Hebrews 1

A Concise Introduction

Our first question.

How are we to describe this document? Is it a letter, a sermon or a thesis?

It begins like no other letter in the New Testament begins, (which is a reason for suspecting that Paul was not the author!), it continues like a sermon and it concludes like a letter.

Hebrews 1:1 opens in the style of a thesis or essay. “God spoke.”

Hebrews 2:1 reveals the sermon style. “We ought to give the more earnest attention to the things which we have heard.”

Hebrews 13:23 concludes like a letter. “You should understand that our brother Timothy has been set at liberty.”

What is the correct title?

The oldest known title for the document is, simply, “To Hebrews” (About the middle of the 2nd century). Therefore it was written for Hebrew Christians.

Why was it written?

Since it is generally agreed that it was written about 65 A.D., we can answer this question in a fairly satisfactory manner.

Remember these facts.

1. Thirty years or more after Pentecost, the novelty of The Faith had worn off.

Things have settled down into some sort of pattern, and any hope of a mass conversion of Israel had faded. If the Jewish Christians had believed that their fellow Jews would embrace the Gospel as readily as they had themselves, they were disappointed.

2. Some of them may possibly have expected an early return of the Lord, in which case they were again disappointed.

3. The end of the old religion is nowhere in sight, the temple was still standing.

The priests were still offering their sacrifices, Hebrews 10:1 / Hebrews 10:11. Notice the use of the present tense, proving that this was written pre-A.D.70. In fact, some Hebrew Christians had begun to feel that they were a little island of Christianity in a sea of Judaism.

They felt isolated, cut off! a. Excommunicated from the temple.

b. Unwelcome in the synagogues.

c. Ostracized from Jewish society.

d. Estranged from their families, in some instances, no doubt, divorced from their husbands and wives.

In a word, they have become a people within a people.

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that some of them had begun to wonder if they had not been over-hasty, perhaps even made a terrible mistake, in becoming Christians. Maybe they had lost more than they had gained.

And, apart from the domestic, social and religious ex-communication they were experiencing, there was something more, which weighed very heavily on their consciences.

They had the feeling that they had abandoned their historic heritage as Jews. They were cut off from their nation’s past, their theocratic history.

They felt they could no longer speak of being related to the Covenants which God had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and all the other Old Testament worthies. And that was terrible!

Therefore the danger existed that they might slip away from The Faith and revert back to Judaism.

Incidentally, if this letter had been written after A.D.70, it would have been very different in tone! Indeed, after A.D. 70 this letter may not have been written at all.

These considerations reveal the purpose behind the writing of ‘Hebrews’.

It was written to discourage such negative thinking and to reveal that the old religion is decayed and lifeless because its purpose has been fulfilled.

The main theme of the letter, therefore, is, ‘the supremacy of Christ and the superiority of the new over the old.’

The keyword is ‘better’, ‘kreisson’ which occurs 13 times and is rendered ‘better’ in K.J.V. and ‘superior’ in R.S.V.

As we proceed through the study we shall see that Christ is superior:

a. To all previous messengers, the prophets, because they brought partial and incomplete revelations of the will of God. Jesus brought the full and final revelation. Hebrews 1:1-3.

b. To the angels, because they are worshipping spirits sent forth to serve the redeemed, whilst Jesus is the Son, whom God purposed to reign. Hebrews 1:4 / Hebrews 2:1-16.

c. To Moses, because whilst he was a ‘servant’ ‘therapon’, ‘one who rendered voluntary service’ in the house of God, (here, meaning the people of God, see Hebrews 3:6) Christ is the Son over all God’s House.

d. To Joshua, because whilst he successfully led the people into Canaan, the Canaanites were not completely conquered and the Israelites failed under Joshua, to experience the ‘rest,’ ‘katapausis’ which God had intended for them.

This ‘sabbatismos’, (Sabbath rest = God’s own rest) has been made possible for us by our ‘Jehoshua’, Jesus. Hebrews 4:1-10.

e. To Aaron, the first High Priest, because though not of the Aaronic line, Jesus is a High Priest after the style of Melchizedek. Hebrews 4:14-10:21.

Note that this long section commences and ends with virtually identical words, and stresses that the Christian faith is superior to the old covenant religion because it is based upon a better covenant.

Approved by a better sacrifice. Offering better promises. Producing a better hope. Etc. All of these sections are combined with warnings against apostasy.

f. Finally, however, one major problem remains, which the writer introduces in Hebrews 11.

