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4. Specific Angels

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Who are the specific angels mentioned in Scripture? There are at least five of them.

Michael

Michael is called “one of the leading princes” in Daniel 10:13 and the “archangel” in Jude 1:9, which demonstrates his rule and authority over other angels.1 His name means “Who is like God?”2 He apparently has a specific role in defending Israel. In Daniel 10:21, he is called “your prince” in referring to Daniel and thus Israel. And in Daniel 12:1, it is prophesied that he will protect Israel in a time of persecution during the end-times, which is instigated by the Antichrist. Daniel 12:1 says,

At that time Michael, the great prince who watches over your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress unlike any other from the nation’s beginning up to that time. But at that time your own people, all those whose names are found written in the book, will escape.

Revelation 12:13-14 may also refer to Michael’s protection over Israel during the end-times. When Israel, who is referred to as the woman who gave birth to the child (the messiah), is being attacked by the dragon (the devil), she is given wings to fly to a safe place in the wilderness. These wings may refer to Michael helping them (which he may do through some other nation or entity). Revelation 12:13-14 says,

Now when the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of a giant eagle so that she could fly out into the wilderness, to the place God prepared for her, where she is taken care of—away from the presence of the serpent—for a time, times, and half a time.

In the same chapter, Michael is displayed as the leader of the angelic army who fights against Satan and his demons—defeating them and removing them from heaven. Revelation 12:7-8 says,

Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels.

This is not the only time Michael contends with Satan. After Moses’ death, Michael argues with Satan about Moses’ body. Jude 1:9 says, “But even when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil and debating with him concerning Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a slanderous judgment, but said, ‘May the Lord rebuke you!’” Why was there a dispute over Moses’ body? We can only speculate since Scripture is silent on the issue. However, William MacDonald gives a prudent explanation in the Believer’s Bible Commentary:

We have no definite knowledge why the dispute arose between Michael and Satan about the body of Moses. We do know that Moses was buried by God in a valley of Moab. It is not unlikely that Satan wanted to know the spot so that he could have a shrine built there. Then Israel would turn to the idolatrous worship of Moses’ bones. As the angelic representative of the people of Israel (Dan. 10:21), Michael would strive to preserve the people from this form of idolatry by keeping the burial site secret.3

In addition, it must be noted that the second coming of Christ will come with a shout from the “archangel.” First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Since no one else is called the archangel in Scripture, this may refer to Michael’s role in Christ’s coming and the resurrection of the saints.

In Scripture, Michael is a warrior who fights for God’s people against the devil and his demons. He reminds us that we are likewise in a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:10-12 says:

Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

Even Michael, who is much greater than us, did not rely on his own strength when contending with the devil over Moses’ body. Instead, he prayed for the Lord to rebuke him (Jude 1:9). Likewise, Paul said that we can’t fight this spiritual war in our own power, we must be “strengthened in the Lord,” in “his power,” and with “the full armor of God.” Certainly, we can only depend on these spiritual resources by constant prayer, time in God’s Word, worship, being unified with the saints, and practicing righteousness (cf. Eph 6:13-20).

Gabriel

Gabriel is another angel mentioned in Scripture. His name means “mighty one of God”4 or “God is strong.”5 He is only mentioned in the books of Daniel and Luke. In both, he is sent by God to give and explain messages to God’s people. In Daniel 8:16, he explains the vision of the ram and goat battle to Daniel. In Daniel 9:27, he explains a prophetic vision about Israel’s future—including the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the coming of the messiah, the destruction of the temple, the Antichrist, and other end-time events. In Luke 1:19, he predicts the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias, and in Luke 1:26, he predicts the birth of Christ to Mary.

Gabriel reminds us to always be ready to speak for God and explain his messages to people. First Peter 3:15-16 says, “But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect…” We must always be ready to share the gospel with the lost and help explain away their difficulties with it. We must study God’s Word, so we can explain the mysteries of Scripture to believers to aid in their sanctification and to help them trust God more. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.”

