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On October 8, 1995 I was in the mountains of North Carolina, speaking at a conference that week end. It was a Sunday morning, and as we sat around the table eating breakfast, I happened to notice a rather tall angel standing quietly in the far corner. No one else seemed to notice him as they continued to fellowship among themselves.
I was about to ask the angel who he was, but he anticipated my question or read my mind. He answered with a single word: "Peniel." Of course, I immediately recognized this name as the place where Jacob wrestled with the angel in Genesis 32:30. Yet I did not recall that the angel had identified himself to Jacob. So I finished breakfast and then excused myself to study it further. In Gen. 32:29 and 30 we read,
29 And Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”
It is as if the angel expected Jacob to know his name intuitively. I had never thought of it this way until then. Jacob named the place Peniel, because that was the name of the angel he had wrestled.
The name Peniel comes from the Hebrew word panah (or its plural, paniym), which means "face or presence." The EL at the end of the name means "God." So Peniel means "God's Face" or "God's Presence."
The angel Peniel is referenced in Isaiah 63:9, as the prophet rehearsed how God had brought Israel out of Egypt. In regard to their wilderness experience under Moses, we read,
9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and THE ANGEL OF HIS PRESENCE [paniym] saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy; He fought against them."
I realized from this passage that Peniel was the angel of His presence that led Israel out of Egypt. In fact, he manifested as the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, which signified God’s presence. Exodus 14:19 tells us how this angel saved Israel from Pharaoh's army at the Red Sea:
19 And the angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them."
But Isaiah also tells us (above) that when they rebelled against God, He became their enemy. The law made it very clear in Lev. 26:17 that if they rebelled against Him, “I will set my face against you, so that you shall be struck down by your enemies.”
The story of Israel's rebellion is told in Exodus 32, when Israel worshipped the golden calf. As a result, God told Moses in 32:34,
34 But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, my angel shall go before you.
Which angel? A few verses later in 33:2 and 3, God says,
2 And I will send an angel before you ... 3 for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, lest I destroy you on the way.
In other words, God's personal PRESENCE (or Face) was to be removed, because God Himself would not lead them into the Promised Land. Peniel, representing His presence, was about to become unemployed in the area of his primary calling. Yet God said He would send "an angel" to lead them. Most people would be delighted to hear that an angel would be leading them. But they were not happy at all.
The people were obviously assigned a different angel, one that did not represent the personal presence of God. The people mourned when they heard the news of the change of angels, because it was sad news to them. Exodus 33:4 and 5 says,
4 When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.’ Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I will do with you.”
Who was this new angel that was substituting for Peniel? From Daniel 12:1 we know that Israel's angel was "Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people."
What is Michael’s function? Like Peniel, his function is revealed in his name. Michael means “who is like God.” Thus, he is mighty “like God,” but does not represent the personal presence of God as does Peniel, “God’s face.”
When Michael "stands up," then "many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake" (Dan. 12:2). In other words, Michael has authority as the angel of resurrection.
There are two ways to enter into the inheritance of the Kingdom. One is through death and resurrection; the other is through transfiguration or a change in the body without dying. Paul tells us that there will be people at the end of this age who will not "sleep" (die) but who will be changed (1 Cor. 15:51). Michael will do his work of raising the dead from past ages at the Feast of Trumpets some year. But Peniel has the authority to transform the bodies of the living overcomers at the Feast of Tabernacles.
Thus, Peniel is the angel whose calling it is to bring us into the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.
When Israel lost Peniel, it became a sure thing that they would not enter the Promised Land from Kadesh-Barnea the following year when they were given that opportunity. Kadesh-Barnea was at the southern border of Canaan. If Israel had believed the good report of Caleb and Joshua, they would have entered the Promised Land from the south without having to cross the Jordan River. Crossing the Jordan River signifies death and resurrection.
Their rebellion in the golden calf incident left them with an angel that is “like God” but does not represent the presence of God Himself. They continued to be led by Peniel in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud during their 40 years in the wilderness, but there is no record that these pillars actually took Israel into the Promised Land. When they crossed the Jordan they were led by the Ark of the Covenant (Joshua 3:6, 11), which represented Michael.
Getting back to Israel’s rebellion under Sinai, Peniel’s presence remained with Israel in the form of the pillar of fire and cloud. But he would not be able to actually lead them into the Promised Land. Even so, Peniel was made manifest in Moses’ face when he came down from the mount with his face glowing. This was an early type of transfiguration, though it was temporary. Exodus 34:29, 30 says,
29 And it came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
Moses was allowed to experience the divine presence, or “God’s Face,” but he had to put a veil over his face in order to keep from frightening the people (Ex. 34:33-35). God’s face was in Moses’ face, and this demonstrated to the people the glory of their true inheritance. David contemplated this as well in Psalm 80, where he prays in verses 3, 7, and 19,
19 O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
Paul comments on this in 2 Cor. 3:16-18, saying,
13 And are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart. 16 But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The veil, Paul says, hides a clear understanding of God. When Moses put a veil over his face, it did not obscure HIS vision; the purpose of the veil was to obscure the people’s vision of God’s face. Thus, all those who depend upon the old covenant have an obscure vision of God and His presence. As long as they remain under that old covenant, they cannot possibly remove the veil and see who God really is.
It is clear that the great hope of the believer is to experience permanently what Moses experienced temporarily. It is the glory of God in us, the divine presence, His Face seen in our face. This is the calling of the angel Peniel.
This is what was deferred a year before the 50th Jubilee from Adam in the days of Moses, as I explained in my book, Secrets of Time. Israel had opportunity to be justified at Passover (Egypt), filled with the Spirit and Pentecost (Sinai), and glorified at Kadesh-Barnea (Canaan). But because they were not ready, all was delayed, and the time was extended from a year and a half to a long period of THREE AGES: the Passover Age, the Pentecostal Age, and the Tabernacles Age.
It has been a lengthy detour, but we have finally reached the end of the Pentecostal Age. It ended in 1993, and we began to transition into the Age of Tabernacles.
Peniel was released in 1995 to lay the groundwork for the next great move of the Spirit. This outpouring will no longer be based upon the feast of Pentecost with its leaven. It will be rooted in the feast of Tabernacles and will establish a permanent work of the Spirit that will grow until His Kingdom fills the whole earth.