Hebrews 1:10-14: Made Higher Than the Angels, part 3.

Perhaps you are wondering why in the world we have spent so much time on this subject.  Well, the writer of Hebrews did.  We believe he was guided by the Holy Spirit.  What he wrote, therefore, is important.  Beyond that, though, there are other reasons.  There are at least two religions in this world, both of which teach falsehood about the Lord Jesus, which claim angels brought the revelation to their founder.

There are many people who look to angels, or spirits, or whatever – horoscopes and such – to guide their daily lives.  Besides that, there are many things, even in church,which draw our attention away from the Lord.  Recently, I saw a facebook post in which someone wanted folks to mention their church and pastor if they thought he was a great pastor.  I understand that.  At the same time, how about a church with a great Savior?

During the days of Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, it was a common practice to “church-hop.”  That is, because there were many great preachers in London at the time, some folks would go from church to church to “sermon-taste.”  It’s said that when folks left these other churches, they would say, “What a great sermon,” but when they left Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon’s church, they would say, “What a great Savior.”

That’s what we need, folks –

A great Savior.

Because we are great sinners.

The Bible tells us of that great Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.

In our previous posts, we’ve looked at the writer’s arguments proving the Lord’s superiority over angels.  These involved His person and His position.  This last post on ch.1 will focus on the final two evidences of that superiority.

1.  His Power, 1:10-12.

As we look at these verses, we are reminded about how much the Bible deals with origins and outcomes, and how little really it deals with what goes on in between.  It doesn’t ignore that, certainly, but it reminds us that this world isn’t all there is and that what we can see isn’t all there is.  Verses like Romans 8:27-30 and Ephesians 1 and 2, especially 1:3-12, 21; 2:7, emphasize more what God does than what we do.

The three verses in the title of our post encompass the entire history of creation.  Perhaps this is to remind us of the brevity of our own lives and the speed with which it goes by.  I’ll soon be 75, Lord willing, and I’m kind of taken aback when I remember something in the past and realize that it happened 50 or 60 years ago!  So long a time ago, and yet it seems so short!

The Past, v. 10, “You, LORD, laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.”   This is a quote from Psalm 102:25-27.  The Psalmist wrote this praise to Jehovah, or the Father.  The writer to Hebrews directs the Psalm to Jesus, the Son.  Another, incidental, proof of the deity of the Lord Jesus.  No faithful Hebrew could ever have done this if Jesus were not truly God.

The verse contrasts the Lord Jesus with His creation, and shows His greatness.  His is the workmanship behind everything, perfect workmanship, whether seen through microscope or telescope.

How long ago was “the beginning”?  Only God knows for sure, but likely not as long as we’re commonly told.  The only reason to believe that it happened billions of years ago is to allow for the time required by the theory of evolution.  There have been those who’ve tried to figure out when the beginning was by looking at the chronologies in the Bible.  The KJV of my youth had a note that Genesis 1:1 happened in 4004 B.C.  The difficulty with that is that the Bible was never given to establish a chronological time-line, but to establish connection between us and Adam.  I have no difficulty with the idea that the earth is more than 6,000 years old.  I just don’t think that it’s billions of years old.

Belief in evolution and the belief in creation are the viewpoints of two opposing religious systems, one which says that man is the creation of God and one which says that “god” is the creation of man.

Whenever the beginning was, the Lord Jesus was there.

The Present, v. 11, “They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment.”  The contrast is again between creation and its Creator.  Creation is perishing, wearing out, passing away, 1 Corinthians 7:31.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics also tells us this.  Our planet, like some old clothes, is wearing out, and all the “patching up” we can do isn’t going to stop it.

The Future, v. 12,  “Like a cloak, You will fold them up, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.”   This picturesque verse shows the tremendous power of the Creator, the Lord Jesus.  One day, He will fold the universe up like a worn-out piece of clothing and replace it, 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 20:11; 21:1.  How foolish we are to act as if this world, this life, will last forever.

2.  His Promise, 1:13, 14.

But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?”

 Certainly, no mere angel ever had such a promise made to it.  There’s a lot of discussion about what these verses mean, as well as other verses which deal with the Second Coming, but surely it may be noted that the time is coming, and we believe very soon, when every knee shall bow, …and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Philippians 2:10, 11.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”!

Angels only have a role of service, v. 14.  The Son is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

He has willing subjects.

Are we among them?

Hebrews 1:7-9: Made Higher Than the Angels, part 2.

[7] And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” [8]but to the Son He says:  “Your throne, O God, is forever and forever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (NKJV).

