Saturday, October 15

Are Jesus and Michael the Archangel the Same Being?

Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ was once Michael the archangel, before becoming flesh during the first century.[1] In the Bible, Michael appears in the book of Daniel, and is referenced in the New Testament books of Jude and Revelation. The name "Jesus" appears approximately 900 times in the Greek New Testament - six of these in Jude, and fourteen of these in the book of Revelation.[2] This numbering does not include for the many times "Lord," "Christ," "Son of Man," "Son of God," or "Son of David," among other titles, are used of Jesus. Suffice to say, the archangel Michael is referenced three times in Daniel, once in Jude, and once in Revelation. The Seventh Day Adventist church also teaches that Jesus is Michael the archangel, though a bit different from Jehovah's Witnesses teaching in that Adventists still believe that Jesus has been God for eternity. Does this claim agree with what the Bible teaches? (Photo credit: Michael the archangel, from the Monastery of St. Catherine at Sinai, dated from the 13th century) 

Just as St. Paul writes in 2nd Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (TNIV). As such, if a denomination and cult taught that Jesus was Michael, against the express teaching of God's Word, it ought to be examined, rebuked, and corrected. This article will address the question of Jesus' relation to Michael the archangel, and is not intended to address every doctrine and aspect of Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. Ellen G. White (1827-1915), who formed the Seventh Day Adventist church, taught that "Moses passed through death, but Michael came down and gave him life before his body had seen corruption. Satan tried to hold the body, claiming it as his; but Michael resurrected Moses and took him to heaven. Satan railed bitterly against God...but Christ did not rebuke His adversary... He meekly referred him to His Father, saying, 'The Lord rebuke thee.'"[3]

White also conveyed, "When Jesus stands up; when his work is finished in the Most Holy, then there will be not another ray of light to be imparted to the sinner....The light is made to reach far ahead, where all is total darkness. MICHAEL stands up."[4] "As Christ and the angels approached the grave, Satan and his angels appeared at the grave, and were guarding the body of Moses, lest it should be removed. As Christ and his angels drew nigh, Satan resisted their approach, but was compelled, by the glory and power of Christ and his angels to fall back. Satan claimed the body of Moses, because of his one transgression; but Christ meekly referred him o his Father, saying, 'The Lord rebuke thee.'"[5] "Just before going into the meeting, I had a revival of some interesting scenes which had passed before me in vision...It seemed to me that the angels were making a rift in the cloud and letting in the beams of light from heaven. The subject that was presented so strikingly was the case of Moses....The angels buried him, but the Son of God soon came down and raised him from the dead and took him to heaven."[6] "As a people we must stand as did the world's Redeemer. When in controversy with Satan, in regard to the body of Moses, Christ durst not bring against him a railing accusation."[7]

Essentially, this is in reference to Jude 1:9, which says, "But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you.'" As for the Jehovah's Witnesses teaching, Watchtower teaches that "The foremost angel, both in power and authority, is the archangel, Jesus Christ, also called Michael."[8] Evidently, both the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus is (or was) Michael the archangel. The Witnesses believe that Christ is the incarnate Michael. They believe that Jesus was the first creation of God, and that Jesus made "other things" in creation, but not "all things." Along with this, they teach that when Jesus returns, it will be as Michael. Before we continue, however, it is necessary to establish what "angel" means.

In Hebrew, the word for angel is mal'ak, meaning a "messenger, representative, an angel" (BLB Lexicon), or "one sent, [as in] a messenger" (Gesenius's Lexicon). The Greek word for angel is aggelos, meaning "a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God." In the context of Michael the archangel, however, we are referring not to an earthly, human messenger as in the "angel of the church of Ephesus" (Revelation 2:1) or as in "the angel of the church of Sardis" (Revelation 3:1), but as in a heavenly being, such as those described in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. A description of a heavenly angel, which generally comes to mind when someone is speaking of angels, can be found in Hebrews 1:7, "In speaking of the angels he says, 'He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire,'" as well as Hebrews 1:14, "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" With this knowledge in mind, we can further examine aforementioned claims about the relation between Jesus and Michael.

Philippians 2:6-7 declares, "[Jesus,] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature [or form] of a servant, being made in human likeness." Jesus "took the form of a servant," and as such, was not a servant prior to His birth in Bethlehem. This is because an angel is a servant, according to Hebrews 1:7, 14. This is one demonstration of the fact that Jesus is not an angel, nor was He. He took on the nature or form of a servant, He was not a servant prior to His birth. In regard to the Jude 9 text, note that Michael is probably the head of the angels, hence his title as "archangel" (some suggest that Satan was once head of the angels before his fall), a title which is attributed only to Michael in the Bible. He is, however, merely an angel, and not God. In Matthew 4:10, Jesus rebuked Satan by his own authority, whereas in Jude 9, we read that Michael "did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, 'The Lord rebuke you.'" Jesus was surely not afraid to rebuke Satan, but Michael was. Clearly, Jesus was more authority than Michael, if nothing else. Jesus also rebuked Satan in Matthew 16:23.

