We began to study the book of Hebrews last Sunday evening, when we spent our time on the first four verses of chapter 1, where the author teaches us about the one who is Son. And the author made clear that the one who is Son is greater than the Old Testament prophets and he’s greater than the angels. In the past, God spoke in bits and pieces through the prophets. And in the past, God revealed his law through the angels. But in these last days, God has spoken his final and decisive word in the one who is Son. And so, there’s God the Father who speaks, and there’s also the one who is Son in whom the Father speaks. And the author went on to tell us about the one who is Son. So, who is he? He is the one who was appointed the heir of all things. And that means everything that was made belongs to him. All things were made for him and he rules over all things. And he’s the one through whom God made all things. And so, when God made the universe and everything in it, he made it through his Son. And the Son is the radiance of God’s glory, so that just as the rays of light come from the sun in the sky, so the Son comes eternally from the Father. The Father is the source; and the Son has come from him from all eternity. And the Son is the exact representation or imprint of God’s being. So, he is the image of the Father. He’s not different from the Father, but is a repetition of the Father. And the Son sustains all things by his powerful word. And so, he’s the Lord of history who controls and directs all things. And when the time was right, the one who is Son came into the world as our Great High Priest and to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice to provide purification for our sins. And having provided purification for our sins, the one who is Son sat down at God’s right hand as King over all. He always ruled over all, because he’s the Son. But now he rules over all as our Saviour.
And so, who is the one who is Son? He’s the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who along with the Father and the Holy Spirit is to be worshipped forever and forever. The Father is God. The Son is God. And the Holy Spirit is God. They are not three gods, but one God. But the one God we worship is Three Persons. And as the radiance of God’s glory, the Son comes from the Father eternally. As the exact imprint of God’s being, he is the image and repetition of the Father. He was appointed heir of all things and all things were made through him and he sustains all things by his powerful word. And he is our Saviour who died for us; and he is our Saviour who reigns for us. And who better to reveal God to us than God himself? And that’s who the Son is. He is the Eternal Son of God the Father. And, of course, the Eternal Son of God the Father came to earth as one of us and was given the name Jesus.
In today’s passage, the author compares the one who is Son with the angels. He mentions the angels because, in the past, they were agents of revelation. God revealed his law through them. But God has now spoken his final word through one who is superior to the angels. And he also mentions the angels, because he will go on in chapter 2 to make the point that the one who is Son was made lower than the angels for a time. But afterwards, he was crowned with glory and honour. And so, the author will go on to speak about the Son’s incarnation, when the Eternal Son of God came to earth as one of us. And so, for a time, the Son was made lower than the angels. But even though he was once made lower than the angels, he is far, far, far greater than the angels, because he is the Eternal Son of God.
And do you remember last week I said that the author said seven things about the one who is Son? And the number seven is the perfect number in the Bible. It’s the number of completion. And therefore, saying those seven things about the one who is Son was the author’s way of saying that the Son is perfect. Well, in today’s passage, the author has seven quotations from the Old Testament. And he uses those seven quotations to make the point that the Perfect Son is superior to the angels.
The first six of the seven quotations can be divided into three pairs. In the first pair, he makes the point that the Son is superior to the angels because he is the Son. In the second pair, he makes the point that the angels were made to worship and serve the Son. In the third pair, he makes the point that the Son is the Eternal God and Creator. And that leaves one remaining quotation, which is therefore the climax of the seven and it’s about the Son’s enthronement at God’s right hand. So, let’s look at these seven quotations and what the author says about them and about the one who is Son.
So, turn with me to verse 5 where the author asks to which of the angels did God ever say the following two things? And then he quotes from Psalm 2 and from 2 Samuel 7.
Psalm 2 is that psalm which begins with the psalmist asking why the nations conspire and plot against the Lord and his Anointed King? God is not afraid of the nations. In fact, he laughs at them, because they cannot rebel against him and his Anointed King and succeed. And in the midst of the psalm, the Lord is depicted as turning to someone and saying:
You are my Son,
today I have become your Father.
