Christ is Superior to the Angels Part 1 – Christ’s Superiority to Angels Affirmed – Hebrews 1:4-14
Pastor Mark Hardy December 7, 2014
In his book Angels, Billy Graham recounts an astonishing story of missionary John G. Paton who served in the New Hebrides, which is a chain of islands in the South Pacific Ocean that now forms the nation of Va-nu-a-tu. He writes, “On a dark night about a hundred years ago, a Scottish missionary couple found themselves surrounded by cannibals’ intent on taking their lives. That terror-filled night they fell to their knees and prayed that God would protect them. Intermittent with their prayers, the missionaries heard the cries of the savages and expected them to come through the door at any moment.
But as the sun began to rise, to their astonishment they found that the natives had retreated into the forest. The couple’s hearts soared to God. It was a day of rejoicing!
The missionaries bravely continued their work. A year later the chieftain of that tribe was converted. As the missionary spoke with him, he remembered the horror of that night. He asked the chieftain why he and his men had not killed them. The chief replied, “Who were all those men who were with you?” The missionary answered, “Why, there were no men with us. There were just my wife and myself.” The chieftain began to argue with him, saying, “There were hundreds of tall men in shining garments with drawn swords circling about your house, so we could not attack you.”
What a marvelous, comforting truth to know that there are angels who protect and minister to the people of God! Angels rescued Lot and his family out of wicked Sodom. Angels protected Elisha and his servant from a great Syrian army. Angels were in the den with Daniel and stopped the lion’s mouths. And yet, as awesome and powerful as angels are, Jesus Christ is immeasurably superior to them. This is what we will be looking at this morning.
As we begin studying Hebrews 1:4-2:18, this long section on angels can be divided into four sections. The first section that we will discuss is: Christ’s superiority to angels affirmed by the Old Testament (vv. 1:4-14). Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 1.
In Hebrews 1:4-14 we see five proofs of Christ’s superiority to angels in a series of seven quotations from the Old Testament that should deeply encourage every believer’s heart. The first proof is this:
I. He has a superior Name
A. Look at v. 4: having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
1. Although this verse grammatically concludes the preceding verses, it also introduces the beginning of what follows. So we look at it here as the author of Hebrews now transitions from Christ’s superiority to the prophets in vv. 1-3 to Christ “having become as much better than the angels.”
2. The Bible says a great deal about angels. There are 108 direct references to angels in the Old Testament and 165 in the New.
3. Angels are created spirit beings, made by Christ all at once within the six-day creation (Job 38:7). Although they do not have flesh and bones, they do have some form of heavenly body. But, when ministering on earth they can appear in human form (Gen. 18:2; 19:1-2; Mk. 16:5) or in dazzling, brilliant glory (Matt. 28:3-4; Lk. 2:9).
4. The primary purpose of their creation was to render special worship and service to God (Ps. 103:20; Isa. 6:1-3; Rev. 4:8; 5:9-12). The word “angel,” used 13 times in Hebrews, means “messenger,” designating their essential functions as divine message-bearers.
5. They communicated God’s message to man. They assisted in bringing the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ps. 68:17; Acts 7:38; 53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). And they revealed the future to Daniel and to the Apostle John (Dan. 10:10-15; Rev. 17:1; 21:9; 22:16).
6. And ever since a third of the angels followed Lucifer, now called Satan, in his rebellion against God (Rev. 12:4), there are two kinds of angels: Good or holy angels and fallen angels, which are also called demons.
7. But regardless of what kind of angels they are, the author of Hebrews says about Christ here in v. 4, “having become as much better than the angels.” The one Greek word translated “having become” (genomenos), not “being made” as in the KJV, indicates that it is the incarnate Christ that is in view here, for in Christ’s preexistent deity there was no sense of Him becoming “better,” for He was perfect.
8. As we will see later in 2:9, it was at Christ’s incarnation that He became “for a little while lower than the angels,” but it was in His exaltation when He was elevated to the highest place that He became “much better than the angels.”
9. The word “better” is used in Hebrews 13 times out of the 19 times it appears in the New Testament. This term is one that the author uses to set forth the superiority of Christ over everyone and everything.
10. And the first proof of Christ’s superiority to angels is seen at the end of v. 4 “…as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” The perfect tense of the word “inherited” indicates Christ’s continuing possession of this “more excellent name.’
B. We see what this “name” is in v. 5: For to which of the angels did He (i.e. God the Father) ever say, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU?” And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME?”
1. The answer to these rhetorical questions is “Absolutely none!” Now the first quotation is the messianic Psalm 2:7, which Peter attributes to David in Acts 4:25-26.
2. Even though angels are sometimes collectively called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 29:1 89:7), no individual angel is ever called “My Son” like the Messiah. Jesus alone is recognized by God as His unique Son.
3. This is the only Old Testament reference to the Father/Son relationship in the Trinity, a relationship that was decreed in eternity past and demonstrated in the incarnation. Therefore, Christ’s “more excellent name” than the angels here in this context is the name “Son”—“YOU ARE MY SON.”
