What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?

(Note: This post is a slightly edited version of a question and answer I recently wrote and posted on Christianity StackExchange. You can see the StackExchange version here.)

Clarence and George: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Clarence and George: It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Many Christians, and many people living in predominantly Christian cultures, believe that people who die become angels.

This belief is reflected in numerous popular novels and movies, such as the classic 1946 American movie It’s a Wonderful Life, in which a guardian angel named Clarence occasionally refers to events of his life (and death) as a human being on earth.

And when someone has died, family members and friends of the deceased person commonly speak of him or her as being an angel in heaven now.

What is the biblical basis for the belief that human beings become angels after they die?

For what the Bible says about angels and people, click here to read on.

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Posted in The Afterlife, The Bible Re-Viewed

Easter, Resurrection, and the Germanwings Airliner Crash

On March 24, 2015, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz took his place in the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525, originating in Barcelona, Spain. The destination was Düsseldorf, Germany.

Lubitz had done his research. He was ready. He just had to wait for the right opportunity.

That opportunity came when the pilot on the flight, Patrick Sondenheimer, asked Lubitz to take the controls and left the cockpit, presumably to use the restroom. The plane had reached its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet just a few minutes before.

Once he was alone in the cockpit, Lubitz locked the reinforced cockpit door, taking advantage of improvements to airline security made in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Then he put the plane on a rapid descent path.

The pilot returned, and tried to re-enter the cockpit. When he couldn’t get in, he asked Lubitz on the intercom to open the door. There was no response. The pilot pounded on the door, and tried repeatedly to break it down, but the door held. Lubitz ignored both the pilot and questions from air traffic control over the radio. He did not transmit a distress call. Just before impact, the passengers began screaming. Through it all, Lubitz’s breathing remained steady, as recorded on the cockpit voice recorder.

Germanwings flight 9525 crash site from the crash on March 24, 2015

Germanwings flight 9525 crash site

Lubitz knew exactly what he was doing. The inescapable conclusion is that he intentionally flew the plane into the mountains in a remote part of France. Initial investigations revealed that he suffered from severe depression, and had been contemplating suicide. His weapon of choice for his suicide was airplane filled with 150 people, all of whom died instantly on impact. Among the dead were sixteen schoolchildren returning home from a student exchange trip.

This tragedy happened less than two weeks before the Sunday on which Western Christians celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How can we make sense of this senseless loss of 149 innocent lives at the hands of one man committing suicide under the stress of severe depression? Where is God in terrible disasters like this?

For more on Easter and Germanwings, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Pain and Suffering

What Kind of a King is That???

The King.

For most people these days, it has an old-fashioned sound.

Yes, there is still some royalty left in the world. But few of today’s royals have any real power. Today, the powerful people of the earth are called President, Prime Minister, or Premier—and in the business world, CEO or Chairman of the Board.

In the ancient Biblical world, if you took all those leaders, rolled them into one, and gave that person absolute power within the nation, that would be the king. Common people would bow and tremble before the king, knowing that he held in his hands the power of life or death over them. One word from him, and their days on this earth would be over. A different word from him, and they and their family would be lifted up to prominence, wealth, and power.

For people in Bible times, “The King” stirred up deep and powerful feelings of pride or of fear, of safety from enemies and oppressors or of ruin and death for themselves and their families.

Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem

Jesus rides into Jerusalem

These and many more powerful thoughts and emotions ran through the heart and mind of the crowd as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a ceremonial donkey. They were suffering under the oppressive yoke of Rome. Here was a King of Israel, a descendant of David their great king! Here was the Messiah, who would throw off that Roman yoke and rule over them with justice in their own independent, sovereign nation once again!

And so Jesus, jubilantly hailed by the crowd as a king upon his entry into Jerusalem, went directly to . . . the Temple?

For more on Jesus the King, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, The Bible Re-Viewed

Prosperity Gospel is Spiritually Bankrupt

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Richard Neer:

Hi Lee,

What is your position on Prosperity Gospel? I find the notion ridiculous, if not downright absurd! The premise that tithing promises health and wealth seems quite far-fetched. It does not promote spiritual growth. In fact, the only growth I see it promoting is the personal pocketbooks of the pastors and/or preachers behind the pulpit. Though I can understand and agree that donations to church groups and organizations can be fulfilling for some and even, to a degree, necessary for the continued existence of an organization (non-profit, in theory!), the in-your-face over-the-top request below is one I can’t fathom how anyone can actually make with a straight face, much less be absolutely serious about.

This current CNN article just shocks me and makes me wonder, “Is humanity so hopelessly lost, or are people just that ignorant these days?”