The Angel of the Lord

In the Old Testament, there are many appearances of a specific angel named “the angel of the Lord” who is clearly distinct from other angels (Gen 16:7-12, 21:17-18, 22:11-18, Ex 3:2, Jdg 2:1-4, 5:23, 6:11-24, 13:3-22, etc.). What makes this angel unique is that he identifies himself as God, speaks as God, and exercises the responsibilities of God. Consider two specific examples: In Judges 6:11-16 (ESV), it describes Gideon’s call by the Angel of the Lord to lead Israel against the Midianites. It says,

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

Gideon did not initially recognize that this man was an angel, but at some point in the conversation, Gideon recognized that he was in fact the Angel of the Lord and began to cry out with fear to God (v. 22-23). However, what’s interesting about this discourse is the fact that the narrator begins to address the Angel of the Lord as God. In verse 14, the narrator says, “the LORD turned to him and said” with capital letters, which means it was God’s covenant name YAHWEH. The Angel of the Lord was God.

Likewise, in Exodus 3:1-4 (ESV), the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a fiery bush. It says,

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

In the story, Moses saw the Angel of the Lord in the bush, and after that, the narrator adds in verse 4, “God called to him out of the bush.” The Angel of the Lord and God were the same person.

Many would suggest that when God showed up in the form of the Angel of the Lord, who seemed to always appear as a man, those appearances were actually early sightings of the Son of God. Why do they believe that? It is simply biblical reasoning. After Christ came to the earth, we still have appearances of angels but no appearances of the Angel of the Lord. Also, it would seem logical that since Christ has always eternally existed, he was active and would have manifested himself in the world at various times (cf. John 8:58). Many believe Christ commonly did this as the Angel of the Lord.

Lucifer

Lucifer, also called Satan and the devil (Matt 4:1, 16:23), is a prominent angel mentioned in Scripture. He is the chief evil angel whom we will consider in more depth in Satanology. Isaiah 14:12 (KJV) says, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!” Lucifer means “shining one” or “star of the morning.”6 Before his fall, he was a cherub who guarded the glory of God and possibly led the angels in worship (Ez 28:13-14 NKJV). In his ministry to God, he became prideful and led one-third of the angels in rebellion, who are now called demons (Rev 12:4). Lucifer’s fall is a sobering reminder that it is possible to do ministry with wrong motives and ultimately rebel against God, becoming antagonistic to God, his Word, and his people (cf. Heb 10:29-31). Unfortunately, this has happened to many who previously served in ministry. In 1 Timothy 3:6, Paul warned against placing young believers in church leadership for this reason. He said, “He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact.”

Abaddon / Apollyon

The final angel mentioned in Scripture is another evil one. His name is Abaddon in Hebrew or Apollyon in Greek—both names mean destroyer. In Revelation 9, it says demonic angels who have been bound in the abyss will be let loose for a short season to judge the earth during the end-times. Abaddon is the leader of these demons. Revelation 9:11 says, “They have as king over them the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.” Some think this angel is Satan; however, he apparently is bound to the abyss until the Great Tribulation. Since Satan is called “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:2; cf. Eph 6:12) and is not bound to the abyss until the millennial kingdom in Revelation 20:1-3 (cf. Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6), many believe Abaddon is a high-ranking demon bound in the abyss who will lead a demonic invasion to judge unbelievers during the Great Tribulation (Rev 9:4-6).

Conclusion

In Scripture, five angels are mentioned by name—Michael the archangel, Gabriel who is God’s messenger, the Angel of the Lord which is probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, Lucifer who is the leader of all demons, and Abaddon who is the leader of the demons bound in the abyss.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. How many specific angels are mentioned in Scripture and who are they?
  3. Describe the specific angels and their roles and any applications that can be taken from them.
  4. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

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1 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 398). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

2 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R. (Eds.). (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (p. 669). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

3 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2342). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

4 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R. (Eds.). (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (p. 669). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

5 Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology (p. 303). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

6 Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology (p. 303). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Related Topics: Angelology

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