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Why Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel
Many people know that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is God, but what you may be surprised to hear is that they do identify Jesus as Michael the archangel.
What biblical basis might somebody use to prove something that seems so surprising on its face?
…because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.
1 Thessalonians 4:16
As you can see the Lord, Jesus, has the voice of an archangel and therefore is an archangel. Appeals to a couple other texts will demonstrate that Michael is the only archangel named in the Bible, therefore Jesus is Michael.
This conclusion is far from obvious.
First of all, it’s not necessarily clear that the voice belongs to Jesus. It could be that an archangel accompanies Jesus and announces his coming with a loud shout.
That said, the association of the voice with the cry of command and the fact that the very next thing that happens is the resurrection of the dead, makes it more likely that the voice does belong to Jesus. (Cf. John 5:28-29, “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out,” and 1 Corinthians 15:52, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable.”) But even if the voice of an archangel is Jesus’ voice, that doesn’t make Jesus an archangel. In fact, that understanding makes very little sense. Who would ever write, “Then David spoke with the voice of a man,” or “And Gabriel answered with the voice of an angel”? If the Lord himself is an archangel then it would be strange to describe his voice as the voice of an archangel.
A better way to understand this voice of an archangel is to see it as an analogy similar to the one John uses to describe Jesus’ voice which he hears at the beginning of Revelation: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see…’” (Revelation 1:10-11). Jesus of course is not a trumpet, but his voice sounded like one, and in the same way Paul calls his voice the voice of an archangel as a poetic way of describing the loud, commanding cry that he uses to raise the dead.
The reason that it’s useful to know about this verse, and its importance for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is that it gives a basis for comparing the biblical support for the belief in the deity of Jesus on one hand and the belief that he is Michael on the other hand. Jesus’ divinity is attested throughout the New Testament whether it’s verses where he is called “God” (Jn 1:1, 20:28, Rom 9:5, Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8, 2 Pet 1:1), verses where he is worshipped (Mt 2:11, 14:33, 28:17, Jn 9:38, Heb 1:6, Rev 5:14 cf. Mt 4:10, Rev 19:10, 22:10), or verses where texts about God from the Old Testament are applied to Jesus in the New Testament (Rom 10:13, 1 Cor 1:31, Phil 2:10-11, Heb 1:10-12, 1 Pet 3:14-15), just to name a few examples. The doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, depends on a particular interpretation of a single verse. Of course the Jehovah’s Witness will dispute every one of the proofs put forward for the deity of Christ, but the contrast in the number of texts that can plausibly be appealed to is worth pointing out.