Angels, who don’t relish the notion of higher beings looking over us and helping mere humans when we need it most? Sounds almost too good to be true, right? But, did you know that 8 out of 10 people believe angels are real? Despite the evident diversity in religious beliefs, it seems, from what I can find, all 12 main world religions and many others also believe in some types of angels. In this article, we will focus on the nine orders of angels according to Christian angelology.
What are Angels
Let’s start with the fundamentals of what we believe to know about these most divine beings. Angels represent the rulership of the divine powers manifested through several orders as the unseen creature that stands in the proximity of God and as the mediating totality between the visible world.
Many other religions have different titles for the same type of being, such as spirit beings, watchers, devas, Malaa’ika, and guides, to name a few. We won’t even be able to get to Angels in other beliefs in this brief overview. We will focus on the more standard Christian view of Angels.
The Bible refers to the angels as God’s attendants, a mighty being with supernatural dominion over the earth. Some of God’s angels are guardians of the planet and humans.
The creation of the angels is mentioned in the Old Testament for the first time right at the commencement: The sacred Scriptures provide accounts of orders of angels’ descriptions, attesting that they appertain to the unseen creation.
According to Christian Angelology, Angels are divided into three types and nine orders. The work On the Celestial Hierarchy ( De Coelesti Hierarchia ) is attributed to Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a later Neoplatonic scholar who expounded upon the Nine Orders of the Celestial Powers(Angels). The nine orders of angels are following:
- First Sphere: Seraphim ( Burning ), Cherubim ( Streams of Wisdom ), and Thrones.
- Second Sphere: Dominions ( Lordships ), Virtues ( Strongholds), and Powers (Authorities)
- Third Sphere: Principalities, Archangels, and Guardian Angels.
SERAPHIM (plural) are the highest order of angels in the heavens. In other words, they are the closest to god. Their role is to exclusively worship the Lord and give thanks unto Him. Isaiah describes the Seraphim as six-winged celestial beings with a fiery passion for doing God’s immeasurable work.
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain, he covered his face, and with twain, he covered his feet, and with twain, he did fly.”(Isaiah 6: 1;2)
The name Seraphim qualifies their constant movement around divine things, including their firmness, warmth, and keenness. They are the highest angelic class, serving as attendants of God’s throne and shouting praises incessantly:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”(Isaiah 6: 3)
The whole chapter in the Book of Isaiah remains as the fertile ground for theological elaboration. Accordingly, the Seraphims abide in fixed perpetual motion and the persuasive assimilation and elevation of the subordinate, purifying through fire and burnt-offering, and the blazing characteristic always remains the same, dissipating all darkness.
“Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar. And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”( Isaiah 6: 6;7)
CHERUBIM (plural) are the second most powerful types of angels in Christian Angelology. The Bible describes this type as nobly angelic, but mighty beings that encircle God’s throne. The Cherubim name refers to their knowledge and vision of God in its first disclosed strength, as well as their satisfaction with the imparting of wisdom and their benevolent kinship to those next to them through the stream of the imparted wisdom.
The Cherubim are depicted as having two pairs of wings and four faces: that of a lion, an ox, a human, and an eagle. Hence, the Descriptions of the Cherubim are referenced in the Bible as follows:
“Then I looked, and behold, four wheels beside the cherubim, one wheel beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like the gleam of a Tarshish stone. As for their appearance, all four had the same form, like a wheel within a wheel.”(Ezekiel 10: 9;10)
“Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle”(Ezekiel 1: 10)
The Cherubim described in the visions of Ezekiel as the chariots upon which Yahweh rode are cognate with what David and Samuel report.
“and he rode upon a cherub and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.”(2 Samuel 22:11)
“He mounted a cherub and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind.”(Psalms 18:10)
Cherubim are the guardians of the Ark of the Covenant, and the entrance to the Garden of Eden after “man” was driven out. They are entrusted with the specific task of protecting the sacred entrances:
Also, when the Ark of the Covenant had to be protected in the Holies of Holies, there were given specific instructions for placing the cherubim in the Temple.
“So he drove out the man, and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”(Genesis 3:24)
“And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.”(Exodus 25:19)
Like I explained before in this article, other religions place different hierarchies on the groups. In Islam, the Cherubim angels are the closest type of angels to God.
THRONES are the third-ranking order of angels that reside over the cosmos, especially where the material starts to take form. They also chant glories to God and remain in his presence always. The Thrones dispense God’s divine justice and maintain harmony in all of the universal laws of the cosmos. The designation Thrones derive from the Greek: thronoi, pl. of thrones or Elders.
Often called the Many-Eyed Ones, they are portrayed as colossal wheels comprising many eyes and sparkle with the color of burnished brass. If you could imagine a giant Ferris Wheel, but alive and ready to do God’s work. They are also correlated with the Cherubim Angels.
