THE Angel of the LORD — Mighty Angel or Pre-Incarnate Christ?
The Bible refers to “The Angel of the LORD” several times, but it’s clear that this is no ordinary angel and he should be differentiated from references to an angel of the LORD (e.g. Luke 1:11). In fact, it’s obvious that The Angel of the LORD is deity—the Mighty pre-incarnate Christ. Let’s look at the scriptural evidence for this powerful revelation.
The First Appearance of The Angel of the LORD
“The Angel of the LORD” first appears in Genesis 16 when the slave Hagar ran away from her home with Abram and Sarai (who are renamed Abraham and Sarah in the following chapter). The Angel of the LORD appears to Hagar at a spring and instructs her to go back home and submit to her mistress; he then encourages her about her soon-to-be-birthed son, Ishmael, and their countless descendants (verses 7-12).
But how do we know the Angel of the LORD is deity in this passage? Verse 13 makes it clear:
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
We are told point blank that this “angel” is the LORD. Secondly, Hagar dubs him “the-God-Who-Sees-Me” and, furthermore, testifies that she had now seen the-God-who-sees-her.
Someone might argue that no one has ever seen God based on a few clear passages, such as when Moses requested to see God’s Glory and the LORD responded: “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Another example is 1 Timothy 6:16 where Paul describes God as “whom no one has seen or can see.”
Here’s another passage:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
If no one has ever seen God then how do we explain Hagar seeing the LORD in Genesis 16 above? The answer lies within the second part of this verse: No one has ever seen God, the Father, but the Son—who also is God—has made Him known. How did the Son make God known? Two ways:
- Christ made the Father known through His incarnation, which is confirmed by Jesus’ statements: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), “whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45 ESV) and “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19).
- Christ also made the Father known in Old Testament times before his incarnation, as illustrated above when Hagar saw God via The Angel of the LORD.
There are several other appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ—aka “the Angel of the LORD”—in the Old Testament…
The Angel of the LORD Appears to Moses in the Burning Bush
Notice what the Bible says about The Angel of the LORD in the account of the burning bush:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”
As you can see, The Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fiery flames from within the bush. When The Angel of the LORD speaks, he testifies to being God and Moses was understandably “afraid to look at God.” Then this celestial being is referred to as the “LORD” in verse 7, which is the Tetragrammaton—YHWH—the name for God, which we’ll look at shortly.
Clearly The Angel of the LORD is God, albeit not the Father, but rather the Son, who is the One who reveals the Father.
The Angel of the LORD Appears to Gideon
Here’s another occasion where the Angel of the LORD appears:
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
“The Angel of the LORD” appears to Gideon in verses 11-12 and the following verses confirm him to be the LORD, aka Yahweh (verses 14 & 16).
The Angel of the LORD Appears to the Parents of Samson
In Judges 13 The Angel of the LORD appears to the parents of Samson to announce the prophet’s birth wherein ‘The Angel’ gives them instructions on how the child is to be raised consecrated to the LORD. He is referred to as “the Angel of the LORD” several times in this chapter and “the Angel of God” as well (verse 9).
He’s also referred to as a “man” a few times (verses 6, 10 & 11), which simply shows that The Angel of the LORD appeared as a man to Manoah and his wife. Of course, they could tell that he was no ordinary person because Manoah’s wife described him as a “man of God” who “looked like an angel of God, very awesome” (verse 6).
When Manoah asked The Angel’s name he responded: “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding” (verse 18) or, as the New Living Translation puts it, “It is too wonderful for you to understand.” Clearly, this was a messenger of God far greater than mighty archangels like Michael and Gabriel, who had understandable names.
Who exactly “the Angel of the LORD” is in Judges 13 is cleared up at the close when he ascends to Heaven in the flames of Manoah’s offering (verse 20). To which Manoah cries: “We are all doomed to die! We have seen God!” (verse 22).
Yes, they saw God, but not God, the Father, since He “lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). Rather they saw God, the Son; the One who reveals the Father.
