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The CELESTIAL ORDER of the UNIVERSE - (Part 1) - The Hierarchy of HEAVEN and The Divine Order
The HIGHEST HEAVEN - FIRST CHOIR and ATTENDANTS to the THRONE
ANGELOLOGY - The History and Study of Angelic Beings.
AN*GEL*OL*O*GY [eyn-juh-lol-uh-jee] -noun: a doctrine or theory concerning angels.
An "angel" is a supernatural being found in the texts of several religions and the folklore of many cultures. Angelology is that branch of theology which deals with "angels" (Greek: "angeloi" -equivalent of the Hebrew text: "mal'ak" = messenger) and is an interesting and fascinating field of study in itself.
The hierarchy of angels can be found in the text of many different religious traditions including: the Christian Bible, in the Jewish books of the Torah (the five books of Moses), angelic hierarchy in the Kabbalah (mystical aspect of Rabbinic Judaism), Islamic angelic hierarchy, and in the Zoroastrian teachings on angelic hierarchy (philosophy based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster of ancient Persia).
On the origin of angels, most Biblical writers do not delve into this topic; but it is inferred that angels existed before the creation of mankind on the "sixth day" (Genesis 1:26). This is based on the following comparison in scripture from the Book of Job:
JOB 38:4-7 - "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Then: (Genesis 1:1-8 - "the first day" = Heaven and Earth are created - day is separated from night; "second day" = the waters are separated into the clouds and seas; "third day" = dry land and vegetation are formed).
JOB 38:8-12 - "Or who shut in the sea with doors, When it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed My limit for it, And set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop (land?)!’ "Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place,..."
This shows us that the angels had already been created and were in place during the "first two or three days" of creation. This also means that ALL of the other early "angelic events" that can be found in scripture; pertaining to the creation and organization of the Heavenly Host, original sin, the "war in Heaven", and the expulsion of Satan and the "fallen" angels, all the way through to the temptation of mankind in the Garden; all transpired on a super cosmic scale somewhere within those first few days of the creation of Heaven and the Earth as well.
Earlier Biblical writings on angels did not speculate about them; simply regarding them as in their relationship to mankind, as God's agents. Consequently, they did not individualize or denominate them either; as in (Judges 13:18 and Gen. 32:30), the angels when questioned, refuse to give their names. The writer of the Book of Daniel was the first by whom angels were individualized and endowed with names and titles. Not long after that time, the Jewish sect "Essenism" came into existence and began to develop a highly organized mystic lore or "Angelology", which greatly amplified and expanded their view of the universe and its cosmic forces. Knowledge of this system however, was only intended for the initiated few and confined to the Essenes (as in Hasidic Judaism). The Pharisees of that time would only concur on the belief in the existence of angels, while the Sadducees on the contrary, disputed that they even existed at all in any real concrete nature.
Later, when the earlier scriptures were recorded, a system of structure was developed around the time of the completion of the Talmud detailing a "Heaveny hierarchy". Post-Talmudic mysticism extravagantly enlarged this model until it spanned the realms of both Heaven and the Earth; as it was formed from the expansion of ideas from the Christian apocryphal texts and pseudepigrapha, the Jewish Talmudic and "midrashic" works, along with the mystic literature from the Kabbalah, this made Angelology overflow like a flooding stream. From this wealth of material the assumption may be drawn that Angelology was not officially and systematically organized until centuries later, with the study of Christian theologians such as Dionysius and that of the Rabbinic scholars at the dawn of the medieval age.
The following information is STRICTLY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and not for the intent or use of delving into spiritism or the supernatural, which we highly recommend against. The purpose of this particular article series is to reflect more on the fact that the INVISIBLE REALM OF THE SPIRIT really does exist; that there are forces constantly at work within this parallel dimension that have a direct bearing on what transpires in the material universe, including but not limited to interacting with human lives and the outcome of mortal events.
