The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 9: Where Does Jude Get This Story?
Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9 HCSB)
The death of Moses is recorded in Deut. 34:1-7, but there is no mention in this passage of Michael and Satan disputing about Moses’ body. There are many Jewish traditions about the death of Moses, but we should always approach non-biblical embellishments with caution.
In Jude’s day, however, there is an apocryphal writing called The Assumption of Moses that records a conflict between Michael and Satan. According to this account, Satan argues over the body of Moses because Moses has killed an Egyptian overseer (Ex. 2:11-12). Satan evidently argues his right to the body because Moses is a murderer.
We should not assume that Jude has erred in quoting from an apocryphal book, nor should we declare The Assumption of Moses divinely inspired because Jude quotes from it. It may help to remember that Paul cites Greek poets and sayings without suggesting their work is authoritative (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12).
“Jude did not intend to put a canonical stamp on Assumption of Moses simply because he cited it,” writes Thomas Schreiner. “He viewed this story as true or helpful, or he believed it was an illustration of the truth he desired to teach.”
The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the first portion of Chapter 9: The Lord Rebuke You: Michael and the Devil.
Nevertheless, these dreamers likewise defile their flesh, despise authority, and blaspheme glorious beings. Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these people blaspheme anything they don’t understand, and what they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals – they destroy themselves with these things. (Jude 8-10 HCSB)
Several years ago as I trimmed grass in my yard, a small garter snake slithered out from the weeds. He coiled and struck my electronic weed trimmer. This was an odd scene, as garter snakes generally flee predators and prefer to hide their heads and flail their tails rather than move aggressively. They also discharge a malodorous, musky-scented secretion to ward off danger, or simply slither away into the brush. Even when they do attack, the mild venom in the fangs in the backs of their mouths is muted by large gums in the front, making it difficult to deliver venom to larger predators.
So, the sight of this relatively harmless snake, less than a foot in length, taking the fight to my weed trimmer, was curious to say the least. His open jaws were far too small to capture the housing of the trimmer, and he bounced backward after his first strike. Then, he recoiled and struck again. And again. Then he struck a final time, connecting with the whirring fishing line beneath the housing, which spun him around a couple of times and tossed him several feet into a ditch, where he gave up the fight (and ultimately, the ghost).
How remarkable was the snake’s tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds. But even more notable was the realization that the snake could not distinguish between a lethal living predator and a buzzing weed whacker. It cost him his life.
We see a similar comparison in Jude, as the author likens false teachers to brute beasts who operate on instinct, are incapable of reasoning, and who bring swift and certain destruction on themselves as they speak arrogantly to demons, pollute their souls, and slough off the authority of their Creator.
This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
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.
Rev. 12:9 – So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him. (HCSB)
The great dragon was thrown out
The battle ends and John records that “there was no place for them [Satan and his angels] in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him” (vv. 8-9).
John makes it clear that the dragon is a sign, or symbol, of Satan. The apostle is not given to myths and legends but uses the imagery of a vile, dangerous, and wicked beast to describe the one who once was “an anointed guardian cherub” (Eze. 28:14) and who appears to people as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). John rips away the Devil’s mask and exposes him for who he is:
Rev. 12:7 – Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, 8but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer. 9So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him. 10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before God day and night. 11They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death. 12Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you with great fury, because he knows he has a short time. (HCSB)
We are taken from the “great signs” of the pregnant woman and the great fiery red dragon (vv. 1-6) to a cosmic battle between Michael and the dragon involving good and evil angels. The conflict is severe, and Michael emerges victorious. Satan and his angels are thrown to earth. No longer does the “accuser of our brothers” have access to the throne of heaven. While the victory is won at the unseen level, John is careful to record that the Devil is conquered “by the blood of the Lamb” and by the testimony of Christian martyrs. The heavens rejoice in Satan’s defeat, but the earth is warned that the evil one descends with fury, knowing his time is short.
Who is Michael? When and where does this war in heaven break out? Whose loud voice in heaven do we hear? And why are the earth and sea warned of the Devil’s final days in power? These six verses are shrouded in mystery, yet they tell us a great deal about the angelic host and the ongoing battle between good and evil.