As we continue in the book of Hebrews, there are some references to angels. I’m not sure what you think about angels, since opinions vary widely on them. Some revere and even worship angels, for instance. At the other end of the spectrum are others who don’t believe that angels exist, including those who perhaps deny anything that they can’t poke at with a stick.
In this latter camp include those who believe that Jesus was just a prophet or a good man. However, if one accepts the Bible as truth (which I do), Hebrews 1: 4-9 makes it pretty clear that Jesus is higher than not only other human beings, but even higher than the angels. (See also Hebrews 2:5-18.)
In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
Hebrews 1:7-9 NIV
For the modern reader who is considering the accuracy of this statement, we can choose whether or not to believe this passage based on the merits of the Bible, our own experiences with giving God a chance in our lives, or the record of history.
However, for Jewish people hearing or reading this message in the first century, note that the author of Hebrews doesn’t expect them to just accept this claim on faith: Instead, statements from the Jewish Scriptures are quoted here, as evidence from a verified source of truth. Not only did Jesus prove that He was both the Messiah and the Son of God, but books like the Psalms, Samuel, Chronicles, and Deuteronomy also said as much. Now, to be fair, interpreting prophecy before it is fulfilled can be challenging, so I don’t necessarily fault the Jewish people of Jesus’ day for not understanding how it all fit together. In retrospect, though, the author of Hebrews demonstrates how more and more of these prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus.
In glorifying Jesus here, though, I don’t think that this section is downplaying angels. Angels being described as “flames of fire” (verse 7) is pretty impressive. While angels were created by God to do some amazing things, though, Jesus is far and away better than even them. Angels may be powerful, but Jesus is in charge, and is superior to them.
Continuing with this theme, Hebrews 1:10-13 confirm that Jesus even outlasts His creation. The earth and heavens will eventually be wrapped up and replaced (see Revelation 21:1-5), but Jesus remains forever.
And, no angels get to sit at the right hand of God the Father and rule over their enemies…but Jesus does.
In fact, it appears that we – once we have accepted Jesus’ salvation – are actually served by angels (see verse 14). I don’t believe that this is anything to get prideful about, though: it’s not like we are bossing around angels, since both we and they serve God. Still, it’s pretty cool that God helps us through them. This is something to be thankful to God for.
As great as it is to be ministered to by angels, though, let’s not forget the context of this passage: Jesus is greater than angels, and has authority beyond any of them. (We should also remember that Jesus is more powerful than even fallen angels, as their ability to tempt and harm us is held in check by God.)
Continuing to Hebrew 2:1-4, we find that, in the same way that Jesus is higher than the angels, the message of Jesus is greater than what angels shared previously (see also Hebrews 1:2 and Galatians 1:8-9).
In summary, people and even angels aren’t meant to be the ultimate source of truth and authority for us. Only Jesus gets that role, and if we try to unseat him with other masters, we shouldn’t expect things to go well for us.
Jesus is superior to prophets of the past, angels, and even Creation. Angels are pretty impressive, but Jesus is far more so. Something for all of us to remember, today.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 5, 2021
- The Lookout, September 5, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse. College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.