Bible Angels: Isaiah Sees Seraphim in Heaven Worshiping God

Isaiah 6 Also Shows a Seraph Give Isaiah Atonement and Forgiveness for Sins

Bible angels seraphim Isaiah 6
Seraphim surround God's throne in heaven. Public Domain

Isaiah 6:1-8 of the Bible and Torah tells the story of the prophet Isiah's vision of heaven, in which he sees seraphim angels worshiping God. Overcome with an awareness of his own sinfulness in contrast to God's holiness that the angels are celebrating, Isaiah cries out in fear. Then a seraph flies out of heaven to touch Isaiah with something that symbolizes atonement and forgiveness for Isaiah. Here's the story, with commentary:

Calling "Holy, Holy, Holy"

Verses 1 through 4 describe what Isaiah saw in his heavenly vision: "In the year that King Uzziah died [739 BC], I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'" At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke."

The seraphim use one pair of wings to cover their faces so that they won't be overwhelmed by directly looking at God's glory, another pair of wings to cover their feet as a sign of respect and submission to God, and another pair of wings to move around joyfully as they celebrate. Their angelic voices are so powerful that the sound causes shaking and smoke in the temple where Isaiah is praying when he sees the heavenly vision.

A Live Coal From a Fiery Altar

The passage continues in verse 5: "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."

Isaiah is struck with a sense of his own sinfulness, and he's overcome with fear about the potential consequences of seeing a holy God while in his own sinful condition.

While the Torah and Bible say that no living human being can see the essence of God the Father directly (doing so would mean death), it is possible to see signs of God's glory from a distance, in a vision. Bible scholars believe that the part of God Isaiah saw was the Son, Jesus Christ, prior to his incarnation on Earth, since the apostle John writes in John 12:41 that Isaiah "saw Jesus' glory."

Verses 6 and 7 show God's plan to solve the problem of Isaiah's sin by sending one of his angels to help Isaiah: "Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'"

By honestly confessing his sin, Isaiah invites God and the angels to purify his soul. It's significant that the part of Isaiah's body that the seraph angel touched was his lips, since Isaiah would begin speaking prophetic messages from God to people after experiencing this vision and angelic encounter. The angel cleansed, strengthened, and encouraged Isaiah so that Isaiah could call others to turn to God for the help they needed in their own lives.

Send Me!

Immediately after the seraph angel purifies Isaiah's lips, God himself interacts with Isaiah, calling him to deliver messages to people who need to change their lives. Verse 8 records the beginning of God's conversation with Isaiah: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

Isaiah, freed from the guilt over his sin that had been holding him back, was now ready to enthusiastically accept whatever assignment God wanted to give him, and to move forward to help fulfill God's purposes in the world.

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Hopler, Whitney. "Bible Angels: Isaiah Sees Seraphim in Heaven Worshiping God." ThoughtCo, Apr. 25, 2016, thoughtco.com/isaiah-seraphim-in-heaven-worshiping-god-124109. Hopler, Whitney. (2016, April 25). Bible Angels: Isaiah Sees Seraphim in Heaven Worshiping God. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/isaiah-seraphim-in-heaven-worshiping-god-124109 Hopler, Whitney. "Bible Angels: Isaiah Sees Seraphim in Heaven Worshiping God." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/isaiah-seraphim-in-heaven-worshiping-god-124109 (accessed May 25, 2018).