Heaven gained another angel.”

“Grandma got her wings. Fly high, sweet angel.”

When a loved one passes away, we often comfort ourselves and each other with the notion that he or she has left this world of sorrow to become something better — an angel.

At the risk of disrupting the operations of sympathy card designers everywhere, statements such as the ones made above are sweet sentiments, but they are bad theology. Humans do not become angels when we die.

There, I said it.

What’s the problem with allowing people to believe such a thing? There’s no real harm in that, right? Well, there is a bit of harm.

To believe humans become angels at death is to undervalue the plan God has for believers in Jesus. In order to truly understand this, let’s go back to the beginning. 

Humans are the only created beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Adam, Eve and their descendants were given the mandate to take authority over creation.  

This order carries beyond our present world, too. God created humans to be a little lower than the angels, but that’s just for now. Hebrews 2 tells us God has subjected the world to come to mankind, not to angels. In Heaven, believers in Jesus will rule and reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 2:26). Oddly enough, that responsibility will include judging angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

It’s remarkable! Human beings who remain faithful to Jesus during our time on Earth will be elevated above the angels in Heaven. 

Knowing full well this is a difficult concept to grasp, let’s think of it in the context of 2 Kings 22. We read how young Josiah became king of Judah when he was 8. No doubt he had people who attended to him, served him, and protected him while he was still too young to responsibly assume his role as king. 

While he was still immature, those people were above Josiah. But when Josiah reached an acceptable age and took over as king, those same people were now under his rule. 

Similarly, humans, who now need the ministering efforts of angels (Hebrews 1:14), will one day “grow up” and be placed in a position to govern over those same angels.

If I have learned anything about God over the years, it is His plan is always bigger than I first assumed. The crazy thing is, He makes mere humans privy to His plan through the pages of the Bible. And there are still parts of that plan about which the angels would like to know more (1 Peter 1:12). 

Certainly, His plan for believers in Jesus is better than becoming an angel. Let us comfort one another with this truth instead of a well-intended falsehood. The truth sounds much more exciting, doesn’t it?