The Superiority of Jesus to the Angels, part 3 (Hebrews 1:10-14)

Welcome back to our study of Hebrews.  We are still in chapter 1, noticing how the author piles up Old Testament quotation upon Old Testament quotation to drive home the fact that Jesus is superior to the angels.

Jesus is supreme above all.  The supremacy of Christ is a doctrine surrounding the authority of Jesus and His God-nature.  In the simplest of terms, to affirm the supremacy of Christ is to affirm that Jesus is God.  Jesus is not just a new way of doing things, leaving the temptation to go back to the old and familiar, but He is the better way, the best way, indeed the “only way.”  Thus, it would be foolish to abandon him.

The portion of Scripture we are looking at today is Hebrews 1:10-14.

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?

We have seen how Jesus has a superior name (vv. 4-5), a superior honor (v. 6) and superior role (vv. 7-9).  Now, in vv. 10-12 we see that Jesus has a superior nature.  Specifically, He does not change.  From age to age, Jesus is the same.

This is the attribute of immutability.  He doesn’t mutate.  He doesn’t change.  He stays exactly the same, no matter the circumstances or the age.  All else changes; Christ does not.

I love how A. W. Tozer applies this doctrine in his little book The Knowledge of the Holy:

In this world where men forget us, change their attitude toward us as their private interests dictate, and revise their opinion of us for the slightest cause, is it not a source of wondrous strength to know that the God with whom we have to do changes not?  That His attitude toward us now is the same as it was in eternity past and will be in eternity to come?

What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself.  In coming to Him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood.  He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith.  He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one.  Neither does He change His mind about anything.  Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind.

God never changes moods or cools off in His affections or loses enthusiasm.  His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when He drove out the sinful man from the eastward garden, and His attitude toward the sinner the same as when He stretched forth His hands and cried, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

God will not compromise and He need not be coaxed.  He cannot be persuaded to alter His Word nor talked into answering selfish prayer.  In all our efforts to find God, to please Him, to commune with Him, we should remember that all change must be on our part. “I am the Lord, I change not.”  We have but to meet His clearly stated terms, bring our lives into accord with His revealed will, and His infinite power will become instantly operative toward us in the manner set forth through the gospel in the Scriptures of truth.

In the OT God reminded Israel that “Even to your old age, I shall be the same” (Isa 46:4) a truth reiterated in the Malachi: “I, the LORD, do not change” (Mal 3:6)

And what is true about God the Father is said here to be true about the Son.  He never changes.

For the fourth proof of Christ’s superiority, the writer quotes Psalm 102:25–27, which contains a broken man’s rising awareness and celebration of God’s transcending existence against the background of even what seems to be the most constant things in existence—the earth and heavenly bodies—being transient.  Mountains and planets seem so stable and secure.  But they are not.

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…

Jesus is the Lord of creation.  Every created thing changes and eventually perishes.  Jesus Christ remains.  Even the “foundations of the earth,” that which we esteem to be very stable and permanent, changes.  Jesus does not.

While the Greeks felt that the universe was a permanent fixture, modern physicists know that due to the law of entropy, or what is known as the second law of thermodynamics, our universe is running down.

In contrast, Jesus doesn’t change.  He is the “same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

The writer of Hebrews compares the creation to a garment, which wears out and eventually is changed out.  We might live out many suits in our lifetime, but Christ remains the same—eternal and unchanging.  He will never be given away to Good Will.

“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.”

The word used here is palaioo and it has the meaning of being “worn out.”  The Book of Revelation speaks of the universe as simply coming apart in the last days.  We actually see much of the earth burned up (Rev. 8:7), the sea destroyed (16:3), springs and rivers becoming bloody (16:4), the sun turning black and the moon turning to blood (6:12).  We then see the stars of the heavens falling to earth and the heavens themselves being rolled up like a scroll (6:13-14).

John MacArthur comments that “During the Tribulation, as if the heavens were to be stretched to the limit and the corners then cut, they will roll up just like a scroll.  The stars are going to fall, come crashing down to earth, and every island and mountain will move out of its place.  The whole world will fall apart.

We noted in verse 3 that Christ actively “upholds” the universe so that it doesn’t fly apart.  Colossians 1:17 is even more explicit, where Paul says “in him all things hold together.”

Then, 2nd Peter describes that day when it all flies apart…

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved… (2 Peter 3:10)

When our clothes wear out and lose their beauty and usefulness, we fold them up, lay them aside, and replace them with new garments.  That is what Jesus Christ will eventually do with this world.  When it has served its’ purpose, he will fold it up, put it away and create something new and better, a “new heavens and new earth” (Rev. 21:1), because the first earth had “passed away.”

All else, including angels, are temporal and dependent.  Jesus Christ remains the same.  All else is subject to decay, as the rebellion of the angelic host proves; but Jesus remains constant.

To the suffering Jewish believers who first heard these words, these sure words about Christ must have felt like refreshing rain. Their world was not only changing—it was falling apart. But their superior Christ remained the same—eternal and unchanging.

