three angels sitting side by side with wings on their backs and halos of light around their heads

How much do you know about angels? The Bible tells us, “[The Lord] will give His angels charge of you to protect you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). Angels are heavenly beings often depicted as messengers of God, serving as intermediaries between the divine realm and humanity. The Bible plainly teaches that angels exist. There are more than 250 mentions of angels in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible also indicates that angels are everywhere: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, you have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). You may have seen these messengers from God without even realizing it. Despite being mentioned countless times in the Bible and being all around us, there are still a number of popular myths circulating about angels that are completely untrue and not biblical. One area of confusion deals with the order of angels.

The Angelic Hierarchy

While there is no specific passage in the Bible that lists the nine orders of angels, there are parts of Scripture that speak to an angelic hierarchy. According to Christian tradition, angels are organized into a celestial hierarchy comprising nine distinct orders, each endowed with specific responsibilities and attributes.

The Summa Theologiae, a seminal work by the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, offers insights into the nature and hierarchy of angels. Drawing from biblical sources and philosophical reasoning, Aquinas explores the attributes and functions of each angelic order, providing a comprehensive framework for understanding their role in the divine plan.

Pseudo-Dionysis, a Christian philosopher of the late 5th century CE, drew on passages from the New Testament as well as other sources of knowledge to put forth an angelic hierarchy, which is featured in his book “De Coelesti Hierarchia.” Angels are organized into three hierarchies and nine orders (also called choirs) so that angels can be classified and ranked. Those three hierarchies contain three choirs. The ones that are revealed to us are broken down as follows: The First hierarchy contains Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. The Second hierarchy contains Dominions, Virtues and Powers. The Third and Final hierarchy contains Principalities, Archangels and Angels. Here is the breakdown of each of the nine choirs, or orders, of angels.


These are the highest order (or choir) of angels. These particular angels serve as guardians or attendants before God’s throne. The only Bible verse where they are referenced is in Isaiah 6:1-7. They praise God, calling, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts.” What’s interesting to note about Seraphim is that they have six wings. Two of their wings cover their faces, two cover their feet, and the other two are for flying.


Following Seraphim in the angelic hierarchy comes Cherubim. They are the second highest in the nine orders of angels. These angels are manlike in appearance, double-winged and guardians of God’s glory. In the New Testament, they are often considered to be celestial attendants in the Apocalypse, referenced in Revelation 4-6.


The Thrones are a class of angels mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:16. This verse says, "For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him." The Thrones are the angels of humility, peace and submission. If the lower choir of angels needed to access God, they would have to do that through the Thrones.


This group of angels is said to keep the world in proper order. They are known for delivering God’s justice in unjust situations, showing mercy toward human beings and helping angels in lower ranks stay organized and perform their work efficiently. They are also recognized for expressing unconditional love. At the same time, they express God's justice. The Dominions are believed to embody qualities of wisdom, authority, and governance, exerting influence over the natural world and spiritual realms.


Archangels are called the "great heralds of the Good News" because God sends them to deliver important messages to mankind. They are the ones that communicate and interact with us. Michael is believed to be the angel who delivered God’s divine inspiration to John in the Book of Revelation and is known as the protector of the Church, guarding her from evil. Michael is most widely known for his role in expelling Lucifer from heaven. Gabriel is first mentioned in the Book of Daniel and helps Daniel in his mission on earth. Later on, Gabriel appears to Zachariah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, delivering the greatest message ever that God meant to Incarnate and set his tent with us. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit to heal Tobit and deliver Sarah from a demon. Raphael accomplished both acts, disguised as a human, guiding Tobias along the way and instructing him on what to do.


The Powers are considered warrior angels as they defend against evil, defending not only the cosmos but also humanity. They are also called the Powers because they have power over the devil in order to restrain the power of the demons. They also help people who are wrestling with passions and vices to cast out any evil promoted by the enemy.


Virtues are known for their control of the elements. Some even refer to them as “the shining ones.” In addition to being the Spirits of Motion, they also assist in governing nature. They also assist with miracles. They are also known for their work encouraging humans to strengthen their faith in God. 


The Principalities have command over the lower angels. They also direct the fulfillment of divine orders. They are also known as Princedoms or Rules as they directly watch over large groups and institutions, including nations and the Church. They also ensure the fulfillment of the divine Will. While these angels are still wise and powerful, they are furthest from God in the angelic hierarchy, so they are better able to communicate with man in ways we can understand.


The angels are closest to the material world and human beings. They deliver prayers to God and other messages to people on earth. One of the greatest characteristics of angels is that they are the most caring and social to assist those who ask for help.

According to Scripture, angels have various responsibilities and roles in God’s Kingdom. We are ultimately encouraged by the knowledge that God’s angels are at work. There are also circumstances where angels may even visit us. God, who is responsible for creating the angels, has also promised us His presence in the face of life’s storms.

Guardian angels hold a special place in Christian belief, tasked with watching over and protecting individuals throughout their lives. These celestial beings are believed to offer guidance, comfort, and divine intervention in times of need, serving as constant companions and advocates for those under their watchful care.

More on Angels from Beliefnet:

Bible Verses About Angels Watching Over Us

Healing Signs from Angel Raphael

7 Archangels and Their Meanings

Angel Feather Colours and Their Meanings

5 Warning Signs From Angels

11 Types of Angels for Every Need

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