Is Jesus The Angel of The Lord? Does Jesus Christ Appear In The Old Testament? What Was Jesus Doing During Old Testament Times?- A Biblical Study
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. – Jesus Christ, John 5:39.
When Jesus Christ made the statement above, the “scriptures” at the time consisted solely of the Old Testament. And it raises a question that is often asked in the church – where is Jesus Christ in The Old Testament? Was Jesus sitting in Heaven just observing the world during the time of the Old Testament or was He actively interacting with humanity and appearing all throughout the Scriptures? This article will show that Jesus Christ indeed appears throughout the Old Testament and that the concept of God existing in more than one person was well-understood in ancient Jewish culture. And the mysterious Angel of The Lord, featured in the Old Testament, is indeed the Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Testimony of Jesus Christ Himself
No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. – John 1:18.
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. – John 6:46.
These two verses alone provide compelling Biblical evidence that Jesus Christ physically appears in the Old Testament. In both verses above The Lord Jesus Christ quite clearly states that no man has ever seen God The Father except for Him. Thus it would automatically follow that any physical appearance by God in the Old Testament was not God the Father and thus was The Son, Jesus Himself. But this study will look at many examples to provide further proof of this.
Abraham Meets God Before the Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah
Genesis 18 is an amazing chapter of Scripture. Abraham, the father of what would become the children of Israel, and heir to the promise that his lineage would bring forth the Messiah, met The Lord in person. Prior to this point, Abraham had audible conversations with God, who spoke to the patriarch from Heaven. But in chapter 18, God literally shows up at Abraham’s doorstep:
And the LORD appeared unto [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And [Abraham] lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My LORD, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetch a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. – Genesis 18:1-8.
In verse 3, when Abraham used the phrase “My LORD”, the Hebrew term is Adonnai, which is a title only used for God. So the Bible is clear that not only did Abraham see and speak to God and the two angelic beings present with Him, he ate with them and had his servants clean their feet. So how can we be sure this was God The Son? In addition Jesus’ own testimony that “no man hath seen the Father..” we can also look to the description of Jesus in Scripture. Colossians 2 says of Jesus: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus is the physical form of the triune God.
Hebrews 1 says:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: – Hebrews 1:1-3.
God the Father on other hand, is a Spirit: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.“ (John 4:24).
Now contrast that description of God the Father with Jesus’ own description of spirits in general. The Lord Jesus Christ gives an explanation in Luke 24 after His resurrection:
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. – Luke 24:36-43.
Jacob’s Dream of The Divine Ladder
In Genesis 28, Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and father of the twelve tribes Israel, had a dream in which the promise of the Messianic blessing was given to him directly from God:
And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. – Genesis 28:12-19.
In verse 13, the Bible states that it was “the LORD” who appeared and when God speaks, the text reads “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest..” The term “Lord God” is YHWH, or Jehovah which is often referred to as the proper title of God. Again it is clear that Jacob was speaking directly with God. But in chapter 31 of Genesis, Jacob encounters “the Angel of God” and is given a very interesting revelation through a second dream:
And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.- Genesis 31:11-13.
This is the first appearance of this “Angel” in Scripture. And notice how He introduces Himself to Jacob. The Angel says that He was the same God who appeared to Jacob in the dream of the ladder. The Angel’s words confirms that it is God, or one with God.
Moses At The Burning Bush
In Exodus chapter 3, Moses encounters God in a burning bush. This bush was burning with supernatural fire that did not consume the branches and bark of the bush while it burned. It was here that Moses received his mission to be the leader of the Israelites as God would judge their Egyptian slave masters with a series of plagues. And this passage leaves no doubt that the Angel of the Lord is indeed God:
Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. – Exodus 3:1-6.
Once the bush had caught Moses’ attention, the Angel identifies Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Notice this is the same introduction that the Angel used with Jacob, except only naming Abraham and Isaac. And all through this passage, the Bible identifies the Angel of the Lord as God. Again, Scripture confirms that rather than being a normal angel, the Angel of The Lord is indeed God.
In Exodus 13, God had just completed His final punishment on the Egyptians at the first Passover. Pharaoh, now defeated, let the Israelites leave Egypt. In the wilderness, God led the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land: “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” (Exodus 13:21-22).
God provided a literal cloud pillar (the cloud used throughout Exodus to conceal His Presence from the Israelites – reinforcing that God the Father is not to be viewed by anyone but the Son) during daytime to lead the Israelites. In Exodus 14, Pharaoh, in his final attempt to slaughter the children of Israel, reneged on his promise of freedom and brought the full force of his army to the wildness in order to attack the Israelites:
And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward… And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. – Exodus 14:13-20.
Both the Angel of God and God in the pillar of the cloud, moved from their position in front of the entire Israelite nation to behind them to provide a defense against the encroaching Egyptian army. So not only is the Angel of the Lord identified as God, He and God the Father both appear and operate at the same time. This passage shows the Old Testament distinction between God The Father and The Son.
In Exodus 23, God The Father specifically refers to the Angel:
Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. – Exodus 23:20-22.
