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