One of the distinctives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is their belief that Jesus is not God but is rather the archangel Michael. They derive this from the following passage.
“For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
The thought is: how could Jesus come with the voice or call of the archangel if Jesus was not the archangel? It could be questioned as to why Jesus’ identity is defined by the call of the archangel and not the trumpet of God. But aside from that, for Jehovah’s Witnesses to get to this point, they have to make some questionable assumptions.
First of all, they assume that Michael is the only archangel and that uniqueness fits well with Jesus’ uniqueness. It is true that Michael is the only angel described as an archangel in the Bible (of course Gabriel is the only other angel given a name so the competition is not that fierce). But the Bible must be interpreted in its Jewish context. In the Jewish world at the time, there were a number of archangels including Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and others. Should we take these Jewish apocalyptic ideas seriously if they are not directly from the Bible? We should keep in mind that Jude was willing to quote from the Pseudepigrapha (1 Enoch and Assumption of Moses), including a tradition about Michael.
Even if Michael is the only archangel, there is still a problem: he is an angel. This is a problem because of the following passage speaking of Jesus:
“He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Hebrews 1:3-4)
The author of Hebrews then goes on to quote various passages of the Old Testament to demonstrate the difference between Jesus and the angels. Jehovah’s Witnesses respond by saying that he is not an angel, he is an archangel, that is the head of the angels. The Greek arche can mean “beginning, first, origin, ruling power, authority.” Technically it can mean “head” but the emphasis is not on its distinctiveness from what it is ruling over. For example, archipoimen means chief shepherd, but he is still a shepherd, he just happens to be the one in charge. Also, we have archiereus, which is the high priest. No one would argue that the high priest was not a priest but only a man in charge of the priests. The high priest is a priest with certain responsibilities. So with the archangel, Michael is still an angel, he just happens to be an angel with a very important role. As long as we take the book of Hebrews seriously, it is impossible to accept Jesus as being the archangel Michael.