"With all my heart I praise you, LORD. In the presence of angels I sing your praises. I worship at your holy temple and praise you for your love and your faithfulness. You were true to your word and made yourself more famous than ever before. When I asked for your help, you answered my prayer and gave me courage." (Psalm 138:1-3)
The DOMAIN of the LORD GOD (Heaven)
*NOTE: The following accounts of the nature of celestial things and their descriptions are based on a variety of scriptural resources and combined textual references; such as both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles (Old and New Testaments), including the apocryphal books (such as Enoch), as well as Talmudic literature with Kabbalah oriented aspects of Rabbinic Judaism. All of this information has its basis in scripture but complete representation of facts is limited to our knowledge of the "unseen" and attributed to the "divine mystery", so therefore a certain amount of necessary intellectual and creative embellishment is understood.
To understand ANGELS, we must first understand their origin, their creator (the Lord God), and the place that they dwell in (which is "Heaven" - formost of them).
Heaven itself is believed to be another dimension, an entire spirit-based plane of existence and a realm of the complete manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It is the "Domain of God" wherein He dwells and administers to the entire multi-verse of all things in His creation. GOD IS SUPREME OVER ALL THINGS CREATED andIS IN all the things that have ever been created, now and to ever come.
In the "Highest Heaven" is the temple court and the Throne of the Lord God. His divine presence is described in visions as sitting atop a gigantic crystal throne made of emerald and jasper with a sapphire foundation permeated with immensely bright light and energy. An array of lights with the colors of the rainbow hover above Him while His Throne is being shrouded by a fog of fiery amber colored clouds of divine essence and flashes of lightning.
The THRONE of the LORD GOD (Heaven of Heavens)
"And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD." (Ez. 1:26-28 NKJ)
At His Throne are the "Seven Spirits of God" and also the four "living creatures", which stand before God as leaders of the angelic orchestras glorifying the Lord Most High. The glory of the Lord God ("the train of His robe"-Isaiah 6:1) covers the entire throne and its consuming energy fills the temple halls, then extending outward into an immense field of glass reflecting all His divine light and glory.
Many millions upon millions of angels fill the air with their songs and praises to the Lord of Hosts while the Cherubim and the other Host of the High Court worship He that sits upon the Throne of the Most High.
"And he showed me all the secrets of the ends of the heaven, And all the chambers of all the stars, and all the luminaries, Whence they proceed before the face of the holy ones. And he translated my spirit into the heaven of heavens, And I saw there as it were a structure built of crystals, And between those crystals tongues of living fire. And my spirit saw the girdle which girt that house of fire, And on its four sides were streams full of living fire, And they girt that house. And round about were Seraphim, Cherubim, and Ophanim: And these are they who sleep not and guard the throne of His glory. And I saw angels who could not be counted, a thousand thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, encircling that house." (Enoch LXXI: 4-8)
The Tabernacle and Temple of the Lord
The entire purpose for Heaven ("the Temple of the Lord") is to provide a place for the angels to worship and glorify the Lord God. He dwells there and sits apon the "Mercy Seat" of His divine and Heavenly Throne. The purpose for the earthly Tabernacle and Temple were the same, for mankind to have a place to worship and glorify the Lord God as well.
"Everything that God reveals to us is a glimpse of the things to come."
It is also interesting to note in pertaining to the worship of the Lord God, that the designs He gave to the Israelites for the Ark of the Covenant and the "Holy of Holies" (Kodesh Hakodashim) in the original Tabernacle, are a copy of His "Mercy Seat" and divine Temple in Heaven. The Tabernacle (Hebrew: "mishkan", "dwelling place"), according to the Hebrew Torah (Old Testament), was the portable dwelling place for the "divine presence" of God. It was used from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. The Tabernacle was built to exact specifications revealed by God (Yahweh) to Moses at Mount Sinai and it accompanied the Israelites on their wanderings in the wilderness until their later conquest of the "Promised Land" and establishment in Jerusalem.
"And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it." (Exodus 25:8-9 NKJ)
"...and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tabernacle of meeting, the ark of the Testimony and the mercy seat that is on it,..." (Exodus 31:6-7 NKJ)
The Tabernacle created the most holy of all sanctuaries on Earth and allowed God to manifest himself personally inside, and thus, so He could be completely "at home" when He came into these surroundings of the Temple.
