The opposite of good is bad just like how the angels are the opposite of demons. In our previous article, we discussed the Biblical facts about demons and possessions. The descriptions of these beings have somewhat merged into one idea; we know them as angels. But how do these made-up images differ from what the Bible tells us? Simple. Biblical angels are not just a bunch of humans with sparkling hair and halos. There are types of angels that are mentioned in the Bible that have different features from one another, different tasks, abilities, and designations.
To be visited by an angel is an extremely rare experience. The common misconception is that they appear to Biblical figures frequently or on a daily basis. But in reality, they don’t. Angels only appear when God needed to convey something. For example, God may send an angel to announce a specific command to a group of people, or to help them deal with a difficult situation. We can read that angels never acted on their own. They always inform those relevant to the news that they are sent by God.
Biblical Angels May Appear Scary To Humans
Media depictions played a big role in how we visualize angels. The portrayals of angels in myths and legends have been adopted everywhere, so much as that it has become a reality for most. But in fact, Biblical angels are far from a human-like figure who is extremely pleasing to the eyes. If we look at all angel sightings in the Bible, this heavenly being will usually say “Do not be afraid”. If they appear appealing to the eyes, then humans will not be scared. But rather, they would be amazed.
Although the types of angels that appeared before humans back then were not specified, we can conclude that all of them were terrifying— far from the images that were popularized.
Types of Angels
The word “angel” came from the Greek word “Angelos” which means “messenger”. In Hebrew, they are referred to as “malakh”. Although this term has been used for all types of angels in the Bible, some evidence inside scripture suggests that the name “malakh” can also be a type of angel in a lower rank. In the Bible, there are only 2 categories for angels; those that serve God and those who chose to go against God; the fallen angels. The Bible mentions seven types of angels through various examples of encounters with humans. They are seen in person (Genesis 19), dreams (Genesis 28, Matthew 2), and prophecies (Daniel 9). Now, we will discuss the 7 types of angels that the Bible mentions.
Derived from the word “Seraph” which means “to burn”, Seraphim can be roughly translated as the burning ones. The name for this type of angel was only mentioned in the Bible once, in Isaiah 6. Ancient beliefs placed Seraphims as the highest among the hierarchy of angels. Though the Bible does not explicitly mention it, the reverence for the position of these angels is because they are the nearest to God’s throne as what the Prophet Isaiah saw in his vision. According to him, these burning angels stand above God’s throne while screaming “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”.
The Bible also records in Revelation 4:8, that similar angels appeared singing the same words while worshipping God. Most believe that the “living creatures”, as John referred to them, mentioned in this verse are the Seraphims that Isaiah saw in his vision. However, some argue that these living creatures are another type of angels. So how similar or different are they? Unlike in the account of Prophet Isaiah, the Book of Revelations was described more vividly. Isaiah only narrated that the angels he saw had six wings (vs 2). The first pair of wings covered their faces, the second covered their feet, and the third was for flying. This description vaguely matches to those in Revelation 4: 7-8.
The Four Living Creatures
John described the four living creatures that are on each side of the throne of God as beings covered with eyes from front to their behind. And like the Seraphims, they too have 6 wings, though it was not mentioned how they used it. These creatures each resemble a man, a lion, an eagle, and an ox. With the description that they were both near God’s throne and with the same number of wings, one can conclude that they are indeed the same. But if we will look closely, Isaiah 6:2 said that the Seraphims stood above God’s throne, while in Revelation 4:6, the Living Creatures were around the throne, there were four of them and each one took one side. These creatures sang together with elders to worship the slain lamb and signaled the horses from the seven seals to come.
Another striking fact is that John was able to describe what these beings looked like and how their bodies were covered with eyes, which means that their faces and bodies were not covered like the Seraphims. Also, having a lot of eyes is a striking feature; and Isaiah would most likely include it in his description of the Seraphims. We can also notice that both may have been screaming the holiness of God but their words did not exactly match. So, we can then conclude that these four living beings are not Seraphims but a different type of angel.
The word “archangel” was derived from the Latin word “archangelus” which means “chief angel”. “Arch” means “chief” or “head” implying that the archangels are like the commander or the captain of the angels. The name for this type of angel was only mentioned twice in the New Testament of the Bible. Archangels are also called the “chief princes”. It is not stated anywhere in the Bible how any archangels nor battalions of angels exist, but it does name one Archangel, Michael. In Daniel 10:13, Michael was called as one of the “chief princes” implying that there are other archangels that exist.
