What Are Archangels?

The word archangel occurs in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9. Archangel comes from the Greek word, archangelos, meaning chief angel. The word is a compound formed from archon (“chief” or “ruler”) and Aggelos (“angel” or messenger”). Archangel appears only twice in the Bible.

Dave Jenkins
What Are Archangels?

Only one angel is given the rank of an archangel in Scripture, and that is Michael. Some wonder if Gabriel is an archangel, but the Bible doesn’t give him that label.

Michael, the archangel, appears throughout the Old and New Testament. In Daniel, for example, he appears twice. Gabriel mentions that Michael stepped into a spiritual fight against the Prince of Persia so Gabriel could deliver a message to the prophet (Daniel 10). In Daniel 12:1, Michael appears again this time protecting the Israelites from a spiritual attack. In Jude 1:9, Michael appears in a dispute with Satan, where Satan attempts to get Michael to blaspheme God as they argue over the body of Moses. Michael rebukes Satan, and the dispute is over.

The Significance of Archangels in Scripture

During the last few decades, Western Christianity has become more and more interested in spiritual warfare. To that end, best-selling novels have been written and sold to the masses depicting battles between the armies of heaven and the forces of hell. As Christians, we need to understand that the conflict is real in the heavenlies. We also need to be honest; we do not know much about the degree or reality of what is occurring in this spiritual war as it’s beyond our limited understanding.

Second, some regions in our world are hostile to the gospel, but no matter how hostile a people group is to the gospel, the gospel is still the power of God. The prince of Persia was able to delay the angel’s visit to Daniel but was unable to keep him away forever (Daniel 10:13-14). Christians can be confident that the purposes of God will prevail, even if there is much persecution and challenges ahead in the work of the gospel.

Thirdly, we don’t need to overemphasize the work or ability of Satan and his minions. Where Scripture is silent, there is mystery, and that mystery is good (Deuteronomy 29:29). Though Scripture speaks of principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12), Christians are never taught to bind them nor to pray directly to them.

Lastly, there is a war in the heavens, so we should not be naïve about the reality of this enemy nor his desire to seek and destroy (1 Peter 5:8). Christians can be confident that God is sovereign and powerful and mighty to save (Romans 1:16). The faithful character of God ensures that His Word will endure and prevail over all the enemies of God, whether in the present or on the final day. Putting our confidence in the Lord who is our rock of refuge (Psalm 18:2; 71:3) and a very present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1), means we can trust the Lord who is all-powerful and unchanging (Hebrews 13:5; 8).

Understanding the Use of Imagery in Revelation

In Revelation 12:7, John says he saw that “war arose in heaven.” John does not see here the final ultimate age. John, instead, is giving a snapshot of historical theology. John sees a woman give birth to a son whose birth is anticipated by a dragon. The dragon attempts to kill the child who is caught up into heaven. The woman spends a period of time in the wilderness. 

The image of the woman here is the church, and the son is the king. Satan, the enemy of God, tries to extinguish his life, but God protects him and exalts him. Even so, Satan turns his attack on the woman who gave birth to the child.   

John sees in his vision, at this point, a war in heaven where Michael, the archangel, with his angels fight against the dragon and his angels. In Daniel 10, the archangel is involved in the conflicts between Israel and the other nations is the background of this battle. The defeat of Satan in Revelation 12 is a recurring theme of Revelation.

Satan aims to overthrow and destroy the church. Even so, the blood of the Lamb of God Jesus prevails for the people of God. Satan accuses, but the case is closed and over before it begins because Christians are covered in the blood of their Advocate and High Priest, Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1). 

The Victory of Jesus Christ

The blood of Christ that saves Christians is the blood that pleads them not guilty, that protects them, and enables God’s people to hold fast. Victory is the battle cry of Christians because the surety of their victory is bound up with the victory Christ has already won in His finished and sufficient work.

Christians are those who are to identify with suffering and persecuted people. The gospel is not your best life now, nor a path to fame, and fortune. The way of the cross is the way of enmity, estrangement, and hostility. By faith, Christians make the same choice Moses made, “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). 

Christians know their victory alone belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. While the dragon aims to overthrow the Lord, the Lord will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 12:5). The Lord alone can be trusted and is worthy of all worship, honor, and praise.

All the resources of the Lord God are utilized for the good of Christians and to the end of spreading the gospel. The earth helps the woman when the dragon attempts to kill her. No weapon formed against her will succeed (Isaiah 54:17) because the Lord is with her. The triumph described here runs throughout the book of Revelation. Since God is for us, and He keeps us secure (Romans 8:31), we should trust Him and worship Him alone who is worthy. 

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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOGInstagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.

Originally published January 16, 2020.