IS JESUS AN ARCHANGEL?
By Juan Baixeras
The purpose of this study is to review the claim by some that Jesus is the archangel Michael. As we shall see, this view does not have any Scriptural support in favor, but it does have very strong Scriptural support against it.
ORIGINS OF THIS IDEA
The origins of this idea of Jesus being an angel are the product of Greek philosophy upon the early church of the first few centuries. Specifically, it is the influence of Gnosticism that the early church fought so emphatically against. Let us briefly review the Gnostic belief so that we may see more clearly where this idea developed.
Gnosticism - is a term derived from a Greek word for knowledge (gnosis) and applied to a philosophical and religious movement that influenced the Mediterranean world from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. Gnostics claimed that salvation comes from a secret knowledge or understanding of reality possessed only by its spiritually elite devotees.
This saving knowledge was revealed to them by transcendent messengers from the spirit world. Gnostics believed that there were many mediators who brought this gnosis between whom they consider their perfect, pre-existent Aeon, whom they call Proarch, Propator, and Bythus, and describe as being invisible and incomprehensible, and man. Jesus was just one of those mediators. Jesus, to a Gnostic was not a human being at all, but a spirit being (an angel). This problem of dehumanizing Jesus was a problem even as early as the Apostle Paul and Johns time. Both of these authors wrote against this problem, as in 2 Corinthians 11:3, and 2 John v 7, and later Christians, such as Ignatius, also wrote to stress the humanity of Jesus for much the same reason.
Let us now review some basic definitions that will help us in this study. Let us turn to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible for some help.
Angel - The word angel comes from the Greek word anggelos, meaning, "messenger." The corresponding Hebrew word malakh likewise means "messenger." Although these terms are sometimes used to designate human messengers, as a prophet or a priest, differentiation is usually made from context. Other terms for angels were "sons of God," (Gen 6:2-4; Job 1:6; 38:7); "heavenly beings" (Pss 29:1;89:6); "holy ones" (89:5,7; Dan 4:13); "heavenly hosts" (Luke 2:13); and "hosts," as in the familiar phrase "Lord of hosts," originally meaning "Lord of armies" (1 Samuel 1:11). Angels are spirits, supernatural celestial beings. They are majestic beings that God created to execute His will.
Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states the following on angel.
Angel - a "messenger", sent whether by God or by man or by Satan," is also used of a guardian or representative." An order of created beings belonging to God and engaged in His service. "Angels" are spirits (i.e. Heb1:14), they have no material bodies as men have although they can assume human form.
It also states that the prefix in archangel which is arche can be translated as "principalities." Thus, an archangel can be understood as the principal angel.
Strong's Greek Dictionary defines Archangel as: 1. Chief angel.
Thayer's Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament defines Archangel as: 1.Chief of the angels, chief, prince, or one of the princes and leaders of the angels.
It is clear that an archangel is just an angel of higher rank. He is the leader of the angels, or as is sometimes used, a prince of the angels. But he is still an angel. He is not a different creation than the angels that he leads. It is similar to the title of queen-bee. The queen-bee is the queen of the bees, but nobody would ever say that she was not a bee. It is the same with an archangel. Michael as a matter of fact is one of several archangels. This is evident in Daniel 10:13:
"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me."
Footnote from the New American Bible on Daniel 10:13: Michael - the angel who is the protector of God's people.
As Daniel 10:13 states clearly, Michael is ONE of the chief princes. There are obviously more. Daniel shares this rank with several others. Jesus on the other hand shares his rank with no one, he is second only to God.
Philippians 2:9-10: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth."
"Of those in heaven" in the above verse means the angels, including Michael the angel.
Angels as was mentioned earlier are spirit beings that serve God as messengers. This is what the term angel means. Even more specific is the fact that angels are sent to serve those of us who are to inherit salvation. Hebrews 1:13 &14 states:
"But to which of the angels has he ever said: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?" Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation."
Jesus obviously inherited salvation, this is why he is referred to as the firstborn from the dead. He is the first to inherit the promised salvation. This is very conclusive that Jesus is not an angel.
THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS
Groups that claim that Jesus is the archangel Michael completely ignore the entire first chapter of Hebrews which was written for the most part for the explicit reason of refuting the Gnostic idea that Jesus was an angel. Let us review Hebrews chapter 1 in detail.
Hebrews 1:3-4: "When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs."
In this verse it is clear that Paul is distinguishing between Jesus and the angels. He is saying that Jesus is far superior to the class of beings called angels. His name is more excellent than theirs is. Unless you ignore all the known rules of language, you can see that Jesus is not included in the term "angels." Then in verse 5 Paul starts a series of verses meant specifically to distinguish between the Son of God and the angels. Verse 5 states:
"For to which of the angels did God ever say: 'You are my Son; this day I have begotten you?" Or again: "I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a son to me?"
It cannot be stated any clearer than this. Paul is saying that God has never said to an angel "This day I have begotten you," but He has said it of Jesus. Again, Paul says that God has never said to an angel "I will be a Father to him, and he shall be my son," yet, He has said it of Jesus. The whole purpose of this verse is to distinguish Jesus from the angels. If Jesus is the archangel Michael then this verse makes absolutely no sense whatsoever along with the rest of this chapter as we shall see.
Verse 6 states:
"And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says 'Let all the angels worship him.
As you can read, the first-born is distinguished again from the angels. Paul is showing his superiority over them by saying that ALL the angels will worship the first-born. This is in agreement with Philippians 2:9-10 & Hebrews 1:4 which we covered earlier. Then in verse 7-8 he goes on to say. "Of the angels he says but of the Son A clear distinction between the two.
Hebrews 1:13 is probably one of the best verses in order to see that an angel cannot be the Messiah. It reads:
"But to which of the angels has he ever said: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?"
