Leading Angels: Michael and Gabriel

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Michael and Gabriel

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Leading Angels: Michael and Gabriel

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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 Daniel 10:13But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, see, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
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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 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
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, “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 Jude 1:9Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke you.
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, “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 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
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; Romans 2:28-29 Romans 2:28-29 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
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; Ephesians 2:11-13 Ephesians 2:11-13 11 Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.
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; Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
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)—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 Revelation 12:7-8 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
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).

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 Daniel 10:13But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, see, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
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). 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 Daniel 10:20Then said he, Know you why I come to you? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, see, the prince of Grecia shall come.
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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 Daniel 10:5-6 5 Then I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: 6 His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
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, 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 Daniel 10:12Then said he to me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you did set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I am come for your words.
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).

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 Daniel 10:13-21 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, see, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I am come to make you understand what shall befall your people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. 15 And when he had spoken such words to me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb. 16 And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spoke, and said to him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned on me, and I have retained no strength. 17 For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. 18 Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, 19 And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be to you, be strong, yes, be strong. And when he had spoken to me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for you have strengthened me. 20 Then said he, Know you why I come to you? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, see, the prince of Grecia shall come. 21 But I will show you that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holds with me in these things, but Michael your prince.
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).

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 Daniel 12:1-2 1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
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).

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 Daniel 8:15-16 15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.
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: “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 Daniel 9:20-21 20 And whiles I was speaking, and 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; 21 Yes, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
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).

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 1:11-15 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell on him. 13 But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
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; Luke 1:19-20 Luke 1:19-20 19 And the angel answering said to him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak to you, and to show you these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, you shall be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because you believe not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
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).

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 1:26-33 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. 31 And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
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; Luke 1:38 Luke 1:38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.
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).

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 Luke 2:9-15 9 And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.
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. It was certainly done in his style.

Next we’ll consider different types of angels with other responsibilities.