Is There an “Angel of Death”?

The “Destroyer”

The actual term “death angel” or “angel of death” is not found in the Scriptures. In reference to the meaning of the term “death angel,” the Bible uses the term “destroyer,” as in the passage of Exodus 12:23:

For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

Please note the reference to the “destroyer” as the agent used in killing the firstborn of the Egyptians. In the Moffatt version of the Scriptures, the term “destroying angel” is used in Exodus 12:23. In I Corinthians 10:10 we find a reference to the term “the destroyer”: Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

Was there a Death Angel?

On page 92 of the book ANGELS: ELECT AND EVIL, by C. Fred Dickason, under the subject of the “Ministry of Angels,” it is noted that angels are considered executors of God’s judgment. The book gives the following examples of angels being executors: “Angels were involved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1, 12-13). God used angels in bringing the plagues on Egypt (Psalm 78:43, 49) and sent the destroying angel to execute the firstborn in Egypt at the Passover” (Exodus 12:13, 23).

In studying the passages referred to in Exodus 12, it seems to indicate that the direct act of execution of the firstborn was supervised directly by God Himself. On page 34 of BARNES’ NOTES on this passage, it states the following: “This plague [death of the firstborn] is distinctly attributed here to the personal intervention of the Lord; but it is to be observed that although the Lord Himself passed through to smite the Egyptians, He employed the agency of the ‘destroyer.’ In accordance with Hebrews 11:28, all the ancient versions, and most critics, recognize the destroyer as an angel (see II Kings 19:35; II Samuel 24:16).”

Was it Jesus?

There are those commentators who hold an interpretation of the “destroyer” as being none other than Jesus Christ in a preincarnate form –the angel of the Lord.

On page 321 of MATTHEW HENRY’S COMMENTARY on Exodus 12:29, he states the following:

“God’s Son, even His firstborn, released this judgment and conquered Pharaoh…” The angel of the Lord’s designation has been interpreted as being none other than Jehovah Himself (see Genesis 22:15, 16; Numbers 22:22-35; Judges 2:1-5; 6:21-23). He is often thought to be the Second Person of the Trinity (Jesus Christ) in a preincarnate form. (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. I, p. 697).


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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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