Pastor David B. Curtis

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Christ's Superiority Over Angels, Part 2

Hebrews 1:5-9

Delivered 03/12/2000

The author begins this great epistle by telling us that God has spoken to us in the person of his son. Then he presents the excellencies of the Son in a seven fold manner. In verses 4-14, he shows us that Jesus Christ, God's Son, is better than angels.

Why better than angels? Angels were supremely exalted in the Jewish mind. The Mosaic law had been mediated by angels. The Jewish people revered and esteemed angels higher than any other created being. So, if the writer is to show that Jesus is a better mediator with a better covenant, he must prove that Jesus Christ is better than angels.

This may be the most difficult portion of the entire letter from a technical point of view. Though there are many difficulties, the main emphasis of this section is very clear; Jesus Christ is far superior to angels.

Before we dive into this text, let me remind you of the theme of this book:

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The very heart of Hebrews is a solemn plea to believers to hold fast their confidence in Jesus Christ. It's a call to Christian maturity, to steadfastness and endurance in the midst of trials and persecution. This book is majestic in its presentation of Christ and tremendously practical for daily life. Never give up! Keep your mind focused upon Jesus Christ and hold fast the profession of your faith.

The theme of this section is stated in verse 4:

Hebrews 1:4 (NKJV) having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Jesus Christ is better than angels. Then in verses 5-13, he gives us seven Old Testament quotations which prove the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 14 gives us the closing argument.

Seven times he quotes the Old Testament to defend his position. By doing so, he is saying, "The Bible says." The absolute authority to the author of Hebrews is the Word of God. The marshaling of this chain of biblical testimonies makes it apparent that the recipients of the letter acknowledged that authority of the Old Testament and were open to persuasion from its pages. What kind of force would an appeal like this have with you? Do you respond to God's Word?

The Old Testament has more to offer than its God given, wholesome code of morality, necessary as that is for the health of the word. The Old Testament presents a program for salvation of the world, for putting down of evil, and for establishment of the kingdom of God. The key in this program, according to the Old Testament, is the coming of Messiah.

Our text clearly shows that Jesus Christ is the prophesied Messiah, God's kingly Son, and it states or implies the deity of the Messiah. Six of these quotations are from the book of Psalms, the LXX version. When the author quotes the Old Testament, he uses the LXX version. LXX is an abbreviation for the Septuagint. SEPTUAGINT (sehp tew' uh gihnt) is a title meaning: "the 70." It is the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. It also contains several apocryphal books. Most New Testament quotations of the Old Testament are from the Septuagint.

Seven times he quotes the Old Testament to defend his position. Let's look at them.

FIRST QUOTE:

Hebrews 1:5 (NKJV) For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"?

In this verse we see the King Messiah's relationship to God. The first part of verse five comes from:

Psalms 2:7 (NKJV) "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.

The Second Psalm was well know in Judaism as well as in the early church as one of the Messianic Psalms. God never said to an angel, "Today, I have begotten you."

At what point in history does this day refer to?

Acts 13:32-33 (NKJV) "And we declare to you glad tidings; that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 "God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'

Accord to Paul, who is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the day of Christ's resurrection is the chief focal point in the interpretation of Psalm 2:7. Was Jesus Christ the Son of God prior to the resurrection? Yes! Jesus Christ is referred to as the Son of God in numerous cases prior to the resurrection.

Matthew 14:33 (NKJV) Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."
John 1:29-34 (NKJV) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 "This is He of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.' 31 "I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water." 32 And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 "I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34 "And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God."

Since Jesus Christ is called the Son of God prior to the resurrection, what does he mean when he says, "Today, I have begotten you"? This is a reference to the glorious and visible vindication of the reality of his divine son-ship. During the days of his humiliation and suffering at the hands of men and his ultimate death, the glorious son-ship of the second person of the trinity was not manifest (kenosis). The reference here is to the day of his vindication.

Romans 1:4 (NKJV) and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

The word "declared" here is the Greek word horizo which means: "to mark out boundaries or limits, to appoint, ordain." We get our word "horizon" from this word. The horizon is the clear demarcation between the earth and sky. Jesus Christ was "marked out" as the Son of God by means of the resurrection.