Jacob Wrestles with God
With everything we now know about The Angel of the LORD—that he is God, the Son, who reveals Father God—let’s look at the incredible account of Jacob who wrestled with a “man” all night that turned out to be God:
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
While there are a lot of potent truths you can pull from this amazing account we want to focus on the simple fact that Jacob wrestled with someone all night that appeared to be a “man” and this man turned out to be God. As Jacob exclaims at the end: “I saw God face to face.”
We know from the rest of Scripture that Jacob didn’t see Father God because no one can see the Father and live. He saw the pre-incarnate Son whose job is to reveal Father God. While this passage doesn’t refer to the Son as The Angel of the LORD, that’s who it is. Notice that Jacob asks for his name and he responds similarly to the way The Angel of the LORD did to Manoah, as shown in the previous section (Judges 13:18). Moreover, notice what the prophet Hosea says when he references the account of Jacob wrestling with this “man”:
3 In the womb he [Jacob] grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
4 He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
Hosea refers to the “man” Jacob wrestled all night as God and “the angel,” meaning The Angel of the LORD, i.e. the pre-incarnate Christ. Scripture interprets Scripture.
The Commander of the Army of the LORD
The Son makes another pre-incarnate appearance before the sack of Jericho where he’s not identified as The Angel of the LORD, but rather as the Commander of the Army of the LORD:
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
1Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.”
It doesn’t take long for Joshua to realize that this mysterious man with a drawn sword isn’t merely a “man” because Joshua falls facedown to the ground in worship. Keep in mind that both the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘worship’ literally mean to prostrate oneself in adoration or reverence. This was Abraham’s response to the LORD, as observed in Genesis 17:3 and 18:1-2, which document two other appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.
Joshua then proceeds to call this curious man “Lord” and refers to himself as his “servant” (verse 14).
Further evidence that this Commander of the Army of the LORD is deity can be observed in that he immediately commands Joshua to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. This recalls what The Angel of the LORD instructed Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5).
Lastly, the Commander of the LORD’s Army is identified at the end of the passage simply as “the LORD” (verse 2) wherein He supplies Joshua with the strategy he needed to conquer the pagan city. Keep in mind that there were no chapter divisions in the original manuscripts; these were added 2600 years after the book of Joshua was written.
So the Commander of the Army of the LORD is the pre-incarnate Christ.
Now, let me ask you: Does this Commander come across as a milksop or does he strike you as a mighty warrior that commands respect and awe? Notice what he says when Joshua asks him if he’s on Israel’s side or Jericho’s side: “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have come.” This response is simple and succinct, but it’s potent and speaks volumes: Jesus Christ is so magnificent, so great—so incredibly awesome—he’s above the mundane conflicts of this world and the politics thereof. Bringing this home for us today: The Mighty Christ is above the perpetual squabbling of the left-wing and right-wing factions of our governments. Enough said.
Understanding God’s Name—YHWH
All these passages reveal that The Angel of the LORD is God, with several identifying him as the “LORD,” which is YHWH in the Hebrew. This is the Tetragrammaton (teh-truh-GRAM-uh-tawn), which is the actual name of God in the Bible. YHWH is typically rendered “LORD” in English versions of Holy Scripture (all capitals).
From the 2nd or 3rd century BC The Name was considered too holy to speak in Jewish culture and therefore substitute words for YHWH were used, like Adonai (ah-doh-NAHY) and Elohim (eh-LOH-him or EL-oh-HEEM). Adonai is a title of reverence for God and Elohim simply means “God.”
Since YHWH became ineffable, the actual pronunciation was lost over time, although YAH-way is the likely pronunciation (or YAH-hoo-way for devout Hebrews). “Jehovah” is merely the English form of the Tetragrammaton (JHVH) with the vowels of Adonai inserted.
Basically, when God told Moses “I AM WHO I AM,” he was giving the translation of what Yahweh means (Exodus 3:13-14). “I AM WHO I AM” is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh in Hebrew. He was saying in effect, “My name is the fact that I exist.”
