The Jehovah’s Witnesses assert that Jesus in his preincarnate state was the archangel Michael. They further state that after Christ’s earthly mission, Jehovah God recreated him once again to his original mode of existence as Michael, thus denying his bodily resurrection:
“Scriptural evidence indicates that the name Michael applied to God’s Son before he left heaven to become Jesus Christ and also after his return. Michael is the only one said to be the archangel,’ meaning ‘chief angel’ or ‘principal angel.’ The term occurs in the Bible only in the singular. This seems to imply that there is but one whom God has designated chief or head of the angelic host. At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the voice of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is described as being that of an archangel, suggesting that he is, in fact, himself the archangel. This text depicts him as descending from heaven with a ‘commanding call.’ It is only logical, therefore, that the voice expressing the commanding call be described by a word that would not diminish or detract from the at authority that Christ Jesus now has as King of kings and Lord of lords. (Matt. 28:18; Rev. 17:14) If the designation ‘archangel’ applied, not to Jesus Christ, but to other angels, then the reference to an ‘archangel’s voice’ would not be appropriate. In that case it would be describing a voice of lesser authority than that of the Son of God.” (Aid to Bible Understanding [Brooklyn NY; Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1971], p. 1152)
“… So the evidence indicates that the Son of God was known as Michael before he came to earth and is known also by that name since his return to heaven where he resides as the glorified spirit Son of God.” (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 218)
The JWs reasoning is seriously flawed. First, they wrongly assume that since the Bible addresses Michael alone as an archangel that means that there is only one archangel. The scripture never states that there is only one archangel. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 indicates that Christ’s coming is announced with the voice of an archangel, not the voice of the archangel, clearly implying that there is more than one archangel. If there was only one, the Greek definite article could have been used to indicate this.
Substantiation of the fact that Michael is not the only archangel is also found in Daniel:
“But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” Daniel 10:13
The Hebrew term for “prince” is Sar. The word for “chief” is the Hebrew ri’shown or ri’shon According to The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible’s Lexical Aid to the Old Testament, it means:
- Ri’shownor ri’shon; this Heb. adj.derives from 7221. It means first (in place, time, or rank), foremost, chief, former, earlier, preceding, ancient; (as an adv.) first, before, sooner, formerly. This word occurs 182 times in the O.T. and has a very wide range of connotations. With reference to time, it means first (Gen. 32:17; Num. 10:13, 14), previous (Num. 21:26). Or formerly (Isa. 43:18; 46:9; Dan. 11:29). “Former things” in prophetic contexts means the past sins of Israel and God’s judgment upon them (Isa. 42:9). There were forefathers or patriarchs (Deut. 19:14),former days (Deut. 10:10), former prophets(Zech. 1:4; 7:7, 12), and things which were formerly foretold (Isa. 42:9; 43:9; 48:3). Gen. 40:13 means former position. Another basic meaning is a “first in a series.” It is the opp. of ‘acharown (314). It may refer to the first month (Ex. 40:2), the first day (Ex. 12:15), the former temple (Ezra 3:12), or the first born (Gen. 25:25ff). Sometimes it denotes the most prominent in a series, e.g., God is the First and the Last (Isa. 41:4). The most prominent people sat at a banquet in first place (Esth. 1:14 cf. Lk. 14:7-11). Ri’shown refers to precedence (Gen. 13:4; 33:2; Ezra 9:2). In Gen. 8:13 it means first in a temporal sequence. The most common usage is the sense of “before” or “formerly” (Gen. 28:19; Deut. 13:90. See these Gr. Words; proteros(4387), protos (4413), emprosthen (1715), and arche (746). (Ibid., Chattanooga, TN; AMG International, Inc., 1990, p. 1774, # 7223)
Hence, the term ri’shon here is equivalent to the Greek word arche, the very term used as the prefix in archangel. The fact that Michael is one of the chief or “arch” princes presumes the existence of other archangels.
Secondly, the assumption that Christ’s descending with the voice of an archangel implies that he is that angel is unwarranted. The Bible indicates that there will be angels accompanying Christ at his Second Coming. Compare the italicized portions of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 below with the passages that follow:
“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.”
“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Matthew 24:30-31
“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a Son of Man’ with a crown of gold on his head and sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” Revelation 14:14-16
If the reasoning in Aid to Bible Understanding is valid, we would be forced to assume that the angel’s loud cry somehow diminishes the authority of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. There’s more:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” Matthew 25:31
“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” 2 Thessalonians 1:7
In light of these passages, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 need not refer to Christ as an archangel, but that Christ will be accompanied by an archangel when he comes.
