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Though we are not told exactly when angels were created, it seems to be sometime before the earth was created.

The words found at Job indicate the angelic host was present when the earth was made.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. . . when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38: 4,7).

Now some Protestant Christians will tell us that Genesis 1:1 which states

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

refers to the moment when all creation began.

They will also point to John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word.......

And say the beginning spoken of here is the same as Gen 1:1. For example this question scoped at Jehovah’s Witnesses and the comments indicate this is a common belief .

The account in Genesis starts with heaven and earth already created and then the preparation for mankind begins on day one. “Let there be light.”

My understanding is that the angels were created some time prior to the beginning spoken of in Gen1:1. Which would mean that first creation by God took place before the beginning in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. So beginning in these verses refers to the creation of the physical universe.

If the beginning of all creation was the making of heaven and earth how is it that the angels were on hand to witness the earth being created?

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    In the beginning is the story of the beginning of mankind. Bible talks about different heavens (third heaven was visited by a man known to Paul in a vision - 2 Cor 12:2), thus the heaven of Gen 1 need not necessarily be the heaven where God dwells – One Face Feb 1 at 9:13
  • I see I’ve collected 3 VTC please leave a comment – Kris Feb 1 at 14:01
  • The beginning is the beginning of all creation, except the uncreated eternal Triune God. Angels and sons of God could have been witnesses from day one, two onwards. There is no indication in the Bible that the heavenly hosts saw ALL of the Creation being created start to finish. – Autodidact Feb 1 at 16:22
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    @Autodidact please leave an answer in answers, not in comments. (I think you have the start of a good one there) – KorvinStarmast Feb 2 at 14:22
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    Kris, I was going through the close queue, I see you tagged this protestantism, but didn't specify it in the question. It'd be good to make it explicit. – Peter Turner Feb 3 at 0:39
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You've really answered your own question. God's work of creation in no way had to begin with the physical, material universe. Since angels, like God, are spiritual beings, they were not part of God's work of creation by fiat in Genesis 1 and 2. However, they, like us, were created, unlike Jehovah God, who had no beginning.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:2 KJV).

Since only God inhabits eternity, which of course cannot be measured in time, a question remains in my mind: Are the angels' experience and perception of time similar to (or the same as) ours?

We cannot say with any biblical authority that God's creative work began with the angels. That God created the angels is clearly biblical, as is the likelihood they were created prior to God's calling the heavens and earth into existence. As you pointed out in your question, the book of Job seems to indicate the angels existed and were God's witnesses when he said, "Let there be . . ." (Job 38:7). The angels, in a sense, were God's cheerleaders who expressed joyfully their admiration for the wonders of God in creation.

Allow me to go beyond your question for a moment. In human terms, there was a "time" when all there was, was God. God did not need to create anyone or anything in order to complete or fulfill himself. He chose to do so because he is love (1 John 4:8), and the nature of love is to express itself to another person or persons.

From eternity, the Triune God enjoyed sweet fellowship within the Godhead. We can only imagine what that fellowship was like, but since God is love, love must have permeated the relationship that existed between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Muslims balk at such a concept. To their credit, they are in awe of God. They praise his greatness every time they pray. They also ascribe the attribute of mercy to Allah, as well as other attributes, such as omnipotence, omniscience, goodness (beneficence), immanence, and more. They do not, however, believe God is love. Indeed, how can he be if he does not exist in three persons?

Love cannot exist in a vacuum, and since Allah, as Muslims conceive of him, is not to be associated with any other eternal personage (especially a son!), he may choose to be merciful, but he is in no way loving by nature.

Getting back to the issue at hand. There is an unfortunate expression in theological circles today; namely, that God created all that is, ex nihilo, or out of nothing. I prefer to say that God created all that is, out of the fullness of his being. Not only did God not break a sweat during all his creative work, but he created all that is, not because he had to but because he chose to. And we, his image-bearers, have the privilege of praising him for something the angels will never experience; namely, being saved by God.

The apostle Peter tells us in his first letter that God's angels long to look into the salvation which only we can experience as sinners saved by grace. Perhaps someday in a future eternity, the angels' curiosity will be at least partially satisfied as they witness that great cloud of witnesses to God's grace praising, worshipping, and magnifying their God and Savior.

