A STUDY ON ANGELS
Text: Hebrews 2:5-9
5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Satan does not at all want believers to understand correctly the doctrine of angels. However, he does not mind the perverted perception that most people have concerning angels. What is commonly believed about angels borders on the absurd. To many, an angel is nothing more than a “pet rock” or some kind of superstitious good luck charm to be called upon when needed. Satan does not at all mind one having an improper understanding of angels such as this. He just does not want you to know who he really is.
To properly understand angelology is to understand that Satan or Lucifer was a fallen angel. Satan would rather people not know the truth about him. Another false, wicked teaching says that Satan and Jesus Christ were both angels. This teaching says that Satan and Jesus were brothers. Such teaching is a blatant attack on the deity of Christ.
In recognizing that Christ is superior to the angels, may we learn just who they are. We will consider three thoughts in this brief but important study. Notice: I. The responsibilities of the angels (V. 5); II. The ranking of the angels (Vv. 6-7); III. The replacement for the angels (Vv.8- 9).
I. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ANGELS. (V. 5)
A. What Was Their Responsibility in the Past? (V. 5)
How did the angels come into existence? In answering this question, there is no room for speculation. To speculate at this very foundational point in our consideration would make us no different that those who have a superstitious belief in angels. We complement the question “how did the angels come into existence with this question, “What truth do we have for obtaining our answer?” The only truth that we find available is the Word of God.
What does the Bible say regarding angels? In answering this question, the Bible plainly tells us that God created all things that are on the earth including man, as shown in Genesis chapter one. Psalm 148:5 tells us of the origin of angels. They were created by God.
Since they were created by God, He had a definite purpose for their creation. They were not created just to exist. Psalm 148:5 refers to the angels that were created and also to the way that they were created. The verse says, “Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.” They were created to glorify God; to worship, and to serve Him. Their existence is taught in at least thirty-four books of the Bible. The word angel appears about 275 times in the scriptures. The New Testament book of Colossians (1:16) tells us that all things, including the angels, were created by Him and for Him. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”
Jesus Christ spoke very tenderly about angels in Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” This verse shows the special ministry that the angels have which allows us to refer to them as guardian angels (Psalm 91:11; Acts 12:15). More will be later said about this facet of their ministry.
Out of respect to the volume of time required in completing our Hebrew study we will abbreviate the time spent on the study of angels. We will, however, give enough in-depth material to help us understand the way the angels work within the context of our Hebrew study. We must first understand the beginning or the past work of the angels.
One does not need to read very much in the Bible before he sees the part that the angels play in worship. This part of their ministry is clearly defined in Isaiah chapter six. The Seraphim (used here to describe the heavenly angels) were present when Isaiah saw in a vision the throne of the Lord. The Seraphim are seen functioning for the purpose of ascribing to the Lord the perfect holiness of God. They were also attending to Isaiah upon his confession of sin, followed by the purging of his sin (Isaiah 6:6-7), that he might be fit for worship.
The word angel means “messenger” in both the Hebrew and the Greek. Angels are seen performing in this capacity as illustrated in Psalm 103:20, “Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” David is the writer of this Psalm which shows the gratitude that he personally had for angels. He both recognized their place of service and thanked the Lord for such.
Gabriel, along with Michael was one of the angels that were named in the Bible. The only other was Lucifer. C. Fred Dickason, on page seventy-two in his book Angels Elect and Evil, says this about Michael and Gabriel, “Whereas Michael is God’s special champion for Israel in her warfare, Gabriel seems to be God’s special messenger of His kingdom program in each of the four times he appears in the Bible record. He stands in the presence of God ready to do His bidding (Luke 1:19) and quickly obeys to accomplish His purpose (Daniel 9:21). He reveals and interprets God’s purpose and program concerning the Messiah and His kingdom to the prophets and people of Israel.”
Gabriel was used for the purpose of bringing prophetic truth to Daniel. It was Gabriel who revealed Daniel’s interpretation of the vision of the ram and the rough goat. He was shown that the two-horned ram represented the Medo-Persian Empire, and the great horned goat represented the Grecian Empire under Alexander. Gabriel was also the messenger of interpretation who accurately predicted the first coming date of the Messiah.
Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and Mary for the purpose of announcing the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus. It appears that Gabriel has the special privilege of announcing the major events that are associated with the Messiah. Gabriel’s name means “mighty one of God,” and all the scriptural references to him indicate this to be so.
