In a recent video I produced, one of the commenters took exception to my statement that Jesus isn’t Michael the Archangel. The belief that Michael is the pre-human Jesus is held by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, among others.
Have witnesses uncovered some secret that for eons has lain well concealed in God’s word—something all the other Bible students and Bible scholars have missed down through the ages. Or are they jumping to conclusions based on a faulty premise? Just from where do they get this idea? As we’ll see, the answer to that question is an object lesson in the dangers of eisegetical Bible study.
The Official JW Teaching
But before we hop onto that rather tortuous ride, let’s first understand the official JW position:
You will notice from this that the entire doctrine is based on inference and implication, not on something which is explicitly stated in Scripture. In fact, in the February 8, 2002 Awake! they go so far as to acknowledge this:
“While there is no statement in the Bible that categorically identifies Michael the archangel as Jesus, there is one scripture that links Jesus with the office of archangel.” (g02 2/8 p. 17)
We are speaking about the very nature of Jesus, the one who was sent forth to explain God to us, the one whom we are supposed to imitate in all things. Would God really give us just one scripture, and that one, only an inference, to explain the nature of his only-begotten Son?
An Exegetical Look at the Question
Let’s approach this without any preconceptions. What does the Bible teach us about Michael?
Daniel reveals that Michael is one of the foremost princes among the angels. Quoting from Daniel:
“But the prince of the royal realm of Persia stood in opposition to me for 21 days. But then Michael, one of the foremost princes, came to help me; and I remained there beside the kings of Persia.” (Da 10:13)
What we can take from this is that while Michael was very senior, he was not without peer. There were other angels like him, other princes.
Other versions render it thus:
“one of the chief princes” – NIV
“one of the archangels” – NLT
“one of the leading princes” – NET
By far the most common rendering is “one of the chief princes”.
What else do we learn about Michael. We learn that he was the prince or angel assigned to the nation of Israel. Daniel says:
“However, I will tell you the things recorded in the writings of truth. There is no one strongly supporting me in these things but Michael, your prince.” (Da 10:21)
“During that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of your people. And there will occur a time of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, everyone who is found written down in the book.” (Da 12:1)
We learn that Michael is a warrior angel. In Daniel, he contended with the Prince of Persia, apparently the fallen angel who now was over the kingdom of Persia. In Revelation, he and other angels under his charge do battle with Satan and his angels. Reading from Revelation:
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled” (Re 12:7)
But it is in Jude that we learn of his title.
“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)
The Greek word here is archaggelos which according to Strong’s Concordance means “a chief angel”. The same concordance gives as its usage: “a ruler of angels, a superior angel, an archangel”. Notice the indefinite article. What we learn in Jude does not contradict what we already know from Daniel, that Michael was a chief angel, but that there were other angelic chiefs. For example, if you read that Harry, the prince, married Meghan Markle, you don’t assume that there is only one prince. You know there are more, but you also understand that Harry is one of them. It’s the same with Michael, the archangel.
Who Are the 24 Elders of Revelation?
Illustrations are all well and good, but they do not serve as proof. Illustrations are meant to explain a truth already established. So, just in case there is still doubt that Michael is not the only archangel, consider this:
Paul told the Ephesians:
“to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.” (Eph 3:15)
The nature of families in heaven must be different from those on earth given that angels do not procreate, but it appears that some form of organization or grouping is in place. Do these families have chiefs?
That there are multiple chiefs or princes or archangels can be gleaned from one of Daniel’s visions. He said :
“I kept watching until thrones were set in place and the Ancient of Days sat down.. . .” (Da 7:9)
“I kept watching in the visions of the night, and look! with the clouds of the heavens, someone like a son of man was coming; and he gained access to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him up close before that One. . . .” (Da 7:13, 14)
Evidently, there are thrones in heaven, besides the principal one that Jehovah sits on. These additional thrones are not where Jesus sits in this vision, because he is brought forth before the Ancient of Days. In a similar account, John speaks of 24 thrones. Going to the Revelation:
“All around the throne were 24 thrones, and on these thrones I saw seated 24 elders dressed in white garments, and on their heads golden crowns.” (Re 4:4)
Who else might sit on these thrones other than the foremost angelic princes or chief angels or archangels? Witnesses teach that these thrones are for the resurrected anointed brothers of Christ, but how could that be when they are resurrected only at the second coming of Jesus, but in the vision, one of them is seen talking with John, some 1,900 years ago. Additionally, a representation similar to that just described by Daniel can be seen in Revelation 5:6
“. . .And I saw standing in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures and in the midst of the elders a lamb that seemed to have been slaughtered, . . .” (Re 5:6)
Finally, Revelation 7 speaks of 144,000 out of every tribe of the sons of Israel standing before the throne. It also talks about a great crowd in heaven standing in the temple or sanctuary before the throne of God. Therefore, Jesus, the Lamb of God, the 144,000 and the Great Crowd are all depicted standing before the throne of God and the thrones of the 24 elders.
If we consider all of these verses together, the only thing that fits is that there are angelic thrones in heaven upon which sit chief angels or archangels comprising the foremost angelic princes, and Michael is one of them, but before them stands the Lamb who is Jesus together with the children of God taken from the earth to rule with Christ.
