Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of Choirs
These first-Sphere angels are the direct servants of God in heaven.The angels of the first sphere could be likened to the executive management of a corporation—they are responsible for directly interpreting the will of the God and implementing it on the grandest scale.
The greatest of these are the Seraphim, which literally translated, means “burning ones”. These angels “burn” with the most intense love for God out of all the angelic beings, and are the closest to the throne of God, continuously shouting praises to the Lord and calling attention to His majesty and glory, ever-communicating this glory down through the ranks of the lower angels.
These angels are described in Isaiah 6:1-8 as having six-wings, with two covering their faces, two covering their feet, and two being used to fly. They are fiery in appearance, and the voice of even a single Seraph can shake the foundations of a building and fill it with smoke. It was a Seraph which touched a burning coal to the lips of Isaiah, purifying him in order that he might be able to prophesy.
If the Choirs of angels are thought of a gradient of holiness from most holy and just beneath God, to less holy, the Seraphim are nearer to God than any created being in the universe.
Interestingly, it is thought that Satan—once the highest of angels—was once a Seraph, his glory, light, and praise outshining that of all the other angelic beings. That light, however, turned to equivalent darkness when he betrayed God, and was cast from heaven.
Seraphim– sometimes called “the burning ones” because they are closest to God and radiate Pure Light. These are the Angels who constantly sing God’s praise, and whose duty it is to regulate the These are the highest order or choir of angels. They are the angels who are attendants or guardians before God’s throne. They praise God, calling, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”. These are the angels that come first and are closest to the throne of God. They exist in the uppermost part of the hierarchy and their very name means ardor. They are said to encircle the throne, existing off the love emanated by God and unceasingly chant the Trisagion, “Holy, holy, holy…” This burning love keeps them ever close to God’s Throne and they bear love and light to the lesser choirs of angels. It is also this fiery love which gives them the term ‘fiery serpents’. “In this form of fiery serpents, it is said that the light they give off is so intense, that not even other divine beings may look upon them. There is said to be four of these angelic beings. They are listed as the four holy beasts in the book of Revelation and are also described as angels with four faces and six wings.”
“The name Seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevate and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all- consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness.”
One of them touched Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar, cleansing him from sin. Seraphim have six wings, two cover their faces, two cover their feet, and two are for flying. “The highest order of the highest hierarchy are the seraphim, the celestial beings said to surround the throne of God, singing the music of the spheres, and regulating the movement of the heavens as it emanates from God.”
(Lucifer is said to have been one of the Seraphim who had outshone all the others until he became the head of the fallen angels).
The Seraphim (singular “Seraph”), mentioned in Isaiah 6:1—7, serve as the caretakers of God’s throne and continuously singing his praises: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with His Glory.” 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. It is also said that such a bright light emanates from them that nothing, not even other divine beings, can look upon them. It is said that there are four of them surrounding God’s throne, where they burn eternally from love and zeal for God.
The Seraphim have six wings; two covering their face, two covering their feet, and two that they fly with.
Seraphim (plural; singular form is Seraph) –They are divine creatures from the Old Testament, associated with the Cherubim, and later taken to be angels. The root of Seraphim comes either from the Hebrew verb seraph (‘to burn’) or the Hebrew noun seraph (a fiery, flying serpent). Because the term appears several times with reference to the serpents encountered in the wilderness (Num. 21.8, Deut. 8.15; Isaiah 14.29; 30.6), it has often been understood to refer to “fiery serpents.” From this some suggest that the Seraphim were snake-like in form and in some sense “fiery” creatures or associated with fire.
They dwell in the presence of God and cleave to Him, and are immediately united to Him. They receive revelations of God before the other angels and then relate such information to them.
We identify them with the fire of healing and love. Each Seraph radiates powerful light – a light so powerful that the Thrones and Cherubim cannot look at them. It is said that anyone who lays eyes on a Seraph would instantly be incinerated due to its immense brightness (Isaiah notwithstanding). They are described as tall, with six wings and four heads, one for of the cardinal directions. They use one pair of wings to fly, one to cover their eyes (a token of humility), and one to cover their feet (a token of respect). They stand in the direct presence of God. They bear a general resemblance to the human figure in some aspects. Writers other than Isaiah describe them with a face, voice, feet, and hands. In this way, they passed from Jewish tradition to Christianity as angels.
They remain close to the Throne of God. In fact, they serve as caretakers of God’s throne and are always in His presence. They circle the Throne in perpetual adoration of God. Some scholars describe them as angels of unadulterated love, light and fire. The Seraphim that Isaiah saw hovered above and on both sides God’s throne, forming two opposite choirs and presenting antiphonal worship. Their occupation was two-fold: to celebrate the praises of Jehovah’s holiness and power and to act as the medium of communication between heaven and earth. From their antiphonal chant (“one called out to another”) we may picture them ranging in opposite rows on each side of the throne. Biblical references only refer to Lucifer as a cherub (never as a seraph). However some extra-biblical sources provide fanciful notions of his being a seraph and unlike other seraphim that had six wings, Lucifer was featured to have had twelve wings, which supposedly further exemplified the regard to which God gave him above all the other angels prior to his fall.
