Michael the Archangel

As one of only three high-ranking angels mentioned in the Bible, Michael the archangel has many important roles. What does the archangel Michael do?

According to the Bible, the highest rank of angel is an archangel.

What are the names of the archangels?

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). To learn more about Satan, read our article “Satan: A Profile.”
  • 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. What does the archangel Michael’s name mean? Michael is a personal name, meaning, “Who is like God” (Holman Bible Dictionary, “Michael”).

Although the Bible indicates that there are other high-ranking angels, Michael is the only angel specifically called an archangel (Jude 1:9). The word archangel comes from the Greek word archaggelos, which means “archangel” or “chief of the angels” (Strong’s Lexicon).

The word is only used one other time in the Bible, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 describing “the voice of an archangel” that will announce the return of Jesus Christ. (Since Gabriel is the messenger angel, it’s possible he will be this archangel.)

This article will explore the following things the Bible tells us about Michael the archangel:

Archangel 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. But he was finally able to get to Daniel because “Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me” (Daniel 10:13).

Later, commenting further about that event, the angel said to Daniel, “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 overcome a spiritual obstacle that was hindering him from getting to Daniel.  

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” (verse 20), it appears that this “prince of Persia” and “prince of Greece” are evil spirit beings (demons) working behind the scenes to influence “the kings”—the human kings or rulers of these nations.

To summarize, the angel talking to Daniel was restrained from coming to him for three weeks by demonic beings who had influence over Persia. This angel was finally freed from this restraint when Michael, a “chief prince,” arrived and helped him.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the spirit world and shows us that conflict continues to occur between the righteous angels and the evil demons, who hold sway over specific nations.

Archangel Michael, a chief prince

The Bible identifies Michael as “one of the chief princes,” which implies two things.

First, it implies that there is a hierarchy of angels, with different angels divided into specific 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).

So this further implies that there are lower-ranked angels working under each of the “chief princes.”

Archangel 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 that Michael and Satan each have armies of spirit beings under their command—and these beings have waged (and will wage) war against each other.

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).

Archangel 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 shortly after Moses had died (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 comments in the book of Deuteronomy explained that God Himself buried Moses and nobody knew where the grave of Moses was located (Deuteronomy 34:6).

Perhaps God concealed the location of Moses’ grave in order to prevent his body or grave from becoming an object of worship. In the ancient and modern world, graves of religious leaders often become the sites of superstitious religious pilgrimages where the bodies of the dead leaders are venerated and prayed to.

The Israelites, like the pagan nations that surrounded them, tended to do this with other objects (Judges 8:26-27; 2 Kings 18:4). God’s law strictly prohibits the worship (or veneration) of any physical object (Exodus 20:4-5).

Archangel 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 engage in hurling epithets or harsh judgments at Satan, but rather would defer to God (Satan’s superior) to deal with him. Jude sets this example for us to follow.

Archangel 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).

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.”  

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).

Archangel Michael in the end time

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 biblical instruction summarized in our booklet Change Your Life.

About the Author

Chris Moen

Chris Moen

Chris Moen currently serves as associate pastor of the combined Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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