Studies in the Book of Hebrews—Chapter 1

Greater than Angels

IN THIS EPISTLE of “deep things,” (I Cor. 2:10) God is speaking through the apostle to those who have become his people. Herein he gives insight into the hidden things, the plans and purposes which he talks over with those who love to dwell in his presence. This is some of the ‘latter rain,’ or ‘table talks’ of him who comes to “sup” with those who, in the Laodicean stage of the church, have heard his “knock” and opened the door. (Rev. 3:20) How gracious and loving is our Creator to have had the Tabernacle and other types enacted so long ago, and then have raised up the Apostle Paul and given him visions and revelations by which he could write the epistle, to enable his people in the latter days to understand what the Lord has been doing, and how, and why!

This is the epistle of ‘better things.’ Paul writes of a “better” spokesman “than the angels” (Heb. 1:4); also of “better things” (Heb. 6:9; 11:40; 12:24); “better promises” (8:6); a “better hope” (7:19); a “better testament” (7:22) or “covenant” (8:6); a better “mediator” (9:12-15); and a better “priesthood” (7:23,24). Upon the altar (13:10), and in the tabernacle (9:11) are offered “better sacrifices” (9:23). It is a better “ministry” (8:6), leading to a “better country” (11:16), even as the fulfillment, the complete work, is better than the blueprints.


VERSE 1  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.”

Thus did the Lord speak to the fathers through the prophets. More literally, the thought is that the Divine revelations of the past were given in many ways, and by fragments, or morsels—“Here a little, and there a little.” (Isa. 28:10) These were scattered bits or pieces given in visions, types, prophecies, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the progenitors of the Jewish people; and also to Moses, Samuel, David, and all the prophets.

In Hosea 12:10 we read, “I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes [types], by the ministry of the prophets.” And again, in Amos 3:7 we read, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

VERSE 2  “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed [‘tithemi’, placed, put, set] heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”

Here the ‘last days’ are the closing days of the Jewish Age, and the opening days of the Gospel Age, but also included are the last days of the Gospel Age. The old methods which God had employed in dealing with his people in the past were no longer to be used. His people were now to be a “New Creation” (II Cor. 5:17, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott), and for these all the messages and partial statements of the past were gathered into a complete whole and revealed through Christ.

Paul says that through Christ God has spoken unto “us.” (Heb. 1:2) Here the emphasis is that God was speaking to the same Jewish people as in the past. If an angel had come to them with a message, they would have listened. One greater than angels came with the Gospel message, and the vast majority of Israel received him not. The Lord then turned to the Gentiles, giving them the opportunity to become a part of the ‘us’ class. Now the oracles of God belong to all believers.—Rom. 2:6-10; 3:2; 9:4,5

God now speaks through his Son! What loving condescension is here shown. All God’s works speak volumes about him, but in his Son we have the most complete revelation. In him is a revelation of the brightness of God’s glory—literally an ‘off-flash,’ as if in a burst of brilliance he had brought the Logos into being. Every glorious beauty of the Creator’s character shines forth through his Son—his humility, meekness, loving-kindness, patience, endurance, self-denial—all those endearing qualities which draw us to him and delight our hearts; also the four cardinal attributes of his character—his wisdom, justice, love and power.

Paul writes concerning Jesus that “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen.” (II Cor. 1:20) In him and through him will be the completion and fulfillment of all the Father’s gracious promises and purposes. This wonderful Son was trained in the ways of his Father throughout all the eons since the time of his creation. He was brought up under the Father’s care and instruction. (Prov. 8:30) He was there when all the angels were created, including Lucifer, for he did the work of Creation.—John 1:3; I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2

‘Made the worlds’ can have the meaning “on account of whom the Father created the worlds,” or arranged the various ages in his great Divine plan, those ages in and through which he will accomplish all his good purposes.

