Better than the Angels

Posted: March 29, 2009 in Hebrews

Hebrews 1:4-14, “Better than the Angels”
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Introduction:
Are Jesus & Satan brothers & equal in power? That’s what the Mormons claim… What about Michael the archangel (per the JW’s)? Jesus is infinitely more than Satan (or any of the angels) because Jesus is GOD! That’s what the 1st 3 verses of Hebrews claimed. We saw 7 characteristics proving that Jesus is no less God than God the Father…

Why angels? This is rather abrupt, after such a deep & rich prologue. Some Jewish sects actually worshipped angels, but they were the minority – it’s unclear how big of an influence they would have had over the Jewish believers. Most likely, it’s because of the prominence of angels in the OT. Whenever God interacted with people in the OT, it was most often through the prophets (which we’ll get to in Ch 3), or angels. Many times, it was the Angel of the Lord (usually a preincarnate appearance of Jesus; but not always) – other times, it was regular ‘normal’ angels such as Gabriel (Dan 9:22) or other unnamed beings, such as the angel in Zechariah who continually goes back & forth from God to Zechariah answering questions.

Outside of God Himself, angels are always the most glorious & powerful beings mentioned in the OT Scripture. The seraphim described in Isaiah 6 had 6 wings a piece, constantly flying around the throne of God proclaiming His holiness. Cherubim were placed at the east of the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword to prevent Adam & Eve from reentering. The OT makes it perfectly clear that physically & spiritually, angelic beings are superior to mankind – and although man was never supposed to worship the angels, it’s been very few people who have not been left in awe by them.

So if angels are superior to men, who is superior to the angels? God…and more specifically, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews is going to make this perfectly clear, showing 7 OT passages that Jesus was, is, and had always been proclaimed & intended by God to be greater than the angels themselves.

Hebrews 1:4-14 (NKJV)
4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

A. How did Jesus “become so much better”? Wasn’t He always better than the angels? Sure. As the Son of God, Jesus has eternally been infinitely superior to them. But keep our context in mind here. In vs 1-3, the writer was contrasting how Jesus has been the revelation of God “in these last days,” as opposed to the “various times & various ways” God revealed Himself in the past. In these last days, Jesus was appointed heir of all things when He purged our sins & sat down at the right hand of God. IOW, the whole context is after the death, resurrection & ascension of Jesus. In His incarnation, Jesus became lower than the angels (as we’ll see next week), but now in His glory Jesus is “so much better” than them. Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, He earned His inheritance of glory & now is infinitely in a higher place of position than even the most powerful & glorious archangel.

B. Jesus has “a more excellent name” than the angels. Understand culturally, a person’s “name” is more than what people called them – it’s what represented them. To come in the name of a king was to come with the authority of the king, as represented by his name. In vs. 4, it’s not that “Jesus” sounds better than “Michael” or “Gabriel” – it’s that His authority & person & power is far more excellent than they. The name of “Michael” cannot save anyone, but the name of Jesus can. [Peter before the Sanhedrin] Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” []
__a. Ever wonder why other religions aren’t equally as valid as Christianity? Why can’t being a Hindu or Buddhist be as good as being a Christian? Because salvation isn’t found in Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam or anything else. When it comes to eternity, our sin means we must be saved – and there is but one name under heaven God has given us by which we can & must approach Him: Jesus. No matter what language in which you claim it, there is one ‘name’ – one way to God the Father: Jesus Christ the Son. And His name is more excellent than all the other religions & all the angels…
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5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”?

A. Quote 1 – Psalm 2:7. This Psalm was often read as a coronation psalm for the Davidic kings, but without question it ultimately points to the Messiah & His reign. Psalm 2:7-8 (7) “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. (8) Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. [] No Davidic king could say this, but the King of Israel – the son of God can! He will divide out the nations as the sheep from the goats & call to Himself those whom He’s saved.

B. Quote 2 – 2 Samuel 7:14. Referring back to the Davidic covenant, when God is promising to set up David’s throne forever. God does speak of how He’ll interact with David’s immediate children, but ultimately the covenant speaks of the greater-than-David, Jesus Christ. The Son of David is to be the Son of God.

