As one of only three high-ranking angels mentioned in the Bible, Michael the archangel has an important role in both God’s affairs and human affairs.
Of all the angels God created, only three high-ranking angels are mentioned by name in the Bible: Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel. (Abaddon and Apollyon, Hebrew and Greek names meaning Destruction and Destroyer in Revelation 9:11, are believed to be additional names for Lucifer.)
Lucifer is described by the prophet Isaiah as falling from heaven (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:16) and Jesus attests to the fall of this evil spirit (Luke 10:18). Lucifer is now called Satan, a name meaning “adversary” (Revelation 12:9; Strong’s Lexicon).
Gabriel is depicted as a messenger angel, bringing important announcements to the servants of God (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:11-19; 26). Please see our article “Archangel Gabriel” to learn more about the role of this angel. See the article “Angels” to learn more about the purpose for these spirit beings.
Michael is the only other high-ranking angel mentioned in the Bible, being identified by name five times. Michael is a personal name, meaning, “Who is like God” (Holman Bible Dictionary, “Michael”).
Michael is also the only angel specifically called an archangel in the Bible (Jude 1:9). The word archangel comes from the Greek word archaggelos, which means “archangel” or “chief of the angels” (Strong’s Lexicon).
Michael, a rescuing angel
Michael first appears in the Bible during a vision given to the prophet Daniel. Daniel is told by an angel (likely Gabriel, since he had spoken to Daniel earlier) that he was held back from coming to Daniel. The angel said he “had been left alone there with the kings of Persia,” and that “the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood” or hindered him for 21 days. Michael then came to the angel’s aid (Daniel 10:13).
The angel said to Daniel regarding that event, “There is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince” (verse 21, New American Standard Bible).
Daniel’s prayers were in response to a prophetic message that had been revealed to him (verse 1). Michael was instrumental in helping the angel get to Daniel when some spiritual obstacle was hindering him.
The hindrance is called the “prince of the kingdom of Persia.” This “prince” is distinguished from the “kings of Persia,” human rulers with whom the angel had been left alone. As Michael the archangel is also called a “prince” in this same verse, and the passage refers to the “prince of Persia” and then the future “prince of Greece” in verse 20, it appears that these “princes” are not the human kings or rulers of these nations, but the evil spirit beings who are working behind the scenes.
Michael, a chief prince
The Bible identifies Michael as “one of the chief princes,” which implies two things.
First, it implies that angels are divided into ranks and orders.
Second, it implies that there are other spirit beings who also bear the title of “chief prince.” The word rendered “prince” means “a leader, commander, or chief, as of troops” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible).
Michael, a warrior
The apostle John also recorded a vision he had that included Michael: “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought” (Revelation 12:7). This reveals what we would think of as opposing captains or generals commanding their respective armies.
Michael, a holy, righteous angel, is seen leading the righteous angels in a fight against the “dragon”—which is Satan, the chief of the demons—and the spirit beings following him (see also Matthew 25:31, 41; Revelation 20:2).
Michael, defender of God’s will
The apostle Jude gives another view of the struggle in the spirit world. He describes how Michael the archangel disputed with Satan about the body of Moses (Jude 1:9-10). The Old Testament does not directly explain why there was a contention over Moses’ dead body, but the writer of the closing thoughts in the book of Deuteronomy explained that nobody knew where the grave of Moses was located (Deuteronomy 34:6).
Perhaps God concealed the location of Moses’ grave in order to prevent superstitious pilgrimages there or to keep his remains from being turned into an object of idolatrous veneration as the Israelites had a penchant for doing with other objects (Judges 8:26-27; 2 Kings 18:4).
Michael, a respectful angel
Another lesson for us in this narrative is the manner in which Michael contended with Satan. Jude 1:9 says Michael “dared not bring against him [Satan] a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”
Jude’s subject was ungodly men who rejected legitimate authority and spoke evil of dignitaries. Jude pointed out that even the great archangel Michael would not hurl epithets or judgments at Satan, but rather turned the matter over to God (Satan’s superior) to deal with him. Jude sets this as the proper example for us to follow.
Michael, a guardian angel
God’s Word reveals that the archangel Michael has an important role as defender or guardian of God’s people: “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people” (Daniel 12:1). To “stand up” comes from the Hebrew word amad, which means “to interpose; to come forth to render aid” (Strong’s Lexicon). The time setting of this prophecy is the end of the age (verse 4).
There is a coming time of great trouble when God will give the archangel Michael the job of intervening for God’s people.The “sons of your [Daniel’s] people” can refer to the descendants of Israel or to God’s saints. To learn more about Daniel, see the articles in the section “Understanding the Book of Daniel.” To help you identify what nations make up the modern descendants of Israel and understand why it is important for you to know, please see our article “12 Tribes of Israel” and the section on “America in Prophecy.”
As noted, the phrase “the sons of your people” can include faithful Christians living in the last days. The apostle Paul explained, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (verse 7). This tells us that the followers of Jesus Christ now make up spiritual Israel (Galatians 6:16).
The “time of trouble” spoken of in Daniel 12:1 is a reference to a future time of great distress, also called the time of Jacob’s trouble, that is yet ahead for the descendants of ancient Israel. Jesus referred to this traumatic time as a period of “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21; compare Revelation 6:9-11).
The Great Tribulation will affect the descendants of ancient Israel, God’s faithful people and the world at large. We should also note that Daniel’s people are found “written in the book”—a reference to the Book of Life—and that at that time they will be delivered (Daniel 12:1).
A positive future
As we’ve already seen, there is a coming time of great trouble when God will give the archangel Michael the job of intervening for God’s people. Perhaps he will defend the modern-day descendants of Israel from total annihilation (Matthew 24:22; Romans 9:27). Perhaps he will assist in providing protection for the faithful people of God (Revelation 3:10). Perhaps he will do both.
God has an amazing destiny in store for both the spiritual and the physical Israelites. However Michael is called upon to “stand up” for God’s people at the time of the end, we can have confidence that Michael will faithfully carry out his duty until Christ redeems His physical people Israel (Jeremiah 23:3-8) and His spiritual people (Galatians 3:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
God’s desire is for everyone to understand His way of life and become part of spiritual Israel (1 Timothy 2:4). If you wish to learn more about how you can be part of this wonderful future, we suggest you study the articles in the section on “Change.”