The word "begotten" has the idea of, "I have begotten you to kingly dignity." The reference is not to entrance into life, but entrance into an office. On the resurrection day, for the first time ever the Theanthropic person was glorified. This is exaltation. He returned to heaven as a glorified man. No angel was ever exalted like this. Jesus Christ is heir of all things (verse 2 & 4).

Eternal Sonship?

There is a very popular radio preacher and commentator who says that the term "Son of God" is an incarnational term, he says Jesus Christ became a son in the incarnation.

I believe the title "Son of God" points to a distinction in the Godhead as is implied in the relative terms "Father and Son". It's not easy to understand how the doctrine of the trinity can be maintained apart from that of eternal sonship. If there is in the Godhead a distinction of persons, does not that distinction belong to the nature of the Godhead, independent of any official relations?

Charles Hodge says, "The term 'Son of God' expresses the relation of the second to the first person of the Trinity, as it exists from eternity. It is therefore, as applied to Christ, not a term of office, nor expressive of any relation assumed in time. He was and is the eternal Son."

Angels collectively are called "sons of God" but no angel is ever called God's son. There is only one Son of God, we (Believers) are only sons of God in Jesus Christ, by virtue of our union with him. This is God's declaration of his relationship to Jesus Christ by virtue of his resurrection and exaltation. Those who, through grace and faith, have obtained association with Him in that resurrection life, share in his superiority to angels. All Christ is and has, we are and have.

1 Corinthians 6:3 (NKJV) Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

Twice God spoke from heaven saying, "This is My . . . Son" (Matt 3:17; 17:5). No elect angel has been afforded such an honor even though they have no sin, are faithful to fulfill all of their commissions, and abide around the Throne of the Majesty in the heavens! The distinction of "the Son of God" is not WHERE He is, but WHO He is! Over and above even the work of the Son is His Person. With men, WHO they are is generally the result of what they have accomplished. The work of our Lord, however, is impacted by WHO He is. It is true, He has been exalted because of His voluntary and vicarious death. However, that did not change WHO He was! It is not so with the angelic order.

The belief that Jesus is "the Son of God" is what makes a believer a "believer." We are not believers because we have accepted a humanly conceived creed, or because we do not question the doctrines of a denomination. It is because we believe Jesus Christ is THE Son of God. That sets Him apart from the entire angelic order, to say nothing of mankind!

SECOND QUOTE:

(found in the last half of verse 5)

Hebrews 1:5 (NKJV) For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"?

This quote comes from:

2 Samuel 7:14 (NKJV) "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.

This chapter in 2 Samuel deals with the institution of the Davidic covenant. David had expressed a desire to build a house for God. Nathan said, Go ahead", but later God spoke to Nathan and said that David was not to build the house.

2 Samuel 7:5 (NKJV) "Go and tell My servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: "Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?
2 Samuel 7:11-14 (NKJV) "since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house. 12 "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.

Is this text referring to Solomon, David's son, or to the Lord Jesus Christ? This is obviously a reference to Jesus since the writer of Hebrews quotes it speaking of Christ. Verse 12 says, "I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom." In Scripture, Jesus Christ is referred to as the "seed of David."

John 7:42 (NKJV) "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"
Romans 1:3 (NKJV) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,
2 Timothy 2:8 (NKJV) Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,

We see from verse 13 of 2 Samuel 7 that he must be an eternal person if he has an eternal throne and kingdom. This would only fit the Lord Jesus Christ.

Daniel 2:44 (NKJV) "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

Notice verse 14 of 2 Samuel 7: "If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men." This can't be a reference to Christ - can it? Bishop Horsely's and Adam Clarks' translation is interesting and significant, "When iniquity is laid upon Him, I will chasten Him with the rod of men."This would be a parallel to Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53:4 (NKJV) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:10 (NKJV) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

This prophecy, in 2 Samuel 7, obviously reached further than Solomon, who was only a type or shadow of the Substance. This prophecy wasn't about Solomon but was speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Christ's throne and kingdom are forever.

It was the resurrection of Jesus that opened the eye's of the early Christians to see the full meaning of God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7. Look with me at:

Acts 2:29-36 (NKJV) "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

The author of Hebrews tells us that this prophecy finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God and Son of David. Never was any such promise made to an angel.

