As Christian believers, you reach God through prayer, and he talks to you through various angels. Those unfamiliar with scripture might not know that there are several types of angels in the Bible. Each choir of angels has its duties established in a hierarchy.
This post will name the types of angelic spheres and discuss the ranks and roles within them. We will also provide relevant references to these angels found within the Bible and refer to other religious writings.
Types of Angels in the Bible: Hierarchy
To truly depict the role of angelic beings altogether, first, we can take a look at their name. The term “Angel” is derived from the Greek word “Angelos”, which translates into “Malakh” in Hebrew, meaning messenger.
Commonly, many believe that all heavenly fall under the scope of angels. However, within the Bible, you can find many different words used to refer to angels, such as “Heavenly hosts”, “Holy watchers”, “Sons of the mighty”, and more.
When discussing the types of angels in the Bible, the first thing we should note is that the angelic hierarchy is not discussed in the Bible itself.
Instead, the angelic order was derived from the Book of St. Thomas, Summa Theologica. This important theological book dates back to somewhere between the 5th and 6th centuries. The angelic hierarchy in this book describes how angels operate and what distinguishes their orders.
But you may ask, if not from the Bible, where did St.Thomas get this idea? The angelic hierarchy is traced back to Dionysus, a student of St. Paul. According to these writings, there are nine types of angles spread across three hierarchies.
Highest angelic hierarchy
Angels that belong to the first sphere are bound to heaven and tasked with carrying out acts immediately next to God.
Seraphim are the angels that exist exactly next to God’s throne. Seraphim are known as the fiery ones, and it is believed that only four of them exist. The primary mention of seraphim is found as part of the Old Testament in the Book of Isaiah.
“Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” (Isaiah 6:2-7)
Here Isaiah has a vision in which he describes the seraphim. These angels appear as creatures with human heads and six wings. They use four of their wings to cover themselves as an act of humility before God. Being closest to God, they are through to represent his love which is why they emit fiery light.
Seraphim are seen as caretakers and are only ever mentioned near the throne of God. They sing songs of praise to God as a sign of worship. In Isahia’s vision, they flow over to him and bring him coal to wash his sins away.
We find another mention of seraphim in the Book of Revelation. In John’s vision of God’s throne, he describes seraphim a bit differently. He says the creatures that give God glory have six wings that are covered with eyes.
“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night” (Revelation 4:8)
Cherubims are the second type of angels in the Bible that belong to the first hierarchy. According to the Bible, the first to ever see a cherubim was Ezekiel. As part of the Old Testament, in the Book of Ezekiel, we find a chapter in which he describes the cherubim in detail.
“Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings, on their four sides, they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another.” (Ezekiel 1: 7-9)
Ezekiel explains that each of the cherubims in his vision had four faces. A human face, an eagle face, a lion’s face of a lion, and a face of an ox. In Chapter 1, Ezekiel also explains that cherubims’ fiery appearance radiates colorful light around them.
Cherubims are also known as the guards of the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Genesis, which tells the story of how Adam and Eve were cast out of heaven, there is a verse that implies that God placed cherubims to guard the garden’s gates.
“After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)
The last of God’s primary servants are the thrones. Just as the cherubims, the thrones also appear in Ezekiel’s Vision. He describes these angels as constantly spinning wheels with four wings, two of which they use for flying and two that they use to cover themselves. In Chapter 10, Ezekiel says:
“Each looked like they had one wheel inside another wheel. When they moved, they went in any of their four ways without turning as they went but followed the way the head was facing without turning as they went. And their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around, the wheels belonging to all four of them. The wheels were called in my hearing, “the turning wheels.” (Ezekiel 10: 10-13)
Middle angelic hierarchy
Information on these types of angels in the Bible is scarce compared to those of the primary hierarchy. These are the angels that exist in heaven, but the actions they perform influence us here on Earth.
Most of the information about these angels comes from the Catholic Canon and different religious writings.
The dominions may also be found under the name of “Dominations” or “Lordships”. These angels are thought to be in charge of regulating the duties of angels from the lower on the hierarchy scale. The dominions are believed to carry out God’s justice, but they are also known as bringers of mercy.
Some believers think that dominions were the ones that stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac. Some individuals also consider these angels as the messengers of God’s will and believe that they answer the prayers of leaders across the world and in this way offer guidance to you all.
In some depictions, it is believed that dominions have dominion over specific areas of Earth. Many also believe that dominions have reigned over the plants and the cosmos.
The virtues are described as the governors of the elements and all nature on Earth. These angels are the ones that are mostly credited for performing miracles on Earth. The virtues are also the angels that help strengthen peoples’ faith.
