Jesus, Superior to Holy Angels
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, October 8, 2006
Copyright © 2006, P. G. Mathew
Have you been touched by an angel? Some consider it a great blessing to be touched by one of these heavenly beings. The book of Hebrews speaks much about angels; in this passage, the writer contrasts the status of angels to that of the Lord Jesus Christ and us.
Humans are created inferior to angels in some ways, as we read in Psalm 8:5 ("You made him a little lower than the angels") and Hebrews 2: 9 ("But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than angels"). Yet as we study this epistle, we will see that even now believers in Jesus Christ are superior to the holy angels.
The introduction to Hebrews (vv. 1-3) describes the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is God's Son; the Prophet, Priest, and King forever; the Creator, Upholder, and Heir of all things. Verse 4 tells us that he has obtained a name superior to that of angels in view of his successfully accomplishing the redemptive mediatorial work God the Father assigned him. In verses 5 through 14, the author shows the superiority of Jesus Christ to angels through seven scriptural proofs from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
The Jews had a very high view of angels, especially in view of their part in giving the law of Moses. "For if the message spoken by angels was binding. . ." (Heb. 2:2). Angels somehow mediated the law.
To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus Christ was a blasphemer. Others might have considered Jesus as an angel, but they would not look upon him as Deity. The Jewish Christians to whom this letter was written, however, believed Jesus was God and they worshiped him as Lord. For this faith they were persecuted.
To avoid persecution, some of these believers, I suppose, were tempted to abandon their faith in Jesus as Lord and to consider him as an angel. So the author writes of the supremacy of Christ, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is superior to angels, that he is God, and that he is to be worshiped.
Because the Bible is God's word, the writer did not have to construct an argument; he could merely quote relevant scriptures to prove his point. He clearly understood the Old Testament is Christ-centered, as Jesus himself declared: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me. . . If you believed Moses, you would believe me for he wrote about me" (John 5:39, 46). Jesus also enlightened the disciples on the road to Emmaus: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
What is spoken of Yahweh-the I AM, the covenant Lord-in the Old Testament is spoken of our Lord Jesus Christ in the New. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew word Yahweh to the Greek Kurios (Lord); many New Testament writers, who were Jewish, attributed the same term to Jesus. For example, Romans 10:9 declares that we cannot be saved unless we confess with our mouth IÍsous Kurios, Jesus is Lord. Paul applied also applies Isaiah 45:23-24, which speaks about Yahweh in the Old Testament, to Jesus Christ in Philippians 2:10-11. Jesus is Yahweh of the Old Testament.
With this in mind, let us look at the seven proofs that Jesus Christ is superior to the holy angels.
I. "Today I Have Become Your Father"
The first proof is Psalm 2:7, which is quoted in Hebrews 1:5: "For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father'?" What is the answer? To none! The superior name God gave Jesus was "my Son" (Heb. 1:4). This statement was applied to the son of David in the psalm, but the reference ultimately pointed to the antitype, Jesus Christ, the Son of David.
This quotation is not speaking about the eternal sonship of Jesus, although Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God. It refers to his incarnational sonship in time: "Today I have become your Father" (italics added). God the Father declared Jesus Christ was his beloved Son both at his baptism and transfiguration (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5), but he particularly declared the sonship of Christ by his resurrection. We read in Romans 1:3 "regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead." Paul also understood that Psalm 2:7 refers to the resurrection of Christ: "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words" (Acts 13:32-34).
Because of his successful mediatorial work, Jesus Christ obtained a name superior to all angels: "My Son." No angel ever received this name. This, then, is the first proof the writer gives to show that Jesus Christ is superior to all angels.
II. "He Will Be My Son"
The second proof, found in verse 5, is a quote from 2 Samuel 7:14: "I will be his Father and he will be my Son." In its historical context, this quotation refers to the son of David. Ultimately, however, it has reference to the Son of David, Jesus Christ. It also speaks about the sonship of Christ in time: "I will be his Father and he will be my Son."
Isaiah prophesied, "To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). The angel told Mary, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:32-33).
God is not giving this promise to an angel, but to his Son, because of his mediatorial work. The throne of David is given to this one who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Son of the Most High, whose kingdom shall never end. Here again the author argues that Jesus Christ, God's Son, is superior to all angels.
