What is an Archangel? How many Archangels are in the Bible? #152
Hello everybody and happy Friday to you! Because I told a semi-humorous joke yesterday for the opener, I feel no terrible pressure today to come up with anything particularly clever and insightful as an opening. Tomorrow will be a different story, I suppose. One bright spot for me: putting less time into the podcast opening tonight might just mean that I will clean up my office, which will make my dear wife happy with me. Of course, if she happens to listen to today’s pod – about a 38 percent chance – and I forget to clean up my office tonight, then I’ll be worse off than if I hadn’t mentioned it at all. Oh well, I like to live dangerously, I suppose.
Today’s Bible readings include Deuteronomy 2, Psalms 83-84, Isaiah 30 and Jude, chapter 1. Jude – now there is an interesting book of the Bible. Pound for pound, I’d say Jude – the 5th shortest book in the Bible – manages to pack in more Bible mysteries and curiosities per verse – than any other book. For instance: stealth secret agents of the enemy (vs. 4), JESUS saved people out of Egypt and destroyed those who didn’t believe (vs. 5), Angels chained up for not keeping their proper place (vs. 6), Sodom and Gomorrah burned up for perversions (vs. 7), The archangel Michael in a dispute/contention with Satan over the body of Moses (vs. 9), The secret agents of the enemy mentioned earlier are also dangerous reefs, blasphemers, discontented grumblers, waterless clouds, wandering stars and selfish shepherds. (vss. 12-13), Jesus is coming back with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones, praying in the Holy Spirit and saving sinners by SNATCHING THEM FROM THE FIRE! Add to all of that that Jude quotes the BOOK OF ENOCH, one of the most fascinating and controversial books from the B.C. period, and you’ve got one amazing and puzzling and beautiful book of the Bible. I also think Jude has the best benediction in the Bible too:
24 Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.
So – let’s go read Jude and then discuss archangels.
The below is an excerpt from my book “Angels, Ghosts and Other Bible Mysteries.” which won the 1948 Pulitzer prize for investigative reporting in politics. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZTJCYXP
Interestingly, there is only ONE archangel listed in the Bible (but hints that there might be more than one in total.) Michael is the only angel in the Bible that is given the title ‘archangel,’ which would seem to indicate some sort of hierarchy of angels. (Jude 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”) The Old Testament book of Daniel, in referring to Michael as one of the “chief princes,” might be indicating that there is more than one archangel, though we have no biblical guarantee that the title of ‘archangel’ and the title of ‘chief prince,’ are synonymous. (Daniel 10:13, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”)
I note here that the Catholic church and some other branches of Christianity consider there to be many more named archangels than just the one, and they also recognize many other titles and hierarchies/choirs of angels (dominions, virtues, powers, etc.), but this does not come from the Bible, but church tradition.
Better than that, theologian Wayne Grudem has some great insights on archangels, and a few truths about angels that you might not have picked up from Scripture before in his excellent systematic theology book:
4. Rank and Order Among the Angels. Scripture indicates that there is rank and order among the angels. One angel, Michael, is called an “archangel” in Jude 9, a title that indicates rule or authority over other angels. He is called “one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13. Michael also appears to be a leader in the angelic army: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated” (Rev. 12:7–8). And Paul tells us that the Lord will return from heaven “with the archangel’s call” (1 Thess. 4:16). Whether this refers to Michael as the only archangel, or whether there are other archangels, Scripture does not tell us.
5. Names of Specific Angels. Only two angels are specifically named in Scripture.4 Michael is mentioned in Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7–8 as well as in Daniel 10:13, 21, where he is called “Michael, one of the chief princes” (v. 13). The angel Gabriel is mentioned in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21 as a messenger who comes from God to speak to Daniel. Gabriel is also identified as God’s messenger to Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1: the angel answers Zechariah, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19). Then we read, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin … and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26–27).
6. Only One Place at One Time. Scripture frequently represents angels as traveling from one place to another, as in the verse mentioned above where Gabriel “was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth” (Luke 1:26). This is made explicit when an angel comes to Daniel and says:
I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. (Dan. 10:12–14)
The idea that an angel can be in only one place at one time is consistent with the fact that angels are created beings. Unlike God, who is omnipresent, they are finite creatures and therefore limited to being in one place at one time, as is everything else that God has created.
7. How Many Angels Are There? Though Scripture does not give us a figure for the number of angels God created, it is apparently a very great number. We read that God on Mount Sinai “came from the ten thousands of holy ones with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deut. 33:2). We also learn that, “the chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands” (Ps. 68:17 NIV). When we come to worship we come into the presence of “innumerable angels” (Heb. 12:22).6Their number is even more strikingly emphasized in Revelation 5:11, where John says, “I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” This expression indicates an amazingly large number (from a human standpoint)—an innumerable assembly of angelic beings praising God.
Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 398–399.
That said, I realize that this isn’t a ton of information on archangels. There’s a reason for this: The Bible gives us very, very little to go on in terms of archangels – very little to know beyond the fact that Michael is one, there are probably others, and archangels are a tier above angels. Going much further than that – as some denominations and groups do – is going past the Scripture. We can speculate, to be sure, but we can’t speculate with authority, because our only infallible and authoritative book on the subject – the Bible – does not reveal much on this issue. One day, however – we will know in eternity, and I suspect the truth will be more fascinating than any dreamed up by humans.