4. Now what is the significance of the phrase “TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU?” In other words, at what point of history is this “day” referring to?
5. Since Paul uses this same quotation in Acts 13:33 and applies it to the resurrection of Christ, it is best not to view this as referring to Christ’s incarnation.
6. William Lane writes, “There is a certain degree of unresolved tension in the writer’s designation of Jesus as Son, since the title can be applied to the pre-existent Son (v. 3a-b), to the incarnate Son (v. 2a), and to the exalted Son.”
7. Although Jesus was always the eternal Son, and at the proper time became the incarnate Son, it was not until His resurrection, the first phase of Him being the exalted Son, that His sonship and the Father’s authentication of it was publicly declared.
8. We see this in Romans 1:3-4, “Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead…”
9. Homer Kent, Jr. accurately observed, “Thus the exaltation of Christ by the Father when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand was the divine acknowledgment that Jesus, in spite of His earthly humiliation, was truly the unique Son, with all the prerogatives that belong to such a Son.” (pg. 40)
10. Therefore, although Jesus was previously acknowledged as Son by the Father at His baptism (Matt. 3:17) and His transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), the crowning event was His resurrection, ascension and enthronement to the right hand of the Father, each one contributing to the exaltation of the Son to heights of power and dignity.
C. The second quotation in v. 5 also comes from the career of David when the prophet Nathan conveyed God’s message to him in 2 Samuel 7:14. Although David was denied the privilege of building the temple, God promised that his dynasty would be established and said these words regarding David’s seed: And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME?”
1. Although these words were originally used of Solomon, the author of Hebrews under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit applies them to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was the greater Son of David (Jn. 7:42; Rev. 5:5).
2. The fulfillment of this promise was celebrated in the angel Gabriel’s pronouncement to the virgin Mary about her unborn child in Luke 1:32-33, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
3. Therefore, the point being made in both quotations is that Jesus the Messiah is acknowledged by God as His unique “Son.” He alone has this superior name that reveals a relationship to the Father that no angel enjoys.
4. The second proof of Christ’s superiority to angels is this:
II. He has a superior Dignity
A. Look at v. 6: And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”
1. This is a quote of the final lines of the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:43, which is actually not in the Hebrew text but is in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew. Nevertheless, this expresses exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted the author to incorporate into the inspired text of the epistle of Hebrews concerning Christ.
2. Now what is meant by the statement: And when He again brings the firstborn into the world? Although there are various views on this, it is best to see this as referring to God the Father again bringing Jesus Christ into the world at the Second Coming.
3. The first time the Father brought the Son into the world was His humble incarnation. But the second time he brings Him into the world is in blazing glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, whereby He takes back the earth that rightly belongs to Him (Rev. 5:1-5).
4. Notice how Jesus Christ is referred to here as the “firstborn.” In Jewish culture, the firstborn son received a double portion of the inheritance and a special blessing.
5. Thus, he had a higher rank or dignity than his brothers. And yet, in Scripture the first son to be born was not always the “firstborn;” at times a younger son was elevated to the place of firstborn (Gen. 48:17-20).
6. In this sense the term meant “the chief or honored one,” without any thought of age. Therefore, it was a title of honor that expressed priority in position, rank and dignity.
7. As God’s unique Son, Jesus Christ has a superior dignity. Therefore, when God commands “LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM,” He is referring to the Second Coming of Christ when His kingly prerogatives are fully recognized with open angelic worship (Matt. 13:41; 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thess. 1:7).
8. Since the moment of their existence the holy angels have always worshiped the Son of God. And they did so at His birth as the God-Man in Bethlehem, which we see in Luke 2:13-14: And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
9. But apparently, during this present time the angels do not understand God’s redemptive plan well enough to give the Son full worship (1 Pet. 1:12). But when He returns they will!
10. We see a glimpse of this in the God-given visions of Daniel (Dan. 7:10) and the apostle John who both saw a vast heavenly multitude of angels described as “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:11).
11. The point of this passage is clear: Christ is superior to the angels because He has a superior dignity. As God, the angels are commanded to worship Him.
12. The third proof of Christ’s superiority to angels is this:
III. He has a superior Status
A. Look at vv. 7-9: And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
1. Concerning angels, the author quotes Psalm 104:4 asserting that they are not only God’s created beings—“MAKES HIS ANGELS”, but they are also His servants—“HIS MINISTERS.”
2. Since He created angels and they belong to Him, Christ uses them as His instruments to carry out His will, just as he uses the “winds” and “flaming fire” as His servants of destruction.
3. However, in stark contrast to this “servant” status of angels, we see the status of the Son of God as the Sovereign God Himself.
B. Look again at vv. 8-9: But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
1. This is a quote of Psalm 45:6-7. Here is one of the clearest, most powerful and irrefutable proofs of the deity of Christ in the Bible. And notice that it is God the Father calling His Son “GOD!”
