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Have you seen one? Seventy-seven percent of American adults believe in angels, and countless have either seen an angel or felt their presence—but what do you really know about them?

Whether you have seen an angel or not, this article will reveal more than you ever knew about them and engender a deeper appreciation for God in realizing how he has set up an entire program in heaven to take care of you

Note what Billy Graham has to say:

"I have never heard anyone preach a sermon on angels. As I have recently tried to correct this in my own ministry, I've asked myself, why this oversight? Why have we ignored the great biblical teachings about angels?"(1)

Now, to the article . . .


In this article you’ll learn about:
NOTE: There will be a “FREE OFFER” at the end of this article. Don't miss it!

Individuals’ fascination with angels
Individuals in their desperate search for spiritual meaning are hungry to know more about heaven. This is evidenced by the popular Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Clarence his guardian angel who hasn’t earned his wings yet, and the “Touched by an Angel” and “Highway to Heaven” series, plus numerous articles in TV documentaries, Newsweek and other magazines.(2)

First, let’s define what an angel is:

Angels are found in at least 34 books from Genesis to Revelation, including their appearance to individuals. They are spiritual beings created to serve God, the church, and believers. Angelic beings are described in the Book of Hebrews as, “ministering spirits,” sent out to render service toward those who will inherit salvation. (Ps 91:11 and Matt 4:11.). Using angels is God’s established method of communication and caring for his creation, and they are in close touch with us. Many people today have encountered them, including yours truly.(3)

The reality of angels
Angels were so real in the Old Testament period that people began worshipping them (2 Kings 23:5), and the appearance of these Godly messengers continued into the New Testament period. They are still ministering today, and it makes sense. Heb. 13:8 says, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” which is another way of saying, “God doesn’t change horses in the middle of the stream.”

A caution about angels

Billy Graham said:

 “The problem for people today is not simply believing angels exist, but in their ability to distinguish between angels and demons.(4)

When dealing with the supernatural, especially angels, one has to be cautious. Why? Because “Satan himself can transform himself into an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Matt 25:41; Eph. 6:12.)

You mean, there are bad angels?
Yes. They are fallen angels headed by Satan who fell from their holy position and now stand in active opposition to the work and plan of God. (2 Cor. 4:4) Their major purpose is to thwart God’s work by deceiving mankind, and will use every avenue at their disposal. Satan is God of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and he counterfeits God’s heavenly kingdom, including appearing as an angel. They are especially intent on deceiving Christians. Billy Graham said, “As soon as you know Christ you’ll know the reality of demons.(5) (Demonic angels often materialize to cult leaders.)

The apostles, aware of this, knew the demonic angels could pass off false doctrine. This is why Paul warned:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)

Demonic angels can appear in many forms:

  • as an angel of light
  • as a recently deceased loved one
  • can also give prophetic dreams (often predicting your own death)
  • can attack you during the night and try to take over your body. (Those who describe this say it feels like they are going to be killed)
  • as temptation, by enticing one to do things contrary to God’s teachings.
 They are the forces that fight against us. They prowl “around like a roaring lion seeking whom they may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).  Paul confirms this:

The only way to avoid being deceived is to know God’s truth. Study of the Bible enables one to recognize false doctrine any angel may pass off.

When were angels created?
First, angels are not “eternal.” They were “created” as immaterial spirits (Heb. 1:14) If they had always eternally existed, that would make them coequal with God and they would not be required to bow down to Him. But they do. (Neh. 9:6; Ps. 148:2,5; Col. 1:16-17). No time period is given for their creation, but it was some time before the creation of the earth. 

God said, in speaking to Job:
Where were you when I created the earth?Tell me, since you know so much!Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?How was its foundation poured,and who set the cornerstone,While the morning stars sang in chorusand all the angels (KJV=sons of God) shouted praise? (Job 38:2-11 Msg Bible)

How many angels are there?
Thousands! The books of Daniel and Revelation say, "thousand thousands ministered unto Him and the thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" (Dan 7:10 and Rev. 5:11). Ten thousand were present on Mt. Sinai when God gave the Law to Moses (Deut. 33:2). Luke records "a multitude of the heavenly host" praised our Lord (Luke 2:13).  Jesus also said: “Do you think I cannot ask My Father, and He will send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (about 80,000) (Matt. 26:53) When Jesus comes in his glory, the scriptures tell us he will bring “all the holy angels with Him.” (Matt 25:31). What a sight that will be!

