Does 1 Thessalonians 4:16 prove that Jesus is Michael the Archangel?

by Luke Wayne
1/17/17

Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, whom they claim was God's first creation and the highest of all the "spirit creatures," or angelic beings. To argue for this teaching, they point to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which says:

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first."

While it is not immediately apparent to most readers how this verse could mean that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, their argument from this passage goes something like this:

  1. Jesus' voice is the voice of an archangel
  2. Jesus, therefore, is an archangel
  3. Michael is the only archangel
  4. Therefore, Jesus is Michael

Each of these points has inherent flaws worth addressing.

First, the most obvious reading is not necessarily that the "voice of an archangel" is Jesus' own voice. It is merely one of several sounds said to accompany Jesus' second coming. That a trumpet blowing and a voice crying out mark Jesus' decent sounds more like the approach of a king who is being announced by a herald. That Jesus is King is not in dispute. Even Jehovah's Witnesses accept this. For a King to be coming with an archangel serving Him as His herald and for that King to be further announced by the blast of the "trumpet of God," however, would seem to make Jesus someone much greater than Michael.

Secondly, even if we accept that the "voice of an archangel" is meant to describe Jesus' own voice, that would be a weird way of saying that Jesus is an archangel. If I were describing a man coming to greet me, I would not say that he "called out to me with the voice of a human being." That would be awkward and entirely unhelpful. I might say that "his voice was that of a lion," and you would get that he was speaking loudly, powerfully, boldly, perhaps even angrily. I might say that "he spoke with the voice of a nightingale," and you would grasp that his voice was pleasant and his greeting was sweet to the ear. In neither of these examples, however, would you think that I was saying that the man literally was a lion or a nightingale. Such statements are clearly metaphors. I would not bother saying that a lion has the voice of a lion because that is obvious and useless. I would not say that a nightingale has the voice of a nightingale because that doesn't say anything. Even if Paul was saying that Jesus will personally shout "with the voice of an archangel," such a statement could only be a metaphor. Plus, think about what happens if you apply the Jehovah's Witness logic consistently in this verse. If Jesus must be an archangel because His voice is the voice of an archangel, then He also must be God because His trumpet blast is the trumpet blast of God. Obviously, no Jehovah's Witness would accept this logic as applied to the latter point, so why should they think it valid in the former? There is simply no logical way to read this passage as actually calling Jesus an archangel.

Thirdly, it is a big leap to get from "an archangel" to "Michael the Archangel." Jehovah's Witnesses try to bridge this gap by claiming that Michael is the only archangel. The case for this is rather weak, however. It is true that many major English translations render 1 Thessalonians 4:16 as reading "the voice of THE archangel" rather than "the voice of AN archangel." In the Greek, however, there is no article here, which is why even the Jehovah's Witness's "New World Translation" goes with "an archangel" here. Trustworthy translations like the ESV and NKJV also use "an archangel," and others like the NASB put "the" in italics so that it is clear to the reader that the word is not in the Greek. 1 Thessalonians itself gives us no reason to think that there is only one archangel. Jehovah's Witnesses, therefore, turn elsewhere to try and prove this point, claiming:

"God's word refers to Michael 'the archangel.' (Jude 9) This term means 'chief angel.' Notice that Michael is called the archangel. This suggests that there is only one such angel. In fact, the term 'archangel' occurs in the Bible only in the singular, never in the plural," (What Does the Bible Really Teach, pg. 218).

This is rather horrific logic, and I honestly can't believe they even published it. Let's try applying this same argument to another biblical figure:

"God's word refers to Alexander "the coppersmith." (2 Timothy 4:14) Notice that Alexander is called the coppersmith. This suggests that there is only one such tradesman. In fact, the term 'coppersmith' occurs in the Bible only in the singular, never in the plural."

You could write the same paragraph about "Simon the Zealot" (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13) and a host of others, and the conclusion is just as laughable. So, too, with "Michael the Archangel." The argument is absurd. Simon being designated "the zealot" obviously was not meant to deny the existence of other zealots. Calling Alexander "the coppersmith" does not negate the obvious fact that there were many other coppersmiths. Labeling Michael "the archangel" has nothing to do with the number of archangels that exist. Daniel 10:13 calls Michael "one of the chief princes," clearly indicating that there are other angels of his rank. In the ancient world, people often had descriptors attached to their names. Thus, in addition to "Simon the Zealot," we also see names like "Simon the Leper" (Matthew 26:6), "Simon the Tanner" (Acts 10:32) and "Simon, who was called Peter" (Matthew 4:18). This was a normal convention for referring to people by name, and Michael was no exception. There is no reason to think that Michael is the only archangel.

Fourthly and finally, since all of the premises of the Jehovah's Witness's argument are wrong, there is no basis for their conclusion. The reality is that Jesus is not a created being, not even the most exalted created being. Rather:

"All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being," (John 1:3).

and:

"You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end," (Hebrews 1:10-12).

No, Jesus is not Michael. Jesus is Michael's Lord and Maker. This is why an archangel will be Jesus' herald and why the trumpet of God announces His coming. Jesus is the King of all creation because Jesus is the Creator. Jesus is Jehovah God.