III. Angels Worship Him
The third quotation comes from Psalm 97:7 and also probably from Deuteronomy 32:43: "When God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him'" (Heb. 1:6). God the Father is speaking authoritatively. We must note that it does not say, "God said" or "It is written," but "God is saying now." What is he saying? "Let all God's angels worship him." This is a command to all holy angels without reference to rank. They are all to bow and cast themselves down before Jesus Christ and worship him.
The angels worshiped Christ at his birth: "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests'" (Luke 2:13-14). They are worshiping him even now in heaven, as John reveals in Revelation: "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'" (Rev. 5:11-12).
The will of the Father is that all holy angels fall down and worship Jesus Christ as the firstborn of God. "Firstborn" is not speaking about being first in birth order, but about the pre-eminence, sovereignty, and priority of Christ. Those who worship are inferior to the one being worshiped. The Son is superior to these holy angels, who are commanded to worship him.
IV. Jesus Creates and Controls Angels
The fourth quotation is from Psalm 104:4 (Psalm 103:4 in the Septuagint): "In speaking of the angels he says, 'He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire'" (Heb. 1:7). The writer is saying that Jesus Christ is the creator of angels, who are here compared to storms and lightning-powerful forces created and controlled by him. The point here simply is that Jesus Christ is superior to angels because he created and controls them.
V. The Royal King and Bridegroom
The fifth quotation is Psalm 45:6-7. In the original setting, this psalm speaks of a royal wedding of a son of David in which a royal bridegroom is addressed. The final reference, however, is not to Solomon but to Jesus Christ, the Son of David and eternal King.
When we read this quote carefully, we notice the writer is asserting that Jesus Christ is God: "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8). We can also translate verse 9 from the Septuagint: "Therefore, O God, your God." Two times the Son is addressed as God; at the same time, he is seen worshiping God.
Who is this king who is God and yet worships God? He is the incarnate Son. This speaks of Jesus Christ, the God/man, who cried out in his human nature, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" We are told this king is altogether righteous in his rule, always doing what is just and right. Certainly this is not speaking of Solomon, but about Jesus Christ.
We are then told that he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his companions. The picture is one of a wedding feast, a joyful celebration symbolized by the "oil of gladness." Before a great party in ancient times, all the guests would be anointed with oil. (PGM) We find the same idea in Luke 7, when Jesus was invited to a feast by a Pharisee. No one washed Jesus' feet, kissed him, or anointed him. So he rebuked the Pharisee, saying, "You did not put oil on my head" (Luke 7:46). Note this is the "oil of gladness." Isaiah 61:2-3 says the Messiah will come "to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning."
This one was anointed above his companions who were seated with him. Who are these companions? They are you and I, the bride of Christ. We are Christ's companions! Hebrews 2:10 speaks about "bringing many sons to glory," and in Hebrews 3:14 the writer says, "We have come to share in Christ." Jesus Christ is seated, and we are seated with him at this great celebration. The royal Son and his companions are having a wonderful time. That is what this is all about-joy unspeakable and full of glory. The apostle John describes it in Revelation 19:6-7, saying, "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready."
The author is saying that Jesus Christ is superior to all angels, for he is God the Righteous King.
VI. The Unchanging Creator
Next, we read about the immutability of Christ the Creator. In Hebrews 1:10-12 the writer quotes Psalm 102:25-27 (Psalm 101:25-27 in the Septuagint): "In the beginning" speaks of the pre-existence of our Lord Jesus Christ. He continues, "In the beginning, O Lord. . ." (italics added). This vocative is found not in the Hebrew text, but in the Septuagint, the translation the author was directed by the Holy Spirit to use. Here the author is addressing Christ as Lord. He is Lord eternally (1 Cor. 8:5-6), incarnationally (Luke 2:11), and by virtue of his resurrection (Acts 2:36). Then we read that this pre-existent Lord created heaven and earth. Simply put, he is the Creator of all things.
All creation exists by the sheer will of Christ and is upheld by his powerful word. Eventually, though, it will waste away and perish. Hymnwriter Henry Lyte says, "Change and decay in all around I see. O Thou who changest not, abide with me." Flux is the only thing that we can count on in this world. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, we cannot enter the same river twice. Yet here we are told that there is One who remains the same. He is dependable, unchanging, and trustworthy: he will fulfill his promises.
