JESUS CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS
The superiority of the Son has always been an issue among religious people. It has never been an issuewith "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." In the minds of men, the Son has been seen as a threat to human institutions and modes of thought. Early Judaizers considered Him inferior to Moses andthe Law. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus was opposed by those with an inordinate attachment to Law.
How many are the things that have been exalted above the Lord Jesus Christ. These represent considerations that dominate the minds of men, motivating them and determining the direction of their thinking. These competing considerations include religious institutions, the family, government, ecology, education, popularity, financial independence, and entertainment. Surface thinkers think nothing of saturating their minds with history, astronomy, mathematics, fiction, and poetry. They do not give sufficient time to hearing Jesus, even though He is the exclusive One through Whom God now speaks to them. Too often, those that come in the name of the Lord actually question the validator applicability of Christ's words. It is astounding how prevalent this condition is.
In our text, the Spirit is doing more than asserting the superiority of Jesus Christ. He is showing the unacceptableness of any other view. Because our affection is to be placed on things above, and not on things on the earth(Col 3:1-3), we are being led to consider the Son of God. The result of this consideration will be two-fold. First, we Willie lifted out of ourselves, our weaknesses, and the distracting environment of the seen. Second, we will be brought within the range of blessing, where the ministration of Christ can be realized.
The Means to the Blessing
A word concerning the Divinely appointed means of appropriating salvational benefits is in order. This is particularly relevant as we review the Spirit's exaltation of the Son of God. It is not enough to have an academic understanding of Scripture--particularly as it relates to Jesus. Mind you, we are not to despise such knowledge, but it is elementary, and incapable of bringing eternal benefits to you. How wonderfully this is expressed in God's Word. " . . . making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph 1:16b-17, NASB). " . . . seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him . . . " (2 Pet 1:3, NASB).
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Pet 1:2, KJV). "For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . . " (2 Pet 2:20a, NASB).
The "knowledge" mentioned in these texts is not limited to intellectual knowledge. This is experiential knowledge. It speaks of spiritual involvement with the Son of God. The word "knowledge" comes from epignosis, ep-ig'-no-sis; and means recognition, i.e. full discernment, acknowledgment. Thayer's Greek Lexicon says,"to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly; to know accurately, know well." This is knowledge that comes from acquaintance with Christ Himself, not merely the record about Him. It necessarily includes Scriptural knowledge, but it extends beyond that. Faith goes further than the intellect. It is rational, but goes beyond rationality.
This means that our exposure to the text of Scripture must be coupled with a believing heart. Jesus has promised identity with the individual that is intent upon knowing Him. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he its who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him. . . Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:21,23). This is the "knowledge" that characterizes the New covenant. " . . . they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest" (Heb 8:11). This is joyful familiarity with the Lord. It began with our exposure to God's Word. It was brought to culmination by means of our faith, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no salvation without this type of knowledge. In fact, eternal life, which is salvation in its totality, is knowing the Lord. As it is written, "And this is eternal life, thatched may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3, NASB).
Because the Spirit works with the Word of God (which is His "sword"), time will be spent proclaiming the Lord Jesus. He will be declared in His exalted state, which is altogether glorious. This proclamation will exert a compelling influence upon the hearts of men, drawing them into the circumference of Divine influence. There, in the light of the Son of God, recovery from withdrawals to a system of Law will be experienced. Thus, we are not merely viewing information in this text. Rather, we are being exposed to an undiluted proclamation of our Savior. These words will become the building blocks for our perception of Christ. That perception, if true, will be the vehicle through which the Lord will make himself known to us.
Allow me to emphasize this important point. Our view of Christ is not based upon personal daily experiences. It is not what Jesus has done "for me" that brings the greatest degree of clarity, but how the Spirit declares Him in the Scripture. Without laboring this to the point of distraction, let me affirm it one more time. Our spiritual familiarity with the Person of Christ is the means through which we are being saved. The purpose of this section of Hebrews is providing the lofty view of God's Son that is required to experience fellowship with the Son (1 Cor 1:9). There is no salvation without that!
TO WHICH OF THE ANGELS . . . ?
The Father's View of the Son
The Spirit begins to shape our thinking by focusing on the Father's attitude toward the Son. This is a foundational view, and is essential to the apprehension of salvation. What we think of Jesus is of little consequence if He is not honored by the Father. That is not as elementary as it may seem. Jesus spoke on this subject, and did so with the greatest sobriety."All things have been handed over to me by my Father .. . " (Matt 11:27a, NRSV). "The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in His hands" (John 3:35, NRSV). "The Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing . . . " (John 5:20, NRSV).
"The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son . . . " (John 5:22)."For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself . . . " (John5:26,NRSV). " . . . the Son of Man will give you. For it is on Him that God the Father has set His seal" (John 6:27, NRSV)." . . . the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world . . . " (John 10:36, NRSV).
