The favorite “theophany” used by the idolaters
This brings us to perhaps the favorite “theophany/christophany” of all, Gen.18:1;
Genesis 18:1 (KJV)
1And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
A footnote in the “Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible ” concerning Gen.18:1-33 reads,
“Did Abraham actually see and talk with God? Does this contradict John 1:18, “No man hath seen God at any time”? This theophany (appearance of God to man) in the OT is believed to have been Christ.” Is this possible? Could this have been the pre-incarnate Messiah?
The answer is a resounding no, unless you read Messiah into the text and assume it was him in order to support a biased, preconceived idea or doctrine. There is absolutely nothing in the verses to lead one to that conclusion.
Three “men” confront Abraham. Two of them are later seen to be angels (Gen.18:22;19:1) while one remained who Abraham addressed as “YHVH” (Gen.18:22,26,33).
Genesis 18:22, 19:1 (KJV)
18:22And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. (an angel of God as previously discussed) … 19:1And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
Genesis 18:22, 26, 33(KJV)
18:22And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. (an angel of God as previously discussed) … 26And the Lord said, (an angel of God speaking on behalf of God) If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. … 33And the Lord went his way (an angel of God as previously discussed), as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
If one was going to assume anything, there would be more grounds to assume the third man was an angel as well rather than a pre-incarnate Messiah.
We cannot build doctrines such as “christophanies” based on assumptions and wishful thinking. Unfortunately, that is exactly what contemporary Christian and counterfeit Messianics often do.
It is clear that Abraham was not seeing The Eternal Creator, nor was he actually hearing His voice. Therefore, it could not have been a “theophany,” an appearance of the one true God, because no such possibility exists while we are yet flesh and blood. YHVH Himself says in Ex.33:20, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”
In Gen.18:1, The Living God had to be speaking through one of His agents. The question would then be, was that agent an angel or the pre-incarnate Messiah?
In all other supposed theophanies, Scriptures revealed it was an angel speaking or being seen. To suggest this instance is any different is grasping at air and deviates from virtually all similar occurrences found within Scripture.
The thought that Yeshua pre-existed his earthly birth is a fable of men based on misunderstood and/or poorly translated verses.
The fact of the matter is the Bible does not identify the figure in Gen.18:1. It only tells us it could not be The Creator. To suggest it is the pre-incarnate Messiah is just that, a suggestion or a guess, and nothing more.
Finally, let’s conclude with Num.12:6-8:
Numbers 12:6-8 (KJV)
6And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
Verse 6 tells us the normal way a person would see God is via a vision or dream.
We see this also in Ex.24:10,11 by the Hebrew words used:
Exodus 24:10,11 (KJV)
10And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
In what way did they see the God of Israel who is The Eternal Creator?
The words translated “saw” in both verses can have several meanings. “Roa” (Strong’s #7200) is used far more than any other word for the act of a prophet when receiving God’s word. (See Isaiah 6:1; Jeremiah 1:11; Ezekiel 1:1). A derivative of “roa”, “roeh” (seer) is used as a term for a prophet. It clearly suggests the act of receiving God’s messages via visions and dreams. (See 1 Samuel 9:9,11,18,19).
“Chazah” (#2372) is used of the revelatory visions granted by The Eternal One to His chosen messengers. (See Numbers 24:4,16; Isaiah 1:1; Daniel 2:26; Amos 1:1; Zech.10:2). A derivation of “chazah,” “chozeh,” was also used of prophets and translated “seer” as was “roeh” (#7200). (See 2 Sam.24:11; 2 Chr.35:15).
The Scriptures do declare that people have “seen” God or have “seen” YHVH. If it was not, in fact, an angel of God they were seeing, then they were seeing God in a vision or dream as Solomon did in 1 Kgs.11:9; 3:5; 9:2.
They were certainly not seeing Him in all His glory with their naked eye (their normal vision).
Moses, however, was different. He was permitted to “see” a “similitude” of God. A similitude is not the real thing. It is an image or likeness of the true. The golden calf was an image or likeness of a real calf. A reflection in a mirror is an image or similitude of the true. Moses could not and did not see the full glory or essence of God. He was permitted to see only His “back parts” (Ex.33:23).
In other words, Moses saw a small trace of God’s glory as it was leaving the scene. That tiny trace of fleeting glory was enough to cause his face to shine. A good analogy of this is seeing the wake of a passing ship, but not the ship itself. You can be splashed and tossed around quite easily by that wake even though it was only a small trace of the power of the ship itself.
Basically, Moses was able to “see” a tiny fraction of God’s Glory, but no man can or ever will be able to “see” all the Glory of the Infinite Creator for the simple reason that man is not infinite.
In summation, YHVH (The Living God), the God of Israel and Heavenly Father of our Savior Yeshua, was never seen or heard by man. He used angels and prophets to speak to man prior to Yeshua and He has spoken through His Son ever since. Therefore, there are no theophanies in Scripture. He never used His Son to speak in Old Testament times because His Son did not come into existence until his earthly birth. Therefore, there are no christophanies in Scripture.