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The Physics of Angelology

In the Book of Daniel chapter 10, the prophet Daniel encounters an angelic superpower who arrives in answer to his prayers. However, the angel says he was “detained” for 21 days and had to be assisted by another angel, Michael, “one of the chief princes” (vs. 13). The reason for needing assistance has to do with battling “the king of Persia” (vs. 13). Apparently, this was a very bad dude. Many scholars believe it’s in reference to some type of powerful demonic entity, a “territorial” spirit of some sort that held tremendous spiritual sway. So great was this entity’s power that it required tactical readjustments and forced delays.

Unless you believe this story is purely allegorical or apocalyptic, it poses some interesting possibilities for the physics of Angelology. Namely, it implies that angels are subject to time and space.

In physics, time is considered the fourth dimension. However, according to M-Theory, there are possibly 6 additional dimensions (10 total plus supergravity). It’s difficult for us to conceptualize these additional dimensions because we are bound within our four. Nevertheless, Scripture affirms the presence of a multi-dimensional universe when it speaks of God operating outside of the constraints of time (the Creation event; “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years” II Pet. 3:8), knowing us before we were born (Jer. 1:5), and predestining us “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Angels are often viewed as having similar qualities and are sometimes portrayed as being able to traverse time and space in an instant and materialize in our plane without difficulty. This scene in the Book of Daniel challenges that understanding. Not only does it suggest that physical space is being traversed (the angel is attempting to get from Persia to Babylon), but that it takes actual time to do so. Unlike Dr. Who, angels aren’t afforded a time machine that can zap them instantly from one historical event or locale to another. They must actually move and be subject to flight times.

In this case, the angel was 21 days late! This is interesting in itself because believers like to say that God’s timing is perfect. Well, unless God intended Daniel’s answer to be 21 days late, this incident seems to upend that notion. In fact, it could imply that one of the reasons for unanswered prayer is that the answer got lost in the mail (i.e., intercepted by bad guys). Think about that for a moment. You might be blaming God for ignoring your prayer when instead you should be appealing for help for the delivery boy. “God, send Michael!” Whatever the case, this seems to suggest that angels are subject to the fourth dimension. Of course, this doesn’t mean they don’t have access to others that we might not. The fact that they can or cannot be visible on our plane suggests properties and clearances we don’t have. But it does imply other things; like maybe heaven is actually a place that exists in proximity to other places and takes a given amount of time to traverse. (Just thinking out loud here.) Which, if so, would be dependent upon angelic flight times. Travel to Babylon from heaven would involve a lot more than a simple snap of the fingers. Especially if the Prince of Persia stood in the way.

Either way, the Daniel account potentially stretches our understanding of the physics of angelology.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Jeff Miller January 2, 2017, 3:12 PM

    In my manuscript, I have a band of angels who have been on the trail of demons, which led them to the kingdom in my story. However, they arrived too late to prevent certain things from happening in the natural realm, but just in time to help save the kingdom from an insurgency.

    Going over this for my story, I couldn’t help but wonder what role God himself plays in helping his own angels. An all-knowing God surely knows what the angels don’t know, right? And he would have known it in advance, right? It makes you wonder in the case of Daniel for example, what God was up to, and why he (seemingly) didn’t intervene, snap his fingers and take care of it. Just some theological food for thought.

  • Mark Andrew Olsen January 2, 2017, 9:11 PM

    Mike, as usual, you’re in some territory that I find incredibly intriguing and thought-provoking. I’m not sure the passage you refer necessarily involves distance going from terrestrial point A to B, as Babylon was actually part of Persia at that time, or at least the Persian Empire. But it does strongly suggest that angels are subject to time and logistical constraints in penetrating our physical realm. And it does point to their having to enter into conflict and “fight their way in” through territorial spirits. I don’t know if you’ve seen me post about this, but on this subject, I highly, highly recommend the book “Supernatural” by Michael Heiser. He talks at length about God’s subdividing the world into 70 spiritual “nations” after Babel, the nature of spiritual geography, and some fascinating details about angels. For instance, he makes a convincing case that “angel” is not a spiritual identity, but a job description. According to him, whenever a spiritual being is sent to our realm to perform a function, usually that of a messenger, it becomes an angel. God is sometimes an angel–when He appeared, for instance, in human form before Christ’s incarnation. Anyway, this is all fascinating stuff. Forgive me if I’ve already gone off on this subject to you–I proselytize so much about this book that I forget all the people I’ve talked to about it. But it falls right in line with what you’re investigating. Also, did you ever read the novels “Angelology” and “Angelopolis,” which were published in the non-CBA world?

    • Mike Duran January 3, 2017, 10:05 AM

      I just recently learned of Heiser, purchased his book Unseen Realms, and started in on his podcast. I did read Angelology but not the sequel. From what I remember it didn’t adhere very closely to a Biblical worldview.

      • Mark Andrew Olsen January 3, 2017, 11:48 AM

        SO glad you’re getting into Heiser! For one thing, what I’ve learned has given me a ton of great fiction ideas.

        About your comment on Angelology, you’re absolutely right that they don’t follow a biblical worldview very closely. But in a broader craft perspective, they’re an interesting look at how a secular writer can weave a sub-world from biblical foundations. The first novel opens kind of slow and overly literary, but after that it improves. BTW, it sold upfront for a major seven-figure advance after a fierce bidding war and its film rights brought a similar seven-figure option from Hollywood days later. Will Smith’s company was developing it for Columbia, for some reason. So far, they’ve failed to pull a good script together and get a greenlight. But the broader entertainment industry is hungry for stories that explore biblical notions of the supernatural in ways mainstream audiences can stomach.

  • Kessie January 3, 2017, 9:44 AM

    I second the Michael Heiser recommendation. His Unseen Realms videos on YouTube are superb.

    Anyway, I think Chuck Missler pointed out one time that at that time in Daniel, Persia was not yet the superpower it would later become. Which might imply that the angels weren’t necessarily constrained to OUR timeline. Just something to think about.

    • Mike Duran January 3, 2017, 10:09 AM

      As I mentioned to Mark above, I just recently discovered Heiser. Haven’t seen any of his videos, which I’ll definitely do. Not sure I follow how Persia not being a superpower relates to the angels not necessarily being constrained to our timeline.

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