Archangels are the highest-ranking angels in heaven. God gives them the most important responsibilities, and they do their work both in the heavenly dimension and in the earthly one. The word “archangel” is from the Greek words “arche” (ruler) and “angelos” (messenger), signifying archangels’ dual duties. Archangels rule over the universe’s daily operation on missions from God, while also delivering messages from God to human beings.
Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all give some information about the archangels in their various religious texts and traditions. However, while the different religions all say that archangels are incredibly powerful, they don’t agree on the details of what the archangels are like.
Some religious texts mention just a few archangels by name; others mention more. While religious texts usually refer to archangels as male, that may be just a default way of referring to them. Many people believe that angels don’t have a specific gender and can appear to humans in any form they choose, according to what will best accomplish the purpose of each of their missions. Some scriptures imply that that there are too many angels for humans to count. Only God knows how many archangels lead the angels that he has made.
In heaven, archangels have the honor of enjoying time in God’s presence. Many people believe that archangels spend their time in heaven praising God and checking in with him often to get new assignments for their work on Earth. Archangels also spend time elsewhere in the spiritual realm fighting evil, say many believers. One archangel in particular — Michael — appears to be the head archangel who often takes the lead to battle evil with good, according to accounts in the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an.
Believers say that God has assigned guardian angels to protect each individual person on Earth, but he often sends archangels to accomplish earthly tasks of a larger scale. For example, the archangel Gabriel is known for his appearances delivering major messages to people throughout history. Christians believe that God sent Gabriel to inform the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ on Earth, while Muslims believe that Gabriel communicated the entire Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad.
People have given names to the archangels who have interacted with humans throughout history. Most of the archangels’ names end with the suffix “el” (“in God”). Beyond that, each archangel’s name has a meaning that signifies the unique type of work that he or she does in the world. For example, archangel Raphael’s name means “God heals,” because God often uses Raphael to deliver healing to people who are suffering spiritually, physically, emotionally, or mentally. Another example is the archangel Uriel’s name, which means “God is my light.” God charges Uriel with shining the light of divine truth on the darkness of people’s confusion, helping them seek wisdom.