From Raphael to da Vinci, religious art has for centuries depicted angels as plump cherubs with halos around their small heads; winged babies who "watch over us" from Heaven.
However, while such imagery is certainly pleasant, the Bible makes no mention of child angels, or of humans becoming angels after they enter Heaven, according to renowned evangelist Billy Graham.
In his syndicated advice column, the 98-year-old evangelist shared his thoughts on angels in response to a question posed by a reader: "My nephew was only 3 months old when he died recently. Is he an angel now, like some people say? I hope so, because that would really comfort us. It's been very hard," the reader wrote.
Graham first acknowledges that "nothing is more devastating than losing a child, no matter their age" and assures the reader that "God also knows what you're going through, and He wants to surround you with His love."
However, the little one has not become an "angel," which literally means "messenger," because he has become something even greater, the Baptist pastor says.
"Although he was only an infant when he died, the Bible assures us that he is now like Jesus Christ - and Christ is greater than the angels," he explains. "And this is true for everyone who belonged to Christ and was part of His family on earth, and has now entered Heaven. The Bible says, 'We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2)."
Graham, who released an entire message on the topic of Heaven in sync with his 96th birthday, offers a reminder that death is our final enemy, and only at the end of the present age will Christ's victory over death be complete.
"But Heaven is far greater than anything we can fully imagine; if we could glimpse Heaven for only one second, we'd never want our loved ones to leave its glory and return to this sin-filled earth," he says.
"Is Heaven your destination?" he asks. "Do you know for certain that when you die you too will share in Heaven's glory? Only one thing keeps us out of Heaven, and that is our sin. But by His death and resurrection Christ opened Heaven's door for us. If you have never done so, turn to Christ and put your faith and trust in Him alone for your salvation."
In a 2015 interview with The Christian Post, New York Times bestselling author of the "Angels Walking" series Karen Kingsbury similarly rejected the idea that angels are deceased loved ones or that they deserve our prayers, citing Scripture.
"The Bible is pretty clear on angels in that they come from God His army, He is the one we worship, He is the one to be prayed to - not the angels," Kingsbury explained.
"Angels can't be our dead mom or dad. We can hope our dead loved ones can see us from heaven and that they're praying for us, I think you could make a Scriptural argument for that, but they're not angels."
Kingsbury said that while angels are often confusing to Christians, the Bible clearly tells us that the heavenly beings are completely separate from humans.
"I think what happens is, we are so glad that we have this supernatural heavenly being assigned to us that we get so excited and start to confuse the gift [of the angel] with the Giver," Kingsbury noted. "Angels are really separate beings that God created to minister to us to rescue us at times, and sometimes they carry a message. They are important in the economy of heaven, but they are created as part of His army. I think that's where the confusion comes."