Where Angels Come From

Many people take it as a matter of course that when we die, if we are good, we will become angels in heaven. There are many Christians, on the other hand, who believe that angels are members of a superior race of spiritual beings, who were created before the world began. Some even picture angels, as having wings and living among the clouds. This concept of angels, however, is not solidly based on the Bible. In fact, the Bible gives us quite a few reasons for believing that angels are simply people who have died and gone to heaven.

1. The Bible says that angels are “men” or “people.”

Clear evidence that angels are people is that the Bible calls them people repeatedly.

  • The Bible says that “the man Gabriel” appeared to Daniel (Daniel 9:21), but Gabriel is later called an angel (Luke 1:19).
  • Two angels visited Sodom to rescue Lot (Genesis 19:1) and they were also called “men” later in the story (Genesis 19:10) and when they had visited Abraham earlier (Genesis 18:16, 22).
  • The Bible says that angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah and his wife, yet also says that this angel is a “man of God” or simply a “man” (Judges 13: 3, 6, 8-11).
  • A man came to Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8), and in the next sentence (v. 9) he is called an angel. Again in the next verse (v. 10) he is called a man again, and then (v. 11) an angel.
  • When Jesus rose from the grave two angels appeared at the tomb, according to John (John 20:12). Yet it is clear from Luke that they were two men (Luke 24:4, cf. Mark 16:5)

2. Angels look like people.

There is no mention in the Bible of angels having wings. In fact, when angels appeared to Abraham and Lot, they did not look any different from other people. The people who saw them did not even realize that they were angels. That is why Paul says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). The only thing which might distinguish angels from people in appearance is that sometimes the face and clothes of angels appear shining (Daniel 10:6, Matt 28:3, Luke 24:4). This does not mean angels are a different race. Moses’ face also shone after speaking with God (Exodus 34:29), and Jesus said that after death all good people will “shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). There are descriptions of cherubim and seraphim with wings (and also with heads and bodies of various animals), but the Bible never calls them angels.

3. Both are described by the same terms.

In both Hebrew and Greek, the words for “angel” simply mean “messenger.” When people from the spiritual world appeared, they usually brought messages from the Lord, so they were called “messengers” (Greek angeloi). Being an angel is a matter of one’s function or office, not one’s race. In this respect the word “angel” is like the words “king” and “prophet”—it describes the person’s function. In fact, since the word for angel means “messenger” it is used to describe people on earth who are messengers. For example, the prophet Haggai and John the Baptist were called messengers or “angels” of the Lord because they spoke for Him (Haggai 1:13, Malachi 3:1).

Sometimes the Bible uses special names to refer to angels, such as “the holy ones” (Daniel 4: 13,17), “the sons of God,” or even “gods” (Psalm 8:5). Yet people still on earth are also called “holy ones” (Psalm 30: 4 and many other places, usually translated “saints”), “sons of God” (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1-2), or even “gods” (Psalm 82:6). In short, the words used to describe angels are also used to describe people on earth.

4. Angels themselves reject the idea that they are superior beings.

When the apostle John fell at the feet of an angel to worship him, the angel said, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10). Later John echoes this idea when he speaks of “The measure of a man, that is of an angel” (Revelation 21:17).

5. The Bible never mentions angels being created.

Even though the creation story carefully includes everything else in creation: sun, moon, stars, people, animals, birds, plants, ocean, fish, even insects and worms. But no angels! (Genesis 1) The reason is that people were created to become angels.

6. We become just like the angels after death.

Jesus Himself said that those who are worthy become after death “equal to angels” (Luke 20:36, Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25), and would have similar powers (Luke 10:17,19; Mark 16:17,18; 11:23; John 14:12).

It is understandable that some people would think that angels are superior beings, since they do have power and radiance that surpasses what we experience on earth. However, the Lord has infinite love for people and He wants to give all of us the same glory and happiness that people have sometimes seen when angels have appeared to people on earth. When we let Him live within us, we can all be transformed into such superior beings and become angels after death.