The seraphim (fiery, burning ones) are angelic beings associated with the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God in the Temple when God called him to his prophetic ministry (Isaiah 6:1-7). “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.”Isaiah 6:2-4 Seraphs are angels who worship God continually. Isaiah chapter 6 is the only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim. The seraphim fly about the throne on which God is seated, singing His praises as they call special attention to God’s glory and majesty. These beings also serve as agents of purification for Isaiah as he began his prophetic ministry.
One placed a hot coal against Isaiah’s lips with the words, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). Similar to the other types of holy angels, the seraphim are perfectly obedient to God. Similar to the cherubim, the seraphim are particularly focused on worshiping God. A hierarchy of angels is a belief or tradition found in the angelology of different religions, which holds that there are different levels or ranks of angels. Higher ranks may be asserted to have greater power or authority over lower ranks, and with different ranks having differences in appearance, such as varying numbers of wings or faces. • Highest/First Order: Seraphim Cherubim Thrones • Middle/Second Order: Dominions Virtues Powers • Lowest/Third Order: Principalities Archangels Angels The difficulty is that the Bible identifies no such hierarchy of angels. In the Bible we see that there could be different kinds of angels, and, if there are different kinds, there might be some sort of hierarchy. If a hierarchy exists, the Bible does not tell us about it explicitly. The term angel simply means “messenger” and emphasizes the work that angels do. Seraphim (singular seraph) is simply a word that means “fiery” or “bright.” Seraphim are mentioned as angelic beings only in Isaiah 6:1–4: Since the word seraph is simply a description, it may be that the seraphim are simply “fiery beings” that may or may not be a distinct “kind” of angel. Cherubim (singular cherub) are mentioned numerous times in Scripture. After Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, cherubim were placed there to guard the entrance (Genesis 3:24). The vast majority of the instances where cherubim are mentioned are in connection with the ark of the covenant, as the likeness of two cherubim adorned the cover of the ark (Exodus 25:18 –20; 37:7 –9; 1 Samuel 4:4). David sings a song of praise to God in which he says that God “mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11). When Ezekiel sees the glory of God leaving the temple, he also sees cherubim carrying the throne of God (Ezekiel 10). In verse 14, the cherubim are described as having four faces, those of a Ox, a human being, a lion, and an eagle. However, since angels are essentially spirit beings, it may be that they simply appeared to Ezekiel in this form for that particular revelatory vision. There is only one archangel named in Scripture: Michael. He is mentioned in Jude 1:9. The voice of the archangel is heard in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, with no mention of his name. Revelation 12:7 describes war between Michael and his angels and the devil and angels. In Daniel 10:13, 21 and 12:1, Michael is described as an angelic prince. Michael’s being the leader of the angels would fit with both the title archangel and the role he plays. Archangelmay be a role rather than a distinct kind of angel. Another individual angel, Gabriel, is also named in Scripture. Gabriel delivered messages regarding the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19) and Jesus (Luke 1:26). In speaking to John’s father, he describes himself as one who stands in the presence of God. There is no mention in the first cannon of what “kind” of angel Gabriel is, he is referred to as an archangel in the book of Enoch. He also delivered messages to Daniel in answer to his prayer (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). Daniel describes him as a man, which means that Gabriel appeared in human form. Again, as angels are essentially spirit beings, they do not have physical bodies, but they may appear in various forms. Michael and Gabriel are the only angels mentioned by name in the 66 books of the Bible, but we know there are untold myriads of angels who serve God. It should be noted that, although angels have greater power and glory than human beings, it is human beings who are created in God’s image, and it is human beings, not angels, who will reign with Christ (Hebrews 2:5). It is human beings, not angels, who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 2:16). Angels are servants of God who minister to believers (Hebrews 1:4). From one perspective, angels are certainly greater than people, yet, from another perspective, human beings occupy the primary place in God’s created order, and angels are to some extent seen in a different capacity. They do not understand redemption in the way that God’s children understand it (1 Peter 1:2). The term guardian angel is never mentioned in Scripture, although this concept is commonly assumed, which may be based on Matthew 18. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10 Finally, there are fallen angels. “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude 6 “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:7–9 Seraphim and cherubim are mentioned in close connection with the throne and glory of God. Since seraph simply means “fiery,” it may be a description of an angel rather than a separate kind. The cherubim and seraphim are generally described as other-worldly creatures. Michael is the archangel, which would indicate that he has a distinct role, but not necessarily that he is a distinct kind of angel. Gabriel is an important messenger for God. When Gabriel appears, he is normally identified as being a “man,” as are other angels when they appear to humans. Angels do an important work, but we are never encouraged to fixate on them, and, of course, we are forbidden from worshiping them (Colossians 2:18). Overcome by the glory of his visions, John records.. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10 Angels simply serve in the background and bring glory to God.