The Second Coming

Are angels humans minus a physical body?
No. Angels are entirely unrelated to man. They are non-human spiritual entities. Nor are they the spirits of deceased men, as Joseph Smith falsely taught. He declared all angels were humans at one time.

Joseph Smith’s false teaching:
  • There are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. 
  • Adam…is Michael the Archangel.
  • Noah…is Gabriel.”(6)

Biblical truths
  • Angels are unique spirit beings (Heb. 1:14)
  • Although not human, they may appear to individuals as such (Gen. 18:2; 19:1)
  • They do not descend from a common ancestor, do not marry, and do not procreate (Matt. 22:30).
  • Are not subject to death
  • They possess:
  • Intelligence (Matt 8:29; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Pet. 1:12
  • Emotion (Luke 2:14; James 2:19, Rev. 12:17
  • Exercise will (Luke 8:28-31; 2 Tim. 2:26; Jude 6)
  • Have personality
  • Can appear visibly or remain invisible (2 Kings 6:17)
Do humans become angels after they die?
No. Men and women who die never become angels in heaven. We are told in Heb. 12:22-23 that when we get to haven we will be met by two groups: "myriads of angels" AND "the spirits of righteous men made perfect." (deceased humans) Angels and human spirits are two separate and distinct species. Humans can't change from one to the other.

Are angels male or female?
Despite centuries of art work that depict angels as beautiful females, there are no female angels mentioned in the Bible, with the exception of two in Zechariah 5:9-11 (although it is debatable whether these are good or bad angels). 

The Bible, in general, always refers to angels as “males,” and the word “angel” in Hebrew (Old Testament) and the Greek (New Testament) is always rendered in the masculine form. This is because whenever they chose to take on human form to Old Testament men called to be prophets and leaders, they appeared as men. (See Gen. 18:2; 19:1; Joshua 5; Rev. 12). The male perception of angels was also based on the only two (good) angels named in the Bible, Gabriel and Michael. God also used male terms in the below passage when he spoke to Job:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons (angels) of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4,7)
However, God was simply calling his angels “sons of God” to distinguish them from being “sons of men.” Angels were created genderless. They weren’t “born.” Further, “sons” does not suggest God and a wife (as Mormons believe) procreated and gave birth to angels who are awaiting their chance to be born on earth.

Why did angels always decide to appear as men when they took on human form? Since men dominated as leaders in Old Testament society and religion, whatever human form angels took on (referred to as “angels in disguise” or “angels unaware”) was designed to accommodate the needed relationship with the person they were appearing to. If an angel had appeared as a female to men in Old Testament times, it would have flown in their faces because of the status of women at that time. Women were considered “property and had no status (with the exception of Debra and Huldah). As women became to be acknowledged as equals through Jesus’ gospel and Paul’s teachings, there was gradual acceptance of females as prophetesses, such as Anna and the daughters of Phillip.

All in all, angels, when they appear as human, simply chose a gender that will be most effective for the person they communicate with. I know of examples today where an angel in disguise appeared as a female and provided crucial information to the individuals. However, while there are no angels in their “true, immaterial state” who are female (they’re genderless), when an angel takes on a human form, he/it can either appear as male or female.

Are angels male and female in their true state? 
Angels, in their true state as they exist in heaven (when they are not taking on a human form), are neither male nor female. God did not design them with gender because gender is a biological function and angels are not biological, needing to marry or reproduce. Jesus confirmed this in (Matt. 22:30) when he said, that in the hereafter we will be like the angels who do not marry.

The essence of angels is pure, spiritual intellect. They do not have physical forms because they are immaterial. They belong to an entirely different order of beings from humans. However, should God intend a human recipient to see an angel in its true ethereal state, such as in a vision or dream, they will be perceived according to how God wants them to see them based on the message He wants to relay. Since God and his angels’ reality cannot be fully comprehended by humans, He often has them appear as images that will relay symbolic messages in an attempt to help the perceiver grasp a view of that reality, albeit limited. Billy Graham said, "The cherubim in the Bible were often symbolic of heavenly things." (29) An example is Ezekiel’s vision of the cherubim (discussed later).

