The Celestial Hierarchy: The Nine Choirs of Angels

According to the Celestial Hierarchy of Christian tradition, there are nine choirs of angels, said to be the highest-ranking angels in heaven. These choirs are divided into three hierarchies which are based on their order of rank and power. The Highest hierarchy is Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; the Middle hierarchy is Dominions, Virtues, Powers; and the Lowest hierarchy is Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

The Nine Choirs of Angels

The Christian angelic hierarchy is based on the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, a Christian mystic and theologian who lived in the 6th century. In his work De Coelesti Hierarchia (On the Celestial Hierarchy), Dionysius describes the nine choirs of angels and their order of an authority.

The Nine Choirs of Angels
Orthodox icon of nine orders of angels.

The Celestial Hierarchy

The Highest hierarchy

The Seraphim are the highest ranking angels in heaven and are said to be the closest to God.  They are the angels who are guides or protect God’s throne. They have the power to incinerate evil with their burning love for God. Isaiah 6:1-7 is the only Bible citation about Seraphim. One of them touched Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar, purifying him from his sins. Seraphim have six wings, two cover their faces, two cover their feet, and two are for flying.

The Cherubim are second in rank and are said to be the guardians of God’s glory. They are often depicted as having a human head and an animal body, such as a lion or ox. Ezekiel 10:1-22 describes them as having four wings and four faces (human, lion, ox, and eagle). Cherubim also appears in Genesis 3:24 where they are guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword.

The Thrones are one of the three orders that preside over heaven and are thought to be its keepers of justice and peace. In Colossians 1:16, Paul the Apostle refers to them. The New Testament claims that these high spiritual beings are among Christ’s servants, and they carry the Throne of God.

The Celestial Hierarchy
The angelic choirs circling the abode of God, from Dante’s Paradiso, illustrated by Gustave Doré

The Middle hierarchy

The Dominions are fourth in rank and are said to lead the other angels. They control the obligations of the angels, making known God’s commands.

The Virtues are the fifth rank and are called “the shining ones.” They are sometimes referred to as “the brilliant ones.” Miracles, courage, elegance, and valor are under their control. They are in command of seasons, stars, and the moon; even the sun is subject to their command.

The Powers are Angels that protect the world and humans from evil. They are referred to as potentates. They combat demons who attempt to bring chaos via humanity by fighting on behalf of good spirits.


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An angel comforting Jesus
An angel comforting Jesus, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1865–1879

The Lowest hierarchy

The Principalities are the seventh in rank and are said to be in charge of regions, governments, churches, and groups of people. The Principalities govern the angelic bands and are responsible for them carrying out the divine mission. Some handle things and others assist. In Ephesians 1:21, Paul used the words rule and authority, and also in Ephesians 3:10, rulers and authorities were used.

The Archangels are eighth in rank and are often depicted as guardian angels. The archangels are frequently referred to in the Bible, especially in Jude 9 and 1 Thes 4:16, where they are said to be “chief or leading angels.” They have a distinct function as God’s messenger to humanity at critical periods in history and salvation (Tb 12:6, 15; Jn 5:4; Rv 12:7-9) as demonstrated in The Annunciation and Apocalypse.

The Angels are in the ninth position on the Angelic hierarchy and are supposed to be closest to humanity. They transmit our prayers to God and God’s responses, as well as other communications with humans. Angels have the ability to contact any and all other Angels at any moment. They’re the most caring and social of all angels, ready to assist those who request it.

Angels are beings of light that have been revered by many cultures for centuries. They can be found in the Bible and other religious texts, and are often thought to be messengers of God. There is a hierarchy among the angels, with Seraphim being the closest to God and Angels being at the base. Each rank has specific duties and responsibilities, but all work together to help humanity and carry out God’s will.

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