Angels and Their Hierarchy

Upon a recently started study of looking into Satan’s angels I got to studying about angels in general. This study is quite amazing and provides a lot of information if the topic has not been looked into before. During my research I cam across the celestial hierarchy written by a claimed scholar under the pseudonym of Dionysius the Areopagite. From my research I have tried to use/include all the bible verses for reference that are the closest accordingly.

For future note, be careful on studying the ‘celestial hierarchy’ because some could be related to witchcraft. If anything goes into angel’s magic/spells etc. stay clear from it.

Cross Referencing the Celestial Hierarchy

Below is the acclaimed structure of the hierarchy (1 being highest in rank, 9 being lowest in rank) within the three choirs:

First Choir Second Choir Third Choir
1). Seraphim 4). Dominions 7). Principalities
2). Cherubim 5). Virtues 8). Archangels
3). Thrones 6). Powers 9). Angels

First Choir

Seraphim

According to the celestial hierarchy, seraphim is believed to be the angels highest in rank. Looking at the word origin of the name seraph, or saraph, had some meaning relating to something burning or fiery-like. For heavenly angels, seraphim would be considered the ones closest to God (which could explain the name of something fiery just like the presence of God) and are biblically explained to be the ones always saying “Holy, holy, holy…” Through the entire bible only two references are found that actually name this type of angel:

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 seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from 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 is purged. [Isa. 6:1-7 KJV]

Here we find within the verses, that also they are described as having six wings; two (twain) to cover their faces, two to cover their feet, and two they used to fly with.

An good educated look can also lead the possibility of one other instance of seraphim being mentioned in the bible being in Revelation 4 of the four beasts:

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast was like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. [Rev. 4:6-8 KJV]


Quote from Dionysius:

The name Seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the 166 exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all-consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness. [pgs. 166-167]


Cherubim

Second in rank, we find the cherub angels. With this word’s origin we find that from the late Latin word cherub, the Greek word cheroub, and the Hebrew word kerubh, meant ‘winged angel.’ Within the bible, cherub is referenced 21 times and cherubims 57 times. These angels were known for driving out man from the garden of Eden, placed on the Ark of the Covenant and within the temples, mentioned in Ezekiel about the wheels, a placed named Cherub in Babylon, and of course Lucifer was one as previously mentioned.

For the appearances of these angels we must not rely on the information which was always assumed from the modern day cupid as being a cute chubby baby angel. Let’s see what the bible has to stay:

And everyone had four faces: the first face was the of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third face of a lion, and the fourth face of an eagle. And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the loving creature that I saw by the river of Chebar. [Ezk. 10:14-15 KJV]

Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves; they went every one straight forward. [Ezk. 10:21-22 KJV]

In Ezekiel chapter one we find the same angels, not named but with the same features yet describe in much more detail.

Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: wither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. [Ezk. 1:5-14 KJV]


Quote from Dionysius:

The name Cherubim denotes their power of knowing and beholding God, their receptivity to the highest Gift of Light, their contemplation of the Beauty of the Godhead in Its First Manifestation, and that they are filled by participation in Divine Wisdom, and bounteously outpour to those below them from their own fount of wisdom. [p. 167]


Thrones

This is a less obvious form of an angel, also called Ophanim. According to the celestial hierarchy, these are the ‘wheels’ of which Ezekiel seen with the cherubim. The scriptures can be hard to understand about the wheels if you didn’t think of them as angels but when you do it is an interesting perspective.

And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the colour of a beryl stone. And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went. And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had. As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel. [Ezk. 10:9-13 KJV]

Just like with the cherubims, we find in Ezekiel chapter one, these being described with more detail.

The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. [Ezk. 1:16-19 KJV]

The actual term of ‘throne’ can be found here is quite interesting since it is mentioned in discussion of creatures of God:

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [Col. 1:15-16 KJV]

Quite similar to the verses in Ephesians 6 except that thrones are not mentioned. Another possible reference is found here but not as obvious:

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. [Dan. 7:9 KJV]


Quote from Dionysius:

The name of the most glorious and exalted Thrones denotes that which is exempt from and untainted by any base and earthly thing, and the supermundane ascent up the steep. For these have no part in that which is lowest, but dwell in fullest power, immovably and perfectly established in the Most High, and receive the Divine Immanence above all passion and matter, and manifest God, being attentively open to divine participations. [p. 167]


To summarize and idea of perspective of the first choir, the choir seems to be of those closest to God and His throne. The idea, if taken in combination of several verses looked at, seems to form a very holy and power chariot of God. Thus God being at the center, the seraphim would possibly be located closest to God surrounding him and maybe are designed with so many wings to shield radiant power of God. Then seen in Ezekiel the cherubims and the wheels could possibly be below in support. The cherubim direct the wheels (Ophanim) and are synchronized in moved in accordance to the will of God. The idea is just an idea but how powerful the thought of such holy beauty.

Second Choir

Dominions

Like the thrones, there is not much in reference to the dominions in the bible. They do have a a few other names being Hashmalim or Chashmalim  which is to mean amber (there may be a debate of which would be correct). This Hebrew name is originated from here:

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour amber, out of the midst of the fire. [Ezk. 1:4 KJV]

Obviously you do not see it named here but you see how that something of the color amber came out of the midst of the fire. The Hebrew word for amber would be chashmal or hashmal. What is clear is found back in Colossians 1:16 mentioned earlier we can see that dominions are also mentioned in discussion of creatures God made.


