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Doctrinal Matters: Jehovah's Witnesses

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Is Jesus Really Michael the Archangel?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Jesus is not God and never claimed to be” (“Should You Believe…?,” 2000). Rather, Jesus can be understood “from the scriptures to be Michael the Archangel” (The Watchtower, 1979, p. 29). “Michael the great prince is none other than Jesus Christ himself,” they allege (The Watchtower, 1984, p. 29). The May 15, 1969 issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower magazine suggested: “There is Scriptural evidence for concluding that Michael was the name of Jesus Christ before he left heaven and after his return” (p. 307). Where is the “scriptural evidence” for such a doctrine? In an article titled “The Truth About Angels” that appears on the official web site of Jehovah’s Witnesses (www.watchtower.org), 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 9 were the only two passages listed as proof that “the foremost angel, both in power and authority, is the archangel, Jesus Christ, also called Michael” (2001).

Michael the archangel is mentioned only five times in the Bible (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7), and yet never do these passages indicate that he is to be equated with the preincarnate Christ, nor with the ascended Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:16 also alludes to “an archangel,” and, although the name Michael is not mentioned, this is the passage Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently cite as proof of Jesus being the archangel. Concerning the Second Coming of Christ, Paul wrote: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (emp. added). Supposedly, since Jesus is described as descending from heaven “with the voice of an archangel,” then He must be the archangel Michael. However, this verse does not teach that Jesus is an archangel, but that at His Second Coming He will be accompanied “with the voice of an archangel.” Just as He will be attended “with a shout” and “with the trumpet of God,” so will He be accompanied “with the voice of an archangel.” Question: If Jesus’ descension from heaven “with the voice of an archangel” makes Him (as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim) the archangel Michael, then does His descent “with the trumpet of God” not also make Him God? Jehovah’s Witnesses reject this latter conclusion, yet they accept the first. Such inconsistency is one proof of their erroneous teachings about Jesus.

One of the strongest arguments against Jesus being an angel is found in the book of Hebrews. In chapter one, the writer of Hebrews showed the superiority of Jesus over the angelic beings, and contrasted Him with them.

For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.” But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? (1:5-13).

Jesus’ superiority over the angels is seen in the fact that the Father spoke to Jesus as His special begotten Son to Whom He gave the seat of honor at His right hand (1:5,13). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews indicated that God commanded all angels to worship Jesus (1:6; cf. Revelation 5:11-13; Philippians 2:10). Yet, if Jesus were an angel, how could He accept the worship of other “lesser” angels when, according to Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9, angels do not accept worship, but rather preach the worship of God, and no other? Hebrews chapter one is a death knell to the idea of Jesus, the Son of God, being Michael, the archangel. [NOTE: Interestingly, John H. Paton, the most frequently used contributing writer in 1879 of Charles Taze Russel (the founder of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), admitted such when he stated in The Watchtower magazine near the end of its inaugural year: “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)…” (1879, p. 4, emp. added). Sadly, even though Paton rejected the idea of Jesus being Michael the archangel, and even though Russell, The Watchtower's founder and first editor and publisher, allowed such a teaching in the magazine's first year of publication, Jehovah’s Witnesses today hold firmly to the doctrine that Jesus is Michael, the archangel.]

The writer of Hebrews returned to the subject of Jesus’ superiority over angels in chapter two, saying, “He [God] has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (2:5). To whom will the world be in subjection? Scripture indicates that it would be Jesus, “the appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). “All authority” has been given, not to any angel, but to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). All angels, authorities, and powers “have been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8, NIV, emp. added). Jesus, therefore, is not Michael, the archangel, “for it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5, RSV).

One final proof that Jesus is not Michael the archangel actually comes from one of the five passages in which Michael’s name is found in Scripture—Jude 9. According to Jude: “Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ” Whereas Michael would not dare pronounce a railing judgment against the devil (cf. 2 Peter 2:11), Jesus once declared about Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Jesus did not approach the subject of rebuking Satan with the same hesitation as godly angels like Michael. Jesus, as Lord of heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18), boldly called the devil a murderer and liar, and even went so far as to declare that “there is no truth in him.” The Son of God obviously is not Michael the archangel.

I find it extremely puzzling how Jehovah’s Witnesses can conclude that there is no biblical proof of Jesus being deity, and yet at the same time allege that “[t]here is Scriptural evidence for concluding that Michael was the name of Jesus Christ before he left heaven and after his return” (Watchtower, 1969, p. 307, emp. added). Where is the evidence? There is none. Jesus is not Michael the archangel; rather, He is exactly Who the apostle John said He was (John 1:1,14), Who Thomas said He was (John 20:28), and even Who His enemies accused Him of making Himself (John 5:18; 10:33). Jesus is God!

REFERENCES

“Should You Believe in the Trinity?” (2000), [On-line], URL: http://www.watchtower.org/library/ti/index.htm.

The Truth About Angels (2001), [On-line], URL: http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1995/11/1/the_truth_about_angels.htm, originally appeared in The Watchtower, November 1, 1995.

The Watchtower, 1879, November.

The Watchtower, 1969, May 15.

The Watchtower, 1979, February 15.

The Watchtower, 1984, December 15.




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