C. The point? God never said this to any of the individual angels? Michael is a powerful angel. Gabriel was often used in the messages regarding Jesus. But neither of them nor any of the cherubim & seraphim around the throne of God has ever been called the SON of God.
__a. Being a Son is an identity of honor. Sons have rights that servants do not simply because they are a son. Abraham was going to pass on his vast inheritance to his servant Eliezer, because he had no son – but as soon as Isaac was born, the rights of an infant boy supplanted that of a faithful servant of decades. Why? Because he’s the son.
__b. Being a Son is a place of privilege: Only 2 men can ever claim the title of “son” from my dad…it’s not available to anyone else because no one else has been born from his genes… Jesus is the only begotten of the Father; there is none else….
__c. Jesus is the SON. If that were the only difference between Him & the angels, it would be enough. But there’s much more. 🙂
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6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

A. Speaking of the incarnation. Jesus was never born; but He is the firstborn. This is terminology regarding position; not a birthday. (Be firm on this point…JW’s use this as ‘proof’ that Jesus is not fully eternal.) Jesus is the firstborn over all of creation (Col 1:15) not because He came into existence when God brought him “into the world” but because in His incarnation, He became 1st among all mankind. Like Isaac who had the position of the 1st born of Abraham (even though he was Abraham’s 2nd son), Jesus has the position of the 1st born over all of creation. He’s 1st among all else & thus He is placed in a position of privilege & honor.

B. Quote 3 – Either Deut 32:43 (LXX only – not in our current Hebrew text; just DSS) or Psalm 97:7. If so, it’s rather interpretive (which would make bad interpretation for us – but fine for the writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.) Psalm 97:7-9 (7) Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods. (8) Zion hears and is glad, And the daughters of Judah rejoice Because of Your judgments, O Lord. (9) For You, Lord, are most high above all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. [] Question: does the Bible recognize any other gods outside of the One True God? Yes & no. Yes – it recognizes that people do worship other gods; No – it affirms there is no other god outside of the God of the Bible. Here, we find the angels referred to as ‘gods’ (as interpreted in the LXX).
__a. The angels are great, but they aren’t worthy of being worshipped. (Made clear with John in Revelation!) Instead, the angels worship God – and thus the angels worship Jesus. (Ever wonder what the angels say about all the fuss people make over them?)
__b. If the angels worship Jesus, what does tell us about our need to worship Him? Unlike us, who see through eyes of faith, the angels see God perfectly. They know without a shadow of a doubt how holy & powerful & wonderful God is. And not only do they not hesitate to worship God; they never stop worshipping Him! We ought to follow their example…
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7 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.”

A. Quote 4 – Psalm 104:4. Speaking of the greatness of God who stretched out the heavens like a curtain & walks on the wings of the wind. This same God who laid the foundations of the earth has His angels moving forth like the wind & fire.

B. Up to vs 7, one might say, ‘All of this so far has been about Jesus. Well, what about the angels? Aren’t they great & awesome?’ Ehh. 🙂 Angels are truly awe-inspiring beings & few humans who speak with them can do so without their knees knocking together (as seen throughout the NT), but ultimately angels are servants. God sends them forth & though they are glorious, they are simply God’s messengers & God uses them how He pleases. Like the wind one day; like the fire the next…they change according to God’s command.
__a. Ministers of God: Gk word for angel actually means “messenger.” One could make the argument that this is their primary function at least between God & man. They bring the message God intends for us to hear – and ultimately all of it is about Jesus. When the angels appeared to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, it’s always been a striking picture: on one hand, we see some of the humblest of people (not kings or governors, but lowly shepherds) & on the other, we see some of the glorious. Yet what did the angels say? They didn’t command the shepherds to serve them; they brought “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10) – they brought good news.
__b. We get to share in the same duty as the angels! We have the privilege of taking the good news to every person in all the world. But better than the angels, we actually get to partake of the good news of the gospel. The angels could merely announce the Savior; we are invited to receive His salvation!
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8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

A. Quote 5 – Psalm 45:6-7. The entire psalm is basically an ode to the King – ultimately writing of the glory & honor of the Messiah’s millennial reign. God has blessed Him forever (vs. 2), He has a bride who is exhorted to worship Him (vs. 11) – definitely messianic throughout. Vs. 6-7 basically describe His reign as (1) eternal, (2) righteous, and (3) anointed by God.

B. The Son has authority to rule & reign forever. Angels are ministers & messengers; Jesus is the ruler. BIG difference between the two! Jesus has been given all authority in heaven & on earth & sits enthroned at the right hand of God. His kingdom will have no end. Exactly how long is “forever and ever”? 🙂 There will never be a time that Jesus doesn’t reign. (Which should give us a lot of encouragement. We don’t worship a sometimes-Savior. He’s forever victorious over death…)

C. The Son is righteous. No one truly knows what capacity the angels have for sin, but we know it IS possible for them to do so. Satan & 1/3 of all the angels were thrown out of heaven due to their rebellion against God (2 Pet 2:4 & Rev 12:4). Yet the Son never sinned. He was tempted for sure (Satan saw to that in the wilderness), but never once did Jesus sin. He is truly righteous & His reign will always reflect His righteousness. (We serve a righteous God!)

