Is Michael the Archangel spoken of in the Old Testament the preincarnate Jesus?
First, let me say that no one is going to be held out of heaven for believing Michael the Archangel is not the preincarnate Jesus and no one is going to be allowed into heaven because of believing Michael the Archangel is the preincarnate Jesus.
Second, let me say that I am aware that the Jehovah Witnesses believe that Michael the Archangel is Jesus is that is why many well meaning Christians will emphatically state that Michael the Archangel is not Jesus.
The Jehovah Witnesses also believe that Jesus is a created being, although the Bible is clear that Jesus is God, without beginning, and is the Creator not a creature.
There are Bible teachers in Christendom who believe that Jesus was always fully God and that Michael is a preincarnate Jesus, but they disagree with the JW’s assumption therefore that Jesus was a created being, not fully God. Matthew Henry, of the famed Matthew Henry Commentaries is one who believes Michael is a preincarnate Jesus.
Unfortunately, many well-meaning pastors have determined that Michael the Archangel is not Jesus and they will give their reason to be “that the JW’s think he is” and that is a lazy way to interpret Scripture. I have no quarrel with a Bible student who has a theological reason for not accepting Michael as a preincarnate Jesus, but pointing to opposition toward a cult is not rightly handling the word of God.
Several months back I was listening to a radio show where people call-in to two pastors and ask whatever question they want. One called in asking if Michael the Archangel is the preincarnate Jesus. Their response? “No, the JW’s believe that we don’t.”
Personally, there is nothing that I like about the JW’s but I am not going to forfeit my theology to them. I do know that JW’s like to meet together and I am not about to forfeit meeting with my congregation just because JW’s believe in meeting with their congregation. I do know that JW’s believe in heaven, but I am not going to forfeit my belief in heaven because they believe in heaven. I also think they like to eat dinner, and I am not going to stop eating dinner because they they like to eat dinner.
What has happen to the lost art of opening God’s Word, praying for the Author to bring an understanding, and investing one’s energy and time in comparing Scripture with Scripture, “line upon line” as in Isaiah 28:13? Have we in the church become parrots who simply mimic what we hear others say without being able to articulate theology?
Third, let me say that I think there is good reason to believe that Michael the Archangel could be preincarnate Jesus, like we have seen with the mentioned “The Angel of the Lord” and the various theophanies.
The Hebrew name “Michael” means “who is like God” and when you couple that with the fact that the word “angel” means “messenger” there is no definitive reason to assume that the “Archangel” is a created being as others angels are thought to be.
Hebrews 2:7-9 make mention that men were made “lower than the angels.” So the implication is that angels were created beings like us though above us, but a simple word study will quickly expose that all identified as “angels” in the Bible are not necessarily of the same essence or being.
Sometimes humans are referred to as angels as in 1 Samuel 29:9 and Galatians 4:14. Sometimes angels are referred to as a human as in Genesis 32:24 and as in the context of the seven churches of Revelation 1:20. A similar expression is found when Jesus referred to Himself as a man in Mark 9:31 and we understand the emphasis, we don’t interpret that to mean He was created, and not God.
We have over 60 references in Scripture to the “angel of the Lord” and many of them are recognized as being the preincarnate Jesus. In His function, or within the context, the angel of the Lord clearly acts as the messenger for God the Father and His throne in Heaven. This is no surprise because Jesus, fully God and fully man, was in His role as Redeemer the messenger for God the Father and His throne in Heaven. Just as God the Father created all things by Jesus as understood in Hebrews 1:2 and Ephesians 3:9. As the Creator, it is easy to see that the preincarnate Jesus created the angels, and in Revelation 12:7 it says they were Michael’s angels.
In Genesis 22:11 we read that at the moment Abraham raised his knife to sacrifice Issac, “the angel of the Lord” called to Abraham “from heaven.” In Genesis 22:15-18 we read that the “angel of Lord” blessed Abraham for his obedience. The angel of the Lord in this chapter is clearly God – likely the preincarnate Jesus – because Genesis 22:1 begins by citing Him as God. Peter makes reference to this same account in Acts 3:25 citing this angel of the Lord as God.
In Exodus 3:2 we see the “angel of the Lord” appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Exodus 3:4 identifies the “angel of the Lord” as God as does the entire narrative. In Exodus 3:13-14 is where we have Moses asking who should he say send him? and the “angel of the Lord” replies, “I Am That I Am.” Stephen makes reference to this same account in Acts 7:30-32 citing this angel of the Lord as God.
It is not good hermeneutics to assume that every mention of an angel is a created non-deity.
One common objection that has been parroted about on this topic of Michael the Archangel is Jude 1:9 which says, “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
This argument is: If Michael the Archangel is Jesus why would He not say “I rebuke you?” That is a good observation, but consider that this would be Jesus preincarnate before Calvary and while Satan still retained the title deed of earth as he took it in Eden’s sin.
In Matthew 4:14 we do see Jesus rebuke Satan in His own name, but that was after His incarnation. By the way, we have examples of Jesus after His incarnation speaking of Himself in second person as we read in Jude 1:9 and an example of that is in Luke 18:8. So it is not implausible for a preincarnate Jesus to refer to Himself in second person, “The Lord rebuke thee.”
Perhaps the most important counter to this concern is found in the account of Zechariah’s vision of Joshua the High Priest standing before the angel of the Lord near Satan in Zechariah 3:1-2. The account says, “the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan.” So, why didn’t the Lord say “I rebuke you?” It is clearly the Lord who rebukes Satan?
In Daniel we find Michael referred to as a Prince. In Daniel 10:13 we have an objection to Michael being the preincarnate Jesus because the common and best translation in this verse is “one of the chief princes.”
The Hebrew word “echad” translated “one” in Daniel 10:13 actually means “first one” so it is unfortunate that the “first” qualifier is not translated in the verse, as some very literal translations do, meaning “the first of the chief princes.” The word carries the connotation of not just first in order, but first in “original” or “alone” as in no other comparative to it.
By the way, the Hebrew word “echad” plays a big role in understanding the days of creation in Genesis 1:5 because it is used there to denote the “first day” not just an undetermined amount of time.
Michael the Archangel, as Prince, plays an important role in the prophecies of Daniel, and one can’t help to find the correlation to the Isaiah 9:6 and Revelation 1:5 as put by the King James Version, “the prince of the kings of the earth.”
Finally, I would add that Michael the Archangel is identified as the “arch” angel and not just an angel. That’s important because the word “arch” means “chief” or “superior” in authority, role, and honor. There is certainly no reason to think that Jesus would be unworthy of the designation of superiority over the heavenly host of angels.
To me, it seems very plausible that a reference to Michael the Archangel is a reference to the preincarnate Jesus, and I do not think that means Jesus was created as do the JW’s.