Folk Theology: “God Gained Another Angel”

Original Verse (usually) Referred To: Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:36

“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in Heaven.”

Without going into all of the eschatological (Study of the end times) jargon, I’m going to try to keep this very non-scholar-friendly. There’s a lot of issues I feel are at stake here, but I run into not effectively sticking to my main point on this angel business. SO if you’re feeling up to it, before you read this, check out my paper concerning the resurrection here (And if you love talking about eschatology, I HIGHLY recommend reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope). I say that because here Jesus is not talking about Heaven or even becoming an angel, but rather the resurrection.

The Issue

Almost every time I see someone die on Facebook or Twitter or any social media outlet, I see this phrase, “God gained another angel tonight” or “Now (said person) has their wings.” Unfortunately, unlike my previous post, correcting a person during the grieving period is neither graceful nor appropriate. But the truth of the matter is simple; you DO NOT become an angel when you die.

I am going to break this post into two parts. In the first section I’m going to dissect this verse in its context. The second part will deal with angelic beings and their inherent created purpose.

We Will Be Like Angels

All of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) offer their testimony on this scene from Jesus’ interaction with Sadducees, which is ironic since the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. What’s even more ironic is that most Christians forget about the resurrection! We believe we go right to Heaven and completely ignore that Jesus himself believed in the resurrection of the dead; he did it himself (You can read more in my paper here)! At this point you can probably tell that this verse is already focused on resurrection life, rather than marriage or even less, becoming an angel!

The Sadducees, not believing in the resurrection, were eager to hear this popular teacher’s view on such a debated topic. So Jesus answers without hesitation that at the resurrection there will be no marriage and no giving in marriage. We will be like that angels in that regard. We do not become angels. For example, my sister died when she was six weeks old. Do I believe she’s an angel with wings sitting on a cloud and protecting me when I need her? No. I don’t. That would be amazing (And truthfully, that would be pretty freaking awesome if she was) and I leave room for error. But Yahweh’s Word gives no hint at such a transformation. Where we go after we die I will leave open for your own personal eschatology on post-death life. But the bottom line here is that humans and angels are two completely separate beings and one does not “morph” into the other after death.

Who Are Angels?

Created Beings
Colossians 1:16 and Nehemiah 9:6 tell us that everything was created through Yahweh. Job 38, while not an historical account of the creation of angels, says they were around during the creation of the world. No one can really know when they were created but that’s not the point. It’s who created them, and that’s Yahweh. However, angels are not human and are completely separate and supernatural beings. To take things a step further, if we believe Satan and demons to be “fallen angels” – that is, once holy but rebelled against Yahweh – then we must also recognize this: Jesus died for humans but not the angels (2 Peter 2:4).[1] This in and of itself makes us separate beings both now and at the resurrection.

Before I list the purpose of angels I want to make a few very important things clear. Angels are by their very nature supernatural beings. They are stronger and more powerful than humans (2 Peter 2:10-11) and have greater knowledge than humans (2 Sam. 14:17, 20). However, they are NEVER to be worshipped. Angels are God’s messengers but are NOT deserving of praise or worship. It would be like worshipping your mailman because he delivered the check from your boss. He didn’t give you money, your boss did. Only Yahweh is entitled to that because He is the Creator.

Angelic Purpose and Responsibility

Here is a non-exhaustive list of responsibilities and scripture verses of the angels. If you have any other important ones I didn’t note, please feel free to comment below.

1. Praise Yahweh
      1. Psalm 103:20-21; Psalm 148:2; Revelation 4:8

  1. God’s Messengers
           1. Of Good News
                       i.     Psalm 103:20 Luke 1:26; Luke 1:19; Joshua 5:14; Judges 6:11-26, 13:3

                  2. Of Warnings
                              i.     Genesis 18:16-19:29; Matthew 2:13

  1. God’s Hand of Judgment
    1. Genesis 19:12,13; 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35
  2. Protect God’s People
    1. Exodus 14:19; Daniel 3:28; Matthew 26:53; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:1; Matthew 18:10
  3. To Oversee God’s Church

    1. Revelation 2 and 3
  4. To Minister to God’s People

    1. To Provide
       i.     1 Kings 19:7
    2.  To Give Comfort
       i.     Genesis 21:17,19; Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Hebrews 1:14
  1. To Deliver
    1. Acts 5:19; Daniel 3:28; Acts 12:7
  2. To Guide and Instruct
    1. Genesis 24:7; Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19; Judges 13:3 ; Acts 10:13,15; Acts 8:26; Acts 27:24; Zech. 1:9, 19; Daniel 7:16 and Revelation 17:7

I debated on how to close this post out but I want to reiterate my main point as I close out this third part: Folk Theology Kills. When we teach our friends, family or kids that people become angels when we die, we have effectively lied to them and given them false expectations about who we become when we die. I would have liked to spend more time on post-death and resurrection life, but it wasn’t to the benefit of this particular conversation. We need to appreciate that when Yahweh created humans, he said it was very good. And you’ll notice how most eschatological phrases or stories go back to the garden. Yahweh is going to restore our physical bodies to our original and intended state before Adam sinned, not make us into an entirely new being. What can you take from this post? Take from this post that you were inherently created by Yahweh and for Yahweh. Take from this that He loves you so much that he’s not just going to morph you into an angel, but rather restore you into what he calls, “Very Good” (Genesis 1:31). You see, Jesus believes you are worth restoring! So it’s important how you treat your body and others here on earth now (1 Cor. 6:19). And finally, take away that this life is given through Jesus, the Messiah.

[1] Scriptures on Satan and demons: Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13, Luke 10:18, 2 Peter 2:4, 1 John 3:8, Jude 6,7, Revelation 12: 7-12. For a more in-depth account, simply Google “Satan and Demons in the Bible.” But do yourself a favor and only read the scriptures on them. Be very careful what articles you read and accept about Satan. Don’t be deceived.

[2] The picture has been taken from this website. I do not own it or its content in any way.

 

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