Better than the Angels
“To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ ”- Hebrews 1:5–6
When the first-century audience of the epistle to the Hebrews was suffering persecution for their belief in Christ, they were tempted to abandon the Savior and return to old covenant Judaism. Thus, the author of Hebrews wrote to them in order to point out that suffering for Jesus was worth it because He is far better than anything the old covenant could offer. He is a better Prophet, Priest, and King (Heb. 1:1–3). He is better even than the angels (v. 4).
Knowing some of the first-century Jewish context of Hebrews will help us understand why the author spends time arguing for Jesus’ superiority to the angels. Angels loomed large in the piety and thought of the Jews of that day. We see some reflection of this in Galatians 3:19, where Paul says the law was “put in place through angels.” Although Paul had an orthodox view of the angels, this idea that the angels were instrumental in revealing the law to Moses tended to make the Jews view angels as superior to everything else besides God. The Jews who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls even held that the archangel Michael was superior to the Messiah. (That community actually believed that God would send two Messiahs, with Michael superior to them both.) It would be easy for the original audience to think that going back to the old covenant was no big deal, for they would still have the angels.
If Jesus is better than the angels, however, they would be losing everything by abandoning Him. Turning to the Old Testament, the author of Hebrews quotes several texts to prove that Jesus is indeed better than the angels. He asks two rhetorical questions in Hebrews 1:5, expecting the readers to answer that God never told any angel that it was God’s unique, only begotten Son. The author quotes and applies Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7 to Jesus. Both of these are messianic texts that tell us of the special relationship between David’s greatest descendant and the God of Israel. While the angels can be called sons of God in a general sense, the incarnate Messiah is God’s Son in a more specific sense. He is chosen by God to be His perfect representative, and this is because He is actually God Himself.
In Hebrews 1:6, the author applies to Jesus the Greek Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:43, wherein Moses calls on the “gods,” that is, “angels,” to worship Yahweh, the God of Israel. Plainly, the author of Hebrews understands Jesus to be the God of Israel.
It is not too uncommon to see greeting cards and sentimental memorabilia extolling the virtues of angels. Certainly, it is good to respect the angels and all that God has them do for His people (Heb. 1:14). Yet, in following Jesus, we are worshiping the very One who made the angels and who is the Lord of the angels. Let us worship Christ this day, remembering that He is mightier than any angel.
Passages for Further Study