The Creation of the Angels (continued)
Our Confession states, first of all, that God “also created the angels good . . . .”
Upon occasion I have seen catechumens surprised to learn that the angels are creatures; and not eternal beings. Obviously because the Genesis account does not speak at all of the creation of the angels, they assumed that the angels were not created, but are eternally with God. And indeed, there not only have been those who have taught that the angels were created before the beginning of Genesis 1, but also those who maintain two eternal principles, the good and the evil. This is, of course, the error of dualism, and it is the error condemned in the last part of this article, where reference is made to the Manichees, who assert that the devils have their origin of themselves, and that they are wicked of their own nature, without having been corrupted.”
Scripture, however, does teach, though not in Genesis 1, that the angels were created. In Psalm 104:4 we read: “Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.” And especially if we read this verse in its context, it is plain that the reference is to the creation of the angels. In Colossians 1:16 we do not find the term “angels,” but reference is made by the terms “thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers” to various classes or ranks of heavenly spirits. And of these it is stated: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” And indeed, such must be the case. The angels cannot be eternal beings, as God is. Two or more supreme Beings existing side by side, equally eternal and self-existent are impossible and inconceivable. Only God is eternal and Self-existent. The angels, like all the earthly creatures, are finite, temporal, dependent beings.
If the question be asked why there is no mention of the angels in the creation narrative of Genesis 1, we can only attempt to approximate an answer. We would point to the fact that the entire viewpoint of Genesis 1 is earthly, and finds its climax in the creation of man, God’s covenant friend, created after the image of God, the king of the earthly creation. We must always remember this when reading the Scriptural account of creation. Its standpoint is that of the earth, and that too, in the proximity of the garden of Eden. Scripture’s viewpoint is geocentric: the earth is the center of the universe, around which all things are created and about which all things move. To be sure, this is not to be understood in the local and physical sense of the word. From the viewpoint of the astronomer and of natural science, not the earth, but the sun, is the center. The earth is but a very small body in the whole of the solar system. But the Bible does not take this viewpoint. It does not measure the significance of any creature according to its size, weight, or distance. The significant question in Scripture is: what is the spiritual place of any creature in the whole of the universe? What is the significance of any creature in the whole of God’s purpose, His counsel? And from this latter viewpoint, the earth is indeed the center of the whole universe as it is created. That earth is created as the dwellingplace for man, who is destined to be the highest of God’s creatures. That earth is to become the stage for the realization of God’s plan of salvation, for the development of God’s covenant, and for the waging of the battle of sin and grace. On that earth the Son of God in human nature is to be revealed in the way of His incarnation, suffering and death, and resurrection, as the Head of God’s whole creation, in Whom all things shall be united that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. It is not unexpected, therefore, when Genesis 1 is silent about the creation of the angels, but places us on this earth, in order to tell us from our earthly viewpoint how God created all things. And in Genesis 1:2 the earth is immediately presented as being separated from the rest of the “chaos,” the unformed world-matter. All the attention is focused upon that earth; and there is no mention of the creation of the highest heavens, nor of the angels that inhabit those highest heavens.
For the same reason, it is a largely speculative question as to just when the angels were created.
This question is often asked. And in answer to this question there are those who point to Job 38:6 and 7, in order to prove that the angels were created on the first day. This passage belongs to the Lord’s answer to Job “out of the whirlwind,” and it is probably best that we read the verses concerned in connection with their preceding context, beginning with verse 2: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the comer stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
This passage has had various interpretations. As we said, some have drawn the conclusion from it that the angels were created on the first day of creation. Others have maintained that one can conclude from it that the angels were created even before the first day, i.e., before the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1. And still others have drawn the more general conclusion that this passage proves at least that the creation of the angels took place before the creation of man.
Now, I would say, in the first place, that in the strictest sense of the word the passage proves only that Job himself was not there when God “laid the foundations of the earth,” and that he was not witness of the laying of the measures thereof, etc. This is surely the sense of the rhetorical questions that are directed in this passage to Job personally by the Lord “out of the whirlwind.” And it is only by a generalization that this can be extended to all mankind, so that one could conclude that no man was an eye-witness of these works of God.
