Out of about ten major topics in Systematic Theology, it seems that Angelology is one of the most neglected. In the Bible, there are 34 different books that mention angels. In these books, there are over 265 verses concerning angels. Out of the various verses, the Old Testament mentions angels 165 times and the New Testament mentions angels about 100 times (depending on the version you are reading). There is a lot of information in the Bible about angels.
The Bible has a lot to say about the creation of angels, the nature of angels, and the actions of angels. It even gives us clues about angels relation to space and time. Below, we will look at some, abbreviated, Biblical accounts of angels relation to space and time.
1. Biblical Descriptions of Angels’ Relation to Space
Angels are created, incorporeal beings (Hebrews 1:7, 14; debatably 1 Peter 3:19; Numbers 22:31; 2 Kings 6:17). The Bible says that there are a grand number of angels (Daniel 7:10; Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Matthew 26:53; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11). Their numbers cannot grow or lessen however. This is because angels cannot reproduce (Matthew 22:30). They are numbered along with God’s other created works (Psalm 103:19-22; 148:2-5). The Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, shared in creating the angels (Colossians 1:16) and He is superior to them (Hebrew 1:5-2:19). Their creation occurred prior to the creation of the world (Job 38:7; cf. 1:16, 2:1; Psalm 148: 2, 5). Angels were created and set apart (Job 5:1) to serve God (Psalm 103:20) and praise Him (Revelation 4:5).
Angels are localized even though they are spiritual beings (Daniel 9:21-23; Daniel 10:10-14; Luke 2:15; John 1:51). They are not omnipresent. Their primary place of residence is heaven (Daniel 9:21; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Daniel 7:10; Isaiah 6:1-6; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11).
Typically, angels are invisible. We cannot see angels unless our eyes have been supernaturally opened (Numbers 22.31; 2 Kings 6:17). They ascend and descend from Heaven (Luke 2:15; John 1:51). Under obedience (Matthew 6:10), when they are visible, they can appear to take the form of men (Genesis 18:1-8, 22; 19:1; Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26; John 20:12; Hebrews 13:2).
2. Biblical Descriptions of Angels Relation to Time
Since angels were created, they had a beginning. Although they had a beginning, they do not have an end. Angels are immortal and cannot die (Luke 20: 36). Since angels are localized, it takes an unspecified duration to move about from place to place. Ron Rhodes observes,
An example of this would be when the angel Gabriel engaged in “swift flight” to travel from heaven to Daniel’s side (Daniel 9:21-23). Then, in Daniel 10:10-14, we read about a different angel who was “delayed” on his errand by another spirit being—apparently a demon. ‘Here a time limitation corresponds with a spatial limitation. If a time lapse is involved in their changing locations, this means that they are localized.’
In context, Rhodes is primarily talking about angels being localized. However, the spatial limitations that Rhodes speaks about have big implications concerning angels temporal limitations. From the Bible, it is easy to deduce a number of aspects about angels relationship to time.
2.1. Some inferences about angels and time in the Biblical texts
Just from a cursory understanding of the Bible, we can deduce a number of insights:
- First, angels were created. This means that they are not eternal.
- Second, they are immaterial and were created without material creation. So, without material creation, angels were not in measurable time.
- Third, angels are localized. They are not omnipresent.
- Fourth, the Biblical text states that Gabriel engaged in “swift flight” and another angel was “delayed” by three weeks (Daniel 10:13)! So, we might infer that it takes some duration for localized angels to traverse space.
Next time, we will discuss Aquinas’ views of God’s relationship to time. In the end, I will conclude that angels exist in a time that is immeasurable but not eternal. Aquinas calls angelic time “aeviternity”–a time between measurable time and eternity. Contemporary philosophers call this A-series time.