Deathbed Visions of Angels

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Many people worldwide have said shortly before their deaths that they have experienced visions of angels appearing to help them make the transition to heaven. Doctors, nurses, and loved ones report witnessing signs of deathbed visions as well, such as seeing dying people talking to and interacting with invisible presences in the air, heavenly lights, or even visible angels.

While some people explain the angel deathbed phenomenon away as hallucinations from medications, the visions still occur when patients are not medicated—and when the dying talk about meeting angels, they’re fully conscious. So believers say that such meetings are miraculous evidence that God does send angelic messengers for the souls of dying people.

A Common Occurrence

It’s common for angels to visit people who are preparing to die. While angels can and do help people when they die suddenly (such as in a car accident or from a heart attack), they have more time to comfort and encourage people whose dying process is more prolonged, such as terminally ill patients. Angels come to help anyone who is dying—men, women, and children alike—to ease their fear of death and help them work through issues to find peace.

“Deathbed visions have been recorded since antiquity and share common characteristics regardless of racial, cultural, religious, educational, age, and socioeconomic factors,” writes Rosemary Ellen Guiley in her book The Encyclopedia of Angels. “…The primary purpose of these apparitions is to beckon or command the dying to come with them … The dying person usually is happy and willing to go, especially if the individual believes in an afterlife. … If the person has been in great pain or depression, a complete turnaround of mood is observed, and pain vanishes. The dying one literally seems to ‘light up’ with radiance.”

Retired hospice nurse Trudy Harris writes in her book Glimpses of Heaven: True Stories of Hope and Peace at the End of Life’s Journey that angelic visions “are frequent experiences for those who are dying.”

Renowned Christian leader Billy Graham writes in his book Angels: Ringing Assurance that We Are Not Alone that God always sends angels to welcome people who have relationships with Jesus Christ to heaven when they die. "The Bible guarantees every believer an escorted journey into the presence of Christ by the holy angels. The angelic emissaries of the Lord are often sent not only to catch away the redeemed of the Lord at death, but also to give hope and joy to those who remain, and to sustain them in their loss.”

Beautiful Visions

The visions of angels that dying people describe are incredibly beautiful. Sometimes they involve simply seeing angels in a person's environment (such as at a hospital or in a bedroom at home). At other times, they involve glimpses of heaven itself, with angels and other heavenly residents (such as the souls of the person's loved ones who have already passed away) reaching out from heavenly dimensions into earthly ones. Whenever angels show up in their heavenly glory as beings of light, they're radiantly beautiful. Visions of heaven add to that beauty, describing gorgeous places in addition to magnificent angels.

“Approximately one-third of deathbed visions involve total visions, in which the patient sees another world—heaven or a heavenly place," Guiley writes in Encyclopedia of Angels. "…Sometimes these places are filled with angels or glowing souls of the dead. Such visions are resplendent with intense and vivid colors and bright light. They either unfold before the patient, or the patient feels transported out of body to them.”

Harris recalls in Glimpses of Heaven that many of her former patients "told me about seeing angels in their rooms, being visited by loved ones who had died before them, or hearing beautiful choirs or smelling fragrant flowers when there were none around…” She adds: "When they spoke of angels, which many did, the angels were always described as more beautiful than they had ever imagined, eight feet tall, male, and wearing a white for which there is no word. ‘Luminescent’ is what each one said, like nothing they had ever said before. The music they spoke of was far more exquisite than any symphony they had ever heard, and over and over again they mentioned colors that they said were too beautiful to describe.”

The "scenes of great beauty" that characterize deathbed visions of angels and heaven also give dying people feelings of comfort and peace, write James R. Lewis and Evelyn Dorothy Oliver in their book Angels A to Z. "As the deathbed vision accelerates many have shared that the light they encounter radiates a warmth or a security that draws them ever closer to the original source. With the light also comes a vision of beautiful gardens or open fields that adds to the sense of peace and security.”

Graham writes in Angels that, “I believe death can be beautiful. … I have stood at the side of many people who have died with expressions of triumph on their faces. No wonder the Bible says, 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints'” (Psalm 116:15).

Guardian Angels and Other Angels

Most of the time, the angels whom dying people recognize when they visit are the angels who are closest to them: the guardian angels whom God has assigned to care for them throughout their earthly lives. Guardian angels are constantly present with people from their birth to their death, and people can communicate with them through prayer or meditation, or meet them if their lives are in danger. But many people don't actually become aware of their angelic companions until they meet them during the dying process.

Other angels—especially an angel of death—often are recognized in deathbed visions as well. Lewis and Oliver cite angel researcher Leonard Day's findings in Angels A to Z, writing that a guardian angel "is usually in close proximity to the [dying] person and offers soothing words of consolation" while an angel of death "usually remains at a distance, standing in the corner or behind the first angel." They add that, "…Those who have shared their encounter with this angel describe it as dark, very quiet, and not at all menacing. According to Day, it is the responsibility of the angel of death to summon the departed spirit into the care of the guardian angel so the journey to the ‘other side’ can begin.”

Confidence Before Dying

When deathbed visions of angels are complete, the dying people who see them are able to die with confidence, having made peace with God and realizing that the family and friends they leave behind will be okay without them.

Patients often die soon after they see angels on their deathbeds, Guiley writes in The Encyclopedia of Angels, summarizing the results of several large research studies on such visions: “The visions usually appear just minutes before death: Approximately 76 percent of the patients studied died within 10 minutes of their vision, and nearly all of the rest died within one or several hours.”

Harris writes that she has seen many patients grow confident after experiencing deathbed visions of angels: "...they take that final step into the eternity that God has promised them since the beginning of time, totally unafraid and at peace.”

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Your Citation
Hopler, Whitney. "Deathbed Visions of Angels." Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, Hopler, Whitney. (2020, August 26). Deathbed Visions of Angels. Retrieved from Hopler, Whitney. "Deathbed Visions of Angels." Learn Religions. (accessed June 9, 2023).