On this feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, it’s worth revisiting this question: Is it true Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Michael the archangel and Jesus are the same person?
In a word, yes. The Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that Jesus was Michael the archangel prior to his coming to Earth: “Scriptural evidence indicates that the name Michael applied to God’s Son before he left heaven to become Jesus Christ and also after his return” (Aid to Bible Understanding, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1971, 1152).
Jehovah’s Witnesses arrive at this erroneous belief primarily through the misinterpretation of two Bible passages:
- Daniel 10:13, 21, where reference is made to a “great prince,” Michael; and
- I Thessalonians 4:16, where the Lord Jesus is described as descending from heaven at the sound of the archangel’s voice. The JWs’ own New World Translation of the Bible reads, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice.”
According to the JWs, Michael is the only angel other than Gabriel mentioned in the Bible, and Michael is the only one who is called an archangel. (The angel Raphael is mentioned in the book of Tobit, but since the Jehovah’s Witnesses sprang from Protestantism, they use the Protestant canon of Scripture, which is missing this Old Testament book plus six others.)
Since the Lord Jesus descends from heaven “with an archangel’s voice,” the JWs understand this passage as “suggesting that he is, in fact, himself the archangel” (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1152).
While there are several problems with this line of reasoning, two points in particular easily reveal its fallacy. First, the fact that the Lord Jesus descends “with an archangel’s voice” does not mean that it is his own voice being spoken of. This passage simply says that an archangel’s voice will accompany the Lord’s descent from heaven, in the same manner that the bailiff’s voice (“All rise!”) accompanies the judge’s entrance into the courtroom.
Second, Hebrews 1:5 says, “For example, to which of the angels did he [God] ever say: ‘You are my son; I, today, I have become your father’?” (New World Translation). The answer to the question is, of course, “none.”
Thus, if God never called an angel his Son, then Michael–who is an angel–cannot be the Son. The fact that Michael is an archangel does not change anything, as he is still an angel by nature. An archangel is simply a “higher order” of angel, but an angel nonetheless; arch– means simply “ruling” or “high ranking.”