Category: Angel of the Lord

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. 

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“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).

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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. 

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Zechariah and the angel of the Lord

Zechariah’s prophetic ministry begins after Israel’s return from exile in Babylon. The first part of the Book of Zechariah covers the prophet’s early days in ministry in Jerusalem, from 520 B.C. until completion of the second temple in 515 B.C. During this time, Zechariah – whose name means “the Lord remembers” – encourages the Israelites to complete the temple, restore the priesthood, and purify the city. 

The later portions of his ministry, which some scholars date as late as 470 B.C., foretell the coming of Israel’s true king, the Messiah, who is to reign over Jerusalem. Zechariah outlines God’s future prophetic program for Israel from Messiah’s first coming to his second coming. He offers a message of hope, urging the people to look up. The Lord remembers his people and will come to deliver them in the last days.

The first six verses of chapter 1 come in the wake of Haggai’s challenge to the people to finish rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. Back in the city for nearly two decades, and having laid the temple’s foundation amid great fanfare, the Israelites have fallen prey to opposition and discouragement – so much so that they haven’t picked up a tool in sixteen years. Haggai’s primary purpose is to get the people to restart construction of the temple. 

Now, Zechariah urges the people to repent as well, for without spiritual renewal, a new temple is hollow tribute to their sovereign deliverer. Yahweh vows to return to his people if they return to him (1:3). The Israelites embrace God’s call, in contrast to previous generations that persisted in sinful rebellion (1:6). The stage is set, and the Lord is prepared to bless his people and restore the place where he has chosen for his name to dwell (cf. Deut. 12:5; 1 Kings 14:21; Neh. 1:9).

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Daniel 10: Who is the man dressed in linen?

In a final look at appearances of the angel of the LORD in the Book of Daniel, we should consider Daniel’s final recorded vision (Dan. 10-12), which includes the appearance of a “man dressed in linen.” It is now the third year of King Cyrus’ rule (536/535 B.C.). Daniel is about eighty-five years old. He enters an extended time of prayer and fasting as he mourns, perhaps because the Samaritans are hampering work on the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 4:5, 24). As he stands on the banks of the Tigris River, he enters what is clearly a visionary state (Dan. 10:1, 7). Here’s how Daniel describes it:

I looked up, and there was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the brilliance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.

Dan. 10:5-6

Only Daniel sees the vision. The men with him, however, are aware something supernatural is taking place. They are stricken with such terror that they run and hide. As Daniel stands alone, studying the vision, his strength is sapped, his face grows deathly pale, and he finds himself powerless. He listens to the words this man speaks and then falls facedown into a deep sleep (10:7-9).

Daniel describes the man as dressed in linen. Priests (Lev. 6:10), angels (Ezek. 9:2-3, 11: 10:2, 6-7), saints in heaven (Rev. 3:5; 6:11; 7:9, 13), and even God (Dan. 7:9) are depicted as clothed this way, so Daniel gives us additional details. The man wears a golden belt around his waist. This suggests wealth and power – perhaps a king or a judge. His body is like beryl, or chrysolite (Hebrew tarsis), a yellow-colored precious stone. His face is as brilliant as flashes of lightning, and his eyes gleam like flaming torches. His arms and feet (which include the legs) shimmer like polished bronze, indicating that his body has a fiery appearance, like burning metal. When he speaks, the sound of his words carries the strength of many people.

So, who is this man?

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