Most theologians will tell you that the term ‘the Angel of the Lord’ is appearance of the LordJesus in the Old Testament. To be honest, I am uncomfortable with this idea and believe it to be completely wrong.
Who is he?
Now, people will say: he speaks in the first person – so he must be God? However, this ignores the fact that as God’s representative and messenger- that’s perfectly normal – even to the extent of reverence.
The book of Hebrews tells us that God did speak before Jesus but, that He’s spoken to us in these last days through his son. If the Angel of the Lord was the son in pre-incarnate form – then he has spoken several times already!
Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”
Secondly, several New Testament writers clearly show that the personage of the Angel of the Lord in the OT is not a pre-existent appearance of the Son of God: Jesus Christ. The following: is part of the martyr Stephen’s address. Note, he doesn’t suggest the Angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ to his Jewish listeners which would have actually been a powerful theological point!
Acts 7 “And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.”
Acts 7:38 “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:”
He’s in the New Testament
Thirdly, the Angel of the Lord appears IN the New Testament. In fact, at the birth of Jesus and at the resurrection! He can hardly be both persons at the same time – even if He (Jesus) is God! Later on in Acts, the Angel of the Lord appears in order to set Peter free from prison. In addition, he strikes Herod down with worms because of blasphemy. Indeed, the Angel of the Lord is a fearsome person. He doesn’t act at all emotionally or with any mercy and grace:
2 Kings 19 “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”
Therefore, he seems to be very much a destroying warrior and protecting angel. That hardly seems to equate with the character of Jesus Christ who alone fully reveals God as He is the perfect image of God. An angel, although greater and power and might than human beings – could never do that. They know nothing of God’s love! Only reflecting his power and might.
In conclusion, I don’t believe Jesus Christ was ever an angel (even a mighty one). Until the incarnation of Jesus no one had seen God at any time:
John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This explains, in my view, the apparent inconsistencies in the Old Testament where several people – including Moses – claim to have seen God. I think they were mistaken. What they saw were angels not the face of God! This could also explain the harshness of the Law of Moses which several scriptures inform us was given by angels. That’s for next post though!
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