What are thrones, dominions, principalities and powers


What are thrones, dominions, principalities and powers?

I have read and heard these terms many time before. I have no idea what they mean. Some help please.



This link may help. :slight_smile:


Pascal P. Parente

Chapter 3

The Heavenly Hierarchies and the Choirs of Angels

As has already been explained, the Angels are pure spirits, incorporeal and in every sense immaterial substances. There is no question of generation and multiplication with them, consequently no angelic families and clans. Each Angel stands apart as a complete and direct creation of God. Each Angel, according to Saint Thomas, is specifically different from any other in the entire spirit world, so that he possesses more or less perfection than the one next to him, by a degree higher or lower than that which here below separates man from a brute animal, an animal from a plant. This is because each Angel is a pure form. Now, every differentiation in form implies differentiation in species. Human beings, no matter what their race, belong all to one and the same species. They differ only individually by some material or moral quality that does not alter substantially their specific nature of a rational creature composed of body and soul.

The Lord of heaven Who has grouped the children of men according to races, tribes, families, and nations must have assigned some order to the more numerous and more diversiform world of the Angels. The various names, in the plural number, given to the Angels in the Bible seem to imply that there are various orders and ranks among them. What is said here of the Choirs and Hierarchies of the Angels is not an article of faith, yet it should be regarded as a certain truth.

As a matter of fact the Scripture mentions nine different orders of Angels. In various passages in the Old and New Testament mention is made of Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Archangels, and Angels.[13] The mere fact that the Scripture carefully distinguishes between these various names of Angelic orders is sufficient reason to believe that they actually represent different ranks in the spirit world, with a difference of perfection and of office between the various orders of Angels. There seems to be no basis whatever to the opinion that these nine different denominations are synonymous terms. It never happens that while the Scripture is talking, for example, of Seraphim it would next refer to them as Thrones, Dominations, etc. The only exception is to be made with the term Angel, which is used both as a specific term for the lowest Choir, and as generic term for all the Choirs, as when the Psalmist says: “Praise ye him, all his angels; praise ye him, all his hosts.”[14] “All his angels” here means all the choirs of Angels, whatever their name and their rank.




I thought I read somewhere there are some types of animals/ creatures on each side of Gods throne, cant remember what they were called though, but do recall they were different from the angels…does this sound familiar to anyone?


No, and its incorrect. They ARE angels.



Search the EWT online Library for many documents on this topic.


As mentioned, they are the conventional names for four out of the nine choirs of angels. The names are taken from Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16.

(Ephesians 1:16-23) I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, (pasēs archēs kai exousias kai dynameōs kai kyriotētos) and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.


(Colossians 1:15-20) He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities (eite thronoi eite kyriotētes eite archai eite exousiai)—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

thronoi = throni (thrones)
dynameis = virtutes (virtues / powers)
kyriotētes = dominationes (dominions)
archai = principatus (principalities)
exousiai = potestates (powers)

Those five key words / concepts became applied to a specific hierarchy or ‘choir’ of angels; added to the ‘cherubim’, ‘seraphim’, ‘archangels’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9) and ‘angels’, a 4th-5th century writer writing in the name of Dionysus the Areopagite (the Athenian convert of St. Paul mentioned in Acts 17:3) devised the concept of the nine choirs of angels.


Often refers to demons. Evil Spirits.


First time I heard this. Please care to elaborate?


Bookcat is referring to Ephesians 6:12- “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.”

This refers to the angels from those choirs that chose to rebel against God and thus fell.



  1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubin, 3. Thrones - closest to heaven concern themselves with contemplating the glory of God. It is the 6-winged Seraphim who sing the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts” (Isaias 6:3).

++ 1. SERAPHIM ++
Seraphim (singular “Seraph”), mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7,[3] serve as the caretakers of God’s throne and continuously shout praises: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with His Glory.” The name Seraphim means “the burning ones.” It is said that the charity of the Seraphim burns like white heat in a flame. The Seraphim have six wings; two covering their faces, two covering their genitals (“feet”), and two with which they fly.

++ 2. CHERUBIM ++
Cherubim have four faces: one of each a man, an ox, a lion, and a griffon vulture. They have four conjoined wings covered with eyes, and they have ox’s feet. Cherubim guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)[4] and the throne of God (Ezekiel 28:14-16).[5] – The cherubim are mentioned in Genesis 3:24;[4] Exodus 25:17-22; 2 Chronicles 3:7-14; Ezekiel 10:12–14,[6] 28:14-16;[5] 1 Kings 6:23–28;[7] and Revelation 4:6-8. Cherubim are also the angels often depicted as babies with wings in Christian art.

++ 3. THRONES ++
The “Thrones” (Gr. thronos) or Elders, are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament). They are living symbols of God’s justice and authority, and have as one of their symbols the throne. These high celestial beings appear to be mentioned again in Revelation 11:16. Also seeEzekiel 10:17, and vision of Daniel 7 - 9). The Thrones are said to be the way by which God accomplishes his judgements (St. Gregory).

4. Domininations, 5. Virtues, 6. Powers. The second order of angels are charged with governing and ordering the laws of the created universe.

The “Dominions” (lat. dominatio, plural dominationes, also translated from the Greek term kyriotites as “Lordships”) are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings “Lordships” in the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions, regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that they make themselves physically known to humans and are believed to look like beautiful humans with feathered wings as shown in art. They are also the angels who preside over nations.

