Hierarchy of angels

From Academic Kids

According to medieval Christian theologians, the Angels are organized into several orders, or Angelic Choirs. The most influential of these classifications was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the Fourth or Fifth century, in his book The Celestial Hierarchy.

In this work, the author drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 6:12 and Colossians 1:16, to construct a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. In descending order of power, these were:

During the Middle Ages, many other schema were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications. Here is another example, which is expanded in the rest of this article:

Some authors limited the number of Choirs to seven.


First Sphere

The angels of the first sphere were thought to serve as heavenly counselors.


The Seraphim are the highest order of angels, serving as the caretakers of God's throne and continuously singing his praises. It is said that they surround the throne of God, singing the music of the spheres and regulating the movement of the heavens as it emanates from God.

The Seraphim are mentioned in Isaiah 6:1–7 [1] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/isa6.htm)


The Cherubim are beyond the throne of God; they are the guardians of light and of the stars. It is believed that, although they are removed from man's plane of reality, the divine light that they filter down from Heaven still touches human lives.

The Cherubim are thought by some as an order or class of angels, though others hold them to be a higher class of heavenly beings than angels. Their rank among angels is uncertain, but they are always categorized in the First Sphere.

Many Christians believe that the Devil is a fallen angel that was among the Cherubim prior to his fall from Heaven. They believe that the Devil was considered as the angel of light before his sin against God.

The Cherubim are mentioned in Genesis 3:24 [2] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/gen3.htm); Ezekiel 10:17–20 [3] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eze10.htm); and 1 Kings 6:23–28 [4] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/1ki6.htm).


The Archangels are usually considered the lowest order of the First Sphere; these angels tend the larger arenas of human endeavor and act as the administrative leaders of the Heavenly beings. An archangel is usually given a task of great importance to men. According to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite's Angelology, however, the Archangels lie just above the lowest of the angel orders, the common Angels.

The word archangel is used only twice in the canonical Scripturebut several times in the Septuagint, once to refer to Michael the archangel [5] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/jud1.htm) and the other to who is believed to be Gabriel during the return of the Lord (Gabriel is preferred over Michael since he is the messenger angel). [6] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/1th4.htm)

Christians who disagree that Satan was a cherub before his fall from heaven are more modern and believe that he was an archangel, basing this belief on the facts that (a) the cherub that fell was a King on earth; and (b) the matchup in Revelation against the archangel Michael seems to show that he was an archangel [7] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/rev12.htm)

Second Sphere

Angels who work as heavenly governors.


The Dominions, also known as the Hashmallim, hold the task of regulating the duties of lower angels. They receive their orders from the Seraphim, the Cherubim or God Himself, and are responsible for ensuring that the cosmos remains in order. It is only with extreme rarity that the dominions make themselves physically known to mortals, instead quietly concerning themselves with the details of existence.

It should be noted that the term dominions was used by Paul in Colossians 1:16 [8] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/col1.htm) and Ephesians 1:21 [9] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eph1.htm) but he may have used it to refer to the dominions of nations and men, instead of referring to angels.


The Powers are angelic beings shaped like hazy fumes in bright colors. They are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. The angels of birth and death are in this category. They are academically driven, and are concerned with ideology, philosophy, theology, religion, and documents pertaining to those studies. Powers are the brain trusts: a group of experts who serve as advisers and policy planners. Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among mankind, hence their name.

Paul used the term powers in Colossians 1:16 [10] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/col1.htm) and Ephesians 1:21 [11] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eph1.htm) but he may have used it to refer to the powers of nations, societies or individuals, instead of referring to angels.

Rulers & Authorities

These two types of angels are equal in power and authority. Rulers develop ideologies, while Authorities write the documents and doctrines.

Both Powers and Rulers are involved in formulating ideologies; the difference is Powers are all encompassing, and Rulers are more focused on specific lines of thought.

Authorities specialize in putting those ideas into print and in producing actual documents.

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21 [12] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eph1.htm), and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10 [13] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eph3.htm). He may have been referring to the rulers and authorities of men or societies, instead of referring to angels.


The Thrones are angelic beings shaped like shiny orbs of shifting colors. Their duty is to carry the throne of God around in paradise, hence their name.They are the companion angels of the planets.

Thrones are fully equal in authority and power in comparison to the Powers. However, Thrones are politically, militarily and economically oriented, and their main concerns revolve around people and world events. Thrones have authority over major divisions of the world.

Paul used the term thrones in Colossians 1:16 [14] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/col1.htm) but he may have used it to refer to the thrones of the kings of nations, instead of referring to angels.


The Principalities are angelic beings shaped like rays of light. They lie beyond the group of archangels. They are the guardian angels of nations and countries, and are concerned with the issues and events surrounding these, including politics, military matters, commerce and trade. One of their duties is to choose who among humanity will rule.

Paul used the term principalities in Colossians 1:16 [15] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/col1.htm) and Ephesians 1:21 [16] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eph1.htm) & 3:10 [17] (http://www.bible.org/netbible/eph3.htm) but he may have used it to refer to the principalities of the world, a nation, a country or a society, instead of referring to angels.

Virtues / Fortresses / Strongholds

The Virtues, also called Fortresses or Strongholds, lie beyond the Thrones and are equal to the Principalities. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are shaped like sparks of light that inspire humanity to many things, may it be art or science.

It is unclear where the name of this order originated from.

Third Sphere

Angels who function as heavenly messengers.


The Angels are the lowest order of the angels, and the most familiar to men. They are the ones most concerned with human affairs. Within the category of angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to men.


  1. Copeland, Mark. Ministering Spirits: Angels In The Old Testament (http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/angel/angel_02.htm). Executable Outlines. 2004.
  2. Copeland, Mark. Terms And Descriptions Of Angels (http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/angel/angel_01.htm). Executable Outlines. 2004.
  3. Fares, Aymen. Angelics and the Angelic Realm (http://www.spiritual.com.au/articles/angels/angels_uk.htm). Spiritual.com.au Pty. Ltd. 2000.
  4. Tatum, Johnny. The Hierarchy of Angels: Hierarchical Chart of Angels (http://radicalgrace.com/creat15.htm). Worldnet Grace Ministries.
  5. Tatum, Johnny. The Hierarchy of Angels: Distinguishing the Higher Ranked (http://radicalgrace.com/creat11.htm). Worldnet Grace Ministries.
  6. The Bible (Searchable online version (http://bible.com/bible_read.html))

See Also

Hierarchy of Devilsde:Angelologie ja:天使の一覧


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