The three Heavens according to religious tradition
Most Christians are not aware how influenced they are of gnosticism. Gnosticism crept into early Christianity during the first centuries, and then got its theologian in Augustine (who canonized it). In the gnostic thought, there are two separate realms, the physical universe, and the spiritual, non-dimensional realm outside that. The physical universe is bad, the spiritual realm is good. When the god of gnosticism is finished, he will do away with the physical universe, completely, and only the spiritual, non-dimensional realm will remain. Those who belong to this gnostic god will have their spirits moved to that realm, while their bodies will disintegrate with the rest of the physical universe.
Does that sound familiar to anyone? If it does, you are influenced by gnostic thought. - In the Bible, there is nothing wrong with the physical universe that God created. Only after the fall, the physical world became corrupted, and started to decay. When God finishes his work, the physical universe will regain its uncorrupted state, and that which is spiritual will be united with the physical. Those who belong to our God will have their physical bodies glorified, and suited for heaven.
Let's take it again, from another view. In gnostic thought, the physical universe is like a kind of a bubble in the middle of another dimension that surrounds the bubble. This inner bubble was created by mistake, by a lower Aeon called by gnostics the Demiurge. Gnostics identify this Demiurge with the Old Testament God. Outside the bubble is the nondimensional heaven, the real realm of the highest Aeon. Gnostics see Jesus as a representation of this pure realm, and thus separates him from the "god of the old testament".
To the gnostics, Jesus' resurrection wasn't a physical resurrection, because that would have meant that the physical was good. The gnostics held that Jesus only rose spiritually, while his body either disintegrated, or was left in the grave. Spirituality and the heavenly cannot be physical to gnostics. Likewise with the angels. According to gnostic thought, angels are bodiless consciousnesses. If they visit humans, they only appear to have bodies. They never really eat, or breath our air, or interact with the earth. It is just a play, to make us believe.
As I wrote before, if all of this sounds familiar, it is because this is what the "greatest of all church fathers" brought with him into christianity from the manichaean cult he used to belong to before his conversion to christian faith. Before Augustine, all Christian writers had a physical view on angels and the heavenly world. Jesus rose physically, so the heavenly world must have physicality. The angels' abode was "among the stars", wrote Clement.1 "God and everything that is, has a shape", said Tertullian.2 These early christians fought spiritually against those christians that had begun to be influenced by the greek culture and religion and made a hybrid of old platonism and similar thought, and christianity. Up until the time of Augustine, they managed to mostly hold back this gnostic influence, but with Augustine, things got confused, although they seemed to go against gnosticism. Augustine had been a manichaean, but were won for christianity. He soon became a prominent figure. While rightly revoking much of his former thoughts and beliefs, against the gnostics, no one really seems to have noticed, or cared about, that he also kept some of his manichaean beliefs and so to speak canonized them. Among those were his view that angels couldn't have had sex with earthly women, as told in Gen. 6, because that didn't resonate with his understanding. He clearly stated in one of his books, that he "just cant believe it".3
Well, who ever asked Augustine what he believed?
More of religious tradition. This is not what the Bible says. There is no talk about waters above the stars. The waters above the firmament are the clouds and the water vapour in the atmosphere. The firmament begins at the level where the lowest clouds are, and stretches out to the highest level of the clouds. (Psalms 104 2-3)
In contrast to this, let's look at how the ancient Hebrews viewed heaven and the angels. In the hebrew cosmology, the highest heaven is not outside the universe, or the physical world. It's above the firmament. The firmament is where the sun, moon and the planets travel over the earth. God's abode is among the stars, not above or beyond the stars. There is no indication or saying in the OT that the third heaven, God's abode, doesn't belong to the same universe as the lower heavens and the earth. When David describes the third, or the oldest heaven, it can be seen, and it can be travelled.4 He is telling us that the Lord (the angel of the Lord) is traversing the oldest heaven. When Solomon talks about the heaven of heavens, he says that it can't contain God (meaning here God the Father).5 So, the heaven of heavens is a container, thus it has 3 dimensions. It has distances. These are clearly properties that are the same as the properties of this universe.