VERSE 3  “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Here the Greek word for ‘express image’ is charakter, meaning ‘the impression as of a stamp or die, or seal.’ This refers to Jesus’ condition since his resurrection, when he was raised up to the Divine nature. “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” (Col. 1:19) He is, therefore, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (vs. 15) He is before all things, being the firstborn from the dead (at his resurrection), that in all things he might have the preeminence. “In him dwells all the fullness of the Deity bodily.” (Col. 2:9, WED) What strong expressions are these! and how complete! By these we know that the Father has placed all things in the hands of his Son, that all the Son’s acts, words, thoughts, are just like those of the Father. As Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Only in the throne will I be greater than thou.”—Gen. 41:40

How could two such beings exist separately and yet be one in thought, plan and will? We remember that all through the ages of the past our Lord Jesus, as the agent of the Father, had watched him, studied him, and found supreme delight in the Father’s ways of wisdom and beauty. As stated in Proverbs 8:30, which applies to the Logos, he was as one brought up by Jehovah, trained and educated in his presence. When Lucifer endeavored to carry out his selfish ambition, Jesus was there and saw the rebellion. He also witnessed the disobedience and fall of man. When the angels fell and sinned, Jesus was there, and noted that abiding close to the Father, obeying him and practicing his ways, brought happiness and security and long life. Jesus loved righteousness and hated iniquity and disobedience.

‘Upholding all things by the word of his power,’ means sustaining (from phero—‘to bear or carry’), as the provider of food and energy and life, distributing to each and all as needed. (Ps. 104:10-24) What a deep assurance that this great Provider will supply all our needs! ‘All things’ here refers to the whole universe, and to all the creatures in it. The ‘word of his power’ is a reference to the authority of his utterance, the authority given to him by his Father. The expression also includes Jesus’ actual power or energy by which he is now able to accomplish the work of Jehovah. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” said Jesus subsequent to his resurrection.—Matt. 28:18

“When he had by himself purged our sins,” or as the Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott translates it, “made a purification for sins.” How clearly this shows that it was Jesus who was offered to effect the purification, the beginning of the great work of eradicating sin from the earth. The word ‘purification’ is from a Greek word meaning ‘a washing off, or cleansing, as of filth or dirt,’ and such is the character of sin as viewed by God. This is a reference to the typical purification of sins by the offerings and washings of the Law arrangements, as fulfilled antitypically through Christ. The use of the adverb ‘when’ shows that the purification must first be accomplished before the blessing could come, and that the offering for sin by Jesus must be made before he could be glorified.

“Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus, having placed the merit of his sacrifice in the hands of Justice, ‘Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,’ enabling him to effect the salvation and deliverance of mankind. This was at the ‘right hand of God,’ the exalted position promised to him as ruler with his Father—“Even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21) Again, “Sit thou at my right hand [the place of supreme favor and authority with the Father], until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Ps. 110:1) The expression, ‘Majesty on high,’ denotes the height of greatness, and such is the throne of God—the highest position of honor and trust.

VERSE 4  “Being made so much better [Greek, ‘more powerful’] than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

Lucifer had sought this high position, endeavoring to exalt himself “above the stars of God.” (Isa. 14:13) Jesus gained the position by obedience and self-denial. Through this training, he realized how great are the responsibilities, and how much care, patience, and love must be exercised in carrying out the Heavenly Father’s plans. The Son of God, before he came to earth, occupied a very high position in the Divine plan, but after his work of redemption he was still more highly exalted, being now the Head of the ‘New Creation,’ and above all angels. To prove this the apostle quotes several passages from the Old Testament:

VERSE 5  “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?”

This is a sweeping statement, showing that while all the angels are sons of God, none had the honor of being directly created, as had the Logos. Paul here quoted scriptures to prove that such statements in Psalm 2:7 and II Samuel 7:14—familiar to every Jew—could have reference to only One, and that was the anointed Son of God.—Ps. 89:20-27

In the phrase, ‘This day have I begotten thee,’ ‘begotten’ is the Hebrew word yala, meaning ‘born’ or ‘delivered.’ Apparently it does not refer to Jesus’ original begetting, or creation, but to his deliverance from death to the Divine nature at his resurrection.