If angels “appear unawares” (Heb 13:2) when appearing in disguise as humans, they do so as not to cause alarm. This means they usually assume the same ethnic features as the person they plan to encounter. Proof of this is recipients are never disturbed by their looks. As one author put it:

then angels are appearing as Chinese to Chinese and Africans to Africans, as well as Americans to Americans [and] that would mean there are angels appearing as blacks as well as whites—probably as every nationality of the world.(13) 

Another author said:

A missionary to the Andes saw an angel that looked like a national from Ecuador; a Mexican family saw two angels who looked like Mexicans; in Haiti the angels were very black; white Americans saw angels who resembled their neighbors; black persons saw black angels. This is to be expected. Being inconspicuous is often a part of the angel's ministry.”(14)

Another example is when an angel appeared as a man to Samson’s mother (Judges 13:6). If he had not looked like an Israelite, she wouldn’t have, so calmly, called him “a man of God.”

If angels are not male or female, what else are they “not?
  • They are not kings, saviors, or priests
  • all-knowing
  • forgivers of sins
  • living in us
  • Christ substitutes
  • to be worshiped
  • members of the Godhead
  • servants for us to order around
  • or give day-to-day guidance and scriptural insight to Christians. (This is the role of the Holy Spirit.)
Do angels have personal names?
The only two Godly angels named in the Bible are Michael the Archangel and Gabriel (Luke 1:26, Joshua 5 and Rev. 12). All other angels have remained nameless. Therefore, generally speaking, Godly angels who appear to humans (whether in a vision or in person) never introduce themselves with a name. Their names are “secret” (KJV), or, as other versions say in Judges 13:17-18, “too wonderful to understand.”

And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?
 Another reason for this is the of angels, who are Christ-centered, is to always glorify God—not to lift themselves up by identifying themselves.

Angels with names definitely occur in cults; therefore, be cautious. When visitations are claimed by cult leaders, the angel always has a name. Joseph Smith’s angel introduced himself as Moroni; other cults claim personal spirit guides with names. Demonic angels can also appear in visions and dreams. Female angels were typical during the New Age and occult movements. One in the 1980s, was called “Emma.”(6) (See  endnote No. 6.  Also, one test is whatever they may say can always be verified in the Bible. They are not going to contradict it.

What is the purpose of angels?
They are God’s ministering spirits sent to serve the Lord’s purposes, the Christian church and its believers; also, the lost, whom God knows will eventually become heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). They are also our protectors. They are commanded to “encamp all around us” and keep us from harm. They strengthen and minister to us (Luke 22:43, Psalm 34:7, 91:10-13, 103:21), and one helped strengthen Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). Their purpose is to also: 
  • Praise God (Ps. 148:1-2; Isa. 6:1-3; Rev 4-5)
  • Worship God (Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:8-13)
  • Serve God (Ps. 103:20; Rev. 22:9)
  • Rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7)
  • Communicate God’s will to men.
  • Minister to humankind in times of need (Heb. 1:14; Gen 21:17-20; 1 Kings 19:5-7; Matt 4:11)
  • Bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10)
  • Give direction (Matt. 1:20-21; Acts 8:26)
  • Appear in dreams or open visions and give messages
  • Deliver us from danger (Acts 5 and 12)
  • Protect us (Daniel 6:20-23; 2 Kings 6:13-17)
  • Reveal information about the divine world (Acts 7:52-53; Luke 1:11-20)
  • Aid in conversion by performing acts in behalf of unbelievers whom God knows will eventually become heirs of salvation. (Heb. 1:14; Acts 8:26; 10:3)
  • Are instruments of God’s judgments (Rev 7:1; 8:2)
  • Care for the righteous at the time of death and carry their spirit to heaven. (Luke 16:22)(8)
What do angels look like in their true state?
What angels look like depends upon what “kind” they are—cherubim, seraphim, archangel, or angel. 

Many theologians suggest there is an “angelic order” with each having specific roles, and also appear differently because scripture suggests there is a hierarchal ranking of angels:

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels(Col. 1:16 Msg)

Billy Graham also said:

"We cannot study the subject of angels in the Bible without becoming aware of ranks among angelic beings. The evidence shows that they are organized in terms of authority and glory."
(Billy Graham)(27)

Let’s take these ranks in order based on how the Bible presents and describes them:

THE CHERUBIM (plural for Cherub)

The cherubim are mentioned numerous times in the Old and New Testament and are never called angels (Angels are indicated in a lower rank.) Cherubim are living creatures who are involved in defending God’s holiness from any defilement of sin (Gen 3:24; Ex. 25:18,20; Ezek. 1:1-18)—which is the reason they were the ones to guard the Tree of Life at the entrance to Eden so Adam and Eve could not reenter in their sinful and fallen state.