They have the hands of a man under their wings and are joined together. The sound of their wings is like the roar of great water. Above their heads shows the likeness of the heavens, which is shown in a kaleidoscopic of colors from a crystal.(Ezekiel 1:13;19)
“The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshipped him.”(Revelation 11:16)
“When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the cherubim spread their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels did not leave their side. When the cherubim stood still, they also stood still; and when the cherubim rose, they rose with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in them.”(Ezekiel 10:16;17)
The Thrones are also an order of angels identified in the New Testament by Paul of Tarsus along with powers and dominions.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”(Colossians 1:16)
DOMINIONS (plural) hold the fourth-ranking position in orders of angels. Dominations govern over nations and decide the success or failure of a domain. They deliver justice, show mercy, and regulate the functions of lower orders of angels. Often represented as holding a golden staff in their right hand and the Seal of God in the left.
The name is derived both from Latin and Greek. In Latin, dominatio, plural dominationes, and in Greek is rendered from the word kyriotetes, (pl. of kyriotes), as “Lordships”.
Both the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians give the accounts for this order of Celestial Powers:
“far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”(Ephesians 1:21)
VIRTUES are the fifth ranking order of angels. The Virtues are a type of angels that rule over miracles, blessings, grace, valor, and encouragement. Known as Brilliant or Shining Ones, they mainly help people struggling with their faith.
The name of the holy Virtues denotes a tremendous and unshakeable virility that dwells up from all of their Godlike powers, ascending firmly to the superessential Virtue, the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those beneath it, abundantly filling them with virtue.
Their principal responsibility is to observe the celestial bodies’ movements and to maintain the cosmos in control.
In Ephesians 1:21, the term appears to be attached to the quality “might,” which is derived from the Greek word dynamis (pl. dynameis), which is also rendered as “virtue.”
“far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”(Ephesians 1:21)
POWERS are the sixth ranking order of angels credited as being created first by God. They are the elite sentry that hold a constant watch for demonic invasion into the world.
Their purpose is to observe how power is divided among humans, hence their name. The Powers comes from the Latin potestas (f), pl. potestates) appear to work with the Principalities in terms of power and authority (Rulers).
They are also responsible for protecting our souls from acts of demonic evil. Because they are responsible for protecting the border between Heaven and Earth, they are the principal protection during heavenly warfare between good and evil. Upon our death, it is believed that it is the Powers that guide our soul’s transition to Heaven.
The Powers are mentioned in Ephesians 3:10, from which the Greek root exousiai (pl. exousia) is derived.
“so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 3:10)
PRINCIPALITIES are the seventh in the orders of the angels and are given more freedoms than subsequent types of angels. This group of angles governs the responsibilities of the angels that follow.
The Principalities, also rendered as “Princedoms” and “Rulers,” appear to associate in power and authority with the Powers (Authorities). Their name is derived from the Greek archai, (pl. of arche), and the Latin principatus, ( pl. principats ).
They are also responsible for conducting divine acts of guidance and guardianship over world leaders. Often described as wearing what looks more like a soldier’s uniform, they are the order that helped David slay Goliath.
In the work De Coelesti Hierarchia, the Principalities approach towards an interconnectedness with the archangels.
The Principalities are depicted as wearing crowns and wielding sceptres. Their responsibility is also claimed to convey the Dominions’ directives and bestow benefits on the material world. Their position entails supervising groups of celestial hosts. They are the administrators of the earth’s territory. They are thought to motivate living things to do things like art and science, as they are tied to the world of ideas.
The Biblical references are not clear upon their distinction. However, the Apostle Paul mentions the word seven times, indicating both a good and an evil order. The only mention here would be:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 6:12)
Archangels are one of the most well known and are eighth in orders of angels. There are as many different names for the top Archangels as there are internet searches.
The name derives from the Greek archō, meaning to be first in rank or power, and angělǒs which means messenger.
The Archangels are regarded to be the guardians of nations and countries, and they are concerned with the matters and events that surround them, such as politics, military activities, commerce, and trade. A particular example here would be around the Archangel Michael, known as the defender of Israel in Judaism and the defender of the Church in Christianity.
The word is used twice in the New Testament. First in the Pauline Epistle in Thessalonica:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”(Thessalonians 4:16)
Mention is also found in the Epistle of Jude:
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”(Jude 1:9)
From only one official Archangel Michael to three top, four top, eleven top, or fifteen top Archangel and the list goes on, ok you get the idea. Archangels, however, are extraordinary beings, all of which specific healing gifts. Each Archangel has a particular role and are acknowledged as extensions of God himself.
