The angel of the LORD in the New Testament (conclusion)

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Galatians 4:14

Paul expresses deep concern for the Galatians, whom he fears are on the cusp of falling back into the false doctrine of salvation by works. He then reminds them how tenderly they cared for him when he fell ill, perhaps as a result of injuries from his stoning in Lystra (cf. Acts 14:19), malaria contracted in the lowlands of southern Asia Minor (cf. Acts 13:13-14), his divinely sent “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7), or some other ailment.

Galatians 4:14 reads: “You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself” (emphasis added).

Paul is not equating an angel of God with Jesus. That is, he’s not using parallelism to say an angel and Jesus are the same person. Rather, he’s gratefully acknowledging the compassionate treatment the Galatians afforded him in his illness. They received Paul as God’s own messenger, worthy of the highest respect. Further, Paul commends them for bestowing on him the same treatment they would have afforded Jesus if he had come to them in the flesh.

Revelation 10

In the final passage we examine, the apostle John describes an incredibly powerful and magnificent angel in Revelation 10:

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like pillars of fire, and he held a little scroll opened in his hand. He put his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, and he called out with a loud voice like a roaring lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders raised their voices. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”

Then the angel that I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. He swore by the one who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be a delay, but in the days when the seventh angel will blow his trumpet, then the mystery of God will be completed, as he announced to his servants the prophets.” 

Then the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” 

Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter. And they said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”

Rev. 10:1-11, emphasis added

What a magnificent image of a powerful heavenly being. So magnificent, in fact, that we may be tempted to think this mighty angel is Christ. To be sure, there are similarities between this angel and Jesus as he is depicted in Revelation and Revelation 19. but there are differences as well that should lead us to conclude John sees a created spirit being in this vision, not the uncreated Son of God.

For example, the angel in Revelation 10 is called “another mighty angel,” whereas Jesus is unique and there is no one like him. Also, in Revelation 1, John falls at Jesus’ feet in worship, but he does not worship this angel, even though he mistakenly worships an angel in Revelation 22. Further, we should remember that Jesus is never called an angel in the book of Revelation. 

Finally, in verse 6, the mighty angel swears an oath by the one who lives forever and ever, a curious action for the Messiah, who is God and needs to swear no such oath, for merely in speaking he guarantees the truth of his words and the surety of his promises. For these reasons, it appears best to understand this angel as a powerful heavenly messenger who, like John, worships and serves Christ.

In calling him “another mighty angel,” John may be distinguishing him from the angel we encounter in Revelation 5:2, who proclaims, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Or John may be setting this mighty angel apart from other angels who perform unique tasks: an angel who bears the seal of the living God (Rev. 7:2); an angel who carries a gold incense burner and stands before the altar in heaven, then fills the incense burner with fire and hurls it to earth (Rev. 8:3-5); or the angel who comes down from heaven with great authority and illuminates the earth with his splendor (Rev. 18:1). 

Some commentators suggest the mighty angel of Revelation 10 is Michael the archangel. Others say it’s Gabriel. Still others point to similarities between the mighty angel in John’s vision and the unnamed angel who appears to Daniel near the end of his book (Dan. 10-12). 

In any case, John does not identify the mighty angel by name. At the same time, the angel falls short of equality with the Son of God, whose rule, return, and earthly renovation are the focus of John’s book.


While there are numerous references to the angel of the LORD in the New Testament, it appears the authors tie these references to specific Old Testament events. There are no explicit New Testament passages that record contemporary appearances of the angel of the LORD, leading us to conclude that these divine visitations were temporary and stopped with the Incarnation. 

Stephen, Paul, Jude, and even Jesus take us back to the angel of the LORD to show us how this marvelous figure who shares the divine name has always existed, comes to establish his special people, make covenants, speak and act as God, deliver the Israelites from bondage, and much more. Just as a backlight casts a shadow ahead of its subject, the angel of the LORD prefigures the earthly person and ministry of the Messiah. 

The same angel who promises to bless all the earth’s clans through Abram becomes the blessing himself in his sinless life and finished work on the cross. The same angel who tells Hagar her son will father many nations is sovereign over human history and returns from heaven one day in history’s climactic event. The same angel who invites Abram to step out of his tent and look up at the stars is the exalted Christ who receives worship from an innumerable host around the throne in heaven. And the same angel who forgives a high priest’s sins in the book of Zechariah comes later to secure that forgiveness as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Everything the angel of the LORD predicts and prefigures becomes reality in the person of Jesus Christ. The messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1) is none other than our covenant-keeping God. He no longer appears temporarily as a man; the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us (John 1:14). The types and shadows of the Old Testament – a divine messenger, a voice from a flaming thorn bush, a presence in a pillar of cloud and fire, and a dazzling rider in a cherubim-powered chariot-throne – give way to an unassuming birth in a small village as the angel of the LORD becomes our Savior. 

We should be amazed at his work in the Old Testament and most grateful for the thorough fulfillment of his promises in the Gospels and beyond. The angel of the LORD is none other than the eternal Son of God, whom Paul declared to be “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).

Next: Why Jesus is not an angel

This post is excerpted from Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the Lord, available from Amazon and other retailers.