1. Religion & Spirituality

Meet the Angel of the Lord


angel of the Lord
Michael Heiko / Workbook Stock / Getty Images


The "Angel of the Lord" is a way of describing a "theophany," which means God appearing to and communicating with people directly. Other names for God include: I Am, Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, and Adonai.


The Angel of the Lord is often depicted in art as an extremely powerful spiritual being bathed in bright light, which represents God’s glory shining. Usually, the Angel of the Lord’s face looks like the face of Jesus Christ, because many Christians believe that Jesus appeared on Earth as the Angel of the Lord, prior to his incarnation later in history.

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, and many Christians believe that's because the Angel of the Lord's true identity is Jesus Christ, who was incarnated as a human being during New Testament times. 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."

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.