D. He has been anointed for the task – reference to the work of the Holy Spirit (constant type throughout OT). Which of the angels were ever filled with the Holy Spirit? None! But Jesus was. Not only was this explicitly stated after His baptism (Luke 4:1), Jesus was prophesied to have a ministry anointed with the Holy Spirit…which will continue through His millennial reign as King. Isaiah 11:1-2 (1) There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (2) The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. [] (Is it any wonder that Jesus sends the Spirit to us? His ministry is bathed in the Holy Spirit!)

E. BTW – Did God just call Jesus ‘God’ here? Yes! When it comes to the Deity of Christ, case closed. If God calls Jesus God, what more proof do we need? 🙂
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10 And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.”

A. Quote 6 – Psalm 102:25-27. Context is interesting – the superscription is “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed & pours out his complaint before the Lord.” After 11 verses of pouring out his complaint (which range from enemies to physical disease), he spends the rest of the psalm declaring the greatness of God. In doing so, he writes how God is different than creation, which is what the writer of Hebrews cues in on. 3 specific ways in which the Son differs from the angels & creation:

B. Jesus is the Creator; angels are the created. God was the one who laid the foundations of the earth – and we see here that it was specifically Jesus at work as the Word of God. As John 1:3 declares, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” “All things” definitively includes the angels. There once was a point that the angels did not exist; but Jesus has always existed.

C. Jesus is everlasting; creation is not. Science is often put at odds with the Bible, but one area in which there is 100% agreement is that one day the universe will come to an end. Creation will one day perish – 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. [] How this will happen only God knows; but it’s without doubt that it WILL happen. (Are you ready?) But Jesus is everlasting. There is nothing that is more powerful than Him! The universe came into being with His word & it’ll dissolve the same way.

D. Jesus is unchangeable; the creation changes constantly. In vs. 7 the writer of Hebrews specifically pointed out how the angels change (task, duty, appearance, whatever) according to God’s command; here we see that God (specifically the Son) never changes. He is immutable…again, one more proof that Jesus is indeed God.
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13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

A. Quote 7 – Psalm 110:1. (The author is going to come back to this in Ch 5 & 7) Another clear Messianic psalm regarding the righteous, victorious reign of Messiah the King in which He is both potentate & priest (unlike any other Davidic king). Quoted by Peter at Pentecost regarding the ascension of Christ…

B. Final contrast: The Son is the Victor; the angels are some who help Him in His victory. Common military practice to step on the necks of conquered kings, showing their utter defeat (Josh 10:24). Apparently that’s what’s going to happen to Satan before he’s thrown into Hell. Satan is defeated (along with death & sin), and although he’s still fighting as an enemy of God, his days are numbered. For now, Jesus sits in victory until the day He puts His scarred feet on the devil’s throat.

C. Note the angels don’t just serve Jesus; they serve us, too! We don’t know exactly how, but the angels help us in our daily physical life. Keep in mind they are not all-powerful or omniscient (those attributes belong to God alone), but God sends them forth to minister on our behalf.

Conclusion:
Are angels incredible beings? Yes. Are they important in God’s plan? Yes. Are they more important than Christ Jesus? No. Messengers are valuable, but we need to be careful not to place more stock in the messengers than in the One who sent the message & Whom the message is about. Be careful not to listen to those who seek after angels (becomes a fad every few years). Never does the Scripture instruct us to do so. The Colossian church even had people that worshipped angels (Col 2:18)…let it not be so with us. We are to seek after, listen to, and worship Christ Jesus. If an angel somehow points to Jesus, praise God – if not, run the other direction.

The point of Hebrews 1 is clear: as incredible as angelic beings may be – as much as their supernatural presence is mind-blowing, they are nothing compared to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son, the Firstborn, the Anointed Righteous Ruler, the Immutable Creator, and the Victor. Jesus is truly & infinitely better than the angels!

If Jesus is superior to the angels, this tells us something pretty important when it comes to spiritual warfare: Jesus is superior to the Devil (who’s nothing more than a fallen angel). There’s a tendency to think of Jesus & Satan as yin/yang – just dualistic sides of the same coin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is infinitely more than Satan, because even if Satan was the chief of all angels, he was still an angel & Jesus is still God. Jesus created Satan & He’ll be the one to throw Satan into the lake of fire as well. Understand that it’s not like there’s some sort of epic monumental struggle between Jesus & the Devil in Revelation…Jesus just shows up & the battle is over! This is the God we serve & the Jesus who is infinitely more powerful than the most powerful enemy imaginable is the Jesus who loves you & me paid the price for our sins. We don’t just worship some sort of high angelic being; we worship Jesus – Creator God of all the Universe.

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