Now, isn’t that a perfectly fitting name for the Almighty?
In response to this fascinating information someone wrote me quoting Romans 10:13, which says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” She understandably asked:
So what name exactly? Since the one mentioned is too holy and we don’t really know the correct pronunciation (and probably for the best in light of the third commandment).
To answer, let’s read Romans 10:13 with the surrounding verses:
Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Paul was quoting the prophet Joel in verse 13 and the Hebrew word translated as “LORD” in that Old Testament passage is YHWH. Hence, we are to call upon the name of YHWH. But the very next verse—Romans 10:14—implies that Paul was talking about calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus and believing in Him. “Jesus” is the Greek rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua (or Joshua), which means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”
Jesus Christ is the topic of this section of Scripture, as verified by verses 6, 7 and 9; and Jesus is even referred to as “Lord” in verse 9. This is the Greek word kurios (KOO-ree-os), which is the very same word used to translate the Hebrew YHWH from Joel 2:32 in verse 13! In other words, the same Greek word for “Lord”—kurios—is used to translate the Hebrew YHWH and is also used as a reference to Jesus Christ in the same context. So, whether Yahweh or Yeshua it’s all good. Keep in mind what Jesus said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” and “I and the Father are ONE” (John 14:9 & John 10:30).
I suggest keeping this data in mind for the next time a Jehovah’s False Witness tries to scam you about the Father and the Son who, as you can plainly see, are both YHWH. Romans 10:5-15 above is strategic in proving this.
Speaking of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they make this big deal about referring to God by his proper name YaHWeH, which they pronounce as “Jehovah.” The problem with this is threefold:
- YHWH is actually pronounced Yahweh (YAH-way), not Jehovah, as explained above.
- The Tetragrammaton—YHWH—actually does not appear in the New Testament, at least not in any extant text. As noted above, the Greek word kurios is used to translation it (Joel 2:32 & Romans 10:13). Kurios, by the way, means “Lord, master, sir.”
- When Jesus Christ instructed us how to pray he said we are to address Yahweh as our “heavenly Father” or our “Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). This corresponds to familial relation where we’re Yahweh’s children through spiritual rebirth (1 John 3:9, 1 Peter 1:23 & Titus 3:5). As such, we are to naturally refer to Yahweh as “abba Father” (Romans 8:15 ). The Aramaic abba is a term of tender endearment by a beloved child for his/her father; it’s an affectionate, dependent word akin to “Daddy” or “Papa.” Think about your relationship with your earthly father. Do you call him by his proper name or do you use a term of endearment, like “Daddy,” “Dad,” “Pa,” “Pops” or “Father”? This is why Christ said we are to address YHWH as “Father” when we commune, which isn’t to say we can’t refer to him as Yahweh (more on this in a moment).
As to the pronunciation of YHWH, as noted above YAH–way (or YAH-hoo-way to devout Jews) is the accepted pronunciation, but proper pronunciation has nothing to do with the third Old Testament commandment—“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:7)—especially in light of varying dialects. For instance, people of northern and southern Israel pronounced Adonai and Elohim differently, with the accent on different syllables. The idea that the LORD would reject someone merely because he or she put the accent on a different syllable than someone else is silly. God looks to the heart not to whether or not they pronounce a word perfectly (1 Samuel 16:7).
As far as YHWH becoming ineffable, that didn’t happen until the Hellenistic period which coincided with the inter-testamental period (i.e. “between testaments”—approximately 400 BC to the time of Christ). And it’s actually unbiblical in light of David—“a man after God’s own heart”—utilizing YHWH frequently in his prayer time, as seen throughout the Psalms, which shows that God approves of people using YHWH in our communion with Him. To exclusively use substitute names and titles on the grounds that we might severely offend God by mispronouncing YHWH is unbiblical.
