Do we become Angels when we die?
This is an interesting question that actually is steeped in a larger issue in our knowledge of the things of God. The short answer is no, but the longer answer is more interesting.
There are many ideas people have about scripture and the things that God has given us to know Him by. These ideas come from an array of places and it is actually quite interesting to do a study on how various doctrines have come about. In fact, even Biblical literature is steeped in history and the ancients’ ideas and how they perceived the world around them. So while the Bible itself is truth, it’s also dealing with various cultures and thought processes that are not always the truth. However, to deal with people effectively, you must have an understanding of the kinds of things they deal with and their understanding of the world around them. This should speak to Christians today, not to compromise, but to make it their aim to understand others they don’t agree with.
That said, there are many beliefs that mankind holds to that are just not truth at all. The fact that they are passed from generation to generation does not make them truth. Humans being angels, or turning into angels is one such belief. Where this idea comes from I really don’t know, I’m assuming that it is just based on bad theology. Once, while I was talking to some coworkers about the Bible, I had one say to me, “Doesn’t the Bible say….?” I don’t even remember now what it was they said but I do remember that it was one of those very untrue, unbiblical ideas. I simply responded, “Well, you’ll have to show me where, because I’ve never seen it!”
So, to address the angel question, we first need to understand a little something about scripture, and language. If you’ve had any experience with foreign languages, one thing you will learn early on is that not everything is directly translatable. For example, when I was in Kenya and asked for a napkin I got some strange looks and a laugh. What we call a napkin in US English, they understand as a baby diaper. That’s an odd request at a dinner table! When translating the Bible, whose original languages are primarily Hebrew and Greek with a little Aramaic, translators at times contend with the inability to directly translate. Differences in culture, and even a bit of failure to understand some ancient words as well as their usages can occasionally make for a less than perfect understanding. As more is understood through study and archeology, translators get better and better at it. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was huge in better understanding early language and customs. Now, these issues do not affect the basic understanding of the scripture, but can at times create a misunderstanding of certain nuanced texts. It shouldn’t scare us away, but keep us humble as we will always be learning until Jesus comes back.
There are three words that are commonly translated angel. These are malak (Hebrew), aggelos (Greek), and a third which I will not get to in this Faith Fix. These words here simply mean messenger and do not have to apply to just angels. There’s a reason for this and this is where language usage comes into play a little. These terms are not meant to describe individual characteristics of a being (like the word human) but are more of a job title of sorts. In other words these don’t describe who is being talked about, but what they do speak of what they do. They are messengers. An example of this is found in Hebrews 1:13-14 (NASB), “But to which of the angels (aggelos) has He ever said, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET’? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
This is where the term angel comes from and is used throughout scripture, even though in the Old Testament the actual word would be “malak”. What we think of as angels falls into this category and is what we are speaking of when we refer to these spiritual beings that sometimes interact with God’s man. Angels are created beings that are different than humans. To understand that more fully, you have to understand the differences in purpose, both ours and theirs. Our purpose is different and therefore God does not mix the two. They are created the way they are (which to my knowledge we are not told about), and we are created the way we are.
Some have lumped into the angel category, cherubim and seraphim. However, that is not exactly right either. Those terms, very similar to each other but still with some differences are likely describing another type of being altogether. These terms are also not descriptive of a set of attributes but of what they do. Cherubim, I’m sorry to say, are not sweet little baby angels!
Now if by angels what people mean is anything not people and not God but something spiritual in nature, I guess this category in their mind could apply, albeit not accurately. The truth about angels is the Bible speaks a lot of them, however not enough to know everything about them. What we see more is SOME of their interactions with mankind to fulfill God’s purpose or even sometimes when they oppose it.
The study of angels is indeed a very fascinating one that can easily lead one to a rabbit hole of facts but also really bad ideas. I remain with this opinion of any of His truth; if God has revealed it in His word, do as much as you can to understand it accordingly. If He has not, then we have to assume He had good reason for not telling us. Better to not be distracted by stuff we can’t prove with scripture than to be consumed with things we can’t solidly know. That is a shaky path, which usually leads to deception.
I love the following psalm because it gives a firm footing to understand some angelology. Psalms 103:20-21 (NASB) say, “Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.” They serve God, doing His will. We should do the same, according to what He saw fit to give man.
Disclaimer: I did not go into all the Bible’s says about angels, but a brief overview to make the point. The truth is, there is much more to understand, however it would be way too much for this format. Perhaps a Bible study would be more effective.