CHAPTER 13: The Comforter: An Angel?
The point has been made by several expositors(1)
that as Israel were led by a special Angel through the wilderness,
whom Isaiah 63 associates with God's Holy Spirit, so the new Israel
were led by a Holy Spirit Angel, the Comforter, who was sent to
the church by Jesus after His assuming of all power over the Angels
on His ascension. A summary of the reasons for thinking this is
- Is. 63:7-11 describes the Angel that guided Israel through
the wilderness as the "Holy Spirit"- which is the Comforter.
- The Comforter was sent in God and Christ's Name (Jn. 14:26)-
the Angel was sent in God's Name (Ex. 23:21)
- The Comforter would teach (Jn. 14:26), guide (16:13), be a
judge (16:8) and prophesy (16:13); the Angel guided Israel through
the wilderness, taught them God's ways, judged Egypt and the Canaanites,
gave prophecies, and represented God to Israel as the Comforter
represented Jesus to His people. As the church began
a new Exodus and was constituted God's Kingdom in prospect as
Israel were at Sinai, it was fitting that it should also have
an Angel leading them, representing God to them.
- The Comforter would "shew you things to come" (Jn. 16:13)-
fulfilled by the Angel giving the Revelation to John.
- The Angel testified to the churches (Rev. 22:16)- "the Comforter.
. shall testify of Me" (Jn. 15:26).
- The references in Acts to the Holy Spirit as a person are now
easier to understand - e. g. "The Holy Spirit said, Separate Me
Barnabas. . " (Acts 13:2). Similarly the frequent occurrences
of the ideas of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit together fall into
place if the Holy Spirit has some degree of reference to a personal
being in the form of an Angel. The error of the doctrine of the
trinity is not in identifying the three common forms of God manifestation
(i. e. through God Himself, Jesus and the Holy Spirit Angel),
but in the blasphemous inter-relationships between them which
it proposes. This idea is worth applying to our understanding
of the baptismal formula.
- The work of the Comforter Angel may have been confined to the
first century, in the same way as the Angel was particularly evident
to the ecclesia in the wilderness during the initial Exodus period.
Thus the words 'Angel' and 'Spirit' are obviously
interchangeable in the book of Acts (e. g. 8:26,29; 10:3,19,20).
- In the same way as the angel of Israel dwelt in the temple
after delivering them, so perhaps it is through Christ's Comforter
Angel that He dwells in the spiritual temple of the New Israel.
- The Angel in Revelation "like the son of man" (i. e. representing
Him but not Him personally) was this same Comforter Angel representing
Jesus (Rev. 1:11 cp. 22:13,8,16). He carried the titles of Jesus,
who carried the titles of God- e. g. "Alpha and Omega".
- We have seen that our prayers are presented to God through
Christ by an Angel (Rev. 8:4) and that God answers prayer through
commanding His Angels (Num. 20:16; Dan. 9:20,21). This perhaps
allows us to interpret the 'Spirit' of Rom. 8:26,27 as having
some reference to Jesus manifested in the Comforter Angel;
whilst remembering that Jesus is ultimately the only mediator
(1 Tim. 2:5) it may be that the mechanical presentation of the
incense of our prayers to Him is done by the Comforter Angel.
- The Comforter is called “the spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:17; 15:26;
16:13). In the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls literature, this phrase
describes an Angelic Spirit who is the leader of the “good forces”
and ‘in whom’ the righteous walk [Testament of Judah 20,
1-5]. The Aramaic translation of Job, and the targums on it, uses
the term prqlyt to describe the Angelic spokesman [the
malak melis] who makes a testimony in Heaven in Job’s defence
(Job 16:19; 19:25-27; 33:23).
- Otto Betz, Der Paraklet (AGJU, 1963), brings out many
connections between the Comforter and the Angel ‘Michael the Spirit
of truth’ in contemporary Jewish writings.
- When we read of the “spirit of the Lord” snatching away Philip,
it seems logical to interpret this as the same Angel already mentioned
earlier in the chapter (Acts 8:26,29,39). But this Angel is defined
as the Lord’s Angel- and the Lord in Acts is nearly always the
Lord Jesus. Clearly we are led to understand the Lord Jesus as
being associated with a specific Angel.
The following are some additional implications which may
follow from this idea:
- If there is only one Comforter Angel, this has a bearing on
the previous discussion about how many Angels led Israel in the
- "Ye have an unction from the Holy One (the Comforter/ Holy
Spirit), and ye know all things" (1 Jn. 2:20) is clearly alluding
to the promise of the Comforter in Jn. 14:26; but "Holy One" is
Angelic language, as if the Holy One was also an Angel.
- The Comforter is 'one called alongside'- is this a reference
to the literal, physical presence of the Angel?
- Heb. 3:7-11 reminds the early church of how Israel had provoked
the Angel which led them through the wilderness by tempting and
proving Him (God cannot be tempted, so this must refer to the
Angel). The writer then goes on to warn them "wherefore. . harden
not your hearts", and exhorts them not to be like Israel in tempting
God- in their case, a primary reference to the Comforter Angel
which was leading them?