You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
In the psalm’s original setting, the Lord is saying that the nations will not succeed against his human king, whom God had chosen to rule on his behalf in Jerusalem. And so, think of someone like David or Solomon or any of the other kings who succeeded them. They could trust in the Lord to help them against their enemies. And in Old Testament times, the human king was sometimes referred to as God’s son.
That’s what the psalm means in its original setting. However, the author of Hebrews re-interprets that psalm to refer to the the eternal relation between the God the Father and God the Son. So, from all eternity, the Father begets his Son. I used the words ‘beget’ and ‘begotten’ last week. I wonder do you know the significance of that word? We say the Son is begotten and not made. What’s the difference between beget and made? Or what’s the difference between beget and create?
When you make something, or when you create something, you create something which is different from you. So, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The heavens and the earth are not the same as God. They are different from him. But when you beget something, you’re begetting something which is the same as you are. So, in Genesis 5 we have that long list of Adam’s descendants from Adam to Noah. And the NIV translates verse 3: ‘When Adam lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.’ But in the King James Version of verse 3, it says: ‘And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.’ And throughout the chapter, where the NIV says ‘he became a father of’ the King James says ‘he begat’. Adam did not make or create his son; he begat his son, because the son he produced was in his own likeness, in his own image. Adam’s son was a human being just like Adam was. And so, when we say God the Father begat the Son or when we say the Son was begotten from the Father, we’re saying they are the same as one another. The Father did not make something different from himself. The Father begat a Son in his likeness, in his image. The Son is not different from the Father, but he’s the same as the Father. He’s a repetition of the Father.
And the author to the Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, teaches us that Psalm 2 is referring to that. In eternity, God the Father said to the Eternally Begotten Son:
You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
And when it says ‘today’, the Lord is referring to God’s eternal ‘today’. God’s today is always in the present. As Augustine put it, for God, nothing is past as if it has ceased to be; and nothing is future as if it has yet to come to pass. Nothing is past or future for God; and all is simply present for him. God’s today does not yield to tomorrow; and it does not follow yesterday. His today is eternity. And so, God the Father eternally begets his Son.
And then the author quotes from 2 Samuel 7 which is that chapter where God sent Nathan the prophet to speak to King David, when David wanted to build a temple for God. And Nathan revealed God’s promise to David that David would be succeeded by a son and David’s son would be the one to build the temple. And God said about David’s son:
I will be his Father, and he shall be my son.
In its originally setting, the Lord was referring to Solomon, David’s son who would become king.
But, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews re-interprets that passage to refer once again to the eternal relation of the Father and the Son because here’s God the Father, addressing his Son and saying to him: I will be your Father eternally and you will be my Son eternally. You will be the radiance of my glory and you will be the exact imprint of my being. You’ve not different from me, but you’re the same as me. You’re my imprint. My image. You’re a repetition of me.
Now, God did not ever say that to the angels, did he? From time to time, the angels are referred to as ‘sons of God’. For instance, you’ll find them described that way in Job 1. But nowhere is one single angel described as being God’s son. There’s only one Eternal Son of God.
So, the Son is greater than the angels because he is the Son. In verse 6, the author says that when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says the following two things. And then he quotes verses from the Old Testament which tell us that the angels were made to worship and serve the Son.
When the author refers to the Son as God’s ‘firstborn’, we should remember that, in the Bible, a human firstborn son was not only the first son to be born, but he also possessed certain rights and privileges, because the firstborn was unique and special and supreme. For instance, the firstborn son received a double-share, or even all, of the father’s inheritance. And he possessed other rights as well. And so, in the Bible, the word ‘firstborn’ refers to a person who is unique and special and supreme. And that applies to God the Father’s Eternally Begotten Son, because there is only one Eternally Begotten Son.
