Hebrews 1:4-14: Jesus is Superior to Angels
Read: Hebrews 1:4-14
The author of Hebrews takes a two prong approach to showing the supremacy of Christ from Old Testament quotations. He shows that Jesus receives a status higher than the angels and also shows that angels are the messengers of God – a status lower than that of Jesus. The author of Hebrews draws upon a number of texts from the Psalms to show these two different statuses.
- Verse 5a quotes Psalms 2:7. The author or Hebrews likens Psalm 2 about a king that is called the “son” of God who will receive the ends of the earth as his inheritance. The likening to Jesus is obvious here, as Jesus is the Son of God. Luke in Acts 13:33 picks up on this Psalm too as a pointer to Jesus.
- Verse 5b quotes Psalm 89:26-27. Psalm 89 praises the mightiness of God, then turns to focus in a chosen one, namely David (Psalm 89:20), who calls God his “Father”. This chosen one will, like the king in Psalm 2, inherit the earth. The author of Hebrews likens this to Jesus as well in. These verses along with Psalm 2:7 show the father-son relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
- Verse 6 quotes Psalm 97:7 and also from Deuteronomy 32:43 in the Septuagint. The Hebrew Old Testament uses the word “אלהים”, (pronounced “el-o-heem”). The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) translates this to the Greek word for “angels” instead of “gods” likes like English Bibles do. The word “אלהים” is actually a plural in Hebrew, but the plurality can be used to show the majesty of the singular, one true God, which is the most common use of the word. When used as a plural, it can refer to angels, magistrates (Psalms 82), or gods in general. The author of Hebrews is applying the word to angels worshiping “him”, namely Jesus, who the psalm describes as magnificent.
- Verse 7 quotes Psalms 104:4. This psalm talks about the splendor and majesty of God. In the midst of the Psalm, the Psalmist says that God makes his “messengers” wind. In the Greek, the word for “angel” and “messenger” are one in the same. In any case, what the author is establishing that God makes his messengers (angels) winds that go out to do his bidding. Likewise, this verse talks about “tongues of fire” that are servants. Isaiah in a vision sees seraphim – blazing, serpent like creatures – hovering around the throne of God (Isaiah 6:2). This is probably a reference to these creatures. Both these allusions are to the servant-like roles the angels provide (Hebrews 1:14).
- Verses 8-9 quote Psalm 45:6-7. Psalm 45 is a love song given to a king and to God, seemingly interchangeably. It praises the righteousness of God and how the king loves righteousness too. Because the king loves righteousness, the king is anointed by God. The author of Hebrews applies this anointing to Jesus.
- Verses 10-12 quote Psalm 102:25-27. This psalm compares the eternalness of God to the finiteness of the created world. The author of Hebrews applies this eternalness to Jesus too.
- Verse 13 quotes Psalm 110:1: This verse is quoted or alluded to many times in the New Testament (Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 10:12-13). This psalm speaks of a Yahweh saying to the psalmist’s “lord”, telling this “lord” to sit at the right hand of God. Hebrews likens this “lord” to Jesus, who claims the right hand of God in a number of places elsewhere in the New Testament (Mark 16:9, Mark 14:62 (paraphrasing from Daniel 7:13-14) Acts 5:31, Acts 7:56, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, 1 Peter 3:22, and Revelation 5:7). Hebrews 10 later expounds on this psalm saying that Jesus is king who is also a priest like Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18).
These seven quotations show, as verse 14 concludes, that the angels are in subservient rolls while Jesus is in a roll of power, praise, and authority such that even the angels worship and bow down to him. The author of Hebrews wanted to establish that Jesus is higher than even the angels who worshiped around the throne, and in doing so shows the supremacy of Christ. This is important because Hebrews 2:6-9 establish that man was created lower than the angels. While Jesus was a man, his rightful was a place of authority that receives worship and from man and the angels.
Like angels, people too are the servants and ministers of Jesus. The authority, power, and majesty of Jesus elicit a response of awe and wonder from all who dare to gaze upon him. When Christians think about Jesus, they generally like to think about his love, compassion, mercy, and humanity. These things are certainly true, but one cannot forget the awesomeness of Jesus either! He truly is worthy of worship.
Lord, you are worshiped and served by angels and men alike. No one else is higher than you!