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02 September 2014 | Ki Tetse

Angelic Majesties / April 2012

Angelic Majesties

When most people think of angels, they imagine white beings with wings created by God. Rarely in Scripture are angels described this way. There is a mysterious intrigue about angelic majesties that makes them hard to define. Some of the angels for the most part appear like people. They are clothed in common apparel, nothing that would draw attention to themselves, and they speak precisely to the issue before suddenly disappearing. There are other angels who seem to do spectacular things, especially when near God and His throne.

Angelic majesties in and of themselves demand a modicum of respect, but even most believers don't really know what is being referred to when we speak of angelic majesties. It is a subject that is not directly taught. Instead, we teach about God and believers, and angels just seem to be mysterious peripheral creatures along with the Biblical stories. Angels are written of throughout the Scriptures beginning in Genesis through to Revelation.

In Genesis, angels were the ones who prohibited Adam and Eve from returning to the garden and eating from the tree of life.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 3:24

Twice in the New Testament Scriptures reference is made specifically of angelic majesties.

…and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,
II Peter 2:10
Yet in the same manner these men [unbelievers], also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. …these men revile the things which they do not understand; …
Jude 1:8, 10

In both references, unbelievers are described as reviling angelic majesties. It is understood from the Scriptures that in doing so, they bring on God's wrath to the forefront, even more than their own sinful behavior did.

I have an additional motive for this article. Angels are scheduled to be a big part of the end times to support end-time believers. Because I believe we are the final generation, I also believe that we will interact with these angels to fulfill the end-time events.

Here is a quick survey of the types of angels described in Scripture: cherubim, seraphim, angels that appear as people, archangels, living creatures, princes of nations, angels that guard persons (guardian angels), and the Angel of the Lord. In addition, there are angels who have fallen from their heavenly station called demons. Lucifer (satan) is described as a high-ranking angel who rebelled against God and has drawn other angels (demons) to follow him. If you believe in angels, then you must believe there is a satan and demons.

The book of Revelation is loaded with angels. It was an angel who showed the Apostle John the contents of the book. Each of the judgments has an angel assigned to it and throughout the book angels are presenting, announcing, and explaining what is to happen. And the book also tells of the demonic angels' part in the judgments.

It is not possible for one to say that you believe in the Bible without believing in the existence of angels. Angels are present or part of the majority of the major Biblical events given in Scripture.

Before we go any further explaining angels, let us survey what others have done with this subject. It turns out that believers in the past tend to get off track when the subject of angels is addressed. They tend to become too focused on angelic majesties and ignore God and the reality of the world we live in. This is why Judaism does not like to address this subject as a teaching topic. While the church has done more, it is a topic that leads to speculation and far-fetched thinking focusing away from the Lord and how we live today. The Apostle Paul warns against believers who end up worshiping (focusing on) angels instead of God (Colossians 2:18).

Angels are ministering spirits. They serve the Lord directly, carrying out His instructions for His purposes and our benefit. They are not concerned for themselves nor do they seek a reward for their service. Angels do not all look alike nor do they do the same things. There are levels (or classes) of angels who perform differing tasks.

Judaism defines angelic majesties in nine different levels. Orthodox Christianity defines them in nine different levels with three groupings. Islam also defines angels according to their liking. It is not my intent to repeat what they teach. Instead, I want to share various references in Scripture that describe angels to us and limit our discussion to the bounds of Scripture.

Depending on which reference source you use, there is a hierarchy to angels. Judaism ranks angels from greatest to least this way:

Chayot Ha Kodesh (Metatron/Meshiach)
Ophanim (Wheels)
Erelim (courageous ones)
Hashamalim (living creatures)
Seraphim (fiery ones)
Malakhim (messengers)
Elohim (Godly beings)
Bene Elohim (Sons of Godly beings)
Ishim (manlike beings)

Orthodox Christianity ranks angels in this way:

Seraphim (fiery ones)
Cherubim (guardians)
Thrones and Ophanim (those who tend the throne, burning wheels)
Dominions
Virtues
Powers or Authorities
Principalities or Rulers
Archangels
Angels

Again, my intent here is not to explain different religions and their explanations. I just wanted you to be aware that the subject does present a hierarchy within itself.

There are times where angels appear and interact with men, and there is more to the angel(s) than seems to be just angel(s). For example, Abraham had lunch at the oaks of Mamre. The angels came to announce the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. They also interacted with Abraham to negotiate the number of righteous men to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham treated them and addressed them as though he was having lunch with the LORD Adonai. These "angels" never corrected him for addressing them as Adonai.