Michael’s name means “Who is like God?” This name is a testimony to the truth that God is superior to the angels. His name is by meaning an ongoing testimony to this truth.
Michael, the archangel, had a special ministry to Israel (Daniel 10:13, 20). He also was the leader of an army of angels who battles Satan (Revelation 12:7). Even during the tribulation Michael will have the special honor of guarding Israel during the time of Jacob’s troubles or distress (Jeremiah 30:7).
The past work of the angels included the comforting of Hagar by the angel of Jehovah (Genesis 16, 21). Abraham communed with the angels; two angels delivered Lot and his family from Sodom before the fire fell (Genesis 18, 19). Moses was commissioned by the Angel of Jehovah to deliver Israel from Egypt (Exodus 3:2). An angel led Moses and the nation of Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 14:19; 23:20). While considering the past work of angels, it would be profitable to study the many references to angels in the New Testament. The gospels tell of the work and the activity of the angels. Much of what Matthew and Luke records is connected with the birth of Christ and the predictions relating to His birth.
Acts records much angelic activity. When Christ ascended, there were two angels who announced His second coming (Acts 1:10-11). Angels were used to open the doors after the apostles were cast into prison. It was an angel that led Philip the Evangelist from Samaria to the Gaza strip so that he could preach Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch. Peter also was delivered from prison by an angel of the Lord (Acts 12:5-11).
The Epistles have many teachings regarding the ministry of the angels. There are also warnings against the worship of angels as promoted by false religion (Colossians 2:15, 18). The book of Revelation has around seventy references to angels, with much of their work involving the yet future.
It may be noted that all the angelic activity of the past was under the government of He who is greater than the angels. Every event and act involving the angels was orchestrated by God Himself. The more that one is permitted to study the role of angels, the more one should be convinced that Christ is the Superior One. This, however, does not and should not take away from the great work that the angels do presently.
B. What is Their Responsibility in the Present? (V. 5)
Realizing that the fallen angels have a present activity, we must consider their work as well. This consideration is not for the purpose of the glorification of them, but instead for the identification of them. They need to be identified that they may be recognized.
Regarding the present work of the angels, the Scriptures do not reveal very much. It may be inferred that angels are still very much involved in our lives in ways that we do not recognize. Angels may be used to keep evil in check, as was the case at Lot’s rescue (Genesis 18:22; 19:1,10, 11) and as was the case when Balaam was kept from doing what he maliciously intended against Israel (Numbers 22:22-35).
From the examples in the Scriptures, it appears that angels may still be used of God to execute human government. Sickness and death may be a tool held by the angels to punish God’s enemies and to even chastise God’s own children. Angels may have a purpose in influencing the climatic events upon the earth. Scripture indicates that they will do just that during the tribulation (Revelation 7:1). Regardless of how much and to what degree angels are involved, their involvement is under the direct hand of God. There have been several events in my life that may be attributed to angelic intervention. I am careful not to sensationalize for fear of being caught up in the modern day charismatic system that puts so much stock in what they feel or experience. Please bear with me if you feel that this illustration deserves a different interpretation than what I give. While a student at Tabernacle Bible College in Greenville, South Carolina, I received a call from my wife telling me that a snow and ice storm was coming through the area and that I needed to pick up our children from school. I picked them up and began what was normally a thirty minute trip home. Before I could get them home, the weather had made the roads almost impossible to drive on. (The trip ended up taking me much longer than 30 minutes.) I approached a bridge with great caution thinking that it may have frozen over. Sure enough, it had, and I immediately met a semi-truck loaded with steel. My truck would slide within inches of hitting the traveling truck, and before hitting it, I would slide back towards the side of the bridge. Again, just before my vehicle would hit the bridge, I would slide back to the side of the truck. Within the space of several seconds my truck went from side to side several times without hitting anything. I immediately felt, upon getting to the other side and off of the bridge, that God or His guardian angels had protected me!
I continued to drive home and when I got in sight of my house, I saw that the snow and ice had brought down a large tree. I looked where my new car was parked and thought that it was completely covered by the tree. I expected the worse. Yet, when I pulled into the drive, I saw that the tree had fallen and had draped itself around the car in such a way that the car was not even brushed by the tree. It was as though the branches were cut out as a pattern around the car.
Upon looking at this scene and remembering the supernatural way that I was spared from hitting the truck or the bridge, I felt that the angels of Heaven were at work; to God be the glory, the praise and the honor! Much of what takes place in this life, which may never be clearly explained nor understood down here, may prove to be the work of angels. Again, if that be so, we must remember that they do the biddings of the Lord.