Taking the LORD’s name in vain refers to the wrongful use of The Name, not mispronunciation based on one’s dialect or whatever; unless, of course, someone were to intentionally mispronounce it in a mocking sense.
If Christ is “The Angel of the LORD” Is He an Angel?
The answer to this question is an emphatic “No” for several reasons:
- The Angel of the LORD is constantly identified as the LORD—Yahweh—albeit the Son, not the Father. We’ve seen several examples of this (e.g. Exodus 3:1-12 & Judges 6:11-22).
- “The Angel of the LORD” is a title of the Son, Yeshua, not a name. The Hebrew word for “angel” is malak (mal-AWK), which simply means “a messenger, supernatural or human.” The word appears 213 times in the Old Testament and typically refers to supernatural messengers (Genesis 19:1) but often refers to human messengers as well (Genesis 32:3,6). Just as the “envoys” to Egypt in Isaiah 30:4 aren’t conventional angels, neither is The Angel of the LORD a conventional angel.
Why did the Father give the Son this title? Two reasons: Yeshua is called The Angel of the LORD—The Messenger of the LORD—because that’s what he does: He reveals God to people because the Father dwells in unapproachable light and no one can see Him (1 Timothy 6:16). Since no one can see Him we can’t receive from Him directly. Thus the Son is The Messenger of the LORD. The second reason is…
- “The Angel of the LORD” is likely the Father’s term of endearment for the Son, such as a man calling his wife or daughter his “angel.” This is akin to “abba Father,” which is how believers refer to Father God by the Spirit (Romans 8:15). As noted in the previous section, the Aramaic abba is a term of tender endearment of a child for his/her beloved father; it’s an affectionate word denoting dependence, similar to “daddy.”
- God has provided for us an entire chapter of the Bible—Hebrews 1—to prove that Jesus is not a conventional angel in the manner of Michael, Gabriel or lesser angels. If you’re not familiar with it, I encourage you to read this chapter; let’s look at some of its key statements…
Father God Speaks to People through the Son, who Created all Things!
Observe the opening two verses of the first chapter of Hebrews:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
In Old Testament times God spoke to people through prophets, like Moses and Isaiah, but in these “last days”—which means the time spanning from the Messiah’s arrival to His return*—the heavenly Father speaks through His Son, Jesus Christ. This doesn’t just include the actual words of Christ, as chronicled in the four Gospels, but also to those who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” since the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Christ” (2 Peter 1:21 & Romans 8:9).
* See Acts 2:17, James 5:3, 1 Peter 1:20, 2 Peter 3:3-4.
The fact that Father God speaks to people through the incarnated Son is a general truth and does not mean that Father God didn’t occasionally speak to people via the pre-incarnate Christ, as shown earlier. Remember the hermeneutical rule: Scripture interprets Scripture.
In any case, verse 2 verifies the main point of this chapter—that Jesus Christ is The Messenger of the LORD who speaks for the Father because the Father cannot have direct contact with people, lest they perish. This is why Yeshua has the title The Angel of the LORD—The Messenger of the LORD.
Notice in the second part of verse 2 that Jesus is designated as “the heir of all things… through whom he [Father God] made the universe.” All things in Heaven and Earth where made through Christ (John 1:3); this includes all angels:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
“Powers,” “rulers” and “authorities” comprise supernatural hierarchies, including the devil and his ranks of fallen angels (Ephesians 6:12). This isn’t to say, of course, that Christ created these disgraced spirits in their fallen state—He created them in a perfect condition and they later foolishly rebelled, which we’ll look at further in Chapter 9 and 11.
So Christ is superior to angels because he created them!
All I can say about this is: Wow! Jesus ain’t no conventional angel!
