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3.10.1.1 - Divine Similarities

Caution is needed when attempting to establish the identity of this angel, even though the ultimate identity of the angel has little effect upon the purpose of the chapter.1 For the discussion concerning the angel’s identity often includes imprecise logic—most frequently found in the form of sweeping statements which either affirm or deny his identification as Christ based on similarities between this passage and other portions of Scripture.

For example:

What absolutely forbids this angel being Christ is the oath sworn by the angel in Rev. 10:5-6+, one that could never come from the lips of the second person of the Trinity (Beckwith, Mounce).2

This is faulty logic, for elsewhere Scripture readily affirms that God swears by Himself:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” (Heb. 6:13-14) [emphasis added]

Similar non-sequiturs3 characterize much of the discussion on this subject. It seems that many interpreters arrive at chapter ten with an a priori view regarding the identity of the angel and simply amass snippets from supporting Scriptures in an attempt to bolster their position. Another example: some assert that this angel is Christ because of the many similarities in his description with the angel of Daniel 10+.4 But this conclusion assumes the deity of the angel in Daniel 10+, an assumption which is difficult to maintain when one considers that Daniel’s angel required assistance from Michael (Dan. 10:13+, 21+). Yet this crucial detail is not addressed.5 Care should be exercised when evaluating the evidence both for and against the divine identification. Certainly, the appearance and activities of the angel are remarkably similar to that of deity.

Divine Similarities
CharacteristicMighty AngelDivinity
Traveling with clouds.Rev. 10:1+Ex. 16:10; Ps. 97:2; Dan. 7:13+; Mat. 24:30; Rev. 1:7+
Associated with rainbow.Rev. 10:1+Rev. 4:3+
Radiant face.Rev. 10:1+Rev. 1:16+
Feet like fire.Rev. 10:1+Rev. 1:15+
Holding a book.Rev. 10:2+Rev. 5:8+
Like a lion.Rev. 10:3+Rev. 5:5+
Swears by God.Rev. 10:6+6 Deu. 32:40; Heb. 6:13
Authority over land and sea.Rev. 10:2+, 5+, 8+Gen. 1:9-10; Zec. 9:10; Mat. 28:18; Eph. 1:22; Rev. 5:13+

Adding to these similarities is the OT representation of the second person of the Trinity by an angel, the Angel of the Lord.7

Yet, Similarity does not make identity. These similarities do not necessitate identifying this mighty angel as the second person of the Trinity. Mighty angel is ἄγγελον ἰσχυρὸν [angelon ischyron] , the same phrase which is translated “strong angel” in Revelation 5:2+. There, a strong angel asks “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals,” to which the answer will eventually come forth: “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll” (Rev. 5:5+). Since the strong angel in chapter 5+ is not Christ, then this mighty angel need not be understood as Christ. Later, a mighty angel (ἄγγελος ἰσχυρὸς [angelos ischyros] ) takes up a great stone and throws it into the sea to indicate how Babylon will be destroyed (Rev. 18:21+). As we have previously noted (Rev. 6:2+), it seems unlikely that any of these mighty angels are to be understood as Christ because the Lamb is still in heaven in the process of loosing the seals and does not ride forth until all seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments have been initiated (Rev. 19:11+). He is the instigator of all that flows forth in the judgments, but does not participate in them until His literal, bodily coming to take up His kingdom. Although the description of angels may at times be very similar to the description of God’s glory (e.g., Dan. 10:4+ cf. Rev. 1:14-15+), this is not a reliable indicator of deity, as in the vision given to Daniel where a most glorious angel nevertheless requires the assistance of Michael to withstand other fallen angels (Dan. 10:12+, 20+). Moreover, on the mount of transfiguration, not only was Jesus transfigured, but Moses and Elijah also appeared in great glory (Mat. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30). Thus, glorious manifestations, as here, need not necessitate a divine identification. In the phrase another mighty angel, another is αλλος [allos] (another similar angel) rather than ἑτερος [heteros] (another different angel). This angel is like other angels, whereas Christ is essentially different from angels.8 When Christ appears in the Revelation, He receives an unambiguous title:

Whenever Jesus Christ appears in Revelation John gives Him an unmistakable title. He is called “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5+), the son of man (Rev. 1:13+), the first and the last (Rev. 1:17+), the living One (Rev. 1:18+), the Son of God (Rev. 2:18+), “He who is holy, who is true” (Rev. 3:7+), “the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14+), “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5:5+), the Lamb (Rev. 6:1+, 16+; 7:17+; 8:1+), Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11+), the Word of God (Rev. 19:13+), and “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:16+). It is reasonable to assume that if Christ were the angel in view here He would be distinctly identified.9

It is our view that this angel is not Christ, but a divine emissary whose great glory and declarative actions indicate he is acting in the authority of God and asserting the right and intention of God to reclaim the globe in the judgments which will follow. This angel represents Christ in a similar way to which the Angel of Jehovah represented Jehovah in the OT, but with an important difference: this angel is not divine.

Notes

1 This can be established from the lack of any detailed, proof-positive identification found in the text. Yet there is much discussion concerning whether this angel is Christ or simply a powerful angel.

2 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 10:1.

3non sequitur 1. An inference or conclusion that does not follow from the premises or evidence.”—American Heritage Online Dictionary, Ver. 3.0A, 3rd ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).

4 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 181.

5 Those commentators who understand the vision of Daniel 10:5-9+ as being a theophany—a vision of God—usually see the messenger of the subsequent verses (10-21) as a different individual, possibly Gabriel. This allows the first vision to be that of Christ while allowing the second individual to be an angel who seeks assistance from Michael (Dan. 10:13+, 21+). A problem with this view is the unity of the text which argues that the same individual is in view in both sections of the passage. The arguments for and against seeing one versus two heavenly individuals in Daniel 10+ are beyond the scope of our treatment here other than to recognize that the similarities between Revelation 10+ and Daniel 10+ are insufficient to unambiguously establish the divinity of the angel of Revelation 10+.

6 Another mighty angel, who requires Michael’s assistance and is therefore not divine (Dan. 10:20+), swears by God (Dan. 12:7+ cf. Dan. 10:5+).

7 It should be noted that these were preincarnate appearances of Jesus. John’s vision is seen after the incarnation. Concerning the Angel of the Lord: Gen. 16:7-11; 22:11, 15; Ex. 3:2; 14:19; 23:20-23; 32:34; Num. 22:22-35; Jdg. 2:1, 4; 5:23; 6:11-22; 13:3-21; 2S. 24:16; 1K. 19:7; 2K. 1:3, 15; 19:35; 1Chr. 21:12-30; Ps. 34:7; 35:5-6; Isa. 37:36; 63:9; Hos. 12:4; Zec. 1:11-12; 3:1-6; 12:8; cf. Acts 7:30-31, 35, 37-38.

8 Although, as we have observed, Christ is referred to as an angel or messenger in His OT appearances as the Angel of Jehovah, we are now speaking of the incarnate glorified Christ. “While the preincarnate Christ appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord, the New Testament nowhere refers to Him as an angel.”—John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 10:1.

9 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 10:1.


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