Q. A question arose as we were studying Isaiah 37:36 which tells us the angel of the Lord went forth and smote 185,000 Assyrians. One of those in the class said that the Angel of the Lord refers to Jesus Christ. He further said that the appearances of the Angel of the Lord, in the Old Testament, refers to an appearance of God the Son, before the birth of Christ. Can you confirm this?
A. There is a view among scholars that when the phrase “angel of the Lord” is preceded by the definite article (the) it refers to a pre-incarnate appearance by the Lord Jesus. For example, in Genesis 16:7-14 Hagar concluded that the angel of the Lord was the Lord Himself. And in Exodus 3:1-6 the Angel of the Lord identified Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.
The Angel of the Lord is said to have the power to give life (Gen 16:10), to see and know all (Gen 16:13; Ex 3:7), to withhold forgiveness (Exodus 23:21), and to perform miracles such as keeping a burning bush from being consumed (Ex 3:2), smiting Egypt with plagues (Ex 3:20), calling forth fire on the rock to consume the meal set for him (Judg 6:21) and ascending the flame of the altar (Judg 13:20). These are powers reserved for God Himself, and yet no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). The consensus is that when God wants to be visible to man He appears in the form of His Son.