Loving the Son, the Father has placed everything in His hand. Nothing--absolutely nothing--can be received from god that is not dispensed by Jesus! The Father has divulged His eternal purpose to the Son. Nothing, therefore, can be known concerning what God is doing that is not administered by the Lord Jesus Christ! The Father has also given the Son to have life in Himself; i.e., to be a life-giver! "Life," in this case, means a vital relationship with God. This is not possible without the Son of God. There is no identity with the living God apart from "fellowship" with the Son (1 Cor 1:9).
You cannot make too much of the Father's attitude toward the Son. Your salvation depends upon the relationship of the Father to the Son. Remember, the Son is representing you. If the Father does not receive and honor Him, He will not receive or honor you! Do not take this truth for granted. Your mind is to dwell upon it. Take it into your heart and ponder it, for faith must have this perspective! A self-serving view of the Son will not sustain you. He must be seen as God's Son--One that is highly honored and favored! As "the Son," He is implementing the will of the Father, not the will of humanity. Enough is not being made these days of the Father's relationship to the Son.
Now the Spirit begins a remarkable comparison of the Son of God to the angelic order. His purpose is not to provide us with an academic comparison. His words bear directly upon our salvation. Our present and ultimate deliverance depend upon the ministry of Jesus Christ. It will require more than powerful angels to bring us home to God! There are an innumerable company of angels, sent to minister to the heirs of salvation--but more is needed than that to enable us to arrive safely in glory! Mighty archangels cannot "bring us to God!" Nor, indeed, can the six-winged Seraphim or the faithful Cherubim. Only the Son can do that!
Thou Art My Son
A poignant question is asked of us. We are to consider it with sobriety and expectation. "For to which of the angels did He ever say: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'?" (1:5, NKJV). This is a quotation of Psalms 2:7.This strong affirmation of the divinity of Jesus was quoted by Paul at Antioch of Pisidia with reference to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. "And we declare to you glad tidings; that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'" (Acts 13:33).
This is the confirmation of the accessability of salvation! "Today," as you must know, is a significant word in the redemptive economy. It is equivalent to "this is for you," "this is the time," or "it is within your reach." Do you remember some of the Spirit's affirmations? "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21)."Today salvation has come to this house" (Luke 19:9). "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today'" (Heb 3:13). "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts" (Heb 4:7). It is as though the Spirit were saying, "This is the time of the fulfillment of all the glorious promises of old. The Father has, through the Son, ripped the veil in two, and opened the fountain for cleansing. In reliance upon the Father, and in fulfillment of His eternal purpose, the Son has brought this great salvation within our grasp!" There are places in Scripture where angels are called "the sons of God." "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them . . . "Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD . . . When (creation) the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 1:2,6; 38:7). The Spirit, however, does not ask if the angelic order is called "the sons of God." Rather, He asks if any single angel has ever been declared to be God's son. Was there ever a point in time when one of these powerful creatures began to be the son of God! Emphatically, there was not! No angel is the "express image of God!" The fulness of the Godhead does not dwell in any angel. The six-winged seraphim, and the mighty cherubim do not precisely and fully reflect the glory of God!
That is something of what is involved in the term "Son of God." God has never spoken to one of the angelic order in this manner. As faithful as they are, "who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!" (Psa 103:20), God the Father has never honored a single one of them by saying "Thou art my son!" This is not, then, a trite saying--a sort of theological buzzword! The Son is associated with God in His majesty, and shares in His everlasting throne (Heb 1:3; Rev 3:21).
How refreshing to read of the Son, " . . . who was declared the Son of God with power . . . " (Rom 1:4, NASB). 149 times the Holy Spirit refers to "the Son" in Scripture! 35 of those times, Jesus is called simply "the Son," emphasizing the uniqueness of that term. 38 times we read of "the Son of God", showing an exclusive identity with the Father. 69 times He is called "the Son of Man," underscoring that He is the premier man, standing alone in distinctness. Twice God spoke from heaven saying, "This is My . . . Son" (Matt 3:17; 17:5). No elect angel has been afforded such an honor--even though they have no sin, are faithful to fulfill all of their commissions, and abide around the Throne of the Majesty in the heavens! The distinction of "the Son of God" is not WHERE He is, but WHO He is! Over and above even the work of the Son is His Person. With men, WHO they are is generally the result of what they have accomplished. The work of our Lord, however, is impacted by WHO He is. It is true, He has been exalted because of His voluntary and vicarious death. However, that did not change WHO He was! It is not so with the angelic order.
The confession of Jesus as "the Son of God" is the single acknowledgment that qualifies the individual for Divine recognition. It is a confession that confirms the Father has blessed the individual (Matt 16:16-17). It qualifies one to be baptized into Christ (Acts 8:37). This mighty confession empowers the believer to overcome the world (1 John 5:4-5).More than that, this is what makes a believer a "believer." We are not believers because we have accepted a humanly conceived creed, or because we do not question the doctrines of a denomination! It is because we believe Jesus Christ is THE Son of God. That sets Him apart from the entire angelic order, to say nothing of mankind!
