An "angel" could be anyone or anything that acts or deliver a message on behalf of God. For example:
- normal human prophets (Matthew 11:7-10)
- objects like a burning bush, pillar, clouds, thunder (Acts 7:30-38)
- Jesus himself (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 11:7-10)
- Angelic beings (Hebrews 1:5-14)
According to Strong's Hebrew Concordance
malak : a messenger Original Word : מֲלְאָךְ Part of Speech : Noun Masculine Transliteration : malak Phonetic Spelling : (mal-awk') Definition : a messenger
According to Strong's Greek Concordance
aggelos : an angel, messenger Original Word : ἄγγελος, ου, ὁ Part of Speech : Noun, Masculine Transliteration : aggelos Phonetic Spelling : (ang'-el-os) Definition : a messenger, angel
"angel" and "messenger" are sometimes used interchangeably depending on the Bible translator's understanding. For example:
In Psalm 104:4 (ESV) is written:
He makes His messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.”
But from the same ESV bible is quoted by Hebrews 1:7 (ESV):
Of the angels he says, “He makes His angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”
Behold, I send my messenger (which is John the Baptist according to Matthew 11:7-10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27), and he will prepare the way before me.
And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger (which is Jesus) of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. -- Malachi 3:1
In both cases "messenger" was the Hebrew "malak" which is also translated as "angel" in the English bible for example Genesis 16:7.
And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
They said to her, “You are out of your mind.”
But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
-- Acts 12:13-15 (ESV)
Did the house of Mary really thought that Peter had send an angelic being from his prison to them?
Another example is:
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write... -- Revelation 2:1 (ESV)
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write... -- Revelation 2:8 (ESV)
And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write... -- Revelation 2:12 (ESV)
And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write... -- Revelation 2:18 (ESV)
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write... -- Revelation 3:1 (ESV)
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write... -- Revelation 3:7 (ESV)
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write... -- Revelation 3:14 (ESV)
The person who is supposed to write to these "angels" is John:
John to the seven churches that are in Asia... -- Revelation 1:4 (ESV)
Why would God ask a human to write letters to supernatural angelic beings?
Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. -- Revelation 1:19 (ESV)
Angels sometimes tend to speak in the first person on behalf of God. That does not mean God appeared in person, and it does not mean that the angel is God. It only means that the angel repeats the prophetic words of God exactly as God speak through him.
And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, "Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: ..." -- Zechariah 1:13-14 (ESV)
This is not limited to angels, but also humans could speak on behalf of God:
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth." -- Jeremiah 1:9 (ESV)
The next chapter Jeremiah start to speak on behalf of the LORD in the first person:
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, thus says the LORD,
“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown...”
-- Jeremiah 2:1-3 (ESV)
More examples where an angel talks to people on behalf of God:
The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.
And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”
She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”
The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”
The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be ia wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
-- Genesis 16:7-13 (ESV)
In Genesis 18 we read:
And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. -- Genesis 18:1 (ESV)
But, we know by John 1:18:
No one has seen God at any time. -- John 1:18 (NKJV); John 6:46; 1 John 3:6, 4:12; Exodus 33:20; Isaiah 64:4
So, if Abraham did not physically see God's being in person, what did he see?
He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, "O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant..." -- Genesis 18:2-3 (ESV)
Abraham is not worshipping the "three men", he is showing hospitality and respect to them (Hebrews 13:2) as Lot when he saw the same angels (Genesis 19:1)
Everytime when one of the "men" or angels speak, it is written:
The LORD said, "I will..."
This is because the angel is speaking on behalf of the LORD.
Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, "Jacob," and
I said, "Here I am!"
And he said, "Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred."
-- Genesis 31:11-13 (ESV)
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob," he answered.
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."
But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?"
Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
-- Genesis 32:24-30
The prophet Hosea wrote about Jacob:
The LORD has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways;
he will repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and
in his manhood he strove with God.
He strove with the angel and prevailed;
He wept and sought his favor.
He met God at Bethel, and there God spoke with us
-- Hosea 12:2-4 (ESV)
God speaks as the first person to Moses through his angel (burning bush):
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.
He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”
When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
Then He said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
-- Exodus 3:2-6 (ESV)
Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him (Moses) in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord:
"I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob."
And Moses trembled and did not dare to look.
Then the Lord said to him, "Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. pAnd now come, I will send you to Egypt.
This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, "Who made you a ruler and a judge?" — this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. -- Acts 7:30-35 (ESV)
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. -- Exodus 13:21-22
Compare it with:
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. -- Exodus 14:19-20
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” -- Exodus 19:9 (ESV)
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and na thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. -- Exodus 19:16-20 (ESV)
Stephen's, filled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55) comment:
This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, "God will raise up for you ya prophet like me from your brothers." This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. -- Acts 7:37-38 (ESV)
And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here..." -- Zechariah 3:6-7
Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, land you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;..." -- Judges 2:1-2
He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to ethe testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. -- Revelation 1:1-2 (ESV)
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. -- Revelation 22:16 (ESV)
John did not see God or Jesus. He saw
... one like a son of man ... -- Revelation 1:13 (ESV)
In other words something that the angels showed him that represented God or Jesus or whatever.
For example in Revelation 22:
Then the angel showed me... And he (the angel) said to me,
“These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
(God is not sending his angel soon, the angel speaks on behalf of the One who is coming soon)
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
(The angel did not claim to be "the first and the last", instead the angel announces on behalf of Whom he is speaking. This is after all the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1), but here we have an exception where God Himself made an important announcement.)
Another proof that it is the angel speaking is that apparently angels sounds like trumpets (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 8:13)
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet... -- Revelation 1:10 (ESV)