Ranks of Angels
The first sphere angels serve as the heavenly servants of God the Son incarnated.
Seraphim (singular “Seraph”) are, literally translated, “burning ones”. Seraphim are the highest angelic class and they serve as the caretakers of God’s throne and continuously shout praises: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” According to Isaiah 6:1-8, the Seraphim are described as fiery six-winged beings; with two wings that cover their faces, with another two that cover their feet, and the last two they use to fly.
Cherubim have four faces: one of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle (later adopted as the symbols of the four evangelists). They have four conjoined wings covered with eyes (although Revelation 4:8 appears to describe them with six wings like the seraphim), a lion’s body, and the feet of oxen. Cherubim guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24) and the throne of God (Ezekiel 28:14–16).
The “Thrones”, or Elders, are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul in Colossians 1:16. They are living symbols of God’s justice and authority, and have as one of their symbols the throne.
Late sections of the Book of Enoch portray them as a class of celestial beings who never sleep, but guard the throne of God.
Some Christian theologians that include the Thrones as one of the choirs do not describe them as wheels, describing them as adoring elder men who listen to the will of God and present the prayers of men. The Twenty-Four Elders in the Book of Revelation are usually thought to be part of this group of angels.
Angels of the Second Sphere work as heavenly governors of the creation by subjecting matter and guiding and ruling the spirits.
Dominations or Lordships
The “Dominations” (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16) or “Dominions” are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings “Lordships”. The Dominations regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans.
The Dominations are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.
Virtues or Strongholds
These angels are those through which signs and miracles are made in the world. The term appears to be linked to the attribute “might”. They are presented as the celestial Choir “Virtues”, by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Powers or Authorities
The “Powers” or “Authorities”. The primary duty of the “Powers” is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. Being warrior angels, they also oppose evil spirits, especially those that make use of the matter in the universe, and often cast evil spirits to places of detention. These angels are usually represented as soldiers wearing full armor and helmet, and also having defensive and offensive weapons such as shields and spears or chains respectively.
Third Sphere Angels who function as heavenly guides, protectors, and messengers to human beings.
Principalities or Rulers
The “Principalities” also translated as “Princedoms” and “Rulers”. These are the angels that guide and protect nations, or groups of peoples, and institutions such as the Church. The Principalities preside over the bands of angels and charge them with fulfilling the divine ministry. There are some who administer and some who assist.
The Principalities are shown wearing a crown and carrying a scepter. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the upper sphere angels and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science. Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.
The word “archangel” means chief angel. It derives from the Greek archein, meaning to be first in rank or power; and angelos which means messenger or envoy.
Raphael said to Tobias that he was “one of the seven who stand before the Lord”, and it is generally believed that Michael and Gabriel are two of the other six. These are the seven highest Seraphim, Michael, being the highest of all.
Another possible interpretation of the seven archangels is that these seven are the seven spirits of God that stand before the throne described in the Book of Revelation.
The “angels” or in Greek angelos, i.e. messenger or envoy, are the lowest order of celestial beings, and the most recognized. They are the ones most concerned with the affairs of men. Within the category of the angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to humanity. Personal guardian angels come from this class. It is a common belief that they are assigned to every human being.
Lucifer and the Fallen Angels
Traditionally, the devil is known as Lucifer, meaning “light-bearer,” one of the seraphim, the highest choir of angels who see and adore God directly.
God created Lucifer as a good angel: The Lateran Council IV (1215) stated, “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.” These angels irrevocably chose through their free will to rebel against God and not to serve Him. For this rebellion, they were cast into hell. God did not destroy them, but permits them a limited scope of activity. Their condition is permanent as a decision of a purely spiritual being once made cannot change.