It is common axiom of what I call “folk Christianity” to believe that when we die we become angels. This falsehood has been fostered by various movies and TV shows through the years, and probably has deep roots in history. One such movie is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In it the character Clarence is some guy who died years ago, but was still struggling to earn his wings. It’s a feel good movie with absolutely ignorant theology in it. People don’t become angels. There is nothing in the Bible to say angels have wings either. They fly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have wings. The winged creatures of the Bible, who are found in the presence of God, are called Seraphim (burning ones) or Cherubim (living ones). They are not angels either.
Angels are a species unto themselves. They appear to be humanlike in appearance, though precious little is actually said about how they look. Nothing to suggest that they don’t look like humans is ever noted. Angels serve God and help people. They are often messengers. In fact, the word “angelos” means messenger, so a person could literally be an angel in that sense.
Today I would like to focus on one particular passage in which angels are mentioned, Luke 20:34-36:
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part of that age and in the resurrection of the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.”
Jesus’ reply is to a line of reasoning presented by the Sadducees who did not believe a physical resurrection of the dead was possible. They reasoned that if a woman had multiple spouses during her lifetime, then at the resurrection there would be an unacceptable mess, because she would have multiple husband’s all at once. Jesus’ statement says only this: there will be no marriage after the resurrection and angels don’t get married.
Many people conclude that this means that there will be no sexuality or reproduction. The text does not say this, nor can it be inferred. We simply do not know what kind of situation exists with the angels. Isaiah 65, which is a strange passage, says this about the New Earth (which is after the resurrection): “They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune.” At least on the surface, this would seem to suggest that there is procreation.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are the means by which we can have the eternal life that God has planned for us. He is the only way one can be “considered worthy”. We will not become angels, but angels will be among us. Much of what life will be like is unknown, and it is difficult if not unwise to read between the lines of Scripture. We can be sure of this, however, eternal life in Heaven and the New Earth will be awesome.