Better than the Angels

Better than the Angels!

© Chet Bishop 1/4/2017 THCF 1/8/2017

Hebrews 1:4-14


Last time, we began a study through the book of Hebrews: In our introduction to the epistle, we saw that the book is specifically addressed to the professing Hebrew Christians, most of whom are genuine, but among whom there is at least a definite tendency to think that “Well…if this doesn’t work out, I can always revert to Judaism….” The writer gives seven warnings throughout the book, some of them definitely addressing that thought: he says, “No, you can’t! It will no longer be effective!” Next time, we will read the first of those seven warnings.

But, also listed through the epistle, there are seven comparisons between Jesus the Messiah, and seven of the key ingredients to the historical Judaism as known by these believers. In every case, the reader is drawn to the conclusion that “Jesus is better.” Judaism is/was a prediction of the Messiah. Every factor of the temple services was, in some way, a pre-figuring of Christ. The sacrifices for sin all looked forward to His one sacrifice at the Cross. The entire priesthood looked forward to His ministry as our Eternal High Priest. The list goes on, as the book progresses.

Better than the Prophets: Last time we addressed the comparison between Jesus and all the prophets. The conclusion was that Jesus is better in every regard. But, someone may argue, the prophets were (sometimes) given their instructions by Angels! Angels are fearsome creatures who, though they looked like men, were so overwhelming in their mere presence that, in some cases, the prophets literally nearly died of fright. Surely they must be far superior…aren’t they? Well…no, actually.

Jesus is Better than the Angels; He is God the Son!

The writer pulls no punches, here—he immediately confirms that (yep!) Jesus exceeds the angels in every way, as well…and in some ways even more, as he hints in verse 14.

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

So, if Jesus is the Son, and the angels are not…then, what is the nature of the relationship between the Eternal Son and the angelic hosts? Read verse six:

And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

They Worship Him!

The writer says that when Jesus entered the world as a human baby, at Bethlehem (though he had eternally pre-existed the angels whom he created), God the Father commanded the entire, mighty, angelic army (the old English word “host” means “army”) to worship that newborn king.

(And we thought there were just a few little “lady angels” hanging around with halos, singing Christmas carols while animals and shepherds and wise men did the worshipping. Well—no, not really! Only those of us who didn’t read the text may have thought such nonsense.) This is not intended as a criticism against any of the hymns. It is simply a reminder that, whenever we talk about the things of God, the only dependable source of information is the Word of God…not tradition, not consensus, not conventional wisdom, nor even human logic. Go back to God’s Word and see what it actually says!

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

God further describes the Angelic hosts (armies) as spirit-beings, and as His servants: They are in no way to be considered his peers, as though He were just the Head Angel, or that they are demigods of some sort.

By the way, the angels themselves, because they are awe-inspiring, have sometimes been the unwilling recipients of worship. In every case, they instantly rejected the worship, sternly warning off the wrong-headed humans involved, and redirected all worship to God. That is a good thing to remember: the angels confirm the commandment that only God is to receive worship. And they are commanded to worship Jesus! What does that tell us about Jesus?

Jesus, God the Son: the Creator

So…the angels are created beings, and a servant-class, as well: that is what “minister” means. (By the way, if you ever feel that you don’t want to do “menial” work, remember that the root word for “menial” is exactly the same as that of “minister”…if you don’t want to do menial work, you don’t want ministry: you don’t want to serve God.)

But, who created the angels? Jesus did. See John 1:3: “all things were made by Him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” …and then compare it to the following verses:

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

Yes! Jesus is the Creator! And the Father addresses him as “Lord”, just as The Son addresses the Father as Lord! These three verses, as well as the following three, are all the voice of God the Father addressing God the Son. He calls Jesus “God”, and declares that he is Eternally God. He also declares that he has proven himself once for all in the “arena” of Earth, and that because of His proven character, he has been awarded Joy above all other humans (remember, He is fully God and fully Man.) But he is clearly declared to be the Creator, as well.

To me, all the doctrine concerning the full deity and authority and power of Jesus as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, is beyond mind-boggling. It is beyond imagination. It is simply beyond human comprehension and beyond adequate description.