I Will Be A Father To Him
The Father has never said to an angel--any angel--"I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son." Here, again, is a remarkable use of Scripture. As we sit at the feet of Jesus, and hear words spoken by the Holy Spirit, we begin to sense there is a MESSAGE in Scripture that transcends its historical setting and circumstance. This quotation is taken from 2 Samuel 7:14. "I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men" (NIV). The immediate reference of this text is to Solomon, David's son(2 Sam 7:12-13; 1 Chron 17:13; 22:10; 28:6). The prophecy, however, reached further than Solomon, who was only an introductory fulfillment--a shadow of the Substance. Psalms 89:26-27, a contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite, confirms this to be the case. "He will cry to Me, 'Thou art my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation. I also shall make him My first-born, The highest of the kings of the earth" (NASB).
The Father did beget the Son, and Jesus was born "the Son of God." More is involved in this expression, however, than that. It is possible for a father to be unrecognized by his son, or for the son to be a disgrace to the father (Cain, Ham, Ishmael, Esau, Absalom, etc.). It is also possible for a son to leave his father (prodigal), or for it to be "better" that a son was never born (Judas). But this is not the case with Jesus! The relationship of the Father and His "only begotten Son"continued without a single interruption until His vicarious death upon the cross. Then, and only then, He was "forsaken"by God in order that He might be again received, together with all of the children God had given Him (Matt 27:46; Heb 2:13).
Who but Jesus could say, "I always do the things that are pleasing to Him" (John 8:29). Their relationship is so close that only Jesus can "explain" the Father (John 1:18, NASB). In fact, "Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matt 11:27). When it comes to the Son, "no one knows the son except the Father" (Matt 11:27). This is something of the involvements of God being a "Father" to the Son, and our Savior being His "Son." But this is not a mere legal arrangement--something that is correct because of how Jesus was born, or due to the filial relationship between the Father and the Son while He tabernacled with us. The Spirit is speaking of this relationship in association with our salvation! With Jesus in the capacity of a Savior, God was a Father to Him, and Jesus was His Son. That is to say--glory to God--the Father upheld the Son in His mission! Prophetically, it was stated this way. "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold . . . The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me . . . I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth . . . He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD" (Isa 42:1; 49:6; 61:1; Micah 5:4, NASB).
The confessions of Jesus during His earthly ministry also reveal the closeness of the Father to the Son. Those with eyes to see can behold Divine purpose in these statements. "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing . . . And the Father who sent me, He has borne witness of Me . . . it is My Father who glorifies Me" (John 5:19, 37; 8:54 NASB). Jesus constantly resorted to the Father for strength. At the threshold of His ministry He did this (Matt 4:1-4), and at the conclusion as well (Matt 26:39). During His ministry, He spoke to and relied upon the Father (Matt 11:25,26; 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 9:18,28; John 12:28-29; John 17). Jesus did not pray out of formality. He was being sustained in His mission! This was a Father/Son relationship, requisite to the salvation of the world!
What angel was ever so sustained? Angels have been sent on many missions, but none of them were upheld by the Father like the Son was! Their missions were minuscule next to His! They were sent to destroy a city (Gen 19:13),overthrow an army (2 Kgs 19:35), appear in a bush (Ex 3:2), and deliver the Law (Acts 7:53). But their ministries were never underwritten like that of the Son.
Let All the Angels . . . Worship Him!
And how will the Spirit show the superiority of the Son of God to angels? Will He show us the miracles the Son of Man wrought? Will He compare those abundant displays of Divine power to the ministry of angels? His words are arresting. "And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him" (Heb 1:6, NIV). There is some question as to whether this refers to the incarnation of the Son, or His second appearing. The NASB and NKJV favor the latter: i.e., "And when He again brings the first-born into the world." Grammatically, the solution is not simplistic. Of the dilemma one has said, "If ""palin"" [again] is taken with ""eisagagh""| [brings] the reference is to the Second Coming as in 9:28. If "palin" [again] merely introduces another quotation (Ps 97:7) parallel to ""kai "palin" ["and again"] in verse 5, the reference is to the incarnation when the angels did worship the Child Jesus (Lu 2:13f.).There is no way to decide certainly about it. Bear with me while I reason upon this expression. First, we are not confined to one of these two views. The Son was "brought into the world" at His birth. He will also be "brought into the world" when He "appears the second time"(Heb 9:28). Consider, He was also "brought into the world" at His resurrection, returning from the region of the dead(Psa 26:10; Acts 2:27; Rom 10:7). The sense of this text does not seem to be answered in an isolated view.
Remember--the point of our text is the superiority of the Lord Jesus to the angelic order. The relevance of both angels and men are seen within the context of God's workings in the world. There is no question about the superiority of the Son to angels in heaven, whether before His incarnation or after His exaltation to the right hand of God. Prior to being"made of a woman, made under the Law" (Gal 4:4), the angels worshiped Him because He created them (Col 1:16-17).Following His exaltation, they worshiped Him because they were made subject to Him by the Father (1 Pet 3:22). What is more, when He is revealed "the second time," the worship of angels is also taken for granted. They will accompany him, He will not accompany them (Matt 25:31). Then, the angels will be His servants (Matt 24:31). They will gather the saints to Him. Too, He will not be brought "into the world" at that time as He was the first time. The "heavens and the earth"will "flee" from before His face the second time (Rev 20:11). Make no mistake about this, the angels will surely be worshiping Him when He comes again--but that is not the point of our text.
