Establishing spiritual and human natures as separate and distinct
It’s funny how certain fanciful images make their way into the human mind and somehow become a part of our belief foundation. Case in point – someone dies and the next thing we know, we visualize them standing before those massive and ornate “pearly gates” of heaven. Once issued their wings and harp, we see them as having “made it” into eternal bliss. Or how about the common and comforting idea that someone who has passed is now an angel looking down on us and protecting us? Do human beings REALLY turn into angels when they die? What about angels - can they ever turn into people? Are these ideas based on the Bible or do the Scriptures tell us something else about life after death?
Most of us never think about God’s heavenly and earthly creation as having been designed in several distinct levels of existence. Why? Because we don’t stop to ask the right questions and instead make assumptions about how human nature functions. Unfortunately, these assumptions have to do with tradition and what we see in the movies, not actual biblical writing. Humans becoming angels when they die is one of those traditions, with no basis in Scripture. How do we know?
We begin with a basic premise that God’s creative process has clear-cut classes of creation within nature. These are relatively easy to define by looking at the creative days in the book of Genesis. While this account is not detailed or complete, it is an outline from which we can gain specific direction and insight. It describes the sequential appearance of atmosphere, earth and water. Grass, plants and trees begin to grow. Then the waters bring forth sea creatures. Birds are created, then the earth brings forth land animals. We get a sense of orderly hierarchy. There is a dramatic difference between how the earth "brought forth" animals versus God specifically creating humanity to have dominion over the rest of creation. There are planes of existence in the earthly creation.
The record of the creative days does not give us insight into the creation of angels, as we are earthly and not even remotely connected with their beginning. But we are given some clues as to what spirit beings are like, including that they are mortal. Quoting from Psalms, the book of Hebrews explains man was made "a little lower than the angels." There is no bridge between the earthly and angelic natures where one can morph into the other. We are told of different kinds of spirit beings, with God at the very top as immortal and divine. There are planes of existence in the heavenly creation. With very few exceptions for very specific reasons, natures do not change.
The Bible's narrative can be summed up in four words: Paradise lost; paradise restored. It is the details in the middle that tell just how that will miraculous work will be accomplished. Check out our November 18, 2019 podcast, “Do People Turn Into Angels When They Die?” for more. We discuss what mankind actually lost and how it will be restored. (Hint: Man never "lost" a spiritual body to restore.) If Jesus' followers don't become angels, what is the heavenly reward they are promised in the New Testament all about? It is so much more than you might have thought!
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