The ranks of angels are traditionally divided into a hierarchy of nine, a hierarchy based on the various ranks of angels mentioned in the Scriptures. Each of these ranks reveals something of the character of God and of his purposes and are therefore worthy of our contemplation.
The angels closest to God are the Seraphim. These are only mentioned in Isaiah.
The word Seraphim literally means 'fiery flying serpents.' They are fiery. They reflect God's unapproacheable holiness. When Isaiah encounters them in the presence of God, he laments the uncleanliness of his lips. He becomes conscious of his sin.
Yet though we are impure, God has made a way for us to approach Him and that is through Jesus Christ. He cleanses the believer of all unrighteousness. Through Him we are able to enter into the presence of God.
In the Cherubim, we see the judicial aspect of God. He must judge sin.
The Cherubim were placed as guards of the Garden of Eden, excluding man. There were images of the Cherubim in the holy of holies, representing God's judicial dealings with Israel.
Yet Christ, the risen man, is now seated in heaven, dwelling among the Cherubim. He has entered into the heavenly sanctuary, reconciling man to God.
These have traditionally been identified with the chariot wheels on the throne of God. Ezekiel saw in his vision:
9 ¶ And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the color of a beryl stone.
10 And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel.
11 When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went.
12 And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had.
The wheels are full of eyes. God sees all. Nothing is hid from His knowledge.
These are wheels within wheels.
28 ¶ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
God is sovereign over all. He is in control of our situation and works all things according to His eternal purpose. It may be hard to see that God is in control sometimes, but by faith in His promise we know that He is.
Here we see the sovereignty of God in its delegated aspect. Although God is sovereign, He gave up part of the exercise of that sovereignty by giving man dominion over the earth. Man in ruling the earth was to exercise the sovereign rule that God had given him. Although man failed to use that power rightly, the perfect man, Jesus Christ will exercise the true dominion over all things and those believers who have faithfully served Him will share in that delegated rule.
The upper ranks of angels have authority. They are great in power and responsibility. We do not know how such power is used by an angelic hierarchy, but we know that these mysterious celestial insitutions exist. We know that some of these angels fell. It may be that the creation of a new heavenly government in glorified humanity was God's response to the failure of angelic government in pre-history.
Alternatively translated as 'virtues.'
Here we have God's sovereingty displayed in common grace.
God makes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. His power is displayed to all in creation that they may come to learn of Him and worship Him.
God has also revealed His righteousness by giving all a conscience. Thus even the heathen have a morality. They may come to know something of divine virtue without Scripture.
God has displayed His power in His relations, with man, giving Him revelation through history and in saving His people.
God's power is displayed in salvation. Paul wrote:
16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The ultimate display of God's power will be displayed in the salvation of the entire universe in the future. The earth will be restored to its original goodness. Sin and death will be removed and all shall be in harmony.
Not all of the angels are good. We read in Ephesians of principalities of darkness:
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Yet God has His own angelic principalities who make war against the principalities of darkness. There is warfare in the heavenlies. Elisha's servant was given a glimpse of this when he saw the chariots of fire that surrounded him and Elisha.
This warfare will be resolved when Satan and his angels are expelled from heaven to earth in the future.
The archangels show God's defence of His people.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he revealed that her child, Jesus, would be the messiah who would take the throne of David. He would be the saviour of Israel. Mary proclaimed her faith in this when she sang:
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He hath showed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath holpen his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy;
55 as he spake to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
The other archangel of the Bible, Michael is the defender of God's people Israel:
1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
Though the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists are wrong in identifying Michael with Christ, we do see something of the character of Christ in Michael. Both defend God's people and both overcome Satan.
Truly God defends His people. God defends us. He hears our prayers. He has given the Holy Spirit to empower us and His Word to guide us and through Christ we can live an heavenly life on earth. And before that day on which His wrath will be outpoured He shall rapture us and remove us that we may be with Christ.
The word angel simply means messenger. The angels reveal God's will to mankind.
God has given the church the responsibility of preaching His word to the world. In this we can be like the angels. We can make known to a guilty world the salvation that is found in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
During the last days, an angel will preach the Gospel, as we are told in Revelation:
6 ¶ And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
7 saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
This may be what our Lord meant in Matthew 24 when He promised that the Gospel would be preached to the whole world before the end comes.