Lesson 2: Notes on Hebrews 1:5-14

 

The rest of Hebrews 1 is devoted to clarifying the distinction between the Son and angels. In doing so it makes the deity of Christ even clearer. All seven quotations are support for the assertion in 1:4 that Christ is superior to the angels. The amount of space Hebrews gives to this and now the seven quotations to support it, show how extremely important the doctrine is in the mind of the writer.  What he gives here is not needed to advance the argument in the rest of the book; it simply supports what has already been said. Further, it shows how he reasons; he derives his position from Scripture.  Five quotations come from the Book of Psalms, which were used in Christian worship. Thus the writer argues from what was undoubtedly very familiar to them.  [And I would argue from this that what we sing should be of very sound doctrinal quality. Whenever we sing the psalms, we can be sure we have met this standard.]  

 

The Seven Quotations   

 

It is essential in these quotations to pay careful attention to note who is being addressed, and then what the reply would be to a rhetorical question.   

 

1:  For to which of the angels did God ever say,  "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? 

 

2:  Or again,   "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"?

 

1:5    The Psalm 2:7 quotation is a declaration about the Son, yet it is rephrased here as a question whether the Father had ever said such a thing to an angel. The reply is obvious. He never said those words to any angel but to the Son alone.  For the first time in Hebrews, Jesus is called “My Son.”  Here the Oriental mind senses the reality: to honor that Son will register well with God; to reject Him will incite dreadful wrath.  This is precisely the situation, as 10:28-31 makes clear. 

 

The Psalm and Hebrews use the word “begotten.”  Since it does not refer to a man literally begetting a son [men beget and women bear], some translators go for the meaning that God is making a declaration that this is His Son by using ‘became’.  But if Jesus “became” the Son, many will assume that there was a time when He was not. The solution is to see how the Bible treats this verse.  Acts 13:32,33 quotes Psalm 2:7 as fulfilled in the resurrection.  Romans 1:4 also teaches that the act of God in raising Jesus was a kind of declaration of Jesus’ true Sonship.  He was the Son of God before His resurrection, as in Matthew 16:16, but that was not yet clear to all; the Resurrection made it clear. The Son Who is heir to all things and Who sits with His Father on the Throne, is the Son the Father identifies as such with all the rights His title entails.  The strong language of “beget” implies that the Father and Son are the same essence.  The moment of becoming is a matter of declaration, not the beginning of something previously not so.  We must not go beyond and suppose this verse implies that there was a moment when Jesus was not the Son and then a moment when He became the Son.  (If a difficult Scripture is not clear to us, we rely on clearer ones that we do understand.)  An ancient king would say of the one son he designated to reign with him, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.”   This meant that such a son was the son chosen to reign and to be recognized as the father’s equal in a way the other literally begotten sons were not.  To reject Jesus as God’s Son is to reject the Father (John 5:23).  Psalm 2:6 says God has installed His King, and then in v.7, He decrees that the One installed is His Son, the Son Who eternally proceeds from the Father. 

 

1:5  The second quotation 1 Chronicles 17:13 also speaks of the Father-Son relationship.  God promised David that he would always have a son born of his body who would reign over Israel (2 Samuel 7).  The ultimate Son of David is Christ and Hebrews looks to David’s Son as the unique and ultimate Son, the One anointed by God, one greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42; see also John 7:42 & 2 Timothy 2:8).  Remember no ceremony occurred and no official on earth declared Jesus the reigning Son of David.  His anointing as King was done by the Father.   Likewise, Jesus never entered the Most Holy Place in the Temple as one of a number of priests; rather He entered the real Holy Place – the very Presence of God.  In Hebrews we are forced to move from types of Christ to Christ Himself.  A succession of priests has been replaced by our Great High Priest.  Likewise, there was a succession of David’s sons, some utterly unfit to be called such.  All the other sons from David were stained by sin.  Only Christ is THE Son of David.   Jeremiah 21:11- 23:6 shows the line of David was corrupt; the gospel is that in that line one righteous king would come (23:5,6) and that Son of David is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).   

 

3:  And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."

 

1:6  This quotation from Deuteronomy 32:43 is legitimately part of the Deuteronomy text according to the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The point is, if angels are to worship Christ (the Firstborn), then He is God and they are not.  Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 to a fallen angel (Satan) during His temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13).  Worship must always distinguish the Lord God from His creatures.  In Revelation 19:10,11, an angel refused John’s worship when John was overawed with his majesty.  The angel, in very sound theology, instructed John, “Worship God!”  

