Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)

Introduction

In this passage the author of Hebrews pulls together a collection of seven Old Testament quotations to support his contention that Christ, the Son, is both God and Lord. That, in contrast to his creation, he is eternal. He is also superior to the angels. This passage seems built to support his declaration of the superiority of Christ described in the prologue of the sermon.

These quotations come from a version of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament that served as the Bible for the early church. If you are reading this as a Protestant you may find it confusing when you look up these references since our Old Testament is based on the Hebrew Masoretic text, the version accepted by the Jews as canon after the writing of the New Testament.

There is an online version of the Septuagint that you can use to look up the quotations that the author is drawing from. But even here the quotations may vary since there are a few different versions of the Septuagint that vary slightly. Additionally, the author occasionally rearranges or changes a few words to better make his point. He does not, however, change the sense of the passage. And he is well within the accepted exegesis of his day.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Son Superior to the Angels

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.”

Hebrews 1:5-6 NIV

The preacher here quotes from Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14 and Deuteronomy 32:43. The initial two quotations are easy to find but the third is somewhat problematic. Only by looking to the Septuagint will you find the quoted passage.

Both of the first two quotes are directed at Israel’s king, and could be construed as messianic passages. Notice the symmetry between the two passages: Son -> Father; Father -> Son. These quotes look back to Hebrews 1:2, “he [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.” Both of these passage reflect the appointing of Jesus as heir of all things.

The third quote, from Deuteronomy 32:43 reflects the rendering in the Septuagint. The first part of this verse reads “Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him.” This quote emphasizes the superiority of the Son over the angels and supports Hebrews 1:4.

The Superiority of the Son Over Angels

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.”

Hebrews 1:7-12 NIV

The two quotes in this passage come from Psalm 104:4 and Psalm 45:6-7. The author is using these two quotes to demonstrate the superiority of the Son over the angels. Note that the Psalm 104:4 passage reads a bit different in the Septuagint than in our Old Testament. “Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flaming fire.

In these two passage the author contrast angels with the Son. Angels serve God, carrying out the function assigned to them. They are servants.

In contrast to the angels is the Son. He has a throne that will never end. and he has a position that is above any others. The Son is eternal and sovereign, unlike the angels.

The Superiority of the Son Over the Creation

He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
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.”

Hebrews 1:10-12 NIV

The quotation in the passage comes from Psalm 102:25-27. This psalm is directed toward God, but applied here to Jesus. This makes it clear the the author of Hebrews was affirming the divinity of the Son.

The passage contrasts the creator with the creation. The earth and the heaven are the work of the Lord’s hands. He created, in the beginning. This reflects back to the opening verses of Genesis.

But the creation is temporary. It came into existence and it will go out of existence. When the time is right, the creator will bring this creation to an end.

Note the symmetry in this passage.

  • The creation will perish
    • But you remain.
      • They wear out like a garment
        • You will roll them up
      • They will be changed like a garment.
    • You will remain
  • Your years never end

The Reigning Son

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

Hebrews 1:13 NIV

This quote comes from Psalm 110:1, a part of a messianic hymn. This particular verse is also found quoted in Luke 20:42-43, Acts 2:34-35, and alluded to in Hebrews 10:13. Clearly it was an important Old Testament reference to Christ for the early church.

This is an enthronement passage with God telling the Lord, sit at my right hand. This is the place of highest honor. But one might ask, was there a time when Christ did not occupy this place of honor? And you might see two answers to this question. The first is that the Son has always had this place of honor as an eternal member of the Trinity.

But in another sense we see Jesus’ enthronement as taking place at the cross. What seems like a defeat in earthly eyes is actually his moment of triumph over Satan and the forces of evil. And now the wait is for that victory to reach is final completion at the end of the age when final judgement is executed and the new heavens and earth are established.

Angels As Ministering Spirits

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

Hebrews 1:14 NIV

The author concludes this passage with a note about the role of angels. The Scripture really says very little about angels. We know they are created beings (Col. 1:16). And we know that they are heavenly beings who do not marry (Matt. 22:30). And most of the time we see angels mentioned that are doing something on God’s behalf (Gen. 19:1-29).

There also appears to be a variety of angelic beings; not all of them called angels. Seraphim (Isa. 6:1-7), Cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Ex. 25:18-20; Ez. 10:1-24), and Archangels (1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 1:9) are also mentioned and appear somewhat distinct from angels.

The author here identifies at least a part of the role for angels. And that is to be ministering spirits who serve those who will inherit salvation. How they serve us is unclear. But according to the inspired author of Hebrews, we have angels taking care of us in some fashion.

Conclusion

This passage, and indeed the whole first chapter, establish the foundation upon which the rest of this sermon is built. The author clearly establishes from the Scripture that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. That he is the creator. That he is superior to the angels. And that he sits enthroned above all things.

Hebrews Study Post List

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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