Classification of Holy Angels

Bible Study Guide/ The Doctrine of Angels/ 76-004 (Hebrews 1:14)/ Key Text: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16, NKJV)

Opening Remarks: “When the Lord created these [angelic] beings to stand before His throne, they were beautiful and glorious. Their loveliness and holiness were equal to their exalted station. They were enriched by the wisdom of God, and girded with the panoply of heaven” — (The Signs of the Times, April 14, 1898)

Introduction: The Moral Classification of Angels.

All angels were originally created without sin/ fault and, like Adam in the Garden, placed on a probationary period. This period ended when Lucifer instigated a great revolt against Jehovah God Himself – (Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek, 28:11-19 (Note: They will be a separate study on Lucifer, at the end of this series)

According with Revelation 12:3-4, Lucifer was able to persuade one-third of heaven’s angels to side with him in this terrible rebellion/ apostasy against God.

His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:4, NKJV)

  • The word “drew” in this passage is from the Greek word suro, which means to drag or carry something. It is also found in Acts 14:19 when Paul’s unconscious body was dragged out of the city of Lystra by his enemies. Thus Lucifer was able to drag down from their exalted position one-third of the angels.

From that point on, the faithful angels are referred to as Holy Angels (Mark 8:38; 1 Tim. 5:21), while the fallen angels are known as the devil’s, or evil angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9). For references to the Holy/ Elect Angels – (see 1 Tim. 5:21); References to the Unholy/ Evil Angels – (see Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9).

Lesson Outline:

  1. The Archangel: Michael
  2. The Archangel: Gabriel.
  3. The Cherubim.
  4. The Seraphim.
  5. The Four Living Creatures.
  6. The Watchers.
  7. The Guardian Angels.
  8. The Ruling Angels.
  9. Devotional Implication.

In this Lesson we are going to study the characteristics of holy/ faithful Angels. Next time we shall focus on evil/ fallen Angels.

THE ARCHANGEL: MICHAEL.

“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,” (Revelation 12:7, NKJV)

“At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.” (Daniel 12:1, NKJV)

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NKJV)

[1] Who is Michael? — His name means “Who is like God?”

  • This should be contrasted to Satan’s evil desire to “be like the most High”: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:14).
  • “Michael” is one of the names of Christ (see on Dan. 10:13; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 12:7), not as the chief angel but as ruler over the angels.

Michael is mentioned by name on four separate occasions in the Bible.

  • He helps a lesser-ranked angel get through to answer Daniel’s prayer – (Dan. 10:13, 21).
  • He will stand up for God’s people during the tribulation – (Dan. 12:1).
  • He disputes with Satan concerning the dead body of Moses – (Jude 9)
  • He fights against Satan in the heavens – (Rev. 12:7).

[2] Who is the Archangel (Gr. Archaggelos) mentioned in 1 Thess. 4:16? The Lord Jesus Christ. “Angels are created beings; Christ is their Creator (see Col. 1:16, 17). Christ is very God (see on John 1:1–3), and the angels are charged to worship Him (see on Heb. 1:3–8, 13, 14)” — (SDABC 7:706).

NOTE: We will do a study on the identity, mission and salvific work of Michael at a separate study.

THE ARCHANGEL: GABRIEL.

Gabriel – His name means “The mighty one of God.”

  1. He explains the vision of the ram and goat battle to Daniel – (Dan. 8:16).
  2. He explains the Seventy weeks to Daniel – (Dan. 9:21).
  3. He predicts the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias – (Luke 1:19).
  4. He predicts the birth of Jesus to Mary – (Luke 1:26).
  5. He assures Joseph concerning the purity of Mary – (Matt. 1:20).
  6. He warns Joseph about the plot of Herod – (Matt. 2:13).
  7. He tells Joseph about the death of Herod – (Matt. 2:19).
  8. He announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds – (Luke 2:9).
  9. He strengthens Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane – (Luke 22:43).
  10. He rolls the stone back at Christ’s resurrection – (Matt. 28:2).
  11. He frees the apostles from prison – (Acts 5:19).
  12. He sends Philip to the desert of Gaza to meet the eunuch – (Acts 8:26).
  13. He instructs Cornelius to send for Peter – (Acts 10:3).
  14. He frees Peter from prison – (Acts 12:7).
  15. He executes wicked Herod for blasphemy – (Acts 12:23).
  16. He assures Paul on the deck of a sinking ship – (Acts 27:23).
  17. He will sound the trumpet at the Rapture – (1 Thess. 4:16).