Thirdly, there is an entire chapter within the NT that specifically refutes the notion of Jesus being an angel. In Hebrews 1, the inspired author of the text goes out of his way to prove that Jesus is vastly superior to angels. Jesus is pictured as being both the Creator of God’s heavenly host and the One whom angels worship. An analysis of the text itself thoroughly demonstrates this:
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1-2
Jesus is both the Agent through whom God created the universe and the heir of God’s estate. God’s entire creation belongs to Christ and he is the very One that sovereignly rules over all things in heaven and earth. (Cf. Matthew 28:18; John 16:15, 17:10)
This in itself sufficiently refutes the notion that Jesus is an angel since the book of Hebrews clearly teaches that God has not subjected the world to angels:
“It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.’ In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:5-9
Contrast this to what is said of Jesus elsewhere:
“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
“which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:20-23
Since the world is under the authority of Christ this establishes that Jesus is not an angel.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation (Gr. charakter) of his being (hupostaseos), sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3
The term charakter implies that Jesus perfectly duplicates the Father’s substance, being equal with him in essence and nature. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, states:
“Viewing Christ’s exaltation and preexistence, they hymn his eternal nature. As God’s glory and hypostasis are synonymous, Christ both reflects the glory and bears the impress of the nature. It is by the Son that God is represented and acts. The Son as God’s image and impress both contains God’s glory and discloses it. As Ruler of the cosmos, he sustains all things by his mighty word, by his humiliation and exaltation he has become for us the cause of eternal salvation, and by the way of discipleship God leads those who trust in him as his children in glory (2:10). The Son’s character as image is the essential presupposition of all his saving work… It is the humiliated and exalted Christ who bears the very stamp of God’s nature.” (Ibid., abridged in one volume by George W. Bromiley [Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1985], p. 1309; italicized emphasis mine)
Murray J. Harris notes,
“When the Son is said to be ‘the radiant light of God’s glory (on apaugasma te doxes)’ (v.3 JB) and to bear ‘the imprint of God’s nature (charakter tes hupostaseos autou)’ (v. 3), he is being described as the intrinsic possessor of the nature of God without actually being given the generic title of ‘God.’ (Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Grand Rapids; Baker Book House, 1992], p. 222; italicized emphasis mine)
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words with Topical Index indicates,
“In the NT it (charakter) is used metaphorically in Heb. 1:3, of the Son of God as ‘the very image (marg., ‘the impress’) ofHis substance.’ RV. The phrase expresses that he ‘is both personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, Him of whose essence He is the adequate imprint’ (Liddon). The Son is not merely His ‘image’ (His charakter), He is the ‘image’ or impress of His substance, or essence.”(Merril F. Unger & William White Jr. [Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Pub., 1996], p. 319; italicized emphasis mine)
The very fact that Christ eternally exists with the absolute fullness of God’s substance refutes the view that Jesus is merely an angel.
The Bible is explicitly clear that there is no angel who resembles Jehovah’s essence completely and perfectly:
“For who in the skies can be compared to Jehovah? Who can resemble Jehovah among the sons of God.” Psalm 89:6 NWT
The obvious response is that none resemble Jehovah in either his nature or mighty deeds. Since Jesus perfectly reflects God’s essence, being fully divine in nature, he therefore cannot be one of these creaturely sons of God, i.e. angels.
“So he has become as much superior (Gr.- kreitton) to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior (Gr.- diaphoroteron) to theirs.” Hebrews 1:4
The term kreitton is used in Hebrews to denote both positional and qualitative superiority. Compare the following citations:
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better (kreittonos) hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18-19
“But the ministry Jesus has received is superior (diaphoroteros) to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior (kreittonos) to the old one, and it is founded on better (kreittosin) promises.” Hebrews 8:6
“It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better (kreittosi) sacrifices than these.” Hebrews 9:23
“to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better (kreitton) word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:24
In light of the above, Jesus is not only higher than the angels due to his post-resurrection exaltation, but is also superior in nature. Christ, being in essence God, is greater than the angels who are but God’s servants created to do his will. This superiority is brought out clearly by the name which Christ has inherited, with that name being “Son”:
“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’?” Hebrews 1:5
The obvious answer to this question is that God has never addressed any angelic being as his son. The very fact that God calls Jesus his son means that he cannot possibly be an angel.
“And again, when God brings his firstborn (prototokon) into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” Hebrews 1:6
Jesus is God’s firstborn, a title used to demonstrate Christ’s preeminence and superiority over all creation. It does not imply that Jesus is God’s first creation as JWs erroneously assume. (Cf. Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2; Psalms 89:26-27; Jeremiah 31:9)
As God’s preeminent Son, angels are required to worship him as the sovereign Creator, Sustainer and Ruler of all creation. This verse strongly refutes any attempt of viewing Jesus as a mere created angel, and more specifically the archangel Michael. Had Jesus been one of the angels the verse would not say “let ALL God’s angels worship him,” but rather “let all the other angels of God worship him.”