Prepare yourself—here is their biblical description. They are not the darling, winged cherub babies depicted in paintings and on greeting cards. The following description is based on what Ezekiel saw in a vision (Ezek 1):
Cherubim with four faces(21)

(Ezek 1:1-20) 
 “…the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.  Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance;
They had the likeness of a 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. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. 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 (rims), they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings (rims) 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. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
(For the sake of space, I omitted some passages, but the content is included in the below summary)

Here is a summary:

  • The glory of the Lord hovered above the cherubim. (Ezek 1:25-28)
  • There was a crystal platform above them that held a throne from which the voice of God spoke. (Ezek 1:22-27)
    Note: Cherubim are sometimes referred to as “throne angels;” also “carriers” “thrones” and “chariots” for God’s throne. In religious iconography (pagan included), they are always depicted as supporting the throne of the deity or a king. An example is in Ps 18, where David describes the sudden descent of Jehovah to rescue him: "He bowed the heavens and came down, and darkness was under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew upon the wings of the wind." The same idea of cherubim as the chariot of God is indicated in Ezekiel 1:26, saying the “glory of the Lord rode above the cherubim. Here is an artist’s rendition:
Cherubim and wheels as transporters of the throne of God
  • They were in the likeness of a man and had hands. (Ezek 10:8)
  • They had four faces each portrayed as a human, ox, lion, and eagle. The four faces on the four side of their heads were arranged in a square so it could travel in any direction without having to turn.
    Note: In Moses’ Tabernacle and the Temple, the man-made figures of the gold cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, and also on the embroidered veils, have only one face. But this is understandable, since it would be difficult to hand-carve a four-faced image, let alone embroider this on veils. Further, in Ezekiel’s vision of the latter-day Jewish temple (not yet built), he saw the walls covered with images of cherubim with only two faces (human and lion) instead of four. (Ezek 41:18-19) Again, understandable.
  • They had four wings (Ezek 1:11,23)
  • They had straight legs like calve legs, and their feet were like burnished calf hooves. (Ezek: 1:7)
  • They were covered with eyes all over their bodies.
  • Next to their bodies was a large sparkling “wheel within a wheel” turning crosswise to each other and also covered with eyes. The spirit of the living being was in the wheels and provided the direction the wheels should go. Some have interpreted the “wheels” to be a group of celestial angels called “Ophanim,” which means wheels.(9) (See endnote) 
Wheels within wheels, with eyes
THE SERAPHIM (plural for Seraph)

Isaiah, Chapter 6, is the only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim.
Seraphim (22)
(Isa. 6:1-3)
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.

Here is a summary:
  • Their face. The number of faces is not mentioned, probably because the seraphim covered their face with two of their wings so Isaiah couldn’t see it. Other Bible versions say “faces,” taking the liberty of assuming that if the Cherubim had more than one face, surely the seraphim did, too.
  • They have six wings. Two cover their face(s), two cover their feet, and the other two are used for flying. They are “covered with eyes all around, even under the wings” (Rev. 4:8).
  • Their typical verbal expressions are:  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” This suggests their purpose for existing is to declare praise to God.
  • They are awesome creatures of “fire.” “Seraphim” in Hebrew means “the one that burns.” Their ministry is to praise the name and character of God. 
  • The similarities to the cherubim: Both are focused on worshiping God and to guard His Holy domain and presence from any sin and corruption, which is perhaps why one flew to Isaiah, put a burning coal on his mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isa 6:7)

 For an explanation of why the cherubim and seraphim are so strange looking, and also “why” God chose to portray their images as such, see my “FREE OFFER” at the end of article.

Aside from the cherubim, what do other angels look like in their true form?
  • Those who have been seen today, report as follows:
  • Can appear as bright as fire (Heb. 1:7, Ps 104:4), or they can subdue their glory
  • Can appear in dreams to bring messages (e.g., Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream about Herod’s plan to kill Jesus)
  • May reveal something about the divine world and some facts about you.
  • They can appear to humans either as themselves, or disguised a human.
  • If seen in a vision, they do not have wings.**
    **Angels, sometimes seen in church worship services, are described as very tall with wings. They do not deliver messages, but appear to be focusing their attention on the worship and music. They are more in line with angels involved in the worship of God. What they are “called” is unknown.