"And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." (Exodus 33:9-11 NKJ)
Likewise, as later decreed by King David and then built by Solomon, the layout of the First Temple was designed to duplicate the Lord's Temple and His Throne in Heaven. The Tabernacle was then placed in the First Temple at Jerusalem, where it superseded as the "dwelling place" of God among the Israelites.
"And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD." (1 Kings 8:10-11 KJV)
The LORD said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there." (1 Kings 9:3 NIV)
This is likewise why that place will once again become the most "Holy of Holies", when Christ the Messiah re-establishes His Kingdom reign and Holy Temple here on Earth, in the future millennium at His second coming.
More Information about the Holy Tabernacle
- The Holy Tabernacle
(Wikipedia) Good listing and details about the Tabernacle with excellent scriptural references.
- King Solomon's Temple
(Wikipedia) Good listing and details with excellent scriptural references about the "First Temple" of the Israelites built by King Solomon.
- Worship Him in Spirit and Truth by Judah's Daughter (Carrie Bradshaw)
The Temple Design: Process of Worship "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers."
PURPOSE of the HEAVENLY HOST (generically referred to as "ANGELS")
It is important to understand a little more about the "invisible" spiritual world that exists in parallel to our own material universe (or even occupying the same space but in another dimension). To also note, is how the celestial beings that dwell in this supernatural realm are able to interact directly with the universe and influence our own world, that becomes much more important to grasp. According to the usual conception, these superhuman beings dwell in Heaven and execute the Lord's commands both in Heaven and here in the material world. Angels are often used in revealing God's will to mankind and for performing works on his behalf in the world. They were all created specifically to serve God and have been known to frequently interact and deal directly with human beings in doing so.
These celestial beings (or "angels") are able to move freely between both the "invisible" and visible worlds. They are not restricted by the laws of time and space as we understand them and are able to move about telepathically by "thought", simply by willing themselves to move from one place to another.
"And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went." (Ezekiel 1:12 NKJ)
Angels are also very strong and mighty beings that are quite formidable to contend with. They are the executors of God's will using swift purpose and judgment.
"Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp [ = 185,000 men - 2 Kings 19:35 ] of the king of Assyria [ Sennacherib ]..."
(2 Chronicles 32:21 NKJ)
The "Heavenly Host" are more specifically the angelic beings that constitute the celestial order of military ranking in Heaven. They are the most accounted for as far as in scripture and are commonly referred to in terms more like an "army" of good angels from Heaven (Luk.2:13; Rev.19:19). They are led either by the Archangel Michael, by Yahweh or Yeshua (God) himself, or other principle members of the angelic ranks accordingly. Most written descriptions of angels or the Heavenly Host in the Bible describe them in military terms using words such as "encampment", which denote a command structure like that used in combat. For example, in Joshua (5:13-15), he encounters a "captain of the host of the LORD" before the battle at Jericho. The specific hierarchy and ranking of the Heavenly Host differs slightly from that of the celestial Hierarchy of Heaven and the angelic orders therein, as it surrounds the military function and service of these angels. The Heavenly Host participated in the "War of Heaven" and according to many interpretations, will also battle Satan and his army at the "End of Days", the final outcome with the Heavenly Host being victorious.
"And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left."
(1 Kings 22:19 KJV)
"War in Heaven" - Heavenly Host vs. Fallen Angels
At some point in the earlier stages during the creation of the material universe, a conflict erupted in Heaven. A high ranking "Heavenly Prince" decided to rebel against the authority of God and insite other angels to follow him instead. Many theologians (Judeo-Christian) point to the following scripture verse (Ezekiel 28) as a symbolic reference to Satan being a beautiful and musical "anointed Cherub" (possibly even the head of the Heavenly Choirs) before he turned against the Lord God in Heaven.
Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden (prior to man), the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created (a musical creature). You were the anointed cherub (highest position) who covers (overseer); I established you (created by God); You were on the holy mountain of God (highest Heaven); You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones (fields of Heaven). You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity (infamy, wickedness, sin) was found in you. By the abundance of your trading (dealings with other angels) You became filled with violence within (envy, greed, anger), And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing (evildoing) Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you (removed from the Glory of God), O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty (conceit); You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor (narcissism); I cast you to the ground (the Earth), I laid you before kings (other angelic princes), That they might gaze at you (as an example). You defiled your sanctuaries (Temple of Heaven) By the multitude of your iniquities (sins), By the iniquity of your trading (leading other angels into sin); Therefore I brought fire from your midst (the Glory of God); It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth (transformation) In the sight of all who saw you (other angels). All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror (fallen angel-the Devil), And shall be no more forever (losing the favor of God). (Ezekiel 28:12-19 NKJ)
This verse also gives us further evidence of the existence of angelic beings prior to the creation of mankind (having already been in the "Garden of God"). Thus the "fall of the angels" would have likewise had to occur in a similar frame of time in order for their leader to then later tempt mankind (Adam and Eve).
"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 KJV)
The common belief is that after the "War in Heaven", one third of the Host of Angels and their commanders were "removed" from the sight and glory of God for He will not permit evil to be in His divine pressence.
"His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth." (Revelation 12:4 NKJ)
As a result, these "fallen angels" were sent into the domain of the material universe (and to Earth) where they would dwell. It is also speculated that many were also sent into a "place prepared for them" (HELL) as a precursor to the "Final Judgment".
"Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41 NKJ)
"...And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit... ...And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon." (Revelation 9:1,11 NKJ)
The CELESTIAL ORDER and HIERARCHY of the ANGLES
According to medieval Christian theologians, the angels are organized into several orders, or "Angelic Choirs", as they are forever giving praise and glory to God. The most influential of these classifications was in the manuscript put forward by Dionysius the Areopagite, an early medieval Christian theologian and philosopher.
The "Celestial Hierarchy" of angels is the division of angelic beings based on their function and role in their services to God. They are divided by rank according to their administrative duties in Heaven not by military ranking as in the case of the Heavenly Host. Since three held a specific divine association in the trinity or the "triune" nature of God, the originating authors of this model for the Celestial Hierarchy drafted divisions based on that, with its multiples and prime numeric root. This also seemed to fit the information in passages from the New Testament (Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16), specifically revealing a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or "Angelic Choirs".
Other models have been proposed, some drawing on or expanding the above "Pseudo-Dionysius" model, while others suggested completely different classifications (limiting the number of Angelic Choirs to seven). Different Angelic Hierarchies have likewise been proposed based on the fundamentals of their specific faiths such as in Judaism, Islam or the Zoroastrian teachings. For example, in the Kabbalah as described by the Golden Dawn there are ten archangels, each commanding one of the choirs of angels and corresponding to one of the "Sephirot" (the ten "enumerations" through which God reveals himself). The Jewish and Kabbalistic angelic hierarchies are mainly derived from various prophetic manifestations of God (i.e.; the Ma'aseh Merkabah or "the heavenly throne chariot"), and typically list ten ranks of angels which are also based on the divine attributes of the "Tree of Life". This model is much more elaborate as it delves very deeply into Jewish mysticism.
We will not go further into these classes, belief systems, or their purpose, for scripture warns us not to explore too deeply into the mystical aspects of the "divine mystery".
Also as mentioned, the Apocryphal texts list a more elaborate description than the Dionysius model relating to the "Seven Heavens" with their angelic chiefs, and having twelve degrees of angels (Testaments of the Patriarchs-Testament of Levi III). Seven classes of angels are also designated in (Enoch LXI:10): (1) the Cherubim, (2) Seraphim, (3) Ophanim, (4) all the angels of power, (5) Principalities, (6) the Elect One (the Messiah), and (7) the (elemental) Powers of the Earth and the Water; and they are endowed with the seven angelic virtues (based on Isaiah 11:2): "In the spirit of faith, wisdom, patience, mercy, judgment, peace, and goodness."