Another example is when Jacob wrestled with an angel before returning to the Promised Land and facing his brother Esau. That night was a struggle. As result, Jacob refused to let the "angel" go and demanded to know His name and receive a blessing. Jacob's name was changed to "Israel" (the name of the kingdom). Afterward, Jacob named the place where he wrestled "Peniel" (which means the face of God). Jacob seemed to understand that he was wrestling with a special angel.

Upon taking command of Israel and crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land, Joshua was met by an Angel of the Lord. This was not just an angel saying hello; Joshua responded as though the LORD Himself was escorting him into the land.

Let's look at how angels are described in Scripture. The first angels shared with us from the garden are cherubim. Cherub is the singular expression, whereas cherubim is the plural. There are no "cherubs." Cherubs are imaginary little babies with wings and bows and arrows, shooting you with love arrows. Like I said, men have taken the subject of angels and run off in silly imaginations. Cherubim are actually quite serious in the realm of angels carrying flaming swords and forming the mercy seat of God Himself.

Some teachers believe that cherubim have four wings. This is the explanation given to Moses of the pattern of the Ark with cherubim. The cherubim have two wings upward and two wings covering the lid of the Ark.

You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat…There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.
Exodus 25:18-20, 22

The mercy seat is actually formed by their wings above the ark.

Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him.
Numbers 7:89

Other teachers believe that cherubim have only two wings (the same set of wings are upward and covering the seat).

If the cherubim have four wings, then God's presence would be above both the covering of the ark, between the cherubim with the wings forming the seat and sides to the mercy seat. If the cherubim have two wings spreading upward that also cover the ark, then God's presence would be above the cover of the ark, between the two cherubim, and UNDER the wings that were upward. In effect, the wings would then cover God's presence on the mercy seat. However, this point is never made in the Scriptures.

There is another description of cherubim given to us when Solomon made the permanent temple in Jerusalem. The temple in Jerusalem was made of different materials and on a much grander scale than the tabernacle in the wilderness. First, Solomon built the temple out of limestone and marble. Listen to the description of the temple built by Solomon.

As for the house which King Solomon built for the LORD, its length was sixty cubits and its width twenty cubits and its height thirty cubits. The porch in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits in length, corresponding to the width of the house, and its depth along the front of the house was ten cubits. Also for the house he made windows with artistic frames. Against the wall of the house he built stories encompassing the walls of the house around both the nave and the inner sanctuary; thus he made side chambers all around. The lowest story was five cubits wide, and the middle was six cubits wide, and the third was seven cubits wide; for on the outside he made offsets in the wall of the house all around in order that the beams would not be inserted in the walls of the house. The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built. The doorway for the lowest side chamber was on the right side of the house; and they would go up by winding stairs to the middle story, and from the middle to the third.
I Kings 6:2-8

Solomon's temple had additional multi-story rooms attached to the sides of the temple sanctuary on the outside, but listen to the interior work done within the sanctuary. The first sanctuary, called the nave (what was called the holy place in the wilderness tabernacle), was 40 cubits long and 20 cubits wide (60 feet by 30 feet), and the inner sanctuary (what was called the holy of holies) was 20 cubits by 20 cubits (30 feet by 30 feet).

Then he built the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the ceiling he overlaid the walls on the inside with wood, and he overlaid the floor of the house with boards of cypress. He built twenty cubits on the rear part of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the ceiling; he built them for it on the inside as an inner sanctuary, even as the most holy place. The house, that is, the nave in front of the inner sanctuary, was forty cubits long. There was cedar on the house within, carved in the shape of gourds and open flowers; all was cedar, there was no stone seen. Then he prepared an inner sanctuary within the house in order to place there the ark of the covenant of the LORD. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in height, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar. So Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold. And he drew chains of gold across the front of the inner sanctuary; and he overlaid it with gold. He overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the whole altar which was by the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.
I Kings 6:15-22

If you had lived in Solomon's day and walked into the temple you would have walked past the great altar just outside the temple that was covered in gold. The great altar was at least 15 feet by 15 feet rising to 12 feet. Once you walked up the steps to the porch and entrance to the sanctuary you would see the doors were covered in gold. You would have looked in to see cypress wood floors and cedar walls. Ornate carving would on the walls housing the menorah, table of showbread, and the golden altar of incense. The veil separating the Holy of Holies would have included gold chains. Besides the ark of the covenant inside, if you could have seen, you would have seen cherubim standing behind the ark. They are described further:

Also in the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. Five cubits was the one wing of the cherub and five cubits the other wing of the cherub; from the end of one wing to the end of the other wing were ten cubits. The other cherub was ten cubits; both the cherubim were of the same measure and the same form. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was the other cherub. He placed the cherubim in the midst of the inner house, and the wings of the cherubim were spread out, so that the wing of the one was touching the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall. So their wings were touching each other in the center of the house.
I Kings 6:23-27

These cherubim were in addition to the ones on the mercy seat. They would have been extremely impressive standing 15 feet high with their wings spread wide covering the entire width of the back wall, some 30 feet. Although made of wood, they would have been completely covered in gold. Here is the same description given later in 1 Kings.

Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim made a covering over the ark and its poles from above.
I Kings 8:6-7

The use of these cherubim was not limited to the inner sanctuary. They were also carved into the walls and the front doors upon entering the temple sanctuary.

Then he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, inner and outer sanctuaries.
I Kings 6:29
And he carved on it [the two front doors] cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; and he overlaid them with gold evenly applied on the engraved work.
I Kings 6:35

Given the description of the cherubim added by Solomon, there is no further description of four wings. Only two wings seem to be described. But it is also noteworthy that not everything has been described that actually was seen in Solomon's temple. For example, the two griffins are not described in the Scripture here but they are well known in the existing traditional descriptions. The two griffins were two-winged lions placed on either side of the ark of the covenant in the inner sanctuary. Nor is there any description of the embroidered seraphim in the veil seen in the first chamber. These seraphim are credited with being part of Isaiah's vision of God's throne. Let's read that description.

In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory."
Isaiah 6:1-3

The seraphim are described as angels with six wings. They appear to be in flight above God's presence and heralding the LORD. Seraphim means "fiery ones." God is a consuming fire and these angels may be protecting their faces and feet while being so close to the presence of God.

Suffice it to say, cherubim are the most prominent angelic figures associated with God's throne and temple, and Solomon's temple was elaborate in its detail. The prophet Ezekiel gives us even more detail of cherubim from his vision of God's throne by the river Chebar. He confirms that they have four wings. Ezekiel's perspective of viewing God's throne is from below looking upward to the throne. At this angle, Ezekiel sees the cherubim beneath God's presence with a set of burning wheels beside them. These burning wheels are living creatures (four of them) moving in a rapid manner. They move with the cherubim like a unit underneath God's presence. This is a most intriguing vision as it will also be described by the Apostle John in his vision of God's throne.

Then I looked, and behold, in the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim something like a sapphire stone, in appearance resembling a throne, appeared above them… Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD. Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks. It came about when He commanded the man clothed in linen [the archangel Gabriel], saying, "Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim," he entered and stood beside a wheel. Then the cherub stretched out his hand from between the cherubim to the fire which was between the cherubim, took some and put it into the hands of the one clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man's hand under their wings.
Ezekiel 10:1, 4-8

There is a lot going on here but Ezekiel takes note that the cherubim also have hands as well as wings.

Then I looked, and behold, four wheels beside the cherubim, one wheel beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like the gleam of a Tarshish stone. As for their appearance, all four of them had the same likeness, as if one wheel were within another wheel. When they moved, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went; but they followed in the direction which they faced, without turning as they went. Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around, the wheels belonging to all four of them. The wheels were called in my hearing, the whirling wheels. And each one had four faces. The first face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
Ezekiel 10:9-14

Again, Ezekiel takes note that a cherub's face is different from the face of a man. What does a cherub's face look like? We don't know other than to say that it is distinguishably different from a man.

Now when the cherubim moved, the wheels would go beside them; also when the cherubim lifted up their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels would not turn from beside them. When the cherubim stood still, the wheels would stand still; and when they rose up, the wheels would rise with them; for the spirit of the living beings was in them.
Ezekiel 10:16-17

At this point, it sounds as though the living beings are different from the cherubim but that they move together. But listen to what Ezekiel says next!

These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim. Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands. As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. Each one went straight ahead.
Ezekiel 10:20-22

If that stuns you, take a look at what John recorded in his Revelation of his vision of God's throne looking straight on.

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne… And before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come."
Revelation 4:2, 6-8

These four living creatures are associated with seraphim, not the cherubim!

Let us quickly review. The living beings with the cherubim have the faces of a cherub, a man, a lion, and an eagle. The living creatures with the seraphim have the faces of a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle. The difference in the beings of Ezekiel and the creatures of John are a face of a cherub and a calf, and the number of wings (four for a cherub and six for a seraph).

The living beings (the burning wheels) are beneath God's throne with the cherubim while the living creatures are before the throne and associated with the seraphim flying above the throne.

This may seem confusing to many, and at first glance many may be doubtful of the visions; but did you know that God's throne is called a merkavah, which means "fiery chariot?" The wheels beneath and seraphim above and in front are consistent with a description of a chariot being pulled and rolling.