Michael the Archangel


The Hebrew word Archangel means “chief angel,” which suggests he is head over all other angels. In the Bible, Michael is the patron angel and defender of Israel who fights against the angels of other nations. He is called the “Prince of angels;” also “The Prince of the army of Yahweh” (Joshua 5:13-15; cf Exod 23:23). He is mentioned by name in Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Jer. 30:5; also in Rev. 12:7 where he wars with the dragon during the Great Tribulation. In 2 Thess 4:16 he is mentioned heralding the coming of Christ.

Apocryphal literature and Christian tradition suggest there are actually seven archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael(10) The Orthodox Church accepts tradition and apocryphal literature. Below is their icon of the Seven Archangels:
The Eastern Orthodox Church’s icon of the "Seven Archangels.”
Left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Below the circled image of Christ are representations of the Cheubim (in blue) and seraphim (in red).


Gabriel is a special messenger angel who identified himself by saying: “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God.” (Luke 1:17-26) He appeared to Daniel (8:15,16; 9:21); to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17-20); and to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26). In Hebrew, his name means God is great; the messenger of Jehovah or The Lord's messenger. The scriptures never call him an archangel.

Guardian angels
Guardian Angel (25)

Seventy-eight percent of Americans believe in guardian angels. The belief in a guardian angel was originally carried forward by the Jews based on two passages from the Old Testament in the Psalms:
For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. (34:7).
He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways" (91:11)

In the New Testament, however, there is only one scripture suggesting this. Jesus said, speaking of children:
Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. (Matt 18:10)
The inference is: Since God is omniscient (knows everything), He is aware when one of his children needs help. Their guardian angels, which are continually in God’s presence, can then immediately be sent. The passage, however, has caused debate whether “little ones” only refer to small children because there is no other New Testament scripture indicating angels are also assigned to adults; only in the Old Testament.

Did my Guardian Angel help me? If you were miraculously saved from an accident—maybe even saw someone who disappears afterwards—you may have interpreted that angel to be your guardian angel. Yet, it may be any angel since that is part of all angels’ job description.

The perplexing problem raised about having personal guardian angels is why one person is killed in an accident, but another is not; or why one dies from cancer and another one doesn’t. Many ask, “Where were their angels?” The only answer available is, God is sovereign and all-knowing, so He knows about it. We simply don’t have all the answers on this one. (However, in my forthcoming book, The Joshua List, I offer an experience I had with my now deceased husband that sheds some comforting light on this.)

Is there a hierarchy that ranks angels with specific roles?

The Bible lists ten ranks of angels:
  • Seraphim (Isa. 6)
  • Cherubim Ezek. 1:1-20
  • Thrones (Col. 1:16)
  • Dominions (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16)
  • Principalities (Eph. 1:21; 6:12; Rom. 8:38; Col. 1:16)
  • Authorities (1 Pet. 3:22)
  • Powers (Eph. 1:21; Rom. 8:38; Col. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:22)
  • Archangels  (I Thess. 4:16; Jude 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
  • Angels (Rom. 8:38; 1 Pet. 3:22)
  • (also, wicked spirits: angels who rebelled)

The concept of a hierarchy has come down through three sources: Christian tradition, early church fathers, and apocryphal literature.

The Bible gives no details but certainly alludes to it in the passages listed above, a couple which are spelled out below:

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 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)
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. 1:16 KJV)

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels.” (Col 1:16 Message Bible)

The Bible stories also suggest different roles. For example, cherubim and seraphim, who are the closest to the throne of God, have different roles from Michael, who has a fighting-protection role as “Prince of the army of Yahweh.” Whether one angel in the vast hierarchy is considered “higher” than the other in the heavenly chain of command is biblically unknown, but apocryphal literature and early Christian traditions do suggest it.

The cherubim and seraphim’s roles mostly just appear without saying much except to praise God while someone else delivers the message, and they usually appear more specifically to God’s chosen prophets. Nevertheless, interestingly, St. Francis of Assisi in 1224, after praying and fasting for a month to understand more about the depth of God’s love for humanity, said he saw a Seraph. He said, “I saw a seraph with six fiery and shining wings descend from the height of heaven…Two of the wings were lifted above his head, two were extended for flight and two covered his whole body.”(11) 

Since there are cherubim, seraphim, archangels and other angelic beings with different roles, it is interesting to take a look to see what “tradition” (outside of the Protestant Bible), has to say about an angelic hierarchy. The most popular is Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. 