In Hebrews 13, the writer says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (v. 8). What, then, can we conclude? That Jesus Christ is superior to angels, because he is before creation and he created all things. Creation, even all angels, will perish, unless God keeps them. Jesus Christ alone is unchanging.
VII. Seated at the Right Hand of God
The seventh quotation comes from Psalm 110, a messianic psalm that is the most-quoted and alluded-to psalm in the New Testament. The question is put again: "To which of the angels did God ever say. . . ?" What is the answer? To no angel! What did he say? "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" (v. 1).
Angels do not sit in the presence of God. In Luke 1:19 Gabriel tells Zechariah, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news." They stand ever ready to hear and do the will of God.
Psalm 110 speaks of the enthronement of David's Son, who is also David's Lord because of his successful redemptive mission, as we can prove from Hebrews 2:9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." This special privilege is granted to Christ for his redemptive work.
Hebrews 12:2 says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (italics added; cf. Acts 2:33-35 and Eph. 1:20).
No angel is seated at the right hand of God the Father. It is God's Son who is seated in this most honored place, and all his enemies shall be put under his feet. The commitment of this sovereign King and his Father is to wage war against all who will not put their trust in him. He is the victor, having triumphed over all his enemies by the cross. His death gave him victory over death, sin, hell, the world, and all principalities and powers. He defeated them by his death on the cross and by his resurrection.
Soon all Christ's enemies shall feel the weight of his feet on their necks. This idea comes from the Old Testament. After defeating the kings, Joshua "summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, 'Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.' So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.' Joshua said to them, 'Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.' Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees'" (Josh. 10:24-26). This demonstrates what will happen to anyone who will not bow before Jesus Christ and worship him (see also Isaiah 51:23). So Jesus Christ is superior to the angels, for he alone is the triumphant King, seated on the right hand of God.
Jesus, Superior to the Holy Angels
Who are these angels? They are not fallen angels, but holy angels. Hebrews 1:14 says, "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" These angels are in some way superior to us, but are they really superior to us? Are they really superior to Jesus? The answer is no. These billions of holy angels, whom we also read about in Hebrews 12:22, are created by Jesus Christ for his everlasting glory and for our everlasting joy. They are ever worshiping and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. As the angel said to John when he fell down to worship him, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God" (Rev. 19:10).
Unlike the holy angels, the devil seeks worship from us. He even tried to tempt Jesus Christ to worship him, but Jesus responded, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Matt. 4:10).
These holy angels are, in fact, inferior to Christ and to his saints-to us who are seated already with Christ in heavenly places. They are ever-rendering sacred service to the triune God and are sent to serve the people of God. Though they are invisible, they are here working for us and opposing our enemies-the devil, the demons, wicked people, false philosophies, sinful impulses, false brothers, and the wicked rulers of this world. They ministered to Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) and fed Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 19). Several times they helped the apostles (Acts 5:19-20; 8:26; 12:7-11). They will carry us to God when we die (Luke 16:22).
Hebrews 1:14 encourages us that the ministry of angels to us will continue throughout our lives. Angels are created to serve God and his people. I believe angels have helped me many times in my life. They may be invisible to us; yet without our knowing it, they are helping us even now. For example, a Norwegian missionary to north China, Marie Monsen, speaks of how angels intervened when Christians there were in serious danger. The enemies saw tall soldiers with shining faces guarding the missionary compound. Even now I believe our God sends angels to help us who will inherit the fullness of salvation.
Jesus Christ alone is to be worshiped, for he alone is God. He is the Creator and only Savior. All other religions fail to worship him. Some consider him at best an archangel. But there is no salvation outside of Christ. This is the exclusivism of Christianity. No one comes to the Father except through his Son. Eternal life is found only in the Son, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord for the glory of God the Father. Jesus is superior to all angels and all other gods. Jesus is the Son of God and the Creator and Lord. He is the King of kings, the Great High Priest, and the Final Prophet. I counsel you, whoever you are, to repent, believe, and adore Jesus Christ, our God and our Savior. Whoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life.
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Copyright © 2006, P. G. Mathew
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