Angels, heavenly entities that were often depicted as messengers or harbingers of God, are present in more than just Christianity. Judaism, Islam, and other Abrahamic religions all have angels or angel equivalents in their scriptures.
The modern image of angels has them as strong, winged beings that are almost always benevolent, but that hasn’t always been the case.
In the Christian bible, only a few angels are mentioned by name. There is believed to be an angelic hierarchy, with the named angels being at the top. The named angels are of particular importance, but they are far from the only angels, especially when you deviate from the Christian Bible and delve into Catholicism and Judaism.
Below, we will look into significant angels and types of angels, as well as what importance these angels hold in spirituality and religion. Cherubim, Seraphim, archangels, and even fallen angels have their own legends, and all of them are utterly fascinating.
Celestial Beings: The Types of Angels
While angels exist in many varying religious texts, they are most well known for the roles they play in the Christian, Catholic, and Hebrew Bible. Angelic equivalents exist elsewhere, but it’s the biblical angels that are most often portrayed in artwork in media.
Surprisingly, angels have only a few, very specific mentions in the Bible. Angels also look significantly different in their descriptions than one might think. Instead of beautiful beings, biblically accurate angels can appear quite frightening.
While there is a hierarchy of angels that appears in the study of Christian angelology, only three types of angels are mentioned by name in the bible, so it is these angels we will be looking into.
The most prevalent type of angel in the Bible are the Cherubim. Cherubim were trusted by God to complete important tasks, such as casting humankind out of the Garden of Eden.
In more modern artwork, the Cherubim are depicted as chubby, winged children, inspiring feelings of innocence and love. While they weren’t depicted as frightening as other angels, a more accurate description of the Cherubim is a man-shaped entity with four faces, those of a man, lion, ox, and eagle, as well as four wings.
In Ezekiel 1:10-11, he describes the Cherubim as such:
“Each of the four had the face of a man, with the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left and also the face of an eagle. Their wings were spread out above them; each had two wings touching the wings of one of the other beings on either side and two wings covering their bodies”
The Cherubim are mentioned in:
Genesis 3:24-Here the Cherubim guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden.
Exodus 23:18-22-God instructs Moses to place two golden cherubim on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant.
1 Kings 6:23-28- Carved Cherubim are described as decorating the inside of Soloman’s Temple.
1 Chronicles 28:18- David provides Soloman with the plans for the temple, which includes the Cherubim on the Ark.
2 Chronicles 3:7-14- Another mention of the angels in Soloman’s Temple.
Ezekiel 1:10-11- Ezekiel has very intricately detailed visions of the Cherubim, which is where we get most of our description for these angels.
Psalms: 18:10- Referenced when God is described riding a Cherubim.
The Seraphim, or “fiery ones”, are fervent worshippers and are only mentioned a few times in the Bible. Their two canonical references have them attending to the throne of God while crying out and singing in praise.
In their second mention, they display the ability to cleanse people of sin. A Seraphim is seen using burning coals to cleanse Isiah’s mouth so he will be able to speak for God.
In appearance, the Seraphim have a human-like form and six wings. Two wings for flight, two wings to cover their feet, and the final two wings to cover their faces.
The Seraphim are mentioned in:
Isaiah 6:6-7- Here the Seraphim are seen praising God, and cleansing Isaiah of his sins.
The Living Creatures
There is some debate about whether the Living Creatures are Cherubim or their own classification of angels. While there are definite similarities between the two, the difference really comes in the description of the Living Creature’s descriptions.
Four Living Creatures are described, each of them having a different face. The Living Creatures have the faces of either a lion, an ox, an eagle, or a man. They also have six wings, like the Seraphim. It is believed that the Living Creatures represent the mightiest of God’s creations, and also attend to the throne of God.
The Living Creatures appear in:
Ezekiel 10:15-22- The Living Creatures are mentioned in the visions of Ezekiel, including detailed descriptions of their forms.
Revelation 4:6-8- In Revelations, the Living Creatures are described surrounding the throne of God.
The two angels mentioned in the Bible are both archangels. Archangels are a high-ranking order of angels, considered to be special messengers of God.
Charged with carrying out specific tasks assigned by God, archangels would often be the class of angels to appear to people at God’s command.
Archangels are a bit more difficult to find in the Bible because the actual word “archangel” is only used in two locations. Named angel Gabriel is understood to be an archangel, although he is not called such.
Archangels appear in:
Jude 1:9- Here the archangel Micahel is mentioned disputing with the devil.
Thessalonians 4:16- It is mentioned that the Lord will shout with the voice of an archangel.
Biblically Accurate Angels VS Angels Portrayal in Media
When one thinks of an angel, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a beautiful, ethereal person dressed in white, glowing, with two snow-white wings and a floating halo. This angelic representation is the one most often seen in media and modern artistic depictions of angels, but it doesn’t really match the way that biblical angels are really described.