- The language of personification of the Spirit is found in 1
Cor. 2:10,11, suggesting reference to this Comforter Angel: ".
. God hath revealed them unto us
by His Spirit (the Comforter Angel): for the
Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God. . . even
so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now
we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit
which is of God; that we might know the things that are
freely given to us of God. . . comparing spiritual things (in
the word) with spiritual". If the Spirit here refers to the Comforter
Angel, then we have a summary of much New Testament teaching on
the present work of the Spirit: individual effort of our own freewill
("comparing") is required, for which we will be blessed by the
help of the Spirit-Angel in our understanding even more.
- The tongues sitting like flames of fire on the apostles at
Pentecost was an Angelic manifestation; the Angels can be made
"a flame of fire".
- God "Granted repentance unto life"- the record does not say
that He 'granted forgiveness', as if to suggest that this softening
of the heart to repent was granted by the grace of God.
This is an example of God in tandem with men's spirituality, which
we have suggested in chapter 8 He does through His Angels. It
is interesting that this action of God is described as being
due to "the hand of the Lord"- an Angelic phrase- being with the
people, encouraging them to believe (Acts 11:18,21).
- Paul seems to have conceived of God in terms of an Angel; not
surprising, if he appreciated the doctrine of the Comforter Angel.
This is implied by his exhortation on the deck of the ship: "The
Angel of God, whose (i. e. the Angel's?) I am, and whom I serve.
. . I believe God (i. e. the Angel), that it shall be even as
it was told me" (Acts 27:23,25).
- "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples,
which. . . we were not able to bear?" (Acts 15:10) is surely language
of limitation, as if God was tempted to make the Mosaic law obligatory
for all believers again. Surely God Himself would not consider
doing so; perhaps an Angel could?
- Jude 5 reminds the new Israel of the first century that Israel
of old had been condemned due to their provoking of the wilderness
Angel- a warning that takes on special power once it is recognized
that the very same Angel was leading the early church.
- Stephen's speech in Acts 7 contains many references to the
Angel of Israel. He uses examples from Israel's history in which
they rejected those who were types
of Jesus- e. g. v. 9,10,22,25. It follows then that v. 35 must
refer to this same aspect of Moses as a type of Christ being rejected.
"This is Moses whom they renounced. . even him God sent to be
a ruler and a redeemer with the hand of that Angel which appeared
to him in the bush" (Diaglott). Israel resisted the work of the
Angel supporting Moses, and so years later they were also rejecting
the support of the same guardian Angel for the teachings of Jesus
and His disciples, the greater than Moses. So v. 51 stresses "ye
do always resist the Holy Spirit (the title of the Comforter Angel
in Is. 63): as your fathers did, so do ye". Their fathers resisted
the Angel of the presence which went with them; and so the Jews
of the first century were doing just the same.
- If the Hebrew phrase "the living God" means, as suggested by
some, 'the God of the living ones', then "the living God" would
refer to the great Angel who dwelt between the Cherubim "living
ones". 1 Tim. 3:15 then appears in a new light: "The church of
the living God"- the church dwelt in by the mighty Angel of the
Old Testament Cherubim. The Angel dwelling and walking in the
ecclesia in the wilderness is linked with God- the same Angel?
-living and walking in the Christian ecclesia (2 Cor. 6:16). It
was because of the presence of this and other important Angels
in the ecclesia that Paul could charge Timothy "before. . . the
elect Angels" (1 Tim. 5:21), who were present physically at the
ecclesia's meetings. Indeed, this may be the very reason why he
asks sisters in Corinth to have covered heads at ecclesial meetings
“because of the Angels”, i. e. their especial presence there.
This is how important and pressing is the reality of their presence;
and sisters’ headcoverings, their dressing with an appropriate
modesty and sobriety which a head covering signals, is to remind
us all of this ever present reality.
"He, the Spirit (Angel) of truth. . . will guide you into all truth;
for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear,
that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come" (John
16:13). As the present writer understands it, the work of the Holy
Spirit Comforter was initially achieved through the miraculous gifts,
and now through the spiritual strength we receive from the
written word. Thus nearly all the statements made about the Comforter
are also made concerning the written word (e. g. Jn. 15:26; 16:13
cp. 17:17; 16:8 cp. 2 Tim. 3:16; 4:2; Titus 1:9; 16:8 cp. 12:40).
The Angels being closely associated with inspiration, notably of
the Revelation, the Comforter Angel now largely achieves His aims
through the written word He has inspired. "Things to come" were
shown us by the Comforter Angel inspiring Revelation, the ultimate
prophecy of the future. The Comforter was to make known everything
that was told Him. It therefore follows that even the mighty
Comforter Angel only has the same words of prophecy to study regarding
the future unfolding of God's purpose as we have. Therefore they
with us earnestly look into these things, and search "what manner
of time" must elapse before the final fulfilment of God's word.
(1) Notably in Ray
Walker's series 'Angels' in The Bible Student, vol.