After having shown the superiority of the Lord Jesus over the OT prophets, in Heb. 1:4-14, the writer quoted seven OT verses to show His superiority over angels, who were very important beings in the OT.  These references cover four areas in which our Lord is superior to angels.  Our first post looked at the first superiority:  Jesus Christ is superior to angels in His person.  Today, we look at the second one:  the Lord Jesus is superior in position, vs. 7-9.

1.  A comparison, vs. 7-8.

With respect to angels, v. 7, their purpose.  They are made according to God’s purpose, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation, 1:14.  They will also play a role in the future, when God brings this world’s history to an end, Revelation 7:1-3; 14:18; 18:1.

There is another thought here that we’re only going to mention and that is found in the phrase in v. 7, “who makes His angels….”  The word translated “makes” is a present participle: “is making”.  Because the Bible doesn’t dwell on this, we just wonder if it tells us that angels aren’t “permanent”?  That they come and go, as it were?  Or perhaps their roles change over time?

This in contrast to the Son….

With respect to the Son, vs. 8, 9, His perpetuity, v. 8.  V. 8 reads, literally, “the throne of You, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Whatever v. 7 may mean as to the longevity or role of angels, there is no doubt about the Son.  He is eternal.

There are two views as to how verse 8 is to be translated.

1.  “God is your throne.”  This is the view of the Jehovah Witnesses, as well as of some other translations.  The JWs, of course, deny that the verse could refer to the Lord Jesus because, in their view, He is only a creature, “a god,” as they translate John 1:1, and not “the God.”  Others say that it doesn’t matter which way you translate it because both ways “fit”.  However, it seems to me that this translation would make Christ superior even to God, because the one who sits on a throne is greater than the throne.

2.  The verse is addressed to the Son as the God, with an eternal throne.  He had no beginning, in contrast to the angels, who do.

a.  He is addressed as God, v. 8a, “ho theos:”  “The God.”  Whereas John 1:1 refers to the nature and essence of the Word as God, here the writer addresses the Word Himself, the Lord Jesus, as “the God.”  In every way, He is equal to the Father, though not the Father.  It may seem that we overemphasize this, but there are whole movements of professed Christians who teach that Jesus and the Father are the same.  They are not.  We believe in the doctrine of the Trinity not because we can “understand” it, but because the Bible teaches it.  How can creatures whose lives are measured by a clock and a calendar understand Beings whose existence has no measurement?

b.  He is described as “righteous,” He “loved righteousness (equity, rectitude, uprightness) and hated lawlessness.”  His love (agape) led Him to the Cross to fulfill the righteousness of God.  But there’s something else here.  On every hand, we hear about “love.”  In the recent turmoil over marriage, it was said, “It’s just love.”  We’re told that we’re to be “loving,” apparently of everyone and everything, but this isn’t what the Bible says, You who love the LORD, hate evil! Psalm 97:10.  And it can’t be said, as it is in Luke 14:26, that “hate” simply means to “love less.”  The word in the Psalm means, “to hate.”  We’re entirely too “forgiving” and “tolerant” of that which the Lord detests, namely, sin.

There’s a building on my way to work on which someone put a sign:  “God loves you.  Trust Him.”   But Scripture says that for those apart from the Lord Jesus – those who do not believe on Him – it says that the wrath of God remains on them, not love, John 3:36.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no love – only wrath.  That’s not a popular idea, but the early church in Acts never once mentioned the love of God.

Some people have the mistaken idea that grace means that there are no barriers, no boundaries, we may do as we please.

That is not true.

This isn’t the place to get into a lengthy discussion about the Mosaic Covenant except to say that it was given only and specifically to the nation of Israel.  There are things there, such as the sacrificial system and all that involved, the dietary laws and the keeping of the Sabbath, which do not apply to anyone except Israel.  I know that many disagree, especially with the latter, sometimes vehemently.

There are things there, though, which do apply – not because of that Covenant, but because of something much greater…. and that is the Moral Law.  The Moral Law is the expression of that holiness, righteousness and justice that God requires of His human creation.  The Mosaic Covenant was that Law put into a specific historical environment.  For example, though we may not have to keep the Sabbath, we may not murder.  Paul refers to these things several times in his writings.  He mentions or quotes every one of the Ten Commandments, except for the fourth, not because they are from Moses, but because ultimately they are from God.

There has only ever been one Person who kept God’s law, and that was the Lord Jesus.  There are those who say, “I don’t sin,” but there’s only One Who could say that without lying.  He satisfied every requirement of God’s Law.