It is when He was "brought into the world" the first time that particularly accentuates His superiority. This is Jesus in a humbled state, having divested Himself of all of the prerogatives of Deity. When, at birth, He was "brought into the world," He could neither bless or curse, pray or preach, guide or feed. He had to be cared for, nourished, and protected. He had to be rescued from Herod, and raised to "increase in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:40,52). It was then, in that humbled condition, that the cry went out in heaven, "Let all the angels of god worship Him!" Who can forget the arresting words of Scripture: "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:12-14).
Such things never occurred at the birth of anyone else. As great as were Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, the heavenly hosts did not praise God at their birth! The praises of angels were not even heard at the birth of John the Baptist! But when God brought His only begotten Son into the world, the angelic order was called into activity. An angel announced His birth (Luke 1:26-29), revealed the name of the Holy Child (Lk 1:31), allayed the concerns of Joseph (Matt 1:20), and directed him in the care of the Child (Matt 2:13,19). Angels ministered to Jesus in His temptation (Matt 4:11),and one these holy ones strengthened Him in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
All of this confirms the superiority of the Son to the angelic order. They served Him when He was in the world! Michael, one of the chief angels, helped another angel in a conflict (Dan 10:13). That conflict, however, was not in the world, but in heavenly places. Angels did not come to the aid of angels in the world, but they did come to the aid of the son. They worshiped Him when He was "brought into the world."
Sit On My Right Hand
The "right hand" of God is of especial significance. The term itself is used to acquaint us with aspects of God that can be known by the redeemed. His "right hand" introduces us to favor and blessing, as well as authority and purpose. The overthrow of enemies is associated with His right hand. "Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy" (Ex 15:6,12). Satisfying pleasures are also related to God's right hand. "Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever" (Psa 16:11, NASB).
Salvation through loving-kindness is also tied to the right hand of God. "Wondrously show thy steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at thy right hand" (Psa 17:7, RSV; 44:3). The right hand of our God is related to upholding and protection. "Thy right hand upholds me; And Thy gentleness makes me great" (Psa 18:25, NASB). Here is a place of Divine activity! The enemies of God are subdued, and the people of God are blessed from this position. Tutelage and satisfaction are ministered from here.
The Spirit proclaims that Jesus has been exalted to this position--the right hand of God. He is now "sitting on the right hand of power" (Matt 26:64). In the concluding words of His Gospel, Mark declared, "So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19). Peter proclaimed this truth on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33,34). He continued declaring it in succeeding announcements of the Gospel (Acts 5:31). When dying at the hands of his fellow-Israelites, Stephen said He saw Jesus standing at God's right hand (Acts 7:55-56). Paul proclaimed Christ's exaltation to that position (Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1). The book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to this truth (Heb 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). Peter mentions it in his first epistle (1 Pet 3:22).
Our text asks if there has ever been an angel seated at the right hand of the "majesty in the heavens." Indeed, there has not! Lofty heavenly spirits are around the heavenly throne. They are so described in the book of Job (Job 1:6-8; 2:1-3).Isaiah saw six-winged Seraphim in the proximity of God's throne (Isa 6:2ff). Zechariah saw Joshua the high priest standing before a mighty angel, in the very throne room of God (Zech 3:1-5). Who can forget the powerful presence of angels depicted in the book of the Revelation (Rev 7:11). Yet, none of the angels were directed to sit on the right hand of the "majesty in the heavens."
Jesus is superior to angels because He currently is seated at the right hand of God! What is the significance of that circumstance? Our Savior is the exclusive means through which the grace, or favor, of God is experienced. He has the sole power to guide, feed, strengthen, and illuminate. He alone can give righteousness, peace, and joy. The Holy Spirit himself ministers to us in the behalf of Christ. Salvation in its entirety is administered by Him. He is the One that has charge of writing God's law upon our hearts and putting it into our minds. The fruit of the Spirit is under His government, as well as placement in the body of Christ. No angel has ever been given such responsibilities! The Son of God is superior to angels! If the cry goes out in heaven, "Let all the angels of God worship Him," what of those on earth. Let there be recognition among all professed believers of the greatness of Christ's Person!
WHAT ARE ANGELS?
This is certainly not intended to demean angels. It is intended to exalt the Son! Jesus has not been exalted at the expense of angels. The holy angels have lost nothing with the Father's accentuation of the Son. They have not been lowered or made to occupy a lesser position. None of their ministry has been taken from them! If anything, the ministry of angels has been enhanced by the "day of salvation." The reigning Christ enlarges all that is under Him. Everything and every one aligned with Jesus is exalted, improved, and enlarged. In order to draw a proper comparison between Jesus and angels, it is essential that we first review some of the remarkable ministrations of the angelic order. This will be concise, yet is designed to impress us with the greatness of this elect body of spirits.
