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A Literal Translation of the New Testament


Angel or Messenger?



By Hal Dekker


Last page update: 2014.04.16



In the KJV the noun angelos, Strong's # 32, is translated as angel 179 times, and as messenger only 7 times.  But I believe whenever possible we must allow the contextual usage to help define the writer's intended explicit meaning of the words chosen to write.  Simply looking in a concordance to see how various translators translated a word tells us only their opinions of how they translated a word into English, driven most always by theological persuasion.  But allowing God's Word to have the overruling authority of a word's meaning, based upon how a word is used repeatedly in its given contexts, allows a translator to actually quote the writer's intended meaning of a word, and there is no need for theological interpretation on the part of a translator.  I believe tradition has mistakenly taught, either directly or indirectly that he meaning of the English word "angel" is simply a kind of heavenly being created by the God the heavenly Father to be used for his purposes.  That's a half-truth on account of that it is way too narrow in meaning compared to the various actual uses of the term angelos in the ancient Greek texts. 


In all 186 usages of angelos in the Textus Receptus it means one who is sent to deliver a message.  As we can see the critical meaning of the word describes a function that is performed.  Angelos is not a title like the words king, lord, prince, captain, lieutenant, master, sir, ambassador, and so on.  Angelos is NOT a title meaning heavenly being.  Angelos is a term which describes a function being performed, describing the action of a verb taking place, like the terms runner, welder, plumber, driver, writer, speaker and so on, which words are nouns, but they describe the one who does the action of running, welding, plumbing, driving, writing and speaking.  Angelos describes the one who does the action of delivering a message, which is why I translate it as messenger in the LIT, in every one of its usages.  


Another reason why I translate angelos as messenger is because the term is applied to mortal, soul-based, beings as well, and not exclusively to heavenly, spirit-based beings.  In Mat. 1:20 angelos is used by the writer Matthew to refer to the heavenly being which, in a vision, came to Joseph, Mariam's husband, to deliver the message from the Lord that he should not be fearful to take Mariam to himself to be his wife, because the child having been generated in her is "out of holy Spirit".  Yes, this is how angelos is used in the majority of its usages, to refer to a heavenly being delivering a message.  BUT, angelos is used to refer to mortal beings delivering messages also, ones who have been sent to deliver messages to other mortals. 


In Mat. 11:10 Jesus Christ, speaking of John the Baptist, quotes the prophecy of Malachi, in Mal. 3:1a:


Mat. 11:10 (LIT/UBS4) This one (houtos) is (estin) [the one] about (peri) whom (hou) it has been written (gegraptai):

‘Behold (idou), I (egō) send (apostellō) the (ton) messenger (aggelon) of me (mou) before (pro) [the] face (prosōpou) of you (sou), who (hos) shall lay down [a] schematic (kataskeuasei) of the (tēn) way (hodon) of you (sou) in front (emprosthen) of you (sou)!’


Jesus refers to John the Baptist as Jesus' own messenger, "the messenger of me".  In other various passages in the new testament writings they say that John the Baptist was sent to introduce the prophesied and promised messiah to the children of Israel.  And that he would bring a new covenant which the God the heavenly Father wished to make with mortalkind (Jer. 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21). 


But when we look at Mal. 3:1 we see not only the prophesy of the coming John the Baptist, referred to simply as a messenger, but we see another messenger mentioned as well in Malachi's prophecy, in the same verse.


Mal. 3:1a (LIT) Behold, I am sending a messenger of me; and he shall clear the way [of you] before [you].  


Mal. 3:1b (LIT) And suddenly, the Lord for whom you search shall come to his temple, [who is] the messenger of the covenant, whom you are desiring.  Behold, he shall come, says Yehovah of hosts!


I can see how Mal. 3:1a speaks of John the Baptist, through corresponding the new covenant revelation, which has subsequently been revealed to us, back to Malachi's prophecy in 3:1a.   But what Jesus said in Mat. 11:10 is silent about what Malachi meant in 3:1b.   But I believe there is another new covenant revelation which corresponds back to Mal. 3:1b, which is given to us in Rev. 19:10 and 22:6-16.


Rev. 19:10 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) I fell4098 (epesa) in front (emprosthen) of the (tōn) feet (podōn) of him (autou) to bow to4352 (proskunēsai) him (autō).  


And (kai) [he] says (legei) to me (moi), “Do not (mē) gaze (hora) [at me]!  


I am (eimi) [a] slave together with (sundoulos) you (sou), and (kai) of the (tōn) brothers (adelphōn) of you (sou), of the (tōn) [brothers] holding (echontōn) the (tēn) witness (marturian) of Jesus (Iēsou).


Because (gar) the (hē) witness (marturia) of Jesus (Iēsou) is (estin) the (to) Spirit (pneuma) of the (tēs) prophecy (prophēteias).  


Bow to4352 (proskunēson) the (tō) God (theō)!


Who is speaking in this verse?  The one who refused to allow the apostle John to bow to him, but said to him, "Do not gaze [at me]!  Bow to the God!" considers itself to be a slave of the God together with apostle John, and of the brothers of John, the brothers who are holding the witness of Jesus


Apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus Christ, says in his letter to the believers in Philippi:


Phil. 2:7 (LIT/UBS4) BUT (alla), he emptied (ekenōsen) himself (heauton), he having taken (lobōn) a form (morphēn) of a slave (doulou), he having caused himself to become (genomenos) in (en) a likeness (homoiōmati) of mortals (anthrōpōn), and (kai) one having been found (heuretheis) [in] a scheme (schēmati) as (hōs) a mortal (anthrōpos)!


Brothers in Rev. 19:10 must not mean brothers in the sense of fellow children of Israel, or brothers after the flesh.  Brothers here must mean as Jesus described in Mat. 12:49-50:


Mat. 12:49 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) having stretched out (ekteinas) the (tēn) hand (cheira) of him (autou) over (epi) the (tous) disciples (mathētas) of him (autou), he enunciated (eipen), “Behold (idou),  the (hē) mother (mētēr) of me (mou) and (kai) the (hoi) brothers (adelphoi) of me (mou)!


Mat. 12:50 (LIT/UBS4) Because (gar) perhaps (an) anyone who (hostis) may do (poiēsē) the (to) desire (thelēma) of the (tou) Father (patros) of me (mou), the one (tou) in (en) [the] heavens (ouranois), he (autos) is (estin) a brother (adelphos) of me (mou), and (kai) a sister (adelphē), and (kai) a mother (mētēr).”


In Rev. 22:8-9 apostle John attempts to bow to this messenger again, and again receives the same treatment and explanation.


Rev. 22:8 (LIT/UBS4) And I (kagō), John (Iōannēs), [am] the one (ho) hearing (akouōn) and (kai) seeing (blepōn) these things (tauta).  


And (kai) when (hote) I heard (ēkousa) and (kai) I looked (eblepsa), I fell4098 (epesa) to bow to4352 (proskunēsai) [the messenger, RE], in front (emprosthen) of the (tōn) feet (podōn) of the (tou) messenger (angelou), of the (tou) [messenger, RE] thoroughly showing (deiknuontos) to me (moi) these things (tauta).


Rev. 22:9 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) he says (legei) to me (soi), “Do not (mē) gaze (hora) [at me]!  


I am (eimi) [a] slave together with (sundoulos) you (sou), and (kai) of the (tōn) brothers (adelphōn) of you (sou), of the (tōn) prophets (prophētōn), and (kai) of the ones (tōn) watchfully keeping (tērountōn) the (tous) words (logous) of the (tou) little scroll (bibliou) of this (toutou).  


Bow to4352 (proskunēson) the (tō) God (theō)!”


This messenger speaking to apostle John says again that he is a brother of the ones watching the words of the little scroll, i.e., of the ones doing the desire of the Father, as Jesus said in Mat. 12:50.   Could this messenger be Christ Jesus himself, the messenger apostle John speaks of in Rev. 22:8, the messenger Malachi speaks of in Mal. 3:1b?


What does the opening verse, Rev. 1:1, of the scroll of Revelation of Jesus Christ say about who is giving apostle John this revelation?