VERSE 6  “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott reads: “And when again he shall introduce the Firstborn into the habitable.”

This was Paul’s crowning proof of Jesus’ superiority, particularly that portion of the prophecy which refers to Jesus’ Second Advent, when the proclamation is made that all, even the angels, shall worship him. All things are to be “subdued” unto him.” (I Cor. 15:24-28) It was prophesied in Psalm 97:7, “Worship him, all ye gods [mighty ones, referring to angels].”

VERSE 7  “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

The fact that Jesus was exalted above the angels bespeaks eloquently the height of his glory, for as Paul quotes Psalm 104:4, he shows that they occupied a very high position in God’s arrangements. To them has been given the great honor and privilege of being God’s special messengers, or agents. Thus did they serve Daniel, Moses, Abraham, and the prophets; and thus are they commissioned to serve us, who are heirs of “salvation.”—vs. 14

VERSE 8  “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

This is a quotation from Psalm 45:6 concerning Jesus. How great was the reward of being the trusted and chosen agent to dispense the favors and blessings of God to his creatures! Ultimately this will earn their undying love, loyalty, and gratitude. None is so fit and suitable and able as Jesus for this exalted position. He earned it fairly by self-abnegation, and by perfect trust in and love for his Heavenly Father.—Rev. 5:9,12,13

The expression ‘for ever and ever,’ is, according to Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott, “for the ages.” This will begin with the Millennial Age, which will be the best of all ages up to that time. But it will lead to still greater ages to come. In one sense, when all things are subdued under the Son, and he hands the kingdom over to the Father, to whom he himself will be subject, the kingdom will have accomplished its work of restoration and deliverance. That age is called the time of “regeneration” (Matt. 19:28), the “dispensation of the fulness of times.” (Eph. 1:10) But in a larger sense, the kingdom of Christ will never end, because that which he establishes will continue throughout eternity. (Dan. 2:44; 7:18; Isa. 9:6,7) When the Messianic kingdom work is complete, there will be other works and other ages in which Jesus will share the throne of his Father.

The ‘sceptre’ is Jesus’ authority or right to rule. It is a sceptre of righteousness—that is, a sceptre granted to Jesus because of his righteousness and because the Heavenly Father knew he would exercise it in harmony with righteousness.

VERSE 9  “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

This verse is a quotation from Psalm 45:7. Jesus did not merely practice righteousness, he loved the right way. He also hated iniquity (Greek, lawlessness). God’s ways when followed mean self-restraint, self-control, but the true children of God delight to be governed by his laws. In them they find the fullest and most enjoyable expression of all their faculties and powers.

Where God rules in the mind and heart there is liberty. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32)—free from the twisting, morbid, paralyzing influence of disobedience and selfishness. Such freedom gives opportunity for the glorious expansion of every faculty and power of mind and body. Paul speaks of it as “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21

Therefore.’ It was because Jesus thus loved the law of God and found delight in its every demand upon his being, that he could be trusted with ‘all power’ and be given full authority over both men and angels; so he was ‘anointed’ by God with the ‘oil of gladness’ above his ‘fellows.’ Thus was he set apart and prepared in every particular to do a great work, a work that carries much responsibility.

The ‘oil of gladness’—that is the Holy Spirit—was pictured by the holy anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the Temple, the oil that was used to anoint the prophets, priests and kings. How wonderfully the effect of his anointing was described by the prophet, when he wrote:

“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: … and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.”—Isa. 11:2-4

The apostle associates the thought of ‘gladness’ with the anointing which Jesus received, and in the Greek the thought is of supreme happiness and rejoicing. Such could not help but be the result of having been so highly honored by Jehovah, the Heavenly Father, not because he was exalted above his ‘fellows,’ but because he was considered worthy to be exalted to such degree.

As noted, Jesus was exalted above every other being in the universe except his Father—hence, above the angels. Jesus was also exalted above the fellow members of his mystical body; for he is the Head over the church in all things. But, up to this point in the epistle, the church has not been introduced into the discussion. The main argument thus far seems to be to prove that Jesus has been highly exalted above all other spirit beings.