Cherubim – sent to guard the gates of Eden. Originally they were depicted as the bearers of God’s Throne, as the charioteers, and as powerful beings with four wings and four faces.
Cherubim rank after the seraphim and are the second highest in the nine hierarchies or choirs of angels. The Old Testament does not reveal any evidence that the Jews considered them as intercessors or helpers of God. They were closely linked in God’s glory. They are manlike in appearance and double-winged and were guardians of God’s glory. They are second to only the seraphim and their name signifies “fullness of knowledge”. Characterized by a deep insight into God’s secrets, the cherubim hold the knowledge of God and they truly possess the fullness of the divine science of heaven. “It is also they who are often sent to earth with the greatest of tasks; the expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden and the Annunciation of Christ were both performed by cherubim”. They enlighten the lesser choirs of angels and are to them the Voice of Divine Wisdom.
Second in rank in the first Sphere of angels are the Cherubim. Far from the classic Renaissance art images of infant-like beings—known as putti—with tiny wings, the Cherubim of the Bible are incalculably powerful celestial beings with four faces—that of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle, each respective face representing man, domestic animals, wild animals, and aviary creatures. They possess four wings covered with eyes, the body of a lion, and ox’s feet.
While this description may sound bizarre, these angels are the most mentioned heavenly being in the Bible other than God, Himself, and are mentioned in Genesis, Exodus, Chronicles, Ezekiel, 1 Kings, and Revelation. In Genesis, they are recorded as being the guardians of the Garden of Eden, keeping its entrance safe with swords of flame.
The Cherubim, whose name translates to “fullness of wisdom,” contemplate and communicate God’s divine plan for His creation. In some traditions, Cherubs also implore God on behalf of man, asking Him to forgive and protect the righteous.
“They are described as the charioteers of God, steering the Ophanim. Contrary to paintings on greeting cards and new age book covers, the cherubim are not depicted as fat, winged babies. Instead they are described as sphinx like creatures in Assyrian lore, or the angels gracing the Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s temple in biblical terms.” “The name Cherubim denotes their power of knowing and beholding God, their receptivity to the highest Gift of Light, their contemplation of the Beauty of the Godhead in Its First Manifestation, and that they are filled by participation in Divine Wisdom, and bounteously outpour to those below them from their own fount of wisdom.” They symbolized then, God’s power and mobility. In the New Testament, they are alluded to as celestial attendants in the Apocalypse. Catholic tradition describes them as angels who have an intimate knowledge of God and continually praise Him. Their name signifies “fullness of knowledge.” God often dispatches them to the physical realm to do specific tasks such as the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden and the Annunciation of Christ.
They remain on duty at the entrance of the Garden of Eden in order that man cannot find his way to Paradise to eat from the Tree of Life. God directed Moses to place two golden Cherubim on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, where they are fastened to the Mercy Seat, and, facing each other, stretched out their wings so as to form a screen over the seat. Cherubim were also woven into or embroidered upon the inward curtain of the Tabernacle, and later the veil that opens into the Holy of Holies in the Temple proper. Solomon instructed two Cherubim to be placed in the first Temple. They were made of olive wood, overlaid with gold. They had bodies ten cubits high, and stood on their feet like men. Length of their wings was five cubits. They are filled by participation in Divine Wisdom, and through them, lesser orders of angels receive knowledge and wisdom. Their name means, “Streams of Wisdom.”
“Beyond the thrones are the cherubim. They are the guardians of light, and of the stars. Remote from your plane of reality, still their light touches your lives, the divine light that they filter down from Heaven.” — Lucifer (Satan/Devil) is known as the ‘angel of light, whom God’s light shown through’ — before his ‘sin against God’.
However, in modern times, Cherubim have evolved into chubby babies with wings.
The Cherubim (singular “Cherub”) 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 the lives of living things.
They have four faces: one of a man, ox, lion, and eagle. The ox-face is considered the “true face”, as later on in Ezekiel the ox’s face is called a cherub’s face. They have eight conjoined wings covered with eyes, and they have ox’s feet.
Cherubim are considered the elect beings for the purpose of protection. Cherubim guard Eden and the throne of God.
Their rank among angels is uncertain but they are always categorized in the First Sphere. Some believe them to be an order or class of angels; others hold them to be a class of heavenly beings higher than angels. Cherubim are said to have perfect knowledge of God, surpassed only by the love of the Seraphim.
Ophanim – The Ophanim (Heb. owphan: Wheels, also known as Thrones, from the vision of Daniel 7:9) are unusual looking compared to the other celestial beings; They appear as a beryl-colored wheel-within-a-wheel, their rims covered with hundreds of eyes.