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  • I think this is a beautifully written answer. I do not share your trinitarian POV but I can certainly imagine a similar scenario with the eternally existing Jehovah causing his son to come into existence. Sharing untold eons of time as father and Son before creating all other things through Jesus and for Jesus. Since this is a question simply scoped to the broad category Protestant I wonder if you know of a widely respected source that states the angels would have long existed before the physical universe including earth were created. Could you point to such a source? – Kris Feb 2 at 2:04
  • Much appreciated. My own thoughts, privately. Especially helpful your comment about ex nihilo. Again, my own thoughts, privately. (+1). – Nigel J Feb 2 at 9:23
  • This crosses a lot of denominational lines gracefully; very well done, and thank you. +1. – KorvinStarmast Feb 2 at 14:28
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    @NigelJ: Thank you Nigel. Very kind of you! Don – rhetorician Feb 2 at 20:11
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    @Kris. This 2015 scholarly peer-reviewed book The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible by an OT scholar Michael S. Heiser would, I believe, back up rhetorician's answer. This book is in my (too long) "to read" list. – GratefulDisciple Feb 3 at 4:25
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According to Genesis 2:1,

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their host.

Why would not "their host" include the angels? Luke 2:13, {my italics}

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying.

So it seems to me that when God said to Job,

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. . . when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38: 4,7).

He created the angels before man, including the the animals after their own kind.

Genesis 1:23-26,

"And there was evening and there was morning, A FIFTH DAY."

Verse 24,

Then God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind etc."

Verse 25,

"And God made the beasts of the field of the earth of their kind, etc."

Verse 26,

"THEN God said, Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea {etc.}

Verse 31,

"And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good, And there was evening and there was morning, THE SIXTH DAY."

So at Genesis 2:1-2 we are told everything was completed and by the seventh day God rested. When the angels were specifically created is not certain, but it sure was before man and beast were created.

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  • It was sure before the foundations of the earth were made so before “in the beginning.”Meaning that before “in the beginning“mentioned in g1:1 and j1:1 the Eternal Almighty Creator Jehovah had created spiritual creatures in the heavens where he resides. – Kris Feb 1 at 20:07
  • biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/2-1.htm. The commentaries here do not associate gen 2:1 with angels – Kris Feb 1 at 20:36
  • @Kris Really! The following is from the Biblehub you referenced. biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/genesis/2.htm Now what are going to do? Show me how your going to "reconcile" this "apparent" contradiction? How are going to determine who is right? – Mr. Bond Feb 1 at 20:59
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    I simply pointed out that respected commentators disagree on what Gen2:1 refers to as “host of them” some indicate this refers to the vast array of planets and stars. At any rate the point is the angels were created before the beginning referred to in gen and John. Making the charge that nothing was created before “the beginning” a less than convincing argument for countering JW claims that Jesus is the first creation by God. – Kris Feb 1 at 21:35
  • billygraham.org/answer/when-were-the-angels-created-3. Are you impressed with billy graham and his viewpoint on this? – Kris Feb 1 at 23:40
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The Bible confirms that God created the angels before He created the physical universe. In Job 38:4-7 we are told that the angels shouted for joy when God laid the earth’s foundation. Anything God did "before the foundation of the world" puts the event outside of time itself. Time and space are characteristics of our world, not God’s. He is not limited by hours, days, and years as we are.

However, Protestants do not take the expression “In the beginning” in John 1:1 to refer to the beginning of the physical creation of our universe and the earth upon which we live. Protestants believe that the Word has eternally existed, that he was never created, and that he was with God from before the creation of the physical world. I found an article that may help to explain the Protestant view, part of which says this:

The “foundation of the world” is a reference to God’s act of creation. When Scripture refers to something that has been true “from the foundation of the world,” it means “for all of human history.” But when Scripture refers to something that happened “before the foundation of the world,” the event under discussion occurred before anything was ever created, in eternity past.

1 Peter 1:20 says of Jesus Christ, “a lamb unblemished and spotless . . . was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (NASB). The apostle Paul speaks of “God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (1 Corinthians 2:7).

The eternal nature of God the Son and His eternal relationship with God the Father are evident in Jesus’ high priestly prayer: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24, ESV). The Son of God is not a created being; He possessed glory with the Father, was loved by the Father, and dwelt with the Father before the universe was created (see also John 1:1–2). https://www.gotquestions.org/foundation-of-the-world.html

I do not know where the idea comes from that Genesis 1:1 refers to the moment when ALL creation began or that John 1:1 means “the beginning of the creation of the physical universe.”

EDIT: I have removed my original opening sentence because it would be wrong for me to speak for either Protestants or Jehovah's Witnesses. I also want to admit that my last sentence is wrong. It was badly stated and gives an incorrect impression. I will leave it standing because I think it's important to admit where something is in error and not pretend it wasn't said. If I may, allow me to rephrase my conclusion:

As a Protestant, I believe what the Bible says in Job 38:4-7, that when God laid the foundations of the earth and laid its cornerstones, "the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy".

