Earning Wings?

As I write this, first of all, I don’t want to come across as being flippant, disrespectful, or insensitive to those who have died or to those they left behind. My aim is not to agitate but rather to educate. With that being said, let me get into what stimulated me to write this post.

I was perusing my Facebook page the other day when I ran across this post of someone commenting about a person who had recently died. I was particularly arrested by their suggestion that the person who had died had; ‘earned their wings!’ Now, this was not the first time I had seen that comment, for across the years, I had read it too many times for me to count! Perhaps, this time for me was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back! At any rate, I felt the need to write this post to address this erroneous idea.

There are basically three errors that are inherent in the notion that when a person dies they have ‘earned their wings.’ First of all, the idea of ‘earning’ is completely opposite of biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that salvation cannot be earned, but rather is the result of God’s unmerited divine favor, known as grace! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church; “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJ) Therefore, there is nothing we can ‘earn’ because everything we receive from God is by God’s grace! The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah wrote: “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. .”  (Isa. 64:6 NKJ) [in the Hebrew text, ‘filthy rags’ is a reference to a woman’s menstrual cloth!] The best we have to offer in regard to earning merit with God is utterly repugnant!

Secondly, where did this idea that we will get ‘wings’ when we die come from? (I wrote about this false notion more extensively in another post: Forever Human). Perhaps it comes from a misunderstanding of a statement Jesus made to the Sadducees in regard to marriage after death. Jesus said: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30 NKJ) Men will be ‘like angel’ in that there will be no marriages, not like angel as in being of the same class of being as angels. And where did we get the idea that angels have wings? The only biblical reference to angelic creatures having wings is in Isaiah 6. If you read carefully, you will note that these creatures were not ordinary angels, but are specifically named as: Serephim. There is no record in the Bible of ordinary angels having wings! In addition to that, a careful and correct reading of the Bible will reveal that the function of angels is to minister to the heirs of salvation. (Hebrews 1:13-14) Therefore, for humans to become angels at death is a demotion rather than a promotion! In God’s hierarchy, angels are beneath us, not above us!

Lastly, I also talked about this more extensively in another post (All Dogs ‘Don’t’ Go To Heaven), but it does not matter how much suffering a person went through on earth, that does not qualify them for Heaven! I know we would like to think that all of our loved-ones and friends are at peace in Heaven, but the biblical truth of the matter is all of them are not! Everybody who has died is not resting in peace! The only thing that qualifies a person for Heaven is a correct relationship with God through Jesus Christ!

I know we say things like this in an effort to comfort the bereaved, but I think it does more harm than good when the comfort is based on false hope! Therefore, as we seek to comfort those who are bereaved, let us be careful to give them real comfort from the Word of God and not false comfort from worldly ideas or Facebook theology!

Conflict Sources and Resolution Principles

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I must say that our world is filled with conflict! But conflict is nothing new to the human experience. In the Bible, the Apostle James presents an interesting point about the source of conflicts in James 4:1-3. James writes: “Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.” (NET: New English Translation)

James suggests (and I agree!) that the source of many conflicts and disputes are internal! In other words, many of the problems that people have with other people stem from problems they have within themselves! Now, if a person is conflicted within themselves, they will naturally have conflicts with other people. If a person can’t get along with themselves; they certainly won’t be able to get along with others! James suggests a big problem is that people ask (God), but they do not receive because they ask with the wrong motivation. That is the one of the main issues I have with the proponents and followers of the so-called ‘prosperity-gospel.’ It seems to me that the main reasons and motivations for faith, prayer, blessings, and prosperity for those who espouse the prosperity gospel is for personal consumption and comfort; not so that the will of God might be done! But at any rate, I digress, let me get back to my main point: conflict sources and resolution principles.

In addition to what the Apostle James says, conflicts are also caused by ‘false beliefs.’ Two of the main false beliefs that cause conflicts are the belief in limitation and the belief in separateness. The belief in limitation is the belief that there is not enough to go around or that there is not enough for everybody. Ironically in some cases, it is the belief in limitation that causes limitations! When people believe there is not enough, they will hoard and stockpile resources, which may in some cases, limits other people’s access to those resources. In turn, the other people, who feel unjustly deprived, might be motivated to rob, steal, or otherwise, get those resources away from the hoarders!

But the truth of the matter is; there really are no limitations, excepts for the limitations we entertain in our own minds! My wife and I recently took a trip to the mountains. As we looked at the vast display of God’s glory in nature, we were amazed by the fact that with so many people in the world, there is still an abundance of open space and land practically untouched by man! We observed an abundance of trees, water, air, and nature! There truly is enough to go around! In fact, there is more than enough! But limitations occur because of the false belief in limitation, which in turn, causes people to hoard resources, which in turn, causes some people to seek to rob, steal, kill, and otherwise take what others have because they think others having is the reason they don’t have! The false belief of limitations sponsors the idea that life is a competition for resources. Therefore, we all are competing, and in all competition, there are winners and losers! Consequently, in order for me to win in life, it is necessary that you lose or vice versa! The results of this false belief is naturally; conflict!

The other false belief that is a main source of conflict is the belief in separateness. Simply put, this is the belief that every person is ‘distinctly separate’ from every other individual. Now in a sense, there is a certain degree of separateness, that’s why we are called; ‘individuals.’ But at the core of our existence; we are all ‘one!’ When all the racial, ethnic, cultural, social, and skin-color layers are removed; we are all one! We all came from the same Source!

Racial conflicts stem from the false belief of separateness! But biologically and spiritually, every human is one with every other human! Doctors will confirm that blood and other essential body parts from African-Americans are easily transplantable into a compatible Anglo-Saxon Caucasian recipient! I wonder how many avowed White racists would refuse a heart transplant and die just because the donor was a Black person?

In the Bible, in Jeremiah 13:23, the proverbial questions are asked: “Can the Cushite change his skin, or a leopard his spots?” Of course, the answer to both questions is; ‘no!” But then other questions arise: Why should or why would the Cushite and the leopard want to change their skin and their spots? It is foolish to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin on several fronts! Number one: No person has any control over the color of their skin! No one chooses their racial ethnicity. Therefore, no person can rightfully boast or be ashamed of their racial ethnicity! Secondly, as the Temptations (the singing group) sang years ago: “Beauty is only skin-deep!” The color of a person’s skin says nothing about their character or personality! Therefore, when all of the layers are removed, we are all the same and to mistreat one another is to mistreat ourselves! Not only that, but to mistreat one another is to mistreat the Source from whence we all came! Or, as the Apostle John put it in the Bible: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 Jn. 4:20-5:1 KJV) We are all brothers in a sense because we all came from God!

The greatest resolution principle of all time is the Golden Rule! Jesus said: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NASB: New American Standard Bible) It’s so simple! Most conflicts can be resolved by just simply treating other people the way you want to be treated! It you don’t want to be abused; don’t abuse! If you don’t want to be discriminated against; don’t discriminate! If you don’t want to be killed; don’t kill! If you don’t want to be taken advantage of; don’t take advantage of others! Nothing overtly religious or even holy or spiritual about it! It’s just common sense and human decency! Most conflicts would be resolved or even avoided by simply following the Golden Rule!