In the fellowship hall after my grandmother’s memorial service, Jerry and I were looking at the memory board covered with old family photos. He pointed to a photo of Grandma with my cousin Lisa—Jerry’s wife, who had died a couple of years prior. He said, “There’s two angels for heaven.”
I nodded, and said nothing, because my first thought was, “No, angels are different.” But that was not the right time or place for a theology lesson.
If it comforts the bereaved to think of their departed loved ones as “angels,” I’m not going to deter them. I disable Editor Mode and remember they’re using the word metaphorically, as one might say of one who did you a huge service, “she’s an angel.”
The Bible occasionally uses the word “angel” — literally, “messenger,” — to describe prophets and priests and others who bring messages from God. But the principal meaning of the term is to describe “a race of spiritual beings of a nature exalted far above that of man, although infinitely removed from that of God” (Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary).
As Christians — and especially Christian writers — it is vital that we have our theology straight about angels. Jesus said we will be like angels — not actually become angels (Matt. 22:30, Mark 12:25).
For example, Martha Williamson, the executive producer of the TV series Touched by an Angel, ran into a problem with the show’s pilot episode. She inherited it from another producer, and it was wrong. Like the series Highway to Heaven before it, the original Touched by an Angel pilot featured an angel, but in the backstory the character had been a human who died and became an angel.
The pilot I saw portrayed angels as recycled dead people with power over life and death. They didn’t treat one another with respect, and the show gave the audience the option of believing in them. I felt anyone wanting to see a show about angels would expect to see heavenly beings who were enthusiastic about their work, did it with joy and integrity, and loved their Boss.
Williamson re-wrote the pilot and developed the series with a right understanding of angelic beings. It ran for nine years. In Hollywood, that’s a long time.
Angels are not the spirits of dead people. They are a different order of created being. As different from humans as humans are from squids. Maybe more so.
What novels, movies, or other media do you think have done an excellent job of truthfully depicting angels?