Jesus Christ: Superior to Angels
Let’s look at the next two verses of Hebrews 1:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
The fact that Christ sat down at the right hand of Father God in Heaven distinguishes Him from angels, like Michael and Gabriel who, at most, merely stand in the presence of God (Luke 1:19). This is further emphasized several verses later:
To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
The quote is from the opening verse of this Psalm:
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
Father God is speaking to the Son here. The former is referred to by the Hebrew Tetragrammaton—YHWH—which is rendered “LORD” (all capitals) whereas the latter is a different Hebrew word for “Lord.” When Christ quotes this verse in the New Testament both words are the same Greek word, kurios (KOO-ree-os), which is the Greek word for YHWH, noted earlier (Matthew 22:44). My Point? Jesus is YHWH, albeit the Son, not the Father.
Now let’s revisit verse 4:
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Here it is emphasized in plain language that Yeshua is superior to angels. The Greek verb translated as “became” refers to a change of state and not a change of existence because we know that the Son has existed from eternity, just as the Father:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This explains why both Father and Son refer to themselves as “I Am” (Exodus 3:14, John 8:58 & 18:6) and as “the first and the last” (Isaiah 44:6 & Revelation 22:13).
The reason Hebrews 1:4 says that Jesus “became” superior to angels is simply because he “was made lower than the angels for a little while” when he was incarnated (Hebrews 2:9). Notice what the Bible says about this:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
As you can see, before Christ’s incarnation he was “in very nature God” but “made himself nothing” by “being made in human likeness.” This is when he became lower than the angels for a little while (Hebrews 2:9) and it explains why Hebrews 1:4 says that he “became” superior to the angels when he ascended to the Father and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).
What Does it Mean that Jesus is God’s “Firstborn”
Let’s consider another verse from Hebrews 1:
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
As you can see, the Son is referred to as God’s “firstborn.” This is observed in other passages as well:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Cults like the Jehovah’s False Witnesses use these texts to support their belief that Jesus was the first created being of the LORD; and then God used Jesus to create everything else. However, Scripture interprets Scripture and we know from other passages examined in this chapter that Jesus is Yahweh (YHWH), albeit the Son, not the Father.
So what do these verses mean by describing Yeshua as the “firstborn.” The apostles, like Paul, borrowed this term from their Hebraic upbringing where “firstborn” meant especially honored. For instance, the nation of Israel was referred to as God’s “firstborn,” but this obviously didn’t mean Israel was the first nation that ever existed (Exodus 4:22). Similarly, God referred to David as His “firstborn” when he was hardly the first male God created, not to mention David was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons (Psalm 89:20,27). Furthermore, David was the second king of Israel. In light of all this, when Christ is referred to as the “firstborn” it simply means that the Son has a place of honor before the Father, shared by no one else; as well as a place of honor over all creation.
There are several other reasons for rejecting the idea that Christ was God’s first created being. Here are two obvious ones:
- Jesus cannot be both “first created” and “one and only Son” (John 1:14 &18, 3:16 & 18, 1 John 4:9). Think about it.
- John 1:3 (above) says that “Through him [Christ] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” If Yeshua is the Creator of all things he cannot also be the first created. It’s simple logic.
Angels Worship Jesus
Now let’s consider the second part of verse 6:
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
This is further evidence of Christ’s superiority to angels—angels worship Him. As such, if Jesus was an angel he’d have to worship himself!
Why do angels worship Yeshua? Because he’s their Creator, as shown earlier in Colossians 1:16. Furthermore, all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18) and notice who’s submitted to Him:
Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand — with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
1 Peter 3:22
Also, the Word of God forbids the worship of angels and advocates the worship of God alone (Revelation 19:10 & 22:9); and the Messiah is clearly worshipped by people and angels alike (Matthew 2:11, 14:33, 21:9 & 28:9).
You can study the rest of Hebrews 1 for yourself. I just wanted to show that there’s an entire chapter in God’s Word that proves Jesus Christ is superior to angels.
‘Wouldn’t Calling Jesus “The Angel of the LORD” Mislead Some People?’
Some folks have been misled into concluding that Christ was merely a mighty angel in the manner of Michael, with some even believing he is Michael. All I can say is: They must not know how to read in light of the clear scriptural data that shows Yeshua is the LORD—Yahweh—albeit the Son and not the Father. Seriously, how much clearer could God be in his Word that Christ is superior to angels?
