‘Michael the Great Prince’—Who Is He?
THE spirit creature Michael is not mentioned often in the Bible, but when he is, the context is always dramatic. In Daniel we see him fighting wicked angels on behalf of God’s people. In Jude he is disputing with Satan over the body of Moses. And in the book of Revelation he casts Satan and his demons down to the earth. Evidently, Michael is a key figure in heaven. Hence, it is proper to wonder, Who is Michael?
For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses have taught that Michael is a heavenly name for the only-begotten Son of God, who was named Jesus while on earth. However, most other religions view Michael as one of several archangels, as if there were more than one archangel. In view of this, Is the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses correct? What does the Bible say about Michael?
“The Prince of You People”
We are introduced to the one named Michael in the book of Daniel. There an angel of God refers to him in these words: “But the prince of the royal realm of Persia was standing in opposition to me for twenty-one days, and, look! Michael, one of the foremost princes, came to help me . . . And now I shall go back to fight with the prince of Persia. When I am going forth, look! also the prince of Greece is coming. However, I shall tell you the things noted down in the writing of truth, and there is no one holding strongly with me in these things but Michael, the prince of you people.”—Daniel 10:13, 20, 21.
Here we have a fascinating glimpse of the spirit realm. We see that spirit creatures—good and bad—are very much involved in world affairs. There was a spirit “prince of the royal realm of Persia,” opposing the activities of God’s angel. After Persia there would be a “prince of Greece,” promoting the interests of that world power. Among these spirit creatures, Michael was one of “the foremost princes.” Which nation did he guide and protect? Clearly, it was Daniel’s people, the Jews.
The name “Michael” means “Who Is Like God?” thus indicating that this foremost prince upholds Jehovah’s sovereignty. Since Michael is also a champion of God’s people, we have reason to identify him with the unnamed angel that God sent ahead of the Israelites hundreds of years before: “Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; because my name is within him.”—Exodus 23:20, 21.
It is logical to conclude that this was the angel that delivered so many important communications to God’s people. (Acts 7:30, 35; Judges 2:1-3) He had full authority from God to act in His name, just as kings in ancient times entrusted their seal rings to reliable subjects, empowering them to act in their name.—Exodus 3:2, 3; 4:10.
Is there anything here to make us believe that Michael and Jesus Christ are the same person? Well, Jesus is called “the Word.” (John 1:1) He is God’s spokesman. This special angelic messenger, too, was clearly God’s chief spokesman to the Israelites.
Michael ‘Stands Up’
Michael was “the prince of you people.” But he was to receive additional authority. We next see him in the final chapter of the book of Daniel. “And during that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people. And there will certainly occur a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time.”—Daniel 12:1.
Daniel, in Da chapter 11, had just described the march of world powers from his own time on into the future. He had accurately described the fall of Persia and the rise of Greece. Then came the partitioning of the Greek empire. Two of the resulting political entities—the king of the north and the king of the south—would vie for ascendancy and control over God’s people. At the climax of that rivalry, Michael would “stand up.” What does this mean?
Well, in other parts of this same prophecy, the term “stand up” means that the person assumes authority to rule as a king. (Daniel 11:3, 4, 7, 20, 21) Hence, when Michael ‘stands up’ he, too, starts to rule as a king. Consider the implications of this.
Before Daniel died, the last Jewish king, Zedekiah, had been deposed. There would be no Jewish king for centuries to come. Daniel’s prophecy showed that one day in the future God’s people would once again have a king—Michael.
Ezekiel, Daniel’s contemporary, foretold the coming of one “who has the legal right” to rule again as king of God’s people. (Ezekiel 21:25-27) This one is not to be identified with the Levite Maccabees who exercised some authority during a brief period of independence. Not being descendants of King David, they had no “legal right” to be kings. Rather, it was Jesus Christ who was anointed by God to rule as king in a heavenly kingdom. (Luke 1:31-33; 22:29, 30; Psalm 110:1) He was the only one thus anointed. It is therefore only logical to say that Jesus and Michael are the same person.
In Daniel chapter 7, there is another prophecy about the march of world powers that has parallels with Daniel chapter 11. At the climax of that prophecy, however, we read that “someone like a son of man” was “given rulership and dignity and kingdom.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) The one “like a son of man” is widely recognized as Jesus. (Matthew 10:23; 26:64; Revelation 14:14) Hence, in the climax of one prophecy, Jesus becomes a king. In the other prophecy in Daniel, Michael becomes a king. Since both prophecies deal with the same time and the same event, surely it is reasonable to conclude that they are also dealing with the same person.
