Religious Beliefs

What role do angels play in Christian belief?

Angels are spiritual beings with intuitive, though still partial, access to the ultimate truths. Roaming the universe at God’s command, angels can make their presence known in countless ways. As messengers of the unseen world, angels represent God’s ongoing communication with individuals on Earth. Tradition divides angelic beings into three ranks or orders, each comprising three further “choirs.” In descending order, the first rank includes the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. Second in rank are the Dominations, Principalities, and Powers. Virtues, Archangels, and Angels fill the lowest three orders.

Apart from Archangels and Angels, none of the angelic ranks descend to the human world, and the so-called guardian angels belong to the lowest rank. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are the only angels commonly named in Christian tradition. Many Christians consider themselves blessed and guarded by the presence of an angelic guardian, as the dramatic increase in colloquial American references to angels in recent times will attest. Even Christians whose traditions avoid talk of saints because their mediatorial role is deemed unnecessary now commonly talk of angelic intervention. Some perceive angels as kind strangers or as invisible forces that prevent accidents, for example.

A statue in Burggarten, Vienna, Austria, depicts cherubs.


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