Is St. Michael the Christ or A Created Angel?
Rev. Dr. Christian Preus has provided a most excellent analysis of the traditional Lutheran exegetical opinion that St. Michael in Revelation 12 is not a created angel but the Christ Himself in this CTQ article from 2016. For my part, I sorely wish that I had read it before my Issues interview on St. Michael’s propers this past week. Dr. Preus here taught me something I was completely unaware of and have never considered: that there might be two Michaels, one a created angel as in Jude and another the Christ Himself who defeats Satan, and that many Lutheran exegetes operated with that understanding. I am not quite convinced but I like the approach and am glad to have my mind expanded in this way. It is too easy to become narrow and dogmatic on these things. For all of that, I very much agree with Preus’ well-stated summary of position he attributes to Dr. Charles Gieschen:
There is, of course, an exegetical alternative, and that is to interpret Michael as one created angel, like Gabriel, who appears in Daniel, Jude, and Revelation at the Lord’s bidding. His work is that of an angel, carrying out the work of God; he is not the Son of God, working through his word to preserve his church. This interpretation has been set forth by many. Charles Gieschen, for example, argues that Michael is a created angel whose actions are at the bidding and by the power of the Lamb, who made atonement for sin once and for all and thereby silenced Satan’s accusations against the children of God in heaven, so that Michael was commanded to cast Satan and his accusations forever out of heaven, from the court of God.36 Thus the vision of Revelation 12 would be an image representing the objective result of Christ’s atonement (reconciliation with God and justification) instead of an image of Christ fighting with his word in the church.
One gets the sense that this is not the opinion of Preus himself but I appreciate his inclusion of it and his demonstration that he understands both sides and also what is at stake. His careful analysis of the arguments in their original context and his sensitivity to the various theological issues at stake are remarkable and a sterling example of real scholarship. I will be thinking about this article for some time and certainly re-visiting it.