Michael the Archangel
Who exactly is the mysterious figure we encounter in the scripture known as Michael the Archangel? We sometimes think of him as the “Guardian Angel” and protector of the nation of Israel and at times associate him with the Cherub flanking the throne of God. In the book of Daniel, he identifies him as “The Great Prince.”
This enigmatic figure is practically a household name, but in fact, he is only mentioned three times in scripture. Daniel mentions him, and that is all we read of Michael in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we encounter him in the last two books of the bible, Jude and Revelation. At other times, we find angels who remain unidentified and we’re left to guess at who they may be.
Our personal favorite in the latter category can be found in the book of Joshua. At this point, the Israelites were preparing for what would be the first of many battles with Joshua as the commander-in-chief. Joshua had apparently gone off by himself either to pray, reconnoiter or simply to reflect on what lay ahead of his army. As he walked with the head down, deep in thought, he saw the stranger standing before him.
And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man before him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him, and said to him: Art thou for us, or for our enemies?
And he said, No; for as captain of the army of Jehovah am I now come. Then Joshua fell upon his face to the earth, and worshipped, and said to him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
And the captain of Jehovah’s army said to Joshua, Loose thy sandal from off thy foot: for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
Joshua might have been baffled and confused, but he certainly wasn’t afraid. When he asked the stranger to identify himself, we discover that the stranger was there as “captain of the army of Jehovah”. At that point, two things happened that bolster the argument that this is in fact Christ and/or Michael – 1) Joshua worships the figure and 2) the stranger allows Joshua to worship him. Had this been an angel – a created figure – he would have been quick to correct Joshua. We see this happen in Revelation when John bows before an angel, who quickly rebukes him and insists that angels are not be worshiped. Even though this “angel” is not mentioned by name, it can be argued that who we see here can be identified as Christ or Michael.
In the Book of Jude, one of the shortest books of the Bible, yet one of the richest in imagery and information, we find one of the most baffling sentences in the scriptures in the ninth verse:
But Michael the archangel, when disputing with the devil he reasoned about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a railing judgment against him, but said, the Lord rebuke thee.
Here we actually witness a “wrestling match” between Michael and the devil. Prize is the body of Moses. Even though Michael here is identified specifically as “the archangel”, we can’t read too much into it. An angel is simply a messenger and the prefix “arch” means “chief” of “head.” So here we see the battle between Jesus / Michael and the devil over the corpse of Moses. And even though the two adversaries were locked in combat, Michael refused to rebuke Satan out of some sort of respect, but instead left any rebuke to God.
That was not the only time we witness Michael / Christ locked in combat with Satan. In the famous battle described in the Book of Revelation, we learn:
And there was war in the heaven: Michael and his angels went to war with the dragon. And the dragon fought, and his angels; and he prevailed not, nor was their place found any more in the heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, the ancient serpent, he who is called Devil and Satan, he who deceives the whole habitable world, he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
And I heard a great voice in the heaven saying, now is come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren has been cast out, who accused them before our God day and night:
And *they* have overcome him by reason of the blood of the Lamb, and by reason of the word of their testimony, and have not loved their life even unto death.
Therefore be full of delight, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great rage, knowing he has a short time.”
The dragon mentioned here is obviously Satan so we’re left to ponder if the Michael mentioned here is Christ Himself.
Another way to analyze this mystery is to look at Michael’s name. Michael literally means, “Who is like God.” Put that in the form of a question, and we have “Who is like God?” Who then is like God? Who then in fact is God?
It is a grand exercise to debate this mystery. Throw in how Daniel describes the mysterious Michael as the “Chief of Princes” and we become more baffled.