Angels vs Saints: A Comparison in Theological Context

Unveil the fascinating differences between these heavenly beings and prepare to be amazed.

Last Updated:
March 7, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

What are the main differences between saints and angels?

Delineating the fundamental differences between saints and angels, it becomes imperative to comprehend the inherent nature of these entities in their spiritual framework. Saints are essentially human beings who have traversed their terrestrial journey marked by a profound display of virtue and indefatigable commitment to spiritual ideals. Upon completion of their earthly sojourn, these individuals are believed to have ascended to heaven and continue their existence in a celestial plane.

Angels, on the other hand, are construed as purely spiritual beings, devoid of a physical form – an embodiment of divine energy that serves multifarious roles under the divine scheme. Often perceived as the intermediaries between the divine and the terrene, angels execute divine commands, bear godly messages to humanity, and also function as the guardians of humans.

Simultaneously, these two spiritually potent entities exhibit a scale of diversity within their own classes. Saints range from apostles, martyrs, pastors, to holy men and women who have exhibited an unparalleled degree of virtue. In parallel, angels are broadly classified into Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Cherubim, Seraphim, and Guardian Angels, each fulfilling a specific role within the divine architectonics. Thus, the core distinction between a saint and an angel lies in their nature, their origin and their specific roles under the divine orchestration.


  • Saints are virtuous human beings who, after their time on earth, are believed to ascend to the heavenly realm.
  • Angels are purely spiritual figures, without physical forms, acting as intermediaries between the divine command and terrestrial reality.
  • Both saints and angels exhibit diversity in their own classes – saints range from martyrs to holy men and women, and angels stretch from Archangels to Guardian Angels.
  • The principal difference between saints and angels hinges on their divergent nature, origin, and roles in the divine order.

In terms of hierarchy, are saints placed above angels?

From a broad, Christian-focal viewpoint, it is not typical to position saints above angels in terms of a hierarchical structure. This conclusion emerges from the understanding that angels and saints, in essence, span different realms of existence. Angels, as traditionally believed, are non-corporeal entities created by the Divine, fundamentally spiritual in nature. They, according to the hierarchical interpretation of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, range across three hierarchies - each comprising three orders or choirs.

Conversely, saints are human beings who, having lived virtuous lives imbibed with righteousness and piety, have transcended their terrestrial existence to dwell in the kingdom of heaven. The concept of sainthood, thus, underscores their humanity and the potential for human beings to attain spiritual elevation. Whereas angels, acting as God's messengers and facilitators in various capacities, are identified as distinctive occupants of the spiritual realm from their very inception.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that the titles - angel or saint - don't necessarily denote a superior or inferior rank but rather distinguish between different roles and responsibilities within the religious framework. Saints, primarily, are revered as intercessors in heaven and exemplary figures of piety, while angels are characteristically perceived as intermediaries between God and man, often serving as protectors and guides.


  • Angels and saints occupy distinctive realms: angels are spiritual beings created by God, while saints are spiritually elevated humans.
  • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite's hierarchical interpretation divides angels into three hierarchies, each comprising three orders or choirs.
  • Titles - angel or saint - represent different roles and responsibilities within the religious framework, not a higher or lower rank.
  • Saints are revered as intercessors in heaven and embody virtuous living, whereas angels serve as intermediaries between God and mankind.

Can an angel also be considered a saint?

While angels and saints are two distinct categories of beings in religious teachings, there are instances where intercategorial overlap occur. Ostensibly, angels are divine beings, created by God, who exist to do His bidding, particularly serving as interlocutors between God and the people. Saints, on the other hand, are humans who, due to their virtuous lives and adherence to religious teachings, have been recognised and canonised after their deaths. They are venerated for their holiness, and prayers are often directed towards them for intercession.

Notably, certain angels are often addressed with the honorific 'Saint.' This is particularly true for the Archangel Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, who are distinct in being named in religious texts. Their interactions with humans and service to God have earned them celestial honor and recognition. However, to consider these angels as saints would require a broadened understanding of the term. In this context, 'saint' is used to denote their sanctity and heavenly status, rather than as a posthumous honorific bestowed on virtuous humans.

If we strictly adhere to the understanding that 'saint' applies exclusively to canonised humans, the answer would be that, typically, angels cannot be saints. However, the usage of 'Saint' as a prefix to named angels illustrates the flexibility and fluidity of religious interpretation, allowing these celestial beings to be referred to as saints.


  • Angels and saints are typically distinct categories, with angels being divine celestial beings, and saints posthumously honoured humans known for their virtuous lives.
  • Certain angels, specifically the archangel Michael, archangel Gabriel, and archangel Raphael, are often referred to with the honorific 'Saint' due to their sanctity and heavenly status.
  • The common use of 'Saint' before these angels’ names underscores religious interpretation’s complexity and flexibility.
  • In strict terms, angels cannot be saints, given that sainthood is recognised posthumously and relates directly to human lives of virtue.
  • The overlap between angels and saints in the usage of 'Saint' symbolizes the interconnection and fluidity between these aspects of theological teachings.

Was Jesus Christ a Saint or an Angel when he walked the earth?

When Jesus Christ walked the earth, He was neither categorized as a saint nor an angel by theological definitions. He is understood and acknowledged to be the Son of God, existing eternally as part of the Holy Trinity which includes God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit, delineated extensively in Christian doctrine. The New Testament of the Bible explicitly presents Jesus as fully human and also fully divine.

From a theoretical perspective, Jesus cannot be classified as an angel because angels are created spiritual beings, whereas Christ Jesus is uncreated, possessing the same divine nature as God the Father. Additionally, angels serve as messengers of God, while Jesus, according to Christian belief, is God Himself made flesh.

Similarly, Jesus does not fit into the categorization of a 'saint' in the traditional sense as understood by Christian theology. The term 'saint' generally refers to a human who has led a life of exemplary holiness on earth and now abides in heaven. By being divine, Jesus signifies the ideal of holiness but surpasses the notion of saintliness, for He is the source from which all holiness originates

Hence, the essence of Jesus Christ transcends both sainthood and angelic beings. His existence as both God and man signifies a profound mystery in Christian theology, often referred to as the Hypostatic Union: the union of Christ's human and divine natures in one person.

  • Jesus Christ is deeply acknowledged as the Son of God and part of the Holy Trinity, including God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He is neither a saint nor an angel.
  • Angels can't be equated as Jesus since angels are created spiritual beings while Jesus, being divine in nature, is uncreated. Angels are considered messengers of God, while Jesus is God Himself incarnated.
  • Christ Jesus does not meet the conventional definition of a 'saint'. Saints are humans, distinguished by their exemplary holiness and their presence in heaven. However, Jesus surpasses such characterization as His divine nature embodies the epitome of holiness.
  • The Hypostatic Union, a profound mystery in Christian theology, implies the unique union of Christ's human and divine natures in one person without dividing His substance.

Are there any saints who were once angels?

Considering the distinctive natures and roles of angels and saints, it would not be accurate to categorize any saints as former angels. Angels, as purely spiritual entities with no physical bodies, differ significantly from saints, who are human beings known for leading virtuous lives. While angels are direct creations of God, saints are humans who have lived virtuously and now reside in heaven. However, certain angels, such as Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, are often referred to as saints, denoting their holiness and heavenly residence. This designation does not imply that they were once human, but rather acknowledges their sanctity within the celestial hierarchy.

In essence, while there are angels referred to as saints due to their exceptional holiness and heavenly status, it is not accurate to consider any saints as once being angels due to the fundamental difference in their respective natures and roles. Humans can aspire to sainthood through virtuous living, yet they cannot transform into angels because of their intrinsic human nature.


  • Angels and saints possess distinct natures: angels are pure spirits while saints are heaven residing human beings.
  • There are angels that are referred to as saints due to their exceptional holiness and celestial status, such as Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
  • No saints are former angels due to the marked difference in their respective natures and roles.
  • Humans can seek to become saints through virtuous living but due to their intrinsic nature, they cannot become angels.

Is there a connection between angels and saints in religious texts?

The interconnection between saints and angels finds expression in various religious texts. Angels, as purely spiritual beings sans physical bodies, play prominent roles across multiple religious narratives. Numerous instances from biblical texts reference angels, notably the three angels - Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel - who are referred to with the title 'saint' before their names. This is a testament to their holiness and celestial standing. Saints, by virtue of their virtuous earthly lives and their existence in the heavenly realm, create a resonance with these angelic figures.