THIRD QUOTE:

Hebrews 1:6 (NKJV) But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him."

This quote comes from:

Psalms 97:7 (NKJV) Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods.

There are many difficulties with this text; some see it as a quote from the LXX version of Deut. 32:43.

Since the earliest times, Christian commentators have differed on what the "again" refers to in verse 6. If it is taken with the verb "says" ("he says again"), as in the NIV, it simply means another quotation that supports the superiority of Jesus. If, however, it is linked with the verb brings ("he brings again"), it is a reference either to the coming of Jesus at the Incarnation, his reappearance after the resurrection, or his Second Coming at the end of the age. In view of the connected character of these quotations, it seems best to take it as a second support citation, "he says again."

"When" is probably not so much a question of his being brought into the world as of His being introduced to it as the Son of God in his exaltation.

Look with me at the word "firstborn". Many millions of people had been born on this planet before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. So how can he be the firstborn? "Firstborn" is from the Greek word prototokos, which means: "chief one." It has nothing to do with time, but indicated position. It is a title meaning: "the chief one." The first lady is not called the first lady because she is the first lady ever to be a lady. "First lady" has to do with title and position. As the firstborn, he is the heir.

With all the technical difficulties of this verse, the message is still very clear; angels are to worship Jesus Christ. And they did just this at his birth:

Luke 2:13-14 (NKJV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

Such things never occurred at the birth of anyone else. As great as were Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, the heavenly hosts did not praise God at their birth! The praises of angels were not even heard at the birth of John the Baptist! But when God brought His only begotten Son into the world, the angelic order was called into activity. An angel announced His birth (Luke 1:26-29), revealed the name of the Holy Child (Lk 1:31), calmed the concerns of Joseph (Matt 1:20), and directed him in the care of the Child (Matt 2:13,19). Angels ministered to Jesus in His temptation (Matt 4:11),and these holy ones strengthened Him in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).

All of this confirms the superiority of the Son to the angelic order. They served Him when He was in the world! Michael, one of the chief angels, helped another angel in a conflict (Dan 10:13). That conflict, however, was not in the world, but in heavenly places. Angels did not come to the aid of angels in the world, but they did come to the aid of the son. They worshiped Him when He was "brought into the world."

Did you know it is an absolute sin to worship anyone but God?

Matthew 4:10 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"

And if God is saying that all angels worship the Son, then the Son must be God. Since the angels worship Jesus Christ, He is obviously superior to them.

The reason Christ is worshiped by angels (in verse 6) is not that Christ is the Son of God, like an angel is or like Christians are, but because he is the Son of God in the sense that he is God, the Son. "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever."

Ask yourself this: "Does Jesus hold a place in my life worthy of God?" Worship him. He is God.

FOURTH QUOTE:

Hebrews 1:7 (NKJV) And of the angels He says: "Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire."

This quote is from:

Psalms 104:4 (NKJV) Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.

Verses 7-12 talk about the permanence of Messiah's reign; the quality of his rule; the permanence of Messiah himself and of his companions.

Verse 7 speaks of the nature of angels, and is contrasted with verses 8-9, which speak of the nature of Christ. In verse 7, the word "makes" is from the Greek word poieo, which means: "to create," and the antecedent of "who" is Christ. So who created the angels? Christ did:

Colossians 1:16-17 (NKJV) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

The writer uses the quotation from Psalm 104 to emphasize the subservient state of angels. They are like the wind and fire which are parts of God's creation, and completely obedient to his will.

FIFTH QUOTE:

Hebrews 1:8-9 (NKJV) But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions."

This quote comes from:

Psalms 45:6-7 (NKJV) Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

The chief point of the citation is to contrast sharply the Deity and eternal dominion of the Son with the subservience and mutability of the angels. They serve, He reigns.

I believe that verse 8 supplies us with one of the most powerful, clear, emphatic, and irrefutable proofs of the deity of Christ in the Bible. "His scepter is a righteous one" means that his rule will be just.

The angel, Gabriel, foretold at the birth of Jesus:

Luke 1:33 (NKJV) "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

Christ's kingdom is eternal, it has no end, no "last days."