Pseudoin this context means another Christian wrote it under the name of the “real” Dionysius who lived in the first century AD and was a convert of Paul’s. (Doing this was a common and acceptable practice at the time.) Below is the artist’s conception of Pseudo-Dionysius that appears on the cover of his book:

Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite
(485-528 ad)

But first, who was the “real” Dionysius the Areopagite?
The real one was a convert of Paul’s, converted during Paul’s speech at Mars Hill. (Acts 17:34) Tradition says Dionysius received information on the hierarchy from the apostle Paul after he (Paul) was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2); however, there is no biblical scripture that states this. According to tradition, he traveled with Paul three years preaching the gospel, and later was chosen as the first Bishop of Athens. After Paul’s death, Dionysius traveled and preached in Rome, Germany, Spain, and was later beheaded in 96 AD at Athens, although some sources say in Lutetia (old name for Paris, France).

Who was P-Dionysius? (hereinafter P-Dionysius) Living centuries after the real Dionysius, he claimed he was a “communicator of tradition.” Because of his claim, his angelic hierarchy is accepted in the Orthodox Church, although not in Protestant churches. His hierarchy portrays how God manifests His will to the higher order first, who in turn gives it to the lower orders of angels via a chain of command. (This idea of a heavenly hierarchy is not unique to Christianity. Called the Great Chain of Being, it can be seen in other world religions.)(12) (See endnote.) 

Although the Bible is relatively silent on the subject, the idea of an angelic hierarchy seems plausible, for in Zech 2:3, Dan 8:15-17 and Ezek 10:1-5, we find one angel telling another angel what to do. In Daniel, one angel attempted to answer Daniel's prayer but was waylaid by a demon spirit who delayed him. At that point, Michael came to help the subordinate angel, freeing him to fulfill his mission to Daniel.

Now to P-Dionysius’ hierarchy. . . but first this is what Billy Graham has to say:

"Medieval theologians divided angelic beings into nine grades. ...Perhaps any list that ranks angelic beings will err, but we can be sure they differ in power, some having authority others do not possess. While I do not wish to be dogmatic, I think there are different ranks of them and that the list given in Colossians does refer to these celestial personalities."(28)

Psuedo-Dionysius, the Areopagite’s Nine-Rank Hierarchy of Angels
(See endnote No. 16 for the source of this material.)

Any quote marks in the description below are St. Demetrius of Rostov’s who compiled P-Dionysius’ writings. The rest are my paraphrases. Also, since the Bible gives no elaborate detail such as P-Dionysius presents, I only post his hierarchy for the sake of interesting information.

The nine ranks above are grouped in three hierarchies consisting of: the highest, the middle, and the lowest. Although each angelic level has different names assigned to them, e.g., cherubim, seraphim, thrones, principalities, etc., and one is specifically called “angels” in the lowest rung, collectively they are all called  “angels.” Each level of angelic beings has its own roles. They differ in roles because, as P-Dionysius explained, the wise Creator does not reveal the mysteries of His divine will to each rank equally.

The Highest Hierarchy

They are closest to the throne. Isaiah said, “Seraphs stood round about God” (Isa 6:2). Since the seraphim stand before such fiery glory, the seraphim are themselves fiery (“seraphim” means, burning or fiery). Heb. 1:7,14 and Ps 104:4 say: “He maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.” Heb. 12:29 also says:  “Our God is a consuming fire.” His throne is like a fiery flame; and on Mt. Sinai, “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire” (Ex. 24:17).

They are slightly below the throne. They stand in God’s transcendent light, before the One who is all-knowing, wise, knowledgeable and righteous. Because they dwell in God’s transcendent light, they are also radiant. According to P-Dionysius, their role is to illumine humans through the “highest faculty of the person’s heart--that part of one’s being which perceives God and His presence through His grace.”

These are angelic beings who stand before God’s throne just below the cherubim. They represent judgment and are called “God-bearing” by St. Maximus the Confessor. St. Basil explains they are called God-bearing, not according to their essence (for example, Jesus was God-bearing because of his undivided union and essence with God) but because of the “kind” of service entrusted to the thrones, which is ministering judgment.