The fact that some people fall into error because Jesus is “The Angel of the LORD” (etcetera) reveals why it’s important to “rightly divide” the Scriptures, as encouraged in the Bible:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
Who is God’s “worker who does not need to be ashamed”? Answer: The one who correctly handles the written Word. It’s only the person who incorrectly handles God’s Word that should be ashamed because he or she wrongly interpreted it. This, of course, spreads error, which naturally puts people into bondage since only the truth can set them free, not error (John 8:31-32).
In order to “rightly divide” the Scriptures we must make sure that we’re adhering to the four common-sense rules of hermeneutics, that is, Bible interpretation:
- Context is king: Meaning the surrounding text reveals the obvious meaning of each passage.
- Scripture interprets Scripture: Meaning every passage must be interpreted in light of the larger context of the entire Bible and thus the Bible itself is the best interpreter of a passage. In other words, one’s interpretation of a passage must gel with what the rest of Scripture teaches on the topic in question; the more overt and detailed passages obviously expand our understanding of the more sketchy and ambiguous ones.
- Take the Bible literally unless it’s clear that figurative language is being used: In which case you look for the literal truth that the symbolism intends to convey.
- If the plain sense makes sense—and is in harmony with the rest of Scripture—don’t look for any other sense lest you end up with nonsense: This includes the “plain sense” of the whole of Scripture on any given topic. In other words, if an individual or group comes up with an interpretation that is opposed to the plain-sense meaning that all the passages in the Bible obviously point to on a subject then it must be rejected. This fourth rule is essentially the other three combined.
These “rules” are really just common-sense guidelines for discovering truth and being set free from error, whether secular or religious. Although the Bible is simple enough that the simplest of persons can receive from it and be blessed, it’s also deep and complex, which means that as believers grow in the Lord they naturally grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
Anyone who unbiasedly adheres to these four hermeneutical rules will be able to discern the truth on any given topic. The ‘truth’ is simply “the way it really is.” But we have to be honest with the Scriptures and free from the bias of sectarianism* in order to discern it.
* Sectarianism is faction-ism, which is actually cited as a work of the flesh in the Bible (Galatians 5:19-21). In the Greek it’s hairesis (HAH-ee-res-is), meaning “a religious or philosophical sect” and the resulting division it causes. As such, some translations render the word as “divisions.” It’s a “self-chosen opinion” rooted in sectarian loyalty—i.e. based on the beliefs of one’s favored sect—rather than a viewpoint rooted in the rightly-divided Word of God. The Pharisees and Sadducees were strict sectarians and their faction-ism prevented them from seeing obvious truths in Scripture, even though they diligently studied them (John 5:39-40). Sectarian ministers are essentially “yes men” to their sect (party) whereas more independent ministers who focus on God’s Word are naturally more reliable. This does not mean, by the way, that if you belong to a sect—like Baptists—you’re automatically guilty of sectarianism. You can read more on this topic here.
Something else to consider is the fact that—believe it or not—the LORD and godly characters in the Bible have been known to set out “stumbling blocks” to intentionally discombobulate proud fools, whether legalists or libertines. See, for example, Ezekiel 3:20, Romans 11:9 and Psalm 69:22.
Frankly, people who teach that Yeshua isn’t the LORD, but rather a created angel are fools who have fallen prey to this stumbling block due to their sectarianism and superficial “studies.” They should be ashamed for spreading such blatant error; and they’ll be held accountable for it when they stand before the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:10-11, Romans 14:10,12 & James 3:1).
The Angel of the LORD in the New Testament
The book of Revelation contains over 300 references to Old Testament passages, far more than any other New Testament book. Is it any wonder that The Angel of the LORD appears in it:
Then I [John] saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. 2 He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.
