This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from the MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available here.
Jude 9 offers one of the few references in Scripture to Michael the archangel. He is the only archangel named in the Bible, and his name means, “Who is like God?”
Though little is revealed in Scripture about Michael, we are given enough information to draw some conclusions. He is introduced in Dan. 10:13 as “one of the chief princes.” He helps another angel, who has been battling the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” for 21 days, to deliver an answered prayer to Daniel. Because of the reference to Michael as “one of the chief princes,” it’s possible there are additional archangels, though none is named as such.
Some commentators suggest that Gabriel (“hero of God”) may be an archangel. He appears to Daniel (Dan. 8:15-27; 9:20-27), and later to Zechariah (Luke 1:11-23) and Mary (Luke 1:26-38).
Michael is one of God’s most powerful holy angels and the protector of God’s people. He is called “the great prince” in Dan. 12:1. He leads an angelic host in a heavenly battle against the “dragon and his angels,” defeating them so there is “no place for them in heaven any longer.” Satan is thrown to earth, and his angels with him (Rev. 12:7-9).
No doubt, Michael is a powerful angelic being who serves primarily as the champion angel of Israel. The word “archangel” comes from a compound Greek term archangelos and means “ruling angel.” It only occurs twice in the New Testament (1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 9) and not once in the Old Testament.
Who Michael is not
While it’s important to understand who Michael is, it’s equally important to understand who he is not.
Michael is not Jesus. The glory, power, and majesty of Michael – and his decisive victory over Satan in the heavenly realm – lead some to conclude that Michael is another name for Jesus.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps the most vocal proponents of this view, teaching that Jehovah fashioned Michael in His first act of creation and then made all “other” things through him (see Col. 1:16 in the New World Translation). About 2000 years ago, according to the Watch Tower, Jehovah recreated Michael as Jesus the man.
Jesus later dies on a torture stake and ceases to exist in human form. Three days later, Jehovah takes Jesus’ life force and recreates it into an exalted Michael the archangel.
“[T]he Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ, before and after his life on earth,” according to the Watch Tower’s official website.
Unfortunately, the Watch Tower elevates a created being to the lofty position of “mighty god,” while stripping away the deity of Jesus, negating His incarnation, denying His substitutionary and sacrificial death on a cross, and rejecting His physical resurrection from the dead – core elements of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
Michael is not a patron saint to whom we pray. Many Roman Catholics refer to Michael as “St. Michael the Archangel,” who carries out four main responsibilities: (1) To combat Satan; (2) to escort the faithful to heaven at their hour of death; (3) to be a champion of all Christians and the church itself; and (4) to call men from life on earth to their heavenly judgment. Today, St. Michael is invoked for protection, especially from lethal enemies. He also is the patron saint of soldiers, police, and doctors.
This view of Michael aligns more closely with Scripture, yet it seems to assign him tasks the Bible does not specifically affirm. While Jesus mentions that angels carry the soul/spirit of Lazarus to Abraham’s side (Luke 16:22), He does not name Michael among these angels.
Further, while the term “saints” may in some contexts be applied to angels, or “holy ones” (e.g., Deut. 33:2-3), Scripture instructs us to direct our petitions to God the Father in the name of Jesus, who sits at the Father’s right hand as our Mediator and Intercessor (Matt. 6:9; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25).
Michael is not the Angel of the Lord. We should not confuse Michael with “the Angel of the Lord,” who is identified throughout the Old Testament and at times equated with God (e.g., Gen. 22:11-12; Ex. 3:2-4). In contrast, Michael never is called “the Angel of the Lord,” nor is he given divine status.
Ancient Israelites believed the Angel of the Lord to be a non-divine angel, “the angel of the countenance” and “the highest revelation of the unseen God.”
Catholics, for the most part, regard the Angel of the Lord as a representative of God, an actual angel, while Protestants generally believe the Angel of the Lord either is a theophany (a manifestation of Yahweh himself) or a Christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.
It’s good to keep in mind that Jesus is distinct from men and angels in that He is called monogenes (only begotten, unique; see, for example, John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). He is the Creator of all angels (Col. 1:16) and the Lord of all nations (Rev. 19:13-16).
Next: Can apostates be Christians?