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Christ in the Old Testament 2

Who is the Angel of the LORD?

In my last post I laid out my intention to show from the Old Testament that Christ has always been the one Mediator between God and man.

I find the easiest place to start in these discussions is with the Angel of the LORD.  If a person cannot see from Scripture that this is a title belonging to Christ then the conversation will not get very far.  So I wonder whether you have a view?

Perhaps the first thing to say is - don't be thrown by the title.  Angel (malak) just means 'Sent One' or 'Messenger' (as most translations render it in Malachi 3:1).  So literally the Angel of the LORD is the One Sent from the LORD.  And already we should be hearing resonances with Jesus' self-descriptions.  In John's Gospel for instance Jesus is described as the One Sent from God 40 times!  That might be significant!

The second thing to say is that not every angel is The Angel.  There are many created angelic beings in the bible.  But when Scripture speaks of the Angel we know who we're talking about.  In the same way there are many ones sent from God in a general sense.  But when you talk about 'the One sent from the Father' you are talking about Jesus.

But really the proof is in the eating.  So get a load of these verses.

Genesis 16:9-14; Genesis 21:17-20; Genesis 22:11-18; Genesis 24:7,40; Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 48:15-16; Exodus 3:1-6; Exodus 13:21 <=> Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20-23; Exodus 32:34; 33:2 <=> 34:9; Num 20:16; Num 22:22-35; Judges 2:1-5; Judges 5:23; Judges 6:11-24Judges 13:3-23; 2 Sam 24:16-171 Kings 19:5,7; 2 Kings 1:3,15; 1 Chron 21:11-20; Psalm 34:7,9; Psalm 35:5-6; Isaiah 37:36; Isaiah 63:9Daniel 3:28; Daniel 6:22Hosea 12:4-5 <=> Genesis 32:24-30Zechariah 1:9-19; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-6; Zechariah 12:8; Malachi 3:1

See also these verse where people are said to be like the Angel and so are said to be like Christ:

1 Sam 29:9; 2 Sam 14:17,20; 2 Sam 19:27; Gal 4:14

As you see the Angel is not an insignificant figure in the Old Testament.  I'm not expecting you to check out all the references but thought it might be useful to have them all together.  Over the next few posts I'll pick out some key passages to highlight some fundamental truths.  At bottom this is where these verses take us:

  • The Angel is divine - He is very often called the LORD and God, He speaks as the LORD, acts as the LORD and accepts divine worship.

  • The Angel is distinct from another Person called 'LORD' or 'God' or 'God Most High.'

  • The Angel acts on behalf of God Most High in revelation and salvation.

  • The Angel is correctly identified by the OT saints as a distinct, divine Person

  • He is feared, trusted and hoped for by the faithful.

The Angel is God from God.  Light from Light.  True God from True God.  That's clear from the biblical portrait.  To fail to see His identity is, I think, a real problem.

What always strikes me in discussions about the Angel's identity is that the Scriptures are so unambiguous in naming Him LORD.  I would go so far as to say that the Old Testament is even clearer on the divine identity of the Angel than the New Testament is on the identity of Jesus. But of course once we grasp who the Angel is in the OT the NT pictures of Christ's divinity become much more apparent.

When Jesus claims to be the One sent from the Father He is not merely defering to divinity - He is claiming it.  His divine identity in the New Testament is so much easier to see for those who have already grasped it in the Old.

In the next post I'll have a look at some of the key Angel passages.  Let me leave you with a Calvin quote who sums up the history of Christian interpretation on this issue:

The orthodox doctors of the Church have correctly and wisely expounded, that the Word of God was the supreme angel, who then began, as it were by anticipation, to perform the office of Mediator. For though he were not clothed with flesh, yet he descended as in an intermediate form, that he might have more familiar access to the faithful. This closer intercourse procured for him the name of the Angel; still, however, he retained the character which justly belonged to him - that of the God of ineffable glory. (Instit. I.xiii.10)

Next post...

15 thoughts on “Christ in the Old Testament 2

  1. jacky

    hey glen,
    not to challenge you from a personal theological conviction, but understanding the widespread phenomenon of dispensationalism (and varied degrees of progressive revelation, not necessarily "relevation of the type of Christ" as Blackham coined the term, but the more commonly systematic term of general to special revelation, the whole kappa to omega concept of Christ rather than alpha to omega), how do you reconcile these seriously widespread dispensational and embedded views in contemporary Christian theology, when (imho) your view sounds so much more grounded in a coherent continuation of the gospel from start to finish? how do dispensationalists reconcile their views? what justifies them to say that there are several diff. dispensations in 'types' of Christ, when the old saints didn't trust in shadows, but in the ACTUAL thing (aka they didn't trust in the TYPE of Christ, but they trusted in THE Christ which the types pointed towards, like Joshua the priest-king)

    secondly, say it is true that people like moses/david/adam etc had exactly the same knowledge of Christ like we did, does that mean that other unnamed heart-circumcised Christians in the Old Testament grappled with the same knowledge as we did as well? or were the named saints especially obedient and blessed because they sought after such wisdom and thus saw Christ as we do now, whereas the unbelieving (majority of Israel i assume?) jews contributed to the later Pharisaism? this would mean that conscious faith of old testament saints was only relevant to a very small number of saints in the old testament, whereas the law merely hardened everyone else's heart and these people didn't even bother turning to the gospel or tried to see the Christ which the law prophesied?

    thirdly, this may be off topic, but do you think the indwelling of the Spirit in the old testament has a directly relevant role to play concerning the conscious faith in Christ in the Old Testament? can people like J. Hamilton with his book 'Indwelling of the Spirit', which distinguishes verses in John like the "Spirit being with us and WILL to be in us" as a qualifier for dispensation of pre-and post-pentecostal Spirit age, fairly distinguish an 'indwelling' and 'regeneration' by the Spirit (perhaps an unfair division of the work of the Spirit, much like the division of the law into three diff. types of moral, ceremonial etc...). surely this is also the reason why people can say there are diff. 'dispensations' concerning faith in Christ, and the way in having faith in Christ? since many advocates of post-pentecostal Spirit-indwelling would almost say that OT saints had to have faith in Christ by a diff. manner... how to explain that???

    the third one may be a bit off topic, but i hope you can give me some replies on them if you can :) sorry for the bombarding... had to get them off my chest!

