Categories of Angels: Rev. 5:9; Isa. 13-14
One category of angels is the cherubim ["im" is the Hebrew plural]. We understand that what distinguishes the cherubs is that they have four wings. They are mentioned in Genesis 3:24; Ezekiel 1:5-24; 10:1-15; Hebrews 9:5. They are pictured as part human and part animal. What is interesting about this is that the cherubs are created before the animal creation on planet earth. Scripture describes them as having the four faces of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. This predates the creation of men, lions, oxen, and eagles. So that tells us that when God created the angels He already knew what He was going to do, that His whole plan was already in His thinking, and he already had the prototypes for human beings, lions, oxen and eagles. They are described as being full of eyes in Ezekiel 10:12, 2hich indicates the4 extent of their knowledge. This is a typical metaphor. Eyes indicate learning, knowledge. God's eyes go to and fro throughout the whole earth indicates knowledge and full of eyes indicates the extent of their knowledge. They are also portrayed as gleaming like flaming torches or burnished bronze and coals of fire, which indicates once again the idea that they are composed of light, that this shines brilliantly as they are displayed. There are passages that indicate that not all cherubs have four faces. In Ezekiel 41, discussing the cherubs that are portrayed in the Millennial temple, they have two faces. Apparently there is not a fixed representation of this category of angel. This is important to understand the cherubs because Lucifer, according to Ezekiel chapter 28, was the anointed cherub who covered. He was the highest of all the cherubs and the cherubs were the highest order of all the angels, and so he was the highest of all God's creatures and most closely associated with the throne of God.
The first mention of cherubs is in Genesis 3:24 when God drives Adam and Eve out of the garden, and at the east of the garden of Eden God stationed a group of cherubim to keep any human beings from coming in and having access to the tree of life. The next time we see them mentioned in when they are portrayed on the mercy seat, the top section of the ark of the covenant. The lid of the ark of the covenant is referred to as the mercy seat. Inside the ark were the tablets of the ten commandments, Aaron's rod that budded and the manna. But inside were the broken tablets indicating man's sin, so that on the day of atonement the high priest would bring the blood from the sacrifice, place it on the mercy seat, and as these two cherubs are looking down there is atonement. So they are associated with the holiness and the righteousness of God and the fact that the holiness and righteousness of God is satisfied. The Greek word for propitiation, which means satisfaction, comes from the word for the mercy seat. So this is a picture of the propitiatory work of Christ on the cross when God's character, His righteousness and justice, is satisfied by that perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
When we get into other passages such as Ezekiel that describe the cherubs, other places that talk about how God is enthroned above the cherubs, the emphasis seems to be that the cherubs are always associated with the holiness and the righteousness of God. They seem to have this special role to guard and protect the holiness and righteousness of God.
In the depiction of the cherubs in Ezekiel chapter one, cherubs surround the chariot throne of God in Ezekiel's vision. In the early tabernacle and later in the temple the cherubs are depicted on the veil that hung between the outer holy place and the inner holy of holies. In Solomon's temple he placed two fifteen feet tall cherubs, each with a fifteen-foot wing span. In Solomon's temple there were figures of cherubs carved into the walls and the doors of the temple, and woven into the various fabrics that decorated the temple. In the future Millennial temple, Ezekiel 41:18, 19, Ezekiel describes the future temple as being carved with cherubs and palm trees, and a palm tree was between cherub and cherub, and every cherub had two faces. Their emphasis is always associated with the glory of God and His righteousness, so whenever we read about cherubs there also is in the background this emphasis on the holiness and character of God.
A second category is the seraphs. These are mentioned in only one place: Isaiah 6:1-7. They have six wings. The root meaning in the Hebrew means burning ones. Burning always emphasizes that purity of the holiness of God. The seraphs have faces, feet, hands, and they fly above the throne of God singing, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. They use two wings to cover their feet, two to fly with, and two to cover their faces because they cannot look upon the glory of God. Their duties seem to be to praise the glory of God and proclaim His holiness and righteousness.
The third category we have in the Scripture are the living creatures. The Greek word that is used in Revelation 4:6-9 is zoon [zwon]. These are living creatures, also described as burning ones, they have faces of a lion, a calf, man and an eagle. They are very similar to cherubs except that cherubs have four sings and the living creatures have six wings.
The next two categories of angels actually have to do with individual angels. The fourth is Michael the archangel—arch means the first, the highest of all of the angels. He is pictured as contending with Satan over the body of Moses in Jude 9. He is the archangel, there is not more than one, and he seems to have replaced Lucifer as the leader of the holy angels following the Satanic rebellion. Then we have Gabriel. He is mentioned twice in Scripture—Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:26. He seems to be the special messenger that God uses. He is specifically associated with communicating revelation and interpretation of that revelation as it applies to God's plan for Israel and God's plan for the future.