Quote from Dionysius:

The name given to the holy Dominions signifies, I think, a certain unbounded elevation to that which is above, freedom from all that is of the earth, and from all inward inclination to the bondage of discord, a liberal superiority to harsh tyranny, an exemptness from degrading servility and from all that is low: for they are untouched by any inconsistency. They are true Lords, perpetually aspiring to true lordship, and to the Source of lordship, and they providentially fashion themselves and those below them, as far as possible, into the likeness of true lordship. They do not turn towards vain shadows, but wholly give themselves to that true Authority, forever one with the Godlike Source of lordship. [p.172]


Virtues

Virtues are of a questionable state with that according to the bible. Only on small reference is provided and sheds hardly no light to being understood as a form of an angel.

Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: [Eph. 1:21 KJV]

We can see that the only connection is the similarity between the words mentioned here and within Ephesians 6:12. That being said the word virtue or virtues is not identified here in Ephesians 1. From the explanation, it is stated that this group is seen from the mentioning of ‘might.’ Looking at the Hebrew word, dunamis provides no connection, however Thayer’s Greek lexicon defines the word as ‘universally, inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.’


Quote from Dionysius:

The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue. [p. 172]


Powers

Unlike the acclaimed virtues order of angels, powers are more evident within the bible. The word ‘powers’ can be found in scripture 13 times where they at least faintly hint of the choir but majority are very clear which I will use below:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom. 8:38-39 KJV]

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, [Eph. 3:9-10 KJV]

These two sets of verse make it very clear of such angels. The powers are also seen in Colossians 1:16 and Ephesians 6:12 which was covered before. The most clear reference in my opinion is here in 1 Peter:

Who is gone into heaven, and is one the right hand of God: angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. [1 Pet. 3:22]


Quote from Dionysius:

The name of the holy Powers, co-equal with the Divine Dominions and Virtues, signifies an orderly and unconfined order in the divine receptions, and the regulation of intellectual and supermundane power which never debases its authority by tyrannical force, but is irresistibly urged onward in due order to the Divine. It beneficently 172leads those below it, as far as possible, to the Supreme Power which is the Source of Power, which it manifests after the manner of Angels in the wellordered ranks of its own authoritative power. This middle rank of the Celestial Intelligences, having these Godlike characteristics, is purified, illuminated and perfected in the manner already described, by the divine Illuminations bestowed upon it in a secondary manner through the first hierarchical Order, and shown forth in a secondary manifestation by the middle choir. [pgs. 172-173]


 

Third Choir

Principalities

Head of the third choir, we find principalities of which are referenced 7 times in the bible. We have already looked at them in Romans 8:38, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 6:12, and Colossians 1:16 but we can look at two reference that have not been looked at yet which also mention that of the powers order:

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. [Col. 2:13-15 KJV]

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. [Titus 3:1-2 KJV]


Quote from Dionysius:

The name of the Celestial Principalities signifies their Godlike princeliness and authoritativeness in an Order which is holy and most fitting to the princely Powers, and that they are wholly turned towards the Prince of Princes, and lead others in princely fashion, and that they are formed, as far as possible, in the likeness of the Source of Principality, and reveal Its superessential order by the good Order of the princely Powers. [p. 175]


Archangels

Surprisingly, archangels is only mentioned twice in the bible while one reference names an individual one; Michael. The Greek definition of these are described as chief angels.

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 KJV]

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. [Jude 1:9 KJV]


Quote from Dionysius:

The choir of the holy Archangels is placed in the same threefold Order as the Celestial Principalities; for, as has been said, there is one Hierarchy and Order which includes these and the Angels. But since each Hierarchy has first, middle and last ranks, the holy Order of Archangels, through its middle position, participates in the two extremes, being joined with the most .holy Principalities and with the holy Angels. [p. 176]


Angels

Lastly, we have the most commonly known of regular angels. The word ‘angel’ is found in the bible 194 times and in plural found 92 times. This naming can a reference to one of the higher ranked angels and also possibly for the lowest ranked of which may be the closest interaction with humans. The only other angel named is Gabriel who is just classified as an angel which is mentioned twice:

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. [Luke 1:19 KJV]

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, [Luke 1:26 KJV]


Quote from Dionysius:

Accordingly the Word of God has given our hierarchy into the care of Angels, for Michael is called Lord of the people of Judah, and other Angels are assigned to other peoples. For the Most High established the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Angels of God. [p. 177]


 

Conclusion

After looking through all these verses, I believe without doubt there is a specific rank among different angels each having different jobs. The ones named of virtues are the one I struggle to see much about, which does not mean they do not exist but just may need to be studied more in depth. Outside of this the order which the Celestial hierarchy displays each ranks can make sense however some could be in different order. Upon completion of this study I have not read the complete work on the Celestial Hierarchy by Dionysius the Areopagite but plan to do so soon. Below is a source for reading this online:

Source of Dionysius the Areopagite: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/dionysius/celestial.i.html