We can read about archangels in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Most angels in the Bible were depicted as messengers that deliver God’s word to humans through dreams and physical encounters. Others also helped some prophets decode their visions. But Michael was different. He is seen in the Book of Revelation leading the pack of angels to fight against Satan. But the archangel is not just in-charge of battles, but also stands guard over Israel. The Bible did not say much about Archangel Michael. And Michael himself did not say much, he only spoke a total of 4 words that were directed to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 1:9).
Cherubims are far from the innocent chubby babies with a small pair of wings usually portrayed in arts, novels, and movies. The idea of the cutesy appearance came from the work of arts in the Renaissance period called “putti”. It depicts a naked male infant that was said to represent the omnipresence of God. They are associated with love and passion and often appear with wings. Some depictions feature a bow and arrow carried by these infants to shoot people and cause them to fall in love. They call these beings cupid. Both Cupid and Putti were not mentioned in the Bible.
Cherubims in the Bible
Based on how the Bible described cherubs, they might appear scary from a human perspective. These heavenly beings were the most frequently mentioned in the Old Testament and were first mentioned in the Book of Genesis (6:4). The cherubs were vaguely mentioned as they stood guard at the entrance of The Garden of Eden together with a flaming sword (vs 24). They were again mentioned briefly in the Book of Exodus as the figures that should be made to stand at both ends of the mercy seat (25:18). The first mention of how they looked like was in the Book of Kings, it was described that they have wings that spread over the ark of the covenant. But the most detailed account about them was on the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel.
When Ezekiel was sitting at a riverbank, the heaven opened and there he saw 4 cherubs whose built were tall and awesome. In the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, he described them as man-like beings. They have 2 pairs of wings, one pair for covering their body, and the other used for flying. Although their built was of a man, they each had four faces; a human face, the face of an eagle, the face of a lion on the right side while an ox on the left. They were also extremely fast as if like a flash of lightning and their bodies covered with eyes. Ezekiel saw these cherubs holding an expanse over them that bear the throne of the glory of God.
In the vision of Ezekiel, he also described beings that stood beside each cherub. He observed that these creatures followed the cherubs everywhere they went. They are the Ophanims. The word ophanim came from the Hebrew word “ophannim” which means “wheels”. This type of angel was mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel together with the cherubims. They appear as wheels within wheels with rims full of eyes. Prophet Ezekiel said that the spirits of the cherubims were the Ophanims. Hence, it follows them. Although they do not turn, their face is always on the side of the cherubims. What they do besides that, no one knows. Some insist that the Ophanims should not be deemed as angels. Rather, they should be addressed as one of the heavenly beings who guards God’s throne.
But on one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the oldest Bible manuscripts found, the Book of Enoch says otherwise. Some sections of the Book of Enoch (Book of the Bible which was rejected by Jews due to some prophecies about Christ) say otherwise. Enoch 61:10 and 71:7 deemed the Ophanims as angels like the Seraphim and the Cherubims which never sleeps. And in the Second Book of Enoch, they were also described as “many-eyed ones”. just like how Ezekiel had accounted them to be.
Jewish tradition had a belief that Ophanims are wheels of the heavenly chariots of God. This belief is associated with the passage in the Book of Daniel. The prophet described how the throne of God looked like and compared it to fiery flames with wheels that are burning just the same.
We mentioned above that the term “angel” came from the word “malahkh” which means “messenger” and is also a type of angel. The Bible only named one of this type of angel, Gabriel. To announce Jesus’ birth, God sent Gabriel to inform Mary of what would occur and how she will give birth to the Son of God. He also appeared Zecheriah to announce John the baptist’s birth. Gabriel also appeared to Daniel in a vision. And came again to grant Daniel the insight and understanding of his vision. According to these accounts, we can conclude that this type of angel is like humans in form. Unlike the other types of angels that may appear terrifying to humans.
In other passages, it is said that God sends angels to protect and guide His people. So we can assume that many of them run to and fro on the earth delivering messages from God and fulfilling His will. In Hebrews 13:2, Scripture warns us to be very careful about how we treat strangers. Because we may never know if we came across an angel in disguise. This means that the angels can take a human form and blend in crowds while carrying out their missions.
Others argue that angels such as Cherubims and Seraphims can change their forms and appear to humans as well. Yet it is more likely that there are also other types of angels that can be sent out for the tasks here on earth. Because in the first place, the heavens will not run out of angels to make the guards of Eden or the guardians of the throne come down on earth.