And according to the author of Hebrews, when God the Father brought his firstborn Son into the world, he commanded the angels to worship him. He’s quoting Deuteronomy 32:43. Deuteronomy 32 contains the Song of Moses which he recited in the hearing of the Israelites. And in the course of the song, Moses compared what God is like with what people are like. And then he called on the people to remember God’s love and kindness towards them. But he also reminded them of their unfaithfulness. And at the end of the song, he sings about how God will come to take vengeance on his enemies and to make atonement for, or to cleanse, his people’s land. That is, he will come to punish his enemies and to cleanse his people from their sins. And Moses calls on the nations and on God’s people to rejoice. At least, that’s how the NIV translates his words. But the Greek version of the Old Testament, which our author is quoting, says that ‘the heavens’ and ‘the angels of God’ should worship God.
So, according to Deuteronomy 32, God will come to punish his enemies and to cleanse his people from their sins. And God has come. He has come in the Person of his Eternally Begotten Son. He came the first time to cleanse us by giving up his life as the perfect sacrifice for sins. He will come a second time, to punish his enemies. But God has come. He has come in the Person of his Son. And the angels are commanded to worship him. And if they’re commanded to worship him, then that means he must be greater than they are. In fact, it must mean that he is God, because no one is to worship anyone or anything apart from God.
And then the author follows that quotation from Deuteronomy with a quotation from Psalm 104:4:
He makes his angels winds,
his servants flames of fire.
Psalm 104 is about praising the Lord, because he’s the one who made all things and who sustains all things. Verse 4 says that God makes the winds his messengers and flames of fire his servants. So, the psalmist is comparing the wind and the lightning to messengers, because God sends them throughout the earth. However, the author of Hebrews is once again quoting from the Greek version of the Old Testament. And in the Greek version, the psalm refers to the angels. The angels are God’s messengers, whom he sends here, there, and everywhere.
And, of course, the Bible makes clear that this is true. For instance, God sent an angel to visit Daniel in the lion’s den. Daniel also refers to other angels who were assigned by God to oversee the nations. And we read in the book of Zechariah recently of the interpreting angel who was sent to help Zechariah understand the night visions. And the first night vision was about angelic riders who were sent out on patrol around the world. And we read about angels in other parts of the Old Testament who were sent by God for various reasons. And then, in the New Testament, Gabriel was sent to Mary to announce to her that she would give birth to a son. And angels were sent to the shepherds to announce the birth of the the Saviour. And angels were sent to help the Lord Jesus when he was in the wilderness and when he was in Gethsemane. They were sent to help the apostles. God sends the angels all over the place.
Notice, of course, that the angels were made. That is, they are part of God’s creation. And since they’re part of God’s creation, they were made by God the Father through God the Son. And so, the Son is superior to them, because he’s the Creator and not a creature like them. And he’s superior to them, because they were made to serve him. They are his messengers, created by him to do his bidding.
So, the Son is superior to the angels because he’s the Son. And he’s superior to the angels because they were made to worship and serve him. What next? The author of Hebrews quotes now from Psalm 45 and Psalm 102 to make the point that the Son is the Eternal God. Psalm 45, in its original setting, records the wedding of a king and his bride. And it’s striking because in verse 6 the psalmist refers to the king as God. And many of the commentators don’t know what to make of that. However, the author to the Hebrews helps us, because he applies the words of the psalm to the one who is Son. In other words, the psalm refers to God the Son. He is the great King and his throne will last for ever and for ever. And righteousness, and not wickedness, will be the mark of his reign, because he loves righteousness and he hates wickedness. And therefore, God, your God, has set you above your companions and he has anointed you with the oil of joy.
Notice how the psalmist distinguishes the God whose throne will last for ever from the God who sets him above his companions. Are there two gods? No, there are not two gods. Every Israelite knew that ‘the LORD our God, the LORD is one.’ That’s what they were taught to confess. There are not two gods; there is only one God. But within the Godhead, there’s God the Father and there’s God the Son and there’s also God the Holy Spirit. One God in three persons. And so, though the psalmist did not realise it, the Holy Spirit inspired him to bear witness to the distinction in the Godhead between the Father and the Son.