 

Firstborn does not mean the first one created or the first one born.  It is the language of preeminence; the first one born in a family is “the number one son.”  In the law his inheritance involved a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).  Christ is the firstborn over creation because all things were made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15-17, a Scripture remarkably like the opening sentence of Hebrews!). 

 

4:  In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire."

 

1:7  This statement from Psalm 104:4 makes sense when we read it in its context.  The theme of that psalm is the greatness of God over His creation.  Creation includes the physical heavens with clouds as God’s chariot.  The winds are His messengers, and the flames are His servants.  Earth, mountains, and waters obey His will; so do the winds who are His messengers.  In the LXX in v.4 the word for winds and spirits is the same; the word for messengers is the word for angels.  Angels are part of creation, servants of God in it.   Hebrews asserted the Son as Creator in its opening sentence.  The writer will repeat that in quotation 6 below.  In the previous quotation, the angels worship Christ.  Now in this last one they are servants.  In 3:5,6 the servant/Son difference will be repeated.   

 

5.  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.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."

 

1:8,9  In this quotation of Psalm 45:6,7, the Son is addressed as God.  In 1:3, Christ sat at the right hand of the Majesty.  In this verse He has the throne of God.  Jesus is exalted as God among those companions who have the privilege to be in His presence. 

 

1:9   This verse connects Jesus’ right to rule with His character.  Both throne and scepter indicate His role as King, a position not given to His companions.  Only Christ is anointed King above the others.  Loving righteousness and hating wickedness are characteristics of Jesus to qualify Him. 

 

 

Psalm 89 – Only Christ Qualifies as the Righteous Son of David:    The Holy One of Israel (v.18) has a throne of righteousness and justice (vv.14-16).  The human king of Israel under the Lord must have a kingdom and a rule of the same quality. If David’s sons forsake God’s law, God will punish their sin (vv.30-32).  Many of David’s sons were wicked, leading to the Babylonian captivity (Habakkuk 1:2-6; Jeremiah 22:24 – 23:6;  Ezekiel 340 See notes on 1:5 above. The way God kept His covenant with David was to send Christ to be the Son of David (Luke 1:32,33).  No man, including David or Solomon, qualified to rule over Israel.  Their righteousness was defective, so the words of Hebrews 1:9 can apply only to Christ.  By sending Christ, God can keep the covenant promise to David (1 Chronicles 17:4-14) and maintain His holiness, since there will be no sin in that Son of David requiring the sanctions of the covenant.  Similarly, Christ fulfills Psalm 132:11,12.

 

This quotation and the one to follow mention eternity. His throne is forever, and He is forever. Later it will be emphasized that His priesthood is forever (7:16,17; 23-25). Other priests died and had to be replaced. An eternal throne and an eternal priesthood of an Eternal Person is a powerful combination.

 

How does the New Testament speak of Christ as God?  It is worth noting that not many New Testament passages use the word “God,” for Christ as here in 1:8.  (See John 1:1; Titus 2:13; Romans 9:5.) Greater emphasis is made of His being the Son of Man according to Daniel 7:13, and that He is the Son with God as His Father.  In both John 5:16-30 and Matthew 26:63-66, His claim that He was God’s Son led to the charge that He was a blasphemer. The Jews understood clearly His words as a claim of deity. The common NT assertion of Jesus’ deity is simply that He is Lord, as in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Romans 10:9.  To follow a listing of “Lord” in the NT epistles makes clear that this is the chief way His deity was expressed.  When we see a number of OT texts that refer to YHVH the LORD applied to Jesus Christ in the NT, we have no doubt what the NT writers meant when they called Him “Lord”. Philippians 2:9-11 quotes Isaiah 45:23; 1 Peter 3:14,15 quotes Isaiah 8:12,13. Jesus also used the “I Am” Name of God for Himself in John 8:58.

 

 

6:  He also says,  "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  11 They will perish, but you remain;  they will all wear out like a garment.  12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end."