It is clear by the verse above that God has never said this statement to any angel, but He has said it to the Messiah, Jesus. This verse is a quote of Psalm 110:1&4 where King David prophesizes what YHWH will say to the Messiah:
"YHWH says to you, my lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool You are a priest in the order of Malchizedek."
In referring to Jesus the Christ, Paul quotes Psalm 110:1 in Hebrews 1:13 and Psalm 110:4 in Hebrews 7:17. It is crystal clear that the Messiah cannot be an angel because God promises the Messiah in Psalm 110:1 that He will make his enemies his footstool, and then Paul says that God has never said to an angel "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." It does not take a high intellect to see that it is a literary impossibility for the Messiah to be an angel. If the Messiah cannot be an angel, and Jesus is the Messiah, then Jesus is not an angel. It is not brain surgery. All you have to do is read.
Another verse which is very conclusive is Hebrews 2:5. Paul in describing Jesus in this verse states:
"For it was not to angels that he subjected the world to come."
Paul states that it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, then he goes on to say in verse 6-8 that God did subject all things under the feet of the Son of Man. This is in agreement with Philippians 2:9-10 and Hebrews 1:4&6. Conclusion to this verse is that the Son of Man (Jesus) whom God subjected the world to come is not an angel.
1 Thessalonians 4:16: "For the Lord himself with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
This is the primary verse that people who claim that Jesus is an archangel use in order to support their theory. It is a very week interpretation and stretches Biblical interpretations beyond its limits. They claim that because it says that the Lord himself will come with the voice of an archangel, that Jesus is therefore an angel. This reasoning is neither sound nor conclusive. Let us see what this verse really means.
Paul is using symbolic language in order to describe the coming of the Lord Jesus. It is obviously symbolic because Jesus comes with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. Unless we are prepared to claim that God has an actual trumpet that He loaned to Jesus for his Second Coming, this is symbolic language. Also, the argument could be made that if Jesus is the archangel because he comes with the voice of an archangel, then one could argue that Jesus is God because he comes with the trumpet of God.
We must first understand what Paul means by "with a voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God." First let's see what "Trumpet of God" means. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states:
Trumpet - The Greek word salpinx. 1. Is used of the natural instrument. 2. Of the supernatural accompanyment of divine interpositions (intervention).
Voice of an archangel signifies authority. In the same verse just before it says "with the voice of an archangel," it says that the Lord will come with a "word of command." Both of these terms signify authority. Let's look at it a little more closely.
"For the Lord himself with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God."
It is similar to our modern saying: "He came in shouting, roaring like a lion."
Do we mean that the person who came in shouting is an actual lion? Of course not. We are just using the symbolic language of a roaring lion (because lions roar very loudly) to get our point across about how loud this person was shouting. In this verse Paul is just emphasizing the point that Jesus is coming with the authority of God. Jesus is coming with a word of command, with authority similar to what the archangels came with in the Old Testament. In the Bible archangels have always come with the authority of God. With these understandings we can best paraphrase this verse in the following manner:
"For the Lord himself with the authority of God will come from heaven to intervene on God's behalf, and the dead in Christ will rise first."
This is what the whole paragraph from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is about. It is about the sequence of events in the resurrection. It is not about the nature of Jesus. If you read these verses without preconceived ideas you will never conclude that this verse was intended to explain the nature of Jesus.
In a similar twist, Vine's Expository Dictionary states the following on the word "archangel" as it is used in this verse.
"In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the meaning seems to be that the voice of the Lord Jesus will be of the character of an "archangelic" shout."
JESUS IS WORSHIPED
Another point to be considered is the fact the Jesus is worshiped in the New Testament. Not in the sense of being worshiped as God, as Trinitarian theology will have you believe, but as the king of Israel, the Messiah. Kings were commonly worshiped in those days and they still are today.
Worship - to make obeisance, do reverence to. The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to man or to God.
It was common in those days to worship the king. It was meant to show reverence to the king. This is why people who came before the throne of a king always bowed down in front of him.
"So the king (Solomon) shall desire your beauty; for he is your lord, and you must worship him" (Hendricksons & NAB Psalm 45:12).
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
Why are they worshiping him? Because he is the king of the Jews. Bringing gifts was and still is customary when coming in the presence of kings or heads of state. This is why the magi brought gifts. You will find that in every instance that someone is prostrating themselves and doing homage to Jesus it is because he is the Messiah, the Son of God, the king of Israel.
Jesus is obviously worshiped in the New Testament, yet the Bible says that we should never worship angels. Colossians 2:18 states:
"Let no one disqualify you, delighting in self-abasement and worship of angels."
The New American Bible has a footnote on this verse which says:
Colossians 2:18: "Ascetic practices encouraged by false teachers included subjection of self-humbly to their rules, worship of angels, and cultivation of visions."
Jesus is worshiped, yet we are told explicitly by Paul not to worship angels. The only logical conclusion is that Jesus must therefore not be an angel.
CONCLUSION - After careful review of the Scriptures, the evidence is in massive contradiction to the idea that Jesus is the archangel Michael. In order to adhere to this view we would have to remove the entire first chapter of Hebrews from the New Testament. Hebrews is extremely clear and easy to understand. It says this of angels but this of the Son We are then told in Colossians not to worship angels, yet Jesus is clearly worshiped. I honestly do not see any way that a person can claim that Jesus is the archangel Michael and also claim that it is Biblical. This view of Jesus is as incorrect as the Trinitarian view. Some people try and justify this view by saying that an archangel is not an angel but a different creature. This is absurd and has no support Biblically or secular. There are no references at all anywhere that agree with this idea. Please study the Scriptures without any pre-conceived ideas and it will be clear to you. I would suggest reading "The Messiah of God" for more information on who the Bible does say that Jesus is.