Warning: This is quite a heavy blog post!
After reading the books listed below and much pondering, discussion and prayer, I believe the ‘angel of the Lord’ in the Old Testament is Jesus, before he came as a man. Below are some of the reasons why:*
In John 1:1 we hear that Jesus is the word of God, who has always been with God and has always been God. We know that Jesus has always existed – he didn’t begin in a manger in Bethlehem. God made man “In our image” in Genesis 1:26, with God being three in one. Plus, Jesus says himself in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am!” This links to Exodus 3, when the angel of the Lord spoke to Moses from the burning bush, saying “I AM WHO I AM”. First it says the angel spoke, then it says God spoke. God and the angel were the same. In Genesis 22 Abraham learned this himself, when he was willing to sacrifice his own son to prove his love for God. The angel of the Lord said “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son.” He didn’t need to make the sacrifice, but was willing.
AN angel of the Lord is in the New Testament, but THE angel of the Lord is not. However the New Testament does have Jesus Christ, God made flesh, and his Holy Spirit, so there is no need for his previous form.
God said “No one can see me and live” (Exodus 33:20) however we know that people could see Jesus and live, and he was both fully God and fully man. Also, Moses saw God’s back. So God can appear in forms where he can be seen. The angel of the Lord is another example, where the angel wrestles with Jacob. Genesis tells us the angel is God, renames Jacob in chapter 32:28 (renaming people was God’s job), calling him Israel meaning ‘he struggles with God’, not struggles with an angel. Why do I think this ‘angel of the Lord’ is a pre-incarnate Jesus? Because the Holy Spirit is invisible and no one can see God and live, leaving one member of the Trinity – Jesus!
In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul writes that Jesus is the ‘rock’ who walked with the Israelites, providing their every need. This is more New Testament confirmation, not just that a ‘preincarnate’ Jesus appeared from time to time in the Old Testament, but even that he was with them sometimes for long periods of time, physically walking with God’s people in the wilderness. We see this in Exodus 14, where the angel of the Lord leads the Israelites through the parted waters of the Red Sea. Are we getting this yet? Jesus led the Israelites through the Red Sea! Are we surprised that the angel of the Lord does not object to being worshiped, as in Joshua 5, but all other angels in the Bible shun worship because they were all created to worship God (Rev 22:10 and elsewhere)?
I hope you find this subject as fascinating as I have. There are other passages too. The most important thing is not that Jesus came as the ‘angel of the Lord’, but that he came as a sacrifice to bring us back to God – and that he still prays for us right now (Romans 8:34), even as his Spirit works in all who love him. But still…’wow’ for the lengths he has gone to throughout history to show God’s love and faithfulness for all humankind!
Helpful Books on this subject:
- Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman Jr, Sense & Nonsense About Angels & Demons
- James A Borland, Christ in the Old Testament
- Douglas Connelly, Angels: A Life builder Bible Study
- Douglas Connelly, Angels Around Us
- Duane A. Garrett, Angels and the New Spirituality
- Billy Graham, Angels: God’s Secret Agents
- Dr. David Jeremiah, What the Bible Says About Angels
- Ron Rhodes, Angels
- Ron Rhodes, Christ Before the Manger
- H.L. Wilmington, Wilmington’s Book of Bible Lists
- Alexander Whyte, The Nature of Angels
*Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. I always like to add pictures, but there is no accurate way of knowing exactly what the angel looked like, or in fact what Jesus looks like.