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/living/creflo-dollar-jet-feat/index.html

Thanks for the good question, Richard. Short version: I agree with you 100%!

Prosperity Gospel

Prosperity Gospel

How Prosperity Gospel even qualifies as a religious teaching is beyond me. Yes, Prosperity Gospel preachers talk about God, the Bible, and other religious subjects. But the goal of this “Gospel” has nothing to do with love for God or love for the neighbor. Instead, it’s all about gaining worldly wealth and success for oneself.

That, to me, is not religion. It is a spiritually bankrupt substitute for religion.

However, despite its spiritual bankruptcy, it does serve a use for some people as a stepping stone toward something better—which, I believe, is why God allows it to exist.

First, what is Prosperity Gospel?

For more on the spiritual bankruptcy of Prosperity Gospel, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Money and Business

“The World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket!”

“O tempora, o mores!”

Marcus Tullius Cicero growled these famous words to the Roman senate in the first century BC to decry the deterioration of civilized society. “Oh the times!” he lamented. “Oh the standards!”

Today, over two thousand years later, the world is still going to hell in a handbasket.

The evidence is all around us. There are wars and insurgencies everywhere. Every day political corruption is exposed in one place or another, and disgraced politicians scuttle off to exile, prison, or death. Traditional marriage is breaking down. The divorce rate is soaring. And what’s the matter with kids today?

For more on the end of society as we know it, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science, Philosophy, and History

What if My Partner and I Have Different Religious Beliefs? Can Interfaith Marriage Work?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by an anonymous reader:

Hi Lee,

I love reading all of your articles, they’re incredibly easy to relate to. I personally am not religious but I do believe in God and believe I have a personal relationship with God and don’t necessarily believe following an organized religion is for me. However, my boyfriend is currently finding his faith which I have been nothing but supportive about – but he feels it is imperative to be on the exact same page spiritually and have the same religious beliefs. I personally believe our core values are the same and we both are great people – I don’t believe going to church every Sunday makes one individual any better than the next. I even go to church with him because I appreciate the rich culture and history of the experience, but that’s more how I see it. I tried to explain to him that if we’re both open minded and respectful then that’s all that matters. I’m willing to go to church but he needs to be understanding that I may not have the same outlook on it. I come from a Muslim background but wasn’t raised so. My dad doesn’t believe in God and my mom does but more abstractly than holy books explain. However both of them have a “to each his own” perspective and never influenced me in the matter and let me make my own decisions. Therefore, it’s hard for me to associate with a religion when I come from a different background and I believe all religions are great and holy so why not just continue living a good life and not associate with any of them? Do you think this relationship is doomed? How do I approach a situation like this? I feel pressured to change my beliefs and abide to his in fear of losing him but I believe God made us each individually and I know He sees nothing wrong with me not being religious as long as I do good and live my life compassionately and tolerantly.

Thanks so much for the help, any insight is greatly appreciated.

Glad you enjoy the articles. Thanks! And your question is a great one!

In fact, here is another Spiritual Conundrum submitted on the very same day by a reader named Confused:

I’m in love with and dating a non-Christian, and I myself am a Christian. I would not ever turn my back on my beliefs as that is turning away from God, but I don’t ever want to force him to make a change he does not want to make. Yet I feel like we are so far apart spiritually when we are so close in every other way. What do I do?

A century or two ago, most people lived in places where almost everyone around them was the same religion. Today, we live in a global society where people commonly meet—and fall in love with—others who come from different religious backgrounds. This creates challenges that only a few of our great-grandparents had to face.

I wish I could just say, “No problem! Go for it!” But as both of you—and many others—have already discovered, it’s more complicated than that.

Every situation is unique. For some couples, having different religious beliefs may be no problem at all. For others, it may indeed doom the relationship.

An interfaith wedding ceremony - Christian / Jewish

An interfaith wedding ceremony

(Image courtesy of: The Wedding Yentas)

I can offer some thoughts that may help those who are facing this issue to get some handle on it. But in the end, it is a very personal decision. I can’t tell you what to do. Only you are in your shoes, and only you can decide whether or how to continue in a relationship in which the two of you do not share the same religious beliefs.

That said, let’s take a closer look.

For more on partners with different religious beliefs, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex, Marriage, Relationships

God is Love . . . And That Makes All the Difference in the World

God is love - 1 John 4:8

God is love

God is love.

A nice sentiment. It’s the sort of thing those dreamy-eyed Christians say.

But it’s not very practical.

Or is it?

Consider this: God created the universe.

Now does the idea that God is love sound a little more practical?

