Jesus Christ Is Superior To Angels
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)
Consider Hebrews 2:2; 'For if the word of angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense... .' This statement would hold true with the Jewish belief that the word of angels was the Law of God. Another reference to this is found in Acts chapter 7. In verse 38, Luke explains the manner in which Moses was given the Law. He says, 'This is the one (Moses) who in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.'
Luke continues in Acts chapter 7, stressing this idea again. In verse 53 he says, 'you who received the Law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.' Again we see the fact that the Old Testament Law is ordained by angels. They were the instruments God used to reveal the Law.
The point of the author of Hebrews in verse 4 is to prove Christ's superiority, not only over the prophets, but also over angels. Some Jews might say 'Fine. Christ is superior to the prophets, but in no way is He superior to spirit beings, such as angels.' Well, according to Hebrews 1:4, Christ is 'much better' than the angels. Now this is a very important phrase; it appears 13 times throughout the book of Hebrews. The word 'better' is stressed throughout the book. The point of the author is that Christ is a better priest, Christ is a better hope, a better covenant, a better promise, a better sacrifice, a better possession, a better resurrection, a better privilege, and better bloodshedding. Christ is better in every way, including better than the angels.
It is important to realize that the author of Hebrews is saying that Christ is better than the angels, not as God, but as a man. He has been better than the angels as God for all eternity, but when He voluntarily left Heaven, and became the Messiah, He became 'much better' than the angels as the God-man. At that time He 'inherited a more excellent name than they.' It is Christ who has the better name than the angels, therefore He is superior.
In verses 5-13, there are a string of seven Old Testament quotations, stressing six different reasons Christ is superior to angels.
The author declares, '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' ' (Hebrews 1:5). What is the name that Jesus has? The name of God's Son. This fact alone denotes a position that is superior to the angels, or any other created being.
The fact that Christ is superior to angels may not be relevant to us. But remember, it was an issue with the Jews, and still is today. In fact, some groups (the Jehovah's Witnesses) are still trying to bring Christ down to the level of angels. Hebrews chapter 1, however, illustrates the truth that Jesus is vastly superior to any, and all angels. Why? Because Jesus Christ created angels.
The point of the author in bringing in quotes from the Old Testament is to depict the superiority of Christ to the Jews by using Scripture they already knew. If the Old Testament says Christ is superior, then the Jews should have no trouble believing.
We have already examined the meaning of the first quotation, 'Thou art My Son.' Remember, the very fact that God called Jesus His Son proved that He is superior. God also says, 'Today I have begotten Thee.' Now, to most of us, the term 'begotten' means 'to be born', and we would link this phrase to His birth in Bethlehem. However, this is not the true biblical interpretation. The original Old Testament quotation for this phrase was taken from Psalm 2:7. Acts 13:33 says, 'that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'Thou art My Son; today I have begotten Thee.' Now obviously, God doesn't mean that Christ was born at His resurrection. He had already been alive for more than thirty years. What does He mean? The 'begotten' means a 'demonstration' or 'declaration.'
Romans 1:3-4 illustrates this truth. Paul says, 'concerning His son, who was born of a descendent of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord... .' (emphasis added).
The resurrection is the great demonstration and declaration by God that Jesus Christ is His Son. So when God says 'today I have begotten Thee,' the idea is that He has revealed Him to the world as God's Son, and fulfilled the q Scripture. Now God did reveal Christ at His baptism, but in a limited manner, and He also revealed Him at the transfiguration, but to only a handful of people. But it is only at the resurrection that God declares Christ to all of mankind, showing that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God.
Romans 1:3-4 addresses this truth as well; 'concerning His Son...Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.' Again, the word 'declared' cannot mean 'beginning' because God is declaring Christ to be His Son after His resurrection. So the idea in Hebrews i:5 is 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten (declared) you.' The second quotation from the Old Testament, taken from 2 Samuel 7: 14, again emphasizes that Christ is the Son of God; 'I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me.' Although this verse had limited fulfillment during the reign of Solomon, it wasn't ultimately fulfilled until Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God, proving once and for all that He is superior, to any man or to any angel.
The second proof that Christ is superior to the angels is illustrated in verse six. The author again uses a quote from the Old Testament; 'And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says,' And let all the angels of God worship Him.' ' The context is this quotation is the second coming. God is saying that an event will transpire when He brings the Messiah to earth again, for a second time. He has already come to earth once, and God declared Him to be His Son when He was raised from the dead. Now, God says that when Christ returns triumphantly to earth, the angels will fall down and worship Him.
Again, the emphasis is on Christ's humanity. worshipping Christ, as God, for all eternity. Messiahship, the angels will worship Him when He returns to earth as King of Mankind. **** The angels have been But in connection to His ****
It is interesting how the angels are associated with Christ at His second coming. In Matthew 16:27, we are told that when Christ returns to earth, angels will accompany Him; 'For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.' Not only do these angels accompany Him, they will also worship Him. Quite a difference compared to the first time He was on earth.