As a Protestant, I also believe what the Bible says in John 1:1, that the Word already existed "in the beginning with God" and that God created everything through him. John's inspired testimony does not say that God created the Word and then everything else was created through him. Neither does John's inpsired testimony tell us when the angels were created. It only says:

"God created everything through him (the Word) and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created" (John 1:3 NLT).

You ask, 'How is it possible that the angels were on hand to witness the earth being created?' Because the angels (who are spiritual beings and are not phyiscal) were created through the Word who already existed "prior to the foundation of the world" (which is part of the physical creation).

The Word was never created. And that's because the Word is not a created angel. The angels were created through the Word. God the Father, and the Word, and the Spirit were all present when God spoke everything into being.

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  • Before the foundation of the world were the angels already created? No! according to the source you link. Yet they are applauding and rejoicing in Job 38:4,7 when the foundation of the earth was set. Since as you believe the Word eternally existed with the Father and since as you state,beginning at John1:1 does not refer to the beginning of gen1:1, to what does beginning in John 1:1 refer? I know a question like this feels loaded but I genuinely want to know. Thanks for this answer . – Kris Feb 3 at 22:42
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The Bible is given for fallen mankind and John the Beloved gave us a very concise reason as to why the gospel of John was written, which we can extrapolate to relate to the Scriptures in its entirety:

John 20:30,31 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The entirety of Bible is God's message to us the fallen human beings that we might believe in the Jesus and thus receive life in His name. Therefore the matters that does not concern our salvation are greatly neglected in the Bible.

Thus the very first verse of the Bible beginning with In the beginning is the beginning of life as it relates to us human beings. This is why the Bible does not speak about extra-terrestrial life, though clearly it hints it. This is why the majority of Old Testament is centered around Abraham, because Salvation was of the Jews. This is also the reason why the New Testament almost entirely neglects the Jews and so on.

Following the same thought, we should note that the heaven that is talked about in Genesis 1 is not necessarily "The Heaven" where God (Personal presence) dwells. In fact, the very first chapter of Genesis introduces us to 2 heavens:

  1. The heaven of Genesis 1 which was created in the beginning
  2. The heaven of Firmament which was created in the second day when God separated the waters from the waters and called the space between them "The firmament of Heaven"

Paul talks about 3 heavens:

2Cor 12:2,3,4 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

We find that the third heaven talked about in verse 2 is the Paradise of verse 4. Thus, the paradise - The Heaven where God dwells, is the third heaven according to the Bible.

Thus, as per my understanding the beginning of Genesis 1 is the beginning of mankind's story rather than the story of the universe. And that the heaven where the angels dwell preexisted this beginning.

Many other verses clear this up:

  1. Job 38:7 The Sons of God shouted for Joy
  2. Psalm 8:5 Man was made lower than angels implying that angels preexisted man
  3. Ezek 28:13 Lucifer was in Eden the Garden of God before iniquity was found in him
  4. The existence of Sabbath - Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man". If Sabbath was specifically made for man and the reason for Sabbath as given in the 10 commandments: "For in six days the Lord made the heaven, the earth..." was that God created heavens and the earth in six days, then by comparison we can arrive at the thought that everything that were made in those six specific days was made for man specially which according to the verse includes the heaven of Gen 1:1
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How is it possible the angels were on hand to witness the earth being

As you noted, Job 38:4,7 places the "sons of God" at a time when they witnessed the beginning of the creation of the earth.

Could Genesis 2:1 refer to angels? Not likely. The fact that the Hebrew words, כל צבאם are rendered as “all the host” in some bibles such as the ASV and “host” in Luke 2:13 is merely superficial.

Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon gives the gloss “d. of the entire creation, כל צבאם Gn 2:1. 2. for this occurrence of the Hebrew.”

The NRSV renders it “all their multitude.”

The LXX renders the Hebrew with the words πᾶς ὁ κόσμος while the Greek of Luke 2:13 uses the words οὐρανίου αἰνούντων. There is no lexical way to reconcile the differences.

TWOT identifies the Hebrew with “The heavenly bodies, including the sun and the moon, are called the host of heaven (Gen 2:1).”

It would be an argument from silence to posit that angels are included in what was created in the beginning of Genesis. They are not mentioned. And, clearly there are many scholarly references that identify the subject of Genesis 2:1 as contrary to that idea.

There is not a shred of evidence that Genesis 1:1 describes the very first creative work of God.

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