“The Angel of the Lord”
“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2)
“The Angel of the Lord,” who appeared to Moses in “a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush,” was our Lord Jesus Christ. To say that Christ is “the Angel of the Lord” does not in any way contradict the fact of his eternal Deity. He is both Jehovah and Jehovah’s Messenger. In his eternal Deity our Savior is God himself, over all and blessed forever. In his mediatoral capacity, as our Surety and Substitute, he is “the Angel of the Lord.” When the Scriptures speak of our Savior as “the Angel of the Lord” appearing in the form of a man before he actually assumed our nature in the incarnation, they are telling us that God’s own Son, the Surety and Mediator of the covenant, the man Christ Jesus, is the Revelation of God. Jesus Christ, our Mediator, is, always was, and ever shall be the only one in whom and by whom God makes himself known to men. Christ is God’s Message; and Christ is God’s Messenger.
Sadly, multitudes of religious people are caught up in superstition, sentimentality, and idolatry. Some people pray to and worship angels. Many wear idolatrous little “angel” pins as good luck charms to keep them from evil. Of course, anyone who reads the Word of God knows that these things are without foundation in Holy Scripture and are acts of idolatry. Foolishly, there are multitudes who even imagine that when babies and little children die, they become angels.
Yet, the Word of God teaches us much about angels. The word “angel” simply means “messenger”. When we think of angels, the first thing that comes to mind are those of the angelic order. Those heavenly spirits are God’s servants, sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation (Ps. 103:20; Heb. 1:14).
Before the completion of Holy Scripture, before the entire canon of this Sacred Volume was written, God spoke to men by angels and visions, and by prophets and apostles (Matt. 2:13, 19; Luke 1:19, 26; Heb. 1:1). He confirmed the word spoken in such a miraculous manner by miracles, signs, and wonders. But those days are over. Since that which is perfect has come, that which was in part has been put aside. We now have the complete Revelation of God in Holy Scripture. There is no need for, nor can there be any inspired prophets or apostles with a new word from God. Because we have no new word from God, we do not now live in the age of miracles, signs, and wonders, those things needed in the church’s infancy to confirm the apostles as the messengers of the Messiah. For the same reasons, the Lord no longer sends angels in visible or audible manifestations to direct us in his will and ways. We have God’s Word for that purpose.
However, that does not mean that the ministry of God’s angels has ceased. Not at all! The angels of God are just as active today as ever. Without question, there is a specific order of heavenly beings called “angels.” The fallen angels (Rev. 12:4) are commonly referred to as “devils” or “demons” (James 2:19). Those fallen angels are messengers of Satan, bent upon the destruction of our souls. Whereas the angels of God are described as “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
We have far more friends than we know. As we make our pilgrimage through this world, as we seek to serve our God, as we walk through the midst of our enemies in this world of darkness, if only we could hear, we would hear the rush of angels’ wings, “God’s hosts,” at our side and round about us. If only we had eyes to see, we would see “the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about” us. — “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him…And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim” (Gen. 32:1-2).
In Revelation 1:20 we read, “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” In chapters two and three the pastors of local churches are called “angels,” because faithful men, gifted and called of God to the work of the ministry, are God’s messengers to his people. Not all pastors are designated “angels;” but all who are truly God’s messengers to the souls of men are to be esteemed as such. Why? Because God has ordained the salvation of his elect by the hearing of the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21-24; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
Let no one despise or lightly esteem the ministry of the Word. Gospel preachers are the gifts of the risen Christ to his church. They are instruments in the hands of the Savior, by which he calls chosen, redeemed sinners to life and faith by his Spirit and edifies, comforts, and instructs his church (Eph. 4:11-16).
It is important for us to recognize what the Scriptures teach about the angelic creatures and about gospel preachers. But both those heavenly creatures and every gospel preacher would have us focus our attention on…
Christ the Angel of the Lord.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior is “the Angel of the Lord”, who appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” “The Angel of the Lord” is clearly identified for us in this passage and throughout the Scriptures as our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 3 and 4 he is called “Lord” (Jehovah) and “God” (Elohim). In verse 6 the Angel of the Lord, who spoke to Moses out of the bush, declared, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In verse 14 the Angel of the Lord is still speaking to Moses out of the bush, and says, “I AM THAT I AM.” That simply means, “I AM WHO I AM,” and expresses his eternal self-existence as our God, the great “I AM.” Again, in verses 15-18 and in chapter 4 (vv. 4-5) the Angel of the Lord identifies himself as our God our Savior.
In Genesis 16 13 Hagar spoke to the Angel of the Lord, and called his name, “God who sees,” — “Thou, God, seest me.” In Judges 6:22 when Gideon spoke to the Angel of the Lord, he called him the “Lord God.” Then, in Judges 13:18 Manoah and his wife asked the Angel of the Lord to tell them his name. He said, “It is Secret,” that is, “Wonderful” (Isa. 9:6-7).
The Angel of the Lord, who appeared to Moses in the bush, performed what none but he who is himself God could perform. He promised that when Pharaoh would refuse to release the Israelites from bondage, “I will stretch out My hand and smite Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in the midst thereof” (3:20); a promise he ultimately fulfilled in ten plagues (Ex.7-12). He miraculously caused Moses’ rod to change into a serpent, then back into the rod (4:1-5). He miraculously caused Moses’ hand to become leprous, then restored it (4:6‑8). Then, he identified himself as the Creator, and as he who causes man to be deaf and dumb, seeing, or blind (4:11).