The next set of angels we need to review include regular angels and archangels. I say regular angels to describe those ministering spirits who come in the appearance of people but are angels sent from God. We are told that we sometimes meet these angels "unawares" and we are cautioned to show hospitality to strangers, as they just might be angels.

Jacob, in his dream of a ladder, saw many angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth. You have probably heard of "guardian angels." There would need to be a lot of angels if every person has angels guarding them.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
Psalms 91:11

Yeshua spoke of angels assigned to children.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 18:10

Angels were certainly a part of Yeshua's birth and later in His ministry. Do you remember how the angels came to the shepherds and proclaimed the birth of the King? On the testimony of angels the shepherds found the newborn Yeshua in Bethlehem. By the way, those weren't just any ol' shepherds. They were tending the lambs used for temple sacrifices and Passover lambs in the springtime festival.

When Yeshua was first in the wilderness before beginning His public ministry, He was tested by satan and then later ministered to by angels.

And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.
Mark 1:13

When Yeshua was arrested, Peter attempted to fight against the guards. Yeshua stopped him and asked,

Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Matthew 26:53

A legion is estimated to be at least 6,000 and up to 8,000.

Then there is Yeshua's resurrection. Two very distinct angels were present at His empty tomb to meet the women and the disciples.

and she [Mary] beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Yeshua had been lying.
John 20:12

According to Jewish teaching, there are two angels who are angels of the resurrection. They even have names. One is Sandalphon and the other is Zagzagel. Jewish readers of the New Testament are surprised to hear the testimony of these angels as they know them to be true and not Christian fantasies. They believe that Michael and these angels argued with satan for the bones of Moses.

There are several angels who have distinctive names. They are primarily archangels who have specific duties serving God. The most well-known of these are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; Peniel, Sandalphon, and Zagzagel are not so well known. But all are considered to be archangels. If you research archangels you will discover various names (similar to these) depending on which source you use (Christian, Jewish, Islamic).

Michael means "Who is like God." Michael is known as the defender of Israel and is the Prince of Israel. In the New Testament, he is referred to as the "restrainer of evil" who will be taken away at the Great Tribulation (II Thess 2:6). Actually, Michael rises to heaven and fights to throw satan and those with him out of heaven to the earth. This is early in the Great Tribulation and the devil then knows his days are numbered. The Great Tribulation is prophesied to last 1290 days. When Michael is not guarding Israel, he is believed to be standing on the right side of God, the same side as the Messiah Himself is seated.

Gabriel means "God is Hero or Champion." Gabriel is used frequently to make announcements. It was Gabriel who spoke to Mary about the birth of Yeshua. It was Gabriel who gave the understanding of Daniel's visions. It was Gabriel who spoke with the priest Zechariah about his son Yochanan (John = Yochanan) who would be the forerunner of the Messiah as "John the Baptist." Gabriel is believed to be the angel with the inkhorn that seals the 144,000, writing the Name of the LORD on their foreheads. When not performing duties, Gabriel is believed to be standing before the LORD and is the first angel you would encounter coming into the throne.

Raphael means "God is Healer." In the book of Tobias, a part of the Apocrypha, a Jewish undertaker living in Babylon meets with and is aided by the archangel Raphael. Raphael is stationed to the left side of God's throne, opposite of Michael.

Uriel means "God is Light." The angel is not mentioned in the Scriptures but is part of the Jewish tradition of archangels. Uriel is believed to be stationed at the backside of God's throne where the light of God is.

Peniel means "The Face of God." This archangel is most intriguing. Many Jewish sages believe that Jacob wrestled with Peniel. Jacob did name the place after that night "Peniel." The sages also believe that whenever Moses dealt with God "face to face" that he actually was facing the archangel Peniel. Peniel is stationed forward of God's throne and down so that a man looking up would find Peniel between him and the actual face of God. When Moses returned from the mountain and his face glowed, they believe he saw the backside of God with the benefit of Peniel blocking his face. Therefore, his face glowed for some time after.

There is much more to the subject of Angelic Majesties. I have barely opened the door. But I offer this material to draw out one point for us believers at the end of the ages. I believe we will have a very active time in the Great Tribulation with angels. Not only will the judgments be poured out by angels, but angels will be ministering to us in specific and dramatic ways. Remember, demons are angels also but doing the work of satan. They will be present also. In fact, one of the judgments upon mankind will be hoards of demons released in the final days of darkness during the Great Tribulation. But more than all of that…

Angels will gather every person that is going to judgment and angels will gather us to take us to the kingdom.

So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous,
Matthew 13:49
And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Matthew 24:31

I'm not sure about the angels who will gather those to judgment. They will probably be pretty scary angels. But the angels who gather us, the saints, they probably will be those white ones with one set of wings.