VERSE 10  “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.”

Here Jesus is referred to as Lord. ‘The beginning’ here mentioned seems to be a reference to the beginning of God’s dealings with man—that is, when he was created and given a home “eastward in Eden.” (Gen. 2:8) Evidently this passage refers not to the literal heavens and earth, but to the rules and regulations for human society as was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. This arrangement between man and his Creator was one of perfection and peace, of sweet fellowship in beauty of thought, word, and deed. Through these arrangements, doorways of ever deeper delights could open as Adam continued to heed and obey the instructions given to him.

The foundations of human society were also laid there—that is, of family and fraternal relationships. They were on the basis of justice and love, foundations upon which the human race could have built a social structure as wholesome and sweet as that of heaven; and the people could have delighted in the unfolding wonders with which their Creator had filled the earth.

But Solomon said, “This only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Eccles. 7:29) Selfishness and sin crept in; suggestions from the father of lies, the prince of darkness, twisted and distorted every one of those gracious arrangements which the Lord had instituted, until all that is now left is a pitiful mockery of what might have been.

VERSES 11,12  “They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.”

The literal earth “abideth forever.” (Eccles. 1:4) God “created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) The symbolic heavens and earth which came into being at the time of man’s creation perished in a certain sense at the time of the Flood, and subsequent to the Flood have been controlled largely by Satan, the prince of this “present evil world.”—Gal. 1:4

But with the establishment of the “new heaven and a new earth,” (Rev. 21:1, WED; II Pet. 3:7) these present heavens and earth will be completely destroyed. They shall perish because they are unfit for the glorious things of the future; being full of unspeakable iniquity, they have no place in the pure and holy arrangements of the coming kingdom of Christ. Paul describes the corruption of human society—“the foundation of the earth”—in Hebrews 1:10. The illustration of a worn garment suggests that originally, when first created, these symbolic heavens and earth were useful, but now are only fit to be discarded and destroyed.

‘But thou remainest.’ The Logos—now the exalted Son of God—has been continuously and consistently righteous throughout the ages, so there is no need that he be set aside as Jehovah’s honored servant. Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 1:8, 3:14) the direct creation of God, which indicates he is the first and the last. Regardless of how many other changes may be made in the Divine arrangements, Jesus will ever remain the one closest to his Heavenly Father in trust, in honor, and in authority.

Verses 10-12 are a quotation of Psalm 102:24-28. This psalm is suggested as being a prayer by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The answer by God to that prayer is recorded in Psalm 102:24 (middle of verse) to 28. Jesus was assured by the Father that the present evil order that was clamoring for his life would perish and be discarded as waste material, but he would receive immortality.

VERSES 13,14  “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”

Here the reference is unmistakably to angelic beings—those mysterious and powerful beings of a superior order to man, long known to the Hebrews as direct agents of God. To none of these had God ever extended the astounding invitation to sit at his right hand, but it had been addressed prophetically to his Son. (Ps. 110:1) Thus the Son’s superiority to all other servants of God becomes obvious, and the Apostle Paul proves that Jesus indeed is the greatest being of all next to the Father, and was prophesied to be such.

However, the angels have a high and honorable service to perform. They are ‘ministering spirits,’ rendering special service to the ‘heirs of salvation,’ “those being about to inherit salvation.” (WED) Again we see a reference to the ‘fellows’ of verse 9—those who are to share the inheritance and exalted office of the Son, and who are so important in the Divine plan that the holy angels are sent forth to serve them.

There will always be ministering angels—or persons in attendance—to aid and serve wherever the Almighty directs, but their chief mission now is to help in the present great work of developing the church. Glorious, wonderful, and beautiful spirit beings are these, who during the kingdom will earn the loving attachment, respect, and admiration of the entire race of mankind. Thus all God’s created beings will be knit together in mutual love and service.

In this arrangement, Jesus will be the greatest of all!

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