JESUS IS SUPERIOR TO ANGELS
The first three verses of Hebrews state that Jesus is greater than all. Verses 4 through 14 prove that he is greater than angels. The purpose is not to degrade angels, for they are special and important. The purpose is to exalt Christ even over these amazing creatures.
So, first, let us consider what we know about angels. First, they were created before man and are a higher order of being than man. Hebrews 2:9 tells us that when Jesus became a man he was made lower than the angels.
Second, angels are spirit beings living in heaven (Mark 13:32 – “the angels in heaven”). They may appear in human form on earth. For example, angels on the way to destroy Sodom appeared to Abraham as men. (Genesis 18) But in Matthew 18:3-4, the angel may have appeared more in his spiritual form, appearing powerful and glorious.
Third, there are many of them. In Daniel’s vision of the “Ancient of Days”, he saw thousands and ten thousands times then thousands (myriads) serving God. (Daniel 7:9-10) John used this same language in Revelation 5:11. They do not marry. (Matthew 22:30) So, their number probably does not ever increase.
Fourth, there are different kinds of angels. We know of Seraphim and cherubim. We read of thrones, dominions, principalities, powers and authorities. For example, Ephesians 6:10 says our battle is not against flesh and blood, meaning men and women. Rather, we fight against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. So, evidently, the fallen angles, which we call demons, are also organized into structures of authority. This passage also indicates that angels are more powerful than we, so we cannot fight them without the full armor of God.
Fifth, angels worship God. We see this in the visions of Ezekiel, Daniel and John. They also act as messengers and they accomplish tasks God sends them to, such as destroying Sodom or ministering to Jesus after his temptation.
Therefore, we conclude that angels are magnificent creations of God and, since the Son is exalted over them, he is highly exalted.
Another relevant fact for us is that the Hebrews believed that God brought the law, or Old Covenant, to Moses and Israel through angels. See Acts 7:51-53 and Galatians 3:19. So, the superiority of Christ over angels also signified the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. Therefore, they should not return to the Old Covenant. Some even worshipped angels. (Colossians 2:18)
The remainder of Hebrews 1 develops the theme of the superiority of the Son over the angels. It does so by comparing Jesus' exalted status or position as Son compared to the status of angels as servants.
The writer uses Old Testament passages to accomplish this. Just as he gave seven reasons for the superiority of Christ in the prologue (introduction), he uses seven Old Testament passages to establish the superiority of Christ over angels.
The first one appears in verse 5. This is a quote of Psalm 2:7, which was about God's Anointed. It was recognized by the Jews as a “Messianic Psalm”, meaning it spoke of the future Messiah. There God the Father refers to the Messiah as his son.
Psalm 2:7 reflects the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7. In that passage, God promised to build a house for David that would not end. The kings of Israel would come from him, including the great king who will reign forever. Of their relationship, God said “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” This is first a reference to Solomon, but Scripture shows its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. The picture in Psalm 2:7 is David as a witness to the decree of the Father to the Son saying “you are my son”. The New Testament writers show that this son is indeed Jesus.
Paul preached a sermon to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. This is recorded in Acts 13. He was preaching to Jews. He told them the promises of God to the Jews of the Old Testament were fulfilled by Jesus. Here he refers to Jesus’ resurrection as the fulfillment. Later Paul would write that the Father declared Jesus the Son of God by the power of the resurrection. (Romans 1:3-4)
Begotten here does not mean the Father married and had a son with a woman. This is what the Mormons teach. But the members of the Trinity have existed for all eternity together. We call Jesus the second person of the Trinity. There is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So, the sense here is that the Father appointed him as his son to accomplish his will in redemption. The NIV tries to capture this by saying “today I have become your father”. This decree seems to come at a set point in time, for it says “today I have begotten you”. So, there seems to be a sense that when Jesus came into the world (his incarnation), or in anticipation of it, the Father appoints Jesus as his Son.
The Father to Son relationship is an analogy to help us understand it. It has in mind the relationship where the son of a king is sent somewhere to accomplish the king’s will. Jesus himself said the Father sent the Son. He gave him in John 3:16. He sent him. (John 15:22) And Jesus told the Father he accomplished all the work the Father gave him to do. (John 17:4) And then he was ready to return home to his Father. (“I am coming to you” in John 17:13). The parable of the tenants also illustrates this idea. (Matthew 21:33-41)
The second Old Testament reference, which is in the last part of verse 5, is a direct quote of 2 Samuel 7:14. So the writer got to that verse both indirectly and directly.
So, the point the writer makes is that Jesus is greater because he is the son and angels were not.
Then, just to make sure you got the point in the comparison, he said when the Son came into the world (incarnation), the Father told the angels to worship him. This is the third Old Testament reference. He refers to Psalm 97:7. There the Psalmist tells angels to bow down to him. Your version will say “gods” instead of “angels”. (The Hebrew word is “Elohim”.) The Greek version said “angels” not “gods”. The Psalmist actually refers all the way back to The Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:43. And angels did worship him when he came into the world. Luke 2 shows us angels worshipping at the birth of Christ. Revelation 5 shows angels worshipping the ascended Son in heaven. Verses 11-14 describe it.
Then, in contrast, in Hebrews 1:7, he says angels are servants. This is the fourth Old Testament reference. He called them "winds" and "ministers of flame". They carry messages and execute God's judgments. This is a reference to Psalm 104:4. That Psalm speaks of the majesty of God. He is so majestic, he makes angels serve him. Angels seem majestic to humans, so God must be very majestic.
What the writer of Hebrews is doing is saying “look at the scripture”, meaning the Old Testament. The very thing you are thinking of returning to testifies to the superiority of Jesus.” And in doing so, he applied scripture referring to God as referring to Christ, thus making the statement that Christ is divine. He is God.