Why compare the Son with angels?
The writer emphasizes the son’s supremacy over the angels in his identity as being one with God and his enthronement as the exalted Christ . He presents 7 biblical quotation (Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam 7:14; Duet 32:43; Ps 104:4; Ps 45: 6-7; Ps 102: 25-27 and finally Ps 110:1 et.al.) as evidence for this reality and rest assure the reader that the son’s supremacy is a scriptural testimony. This evidence of scripture with concatenation of key texts from the Law/ Torah, the prophets, and the Psalms, that starts in Heb 1:5 and ends in Heb 1:13 with the following unique sentence (especially in the original text) “For to which of the angels did God ever say“. The writer then concludes with the only positive statement about angels in this book, namely the role of the angels in the sweeping project of God’s saving activity in his Son: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Heb 1:14.”
Yet, a question may arise in your mind as why the writer, in God’s green earth, devotes so much space on this issue of angels? I’m sure we all have stepped in to a room and found ourselves in the middle of fiery debate about a certain issue, and wonder ‘why is this such a big deal!?’ This is how we all feel at first about the book of Hebrews. Yes, we all believe that the Son is “‘better’ (Kreitton in the original) to use his own choice word”. And he uses this initial argument about the supremacy of Christ for his later argument about all other realities int he Old covenant. See below the use of ‘better’ to compare the Son’s identity, role and especially the use of “mediator and Better” together in Heb 12:24. He is onto something, is he not?
There are two legitimate scriptural answers we could give, besides the historical ones, as to why the writer compares the Son with angels. Historically, during the second-temple period Jews, especially Hellenistic Jews, brought angels into the fore front of their expectation. Leaving this discussion on the side, however, we talked about in class, two biblical answers; the second one being the more likely answer.
- The first one is the issue of “angel worship” dealt by Paul in the book of Colossians. In this church there was a clear picture of angel worship, angelic visitation /revelation, that played a major role in their divergence from the sole-sufficiency of Christ. ” Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ” Col 2:18–19. However we noted that this issue was transpired in a gentile church several miles from the Jerusalem church (which we discussed in part 2. I concur with those biblical scholars that affirms that the book of Hebrews was written to Jews christian as oppose to gentile Christians. The evidence and the burden of proof from the epistle itself rest on the former than the latter. )
- The second, and I think is the more plausible one, is that the issue of angels is actually at the core of the entire of the book of Hebrews. Namely, that the Old Testament was given through angelic mediation (Gal 3:19; Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2; Cf. Ex 3:1-12). The insufficiency of the Old Covenant and the absolute non- negotiability of the sufficiency of the new covenant rests with the fact that the Son is the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; Cf. 1 Timothy 2:5).
The writer launches with his conclusive argument, “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” Heb 1:4. The supremacy of the son rests with the supremacy of the sonship of Christ. As we discussed in part 4 and 5, this name is the exclusive nature of Christ’s sonship, namely the ‘Eternal-Divine sonship’ of Christ. In this book the writer interwoven three sonship(s) of Christ:
- He is the Eternal son (v. 2),
- Messianic son (v.5), and
- Exalted son (v. 5 and v.13).
And the writer argues that God has not address no-one-angel as ‘Son’:
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”? Heb 1:5
Aren’t angels also called sons?
Yet a close reading of the Old Testament unveils that actually angels are called “sons of God”. see: Job 2:1; 38: 7; Ps 29:1-2; Ps 89:6-8; Dan 3:25. Angels were called sons precisely because of their functional role in “Yahweh’s Royal court”, namely their ministry on behalf of Yahweh.
The Royal Court Scene of Yahweh: The transcendent Throne Room
The scripture unveils for us layers of hosts of beings around the throne of Yahweh, attending his royal administrations. We get a vision of layers of at least three concentric circles around the transcendent throne of the Triune God in which three groups of council members are present:
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment…I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” Ps 82:1, 6
- Triune God: A communication exclusive to the three members of the Trinity. Gen 1:26-28; Isa 6:1-6
- Angelic hosts: Ps 81:1; 2 Chr 18:8-27; Job 5:1; 15:15; [Job 1:6]
- Prophets: “For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?” Jeremiah 23:18
In the book of revelation we get this concentric circles to climax when we are told that the lamb is standing int he center of this council.
Revelation 4:2–6; 5:6-8: “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne…. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”
In John’s description of the Royal Court Scene in which the invisible Yahweh seating on his throne, and angels seating around him with 4 creatures on each corner of the throne, while myriads of saints redeemed from all tribe and language on the this level….In this scene the Son is the center, the supreme ruler who is said by the angels.
(I had to stop and worship my Saviour even as I type these words. For these next words are worship evoking, apocalyptic vision)
- “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:11–14)
This is Johannine’s way of expressing the same truth as the writer to the Hebrews. The exalted Jesus is matchless and greater, because of who he is. He is worthy to take the scroll. Though angels were called sons, because of their proximity to the throne room, yet this one, the Lamb, the Son, has always been in the very bosom of Yahweh who is the expressed radiance of His glory and the exact imprint of his nature; through who He created the worlds; through whom He upholds the universe; through whose blood He redeemed those who come near to Him. Thus the Son is the agent of Yahweh in Creation, Providence, Revelation, Redemption.
Oh yeah the scripture calls these created angels as sons, just as the well known golf player is named “Tiger” and an actual wild animal called “Tiger”. Both have the name “Tiger” but with two different natures. Likewise, both angels and God’s own son were called “son”, yet not in the absolute sense. The writer shows us by his statement:
“For to which (τίνι in particular/ absolute sense) of the angels did God ever (ποτε) say: ‘You are my Son?’ The answer to this question is none. No ‘one’ angel was ever been referred (or promised to be called) as ‘son’, in the absolute sense of the word. However in the next class we will pick this theme of sonship and we will see David was called ‘son’ in the absolute sense. Also, Israel as a whole and Adam, were also called Son. See you soon.
For the fame of his great Name
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