When we read through the Scriptures we very quickly learn that there are only three angels mentioned by name, they are the archangel Michael, Gabriel, who was God’s special messenger and Lucifer who was a fallen angel. The fact that they are named tells us they must be important.
Let’s put something to rest at the beginning of this study, unlike the popular belief of certain religious persuasions, there is more than one archangel. The term ‘arch’ is Greek for ruling or chief and it’s mentioned only two times in the Scriptures and only one of them is mentioned by name and that is Michael, Jude 9.
The only other time the word archangel appears in the Bible is to do with the end of time, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
Notice that both of these passages talk about archangel, singular, which may lead some to believe that there is only one, whose name is Michael. Many scholars believe that the seven angels mentioned in the Book of Revelation could be seven archangels, but this can’t be proven, Revelation 8:2.
In the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Daniel, notice that Michael is called ‘one of the chief princes’, which suggests that there’s more than one archangel, Daniel 10:13.
As we noted earlier, the archangel Michael is one of only three angels that are named in the Scriptures, the others being Gabriel and Lucifer. We’re told very clearly that he is ‘one of the chief princes’, or the ‘the great prince’, ‘a mighty warrior’ and ‘leader of other angels’. In other words, Michael seems to be God’s enforcer of law and judgement and as we said, he is the only angel specifically called an archangel in the Bible, Daniel 10:13 / Daniel 12:1 / Revelation 12:7 / Jude 9.
Interestingly, the name Michael means ‘who is like God?’. He appears to have a special role in guarding the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. In Jewish tradition, Michael is the author of Psalm 85, which is a sad poem about the suffering of the nation of Israel. He has also been associated with the ‘man’ who spoke to Joshua at the battle of Jericho, Joshua 5:13-15.
Because of his position as the commander of the Lord’s army, could well be Michael’s voice that announces the return of Jesus to earth, but we don’t know for certain, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
Some people believe that it was Michael who fought with, and threw out the devil from heaven, when the devil revolted against God and tried to take God’s place and that Michael became the ‘top angel’ in the Satan’s place, but this too is only a theory and can’t be proven. In most pictures, sculptures and modern art, Michael is usually depicted wearing medieval armour, ready for battle, which is very appropriate for his warrior role.
The name Gabriel means ‘God’s Hero’ and he seems to be God’s very special messenger angel. When we open our Bibles, we see him often announcing special events on behalf of God, Daniel 8:15-17 / Daniel 9:21-23 / Luke 1:8-20 / Luke 1:26-38.
Gabriel had the blessing of telling Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, the king of the universe. It’s also highly likely, but again, can’t be proven, that it was Gabriel who spoke to Joseph and told him that Mary would have a special baby called Jesus, Matthew 1:18-21.
You will have noticed that nowhere in the Scriptures is Gabriel ever referred to as an archangel. If you remember back in Daniel 9:21 it says that Gabriel arrives in ‘swift flight’, but notice it doesn’t mention wings, swift flight most likely refers to his speed, he came quickly.