What Angel Was Sent to John?

Within the spiritual realm there exists a divine postal service of sorts that’s worked by angels. In fact, the word angel literally translated is messenger. While we typically use this word today to denote all the good spiritual beings of Heaven (which is often how the New Testament uses the word), the wider biblical picture saw angels as the spiritual beings that delivered God’s messages to humanity. This distinguishing is important, because the spiritual beings of Heaven had all different kinds of titles and job descriptions. For example, principalities and powers (the little-g-gods) reigned over countries; cherubim and seraphim guarded sacred space; and watchers seemed to generally have their eyes on humanity.

But amongst all of these spiritual beings, there was a lead spiritual being who bore the title of titles: “The Angel of Yahweh.” When God really had an important message to share with someone in the Old Testament he often sent this specific messenger. And something very strange often happens when this angel shows up: the lines get blurred. Did the Angel of Yahweh just bring a message from God, or is the Angel of Yahweh God in a form that can be physically interacted with? The answer is “yes.” Indeed, Joshua worships this angel, showing us that this angel is God in spiritual form: the angel of angels—the spiritual being of spiritual beings.

Despite how often the Angel of the Lord shows up in the Old Testament, he is nearly non-existent in the New Testament. From my perspective (and a fair amount of scholars agree with this) the reason is simple: the angel of angels who is God, put on flesh and became the human of humans who is God. This should not be as crazy as it sounds, for the New Testament tells us that Jesus has always existed. God who could be physically interacted with in the Old Testament’s Angel of the Lord is God who can be physically interacted with in the New Testament’s Jesus.

John, who is perhaps more aware of the dynamics of the spiritual realm than anyone in the New Testament, wants to connect these dots for us in the book of Revelation. In his opening line, he tells us that he learned what he knows because God sent “his angel” to him. This expression should have naturally had his readers thinking of the Angel of the Lord. John shows that this was what he meant when no angel actually greets him, but Jesus himself.

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