Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

Joel Biermann

Scripture References in this Resource

1 Corinthians 15:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55; 2 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 1:3; Genesis 2:23-24; Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 25:8-11; Isaiah 6:2ff; Job 19:26-27; John 11:11; Luke 1:26ff; Luke 1:5-20; Luke 15:8-10; Luke 23:43; Luke 7:24; Mark 12:25; Psalm 139:7-10


As a Director of Christian Education in a parish, I encountered many youth and adults who believed that people become angels at death. As I talked with them, I realized that they were looking for comfort and hope in a world filled with uncertainty and tragedy. They wanted a picture of eternity and this notion of dying and becoming an angel made the concept of eternal life tangible. As I talked with other DCEs and Pastors I found that they had similar conversations with members of their congregations.' The frequency of these conversations within my professional meetings as well as during Bible studies I led in my own congregation began to reveal the significance of the belief in people's lives. It seemed people were comforted by the thought of their dead loved one protecting them as their' guardian angel'. 2 It became apparent that they were willing to trade a dead loved one's identity as created man or woman for an angelic identity at death. More of a concern, their hope and security were placed in a created being, an 'angel' (dead person), rather than in God through Jesus Christ.

Attempting to research this idea, I found no material directly addressing the issue. It is my intention that this thesis will investigate the potential origination of the belief and its development into a common belief within Christianity specifically in Lutheran circles. Moreover, the thesis will offer some possible ways the church might clarify Paul's proclamation in 1 Corinthians 15 that we will live eternal life in material bodies.

The investigation will examine three areas. The first area is the possible origin for the modern-day belief that men become angels when they die, focusing on the development of the early church from the patristic age into the Middle Ages. The second area is American society’s concept of human nature in life and death; this will be looked at in relation to media icons' and the understanding of human nature in life and death as presented by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. “The third area is the effects this belief has upon the First Article aspects of faith as well as the entire corpus doctrinae. Here, the Christian life coram hominibus will be examined. It is possible that this belief could cause trouble coram deo as well, but this idea will not be pursued, due to the limitations of this specific study. Instead, the injurious effects of this notion on creation, specifically on man and his relationships, coram hominibus will be the focus of this thesis.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.