The book of Job informs us of the presence of angels at the creation (Job 38:7). "The Cherubim," members of this holy body, was responsible for making the tree of life inaccessible to humanity (Gen 3:24). Jude reminds us that angels were involved in the curse of the flood (Jude 14-15). An angel directed Hagar, after she had been expelled from Abraham's house (Gen 16:7-10; 21:17). Angels were sent to destroy Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain (Gen 19:1,15). It was an angel that called out to Abraham as he raised the knife to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:11,15). The angels of God met Jacob as he went on his way (Gen 32:1). It was an angel that appeared to Moses in a flaming bush (Ex 3:2).Another angel led Israel out of Egypt, and protected them from the Egyptians (Ex 14:19; Num 20:16). The Law was given by the disposition of angels, and is called a word spoken by angels (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). Angels led Israel after they had received the Law (Ex 23:20,23; 32:34; 33:2). An angel touched the discouraged prophet Elijah while he lamented under a juniper tree--and even prepared a meal for him (1 Kgs 19:5-7). Angels were used to chasten the people of Israel(1 Chron 21:12-30). A single angel cutoff the mighty men of valor of the King of Assyria (2 Chron 32:21). An angel delivered Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednigo from the fiery furnace (Dan 3:28). Another shut the mouths of the lions, in the den into which Daniel was cast (Dan 6:22). An angel talked extensively with the prophet Zechariah, showing him the relevance of visions given to him (Zech 1:9ff).
Our text summarizes the entire ministry of angels in a few words. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:13, NASB). This is the primary ministry of the angelic order! They were used to curse the wicked in the flood, judge the Egyptians, and to destroy Sodom. However, that was not their primary work! They gave the Law, announced the Savior, and warned the wise men from the East. But that was not their primary ministry or service. God has made them to serve those "appointed to obtain salvation" (1 Thess 5:9). This is not their ONLY work, but it is their fundamental activity. An angel struck king Herod when he wickedly took too much honor to himself (Acts 12:23). However that is not the primary work of angels. Their main activity is ministering to the saints of God. In Christ, this service is brought to its highest and most notable level.
Angels are servants--servants to those redeemed by the blood of theLamb. That is a noble ministry! It is not to be despised--particularly by those that benefit from it. We might note how this conflicts with much of the emphasis of the contemporary church. While the saints languish on minuscule spiritual diets, and humanly-devised programs are initiated to purportedly "reach the lost," the Head of the church has marshaled the heavenly host to serve the heirs of salvation. This is, indeed, an arresting consideration.
However, what is their work compared to that of the Son of God? That is the point of our text! The Spirit takes the most imperial of all created beings, and places them beside the Son of God--in capacity of "the Son." He does not compare them to God, but to the "Son of God." He does not compare them to the Father, but to the One the Father commissioned to save the world. And how does the comparison appear?
The Son shines like the noon day sun amidst twinkling stars. The angels in all of their greatness are but dimly lit lamps next to the Son of God! They are servants, He is the Head of the house. They serve, He reigns! They come to the throne, He sits in the throne!
WHAT IS SAID TO THE SON
Now our attention is turned to the theme of this book--the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Remember, our focus is THE SON OF GOD! He is superior to the angels, who themselves are superior to the best of mankind. What Man is there who would compare himself with an angel of God? What group of men would dare to place themselves on parr with the elect angels of God? No person has ever confronted an angel and thought himself to be significant--and angels have less significance than the Son! Too, remember we are considering the Father's view of the Son, not that of our peers, be they prophets or Apostles.
Thy Throne, O God . . .
The quotation is taken from Psalm 45:6. "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Thy kingdom" (NASB). Here is a Messianic Psalm, written for the sons of Korah. Those with a penchant for context will find it difficult to find an obvious reference to the Son of God in this Psalm. The Holy Spirit informs us,.however, that this is the Father speaking about the Son. "But about the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom'" (Heb 1:8, NIV). The Father said to the Son, ". . . O God . . . " Christ's humanity did not diminish His Deity. It is true, He "humbled Himself," setting aside the prerogatives of Deity (Phil 2:6-7). However, we must not miss the point here. The Father called "the Son" "God." Let us, then, be about using the term "Son" in reference to the Lord Jesus. No angel was ever so addressed!
A Righteous Scepter
The mark of Christ's kingdom is righteousness! That is the evidence of His eternal reign. This is not mere humanly accomplished righteousness. It is not the result of law-keeping, notable though that may be. This is the righteousness announced in the Gospel. "For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed . . . "(Rom 1:17a).There are two sides to the remarkable coin of salvation. Firstly, God Himself is righteous in the exoneration of sinful men. As it is written, " . . . whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:25-26). There is not an angel in heaven or a demon in hell that can question the uprightness of our salvation. God Himself is righteous in removing our sins and accepting us into His favor. Wherever fallen sinners are recovered, having their sins remitted and their names written in the Lamb's book of life, the righteousness of God is revealed! That is the scepter, or token, of Christ's kingdom.
