Jesus Christ: Infinitely Superior to Angels
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Somehow thinking about angels had gotten out of hand in the churches that the book of Hebrews was written to. You can tell this by how much space this writer gives to setting things straight. All the rest of chapter 1 starting at verse 4 and going into chapter 2 deals with angels. It is a major issue to set straight. I wonder if we think straight about angels. Let's measure our thoughts this morning by the thoughts of Scripture.
If you have eyes to see it, this will prove very relevant to your life. It will show you things about the Lord Jesus to help you trust him and worship him; and it will show you (in verse 14) that angels are sent to serve you as Christians even today; and it will stir you up to lay hold on the Word of God in a diligent way lest you drift into indifference.
The main point, remember, of verse 3 was that Christ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty of God on high after he had made a perfect purification for sins and was raised from the dead. Now verse 4 adds that Christ did that—he sat down at God's right hand, "having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they."
A More Excellent Name
Now the main thing here in verse 4 is that Christ is better than angels. He is better than angels! How he is better and how much he is better is what the rest of the chapter is about.
In sum, verse 4 answers this with a comparison: He is "as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they." Now what does that mean? What name did Christ inherit that shows he is so much greater than angels? When Christ died and made purification of sins and triumphed over death and Satan (Hebrews 2:14), he was enthroned as the king and seated at the right hand of God. When a king was enthroned in the Old Testament, there was an acclamation that now he was formally taking up his title and inheritance which had been his by birth. And one of the ways this acclamation was given was with the words spoken by God, "You are my Son. Today I have begotten you." (Compare Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 89:27=LXX 88:28.)
This is why the writer says in verse 5, in response to Christ's enthronement:
For to which of the angels did He ever say, "Thou art my son, today I have begotten thee"? And again, "I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me"?
This is a quote from Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. The point of this verse is to tell us what the name is that is so superior to angels. It's the name "Son." So verse 4 says that Christ has inherited a more excellent name than angels. Then verse 5 says, "for to what angel did God ever say, 'You are my Son'?" So the superior name is Son of God.
In Romans 1:4, Paul says that Christ was "declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." He has always been the Son of God, just like he has always been heir of all things (v. 2). But when he had made purification for sins and triumphed over death and Satan, Christ was declared Son of God and heir of all things on a new basis and in a new way. Now he reigns as the God-man Jesus Christ—the Son of God not only by his eternal right, but now by the right of his victory over sin and death. He is Son of God in manifest power by the resurrection.
Now the point in verse 5 is to say that God never said such a thing to any angel. No angel sits at God's right hand as the Son of God in power.
Angels Worship Jesus
Then verse 6 draws out an implication of this truth that makes the degree of superiority of Christ to angels crystal clear. It says, "And when He [i.e., God] again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship him." I think the reference here is to the Second Coming of Christ. When God brings Christ "again" a second time into the world at the "Second Coming" (Hebrews 9:28), all the angels, every knee, will bow, as Paul says, in heaven (=angels) and on earth (=humans) and under the earth (=demons), and all creation, including all angels, will worship Jesus.
So the point of verse 6 is that since Jesus is the Son of God, he is not an angel but is so superior to angels that all angels worship him. Now worshiping Jesus is a huge issue. It separates Christianity from Judaism on one side and Islam on the other side and from cults like the Caesar cult in the early centuries that killed Christians for not worshiping Caesar and from the Jehovah's Witnesses today that say Jesus is an archangel. All of these religions say Jesus is not to be worshiped. And that is understandable, unless the Son of God is God.
Which brings us to verses 7–9, because this is exactly what these verses say he is.
And of the angels He [that is, God] says, "Who makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire" [Psalm 104:4]. 8 But of the Son He says [quoting Psalm 45:6–7], "Thy throne, O GOD, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of his kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy companions."
What this writer sees in Psalm 45:6–7 is the stunning fact that the human king is called God ("Thy throne, O God . . . " is a reference to the king of the people) in verse 8 and yet in verse 9, God is called his God: "Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee." So here in the Old Testament itself we have a king of whom we have to say God is his God and he is God. Many translations will obscure this, but not the best ones. It is stunning and it is true.
The reason Christ is worshiped by angels (in verse 6) is not that Christ is the Son of God like an angel is or like Christians are, but because he is the Son of God in the sense that he is God, the Son. "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever."
Test yourself. Do you love Jesus as God? Does Jesus hold a place in your life worthy of God? When we say that "we exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples," do we mean a passion for the supremacy of Jesus Christ? O, I plead with you, love Christ. Worship him. Worship him. He is God.