Notice the Angel has God’s “name in him.” This is a confirmation that this Angel is no lower ranking being, but is Divine Himself (in fact “the Name” is even a title for God in Scripture and Hebrew culture in general). This is further confirmed when God warns the Israelites that if they do not obey the voice of this Angel and provoke Him, “he will not pardon your transgressions.” So this Angel has full authority to forgive sin. From Scripture, Jesus Christ, during His Earthly ministry, not only forgave sins, but was criticized for ‘trying to be God’ when He did so:
And when [Jesus] saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? – Luke 5:20-21.
So it was well known in Jewish culture that only God had the power to forgive sins and in their opposition to Jesus, the Pharisees called Him a blasphemer because He dares to proclaim a man forgiven. Just as during His appearances as the Angel of The Lord, Jesus can forgive sin, because He is God.
Joshua And The Captain Of The Host
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so. – Joshua 5:13-15.
In this passage, the “Captain of the host of the Lord” gives Joshua the same command the Angel of God gave to Moses at the burning bush – to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. The Captain also received Joshua’s worship -something normal angels repeatedly refuse to do throughout Scripture. This was yet another appearance of Christ in The Old Testament.
Book of Judges
The Angel of The Lord gives more confirmation of His Divinity in Judges chapter 2: “And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.” (Judges 2:1). Notice the Angel says that it was He who led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land and He who made the Mosaic covenant with the Israelites. He is claiming responsibility for the exact same great works that are clearly attributed to Yahweh in the book of Exodus. How can this be possible? Jesus, in the New Testament provides the explanation:
I and my Father are one. – Jesus Christ, John 10:30.
Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. – John 14:8-11.
Like Jesus did in the New Testament, the Angel acts with the full authority of God. Because they in essence are the same though different in person. Thus the idea of the Angel of God being God is not polytheism and ancient Jews never considered this belief as being the worship of “many gods.” It was the worship of One God who exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Parents of Samson
Samson, the final judge over Israel in the book of Judges, was a child of promise. His mother was unable to bear children but received a prophecy that she would indeed have a child who was to be dedicated to The Lord. In chapter 13, the Angel of God makes another appearance, repeating the instructions initially given to Samson’s mother on how the child should be raised. But up to this point, the two parents thought this Angel was a human “man of God” and not Divine:
And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?
And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. – Judges 13:13-22.
By the end of the encounter, Manoah realized that the “man of God” who entered his home was God Himself.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Jewish teens living in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar during the Babylon captivity of Israel. After refusing to worship a statue of the pagan king, the young men were sentenced to be thrown into a fiery furnace for execution. When they were confrotned about their “crime” the young men boldly proclaimed: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). In the face of a literal death sentence, the three showed powerful faith in The Lord.
When they were sent to “their deaths” the King was stunned by God’s grace on these three youths:
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God… Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. – Daniel 3:22-28.
The Babylonian King made the first identification of the Angel in the furnace with the three men being “the Son of God.” And thus there is even stronger Biblical confirmation of Jesus’ presence in the Old Testament. And this account also provides a beautiful type and shadow of Christ’s work as Savior, saving all who believe from the flames of Hell and the Lake of Fire.
The Testimony of Isaiah
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. – Isaiah 6:1-5.
Isaiah was one of a handful of Biblical prophets who were given a direct vision into the throne room of God. In this passage the prophet describes the majesty and awe-inspiring nature of viewing The Lord. So was Isaiah actually able to see God the Father? Is this who sat on the throne? In the New Testament we get the answer:
Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias [Isaiah] said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. – John 12:35-41.
Despite Jesus performing miracles that proved He was the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, many did not believe. In John Chapter 12, Jesus was in Bethany eating with Lazarus – the same man Jesus had earlier raised from the dead. And just prior to the passage above, God the Father had just spoken from Heaven to state that He would glorify Jesus. And yet, despite these supernatural confirmations, some still did not believe. Why did they resist? John quotes Isaiah chapter 6 for the answer. God “..blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart…” – these were the words God spoke from the throne in Isaiah 6. But notice John’s conclusion: Isaiah wrote those words when he saw “His glory, and spake of Him.” The “Him” is Jesus Christ. So not only was Jesus at work on Earth as the Angel of God, we also receive confirmation that He sits as God on the throne in Heaven.
From the testimony of Scripture, Lord willing, it is now clear that the Angel of The Lord was indeed Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Rather than sitting in a reserve role until the New Testament, Christ The Lord was very active in the great plan of salvation that would be fulfilled through Him and achieved by Him. The Bible truly is all about Jesus Christ, from Genesis to Revelation. And understanding this Biblical truth develops a deeper insight into the compassion, care and love The Lord has for all of us. At no time did God ever leave His people abandoned and without hope. And when strong confirmation was needed, the Angel of God, the express of image of God Himself, appeared to reassure, lead and empower. And today, Jesus Christ, now revealed as the Son of God and soon to be revealed in His full glory, makes the same promise to all who believe.
“and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:20.