We next read of Michael in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The book of Jude tells us: “But when Michael the archangel had a difference with the Devil and was disputing about Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms, but said: ‘May Jehovah rebuke you.’” (Jude 9) This incident helps to show the closeness of Michael to God’s ancient people. Therefore, it supports the argument that he was the angel that went ahead of the Israelites to protect them.
We learn from Jude that Michael had the post of archangel. In fact, he was the archangel, since no other archangel is mentioned in the Bible, nor does the Bible use “archangel” in the plural. “Archangel” means “Chief of the angels.” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) Among God’s spirit servants, only two names are associated with authority over angels: Michael and Jesus Christ. (Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7) This, too, argues that Jesus and Michael are the same.
Interestingly, the name of Jesus is linked with the word “archangel” in one of Paul’s letters. The apostle writes: “The Lord [Jesus] himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) The context places this event during “the presence of the Lord,” when Jesus has started to rule as king.—1 Thessalonians 4:15; Matthew 24:3; Revelation 11:15-18.
It is Jehovah’s will and arrangement for Jesus to resurrect the dead. (John 6:38-40) It is God’s trumpet that sounds the call for the dead to come back to life, just as God instructed that trumpets be used for an assembly of his people in ancient times. (Numbers 10:1-10) Jesus issues “a commanding call” to the dead to come forth, just as he did on occasion while on earth. (John 11:43) But now he calls, not with a man’s voice as he did then, but with all the power of “an archangel’s voice” (en pho·neʹ arkh·ag·geʹlou). However, only an archangel can call with an archangel’s voice! And no one but Jesus has been given the authority to resurrect the dead. Hence, this rousing prophecy gives additional strong reason for identifying Jesus with the archangel, Michael.
War in Heaven
The final appearance of the name Michael in the Bible is in the book of Revelation. There we read: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail.” (Revelation 12:7, 8) Here we see Michael in action as God’s archangel. He, along with “his angels,” defeats Satan and casts him down to the earth.
This is the beginning of the “short period of time” before Satan’s wicked system is completely destroyed. After the end of Babylon the Great at the hands of the nations, the nations themselves are destroyed by Jesus and his angelic armies. (Revelation 12:12; 17:16, 17; 19:11-16) Finally, Satan is abyssed for a thousand years, after which he suffers complete annihilation in “the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:1, 2, 10) This—the long-promised final ‘crushing of Satan’s head’—is also accomplished by Jesus, along with his resurrected spiritual brothers.—Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16; Romans 16:20.
Since Jesus is the one prophesied to crush Satan’s head, and since he accomplishes all these other judgment acts, it is only logical to conclude that he would lead heaven’s armies in the casting of Satan out of heaven. Hence, the conquering Michael referred to in Revelation 12 must be Jesus, who was told by Jehovah to “go subduing in the midst of [his] enemies.”—Psalm 110:1, 2; Acts 2:34, 35.
The appearance of the name Michael, instead of Jesus, in Revelation chapter 12 draws our attention to the prophecy considered earlier in Daniel chapter 12. In Daniel we read of Michael’s standing up. (Daniel 12:1) In Revelation chapter 12, Michael acts like a conquering monarch throwing Satan down to the earth. The result: “Woe for the earth and for the sea.”—Revelation 12:12.
Jesus an Angel?
Some object to identifying Jesus with the angel of Jehovah mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. For Trinitarians, of course, such an identification poses a problem since it shows conclusively that he is not equal to Jehovah God. But even some who do not accept the Trinity doctrine feel that Jesus’ identity with an angel somehow detracts from his dignity.
Remember, though, that the basic meaning of “angel” (Hebrew, mal·’akhʹ; Greek, agʹge·los) is “messenger.” As the “Word” (Greek, loʹgos), Jesus is God’s messenger par excellence. Remember, too, that as the archangel, as well as “the firstborn of all creation,” Jesus had the highest rank among the angels even before he came to earth.—Colossians 1:15.
True, the apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “He [Jesus] has become better than the angels, to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.” (Hebrews 1:4; Philippians 2:9, 10) However, this describes his situation after his having been here on earth. He was still the archangel and “the beginning of the creation by God.” (Revelation 3:14) But he became better than the angels. The ‘more excellent name’ or position is something he did not possess before coming to earth. (These scriptures contradict the Trinitarian concept that the Son is and always has been equal in every way to the Father.)
Hence, the fact that Michael is the archangel, chief of the angels, the fact that he stands up to rule as King, and the fact that he takes the lead in casting Satan out of heaven at the time of the birth of God’s Kingdom all lead us to just one conclusion: ‘Michael the great prince’ is none other than Jesus Christ himself.—Daniel 12:1.
[Blurbs on page 28, 29]
Michael is the archangel who became a king . . .
. . . He also took the lead in ousting Satan from heaven