"Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky...."
Some people say a person transforms into an angel when he or she dies. Often, a consoling friend assures an individual, grieving the loss of a cherished loved one, "God must have needed another angel." While the thought of God requiring that particular person intends to comfort--though a limited solace in loss--is the statement true? Do humans become angels when they die? Not many blogs for Christian women have attempted to answer this question, and different religions hold disparate views about it.
The Judeo-Christian beliefs draw evidence from the Old and the New Testament, respectively. They explain that angels are also beings which were created by God, but that these spiritual beings are separate creatures from ourselves.
References to angels also exist in other religions. Buddhism, in the Jataka, speaks of guardian angels wandering during the Buddha Uproar. For Hindus and Buddhists, 'Devas' or 'Devatas' are spiritual beings that work as guardians at various levels and are spoken of as deities or angels in those perspectives. Mormons, in their Book of Mormon, believe humans become angels in a new incarnation.
The focus of this article delves into the Judeo-Christian perspective. Angels are a supernatural creation that existed before the advent of humans. The first book of the Torah/Bible, Genesis, references angels.
A number of descriptions of angels exist in the Bible. The word 'angel' comes from the Greek, 'aggelos,' which translates to 'messenger.' Created humans resembled God. God declares in Genesis 1:26 "Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky...." God sets in motion the changing nature of the earth and animals, and puts humans in charge here.
After casting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, God positions Cherubim (high ranking angels) at the east with flaming swords to prevent access by humans. These angels exist before the first person walks the earth. How can angels be humans who have died, since they exist before the first individual has died?
The author of Job, the earliest written book of the Old Testament, speaks of angels gathering with God in heaven. Then, the adversary, or Satan, approaches God to discuss Job. Angels congregate to report on the earthlings. The words do not suggest they are from earth; instead, they are observers and guardians of earth.
This idea is further explored when Daniel, a prophet in the Old Testament, sees a vision of the angel, Gabriel, delivering a message. A Psalmist also writes about humans being created a little 'lower than the angels.' Even in the New Testament epistle of Hebrews, the Christian view elaborates how Christ's incarnation as a person positions him lower than the angels.
Also in the New Testament, Gabriel appears to Zacharias and Elizabeth announcing the birth of John, who was chosen to be a prophet, known as John the Baptizer. Later, Gabriel arrives in Nazareth and declares to Joseph and Mary that the coming child would be the Son of God Most High. The angel performs a service as a messenger, doing the work of God. His power of instantaneous travel raises his capabilities above the mortal capacity. He is not heir to the kingdom, but a messenger of the kingdom.
As Eileen Elias Freeman once said, "Pay attention to your dreams -- God's angels often speak directly to our hearts when we are asleep." Angels seem to be there to guide humans and to carry out God's plan. However, do not make the mistake of thinking that angels are more important to God just because they have powers and capabilities that exceed our own.
The Christian tradition ascribes to humans a possibly even more important role in heaven, as they are heirs of the kingdom with Christ. Believers will become children of God. In other words, they will become heirs, not messengers.
So, when humans die, do they become angels? In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the roles are distinct and well-defined. Humans remain humans, even though they change. They hold the high station of being heir to the kingdom. Angels retain their positions as messengers of God, or some may be fallen angels, as the case may be, but that is another discussion.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, humans do not become angels, but join Christ in the new heaven and new earth as heirs and children of God. As you can imagine, this is a still a very comforting thought for anyone who may be grieving a lost loved one. While that loved one may not have become an angel, they will take their proper place with God in the world to come. Being heirs to the Kingdom means that we all have angels to guide us, and that all of will eventually be reunited there with lost loved ones.