Several things point to this being The Angel of the LORD—i.e. the Mighty Christ—and not just another angel:
- The Greek word for ‘another’ in “I saw another mighty angel” is allos (AL-os), which can mean “different” as well as another of the same kind (Strong 10). And it’s clear that this angel—i.e. messenger of the LORD—is vastly different than the angels that appeared up to this point in John’s vision.
- This angel’s shout is likened to a roar of a lion and Jesus Christ is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
- Speaking of whom, the “scroll” that this angel holds presumably refers to the scroll of Revelation 5, which only the Lion of Judah—that is, Jesus Christ, the “Lamb, who was slain”—could take from Father God and open! After all, what other scroll would it refer to? Scripture interprets Scripture.
- The context of both Revelation 5 (where only the Son could take the scroll from the Father and open it) and Revelation 10 (where the Angel holds the scroll as he descends from Heaven, planting one foot on land, one foot in the ocean and shouting a victory cry) shows that the scroll must be the title deed to the Earth. Only Christ can hold it because A. He’s the Creator of Heaven and Earth (Colossians 1:16), B. He’s “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14 & 19:16) who C. possesses “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18).
- The description John gives of the Angel is akin to other stunning descriptions of Deity in the Bible (Ezekiel 1:26-28 & Revelation 1:13-18):
- “a rainbow above his head” (Ezekiel 1:28).
- “his face was like the sun” (Revelation 1:16 & Ezekiel 1:27).
- “his legs were like fiery pillars” (Revelation 1:15 & Ezekiel 1:27).
- His legs being like fiery pillars, by the way, is symbolic of judgment and only the Son has authority to judge the Earth (John 5: 22).
- “When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke” (Revelation 1:15).
The evidence leads me to believe that this angel is The Angel of the LORD—i.e. Jesus Christ—and not any ol’ strong angel. For anyone who disagrees, that’s fine; it’s not something worth arguing over.
We’ll look at another interesting reference to The Angel of the LORD in the New Testament next chapter.
The Angel of the LORD distinguished from an Angel of the LORD
The Angel of the LORD understandably does not appear during Christ’s incarnation on Earth because this “Angel” is Christ. Keep in mind that the Son is the living “Word of God” because He’s everything the Father wants to say to humanity (John 1:1-3 & Hebrews 1:1-2). The Hebrew & Greek words for ‘angel’ mean “messenger.” Thus Christ—the Word of God—is The Angel of the LORD, The Messenger of the LORD. The Father conveys the “message of reconciliation” through the Son and all those born of his seed (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Obviously it’s imperative to distinguish The Angel of the LORD from an angel of the LORD in the Scriptures. The former is Deity whereas the latter is not. For instance, Luke 1:11 shows “an angel of the Lord” appearing to Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth and father of John the Baptist. Several verses later this angel is identified as Gabriel (19 & 26) and is undoubtedly the same angel who appeared to the shepherds immediately following Christ’s birth, as chronicled in the following chapter (Luke 2:7-15). Scripture interprets Scripture.
It should be noted that in the original Hebrew and Greek text there’s no article in front of the words for “angel” (malak and angelos respectively) and so English translators must determine if a text refers to The Angel of the LORD or an angel of the LORD and render it accordingly. In the passages from Luke 1-2 above translators rightly rendered it “an angel of the Lord” because the context reveals the angel to be Gabriel.
Unfortunately, in the King James Version of Matthew 28:2 the translators wrongly rendered the text as “the angel of the LORD” in reference to an angel who appears to some women at Christ’s tomb. However, we know this angel is not The Angel of the LORD—God, the Son—because he informs the women that Jesus wasn’t there, but that He had risen and, in fact, had gone ahead of them to Galilee where they would find Him (verses 5-7). As they say, “Context is King.”
Incidentally, the Luke account of these events reveals that there were actually two angels at Christ’s tomb whereas the Matthew and Mark accounts only mention one. Why? Obviously because the latter two accounts focus on the angel that spoke to the women. This is further evidence that the angel was not The Angel of the LORD.
