THE CHRONICLES OF THE ELECT

A study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 11

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Having become so much better than the angels

The writer’s argument now contends with these spiritually frail believers the superiority of Christ by turning to the angels.[i] We cannot continue before mentioning in passing that there can be no separation between what was said previous to this passage to the verse itself. We can continue to divulge from the line of argumentation used by the writer that he had a very good knowledge of his audience. These Jews would have rendered their focus on the humanity of the Lord Jesus and since they viewed angels as greater than men they would have been confused as to exactly why the New Covenant would be “better” than the old.

When the writer expresses the term “having become” (KJV “being made”), he is referring to what happened following His work on the cross in accomplishing eternal redemption. This is evidenced in verse 3 and is continuing thought of His glorification due to the purging of sins. Here the writer is demonstrating that the Son as a man had willfully subjected Himself in His positional standing to the point of being said to be “lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9) however, after accomplishing His perfect work at Calvary, He was exalted by the Father. The term seems to be interchangeable with the words “sat down”. 

The angels would have been very familiar to the reader’s Jewish background. The study of these angelic beings could be very accumulating in its scope hence we do not have the time or space to give this field of study its proper place. A brief definition is however necessary.  W. Grudem states that Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies.[ii] The number of angels is unknown however it is said to be thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands (Revelation 5:11), which are an innumerable company of angels (Hebrews 12:22). There is only speculation on how they came into existence. There are some who have gone to great lengths to give all sorts of interpretations[iii] however this passage, in keeping with the rest of the letter, would be referring to heavenly hosts. These Jewish descendants would have learned from their religious roots that the angels would have delivered Hagar (Genesis 16:7), appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1), to Isaac (Genesis 22:11), Jacob (Genesis 32:1), Moses (Acts 7:53) and delivered Lot (Genesis 19:1), protected Israel (Numbers 20:16) and most importantly they gave them the law (Galatians 3:9). The angels would have been the highest of God’s creatures whom make their abode in heaven (Matthew 24:36), whom excel in strength (Psalm 103:20), who are Holy (Matthew 25:31) and whose primary function is that of a minister (Psalm 104:4).

We then see that the Son is not on equal terms with these angelic beings but He is “better” (Kreitton) than the angels. The term “better” is used 13 times in Hebrews[iv] to indicate superiority over and above something else. We must examine why exactly it is that He is “better”. The thought here seems to focus upon a threefold sphere in that the Lord Jesus is better than the angel because (a) He possesses a better nature, (b) His relationship to the Father is superior and (c) the primary focus is that the Lord has accomplished a better work than they. Angels were said to be mediators between Jehovah and men however the Son is an even better mediator than the angels since He provided Himself as a sacrifice that far exceeded the pleasure of God. 

 


[i] The study of Angels is one that is complex hence we cannot examine it in its fullness here. We can say that angels are created (Neh. 9:6), are spirits (Heb. 1:14), are very powerful (2 Peter 1:11) and occupy different ranks (Jude 9-archangel). There are only two mentioned by name, mainly Michael (Jude 9, Daniel 10:13, 21) and Gabriel (Luke 1:19). 

[ii] Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan,  Page 397

[iii] Some have attempted to render “angel” (angelos) as meaning men or prophetic messengers however this undermines the usage in Hebrews found in Hebrews 2:2, 2:7,:2:9, 2:16, 12:22, 13:2

[iv] Hebrews 6:9, 7:7, 7:19, 7:22, 8:6, 9:23, 10:34, 11:16, 11:35, 11:40, 12:24

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Written by shawnkjmcgrath

August 3, 2009 at 11:45 am

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

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