Seated upon these thrones “in a way that cannot be described, God ordains His judgments, as David said (Ps. 9:4): ‘Thou hast sat upon a throne, O Thou that judgest righteousness.’ Therefore, it is through the thrones that God brings to pass His righteous judgments, for they are the ministers of His justice.” The thrones also impart  “to the tribunals of magistrates below, and to kings and lords [on earth], the ability to pass righteous judgment.”

The Middle Hierarchy

Dominions and authorities     
Angels called “Dominions” act like heavenly governors and preside over nations. They rule over and regulate the duties of the lower angels subject to them. They also pour down upon earthly authorities ordained by God, to rule wisely and to exercise dominion judiciously. They also teach mankind to rule over their senses, lusts and passions.

Powers and authorities
“The powers and authorities serve the mighty and powerful will of the all-powerful and omnipotent Lord without hesitation.” They work the marvels, and the grace to impart them, to God’s elect “who have been deemed worthy to work wonders, to heal every illness, and to foretell the future.” They also “strengthen men in their labor, bearing the yoke, strengthening them to fulfill the obligations of their station in life and helping the feeble in their weakness. They assist men to be patient and not to weaken in trials, but to endure everything that comes to pass with nobility of soul and resolute courage, humbly giving thanks to God who orders all things for our benefit.”

They have authority over the devil, subduing their power, warding off temptations, and protecting those who struggle for virtue’s sake to see they are not deprived of the spiritual kingdom. They also forbid the demons to harm men as they desire.

“They rule over the angels below them and direct them to fulfill God’s commands. They watch over the world, protecting and guarding every kingdom and principality, every province and people, tribe and nation, for each of these has its own angel of this rank as guardian and governor. It is the duty of this order to teach men to render to all in authority the honor due their station…usher worthy men into such positions as they merit and instruct them not to use their offices for their own gain or profit.” They carry out the orders of the Dominions and serve as guardian angels for large groups such as nations and leaders of the world.

God appointed Michael as commander of the entire nine angelic orders. Archangels are the messengers of good tidings. They learn what God’s will is from the higher ranks and pass it on down to angels below them who, in turn, declare them to men. They are the ones who deliver special announcements and prophecies to men, and enlighten them to understand the will of God. They are: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael. (My comment: This is probably why Gabriel is always shown blowing a trumpet/horn).

This is the lowest position in the hierarchy of heaven, and closest in rank to men. “They reveal the lesser mysteries of God and His intentions to men whom they guide to live virtuously and righteously. Each of the faithful is entrusted to one of them.” (suggests a Guardian angel)  “They support those of us who stand firm, and they raise up the fallen. Even if we sin, they do not forsake us but are always ready to help us, if only we desire it.”

(End of P-Dionysius' Hierarchy)

* * *
Do angels appear today?
Angels can appear in an everyday human form to individuals, and have the ability to withhold the brilliance of their glory (as in the case of Abraham and Lot). Billy Graham said that in order to fulfill their function of bringing messages: 

"...angels have not infrequently assumed visible, human form. ...Intrinsically, they [the angels] do not possess physical bodies, although they may take on physical bodies when God appoints them to special tasks.”(15) 

Their disguise as humans is so complete that Hebrews 13:2 cautions us to be hospitable because we may entertain angels unaware.

On the other hand, an angel can decide to appear as a glorious man, as in Daniel 10:5-6. The brilliance was so shocking and his voice so powerful that Daniel said his strength left and he fainted.
I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.
Often, to avoid startling the recipient, they preface what they have to say with, “Do not be afraid,” or “Fear not.” This occurred in Luke 1:11-13, when an angel appeared to Mary, and in Luke 2, when the shepherds saw a host of them. Also, the Roman soldiers who guarded Jesus’ tomb became “like dead men” at the lightning-like appearance of the angel who rolled the stone away. (Mt 28:4)

There are a variety of accounts seeing angels—stories of a stranger preventing injury or death then mysteriously disappearing … a glimpse of a white-clothed being … a feeling as though arms or wings were wrapped around one… an angel coming to them in a dream or open vision, or being caught up to heaven and having an angel show them facets of the divine world or their mission in life—too many testimonies to dismiss. These messengers (which is what “angel” means) are probably those angels on the lowest rung who are closest in rank to men. Perhaps that is why they usually appear as a man. Their unseen presence can sometimes be detected by their fragrance, a very, very delicate smell similar to a mix of roses and carnations—an event experienced by many, and one of which I have had more than once.