If you had read our article about the amazing facts about Biblical angels, we mentioned that angels have their free will. Though they were created to serve God, they were still given intellect and rights to pick their destiny. And unfortunately, some angels have chosen to go against God. These angels are called the “fallen angels”. They may be called “fallen” as they were cast out of the kingdom of God for they chose to turn away from him. Hence they have fallen out from the grace of God. In short, they are expelled from the heavenly realm. The term fallen angels did not appear anywhere in the Bible. But this is used to describe the angels who had sinned against God.
After being cast out, these angels lurk around the earth trying to make people sin as well. They strive in dark desires and feed on the greed of humans. And when someone has been fully consumed by demonic works, his fate will be like the devil. Lucifer is a famous example of a fallen angel. Some sources assumed that Lucifer was a cherub stationed in the Garden of Eden. But one thing is certain, he was once was a beautiful angel, and because of this, was engulfed by his pride and greed.
A demon called Abaddon was also mentioned in Revelations 9:11. The name “Abbadon” in Hebrew is equivalent to the Greek name “Apollyon”. This name refers to the bottomless pit and the angel who leads there. No details were recorded about him besides that he leads an army of locusts that will torture people in the last days. Others call him the angel of the abyss who works under Satan.
There are 5 types of angels in the Bible:
- Seraphims- appears like “burning torches”, have 3 pair of wings; one for flying and the two pairs for covering their faces and body
- Living Creatures- resembles a man, an eagle, a lion, and an ox, covered with eyes, have 3 pairs of wings
- Archangels- warrior angel, no available description in the Bible
- Cherubims- their built were man-like but have 4 faces each, have 2 pairs of wings
- Ophanims- wheels inside wheels, covered with eyes
- Messenger Angels- human-like form, swift, may or may not have wings, can appear as human
- Fallen Angels- expelled from the paradise, had sinned against God, can disguise themselves into anything, demons
Their roles are:
- Seraphims stood above God’s throne
- The Living Creatures surround God’s throne and praise God day and night. They also gave “go signals” when the seven seals were opened in the Book of Revelation
- Archanges lead the army of angels in battles
- Cherubims are stationed under God’s throne and outside the Garden of Eden as guards
- The Ophanims are the spirit of the Cherubs and they follow wherever the Cherubs go
- Messenger angels deliver messages and fulfill God’s will on earth
- Fallen angels are angels who choose to disobey God and want people to do the same, They roam over the earth spreading evil and its works
Extra Notes on the Types of Angels
- Other Hebrew Bible scholars claimed that the Seraphims does not have the status of an angel
- We can read that Seraphims used two pairs of their wings to cover their face and body. When Isaiah saw them, he immediately became aware of his unworthiness and admitted it before God. Some interpret that the Seraphims covered their faces to show humility before God. Others think that it is because they can not look at God as His glory shines blindingly. Also, Seraphims was said to cover their feet. Feet can symbolize something unclean which is not worthy in front of God. The gesture of covering their beings may just be the characteristic of Seraphs. But it can also symbolize something that the Bible wants to convey.
- Origen Adamantius, an early Christian scholar, believed that the covering of the Seraphims tells that humans can not fully know the beginning and the ending of things. He concluded that we may see the idea yet we can never comprehend God’s wisdom.
- Archangel Michael had an argument with Satan about Moses’ body
- There were only 4 angels that were named in the Bible: Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, and Abaddon. Other names that were known to be the names of other angels are probably from other sources.
All Types Of Angels Are Powerful
Angels are powerful beings that are subject to God. They are extremely fascinating and feeds the creativity of humans. Though there are many versions of them in different stories and religions all over the world, no account is as detailed as the Bible. As Christians, angels play a little role in our salvation and that may be the reason why they are not mentioned in full details. The accounts about the angels in the Bible allows us a peek at what’s happening in the spiritual realm. Contrary to popular beliefs, we should not pray to them nor ask them to pray for us.
They should not also be given the title of a Saint. Because like us, they were also a creation of God. And creations should not praise each other. Instead, we should all praise Our one and only Creator. Our prayers and concerns should be directed to Him, not to the angels. Because as we said above, angels are the messengers of God. Not our messenger nor meditators of our prayer to God. We should just stick to what is written in the Bible and not go beyond it. The Bible speaks its truth and should not be mixed with our personal beliefs and biases. We should take it as it is and go solely on what is written. The price is high for those who add or subtracts word from it.