The Death Angels and Our Guardian Angels

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.

Importance of Religious Education in School Curriculum

Where to place religious education in the academic curriculum, is one of the renewed discussions currently highlighted throughout the US. This debate has been motivated by developments planned to minimize provisions by providing a framework for religious education that can advance good practice in teaching and learning and alleviate some of the issues of training teachers and providing high quality resources when each local area may have a different syllabus for the subject.

It has been recognized that the production of high-quality resources for religious education is challenging when publishers cannot be as confident as they are in other curriculum areas that all pupils in a particular key stage will be studying the same topics. Seeking agreement on what might constitute a national framework for religious education has been a protracted and carefully negotiated process requiring decisions to be made regarding what should be recommended and with what degree of prescription. Determining the curriculum for any subject is bound to be fraught with difficulty, as choices have to be made concerning what to include and so inevitably what to exclude. In religious education the process has always been regarded as particularly sensitive, given the potential for controversy when there is a need to take account of more than one major religious tradition and limited curriculum time available. The emerging consensus as to the desirability of a national framework has been challenged by moves to go beyond the establishing of a set of guidelines to advocating a national syllabus for religious education that would more closely mirror the provision for other subjects in the English National Curriculum.

At the same time as this issue has preoccupied religious educators, other advancements in the syllabus have challenged the addition of religious education as a compulsory subject. The strengthening of personal, social and health studies in the National Curriculum and the introduction of citizenship as an additional compulsory subject has led people to question the worth of religious studies to the education. Religious studies provide a heavy set of arguments that demand serious attention of religious educators, not only in the US but also across other international communities.

Few years ago, there were only four departments of religious studies in British Universities. The recent decision by a university in the UK that was a pioneer in establishing the academic study of religion, as opposed to theology or divinity, to close its department of religious studies and offer staff a merger with a department of theology in a neighboring institution indicates that the claim of the discipline to have a unique contribution to make is still not generally understood and may not be sufficiently convincing to secure its status in the modern university. Nevertheless, religious studies have been regarded as a significant influence on the teaching of religious education in schools. The impact has perhaps been overstated and was in any case largely confined to one aspect of religious studies; the phenomenological approach. Much remains to be done to develop understanding of the relationships between religious studies, theology and religious education.

Harvard Creates Science and Religion Chair

Theologian Harvey Cox, who chronicled the rising popularity of religion studies in his 2004 book When Jesus Came to Harvard, may need to write a sequel: When Jesus Came to Harvard and Taught Science.

That’s because Harvard Divinity School, where Cox teaches, has accepted an endowment from alumnus Richard T. Watson to create a Professorship of Science and Religion. The school is now searching for a visiting professor in science-and-religion for the 2006-2007 academic year.

The appointment, so far, has caused few ripples — a noticeable change from 2002, when the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics drew protests after inviting physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne to speak on intelligent design.

This time around, theologians were predictably encouraged, Harvard scientists were standoffish but pleasant, and secularists warily expressed a glimmer of hope that such a professorship might lend support to their causes.

The Watson professorship is the latest in a series of similarly prestigious posts that began with Princeton Theological Seminary’s 1992 appointment of J. Wentzel van Huyssteen as the first James I. McCord Professor of Theology and Science. Oxford University followed suit in 2000 with the appointment of John Hedley Brooke as its first Andreas Idreos Professors of Science and Religion. Others include Marquette University’s 2001 naming of Jame Schaefer to a newly created science and religion professorship and the 2005 appointment of Andrew Lustig to become Davidson College’s first Holmes Rolston III Professor of Religion and Science.

“The research grant and endowment for a religion-science professorship affirm the ongoing interest in relating the disciplines as a bona fide field of academic inquiry,” said Schaefer. “Harvard joins Princeton and other major universities in the world in exploring the religion-science relationship in a prestigious way.”

The news comes on the heels of a $1.5 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to a University of Missouri religion research center to study the relationship between religion and health care, and other topics. (See “Other schools encourage dialogue.”) It also comes as the John Templeton Foundation, which funds Science & Theology News, makes a grant to Harvard Divinity School and the university’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences to study the origins of altruistic behavior and their relationship to biology, theology and ethics. The John Templeton Foundation has been making such grants to Harvard since the 1990s.

“I’m a big believer in the proposition that science and religion are complementary and not contradictory, and I am much concerned about the fact that the world looks at each differently,” said Watson, a managing partner of Spieth, Bell, McCurdy & Newell Co., a Cleveland law firm, and a chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. “This gift is designed to attack that conflict.”

Greg M. Epstein, who as Humanist chaplain at Harvard has found himself at the center of such conflict, reacted to the news with caution. “I think the idea of studying science and religion is one that can lead to useful academic scholarship and the enrichment of an entire scholarly community but may very well not — depending on how the project is framed,” said Epstein.

Some wondered about how much latitude the professorship should be allowed. “If [Harvard Divinity School] gives the scholar free rein, then the possibilities of religious naturalism might get explored at a prestigious university, which will show HDS as being on the progressive cutting edge of religious studies,” said Thomas W. Clark, director of the Center for Naturalism in Somerville, Mass. “Of course, saying that the mandate is to study science and religion as complementary suggests that the conflict between science and faith-based religions might be papered over or finessed, which would be too bad,” he said. “But pseudoscience isn’t about to gain traction at Harvard, which is why the new chair won’t reflect badly on any of its science or medical departments.”

For many Harvard scientists, there is, in fact, a role for science-and-religion studies at the university — as long as it remains at the Divinity School and does not seep into the research labs and lecture halls.

Daniel Hartl, a Harvard biology professor who specializes in evolution and population genetics, said he does “not perceive any particular conflict between science and religion, at Harvard or anywhere else, as one is a matter of evidence and the other is a matter of faith.”

But although there seems to be little grounds for believing in a higher being, there is room for such a program at the university, said James Hanken, also a Harvard evolutionary biologist. “Your day-to-day activities of your average Harvard scientist won’t be affected,” he said.

Watson hopes to change that. “Those are the people into whose minds I would like to creep,” he said.