Though He never broke the Law, He went to the Cross because we do.  He satisfied the penalty of God’s Law, as well.  Those who believe on Him for salvation are credited with His obedience.  They are “saved.”  And they alone.

Hebrews 1:4-6, Made Higher Than The Angels, part 1.

[4] by so much having become better than the angels, as having received a more excellent name than they. [5] For to which one of the angels did he ever say at any time, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”?  And again, “I will be to him a father, and he himself shall be to me a son”?  And when he again shall introduce the firstborn into the world, he says, “And worship him, all angels of God.”  [author’s translation]

“God has spoken.”  This is the opening thought of Hebrews.  God hasn’t just left us to muddle through life, trying to figure out what’s going on and if there is something more than what we can see.  He has told us – about Himself and about the world around us, as well as the world to come.  He’s also told us about ourselves, things which no psychiatrist or psychologist could ever figure out, things which they deny.

In v. 1, the writer summarizes the OT revelation and contrasts it with the NT revelation.  In addition, and in particular, he contrasts the messengers through whom God spoke.  The OT messengers were just men, like those to whom they spoke.  Jesus Christ, the NT messenger, was also a man, but, as the writer shows in a succinct yet comprehensive statement in vs. 2, 3, He was and is much more than a man.  He was and is God, the God-man, God incarnated and manifested in human form and personality.

At present this One is seated “at the right hand of the majesty on high” – His humanity elevated to the dignity and honor of His deity – a reward for His voluntary humility and humiliation, as well as a restoration of that glory which He laid aside in order to become Man.

In addition, Hebrews tells us that Christ is “better” in a variety of other ways.  Essentially, the writer takes everything in the OT, things which were very dear to his readers, and shows that Christ is better than all these things, because these things all pointed to Him.

The writer continues, not only is Christ better than the OT prophets, vs. 1-4, He is better than angels, 1:6-2:18.

What we often overlook is the great role angels played in the OT in bringing messages from God to men, as well as in other ways.  Even the NT tells us that the Mosaic Law was ordained by angels in the hands of a mediator, Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:53.  Angels blocked the way back into the Garden of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:24.  Though some of these may have been appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ, angels appeared to Abraham, Genesis 18; to Lot, Genesis 19; to the parents of Samson, Judges 13; to Daniel, Daniel 8:17, 9:21, and, still in “OT times,” though we think of them as NT, to Zechariah, to Mary, to the shepherds tending their flocks, Luke 1, 2.

In addition, an angel killed 185,000 of Israel’s enemies in one night, 2 Kings 19:35; slew the first-born in Egypt, Exodus 12:23; slew 70,000 men when David sinned, 2 Samuel 24;15, 16; protected Elisha and his servant, 2 Kings 6:17; came to carry Elijah into heaven, 2 Kings 2:11.  Angels were very important to Israel.

Nevertheless, in this section the writer maintains that Jesus Christ is superior to angels, and he quotes seven OT references to prove it.  These references list four areas of the Lord’s superiority over angels.  In this post, we will look at the first three references, then in the next post, Lord willing, the other four references.

In the first three references, the writer asserts that Jesus Christ is superior to angels in His person, and this in two ways.

1.  He is Superior by Nature, “Son”, v. 5

In this verse, the writer quotes Psalm 2:7.  In Acts 13:32-34 and also in Romans 1:4, Paul quotes this same Psalm as referring to the Resurrection of our Lord.  The Resurrection was God’s seal of approval, if you will, on the claims of Christ to be the Son of God, claims which were ignored by Israel’s leaders and for which He was ultimately crucified, John 19:7.  Paul’s reference isn’t so much to the fact that Jesus is God the Son as it is to the truth that He is the Messiah, the “sign” and proof of which to Israel was to be the Resurrection:  Matthew 12:38-40; 16:1-4; Luke 11:16, 29-30; John 2:18-22.

We must pay close attention to what v. 5 says:  “to which one of the angels did he ever say at any time, ‘You are my Son…’?”  In other places in the OT, angels are called “sons of God”, Psalm 29:1; 89:7; Job 1:6, by virtue of their creation by God, but nowhere is any one angel singled out for the honor given to Jesus Christ.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is really Michael the archangel.   In another venue, a Jehovah’s Witness kindly pointed out verse 5 to me as evidence that Jesus was only an angel.  However, from the construction of the original language, the answer the writer clearly expected is that there is NO angel so honored.  Even the JW translation (1984 revision), which I certainly do not recommend, says this:  “For example, to which one of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son; I have become your father’?”

