Archangels, Michael & Gabriel

Only two of God's angels are directly named in the Bible, the Archangel Michael and Gabriel, God's special messenger. So these two angels must be special angels!

Another important rank of angels are Archangels.

Archangels

The term or prefix 'arch' is Greek for ruling or Chief. Archangels are only mentioned twice in the Bible and only one angel is specifically called an Archangel, Michael 1.

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Jude 9

The only other time the word Archangel appears in the Bible is to do with the end of time 2.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
1 Thessalonians 4:16

Both of these cases, speak of a singular Archangel which could suggest that there is only one arch or ruler angel and that indeed is Michael.

There is a strong Jewish tradition that says there are seven Archangels and many think that the seven angels mentioned in the book of Revelation could be seven Archangels 3.

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
Revelation 8:2

In the Old Testament book of Daniel, Michael is called 'one of the chief princes', which might suggest that there's more than one archangel 4!

But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
Daniel 10:13

During the the middle ages, an 'angelic' hierarchy was written by an author only known as ' Pseudo-Dionysius'. In this list of nine ranks, archangels are ranked second from bottom, which seems rather strange for a 'ruling angel'!

According to Jewish tradition (but not the Bible!) the seven archangels are:

  • Michael
  • Gabriel
  • Rapheal
  • Uriel
  • Raguel
  • Saraqael
  • Remiel

Out of the seven, only Michael and Gabriel are named in the Bible (Only Michael is called an archangel in the Bible.). An angel called Raphael has a major part in the book of Tobit 5.

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One."
The Book of Tobit 12:15

The book of Tobit is part of a group of books known as the the Protestant Apocrypha [these books are a collection that are considered important, but are not in the Bible and not considered sacred by Protestants] and the Catholic and Orthodox Deuterocanon [most Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider these books to be sacred]. The other four 'archangels' are listed in the book of Enoch. This book is in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha [a group of books considered sacred by the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians] 6.

1. And these are the names of the holy angels who watch.
2. Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus.
3. Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men.
4. Raguel, one of the holy angels who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries.
5. Michael, one of the holy angels, to wit, he that is set over the best part of mankind and over chaos.
6. Saraqael, one of the holy angels, who is set over the spirits, who sin in the spirit.
7. Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim.
8. Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise.
The Book of Enoch Chapter 20

In the Occult/New Age there is a different list the seven angels, known as the 'Angels of Revelation', each of which is linked to their 'planet'. These are:

  • Michael - the Sun
  • Raphael - Mercury
  • Uriel - Venus
  • Melchizedek - Earth
  • Gabriel - the Earth's Moon
  • Samael - Mars
  • Zachariel - Jupiter
  • Orifiel - Saturn

Personally, I don't trust this list at all; it has no connection what so ever with the seven angels mentioned in the book of Revelation in the Bible! A person called Melchizedek is named in the Bible but not as an angel!

However, in his 'cosmic trilogy' (fiction), the Christian writer C S Lewis associates 'heavenly beings' and planets, which each planet in our solar system having its own heavenly being.

So we don't really know how many archangels there are, but there's one for certain and that's Michael.

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Michael

The Archangel Michael is one of only three angels that are named in the Bible (the others being Gabriel and Lucifer, the original name of Satan / The Devil). We are told that he is 'one of the chief princes', 'the great prince', 'a mighty warrior' and 'leader of other angels'. He is God's enforcer of law and judgement and is the only angel specifically called an archangel in the Bible 7.

But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
Daniel 10:13

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered.”
Daniel 12:1

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
Revelation 12:7

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Jude 9

The name Michael means 'Who is like God?' (notice the question mark). Michael appears to have a special role in guarding the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. In Jewish tradition, Michael is the author of Psalm 85, which is a sad poem about the suffering of the nation of Israel. He has also been associated with the 'man' who spoke to Joshua at the battle of Jericho 8.

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
15 The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15

In his role as chief warrior angel, it could well Michael's voice that announces the return of Jesus to earth 9.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
1 Thessalonians 4:16

It is thought that is was Michael who fought with, and threw out the Devil/Satan/Lucifer from Heaven (when the Satan revolted against God and tried to take God's place) and that Michael became the 'top angel' in the Satan's place.

He is often depicted wearing medieval armour, ready for battle - very appropriate for his warrior role!

In some Christian traditions, Michael is said to have appeared to Mary (Jesus' mother) to tell her that she would die soon and that he carried her deceased body into heaven. (Some Catholics believe that Mary didn't die but that she was taken straight to heaven, by Michael or by Jesus.)

In Islam, Michael is known as Mikail and the Koran says that he sheds tears over the sins of the faithful and these tears become the angels known as the Cherubim.

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Gabriel

The name Gabriel means 'God's Hero' and he is God's special messenger angel. On several occasions in the Bible he is given the job of coming to earth to give important announcements and tell of special events 10.

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man.
16 And I heard a man's voice from the Ulai (meaning the river Daniel was standing by at the time) calling, "Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision."
17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. "Son of man," he said to me, "understand that the vision concerns the time of the end."
Daniel 8:15-17

21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.
22 He instructed me and said to me, "Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.
23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:
Daniel 9:21-23

8 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.
14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,
15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
18 Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
19 The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."
Luke 1:8-20

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.
37 For nothing is impossible with God."
38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

So it was Gabriel who had the amazing job of telling Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, the king of the universe! It's also highly likely that it was Gabriel who spoke to Joesph and told him that Mary would have a special baby called Jesus 11.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew 1:18-21

Nowhere in the Bible is Gabriel called an archangel, although in Jewish folklore he is one of the seven archangels. In Daniel 9:21 it says that Gabriel arrives in 'swift flight', but it doesn't mention wings! Swift flight could just mean quickly!

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