In case it still seems dreamy-eyed, let’s tease it out with a little thought experiment.

For more on God is love, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

Kindness and Caring in Business

Business and industry has gotten a reputation in some quarters as being a heartless, soulless behemoth whose only interest is in racking up money and profits for the people at the top.

But even if that reputation may be partially deserved, there’s much more to commerce than that.

Yasir Moore being helped at Target

Yasir Moore being helped at Target

Business and industry is also where many millions of ordinary people serve their communities day in and day out, stitching together with their mind, their hands, and yes, their hearts, the fabric of human society.

It would be impossible to list the billions of daily transactions and services we engage in for one another in the course of our daily work. The cashier ringing up your groceries, the mechanic fixing your car, the waiter or waitress bringing you your morning eggs and coffee at the diner, the pharmacist putting together your prescription . . . these and countless other activities that we do in the course of our business and employment are what keep us going each day.

Most of the time we don’t even think about it. Vast amounts of daily labor and service just seems to happen so that we can have food to eat, clothing to wear, a place to live, and a few of the enjoyments of life.

We may not even notice what a vital role commerce plays in elevating our lives until we see businesses and employees going above and beyond the call of duty to do exceptional things for the people they serve.

Let’s look at a few recent, heart-warming examples.

For more on kindness and caring in business, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Money and Business

Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity

Three Spiritual Conundrums have recently been submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life on the subject of homosexuality. First, from QuestioningMale:

PLEASE shed some light on Homosexuality.

I am a CHRISTIAN – never been abused, molested, etc. who has attended church ever since I was born. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior as a child and have been a Christian for many, many years.

I have also been gay for as LONG as I can remember.

I need some help on this. I have recently met a man, and I truly, truly care for him…

HELP me with this!

Some theological responses I read say that Homosexuality is mistranslated in the Bible and of course we know the opposite.

Thanks for your help…

Then from Cianna200:

Hello Lee, I am Cianna I’m an ex Christian and a Wiccan. I have a question. What do you believe about homosexuality? I am not gay but would like to know. I read a website about someone who claimed to speak to Jesus and he said “People choose to be gay. Homosexuality is because of bad karma and being gay is not okay. It is unnatural and not a creation of God.” I understand that Jesus did not condemn homosexuality in the bible and gay people who had near death experiences were not told that their homosexuality is wrong. Many Christians condemn homosexuality because of a few bible passages while other Christians have a problem with anti gay views. I must say I am a biromantic person and I am made to feel ashamed of it because what if Jesus really said that. Is homosexuality really something unhealthy and abnormal?

And then from Dennis Cobb:

Why do you feel homosexuality is alright with God? Clearly, we should love them, not agree with their lifestyle.

God Bless You

Thanks, QuestioningMale, Cianna200, Dennis Cobb, for your questions.

I am far from an expert on homosexuality.

However, I’ve read enough and experienced enough to know that there is a lot of prejudicial, uninformed thinking that leads to a lot of sloppy Biblical and theological scholarship on this issue. And that causes a lot of needless pain and suffering for many people.

What I can offer is the results of my own thinking on this issue developed over many years, based on:

  • my knowledge and study of the Bible
  • my knowledge and study of the writings of my favorite theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772)
  • my general reading and study on homosexuality and related issues, and
  • my experience of gays and lesbians among my friends and acquaintances and in the culture generally.

If that interests you, then settle in and get comfortable, because this is going to take some time! Along the way, I hope I’ll provide satisfactory answers to the questions in these three Spiritual Conundrums.

For more on the homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex, Marriage, Relationships

What does Emanuel Swedenborg Say about Homosexuality?

This article is for people who want to know what Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) says on the subject of homosexuality.  If you’re not interested in that, you can safely skip it. For the broader picture, and my reasons for writing these two articles about homosexuality from a Christian perspective, please see the companion article, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.”

While many Swedenborgian ministers and laypeople accept homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality, a great deal has been written by conservative Swedenborgian ministers arguing that Swedenborg condemns homosexuality as evil and contrary to God’s will. I am not aware of any article currently in print that considers their arguments point by point. This article is intended to fill that gap.

Writing and publishing these articles is not something that I particularly enjoy doing. It’s just something that must be done to help dispel a large weight of faulty thinking and bad scholarship swirling through our society and our world on the subject of homosexuality.

People’s lives—physical, social, and spiritual—are at stake. Although I would prefer to avoid the subject entirely, I cannot in good conscience stand idly by and say nothing.

For more on Swedenborg and homosexuality, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex, Marriage, Relationships
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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Earlier Posts
Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly, Fryeburg, Maine, August 2012

Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly

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