This article is in response to questions asked of me concerning what happens to us during our time of death. What is the role of the angels of God at this time? I apologize that I have to be extremely brief. As you read this, it may interest you to know that recently, I have been diagnosed, for a second time, with small cell cancer in my second lung. Second lung meaning, I’ve already survived small cell cancer in my other lung. Death is a great possibility for me – actually, I expect it. I say this to let you know that what I’m about to say, I do so knowing I will sooner than later prove what I teach.
As discussed in detail in a previous chapter, each Christian has a host of guardian angels assigned to him or her, at the time of their birth to the time of their death. They have been – in most cases unseen – but extremely busy in a thousand different ways in our lives.
Please understand: guardian angels do not keep us from making wrong choices in our lives. We always have our free will and the choices we make today is the life we will live tomorrow – often making the role of the guardian angel much more difficult.
Perhaps there is no other time in our lives when our guardian angels are more active or needed than at the moment of our earthly demise. Death, the event we always cloak in a shroud of mystery, and fear, eventually comes to all of us. Hiding from it, never speaking about it, or being ignorant of it, does not help us at all.
We generally characterize the Angel of Death as a gruesome and ugly creature. We habitually think of him as a person of dread – someone to fear. While that makes for good theatrics and novels, that is hardly the true Angel of Death. As in all illustrations like this, we must discover what the Scripture has to say concerning this particular agent of God.
Before we get to the biblical view of this angel, I want to give you a number of non-biblical views concerning the Death Angel. The electronic Jewish encyclopedia reads, It is said of the angel of death that he is full of eyes. In the hour of death, he stands at the head of the departing one with a drawn sword, to which clings a drop of gall. As soon as the dying man sees the angel, he is seized with a convulsion and opens his mouth, whereupon the angel throws the drop in to it. This drop causes his death; he turns putrid, and his face becomes yellow.
Many regions and religious teachers identify the Angel of Death by the names of Samael, Azrael, and Sariel and of course the most common of all, Satan. By searching many ancient texts, we can find other names for this angel. This is the Christian biblical view, which informs us they are quite involved in continuing to minister and comfort us at the time of our death. No other religion or faith I know of, acknowledges angels ministering to humanity during the event of our separation from our bodies in death.
Learn what I am about to teach you about death and you will understand the worldly view of the Death Angel is mythological, not godly. I am convinced the Children of God should never fear death. I understand the unknown (no matter how much we study the Bible, it remains a truly unknown area) is always frightening. However, the more you learn about guardian angels the less you are going to fear.
The first lesson we need to learn, we (God’s children) do not face death, alone. We did not come into this world alone, and we do not leave it alone. When an heir of God completes this metamorphous and departs this earthly kingdom for the heavenly one, there is a flutter of angelic activity surrounding that soul like never before. Those beings who have been given the custodial care over us for all the years we live on this earth – now with tenderness – ever so carefully deposit their charge into the protective care of another group of angelic beings called The Chariots of Israel. They are the angels who are charged with the mission of safely moving us from this realm to that other we often refer to as Heaven.
There is a good chance you have never heard of these angels. Nonetheless, twice the Scripture speaks of them. We see them once in the Old Testament, and again in the New. The New Testament portion is from one of the teaching of Christ, and the Old Testament reference more-or-less paints the picture of what Jesus is teaching. So let us look at what Jesus had to say first.
Luke chapter 16 contains the information of two individuals who died. The one was a beggar, but godly individual by the name of Lazarus, who was, according to this world a poor, miserable mistake. He had no money, no fame and to the best of our knowledge, his job was one of those homeless persons we see on the street. No one wept at his death, and I could not even guess who paid for this funeral. One more for us taxpayers, I presume. On the other hand, we have Dives, as the old teachers called him. By all accounts, he was the kind of person we all admire. He was a man of wealth, power, and prestige. The kind of person we venerate as being a success. His funeral was the fancy one where everyone mourned.
The great equalizer of all humanity in this world is mortality. It makes no difference who or what we are, there comes a time when we must leave it all behind in death. However, if you are one of God’s own, we do not face death alone because as we learn from Jesus, the angels were at work in the death of Lazarus. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried (Lk 16:22).
Jesus is teaching us that when a child of God dies, he/she is instantly delivered into the hands of a group of angels (and please notice he uses the plural for angels), and they are in charge of delivering that person safely into the presence of God’s rest. We must understand that chance is never a part of the life of the godly. We are always under the sovereign care of God by the means of His angels, and so luck has no role to play in death either. You, dear child of God, are far too precious to go through this experience alone. God understands that our greatest fear is death. In His tender compassion, He has made every provision to comfort and protect us through the unknown by giving a multitude of angels charge to carry us to Him.
Armed with the information Jesus has given us, we can understand the action that actually takes place at the time of our death from this Old Testament illustration. Second Kings, draws back a piece of the curtain far enough for us to get a glimpse of what is happening behind the scene at death. The eminent prophet of God, Elijah, is about to go home i.e. die. In his death, God is going to allow Elisha, his disciple, and us, to observe a small glimpse, of how the angels of God take care of us at the time of our death. As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces (2Ki 2:11-12).
Here we witness the true Scriptural Angel of Death only to discover he is not one being, but an entire squadron of angels. The fact is, I do not know of any time where the Scripture ever hints that any Child of God is ever in the care of only one angel. To cling to that old superstition is to belittle your standing in the Kingdom of God and to disparage God’s love for you. I am stunned at seeing an entire squadron of death angels coming to our side at our demise. This detail springs like a leopard into my soul in amazement. The primary question I ask, is why? What is the reason for putting us into the protective care of all these angels? Most of us would be thrilled to know one angel escorts us into the presence of God. We may find the answer in Scripture if we look carefully. According to Holy Scripture, when we close our eyes in death in this earthly home, we are born into a new heavenly world. We can liken our death to the birth of a baby who leaves the world of his/her mother’s womb and now enters this other world where there are so many gathered around to applaud this child’s arrival. Every child of God entering this new realm comes into the protective care of the second and first division of angels. (I’m sorry but I cannot elaborate in this small article.)
Matthew Henry, the scholarly commentator of the past century suggests these angels are a combination of both the Seraphim and Cherubim class. He says, The angels are called in scripture cherubim and seraphim, and their appearance here, though it may be below their dignity, answers to both their names; for (1) Seraphim signifies fiery, and God is said to make a flame of fire, (Ps. civ. 4.) (2) Cherubim (as many think) signifies chariots, and they are called the chariots of fire. Matthew Henry is not wrong in his analysis. The term seraphim does indeed mean burning ones while the title cherubim are always associated with the glory of God.
From what we can glean from scripture, the seraphim and the cherubim are the most powerful angels the Bible speaks of in the heavenlies and these may make up this company. It is into the hands of these powerful heavenly angels that our earthly guardian angels pass us. As a host of angels walked with us throughout our lives, so to a host of different guardian angels carry us to a new home filled with angels, God, and those who have gone on before us.
Yes, the unknown if always fearful-, but I want to try to comfort you who fear, by saying; we will not face death alone. Christ indeed conquered death and cleared the way for us. We are going to conclude our study of the guardian angels, but I can promise you, there is a wealth of biblical information I could not offer due to limitation. Seek and ye shall find, if you have that desire.