In the first four verses, the writer of Hebrews begins his sermon declaring the Son as the final word of God. The Son is described as the great prophet, the great priest, and great king who has completed his work, represented by sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The writer concluded this introduction by stating that the Son is superior to angels. The rest of chapter 1 is an explanation about how the Son the superior to angels.
But before we begin, we wonder why the interest in angels? Why present this argument?
- Angels were viewed as God’s greatest servants. The belief was that the angels were with God at Mount Sinai. The belief was not unfounded. Deuteronomy 33:2 says that the Lord came to Sinai with myriads of holy ones. The LXX reads the Lord came with “myriads of angels.” Even the New Testament reveals that the law of Moses was given through angels (Galatians 3:19). In fact, the writer is going to allude to this point in his argument in Hebrews 2:2.
- During the time between the testaments in the scriptures there was a belief among some of the Jews that when one died you became an angel. This belief has not totally disappeared even today, commonly still found in movies, books, and television.
- False teachers taught that God could be approached only through angels. Instead of worshiping God directly, they revered angels. Some thought of Jesus as the highest angel of God, as even some religions do today.
So there was a fascination with angels, but there was also a great respect and honor held for angels. So the writer begins by describing how the Son is superior to angels. Please notice that the writer proves the Son’s superiority by using seven quotations from Hebrew scriptures. The number seven may be completely coincidental, but it is interesting that the number seven, which symbolizes perfection, is used. Let’s examine the four arguments.
Comparison #1: Better Name (4-5)
We must back up to verse 4 to see the first argument as the Son is compared to angels. The first point the writer makes is that the Son has a superior name. The argument is fairly simple: the angels are merely messengers of God. But Jesus is the Son, the Son of God. The difference in the name is significant and immediately denotes the superiority of the Son. The preacher now deepens the argument:
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”? (1:5; TNIV)
In both of these quotations, it is not the quotation alone that is powerful but the location of the quotation. The quotation “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” is found in Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm speaking about the coronation of the Messiah as king (Psalm 2:6). The Son has been enthroned with power (2:8-9, 12). The second quotation is also about the enthronement of the Messiah. The quote comes from 2 Samuel 7:14. In the previous verse, the Lord declared the establishment of the throne in his kingdom forever.
So the question that comes from the text: when did this coronation and enthronement happen? This is especially of interest because in 2 Samuel this is spoken of being in the future (“He will be my Son”). The New Testament in a couple of place points out when the coronation and enthronement of the Son occurred.
…regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:3-4; TNIV)
Notice that the Son was appointed (declared, ESV; established, HCSB) by his resurrection. The coronation and enthronement of the Son took place at his resurrection. The apostle Paul makes the same argument:
We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 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.’ God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ (Acts 13:32-34; TNIV)
Notice again that this psalm was fulfilled when Jesus rose from the dead. Now this is important: Jesus is enthroned now! Jesus must be enthroned now. The kingdom must be now and Jesus is ruling now because the resurrection from the dead was when coronation of the Son occurred. The Son has a superior name through the resurrection, crowned as king.
Comparison #2: Greater Dignity (6)
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (TNIV)
The Son receives worship, but the angels worship the Son. The Son is clearly greater because he receives worship. Angels do not receive worship. They are to render worship, particularly to the Son.
Notice that the Son is called the firstborn. This concept has led to much misunderstanding. The Son is not being called a created being. Nor is the Son being described as lesser to God. I like the NLT 2007 update which helps out: “And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, “Let all of God’s angels worship him.” (1:6). This is the concept of being the firstborn. The Son is not a generational reference. The firstborn held the highest place of privilege, honor, and responsibility. He has preeminence. This is the meaning of the Son as the “firstborn.” The Son has greater dignity. Angels worship the Son and he receives that worship.
The Son receives worship. Do we worship him?
Comparison #3: Greater Status (7-9)
The angels are simply servants. This point will be reiterated in verse 14. But angels are simply servants, wonderful servants, but still servants. They are spirits and they are flames of fire, but still servants.
Carefully watch the argument that is made about the Son in verses 8-9. The writer says that this quotation is speaking about the Son: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.” This is speaking about the throne of the Son. In speaking about the Son, your throne, O God. THE SON IS GOD. The writer states this point clearly and it cannot be missed or avoided.
This is a quotation from Psalm 45 and it is useful for us to understand this psalm and tie it to the argument made here in Hebrews. Psalm 45 is a royal wedding song written for the king (see particularly verses 10-11, 13-16). But the psalm is strange in verse 6 because the king is called God. But verse 7 is even more strange. The king is God, but he has a God (“your God”). There is no king in the Hebrew scriptures that this describes. This is about the Messiah.
Again, it is a coronation picture. The Son has been chosen above all another and has been anointed with the oil of joy. Olive oil was used to anoint kings of Israel at the inauguration of their rule. It is a Messianic royal wedding. This image explains the parables in the gospels Jesus told concerning the wedding feast.
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:6-8; ESV)
Now, let us back up and include verse 7 again. The angels serve, but the Son rules. The Son is superior.
Comparison #4: Greater Function (10-14)
The writer of Hebrews says that these quotations are still talking about the Son. He emphasizes the role of the Son in creation. The Son laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens. Further, the Son is eternal. All of creation will perish, but he remains. In Psalm 102, this song was written to God. Therefore, the argument continues that the Son is God. He remains the same and his years will never end. Further, he has been enthroned until all enemies are placed under his feet.
The comparison is to the angels. They have a lesser function. Angels are serving servants. I think the NLT gets the force of verse 14 correct: Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation. (1:14; NLT)
Angels serve, the Son rules. Angels serve, the Son creates. Not do angels serve, but they serve us, the created.
- The Son has a better name. He was established as king when he rose from dead. Will you yield to king?
- The Son has greater dignity. The Son receives worship. The angels render worship to him. Will you worship the Son?
- The Son has greater status. The Son rules, angels serve. Will you serve the Son?
- The Son has greater function. The Son is eternal and creator, angels serve the created. Will you recognize he is eternal and you are not? Will you recognize he is the creator and we are the created?