Worshipped As God
When Moses saw the Angel of the Lord and heard him speak, he worshipped him, reverencing him as God. — “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God” (3:6). If ever a man sees God in his absolute holiness and sees his own complete sinfulness, he will hide his face before him (1 Kings 19:13; Judg. 13:22). Even the cherubs cover their faces in God’s presence (Isa. 6:2). God is too holy to look upon sinful man (Hab. 1:13); and man is too sinful to look upon the holy God (Ex. 33:20). God must either veil his glory (as in Exodus 19:9), or we must cover our faces. Else we cannot look upon God, and he will not look upon us, except in the person of Christ, the Angel of the Lord, being washed in the blood, robed in his righteousness, and accepted in him who is made of God unto us “Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
It is clear, unmistakably clear, that the Angel of the Lord who spoke to Moses is God our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He appeared to Moses, as he did to chosen sinners throughout the Old Testament, in the form of a man, identifying himself as the Mediator who would, in the fulness of time, be made flesh, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law.
Remember, the word “angel” means “messenger.” As the Angel of the Lord, “the Messenger of the covenant,” the Son of God comes to men to reveal and fulfil all the stipulations of the covenant of grace for us (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13), thereby securing our “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). Having fulfilled all the requirements of the covenant as our Substitute, our Savior now sits upon the throne of universal monarchy ruling all things according to the purpose of God as our God-man Mediator to give eternal life to his people (John 17:2; Rev. 10:1-6).
He and he alone is able to fulfil the book of God’s decrees (Rev. 5:1-7). He who rules the universe is God in human flesh, our Savior and Redeemer, “the Angel of the covenant.” Rejoice! Our Lord Jesus Christ is pre-eminently the Angel of the Lord. He is the Angel who came with a great chain of omnipotent power and bound Satan (Rev. 20:1-3). He is the Angel by whom all the earth shall be judged at last (Rev. 20:11-15). He is the Angel who sits upon the throne and will, at last, bring all the universe to its divinely ordained completion (Rev. 21:6).
Our Lord Jesus is Michael the Archangel, who contended with and conquered Satan, when he delivered us from the hands of divine justice and the curse of the law (Jude 9; Zech. 3:1-5). “Michael” means “One who is as God.” “Archangel” means “Chief of Angels,” or “Prince of Angels.” That is our Savior, “The Prince of Angels”, the Man who is God!
He is the Angel of the covenant (Mal. 3:1). In Isaiah 63:9 our Savior is called “the Angel of his presence.” He is that One who is our Redeemer and Savior, the great Lover of our souls, who constantly watches over and protects us in this world. Pastor Daniel Parks wrote, “His presence is Jehovah’s presence because God’s name and nature and perfections are manifested in him. He is indeed ‘the brightness of (God’s) glory and the express image of his person’ (Heb. 1:3).”
Our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is called “the “Messenger of the Covenant” (Mal. 3:1), that is the Messenger of the New Covenant, the Everlasting Covenant of Grace, because he is the Surety and the Fulfiller of it (Heb. 7:22). God delivered the Old Covenant to Israel by Moses, through angels (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19). But the New Covenant, the “better covenant”, which has abrogated and replaced the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:6-12), was delivered by Christ, “the Messenger of the Covenant,” the Mediator and Surety of it (Heb. 9:15; 7:22). It is Christ, the Messenger, the Angel of the Covenant, who is the Revelation of God (John 1:1-3, 14, 18; Heb. 1:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4-6).
Our great Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is not only God’s Messenger, he is God’s Message. He is the divine Word of God (John 1:1) incarnate in human flesh (John 1:14). As words are vehicles of communication by which the thoughts of the mind are made known to others, the Triune God has communicated to man the thoughts and intents of his own mind in the person of his Son, our Mediator, the Man, Christ Jesus. He is the complete, full, final revelation of God. — “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily” (Col. 2:10). All that God is is in the Man, Christ Jesus. And all that can be known of God is revealed in him. He is the great “I AM,” who revealed himself to Moses in the bush (John 8:58).
John’s primary object in writing his gospel narrative was to demonstrate our Savior’s eternal deity as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity (John 1:1-3; 14:9). Therefore, it is not surprising that he constantly tells us that the Lord Jesus called himself the “I AM,” both directly and indirectly. He said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was I AM.” He could not have been more direct in the assertion of his Godhood. Here are twelve instructive examples of the same thing in the Gospel of John.
Our Savior is called the Angel of God’s Presence, because his name is “Immanuel,” “God with us” (Matt. 1:23; Isa. 7:14). He is, as Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). The Lord Jesus Christ is God with us, God in our nature, God our Savior, who has delivered us from a bondage worse than that of Egypt and a foe mightier far than Pharaoh! The horse and his rider he has cast into the sea, triumphing over sin and Satan, and making us more than conquerors in him (Ex. 15:1-18).
And, soon, the Angel of the Lord, Christ Jesus our Savior, the mighty Archangel, shall come to bring us into the land of our everlasting inheritance in resurrection glory (1 Thess. 4:15-18).
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
These are the things he revealed to Moses, when “the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush.”