Secondly, the righteousness of God is not only proclaimed by the Gospel, it is experienced by the justified Agnatha glory of the announcement of God's righteousness is found in the upright giving of it to the believer. As the Spirit says elsewhere, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 2:21-23).
The righteousness of God is experienced by the believer "apart from the Law." That is, it is not conferred because of the fulfillment of the Law by the individual. The Spirit confirms there is no other way for men to become righteous:"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Ordinarily, this verse is used to declare that all men are sinners. That, of course, is a true statement. However, that is not the point of this text. Righteousness is conferred upon men through faith, because there is no other way for it to be conferred. Because "all have sinned [past] and come [present] short of the glory of God," uprightness can never be earned. It can never be imparted to men upon the basis of their achievement.
Where "imputed" or credited righteousness is found, you have the scepter, or mark, of Christ's kingdom(Rom 4:6-8,11,22). While Jesus does reign righteously over all men, including His people, Lordship is not point of this text.
That sort of rule existed independently of Christ's incarnation and vicarious atonement. He was "before all things," and has always been "Lord of all." Our text is affirming the reign of Jesus as regards the salvation of men.
The Oil of Gladness
The dialog of the Father with the Son continues. "You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions" (v 9).
The character of the Son perfectly reflects that of the Father. He relished righteousness and abhorred iniquity. The prophet Isaiah foretold this aspect of the Savior. "Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good" (Isa 7:15). How precious this was in the sight ofthe Father.
The love of the Father for the individual that thinks as Himself is rarely known. However, it is epitomized in the Son. Behold it with joy, and aspire to partake of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). The joy of the angels is very much inferior to that of the Son of God. This is a quotation of Psalms 45:7.
The sixth verse of that Psalm is quoted in the previous verse of our text. We learn here of the centrality of Christ in all of Scripture. He is the grand Subject that is always discussed, whether known or unknown by the prophets themselves.
The joy of angels is not mentioned often. Jesus said, "I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Lk 15:10). Their joy, however, is nothing to compare with that of the Son. The gladness of the Son of God in respect to salvation is worthy of our consideration. Our text informs us that God has given Him this joy, anointing Him with superlative measures. One of the unusual expressions of this joy is found in Luke 10:20-21. "At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight" (NASB).
Showing the relevancy of this joy, Jesus spoke of it to His disciples prior to His vicarious death. "These things. I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" John 15:11, NASB). When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He again referred to this joy. "But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves" (John 17:13). What sort of joy was this? Why is it peculiarly Christ's? This is the joy of the Godhead. It is the result of the fulfillment of God's "eternal purpose." This is not an imposed joy, like the supposed laughter in the Spirit that is being claimed today. The joy with which Jesus was anointed is a rational joy. It was given because of marvelous accomplishments. Jesus rejoices because Satan has been frustrated(Heb 2:14). The reconciliation of the world to God has produced joy in heaven (2 Cor 5:18-20). The casting down of principalities and powers that had plundered humanity is cause for rejoicing. Even above these things, Jesus rejoices because He has been given the "heathen" for His inheritance, according to the Father's promise (Psa 2:8). If you are joyful over salvation, it is nothing to be compared with the joy of the angels. Their joy, on the other hand, is nothing in comparison with that of the Son. He has been anointed with the oil of joy above His heavenly companions.
Child of God, you have a joyful Savior! He is glad to see you come to Him, and rejoices at your reliance upon him. We do not come to an angry God, or to a displeased Savior. Once this is perceived with some degree of clarity, the joy will spill over to the perceiving one. I acknowledge this is not a common view.
Salvation is often preached as an obligation; i.e., God provided it, and you had better receive it! There is certainly an element of truth to that, but it is not the central element. Thou Remainest The eternality of the Son is joyfully proclaimed. The Spirit points us to the magnificent creation. In "the beginning," the One that has saved us created all of these things. The Holy Spirit does not summon men to testify of this truth, although several prophets could be brought forth with glowing testimony. Instead, He continues relating the words of the Father to the Son.
This is the manner in which the Father views the Son--His "only begotten Son." We must not allow the apparent simplicity of the declaration to obscure its greatness to us. "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands" (1:10, NKJV).
THE MARVEL OF CREATION IS NOT ITS COMPLEXITY, BUT ITS CREATOR!
As glorious as the created "worlds" are, "they will perish" (1:11). They are not to be the objects of our affection, or the focus of our attention. However complex and intriguing creation may be, it is still temporal. As such, it is improper to allow it to dominate our thinking. Like a garment, it is growing old, destined to "pass away." But what of the Son? The Father says, "You remain!" To some, it may seem pointless for the Father to so address the Son. That is only because they have a flawed view of both the Father and the Son.
Remember, everything created was made by the Son and for the Son. He upholds everything by the Word of His power. Now the Spirit affirms the Son will induct the cessation of all things. Again, the Father says to the Son, "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"(1:12, NIV). The point here is not that the years of the Son will never end, while those of angels will. Rather, it is the things that are made will not dissipate until the Son folds them up like a garment. He, and He alone, shall put off the tattered rags of mortality, that death in its entirety may be swallowed up of life (2 Cor 5:4). Temporal things will not simply pass away by a schedule! The Son of God, responsible their creation, is also responsible for their termination.
