Angels have specific jobs, or duties: to worship and serve God as warriors, guardians, messengers, and escorts into eternity. References to “the angel of the Lord” are found only in the Old Testament, and suggest that this "angel of the Lord" is the one and only Jesus.
I’ve always had a special interest in angels—after all, my first name comes from the same Greek word meaning messenger. I’d like to think my name is apt because I’m a writer who is constantly relaying messages through books, articles, and honey-do lists.
When I was growing up, I wanted to think I had a wee bit in common with the angels because I tried hard to be a good girl. Angels are good, aren’t they? And aren’t they beautiful? Who wouldn’t want to be angelic?
But as I grew older, I learned what society believes about angels and what the Bible says about angels are vastly different. Even many Christians imagine them more as whimsical fairytales than powerful messengers of God.
So, as I edited my latest book, When God Happens: Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters, I was again struck by the prevalence of angels throughout the Bible—and the powerful ways Jesus has appeared through them personally.
Who are angels?
Angels are individual beings, with names, jobs, and designated classifications. Some angels are given names in the Bible: Gabriel and Michael. Others are known by their workplace location — “the angel of the abyss” (Rev. 9:11), for instance, and “the angel of the waters” (Rev. 16:5).
Angels have specific jobs, or duties. Their chief duty is to worship and serve God. Some are warriors who fight in God’s army and defend God’s people. Others are guardians of children. Others are messengers. Others are escorts who transport human souls from mortal life into eternity.
Three types of angels:
Angels also are also classified into cherubim, seraphim and archangels.
Cherubim (plural of cherub) are not cute, winged babies with bows and arrows. They are special angels charged with guarding. Two cherubim were placed at the Garden of Eden to guard the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve were expelled. Two cherubim were depicted on top of the Ark of the Covenant as if to guard the holy place.
Seraphim, which were seen by Isaiah in a vision, hover above the throne of God and remind the onlooker that God is holy. The word seraph, the singular form, means burning and reminds us to have a burning devotion to God.
Archangels are probably “chief angels,” high in rank and power. Archangels named in the Bible are Michael and Lucifer. I’m sure there are other types of angels, and when we are in Heaven we will doubtless learn all about them.
The Bible frequently mentions a unique angel known as the angel of the Lord. He is unique because men who meet him usually fall to the ground to worship and call him Lord. Who is this angel?
1. Jesus appears as an angel to Hagar.
We first meet Him in Genesis 16, when Sarah treats Hagar so badly the slave runs away.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Gen. 16:7-8, NLT).
The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (Gen. 16:9-13, NLT).
Hagar meets an angel, but this angel is unlike any other. He sees the future, He is holy. In short, He is God-in-flesh. He is Christ before Bethlehem. In theological terms, these Old Testament appearances of God-in-flesh are known as theophanies, and the Scriptures are filled with them.
2. Jesus appears as an angel to Abraham.
We see Him again in Genesis 22:11-12 when Abraham picks up a knife and is about to slay Isaac as a sacrifice:
At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (NLT, italics added).
Do you see? Abraham was sacrificing his son to God, and the angel of the Lord said, “You have not withheld your only son from me”—speaking for God.
3. Jesus appears as an angel to Moses.
In Exodus 3, Moses met the angel of the Lord:
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Although the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God (Exod. 3:2-5, NLT).
In this passage, the angel of the Lord expressly declares He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And Moses is afraid to look at God.
So, when you read about “the angel of the Lord,” you are reading about an Old Testament appearance of the Son of God, the second member of the triune Godhead. Notice, “an angel of the Lord” could be speaking about any holy angel, but “the angel of the Lord” refers to Christ.
4. Jesus appears with God the Father.
The Bible records several conversations between “the angel of the Lord” and the Lord God—they are two separate persons. Look at Zechariah 1:8-17:
In a vision during the night, I saw a man sitting on a red horse that was standing among some myrtle trees in a small valley. Behind him were riders on red, brown, and white horses. I asked the angel who was talking with me, “My lord, what do these horses mean?”
“I will show you,” the angel replied.
The rider standing among the myrtle trees then explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent out to patrol the earth.”
Then the other riders reported to the angel of the Lord, who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have been patrolling the earth, and the whole earth is at peace.
Upon hearing this, the angel of the Lord prayed this prayer: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, for seventy years now you have been angry with Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. How long until you again show mercy to them?” And the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
Then the angel said to me, “Shout this message for all to hear: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Jerusalem and Mount Zion is passionate and strong...’ ” (NLT)
After the Son of God is born in Bethlehem, lives, dies, is resurrected, and returns to Heaven, He is no longer known as “the angel of the Lord,” but as Jesus the Christ. This is why references to “the angel of the Lord” are found only in the Old Testament.
Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt, Th.D., is the bestselling author of more than 100 books, with nearly four million copies sold worldwide. She lives in Florida with her husband, two mastiffs, and an assortment of wildlife. For more information about her work, visit www.AngelaHuntBooks.com. Click Here to purchase your copy and discover the mighty work that is done When God Happens.
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