2.  He is Superior by Proclamation:  “Worship”, v. 6

So far from Jesus merely being an angel, and if only a creature like them, must worship God alone, here angels are commanded to worship Him.  And it is a command.

O measureless might!
Ineffable Love!
While angels delight
To hymn Thee above,
The humbler creation,
Though feeble their lays,
With true adoration
Shall lisp to Thy praise.

– Sir Robert Grant, 1839.

Hebrews 1:3: Alpha and Omega.

[3]…and maintaining all by the word of His power, [and] cleansing of sin having accomplished, was made to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high.  [author’s translation].

In v. 2, the writer taught that the Lord Jesus was the Originator of all things and that all things will ultimately be for His glory and honor.  To these words, the Lord Himself agrees:  “‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,’ says the Lord,” Revelation 1:8.

1.  His Power.

“maintaining all.”  This is a present active participle.  In the “maintenance” of the universe, the Lord isn’t just holding up it’s dead weight.  There is movement and progress.  It is He Who maintains cohesiveness in creation, keeping everything together.  It is Christ Who promotes and forwards the development of God’s purpose to its predetermined goal.  Nothing is omitted or left to “chance.”  The universe is not some cosmic “Las Vegas,” where everything is a gamble, and the odds are stacked against us.

This verse puts to rest the notions that even many Christians have that God is merely a spectator in human history, that He changes His plans according to how men live, or that He has to wait on the sidelines of His own creation until we decide to send Him into the game.  God has indeed instituted many “Laws of nature” or secondary causes, yet He still is the great First Cause, upon which all others causes depend.

“by the word.”  The universe came into being by this same word, Hebrews 11:3, and it is through this word that it continues to exist.

“of his power.”  There are several words translated “power” in the NT.  From this particular word, we get such English words as “dynamo”, “dynamic”, “dynamite.”  It is power to get the job done, as it were.  And it is His power, inherent to Him as God the Son.  There is more than enough “dunamis” in Christ.  God’s will shall be accomplished.

2.  His Purging of Sin.

“cleansing of sin.”  This clause isn’t separate from what has been written before concerning God’s eternal purpose.  Indeed, such verses as 1 Peter 1:20 indicate that Calvary and its results were that purpose.  However we may speculate about the origin of sin, or attempt to “reconcile” divine sovereignty and human freedom and individuality, or even “define” them, for that matter, there can be no doubt that the death of Christ was “foreordained.”

This clause introduces the priestly office of Christ, which occupies most of the rest of the book.  It refers to the “result” of Christ’s death.  Sin wasn’t merely “covered,” as in the OT; it was “cleansed,” or taken away.  This is why Christ died, Ephesians 5:25-27.  It is mainly in this that the New Testament is far superior to the First Covenant:

Under Moses,  guilt could not be taken away; under Christ, it cannot remain.

3.  His Position.

“was made to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high.”  We’ve already shown that we differ from those who teach “the heavenly session” of Christ.  Though we don’t really want to get into it here, we do not believe such a view is true to the Scriptures.  Even Hebrews itself, as we shall see, doesn’t support the idea of the present reign of Christ, Lord of all though He is.  When He rules as the Scripture pictures it, the indescribable things that are going on right now all over this world will not be possible.

We admit that many have brought the Word of God into disrepute with their speculation and date-settings, none of which have happened.  But we also believe that those who seem to deny the value of the study of prophecy also bring the Word into disrepute.  There is no area of Bible study about which the true Christian dares to say, “I don’t care.”

What does Hebrews say about the present ministry of the Lord Jesus?  This is only a summary, but see Leviticus 16:11-16 for the OT background, then follow up with Hebrews 2:7; 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 7:24-25; 9:11-15, 23-24.  See also 1 John 2:1, 2.

The Cross was only part of the priestly work of Christ.  He took His blood and presented it to God and now is in the ministry of intercession for those for whom that blood was shed.  It is because of His intercession that we have what we have, and not because of any “goodness” on our part.

In every dark distressful hour,
When sin and Satan join their power,
Let this dear hope repel the dart,
That Jesus bears us on His heart.

Great Advocate, Almighty Friend,
On Him our humble hopes depend:
Our cause can never, never fail,
For Jesus pleads, and must prevail.

– Anne Steele, 1760

Hebrews 1:3: The Son of God; God the Son.

“Who being [the] radiant splendor of His glory and [the] exact imprint of His nature,”  [author’s translation]

KJV, who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person,

NASB, And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature,

ESV, He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,

As we have perhaps belabored the point in these posts, Hebrews starts as it does in order that we might understand who spoke in NT times.  The writer says that God spoke – not just that God spoke in the prophets, but that He spoke in person, in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, Jesus is unique in history.  The OT prophet spoke as a messenger of God; the NT preacher or teacher speaks as a messenger of God, though not in the same way. There are no prophets today in the sense of bringing new revelation from God or as their being God.

