Can Angels and Spirits Talk to People on Earth?
What About Them Angels?
Angels have become firmly embedded in our popular culture. They appear in countless movies, television shows, books, and websites. But can we really know anything about them? Do we even know for sure that angels exist?
Anyone who doesn’t want to believe in angels can reject them as fantasies and illusions. But for those who are open to the possibility of their existence, there is plenty of information available. Some of the best information is found in Emanuel Swedenborg’s popular book Heaven and Hell, published over 250 years ago.
Swedenborg tells us that angels were originally born as people on earth who lived out their lives here. In heaven, they live in human communities where they have husbands, wives, friends, jobs, homes, hobbies, and everything else we have here on earth . . . only better! Imagine what earth would be like if everyone cared about everyone else, and spent their lives doing good things for other people. That would be heaven!
Can angels talk to people on earth? Yes! But this is something God grants us when God sees that we need it for some reason.
Angels: Aliens or Earthlings?
Who are the angels, and where do they come from?
In traditional Christian lore, angels are higher beings who are separate creations of God, and who have inhabited heaven since it was first created. Based on visions of celestial beings seen by the ancient prophets, they are usually pictured as looking like humans with wings.
In recent centuries that view of angels has begun to fade—in part because of the reports of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) in his most popular book, Heaven and Hell. Swedenborg tells us that angels are not alien beings at all. They are human beings just like you and me who have lived out their lives on earth and then gone on to live in heaven.
Angels are not some higher order of being. Twice in the Bible when the apostle John was about to worship the angel who was speaking to him, the angel forbade him, making himself equal to John, the prophets, and all those who obey God (Revelation 19:10, 22:9). And though there are visions of winged beings in the Bible, they are never identified as angels. In fact, when angels appear in the Bible, they are identified as people. (See, for example, Daniel 9:21; Judges 13:6; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12.) Also, in Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word “angel” simply means “messenger.”
All of this leads to the conclusion that angels are not some higher order of being created separately by God. They are people who have lived loving, thoughtful, and useful lives on earth, and are now living in heaven. The ones God sent to talk to people on earth were called “messengers.” The name stuck, and was brought into English as our word “angels.”
The Scenery of the Spiritual World
If angels are just ordinary people who have gone on to live in heaven, what’s heaven like? Do angels sit on clouds playing harps for all of eternity? Now that would be tedious. Even harpists need a break now and then!
In fact, heaven is not as different from earth as many people think. As poets through the ages have sensed, a tree, a cloud, the sun, the moon, the stars, a deer, a spider all express human states of mind and heart. In other words, they express spiritual realities in a material form. What we see around us on earth is a reflection of what exists in heaven.
Because of this, the scenery in the spiritual world looks very much like the scenery in the material world. There are mountains, hills, streams, lakes, oceans, trees, plants, fish, birds, animals, and yes, towns and cities just as there are here on earth. In short, everything that exists in the material world exists in the spiritual world also.
Angels live in tents, houses, mansions, or palaces, all according to their spiritual state. They can take a walk in the woods, swim in the river, or play a game of tennis at the local tennis courts. They can go to the theater, attend an outdoor concert, or host a party. It is all very familiar from scenes and experiences on earth.
Except . . . it’s different. In heaven, everything is brighter, more colorful, more beautiful, and more alive than the corresponding things here on earth. That’s because spiritual reality responds quickly and fully to the state of the human heart and mind. In heaven, everything we see around us reflects what we are thinking and feeling within us.
Imagine the scenery that would correspond to the spirits of the most warm, loving, thoughtful, and kind people you know, and you will be imagining the scenery of heaven.
Everyday Life in Heaven
Just as the scenery around us in heaven is very familiar, but more beautiful, so is the daily life of the angels. They live in towns and cities, each by their households, each in their neighborhoods. Some live apart in remote areas, while others live surrounded by a sea of humanity in densely populated cities.
Every angel also has an occupation and daily work. That work is just as varied as the different jobs and careers here on earth—in fact, far more so. There are teachers and scholars, greeters and guides for newly arrived people, parents for infants and children who have died and gone to heaven, governors and town officials, spiritual health care workers, and yes, even prison guards to keep evil spirits from breaking out and harming innocent people. There are also artisans, craftspeople, and other types of workers. Every occupation here on earth has a corresponding occupation in heaven.
One difference in heaven, though, is that everyone works because they love their work, not because they have to work. In heaven, all the necessities of life are provided. This is often done through the hands of other angels and spirits. Angels willingly contribute without thinking about their own needs, and those needs are freely fulfilled by everyone around them, and by God.
Of course, angels don’t work all day and all night. That would be just as fatiguing there as it would be here. When angels’ daily work is done, they have plenty of free time for relaxation, recreation, reading, study, or whatever serves to refresh their minds and bodies. One common schedule is to do the daily work in the morning, and have the afternoon and evening free for other activities.
There are also regular meals with delicious food and drink. And what is wonderful, the food is made of God’s love, and the drink is made of God’s wisdom. So angels’ meals refresh both their bodies and their spirits at the same time.