They are closely connected with the Cherubim: “When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures [Cherubim] was in the wheels.” (Ezekiel 10:17). In Esoteric Christianity they are called Lords of Flame.
Thrones – called the ‘many eyed ones’ have the duty of carrying out God’s decisions. They are often represented as fiery wheels.Thrones are the Angels of pure Humility, Peace and Submission. They reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. The lower Choir of Angels needs the Thrones to access God.
They are lesser known group of angels, but as important. They are exempt from and untainted by any base and earthly things. Because of their high rank, they are worthy of fellowship with Jesus Christ and possess the highest knowledge that angels can have of the works of God. In fact, some say that the very essence of God’s Spirit is conveyed to and through these angels, who then pass on the message to men and/or lower classes of angels.
Thrones are known to be involved with justice in the heavens, and are some of the most powerful angels in service to God. Their primary function is to carry out or fulfill the divine justice of God. They have the ability to channel the energy and purpose of God and transmit that message to others. Because they retain such a high position and responsibility, they come closest of all angels to spiritual perfection.
“The first order in the third sphere is the thrones. They are the companion angels of the planets. At this time in your history it is important for you to be aware of the particular throne, the Earth Angel, who is guardian of your world.”
The Thrones (Gr. thronos) or Elders, also known as the Erelim, are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament) and related to the throne of God the Father. They are living symbols of God’s justice and authority. They come the closest of all Angels to spiritual perfection and emanate the light of God with mirror-like goodness. They, despite their greatness, are intensely humble, an attribute that allows them to dispense justice with perfect objectivity and without fear of pride or ambition. Because they are living symbols of God’s justice and authority, they are called Thrones and have as one of their symbols the throne. These high celestial beings are mentioned again in Revelation 11:16. The Thrones (Gr. thronos) may possibly be equated with the Lords of Wisdom, a hierarchy of Elohim astrologically associated to Virgo, presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. They inhabit, in Rosicrucian cosmology,
the World of Divine Spirit, which is the home of The Father. According to this source, the Lords of Wisdom (here equated with the Thrones; thronos) and the higher Lords of the Flame (Thrones/Wheels: Ophanim) have worked together in a far past toward the development of mankind.
Thrones: form the last choir of the first’ hierarchy which is the closest to the Divine Majesty. They are also known as the Ophanim. The primary function of these angles is to be God’s chariot but they are also noted as meting out God’s judgment. Their main characteristics are submission and peace; however they act with impartialness and humility to bring about the desires of the Lord.
The Thrones, the third highest class of angel, are mentioned by Paul in Colossians 1:16, Jewish apocryphal literature, the Book of Enoch, and the Testament of Levi, and while lesser known, are nevertheless important. Belonging to the first Sphere, these angels are among those with the highest knowledge of the works of God, and are deemed worthy of direct fellowship with Jesus.
These angels, as beings of the first Sphere, are able to convey the full essence of God’s word, passing the messages on to the lower classes of angels, who then pass them on to men. Specifically, the Thrones are living symbols of God’s justice—they continually contemplate this, and ensure that God’s will concerning justice and judicial power is communicated.
The Thrones are the last of the first Sphere of angels—those beings who see and adore God directly. The next Spheres are those angels who deal more closely with man, and the material realm.
“Having the most bizarre physical appearance of the celestial host, they are described a great wheels, covered with a great many eyes and glowing with light. One explanation given for this (besides them acting as God’s chariot), is that they mark the end of the first Choir, where the emanations of God begin to take on more material forms and as such exist in a state of transition.”
God’s spirit is conveyed in a certain manner to these angels, who in turn pass on the message to men and the inferior angels.
“The name of the most glorious and exalted Thrones denotes that which is exempt from and untainted by any base and earthly thing, and the super mundane ascent up the steep. For these have no part in that which is lowest, but dwell in fullest power, immovably and perfectly established in the Most High, and receive the Divine Immanence above all passion and matter, and manifest God, being attentively open to divine participations.”
De Coelesti Hierarchia refers the Thrones (from the Old Testament; Ezekiel and Daniel visions of the Thrones/Wheels) as the third Order of the first sphere, corresponding to the description of the Ophanim; the other two superior orders being the Cherubim and Seraphim. The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception refers that the “Lords of the Flame”, the hierarchy of Elohim astrologically assigned to Leo, are the Thrones “because of the brilliant luminosity of their bodies and their great spiritual powers.” corresponding also to the description of the Ophanim; the other two superior hierarchies being also the Cherubim and Seraphim.
According to the mentioned esoteric Christian teachings, the three previous Hierarchies (Seraphim, Cherubim and Ophanim [Thrones/Wheels]) have already reached liberation, thus no longer active in the work of evolution.