Rev. 1:1 (LIT/UBS4) A revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus (Iēsou) Christ (Christou), which (hēn) the (ho) God (theos) gave (edōken) to him (autō) to thoroughly show (deixai) to the (tois) slaves (doulois) of him (autou) things which (ha) [are] necessary (die) to cause themselves to come to pass (genesthai) in (en) acceleration (tachei)


And (kai) [[the] revelation, RE] was signified (esēmanen), he having sent (aposteilas) [[the] revelation, RE] through (dia) the (tou) messenger (angelou) of him (autou), to the (tō) slave (doulō) of him (autou), John (Iōannē);


A revelation of Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is making known this revelation, and he is making it known to apostle John.


which the God gave to him - The God gave this revelation to his son Jesus Christ.


to point out to the slaves of him - Slaves of who?  In the new covenant writings slaves is used in reference to both slaves of the God the heavenly Father, and slaves of Jesus Christ.  Here in apostle John's account of the revelation he received from Jesus Christ, John's references to slaves are always slaves of the God (Rev. 7:3, 10:7, 11:18, 15:3, 19:2, 5, 22:3, 6), with the apparent exception of this first verse which reference to slaves appears to me to refer to those slaves of Jesus Christ.


was signified - I believe the one who gave the revelation to Jesus Christ is the one who signified it, who is the God the heavenly Father.


having sent [[the] revelation, RE] through the messenger of him - I believe the one who gave the revelation to Jesus Christ, is the same one who signified it, and is the same one who sent it, who is the God the heavenly Father.  Here the God the heavenly Father refers to his son, Jesus Christ, as his messenger.  This revelation which was given to Jesus Christ from the God was sent through his messenger Jesus Christ to Jesus' slave John.


to the slave of him - John is the slave of him, Jesus, through whom the God gave, signified and sent it.


To me, this scriptural evidence establishes who is the second messenger in Malachi 3:1b.  In Mal. 3:1a Jesus said John the Baptist was the messenger of him (Mat. 11:10).  In Rev. 22:8 John says he bowed to the feet of the messerger who was speaking to him.  This messenger is defined in John 1:1 as the God the heavenly Father's messenger, Jesus Christ, to whom that revelation was given and signified, and through whom it was sent to Jesus' slave, John.


This evidence in God's Word identifies for me who is the second messenger mentioned in Malichi's prophecy in Mal. 3:1b, as being the ascended Christ Jesus himself.  In Mal. 3:1a the first messenger mentioned is John the Baptist, Jesus' messenger; and in Mal. 3:1b the second messenger mentioned is the ascended Jesus Christ himself, the messenger of his Father, the God.


Mal. 3:1a (LIT) Behold, I am sending a messenger of me; and he shall clear the way [of you] before [you].  


Mal. 3:1b (LIT) And suddenly, the Lord for whom you search, shall come to his temple, [who is] the messenger of the covenant, whom you are desiring.  Behold, he shall come, says Yehovah of hosts!


And suddenly - When Jesus Christ, the promised messiah, finally arrived, the religious leaders refused to believe it, and they led the children of Israel in their unbelief as well, actually threatening anyone who spoke as though they believed, or said they believed it.


the Lord for whom you search - There were many of the children of Israel who were actually looking forward to and expecting the coming of the promised messiah, as Jesus' messenger, John the Baptist, was announcing and preaching.


shall come to his temple - I believe this is the new "temple" made without hands (Mat. 26:61; Mark 14:58; John 2:19-21), the one body of Christ, the new homestead of the God (1 Cor. 3:16-17, 6:15-20; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; Rev. 7:13-17, 21:22).


the messenger of the covenant - Please see Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 12:24, 13:20, Heb. chapters 8-13.  This is the new covenant in Jesus Christ's shed blood, which new covenant was prophesied to come (Heb. 10:16-17; Jer. 31:31-34).


I believe this shows that a messenger, Gk. angelos, is not simply a heavenly being, but its usage throughout God's Word refers to both heavenly and mortal beings, and even to Jesus Christ himself, as I've shown here, who is the greatest messenger of all time, being the Word of God, and being the messenger of the new covenant in his shed blood.  I believe this demonstrates also that when we read God's Word, especially in passages where up until now we may have thought that some other angel or messenger was speaking, that it could possibly be God's Word speaking, before it was made flesh, as in Mal. 3:1, or the ascended Word, Christ Jesus speaking, as he occasionally does throughout John's record of the revelation of Jesus Christ, as I've shown here in Rev. 19:10 and 22:9.  We must not jump to conclusions about who or what is the messenger about which we are reading, but allow the contexts, immediate, local and remote, as I've shown, to define for us who or what is the messenger.



Brother Hal Dekker