve Him but the evidence is clear that humans will not become angels in eternity.  While it may be comforting to think that this will happen because of the earthly image that has been created about angels, God has a much greater purpose and for humans it all begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  So don’t aspire to be angel-like go for greatness and aspire to be Christ-like!


[1] It’s a Wonderful Life filmed in 1946, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
[2] Genesis 1:26.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[3] Colossians 1:15-17
[4] 1 Peter 1:3-12
[5] Hebrews 1:13,14
[6] Luke 15:8
[7] 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
[8] Luke 16:19-31
[9] Jude 1:6

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