The great roll-call of faith

The one remaining difficulty is that the Hebrew Christians nevertheless feel that, in abandoning the old faith of Judaism, they have severed their connection with their great forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

They have lost their great history and we know how proud the Jews were and still are today of their history!

We must envisage them saying to the writer of the letter, “But surely, the Fathers, the patriarchs, at least, belong to the old religion! And we can no longer claim a relationship with them!”

The writer replies in Hebrews 11, by pointing out that although these men lived under the earlier covenants (the Patriarchs before the Law, and such men as Moses, David, the great prophets after the Law had been given). They did not belong to the law, because they lived according to the principle of faith!

He is saying, in effect, “Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and all these others, lived by faith, and therefore they belong to you; and as you continue to hold on to the faith, you are their true successors! You are being true to them!”

Notice that the names in Hebrews 11 are not listed haphazardly, but reveal a systematic progression through the ages.

Before the flood

Abel, Enoch. Noah.

After the flood

Abraham

During the Egyptian bondage

The parents of Moses.

After the deliverance from Egypt

The people crossing the Red Sea

The conquest of Canaan

How Jericho fell.

During the judges period

Gideon, etc.

During the kingdom period

Samuel and all the prophets.

Even into the intertestamental period

The period of the Maccabees. Hebrews 11:36ff.

The truth which emerges in Hebrews 11 is that in every age, it has been faith that has honoured God and which has been honoured by Him.

In Hebrews 11:39-40 the writer again stresses the solidarity of the Christian with those who have gone before by pointing out that God intended that they and we together should ‘be made perfect’.

Earlier, in Hebrews 11:13 he uses a nautical illustration when he describes these men and women of faith from former ages. He says that they did not experience the promise in their own lifetime, but they saw it from afar!

The original text suggests sailors who see a coastline, (a country) on which they may not land. But they are waving to it, as they sail by!

Finally, in Hebrews 12 we find:

1. Encouragement to faithfulness. Hebrews 12:1-14.

The writer urges them to bear persecution and hardship because it is only temporary and serves the purposes of discipline, making them stronger. The exhortation is followed by:

2. A warning, the high cost of apostasy. Hebrews 12:15-28.

Hebrews 13 is a chapter containing a variety of exhortations to personal and congregational holiness, and an appeal for their prayers, from the writer himself.

The Text

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1-2

“At many times and in many ways” implies that God had more to say. Each prophet did not carry the final message. The whole truth was not yet out. Revelation was not complete.

God first spoke directly to the patriarchs. Then God spoke through the written law. God spoke in dreams and visions. God also spoke through the prophets. But God was not done revealing His word.

“But in these last days” is a Messianic reference. The last days are the days of the Messiah. Peter quotes Joel 2 in Acts 2 and describes the days they were living in as ‘the last days’.

The last days are not something still to come. The last days were then, as the prophets looked forward to the time by speaking of “in those days and at that time.”

God formerly spoke by the prophets at many times and in many ways, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. This “us” is not an apostolic “us.” Many times when a New Testament writer speaks about “us,” he speaks as an apostle and about what the apostles experienced.

But by looking at Hebrews 2:3-4 we notice that the author does not include himself as an eyewitness. Therefore, the “us” is the writer identifying himself with his audience in his sermon. God had spoken to all of His followers through His Son. Before God spoke through the prophets at many times and in many ways.

Now God spoke through His Son. This suggests finality. God’s final speech was through His Son. God’s message is complete. God is not still speaking at many times and in many ways by the Son. God has spoken (past tense) by the Son.

God has revealed His total truth and that truth is now out. That final truth was not revealed through prophets. It was revealed through the Son!

“Whom he appointed as heir of all things” shows authority. God has spoken through His Son and the Son carries great authority. The Son has been appointed heir of all things. Because He has this authority, the Son can make good on the words He has declared.

The authority of the Son is so great that it is through the Son that ‘all things were created’. The Son is authoritative. The Son’s word is authoritative. The Son is the final, completed message of God. As the apostle John would write later, the Son is the ‘logos’, the Word. John 1:1.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3

This sentence in verse 3 is simply mind-blowing because it is so powerful and so vivid. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. He is the reflected brightness of God.

This Son is so great that He is described as the radiance of God’s glory, shining the brightness of God’s glory. He is the fulfilment of prophecy concerning the glory of God, Isaiah 40:3-5.

The Son is also the exact imprint of God’s nature. When you see Jesus, you see God. We have not seen God, but we have seen Jesus. The Son gives a clear picture of the very character of God. The Son is exactly like the Father. Jesus is identical.

