Not so many years ago it seemed Christians were enamored by the study of angels. Popular books and even popular television shows were based on angelic activity – imagined and purportedly true. Personally, I enjoyed watching Highway to Heaven, with Michael Landon, and Touched by An Angel, a show that seemed to ride on the coattails of Highway to Heaven’s success.
But such interest in angels is nothing new. Actually, we have record of angelic activity as far back as the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis. Cherubim and Seraphim, types of angels, and Michael and Gabiel, individual angels, are described in the pages of the Bible. Perhaps scripture provides just enough information about angelic activity to whet the appetite? I suppose that’s why Jews living during the intertestamental period created elaborate hierarchies of angels believed to inhabit the heavenly sphere.
In Colossians 2:18 the apostle Paul states, “ Let no one who delights in false humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind.” Exactly what he is describing, we don’t know, but apparently during the first century A.D. there were those who’d begun to seek the intercession of angels on their behalf, in a sense, worshipping them.
In Revelation 19:10, the apostle John falls on his face when an angel appears before him, but he is immediately told, “Do not do this! I am only a fellow servant with you and your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Clearly, we are not to worship angels.
Yet, even if we don’t worship them, is it possible to give greater consideration to them than is due? Certainly! The preoccupation some people have with supposed angelic activities consumes more of their time and spiritual consideration than is due. It’s not that angels are unimportant in the spiritual realm, but they are less important than other things, especially Christ.
That’s what the writer of Hebrews wants us to understand in this first section of his message: Jesus Christ is more important than all of the angelic hosts!
Primarily he does this by demonstrating from scripture Jesus’ divine status. He begins in verse three, “The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
“Radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence” speak to divine attributes. In the Old Testament God’s glory was his presence. For instance, when the Tabernacle had been completed and the necessary sacrifices offered, Exodus 40:34-35 states, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” It’s obvious in this passage that God’s “glory” means his presence.
Again, at the dedication of the temple we read, “then a cloud filled the Lord’s temple. The priests could not carry out their duties because of the cloud; the Lord’s splendor filled God’s temple” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14). Clearly, “the Lord’s splendor” is the same as his “glory” and represents his presence.
So, by describing the Son as the “radiance of (God’s) glory and the representation of his essence,” the writer of Hebrews is indisputably attributing to Jesus divine status. He concludes his introduction in verse 4 by saying, “Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs.”
But, what “name” is he referring to? The “name” he’s already used, “Son.” He continues in verse five, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my son! Today I have fathered you”? And in another place he says, “I will be his father and he will be my son.” These quotations from Psalms 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14, respectively, are written of King David and were clearly Messianic in nature. From the time they were uttered, they were understood to describe the eternal nature of the Davidic kingdom – the kingdom through which the messiah was to come. The writer of Hebrews is introducing Jesus as the fulfillment of the kingdom prophecies by virtue of his divine nature.
Therefore, rather than worshipping angels, angels are to worship the Son: “But when he again brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him!’ 7 And he says of the angels, ‘He makes his angels winds and his ministers a flame of fire,’” (Hebrews 1:6,7).
Now, the author is going to give indisputable, scriptural proof that Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, is fully divine:
“But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.
So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing.” (Hebrews 1:8-9, italics mine). Notice the italicized portions, please. The Son is addressed as “God” two times in this brief quotation from Psalm 45. Jesus is not a created being. He is the Creator of all things! So, when the text previously spoke of the Father bringing him into the world, it wasn’t in the way one is born simply in a physical sense. Rather, he’s talking about the physical manifestation of the Divine; “the incarnation” as we describe it.
He goes even farther to describe the Son’s divine nature:
“And, ‘You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord,
and the heavens are the works of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you continue.
And they will all grow old like a garment,
12 and like a robe you will fold them up
and like a garment they will be changed,
but you are the same and your years will never run out.’” (Hebrews 1:10-12).
The writer describes Jesus, the Son, as the Creator whose creation will eventually give way to time, grow old, be folded up like a garment, and be replaced, all the while He will continue throughout eternity.
Now, in the final two verses of this chapter it’s made clear that angels are in no way superior to the Son:
“13 But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
In typical fashion, we are introduced to concepts that will be more fully developed later, yet effectively conclude this section of the writing. Angels are interesting, and have their respective place in our relationship to God. But, in no way are they worthy of our honor. That alone belongs to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the author of creation, the sustainer of creation, and the redeemer of creation.
When we read of angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?” immediately my mind begins to race, wondering, “How do they minister to us? Is this activity visible or invisible, only seen in the spiritual realm?” Later in Hebrews we will find reference to the angels who appeared to Abraham to reassure him of God’s promise of him having a son, but personally I’ve never had an indisputable visit from an angel!
Admittedly, there was a time when I was 19 that I was traveling by bus from Searcy, Arkansas to Phoenix, Arizona. The trip out there was rough. I witnessed fights in which people were thrown off of the bus at a stop, and even drugs and money exchanging hands in a terminal’s bathroom. By the time I was making the return trip, my nerves were shot! I wanted to get home fast, but I could only get home as fast as the bus would travel. By the time I reached Abilene Texas I was praying hard for God to keep me safe. I just wanted to be left alone, but even then I didn’t feel very safe on the bus.
About the time I’d given up, a thin-framed old man with a weather-beaten wrinkled face, and white hair poking out from under his well-worn white Stetson, approached me as we were re-boarding the bus at a stop. “May I sit beside you?” he asked politely. “Yes, sir.” I responded. His polite inquiry was in itself unusual, given the clientele I’d been traveling with. Then, from Abilene to Dallas we sat and visited. He explained how he’d drive cars to Abilene for his son’s dealership, and then return via bus to Dallas. He was courteous to a fault and more than once reassured me that I would be alright and that I would make it home to Arkansas safely. At the time I honestly began to wonder if God had sent an angel to minister to me.
In hindsight, I recognize it is unlikely he was an angel, but I do believe God caused our paths to cross in order to reassure me that I would be kept safe until I finished my 36 hour journey.
Personally, I would like to know exactly how angels minister to us. But, practically I don’t have to know that. God’s word says they do and He utilizes them to minister to those of us who believe in his Son, and believing in his Son is what matters most.
Until next time, I hope you have a good week and take time to reflect on the profound truths we’ve seen in a few short verses of Scripture.