Creation cannot fail without the word of Jesus. The sun cannot fail to shine without a word from our King! Stars cannot fall from their heavenly places unless the Son of God speaks the word! Heaven and earth shall, indeed, pass away. But it will only occur when our Savior says it is time! No angel has ever been afforded such honor as this.
The Spirit continues the comparison of our blessed Lord with the angels. "But to which of the angels has He ever said: 'Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool'?" (1:13, NKJV). Again, this is the Father speaking to the Son. The Father has never spoken to any angel like this! The Father is ordering the universe for the Son! Every enemy--every personality at variance with the Son--will be brought into subjection to Him.
The gravity of this statement is arresting. Wherever a word has been spoken that is incongruousness with the words of the Son of God, a day of reckoning is coming. There is no way to avoid the confrontation.
The Father will place all such personalities under the feet of His Son. Thus, God will be fully vindicated through the Son. As it is written, "Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: 'So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge'" (Rom 3:4, NIV). In view of this, men should take care that their words are harmonious with those of the Son.
Men whose objectives are at variance with those of the Son will bow before Him, acknowledging they were wrong. In this world, surface thinkers overlook goals that conflict with the revealed intentions of God. But this circumstance is not overlooked by the Lord. All who have objectives that are at variance with those of the Son will be placed under His feet. Men do well to examine their intentions, bringing them into harmony with those of the Son, through Whom, and for Whom, all things have been made!
Putting enemies under the feet is a phrase denoting absolute subjugation. It speaks of the overthrow of the subjugated one--the utter frustration of conflicting purposes, words, and works. We have a picture of this in the book of Joshua. Joshua defeated the Amorites, calling out in faith, "O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon" (Josh 10:12, NASB). The sun and moon remained stationary "until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies" (v 13). Five kings fled from that awful defeat, hiding themselves in the "cave of Makkedah" (v 16). Their hiding did not go unnoticed. Joshua commanded, "Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and assign men by it to guard them"(v 18). With the alien kings contained in the cave, the army pursued and overthrew all of their enemies. Following the triumph, called a "very great slaughter," the Captain turned his attention to the contained kings. "Open the mouth of the cave and bring these five kings out to me from the cave" (v 22). It was then that "Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, 'Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.'So they ame near and put their feet on their necks" (v. 24).
What a marvelous picture of the subjugation of Christ's enemies! After the forces of evil have been frustrated, and brought down before an assembled universe, the leaders of the insurrection, Satan and his hosts, will be publically disgraced under the feet of Christ. The saints of God will be involved in this matter, much like all the chiefs of Israel were to Joshua. Scripture states it this way. "And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Rom 16:20, NASB).
What angel has ever been afforded such honor? The Son, and the Son alone, if the One to Whom enemies shall be subjugated. Our own involvement in the event is only due to our affiliation with the Son of God. He is "all in all."
The Relevancy of The Things
The relevancy of these declarations to our salvation must be seen. Remember, some of the Hebrew believers had been reverting back to a system of Law. They were relying upon law-keeping to obtain the approval of God. In such an arrangement, angels received undue adoration, and Jesus was relegated to the background. Such tendencies have not ceased to exist. The purpose of this book is to accentuate not only the indispensability of Jesus, but His absolute superiority. It is unreasonable, from any point of view, to minimize the Son of God!
I have often said it, but must do so once again. There is far too much relegation of Jesus to an inconsequential position in contemporary religion. Much of what parades itself as "Christian" is nothing more than the wisdom of men. Often, it is even a poor representation of that. It is important to know that God will not tolerate the obscuring of His Son. The institutional fervor that pushes Jesus to the background will cause men to be put under the feet of Christ. This speaks of cursing, never of blessing! It is when the "Stone" falls upon and crushes those at variance with Him (Luke 20:18).
By way of contrast, those that are aligned with the Son will be "joint heirs" with Him (Rom 8:17). Rather than being placed under His feet, they will sit together with Him in His throne (Rev 3:21). How glorious to contemplate such a great Savior! What is a system of law-keeping to this? How does the outcome of independent human endeavor compare with being identified with the Son of God? The truth is, there is no comparison! As the Son is superior to angels, so the salvation that He brings is superior to that achieved by men. Were men to have the aid of the entire angelic hosts, but be without Jesus, they still could not be saved! God has made no provision for salvation apart from His Son--intimate involvement with His Son. All of this teaching is calculated to register that upon your conscience.
For This Reason . . .
The Spirit has led us to an inevitable conclusion. "Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it" (Heb 2:1, NRSV). Remember, we are speaking about God speaking to us through His Son--exclusively through His Son. So far as the Father is concerned, there are no other voices, no one else with a valid message. If we do not hear what Jesus has to say, we cannot know the mind of the Lord or be saved.
What is more, we must "pay greater attention to what we have heard." We are living in a competitive and distracting environment. Our ears can be "turned away from the truth to fables" (2 Tim 4:4), but it will be at the expense of our souls. If we do not listen intently to Jesus, we will not hear Him. If we do not focus upon Him, we will not behold him!
