One of the reason that God invented teenagers is to keep adults on their toes. The other day I was asked the above question by a teenage boy in my church’s youth group. Caught a bit off guard, I gave my best non-answer answer. The youth looked at me and said, “I just want a straight up answer. I don’t care what scholars say. What do you think?”
I love the lad’s moxie. He made me think about a question that I had wrestled with at one point and glossed over on my jaunt to more “important” theological matters. After thinking about his question for a few days and doing a little digging into my religious library, I don’t know that I have much more to say than my initial answer.
Initially, I told the guy. “Well, the Bible is not completely clear when God created angels. Scholars have proposed a number of different ideas. Angels were not mentioned in the creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1 &3. Clearly, angels don’t exist outside of time like God does. They had a beginning. I generally believe it was before Day 1 of the creation account in Genesis 1.”
The clearest Scripture dealing with this subject is Job 38:1-7. In this passage, God answers Job and asks hims a series of questions. God asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
This passage indicates that angelic spirits (sometimes known in Scripture as sons of God or morning stars) were present when God established the form of the earth and set the boundaries of the waters. These spirits served as a heavenly cheering section, which is one of the main functions of angels in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
The Hebrew Scriptures start out with the beginning as God created the heavens and the earth in verse 1. Then, God hovers over the surface of the deep. Many scholars believe there is a big divide between the events of Genesis 1-2 and the main Creation account that starts in Genesis 1:3. This would be a logical point for the angels to be made because the heavens exist. Then God went to work on earth on Day 1.
One problem with the account in Genesis 1 is that it is commonly thought to be poetic like a hymn not a historical chronology of events. All the details are not filled in to clear up any confusion. There are just some things that are not clear. For example, was the sun created on day 1 when there was light? Or was the sun actually created on day 4 when God set the lights in the sky.
Psalms 148 praises the God of creation and appears to offer a retelling of the creation of all things. In this passage, the heavens are made first. Then God makes “all his angels.” God then makes the sun,moon and stars. Everything else seems to follow the Genesis 1 order.
Colossians 1:16 is clear that Jesus made the angels. We also know that angels are different from humans (Hebrew 2). Angels have different functions, and there is a hierarchy among angelic beings.
All of this is to say that nobody can give you a firm date that identifies exactly when God created the angels. But we do know that they are part of creation and appear to have been around for the forming of the earth in its present condition as an inhabitable planet for humans.