“So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?” (Heb 1:4-5)
Jesus Superior Than Angels
After explaining Jesus’ superiority over prophets, now the writer compares Jesus to angels. In Christianity, angels are not considered that important since we believe in God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But, in the Jewish tradition, angels were thought to play very important roles.
One of the most important characteristics of Judaism is the law. Through the law and the covenant, they were taught how to live as God’s people and had a relationship with God. They were very proud of the law and it was part of their identity.
So, the law was a magnificent thing. And, that’s the reason the Jews held angels in high esteem because Jewish tradition declared that the law was given by angels. There are a few Bible verses that show this.
In Acts chapter 7, when Stephen was persecuted by some Jews, he told them,
“You who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Ac 7:53)
Paul also wrote in Galatians chapter 3,
“…the law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.” (Gal 3:19)
Not only that, we can find many stories in which God revealed his power and helped his people through angels in both the Old and the New Testaments. So, undoubtedly, angels played very important roles and the Jews considered them to be very important beings.
But, even though the author doesn’t deny the importance of the roles of angels, he still declares that Jesus is superior to the angels since “The name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” (Heb 1:4)
Then, he emphasizes the sonship of Jesus again. Verses 5-6 say, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Heb 1:5-6)
Even though angels are important beings in the history of Israel, Jesus is far superior to them because they are only servants or messengers of God while Jesus is the Son of God.
Here the writer quotes two verses from the Old Testament—Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. Both of them speak about the Messiah as God’s own Son. So, what the author emphasizes about Jesus is that he is the Messiah and the Son of God and hence he is superior to the angels and to the law they brought.
After that, the author quotes a few more verses to show Jesus’ superiority.
Verses 7-9 say,
“In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Heb 1:7-9)
The angels must worship the Son because Jesus is essentially different from them. Angels are servants like flames of fire made for God’s purpose. But, Jesus is the king of God’s kingdom.
Here, the author quotes Psalm 45:6-7. This passage is important because it mainly addresses the king of the world. It speaks about the king exercising a sovereign rule through which justice and righteousness are truly put into effect in the world.
The point of the Psalm is that this is to happen through the true anointed king, the Messiah. Angles were only servants.
So, by applying this passage to Jesus, the author emphasizes to the readers that denying Jesus is the same as denying God's anointed Messiah and further denying God's reign and kingdom.
After that, Hebrews 1:10-12 says,
“He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (Heb 1:10-12)
This passage comes from Psalm 102:25-27. The Psalm says that there will come a time when the earth and heaven alike will be rolled up like a scroll, and a new heaven and a new earth will take their place.
Nothing is eternal, but God remains the same forever. Again, the author of Hebrews applies these verses to Jesus, which shows that Jesus is God who laid the foundations of the earth and whose years will never end. The writer already mentioned that all things were created through Jesus and will be inherited by Him.
On the other hand, angels were just a part of creation. They are important, but they are still just creatures. Jesus remains the same forever but angels don’t. That shows Jesus’ superiority over angels.
After that, Hebrews 1:13-14 says,
“To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:13-14)
This passage comes from Psalm 110:1, one of the important passages widely used in early Christianity to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ lordship and messiahship.
“The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Ps 110:1)
Here, David mentioned two lords—‘the Lord’ and ‘my Lord’ which was really uncommon in Judaism because Judaism is based on monotheism, the belief that there is only one God. But, what David said is not really that there are two Lords because the Lord and my Lord are essentially one.
What’s interesting is how Jesus used this verb to show his messiahship and lordship. Mark 12:35-37 says,
“While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.” (Mk 12:35-37)
When Jesus was in the world, he was called ‘the son of David,’ which basically referred to the Messiah. Jesus was the Messiah who came to the world as the descendant of David. But, at the same time, he was the Lord whom David called ‘my Lord’ in his Psalm.
Jesus asked, “how then can he be his son?,” not to deny the fact that he was David’s descendant, but to explain that He was both the Messiah and the Lord.
Peter also quoted this Psalm when he explained that Jesus was both the Messiah and the Lord to the Jews. Peter said,
“For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Ac 2:34-36)
I think that’s what the author of Hebrews intended to explain by quoting from Psalm 110. Even though Jesus came to the world as a human and as the Messiah who had been promised to come on earth in the Old Testament, he wasn’t a mere human. Jesus is the same as God for He is also the Lord.
So, Jesus is far superior to all the angels. No angel was invited to sit on the right side of God, but only Jesus. Angels are sent only to serve those who will inherit salvation because they themselves can’t save us since they can’t provide purification for sins. Only Jesus can save us.
Today, we talked about how the book of Hebrews proves Jesus’ superiority over angels. By quoting many verses from the Old Testament, the author showed that Jesus is superior to the angels since God called Jesus his Son, the Old Testament testified that he would be the king of the nations, he will never perish but remain eternally, and he is the Messiah and the Lord to whom God said, “Sit at my right hand.”
So, what the author really wanted to do is to convince the readers of the truth that Jesus is truly the Son of God and the only solution to sin so that they wouldn’t betray Jesus in the face of severe persecution and suffering, but keep their faith by fixing their eyes on Jesus.
And, that’s what we also should realize about Jesus. Once we see who the Son really is, and the role he played in God’s plan, we won’t want to go back to anything or anyone else, but remain in Jesus in all circumstances.
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