One consistency that is universal in all of the models for the Angelic Hierarchies, is that they do agree and show that the specific class of "angels" and "archangels" are lowest in the celestial order, being the only angels generally involved directly with the affairs of mankind in the world.
Another consistency in the belief of angels and their hierarchy, is the fact that there was a rebellion in the original Heavenly divine order of celestial beings that occurred sometime before the beginnings of time and before mankind was ever created. This resulted in the "fallen ones" or "fallen angels" who therefore lost their divine priviledges and were sentenced to conduct their affairs outside of the realm of Heaven. They likewise interact with mankind and are involved with the affiars of the world for the purpose propogating evil. There will be more discussion on this topic later in the series under: CELESTIAL ORDER of the HEAVENS - (Part 3) - The Fallen Angels - The Underworld and HELL.
*Also for the purpose of its ease in understanding and closer relationship to Christian beliefs and teachings, we will stay within the parameters of the "Pseudo-Dionysius model" for the rest of this part of the article.
The HIERARCHY of HEAVEN
The 3 Celestial Hierarchies and the 9 Orders of Angelic Beings
Dionysius' book "The Celestial Hierarchy" (De Coelesti Hierarchia-5th century) exerted great influence on scholars and it treated at great length the hierarchies of Angels. Together with other works like the Summa Theologica written by Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), these drew from comparative studies of the Old Testament and New Testament, including their etymology and semantics, as well as other esoteric Christian teachings.
The Summa Theologica follows Dionysius' Celestial Hierarchy by dividing the groups of angels into three separate spheres or "Angelic Choirs". Each of these then contains three "Orders" or "Classes" of distinct celestial beings based on their relationship and proximity to God. These also correspond to the nine orders of angels recognized by St. (Pope) Gregory Dialogus (c. 540-604).
With this resulting combined information, the descending celestial order and divine rank can be taken as we have listed below:
The CELESTIAL ORDER and HIERARCHY of the ANGLES (Summary Listing)
*Several other Models for the "Celestial Order" have been proposed but we will be using the following for the purpose of consistency and simplification in this article series. Mainly to note are the "Classes" of Angels, their description, roles and responsibilities are more comparatively uniform in most models.
First Sphere of Heaven (Attendants to the Throne of God):
Seraphim - (Greek: "Saraph")
Cherubim - (Greek: "Kĕruwb")
Ophanim - the "Wheels" or "Galgallin"
+The Thrones - The Elders or "Er'el-im" (Greek: "Thronos")
Second Sphere of Heaven (Heavenly Governors):
Dominions - (Greek:"Kyriotetai")
Virtues - also the "Mights" (Greek: "Dynamai")
Powers - (Greek: "Exusiai")
*This "Angelic Choir" and its Classes are covered more thoroughly in the PART 2 of this Series.
Third Sphere of Heaven (Divine Soldiers and Messengers):
Principalities - (Greek: "Archai")
Archangels - (Greek: "Archangeloi")
Angels - (Greek: "Angeloi")
*This "Angelic Choir" and its Classes are covered more thoroughly in the PART 3 of this Series.
First Sphere of Heaven (Attendants to the Throne of God):
This is the highest classification or ranking of angels mentioned in Jewish Kabbalah and Christian mythology. They are generally seen as the elite group of divine beings for the administration of angels directly below God. Described in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Ophanim ("wheels"), along with the mightiest angels of power all constitute the "Hosts of the High Court" and the guardians of the Throne of God. Reference is also made to the "Er'el-im" ("Thrones" or "Elders") meant to translate as "the valiant" or "the courageous" (Isaiah 33:7) and the "Hashmallim" ("brilliant ones") of Jewish and Christian beliefs (Hebrew Torah, Talmud and Old Testament sources). These beings are likewise the leaders of the High Angelic Choirs that provide continual worship and praise in ascribing blessedness to the Lord God of Heavenly Hosts.
"Chariots of the Gods?"
The Highest Heaven is also the place of origin for the "Merkabah" (Hebrew for "chariot", or meaning "to ride") which is the "chariot of fire" and throne-chariot of God, which is a flying four-wheeled vehicle driven by the four "chayot" (Hebrew for "living creatures") that is mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel.