Likewise, again, with the angels. When described, they interact fully, and compatibly, with humans. They don't put on an act. They don't borrow human bodies, or create temporary bodies, to cover their shapeless spirits. They have real humanlike bodies. They really eat and drink with humans, they talk to them, and some of them even mate with some humans, getting human offspring (although of a different race).
Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that angels are "direct creations" (that is, created one and one by a direct creation like that of Adam). The Bible says that God created the angels, in the same way it is said that he created the humanity.6 In the first chapters of the Bible, we read about angels that have reproduction abilities, and who interact with humanity as one race would do with another. There is no mention of spirits floating around in the air, or of spirits coming forth from some other dimension (gathering/assuming a body from the air). It says they came down, from heaven above, and mated with humans and got children with them. This is not the "angels" Augustine taught about, and which all of christianity later on adopted as gospel truth. Augustine's "angels" are more similar to the disembodied spirits of the nephilim, than of the angels of the Bible. And that may perhaps explain a lot (of church history).
Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that angels live "outside" the universe. According to Paul, they have their present habitation in the air, or in the atmosphere above the earth. They also have access to the higher places, among the stars, as before mentioned. And when the Bible speaks about the highest heaven, the heavenly paradise, there are trees, rivers, fruits, streets, houses, and so on. Now, where have we seen that before? Here on this planet, of course. On a planet. Paradise is described with the properties of a planet. So, if it sounds like a planet, looks like a planet, and feels like a planet, it probably IS a planet. Otherwise, God is just playing with us. And I don't think he does that.
1. Clement of Alexandria in his Comments on the Epistle of Jude: - "But the angels," he [Jude] says, "that kept not their own pre-eminence," that, namely, which they received through advancement, "but left their own habitation," meaning, that is, the heaven and the stars, became, and are called apostates." - http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.ix.html. - Notice also that he wrote that the angels reached their elevation by advancement. The early Christians knew that the angels had a pre-history, and that, as this was about advancement, only some had been elevated to the stars.
2. As paraphrased. Here's the exact writing:
"Everything which exists is a bodily existence sui generis. Nothing lacks bodily existence but that which does not exist" (De Carne Christi, c. 11). "For Spirit has a bodily form in its own kind, in its own form." - http://www.tertullian.org/articles/roberts_theology/roberts_04.htm, p. 67-69.
"For who will deny that God is body/substance, even though God is spirit? For spirit is a particular kind of body in its own image". - Adversus Praxean (Against Praxeas)
3. "I dare not determine whether there be some spirits embodied in an aerial substance (for this element, even when agitated by a fan, is sensibly felt by the body), and who are capable of lust and of mingling sensibly with women; but certainly I could by no means believe that God's holy angels could at that time have so fallen, nor can I think that it is of them the Apostle Peter said, 'For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." - Augustine's City of God and Christian Doctrine, Chapter 23.
4. Psalms 68:33.
5. 1 Kings 8:27.
6. These scriptures shows that similar creation descriptions are used for angels and humans: Psalms 148:1-5, Gen. 6:7, Exo. 20:11.
Furthermore: The Bible says that both the angels and the saved are sons of God. How did we get created? How did we get to be sons of God? Not by a direct creation, except for Adam and Eve. Since the Bible doesn't tell anything in the contrary to that about the angels, we are not to assume that their creation was different than ours. That would be to invent a theology that isn't there.
I'll say it again: The Bible tells us how a being that is called Sons of God was created. Then there is no reason to think that another being called Sons of God was created in a different way.
You have to free yourself from those old conceptions founded on the augustinian thought. To think that angels are direct creations comes from the misunderstanding of Matt. 22:30 (and Mark 12:25, Luke 20:34-36), where Jesus says that angels in heaven do not marry. "Angels don't marry so they must be direct creations." Well, we now know that absence of marriage is only applicable to angels in heaven. Descending to earth, they do, if they want to, go into marriage and have children with humans.* What does that tell us? That they are the same species. Same species, but another race, another origin. But the same kind of creation. This is the logical conclusion from those scriptures.
* If they are prepared to pay the price: Death of their bodies.