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This week in the Week 6 Lesson Plan of Angels of the Realm, we’ve been studying about angels and God’s justice. One of the stories from the Bible we’ve been studying is the story of the three visitors found in Genesis 18 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis 19. This icon of the Three Visitors by Russian painter Andrei Rublev is considered to be his greatest work and is also referred to as the Trinity. To read more about this icon, click here.
“Do not be afraid,” is a common opener between an angel and the recipient of their visitation. I have often wondered why. Given all that we have learned during this summer series on angels, I think we can safely assume one of the reasons is their fear inducing appearance. Their presence must resonate so strongly that they actually cause our spirits within us to tremble in fear. Of course, they could be offering the words in a greeting meant to address or encourage those on whom they have visited. In the Week 5 lesson plan, we looked at passages from the book of Daniel. Daniel had a visitation from the angel Gabriel.
“I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking … Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, … I stood up trembling. Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel.’” Daniel 10:7-12
Last week, we did not focus on the effect Daniel’s angelic visitation had upon him. Daniel became physically incapacitated. The men with him ran for their lives in fear. Most angelic encounters I’ve heard or read never include this type of reaction to the experience. The encounters are described in more banal terms. In the biblical narrative, however, visions, visitations by angels, or God Himself elicits the response of the recipient initially to fear and trembling.
When the angel of the Lord visits Gideon, he fears he will die because he has seen the angel face to face. (Judges 6:22,23) The special messages we studied last week that the angel Gabriel was tasked with delivering also caused the recipients alarm. Gabriel had to reassure them not to fear.
“When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him:’Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. You wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.’” Luke 1:12,13
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin …. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.’” Luke 1:26-30
David was also highly favored by God. He was not a perfect man but he was faithful and trusted God. He wrote many of the psalms describing his thoughts and feelings towards God. During a particularly difficult season of his life when he was fleeing from Saul and found himself trying to hide from Saul among their enemies, the Philistines, David pretended to be insane. Out of this experience, David wrote these words.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7
David understood as the others also came to know that God is near. He watches, guards, and attends to His children with the help of His messengers. David said of God;
“The LORD is my light and my salvation —- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life —-of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
To join in the Week 6 Lesson Plan, you can find it by clicking here.
This week in the Week 5 Lesson plan of Angels of the Realm, we’ve studied some of the other extraordinary celestial creatures besides angels. I thought this video was fitting to conclude our week of study on the cherubim and seraphim. If you’d like to start at the beginning of the study, you can find all of the posts and weekly lesson plans by clicking here or by clicking the tab, Angels of the Realm, under the header.
Have a wonderful weekend!
In the Week 1 Lesson Plan, I introduced the idea of an angel hierarchal order. The popularity of this idea began during the Middle Ages. Pseudo-Dionysius, a 5th century theologian, first proposed the idea of an angelic order in his work, On the Celestial Hierarchy. In his work, he suggested three orders of three choirs of angelic beings. The first order consisted of seraphim, cherubim, and thrones. The second order was composed of dominations, virtues, and powers. The third and final order contained principalities, archangels, and angels. Pseudo-Dionysius and others, like Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, that followed were inspired by several portions of scripture. One of the passages that was used is from Colossians.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. “ Colossians 1:15-17
These verses could refer to either realm. Some scholars state, after observing the context, that Paul was dealing with a false belief system and the worship of angels at Colosse. Others, however, believe these verses only relate to human realms of leadership. Still, other scholars have suggested that the verses point towards positions in the visible and invisible realm.
Theologians also used the following verses in the formation of their angelic ranking lists.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,” Romans 8:38
“That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:19b-21
Thrones, powers, rulers, authorities: None of these groups are actually ever addressed in scripture nor any specific angel assigned to any of them. Combined with the seraphim, cherubim, archangels, and angels from the rest of scripture, theologians have structured and formed their opinions about the celestial realm. The evangelist Billy Graham, in his book, Angels, proposes this ranking of celestial powers: archangels, angels, seraphim, cherubim, principalities, authorities, powers, thrones, might and dominion. In addition, St. Jerome, priest, theologian, and historian during the Middle Ages, listed the order in this way: seraphim, cherubim, powers, dominations, thrones, archangels, and angels.
Ancient Jewish manuscripts called the books of Enoch include many references to angels but they are regarded as non-canonical by Jews and Christians alike. The only group that includes these works in their canon is the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. In these manuscripts, Enoch formulated a hierarchal listing for the creatures in the heavenly realm. He ranked them in this order: cherubim, seraphim, ofanim (wheels), all angels of power, principalities, the Elect One (Messiah), and the powers of earth and water.
These rankings are only a small selection of the ones compiled by scholars over the years. Most, however, follow a very similar ordering.
If you would like to learn more about the seraphim, cherubim, and the archangels, the Week 5 Lesson Plan can be found by clicking here.