This depiction is also what has promoted the modern pop-culture reference and belief in "chariots of the gods", which confuse this magnificent and divine manifestation of the Lord God with the growing belief in UFOs and other similar extraterrestrial based phenomena. It is also interesting to note that angels are "ETs" by sheer definition alone, simply because the fact that they are "not of this world". However, the powers of "the adversary" (Satan) have successfully masked theactual divine origin of angels with a shroud of deception and the belief in alien life forms as earthly visitors from "other worlds". Likewise, artifacts from ancient history that have been discovered by archaeologists, which depict scenes of "un-earthly manifestations" are now also being manipulated into this same hypothesis.
Angels (including the "fallen ones") are from another dimension or universe (the relam of the Spirit) - They are NOT the "aliens" as pop-fiction now occasionally tries to imply in this association and would have us ultimately believe otherwise with this modern-day lie.
The word Merkabah is also found 44 times in the Old Testament and though the concept of the Merkabah is most associated with Ezekiel's vision (1:4-26), the term is not explicitly written only in that book of scripture. This varrying combined nomenclature and cross-association of the translations is where the major differing factors lie in the definition of the related angelic classes for both the Jewish and Christian Angelologies.
"I saw, and behold, there was a stormy wind coming from the north, a great cloud with flashing fire and a brilliance surrounding it; and from its midst, like the color of the [ Hashmal ] ("brilliant ones" or as "amber") from the midst of the fire, and in its midst there was the likeness of four [ Chayot ] ("living creatures")." (Ezekiel 1:4) Hebrew Bible
"4- Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of [ amber ], out of the midst of the fire. 5- Also from within it came the likeness of four [ living creatures ]." (Ezekiel 1:4-5) Christian Bible (NKJ)
It becomes a bit perplexing since the term "living creatures" has been used as a description for many of the higher ranking angelic beings in different parts of scripture (Seraphim, "Hashmal", Cherubim, "Chayot") and elements from the throne-chariot of God ("Chayot", Cherubim, "Ophanim", Wheels) seem to also be somewhat interchangeble.
For these reasons, we have listed the "Pseudo-Dionysius" model of the Angelic Hierarchy as it classifies the ranks more in accordance with their overall duties or function and their closeness of operation to the Throne of the Lord God.
(Greek: "Saraph") - translated as: "fiery serpent"; they are the caretakers of the Throne of God that also serve as the personal attendants to God himself. In medieval Christian theology and the mystical aspect of Rabbinic Judaism (the Kabbalah), the Seraphim belong to the highest order, or highest angelic choir, of the heavenly hierarchy. There are only four Seraphim known to exist, each being a single unique creature with the likeness of: a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle; these fiery majestic beings have human hands and voices, along with six wings; two which cover their faces (for the cannot gaze upon the intense glory of God), two covering their bodies and feet (for the Throne is so holy that they cannot touch it), and two with which they fly.
The Seraphim continuously fly about God's throne without ceasing, shouting praises and singing (the Sanctus), "holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts. All the Earth is filled with His Glory." The Seraphim are also beings of pure light energy (the "burning ones") having direct communion with God. It is described that such a bright light emanates from these creatures that nothing, not even other angelic beings, can look directly upon them or the full glory of God.
REF: Above it stood seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-3); Then one of the seraphim flew (Isaiah 6:6); four living creatures (Rev. 4:6-8); in the midst of the throne (Rev. 5:6,14); announcing the four horsemen (Rev. 6:1-7); fell on their faces and worshiped (Rev 7:11); a new song before the throne (Rev 14:3); gave to the seven angels (Rev 15:7); fell down and worshiped (Rev 19:4)
The Four Seraphim
"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." (Isaiah 6:1-3 KJV)
(Greek: "Kĕruwb") - a Cherub is usually understood as a high-ranking angel; early Semitic tradition considered the Cherubim as guardians and they are elect celestial beings for the purpose of divine protection. Cherubim guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden and the throne of God; the prophet Ezekiel describes them as a tetrad of living creatures, each having four faces: of a man, a lion, an ox, and of an eagle (possibly the "griffon vulture"); Cherubim are said to have the stature and hands of a man with the legs and feet of oxen; they have four conjoined wings covered with eyes, and in other descriptions two of the wings extended upward, meeting above and sustaining the throne of God while the other two stretched downward and covered the creatures themselves.