Recently, there has been an influx of attention given to the idea of biblically accurate angels, and how they appear to be frightening to the human eye. There are mentions of celestial creatures that can be quite unsettling in the Bible, but they are not specifically referenced as angels.
One example is the Ophanim, or wheels. Ezekiel sees these wheels, which appear as two nested, flaming rings that are covered in fire and eyes, in his visions. Later areas of study have classified beings such as Ophanim as angelic, but they are not called angels in the Bible.
The three types of angels discussed above–Cherubim, Seraphim, and Living Beings–do not always appear human with their many faces and numerous wings, but they aren’t necessarily terrifying. Instead, they are seen as awe-inspiring and striking, even if there is some sense of fear associated with them.
Divine Guardians and Fallen Angels: The Individual Angels
In the Bible, there are two archangels that are mentioned by name–Gabriel, and Micahel. The fallen angel Lucifer is also mentioned. Only Michael is referred to as an archangel, but all signs point to Gabriel also being an archangel.
The first of the named archangels is Gabriel. Gabriel’s role as an archangel was that of divine messenger, and he was renowned for delivering important prophecies and announcements.
Gabriel is present in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel, providing him with profound and detailed insights into the future. Gabriel appeared to Daniel twice, clarifying visions that he had been given and advising him on other subjects like the name that should be given to his son.
What Gabriel is most known for are the announcements he made for the birth of both John the Baptist and even Jesus Christ himself. Gabriel delivered the message to Mary that she was highly favored by God, and would bear the Son of God.
The warrior angel, Micahel is depicted as a powerful force for God, wielding a flaming, immense sword and leading an army of angels in Revelations. Of the two named angels, Michael is the only one to engage in heavenly battle.
Archangel Micael is best known for his role in the battle against the dragon and other evil entities in Revelations. He is called “a great prince”, and is seen to have authority over the other angels since he is named as a leader in scripture.
Micahel is also named in the Book of Jude, where he is described as disputing with the devil about the body of Moses.
Fallen Angel Lucifer
Once called “Light-bringer” or the “Son of Morning”, Lucifer fell from grace, so full of pride that he was cast out of Heaven. After his Fall, Lucifer was also known as Satan.
Lucifer is one of the key figures in Christian theology, and therefore one of the most important, if antagonistic, figures in the Bible. In the form of a serpent, Lucifer was the one to tempt Eve and have humanity barred from the Garden of Eden.
But before his Fall, Lucifer was a beloved angel, like all of the others. He was known to be beautiful and wise, but vanity and eventually pride caused him to rebel, wanting power for himself that only belonged to God. Once this rebellion began, he was cast out of heaven, making Lucifer a fallen angel, and technically, one of the named angels in the Bible.
Other Angels in Apocrypha
There are other angels that aren’t directly mentioned in the Bible that have become, more or less, part of the Biblical canon. These angels appear in the Apocrypha, which are writings related to the Bible that are not part of the true Biblical canon.
Some pieces, like the Book of Tobit, are included in the Catholic and Jewish canon but not the Protestant canon. So while they will be considered Apocrypha for some, they are legitimate canon to others.
This places some of the apocryphal angels in a strange position within Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism. That being said, these angels are well-known enough to be accepted and venerated by many different religious sects.
Archangel Raphael-Of the apocryphal angels, Raphael is the only one who is accepted in Catholicism alongside Micahel and Gabriel as an archangel. Archangel Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit and is known as the healing angel.
In the book of Tobit, Raphael actually wears the form of a man and accompanies the eponymous Tobis on his journeys, healing Tobis himself and others along the way.
Archangel Uriel- Uriel is another archangel mentioned in Russian Orthodox.
Archangel Jerahmeel- Jerahmeel is mentioned as an archangel who is referenced multiple times in the Hebrew Bible.
Angel Metatron- Metatron is an angel that exists in both Judaism and Christianity. This angel features heavily in the Book of Enoch, as Metatron is the name given to Enoch after he transforms into an angel.
The Significance of Angels
Angels, as depicted in the Bible and hundreds of other texts across a variety of religions, each have unique attributes and roles and each holds special significance to the followers of those religions.
Throughout varying religious texts, angels act as divine messengers, healers, and even warriors to protect the faithful. Of all the angels, it’s difficult to pinpoint which are the most important in the Bible, but two names stand out among the rest.
Archangel Michael endures as a symbol of unwavering strength, while Gabriel brings messages of profound significance to God’s faithful when they are needed most.
Even Lucifer, who fell from grace and became Satan himself, can be counted as important. While Lucifer is the farthest thing from a positive figure in the Bible, he is still critical to the story of Christianity as a whole.
All in all, these stories serve as undeniably important parts of history, and signify just how powerful the idea of angels is.
“What Is an Archangel and What Is Their Role in the End Times?”
“What Are the Names of Angels in the Bible?”
“9 Types of Angels”