Tag Archives: Michael in the NT

Michael in the New Testament

The first reference to Michael in the New Testament is found in the book of Jude, where he is referred to as “the archangel Michael” (Jude 1:9), one of the leaders among the angels. This is compatible with the testimony of Enoch, noted above. The passage in Jude recounts a dispute between Michael and the devil over the body of Moses, a narrative which is drawn in part from Zechariah 3 and in part from the lost ending of the Testament of Moses, as noted above. According to scholarly reconstructions of the Testament of Moses, the story went something like this. Moses on Mount Nebo sent Joshua back to the camp of Israel to tell them Moses was dead. When Moses dies, God sends the archangel Michael to recover the body of Moses and bury it in an unknown location. The devil appears in his role as the accuser, slandering Moses’ right to an honorable burial on the grounds of his murder of the Egyptian. Michael, who was Moses’ advocate, not his judge, did not take it upon himself to reject the devil’s accusation, but rebuked him in the name of the Lord. At this, the devil then fled, and Michael buried Moses.

Jude uses this illustration to expose the arrogance of his opponents. If the archangel Michael himself refused to slander Satan when the opportunity showed itself, then the false teachers Jude is writing about are on dangerous ground in blaspheming (slandering) the glorious ones of Israel’s history, like Moses (Jude 1:8). What Jude contributes to our investigation is the affirmation that Michael is a major adversary of Satan, a role that is reminiscent of Daniel 10. But while the scene in Jude is clearly one of conflict, warfare language is not used, so Michael’s role as commander-in-chief of the angels is not in view here. And there is also no hint in Jude that the author equated Michael with Jesus Christ. Jude has mirrored Michael’s traditional roles of archangel, advocate of the righteous, and opponent of Satan.

The last biblical reference to Michael is in Revelation 12:7, the text at the heart of this paper topic. While there are many references to angels in the book of Revelation, Michael is the only angel that is mentioned by name. In Revelation 12:7-9, there is a cosmic war between Michael and his angels, on the one hand, and the dragon/Satan and his angels, on the other. One might have expected John to have placed Christ in this role rather than Michael. Throughout Revelation, Christ is presented as a conqueror or victor (Rev 3:21; 5:5; 17:14; 19:14-15). Be that as it may, Michael emerges victorious in this conflict, casting the dragon/Satan out of heaven. This narrative aligns with the widespread New Testament theme of the victory of Jesus Christ over Satan through his death and resurrection (John 12:31-32). And the mention of Satan as the “accuser of the brethren” reminds readers of the New Testament of Satan’s accusations against Moses in Jude 9, and of Michael’s response in defense of Moses. So the actions of Michael in Revelation 12 raise the possibility that he is more than just one of the archangels, more even than the leader of the archangels, he is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. In that case, the Michael of Old Testament and Jewish narrative would, in fact, be the pre-existent Christ. But this identification is not made explicit in Revelation, hence the need for further study.