9 Types of Angels

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.  | 
Seraphim are only one of the many types of angels. T-lorien / Getty Images

We may be able to speak directly to God through prayer, but according to the Bible, he reaches us through a variety of angels, each with distinct duties. There are nine types or choirs of angels within three major groups. These groupings were established by a fifth-century Catholic monk commonly known as Pseudo-Dionysius. Regardless of where they are on the hierarchy, angels, like us, are individuals.

Unlike us, because they are able to see far beyond a mortal timeline, they are extremely patient and forgiving. They are aware of our personal life goals and are assigned to assist us, but never interfere with our free will. Here are nine types of angels to know.


1. Seraphim

Seraphim means "the fiery ones." It is the plural of the word "seraph." These angels are mentioned in the Bible as having faces, hands and feet. Each seraph has six wings, four of which they used to cover themselves in the presence of God as a sign of humility; they use the other two to fly. They cry out "holy, holy, holy" and appear to worship God continuously. They are often depicted in religious art.

These are the angels who are closest to God. They encircle his throne and emit an intense, fiery light representing his love. Seraphim are considered "fiery serpents," and not even the other divine beings may look at them. There are only four of them, and each has four faces. When they come to Earth, they leave their serpent appearance behind, preferring tall, thin, clean-cut human embodiments.


2. Cherubim (Plural of Cherub)

These angels are the keepers of celestial records and hold the knowledge of God. They are sent to Earth with great tasks, such as expelling humankind from the Garden of Eden. Ancient art depicts cherubim as sphinx-like, winged creatures with human faces, not the fat babies with wings that now grace greeting cards and book covers. Ophaniel, Rikbiel and Zophiel are cherubim, as was Satan before his fall to evil.


3. Thrones

Thrones' appearance is perhaps the most bizarre of the first grouping. They are said to look like great glowing wheels covered with many eyes. They serve as God's chariot and dispense his judgment in order to carry out his desires for us.


4. Dominions or Dominations

The angels in the second group can exist in a state of transition between the celestial and human worlds. They are considered heavenly governors, attempting to strike a balance between matter and spirit, good and bad.

Think of dominions as middle management. They receive orders from seraphim and cherubim, then dish out duties to the "worker bee" angels of the lower orders. Their main purpose is to make sure that the cosmos remains in order by sending down power to heads of government and other authority figures. Zadkiel (sometimes called Hashmal) is the chief of this order.


5. Virtues

Shaped like sparks of light, virtues are in charge of maintaining the natural world, and they inspire living things in areas such as science. They also take orders from the angels above and convert them into miracles for the deserving. When they make themselves known to us in their earthly forms, they are musicians, artists, healers and scientists who work with the power of love, as well as physics. The two angels at the ascension of Jesus are believed to have been virtues.


6. Powers

In their celestial forms, powers appear like brightly colored, hazy fumes. Powers are border patrol agents between heaven and Earth. They are the angels of birth and death. Some believe that they also preside over demons who wish to overthrow the world, while others, namely St. Paul, thought the powers themselves were the evil ones. In any case, powers are a group of experts who serve as advisers in terms of religion, theology and ideology.


7. Principalities

The third group of angels is the one ordinary humans will have the most interaction with. First in this group are the principalities. These angelic beings are shaped like rays of light. Just like a principal in school, the principalities oversee everything. They guide our entire world — nations, cities and towns. What's more, they are in charge of religion and politics. As if their plate isn't full enough, they are also in charge of managing the earthly duties of the angels below them.


8. Archangels

These, along with the angels, are guardians of people and all things physical. But don't call on them to help you personally; archangels respond best when dealing with matters involving all humankind, such as justice. This order is most commonly known because some are mentioned by name in the Bible — Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Archangels engage in spiritual warfare by fighting against demons (e.g., Michael) or bring messages from God, such as when Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she was going to be the mother of Jesus. It is believed there are only seven archangels.


9. Angels

These might just be called "regular angels." They are guardians of people and all things physical and are the most common type of angels. These angels are sent as messengers to humanity. Personal guardian angels come from this category. Angels may protect and warn humans, as well as act as warriors on behalf of God.


Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen


Types of Angels FAQ

Who is the most powerful angel?
As mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7, Seraphim is the most powerful class of angels. They are the caretakers of the Almighty's throne and are known to continuously shout and shower praises over Him.
How many types of angels are there?
From what we know there are nine types of angels, each with specific characteristics and virtues.
What are the names of the archangels?
According to the Bible and other religious history, the seven archangels are Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Saraqael, Raguel and Remiel. Each of these angels have a role assigned to them by God.
Who is the biggest angel in Islam?
As per Islamic scripture and the Koran, Israfil is the angel closest and nearest to God. He is said to have four wings and closely communicates with God and the other archangels.
What are the functions of angels?
Each of the archangels have different roles, which include communicating the revelations and word of God to the prophets, glorifying God and taking the soul of a person at the time of death, among others.