Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian
Jesus Christ is Above All, Hebrews 1:5 – 2:9
Overview of Hebrews
Study by Debbie Parnakian
1:5‑14 Christ is Superior to Angels
2:1‑4 The Warning not to Drift
2:5‑9 Christ’s Humiliation & Exaltation
There’s a lot about angels in this passage, isn’t there? We’ll learn a few things about angels, but the writer of Hebrews isn’t so worried about angels. Who is the writer wanting us to focus on? The answer is Jesus.
So, if the answer is Jesus, why does the writer spend so much time comparing angels to Jesus? Because the Jews at the time highly exalted angels. Sort of like today…
Angels are everywhere today, aren’t they? Did you get a lot of Christmas cards with angels on them? I did. People collect angel figurines.
If you just took what the general public in America thought about angels, you’d probably think that when we die, we turn into an angel. Angels are mostly women (beautiful women I might add) or babies cherubs. Wings….gotta have wings….halo….some do, some don’t….white robes…..you get the idea.
Although we don’t actually have a complete description of an angel, we know they are spirits that have certain powers. Sometimes they showed themselves to humans as if they were human. We are told somewhere in scripture that we are to be hospitable to strangers as they may be angels. But we also know that they can show themselves with some of their heavenly attributes. It’s no coincidence that most of the time the first words out of the angel’s mouth are, “Do not be afraid.”
Why does the writer of Hebrews make such a big deal about angels? Because the Jews back then perceived angels differently than we do today. They also perceived them differently than what the Bible says about them. They believed that 200 angels controlled the movement of the stars, sun and moon. There was a calendar angel that controlled the days. Angels controlled the ocean, frost, dew, hail, thunder, etc. The Jews believed that angels were the wardens of hell and that they tortured the damned. The biggest misconception was that God had a senate of angels that He conferred with before He did anything, so in Genesis 1:26, where it says “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” the Jews believed that God was talking to the senate of angels. The writer of Hebrews had to really make his point about Jesus being higher than the angels because the Jews put angels almost on the level of God. In fact, many Jews at that time worshiped angels.
Now it is true that the Law was given to the people by angels through Moses and the Jews knew that. Remember Galatians 3:19 “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.” The angels brought the highest law to the Jews. But the Jews had elevated the angels so high over the years that the Jewish Christians had a hard time grasping the concept that Jesus was the Son of God and higher than the angels. They had a hard time thinking that God spoke to them (and to us) “in Son” and not “in angel.”
The Bible says that angels are created beings who carry out God’s will. They serve God and they serve us. They do not die, they were not born–they were created. They have names–we know of Michael and Gabriel. They have emotions–they rejoice when one sinner is brought to repentance through Jesus Christ. They do not marry. There are thousands and thousands of them–millions, maybe–and we will be in heaven with them, worshiping the Almighty God of the Universe together.
So, enough about angels. Let’s go back to the subject of this letter–Jesus Christ.
For fear that the Jewish Christians would think of Jesus as just an angel, the writer spends quite a bit of time contrasting the two. He quotes seven Old Testament scriptures to show why Jesus is superior to the angels. Here are the six truths from the seven scriptures:
Jesus is the Son of God, v. 5. Collectively, angels have been called sons of God–Job 1:6 uses that term for angels. But there is only One who individually has been called the Son of God. Also, did you notice that the verse says, “Today I have become Your Father.” Jesus was not created–He is God, always has been, always will be. But when Jesus humbled Himself and became a man, God gave Jesus the name “Son”. Remember, the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is far beyond what we can imagine, but God named Jesus “Son” for us so that we might have a better idea of how the relationship works. Jesus became “The Son” when He came to earth. God never gave an angel the individual name of “My Son.”
He is the Firstborn who receives worship, verse 6. Firstborn in the Biblical context does not mean the one who was born first. It means the one who receives the inheritance and blessing from the father. That is really important because Jesus was never “born”. There are several examples in the Bible, but the one that might be best known is the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were twins born to Isaac and Rebecca. Esau was the firstborn, but he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of porridge because he was hungry. When all was said and done, Isaac gave the birthright and the blessing to Jacob. And it is through Jacob’s line that the Messiah was born. God gave the birthright to Jesus. God didn’t give birth to or create Jesus–Jesus is God, but because God wanted us to be redeemed from our sin, Jesus humbled Himself, became flesh, died and rose again. He received the birthright of the Firstborn because of that.
Jesus is worshiped, verse 6–”Let all God’s angels worship Him.” You don’t worship someone or something that is equal to you. The angels worshiped Jesus. Jesus is above all and is superior to the angel. The only one who is worthy to be worshiped at all is God. Jesus, therefore, must be God.
He is served by the angels, verse 7 The Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” is also translated “wind.” Angels are spirits and can manifest themselves in many forms. Wind and fire are two of them. But if Jesus is served by the angels, then he must be superior to the angels.
