The Angel of Death, by Evelyn De Morgan
This is a beautiful picture. Evelyn De Morgan was superb at painting beautiful figures.
This cannot be regarded as a truly Christian picture. We read in Matthew 24 that when Christ comes angels will gather the elect (the Post-Trib rapture). However, there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the Christian meets an angel when she dies.
Neverthless, Christians will surely see angels when they are in heaven.
De Morgan suggests the idea that though death is very mysterious (the angel is cloaked) it brings something better.
Certainly, for the Christian death brings hope, for she knows that she will be in the presence of the Lord:
1 For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6 ¶ Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
While the aspect of hope in death is real for the Christian, we cannot identify with the mystery element that De Morgan suggests. We haev a certain hope of what is beyond the grave.
The Angel of Death, by George Frederick Watts
In contrast to De Morgan's picture, this painting presents a terrifying vision of death. I think this is actually one of the most disturbing pictures I have seen.
Watts presents death as an inescapeable a horrible reality.
Nobody can escape it, the king, the knight or the beggar. It comes to all regardless of age. The knight dies in his health and strength, the pale, consumptive girl dies in her sickness.
There is an incredible pathos in the resignation on the face of the king as he lays aside his crown at the feet of the angel of death. His greatness cannot save him.
The knight faces death boldly, laying down his sword, but even his bravado does not lift the mood of despair in this picture.
The angel's expression is blank and incomprehensible. Does he harbour any pity for those who come before him? What fate does he hold out for them?
For those who do not know Christ, death holds no joy or hope. Only mysterious uncertainty. Even those who follow false religion have no certainty that they will ultimately be accepted by their gods.
For those who reject God, death brings only an eternity of separation from all that is good.
Much as De Morgan's picture is very beatiful, I think Watts' is rather more interesting and challenging as a picture.