Worshipped of Angels: A Look at Hebrews 1 (Pt.9)

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “ Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

There is always something to hope for when we are in Christ! The day when Christ will be “worshipped of angels” will be a day of comfort and joy to those who are His. The terminology of “firstborn” is utilized to reflect what was said regarding the name “Son”. It is used as a synonym to refer back to the glorious anointed of Jehovah. The expression when He again refers to His second coming with great power and glory.[i] It is a day that is always weighing on our hearts since it brings great excitement to us to think that one day He will demonstrate His victory to His foes and those who love Him will bow the knee to Him in love and worship (Philippians 2:9-11) together with the angels.

The term “firstborn” is from the Greek prototokos, which is derived from two words; mainly protos (first) and tiskos (begotten). Its meaning in scripture is twofold in that it can have the meaning of the one who is first to be born in a family hence derives its connotation from an order from older to younger. The other sense in which it is used and this we believe is the proper definition in this portion would be in a sense of rulership[ii]. There has been some opposition to this definition by those who would adhere to the inferiority of the Son to the Father by which they appeal to the text of Colossians 1:15 where the term is used as well. This is unfortunately faulty exegesis and mainly ignores contextual, historical and cultural study. The term “firstborn” is used for the Lord Jesus in both ways; firstly in Luke 2:7 we read that the Lord Jesus was Mary’s firstborn Son hence here we have the definition of a place within a family due to a birth. In the text of Colossians 1:15 the Lord Jesus is referred to as the “Firstborn of all creation” however the meaning is made apparent by v.16 with the little word “for” (hoti). The word “for” can be translated as “because”; it gives reason for the title “firstborn of all creation”. We might ask why is Jesus Christ the Firstborn of all creation? The reason Paul gives is simply that it is because “by Him all things are created”. Every thing that comes into existence does so by Him hence He has power and dominion over everything due to His creatorship.[iii] The reference here to firstborn is parallel to that found in the text of the letter to the Colossians. It should also be noted that the term “world” here is different than in v.2[iv] which would here in v.6 be insinuating the inhabited world which would have been the Roman Empire (Acts 17:6).

The topic of worship now comes to our attention in that we are presented with a wonderful truth that will be before us shortly in the final things. The worship of our Lord Jesus Christ is certainly a joyous consideration for the believing Christian as well as a burden upon those who would reject that the Lord Jesus is Jehovah the Son. The writer is quoting from the 97th Psalm where Jehovah demands the exclusive worship above all others even the “gods” that were idols. The term worship is one of exclusiveness and only directed towards God Himself (Deut. 34:14; Matthew 4:10). Even the most exalted beings such as angels could not receive the worship[v] that is given to God (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9). The writer however uses the language reserved for Jehovah and with great confidence applies it to our Lord Jesus. This powerful statement identifies the Son as Jehovah God since worship is unique to Jehovah! Obviously, there are those who have attempted to downplay this plain meaning of scripture by redefining the term “worship” to mean simply the act of “obeisance”[vi] and have even challenged the grammar by using reputable sources out of context[vii]. Their argument is that the Son is to be honoured however never worshipped. The Lord Jesus was worshipped on many occasions (Matt.2:2,11; 14:33; 28:9,17; Luke 24:52, Rev. 5:8) and if we examine the term “worship” in the scriptures we will see that it applies also to the Father in the same way as the Son (John 4:21-24; 1 Cor. 14:25; Rev. 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:10).[viii] There is a significant importance in the worship of the Lord Jesus since it is clear that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:23) This is the same worship that the devil insisted upon when tempting the Lord however it is fitting to note that Satan never received it however the Lord Jesus certainly did (Matthew 28:17-18). There has also been different terminology used to illustrate the preciseness of our assertion that the Son is worshipped in the same manner as the Father.[ix] In the Second Advent we will have the most beautiful and lofty creatures of God expressing to the glorious Son the worship He so deserves and we will be gladly by their side joining in that worship.

And of the angels He says:“ Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.”

The writer has just made a very remarkable and most likely shocking statement by declaring that the angels would worship the Son. The writer now advances in his argument by substantiating exactly why the angels would worship the Lord Jesus. He does so by presenting the contrast between the angels (v.7) and the Son (vs.8-12). This would have been important to the original readers since there needed to be justification for such a strong statement when they viewed the angels in such a high regard only second to Jehovah.