The fallen angels that we referred to earlier also have a present day activity that we should consider. Though not already considered, they too had a past activity beginning with their fall from glory. The highest representative of this group would be Satan. Satan, though created by God, was not created in the state that he presently exhibits. Ezekiel 28:14-15 sheds light on who he is, “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.”
Satan was cast out of his original position in Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16). His judgment or doom was pronounced in Eden (Genesis 3:14-15). Satan will eventually be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:10). As a creature, Satan has the same limitations as do the rest of the fallen angels.
Satan lifted up himself in pride against God and authority. The spirit of his rebellion still fuels his anger and hatred toward the believers and towards Christ. He presently organizes the activity of the fallen angels (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9). These fallen angels work under him to carry out his diabolical schemes. Apart from the Lord, there is nothing under the sun that can escape his influence. His influence has affected the wicked to become more wicked, the believer to become objects of his purpose, and the nations to be ruled with a deception causing them to have a bias against Christ. He has counterfeited religion and religious activities to steer mankind away from the truth. There is so much that can be said about the present work of Satan, but due to the nature of our study we can only hint at those things.
The fallen angels are presently working under the leadership of Satan, and have been commonly referred to as demons or devils. They are antagonistic to the people and things of God. Their fiery darts blaze into the minds of willing subjects. They obviously affect the proponents of the pornographic industry; they guide the wicked carnal directors in Hollywood as they make their vulgar movies. They suggest their poison and bias to the minds of the perverted professors as they stand in their classrooms. They are to be reckoned with as they tempt believers to do wicked (Ephesians 2:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:3-5; I John 2:16). Demons are permitted to inflict disease upon people. The Bible lists some of the possibilities: dumbness (Matthew 9:32-33), blindness (Matthew 12:22), seizures (Matthew 17:15-18). Demons are doing all that they can presently to disrupt the order and the ordering of God’s purpose. We will now consider briefly the future activities of the fallen angels.
C. What Will Be Their Responsibility in the Prophetical?
To conclude this section regarding the future of the demons, I wish to quote C. Fred Dickason; “Satan and the demons are no match for Christ, the God-man. In the face of Satanic opposition, the cross accomplished God’s self-glorification, released the devil’s prisoners, publicly routed evil spirits, and sealed their judgment. Though judged, Satan and his angels are actively promoting apostasy and occultism. Their increasing activity will reach a high point during the Tribulation, when God’s restraining is removed so that the human antichrist may become a world ruler, and demons will, under Satan, persecute and kill men and battle with God’s angels. Righteousness characterized the kingdom when Satan and demons are bound, but upon their release they find rebels ready to join them in one final rebellion against God. Some demons are bound now in the abyss, some in the River Euphrates, and some in Tartarus; but all will be bound forever in the lake of fire.” Amen!
II. THE RANKING OF THE ANGELS. (Vv. 6-7)
A. Their Ranking in Relationship to Man. (cf. 5; V. 6)
Verse five reads, “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” While understanding the role of the angels a little more clearly in their relationship to man, may we further notice the way the angels are ranked. Verse five is in reference to the millennium. Man will be removed from the effects of the curse and will be restored to the privileges similar to that which was enjoyed by Adam in the Garden of Eden. Creation will be placed back under the rule of man and Christ. Revelation 1:5-6 speaks of this state that will be enjoyed by the redeemed. “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 5:10 says that the redeemed are made kings and priests. This is not said of the angel. Notice this verse, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
While considering the ranking of the angels, it is profitable to our study to consider them numerically. Hebrews 12:22 speaks of “an innumerable company of angels.” Obviously, that is from man’s standpoint. The Lord knows how many he created. When one considers a number that cannot be numbered or counted, it certainly is a very large number. John describes the number of angels this way in Revelation 5:11, “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;” Using scientific notation, depending if the two groups of numbers are added or multiplied, you have these possibilities: 1 x 108 + 1 x 106 = 101,000,000, or 1 x 108 x 1 x 106 = 100,000,000,000 with the latter being a number that man could not count. With such a large number of angels there must have been a system for governing them. One could only imagine an army of soldiers having no rank or order and the chaos that would exist. Such would be true with the angels. If one related to the angels from a military perspective, they would recognize Michael as being the archangel or the general of the angelic army. In Revelation 12:7, we read, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,” This verse speaks of “Michael and his angels” and “the dragon fought and his angels.” The indication is that both the good angels and the fallen angels are operating within a system.
