JESUS IS BETTER THAN THE ANGELS
I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee.
Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession." (Psalm 2:7-8).
From the infinite solitude of eternity, God spoke and the universe sprang into existence. In a single moment of time, the heavens were woven together in a glorious tapestry. Newborn stars blazed forth their light, moving together to form spinning galaxies.
No man was present at that moment. No human eye was there to gaze upon the wonders of creation. No mortal was present to appreciate the handiwork of the Creator.
But there were others who were there. There were supernatural beings who witnessed the hand of the Architect of the universe at work. These special servants of God gazed upon the grand design of the cosmos and they sang forth the praises of the God of creation.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth! Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7).
These special servants of the Lord who sang His praises at the creation are called "the sons of God." We know them as angels.
What is an angel? The word "angel" is a transliteration of the Greek word aggeloV. It is the word for a "messenger." We see angels occasionally through the Bible, bearing God s messages to mortal men.
One of the most significant ministries of angels was in the transmission of the Mosaic Law. Moses is said to have met with an angel on Mount Sinai when he received the Law from God.
This is the one who was 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. (Acts 7:38).
You who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it. (Acts 7:53).
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator... (Galatians 3:19a).
Angels were involved in the transmission of the Law to Moses. The Jews had a very high regard for angels. If a message was given by an angel, it carried a much greater weight than if it had been spoken by mere man.
The Jewish writings taught that angels served as mediators between God and men. This was correct as far as it went, but they also taught that angels were involved in God s decision-making processes. They thought that God always consulted His angels before making up His mind on what He was going to do. They pointed to Genesis 1:26 as a proof text for this belief.
Then God said, "Let US make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26).
This verse was interpreted by the Jews to picture God talking to His angels, asking their advice concerning the creation of man.
The Jews also believed that the angels were responsible for keeping the stars in place, for the holding back of the sea, for the control of the weather and for the keeping of time. They even believed that there were angels who served as prison wardens in hell and who tortured the people who were sent there.
This is important. The Epistle to the Hebrews is written to Jewish believers (that is why we call it the Epistle to the Hebrews). These people had been raised to believe many of these concepts of angels. As a result, they assumed that there could be nothing that was greater than the angels. Some Jews had even gone to the extreme of worshiping angels. Eventually, a teaching known as Gnosticism would arise which would teach that Jesus was an angel.
This brings us to the message of the book of Hebrews. It is that Jesus is better. The covenant that He brought is better than the first covenant that was brought by angels.
His covenant is a better covenant because He is better than the angels.
THE TITLE OF JESUS
Having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
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 1:4-5).
The first reason that Jesus is better than the angels is because He has a more exalted title than they do. Titles can be important. I have several titles. One of my titles is "husband." If you don t think that this title is important, just talk to my wife.
I spent many years with the Fire Department. Many of the fire fighters who I worked with had been given nicknames. There were names like Blind Frank, Bullet Bob, Mickey Mouse and Big Bird. I was known by the nickname of "The Preacher." These nicknames were all indicative of some characteristic of the one with the name.
Names in the ancient world are the same way. They had meaning to their names and titles. Such names were very significant.
Jesus has many titles. He is the First-born. He is the Messiah. He is the Redeemer. He is the Advocate. And He is the Son.
Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee (1:5).
This is a quotation. It is a quotation of God. It is a quotation from the Old Testament. It is taken from the Psalms.
I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee."
Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. (Psalm 2:7-6).
This Psalm was sung at the Coronation of the King. At the ceremony in which a king was crowned, this Psalm would be sung by the Temple Choir. The Jews recognized in this Psalm a prophecy of the coming Messiah. He would be known as the Son of God.
This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God testified that Jesus is His Son at the baptism of Jesus. Jesus had come to be baptized by John the Baptist. He did this to identify Himself with the ministry and the message of John.
And immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased." (Mark 1:10-11).
With this statement, God identified Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. Jesus is the beloved Son of God.
