Angels are otherworldly, awe-inspiring in appearance and power, connecting heaven and earth by coming from God into the world on God’s behest. Angels surround God in the throne room of heaven, fully present in the great glory of God, radiant and unharmed by God’s nearness. To people, angels seem praiseworthy, gods in their own right.
But, the writer of Hebrews was saying, Jesus cannot be compared even to such extraordinary and splendid beings, for Jesus is God the Son.
And with regard to the angels [God] says “The One making His angels winds and His ministers a flame of fire”.
But with regard to the Son [God] says:
“Your throne, God, is forever and ever. And the scepter of straightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. For this reason God, your God, anointed You with the oil of gladness beyond Your companions”Hebrews 1:7-9 (DLNT)
Quoting from well-known Psalms, the writer leaned into the distinction between God’s servants the angels, and God’s Son the Lord Messiah Jesus.
There is no comparison between servants of wind and flame, and the unique God-Man Who rules for all eternity.
And, “You, Lord, laid-the-foundation-of the earth at the beginnings, and the heavens are works of Your hands.
They will perish, but You continue.
Indeed they will all become-old like a garment, and You will roll them up as-if a cloak. They will indeed be changed like a garment. But You are the same, and Your years will not end”Hebrews 1:10-12 (DLNT)
Again quoting from a Psalm, the writer laid out three distinctives of Jesus, God the Son:
- He is Creator (the heavens and all angelic beings are the created)
- He is Imperishable (unlike the angels who can perish, as those who are judged will be one day)
- He is Eternal (for even the heavens will one day be rolled up and changed)
And with regard to which of the angels has He ever said “Be sitting on My right side until I put Your enemies as a footstool of Your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits being sent-forth for service for the sake of the ones going to inherit salvation?Hebrew 1:13-14 (DLNT)
The writer saved this final point for his crowning argument, in order to bring in another recognized Messianic passage from a Psalm written by King David.
The Lord says to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”Psalm 110:1 (NRSV)
Jesus Himself had taught from this Psalm to indicate His divinity.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.Matthew 22:41-46 (NRSV)
Later, when Peter preached his first sermon, he also turned to this same passage, saying,
“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, Davidspoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
[From Psalm 16:8-11]
This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”Apostle Peter, Acts 2:29-36 (NRSV)
Jesus Is Superior
Putting together all he wrote in the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews made six statements of superiority in juxtaposing the Lord Jesus Christ with these awe-inspiring heavenly beings
|Hebrews||The Lord Jesus Christ||Angelic Beings|
|1:45||His name is superior God calls Him “My Son.”||No angel is called God’s Son, in fact the angels are to worship God’s Son|
|1:6-9||His nature is superior The Son has never sinned, no matter how severely tempted.||The angels can and some did sin, according to Jude|
|1:6-9||His position is superior The Son has an eternal throne, a scepter, and is placed above the servants. Second Person in the trinity, Jesus is the anointed ruler Who is above the appointed angels.||The angels, for all their power and august bearing have been appointed ministering spirits|
|1:10||His achievements are superior He created the universe, and is the Lord of the universe||The angels are created beings and do the bidding of the Lord of the Universe|
|1:11-12||His existence is superior He is eternal, having no beginning nor end||The angels, being created, had a beginning, just like you and me|
|1:13||His destiny is superior The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is completely preeminent over all other beings, and therefore completely sufficient for salvation||No angel, even the Seraphim who stand closest to God in heaven’s throne room, has ever been invited to sit at God’s right hand Angels can serve us, but angels cannot save us.|
Angels Are Servants, Jesus is the Savior
There are untold thousands of angels—the writer of Hebrews will later speak of innumerable angels, Moses spoke of God descending from Sinai with myriads of holy ones at his right, a host of his own. The Psalmist extoled God’s mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand, upon thousands, and John recorded seeing myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands surrounding the throne of God.
But there is only one begotten Son of God.
Angels are very popular right now—angel everything, statues, pins, cards, decorations. There are whole stores devoted to angels. People like the idea of supernatural beings with great power who are called to serve people.
Perhaps this is at least a part of the lure of witchcraft, the dark angelic power. For those who take seriously the Bible’s claims concerning Satan and his host of demons, concerning the dark supernatural power that Satan makes available to people in limited ways, and the traps such darkness lays for human beings . . . the warning is clear.
Angels are real, they were made to serve human beings, protect God’s beloved ones, and to fight for the people of God. They are beautiful beings (even the fallen ones) that connect the spiritual world with the physical world.
But people are not, and should never be, accountable to angels.
Angels are sent by God to carry out God’s purposes. But angels’ work for God cannot be compared to Christ’s perfect work on the cross. Jesus is superior because He is God the Son, He alone can save, and be called the Savior.
[Guariento di Arpo: Angel’s Army, 1360 | By Anonymous, attributed to Athanasius – ZgGHzgID8lTUVw at Google Arts & Culture, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13503505]