In I Corinthians 6:3, Paul tells the church at Corinth, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” This indicates that after we are brought into His glory, we will share in the exercising of His dominion. The angels ranking in relationship to man is emphasized in Hebrews 2:6, “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” This consideration is given to man, not to the angels. There is no way to comprehend the fullness of such a statement. It is mind boggling just to think that God is mindful of man. God’s grace is certainly on display when the full ramification of such a statement is put into effect.
The Lord has chosen to deliver to man the mystery of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:1-5). He also chose to reveal the mystery of the church to the angels through the ministry of the church. Ephesians 3:10 speaks of this, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” May we now consider the ranking of the angels in relationship to the Maker (Creator).
B. Their Ranking in Relationship to the Maker. (V. 7)
Verse seven, “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:” Notice how this verse begins, “Thou madest.” Who is the maker here? Every aspect of God’s creation is with purpose. The Bible shows this, yet so many are blinded to this concept or truth. I was speaking to a college student just yesterday who had faced ridicule for quoting from the Bible. The college professor who ridiculed the student was unwilling to let the Bible be used as evidence in regards to the origin of man. Very likely, this professor has only been told by someone else that the Bible was a book that had no credibility. When considering the ongoing demonic activity, this is not hard to believe. Christ Jesus who is superior to the angels by right of creation has the right to rank them as He pleases. No wonder the Psalmist exclaimed, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” As undeserving as we are, He still graciously bestows His love upon us.
For us to properly accept what is being taught in Hebrews, and somewhat understand what is being taught, we must accept what the writer said about creation. Hebrews uses creation as a means of establishing Christ’s right to rule, reign, and designate as He pleases. He is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He chose to elevate man to the place of glory that excels that of the angels; He has this right as the Creator God. Another thing that is clear is that the angels are not to be worshipped. In Colossians 2:18, Paul warns against the worship of angels, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” Also in Revelation 22:8-9 and Revelation 19:10, the warning is against angel worship. Christ Jesus is superior to the angels; all of them, including Satan.
III. The Replacement For The Angels. (Vv. 8-9)
A. This Replacement Will Demonstrate God’s Grace
Towards Man. (V. 8)
To refresh us in our thinking, may we look at verse eight again, “Thou has put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” The writer of Hebrews, while writing under the inspiration of God, makes several statements that both describe the way things are presently, and the way things are to be prophetically. The curse took away from man the ruler-ship that was previously his. Verse eight is referring to man, instead of Christ, who was given dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:28) but who lost it when he sinned (Romans 8:20) and who will regain it in the future millennial kingdom because of Christ’s death for sin (v.100 (Ryrie).
It is so very thrilling to see the way the Lord is going to regain that which was lost by the sin curse. The Lord is not just resurrecting Eden only for man to reclaim. Instead, He is putting all things under the rule of mankind. At the present everything in God’s creation is in a state where it “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). Yet, according to Jesus, as recorded in John’s gospel, all shall be raised at that last day. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-39). This will grant man the privilege according to God’s grace to rule and reign with Him.
B. This Replacement Will Define God’s Judgment. (V. 9)
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” This verse shows the relationship that Jesus took to the angels, when it says that He “was made a little lower than the angels.” He did this for the purpose of suffering death that He might be crowned with glory and honour. This glory and honour came when he tasted death for every man. Verse ten in Hebrews chapter two shows us that this was the method that Christ Jesus chose to bring “many sons unto glory.”
This was accomplished by the Kenosis (emptying) of Christ during His incarnation. By Him making “himself of no reputation: (Philippians 2:5-11) it did not at all mean that He surrendered any attributes of deity, but that He instead took on the limitations of humanity” (Ryrie). Notice this passage of scripture in Philippians and you will see the steps that Jesus took in His Kenosis. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
He was first described as being in the form of God. Second, He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant. Third, He was made in the likeness of men. Fourth, He became obedient unto death, “even the death of the cross.”
This describes the tasting of death for every man that we read of in verse nine of our text. The crowning with glory and honour speaks of the quality of His government, being mindful that He who hates iniquity and loves righteousness (Hebrews 1:9) will rule with a scepter of righteousness. Topping it off, we will have the privilege of ruling and reigning with Him in this manner, above the angels. To God be the glory!