We will be taking a more in-depth look at the following Archangels in another series, but there are seven that sums up the Archangel’s role:
- The Warrior – Archangel Michael
- The Healer – Archangel Raphael
- The Messenger – Archangel Gabriel
- Angel of Beauty – Archangel Jophiel
- Angel of Nature and Animals – Archangel Ariel
- Angel of Relationships – Archangel Chamuel
- Angel of Death – Archangel Azreal
We will also be taking a look at the Archangel Metatron, who is not canonically accepted as an Archangel. The Book of Enoch, however, mentions Metatron as an archangel and classes him the highest of all angels.
If, by chance, we miss your favorite Archangel, let us know, and we will take a look at adding them to the list.
9. Guardian Angels
Guardian Angels, the last types of the angels are divine, assisting beings. In some instances, a Guardian Angel will serve as an ethereal messenger to support and help. In other cases, they will transform and take visible form.
They are the ones who are most interested in the experiences of living things. There are various types of guardian angels, each with a distinctive role, within the category of Celestial beings.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”(Luke 15: 10)
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?(Hebrews 1:14)
Either way, they attend to an individual’s well-being, guarding, and protect those who call upon them from harm. Guardian Angels offer guidance, support, and comfort accompanying individuals on a path of self-reliance.
When you study the orders of angels, while all are supreme divided beings, the higher up the hierarchy, the more Archangel’s responsibility falls away from the earthly realm and focuses more on God.
Guardian Angels and Archangels interact the most with the earth and daily life. As we look up the sequence, you can see the transition from world assistance, to protecting the veils between realms and the cosmos, finally and ultimately reaching the job of only praising God.
Regardless of the fact that the guardian angels are the closest in rank to humankind, their authority extends upon the influence of hidden matters, known only to the superior orders.
In the words of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, the Heavenly Beings are called angels. It should be mentioned that the etymology for the English word “angel” comes from the Greek ἄγγελος “angelos” and the Latin cognate “angelus”, both implying the reference to a messenger.
Moreover, the Hebrew word mal’akh (מַלְאָךְ) is the standard word for “messenger”, both human and divine, in the Hebrew Bible ( Tanakh ) and also the Arabic word (malak ملاك) implies messenger referring to an angel.
The angels have been mentioned throughout the Old and New Testament conveying multiple functions.
One particular instance is when the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre ( Genesis 18:1–2 ) in the form of three angels warning him that God’s judgment was about to fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20–21; 19:12–13) and finally Abraham’s assurance of his heir (Genesis 18:10), marking his investiture as a patriarch at the moment of the promise of his forthcoming descendants through his wife, Sarah.
Therefore the angels, as God’s messengers, reveal the participation in the divine Light only to those capable of receiving a message, whatever heavenly revelations have been gazed upon by the holy Prophets of God.
Notwithstanding, the Angel Peniel that wrestled with Jacob when he received the name “Israel” ( Genesis 32:22–32 ) or the Archangel Gabriel that appeared to Virgin Mary ( Luke 1:26), appeared to those who have been illuminated by the divine Grace and filled with the Divine Light, thus becoming the recipients of sacred things; as the ones who were perfected entirely, free from all blemish and disparate confusion.
The Orders of Angels in The Celestial Hierarchy
The classification of the celestial Hierarchy is valued both by the Judaic and the Christian traditions.
In Christianity, the angels are classified in nine orders. In contrast, the Jewish Angelic Hierarchy, according to Moses Maimonides, a Jewish Theologian and Philosopher of the 12th century in his Mishneh Torah ( Repetition of the Torah ), ascribes to the celestial powers ten ranks.
The Hierarchy of the nine orders of angels would be easily understood if the view that holds upon such assertion is considered that each order and Hierarchy stands for a celestial sphere.
Therefore, the gradation that reaches humankind is not of a visible elevation that is to be found somewhere in the universe, but it is an unseen gradation ascribed to other regions hidden to the senses.
The ladder described by Jacob is one of such kind that occurred in a prophetic vision :
“And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.”(Genesis 28:11-12)
The greatest Holy Thrones and the many-eyed plus the many-winged hosts, named in the Hebrew tongue Cherubim (כְּרוּבִים kərūvîm ) and Seraphim ( שְׂרָפִים s’rafím), are placed directly nearby God, with closeness superior to all other orders.
The Book of Chronicles give such account:
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite speaks of this triple order as one, equal in rank, and indeed the first Hierarchy, as there is no other more Godlike or immediately closer to the earliest illuminations of the Godhead. However, he claims that the Authority, Lordships, and Powers are second and that the Order of the Angels, Archangels, and Principalities is third in terms of the lowest of the Heavenly Hierarchies.
Please keep in mind that this is only one viewpoint of this very complex topic. Global Bizarre is hoping to dive deeper into the mysteries of the world and help shed light on every perspective on the issues that matter to us today.