Angels are high. Jesus is higher.
The book of Hebrews is championing Jesus as the supreme being. He is superior to all things created; everyone and everything. He is the divine Middleman (Heb. 1:1-2), the Living Word of God (Heb. 1:2), and the radiant image of God (Heb. 1:3). He is superior because He is God. In His human form, however, He became superior.
In the ancient Jewish mind, the angels were God’s highest created beings who carried out nearly all of His will in creation. There was nothing higher. For this reason, the writer of Hebrews brings the attention to the angels, God’s highest beings, and says that Jesus is “superior to angels” (Heb. 1:4).
“After making purification for sins, Christ 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” (Heb. 1:3-4).
There more than 100 references to angels in the Old Testament and above 160 in the New. While we don’t know everything about them, we are able to form a general idea. They were specially made higher than humans (Heb. 2:9). They can take human form particularly when God allows (Heb. 13:2). They have dazzling appearances (Matt. 28:3-4). They are fast (Dan. 9:21), intimidating (2 Kings 6:8-23), worshipful, intelligent, emotional (Rev. 4:8), and many other things.
Angels are even called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 38:7). However, Jesus is “the Son of God,” the preeminent Son who inherited the Father’s creation (Heb. 1:1-4). In His incarnation as a son of man, Jesus was made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9), but the work He accomplished as a man elevated Him higher than the angels, to the throne of God (Heb. 1:3). The angels may be high, but Jesus is higher.
First, Jesus is superior because of His title. He has a better name. The name that was “inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Heb. 1:4). In the Psalm, God said of Jesus, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Ps. 2:7). He has never said that to angel (Heb. 1:5).
Second, Jesus is superior because of His worship. He is God and worthy to be worshipped. In fact, the angels are commanded to worship Him (Deut. 32:43). “Let all God’s angels worship Him,” the writer says (Heb. 1:6).
Third, Jesus is superior because of His nature. Jesus made the angels, so He is superior to the angels. “He makes His angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire” (Heb. 1:7). This is a reference to them being God’s executioners, ready to do His bidding.
Fourth, Jesus is superior because of His eternity. He lives and reigns forever. “Your throne, O God, is forever and even, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom” (Heb. 1:8-9). He is the eternal King of God’s kingdom and his kingdom will never end (Heb. 1:10-12).
Fifth, Jesus is superior because of His destiny. Of which angel did God say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Heb. 1:13)? None. This was only said to Jesus. Everything in the universe is eternally subject to one person, Jesus. It is His destiny alone to rule all of creation.
Jesus is superior to the angels in title, worship, nature, eternity, and destiny. With this, the writer of Hebrews begins to unfold the superiority of Christ, who is God.
This article was adapted from the study guide, Jesus: The Superior One, written by Jacob Abshire, Laura Jackson, Curtis Riddle, and Katie Van Dyke, and based on sermons by Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church.