Religious texts also make mention of saints' encounters with angels in various ways, amplifying the association between the two. Illustratively, Saint Francis of Assisi was known to receive stigmata from an angel and found solace in the company of angels during his ailments. This interaction underpins the notion that angels act as messengers, guardians, and caregivers to humans in various capacities. Importantly, the dialogue between angels and saints extends beyond merely anecdotal tales, providing deeper spiritual insights and highlighting mutual roles in the divine scheme.

Consequently, the relationship between saints and angels is not simply a matter of contrasting entities, but rather intertwined beings possessing distinct characteristics and roles, each magnifying the other's contribution to the spiritual narrative. The texts illustrate angels and saints as different beings; yet their interaction and shared purpose suggest a nuanced interplay where the spiritual and human reach a divine intersection.


  • Angels, such as Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, are often referred to as saints in religious texts, underscoring their holiness and heavenly standing.
  • Saints, due to their virtuous lives on earth and their continued existence in heaven, are associated closely with angels in religious narratives.
  • Numerous accounts of saints' interactions with angels ascertain the angels' role as messengers, guardians, and caregivers to humans.
  • The relationship between saints and angels implies a complex interconnectedness where their distinct roles and characteristics contribute to the overall spiritual narrative.

Can a saint become an angel after death?

In theological terms, it is imperative to understand the distinction between the nature of angels and that of saints. Saints, as has been expressed previously, are human beings who have lived lives of eminent virtue and holiness on earth, and now enjoy the bliss of heaven. Conversely, angels, existing purely as celestial, spiritual beings, are never encumbered with a physical body during their perpetual services to the Divine.

Following death, it is believed within the majority of Christian theology that human souls transition to an eternal state, but they do not metamorphose into angelic beings. The transformation of saints into angels is a common misunderstanding, perhaps perpetuated through popular culture, misunderstanding, or oversimplification, yet, it is fundamentally incongruous with traditional theological doctrine.

Humans, including saints, are uniquely created in ‘the image and likeness' of God. This concept emphasizes the distinctness of human nature from angelic beings. Although saints will share certain aspects of angelic life, such as immortality and beholding the face of God, they will never become angels. Instead, they will be glorified humans – beings that have the same nature as when they lived on earth, but in a state that has been perfected and transformed in heaven.


  • Saints and angels have inherently unique natures which remain distinct even after a saint's passing.
  • While saints might share some aspects of angelic life after death, they will not transform into angels. They become glorified humans, maintaining —but in a perfected state— the same nature as when they lived on Earth.
  • The transformation of a saint into an angel is a common misconception often perpetuated by misunderstanding or popular culture, and it fundamentally misaligns with theological doctrine.

Is there a specific religious doctrine that discusses the relationship between saints and angels?

Undoubtedly, various religious doctrines across numerous faiths delve into the relationship between saints and angels. However, for the scope of this examination, attention is anchored primarily on Christian belief systems. According to Christian theology, particularly in Catholicism, saints and angels are separate entities each fulfilling different roles. The distinctions between saints and angels are often underscored in religious texts, teachings, and the traditional rites and rituals of the Church.

Notably, the Catholic Church, in its comprehensive theological teachings in the Catechism, elucidates on the existence and respective roles of angels and saints. As revealed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 328), the reality of the angelic world, an integral part of divine revelation, is acknowledged as a truth of faith. The Church teaches that angels, spiritual beings distinct from humans, serve as messengers and servants of God who interact with the world and humanity for God's plan.

On the other hand, saints, as per the Catholic worldview, are humans who, having led exemplary lives of holiness, dwell now in heaven. This is emphasized in the CCC 946-962, which communicates the Church's teachings on the Communion of Saints, a spiritual solidarity that binds together the faithful on earth with the saints in heaven. Saints are revered not only as models of virtue but also as intercessors who assist believers by their prayers.

Whilst the beings of saints and angels are distinct, the doctrine of the Communion of Saints emphasizes a collaboration and unity amidst diversity in the heavenly realm. Angels and saints, having aligned their wills perfectly with divine will, exist in cohesive fellowship, working for the greater glory of God.


  • Christian theology, particularly in Catholicism, outlines clear distinctions between saints and angels, emphasizing their distinct identities and roles.
  • As per the Catechism of the Catholic Church, angels are messengers and servants of God while saints are humans who have led virtuous lives and are now in heaven.
  • Despite their differences, there is a unified communion and collaboration among saints and angels in the heavenly realm.

Is there a theological basis for the difference between saints and angels?

