Highest Order of Angels
Seraphim: Tradition places seraphim in the highest rank in Christian angelology and in the fifth rank of ten in the Jewish angelic hierarchy. A seminal passage in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1–8) used the term to describe six-winged beings that fly around the Throne of God crying "holy, holy, holy". This throne scene, with its triple invocation of holiness (a formula that came to be known as the Trisagion), profoundly influenced subsequent theology, literature and art. Its influence is frequently seen in works depicting angels, heaven and apotheosis. Seraphim are mentioned as celestial beings in an influential Hellenistic work, the Book of Enoch, and the Book of Revelation.
Cherubim: A cherub is one of the unearthly beings who directly attend to God according to Abrahamic religions. The numerous depictions of cherubim assign to them many different roles, such as protecting the entrance of the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Ezekiel and (at least some) Christian icons, the cherub is depicted as having two pairs of wings, and four faces: that of a lion (representative of all wild animals), an ox (domestic animals), a human (humanity), and an eagle (birds). Their legs were straight, the soles of their feet like the hooves of a bull, gleaming like polished brass. Later tradition ascribes to them a variety of physical appearances. Some early midrashic literature conceives of them as non-corporeal. In Western Christian tradition, cherubim have become associated with the putto (derived from classical Cupid/Eros), resulting in depictions of cherubim as small, plump, winged boys. In Islam, the cherubim are the angels closest to God.
Throne: In Christian angelology, thrones are a class of angels. This is based on an interpretation of Colossians 1:16. According to 1 Peter 3:21-22, Christ had gone to Heaven and "angels and authorities and powers" had been made subject to him. Thrones are sometimes equated with ophanim since the throne of God is usually depicted as being moved by wheels, as in the vision of Daniel 7:9 (Old Testament). Rosemary Ellen Guiley (1996: p. 37) states that: The 'thrones'; also known as 'ophanim' (offanim) and 'galgallin', are creatures that function as the actual chariots of God driven by the cherubs. They are characterized by peace and submission; God rests upon them. Thrones are depicted as great wheels containing many eyes, and reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. They chant glorias to God and remain forever in his presence. They mete out divine justice and maintain the cosmic harmony of all universal laws.
Middle Order of Angels
Dominion: The "Dominions" (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16) "Dominations" are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings "Lordships" in some English translations of the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans. The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.
Virtue: These angels are those through which signs and miracles are made in the world. The term appears to be linked to the attribute "might", from the Greek root dynamis (pl. dynameis) in Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as "Virtue" or "Power". They are presented as the celestial Choir "Virtues", in the Summa Theologica.
Power: The "Powers", or "Authorities" primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. Being warrior angels, they also oppose evil spirits, especially those that make use of the matter in the universe, and often cast evil spirits to detention places. These angels are usually represented as soldiers wearing full armor and helmet, and also having defensive and offensive weapons such as shields and spears or chains respectively.
Lowest Order of Angels
Principality: The "Principalities" (Latin: principatus) also translated as "Princedoms" and "Rulers", are the angels that guide and protect nations, or groups of peoples, and institutions such as the Church. The Principalities preside over the bands of angels and charge them with fulfilling the divine ministry. There are some who administer and some who assist. The Principalities are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the upper sphere angels and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.
Archangel: An archangel is an angel of high rank. The word "archangel" itself is usually associated with the Abrahamic religions, but beings that are very similar to archangels are found in a number of religious traditions. Michael and Gabriel are recognized as archangels in Judaism, Islam, the Baha'i Faith, and by most Christians. Some Protestants consider Michael to be the only archangel. Raphael—mentioned in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit—is also recognized as an archangel in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with a feast on September 29 (between 1921 and 1969, March 24 for Gabriel and October 24 for Raphael), and in the Eastern Orthodox Church on November 8 (if the Julian calendar is used, this corresponds to November 21 in the Gregorian). The named archangels in Islam are Jibrael, Mikael, Israfil, and Azrael. Jewish literature, such as the Book of Enoch, also mentions Metatron as an archangel, called the "highest of the angels", though the acceptance of this angel is not canonical in all branches of the faith. Some branches of the faiths mentioned have identified a group of seven Archangels, but the named angels vary, depending on the source. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are always mentioned; the other archangels vary, but most commonly include Uriel, who is mentioned in 2 Esdras.
Angel: The "angels" or malakhim (Heb.: מַלְאָכִים), i.e. the "plain" angels (Gr.: ἄγγελοι, pl. of Gr.: ἄγγελος, angelos, i.e. messenger or envoy), are the lowest order of celestial beings, and the most recognized. They are the ones most concerned with the affairs of men. Within the category of the angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to humanity. Personal guardian angels come from this class.