In fact, the WatchTower at one time used this very verse to prove that Jesus was not the Archangel Michael:
“His position is contrasted with that of men and angels, as he is Lord of both, having ‘all power in heaven and earth.’ Hence it is said, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him’; [that must include Michael, the chief angel; hence, Michael is not the Son of God] and the reason is, because he has ‘by inheritance obtained a more excellent Name than they.’” (The Watchtower, Nov. 1879, p. 4; bold and italicized emphasis mine)
“In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.’” Hebrews 1:7
Angels are pictured as winds and flames of fire sent forth to do God’s will. But the Son is different. Just how different becomes apparent in the following verses.
“But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne O God (ho Theos) will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, you God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’” Hebrews 1:8-9
Jesus is addressed as the God who reigns forever. He is not just an angel who has been appointed to rule on God’s throne. Being the divine Son, Jesus possesses the fullness of God’s essence. He is not a partially divine being created by Jehovah God. Rather, Jesus is the eternal God reigning in heavenly glory alongside the Father.
Furthermore Hebrews 1:7 establishes angels are servants by nature. We are also told in the book of Revelation:
“Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am A FELLOW SERVANT with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” Revelation 19:9-10
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am A FELLOW SERVANT with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’” Revelation 22:8-9
Yet the NT clearly teaches that Jesus only became a servant at the Incarnation:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature (form of) God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature (form) of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8
That Jesus only became a servant when becoming man affirms that prior to the Incarnation Jesus did not exist in the form of a servant. This being the case Jesus could not have been an angelic creature prior to the Incarnation since had he been he would have already been existing in the form of a servant. This once more establishes the case that Jesus is the eternal God and not merely an angelic creature.
“He also says, ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works 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.’” Hebrews 1:10-12
The author has God addressing Jesus as the immutable Creator and Sustainer of all creation, namely Jehovah God Almighty! (Cf. Psalm 102:25-27)
Hence, in contrast to angels who at one moment appear as wind and the next as flames of fire, Jesus is the immutable Creator God. Even though the earth and the heavens wear out, Jesus remains the same. He is both the Creator of the universe and its Immutable Sustainer. The author could not have been any clearer in describing Jesus as incarnate Deity.
Furthermore, this also establishes that Jesus never ceased to be God even when becoming man. This is evident from the fact that the author is looking back in time before the Incarnation when Jesus created all things. The inspired writer affirms that even before creation, and much more now, the Lord Jesus remains immutable in contrast to the universe which is perishing.
Therefore, being immutable Christ can never ceases from being in very “nature God”, a fact solidified by Hebrews 13:8:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Cf. Philippians 2:6)
The only difference being that at the Incarnation Christ took on a human nature without ceasing to be God. As man, Christ grew but in regards to his divine nature he remained what he was prior to his birth.
This factor sufficiently refutes JW theology which teaches that Jesus as Michael became a man, and while man no longer remained an angel. JWs then claim that after his death, Christ went back to being the archangel. Hence, the JW Jesus was an angel who changed into a man and again became the archangel Michael after his resurrection.
Here is the final line of evidence which the author presents to support Jesus’ superiority to angels:
“To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ Are not angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:13-14
God has never exalted an angelic creature to sit with him on his right hand. The fact that he has exalted Jesus to the highest place of position imaginable proves that the JW teaching on Christ being Michael is simply wrong. It is biblically indefensible.
To summarize the biblical data, we discovered that Jesus is not Michael the archangel. Instead, the book of Hebrews affirms that:
1 Jesus is the exact duplicate/imprint of God’s substance (Cf. 1:3).
2 Jesus is the Agent and Sustainer of Creation (Cf. 1:2).
3 Jesus is the Author of Salvation (Cf. 1:3b).
4 Jesus is the Son of God (Cf. 1:5).
5 Jesus is worshiped by angels (Cf. 1:6).
6 Jesus is God (Cf. 1:8).
7 Jesus is the eternal King (Cf. 1:8).
8 Jesus is Jehovah (Cf. 1:10-12; Ps. 102:25-27).
9 Jesus is Immutable (Cf. 1:10-12).
10 Jesus sits at God’s right hand. (Cf. 1:3b, 13)
These factors establish the orthodox Trinitarian position that Jesus is God the Son, the second Person of the Triune Godhead. There is absolutely no evidence supporting the JW position that Jesus is merely an archangel.
We prayerfully hope that the reader will come to know him who is the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ our risen Lord. (1 John 5:20)
All scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV).
(Note – For a biblical defense on rendering Hebrews 1:8 as, “your throne, O God” as opposed to the JW’s New World Translation’s “God is your throne”, please consult Murray J. Harris’ book Jesus as God, pp. 187-228)