But if that general conclusion is warranted, then the questions remain: of whom does verse 7 speak, and does it speak of the moment of the first day? To answer these questions we must look a little more closely at the passage. And then we may note de following:
1. In highly poetic language this passage speaks of the work of creation. It compares the created earth to a building, speaking of its foundation, its comer stone, its measures, its line, etc. Hence, while it is true that the language of vss. 4 to 6 seems to speak especially of the very beginning of Gods creative work, yet the conclusion is hardly warranted that the first day of creation-week is meant exclusively. In fact, if we read these verses in their following context, it would seem that this interpretation is excluded. The explanation has also been suggested,—which, I think, is by no means impossible,—that the reference here is to the entire work of the creation of the earth, presented here as a laying of foundations, of a comer stone, etc., with a view to the relation between the work of creation and the subsequent work of God in the history and development of the world.
2. There is, secondly, the question of the language of verse 7. Who are the morning stars? Who are the sons of God? As far as the latter term is concerned, there can hardly be any question. In the book of Job the reference of this expression is to the angels. In Job 1:6we read: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” This can only refer to the heavenly spirits. Satan, though a fallen angel, also came among them; and that he could do so need not surprise us. He appears here as the “accuser of our brethren,” Rev. 12:9, who is cast out forever at the exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ. A similar reference we find in Job 2:1: “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.” Hence, if this is the meaning of the expression “sons of God,” in chapters 1 and 2, it must needs have the same meaning in, chapter 38. We may say, therefore, that there is indeed mention of the angels in chapter 38. I believe, however, that the “morning stars” are not the angels in this passage. Appeal has been made to the fact that this is supposed to be what is called “parallel construction,” so that the term “morning stars” and the term “sons of God” refer to the same thing, i.e., the angels. But this is hardly possible; for in that case the order would certainly be reversed, and the “sons of God” would be mentioned first, and the figurative “morning stars” second. Not only this, but there is very frequent mention of the stars and of various constellations in the book of Job; and always the reference is to the heavenly luminaries literally. Hence, some very sound and conclusive reasons would have to be produced why in Job 38:7 the reference in “morning stars” is not literally to the heavenly luminaries. And this is significant: for the stars were created on the fourth day, and therefore the interpretation that vss. 4-6 refer only to the very first day of creation-week cannot very well stand. Again, there is reason also in this reference to the stars to understand the whole passage as referring generally to the work of God in creation as a laying of foundations for all the rest of God’s work.
Negatively, therefore, we reach the conclusion that there is no conclusive proof here, nor any where else in Scripture, for the theory that the angels were created on the first day of creation-week. Besides, there is no indication at all in Scripture as to exactly when the angels were created.
Another theory is that the angels must have been created on the sixth day. The Rev. H. Hoeksema suggests this in his dogmatics, “Anthropology,” p. 119, when he writes (commenting on Job 38:6, 7): “From this passage the conclusion has been drawn that the angels were created on the first day, although it must certainly be said that the text offers no strict proof for this contention, and that if we may conjecture that there is a parallel between the creation of the earth and that of heaven and the heavenly beings, it would seem more natural to suppose that the angels were created on the sixth day.” He adds, however: “But for the time of the creation of the angels we have no proof in Scripture.” The idea is that in de week of creation the creatures are formed in. the way of an ascending scale. The lower creatures are formed first, then the higher, and finally man. And if we consider that the angels belong to the higher creatures, it is not impossible that they were created on the sixth day. However, there are also the following considerations, even though the above conjecture may seem attractive:
1. In view of the fact that the angels do not belong to the earthly creation, but the heavenly, they can-hardly be included in the ascending scale of earthly creatures.
2. There is no proof, however logical it may appear to be, that there is a parallel between the order of the heavenly and the order of the earthly creation.
Hence, we shall have to say that the Bible does not inform us as to the exact time of the creation of the angels.