The angels are not to be worshipped. One angel corrected John in the Book of Revelation:

And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. 19:10 ASV)

Can we pray and ask for an angel to appear to us?
No one in the Old or New Testament who received an appearance ever prayed for one. They happened when least expected. Recipients of angelic appearances today say the same thing. “They just happen with no beforehand warning.”

One reason we should not insist that God send us an angel is because God is not subject to our demands. Neither are the angels, for they are also subject to God. Therefore, any appearance is by God’s will and according to His timing. However, a most passionate prayer for help that does not necessarily include asking for an angel, may result in an angel coming.

What are we to conclude from all this?
The Bible indicates that angels are awesome, glorious, and beautiful beyond description.
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Cor. 2:9).

And there are too many testimonies about their reality to dismiss; second, the study of them is important. Recognizing their reality gives us a strong awareness of God’s love for us in seeing how he has established an organized system of all kinds of angels to handle every situation in our lives. He is mindful of us, blesses, protects, guides, and guards us, and sees that we are brought to salvation through Christ. 

Lastly, no matter what problems we face in life, even the unexpected tragedies, we can know from the scriptures that God and his angels are aware.

Billy Graham said:

“Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think…God has given ‘his angels charge of you, to guard you in your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”(17)

Now, to the free offer . . .

 Why is it that Ezekiel’s description of the biblical cherubim and their symbolic features strangely resemble ancient statues of angel-sphinxes?

Assyrian/Mesopotamian winged sphinx with wheels
8th-9th century BC(26)


(copy & paste if link fails)

Until next time, Janis

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1.  Billy Graham, Angels: God's Secret Agents by Billy Graham (Garden City, NY, Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1995), p.45.
2.  Angels: the Mysterious Messengers” (1994 on ABC).
4.  Billy Graham, op cit. p. xiii.
5.  Billy Graham (s
ource unknown)
6.  See and; also, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 157.
8.  Excerpts from “Angels, Demons, & Satan” by Jane Brown, p. viii.
9.  The Ophanim are described in the Dead Sea Scrolls and apocryphal books, and are referred to as the “many-eyed ones” who never sleep, but guard the throne of God. From the apocryphal Book of Enoch we read:
"And He summoneth all the Hosts of Heaven, and all the Holy Ones above — the Seraphim, the Cherubim, the Ophanim, all the Spirits of Power, the Blessed Ones, and all the Spirits of Principalities, the Angels, and the Powers on earth and over the water: with one voice shall they bless and glorify and exalt the Lord…”
10.   See
12.  The idea of a heavenly hierarchy is not unique to Christianity. Called the Great Chain of Being, it starts from God, progressing downward through angels, then to demons, the planetary system, animal, plant, and mineral world. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also developed an angelic hierarchy from Colossians and Ephesians. The universal belief in this hierarchy can also be seen in Confucianism, Japan’s Shinto religion, Plato, Aristotle, Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Moses’ priestly system. Secular life followed suit, reflecting the divine pecking order: Kings at the top, then Lords, princes, nobles, down to peasants. In the home, the father at the top, then wife, children, etc. The LDS Church also has a hierarchal ladder with their leadership, and a heavenly hierarchy portrayed in their doctrine.
13.  Terry Law, in Everyone's Guide to Angels, by Charisma House (p. 7).
15.  Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., pp. 28, 30, 31.
The material on Pseudo-Dioysius’ hierarchy is taken from a homily given by Father Theophylact of Ochrid (1050-1126) entitled, “Synaxis of the Holy Chief Commander Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers.” Fr. Theophylact took his information from, “The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints,” Volume 3: November, compiled by St. Demetrius of Rostov (1651-1709). Rostov probably obtained his information from Pseudo-Dionysius’ book, On the Celestial Hierachies. Cited at
17.  Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 39.
18.  Time Magazine article “Angels Among Us” by Nancy Gibbs; Sam Allis; Nancy Harbert & Lisa H. Towle; Dec. 27, 1993)
21. (permission received)
24.  purposely left blank
25.  German postcard, 1900 (from wikipedia)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
27. Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 49.
28. Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 49, 50. 

29. Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 56)
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