The Superiority of Jesus to the Angels, part 2 (Hebrews 1:5-9)

Welcome back to our study of the book of Hebrews.  We were talking last week about how the author of Hebrews wants to establish the superiority of Jesus so that the recipients of this letter don’t walk away from Jesus back into Judaism.  In this first portion he is establishing the superiority of Jesus over the angels.

Throughout the latter half of chapter 1 he uses seven Old Testament quotations, which the Jewish people would highly respect, to show that Jesus is superior to angels.

So, let’s begin looking at chapter 1, verses 4-14…

So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. 5 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”? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” 10 He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” 13 To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Jesus has the superior name—“Son.”  Although collectively the angels were sometimes referred to as “sons of God,” this is the special name the Father gave to Jesus Christ.  It is a special relationship; Jesus is the one and only Son.

From eternity Jesus Christ has been the Son to the Father.  While equal to God in substance and nature, in the economic Trinity, or the way that the Trinity works, is that Jesus is the Son, who submits to the Father.

We noticed last time that he first quotes from Psalm 2:7, a Messianic Psalm.  “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”  This verse pinpoints the time of Jesus’ begetting as the resurrection, when he was declared “Son.”  This verse, in its Old Testament context, was part of a coronation liturgy used by the Davidic dynasty.  On the day of coronation, he would be known as “Son.”  For Jesus Christ, that coronation took place at His resurrection, not his incarnation.

We will start today from the second quotation in verse 5, from 2 Samuel 7:14 or 1 Chronicles 17:13, like the first, ties in with the Davidic Covenant and advances the previous point.

Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”

The immediate application in David’s experience was to his son, Solomon, whom God would love and discipline as a son (Psalm 89:27).  However, Solomon would fail to fulfill the conditions of this covenant.

So, the ultimate application of this statement is to Jesus Christ, the “greater than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42).  Although Solomon did go on to build the temple, the promises of David were not exhausted in him, but looked forward to Jesus Christ.

He is the peaceful ruler of Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

He is the prince with four names, according to Isaiah 9:6-7.

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Those names are greater names than any angel had!  He goes on to say…

7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Gabriel’s words to Mary in Luke 1 were, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

So we see that Jesus is superior to the angels because he always was God’s Son and because two Old Testament sonship prophecies were marvelously fulfilled by him at his incarnation and resurrection and exaltation.  His name is “Son,” while all that can be said of angels is that they are messengers.  How dare anyone ever think of demoting him to the position of an archangel, much less to a perfect man!

Not only does Jesus Christ have a superior name, but He also has a superior honor.  The next point in the author’s argument for Christ’s superiority over angels is that he is worshiped by angels. “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’” (v. 6).

Here he turns to the final lines of verse 43 of the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:43), which the Jews considered to be Messianic.  The line he borrows, “Let all God’s angels worship him,” is not in the Hebrew original but is a Greek edition called the Septuagint.

This occurred at Jesus’ incarnation when the angelic host announced His arrival.  “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest’” (Luke 2:13, 14a). 

At the nativity the sky exploded with the glory of God and an entire army of angels was there in force, greeting the birth of the Savior.  They announced His birth and led the worship of the Son of God.  God does not call us to worship angels, but calls angels to worship Jesus Christ.

Again, the “firstborn” son always had a special place in the heart of his father (e.g., 2 Sam. 13:36-37; 1 Chron. 3:2), shared the father’s authority and inherited the lion’s share of his property.  Yes, the word can indicate one who was born first among sons and daughters in a family.  But it also stood for an idea—the idea of one who held special place in the father’s judgment and affections.  Thus David (Psalm 89:27) and Ephraim (Jeremiah 31:9) are called firstborn not because they were the eldest sons, but because of their importance.

The Rabbis used the term “firstborn” as a specifically Messianic title. One ancient Rabbi wrote, “God said, ‘As I made Jacob a first-born (Exodus 4:22), so also will I make king Messiah a first-born (Psalm 89:28).’” (R. Nathan in Shemoth Rabba, cited in Lightfoot)

This word says nothing about a beginning or creation point for Jesus, but rather the special place He had in His Father’s heart.

The incarnation is not the only point where we see the angels worshipping Christ.  It started before the incarnation, during his thirty-three years on earth and now in heaven.  We see a glimpse of this in Revelation 5.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11–13)

Ultimately, every being will bow before Jesus Christ and proclaim Him Lord.

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Not every knee will bow willingly, but they will all bow to the glory and authority of Jesus Christ.

So even though the angelic host greeted His first coming, it will be at the second coming that every knee will bow.  This may be the primary reference since we read the word “again” in verse 6.  Most scholars, however, believe the word “again” refers to yet another Psalm called upon to witness to Christ’s superiority—“again” as in “another proof.”

Thirdly, in addition to a superior name and superior honor, Jesus Christ has a superior role.  He came to rule, angels are here to serve.

Now, it is true that Jesus initially came to serve rather than to be served (Mark 10:45), but taking Jesus’ lifeline as a whole, He came to reign.

In verse 7 the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 104:4.  “In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels spirits [or “winds”], and his servants flames of fire.’”

In the context of Psalm 104, this shows that the place of angels, though high in the created order, is in a far inferior position related to the supremacy of the Son.  They are presented here as “servants.”  While they are servants, the Son is sovereign.

