Summary: Christ is vastly superior to the angels.
So much better than the angels! Heb 1:4
In the first 3 verses the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ is graphically displayed. Like the disciples at the mount of transfiguration, in our studies of we have we have climbed the hill and, I hope, gained a glimpse of His glory. Reflect on the view for a minute. We have seen that Jesus is:
• heir of all things
• creator of all things
• brightness of God’s glory
• perfect embodiment of God’s person
• one who holds the fabric of the universe together
• one who died and rose again to purge our sin
• one who is now seated at God’s right hand of the Majesty on high.
The writer now moves on to show that Christ is also infinitely superior to the angels. He probably did this because of the Jewish preoccupation with angels and their involvement in the giving of the law. (In Acts 7:53 Stephen said that Moses received the law by the direction of angels and Paul in Gal 3:19 said it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.) The Jews were right to hold angels in high esteem. To be told that the Messiah had become man made them think that He must have been inferior to the angels. They needed to see that Christ was God in human form, with a dignity and glory that was infinitely superior to that of the angels.
Scripture always depicts angels as holy, glorious and powerful creatures, far more so than men. And when someone is confronted by such powerful beings, there’s a tendency to awe and worship. The Apostle John almost made that mistake. In Revelation 22 we read: 8 I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” Angels are not to be worshipped; they are creatures who worship God.
This passage shows that, although angels are wonderful, powerful creatures, Christ is infinitely more wonderful and powerful. These verses are liberally sprinkled with quotations from the OT, particularly the Psalms, which prove the truth of what the writer says and the consistency of the gospel of Christ with God’s OT revelation. We won’t really look at these OT references, just the truths they proclaim. Interestingly the writer of Hebrews doesn’t put the words of scripture into the mouth of David or whoever penned them. He says, repeatedly, He said – meaning that God said, showing that God inspired David and others to write them down.
Verse 4 says that Jesus became superior to the angels. You need to look back to verse 3 to understand why. There it says He had by Himself purged our sins and the Father honoured Him by calling Him to sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He purchased our salvation at the cost of His own life and in this we see the Father’s love for the Son and His pleasure and pride in the work that His beloved Son completed on the earth.
Was Jesus promoted then as a reward for His faithful work, as the JWs teach? Just in case anyone jumps to such a false conclusion verse 4 also reminds us that in eternity past He inherited a more excellent name than they. He has always been the Father’s beloved son. What His works did was to demonstrate that the honour was well deserved, not just inherited. It is as if the son of a businessman joined the business and then worked his way up through the ranks, without any favouritism, until he was number 2 to his father. Where someone walks into that position everyone moans at the unfairness, where everyone can see that it was earned and merited, then they have no reason to complain. Jesus wonderfully earned what was His by right anyway.
Speaking of Christ’s exhaltation Paul said: Eph 1:19 He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
The writer goes on to make much of the Sonship of Christ. He is called the Firstborn. This does not imply that Christ was the first created creature as the JWs insist. John tells us 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. Now if Christ was with God in the beginning (i.e. before anything was created) and without Him nothing was made then, if Christ was created as the JWs teach, He must have created Himself before the beginning! How absolutely absurd. No this word is used to indicate His rank. It is used in this way elsewhere in Scripture. E.G. Solomon is described as the firstborn although he was certainly not David’s first son. The title is meant to indicate Christ’s rank and honour since the Jewish firstborn received the bulk of the inheritance and a special blessing.