And the Father has exalted his Son above his companions. Is he referring to the angels? Is he referring to human beings? It’s not clear. But, while the angels are God’s messengers, and are sent here, there, and everywhere, the Son is exalted over all. And he is filled with joy. He’s the great King whose throne will never end. And do you know why his throne will never end? Because he will never end.
And that takes us to the next quotation which is from Psalm 102 and it’s in verses 10 to 12. In its original setting, the psalm is the prayer of an afflicted man. He writes about his distress and how his days vanish like smoke. His heart is blighted. He refers to his loud groaning. He withers like the grass. By contrast, the Lord sits enthroned for ever. And the psalmist goes on to write about how the Lord laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of his hand. They will perish, but the Lord will remain. And that’s the part of the psalm which the author of Hebrews quotes and he applies the words of the psalm to the Son. The psalmist is telling us that the Son who is Lord laid the foundations of the earth. And he’s telling us that the heavens are the work of the Son who is Lord.
And look what the the psalmist goes on to say about the heavens and the earth. They will perish, but he — the Son who is Lord — remains. They will wear out like a garment, but he — the Son who is Lord — remains the same. The world as we know it is destined to come to an end one day. It will come to an end which Christ comes again to make all things new. And so, this world, the world as we know it, will come to an end. But the Son who is Lord doesn’t change. He remains the same. He remains the same, because the Son, together with the Father and the Spirit is the Eternal, Unchanging God.
By contrast, the angels are part of the created world which is always changing. And so, the Son is superior to the angels, because he is God and he does not change.
The Son is superior to the angels because he is the Son and because the angels were made to worship and serve the Son. And the Son is superior because he is God. Finally, the author of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 110. In its original setting, the psalm depicts the Lord saying to David’s Lord:
Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.
The Lord Jesus brought this psalm up when he was talking to the Pharisees. Do you remember? He asked them to explain who David was referring to when he referred to his Lord. The Pharisees didn’t answer him, but the author of Hebrews explains it for us. The psalm depicts a conversation between two Lords. There’s God the Father and there’s God the Son. And God the Father is inviting God the Son to sit on the throne.
But why does God the Father need to invite God the Son to sit on the throne when God the Son is the Eternal God who made all things and who rules over all things with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit? Why does God the Son need to be invited to sit on the throne when, as God, he has always been the great King over all? It’s because there was a time when the Eternal Son of God was made lower than the angels. There was a time when the Eternal Son of God humbled himself and took to himself a human body and soul like ours and he came down from heaven to earth and he lived among us for a time and he lived a life of sorrow and suffering before he was arrested and beaten and whipped and killed and buried in the ground. The Eternal Son of God became one of us. And, as one of us, he died to pay for our sins with his life and he shed his blood to cleanse us so that whoever believes in him receives forgiveness for their sins and the hope of everlasting life.
And after he died, he was raised. And after he was raised, he ascended to heaven. And there in heaven, God the Father invited him to take the throne again and to sit there as our Saviour. And from his throne, he calls his people into his everlasting kingdom through the reading and preaching of his word. And one day he will return in glory and with power to put his enemies under his feet and to bring his people into the new heavens and earth.
And so, where is he now? He’s seated on a throne. By contrast, the angels are ministering spirits. They are servants. They are sent, here, there and everywhere.
And so, the Son is superior to the angels because he is the Son and because the angels were made to worship and serve the Son and because the Son is God. And whereas the Son sits on a throne, the angels are sent from place to place. There is no one greater than the Son, which is why we should trust in him and worship him as God. And since he does not change, since he remains the same, we know that we can always rely on him for the help we need, because his love for his people and his care for his people does not change.