Online Bible Commentary
Christ is Superior to Angels
Hebrews 1:4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? 6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." 8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. (NIV)
The writer, likely Paul, continues writing of the superiority of Christ. His audience is that of Jewish Christians, likely new to the faith. He is writing to encourage them to hold fast to Christianity and not to revert to Judaism, or a form of it. In the preceding passage he wrote that Christ was superior to the prophets. He elevated Christ over the prophets, including Moses, by claiming that Christ replaced the prophets when He came to earth. Prophets no longer exist.
Jews not only held prophets in high esteem, but also angels. After all, the Law of Moses had been given through angels, by the burning bush (Acts 7:35, Gal. 3:19). So now, in this passage, the writer turns from the superiority of Christ over prophets to the superiority of Christ over angels.
The writer claims that Christ is greater than angels in three ways. First, He “became” superior to them (v. 4a). Christ, the man, was made a “little lower” than the angels because he was subject to death (Heb. 2:9). However, with his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven, He became superior to them.
The second way that Christ is greater than the angels is through His inheritance. “The name He has inherited” (v. 4b) is that of “Son” of God (v.5). The writer quotes two Old Testament verses, Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14, in verse five to support his point. God never addressed an angel as His Son (v. 5a).
The third way that Christ is greater than angels is that they must “worship him” (v. 6). Christ is referred to as the “first born” (v. 6a), meaning the first to have been given a resurrected body, but also, even more importantly, the first in matter of rank or honor. God bringing Christ “into the world” (v. 6b) refers to Christ’s second coming, when He comes to rule, when every knee will bow to Him. The angels are included in this worship of Christ. The writer states "Let all God's angels worship him" (v. 6c). This is a reference to Psalm 97:7, where angels, grouped into the term “gods”, meaning to be greater then men, are commanded to “worship him, all you gods.”
In verse seven, the writer then quotes Psalms again: "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." This is a reference to Psalm 104:4: “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servant.” The word translated “messengers” is the Hebrew word “malak”, which also means angel. Angels are “messengers” of God. God created them, and He directs them. They are his messengers and servants. They are sent to serve believers (Heb. 1:14). Angels obey the Lord with the speed of wind and the intensity of fire. Christ is their superior. This is the point the writer wishes to leave with these Jewish Christians.
The writer completes this passage with one final, huge, comparison of Christ and angels. Christ is addressed by God as “God” (v. 8a). He is God, one of the three persons of the Trinity. The “Trinity” means God has revealed Himself through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no mistaking in this verse, and many others, that Jesus Christ is God! He will rule from His throne “for ever”, eternally (v. 8b). And “righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom” (v. 8c). He rules His kingdom in righteousness. He rules over everything and everybody, including angels.
So, Christ is superior over angels. Some people today seem to act otherwise. They seem to worship angels, in place of Christ. This is an act of worshiping another “god”, and breaks the First Commandment. It is acceptable to favor angels, as those who do the work of God. But we should be careful not to elevate them above God. God created them, and he sends them to do his work. Angels are servants of God.