  2. glenscriv

    Hi Jacky, (btw I have an email for you sitting in my outbox, along with many others which Outlook is refusing to send. I'm sure when the ransom demands are met Microsoft will release the captives, so hang tight till then!)

    1) I can't really give the dispensationalist case for them. There are plenty of godly dispensationalists seeking to make Christ central who read this blog, perhaps they'd like to put their case. For myself I can't find anywhere in Scripture where it says faith in a type is deemed to be faith in Christ and that seems a pretty crucial point. Neither do I see 'they spoke better than they knew' taught. Both of those steps are utterly crucial to a progressive's argument and from my perspective it seems like such points are assumed rather than substantiated. Furthermore if the NT ascribes Christ-focused faith to the OT saints then I can't see how the apostles can retrospectively award Christian faith if it wasn't aready there. Finally, the point of this series is to show that the OT is a revelation of Christ. On its own terms, in its own context it discloses the triune God in and through the Seen LORD, the Angel and Word of God. Once you see Genesis as itself the proclamation of Christ then you've really cut out the need to see schema's of progression towards Christ.

    btw I have no problem with the idea of progress per se. But it is a question of starting points. Where does progress begin? Is the bedrock some kind of unitarian christless idea of deity to which trinitarian/christological nuances are added? Or is the Rock Christ??! I think the OT is Christ striding towards His incarnation rather than events progressing towards Christ.

    Dispensationalism is very prevalent - now. Historically it is a novelty. Certainly theories of progress have captivated thinkers in every field (especially since 19th century). It is now unthinkable for the President of the USA to read Caesar's Gallic Wars to learn about premiership - but that chronological snobbery is quite recent. That's just a little example of how our culture has bought into the myth of progress. It has massively affected the study of history, science, philosophy and also biblical studies and theology. That's a big picture speculation for you.

    2) It is true that only a very few OT saints actually got to meet Christ. But the word of Christ should have been enough for the others. (I hope you hear how similar this is to the NT situation - and to ours!). But it wasn't a case of the law hardening every other Israelite - the law, understood as a proclamation of the Messiah, was meant to lead people to faith in Him. Others who never met Christ trusted in Him through His word, hoped in the prophecies of Him and waited for Him. But you're right, it does seem like the majority did not trust Him.

    3) Clearly OT believers had the Spirit, the question then is, what does Jesus mean by John 7:39. Pentecost is a real and definitive giving of the Spirit that was not like the OT saints' possession of Him. Perhaps a parallel with Christ's OT activity is helpful - though He was in the world, the incarnation was the definitive giving of Christ to the world. And though the Spirit was in the world, Pentecost was the definitive giving of the Spirit to the world. Note the corporate nature of Pentecost - the Jew-Gentile barrier brought down so that 'all flesh' will have the Spirit poured out. One illustration I've used (adapted from Abraham Kuyper) is the difference between every household having its own generator and then switching to the national grid where plugging into electricity means plugging into everyone else on the grid. On the day of the switchover power is given to the nation. Something like that.

    I'm sure I'll have to write more about the Spirit as this series develops, but that's off the top of my head for now.

    Thanks for the questions, do come back to me on anything.

  3. jacky

    Can you explain how Adam pre-fall had communion with the Father, and post-fall was visited by the Angel? I always had the belief that Adam still needed to have faith in Christ PRE-fall, and that when he was made from dust he is 'destined' as it were to eat the fruit and die... and that the only way he could have eaten from the tree of life is if he had faith in Christ and was cleansed by Christ (Rev 22:14).

    So I would assume that he did not have faith in Christ BEFORE the fall? If not, how did he have communion with the Father without an intermediary (which only physically came around post-fall as the Angel?)?

  4. glenscriv

    Hi Jacky,
    I guess one big picture thing to say is that mediation is not simply a response to sin. Christ has always been the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15 is in the context of creation). He has always been the effulgence (love that word!) of God's glory (Heb 1:3) - God is light because the Son is His radiance. The eternal being of the triune God involves mediation. It's not simply that Christ is an intermediary brought in when negotiations have broken down. It is the eternal glory of the Father to be seen in and with and through His Son. And remember that the Voice of the LORD (Gen 3:8) comes walking with them *before* He has pronounced the curses or driven them from the garden. I assume that the LORD God of Genesis 2 is Christ (I think Dev's rule: 'assume Christ unless proven otherwise' is absolutely right).

    Perhaps we can save the specifics of tree of life stuff for another time. Whatever conclusions you come to on that I think your instincts are sound that Christ must have always been the Mediator.

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  7. Glen

    Hi tommie, thanks for dropping by.

    I don't have the posts in any other format so it would involve me copying and pasting into word documents and then emailing. Can you access the posts online yourself? Very happy for you to do the copying and pasting :)

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