The Expository Files

  Jesus Is Superior To Angels!

Hebrews 1

Angels intrigue us. What do they look like? Do they really wear white, flowing robes and have large wings and halos? Hollywood produces movies occasionally whose theme is that a deceased person comes back as an angel who rights some injustice or helps some disadvantaged person. In such presentations, "angels" frequently appear a little harried, inept or even irreverent. One must remember, however, that Hollywood gets very little correct when it comes to the Bible.

Angels appear from time to time in the Biblical narrative. While not always destructive, they are anything but inept. King David saw an angel with a drawn sword stretched over the city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:16). An angel sent from the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (Isaiah 37:36). An angel assisted Elijah (1 Kings 19) and it was an angel who shut the mouths of the lions and saved the life of Daniel (Daniel 6:22).

During intertestamental history, the Jews became very interested in angels for the same reasons that we are. When the author of the book of Hebrews wrote to Jewish Christians, he began by asserting the superiority of Jesus Christ over angels.

Note the description of Jesus which appears in the first few verses of the first chapter of the book (Hebrews 1:1-4). Jesus is "heir of all things," and "the brightness of His [the Father's] glory and the express image of His [the Father's] person." He is the agent of creation and the sustainer of our world. Finally, Jesus has "by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they [the angels]" (1:4).

The writer of Hebrews supported his affirmation of Jesus' superiority over angels by noting that Jesus is given in the Scriptures a position which no angel ever occupied! Angels worshipped the baby Jesus and are basically servants (1:6-7). They are ministering spirits (1:7, 14). In contrast, the Father has announced Jesus as His Son and anointed Him as a righteous King (1:5, 8-9). Jesus is identified as deity (1:8 - "Your throne, O God,..."), Creator and given a position of honor at the right hand of the Father (1:10-12, 13).

The writer of Hebrews used an interesting form of argumentation to make his point about the relative position of angels to the Son of God. Twice he asked the question, "To which of the angels did He ever say..." and then quoted a statement which WAS directed to the Son (1:5, 13). The answer to his question is that God never said these things to any angel, implying that no angel could assume such a position as the Son occupies in light of God's silence! How many times has man defended his own behavior, stating that God had not expressly prohibited such action? If God's silence did not permit angels to presume to act according to their own whim, do we who are made a "little lower than the angels" (see Hebrews 2:6-7) dare to treat God's silence as permissive?

By Allen Dvorak
From Expository Files 5.12; December 1998