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Hebrews 13:2 seems to indicate that some people are angels, and that we live among them unaware. Does this passage reinforce the position that true born-again believers, the chosen of God, are angels pending their true form, as Romans 8:19 and Mark 12:25 also seem to indicate?

Hebrews 13:2 ESV translation:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Mark 12:25 BSB translation

When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like the angels in heaven.

Romans 8:19 ESV translation

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

1 Corinthians 15:44-45 BSB translation:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.

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  • yes, you could help an angel unawares. For angels can take the form of a beggar and put you to the test.
    – Dong Li
    Commented Apr 30 at 7:19
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    "Hebrews 13:2 seems to indicate that some people are angels", "true born-again believers … are angels pending their true form" — There is very little justification for this conclusion. What it actually says is that some angels appear to us in the form of people, not that some people become angels. Commented Apr 30 at 15:11
  • @RayButterworth - 1 & 2 Enoch, 2 Baruch, the Epistles of Paul, and Jesus' words in the Gospels seem to indicate that the born-again elect have become angels in disguise via adoption through faith, baptism, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We await the revealing of our immortal spirit bodies at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Angel of God's Covenant.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 3 at 12:57
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    @JoshuaB, the Bible certainly teaches that the saved will be reborn and converted into immortal spirit beings. As spirits, they will be like angels in some of their new powers. But they will not be angels. Commented May 3 at 13:40
  • @RayButterworth - Jesus said that we will be like the angels. But where in the Bible does it say that we will not be angels outright? Many passages seem to indicate otherwise.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 3 at 13:43

5 Answers 5

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First, "angel" is a transliteration from 'ἀγγέλος', a Greek word meaning simply "messenger." In many cases, it refers to a heavenly being who directly serves God and His purposes. In other cases, it may refer to pastors, teachers, missionaries, prophets, or other messengers who carry God's Word to others. And in some places, it's just a plain messenger carrying any sort of message, most similarly compared to a mailman, courier, herald, or town-crier.

Of these possible meanings, Hebrews 13:2 most likely refers to either heavenly beings (similar to Abraham's hospitality to a theophany and two accompanying angels) or human gospel-carriers (e.g. the apostles or other missionaries). As the latter would seem to be the more common occurrence, and because it's dangerous to overly mysticize Scripture, I think it's a better interpretation.

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  • Have you considered Galatians 4:14 in light of Hebrew 13:2? Paul said that the Galatians received him as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself (who is the Angel of God).
    – Joshua B
    Commented Apr 30 at 3:50
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    @JoshuaB That fits perfectly well with my answer. Jesus, as God Himself, is the very best possible carrier to bring a message from God. Paul was praising (and thanking) the Galatian believers for receiving him and treating him so well and listening to his preaching of the gospel, as if they had been hosting a heavenly servant/messenger, or even Christ Himself.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented Apr 30 at 4:56
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented May 1 at 5:43
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Let’s examine each of these verses:

  1. Hebrews 13:2

Here, it encourages hospitality, with the idea that some have entertained angels without knowing it. This doesn’t imply that humans become angels, rather, it implies that angels can appear in human form.

The suggestion that our behavior towards strangers might be directed at angels is not a random thought. Scripture makes reference to actual instances where people were visited by angels, seemingly unaware of to whom they were speaking (Genesis 18:1–3; 19:1–3). [1]

  1. Mark 12:25

This verse indicates that in the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be like the angels in heaven. Notice the the phrase says "like the angels" not "will be angels". So, the phrase “like the angels” refers to the state of immortality, not becoming angels themselves.

  1. Romans 8:19

This verse speaks of creation eagerly waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. It refers to the time when believers will be glorified and fully revealed as God’s children, not that they will become angels.

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:44-45

These 2 verses contrast the natural body with the spiritual body that believers will have in the resurrection. The “spiritual body” refers to a transformed, glorified body suited for eternal life, not an angelic form.

Jesus' body after the resurrection is an example of this. He could be seen, heard, and touched (John 20:24–29), and He could eat (Luke 24:36–43). He could also, apparently, move through solid objects (John 20:19). He had been raised into His spiritual, glorified body. [2]

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Rather than understanding Hebrews 13:2 to present part of a systematic theology of angels, this verse should be taken on its own terms - as as one of several exhortations under the general command to practice brotherly love. What it teaches about angels is secondary, or even tangential, to the point that the author wants to make. I'd even go a little further and say it does not mean to actually teach about angels, but simply to use a very well known story to emphasize its point. Let's look at the verse in context:

1 Let mutual (brotherly) love continue. 2 Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. 3 Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers. 5 Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.”

From vs. 2 onward, each sentence contains a primary command followed by a rationale. We are not to neglect hospitality; after all, it may be that we are entertaining angels. We are to care for prisoners because they too are part of the body of Christ. We should honor marriage because God will judge the immoral. We should free ourselves from the love of money because God will never forsake us. All of these commands come under on central imperative: that of brotherly love.

Conclusion: Hebrews 13:2 does not present a particular doctrine regarding angels. Rather, it emphasizes the importance of hospitality. Entertaining angels unaware is merely an example, a well known aphorism used to demonstrate this point.

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  • Hebrews 13:2 is telling us that true believers are already angels in disguise. When one becomes truly born-again, he is born of Spirit, and thereby "not of this world". As "sons of God", a title shared with the angels in the book of Job and elsewhere, we are now messengers of God and spirit beings that are still pending our immortal angelic bodies for the Day of Christ.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Apr 30 at 22:11
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    @JoshuaB Feel free to write your own answer to make the argument for that interpretation in detail. But comments on other answers aren't the place to assert a different interpretation.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 2 at 1:26
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Let' take the OP's verse one at a time.

  1. Heb 13:2, "some have entertained angels"

This is a direct allusion to Abraham feeding a meal to Jehovah and two angels as recorded in Gen 18. It says nothing about humans becoming angels.

  1. Mark 12:25, "like the angels"

This verse simply says that in heaven the saved will be like the angels to the extent that we will no longer be capable of procreation/sex. It says nothing about the condition of our heavenly bodies otherwise.

  1. Romans 8:19, "revealing of the sons of God"

This verse is part of a series that discusses the theater-like aspect of human righteousness as recorded in other places such as:

  • 1 Cor 4:9 - For I think God has exhibited us, the apostles, last, as appointed to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
  • 2 Thess 1:4, 5 - That is why we boast among God’s churches about your perseverance and faith in the face of all the persecution and affliction you are enduring. All this is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment. And so you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
  • 1 Tim 4:15 - Be diligent in these matters and absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.
  • 1 Cor 3:13 - his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work.

Thus, Rom 8:19 is discussing the works of saved people to demonstrate to the world that God's judgement is correct, and according to Rom 3:4 -

By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

  1. 1 Cor 15:44, 45 - "life-giving spirit"

This verse is simply discussing the great difference between Adam and Christ. Actually, the rest of the same section in verses 35-49 does discuss the heavenly bodies that thee saved will receive which are vastly different from our present earthly bodies. This will also make us quite different from the "ministering spirits" (Heb 1:14) that are the angels.

Thus, humans will always be humans (although with a different and perfect heavenly body in the next life) and angels will always be angels. The two are quite different life-forms.

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    Dottard said, "Thus, humans will always be humans, and angels will always be angels." But he mistakes the fact that flesh and blood (humans) cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Only immortal spirit beings (angels) can inherit the Kingdom of God. We must remember that the Lord Jesus, God's Chief Covenant Angel, became human so that he could mediate for us and open the door for us to inherit immortality and become co-heirs with Christ as fellow sons of God - angels - in the eternal Kingdom.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Apr 30 at 1:59
  • @JoshuaB - that is NOT what I said - in heaven we will have "heavenly bodies" (1 Cor 15:40) that are different from what we have now (but in ways that Paul does not describe).
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 30 at 2:03
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    @JoshuaB - please quote a text supporting your contention that Jesus is "God's Chief Covenant Angel". Indeed, Heb 1 says that, among other things, Jesus was NOT an angel.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 30 at 2:04
  • Dottard, this is found in Daniel 8:25 where the Lord Jesus is called the "Prince of princes". A principality is a spirit, a leading angel which rules over a portion of man. Jesus is also called the "Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6, and called an angel of God by Paul in Galatians 4:14. The "Angel of YHWH" throughout the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word (Purpose) of God.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Apr 30 at 2:09
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    @JoshuaB - fascinating interpretations that rely on augmenting the Biblical text in ways not implied by the text. Jesus was not an angel. Jesus was God as declared in numerous places like Titus 2:13, etc. But this is not the place for debate. No further comment.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 30 at 2:18
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Heb.13:2

  1. Examples of the chosen of God being somewhere in particular, not being angels. The Elders - Rev.19:4 The martyrs under the throne - Rev. Daniel's sleep of the just - Dn. Samuel raised from the grave. Saints raised from their graves at Jesus' death - Mt.27:52 Abraham with the beggar Lazarus on his bosom. The first resurrection - Rv.4:4

  2. Angels on Earth Two angels, with God or Jesus, visit Abraham - Gn. These two angels then visit Lot in Sodom. - Gn. Both Abraham and Lot showed hospitality, apparently before learning that they were angels.

Mk.12:25 - If we are going to live forever, we don't need children to replace those who die. Therefore we don't need marriage.

Rom.8:19 - We will get new bodies at the resurrection, but this hasn't happened yet, so no need to think some, other than Jesus, already have their new bodies.

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  • Do new children replace others? In terms of current total population, perhaps, but I doubt any parent would say any of their children could possibly be a replacement for anyone else, whether another child, a sibling/parent/grandparent/spouse/etc. (Or are you suggesting reincarnation?) Also, Jesus only said there was no marriage in heaven. Did He say that there would be no more reproduction or new people? No, He didn't. (Any further thoughts on this can only be speculation, though.)
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented Apr 30 at 5:03
  • Thank you for your response. The capability for reproduction would be God's choice. In the past He said "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth". I am suggesting that He will no longer be motivated to have us reproduce. Commented Apr 30 at 17:43
  • A thought about process - Why is it so difficult to get folks to understand what I mean? It's not, but if I provide an answer, and 100 people read it, and 99 understand it as I meant it, I will only get a comment from the one person who read it differently than I intended. Still, I can do better. Commented Apr 30 at 17:45
  • +1 @Hall Livingston. Good points all!
    – Dieter
    Commented May 1 at 4:48

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