Classical and Rennaissance art began to depict "Cherubs" as "Putti" (winged human baby/toddler-like beings) or "Cupids" and that practice has since been carried on into modern figurative art where their English usage has blurred their true description and distinction.
REF: eastward of the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24), in the Tabernacle (Exd 25:18-20; 37:7-9), as figurines on The Ark of the Covenant (1Ki 8:6, 7; 2Ch 5:7, 8; Hbr 9:5), figures on the walls of the Tabernacle (Exd 26:1; 36:8), embroidered on the curtains of the Tabernacle (Exd 26:31; 36:35), in the Temple (1Ki 6:23-29; 2Ch 3:10-13), on the curtain of the Temple (2Ch 3:14), on the walls of the Temple (1Ki 6:29-35; 2Ch 3:7), on the lavers of the Temple (1Ki 7:29, 36), in Ezekiel's vision of the Temple (Eze 41:18-20, 25), the "anointed Cherub" (Eze 28:14, 16), Ezekiel's vision (Eze 1; 10).
And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar."
(Ezekiel 10:14-15 KJV)
"In the Most Holy Place he made two cherubim, fashioned by carving, and overlaid them with gold. The wings of the cherubim were twenty cubits in overall length: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, touching the wall of the room, and the other wing was five cubits, touching the wing of the other cherub;" (2 Chronicles 3:10-11 NKJ)
"Wheels" or "Galgallin" - are one of the upper classes of celestial beings (mentioned as "gagal", traditionally "the wheels of gagallin", in "fiery flame" and "burning fire") that are quite unusual looking even in comparison to the other celestial creatures. They are described as beryl-colored wheels similar to a gyroscope (spinning wheel-within-a-wheel), with their rims being covered by hundreds of eyes. The Ophanim act as the actual wheels beneath the "Merkabah" (the "chariot-throne" of God) driven by the winged Cherubim. They are also referred to as the "many-eyed ones", which are described in the Second Book of Enoch, who, along with the Seraphim and Cherubim, never sleep but are always "watching" (or guarding) the Throne of God in the Highest Heaven.
The position of the Ophanim makes them some of the most powerful angels in service to the Lord as beings of tremendous energy and movement. They are the keepers of higher more expanded divine powers and maintain the cosmic harmony of all universal laws. One of their functions is to ensure that these energies maintain connections and flow throughout the universe by collecting and channeling the radiance of the Glory of God's Throne. The Ophanim are characterized by peace and submission as the Throne of God rests upon them. They are also referred to as angelic "thrones" because of their association with the Lord's throne and divine chariot, but this is not believed to be the same as in the case of "the Elders" ("Thrones").
REF: wheels and their workings (Eze 1:16), wheels lifted up with spirit of living creatures (Eze 1:19-21), noise of the wheels (Eze 3:13), wheels, under the cherub with coals of fire (Eze 10:2,6), wheels full of eyes (Eze 10:9,12-13), wheels went beside them (Eze 10:16-17,19; 11:2), "thrones" with wheels of fire (Dan 7:9), For by Him all things were created, that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible (Col 1:16).
"As for their appearance, all four looked alike - as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went. And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, 'Wheel.'"
(Ezekiel 10:10-13 NKJ)
The Elders or "Er'el-im" (Greek: "Thronos") - These spiritual beings are not part of the standard orders of angels and their position in the celestial hierarchy is often confused with the Ophanim (also sometimes referred to as "thrones"). It is also speculated that the Thrones (or "Elders") may even be the personification of Biblical patriarchs, now glorified and seated near the Lord.
