Meditations in Hebrews 1: 11. Greater than Angels
Heb 1:4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
And so we come to the conclusion of this mini-prologue that we have been considering in the first ten studies. I am sure there are some words here that we just skim over and fail to note. For instance, “So he became”. This might almost infer that at some point Jesus was not superior to angels but we have seen a number of things in these verses already that clearly show he always has been. This “So he became”, I suggest means ‘so he became in our understanding.’ Initially we knew nothing of Jesus. Initially even the teaching of the coming Messiah was unclear to the Jews. It was only as we perceived the work of the revealed Christ on earth and listened to his teaching about himself did we start to come to a place of realisation of just who he is.
Now why should it be necessary for the writer to the Hebrews to go to these lengths to elevate Jesus, what is it about angels that creates this need? Well, let’s first acknowledge that need because even the apostle Paul had come across this problem, which is obvious when he wrote, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.” (Col 2:18) Clearly he had encountered this in Colosse, this worshipping of angels teaching.
Well, the reality is that angels are mentioned over ninety times in the Bible. They are a very real presence. The writer to the Hebrews himself says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14) Angels are seen sometimes as the voice of God, communicating His will to us, hence, “He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.” (Acts 7:38) and the Jewish understanding was that, “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.” (Gal 3:19). The apostle Peter sheds light on them, “angels, although they are stronger and more powerful…” (2 Pet 2:11) The psalmist wrote, “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psa 8:4,5) which our present writer soon quotes (Heb 2:7). That indeed is the picture conveyed in the historical sections of the Bible, that they are messengers (e.g. Jud 6:11) and that they are strong and powerful.
So there were these mystic Jews who elevated angels prior to the fuller revelation of the Christ. The knowledge of the Messiah was indeed a mystery as the apostle Paul comments upon a number of times (Rom 16:25,26, Eph 1:9,10, 3:3,4,6,9, 6:19, Col 1:26,27, 2:2, 4:3). Yes, it was unclear until he came, revealed himself and taught on the Father, died and rose again and ascended to heaven. Suddenly, it was clear who he was (with those who had eyes to see). Now the writer to the Hebrews could write, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Heb 2:9) Yes, he came in human form – and had been portrayed in the Old Testament prophecies as a human being – and thus had initially appeared as a human being, lower than the might and power that was often seen in angels. NOW the perspective has been changed, now we see who he is.
Yes, let’s check back to note the things this writer has said to us in the opening three verses of his book:
- “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”
- Yes this messenger is the very Son of God
- “whom he appointed heir of all things”
- Everything in all of Creation is for him (to rule over)
- “through whom he made the universe”
- He was with the Father creating all that now exists
- “the radiance of God’s glory”
- He reveals the very glory of God Himself
- “the exact representation of his being,”
- He does this as he exactly reveals the Father
- “sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
- He keeps the present existence going
- “provided purification for sins,”
- His work on the Cross enabled forgiveness and cleansing for us
- “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
- He now reigns over his Father’s kingdom beside Him.
None of these things could be applied to angels. Indeed, as we have commented before, they could not be applied to any other person in history. Without question the unanimous record of the New Testament is that he is the unique Son of God, supreme over any other being, sitting next to his Father in heaven today. Hallelujah!