Doctrine of Theophanies of God

August 20, 2014


A. Definition.

1. A Theophany is a manifestation of the person and work of Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate state. This is a theological category for the appearances of Jesus Christ before the First Advent. Jesus Christ as eternal God is the manifest person of the Trinity.

2. Jn 1:18, “No person has seen God at any time. The uniquely-born God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has explained Him.” Jn 6:46, “Not that any person has seen the Father except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” 1 Jn 4:12, “No one has seen God at any time.”

3. There are four categories of the appearance of Jesus Christ in human history.

a. Theophany – the appearance of Jesus Christ prior to the First Advent.

b. The Incarnation – Jesus Christ becomes true humanity and undiminished deity in one person forever.

c. Christophany – the post resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ at the end of the dispensation of the hypostatic union and prior to the end of the pre-Canon period of the Church Age.

d. The Second Advent – the return of our resurrected Lord in hypostatic union to supersede Satan as the ruler of the world and to fulfill the four unconditional covenants to Israel.

B. Jesus Christ appears as a Theophany in three ways as the God of Israel.

1. As a Man.

a. He appeared to Abraham as a man in Gen 18:1‑33.

b. He appeared to Jacob as a wrestler in Gen 32:24‑32, also mentioned in Hos 12:4.

c. He appeared as a man to the elders of Israel in Ex 24:9‑11. Verses 9-10 specifically emphasize that Jesus Christ, appearing as a man in Theophany, is the God of Israel.

d. He appeared to Joshua as a the commander-in-chief of the army of the Lord, Josh 5:13-15.

2. Jesus Christ appears as a phenomenon of nature.

a. Jesus Christ is called “the cloud of the Lord, the glory of the Lord” in Ex 40:38.

b. He is in the cloudy pillar by day in Ex 33:9‑23. As the angel of God (the Lord), Jesus Christ is in the pillar of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to lead Israel through the desert, Ex 13:21, 14:19, 23:20‑23, 32:34, 33:2; Num 20:16; Isa 63:9. The Isaiah reference especially emphasizes the fact that the angel of the Lord, the Theophany of Jesus Christ, is the God of Israel.

c. He appears as the burning bush, Ex 3:2ff; Acts 7:30.

d. He appears as the Shekinah Glory, Ex 25:22 cf. Lev 16:2, 13.

3. Jesus Christ appears as the Angel of the Lord. This is the primary Theophany.

a. The Identification of the Angel of the Lord.

(1) The Angel of the Lord identifies Himself as Jehovah or God.

(a) When the angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar in Gen 16:7‑13, He also identified Himself as God, under the sacred tetragrammaton title JHWH.

(b) Likewise, when you compare Gen 22:11‑18 with Gen 31:11-13 and Gen 48:15‑16, the same principle emerges. The angel of the Lord identifies Himself as the Lord, or as God. See also Ex 3:1ff cf. Acts 7:30-35; Ex 13:21 and 14:19; Judges 6:11‑23 and 13:3‑23.

(c) So in passages where the angel of the Lord is identified as the Lord, it is the declaration of the deity of Christ. It therefore refutes all the false doctrine that Jesus Christ was truly God but a super human being.

(2) The angel of Jehovah is a distinguished from Jehovah.

(a) This is important; for it helps us to understand how the Trinity was taught in the Old Testament. It taught that there was more than one person in the Godhead.

(b) When this distinction occurs, ADONAI alone refers to God the Father; whereas MALACH ADONAI refers to God the Son.

(c) This distinction is made in Gen 24:7 and 40; Ex 23:20; 1 Chr 21:15-18; Isa 63:9; Zech 1:12‑13.

(3) The Angel of the Lord is the second person of the Trinity, because Jesus Christ is declared to be visible God in Jn 6:46.

b. Termination of Theophanies. When the Incarnation and Hypostatic Union occurred, there were no longer any Theophanies. Instead, from that point on, there are Christophanies, which were appearances of Christ in His resurrection body from the time of His resurrection until He ascended. (See the Doctrine of the Appearances of Jesus Christ.)

c. As the God of Israel, Jesus Christ as the angel of the Lord warned the judges of Israel in Jud 2:1‑4.

d. Not only did Jesus Christ as the God of Israel appoint Moses the first leader of the Jewish nation, but He also appointed the second leader, Gideon, in Jud 6:11‑24.

e. As the God of Israel, Jesus Christ is always mentioned in the Old Testament under the title “Theophany.”

f. Job 33:23‑25, “Yet if there is an angel on his side [Jesus Christ] as a mediator, one out of a thousand to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, `Spare him from going down to the grave; I have found a ransom for him;’ then his flesh is renewed like a child’s; it is restored as in the days of his youth.”

C. The Appearance of Christ in the Dispensation of the Hypostatic Union.

1. Jn 1:1-3 cf. 1:14, as eternal God He tabernacled among the Jews.

2. 1 Tim 3:16, God was revealed in the flesh.

D. The Appearance of Christ as a Christophany.

1. A Christophany is a resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ during the dispensation of the Hypostatic Union, after the resurrection and continuing into the pre-Canon period of the Church Age.

2. There are eleven appearance of Jesus Christ in a resurrection body. (See the doctrine of the Appearances of Christ.)

E. Importance of Theophanies. All these references are important to understand certain principles in the Old Testament, and to understand that there are direct statements that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer in the Old Testament. So this further emphasizes the fact that salvation in the Old Testament is not by keeping the Law (works), but by personal faith in Jesus Christ.

F. The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament are both said to be sent by God the Father.

G. Proof of Redemptive Salvation in the Old Testament.

1. Theophany is a theological proof of the pre-existence of our Lord Jesus Christ as the visible God of the Old Testament.

2. Therefore, the Theophany of Christ mentioned in Job 33:23‑25 becomes very important in establishing some principles regarding the doctrine of redemption, “the ransom for Job.” This establishes the fact that many people question, that Job is definitely born-again.

3. The “ransom for Job” in Job 33:24 is a reference to redemption, or the sinward side of soteriology.