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A Study of Dispensationalism
by Arthur Pink

"But there is further reason, and a pressing one today, why we should write upon our present subject, and that is to expose the modern and pernicious error of Dispensationalism. This is a device of the Enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to "make the Bible a new book" by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation."

Theology

Christ in the Old Testament

Wil Pounds | The Angel of the Lord


God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2; 15:1–6). Abraham has been walking by faith and he is now in the Promised Land (Gen. 15:7; 16:3). However, he has still not seen the birth of the promised son.

Abraham listened to Sarah and got into deep trouble. When left to human ingenuity we often fail. God, however, wants it to be clearly understood by everyone involved that the child is in every sense to be a child of promise. Abraham and Sarah are now advanced in years. Man can contribute nothing. Only the God of grace can provide the son of the promise.

Abe and Sarah have waited long enough, or so they think.

Hagar is Sarah's maid, and she is the innocent party. She is just a family maid who is loyal to her master, and a believer in the God of Abraham. Abraham got Hagar pregnant and strife broke out in the home (16:5–6). In despair, Hagar ran away. "Sarah treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence" (16:6).

It is while Hagar was in the wilderness, alone and fearful that "the angel of the LORD found her" and revealed Himself to her (16:7).

Who is this "angel of Yahweh"? What makes him different from other angels who appear in the Old Testament?

I agree with Hengstenberg in Christology of the Old Testament, the German scholars Keil and Delitzch, H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, among other scholars as to the identification of this special person. Probably Leupold summarizes this position better than anyone does (pp. 500–501).

Several things stand out about this angel in various passages of Scripture.

  • "The angel of the LORD" was a divine personage and "He is to be regarded as a kind of pre–incarnation of the Messiah." The identity of "the angel of the LORD" with Yahweh is fully established in v. 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."
  • The angel of the LORD definitely identifies Himself with Yahweh on various occasions. In verse ten, "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 descendents." 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.
  • The angel of the LORD reveals Himself to people and they understand Him to be a divine person (16:13).
  • The writers of the Old Testament call Him Yahweh (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. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites" (vv. 2–24).
  • The doctrine of the trinity of the Godhead is here implied. This theophany is in perfect accordance with the earlier foreshadowing. He is perfectly equal with God––essentially one with God, yet a distinct person from Yahweh (cf. 16:10; 17:20). Judges 2:1 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?"

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.

Several scholars have observed "the organic unity of Scripture would be broken if it could be proved that the central point in the Old Testament revelation was a creature angel, while that of the New Testament is the incarnation of the God-Man" (Leupold, p. 501).

A theophany is a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form before the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The theophanies are chiefly appearances of the angel of the LORD, who is clearly distinct from angelic beings. They are actual occurrences, not imaginary, not hallucinatory experiences. They take place in historical settings initiated only by God.

Who is this angel of the LORD? The earliest church fathers and most conservative evangelical Bible scholars agree that the angel of the LORD is no one other than Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the second person of the God–head. These theophanies are preincarnate appearances of God the Son in human form. The angel of the LORD appeared only in the Old Testament. Theophanies are unknown in the New Testament after the permanent incarnation of Christ.

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 explained 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."

 

  Wil Pounds is the Field Director for the Honduras Baptist Dental Mission in Tegucigalpa and central Honduras. Previous to God directing them to Honduras, Wil and Ann served as missionaries in Panama, Ecuador and pastored churches in the U. S. They made numerous trips to Honduras with medical and evangelism teams before assuming their new field responsibilities.
 

A special thanks goes out to Abide in Christ for permission to reprint this article on our site.

 
REVIEWS

By Nat Carswell

When confronted by the type of inanity which so dominates the Modern Evangelical New Testament American Christian (MENTAC) landscape today, one is tempted to become cynical and angry-sins as grievous as the inanity itself.
 
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Rev. Paul Alexander
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Nat Carswell
Gordon H. Clark
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Kevin L. Clauson, M.A., J.D.
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J. C. Evans
Kenneth Gentry
Perry A. Hess
Michael S. Horton
Ronald Kirk
Amanda Krystaponis
Rick Martin
Charles A. McIlhenny
Larry J. Michael, PhD.
Wil Pounds
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Colonel Ronald D. Ray
Ernest Reisinger
P.Andrew Sandlin
Steve M. Schlissel
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