Our ever-changing culture needs the never-changing Christ who alone can provide both the foundation and direction for Christian faith and practice as the church faces the challenges of a new era. (Daniel Akin)

By the way, did you notice that God the Father again addresses Jesus Christ as “Lord.”  Look again at the beginning of verse 10, “He [that is, God the Father] also says, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth…’”  God is calling Jesus Lord, the creator of the earth (and heavens, in the rest of this verse).  He is the Creator, alongside the Father and the Spirit, equal in nature and substance, but a distinct person.

So in verse 8 Jesus was called “God” and here in verse 10 he is called “Lord.”  Clearly the author of Hebrews is communicating that Jesus is God.  He is clearly superior to the angels.

Finally, not only does Jesus have a superior name, a superior honor, a superior role and a superior nature, but He has a superior status to the angels.

Again, they are servants; He is sovereign.

Verse 13 says, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’”

This is a quote from Psalm 110, another Messianic psalm.

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. 7 He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

Verse 3 told us that “after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” and here he says “sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Our author puts this in the form of a question, asking if God has ever said such a thing to the angels, the same formula he had used back up in verse 5.  So let’s put them side by side.

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you?” (Heb. 1:5)

And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?”

The answer to both of these questions is clearly: “None, not one, not a single one!”

Again, God is declaring the superiority of His Son over any of the angels.  Even the most powerful and glorious are inferior to the Son.

This, of course, happened when Jesus ascended on high after His resurrection from the grave.  He is seated, having finished his work, at the place of highest honor—at the right hand of the Father.

Here, a time frame is included, “until I make your enemies your footstool.”  This image is taken from the custom of conquering kings putting their feet upon the necks of the conquered as a sign of complete and ultimate victory (cf. Joshua 10:24-26).  This was usually after the conquered person bowed and kissed the conqueror’s feet.

One day every knee will bow before Christ, and every tongue will confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24, 25), including all the angels, both good and bad.

The New Testament uniformly interprets Psalm 110 as referring to the coming Messiah.

In Acts 2, Peter refers to this by saying…

32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 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 yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

And in Acts 3:21 Peter says about Jesus…

21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Thus, this seems to be referring to the fact that Jesus will sit in heaven at the Father’s right hand until that time that He returns as conquering King and defeats the armies of the Antichrist.  At that time He will receive the kingdom, His earthly kingdom and reign on the earth for a thousand years, fulfilling God’s covenant to David.

But that isn’t the end of it.  In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells us what happens next:

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.

What an encouragement this is!  This glorious truth should remind all believers in all ages that Christ ultimately and totally triumphs over all unrighteousness, all sin, all suffering, even death, the last enemy.

Are you suffering because of your faith now?  Are you belittled or ostracized because of Jesus?  Then you need to look carefully at the “time expression” in this verse—“until.”  Not “if it might occur at some time,” but “until.”  “Until” means up to the time and in this context it is that glorious day when our Lord will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over all creation.  He will bring justice for all.  Hold onto this word “until” if you are weak and tired and feel like throwing in the towel, for He will return and right all wrongs.

Finally, we read in verse 14.

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

The most exalted angels are those whose privilege it is to “stand in the presence of God,” like Gabriel (Luke 1:19).  But none of them has ever been invited to sit, still less to sit in the place of unique honor at His right hand.  Their standing position betokens their promptness to execute his commands, or simply to abide His pleasure.

All of them, from highest to lowest, are but servants of God, “ministering spirits” and not to be compared to the Son.

More remarkable, even, is that they are here to serve us, the heirs of salvation, because of our close association with the Son.

Though our author does not enlarge upon the specifics of angelic ministry to us here, it only requires a review of Bible stories to see that such ministry involves protection (Psalm 91:1), guidance (Genesis 19:17), encouragement (Judges 6:12), deliverance (Acts 12:7), supply (Psalm 105:40), enlightenment (Matt. 2:19-20) and empowerment (Luke 22:43), as well as the occasional rebuke (Numbers 22:32) and discipline (Acts 12:23).

Angels are sent to minister to us; not us to them.  Only Christ is to be served and worshipped.

This service, by the angels, is not a disgraceful vocation.  Far from it!  It is a sublime privilege.  But the point is that this shows they are inferior to the sovereign Son, who deserves everyone’s service.

The ”salvation” spoken of here at the end of verse 14 clearly lies in the future, even if its blessings are beginning to be enjoyed even now.  It is that eschatological salvation (our glorification) which, in Paul’s words “is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11) or, in Peter’s words is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

The word “salvation” can refer to the past—justification, to the present—sanctification or to the future—glorification.

What these readers needed to understand was that the fearful dangers to which they would be exposed could not keep them from their ultimate salvation.  Likewise, it reminded them to make sure they didn’t treat lightly this salvation and fail to listen to the Son.

So to the beleaguered Jewish believer who was being tempted to say that Christ is an angel and thus escape persecution, God’s Word issues a clear call: Christ is superior to angels because he has a superior name —he is Son; a superior honor —all the angels worship him; a superior role —he is Sovereign King; a superior nature —he is eternal and unchangeable; a superior status —he rules the universe.

I want to leave you with this truth ringing in your heart:  Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to all angels.  They were created not to compete with Christ for glory, but to give Him glory and to serve Him.  The chief way they do that on earth is by serving us so that we hold fast to Christ and treasure Him and ultimately experience glory with Him.  Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied with Him.

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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