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!
Universal Audience of Ultimate Truth for Salvation
Ultimately all ethics depends on individual consideration, mandated in Leviticus 19:18 “Love your neighbor as yourself,” also found in Confucius Analects 12:2, Buddhist Udana Vagna 5:1 and Matthew 7:1. Consistency is the hobgoblin of limited minds as God and Truth are incomprehensible (Isaiah 40:25) and dogma and ideology are idolatry which detracts from evidence based realism. This is why the only answer can be a question. All creativity and science is divine (1 Cor 3:5-9). Jesus opposed traditionalist Sadducees and fundamentalist Pharisees but embraced syncretic Samaritans. Jesus was nothing if not anticlerical “Do as they say, not as they do” (Mt 23:1). Isn’t it odd the fundamentalists quote scripture by number as if lawyers? Meek means tranquil, not humble. Meekness is devoid of the passion of just war which divides and obfuscates. (Jer 17:9, Eph 2:3). God expected his prophets to question his wrath and tormented them when they didn’t so he expects us to interrogate his scriptures (John 5:39, Matthew 6:34), valuing difficult questions.
Hades (Sheol) was a holding place from which Jesus freed us, not a banishment. “gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn”. (Matthew 3:12 ) There is no purgatory, burning is into oblivion. “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ) Today! Saints intecede! If Jesus told us to be like the children (Matt 18:3) how could he believe them to have Original Sin? Mary CHOSE, by Free Will, to be sinless and surrendered herself to the service of God, as God long awaited (Luke 1:30). Luther said “Mary is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God” (24:107) and “There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know.” (10:268). God lived in the Temple (Exodus 36:8) so as Mary bore God she replaced the Temple which was destroyed when she rose exactly on Tisha B’Av, the original lent of eating only fish because fish survived Noah’s flood.
God is beyond time and reason, not being limited by the dimensions that govern our world (Isaiah 57:15). God’s perspective on time is far different from man (Psalm 102:12, 24-27). God sees all of eternity’s past and eternity’s future, hence free will and predestination do not contradict. Since He is the Alpha AND the Omega, there can be no historical progression which is satanic anthropolatry. Parable of Talents (Matt 25:14-30) confirms the glory of capitalism over slothful envy of socialism. Parable of Warehouse is about being obsessed with what we have so we stop living. Superachievers aren’t concerned with accumulation but with constant achievement, seeking to ever use their gifts to the fullest (Calvin Institutes 3.7.5). James 2:14-18,26 shows that while faith is the essential prerequisite, you cannot escape the need for works as well. Half the planet worships to the Psalms of David so stop renaming them as your own hymnals. A Republic of Judges was preferred by God over the Reign of Kings. (1 Sam 8:6-18) The clothing and responsibilities of the Cohens (chief priests) resembles the early bishops (overseers) and of rabbis with the pastors (presbyters, elders). Paul’s word for fornication meant prostitution instead. Paul’s word for masturbation meant malady. Paul’s word for sycophant meant slander. Magog meant Mongol. Jesus came to fulfill not repeal the Law (Matt 5:17) as Pharisees were condemned because they syncretized vindictive Roman natural law over Jubilee redemptory Deuteronomy law. Moneychangers were racist about Roman coins. Redemptory confession is from 2 Chron 7:14 and Resurrection from Dan 12:2, Ezek 37:12-17, and Isaiah 26:19. Forgiveness is found in Isaiah 33:24, Isaiah 55:7, Jeremiah 3:22, Numbers 14,15, Leviticus 6,19,2 Samuel 14:14. Repentance and forgiveness is the undoing of time. Jesus used the lunar calendar, so why do you use the calendar of those that slew him and stole his religion.