Who are the Angels?
Angels were created before humankind, and are servants of the Lord that are elohim, or heavenly beings that communicate and associate with God. They are mentioned several times in the Bible, although much of the lore and characteristics of Angels have been obscured over time. It has been assumed that Angels possess wings from a few sources, mainly the descriptions for Cherubim of it’s faces, wings, feet, and other features (Ezekiel 1:4); other sources are the early Christian association with pagan gods; a third source for angels comes from the description of Seraphim (Isaiah 6:1). However, it is largely medieval and renaissance works that most popularly portray Angels in recognizable culture.
In almost all occurances of the presence of an Angel of the Lord, the context of brightness or burning is referred. The Book of Job, which contains conversations between God and Job references Angels in association with morning stars (Job 38:7). In fact in Hebrew, the word “Seraphim” means “burning ones”. Due to their proximity with God, they experience His Presence and the light that comes with it — this light sears through the unclean and sin, and as a consequence adds glowing attributes to those who witness it (e.g. Moses as he spoke with God on Mt. Sinai, Lucifer as the covering Cherub).
One of the important characteristics when thinking about Angels is the fact that they are immortal (Luke 20:36). They cannot die and therefore many of the features that are associated with the living (physical bodies, weakness, untempered will) cannot be passed onto Angels. They have been known to take the form of human beings, but are likely similar to other elohim in that their true bodies are metaphysical. They do not marry (Matthew 22:30) and possess a will to discern between good and evil, to praise God and proclaim the Gospel, and exercise positions of authority. A description of the service of Angels can be found promptly in Psalms of David (Psalm 103:20).
By numbers there a great multitude of Angels, which increases the chance of interaction between humans and Angels. Over a hundred thousand Angels are cited in the Apocalypse of John (Revelation 5:11). This host of Heaven has been present since the very beginning of mankind, and play an important role in the administration of the world and of Heaven. Can Angels be relevant in the lives of everyday human beings? The views of churches are split between the reverence of Angels as a pose to that which is reserved for God; however, Angels can serve as positive role models for human beings. Like other elohim, human beings were created in God’s image, which implies a link and relationship between humans, Angels, and God.
The Nine Choirs of Angels are listed and described briefly below, sanctioned by the Roman Catholic church and developed by Pseudo-Dionysius in the 4th century AD and in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.
These are the highest order or choir of angels. They are the angels who are attendants or guardians before God’s throne. They praise God, calling, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts”. the only Bible reference is Isaiah 6:1-7. One of them touched Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar, cleansing him from sin. Seraphim have six wings, two cover their faces, two cover their feet, and two are for flying.
Cherubim rank after the seraphim and are the second highest in the nine hierarchies or choirs of angels. The Old Testament does not reveal any evidence that the Jews considered them as intercessors or helpers of God. They were closely linked in God’s glory. They are manlike in appearance and double-winged and were guardians of God’s glory. They symbolized then, God’s power and mobility. In the New Testament, they are alluded to as celestial attendants in the Apocalypse (Rv 4-6). Catholic tradition describes them as angels who have an intimate knowledge of God and continually praise Him.
Thrones are the Angels of pure Humility, Peace and Submisssion. They reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. The lower Choir of Angels need the Thrones to access God.
Dominions are Angels of Leadership. They regulate the duties of the angels, making known the commands of God.
Virtues are known as the Spirits of Motion and control the elements. They are sometimes referred to as “the shining ones.” They govern all nature. They have control over seasons, stars, moon; even the sun is subject to their command. They are also in charge of miracles and provide courage, grace, and valor.>
Powers are Warrior Angels against evil defending the cosmos and humans. They are known as potentates. They fight against evil spirits who attempt to wreak chaos through human beings. The chief is said to be either Samael or Camael, both angels of darkness.
Archangels are generally taken to mean “chief or leading angel” ( Jude 9; 1 Thes 4:16), they are the most frequently mentioned throughout the Bible. They may be of this or other hierarchies as St. Michael Archangel, who is a princely Seraph. The Archangels have a unique role as God’s messenger to the people at critical times in history and salvation (Tb 12:6, 15; Jn 5:4; Rv 12:7-9) as in The Annunciation and Apocalypse. A feast day celebrating the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael is celebrated throughout the Church Sep 29. A special part of the Byzantine Liturgy invokes the “Cherubic Hymn” which celebrates these archangels and the guardian angels particularly.
Of special significance is St. Michael as he has been invoked as patron and protector by the Church from the time of the Apostles. The Eastern Rite and many others place him over all the angels, as Prince of the Seraphim. He is described as the “chief of princes” and as the leader of the forces of heaven in their triumph over Satan and his followers. The angel Gabriel first appeared in the Old Testament in the prophesies of Daniel, he announced the prophecy of 70 weeks (Dn 9:21-27). He appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of St. John the Baptist (Lk 1:11). It was also Gabriel which proclaimed the Annunciation of Mary to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. (Lk 1:26) The angel Raphael first appeared in the book of Tobit (Tobias)Tb 3:25, 5:5-28, 6-12). He announces “I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne of God.” (Tb 12:15)
In the New Testament Principalities refers to one type of spiritual (metaphysical) being which are now quite hostile to God and human beings. (Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:10, 15) Along with the principalities are the powers (Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; 1 Pt 3:22; 2 Thes 1:7); and cosmological powers (1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; Col 2:15);Dominions (Eph 1:21; Col 1:16) and thrones (Col1:16). The clarity of the New Testament witness helps see that these beings were created through Christ and for Him (Col 1:16). Given their hostility to God and humans due to sin, Christ’s ultimate rule over them (ibid) expresses the reign of the Lord over all in the cosmos. This is the Lordship of Christ, which reveals God’s tremendous salvation in conquering sin and death at the cross, and now takes place in the Church. (Eph 3:10)
These angels are closest to the material world and human begins. They deliver the prayers to God and God’s answers and other messages to humans. Angels have the capacity to access any and all other Angels at any time. They are the most caring and social to assist those who ask for help.
I have personally seen most reports that human beings cannot be transfigured into Angels upon death or any time. However, I propose that human beings can be come Angels as their heavenly bodies develop and their will to serve the Lord grows. The anti-claim has largely been supported by the exclusivity of what is revealed in the Holy Bible. Nevertheless, the workings and doings of Heaven are not all privy and known to mankind. Transfiguration of human beings to Angels is entirely possible and plausible — the reverse (Angels taking the form of human beings) is cited in the Bible although the characteristics are known to be temporary (Genesis 18:2).