We just read of the prophet Daniel’s vision of a glorious angel. And his book has much more fascinating details to give us. Here we are introduced to certain angels mentioned by name. And we are further told in the book of Daniel of wars between angels in the spirit realm.
The New Testament also mentions these great angels and the great struggle between good and evil in the spirit realm. We find that angels often travel in large armies in order to consolidate their strength when dealing with, and fighting against, Satan’s armies (recall Christ’s reference to legions of angels).
Let’s now take a look, then, at the particular angels who are named in the Bible and at the spirit warfare Scripture describes.
The archangel Michael
First we have Michael, a name meaning “Who Is Like God.” He is referred to in Daniel 10:13 as “one of the chief princes”—that is, one of the leading rulers in the angelic realm. He is further called, in Daniel 12:1, “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your [that is, Daniel’s] people”—the Jewish people and, more broadly, all of Israel. We will look more at the context of these expressions in a moment.
The title of chief prince finds a parallel in the New Testament. We read in Jude 1:9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Because Satan still holds a temporary position of rulership over the world by God’s allowance, it would have been inappropriate for Michael to revile him.)
The term archangel here means chief angel or chief messenger. Michael is not the only archangel, as he is called one of the chief princes. (Referring to him as “Michael the archangel” does not mean there is just one archangel —just as saying “Paul the apostle” would not mean there was just one apostle. Several people mentioned in Scripture were named Michael, so saying “Michael the archangel” distinguishes him.)
As we’ll see, it may be that the angel Gabriel was also an archangel or chief prince. And the same appears to be the case for Lucifer before he became Satan. Lucifer was one of the covering cherubim at the throne of God (see “What Is the Origin of Satan and Demons?”). This is a leading position for which archangel would seem an apt title (though it’s possible there could be more archangels than just the covering cherubim).
We are told that part of Michael’s job responsibility is looking after the nations of Israel and fighting for the people of God in times of war. It wasn’t only the work and efforts of superior human generals that won the First and Second World War for the Allies. God was involved in the eventual outcome of these great battles! (To see the Israelite identity of the leading Western nations among the World War II Allies, read our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)
When there was a major crisis in the nation of Israel, and when there is a crisis today in the nations that are descended from the 12 tribes of ancient Israel, Michael is involved. And in crises affecting God’s Church, which is spiritual Israel—Christians being Jews inwardly (see Galatians 6:16; Romans 2:28-29; Ephesians 2:11-13; Ephesians 2:19)—Michael is likewise involved!
The prophecies of Revelation give us a glimpse into the fighting in the spirit realm: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon [Satan]; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer” (Revelation 12:7-8).
Returning to Daniel 10, we are told that an angel sent with a message to Daniel was held up by demonic resistance. He states: “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia [an evil demon] withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia [other demon rulers]” ( Daniel 10:13). Persia was the prominent world power at the time—and we see here that there were spiritual forces behind the earthly thrones of this human empire, as there are spiritual forces at work behind world powers even today.
We see here that Michael was sent to help this angel who could not overcome the demon prince of Persia. Daniel 10:20 tells us further that the demon prince of Greece would soon come—as Greece was the next world power. But Michael provided the extra force needed to stand firm!
The angel who needed help is evidently the same glorious being mentioned earlier in the chapter in Daniel 10:5-6, the description of whom we noted previously—Daniel having seen him in vision girded with gold of Uphaz, with a body like beryl, face like lightning, eyes like torches, and arms and feet like burnished bronze. So astounding was the vision, we saw, that Daniel evidently fainted.
The identity of this glorious angel is not revealed here. He’s often assumed to be Gabriel, as Gabriel had been sent with messages to Daniel before. This is possible. If it’s Gabriel, perhaps Daniel doesn’t realize it’s him since he’s not appearing in his familiar human form but as an awesome spirit being. Yet it could be a different angel. We are not told.
The angel tells Daniel that He was immediately dispatched when Daniel began praying and fasting to God: “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words” ( Daniel 10:12).
So we see that Daniel’s prayers were heard, but an answer did not reach him for three weeks because of an intense spiritual battle! The next verse, which we read earlier, concerns the archangel Michael needing to have been brought in to set things straight in this unseen world of warfare.
The special messenger from God revived and strengthened Daniel and told him: “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince)” (Daniel 10:13-21).
This is an amazing passage to read! Clearly Michael is a very powerful being in his ability to withstand such evil forces! And Daniel is told that Michael will do so again in the end time—in a passage already quoted from in part: “At that time [the end time] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:1-2).
Through the archangel Michael, God brings deliverance to His people.
Gabriel, spokesman for God
A second key angelic figure in Scripture is the aforementioned Gabriel, his name meaning “Strong Man of God.”
Gabriel has a very different role from that of the archangel Michael. He is possibly an archangel too, although the Bible does not directly state this. He may be a cherub—possibly even one of the two covering cherubim. In any case, he is definitely a leading angel.
Gabriel is shown throughout Scripture to have the role of bringing good news to mankind, and also of making special pronouncements. We do not find specific reference to him fighting as we see with Michael—unless he was the angel who needed Michael’s help against the demon rulers of Persia (though that is not clear). In any case Gabriel primarily appears as a messenger (which is what “angel” means) and spokesman for God.
Let’s notice some of the references to Gabriel. The first occurs in Daniel 8:15-16: “Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’”
Secondly, a chapter later, Gabriel is mentioned again. Daniel writes: “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering” (Daniel 9:20-21).
We later see direct examples of Gabriel in the role of a spokesman for God in his announcing the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.
As the priest Zacharias was carrying out his duties in the temple, he was startled and frightened when an angel suddenly appeared before him. “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord . . .
“And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time . . .’” (Luke 1:11-15; Luke 1:19-20).
Some six months later this same angel appeared to Mary and announced that she had been chosen to be the mother of the promised Messiah, Jesus:
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end . . .’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:26-33; Luke 1:38).
So we see that Gabriel announced the coming birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus to Zacharias and Mary. Possibly Gabriel was the angel who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:9-15. It was certainly done in his style.
Next we’ll consider different types of angels with other responsibilities.