Jesus, God the Son: the Eternal One

And his eternality is underscored, saying that he will outlast the physical universe, as a man outlasts his clothing. God emphasizes the eternality of the Son, compared to the longevity of the physical creation, saying,

11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

 About thirty-eight years ago, I recall a man challenging my view of Eternal life, saying that the Greek word for “Eternal” didn’t really mean “eternal”, but only “a very long time”; that the Greek word was “aeoneon” (he was right) which only meant “to the ages of the ages” (He was right about that, too!)

I listened to him, and finally said, “Well, I can go look up that word, and see if what you are saying is true: but, right off the top of my head, I am going to guess that the word describing the ‘eternality’ of God is exactly the same as the word describing the ‘eternality’ of the eternal life He has promised us. So…if the reality turns out to be that I only last as long as God lasts, that is OK with me!” He didn’t have much to say after that, and I never saw him again. But I went home and looked up the Greek words to see if he had even been correct, and if so, whether I was also correct in my guess. Both were true. He meant it to diminish the concept of “eternal life”. What it resulted in was an expansion of the idea:

As it turned out, aeoneon is simply how the Greeks say “eternal”: the exact same words are used to describe the eternality of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and our spirits, as well as the spirits of the angelic hosts. We will last as long as He lasts. Oddly, the human believers are the only living things from this world that will outlast the physical universe as we know it. (I say this cautiously, because I am not sure just how much of the physical universe will be destroyed at the end of the age, as described in 2nd Peter 3:10, 11. It could just be the world we live in and the solar system it is part of. The description leaves open the possibility that it is a complete erasure or disintegration of the entire creation as we know it, and then a fresh start, but I can’t say for sure.)

Jesus, God the Son: Heir of all things!

But, the most telling point showing the innate superiority of the Son, is that… He is the Son! He is superior by relationship: by inheritance! The writer made that clear in verses 4 and 5. There are no promises in the scriptures made “to the Angels”. There are a number of promises made to us, and regarding them, but none made to them.

Very few rich people’s wills include their servants in any significant sense. Unless a servant has, in the lifetime of his or her employer, achieved something like “family status”, the inheritance all goes to the spouse and children, or perhaps grandchildren. There have certainly been exceptions, but that is the norm. In this case, verse 4 makes it clear that Jesus, by inheritance, has obtained a more excellent name than that of the angels. He earned His honor and glory in the arena of human existence, as well as it being his right as God. But the Name was his by inheritance. Even the demons knew him, and trembled at His presence!

So, Who are the Angels?

The Angels are a servant class, created for the specific purposes laid out in scripture. They are highly intelligent (far more so than any human), and they have a free will, as we do. But, unlike us, they were created to be consciously in the presence of God from the beginning, so, in the case of the one third of the angelic hosts that rebelled, no Grace was offered. Every one of them knew God face to face; and they knowingly, willingly chose rebellion.

No human has ever seen God the Father: possibly that is the reason Grace is offered to us, through Faith. We are said to have “sinned ignorantly,” and, to varying degrees, that is always the case. So, to any human who chooses to believe God, rather than the clamoring voice of the World, God offers eternal life. But he never offered such a gift to the angels who sinned.

In like manner, the promise is made to the Son, not to the Angels: He is told to take his place at the right hand of God the Father, until all His enemies are completely cast down. The writer poses this rhetorical question:

13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

 The answer, of course, is “None!No such promise was ever made to them. The writer goes on to explain why:

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

The writer reminds the readers that the angelic hosts, as impressive as they are, are still the servants of God, and nothing more.

So, Where Do We Fit In?

Many similar promises are made to human believers. Why? Because we are now His sons, too! We have become literally His offspring. This is why Jesus said “Ye must be born again!” We have become the offspring of God through the new birth. The Greek word is “teknon”, which literally means “born-ones.”

The new birth is not some religious doubletalk or trendy buzzword: it was not coined by humans: Jesus is the one who stated the reality of the second birth, and made clear the absolute necessity that a human be “born again” in order to relate to God at all.