Jesus Christ—Mighty LORD, Not Milksop
No doubt this chapter has given you a more balanced view of Jesus Christ. The image that the world and religion offers of Jesus is that of a wimpy milksop, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Sterile religion and worldly culture has fostered this false image to the point that it’s the general perception of most people, spoken or unspoken. As such, when the average person thinks of Jesus Christ they think of “gentle Jesus meek and mild” rather than the awesome Lion of Judah or the stunning Angel of the LORD. I’m not saying that Jesus doesn’t have a gentle side—He does for those humble folks who warrant it (Matthew 11:28-30)—but how about some balance?!
Even when Jesus was on Earth and ministered for 3½ years he was anything but some effeminate weakling. Consider the proof: He was brilliant in argumentation (Matthew 22:15-22); He astonished and silenced his enemies (Luke 20:26) to the point that “no one dared ask him anymore questions” (Mark 12:34). Does this sound like an impotent milksop?
Furthermore, Christ was dynamic during his earthly ministry—full of energy, power, passion and life. He had an aura of pizzazz, not stultifying dullness. Want evidence?
- Jesus said he was life and could therefore offer abundant life to any humble soul who chose to follow him (John 14:6 & 10:10).
- Because Christ possessed abundant life he had a vibrant spirit of joy; he was not always ultra-solemn and sorrowful; and he certainly wasn’t boring.
- Yeshua had wholehearted conviction about what he knew—he truly believed what he preached and his air of authority was palpable (Matthew 7:28-29).
Jesus was incredibly bold, outspoken and had no qualms about offending pompous fools deserving of correction:
- He was invited to a dinner party with some Pharisees and immediately began insulting the host and honored guests, not because he was abusive but because they needed rebuked (Luke 11:37-54). This is tough love.
- Christ was forthright and honest—he got straight to the point when necessary and didn’t beat around the bush with overly diplomatic discourse (Matthew 15:1-20 & 18:7).
One of the most amazing examples of Jesus’ incredible boldness & power can be observed when he cleared the Temple of ungodly fools:
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.’ ”
18 The Chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
Notice that Christ radically threw over tables and benches and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the Temple courts. Does this sound like “gentle Jesus meek and mild” or the bold Lion of Judah? Can you imagine Jesus not allowing anyone to carry goods into the Temple? And no one dared defy him! A soft pushover wouldn’t be able to do this. Of course, it wasn’t a case of Christ intimidating people with fleshly brawn & bluster, but rather his potent spiritual passion, anointing and boldness.
Believe it or not, Jesus cleared the Temple in this manner twice during his earthly ministry. This account took place near the end of his public service, but he also cleared the Temple near the beginning—three years earlier—as detailed in John 2:13-17. On this earlier occasion he made a whip and utilized it in driving out the animals, yelling and scattering coins! Why did the Messiah have to clear the Temple a second time? Obviously because the ‘snakes’ withered back in over the course of the next three years.
Now notice the response of the sterile legalists in Mark 11:18: They feared Christ! They feared him so much that they decided to kill him and remove him from the scene altogether. Let me tell you something, impotent milksops don’t inspire fear and they certainly don’t provoke VIPs to plot murder. Also, note how the people who witnessed his clearing of the Temple responded: They were amazed! Dull sissies don’t inspire amazement, but people who are dynamic, courageous and authoritative do! (And by “authoritative” I don’t mean authoritarian, which is abusive. ‘Abuse’ is the misuse of power).
All over the gospel accounts we see evidence of Christ being courageous, astonishing, amazing, authoritative and even frightening! For verification, just look up these passages: Matthew 7:28-29, 14:26, Mark 1:27, 2:10-12, 4:37-41, 7:37, Luke 5:8-11, 7:14-16, 20:20-26, 20:40 and the aforementioned John 2:13-17. Needless to say, people who insinuate that Jesus was some effeminate weakling obviously don’t know how to read!
Is it any wonder that the Bible encourages us to not provoke the Son?
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