Angels are a fascinating topic in Scripture, and a complex subject to address in the study of theology. We know much about their appearances, abilities, and functions, and yet one question seemingly eludes us.
That is, when were the angelic beings created? Does Scripture tell us? If not, can we draw any reasonable conclusions from what Scripture does reveal?
Do We Know When Angels Were Created?
The breadth of sources we have on angels starts with the Old Testament, moves through the New Testament, and in scholarly circles extends to Second Temple period literature, dating from the fifth century BC to the first century AD.
Perhaps the most influential of the extra-biblical writings is the book of Enoch, which is quoted in the Book of Jude.
While Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly when angels were created, it gives us plenty of information about their nature, and a few hints at their past, before humanity was created.
We know that angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14, are capable of both visible and invisible forms (Numbers 22:22-35), are capable of emotion (Luke 15:1-10), intelligence (2 Samuel 14:20), are powerful (2 Peter 2:11), and are immortal (Luke 20:34-36).
Scripture also provides us with glimpses into their activities. For example:
- Angels worship the Lord (Revelation 4:8; 5:11-12)
- Minister to believers who die in Christ (Jude 9; Luke 16:22)
- Rule nations (Daniel 10); Care for believers in times of difficulty and trial (Matthew 4:11)
- Strengthen us to proclaim the gospel and stand strong (Luke 22:43)
- Bring God’s judgment to both individuals and entire nations (Acts 12:23; Genesis 19:3; 2 Samuel 24:16; Revelation 16:1); Intercede on our behalf (Zechariah 1:12; Revelation 8:3-4).
While this is not an exhaustive exploration of the nature of angels and their activities, it provides a concise encapsulation of the scope of our knowledge of angels. With regard to their organization, it has been traditionally held that there are various “orders” of angelic beings.
Usually, this is broken down into three orders: Messengers, Cherubim, and Seraphim. Cherubim are first found in Genesis 3:24, where Cherubim are set as guardians of the Garden of Eden, keeping Adam and Eve from returning after the Fall. Images of Cherubim were also part of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-22).
The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the Cherubim describes them as having a unique, if not frightening, appearance. They have four faces: That of a man, an eagle, an ox, and a lion. These may be the same beings described in Revelation 4:6.
Seraphim are mentioned in Isaiah 6:2-6, and it appears their function is to worship the Lord, leading all other angelic beings in praise. The last group, Messengers, has traditionally been considered the largest group, likely pictured in Daniel 7:10.
Most theologians will say these Messengers are the angels who engage in spiritual warfare on the believer’s behalf, protect, guide, bring answers to prayer, warn us, and intercede in a variety of ways.
Were Angels Created Before the World?
Scripture does tell us that angels existed before man was created. In Genesis 3, we find an angel, known only as “nachash” in the Hebrew (translated as “serpent,” though it may be more accurate to translate it as “shining one.”), who lies to Eve, convincing her that she will be like God by eating the fruit the Lord had forbidden.
Since nachash is clearly an angel, and a rebellious one at that, this leads us to believe that angels pre-existed man. If we turn to Job, we find an even more clear indication of the fact that angels pre-existed man.
Job 38:4-7 mentions the “morning stars” (a poetic way of referring to angelic beings) singing together, and the “sons of God” (b’nai Elohim in Hebrew), another reference to angelic beings, as existing well before the earth and man were created.
Dr. Mike Heiser, author, biblical scholar, and Executive Director of the Awakening School of Theology and Ministry, writes that at least some of these angels comprised something known as the Divine Council.
He explains, “The term divine council is used by Hebrew and Semitic scholars to refer to the heavenly host, the pantheon of divine beings who administer the affairs of the cosmos.” He references Psalm 82:1 as just one mention of this divine council.
This verse refers to a council of gods (elohim) under the authority of the God of Israel. These specific elohim are one and the same as the b’nai elohim, the angels. Heiser also references Psalm 89:5-7 in support of this view of the divine council.
While Heiser’s research is controversial and not without critics, it is food for thought indeed. In the end, while we do not know the exact moment of their creation, we do know they have existed longer than man, and at the creation of man were to be our spiritual benefactors, protecting, guiding, and interceding for us.
Some of the church fathers even taught that a specific angel is assigned to each person. For example, Origen writes of Matthew 18:10, “Every believer-although the humblest in the church is said to be attended by an angel who the Savior declares always beholds the face of the Father.”
Likewise, Methodius tells us, “We have learned from the inspired writings that all who are born-even if it is through adultery are committed to guardian angels.”
Why Does This Matter?
When we consider this, we should be humbled that God loves us so much that he provides every possible means of spiritual success to us, including angelic presences in our lives.
As we have discovered, they guide us to righteous behavior and works, encourage us in times of sadness and failure, and help to defend us in the spiritual battle. All of this at the command of our Lord God Almighty.
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J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.