I think that someday God is going to say this again about Jesus. There is coming a day when Jesus is going to return to the earth. He will return to earth and He will be crowned King. That will be His Coronation Day. The whole earth will be His kingdom. The nations will be His inheritance. And the ends of the earth will be His possession.
I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me (1:5).
This was also an Old Testament prophecy. It was a promise that was given to David, the King of Israel. It was a promise that his son would sit upon the throne of Israel and that he would have a special relationship with God.
I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:14-16).
The immediate fulfillment of this prophecy is seen in the person of Solomon. Solomon was one of the sons of David. He took the throne after David died. He was given wisdom from God. He was also disciplined by God when he sinned.
However there is also a second fulfillment of this prophecy. This prophecy is also fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is a descendant of David. He will sit on the throne of David. He has the wisdom of God. He did no sin, but He took on Himself the sins of the world. And His kingdom will be established forever.
Jesus is the Son of God. No angel ever received this title. No angel was ever called "the Son of God. Angels are fantastic creatures. They are supernatural. They have tremendous power. They are able to enter the presence of God. But Jesus is better because He is the Son.
THE WORSHIP OF THE SON
And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." (Hebrews 1:6).
The next reason that Jesus is better than the angels is because He is worshiped by the angels.
And when He again brings the first-born into the world (1:6).
This is a reference to the birth of Jesus. Even though Jesus existed from all eternity, there was a time in history when He became flesh. God was born in the form of a man. He became a man.
Notice that He is called "the first-born." This does not mean that Jesus was the first one to be born. He was not the first to be born. There were millions of people who were born before Jesus was born.
How are we to understand this title of firstborn? In the ancient world, the first-born held the position of first place in the family. He was the leader of the family. He received the major portion of the inheritance. He held a position of preeminence. He was the "Number One Son."
This idea of preeminence is foundational to the idea of the firstborn. To call someone the firstborn was to say that they held the position of first place.
For example, one of the early church fathers named Polycarp called Marciori the "firstborn of Satan." Marcion was a heretic who taught false doctrine. By using this title, Polycarp meant that Marcion was Satan s number one man.
The birth of Jesus was that kind of birth. It was the number one birth. It was the most important birth in history. It was the birth that changed the course of history.
He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." (1:6).
This is another quotation from an Old Testament prophecy. Once again, it is from the book of Psalms.
Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods. (Psalm 97:7).
Now, you are saying, "Wait a minute, John. That verse in the Psalms doesn’t say anything about angels." That is true. But in the Greek Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the word "gods" ( ) has been translated with the Greek word aggeloi (angels).
The writer of Hebrews is quoting from the Septuagint and he is saying that this verse contains a prophecy of Jesus which was fulfilled when the angels worshiped Him.
Do you remember the story of the angelic announcement at the birth of Christ? The scene was the rolling hills outside the village of Bethlehem. A group of shepherds were gathered together in the cool night. Suddenly, the stillness of the night was broken.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened." (Luke 2:9).
Can you picture the scene ? It is a chilly evening out under the stars. Perhaps the shepherds have a campfire going. Occasionally one of them stands up to throw another branch into the fire or to stamp his feet and warm himself against the brisk evening breeze.
Suddenly there is a light. The shadows and blackness of the night vanish in sudden brightness. Before them in the blazing light stands an awesome creature. It is an angel. They are terrified. They suddenly see what sinful and lowly beings they are as they are confronted with this majestic spectacle. Then the angel speaks.
"What did he say?"
"He said not to be afraid."
"He said that he is bringing us news of a great joy."
"He said that a savior has been born."
And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12).
The angel begins his message by telling the shepherds not to be afraid. Angels are such fantastic creatures that this is usually the first thing an angel has to say when he is speaking to a mortal man. But this message is not one of fear. It is a message of good news. It is a message of great joy. The message is that a Savior has been born. His identity is "Christ the Lord.
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:13-14).
The word "host" used in verse 13 is a military term. It describes an army. These angels had once sang for joy at the creation of the cosmos. Now they sing for joy at the announcement of the birth of the One who created the cosmos.
