The Organization of Angels
Let’s consider some of the distinctions in the angelic realm. In the Bible, we are given the names of two angels in particular: Michael the archangel and Gabriel (there are three named angels, if you want to count Lucifer, who once was a high-ranking angel in God’s service, but is now in rebellion against God, and is now called Satan). The Bible also mentions the cherubim and the seraphim.
Michael, the Archangel
The term “archangel” occurs just twice in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9). In both instances, it is used in the singular and is preceded by the definite article “the.” This would indicate that there is only one archangel. It would appear that Michael is the top-ranking angel in God’s heavenly host. He will play a special role in the rapture of the church:
“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. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)
As powerful as Michael is, he does have his limitations—as well as a healthy respect for his adversary, Lucifer. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'”(Jude 1:9). Ultimately, however, Scripture says that Michael and the angels will prevail over Satan and cast him out of Heaven forever (see Revelation 12:7–9).
This high-ranking angel brought special messages to God’s people.
- He appeared to Daniel and revealed the future to him (Daniel 8:16; 9:21).
- He appeared to Zacharias regarding the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19).
- He appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38).
The Bible depicts these beings as powerful and majestic angelic creatures, servants of God, which surround God’s throne (see Ezekiel 1:5–14; Psalm 99:1). They appear as winged human-animal forms (Revelation 4:6–8). God sent them to guard Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve: “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).
These angelic beings seem to hold a special position of worshipping and praising God. The prophet Isaiah vividly describes them in his vision of God:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! (Isaiah 6:1–3).