Jesus Is God
Which is why this writer can take Psalm 102:25–27, which refers to God the Creator, and apply it to the Son—for the Son is God. So he says in verses 10–12,
10 And, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands. 11 They will perish, but thou remainest, and they all will become old as a garment, 12 and as a mantle thou wilt roll them up, as a garment they will also be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years will not come to an end."
This is simply drawing out what he had said in verse 2, where he said that God had made the world through the Son. Only now he says that this means that the Son made the world and that what can be said of God's creating can be said of the Son's creating because the Son is God. Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe. He is God. He is to be worshiped.
Do you have this sense of awe and reverence and love and trust and joy in Jesus Christ? Is he your God and your Savior and your Master and your Friend and your Treasure? Are you earnest about him? Do you think on him and keep close fellowship with him through the day?
Or are you like so many who make light of him—through neglect or scorn or trifling? Does it grieve you, for example, when you hear a comedian like Bill Cosby get everybody laughing by saying that he thought his brother's name was dammit and his was Jesus Christ, because his dad always said, "Dammit, get in here. Jesus Christ! where have you all been!"? Funny? Yes, sort of? The kind of "funny" that brings the whole world to ruin by trifling with infinite holiness and infinite horror.
The point of this chapter and of the whole Bible is to make us passionately devoted to the glory of Jesus Christ as Revealer and Ruler and Redeemer and Creator and God.
Angels Are Servants
So he gives one last contrast in verses 13–14,
But to which of the angels has He ever said, "Sit at my right hand, until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
He returns to where he started in verse 3—Christ sat down at the right hand of Majesty as King of the universe and as Son of God in power and as Heir of all things and as God—remember verse 8, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." This seat beside God is the seat of God. So he comes back (in verse 13) to this triumphant place of the Son: "Sit at my right hand until I make all your enemies a footstool for your feet." And he says, God never said that to an angel.
But look what he says of angels to show the contrast. Verse 14: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" What's the contrast here? Several things:
- Jesus is sitting as King, they are sent as servants.
- There is only one King, there are many servant angels.
- They are servants of Christians—those who by faith are inheriting salvation (6:12).
- Christ is the King over the church; angels do his bidding for the church.
- So he is far above these serving angels.
But how do they serve us? The connection between verse 13 and 14 gives us a clue. Verse 13 says that while Christ is seated on the throne, something is happening to bring his enemies under his feet like a footstool. What is that? What is happening? One of the things is that angels are being "sent" to serve those who are to inherit salvation. In other words, there are enemies of our salvation—enemies that want to bring the work of Christ to nothing and make it fail, enemies that want to keep Christians from inheriting salvation (demons, false ideas, sinful impulses, evil persons, etc.). So God accomplishes two things through his angels. 1) He "sends" them to serve us so that we persevere in faith and inherit our salvation. 2) And in the angels' serving us, the enemies of God are made a footstool for Christ's feet.
Summing Up What We've Seen
Now let's step back and sum up what we've seen and close with a very faith-building observation. There was some wrong thinking about angels in these churches, especially as they related to Jesus. It may have been a lot like the Jehovah's Witnesses error of making a great angel out of Jesus Christ. The answer of this writer is
- Jesus is the Son of God in a way that no angel ever was or is (v. 5).
- Jesus is not an angel; he is worshiped by angels (v. 6).
- Jesus is not an angel; he is God (v. 8).
- Jesus is not an angel; he is the eternal Creator of all things (vv. 10–12).
- He is seated on the throne as king and angels are dispatched to do the king's bidding.
Now notice something very encouraging for our faith in future grace—God's ministry to us today and tomorrow and the rest of our lives. From verse 5 to verse 14 we have been talking about Jesus' superiority to angels. One is tempted to ask, Why then does God bother with creating angels? What's the point?
That God's People Might Be Satisfied
The answer of this section is really remarkable. Once you see angels in their proper place their role is a magnificent one. They have a role toward Christ and they have a role toward the people of Christ. Toward Christ, verse 6 says their role is to worship. Toward the people of Christ, verse 14 says their role is to serve and help us reach salvation. Which means—if you're willing to let me use the familiar language—that God created angels that his Son might be glorified and his people might be satisfied.
I want you to leave this morning with this truth ringing in your heart: Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to angels. They were created not to compete with Christ, but to worship Christ and honor him. And the chief way that they do that on the earth is by serving us so that we hold fast to Christ and trust him and love him and treasure him and finally reach him in the fullness of our salvation. So angels were created for Christ's everlasting glory and for our everlasting joy—which, as you well know, are not contradictory aims. Because Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
The universe is filled with helpers. Christ wants you to be encouraged and hopeful. That's why this chapter ends with this amazing promise. The heavenly worshipers are all—all of them—sent to serve you and bring you safely home.