As we have mentioned cherubs we can now understand the reference in Ezekiel 28 to this cherub who covered. Historically and traditionally the two passages, Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, have been understood to refer to the fall of Satan. There is this type of terminology in both passages that just can't describe a human being. This is the "anointed cherub." These words are so loaded with theological significance in the Scriptures. The first word "anointed" is the same word we have to refer to Jesus, the coming Messiah. So that immediately indicates some priestly role among the angels. The basic idea of the word Messiah is "appointed," so he has a specifically appointed role that distinguishes him above all of the other cherubs, and he is said to be the anointed cherub who covers. A covering is related to the throne of God, so he is the one who is appointed above all the angels to be associated with the throne of God. Then there is this failure that is identified in Ezekiel chapter 28.
One of the things that is important about understanding the whole question of the angelic conflict is that we have often heard that the human race was designed to resolve the angelic conflict—not to solve it but to resolve it. What is being resolved? How it resolves it is related to the doctrine of evil. That is what is resolved, because once God creates creatures with volition there is potential of disobedience, sin and evil. And once evil enters the universe evil has to be judged. But when we look at God's plan, apparently it had to be done the way it is being done, and it took a long period of time in order to do that. So we need to plug this into our understanding of the origin of evil.
First of all, we have to recognize that every creature, including the angels, was created by God. There is nobody else creating anything—John 1:3; Colossians 1:16. Yet we know that at some time there was rebellion among the angels. If Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 aren't talking about the fall of Satan then there is in revelation that is talking about the origin of evil in the universe. Where did evil come from? This is one of the serious problems theologically that there is if we take those two passages out of the discussion. Revelation 12:7 talks about these angels, the war that breaks out in heaven half way through the Tribulation. NASB "And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war." This is when they are thrown out of heaven. This hasn't happened yet; they still have access to heaven. At that final point at the end of the Tribulation they are visible on the earth. There is this angelic army that is being kept in isolation under the Euphrates river that is released during this latter part of the Tribulation, and there is an attack on human beings from these 200-million demons. What it suggests is that as evil is finally being judged and everything comes together at the end of the Tribulation, all evil among all the creatures is going to be judged. So it all comes together at the end.
Evil and the origin of evil
1) Of all religions only Judaism and Christianity have an answer to the origin of evil.
2) The problem with evil is that critics of Christianity often ask: "How can a loving God allow suffering and evil to occur?" At some point in eternity past God created the angels. They are not eternal but they will last for eternity. Following His creation of the angels God creates the universe, Job 38:4-7. Then He creates the human race. Evil comes into existence between the creation of the universe and the creation of the human race. Evil will be allowed to run its course and there will be a final judgment and resolution and restriction of all evil to the lake of fire. Christianity has an answer to the problem of evil. It isn't that God is going to resolve all injustices on our timetable, but God will resolve all injustice on His timetable. There is an ultimate accounting and resolution to evil. There is something going on within creation that God is demonstrating with regard to evil. What began with evil was first of all in the angelic realm with a creature who wanted to assert his own desires. The basic thing that Satan is claiming is that he wants to be like God, he wants to run things. Isaiah 14, the five "I wills" of Satan. Often people will say that Satan must have challenged God. In some way he said to God: "How can you send a creature that you have made to an eternal punishment in the lake of fire?" In other words, how does this horrible punishment fit the crime? So we believe that is part of this challenge to God, and God creates the human race as an experiment—in the classic sense of the word, which means not to see what will happen but as a procedure designed to demonstrate a truth. Eating a piece of fruit in the garden was innocuous, simple, but it represented disobedience to God. And what God shows is that spiritual death in the universe and the corruption of the universe, all of the famines, all of the wars, all of the injustice, all stems from the fact that somebody performed what appeared to them to be an innocuous act. But it if the creature who is finite in his understanding operates independently from the creator, in even the most innocuous manner, it creates this reverberation of evil and corruption that changes the fabric of the universe. So the reason God consigns these creatures to the lake of fire is because they are the ones who have originated all of this, therefore an eternity in the lake of fire is a just and fitting punishment for the creature acting independently of the creator. So it is in this way that the human race functions to resolve the angelic conflict because the human race is the test case that is going to demonstrate why evil is evil, why disobedience and independence form God is so horrific, and how God ultimately brings all of this together to a final judgment and resolution of the evil problem. And only Christianity has this.
3) Non-Christians don't have an answer to this.
4) God allows evil because He allows free will. If He didn't give His creatures freedom then they would not have that choice. And if we want to be free do succeed we have to be free to fail. When there was the option of failure then God had a plan to deal with the introduction of evil into the universe.
5) God originally created angels with volition knowing that there would be a rebellion, evil would be introduced into the creation; He knew the whole scenario, it was always immediately and simultaneously known to Him, and so He had a plan for resolving this in such a way that it would be forever taken care of. This is how human history fits within this overall scope of the angelic conflict.