The Writer concludes the passage by reiterating that not only are the Angels not participants in God’s glory (though they have witnessed it constantly), nor are they the objects of His joy, love and attention; they are not only simply a servant-class, but they are specifically sent for the care of the elect humans. They are our “Celestial Babysitters,” if you can accept it.

That is also a mind-boggling fact. I can believe it, because God says it is true; but I have a hard time “wrapping my head around the idea” that there are many angels, invisible to us, but within arm’s reach, perhaps, and “rooting for us” to win the prize of God’s praise, so that we may hear “Well done, thou good and faithful Servant!”

You see…we are a servant class, too, as created beings; but we are created to be part of God’s Family, which the angels were not. Remember verse 5? They were never even called his sons, except in the generic sense, in the book of Job (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7)…in those passages they are called that name, but never in the same sense as Jesus, who is the “Only Begotten Son”—the crown prince—nor even in the same sense as we are called sons. By the way, this information should serve to dispel the myth that “humans become angels when they die.” They are two separate creations, never to be mingled.

We are actually called his offspring…“born ones”…little children; but specifically His personal offspring. He says that he has become our literal Father, and that we are his literal Children, appointed to be His heirs. (Compare John 1:12; 1st John 3:9, etc.)

Am I a Child of God?

There are those who teach the universal Fatherhood of God. Jesus sharply refuted that notion, saying “Ye are of your father, the Devil!” in John 8:44. So, how does one become a child of God? How can we be born again, into His family?

John 1:12, 13 states that “to as many as received Him, to them gave He power (Greek “exousia” authority) to become (the Greek word is “genesthe”—to be born) the children (Greek “teknon:” born-ones) of God, even to those who believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 5:24 says “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”  Jesus promised that the moment you believe, you have eternal life, and you will never face judgement for your sins: you have crossed over from being spiritually dead into eternal life

All God asks is that you place your trust in the person of Christ and His finished work at the Cross. The moment a person believes in Jesus’s blood as the full price of his or her salvation, that person is born again, into the family of God, whether they are aware of it or not. I cannot even tell you the day I was born again, because at the time I had been told such a variety of things, and was so confused about what it took to be saved. It was only later, when I learned this truth, that I could look back, and know for sure that I was saved—that I had been born again, and that all the other things people had told me were extraneous to that fact.

The Promises and Invitation of God

All the promises in the New Testament epistles that are directed “to the children of God”, or to “the Sons of God”, are to you, if you have been born again. They are virtually all spiritual promises, made to a spiritual people. We are not promised a piece of land, nor monetary wealth, nor physical health, nor even physical comfort. We are promised a permanent relationship with God, and an abiding purpose within that relationship.

We are given the opportunity to serve with God, and then to be rewarded as if we had done the work, when in fact, He did it through us. We are armed with His Word, and indwelt by His Spirit. In fact, in the person of the Holy Spirit, we are told that the entire Godhead has taken up residence in our bodies. What an overwhelming thought!

We are given the right to look into the face of God, by faith, and call him Father, knowing that we are not being presumptuous, nor pretentious. We are simply calling Him what He is. Our Father, through the new birth.

We are given access to the throne of God, and told to come there boldly! Not fearfully tiptoeing into the presence of God, wondering what sort of mood He might be in today. Unlike a human father (myself for example), God never changes. His “mood” never changes. He always hates sin, and he always loves the sinner, in spite of the sin. But his Grace is extended by way of the Cross. We approach the throne boldly because of Jesus’s blood at the Cross.

Consider carefully your relationship with God. If you have been born again, you are already permanently His offspring, and you are invited to draw closer to the Father, through Bible-study, through Prayer, and obedience. If you have not been born again, the invitation is different: He invites you to come to Him and experience His Grace and Love, by placing your faith in Jesus Christ, and His shed Blood.

If you do not understand this message, I would encourage you to talk to me or any of the other leaders in our church, and get your questions answered.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to the vital importance of the Gospel, the good news of salvation through your Grace. Help us to draw near to you and be blessed daily as we feast upon your Word, and bask in your Joy.