The soul that will be saved must come within hearing distance of the Son of God; within the circumference of Divine influence. Those that live with a lack of sensitivity to God are in a hopeless condition. He is speaking to us through His Son, but if we dwell in far off places, we cannot hear Him. How marvelously this is stated in the 65th Psalm."Those living far away fear your wonders . . . " (v 8, NIV). The further you are from the Lord, the more you fear His workings, the less you speak of them, and the more infrequently you seek them.
There are intellectual and soulish lands that are "far away" from the voice of the Lord. When you inhabit these"lands" you are less apt to hear the Son of God. The land of academia is one such land, in which the individual can become immersed in the wisdom of men, thereby dulling his ability to hear the Son of God. The land of pleasure also desensitizes the soul to heavenly things. Pleasures of sin are only "for a season" (Heb 11:25). During that period, however, the voice of the Lord can scarcely be heard--if it can at all.
But our text is speaking of the stultifying effects of misguided religion--in particular a system that appeals to Law for justification. There is nothing more dulling to the spirit of man than this. This is why Jesus said to the bigoted pharisees, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you"(Matt 21:31, NIV). The immoral, Jesus declared, were closer to the Voice than were the religious leaders! And why so? Because the publicans and harlots knew who they were. They still retained a sense of their aloofness from God, and the unacceptability of their conduct.
The conscience of the Pharisees, however, had been dulled by their religion. They placed trust in their disciplined achievements and intellectual acumen. Their approach to the things of God had ushered them into a state where they had no ears to hear. Plausible arguments can be introduced that emphasize the free will of man, and his ability to find the Lord at anytime. All such arguments, however, fall to the ground as Jesus speaks this word. "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to" (Lk 13:24, NIV). "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come" (John 7:33,34, NIV). "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come" (John 8:21, NIV). Sobering words, indeed. Particularly for those who choose to sear their conscience by indulging in legalistic religion (1 Tim 4:1-3).
The word of the Spirit is strong. If God is speaking to us exclusively through the Son, and if the Son is Himself superior to angels, we must "pay greater attention to what we have heard" (NRSV). He means we are to pay closer attention than the Israelites at Mount Sinai, who feared and quaked at that awesome event. Their attentiveness, however, was not owing to the compelling nature of the words, but the frightening circumstances that accompanied them. Terror so gripped them that they cried out, "You [Moses] speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die" (Ex 20:19, NRSV). "Bounds," or limits, were set around the mountain of God, keeping the people from touching it.
The solemnity of the occasion is seen in the Divine warning. "Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live" (Ex 19:12-13). The people could only approach the sacred mount at the sounding of the "ram's horn" (Ex 19:14).
That is not all! The Law sounded forth the awesome warnings. Violators of the Law were to be "put to death"(Ex 21:12,15,16,17,29; 22:19). The Law was truly "the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone" (2 Cor 3:7). It is in reference to this circumstance--the ministration of death--that the Spirit speaks in the last verse of our text. "For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Heb 2:2-3a).
A greater Spokesman has been given to us (as compared with angels), and thus our responsibility is greater to hear what He says. I often ponder the poignant manner in which our hearing of Christ is affirmed in Ephesians 4:20-21; "But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus"(KJV). The phrase "taught by Him" is translated "in Him" in most modern versions. The idea of "in" is "within . . . of place . . . denoting a position within boundaries . . . denoting specific location." Jesus Himself is the environment of spiritual learning.
He is the Teacher, the Communicator, the Spokesman for God! This is by Divine appointment, and is for our eternal advantage. If those that heard lesser spokesmen were punished for not giving heed to what was said, what will be the lot of those that ignore the Son of God?
For many, this is difficult to receive. Such cannot imagine the Son of God speaking today. They are willing to believe He spoke historically, but not contemporarily. The Word of God will not support such a view. Mind you, the Son of God uses means, but He is the One that uses them. It was the Son of God that spoke the message to the seven churches of Asia--nearly 60 years after He had ascended into heaven.
He employed an angel to give it to John, and John to give it to the churches but He is the One that gave the message. It is Him speaking. It is the same with us today. The Son of God is speaking to us through the Gospel. It is possible to hear His voice in your spirit, just like the Ephesians did, years after the Son of God had been seated on the heavenly throne (Eph 4:21).He has not ceased to teach His people. He still is the only One that knows the Father. He still is the only One that can teach us of the Father.
We still come to Him, to be taught by Him. The invitation is still true. "All things have been committed to me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt 11:27-30, NIV).
Who is the soul that will affirm this promise is no longer applicable? Does it not reinforce the affirmation of our text? Take this word and fasten it in your heart and mind. "See that you do not refuse the one Who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!" (Heb 12:25, NRSV).
The Son is superior to the angels--and their word could not be rejected without penalty. The Son is superior to angels, and therefore His Word is superior. It brings better promises, strength, vitality, and hope to all that will; embrace it. Thanks be to our God for such a glorious Spokesman!