2. In infinite contrast to angels who are merely servants, the eternal Son is the Sovereign messianic King who has an eternal throne in heaven, from which His rule is “FOREVER AND EVER” (Isa 9:6; Jer. 23:5). His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
3. Christ’s “righteous scepter” symbolizes His governing power in operation. And His everlasting kingdom is characterized by absolute justice and righteousness (Ps. 89:14; Isa. 9:7; 11:4).
4. This is because He has “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” The more we become like Jesus the more we too will love righteousness and hate sin in our lives and in the world!
5. And because of this, God the Father “HAS ANOINTED [HIM] WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE [HIS] COMPANIONS.”
6. It is interesting that the very designation “Christ,” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” means the “Anointed One.” He is the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.
7. Now to have been “ANOINTED WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS” refers to the triumphant exaltation of Jesus into heavenly glory after completing His earthly mission of the redemption of mankind. This was cause of great gladness and rejoicing in the presence of God.
8. And notice that this was “ABOVE [HIS] COMPANIONS,” which refers in not to angels since they are merely servants not colleagues, but to believers who will one day share His reign in the age to come (Heb. 2:10-11).
9. Therefore, Jesus Christ is superior to the angels because while they only have a “servant” status, His is that of the Sovereign God.
10. The fourth proof of Christ’s superiority to angels is this:
IV. He has a superior Existence
A. Look at vv. 10-12: And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”
1. This long quotation comes from Psalm 102:25-27 to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator God and is eternal, which the author of Hebrews has already asserted back in v. 2.
2. Christ is the Creator of the earth and the heavens. They are all the works of His hands.
3. However, one day they will all “perish” and become like an old worn-out garment that is “rolled up” and thrown away. One day Christ is going to completely destroy all that He has created by fire (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 6:14) and create a totally new heaven and a new earth.
4. However, although this creation will be changed, Jesus Christ will “remain” forever changeless. He is immutable, in that, His character never changes.
5. He exists as eternally the same—His “YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” No wonder we read in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
6. What an encouragement to know that in the midst of living in a fallen, sinful world where our lives and world are always changing, our security and hope is in Christ alone! We need not be afraid!
7. The famous hymn said it so well: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Christ is superior to angels because no angel has such an eternal and unchangeable existence!
8. The fifth proof of Christ’s superiority to angels is this:
V. He has a superior Destiny
A. Look at v. 13: But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET?”
1. Again the obvious answer to this rhetorical question is “Absolutely none!” This quotation from Psalm 110:1, which was already alluded to in v. 3 and is quoted 14 times in the New Testament—more often than any other Psalm, is the clinching argument for Christ’s superiority to angels.
2. The most exalted angels, such as Gabriel who has the privilege to “stand in the presence of God” (Lk. 1:19), has never been invited to sit in the place of highest honor and supreme authority at the Father’s right hand. Only God the Son has been given this privilege.
3. In this verse the author shows us the destiny of Christ. Notice how the psalm depicts the future reign of Christ, when He will reign over His eternal messianic kingdom and all His enemies will finally be subject to Him (1 Cor. 15:24-25, 28).
4. They will be made “A FOOTSTOOL FOR [HIS] FEET?” The ancient custom of treating one’s enemies as a “footstool” is a metaphor drawn from the Old Testament practice of a conquering king putting his foot on the neck of a prostrated defeated king laying on the floor to emphasize his triumph (Josh 10:24).
5. What encouragement and hope this should give to all believers to know that whatever injustice or persecution we may be going through there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will say “Enough!” and He will come and completely triumph over unrighteousness.
6. On that day, we are told in Philippians 2:10-11 that to the Son, “…EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
B. But in stark contrast to the destiny of Christ, we see the destiny of angels in v. 14: Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
1. Whereas Jesus’ destiny is to reign; angels’ destiny is to serve. What a contrast!
2. Every single angel, “all” of them from the highest to the lowest, are simply “ministering spirits” or servants “of those who will inherit salvation.” This refers to who? Us as Christians who are the recipients of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
3. Here we see that angels are commissioned and continually sent out by God with the responsibility of aiding and assisting us as believers, who will one day share in Christ’s rule. What an encouragement to know that as the child of God Christ has assigned his angels to minister to us.
4. Scripture tells us that they serve believers, assist God in answering prayer, proclaim God’s messages, execute God’s judgment, and often protect and deliver us from danger. There are times when we may feel like George Bailey, who in the Christmas movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life was given the second-class angel Clarence, but we must remember that angels minister to believers only and always in accordance with the will of God for our lives.
5. Therefore, Christ is superior to angels because whereas their destiny is to serve, His destiny is to reign.
In closing, the Old Testament itself affirms that Jesus Christ is not only superior to the prophets, but He is also superior to the angels in every way:
• He has a superior name—He alone is God’s Son.
• He has a superior dignity—All the angels worship Him.
• He has a superior status—He rules as the Sovereign God.
• He has a superior existence—He is the eternal and unchangeable God.
• He has a superior destiny—His reign brings all His enemies into submission.
Therefore, may we as His people never regard any angel as greater than Jesus Christ or ever demote the Son of God to the position of a mere angel. Christ is superior to the angels because He is God and He alone is to be worshiped!