Jesus spoke as the manifestation of God.

Five words or phrases in particular describe what we mean by “manifestation of God.”

1.  “being”.

This is a present participle, denoting absolute and timeless existence.  Cf. John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:6, 7; Hebrews 1:3 with 2:9, 17.  Note again the contrast between “being God,” and “becoming Man.”  There was indeed a point of origin for the humanity of Christ in the womb of His virgin mother.  There is no such beginning for Him as deity, as God.

2.  “radiant splendor”.

This is a difficult word of translate.  It doesn’t simply mean a “reflection” of God’s glory, as the moon reflects the light of the Sun.  Nor is it a part of it, like a “ray” of the Sun, or sunlight.  It is, as it were, the Sun itself.  In the OT, this “radiant splendor” was seen in the Shekinah Glory, and in the NT, we believe it was seen by the disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration, Matthew 17:2, by Saul on the Damascus road, Acts 9:3, and by John on Patmos, Revelation 1:16.  It’s a word which seems to me to speak of “fulness,” not of partiality.  It would tell us that what the Father is, the Son is, yet the Son is not the Father.

3.  “glory”.

I’m afraid this word is sometimes used in Christian circles without particular thought about what it really means.  What is the glory of God?  We’ve already referred to the Shekinah Glory, but there’s more to it than that.  It has been defined as “the expression of the divine attributes collectively.”  In other words, God’s glory is seen in everything that He is and does.

There are different facets of God’s glory.  There is what might be called “an essential glory,” that is, what comes from who He is, infinite and eternal, or “the three O’s” (omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient).  But there is also glory in what He does, whether in His common grace, as seen in His providential care of His creation, or in His special grace, as seen in His particular care of believers, His elect.  There is also a glory in what Paul calls “His severity,” Romans 11:22, in which His just wrath is and will be poured out on the unbeliever.

All of these are present and revealed in and by the Lord Jesus Christ.

4.  “exact imprint”.

The Greek word has come over into English: “character”.  The word originally described an engraving tool, then came to mean the mark left by that tool.  The image in the metal reproduced in every detail the image of the tool.  It was also used of the mark on a coin which determined its value.

Though the Lord Jesus was human, yet He bore the exact imprint, the precise reproduction, of deity, so that even to the unsaved, it was evident that He was more than a mere man.

5.  “nature”.

This word refers to a substructure, or foundation.  It tells of the substance, the reality, underlying the appearance.  In our verse, it refers to God’s essential being – what He is as God.  Jesus Christ showed forth in faithful, clear, precise and exact detail what the Father was like.  He could do this because in every clear, precise and exact detail, He is God.

There are just a couple of final thoughts.  There are two names from Christian history which have influence even today because of the ideas they introduced into Christianity.  If we may use the word, they lived before a clear understanding of the Trinity was developed.  Indeed, they are the reason it was developed.

1.  Sabellius, early third century.  He taught that there was just one Person, with three names.  Since his day, other views similar to his have been promoted.  Most of the “illustrations”  used today of the Trinity are actually Sabellian.  For example, I am father to my son, son to my father, and, let’s say, husband to my wife.  The egg consists of white, yolk and shell.  Etc., etc.  There is no adequate illustration of the Trinity.

Having said that, perhaps the one that comes closest may be the cube.  A cube has length, width and height, yet it is one cube.  Without any one of those three things, it’s no longer a cube.  Yet the height isn’t the length or width, the length isn’t the height or width, and the width isn’t the height or length, still they all exist together at the same time in the one cube.

In a similar manner, the one Godhead is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit, the Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son, yet They all exist together at the same time as the one God.  Without any one of them, there would be no God.  To deny any one of them is to deny God.

The New Testament clearly teaches the individuality of each member of the Trinity.  The baptism of our Lord is just one example.  In the baptism we see the Father speaking, the Son praying and the Spirit descending.

2.  Arius, early fourth century.  He taught that the Son is merely a creature.  He was the forerunner of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others.  We have certainly shown, or so we hope, that Jesus Christ is God, not a creature.

Some have sneered that Athanasius, the main opponent of Arius, was willing to split Christianity over a diphthong:
homoousios, one substance with the Father,
homoiousios, of similar substance – like God.

But, after all, there is a considerable difference in meaning between these two words, though they have only the difference of one vowel in spelling: