How do we come to the conclusion that when the Bible mentions the “Angel of the LORD” it is referring to an appearance of God the Son before His incarnation?
The key to interpreting anything in the Bible is three-fold, pun intended. First, Context. Second, Consistency. And third, Clarity. When coming across passages that mention the Angel of the LORD, we need to examine the passage with these three principals in mind like we would in any work of writing. What do the verses leading up to and following the passage tell us about who is talking? Would interpreting the passage that way negatively affect other key truths in the Bible as a whole? Does the literal sense make sense? Let’s look at three examples to see this in practice.
In the book of Genesis chapter 22, we see the third verse mention God telling Abraham to offer his only beloved son on a specific mountain as a sacrifice. When the Angel of the Lord appears right before Abraham is about to obey God’s command, He stops the knife and repeats to Abraham the promise God made to Him in Genesis 12 as now official. And even more so, The Angel of the LORD tells Abraham that this is going to be the case because he obeyed His voice. Who told Abraham to offer his son again? The Angel of the LORD or God? It’s almost as if this passage is stating they are one in the same.
In the book of Judges, the soon-to-be mother of Sampson is praying to God for a child. This is noteworthy given the spiritual state Israel was in during this time in their history. The Angel of the Lord comes to her and her husband with a positive answer on one condition. The child they are to bring into this world is to keep the Nazarite Vow for his entire life. Then in reaction to this messenger, Judges chapter 13 and verse 22 states that they have seen God. No further encounters apart from the Angel of the LORD took place in the chapter, and if this claim was incorrect we have several examples in the book of Revelation where angels who were incorrectly treated as God take the time to immediately correct the person who is worshipping them. Since both Manoah and his wife both affirm this Angel of the LORD as God and aren’t corrected, could it be that they were in fact correct?
In the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus has physically incarnated as a human baby with his earthly parents. An Angel of the LORD appears to Joseph in a dream and warns him that Herod is going to try to kill the child. As per his instructions, they flee to Egypt until the tyrant’s death and escape a major tragedy predicted in the book of Jeremiah. The Angel of the LORD doesn’t make any claims about himself that are comparable to God, isn’t treated or regarded as God by Joseph, and obviously wasn’t Jesus Himself since He was now currently limiting Himself by adopting human nature.
Other examples can be given. The Commander of the Army of the LORD appears to Joshua and accepts worship. Daniel sees a vision of a Glorious Man, but the Angel who delivers the message clarifies that he is named Gabriel and not YHVH. The Angel that accompanied Moses and Israel through the Wilderness had God’s name in Him. Etc. The passages are plainly understood that when an Angel claims the sort of things only God could rightly claim, He’s either truly representing Himself as God or He’s no angel of God. Only someone with a prior agenda would try to spin the passages another way to dismiss what is plainly being said.
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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