Jesus’ Superiority Over Angels

…After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1:3-4

Last week’s column studied the first three verses of the book of Hebrews.  This week we’ll continue that study by looking at the rest of chapter 1.  After having accomplished the work which God the Father had sent him to do on earth (John 17:4), Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at God’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3; Mark 16:19; cf. Daniel 7:13-14).  Truly all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-10; Colossians 2:10).

For this reason alone Christ is superior to the angels who serve him in heaven.  Quoting the Psalmist, the Hebrew writer acknowledged that God had “made him for a little while lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7; cf. Psalm 8:4-6).  Paul wrote of how this was accomplished when Christ left “the form of God” and “equality with God” and “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…found in human form” (Philippians 2:6-8).  Yet when he ascended into heaven, Jesus became superior to the angels by sitting at God’s right hand.

The name he has inherited – the Son of God – is far superior to that of angels, which is why the Hebrew writer asked, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?  Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’?” (Hebrews 1:5; cf. Psalm 1:7; 2 Samuel 7:14).  He then made another point by writing, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’” (Hebrews 1:6; cf. Psalm 97:7).  Jesus is called “the firstborn” here because “firstborn” indicates superiority.  Paul calls Christ “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22),  contextually talking about those who will be resurrected from the dead; Jesus is called their “firstfruits” because he was the first to be resurrected from the dead and live never to die again.  By citing the Psalm that speaks of angels worshiping him, the Hebrew writer again shows Jesus’ superiority to angels.

He emphasizes the point again by speaking of what two Old Testament psalms say about the Son of God (Hebrews 1:8-112; cf. Psalm 45:6-7; 102:25-27).  He uses Psalm 45 to speak of the Son’s throne being eternal (cf. Daniel 7:14; 2 Peter 1:11), the scepter of his kingdom being upright, and his love for righteousness and hatred of wickedness.  For these reasons “God, your God” – the Son of God’s Father – “has anointed you with the oil of gladness” – a metaphorical Semitic expression referring to a joyous occasion (cf. Psalm 23:5) – “beyond your companions,” referring to the angels.  He then quoted from Psalm 102 to show how the Son of God was involved in the creation of the world (cf. John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-18).  Eventually the world and the universe will cease to exist because the Son will “roll them up” like “a robe” and “change” them “like a garment” (cf. Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10-11), “but you” – the Son, Christ – “are the same, and your years will have no end.”  By speaking of his eternal power in this manner, the Hebrew writer again shows Jesus’ superiority to the angels.

He emphasizes the point a final time in chapter 1 by asking, “And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:13-14; cf. Psalm 110:1).  The Psalmist was alluding to the ancient custom of a victor putting his foot on the neck of his defeated enemy (cf. Joshua 10:24).  Jesus applied this same verse to himself (Matthew 22:41-46), as did Peter (Acts 2:34-36).  The Hebrew writer uses it to show how God sat the victorious Christ at his right hand, a position of royalty which was never offered to angels.  Angels by contrast are servants whose function is to serve rather than rule.  They serve on behalf of Christians – “those who are to inherit salvation” – in ways not specified in Scripture.

Next week’s column will start a study of Hebrews chapter 2.