Like Charles Russell, the founder of the other big group to emerge from nineteenth century Adventism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ellen G White, founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA), taught that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. If you search the official SDA website today you will find no reference to it. Their current edition of What do Seventh-day Adventists Believe, doesn’t mention it. It does, however, have the following to say about Ellen G White:
‘One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G White-the Lord’s messenger. Her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.’ (What Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 2005 ed.p.247)
The SDA Movement emerged at a time of great religious excitement, when many claimed to speak prophetically and with authority, and can be shown to have taken away from the word of God by adding to it. She fits right into this category of religious leader, God’s messenger, her writings a source of truth and her teachings said to, provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. So many made similar claims.
On the other hand, the SDAs have moved on from those heady days of ‘prophetic truth’ and unimpeachable authority. They are more circumspect in their public statements and insist that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. It is as well since their founder effectively added to Scripture, demoted Jesus, and took away from his glory. Yet she believed herself to be speaking with unquestionable authority from God, as did her early followers.
This teaching, that Michael is Christ, has been rejected by mainstream Christian churches for the simple reason it is not biblical. It is based on serious misinterpretations of clear Bible texts.
One of the Chief Princes
In Daniel 10 we find Daniel fasting for three weeks, seeking God. In answer a man appears to him in a vision and spoke, saying, ‘Fear not Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard. And I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia…’ (Dan.10:12-13, ESV)
Writing of this incident, Ellen G White says, ‘For three weeks Gabriel wrestled with the powers of darkness, seeking to counteract the influences at work on the mind of Cyrus; and before ther contest closed, Christ himself came to Gabriel’s aid.’ Prophets and Kings, p.572
The text clearly identifies Michael as the one who comes to Gabriel’s aid. Just as clear is Ellen White’s assertion that it was Christ who rescued Gabriel. But Michael is described in the text as ‘one of the chief princes.’ In other words, he is one of a group of princes, equal in authority and power. Is Jesus one of a group of equals? John 3:16 describes him as one of a kind, God’s only begotten Son. The Greek is ‘monogenes’ indicating a unique person.
Michael’s Power of Resurrection
In the New Testament, Jude writes about a dispute between Michael and the Devil over the body of Moses, ‘But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing with about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgement, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 1:9, ESV)
Writing of this incident, Ellen G White remarked, “Satan the tempter had claimed the body of Moses because of his sin; but Christ the Saviour brought him forth from the grave.” (Desire of Ages, p.421)
She further wrote of this incident, ‘Moses passed through death, but Michael came down and gave him life before his body had seen corruption. Satan tried to hold the body, claiming it as his; but Michael resurrected Moses and took him to heaven. Satan railed bitterly against God, denouncing Him as unjust in permitting his prey to be taken from him; but Christ did not rebuke His adversary, though it was through his temptation that the servant of God had fallen. He meekly referred him to His Father, saying, “The Lord rebuke thee.” (Early Writings, p. 164.)
Equating Michael and Jesus, she ascribes to an angel the power of life and death, power only found in God. It is also noteworthy that Jesus, while of course deferring to his Father in his earthly ministry, nevertheless, spoke by his own authority. (28:18) This is what astonished people about his teaching (Mt.7:29). Angels, on the other hand, even an archangel, dare not pass judgement, but say, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’
Peter, writing about false teachers reinforces this, ‘Bold and wilful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgement against them before the Lord.’ (2 Pet.2:10-11, ESV)
An angel is a created being, an archangel is a chief angel. While angels leave judgement to the Lord, Jesus, who is ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords,’ (1 Tim.6:15) has all judgement given to him (Jn.5:22) Indeed, when Satan sought to tempt him, Jesus openly rebuked him, ‘Begone Satan! For it is written…Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him’ (Mt.4:10)
The writer to the Hebrews describes angels as, ‘ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.’ (Heb.1:14) In this same chapter the category difference between Jesus and angels is made clear:
‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Heb.1:5-14, ESV)
Jesus is to be worshipped, angels to worship, as ministering spirits for the sake of the saved.
With the Shout of an Archangel
Writing to the church in Thessalonica Paul regards their, ‘steadfast faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring,’ as, ‘evidence of the righteous judgement of God that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering-since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his might angels…’ (2 Thess.1:4-7, ESV)
It is in this context of suffering saints being rewarded when Jesus is revealed from heaven with his angels that Paul, in an earlier letter writes:
‘For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.’ (1 Thess.4:16, ESV)
That he comes, with the voice of an archangel, doesn’t mean he is an archangel, as is claimed. Rather, being accompanied by a company of angels, the voice of the one chief angel identified in the Bible, Michael, will be heard. In the old Testament, trumpets proclaimed the presence of the Lord (Ex.19:16; 1 Chron.16:6). and are associated with battle. The cry of command, the voice of the archangel, and the sound of the trumpet summon the dead to wake, ‘And the dead in Christ will rise first…’
While it seems not to be believed among SDAs today, their founding prophetess taught that Michael is Christ, even though the Bible never refers to him as such. She added to Scripture, promoting a creature, while reducing Jesus to the role of a created being. If this was a secondary issue, something on which we might agree to differ, things would be different, but this concerns the very identity and person of the Son of God. Nothing could be more important, indeed it might be said that the most important question the Bible asks us is, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Mk.8:29, ESV)
SDAs today still regard Ellen G White as, ‘…the Lord’s messenger. Her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.’ (What Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 2005 ed.p.247)
If we judge her by the standard they themselves declare to be the last word, the Bible, we find her seriously wanting, yet she is still regarded as, ‘a continuing and authoritative source of truth.’