Worshipped of Angels: A Look at Hebrews 1 (Pt.7)

Having become so much better than the angels

The writer’s argument now contends with these spiritually frail believers the superiority of Christ by turning to the angels.[i] We cannot continue before mentioning in passing that there can be no separation between what was said previous to this passage to the verse itself. We can continue to divulge from the line of argumentation used by the writer that he had a very good knowledge of his audience. These Jews would have rendered their focus on the humanity of the Lord Jesus and since they viewed angels as greater than men they would have been confused as to exactly why the New Covenant would be “better” than the old.

When the writer expresses the term “having become” (KJV “being made”), he is referring to what happened following His work on the cross in accomplishing eternal redemption. This is evidenced in verse 3 and is continuing thought of His glorification due to the purging of sins. Here the writer is demonstrating that the Son as a man had willfully subjected Himself in His positional standing to the point of being said to be “lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9) however, after accomplishing His perfect work at Calvary, He was exalted by the Father. The term seems to be interchangeable with the words “sat down”.

The angels would have been very familiar to the reader’s Jewish background. The study of these angelic beings could be very accumulating in its scope hence we do not have the time or space to give this field of study its proper place. A brief definition is however necessary.  W. Grudem states that Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies.[ii] The number of angels is unknown however it is said to be thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands (Revelation 5:11), which are an innumerable company of angels (Hebrews 12:22). There is only speculation on how they came into existence. There are some who have gone to great lengths to give all sorts of interpretations[iii] however this passage, in keeping with the rest of the letter, would be referring to heavenly hosts. These Jewish descendants would have learned from their religious roots that the angels would have delivered Hagar (Genesis 16:7), appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1), to Isaac (Genesis 22:11), Jacob (Genesis 32:1), Moses (Acts 7:53) and delivered Lot (Genesis 19:1), protected Israel (Numbers 20:16) and most importantly they gave them the law (Galatians 3:9). The angels would have been the highest of God’s creatures whom make their abode in heaven (Matthew 24:36), whom excel in strength (Psalm 103:20), who are Holy (Matthew 25:31) and whose primary function is that of a minister (Psalm 104:4).

We then see that the Son is not on equal terms with these angelic beings but He is “better” (Kreitton) than the angels. The term “better” is used 13 times in Hebrews[iv] to indicate superiority over and above something else. We must examine why exactly it is that He is “better”. The thought here seems to focus upon a threefold sphere in that the Lord Jesus is better than the angel because (a) He possesses a better nature, (b) His relationship to the Father is superior and (c) the primary focus is that the Lord has accomplished a better work than they. Angels were said to be mediators between Jehovah and men however the Son is an even better mediator than the angels since He provided Himself as a sacrifice that far exceeded the pleasure of God.

As He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they

In our society today we use names as a means of identification and a name’s main function is to provide an individual with a mark of individuality. What we must stress about the study of the scriptures is that often we use terms in a way that reflects our culture without considering how it was used in the day it was written. To a 1st century Christian or even a Hebrew long before the birth of our Lord Jesus, a name meant much more than a simple means of identity. A name said something about an individual in that within the name itself was a full definition of whom the person was and what qualities they possessed.

The writer now expands once again upon the exaltation of the Lord Jesus by continuing along with the explanation as to why Jesus Christ is better than the angels. The term “as” carries with it the thought of clarification in order to strengthen the previous point. He extends a proof of Christ’s elevation to the angels by stating that the reason why Christ is better is that He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they! As we had briefly touched upon, the reason why He is better than the angels is because He is a better mediator. His mediatorship far exceeds in quality to the angels and the basis by which this mediatorship is superior is because of His perfect suffering. (Isaiah 53) The terminology of “has..obtained” refers to an accomplishment and in this context is relating back to v. 3 which communicates that of having purged our sins. The works of Calvary have manifested His glory and have returned to the Son that which He has essentially purchased by the great sacrifice of Himself.[v] We see in the term “inheritance” very comparable language to the previous term “heir” which, once again, is intertwined in the name. There have been many different opinions as to what exactly this name is. Some have related this back to Philippians 2 where we read: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Vs.9-11). This text echoes the words of the Psalmist many centuries before “His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. (Psalm 72:17) Although we are in agreement that this has some tremendous parallels and truth to its assertion however we feel that the writer would be referring to another name of blessing, mainly “The Son”. This is the name of majesty coming forth from the fact that in His Sonship He has manifested His Kingship! We see within this that there is a tremendous preeminence of a Son over and above the servants (angels/men).[vi]

The writer had as his point made seven uplifting statements of the Lord Jesus and now will proceed to quote from the Old Testament scriptures to evidence His previous assertions as to the supremacy of the Son. Scholar F.F Bruce comments on the purposes of citing these passages:

Here his superiority to angels is asserted, and elaborated by the following chain of Old Testament quotations, for two specific reasons—to show (i) that the final message of God, communicated by the Son, is safeguarded by even more majestic sanctions than those which attended the law, communicated by angels (2:2f), and (ii) that the new world over which the Son is to reign as Mediator far surpasses the old world in which various nations were assigned to angels for administration (2:5). [vii]


[i] The study of Angels is one that is complex hence we cannot examine it in its fullness here. We can say that angels are created (Neh. 9:6), are spirits (Heb. 1:14), are very powerful (2 Peter 1:11) and occupy different ranks (Jude 9-archangel). There are only two mentioned by name, mainly Michael (Jude 9, Daniel 10:13, 21) and Gabriel (Luke 1:19).

[ii] Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan,  Page 397

[iii] Some have attempted to render “angel” (angelos) as meaning men or prophetic messengers however this undermines the usage in Hebrews found in Hebrews 2:2, 2:7,:2:9, 2:16, 12:22, 13:2

[iv] Hebrews 6:9, 7:7, 7:19, 7:22, 8:6, 9:23, 10:34, 11:16, 11:35, 11:40, 12:24

[v] “He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they”. The words “hath by inheritance obtained” are in the perfect tense in the Greek text, literally, “He inherited in times past with the present result that the inheritance is in His permanent possession”. The use of the perfect here shows that the writer is speaking of a past completed action, and of the present abiding result. (Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, K. Wuest, Eerdmans, Page 44)

[vi] See Mark 12: 1-11; the parable of the wicked vinedressers

 

[vii] The epistle to the Hebrews, F.F. Bruce, Eerdman’s Publishing, Page 51

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