Many also believe that virtues possess the ability to give people courage and strength. They are seen as the deities who impart the good spirits that people have.
In the Book of Enoch, there is a mention of angels described as the “shining ones”. In some artistic depictions, virtues are represented with white lilies in one hand and red roses in the other.
The white lilies represent the perfection of God, while the red roses depict the love of Christ. Some people commonly associate the virtues with the angel Raphael who was a known healer.
The authorities are also found under the name “Powers”. Their name stems from the Latin word “Postetas”, which means authority.
The authorities are God’s warrior angels, who are the guardians of anti-demonic presence. It is believed that they are in constant battle with the demons on Earth. It is also said that the authorities are the angels who guard the border between heaven and Earth.
It is also commonly believed that the authorities are the angels that escort human souls into heaven. The powers are also said to be involved in fighting off temptation. Due to their guardian role, the authorities are usually depicted wearing armor and carrying some type of weapon with them, such as a sword or a bow.
Lowest angelic hierarchy
The third sphere of angels is one of the earthly messengers who come in direct contact with people.
The first angels in the third order are the principalities, also known as the “Princess”. These angels are the rulers on Earth and preside over individual groups, leaders, and churches. One of their main duties includes making sure the ministry continues on Earth.
Principalities are believed to bring progress to Earth. Whenever a group of people is given a certain knowledge or blessing, it is regarded as an act of the principalities.
They are usually depicted as wearing a crown and scepter. Throughout history, these angels are believed to be the ones who give strength to the people who need it most. In the book of Ephesians, we find a verse that has an interesting interpretation:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12)
Some believe that this verse speaks of the fallen angels that now serve Satan. This means that when studying the types of angels mentioned in the Bible, you should remember that the positive powers of angels of heaven are similar, if not the same, as those of demons.
After all, all demons were angels before their fall, and it is not surprising that some of them belonged to the choir of principalities.
Archangels are the second type of angels in the choir of earthy messengers. Though we find several mentions of archangels throughout Canonical scriptures, in the Bible, we have only one specifically mentioned archangel, Michael. Micheal is mentioned several times in the Bible.
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 9: 22-24).
In chapter 9 in the Book of Jude, Micheal and the devil meet over the body of Moses. The reason why many believe that Micheal is the only archangel mentioned in the Bible is because he is the most important. According to Canonical texts, Micheal is the angel who will battle and destroy the devil.
Furthermore, Gabriel is another messenger angel that is mentioned multiple times throughout the Bible.
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David”. (Luke 1:26)
Gabriel is the one to tell Mary she is with the child. He is also the angel who tells the shepherds that Christ is coming and carries through other important messages.
- The seven archangels
However, in chapter 8 of the Book of Revelation, seven angels gathered around the throne, one of them being Michael. To complete the story, people who consulted with different religious texts put together the idea of the seven archangels.
Believers have assigned unique duties to each of the archangels. Micheal is the warrior, Raphael is the healer, Jophiel spreads beauty on Earth, Ariel represents nature and the natural world, Chamuel is the angel or relation, Gabriel is the messenger angel, and Azriel is the death angel.
The number of Archangels varies from one tradition to another. So, how many Archangels are there in Christianity and other traditions? Find out.
The last on the list of types of angels in the Bible are the “Regular angels”, which are only referred to as angels. The common angels are depicted as tall humans with wings. They are put on Earth as our guardian angels, each assigned a person.
These angels also act as God’s warriors as they are in constant battle with the demons that walk the Earth. Still, the purpose of your guardian angel is to ensure the best outcome for every human soul.
However, these angels cannot interfere with human free will and are only here to protect us through guidance.
Who is God’s highest angel?
Some believe that Lucifer used to be one of the angels closest to God before his rebellion. Some think after that, Michael became the highest among God’s angels.
Some think this is true because he is the only archangel mentioned in the Bible. Others believe so because he is destined to defeat Lucifer and banish him along with his demons.
Who is the first angel created?
There is no record of what type of angel or who was the first angel that God created. There is no explicit mention in the Bible nor in other religious texts.
The only thing we know about God’s creation process is that both the heavens and earth were created in six days.
In conclusion to the details about the types of angels in the Bible that we discussed above, we should note that altogether there are nine types of angels.
They are sorted into three different choirs, each performing a certain role. Mainly what separates one choir from another is how the realm in which they reside and how they interact with humans.
Not all angel types are mentioned in the Bible. Much of the information we have at hand comes from other religious texts. The Bible contains most examples of the highest angelic hierarchy.
What remains common to all angel types is that they remind us of God’s worship, power, and presence.