The term 'first born' in Hebrews 1:6 is often taken out of context. In our language, 'first-born' means to be 'born first'. It is a question of who has existed longer. Remember, we have to look at these verses from a Jewish point of view. In the Old Testament the first-born son was the heir of his father. He received twice as much inheritance as anyone else, plus other blessings.
Deuteronomy chapter 21 examines this truth. In this account, there is a man who has two wives. One wife he loves, the other he hates. The dilemma is that he wants the son from the wife he loves to be his heir, even though he is not the first-born in time. What is his instruction? Verses 16-17 say, 'then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the first-born before the son of the unloved, who is the first-born. But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the first-born.' In this situation, the son of the unloved wife is entitled to a double portion in the day of his inheritance. As the first-born in time, he is in a privileged position, no matter what the circumstances.
But the term 'first-born' does not always denote the first-born in time. Consider Genesis chapter 48. This is the account of Jacob, who is nearing the end of his life, giving blessing to his sons. Now, one would expect that he would put his right hand (signifying favor) on his eldest son, the first-born in time. But that is not what he does 'But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first-born.' He continues,' When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim's head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. And Joseph said to his father,' Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born. Place your right hand on his head. But his father refused and said,' I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations' (Genesis 48:14, 17-19). In this context, the younger child has the right of the first-born. So we see that the title 'first-born' denotes a position of privilege and honor, even thought it doesn't always apply to the child born first in time.
This application is also seen in the book of Exodus. Moses says, 'Then you shall say to Pharaoh,' Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn' ' (Exodus 4:22). Now obviously, Moses isn't saying that Israel was the first nation that existed on earth. There were several other nations before God raised up Israel from Abraham. His point is that Israel has been selected as the nation of honor and privilege by God. That is the emphasis of 'firstborn.'
The same is true for the Messiah. Psalm 89:27 says, 'I shall also make Him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.' Does this mean that the Messiah will be the person who is born first in Israel? Well, we know that cannot be true. Abraham is the first-born in Israel (in time). Again, the Messiah is first-born in position. It has nothing to do with His existence in time. He has the honor, He has the glory, He will inherit everything, not Abraham.
Thus, in Hebrews 1:6, the term 'first-born' can only refer to the position of Christ as the Messiah. It is a title indicating His position, not the time at which He was born. God has appointed Jesus Christ as His heir, just as Jacob appointed Ephraim. This truth again points to the fact that Jesus Christ is superior to everyone, including angels.
The proof that Christ is superior to angels is evidenced in verse 7. In this picture, we see the angels as servants. The author says, 'And of the angels He says, 'Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.' ' Again, we have another Old Testament quote (Psalm 104:4). God is saying that the angels are like the wind and lightning. He sends them out to accomplish His purpose (often in judgment because of the negative factor of the winds in the Middle East). It is the same with the angels. Angels are 'ministers' (literally servants).
Verse 8 quotes directly from Psalm 45:6-7. Contrast the role of angels with the position of Christ in verse 8; 'But of the Son He says, 'Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.' Notice that verse 8 begins with the word 'But', which indicates a complete contrast. In verse 7 we saw that angels are servants. 'But' Christ is identified as 'God'. This is a very clear statement identifying the deity of Christ.
Furthermore, His 'scepter' is 'righteous'. This is His 'kingdom.' Simply stated, His 'scepter' denotes His rule and authority. According to verse 8, His rule is completely righteous, void of lawlessness. Now, this is true of His character, both of God and man.
Verse 9 continues, again quoting from Psalm 45:7. The author says, 'Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions.' There has been some confusion surrounding this verse because in verse 8 we see Christ referred to as God. Now, in verse 9, we see that God has anointed Christ. How can Christ be God, and have a God? As we have already examined, Christ has two positions. The first position, as God, which He has held for eternity. The second position, as the human Messiah, in which He lowers Himself to the stature of a man. As one can understand, these two positions make it possible for Christ to be God, yet have a God.
John 20:17 outlines this truth; 'Jesus said to her 'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father... .' Christ is acknowledging the Father as God, reinforcing the fact that He is the human Messiah written about in the Scriptures.
As the human Messiah, Christ has been 'anointed' by 'Thy God' with 'the oil of gladness above Thy companions.' Again, this signifies Christ's position as the Messiah. He is God with an eternal throne, but He has a unique relationship with the Father as the One who has become a Son as well.
The 'oil of gladness' denotes festivity and rejoicing, and it is 'above Thy companions.' I understand this to mean that Christ's companions are those who are reigning and ruling with Him in the Millennium. Now, this does not include angels. Angels are never mentioned as Christ's companions, but everyone who is a true believer, you and I included, will find ourselves ruling with our Lord and Savior. But remember, God has appointed Him above all, so we will not reign on an equal level with Christ. Only He has been appointed as the 'first-born' of Israel.
