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What are archangels?

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The word archangel occurs in only two verses of the Bible. First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “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.” The other passage is Jude 1:9: “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!’” Michael is the only named archangel in Scripture.

The word archangel comes from a Greek word, archangelos, meaning “chief angel.” It’s a compound word formed from archon (“chief” or “ruler”) and aggelos (“angel” or “messenger”). The Bible suggests in several places that angels have a hierarchy of leadership, and an archangel seems to be the leader of other angels.

Like all angels, archangels are personal beings created by God. They possess intelligence, power, and glory. They are spiritual in nature, rather than corporeal. Archangels serve God and carry out His purposes.

Jude 1:9 uses the definite article the when referring to the archangel Michael, which could indicate that Michael is the only archangel. However, Daniel 10:13 describes Michael as “one of the chief princes.” This possibly indicates that there are more than one archangel, because it places Michael on the same level as the other “chief princes.” So, while it is possible that there are multiple archangels, it is best not to presume upon the Word of God by declaring other angels as archangels. Even if there are multiple archangels, it seems that Michael is the chief among them.

In Daniel 10:21 an angel describes Michael the archangel as “your prince.” Since the angel is speaking to Daniel, and since Daniel is a Jew, we take the angel’s statement to mean that Michael is charged with overseeing the Jewish people. Daniel 12:1 confirms this interpretation, calling Michael “the great prince who protects your [Daniel’s] people.” Perhaps other archangels are given the task of protecting other nations, but Scripture does not identify them. Fallen angels seem to have “territories” as well, as Daniel mentions a spiritual “prince of Greece” and a spiritual “prince of Persia” who oppose the holy angel who brought the message to Daniel (Daniel 10:20).

One of the duties of an archangel, as seen in Daniel 10, is to engage in spiritual warfare. In 1 Thessalonians 4, the archangel is involved in the return of Christ for His church. We also see Michael the archangel contending with Satan in Jude 1:9. Even possessing the power and glory of an archangel, Michael called on the Lord to rebuke Satan. This shows how powerful Satan is, as well as how dependent Michael is on God’s power. If the archangel looks to the Lord for his help, should we do any less?

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022