THE CHERUBIM.

“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24, NKJV)

  • “Unlike other angels who are messengers of God, cherubim are never portrayed in the Bible as delivering divine revelation to humans. Cherubim is the Hebrew plural form of cherub, a term for high-ranking, powerful, and majestic beings (never specifically called angels) who serve as guardians of the holiness of God, surround the throne of God, and defend it from the defilement of sin. Before his fall, Satan was a cherub (Ezek. 28:14, 16). In the garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword guarded the tree of life (Gen. 3:24) after the fall of Adam and Eve.” [H. Wayne House and Timothy J. Demy, Answers to Common Questions about Angels & Demons, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 24].

“And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:18–20, NKJV). (See also Ezek. 1:4-28; 10:1-20)

  • “After the Israelites left Egypt, a representation of two cherubim made of gold was attached to the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant as part of the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exod. 25:16–22). It was in the presence of these two figures that God said He would dwell among His people (v. 22). They were also represented on the veil that prevented entrance into the Holy of Holies (Exod. 26:31; 2 Chron. 3:14). Representations of cherubim were also used in the decoration of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:23–29). In Ezekiel 1:4–15 and 10:15–20, it was cherubim that Ezekiel saw bearing the throne-chariots of God (see also 2 Sam. 22:11 and Ps. 18:10).” [H. Wayne House and Timothy J. Demy, Answers to Common Questions about Angels & Demons, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 24].

The Description of the Cherubim.

  • Each had four faces – (the face in front is as a Man; the face on the right is as a Lion; the face on the left is as an Ox; the face in back is as an Eagle)
  • Each has two pairs of wings – (One pair spreads out from the middle of the back; the other pair is used to cover the body. These wings make a noise like waves crashing upon the seashore.)
  • They have the legs of men, but their feet are cloven like calves’ feet, which shine like burnished brass.
  • They have four human hands, with one located under each wing.
  • They apparently travel in groups of four. The outstretched wings of each cherubim touches those of the remaining three companions, so that they form a square. When they move, they move as a group without turning their bodies.

The Duties of the Cherubim:

  • They kept Adam from the Tree of Life after the Fall, lest he eat of it and live forever in his sin – (Gen. 3:24).
  • They were placed at either end on top of the Ark lid in the tabernacle (Exod. 25:18-20; Heb. 9:5.)
  • They appeared to Ezekiel – (Ezek. 1:5; 10:1).
  • Prior to his fall, Satan (then known as Lucifer) was the chief cherub angel – (Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:14).

THE SERAPHIM.

“While cherubim are guardians of divine holiness, seraphim are divine beings proclaiming God’s holiness, praising God, and serving as agents of cleansing (Isa. 6:2, 6). The plural name seraphim derives from a Hebrew verb that means “to burn” and Isaiah’s reference is the only reference to these angelic beings in the Bible. In Isaiah 6:6–8, the seraphim fly to Isaiah and touch his lips with a burning coal to purify him and cleanse him of sin so he is able to speak for God.”

“In Isaiah’s vision, the seraphim are described as having six wings—two that cover their faces, two that cover their feet, and two with which they fly. With the first pair of wings, the seraphim cover their faces to protect themselves from the brilliance and holiness of God. The Bible says that no person has seen the unveiled glory of God and these spiritual beings are reminders of God’s holiness (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:16). With the second pair of wings, the angels cover their feet, possibly in an attitude of reverence and awe at being in the presence of God (similar to Moses removing his sandals at the incident of the burning bush in Exod. 3:5). The third set of wings is used by the angels to swiftly carry out the commands of God.” [H. Wayne House and Timothy J. Demy, Answers to Common Questions about Angels & Demons, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 24–25].

THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES.

Revelation 4:6–9 (NKJV)6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

“The four living beings are mentioned several times in the book of Revelation. They are always found in proximity to the throne (4:6; 5:6; 14:3), and they are constantly engaged in worshiping and praising God (4:8–9; 5:8–9, 14; 7:11–12; 19:4). No doubt this imagery is drawn from Ezekiel’s vision where the prophet saw the four living beings each having four faces: that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezek. 1:6–10; 10:14); they are “full of eyes all around” (Ezek. 10:12). Ezekiel definitely identifies them with the cherubim (10:20–22). Also, the four living beings of Revelation 4 bring to mind Isaiah’s vision of seraphim with six wings and the acclamations of “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:2–3). The proximity of the four living creatures to the throne in both Revelation 4 and Ezekiel 1 and 10 reminds us of the cherubim associated with the ark of the covenant; they were placed there to face each other, and their wings were stretched over the mercy seat (Exod. 25:18–21; 1 Kings 6:23–28). God is often pictured in the Bible as sitting on the throne between the cherubim (2 Kings 19:15; Pss. 80:1; 99:1; Isa. 37:16). All of these factors clearly indicate that the four living beings in Revelation are the exalted angels of God who serve him and are the guardians of his throne; they are involved in leading the heavenly hosts in ceaseless worship and praise.”[Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ: Commentary on the Book of Revelation, Second Edition., (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009), 188–189].

The Description of the Four Living Creatures

  1. They are standing before the shining crystal sea in heaven surrounding God’s throne.
  • They are covered with eyes, both in front and behind.
  • Each of the four has a different face – (One has the face of a Lion; the other an Ox; the third, the face of a Man; the last one, the face of an Eagle).
  • Each creature has six wings.
  • Without ceasing day or night, they proclaim God’s praise, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).
  • Revelation chapter 6 and 7 discuss the Seven Seals. Each of the four living creatures will announce one of the first four seals —
  1. “Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.”” (Revelation 6:1, NKJV)
    1. “When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.”” (Revelation 6:3, NKJV)
    1. “When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.” (Revelation 6:5, NKJV)
    1. “When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.”” (Revelation 6:7, NKJV)
  • It has been suggested that the faces of both the cherubim and the living creatures are to remind the elect throughout all eternity of the earthly ministry performed by our blessed Lord. These faces correspond directly to the fourfold gospel presentation of Christ.
    • Matthew presents him as the lion of the tribe of Judah.
    • Mark presents him as the lowly ox.
    • Luke presents him as the perfect man.
    • John presents him as the mighty God-like eagle.

THE WATCHERS.

“The angelic “watcher” is an especially fascinating reminder that all angels are, as biblical scholar Ron Rhodes writes, “celestial spectators of planet earth.” Four specific times, angels are said to be observers—Luke 15:10 when a sinner repents, Luke 12:8–9 when believers confess Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 3:16 as witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and Revelation 14:10–11 when angels see those who will worship the Antichrist during the tribulation. They are witnesses to all of history (1 Cor. 4:9; 1 Tim. 5:21; 1 Peter 1:12). Angels witnessed the creation of Adam and Eve as well as the tragedy of their fall in the garden of Eden. Just as angels were present at the creation of the first Adam, so, too, were they present at the birth of Jesus Christ—the second Adam—and they announced to shepherds the birth of a “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Angels witnessed the public three-year ministry of Jesus before the crucifixion and they were present at the death of the Savior. Three days later, it was angels who announced the resurrection, and forty days later angels were present at the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. We know, too, that angels will accompany Jesus when He returns (Matt. 25:31) and fulfills biblical prophecy and the events of the end times. Angels also observe the order of church worship and thus give a reason for Christians to observe proper form (cf. 1 Cor. 11). Throughout history, angels have been faithful witnesses and watchers of the unfolding of God’s plan for the ages and all of the created order. There are no secrets! [H. Wayne House and Timothy J. Demy, Answers to Common Questions about Angels & Demons, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 26].