The meaning of the text seems to be that the angels are executing the divine commands with the swiftness of wind and the strength of fire. The chariot of fire that bore Elijah from the earth were possibly angels.  Certainly those chariots of fire surrounding Elisha and his servants were the angels of God (2 Kings 6:17-18).

A. W. Pink says: “How sharp is the antithesis!  How immeasurable the gulf which separates between creature and Creator!  The angels are but “spirits,” the Son is “God.”  They are but “ministers,” His is the “throne.”  They are but a “flame of fire,” the executioners of judgment, He the One who commands and commissions them.”

In the next verses Jesus will be addressed as God, possessing a throne, a scepter and a kingdom, loving righteousness and hating wickedness, forever and ever.  No angel could claim these attributes.

Here the writer quotes Psalm 45:6, 7, a nuptial Psalm addressed originally to a Hebrew king, but phrased in language that could only be fulfilled by the ultimate Davidic king, the Son of God.

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (vv. 8, 9)

Angels minister before the throne, but they don’t sit on the throne.  The Son does…alone.

Notice first of all that Jesus is called “God” here.  He is the one being referred to in the words “Your throne, O God…”  When the First Person of the Trinity spoke to the Second Person of the Trinity, He called Him God.  Therefore, we should too.  This is unique and powerful evidence of the deity of Jesus.

Some argue that there are many beings called “gods” in the Bible such as Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4) and earthly judges (Psalm 82:1 and 6).  But these others are supposed gods, pretenders to the throne.  They might think of themselves as gods and others might, but they are not by nature gods.  These are false gods, but Jesus is the true God.  Jesus is the True and Living God, called so here by God the Father; and also by John in John 1:1, by Thomas in John 20:28, and by Paul in Titus 2:13 and Titus 3:4.  With the exception of the Gospel of John, Hebrews contains the clearest expression of the deity of Christ.

His throne is both unending (“forever and ever”) and unchanging.  All things created, including the angelic beings, are subject to time and tide, change and decay.  Christ’s kingdom is the only kingdom that never ends and the only one characterized by perfect righteousness.  This righteousness and justice which are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14) are equally the foundation of Messiah’s throne (Isaiah 11:5).  The prophets expected the Messiah to rule in righteousness.

One of the main teachings of Psalm 110 is that Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed (Messiah in Hebrew, Christos in Greek), is now enthroned in glory.  Jesus himself referred to this important psalm (Mark 12:35-37; 14:62) and Peter used it on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:34-36).  His kingdom was inaugurated when He ascended to heaven but will find its fullest expression, a more physical and geographical expression, when He returns.

His throne, his scepter, his anointing give us the dimensions of his brilliant sovereignty.  His throne—his rule—will never end. His scepter—his authority—will be executed in his righteousness—a righteousness that he established in becoming a sacrifice for our sins.  His being anointed with the oil of joy refers to the heavenly joy that was his as sovereign King of kings.

Wouldn’t we love to have rulers that loved righteousness and hated wickedness?  But only the Messiah will embody these attributes perfectly.

“God your God” is the Father, anointing His Son.  And that anointing has in mind the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit for the three-fold offices of prophet, priest and king.  Here His kingship is being emphasized.

Notice that this anointing with the oil of gladness is a consequence of the Messiah “loving righteousness and hating wickedness.”  True joy is the result of loving what is right and good and beautiful.  It should remind us that there is no gladness, no real joy, in sinning.  Real joy arises out of heart that loves Jesus and loves what is right and good and beautiful.

Was Jesus a happy person?  I believe so.  This verse tells us that he was anointed “with the oil of gladness beyond your companions,” meaning that He was the happiest person among every group of people He has ever interacted with.

John Piper writes, “Jesus Christ is the happiest being in the universe. His gladness is greater than all the angelic gladness of heaven.  He mirrors perfectly the infinite, holy, indomitable mirth of his Father” (John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, p. 36).

Spurgeon said, “We are happy to think Christ is happy. I do not know whether you have ever drank that joy, Believer, but I have found it a very sweet joy to be joyful because Christ is joyful” (Spurgeon, “The Special Call and the Unfailing Result,” Sermon #616)

Jesus is not stern or moody, He is overflowing with joy!

Jesus invites us to spend eternity with a happy God when he says, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).  The gospel is “the good news of the glory of the happy God.”

Like priests and prophets, Old Testament kings were anointed with oil, signifying God’s appointment to ministry.  Kings were anointed with oil when they ascended to the throne.

In the clearly Messianic Psalm 2:2, the writer records…

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed

Jesus has been specifically appointed to this role by anointing.  He is the “anointed One” par excellence.

In Psalm 89 we read of David’s anointing which pictures the anointing of one greater than David, “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him” (Psalm 89:20).  But this ultimately refers to Jesus Christ.

The companions above whom this Messiah is glad would have in the original context been the royal family or kings of surrounding nations.  In Jesus’ life it would have been His disciples and now it would be the “many sons” he is bringing to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

Peter, in his Pentecostal sermon, quoted from Psalm 16 to show that Jesus’ resurrection and eternal joy was prophesied by David.  Paraphrasing Psalm 16:11 Peter says about Jesus, “you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

We, too, will be full of forever gladness when we step out of death and into God’s eternal presence.  O what a day!

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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