In verse 9, the past tense of the verbs should be carefully observed. The reference is to the Lord Jesus in the days of his humiliation. Jesus hated lawlessness and loved righteousness. The word "righteousness" comes from the Greek word dikaiosune, which means: "that which conforms to a standard or norm." Jesus loved what is right and hated what is wrong. The more you and I become conformed to Jesus Christ, the more we will love what is right and hate what is wrong. The writer of Proverbs tells us that when we break the law, we are praising the wicked.

Proverbs 28:4 (NKJV) Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But such as keep the law contend with them.

Now let me ask you a question here, "Is there a difference between obedience to God's law and obedience to the civil law? No!

Romans 13:1-2 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

To break the civil law is to break God's law. There is no difference unless one directly opposes the other. Then the Bible is to be obeyed over civil law.

What must it have been like for one who loved what is right and hated lawlessness to have lived for 33 years in a world such as ours? Does the lawlessness of this world at times make you sick?

Verse 9 continues, "Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions." This is exaltation! Because of his obedience, God has exalted him.

The word "companions" is from the Greek word metochos. It means: "partners or companions." This is an important subject to the author. Who are the companions? Are they the angels? I doubt it, the stress on the subordination of angels here makes an allusion to them as companions improbable.

Metochos is used four other times in the epistle of Hebrews. Each time it is in reference to Christians.

Hebrews 3:1 (NKJV) Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
Hebrews 3:14 (NKJV) For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
Hebrews 6:4 (NKJV) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
Hebrews 12:8 (NKJV) But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Its only other use in Scripture is found in:

Luke 5:7 (NKJV) So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

Jesus Christ has partners or companions in his joy. "Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions." His joy is greater than the joy of his partners, but he does have partners.

If we had been living in the ancient world, we would not have been surprised to hear that a King should have partners or companions. Rehoboam illustrates this in 1 Kings:

1 Kings 12:6-8 (NKJV) Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, "How do you advise me to answer these people?" 7 And they spoke to him, saying, "If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever." 8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him.

Rehoboam turns for counsel to the young men that grew up with him and which stood before him. These were his companions, they looked forward to the day when their friend would come to power because that would mean they would come to power too. They expected to be his inner circle, they were his partners.

This was also true in the Hellenistic world. Jeremias describes the Herodian court in Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, "In the royal apartments, among the king's associates are to be found his intimate friends. These friends constitute the highest rank which we meet at all Hellenistic courts."

Even Caesar, of course, had his circle of "friends" - a prestigious rank, indeed. From Suetonius', Lives of the Caesars, I want to mention one passage: The deified Julius. "Moreover, when he came to power, he advanced some of his friends to the highest positions, even though they were of the humblest origin, and when taken to task for it, flatly declared that if he had been helped in defending his honor by brigands and cut throats, he would have requited even such men in the same way."

In the Hellenstic, Roman world, the concept of a king having partners or companions would have a very definite image to contemporary people.

The victorious king we see in Hebrews 1, does not find his partners among the angels. This king is a man, and his partners are men. Every Christian is a partner of the King. How do we know that?

Hebrews 3:1 (NKJV) Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,

The readers are holy brethren whom the author regards as partners in a heavenly call. Think about this, partners with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Hebrews 1:8-9 establish Christ's deity and His exalted position. It mentions His kingship, it reveals the excellence of His rule. It shows the perfection of His incarnate character. It announces His coronation. And it reveals His preeminence.

Jesus, the Son of God, is God. He is sovereign; he is in control. He is righteous; he is good. He is immutable; he never changes. He reigns, he reigns righteously, and his righteous reign will never end. If this is what his reign is like, how can we not submit to his reign in our lives? We can trust him in every circumstance, every disappointment, every heartache. We can trust him with every nook and cranny of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We can trust him in our bleakest, darkest, most desperate hour. When all seems lost, he is sovereign. When evil seems to have the upper hand, he is good. When change sends our minds racing, he is unchanging. He is worthy of worship.

Jesus Christ is superior to angels. He is the Sovereign Lord. Only as we bear in mind who He is, can we understand the demand of the book of Hebrews to hold fast our profession of faith.

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