The Seraphim: Part 4: The Identity of the Seraphim Revealed
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. (Isaiah 6:2)
If the first verse of Isaiah 6 is to be understood allegorically and spiritually, then we must examine the second verse about the seraphim in the same vein. If we take verse one symbolically and switch to a literal interpretation in verse 2, we’ve made a mistake—we have gotten off track and will not uncover the true spiritual understanding of the second verse.
By this I mean, if we say the first verse is symbolic of a person living in the end times whose pride has died (Uzziah died), who has had the experience of the Lord Jesus coming to him and resting upon his body (throne) which is actually his awakened spiritual body because it is high and lifted up; and if this person has been fully healed in his entire spirit, soul and body (train filled the temple)—if all this is an accurate interpretation, then to say he sees literal creatures with six wings flying around in heaven means we have “switched horses in midstream.” We simply will miss the entire wonderful, mysterious and hidden truth the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us.
Interestingly, one definition of the Hebrew word for seraphim is “symbolic creatures.” The Hebrew does not at all indicate these are angels. In fact, the four defining words the Hebrew gives us (as we will soon see) can be a little confusing which is a good thing because this assures us there is something much more intriguing and spiritual about them than we have previously understood.
Their Hebrew Definition
According to my research, the seraphim have universally been considered to be some sort of heavenly angel, but there is nothing in their Hebrew definition that indicates this is true. “Seraphim” in Hebrew is saraph, from a root word meaning “burning”. Strong’s Concordance says this about them: “Figuratively it means a poisonous (serpent), specifically a saraph or a symbolic creature (from their copper color):–fiery (serpent), seraph.”
The word serpent is in parentheses because it is added in by translators. They probably added “serpent” because the Hebrew word for serpent, nachash, accompanies the word seraph in the Numbers 21 account where the Lord sent fiery (seraph) serpents (nachash) among the people as judgment for their constant complaining and desire to return to Egypt. When the serpent bit anyone, it caused a severe burning sensation all over their body and resulted in death, hence the inclusion of “fiery” in the definition. However, God in his mercy instructed Moses to make a figure of the fiery serpent out of brass and lift it up on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten and then looked at this image of the serpent on the pole lived.
How is it that heavenly beings close to God would have a name that associated them with the disobedience of God’s people and a serpent on a pole? If we say these seraphim are some special category of a created angel who is closer to God than all the other angels, then it makes no sense. But if we associate them with human beings who were born in sin and overcame it by the power of Almighty God as they looked up to him for salvation, then it begins to make sense.
Bringing together (1) the Hebrew definition (fiery, burning, poisonous, a symbolic creature) along with (2) the account of the fiery serpents biting the unfaithful people, and applying these to the seraphim, leads me to the conclusion that these symbolic creatures are symbolic of human beings who have been through the fiery trials of life. They have looked to Christ lifted up on the cross and been delivered of their poisonous sin nature through their identification with Christ in his death. We are seeing them here in their resurrection-life close to God. (Humans don’t have wings, but the seraphim’s wings are also symbolic as will be explained in the next segment of this series.)
As human beings these are the ones who are most able to see and appreciate God’s glory because they have experienced evil, rejected it and overcome it through their own suffering and identification with the death of Jesus Christ and now know God in his greatness and glory more than any other creature can.
There is something else that identifies these symbolic creatures with human beings and that is the number six. They each had six wings. Six is associated with of human beings on earth because God created man on the sixth day of creation, but there is much more to the number six than that. The fuller understanding of six as explained by E. W. Bullinger in his book Number in Scripture helps give us even more reasons to suggest that these symbolic creatures with six wings are in heaven with God but on earth at the same time. Let’s see what more Bullinger has to say about the number six:
Six is either 4 plus 2, i.e. man’s world (4) with man’s enmity to God (2) brought in: or it is 5 plus 1, the grace of God made of none effect by man’s addition to it, or perversion, or corruption of it: or it is 7 minus 1, i.e., man’s coming short of spiritual perfection. In any case, therefore, it has to do with man; it is the number of imperfection; the human number; the number of MAN as destitute of God, without God, without Christ. …it is certain that man was created on the sixth day, and thus he has the number six impressed upon him.
Why would God make this so difficult to understand by using these strange descriptions? I believe he did this because (1) it was not time for people to know the truths we will find in our study of the seraphim until those who could enter into this experience with God were alive on earth, and (2) because our wonderful God delights in hiding things about himself and his plans so that we can demonstrate our love and devotion to him by uncovering his secrets. In other words, he likes to hide himself so we will have to search to find him. I personally enjoy the search and then the great delight of finding.
Think about it. Does it make any sense for God to have creatures around him with six wings? For one thing, those who have had supernatural experiences such as near death experiences know that no persons or creatures need wings to get around in heaven. Heaven is based on entirely different principles than those of our physical earthly realm. If it were like earth with an atmosphere and gravity that holds us down to this globe spinning in space, they might need wings. But then if they kept their faces covered by two of their wings, they couldn’t see where they were going and would continually bump into things. How could they use their feet when their wings were in their way? Wings are not necessary in heaven because all you have to do is think of a place you want to go and you are there.
In my next segment, we will examine and hopefully answer the question, Do angels have wings?