 

1:10-12   (Psalm 102:25-27)   Hebrews has already asserted Christ’s role as Creator above.  Why yet another one?  Christ is the One Who laid the foundations of the earth.  What is the Creator called in this Psalm?  Psalm 102 is not quoted exactly here.  In v.25, Hebrews adds the word “Lord!” Psalm 102:25 says, “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth …”   Why insert the Name Lord?  Note it is not the title “God” but the Name “LORD.”  The word “God” is not God’s Name! The answer is that the “you” addressed in v.25 is the LORD, according to Psalm 102:18.  Hebrews simply takes the Name from one verse and inserts it deliberately and properly into the quotation, an action justified by the context of the Psalm.  In this way, the Name of YHVH has been applied to the Son.  No Jew back then would miss the significance of that.  As Hebrews progresses, the writer’s preference for calling Jesus “the Son,” will resume, but He will call Him “Lord” again, as in 2:3; 7:14 & 13:20.  

 

 

7:  To which of the angels did God ever say,   "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" ?

 

1:13  (Psalm 110:1)  In our literature we are not familiar with this little literary device, called an inclusio, which writers with a Hebrew mind often employed.   The writer would show what a section is, by the inclusio, i.e., by repeating some key phrase at the beginning and the end.  Here it is: “to which of the angels” in v.5 is repeated in v.14.  That shows that the seven quotations were intended to stand together as support of the claim in v.4 that Christ has inherited a name superior to the angels. 

 

No angel sits at the Father’s right hand, only the Son.  Later we will see why Jesus deserves such an honor when the aspect of His finished work is added to Who He is as the Son.  The Son eternally sat at the Father’s right hand; yet His right to such honor is enhanced as a result of His obedient work in human history as the Priest Who did the will of His Father (10:5-10).  He deserves the personal sit-here-beside-Me acclamation, and the reward that His enemies should become His footstool.  Psalm 110 makes clear that this language is only for the One who is David’s Lord and thus David’s God.  There was no one in Jerusalem King David called “Lord!” 

 

That Hebrews would use this much quotation reveals the high priority the doctrine has in the writer’s mind; it shows his theological method, and it is a clue that a danger he was addressing among his readers was error concerning angels.  Such error, if believed, would undermine the true place of Christ.  That makes the writer of Hebrews draw his sword and battle vigorously.

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1:14:  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

 

The seven supporting quotations have ended.  The goal of Hebrews 1:5-14 is not to belittle angels.  They are part of a creation that glorifies God. They are His servants, 1:7; many of them God elected to eternal life (1 Timothy 5:21).  His holy angels stand in His presence, humbled that they should be allowed a right no one has, except those to whom God has given it.  (See Luke 1:19 and Isaiah 6.)  They do His will, unlike us, with immediate and absolute obedience, as in Ezekiel chapters 1-3. But they also serve us (Matthew 18:10).  Creatures higher than us (2:7) are commanded to stoop to serving us. Often God has the strong serving the weak.  

 

 

A Possible Scenario of the Original Rebellion:  Since God makes known His plans to His “servants the prophets” (Jeremiah 29:19 & Amos 3:7), He may have revealed His plans to His servants the angels (1:7).  This does include God assigning them to be servants of us lower creatures as heirs of salvation, a grace not shown to angels.  When they learned this assignment is conjecture except that 1:14 refers to us as future heirs.  All angels have fellow angels – at one time all were sinless spirits – who are now eternally damned and not forgiven.  All rebellious angels are condemned with no hope!  Yet God would surprise His angels with forgiveness for man.  He would seek us out (Luke 19:10) and wait patiently for us with longsuffering. To angels who suffered immediate justice, this must have been an unbelievable discovery.  The grace of God has always stirred a negative reaction in those who disagree with God’s sovereign decisions!  This may have been the issue that caused some angels to rebel, especially the one anointed as the guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:14).  If so, certain angels declined to serve.  Pride is a horrible thing – the devil’s downfall (1 Timothy 3:6).  Some angels opted out of the service of God; they preferred a different leader, and they got the devil.  One third is a staggering proportion of angels to be lost (Revelation 12:1-9).  

 

There is another exalted Person God called upon to serve redeemed sinners, and that was the Son!  God prepared a body for Him so that He could offer it for our salvation (10:5-10).  The Son would suffer greatly as a man, with strong crying and tears (5:7-10).  He would be despised and rejected and even go to the cross, but for the joy ahead He would endure it all (12:2,3).  And when His work was done the Father would give to Him the highest honor, “Sit here at my right hand,” words never spoken to any angel.  Satan wanted that throne.  He had no right to it, but the one Who did have the right emptied Himself and became obedient unto death even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-11).  The angel who coveted God’s place has his own place prepared for him (Matthew 25:41).  The One who deserves to be seated at the Father’s side, already has it as His throne forever (1:8).   His enemies will be His footstool.