The angels worshiped Jesus and sang His praises. Angels know that it is wrong to worship anyone but God. And so, this is an evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ.
He is the Son of God. Therefore, He is worthy of worship.
THE ROLE OF THE ANGELS
And of the angels He says, "Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire." (Hebrews 1:7).
The angels are seen in contrast to Jesus in this verse. We have seen several truths about Jesus.
Now, by contrast, we see several truths about the angels.
And of the angels He says, "Who makes His angels winds" (1:7).
This is a quotation from the Psalms. It is from Psalm 104. It is from a Psalm of Praise. It is describing God as the One who controls all of creation.
He makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers. (Psalm 104:4).
This is a picture of the Sovereign God. He controls the universe. The wind does His bidding. Fire is His sign of authority. Notice that the word "messenger is used here instead of "angel." That is because they are the same word in both Greek and Hebrew. In the context of the Psalms, the writer is speaking of the physical world and God’s control of the winds. But here in Hebrews, a higher truth is in view. Here in Hebrews we see that God is in control of the spiritual world as well as the physical world.
Now I want to ask you a question. Why are the angels identified as winds? The Greek word which has been translated "winds" is µ . It can be translated "wind."
But the same Greek word can also be translated "spirit."
I think that it is the latter meaning which is in view here. The angels are spirit beings. They are spirit oriented. They can see spiritual events in the same way that we can see physical events. The spiritual world is just as real and as experiential to them as the physical world is real and experiential to us.
You see, I believe in the spiritual world. But I cannot see the spiritual world. I cannot see my prayers ascending to heaven. I cannot see my sins being forgiven. I cannot see the spiritual conflict going on around me. These things are intangible to me. But I am not so certain that they are intangible to the angels. This is because angels are made differently than we are. They possess a different set of senses. They have a different kind of body.
Who makes.. .His ministers a flame of fire (1:7).
The writer is still quoting from Psalm 104. That Psalm describes God as the One who controls all of creation.
He makes the winds His messengers,
Flaming fire His ministers. (Psalm 104:4).
In this picture of the Sovereign God, we are told that He controls the universe. The wind is a sign of His invisible workings. Flaming fire is His sign of authority. In the same way that God uses wind and fire for the benefit of man, so also the angels have a ministry which is to the benefit of man.
THE RIGHTEOUS RULERSHIP OF THE SON
But of the Son He says, "Thy throne, 0 God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.
"Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions." (Hebrews 1:8-9).
Now we turn our attention from angels back to the Son. As great as angels are, the Son is greater still.
Angels were seen to be servants. But the Son is the Sovereign Lord. The angels were brought into being in a point in time. Notice that verse 7 says that Christ "MAKES His angels winds..." But Jesus has a throne that is "forever and ever."
Once again, the writer quotes from the Old Testament. And again, the quotation comes from the Psalms. This time, it is taken from a wedding Psalm.
Thy throne, 0 God, is forever and ever,
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows. (Psalm 45:6-7).
This is a Psalm of Praise. It is praise of a bride for her bridegroom. The bridegroom is God Himself. The bride is God’s people. We refer to it as the church.
The Psalm describes the praises of the bride for her bridegroom. Notice that she focuses her attention on the righteousness of God.
The righteousness of God was the subject of a great deal of attention in the Old Testament. One of the central teachings of the Bible has always been that God is righteous. Not only this, but God has always demanded righteousness of those who would fellowship with Him. This creates a dilemma. It is that there are no righteous people. All have sinned. This is why God sent His Son. It was that He might present Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of men.
We have the privilege of being able to enter into the presence of God. This is not because we are good enough. Rather, it is because the righteousness of Jesus Christ; has been offered up on our behalf.
This is why it is so important that Jesus be seen as righteous. If He is not perfectly righteous, then He is not qualified to bear our sins and that means that we are still in our sins.
And so, the point is made that Jesus is righteous with an everlasting righteousness. Because He is righteous, God chose Him and anointed Him as the ultimate sacrifice for sins.
THE ETERNAL RULERSHIP OF THE SON
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 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." (Hebrews 1:10-12).
Angels have not existed from all eternity. They were a product of God s creation.
There was a time when there were no angels and then God created and as a result of that creation activity angels came into existence.
But Jesus was not created. He always existed. There was never a time when He did not exist. And not only was He not created, but He Himself is the Creator of all things.
Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands (1:10).
The same Jesus who walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee had once created all of the seas. The One who was born of a woman designed the heavens and the earth. Because He is the Creator of all things, He is also the Creator of the angels.
They will perish, but Thou remiainest" (1:11).
The heavens and the earth are seen in contrast to the person of Jesus. Go out and look at the highest mountain on earth. One day it will crumble to dust. But Jesus will still be there. Go to the beach and look at the sea. When all of the water has dried up, Jesus will still remain.
Go out tonight and look at the stars. When they have all ceased their twinkling and the galaxies have burned themselves out, Jesus will still remain. When the heavens and earth have passed away, Jesus will still remain. And if you have been joined to Him in faith, then you will remain with Him.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE SON
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."
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14).
The next point of contrast between Jesus Christ and the angels is that God has made Jesus the sovereign ruler over all things.
Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet (1:13).
This is a quote from Psalm 110:1. It is a Psalm of David. This verse is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other verse in the Bible.
The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet." (Psalm 110:1).
This Psalm was written by David. Do you remember David? He was the king of Israel. He was the greatest king that the Jews ever had.
Jesus once asked the Pharisees about their interpretation of this passage.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ, Whose son is He?" They said to Him, "The son of David." (Matthew 22:41-42).
The Pharisees had been tossing questions at Jesus, trying to trip Him up. So far, they had been unsuccessful and now, as they stop to catch their breath, He turns the tables on them.
The question revolves around the person of the Messiah. Jesus asks, "Through whose lineage will the Christ come?" This word "Christ" is the Greek form of the Hebrew term "Messiah." It literally means the "anointed one." The Messiah was that person whose coming God had promised and who would be anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Now Jesus asks a very simple question. He asks, "To whom will the Messiah be related?" These Pharisees were quick with the answer. They knew that the Scriptures promised that the Messiah would be of the line of David. It was only in this way that He would have the authority to sit on the throne of David and to rule as King of the Jews.
But now, while they are patting themselves on the back for their knowledge of the Bible, Jesus asks them another question.
He said to them, "Then how does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my lord, Sit at My right hand, until I put Thine enemies beneath Thy feet.’ If David then calls Him Lord, how is He his son?"
And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. (Matthew 22:43-46).
The question is taken from Psalm 110:1. Here is the question. How can David refer to the Messiah as his Lord when the Messiah is his son?
You see, the Jews had a very high regard for their parents. Parents were in authority over their children and not visa versa. It would be expected that a child might call his father lord, but not the other way around.
If Messiah = Son of David,
then David is lord over Messiah
Why does David place himself under the authority of one of his descendants? The answer is that the One who is the son of David is also the Son of God. The Messiah is more than mortal man. He is God in the flesh.
This was never said about angels. David never stated that an angel was his lord and master. On the contrary, angels have the position of servanthood.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (1:14)
Angels have a ministry. Their ministry is one of rendering service. They have been assigned the task of rendering service to those who will inherit salvation.
Now let me ask you a question. Who are the heirs of salvation? We are! When a person believes in Jesus Christ and trusts in Him as Savior and Lord, he becomes an heir of God s salvation.
Here is a fantastic truth. These supernatural beings have been assigned the task of ministering to you. You are not aware of all the dangers that face you through the day. But God is aware. And He has assigned His holy angels to protect you. They keep harm from coming your way. They allow nothing to touch you that has not been approved by the Lord. And, when the day finally comes that you are called home, they will act as your royal escort to heaven (Luke 16:22).