Many theologians have proposed various classifications of angels and delved into concepts of hierarchy. The Celestial Hierarchy, one accepted by the Church, says the Nine Choirs of Angels is composed of Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels (Regular).
Seraphim and Cherubim
Meaning “the burning ones,” the Seraphim are the highest order in the Choir of Angels. It is said that Seraphim emanate light so bright no one, including other angels, can look at them. They are mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7 as caretakers or guardians before God’s throne who continuously shout praises, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.” They are said to have six wings: two cover their faces, two cover their genitals (seen as “feet”), and two used for flying.
Cherubim are the second in the nine choirs of angels. Guardians of God’s glory, they have a man-like appearance and have two wings. In Genesis 3:24, they are called guardians to the path leading to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. A symbol of God’s power, they are mentioned in the New Testament as celestial attendants in the Apocalypse. In Thomas Aquinas’ work, he theorizes Satan as a fallen Cherub.
Thrones and Dominions
Thrones, the third highest order, symbolize God’s justice and authority. Also known as Ophanim, they are unusual looking and beryl-colored. They are connected closely with the Cherubim and are needed by lower Choir of Angels to access God. Thrones live somewhere in the cosmos where material forms start taking shape.
In the Choirs of Angels, Dominions are presented as “Lordships” or Angels of Leadership. They make the commands of God known and control the duties of lower Angels. Also presiding over nations, Dominions rarely show themselves to humans although they are believed to be divinely beautiful.
Virtues and Powers
Fourth in the hierarchy, Virtues control the elements and make sure the cosmos are in order by supervising the movement of stars, moons, and seasons. Thus, they are known as Spirits of Motion and also called “the shining ones.” They are also the source of virtues of courage, grace and valor, and are in charge of miracles.
Powers are defenders of the cosmos of humans, protecting them from evil as Warrior Angels. Fifth in order, they help the Principalities and oversee the distribution of power among humans. They are also known as Authorities and are highly loyal to God.
Principalities, Archangels, and Angels
Principalities carry out orders of the Dominions and collaborate with the Powers. Shown wearing a crown and bearing a scepter, they are sixth in the hierarchy of angels. They guard the earth and serve as inspirations in works of art or science. The New Testament states that Principalities were created through Christ and for Him. Since they are known to express hostility to God and human beings for their sin, Christ rules ultimately over them, representing the Lordship of Christ.
Archangels, meaning “chief or leading angel,” are the seventh highest in the Choir of Angels. They are God’s messengers to the people foretelling significant events in history and in salvation. In the New Testament, two archangels are mentioned, Gabriel and Michael. Michael is considered the “chief of princes” and has been patron and protector of the Church since its early times.
Angels are the lowest in the hierarchy but they are the most recognized andclosest to the earth and human beings. As messengers, they deliver man’s prayers to God and God’s messages to man.
Other religions have different names for angels although they also believe in the existence of such celestial or spiritual beings. Buddhists, for example, have devas. Muslims refer to them as Malaikah. They believe Malaikah are messengers of God who serve him without freewill. The Church of Latter Day Saints also believes angels are God’s messengers.
Today, many people claim to have had encounters with angels. They say angels give people warnings or revelations, and come in different forms.