It is a familiar scene in television shows and movies—and I’m afraid it may actually happen in real life. A bereaved father tells his puzzled daughter that Mommy is an angel now, or a mother tells her intrigued son that Grandpa is looking down at them from heaven. Fortunately, there is no Biblical support for either of these notions. They are fictions just like the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause–but everyone learns that the Easter Bunny isn’t real by the time that he or she is eight years old. How many adults think that good people go straight to heaven when they die? How many think that they become angels?
According to the Bible, angels are a separate creation from human beings—if they are a creation at all. There isn’t much evidence for their origin, but we can look at Nehemiah 9:6: “And Ezra said: ‘Thou art the Lord, thou alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host [my italics], the earth and all that is on it . . . .’” And in Colossians 1:15-6, Paul, who is speaking of Jesus, says: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities [all types of angels]—all things were created through him and for him.” These tell us that God or his power that was the eternally existing, Jesus, created the angels. (This is a rather odd view of Jesus that was also expressed by John at the very beginning of his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . .“ “Odd” because it is quite different from—and irreconcilable with—the views of the Synoptics. Mark sees Jesus as being the Son of God by adoption after his baptism, and Matthew and Luke see him as being the product of the Annunciation.)
There are angels of many different kinds, Cherubim, Seraphim, Erelim, Thrones, Dominions, Archangels, etc. And while the word, “angel,” which Christians generally use to describe them all, comes from the Greek word, aggelos, “messenger,” many of them have other specific functions. They are also called “Sons of God,” “Morning Stars,” “Host of Heaven,” and sometimes, “a man.” And they are also called “Gods,” as in Psalm 82: “I say, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you . . . .”’ (Claims that this means something other than what it says are far-fetched.) The Archangels, Gabriel and Michael, are the only two allowed to have personal names by the Western Church. Other names were banned in 745 by Pope Zacharias—surely a rather high-handed proceeding. According to the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, the other Archangels are Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Sariel, and Remiel.