Some may argue that Jesus did not attain authority until after His resurrection, because He says in Matthew 28:18, "All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me." This is an inaccurate claim, however, because Jesus rebuked the devil long before His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. If Michael and Jesus were the same being, why did Michael defer to the Lord? Romans 10:9 says that "Jesus is Lord," along with Philippians 2:11, "Jesus Christ is Lord," along with several other references. St. Paul calls Jesus, "Lord," numerous times, such as in Romans 1:4, "Jesus Christ our Lord," in 1st Corinthians 1:3, He is called the "Lord Jesus Christ," as well as throughout St. Paul's letters. James also called Jesus "the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1), along with St. Peter, who calls Him "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2nd Peter 3:18). John also calls him the "Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:21).

Significantly, Jude calls Jesus "Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord" (Jude 4), yet Jude does not call Michael "Lord," but relays the account of Michael, who defers to the Lord. Not once in Scripture is Michael called Lord, or Michael called Jesus. If Michael were Jesus, why are both mentioned in Jude with a distinction made, and why do both appear in Revelation? To be clear, Jesus Himself claimed to be "Lord" on more than one occasion (see John 13:13, for example), yet Michael did not. It is true that "Lord" can also mean a master or ruler, but evidently, the Bible is clear that Jesus is more than a mere master - He is also called God. However, Michael is called neither Lord nor God. Daniel 10:13 calls Michael "one of the chief princes," Jude 9 calls Michael "the archangel," and the reference in Revelation 12:7 says, "...Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back."

Taken as a whole, Scripture is clear that Jesus is Lord and God, whereas Michael is the archangel, and not God. Jesus is called God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3, 14, 18; 10:33; 20:28; Colossians 1, 2:9; Philippians 2; Hebrews 1, etc.), Jesus claimed to be God (John 10:30, 13:19, 14:8-11, etc.), and even the Father calls Jesus, "God" (Hebrews 1:8). Nehemiah 9:6 says, "You alone are Lord." 1st Kings 8:60 says, "the LORD is God [and] there is no other," along with Isaiah 45:5, which says "I am the LORD, and there is no other" (see also 45:6, 18; Ephesians 4:5, etc). When Jesus returns in Revelation 19:16, on his robe and thigh is written the name "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." God's Word is also clear that there is one God. Yet Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, are all called God. Isaiah 43:10 is clear that no god was formed before God, nor will there be one after Him - He is eternal. This monotheistic concept is seen throughout both Testaments. In fact, another point to consider is worship. Though Michael is a powerful being, he is not to be worshiped. 

Hebrews 1:6 says, referring to Jesus and quoting 2nd Samuel 7:14 and 1st Chronicles 17:13, "Let all God's angels worship Him." This can also be seen in Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9, where John bows to the heavenly messenger, who in response says, "Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to Jesus' testimony. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy." St. Paul calls the "worship of angels... unspiritual" (Colossians 2:18). Surely, then, we are not to worship angels. However, Jesus is to be worshiped. Jesus said to worship God alone (Matthew 4:10), and yet Jesus is worshiped, in Matthew 2:2 and 11, 14:33, 28:9; John 9:35-38, 20:28, Philippians 2:10-11, and Hebrews 1:6. Hebrews 2:5 states, "It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking," and 2:9 says, "But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone." Hebrews 2 teaches that God has not subjected the world to come to the rule of angels, but to Jesus. This demonstrates that Jesus is not, nor was He, an angel.

Jehovah's Witnesses claim that 1st Thessalonians 4:6 supports their position, which says, "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first." Since the verse has the phrase, "with the voice of the archangel," this allegedly supports the position that Jesus is Michael. In actuality, the verse teaches that when the Lord descends from heaven, it will be the archangel, in his own voice, who accompanies him. Those who hold to this doctrine will also have to answer Daniel 10:13, which, as noted earlier, calls Michael the "one of the chief princes." Does this mean that Jesus has equals in heaven that are angels? What would their names be?