This truth is further illustrated in Hebrews 2:11. The author says, 'For both He who sanctified and those who are sanctified are all from one Father, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.' The 'brethren' includes everyone who has come to trust in the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are called brethren of Christ because of the work He has done in our lives.
The author identifies the fifth demonstration of Christ's superiority in verses10-12, emphasizing that Christ is the Creator, and as God, is unchanging for eternity. Again the author quotes from the Old Testament (Psalm 102:25-27), in order to communicate his message to his Jewish readers. He says, 'And Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment, 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.' Remember, Christ is the Creator (verse 2). So, the author again stresses this fact to show that Christ is far superior to angels, who are merely messengers, by the fact that He created them.
In all probability, angels were created on the first day of creation. As we will see, angels were most likely created in connection with the world, because their prime function has to do with the created world.
Jesus is the Creator, but He is separate from His creation. The author says, 'they will perish, but Thou remainest.' This fact is a very clear antipantheism statement. Panthiests believe that God is part of creation. They say He is made up of all the materials in the universe. But according to Psalml02, He is not part of His creation, He is distinct from it. There will never be a time when Jesus Christ ceases to exist. There will never be a time when Jesus Christ changes. There will never be a time when Jesus Christ stops being the Messiah. The same does not hold true for the creation. It can be changed, just like a 'garment.' It can be rolled up, just like a 'mantel.' Creation is not eternal, Christ is. He is the same yesterday. today. and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
This is exciting for us as believers. The world we are in may change, but Jesus Christ doesn't change. He gives us stability because we are related to Him. Nothing that happens on this earth can change that fact. The people who put all their hope, all their dreams, and all their plans in this world have put their trust in something that is perishing, something that never remains the same, something that will not be here in the future. Matthew 16:26 says, 'For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?' What does one have when he owns a world that will come to an end?
But in Jesus Christ, we have a Savior who is eternally the same. The promises He has made to us are eternally sure and true.
VERSES 13, 14
The author continues to emphasize the point of Christ's superiority in verses 13 and 14, using Old Testament quotation as his source. In verse 13 he declares, '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.' ' This verse is a quote from Psalm 110 and is a rhetorical question. The Jews would be well aware that God never said this to any angel, because the right hand is the position of authority, privilege, and responsibility that would come with being the 'first-born.'
Christ is told to 'Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool... .' This picture is in reference to a practice that occurred in biblical times. We see throughout the Old Testament that when a king was defeated in battle, he was brought before the victor, where he would lay on the ground and the victor would step on his neck, symbolizing the positions of victory and defeat. The same will be true for Christ. Everyone who opposes Him will be brought before Him, and subjected to Him in the day of His victory.
This is the thrust of the book of Revelation. All creation will be subjected to Him. He is the second Adam (Romans 5 and 8), and everyone will bow before Him. There will be no exceptions. As believers, we know that some people bow before Him today in faith, while others reject His Word. For those who bow before Him now, the reward is eternal life in His presence, cleansed forever of sin. For those who reject Him in this life, the reward is eternal life separated from Him, condemned forever to a very real, and very horrible hell.
Verse 14 contrasts what we have just examined in verse 13. In verse 13, Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father, in the position of preference and authority. What is the position of the angels? The author says, 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?' Here we see the official functioning of the angels. They are not servants, in the capacity of slaves. Rather, they are dignitaries, who have an official function to carry out before God. This function, 'to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation,' is a picture of their dignity. They do what is necessary for those of us who are about to receive eternal salvation.
The term 'inherit' emphasizes the future aspect of our salvation, when we will enter into a full realization of our promises in Jesus Christ. We will receive a glorified body, we will rule with Him, and we will reign with Him; and the angels will be present with us, doing what is necessary on our behalf as representatives of God Himself.
This is a fantastic concept! But remember, the angels are servants, while Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God. They are serving us, while He is waiting to be served. Obviously, the question of superiority has been answered. The author has proved his point: Christ is superior in all aspects of His existence.
If this is true, who are we to worship? We can't worship the men that God uses to tell His message (the prophets). We can't worship the angels, who are sent to serve us. We can't worship the creation because we know that it is perishing. The only answer is Jesus Christ. He and He alone is worthy of our worship, our allegiance, and our faith. He is superior to the prophets, He is superior to the angels, and He is superior to the creation.
Have you come to the point in your life where you recognize Christ's superiority? If you have, and you have put your faith in His person and work, you will spend eternity with Him. If you have not put your faith in Him, you will be held accountable in the day of judgment, and will justly be condemned to an eternal life in a horrible and never ending hell.
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