The Rev. Penny Ellwood, Blue Springs, Mo., campus pastor, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection: It isn’t unusual these days to hear someone express the notion that their deceased loved one has gone to heaven and become an angel — one who watches carefully over the remaining family. While this is a lovely thought, it is not supported in Scripture.
Angels are an entirely different order of being than humans. Hebrews 12:22-23 says that when we get to the heavenly Jerusalem, we will be met by “thousands of angels” and “the spirits of righteous men made perfect” — two different and separate groups. Matthew 22:30 explains that resurrected saints will be like the angels in heaven but not the same. Angels do not marry or reproduce like humans.
Angels are not glorified saints, and human beings do not become angels after they die. The angels are represented throughout the Christian Bible as spiritual beings intermediate between God and men (Psalms 8:4-5).
I think we pose this idea of our loved ones becoming angels because we cannot comprehend the beauty of heaven. From our human perspective, we cannot imagine, nor can we experience, the physical and temporal dimensions of heaven.
While our loved ones may not be angels, I believe heaven will be a place filled with life and color and experiences unknown to our intellect but far better than all that we know and love that is good but missing all that causes pain and separates us from God and one another. Here we will all be family for such is God’s kingdom.
The Rev. Eugene A. Curry, Park Hill Baptist Church: The Bible is clear that, at the end of history, God will raise the dead in the resurrection and reward the faithful and punish the unrepentant. But the Bible is much less clear about what happens in the meantime, between a person’s death and his subsequent bodily resurrection.
Many people have poured a great deal of speculation into this topic, sometimes called the intermediate state of the dead, and different theories have developed in the uncertainty. In the Book of Acts we possibly get a glimpse of at least one of these theories, and an old one at that.
In Acts 12, we’re told that Peter escaped from jail by the miraculous intervention of God. After escaping, he ran to his friends’ home and knocked on their door. The people inside the house couldn’t believe it was really Peter — he was supposed to be in jail, after all.
So when someone insisted that the guy knocking really seemed like Peter, they concluded that Peter must just be dead and “his angel” was at the door (Acts 12:15). What exactly this means is debated, but some think that it indicates that at least some first century Jewish Christians thought that, after a person’s death, his soul or ghost continued on in this world for a time.
Of course, the possible religious assumptions of a few minor characters in Acts don’t amount to an unquestionable dogma. But it’s interesting, at least.