Is Michael an archangel or a saint?
The Bible seems to suggest both. The eighth and ninth verses of the tenth chapter of Daniel state that an angel is called “one of the chief princes” who has been “set over the affairs of God’s people”. The eleventh verse says he is one of four angels who are “sent to go toward the four winds, south, east, west, and north”.
But at some point in history it became common for Catholics to refer to Michael as a Saint. This was not always so: according to Catholic tradition he had been venerated as a Saint since about 400 AD. Yet earlier Catholic writers such as Jerome and Gregory the Great apparently said he was an angel who was not a saint even though they indicated that some considered him to be a saint.
The question then is, which view is correct? Is Michael an archangel or a Saint?
A Protestant’s view of the Bible and church history seems to suggest that Michael was always recognized as an archangel, not a saint, and this view is supported by many scholars. Among them are Dr. Roy A. Harrisville, Prof. James R White (a Presbyterian), Dr Charles Spurgeon (a Baptist), Rev Kurt Hofmann (a Lutheran), Dr John Walvoord (an Adventist) and others. However, some of these scholars are admittedly not expert in church history.
If Michael was known as a saint centuries before the time when this became common Catholic belief, then it seems reasonable to ask how and why this change occurred. The answer to this question is somewhat complex, but involves the Constantinian shift, the increasing dominance of Augustine’s theology (which held that Michael assumed a human nature in addition to his angelic nature) and perhaps also an angelic rebellion against God.
This article, however, is not a treatise on the history of Michael’s veneration, but rather an answer to the question, “Which view is correct? Is Michael an archangel or a saint?”
The answer to this question goes beyond the Bible and involves many factors. Some of these factors are matters that may be debated between those who accept biblical authority and those who do not. For example: did Israel actually worship angels? Or were some or all of them demons masquerading as angelic beings in order to deceive them? The Bible indicates that both existed (see 2 Chronicles 18:18-19; 28:5; Psalm 29:1). Did some angels rebel against God? Or were they all innocent? The Bible indicates that both occurred (see Hebrews 12:18-19; 2 Peter 2:4).
These are questions that are not easily answered by those who accept the Bible as the infallible word of God. This is because these and other issues are matters for those to whom the “word of God” includes more than just the Bible, such as Catholic scholars and Christian theologians.
Nevertheless, the Bible does have some answers to the question that we can look at.
The Bible tells us that Michael is one of the chief princes (Daniel 10:13, 20; 12:1), the archangel (Jude 1:9), and “one of the chief princes”; a prince among angels (Daniel 8:16). It also tells us that “the devil” and his followers will be thrown into an eternal lake of fire by Michael and his army (Revelation 12:7-9). We can safely conclude from this that Michael is not a saint, for saints do not fight against evil. This will be discussed more in a moment. Is Michael a servant?
The Bible also tells us that “the Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). Looking at some related verses, we find that the Messiah was called Melchizedek. His name in Hebrew means “king of righteousness” and “king of Salem”, which means “king of peace”. The fact that the Messiah is called a king makes it clear that He is not an angel such as Michael. The Messiah is also said to be a priest, which requires human nature in addition to an angelic nature, so it also rules out Michael as being the Messiah. This leaves the question of whether Michael is a servant, or someone who assists God. We know that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God (John 1:1,14). As an angelic being called an archangel, he is called the Mighty One or Strong One (Daniel 8:17, 9:21). This powerful Prince of heaven comes to earth at a time known only to God and in a manner only known to God; his coming is like lightning flashing from east to west (see Daniel 8:23-25), bringing judgment on all who reject his gospel. He did this once before when he came as the Messiah, his name then was Jesus. The Messiah’s first coming ended with judgment on all who rejected him, and the same will be true of his second coming, which takes place at some time in the future. At this second coming he will demand that all who obey him shall rule over his enemies. The Messiah is ruling over the nations with an iron rod, even as an angel of light (2 Thessalonians 2:6). It was Michael who is called a “mighty angel” (Daniel 10:13) who brings forth the sword of judgment on all. We can assume that this is what the Messiah refers to when he says “My sword will be bathed in the blood of thousands, and … my angel will strike down in wrath those who do not know God” (Revelation 19:15). He also says of his angelic host “I will bring them in and show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire, billows of smoke” (Revelation 16:20). Considering these statements, we can see that Michael is not a servant. The Messiah’s second coming as Michael will be a time of great judgment upon all who reject him.
Is Michael a god?
One of the reasons why Catholics venerate Michael as a saint is because he is considered to be a god, and in Roman Catholic doctrine it is believed that every one of the angels has its own personal heaven consisting of those he has redeemed for himself out of Hell. However, the Bible makes it clear that there is only one true God (Isaiah 44:6-8). It tells us that Yahweh alone is worthy to receive our praise (Psalm 29:1), and that He sits enthroned above the cherubim (Ezekiel 10:1-23). The Hebrews were commanded to worship only Yahweh, and not other gods. Every Christian should look at the following verses in Exodus to decide for themselves whether Michael is a god or not. If he is, then we are told to worship him also.
And Yahweh stretched out His hand over the sea; and the seagull blew with his wings, and Yahweh caused the winds to blow, and the great storm that went before them… And Yahweh destroyed all of them in His wrath. Except for Joshua, son of Nun, none remained who had begun to do good in Israel…Then Moses said: “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory.” And He said: “I will cause all My goodness to pass before you…There shall be a place, where you shall stand on mount Sinai in the sight of all the people, and there I will give you My laws and My ordinances, and you shall teach them to the people. And they shall be on your heart so that you shall remember them when you have done all of these things for which it is your duty to do. But if from among you anyone opposes these statutes which are set before him, and whether from your own country or from a foreign land…I declare to him that he must be put to death; his blood is upon himself” (Exodus 20:1-16).
Another passage in the Bible which definitively states that Michael is not a god is found in Daniel 10:13. This is in the context of a prophecy which refers to Michael, referred to as “the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people” (verse 12). In verse 13, the angel Gabriel is told by God: “Are you quite sure that it was Michael, one of the chief princes, who struck down Goliath of Gath? I know where Michael stands, and where he stands on the side of your people.”
If Michael were only a pagan angel named after the pagan god of war (as some Christians do believe), would God ask Gabriel, “Are you quite sure it was Michael”? Would God know the name of this angel that was named after a pagan god? Of course not!
In verse 14, the angel Gabriel answers that it was indeed Michael who fought for Israel. Therefore, in verses 12-14 we have an instance where Michael is being spoken about in reference to something that occurred during Old Testament times. The subject matter has nothing to do with Jesus Christ at all.
In Daniel 10:13, we read of an instance where an unidentified angel comes to give Daniel an incredible revelation from God. The angel tells Daniel of a time when Michael will stand on the side of God’s people, even as he is now on their side. It is at this time that this angel will be called by God, “My prince” or “My archangel”.