Michael the Archangel
(Part 4 of 4)
Who is Michael the archangel? The being referred to as Michael is mentioned by that name five times in the Bible: Dan 10:13, 10:21, 12:1, Jude 9 and Rev 12:7.
This is part 4 of a study to answer the question: "Who is Michael the Archangel?" For background, we have looked at a few related topics and have established that:
- angels are messengers and not always what we regard as angelic beings -
Part 1 - What are Angels?
- there is only one archangel and he goes by the name of Michael -
Part 2 - What are Archangels?
- angels are His (Jesus') angels; He is the head of them -
Part 3 - Jesus and Angels
The name Michael, in Hebrew, has the meaning of "who is like God?" It is both a question and a challenge. Satan's rebellion is essentially an attempt to install himself on the throne of God and "be like the most high"
"I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." (Isa 14:14)
Thus, the name Michael is most fitting for Him who has taken on the task of disproving Satan's charges, and vindicating the character of God and his right to the throne. In each of the five uses of Michael (only one of which uses the phrase "Michael the archangel"), notice how the scene involves Christ in conflict with Satan. Let's look at each one.
First Use of Michael
"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia." (Dan 10:13)
The "me" of this verse is likely the angel Gabriel - who is never referred to as an archangel. He had appeared to Daniel previously to explain things to him (Dan 8:16-17, 9:21-22). It cannot be Michael because Michael is spoken of by Gabriel as another individual.
"The prince of the kingdom of Persia" was Satan directing the literal kings of Persia. A literal king would not be able to withstand the angel Gabriel for twenty days, only a being of the same order could. Before his fall, Satan was a covering cherub (Eze 28:14) close in position to God. He led a rebellion among the angels against God and was influential enough to draw one third of them to his side (Rev 12:4, 7-9).
Regarding the phrase "One of the chief princes," the KJV marginal note says "or the first."
"Michael ... came to help me." Only someone more powerful than Gabriel or Satan could resolve this situation. It was not any angel that came but Michael the archangel, the head of the angels. The phrase "and I remained" is translated by the NIV as "because I was detained." Michael had to come to Gabriel's aid.
All three Old Testament references to Michael refer to him by using the word prince(s):
- "Michael, one of the chief princes" (Dan 10:13)
- "Michael your prince" (Dan 10:21)
- "Michael ... the great prince" (Dan 12:1)
The marginal note for "one of" in Dan 10:13 is "Or, the first." So He is not one of a number of equals the thought of which disturbs some people.
Is Christ referred to elsewhere using the term prince? In vision, Daniel refers to the prince of the host (Dan 8:11). What is the host that he is the prince of? The word host is used in a number of ways, often meaning simply a great multitude. It is sometimes used in reference to angels:
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying," (Luke 2:13). It would appear that the host of which Michael is the prince are the angels.
Being Michael the archangel or head of the angels is equivalant to being the prince of the host of the angels.
Joshua 5:13-15 mentions a being who refers to himself as "captain of the host of the Lord." The margin says "prince" (v14). "Joshua fell on his face ... and did worship." Only God can rightly receive worship (v15). "And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy..." Moses was told the same thing when he appeared before the Lord in the burning bush (Ex 3:5, Acts 7:33). Note who was speaking to him:
"And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. (Exo 3:2)
In Gabriel's explanation of the vision he refers to this same being as the "Prince of princes" (Dan 8:25). Prince of princes is a reference to deity and is similar to:
- Lord of lords: Ps 136:3, Deut 10:17, 1Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, 19:16
- God of gods: Ps 136:2, Deut 10:17
- King of kings: 1Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, 19:16
These verses include unquestionable references to Jesus. He is referred to as a prince in other ways in the New Testament:
"And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses." (Acts 3:15)
"Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31)
"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," (Rev 1:5)
Second Use of Michael
"But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth exerts himself with me in these things, but Michael your prince." (Dan 10:21)
Gabriel is still speaking and referring to Michael as another being. "These things" refers to v20 "...and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia..." Again, a conflict with Satan is being described.
Third Use of Michael
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." (Dan 12:1)
It is Christ who stands for us, who offers to stand in our place in the judgment. The phrase "written in the book" connects this with the judgment. "Thy people shall be delivered" is referring to God's people being delivered from the powers of darkness in a time of great conflict, a "time of trouble such as never was."
Fourth Use of Michael
This is the only Biblical reference to use the exact term "Michael the archangel:"
"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." (Jude 1:9)
Again, there is a conflict between Christ and Satan, this time over the body of Moses who was buried by God Himself (Deut 34:5-6). We know that Christ was successful in raising Moses from the dead because Moses later appeared at the transfiguration (Matt 17:3). Some have argued that since Michael the archangel said "The Lord rebuke thee" he was calling on the Lord to do the rebuking and therefore could not be the Lord himself. However, Zech 3:2 shows that this is not necessarily so as the speaker here, obviously the Lord, says the same thing:
"And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee... " (Zech 3:2)
The confusion can be cleared up when we allow the Bible to defin its own terms. Who would contend with Satan for the body of Moses but Jesus? No angel has the power to raise him from the dead.
Fifth Use of Michael
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels," (Rev 12:7)
This verse says that the angels are Michael's angels. He is obviously in charge of them in some way and could even be understood to have ownership of them. Peter, talking of Jesus, says:
"Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." (1Pet 3:22)
Angels are subject to Jesus not to another angel. Calling Jesus by the name "Michael the archangel" is not degrading as some think. It no more makes Him an ordinary angel than calling him the "Lamb of God" makes Him an animal. He is not "an" angel, rather He is "the head of" the angels. Compare:
"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." Psalms 91:11
"But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb 1:13-14)
And so we see that, clearly, Michael the archangel is a term for Jesus. It is especially used for Him in His pre-incarnate state and/or when He is in conflict with the powers of darkness who would challenge His position and title.