God as an Angel: The Angel of the Lord

The Bible Describes Preincarnate Jesus Christ Appearing as an Angel

Jesus Christ angel of the Lord
The angel of the Lord from the Bible is God (the preincarnation of Jesus Christ) showing up in angelic form. Beastfromeast/Getty Images

The "Angel of the Lord" is a way of describing a theophany (God appearing to and communicating with people directly as an angel). In art, the Angel of the Lord’s face looks like the face of Jesus Christ, because the Bible describes the preincarnate Christ appearing on Earth as the Angel of the Lord, prior to his incarnation later in history on the first Christmas. This angel of God is also depicted as an extremely powerful spiritual being bathed in bright light, which represents God’s glory shining.

Role in Religious Texts

The Angel of the Lord appears many times at key spiritual moments in the Torah and the Bible's Old Testament. In the New Testament, the Angel of the Lord doesn't appear, because Jesus Christ had already incarnated as a human being in flesh by that time in history and no longer needed to appear in angelic form, Christians believe. Some of the famous Torah and Bible stories that feature the Angel of the Lord are:

 

Main Characteristics

The Angel of the Lord is known for communicating clearly as God and for acting in ways that only God the Creator (rather than created angels) would act.

Unlike created angels, who know only what God reveals to them, the Angel of the Lord seems to be omniscient. Some of the other ways that the Angel of the Lord distinguishes himself from other angels are by: creating life (Genesis 16:10), possessing the power to forgive sin (Exodus 23:21), and encouraging worship from human beings (Exodus 3:5 and Joshua 5:15).

Since the Angel of the Lord is the all-powerful God, people pray to him about every topic. Both the Bible and the Torah describe human encounters with the Angel of the Lord, who speaks as God but appears in angelic form, which the Book of Exodus reveals is the only way that sinful people could connect with a perfectly holy God at that time in history. In Exodus 33:20, God says to the prophet Moses "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Many Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the one who was appearing to human beings as the Angel of the Lord prior to his incarnation (after which no appearances of the Angel of the Lord were recorded). The Bible says about Jesus in Colossians 1:15: "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

Jesus tells people asking about his identity in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was born, I Am!" and the Angel of the Lord tells Moses in Exodus that his name is "I Am."

In 1 Corinthians 10:2-4, the Bible links Jesus Christ to the Angel of the Lord; it refers to the Angel of the Lord who accompanied Moses and the Hebrew people through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land (in the form of fire at night and a cloud by day) by describing "the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."

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Hopler, Whitney. "God as an Angel: The Angel of the Lord." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/god-as-angel-of-the-lord-124302. Hopler, Whitney. (2016, January 29). God as an Angel: The Angel of the Lord. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/god-as-angel-of-the-lord-124302 Hopler, Whitney. "God as an Angel: The Angel of the Lord." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/god-as-angel-of-the-lord-124302 (accessed December 14, 2017).