This is a great passage to fight the idea that Jesus is a lesser god or created god. He is the carbon copy of God, completely identical in every way. Or, perhaps even more literally, the Son is of the exact same substance as God.

The rest of Hebrews 1:3 continues to speak about the powerful word of Jesus. God spoke through prophets before, but now God has spoken definitively and completely through the Son. The Son is superior in His message. His powerful words uphold the universe.

“The Son made purification for sins”. This identifies the Son as a priest. The Son whose powerful word upholds the universe and whose words contain the final, complete message of God is a priest.

But He is a special priest because He made purification for sins (past tense). The Son took care of sins. He made a cleansing of sins. He was able to remove the stain of sin.

After making purification for sins, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. To sit down suggests that the work of the Son was complete. He has done what was needed to be accomplished. There is no more to do. His work is complete. The work of purification for sins was completed.

The work of revealing the glory of God was completed. The work of being God’s final message to the world was completed. In his own words, “It is finished.” John 19:30

Further, the right hand of God indicates high honour, rank, and position. Jesus said these words in response to Caiaphas’ charges:

Jesus said to him, “You have said so, but I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64

This is also a direct allusion to Psalm 110:1-2, identifying the power of the Son, Psalm 110:1-2. “The Son is the seated high priest”. He is also the prince of the house of David. He is the Messiah. In one sentence the greatness of the Son is described and glorified. The Son is the High Priest who made complete purification for sins. The Son is the ruler/king who is sitting in glory and honour at the right hand of God.

He is the prophet through whom God’s final, complete message has been revealed. Therefore, He is even superior to spiritual beings like the angels. He is superior in every way. First-century Jews were fascinated with angels and held them in high esteem. The title “Son of God” makes Jesus superior in every way.

Conclusion

Our superior Son.

1. God’s final message came through Him.

2. Creation occurred through Him.

3. He upholds the universe by His powerful word.

4. He is the radiance of God’s glory.

5. He is the exact imprint of God’s character.

6. He made purification for sins.

7. And sat down with His work finished at God’s right hand as prophet, priest, and king.

We serve a great Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Christ superior to angels Hebrews 1:4-2:18

I introduced this series of studies by pointing out the superiority of Christ over the previous messengers, the Old Testament prophets because He brought the full and final revelation of God’s plan of salvation.

Now I would like us to look at the next step in the writer’s argument when he shows his readers that the Son is, superior to the angels.

And if I were to offer a title for this part of the study I would entitle it, “The worshippers and the worshipped”, because such a title highlights this important distinction between Christ and the angels, based on Hebrews 1:6 / Hebrews 1:14.

Let me begin by pointing out that, in this part of the letter, there are two things which I believe are very significant and which certainly ought to be noticed.

1. The abruptness with which the writer introduces the subject of angels. Hebrews 1:4.

No sooner has he written about the superiority of Christ over the Old Testament prophets, than we are confronted, hurried, we might even say, into this discussion about angels.

Now, I think that this is rather surprising, and I suspect that, for many Bible students. The reason for raising the subject at this point is not very clear, or even why it is raised at all!

2. The other surprising thing is the amount of space that the writer devotes to the discussion of angels, especially in the light of the briefness with which he has dealt with the prophets.

In real terms, he dispenses with the prophets in just two verses, Hebrews 1:2-3, but then he launches into a passage of 28 verses to talk about Christ and angels. It appears that he is responding to a discussion about angels which has been going on among these Hebrew Christians.

The question is why write so much about angels?

I believe that I can suggest the very probable reason, but before I give that reason, let me make a few general comments on this subject of angels because it seems to me that this is a subject on which a good many church members, and preachers, are rather reluctant to commit themselves.

If you were to ask them, “What do you believe about angels? Do you actually believe in angels?” I suspect that a large number of them would certainly hesitate to answer, and might even be very reluctant to answer at all!

I wonder why it is, that the subject is so seldom discussed these days? Why it is ignored? And I use the word ‘ignored’ rather than ‘overlooked’ because it seems to me that the topic is deliberately avoided. Do you suppose it is because it is thought that these days it is ‘old-fashioned’ to believe in angels?

Is it because we are reluctant to let people think that we are theologically behind the times? That may be part of the answer. Especially when theological students find statements like this in their textbooks.

“It might seem there would be little profit in attempting any discussion of the angels, those higher beings that have been traditionally recognized in Christian faith and theology. As they have been usually represented, they belong to the mythology and poetry of religion, rather than to theology. In the Bible itself, it would be hard to know whether the mention of angels should be understood as implying the activity of some higher order of beings, or whether it is simply a picturesque way of representing the action of God, or his self-communication in the world.” (John MacQuarrie; “Principle of Christian Theology” p.215)

If you examine modern works of theology you will find that they have little or nothing at all to say about angels. They will discuss God, Man and even the Devil, but they stop short at angels! Now, why is this?

Can it be that because, in a world as sophisticated as ours, angels just do not fit in! It is as if those country cousins have come in from the woods to visit their rich city relations and they are an embarrassment! And we wish they would go away, back to where they came from!

Don’t you find it a little bit strange that people today will accept the possibility of ‘alien visitors from outer space’ and U.F.O’s? They will believe in the occult and superstitious astrological forecasts.

They will talk in a way that shows they believe, that it matters and really makes a difference under which so-called ‘star-sign’ they were born. They will listen eagerly to anyone who will talk about having had an ‘out of the body experience.’

The list is almost endless but, mention angels, and you become some sort of religious fanatic! Such is the world in which we live!

Now, it does not surprise me that liberal theology dismisses a belief in angels as outdated and old-fashioned because it is little more than the Sadduceeism of Jesus’ time dressed up in modern clothes.

You will remember that, among the sects and parties of New Testament times, the Sadducees were the ones who did not believe in angels or spirits and who denied both miracles and resurrection and life after death. Matthew 22:23-32 / Acts 23:8.

But why Christians should hesitate to confess to a belief in angels is something of a mystery to me.

1. Of course, some think that angels are mysterious beings, about whose nature and function little has been revealed.

They say, that, for that reason, we should ‘not seek to be wise above that which is written’. Ecclesiastes 7:16. (How often that text has been abused!) And that is how they avoid discussing the subject! But how mistaken they are!

And how anyone can claim that little has been revealed is truly amazing, when you know that angels are mentioned 213 times in the Old Testament, (Malak), and 188 times in the New Testament, (Angelos), a total of over 400 times.

I said before that the Bible never attempts to prove that God exists, His existence is always taken for granted. Well, so with the angels.

They are not presented as some strange phenomenon, they are not the subject of progressive revelation, that is to say, they are not first hinted at, and then gradually exposed to view, little by little.

They are there almost as soon as you open your Bible, in Genesis 3:24 and they remain there through to the very last chapter of the book in Revelation 22:8.

And if you are a serious student of the Bible you cannot avoid seeing them. You may, of course, decide to ‘let sleeping angels lie,’ but they are still there!

Perhaps you have heard that there are several places in both the U.S.A. and Canada, where you may visit what are virtual ‘dinosaur graveyards’, valleys where huge numbers of dinosaur bones have been discovered.

I heard that one young man suggested to his father that they might drive out and see the bones in one of these valleys. But his father said, “I don’t believe in dinosaurs and I don’t want to see any!” Well, we may close our eyes, but the angels will not go away!

2. There are other Christians who take the position that there was a time, in a former dispensation when angels were active, but, they tell us since Jesus has become our Mediator, there is no longer any need for the ministry of angels.

And so, again, they very neatly sidestep the need for any further discussion! With a stroke, angels have been taken out of circulation, made redundant, moth-balled, if you like.

Of course, to some people that explanation may sound very wise and scholarly, but it is not scholarly at all.

There is simply no logic to that argument, because, in this letter to the Hebrews, written about 35 years after Jesus became our Mediator with God, the writer states, that angels are, “ministering spirits, sent forth to serve those who are to obtain salvation.” Hebrews 1:14.

So there is no reason to suppose that the intercession of Christ, as High Priest, in any way affects the service that angels are said to perform.

What are we to make of the words of the Lord Jesus himself, when He says, speaking of the children, “Their angels always behold the face of my father”. Matthew 18:10

Now, I am not saying that a belief in angels is necessary for salvation, nor do I claim to understand all that the Bible reveals about them.

But I am somewhat surprised at how little is said about them these days, because a failure to understand what the Scriptures teach on the subject means a loss of the encouragement that the doctrine can offer.

Let me mention that verse in Hebrews 1:14, is a very significant verse because it indicates that angels have a twofold ministry, Hebrews 1:14 “Are they not all liturgical (worshipping) spirits, sent forth to serve.”

The two words used are leitourgika, which gives us the word liturgy, and diakonian, which has to do with service. The original meaning of the word leitourgekos was, worship offered to God, and it tells us how angels relate to God.

The word diakonia, on the other hand, tells us how angels relate to the heirs of salvation, they render service. They are worshipping spirits, whom God sends out, to serve the heirs of salvation. And that surely means you and me.

If you now ask me if I believe in guardian angels, I answer yes! And if you now put the question, “how do you recognize a guardian angel?” I answer, ‘that is not my problem!’

As an heir of salvation, mentioned in the verse, I am one of those who are to be cared for. I am neither required nor expected to be able to identify an angel!

And I would further point out that, whoever else may reject belief in angels.

1. Peter didn’t. Acts 12:11 “Now I know that God has sent His angel”.

2. Paul didn’t. Acts 27:23 “This night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong”.

3. In fact, all of the apostles believed in them. “An angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out”,  Acts 5:19

4. What is more, the ministry of the Lord Jesus himself was intimately associated with the angels.

a. They foretold His birth to both Mary and Joseph. Luke 1:25-28.

b. Announced His birth to the Shepherds. Luke 2:8-14.

c. Called Mary and Joseph back from Egypt. Matthew 2:19-20.

d. Ministered to Him after his temptation in the wilderness. Matthew 4:11.

e. Strengthened Him in Gethsemane. Luke 22:43.

f. Rolled the stone from the tomb. Matthew 28:2.

g. Met the disciples who came to the tomb. Matthew 28:1-7.

h. Were present at His ascension. Acts 1:9-11.

i. And will accompany Him when He returns. 2 Thessalonians 1:7.

5. And, for that matter, Satan believes in them.

Psalm 91:11 He quoted the promise to Jesus, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

If we examine the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, we will see that the range of service they rendered was staggering.

And the Hebrew Christians, to whom Jesus wrote, had no problem believing in them either.

1. We know that, over the centuries, the Jews had developed a very complicated angelology, that is a system of belief about angels, and had come to place an exaggerated importance on the ministry of angels.

I have to smile whenever I use the term ‘angelology’ because it sounds, to me anyway, rather a ridiculous expression. It is not in my Oxford dictionary, it is a word that someone has ‘cobbled together’ to give us another ‘ology’! Although I have to admit that I don’t know any other word to use!

It was probably the ancient Persians who first developed a system of doctrine about angels, but, be that as it may, it is certainly true that the Jews themselves had, by New Testament times, come to hold very firm views about them.

Some of the things they believed were true because they were based on Scripture. For instance, they believed that there are millions of angels, and that is certainly true because the writer of this letter writes, in Hebrews 12:22, “You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly”.

Unfortunately, however, by New Testament times, Jewish teachers had begun to ascribe incredible authority and influence to the angels.

They taught that.

1. Angels are intermediaries between God and men.

2. They control the destiny of both nations and individuals. In other words, angels manipulate human destiny.

3. They also control the movement of the stars.

4. They have power over the elements.

5. And they execute judgment on God’s behalf.

Now, once people credited angels with such authority and power, it is easy to see that it would be a very small step to the worship of angels, and we can understand, also, that angels could very soon be allowed to take the place of the Lord Jesus.

As men began to depend more upon them than on Jesus, in very much the same way that Catholicism has come to depend more on Mary, whom they have named ‘the mediatrix’, rather than on Christ as their Intercessor.

At the very least, we can see how they could come to regard Jesus as being ‘one of the angels’ just like the rest. This is why the writer of the Hebrew letter concentrates on correcting this heresy and why he spends so much time dealing with the subject at the very beginning of his letter.

He is determined, at the outset, to prove the superiority of the Son over all angelic beings, because the outcome of this false doctrine is that, as well as belittling and demeaning the Lord Jesus, those who held it were actually denying His deity.

In his statement concerning angels, which commences at Hebrews 1:4, and continues to Hebrews 2:16, the writer points out seven respects in which the superiority and supremacy of Christ over the angels is clearly revealed.

And it is important that we should have this firmly fixed in our own minds because there are religious groups around today, which teach the same heresy, whilst parading under the Christian name.

a. The so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” teach that Jesus was the first-created being, an angel named Michael.

b. Mormon leaders taught that “Adam is our god and the only god with whom we have to do”, and that Jesus was the offspring of Adam and Mary.

c. Christadelphians believe that Jesus had no pre-existence until he was born in Bethlehem, He was merely an idea in the mind of God.

So this heresy is not dead, even yet.

The writer of this letter shows that Jesus is not merely an angel, but is far above the angelic order, and he does it by pointing out seven respects in which His supremacy is clearly revealed.

Here are the seven points that the writer makes.

1. He has, by inheritance a more excellent Name than the angels. Hebrews 1:4.

Hebrews 1:5 tells you what that Name is, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “YOU ARE MY SON”.

2. They are called upon to worship Him, Hebrews 1:6 God said “Let all the angels of God worship HIM.”

3. Their function is to serve, whilst He is destined to reign.

Hebrews 1:78. They are sent out as servants, the very word ‘angelos’ means ‘messenger’. But God says of the Son, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever”.

4. They are created beings, whilst He is the Creator.

Listen to how the Son is addressed in Hebrews 1:10. “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.”

5. As created beings, their existence is dependent, whilst His existence is un-derived and eternal, Hebrews 1:12 / John 5:26.

6. He is exalted far above the angels. Hebrews 1:13. “To which of the angels has God ever said; ‘Sit at my right hand.’”

7. He has authority far beyond anything granted to angels.

Hebrews 2:5-8. God has “crowned the Son with glory and honour and all things have been put under his feet”.

If we then, summarize these arguments, showing that the Lord Jesus is not an angel, but far above them in nature and authority, this is what we find.

He is:

1. Different in nature, He is eternal

2. Different in relationship, The Son.

3. Different in status, He is to be worshipped.

4. Different in dignity, He occupies the throne.

5. Different in title, My Son.

6. Different in power, The Creator.

7. Different in function, Destined to reign.

And finally, if we look at Hebrews 2:9, we see that, whilst He is, in every way above the angels, He became, for a little time, lower than the angels but for a great purpose, “that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone”.

In other words, Jesus became a man, in order to suffer physical death. As a spiritual being, He could not have done this. But He became flesh. Became man. Or, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:3, “God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.”

So what is the conclusion?

The writer of this letter is saying to these Hebrew Christians.

Whatever else you make of the angels and even considering the service they have rendered in the past, Jesus, the Son of God, is not and never was, an angel. He has done what no angel could ever do. Though He is essentially higher than angels, He stooped to the level of fallen man, and became a man, in order to raise you above the level of angels.

Guardian Angels

The third verse of the hymn, ‘Count your blessings’, says ‘Count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end’.

Is there any Scriptural evidence to validate this regarding angels in this context? Now we’ve already talked about this but I want to look at it again in order for us to understand what we’re talking about.

So runs the question, a question which, in essence, asks if the Scriptures teach that there are ‘Guardian Angels’? Because like I said earlier the very existence of angels is a subject that is rarely discussed these days.

We might be forgiven for suspecting that preachers and hearers alike are often reluctant to commit themselves where angels are concerned.

Note: the words for ‘angel’, ‘malak’ in the Old Testament, and ‘angelos’ in the New Testament, occur 213 and 188 times respectively and both mean ‘messenger’. Whether a reference is to a human being, or a heavenly, spirit being, must be determined by the context.

What do the Scriptures reveal about angels and their relationship to human beings? Well, there are some quite clear statements, which should help us in our search for the answer to the question.

Angels have an interest in what happens on Earth. This is a truth that runs right through the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.

For example:

1. In the Old Testament.

Genesis 18:10. Angels brought Abraham the promise of a son.

Genesis 19:1. They warned Lot of the impending destruction of Sodom.

Genesis 32:1. They met Jacob, on his way home from his uncle Laban’s territory.

Numbers 20:16. Moses believed in Guardian Angels. He told the people that God ‘sent an angel and brought us forth out of Egypt’.

Daniel 6:22. Daniel believed in this ministry of Angels, because he said, ‘My God has sent His angel and has shut the lions’ mouths’.

Daniel 3:28. Even Nebuchadnezzar believed in Angels! ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants’.

2. Coming over to the New Testament, angels were intimately involved with the Lord Himself, all through His life and ministry.

a. Angels foretold his birth to Mary and Joseph. Matthew1:20.

b. Angels announced it to the shepherds in the fields. Luke 2:8ff.

c. An Angel instructed Mary and Joseph to go to Egypt. Matthew 2:13 (see also Matthew 2:19).

d. Angels ministered to him after his fast and temptation in the wilderness. Matthew 4:11.

e. An angel strengthened him in Gethsemane. Luke 22:43.

f. Angels stood ready, 12 legions of them! To respond to His call, if He required them! Matthew 26:53.

g. An angel rolled the stone, from the mouth of the tomb. Matthew 28:2.

h. Angels met Mary Magdalene when she came to the tomb. John 20:11.

i. Angels were present at his ascension. Acts 1:10.

j. Angels will accompany Him when he returns. 2 Thessalonians 1:7.

An examination of the Scriptures will easily extend this list.

In Matthew 18:10, the Lord Himself warns against despising (treating badly or harming) ‘little ones’ who believe in Him. ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven’.

The plain meaning of His statement is that there are heavenly beings to whom is entrusted the special duty of the care and guardianship of believers.

I might add that those words, ‘for I say to you’, are tremendously significant because that is the formula used by the Lord when He introduced new truth or illuminated truth not previously understood.

Compare Luke 15:7 with Luke 15:10 and note, also, that He uses the same formula no less than nine times in Matthew 5. Matthew 5:18 / Matthew 5:20 / Matthew 5:22 / Matthew 5:26 / Matthew 5:28 / Matthew 5:32 / Matthew 5:34 / Matthew 5:39 / Matthew 5:44.

Angels are interested in the conversion of sinners. Luke 15:7 / Luke 15:10 reveals that ‘there is joy among the angels of God’ when the lost is found and when the sinner repents.

In the next chapter, Luke 16, Jesus tells us that, when he died, Lazarus ‘was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom’, another example of angelic involvement with the faithful.

They have an interest in the faithful preaching of the Gospel.

In 1 Timothy 5:21, the young evangelist, Timothy, is urged to exercise his ministry with care, ‘I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels’.

An angel directed Philip the evangelist, to meet the ‘Ethiopian’. Acts 8:26.

And Cornelius was told by an angel to ‘send to Joppa for Peter.’ Acts 10:5.

Angels will be the Lord’s agents at the time of the Judgement, Matthew 13:41 ‘

In the church, angels are concerned with the woman’s subjection to the Man, 1 Corinthians 11:8-10.  Notice the phrase ‘because of the angels’. It means that her acceptance of the divine order constitutes an example to the angels.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14 

This reveals their ministry to be two-fold. They are ‘ministering spirits’ (‘liturgical’ or worshipping spirits), sent forth to serve for the sake of ‘those who are to obtain salvation.’ The word ‘leitourgika’, rendered ‘ministering’ or ‘worshipping’, speaks of their service to God Himself.

The word ‘diakonia’ which is rendered ‘to serve’, describes the nature of their service to believers. They are to serve those who inherit salvation, and that means you and me!

Conclusion

Do I believe in Guardian Angels? Yes! Emphatically!

And if you ask if I can recognize a ‘Guardian Angel’, I answer, No! But that does not constitute a problem for me. After all, on several of the occasions to which I have already referred, (e.g. Abraham in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament), they did not recognize them either!

In any case, the recognition of God’s children is the job of the angel, since he is to minister to those who inherit salvation. I don’t need to be able to recognize him, but he is commissioned to recognize me!

How do the angels go about their work? That is for them to know. We are to have faith in our heavenly Father’s promise to care for His people.

In the first four verses, the writer of Hebrews begins his sermon by declaring the Son as the final word of God. The Son is described as the great prophet, the great priest, and the great king who has completed His work, represented by sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

The writer concluded this introduction by stating that the Son is superior to angels. The rest of chapter 1 is an explanation of how the Son the superior to angels.

But let’s get back to the question again, why the interest in angels? Why present this argument?

1. Angels were viewed as God’s greatest servants. The belief was that the angels were with God at Mount Sinai. The belief was not unfounded. Deuteronomy 33:2 says that ‘the Lord came to Sinai with myriads of holy ones’.

Even the New Testament reveals that the Law of Moses was given through angels Galatians 3:19. The writer is going to allude to this point in his argument in Hebrews 2:2.

2. During the time between the testaments in the Scriptures there was a belief among some of the Jews that when a person died they became an angel. This belief has not totally disappeared even today, commonly still found in movies, books, and television.

3. False teachers taught that God could be approached only through angels. Instead of worshipping God directly, they revered angels. Some thought of Jesus as the highest angel of God, as even some religions do today.

So there was a fascination with angels, but there was also a great respect and honour held for angels. So the writer begins by describing how the Son is superior to angels.

Please notice that the writer proves the Son’s superiority by using seven quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. The number seven may be completely coincidental, but it is interesting that the number seven, which symbolizes perfection, is used. Let’s examine the four arguments.

Comparison

1: Better Name

“So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. The Son Superior to Angels”. Hebrews 1:4

We must back up to verse 4 to see the first argument as the Son is compared to angels. The first point the writer makes is that the Son has a superior Name. Philippians 2:9. The argument is fairly simple, the angels are merely messengers of God. But Jesus is the Son, the Son of God. The difference in the Name is significant and immediately denotes the superiority of the Son. The writer now deepens the argument.

“For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? Hebrews 1:5

In both of these quotations, it is not the quotation alone that is powerful but the location of the quotation. The quotation “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”

is found in Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm speaking about the coronation of the Messiah as King Psalm 2:6. The Son has been enthroned with power, Psalm 2:8-9 / Psalm 2:12.

The second quotation is also about the enthronement of the Messiah. The quote comes from 2 Samuel 7:14. In the previous verse, the Lord declared the establishment of the throne in His kingdom forever.

So the question that comes from the text is, when did this coronation and enthronement happen? This is especially of interest because in 2 Samuel this is spoken of being in the future, “He will be my Son”.

The New Testament in a couple of places points out when the coronation and enthronement of the Son occurred, Romans 1:3-4. Notice that the Son was appointed by His resurrection. The coronation and enthronement of the Son took place at His resurrection. The apostle Paul makes the same argument, Acts 13:32-34.

Notice again that this psalm was fulfilled when Jesus rose from the dead. Now, this is important, Jesus is enthroned now! Jesus must be enthroned now. The kingdom must be now and Jesus is ruling now because the resurrection from the dead was when the coronation of the Son occurred. The Son has a superior Name through the resurrection, crowned as King.

Comparison 2: Greater Dignity

“And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Hebrews 1:6

The Son receives worship, but the angels worship the Son. The Son is clearly greater because He receives worship. Angels do not receive worship. They are to render worship, particularly to the Son.

Notice that the Son is called the firstborn. This concept has led to much misunderstanding. The Son is not being called a created being. Nor is the Son being described as lesser to God. The Son is not a generational reference.

The firstborn held the highest place of privilege, honour, and responsibility. He has pre-eminence. This is the meaning of the Son as the “firstborn.”

The Son has greater dignity. Angels worship the Son and He receives that worship.

Comparison 3: Greater Status

“In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servant’s flames of fire.” Hebrews 1:7

The angels are simply servants. This point will be repeated in verse 14. But angels are simply servants, wonderful servants, but still servants. They are spirits and they are flames of fire, but still servants.

“But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre 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 1:8-9

Carefully watch the argument that is made about the Son in verses 8-9. The writer says that this quotation is speaking about the Son, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.”

This is speaking about the throne of the Son. In speaking about the Son, ‘your throne, O God.’ ‘The Son is God’.

The writer states this point clearly and it cannot be missed or avoided.

This is a quotation from Psalm 45 and it is useful for us to understand this psalm and tie it to the argument made here in Hebrews. Psalm 45 is a royal wedding song written for the King (see particularly Psalm 45:10-11 / Psalm 45:13 / Psalm 45:16).

But the psalm is strange in verse 6 because the king is called God. But verse 7 is even stranger. The king is God, but He has a God “your God”. There is no king in the Hebrew Scriptures that this describes. This is about the Messiah.

Again, it is a coronation picture. The Son has been chosen above all and has been anointed with the oil of joy. Olive oil was used to anoint the kings of Israel at the inauguration of their rule. It is a Messianic royal wedding. This image explains the parables in the Gospels Jesus told concerning ‘The wedding feast’. Luke 14:7-14 / Revelation 19:6-8.

Now, let us back up and include verse 7 again. The angels serve, but the Son rules. The Son is superior.

Comparison 4: Greater Function

“He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:10-14

The writer of Hebrews says that these quotations are still talking about the Son. He emphasizes the role of the Son in creation. The Son laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens. Further, the Son is eternal. All of creation will perish, but He remains.

In Psalm 102, this song was written to God. Therefore, the argument continues that the Son is God. He remains the same and His years will never end. Further, He has been enthroned until all enemies are placed under His feet.

The comparison is to the angels. They have a lesser function. Angels are serving servants. Angels serve, the Son rules. Angels serve, the Son creates. Angels serve, but they serve us, the created.

Conclusion

1. The Son has a better Name. He was established as king when he rose from the dead. Hebrews 1:4-5 / Philippians 2:9.

2. The Son has greater dignity. The Son receives worship. The angels render worship to him. Hebrews 1:6.

3. The Son has greater status. The Son rules, angels serve. Hebrews 1:7-9.

4. The Son has a greater function. The Son is eternal and creator, angels serve the created. Hebrews 1:10-14.

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