Lesson 02 - Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

Lesson 02 - Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

Lesson for January 15, 2006

The Life of Christ

Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

The whole Bible is a progressive revelation of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal Jesus Christ to the world and to teach believers how to execute God’s plan, purpose and will. From the book of Genesis to the book of The Revelation, Jesus Christ is revealed. We see Him in theophanies in the Old Testament. A theophany is a manifestation of God (Jesus Christ) in visible and bodily form before His Incarnation (literally, being clothed with flesh – the Hypostatic Union). The theophanies are chiefly appearances of the Angel of the LORD, who is clearly distinct from angelic beings. These appearances are actual occurrences, not imaginary, not hallucinatory experiences. They take place in historical settings initiated only by God. But in all the dispensations of Scriptures, Jesus Christ is the central figure. All human history revolves around Christ; it begins and ends with Him. The altars built by Abraham, the animal sacrifices of Israel, the Jewish Tabernacle, the Temple built by Solomon, were all used by God to reveal His Son, Jesus Christ. (Luke 24:25-27)

The "messenger of Jehovah" or "Angel of the LORD" (LORD = Yahweh, or Jehovah in most English translations of the Old Testament) is seen in the Old Testament as an important figure, mysterious as well as intriguing, reverenced and obeyed. It is interesting how often the appearance of "the Angel of the LORD" marked a turning point in history or brought about some event that produced long-lasting consequences. He is seen as the guardian over the chosen people of God who appears over and over again.

Who is this "Angel of Jehovah"? What makes "the Angel of the LORD" different from other angels who appear in the Old Testament?

Our focus should not only be on the first occurrence of the Angel of the LORD in the Bible, but all of the passages in the Scriptures. When we study all of these passages, the conclusion is evident that the Angel of the LORD is part of the eternal Godhead (cf. Genesis 16:7-10, 13; 18:1-33; 21:17-20; 22:11-18; 31:11-13; 32:24-32; 48:15, 16; Exodus 3:2-14; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 13:3-23; 2 Kings 19:35; 1 Chronicles 21:15-18, 26-30; Psalms 34:7; Zech. 1:8-17; 3:1-2; 12:8).

In several of these passages the term "the Angel of Jehovah" is completely interchangeable with Jehovah. Jehovah's name is equivalent to saying “Jehovah's being.” (Ex. 23:20,21).

The Angel of the LORD is the same as the presence of the LORD (Ex. 32:24-30, 34; 33:11, 14, 20; Isaiah 63:9). He accepts worship due only to God. If He were an ordinary angel he would have refused the act of worship.

It seems impossible to distinguish between the Angel of the LORD and the LORD Himself in some of the texts (Gen. 16:7-13; 21:17; 22:17-18; 24:7, 40; 31:11-13; 48:16; Ex. 3:2-10; Judges 6:12-14; 13:21-22). This unique Angel seems to possess the full authority and the character of God.

A theophany is a self-manifestation of God to men. "The Angel of the LORD" speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and claims the prerogatives of God (Gen. 16:7-14; 21:17-21; 22:11-18; 31:11, 13; Ex. 3:2; Judges 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Sam. 24:16; Zech. 1:12; 3:1; 12:8).

It is clear from this and other passages of Scripture that this Person was a manifestation of God Himself, the Second Person of the Godhead who assumed a temporary natural body. The Angel ceases to appear to men after the Incarnation of the Logos, Jesus Christ

The Angel of the LORD was a divine person and He is the pre–incarnation of the Messiah. The identity of "the Angel of the LORD" with Jehovah is fully established in Genesis 16:13. "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God who sees'; for she said, 'Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?'" The angel of the LORD is not a created being, but the divine being Himself. He is in a class by Himself and recognized as a superior being by the writers of the Old Testament. This Angel is of the Godhead because He bears the titles belonging to deity alone – Jehovah and Elohim. Isaiah 42:8 reads, "I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.”

The Angel of the LORD definitely identifies Himself with Jehovah on various occasions. In Genesis 16:10, "Moreover, the Angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.'" This is no ordinary messenger of God. He doesn't say, "God will." He says, "I will greatly multiply your descendants." Examine Genesis 18:19–21 and note who is speaking and who is making the promises to Abraham. "The Angel of the LORD" in chapter seventeen is "God" in chapter eighteen.

The Angel of the LORD is God Himself. Sometimes He is called Jehovah and at other times Jehovah's Messenger. Jehovah says, "I will send My Angel [or messenger]," but the Angel is clearly said to be Jehovah Himself. The same Person is in view whether Jehovah says, "I will send my Angel," or "I will go."

The writers of the Old Testament call Him Jehovah (LORD). In a time of crisis the Angel of the LORD visited Gideon to give encouragement (Judges 6:11–24). It climaxes with worship in verse 20–21, "The Angel of God said to him, 'Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.' And he did so. Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the Angel of the Lord vanished from his sight." Note carefully what happens next. "When Gideon saw that he was the Angel of the Lord, he said, 'Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.' The Lord said to him, 'Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.' Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace.

The Angel of the Lord is perfectly equal with God - essentially one with God, yet a distinct person from God. (Genesis 16:10; 17:20) Judges 2:1-2 has an interesting observation about the Exodus. "Now the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, 'I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?"

Here "the Angel of the LORD" is God in His self-manifestation. This is similar to His dealings with Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. He speaks with the authority of God Himself. Only the Logos, or some other manifest personification of God, would be able to do that. He is an Angel only “by office” - He is a member of the Godhead who serves as Messenger or Revealer. He is always the manifestation of God (John 1:18).

The One who announced to Samson's mother his coming birth was the Second Person of the Godhead in pre-incarnate form (Judges 13:1-23). The Angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah and his wife promising them a son (Judges 13:2–23). The passage reaches its climax in verses 19–22. Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God" (v. 22). The Angel of the LORD is God.

Malachi 3:1 reads, "'Behold, I am going to send My messenger (angel), and He will clear the way before me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the Covenant, in whom you delight, behold He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts.” The Messenger of the Covenant (Angel of the Covenant) will suddenly come to "His temple."

Jesus Christ was and is Jehovah, and since He is Jehovah, He preexisted from all eternity. The Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament is clearly the same person identified as the Christ of the New Testament. The Angel of the LORD and Jesus Christ our Savior are the same person.

In the fullness of time, "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him" (John 1:14, 18). When you look into the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, you see the face of God. In Him we have the perfect vision of what God is like. Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

(Used by permission from Abide In Christ by Will Pounds)