According to The King Messiah Project, "the Jehovah’s Witnesses think that Jesus will return as the archangel Michael. Keeping this in mind, Revelation 19:11-12 describes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Will He be coming as Michael? Not according to verse 12, which states that 'he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself:' 'And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. (12) His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.' Since Revelation 19:12 teaches that Jesus will have 'a name written, that no man knew, but he himself,' the Jehovah’s Witnesses must be incorrect by thinking that Jesus is Michael. After all, according to this verse, Jesus cannot be Michael because nobody will know His true name at His Second Coming."[9] 

From the Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai (1200's)
It should be noted that in the Hebrew Bible, when Jesus Christ appeared as God manifested, it was as the "angel of the Lord," but not as Michael. The angel of the Lord, or rather messenger or representative of the Lord, claimed to be God (Exodus 3), and claimed to be the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt (Judges 2:1-4). In some early manuscripts, Jude 5 read, "Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that Jesus at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe." Also, Jesus claimed more than once to be the "I AM" who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (see John 8:58). This messenger of God is also called God by Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:22). Exodus 33:20-23 and John 1:18 make clear that the Father cannot be seen (unless you are in heaven, as is the case in Isaiah 6 and Daniel 7), but God appears physically several times in the Hebrew Bible. The "messenger of the Lord" is further explained and examined in articles such as, "Who Is 'The Angel of the Lord?'" and "The Holy Trinity (Part Two)," but when God physically manifested in the Hebrew Bible, it was usually God the Son, who is Jesus. There is a clear distinction between this messenger of the Lord and Michael, as Michael never claimed to be God and is never called God. Michael and the Messenger of the Lord are not the same being, as Jehovah's Witnesses contend.

The author of Hebrews, which was likely written c.62-68 AD, seemed to have been attempting to relay Jesus' divine nature. In Hebrews 1:4-14 we read, "So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son, today I have become your Father'? Or again, 'I will be his Father, and he will be my Son'? And again, when God brings forth his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him.' In speaking of the angels he says, 'He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.' But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.' He also says, 'In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.' To which of the angels did God ever say, 'Sit at my right hand [a position of authority] until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?' Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

From the above text, it is clear that Jesus is not an angel. In the New World Translation of the Bible, which the Jehovah's Witnesses use, many of the verses cited in this article may be different. The NWT of the Bible is an inaccurate translation, and noticeably, when verses are found which contradict a particular Witness doctrine, that verse is changed, and a new edition of the New World Translation is published. We cannot pick and choose what to accept from Scripture. Allow Scripture to speak for itself, and it speaks of Jesus as Lord and God. Change it to fit your doctrine, and it speaks of Jesus as Michael. This is a fallacious and unjustified way to handle God's Word. Phrases, such as in Colossians 1:16, are inserted into the NWT. Also, indefinite articles, such as in John 1:1 are added to make it seem as if Jesus is merely "a god," and not "God" - yet three verses later, they translate the same phrase as "God." "A" or "an" is not an indefinite article in the Greek, so it must be added by the translator. There are no textual grounds for their tampering of Scripture, only theological. A committee of anonymous editors has put forth the New World Translation, and this gives little credence to their claim of authenticity. There are several other inconsistencies and problems with this translation.

One last consideration: we also need to account for the fact that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), and as God, does not change (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Isaiah 46:9-11; Ezekiel 24:14). If Jesus was once Michael or is Michael, then we would have to account for these passages. Jesus is Lord and God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2nd Peter 1:1), and is uncreated, and eternal, whereas Michael the archangel is a created being, and had a beginning. Since all Scripture is useful for rebuking and correction, we can stand firm upon God's Word and make the determination that Jesus is God, and not Michael the archangel, as taught by Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, though the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventist differ from the Witnesses view of God, for you see, Seventh Day Adventists teach that "Michael" is simply another name for Jesus. Yet what has been written in this article applies to that teaching as well. The Jehovah's Witnesses have similar teachings to Arianism, a heretical group in the fourth century AD which taught that Jesus is not equal in nature to the Father, but is a created being. Other teachings of Arianism are found within Jehovah's Witness doctrine (For further information about Arianism and its influence, see here). Therefore, is Jesus Christ the same as Michael the archangel? We hold that Jesus is not the same as Michael, but that Jesus is God, and is separate from Michael, who is simply the archangel. 

Troy Hillman

[1] The Watchtower, May 15, 1963, p. 307; The New World, 284. 
[2] Slick, Matt. "Is Jesus' name really Yeshua?." Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, n.d. Web. 15 Oct 2011.
[3] Early Writings, p. 164
[4] Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 276
[5] Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, p. 58
[6] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 659
[7] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 239.
[8] The Watchtower, November 1, 1995, p. 8
[9] "Is Jesus Michael the Archangel?." The King Messiah Project. The King Messiah Project, October 2003. Web. 15 Oct 2011.

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