Jehovah here addresses firstly his angelic hosts in defining their nature and role in the span of spiritual things. He quotes from psalm 104 that is a psalm of praise and worship unto God and it should be noted that this quotation is most likely cited from the LXX[x]. This is important to remember when we examine further quotations in the verses ahead. The writer begins by acknowledging firstly their nature as “spirits” (pneuma), which is synonymous with the thought of “wind”and suffice it to say that the wind is quick, powerful and under the control of God so must we believe such can be said of the angels. There is also a contrast from the Son which stems from the fact that they are “spirits” and by nature He is eternal which we further examine when we will see vs.10-12[xi]

The second portion of this text deals with their function in that they are “ministers” or “servants”. Their existence is therefore one of servitude of God and in some cases in the care of mankind. The angels, unlike the Son, never have an opportunity to sit down since their work is never accomplished. There have been many interpretations of the term “flame of fire” yet if we pause for a moment and consider that we are speaking of the future in these particular texts, we will understand that it is speaking of the Son’s return.  The Son will come to the fulfillment of His Kingship, the role of the angels in this particular period will be one of “flaming fire” which generally refers back to judgment (Gen. 19:13; Matthew 13:41-42) We indeed find it pertinent to note that this is exactly their role in the things to come since the Angels have been and are the executioners of God’s wrath (Revelation 8 & 9).


[i] by its juxtaposition to the verb “bring in” is to be understood as being used with that verb. The order of the words in the Greek text is “Whenever and again he brings in.” When used with a verb in Hebrews, the word means “a second time.” (5:12, 6:1,2) The meaning therefore is, “when He a second time bringeth in the first-begotten into the world.” Reference being to the second advent of Messiah (Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Hebrews, K. Wuest, Eerdmans, Page 46)

[ii] In Jewish culture the firstborn held a preeminent position within a family in that he received double the portion of his fathers things and was considered a ruler over them even before the death of his father. The term is used in the Old Testament in Genesis 41:51 where the sons of Joseph are named, the firstborn being Manasseh and the second born Ephraim however in Jeremiah 31:9 we read that Ephraim is the firstborn of all Israel. The reason for this title in Jeremiah is simply because Ephraim held a preeminent position among Israel. The term is also applied to David in the 90th Psalm however we are also told that he was the youngest son of Jesse.

[iii] It should be noted that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society has attempted to insert the term “other” between the words “all things” in order to defend their statement that the Lord Jesus Christ was created “first” by Jehovah and then He created everything else. There is no warrant to insert this word since there is absolutely no evidence from the Greek manuscripts we possess in order to substantiate this translation.  It should also be noted that this would turn Paul’s argument against him since he is writing against Gnostics were one of the first threats to Christianity. They held 2 main views, that salvation came from knowledge, this is where we get the term “gnosis” and also they believed in something called dualism. Dualism meant that they separated flesh and spirit so that flesh was completely evil and Spirit was completely good. The Gnostics used to teach that God, being perfect spirit, couldn’t have directly created flesh since it’s pure evil. These Gnostics believed that God created other “godlike” creatures called ‘aeons” and where gathered in groups called “pleroma” which is a reference to “fullness”. They would go down the chain, a less and less pure being, until they created a material universe. These were the same Gnostics that believed that since the Lord Jesus was good then He could not have had a physical body, hence here we see the refutation of 1 John 4:2-3.The Watchtowers argument that the Lord Jesus created all “other” things goes entirely against the argument Paul was trying to present to the Colossian Church.

 

[iv] aionhV vs oikoumen

[v] Imperative first aorist active third plural of proskuneō, here in the full sense of worship, not mere reverence or courtesy. (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V, A.T. Robertson, Broadman, Page 338)

[vi] It should be noted that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s 1961 ed. Of their translation the New World Translation read “Let all the angels of God worship Him” however in the newer ed. Of this translation the word “proskuneo” is translated “obeisance”.

[vii] I had participated in a debate with a member of the WBTS awhile back who quoted W.E. Vines to promote this translation. The text reads: to make obeisance, do reverence to” (from pros, “towards,” and kuneo, “to kiss”), however when we read the entire definition that Vines provided we see that there is only a fragment of the definition given: “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (from pros, “towards,” and kuneo, “to kiss”), is the most frequent word rendered “to worship.” It is used of an act of homage or reverence (a) to God, e.g., Matt. 4:10; John 4:21-24; 1 Cor. 14:25; Rev. 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:10 (2nd part); 22:9; (b) to Christ, e.g., Matt. 2:2,8,11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9,17; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6, in a quotation from the Sept. of Deut. 32:43, referring to Christ’s Second Advent; (c) to a man, Matt. 18:26; (d) to the Dragon, by men, Rev. 13:4; (e) to the Beast, his human instrument, Rev. 13:4,8,12; 14:9,11; (f) the image of the Beast, Rev. 13:15; 14:11; 16:2; (g) to demons, Rev. 9:20; (h) to idols, Acts 7:43.

[viii] What we are arguing is the usage of the term proskunhw. There are terms that seem similar like the bowing down before a king and so forth that could be taken as worship however the association of proskunhw with the Lord Jesus is certainly an identification of His deity since the term is related to a form of religious worship.

[ix] See Isaiah 45:23 & Philippians 2:10

[x] LXX refers to the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the OT Hebrew.

[xi] Also see Micah 5:2

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