++ 5. VIRTUES ++
The “Virtues” or “Strongholds” lie beyond the ophanim (Thrones/Wheels). Their primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. The term also appears to be linked to the attribute “might”, from a Greek root. In Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as “Virtue”. They are charged with giving the power with which to accomplish the ordering of Nature.

++ 6. POWERS ++
The “Powers” (lat. potestas (f), pl. potestates), or “Authorities”, from the Greek exousies, (see Greek root in Eph 3:10) appear to collaborate, in power and authority, with the Principalities (Rulers). They are bearers of conscience and keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name. Finally, the choir of Powers are given the duty to order out how to execute what has been commanded. The choir of Powers direct the lower choirs on how to order creation.

7. Principalities, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels (closest to earth) concern themselves with creation and are the most familiar to us.

“Principalities” (lat. principatus, pl. principat?s) also translated as “Princedoms” and “Rulers”, from the Greek arche (see Greek root in Eph 3:10), appear to collaborate, in power and authority with the Powers (Authorities). Shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre, their duty is also said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions 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. Principalities are the leaders of the last order, and direct the actual implementation of God’s will.

The word “arch-angel” comes from the Greek (archang?l?s), meaning chief angel, a translation of the Hebrew (rav-mal’ákh) [9] It derives from the Greek arch?, meaning to be first in rank or power; which means messenger. The word is only used twice in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9. Only archangels Michael and Gabriel are mentioned by name in the New Testament.

++ 9. ANGELS ++
The “angels”, (malakhim Greek for messengers), are the lowest order of the angels, and the most recognized and are most concerned with the affairs of living things. In this category of angels, there are many different kinds with different functions. Archangels and Angels actually carry out and execute what is to be done. They are the messengers to mankind. This is why angels (such as Gabriel and Raphael) are the choir sent to communicate with man.


Thank you for posting this, I learned something. I did not realize that each Angel is an individual creation and different from all others.


Thanks for the link. I took a look, read and was uncertain of the claims in the descriptions.


I see you are online. What did St. Paul mean by these terms? I am most interested in the scriptural meaning of these terms. When St. Paul used thrones, dominions, principalities and powers.

I am especially interested in principalities and powers because that seems to be the major struggles that we as a Church and as individuals are struggling against.

-all the anti-life heresies: contraception, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, same-sex activity, pornography

-anti-Christian powers that want to destroy the Church and eradicate religion for their supposedly better ideas.


hazcompat, thanks is perused this excerpt and plan to read it when I have more time.
Alas, I am still looking for the literal meaning derived from scripture. What were the inspired authors thinking when they used those terms?



Isa. 6:2 Seraphim* were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.

  • [6:2] Seraphim: the plural of saraph (“to burn”), a term used to designate the “fiery” serpents of the wilderness (Nm 21:8; Dt 8:15), and to refer to “winged” serpents (Is 14:29; 30:6). Here, however, it is used adjectivally of the cherubim, who are not serpent-like, as seen in the fact that they have faces and sexual parts (“feet”). See the adaptation of these figures by Ezekiel (Ez 1:10–12; 10:4–15).

Numbers 21: 8 and the LORD said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.

Genesis 3: 24 He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Col.1: 16 For in him* were created all things in heaven and on earth ,the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him

Ephesians 1: 21 far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Romans 8: 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things,* nor future things, nor powers

1 Peter 3: 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him

These refer to the invisible created or an image thereof.

Are you seeking to know what each writer had in his mind at the time the words were shared?



Well, one interpretation is that apparently, “thrones” and “dominions” represent the invisible things that operate in the cosmos, while “principalities” (or ‘principles’) and “powers” represent the visible, tangible part of the universe. Note in Colossians 1 Paul says: “in him all things (ta panta = the cosmos) were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities…” In other words, the term stands for the cosmological powers, i.e. the whole universe.

St. Paul may have gotten the idea of the “powers” (exousiai) from Daniel 7:27 (Old Greek): “And he shall give the authority and the kingdom and the magnitude of all the kingdoms which are under heaven to the holy people of the Most High … and all authorities (pasai ai exousiai) will be subjected to him and obey him until the conclusion of the word.” But whereas in Daniel these exousiai still apparently refer to earthly kingdoms, Paul reconfigures it to mean something cosmic by flanking it with the terms archai (‘principles’/‘principalities’) and dynameis (‘forces’/‘virtues’) - two terms used in contemporary cosmology as a synonym for the elements of which the cosmos is made of (i.e. the four elements - fire, earth, wind, water - or their qualities - dry, wet, cold and hot.)

As for ‘thrones’, it’s also a term used in astronomy/astrology at the time: the term thronos was used as a metaphor for the force planets are thought to exhibit when they are in a particular position and are exalted in power. When the planets are in such a position (i.e. are in their ‘thrones’), they exert their influence to the maximum. (Y’know, the old idea that stars and planets influence people’s fates and what’s happening down here.)

Come to think about it, it isn’t very much big of a leap to go from identifying “thrones, dominions, principalities and powers” with elements of the cosmos to identifying these as angels, because angels are themselves often associated with these elements. (Angels for instance were associated with and identified with the stars.)


I was both pleased and informed by your response Patrick. The fog is clearing away in my mind. When I use words, I want to know what they mean in their context and not what I guess.


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