From all the foregoing, it is now safe to say that there is nothing in Scripture to indicate there is only one chief angel, only one archangel, as the Organization claims.
Can one be a chief or ruler of the angels without being an angel oneself? Of course, God is the ultimate chief or ruler of the angels, but that doesn’t make him an angel or an archangel. Likewise, when Jesus was granted “all authority in both heaven and earth”, he became the chief of all the angels, but again, being chief of the angels doesn’t require him to be an angel anymore than it requires God to be one. (Matthew 28:18)
What about the Scripture that implies Jesus is the archangel? There isn’t one. There is a scripture that might imply Jesus is an archangel, as in one of several, but nothing to imply that he is the sole archangel, and therefore Michael. Let’s read it again, this time from the English Standard Version:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Th 4:16 ESV)
“The voice of an archangel” and ‘the voice of the trumpet of God’. What could that mean? The use of the indefinite article means that this isn’t talking about a unique individual, like Michael. However, does it mean that Jesus is at least one of the archangels? Or does the phrase refer to the nature of the “cry of command”. If he speaks with the voice of the trumpet of God, does he become the trumpet of God? Likewise, if the speaks with the voice of an archangel, does it require him to be an archangel? Let’s see how “voice” is used in the Bible.
“a strong voice like that of a trumpet” – Re 1:10
“his voice was as the sound of many waters” – Re 1:15
“a voice as of thunder” – Re 6:1
“a loud voice just as when a lion roars” – Re 10:3
On one occasion, King Herod foolishly spoke with “a god’s voice, and not a man’s” (Acts 12:22) for which he was struck down by Jehovah. From this, we can understand that 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is not making a comment on the nature of Jesus, that is, that he is an angel; but rather is attributing a quality of command to his cry, for he speaks with a voice like that of someone who commands angels.
Nevertheless, this isn’t enough to remove all doubt. What we need are scriptures that would categorically eliminate the possibility that Michael and Jesus are one and the same. Remember, we know with all certainty that Michael is an angel. So, is Jesus also an angel?
Paul speaks of that to the Galatians:
“Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the offspring should arrive to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.” (Ga 3:19)
Now it says: “transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.” That mediator was Moses through whom the Israelites entered into a covenant relationship with Jehovah. The law was transmitted by angels. Was Jesus included in that group, perhaps as their leader?
Not according to the writer of Hebrews:
“For if the word spoken through angels proved to be sure, and every transgression and disobedient act received a punishment in harmony with justice, how will we escape if we have neglected so great a salvation? For it began to be spoken through our Lord and was verified for us by those who heard him,” (Heb 2:2, 3)
This is a contrasting statement, a how-much-more-so argument. If they were punished for ignoring the law that came through angels, how much more so will we be punished for neglecting the salvation that comes through Jesus? He’s contrasting Jesus with the angels, which makes no sense if he is an angel himself.
But there is more. The Book of Hebrews opens with this line of reasoning:
“For example, to which one of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; today I have become your father”? And again: “I will become his father, and he will become my son”?” (Heb 1:5)
“But about which of the angels has he ever said: “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet”?” (Heb 1:13)
Again, none of this makes any sense if Jesus is an angel. If Jesus is the archangel Michael, then when the writer asks, “To which of the angels did God ever say…?”, we can answer, “To which angel? Why to Jesus silly! After all, isn’t he the archangel Michael?”
You see what nonsense it is to contend that Jesus is Michael? Indeed, the teaching of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses makes a mockery of Paul’s entire line of reasoning?
Cleaning Up Loose Ends
Someone might point out that Hebrews 1:4 supports the idea that Jesus and the angels were peers. It reads:
“So he has become better than the angels to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.” (Heb 1:4)
They would suggest that to be better, means he had to start out as an equal or a lessor. This might seem like a valid point, yet no interpretation of ours should ever challenge Bible harmony. “Let God be found true, though every man be a liar.” (Romans 3:4) Therefore, we want to consider this verse in context to resolve this conflict. For instance, two verses back we read:
“Now at the end of these days he has spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things.” (Heb 1:2)
The phrase “at the end of these days” is critical. Hebrews was written only a few years before the end of the Jewish system of things. In that time of the end, it was Jesus, as a man, who had spoken to them. They received God’s word, not through angels, but through the Son of man. Yet, he was no mere man. He was the one “through whom [God] made the systems of things.” No angel can lay claim to such a pedigree.
That communication from God came while Jesus was a man, lower than the angels. The Bible says about Jesus that he “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7 KJV)
It was from that lowly state that Jesus was raised up and became better than the angels.
From all we’ve just seen, it seems that the Bible is telling us that Jesus is not an angel. Therefore, he could not be Michael the Archangel. This leads us to ask, just what is the true nature of our Lord Jesus? That is a question we will do our best to answer in a future video. However, before we can move on, we still haven’t answered the question raised at the start of this video. Just why do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and teach that Michael the Archangel is Jesus in his prehuman existence?
There is much to be learned from the answer to that question, and we’ll get into it in depth in our next video.