Indeed, a theological underpinning exists that delineates the distinct natures and roles of angels and saints within various religious frameworks. Fundamental to this contrast is the perception of angels and saints as two distinct entities, each characterized by their own unique attributes and functions. Angels, as put forth by Saint John of Damascus, are spiritual entities whose existence was wrought from nothingness by God, and who were created in His divine image. These celestial beings, lacking in physical bodies, serve various roles within God's cosmos, often acting as His messengers or intermediaries between the divine and the earthly realm.

Conversely, saints are mortal beings of human nature. They are individuals who, throughout their earthly existence, exhibited exemplary virtues and piety, thereby earning the honor of being known as a saint following their death. Unlike angels, saints do not originate from the divine realm, but rather from the human world. Their saintly status is a testament to their virtuous and noble conduct during their life, and their role is primarily intercessionary, praying for humanity's needs and concerns before God.

Another noteworthy difference lies in the potential for becoming either entity. Humans, through a commitment to virtuous living and the pursuit of holiness, can aspire to attain sainthood. In contrast, angels, due to their divine and spiritual nature, are not a status to which humans can aspire. Therefore, while saints were once humans who surpassed the standard for virtuous living, angels are spiritual entities whose existence is entirely separate from the human experience.


  • From a theological perspective, angels and saints are distinct entities with unique attributes and roles.
  • Saint John of Damascus describes angels as divine and spiritual entities created by God, often serving as His divine messengers.
  • Saints, in contrast, are individuals who lived virtuous and pious lives in the human world and were honored as saints after their death.
  • While humans can aspire to attain sainthood through virtuous living, they cannot become angels, as angels have a divine and spiritual nature separate from human experience.

Fun Facts

There are over 10,000 named saints in the Catholic Church

The Bible mentions angels approximately 300 times

In Catholicism, there are nine choirs of angels

There are only three angels named in the Bible: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

The process of canonization in the Catholic Church can take hundreds of years

Angels are mentioned in at least 34 books of the Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that saints enjoy the Beatific Vision, which is seeing God as He is

Frequently asked questions

Are angels considered to be higher beings than saints in the spiritual realm?

  • Angels and saints occupy distinct roles and positions in the spiritual hierarchy.
  • Angels are celestial beings created by God to fulfill His divine will, while saints are human individuals recognized for their exceptional holiness.
  • Angels serve as messengers, protectors, and servants of God, while saints serve as examples of faith and intercede on behalf of humanity.
  • The question of whether angels are considered higher beings than saints is not straightforward.
  • Both angels and saints share a deep communion with the divine and serve unique, yet complementary roles.

Can saints also serve as messengers and protectors like angels?

  • Saints can serve as messengers and protectors in the same way that angels do.
  • They bring messages of peace and guidance and help guide us through life's challenges.
  • Saints transcend the realms, carrying divine messages and protecting us with their love and intercession.
  • A dove can symbolize the presence of a saint, reminding us of their divine presence.
  • Saints are a source of strength and comfort, providing us with comfort and guidance in times of need.

Is there a specific process for recognizing an angel as a saint in the Catholic Church?

Recognizing angels as saints in the Catholic Church is a long-standing and meaningful process:

  • Thorough investigation of the angel's life, virtues, and miracles attributed to their intercession
  • Examination of their impact on the faith community
  • Seeking consensus among theologians and bishops
  • Ensuring only angels with divine love and grace are recognized
  • Inspiring us all to strive for spiritual greatness

Are there any saints who were once angels before their human lives?

  • Saints who have experienced life as angels bring a unique perspective to the world.
  • They have an intimate understanding of the celestial realm and demonstrate God's love and grace through their earthly lives.
  • They serve as messengers and protectors, bridging the gap between heaven and earth.
  • Saints provide guidance and inspiration to those on their own spiritual journeys.
  • They remind us of the divine power of transformation, from angel to human and beyond.

How does the veneration of angels differ from the veneration of saints in the Catholic Church?

In the Catholic Church:

  • Veneration of saints is based on their exceptional holiness and serving as role models.
  • Veneration of angels is based on them being celestial beings who carry out God's will.
  • Other religions have different roles and forms of veneration for angels.
  • This diversity highlights the universal fascination with spiritual beings.
  • It invites us to reflect on the vastness of God's creation and how angels are part of different cultural contexts.

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