Better than the angels (a meditation on the greatness of Jesus)

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. ~ Hebrews 1:3-4

Our culture has a very eclectic view of angels. In popular shows on tv they appear as warriors who view humanity as an annoyance or wage war against mankind and each other for control of the world. Around Christmastime with cartoons and pageants, angels are often presented as cute children with wings and halos crooning over baby Jesus. These angels wouldn’t hurt a fly. Some people pray to angels. Some wear angel jewelry or put angel statues in their yards. And some speak about heaven gaining a new angel when a loved one dies.

Most of these views of angels have little to no basis in the Bible.

Hebrews 1 says of the angels: “[God] makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire” (1:7) and “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (1:14)

Angels are servants of God’s will and God’s people. In a sense they are servant-warriors who fight when needed (Genesis 19, Daniel 10:10-14, and Matthew 26:52-53, to name a few places). At times they appear ordinary, disguised as persons (Hebrews 13:2); while at other times they appear in power and glory and present a frightening presences that causes people to tremble in fear, yet they are not to be worshiped (Luke 2:8-15; Revelation 22:8-9).

Yes, the Bible even speaks of a group of the angels rebelling and warring against other angels in the past, but these rebellious angels are now kept in a spiritual prison and await the final judgment (Revelation 12, 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6). The faithful angels are mighty, God-honoring servants who ponder the mysteries of salvation while they aid God’s people (Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 1:12).

Yet as powerful, mighty, glorious, and even as frightening as the angels can be, they exist to point to someone greater.

This is what Hebrews 1 and 2 teach us about the angels and Jesus. Yes, the angels are great but Jesus is greater, his name is much more excellent. Where the angels are servants of God, Jesus is the Son of God. Though during his incarnation on earth Jesus became a man and for a while was made a little lower than the angels (2:7), he is the one who now sits on his throne and rules over all of creation, including angelic powers. Though the angels serve us in salvation, Jesus is the greater Servant who gave his very life that we might have life and be freed from the power and fear of death.

While angels are a part of God’s story, we are not to obsess over them, pray to them, or worship them. Instead our great obsession, our great joy and delight, is to be Jesus himself.

For Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:3). Yes, Jesus is better.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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