The Elders are the living symbols of God's justice and authority, known in scripture as the "bringers of justice". According to St. Thomas Aquinas, they have the task of pondering the disposition of divine judgments. They carry out or fulfill the divine justice of the Lord and despite their greatness, are intensely humble, an attribute that allows them to dispense justice with perfect objectivity and without the compromise of pride or ambition. They come the closest of all beings to spiritual perfection and emanate the light of God with mirror-like goodness.
REF: set for judgment (Psm 122:5), sit on twelve thrones judging (Mat 19:28), thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luk 22:30), twenty-four elders on the thrones (Rev 4:4), they that sat on the thrones (Rev 11:16, 20:4).
"And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 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." (Revelation 4:2-6 NKJ)
CELESTIAL ORDER of the UNIVERSE - (Read our Full 3-PART Article Series)
- The Hierarchy of HEAVEN and The Divine Order - (PART 1)
- The Lordships - Mighty Angels & Authorities - (PART 2)
In scripture we are presented with another world, a world of the Spirit. It is world that exists beyond our normal physical senses. It is an invisible world, one which includes angels, both good and evil.
- The Princes & Archangels - Ministering Spirits & Angelic Guardians - (PART 3)
This article will fill in the rest of the historical information and detail modern-day relevance, as we finish describing the day-to-day "working classes" of the angels and their function in the universe.
Angelology and the Celestial Hierarchy (References)
- SUMMA THEOLOGICA: Prima Pars - by Thomas Aquinas
(Online copy of the Summa Thelogica) - Discusses sacred doctrine, the One God, the Blessed Trinity, the Creation, the Angels, the Six Days, Man, and the Government of Creatures in Heaven and Earth.
- The Celestial Hierarchy - by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (5th century)
(Online copy of the entire manuscript ready for viewing).
- Jewish Enclyclopedia Online - Angelology
In one form or another, belief in angels appears in the earliest stages of Jewish history. It continues to live in the spiritual world of the Jews and those professing the religions that sprang from Abrahamic roots; such as Christianity and Islam.
*Final NOTE Regarding Angels
"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)
The angelic beings were created to serve ONLY God. They likewise were not created to prompt servitude from mankind but instead are ordained to service mankind by way of following God's will for us in the universe. We ARE NOT TO WORSHIP OR CALL ON ANGELS BY NAME and they are not to encourage us to do the same either.
"For by him [ God ] 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:" (Colossians 1:16 KJV)
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." (1 Timothy 4:1 NIV)
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
(1 John 4:1-3 NIV)
Well Recommended Books on this Topic
GOD's SECRET AGENTS - by Billy Graham - The book goes into a detailed explanation of all the known aspects of the existence and activities of angels. He shows the power of the angels to both destroy and to bless. Dr. Graham has taken a scholarly approach to the subject with sound theological ideas and appropriate scripture references that are supported by good Biblical reasoning. He shows that angels are not just random agents within the scope of Christianity, but enforcers of God's will.
DISCLAIMER - (or: Putting in All Back into Perspective)
There are going to be some subjects and points that are raised within this topic that may have varying interpretations based on the different translations of scriptural texts and may likewise have been debated several ways by scholars as to the general consensus of variations in their meaning. THIS IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS DRAWING ATTENTION TO THE SUBJECT MATTER FOR THE PURPOSE OF BECOMING SPIRITUALLY AWARE OF THESE TOPICS, more so for the purpose of hopefully educating non-believers and thus directing them to the saving grace of our Lord God, as well as adding to the enlightenment of existing believers. We would also like to point out that scripture, along with the significance of its origins in the original God-given Hebrew text, does intentionally have "midrashic" layers or many "depths" of meaning for the purpose of carrying multiplex messages and answers pertaining to a similar theme, topic, or question that may be raised. This is merely one example of how the "living" Word of God can transcend the boundaries of normal litterature and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will convey the meaning that is intended for the reader as purposed for them by God. REMEMBER - The main thing is NOT to just be reading the Word of God, but actually DOING THE WORD of GOD and perfecting a more CHRIST-LIKE WAY OF LIVING.
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