THE GUARDIAN ANGELS.

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 18:10, NKJV)

Does the Bible specifically state that each one of us has a guardian Angel? No. The Bible does not state whether each believer has a specific guardian angel, or whether various angels on occasion are “sent forth”  to simply protect, aid, and “minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:13–14) But, both are logical possibilities.

The Spirit of prophecy indicates that we have guardian Angels –“A guardian angel is appointed to every follower of Christ. These heavenly watchers shield the righteous from the power of the wicked one. This Satan himself recognized when he said: “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” Job 1:9, 10. The agency by which God protects His people is presented in the words of the psalmist: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.” Psalm 34:7. Said the Saviour, speaking of those that believe in Him: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father.” Matthew 18:10. The angels appointed to minister to the children of God have at all times access to His presence. — (The Great Controversy, 512, 513)

“We know not what results a day, an hour, or a moment may determine, and never should we begin the day without committing our ways to our heavenly Father. His angels are appointed to watch over us, and if we put ourselves under their guardianship, then in every time of danger they will be at our right hand. When unconsciously we are in danger of exerting a wrong influence, the angels will be by our side, prompting us to a better course, choosing our words for us, and influencing our actions.” — (Christ’s Object Lessons, 341, 342).

THE RULING ANGELS.

“Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:21, NKJV)

“To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 3:10, NKJV)

“And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:10, NKJV)

“Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” (1 Peter 3:22, NKJV)

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16, NKJV)

In the above passages the following organizational features are mentioned.

  • Principalities
  • Powers
  • Thrones
  • Authorities
  • Dominions
  • Might

While it is impossible to distinguish clearly among these six, it is nevertheless evident that they describe various levels of ruling positions assigned to angels, ranging perhaps (to use an earthly analogy) from generals to privates.

DEVOTIONAL IMPLICATION: For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.(Colossians 1:16–17, NKJV)

“Thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities refer to the various ranks of angels. Far from being an angel, as the Colossian errorists taught, Christ created the angels. The writer of Hebrews also makes a clear distinction between Christ and the angels: “Of the angels He says, ‘Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom’ ” (Heb. 1:7–8). Jesus has been exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:21). As a result, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). With that truth the apostle Peter agrees: “[Christ] is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22).”

“Scripture is clear that Jesus is not an angel, but the Creator of the angels. He is above the angels, who in fact worship Him and are under His authority. Jesus’ relation to the unseen world, like His relation to the visible universe, proves He is God.” [John F. MacArthur Jr., Colossians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 50].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this lesson should inspires us to do? [1] Thank God for giving us His holy Angels to guide, accompany and protect us. “Angels are sent to minister to the children of God who are physically blind. Angels guard their steps and save them from a thousand dangers, which, unknown to them, beset their path.” — (Welfare Ministry, 240).

[2] Since God and Angels are holy, we ought to be holy: holy environments, activities, plans, and holy company. We must separate ourselves and Be Ye Holy —

  • “Angels of God are all around us.… Oh, we want to know these things, and fear and tremble, and to think much more of the power of the angels of God that are watching over and guarding us than we have done hitherto.… Angels of God are commissioned from heaven to guard the children of men, and yet they draw away from their restraining influences and go where they can have communication with the evil angels.… Oh, that we might all obey the injunction of the apostle (read 2 Corinthians 6:17-18). — (5MR 125).
  • “Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”” (2 Corinthians 6:17–18, NKJV)

Have a Blessed Day: The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7, NKJV)

The Gospel’s Voice/ Bible Study Guide/ Doctrines/ An Introduction to Angelology: (The doctrine of angels) Lesson # 4.