Do people become angels when they die?

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

The brief answer is an emphatic, “No!” To help us to answer these questions let’s look at a story the Lord Jesus told that is recorded in Luke 16:19-31. Other Scripture passages confirm what we learn from this story, and add more details.

A rich man who lived in luxury every day and a poor beggar name Lazarus, full of sores, ultimately died. Indeed, Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.

When Lazarus died, he “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (NKJV), a term the Jews used to indicate heaven. The Bible refers to Abraham as “the friend of God” several times. Notice, the beggar did not become an angel; rather, he was carried by the angels.

Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” An angel is a created being, but a spirit being. When God sends an angel on an errand to people, the angel normally appears in a bodily form, looking like a person. The Bible often describes an angel that appears to someone as looking like a man or a young man, sometimes in white garments. Never do we read of an angel resembling a woman or looking like a child. The Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:30 and Mark 12:25 that the angels of God in heaven do not marry, so these mighty created spirit beings do not multiply. Although they are ancient beings, for angels were present and rejoicing when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7), we never find a reference to age in connection with God’s angels.

The Bible refers to angels in heaven, but nowhere does it indicate that a believer should look forward to fellowship with these exalted beings, great in power. The Christian’s portion is “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23), and “thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Th. 4:17). We shall be there in worshiping adoration, falling down before the throne, singing of the worthiness of the Lord Jesus as Creator and Redeemer, and as the One worthy to loose judgment upon the earth.

Nowhere do we find saints in the presence of the Lord looking back on the earth, occupied with the persons and circumstances that were part of their former life on earth. From reading Scripture carefully I would believe that we will be aware of things that are happening as the Lord visits judgment upon this guilty world. But then we will see things from His point of view, for our old, fleshly nature will no longer be a part of us. Until the rapture, only our soul and spirit are in that wonderful condition of bliss with the Lord, for our bodies are in the grave or elsewhere. At the rapture, our body will be changed to be like the Lord’s present body of glory, and it will again be united to our soul and spirit. Our portion as redeemed saints is higher far than that of angels, and our interest and joy will be to gaze on the lovely face of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ with hearts bowed in adoration.

The rich man, we read, “also died and was buried.” He may have had many servants during his lifetime, but there were no angels to serve him after his death. He was “in torments in Hades, longing for a drop of water.” He thought of his five brothers and wanted them warned so they would not come to this place of torment. Hades, the place of torment for the soul and spirit of the unsaved dead, is not a place a person can enjoy together with his friends and loved ones. Our Lord described the destination of the unsaved dead as a place of outer darkness where there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth – there is no fellowship in such horrible suffering!

The person suffering in hades will already be in extraordinary torment in the flame. He will be able to remember what he had in his life on earth and will doubtless remember every opportunity he had to be saved, which he neglected or rejected. Also, he will be made conscious of that great gulf that will forever keep him where he is – lost and eternally separated from God. He will have no chance to change his condition or to go back and warn others against coming to that dreadful place he is in. And hell, the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, will be full torment for body, soul and spirit forever and ever. No one becomes an angel there or tenderly watches his loved ones back on earth to see what they are doing. He has absolutely no ability to help anyone then.

It is here on earth that God invites us to receive the salvation His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has wrought for us on the cross at Calvary. Then one day soon we will be with Him forever. On the other hand, to reject or neglect to receive the salvation God so freely offers us will result in the eternally fatal consequences of hell forever. Choose now, for God says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”! (2 Cor. 6:2).