The angel of the LORD in the New Testament

If the angel of the LORD is the preincarnate Christ, as we have argued throughout this study, then a dramatic transition takes place in the Incarnation. The prophesied Messiah, whose “origin is from antiquity” (Mic. 5:2), no longer appears in flaming thorn bushes, pillars of cloud and fire, or briefly as a man. Rather, the eternal Son of God comes permanently as the God-Man, adding sinless humanity to his deity through the miracle of the virgin birth. 

Jesus of Nazareth is completely human. He spends nine months in Mary’s womb, is born naturally, grows to maturity, eats, drinks, sleeps, experiences human emotions, suffers pain, and dies. Yet, he never sacrifices his deity, although at times he chooses not to exercise all the divine attributes available to him. As one who had to be “like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God,” he is uniquely qualified to pay our sin debt (Heb. 2:17). 

In his physical resurrection, Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). That is, he is the first to rise from the dead in a glorified body – an invincible body no longer subject to pain, sickness, aging, or death. And then he ascends to the Father in heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:22). Because of all this, followers of Jesus look forward to the day when we see him as he is and become like him (1 John 3:2). 

But what does the New Testament have to say about the angel of the LORD? If his role in the Old Testament is, at least in part, to prefigure his future incarnation and earthly ministry, then we would not expect to see Jesus in any form other than human after his conception in the virgin Mary’s womb. And that’s exactly what the pages of the New Testament reveal. 

While it is not impossible for the omnipresent Son of God to appear in various forms, even while in his mother’s womb and after his ascension into heaven, we never see the angel of the LORD in the New Testament. There are, however, several New Testament passages that subtly identify Jesus as the Old Testament’s angel of the LORD. 

Continue reading

Article X of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Last things

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The world as we know it ends with the return of Jesus, but it’s not really the end of the world, for Christ creates new heavens and a new earth.

Article X of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.”

Contemporary culture embraces the drama of a cataclysmic end of the world as we know it. In the 1979 film, Mad Max, a shortage of fossil fuels drives the breakdown of society, prompting leather-clad hoodlums in bizarre vehicles to terrorize anyone with a full tank of gas.

In Planet of the Apes, astronaut George Tayler discovers he has traveled through space and time, returning to an earth where humans are mute and loud-mouthed armor-wearing primates are in charge. 

And in Ray Bradbury’s short story, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” a robotic house continues to serve its human tenants long after they have become burnt silhouettes on the wall, presumably the victims of a nuclear holocaust.

Whether entertaining or horrifying, the end of the world is a topic of great interest and much debate. World religions and cults often contrive detailed apocalyptic views, including specific dates that, when missed, leave their leaders red-faced and their followers asking neighbors to return the cookware they thought they would never need again.

Christians have reliable information about the end of days through God’s revelation in Scripture. And while we may vigorously debate the order of events surrounding the return of Christ, we can all agree on seven biblical truths about how the world ends.

Continue reading

“Like the angel of the LORD”

The angel of the LORD is mentioned one last time in Zechariah:

On that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that on that day the one who is weakest among them will be like David on that day, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD, before them.

Zech. 12:8

While Zechariah 9-11 largely concerns Judah’s past and present circumstances, chapters 12-14 point to a glorious future for all Israel. The LORD tells the people “on that day” – a climactic future day mentioned sixteen times in Zechariah 12-14 – “the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD.” This passage not only equates the angel of the LORD with God; it makes the audacious promise that the house of David will, in some way, be a manifestation of Yahweh.

Vern Poythress explains:

To a casual reader, this claim might seem improbable. But it turns out to be perfectly true in the time of fulfillment. “The house of David” has its fulfillment in Christ, who is descended from David and sums up the whole line of kings. He is the climactic and permanent theophany.


New Testament writers focus on the Incarnation as fulfillment of God’s promise to come personally to us. Consider the apostle John’s testimony: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). 

Later, Jesus confirms both his deity and his equality with God the Father: “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). 

And the writer of Hebrews sums up the eternal significance of Jesus this way: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Continue reading

Article IX of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: The kingdom

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The kingdom is God’s reign, his authority to rule.

Article IX of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.”

The terms kingdom of Godkingdom of heaven, and kingdom (with reference to the kingdom of God/heaven) appear nearly 150 times in Scripture. None of these passages offers a straightforward definition of the kingdom. Yet the kingdom is proclaimed throughout the Old Testament and is the primary focus of Jesus’ teaching. 

Many of Jesus’ parables tell us what the kingdom is like. The apostles preach the gospel of the kingdom – the good news of redemption and restoration received through faith in Jesus Christ. And biblical prophecies of the last days point toward a time when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness.

So, what is the kingdom of God? Simply stated, the kingdom is God’s reign, his authority to rule. 

As George Ladd notes, “The primary meaning of both the Hebrew word malkuth in the Old Testament and of basileia in the New Testament is the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king. A basileia may indeed be a realm over which a sovereign exercises authority; and it may be the people who belong to that realm and over whom authority is exercised; but these are secondary and derived meanings. First of all, a kingdom is the authority to rule, the sovereignty of the king.” 

Continue reading

Zechariah’s fourth vision

The angel of the LORD returns in the fourth of Zechariah’s eight visions. This time, however, the scene does not feature horses, a man, and myrtle trees. Rather, the prophet is granted access to a heavenly courtroom, where the high priest Joshua stands before the angel of the LORD (defender and judge), Satan (accuser), and attending angels. The setting here closely resembles that of the divine council before whom Satan accuses Job (Job 1-2). The key difference, however, is Joshua’s crushing guilt versus Job’s innocence. We pick up Zechariah’s fourth vision in verse 1 of chapter 3:

Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan: “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! May the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” 

Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. So the angel of the LORDspoke to those standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then he said to him, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with festive robes.”  

Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the angel of the LORD was standing nearby.

Then the angel of the LORD charged Joshua: “This is what the LORD of Armies says: If you walk in my ways and keep my mandates, you will both rule my house and take care of my courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.

“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring my servant, the Branch. Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it” ​— ​this is the declaration of the LORD of Armies ​— ​“and I will take away the iniquity of this land in a single day. On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the LORD of Armies.

Zech. 3:1-10

It’s important to note, first of all, that this is not the same Joshua who succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites. Many centuries divide these two figures. Rather, Joshua serves as high priest on behalf of the nearly fifty thousand exiles who have returned from Babylonian captivity. His role is to represent all of God’s people. As such, his filthy garments symbolize not only his sin, but the sins of the Israelites, which have prompted Yahweh to vomit them out of the Promised Land for violating terms of the Mosaic Covenant (Lev. 18:24-30). In fact, the word translated “filthy” is linked to the Hebrew term for human excrement. It is one of the strongest expressions in the Hebrew language for something vile. 

Continue reading