He is God, sitting upon a throne and anointed verse 8 Here is what God says about His Son…”Your throne, Oh God, will last forever and ever.” God the Father calls Jesus the Son, God. It doesn’t get any clearer than that! God also says that Jesus will rule on the eternal throne and that he will rule with righteousness. Jesus was anointed with joy or gladness. Jesus doesn’t rule with a bad attitude….He rules with joy. Psalm 45, where these verses are taken, is a wedding psalm. Jesus is the bridegroom and we are the bride.
Jesus is the eternal Creator, v. 10-12 We’ve talked about this before, Jesus is the One who created all the universe and is the One who is holding it together. But this universe, because sin entered into it, is winding down and will be used up eventually. As verse 11 says, the universe will wear out. When it does, Jesus will role it up like a robe and change it out for the New Heaven and the New Earth that is talked about in the book of Revelation. It’s as easy for Him to change out the universe as it is for us to change from our pajamas to our work clothes. But Jesus will remain the same, yesterday, today and forever. His years will never end. He is eternal. Jesus Christ is above all.
Jesus is Superior, v. 13-14 God told Jesus to sit at His right hand. Jesus is God’s equal. And at the appointed time, Jesus’ enemies will be His footstool. The enemies of righteousness will be powerless, they will be worthless.
The angels in verse 14 are serving both the Father and the Son and are sent to also serve us. There is a huge difference between a servant and a son. I was thinking of the son of a wealthy white family in the South before the Civil War compared to one of their “men servants”, which of course means “slave”. Big difference as to where they could go, what they could do, what they could say, who they could interact with, what they did during the day. Jesus is the Son; the angels are servants.
And angels minister to those who will inherit salvation. That’s every believing Christian. That’s us! We do have angels who watch over us. Do we worship them because of that? No. Do we pray to them? No, we pray to God and God alone.
And here is the first “warning” or “exhortation”. Chapter 2 verse 1 tells us what to do. Notice the word “therefore”. We always want to find out what the “therefore” is “there for”. The writer is referring back to all he has written about Jesus being above all. Now he tells the Jewish Christians to be careful! Why? Because it is so easy to drift away from the truth.
I remember when I was in college and was at a summer camp up at Lake Arrowhead. My girlfriend and I had each rented floats to relax on the water. We were on the lake, close to shore. We started talking and never noticed we had “drifted away” until we had ski boats flying by us on both sides. All of a sudden the shore looked very far away–because it was very far away! We started paddling and realized that we might need help in getting back because by then it was late afternoon and the lake was choppy. Fortunately, someone came along to help us back to shore. I don’t remember if they were in a boat and towed us or if they swam next to us holding the floats, but we got back in. Drifting. So easy to do. The word implies being in a boat and not being anchored. Who do we anchor ourselves to? God. How do we do that? Pay careful attention to what we have been taught. Read the Word, pray, spend time with God, spend time with others who are seeking God’s will for their lives. Stephanie Edwards, the Rose Parade commentator for channel 5, was a speaker at a conference I went to years ago. She’s a strong believer. There were 2 ideas I remember even now. One of the ideas was “Read your mail”. What she talked about was that every day we take 15 minutes or so to get the mail from the mailbox, look through it, read the important stuff, throw envelopes away, etc. God has sent us mail. It’s called the Bible. Shouldn’t we be reading His mail to us every day? We have to pay careful attention to what God says to us. We need to be anchored to God–the anchor doesn’t move, we do. And we move slowly, by neglect. Most of us wouldn’t wake up one morning and say, “OK, today I’m not going to follow Christ.” But neglect does the same thing, only silently, without a lot of fuss so that it’s not noticed. All of a sudden we’re in the middle of the lake with no way to get to shore.
The writer goes on to say that if the angels’ message was binding because it came from God through the angels, how much more is the message received from God’s Son? Jesus Christ is above all and He gave us salvation. The writer reminds us that our salvation was given and announced by the Lord first of all, then was confirmed by those who heard Jesus in person, then confirmed by all the signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit that were evident in the early Church. We still have those things now, although not in the same intensity as they did then because we have the written Word of God. We don’t have to rely on a sign to tell is if someone is teaching us correctly–we have the perfect teacher–the Holy Spirit–inside of us and we have the Bible. We always should be careful to make sure anything we hear concerning spiritual matters lines up with what the Bible says.
Verses 5-9 talk about Christ’s humiliation and His exaltation. Now these verses were confusing! Were they talking about Jesus or mankind or both? Well, they are talking about mankind. Verses 6 and 7 were taken from Psalm 8, which talks about all of God’s creation. God made man a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under man’s authority. But then, Adam sinned. In verse 8 it says at present we do not see everything subject to him, meaning mankind. Certainly all animals are not subject to us. IF there was no sin they would be. The physical earth is not in subjection to us–the tsunami is a sobering example of not being in authority over the earth.
Verse 9 starts out with a great word, “BUT”–but we see Jesus. We see the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We see the One who is holding it all together but who will also wrap it up like a used up old robe and will give us a new Heaven and new Earth. We see the part of the trinity that humbled Himself to become lower than the angels–to become man. But now He is crowned with glory and honor because He suffered so much for us, even death on the cross.
Jesus Christ is above all. Let’s remember that Jesus is Lord and refocus our lives on Him.
Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian