B. Gospel authority and reign of the rightful heir (1:5-14):
When comparing Jesus with angels, we must always remember that the Lord Jesus has “become so much better than the angels.” Angels never had a father-son relation as the Father and Son, about which the Father said, “You are My Son … I will be to Him a Father and He will be to Me a Son.” Such statements were never made to angels concerning their relationship with God.
On the contrary, angels are spirits and “His ministers” who have been sent forth for the sake of those who believe. Only this one statement is made in Scripture concerning the ministry of angels in reference to Christians. We would thus be cautious about making too many declarations concerning the ministry of angels and what they do in our lives. Nevertheless, the statement is made, and thus we assume that they are not idle bystanders in reference to their ministry for us. They will do their ministry regardless of our feeble understanding of what and how they do their ministry.
But in reference to the gospel ministry of the Son, it was as Peter announced on Pentecost, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (At 2:36). Jesus now functions in a gospel ministry. He was seated at the right hand of God on the throne of authority, which throne receives authority from the throne of God in heaven. It is this authority that God has always exercised over all things. His “scepter [of a king] of righteousness, is the scepter” of the present kingdom reign of the One who was at the time the Hebrew letter was written, “both Lord and Christ.” He still is today (At 2:36).
The writer seeks to prevail upon our minds with the fact that unless we honor the present kingdom reign of King Jesus, the gospel of His reign will have little impact on our behavior. We are less motivated to be obedient subjects of the King if we believe that the King is limited in reign only to the church of obedient subjects. When we realize that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him,” then we too are cut to the heart (See 1 Pt 3:22). Realizing the totality of the gospel reign of Jesus humbles us into submission as loyal subjects. It brings reassurance to our souls to know that all things are under His control.
Therefore, as King, Jesus is above His companions, the angels. He has received all authority in the heavenly realm, as well as on earth (Mt 28:18). Angels have no such place of authority in the realm of heavenly things. In fact, even angels are subjects of His kingdom reign.
In the beginning when creation was first conceived in the mind of God, angels were brought into existence. We do not know if they were created before the creation of the material world, or after. We only know what Paul wrote of this matter to the Colossians: “By Him [the Son of God] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible” (Cl 1:16). Through the Holy Spirit, Paul revealed that angels were also the result of the creative work of the Son (Cl 1:16). Angels are not incarnate beings, for they are the “invisible” of that which was created. “You, Lord [Jesus], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth.” No angel ever had the power of Deity to lay the foundation of the world. That which was created had no power to create.
“They [the creation] will perish, but You remain [after they have long passed away] (See 2 Pt 3:10). And according to the second law of thermodynamics, that which was created will wax old. Since that which was created was so created out of that which does not exist (Hb 11:3), then all that was created is not inherently eternal. All that was brought into existence by the Lord Jesus can also be taken out of existence by the same Creator. All material things as gold will perish (1 Pt 1:7). Since we and angels were the product of creation, then neither we nor they are inherently eternal (See Mt 10:28). Our eternal existence is dependant on our being in the presence of Him who is inherently eternal.
But there are those things that are inherently eternal because He is eternal. We “were not redeemed with corruptible things … but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pt 1:18,19). “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Pt 1:25). These are eternal things. So Peter reminds us that “this is the word by which the gospel was preached” to us (1 Pt 1:25). As opposed to that which is solely of this world, the affect of the blood of Christ will continue into eternity. It is for this reason that through the cross, Jesus “became the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him” (Hb 5:9).
“You [King Jesus] are the same” in existence from the beginning of creation. It is not possible for Deity to go out of existence, or to change in nature of existence. Eternality is the definition of God, and thus there is no end of that which God is. Contrary to our need for spiritual growth, there is no need for spiritual growth in reference to the nature of God. Holiness is the nature of His being. He is the spiritual goal to which we strive to grow. “As He who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of behavior” (1 Pt 1:15).
Change in reference to the nature of God would be a logical contradiction concerning His very existence. God is not subservient to the constant changes of man. If there were changes in the nature and character of God, then we would know that we have created a god after our own imagination, for He would be a god who changes. But God is unchangeable, as well as His counsel (See Hb 6:17,18).
We are not puzzled with the Holy Spirit’s statement in Philippians 2:6,7:
“Being in the form of God, [the Son of God] did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men.”
We find no passage in the entire New Testament that states that this voluntary incarnation on the part of the Son of God was reversed. Since He transformed from flesh and blood before the burial, to flesh and bone after the resurrection, we stand with the disciples who witnessed His bodily ascension (At 1:9). If we are alive when He comes again, “we will see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). We can only assume that as He was when the disciples witnessed His body in His ascension, so He will be when He comes again. Therefore, we are not of those about whom John wrote:
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn 7).
Nevertheless, we say these things in view of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16: “Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no more.” We assume that Paul’s use of the word “flesh” is in reference to the incarnation. If so, then in some way the incarnate Son is no longer in the flesh as He functions as our King and Priest. He would thus be in some spirit form, though His equality with the Father and Spirit was given up in the incarnation. This relationship with the Father seems to have been an eternal subjugation on the part of the Son. This relationship seems to be revealed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.”
Are these things too difficult to understand by those who are presently in the flesh? Certainly! Nevertheless, we must understand these statements exactly as they read in our text. This is in view of the fact that there are no statements of Scripture that affirm that the incarnate Son will ever return to being equal with God, though He never gave up His divinity. For God to give up divinity is an impossibility.
We would assume that the Son will not for the sake of what the Hebrew writer will later reveal in the following chapter. Of course, our lack of revelation on this matter leaves room for our personal assumptions. Nevertheless, we must remain with what has been revealed without frustrating ourselves with present and future realities in the spiritual realm of which we have little revelation (See Dt 29:29).
His love for us beyond angels is tremendously exemplified if there is anything near the notion of an incarnation of the Son of God that will exist beyond the time when we see Him as He is in His final coming (1 Jn 3:2). His sacrifice was far beyond the suffering of His earthly existence, including the agony of the cross. His incarnational sacrifice was forever. If we would exalt angels to be in status as the incarnate Son of God, then we have denied the gospel of the incarnation.
No angels, therefore, could ever have the following declaration made to them: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Only our Lord Jesus had enemies, and thus only He heard these words from the Father. Angels have no earthly enemies. This statement, therefore, could never have been made to them. Angels are only “ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation.” Any theology, therefore, that would exalt angels above Jesus, or even equate angels with Jesus, is a denial of the gospel.
Our understanding of the gospel must begin with the incarnation of the Word into the flesh of man. His eternality was temporarily suspended while He was in the flesh of man. As God, He could not be terminated, though His flesh as a man could. Nevertheless, as we will be in our heavenly body that is yet to come, so also will the resurrected Jesus in His resurrected body when He comes again (See 1 Co 15:12-58; 1 Jn 3:2). Through the power of the resurrection, He was proved to be the Son of God with power (Rm 1:4). The power that raised Him from the dead is the same power that works today in the transformation of our lives.
Any efforts to equate Jesus with angels is an attack against the resurrection of the body of Jesus. Angels were never incarnate into the flesh of man in a way that they could be rejuvenated through resurrection into a body of flesh and bones in which they would dwell with us throughout eternity. God indeed allowed angels to appear before men throughout history. But we must not believe that they were incarnate into flesh and blood as Jesus at the time of His incarnation. If they had, then such would have been an attack against the unique gospel incarnation of Jesus that both John and Paul revealed (See Jn 1:1,2,14; Ph 2:5-8).
[Next in series: February 13]