by Matt Slick
There are different kinds of angels with different characteristics and roles: cherubim, seraphim, and archangels. It may also be that there are "powers" and "principalities" which further describe rank in the angelic realm, but this is debated. Angels are created beings (Psalm 148:2, 5; Col. 1:16) and ministering spirits (1 Kings 19:5; Psalm 104:4; Luke 16:22). They are normally invisible but can manifest themselves to us (Num. 22:22-31). They carry out the will of God. Some were elected by God not to fall (1 Timothy 5:21). Let's take a look at different types of angels.
- Seraphim praise God (Isaiah 6:3). The word "seraphim" (singular is saraph) is probably a translation of 'fiery ones' and probably stems from the fiery imagery often associated with the Presence of God (cf. Ezek. 1:27).1 "Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew," (Isaiah 6:2).
- Cherubim are typically represented with wings, feet, and hands but are also described in different forms as having two faces (Ezek. 41:18) and even four faces (Ezek. 10:21). Cherubim were considered to be angels that guarded sacred things. In Gen. 3:24 they guarded the tree of life. They were over the Ark of the Covenant on the Mercy Seat (1 Sam. 4:4). See also Psalm 80:1; 99:1. Figures of Cherubs were embroidered on the temple veil (Exodus 26:31; 2 Chron. 3:7) and lavished Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:26ff). "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life," (Gen. 3:24). See also Exodus 25:18-22; Heb. 9:5.
- The word "archangel" is not found in the Old Testament. References to Michael the archangel appear only in 1 Thess. 4:16 and Jude 9. However, Gabriel, who is considered an archangel, appears in both the OT and NT. In the OT he is found in Dan. 8:15-26 and 9:21-27. In the NT he is mentioned in Luke 1:11-20, 26-38. He seems to be a messenger angel. On the other hand, Michael the archangel seems to be a warrior angel (Rev. 12:7) who does battle (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1). An interesting note is that in Rom. 8:38, Eph. 1:21, and Col. 1:16, the word 'principalities' is used. In Greek the word has the prefix of arche suggesting archangel. Some think this means there is a hierarchy of angels as is suggested in 1 Pet. 3:22, "who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him." "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first," (1 Thess. 4:16).
- Rulers and Powers
- It is not known if these are a true class of angels or if it is just an expression describing the power of angels. If they are in reference to an angelic rank of some sort, nothing is known of their purpose and appearance. Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
- Fallen angels
- Fallen angels are those who, with Satan, rebelled against God before the Fall of Adam and Eve. Most Christian scholars agree that one-third of the angels fell. "And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth . . . " (Rev. 12:3-4). The fallen ones await an ultimate and final judgment, "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;" (2 Pet. 2:4).
- 1. Achtemeier, Paul J., Th.D., Harper's Bible Dictionary, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1985.