You might be surprised to find that the term, “angel of the Lord” is found 68 times in the Bible.  The first mention of the angel of the Lord is found in Genesis 16, where he appears to Hagar.  Let’s read Genesis 16:7-11, “And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.”  Notice that this angel speaks with authority, telling Hagar to return home.  He speaks with power, telling her that he would multiply her seed exceedingly.  He speaks with godly knowledge, telling her that she was pregnant.  These are the characteristics of the Lord.  I think we can safely say that here, the angel of the Lord, is the pre-incarnate Christ.  In fact, verse 13 makes it very clear when Hagar calls him Lord.  That says, “And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?”

Let’s look at another incident where the angel of the Lord appeared unto Jacob.  Genesis 31:11 says, “And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.”  Now, let’s read verse 13, where the angel says, “I am the God of Bethel…”  Again, this is obviously the Lord because He declares Himself to be God.  This is also called a ‘theophany’, which means ‘a manifestation of God.’  There are many more times in the Old Testament that is seems obvious that the angel of the Lord is, indeed, the pre-incarnate Christ.  However, when we read of the angel of the Lord in the New Testament, we can see that this is not Christ.

The first mention of the angel of the Lord in the New Testament is when he comes to Joseph in Matthew 1:20 where we read, “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”  This obviously would NOT be Christ.  This angel of the Lord was speaking to Joseph about the impending birth of Christ.  The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph three different times in Matthew 1:20, 2:13, and 2:19.  Many consider this angel to be Gabriel, who had appeared to Mary in Luke 1:26-27 where we read, “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

The angel of the Lord is mentioned 12 times in the New Testament, and a careful examination of these appearances will show clearly that 11 of them are NOT Christ.  In Acts 7:30, the angel of the Lord is mentioned as being in the burning bush and appearing to Moses.  Whether it is the Lord Himself in the Old Testament or simply an angel in the New Testament, we learn from this that the Lord loves His people.  He longs to be with us, and He ministers to us with great care, power, and love.  (185.10)