Angels do sleep. After a day full of intense activity, they need that down time for rejuvenation just as we do on earth. It never gets fully dark in heaven, but there is a time of twilight when angels retire to their homes and beds.
These days it is popular for people to “contact their angels.”
Can angels really talk to us? The short answer is yes.
We humans have both physical senses and spiritual senses. Under ordinary circumstances, as long as we are living in our physical body our physical senses are open and our spiritual senses are closed. When we die and leave our physical body behind, we will continue living in our spiritual body (see 1 Corinthians 15:44). Our spiritual senses will then be opened, and we will see the angels and spirits of those who have died before us, as well as all the scenery of the spiritual world.
However, it is possible for our spiritual senses to be opened while we are still living in the physical body.
We can know this from the Bible. Physical eyes cannot see spiritual things. So whenever people in the Bible saw angels or saw visions of heaven, they were seeing them with their spiritual eyes, not their physical eyes. Most of them were not aware of this. But in the book of Revelation John often says that he was “in the spirit” and that “heaven was opened” to him. In other words, what he described in that book, he saw and heard with his spiritual senses.
Now, the people of Bible times were not made any differently than we are today. So if it was possible for them to talk to angels, it is possible for us also. And many people today have had the experience of receiving messages from spiritual beings.
The Veil that Separates
Then why don’t we see and hear angels all the time?
First of all, it would be very distracting! Personally, I need my attention right here in the material world most of the time just to make sure the hammer hits the nail (not my thumb) and the car stays on the road (not in the ditch). If angels were talking to us all the time, we’d never get anything done!
But more seriously, one of the reasons angels and spirits don’t talk to us so much these days is that many people either deny their existence or have serious doubts. And some people simply have no interest in anything beyond this material world with its activities, relationships, and pleasures. To protect our spiritual freedom, God keeps us unaware of the angels and spirits around us if we don’t believe in them or don’t want anything to do with them.
Who’s on the other end?
There is another reason God usually keeps our spiritual senses closed.
It would be nice if angels were the only spiritual beings out there. But as we know from the Bible and from human experience through the ages, if there are angels, there are also devils—otherwise known as evil spirits. And while angels want to help us on our journey toward heaven, evil spirits love nothing more than misleading us, tripping us up, and sending us stumbling down toward hell.
That’s why seeking angel encounters can be a risky business. We don’t have any phone book for heaven. If we “place a call” to the spiritual world, it’s hard to know who will pick up on the other end. We might get lucky and get a real angel. Or we might get an evil spirit pretending to be an angel—which they are perfectly capable of doing (see 2 Corinthians 11:14; Matthew 24:24). Evil spirits will tell us whatever we want to hear—all mixed in with a lot of false and misleading “information” about spiritual reality.
There are hundreds, even thousands of people making statements and writing books based on what angels and spirits have told them. All of them believe they have the real, honest-to-goodness truth. And many of them contradict each other. The fallacy is thinking that just because we’re being contacted by someone in the spiritual world, that means they must know the truth, and are telling the truth.
Spirits are just people who have passed on to the other life. Entering the spiritual world does not automatically fill us with all knowledge. In particular, people who cling to false ideas here will continue to cling to them after they die.
What it amounts to is this: We shouldn’t automatically believe everything that comes from angels and spirits any more than we should uncritically believe everything we hear on the street. No matter where a piece of information comes from, it’s best to use our thinking mind to evaluate it. And if something seems fishy, there’s a good chance that it is fishy—even if an “angel” told us.
Does this mean we should avoid all contact with the spiritual world? Not at all. If God sees fit to send us an angel at some key turning point in our lives, we can accept it with gladness, and let the angel do his or her healing work in our lives.
Further, according to Swedenborg, angels do not wish to teach us things about heaven. Why? Because they don’t want to take away our freedom to think and believe as we wish. So if we have a real angel encounter, it is likely to be an “inspirational video,” not an instructional one. And we can all use a little inspiration from time to time!
Heaven picks up where earth leaves off
Heaven is the human community that we choose and build when we love to do good and useful things for other people. If we love God and our fellow human beings, and devote our lives to serving them in our own unique way using our own unique skills and talents, we are building a life of heaven for ourselves and for those around us even while we are living here on earth. That life of heaven simply continues after we die, only in a nicer neighborhood.
Depending on our life choices here on earth, we will each be sorted into our own place after death. That place will be in a community of people who share similar loves, beliefs, and interests—and we will live the life we love with those people to eternity.
Perhaps you think this might get boring.
But consider the life of a devoted scientist or a dedicated teacher. Does either of them ever run out of new things to discover or new joys in sharing knowledge and understanding with others?
Remember, God is infinite, while we humans are finite. No matter how much spiritual progress we have made, no matter how much we have learned, no matter how deeply we have loved, if our sights are set on God there will always be infinitely more.
Every morning when we wake up in heaven there will be new love, new learning, and new things to accomplish awaiting us. And that will keep us excited and invigorated in the activities and discoveries of each new day forever.
This article is © 2013 by Lee Woofenden
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