Jesus and the Angels

We live in a world that has a fascination with angels. And let’s face it, we are fascinated for good reason.

Our common depiction of angels (cherub like, very human in attitude) does not ring true with the Bible. Biblical angels always caused people to be afraid because their presence was so overwhelming. Angels frequently begin their conversation with the words, “Fear Not!” Angels fought for Israel, they brandished swords, they fought supernatural foes and they could be manifested as fire and smoke.

Pastor John MacArthur helps us with a list of things the Bible tells us about angels:

  1. Angels are spirit beings and do not have flesh and bones (1 Cor. 15:40)
  2. Angels sometimes appear in other forms (Matthew 28:3-4)
  3. Angels are highly intelligent and have emotions (Luke 15:10)
  4. Angels do not marry and are unable to procreate (Matthew 22:28-30)
  5. Angels are not subject to death (Revelation 12:4)
  6. Angels were created before man and evidently number in the trillions (Rev. 5:11)
  7. Angels are highly organized and divided into ranks (Ephesians 6:10,12)
  8. Angels can move and act with incredible speed[1]

Angels are fascinating. Most of us have never met an angel (that we know of). The Bible talks about armies of angels and their job seems to be to care for and lead us. It makes you wonder if those times when you had a “chance meeting” or ended up in “just the right place and just the right time” was really the work of God’s angels getting us to the right place at the right time.  We should be grateful that we have angels watching over us.

However, the author of Hebrews is concerned that some people had become too fascinated with angels. They exalted them beyond what they should have done. Some even worshiped angels. Even today it is common to proclaim that anyone who dies will become an angel (this is actually a DE-motion rather than a PRO-motion). The point is that it is easy to get out of balance with angels.

Theologian NT Wright illustrates this well. We have all seen it happen. It is Christmas morning. The gift your child has bugged you about for months is under the tree in brightly colored wrapping paper. You are looking forward to the joyful response of your child when they open their gift. Your child opens the box and squeals with delight at the gift. However in a very short time the cherished gift is tossed aside and your child is playing with the paper and the box! This is a picture of what often happens to us. We have been given a priceless gift – of a relationship with Jesus – and then we toss that gift aside to run after angels, experiences, theological knowledge, or to build kingdoms to ourselves. [2]

This is what the author of Hebrews addresses. He wants to make sure that the main thing remains the main thing! To drive this point home he is going to compare Jesus with angels, then with Moses, then with the sacrificial system, and then with the priesthood. His point is the same: Jesus is more significant and important than any of these. If we are devoted to ANYTHING other than Jesus we are playing with the wrapping paper. We see several differences between Jesus and Angels.

He Has A Superior Name

This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.

For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus:

“You are my Son.

Today I have become your Father.”

God also said,

“I will be his Father,

and he will be my Son.”

The preacher quotes Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. His argument is that Jesus has a special relationship with the Father. This can be confusing to us. The angels are sometimes called “sons of God” and even we are called “sons of God” on occasion. Jesus however, is the only one who is the ETERNAL Son of God.

The fact that God said he would “become your Father” is confusing to many. If Jesus is eternal (which He is), then how could He “become” a Son? Jesus (the Son of God) was never anything but God. However, the intimacy of His relationship with the Father is best expressed with the title “Son”. This relationship was most fully revealed when He became a man and gave His life for us. It is this Sonship that makes our salvation possible.

The difference between the angels and Jesus is that Jesus is God, the angels are not.

He Holds a Superior Honor

And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said,

“Let all of God’s angels worship him.”

 The angels are sent to worship the Son. The Son does not worship the angels. When Jesus was born the Father sent a multitude of the Heavenly host (angels) to celebrate the birth of this child. When Jesus was done being tempted in the wilderness angels were sent to nourish Him (Matt. 4:11). In the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:43 are told that an angel was sent to strengthen Jesus in His time of agony.

In Old Testament accounts when someone would bow to worship an angel they were rebuked. Angels should not be worshiped; Jesus alone should be worshiped.

He Has a Superior Position

Our author is not finished,

Regarding the angels, he says,

“He sends his angels like the winds,

his servants like flames of fire.”

But to the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.

You rule with a scepter of justice.

You love justice and hate evil.

Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you,

pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”

We are told that when God sends the angels to do a task they do these things with great power and serve the Lord in a mighty way. However, when their task is over, they return to receive their next assignment. They are humble worshipers willing to be used in any way He desires.

Jesus rules, the angels serve. Not only does He rule but He rules with justice and will do so forever and ever. R.C. Sproul writes,

The author of Hebrews draws a remarkable conclusion and an implication. He concludes that the messianic King will sit on an everlasting throne (Psalm 45). Therefore, he must be God. God and his throne can never change, but the created universe changes with time and is headed for a big transformation (Psalm 102). Angels remain bound to time and change, but the Son’s throne stands above time. Thus, the words spoken by angels can be superseded, but the Word of the Son is final and definitive. (Before the Face of God p. 145)

Are you starting to get the point the author of Hebrews is driving home? Jesus was more than a good man. Jesus is God who came to us in human form. The Son is the One whom we should worship and adore.

A Superior Existence

Just in case you still are not convinced,

10 He also says to the Son,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth

and made the heavens with your hands.

11 They will perish, but you remain forever.

They will wear out like old clothing.

12 You will fold them up like a cloak

and discard them like old clothing.

But you are always the same;

you will live forever.”

We are told that the Son of God, Jesus, was involved in creation. He is eternal. Just like clothing wears out and you have to buy new clothing, so the Son will outlive every successive material universe.

We are told the Son is “unchanging” or immutable (if you want to learn a big word). One commentator writes,

What does it mean that Christ is changeless? It means that Christ’s character will never change. He persistently shows his love to us. He is always fair, just, and merciful. Be thankful that Christ is changeless, because he will always help you when you need it and offer forgiveness when you fall[3]

Aren’t you glad Jesus is different from us in this way? He is not unchanging in the sense of being boring . . . He is unchanging in the sense of being consistent.

We change. We have good moods and bad moods. We are up one moment and down the next. Our Lord does not change with us. We can depend on Him. We don’t have to wonder about Him; We never have to wonder if He will change the rules. He does not change; He is consistent. This fact alone should leads us to worship.

A Superior Commission

13 And God never said to any of the angels,

“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand

until I humble your enemies,

making them a footstool under your feet.”

14 Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation. [4] 

The Father has given Jesus the place of honor. The Father declares that all of the Lord’s enemies will be defeated. Jesus reigns above all. The angels serve.

Angels are great . . . God has given angels charge of leading, guiding, and protecting and guiding those whom He has chosen to save. This should be encouraging. Even though we remember that angels are but servants, we should be truly grateful that God has made sure we are

  • never alone
  • never undermanned. I love the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6 the Aramean army had surrounded Elisha’s house. The servant got up in the morning, looked out the window and said, “We are in a heap of trouble”. Elisha said, “Open His Eyes Lord”. When he opened his eyes the man say the hillside was filled with horses and chariots of fire. The angels were there to fight for the prophet.
  • never in a position where we must compromise. 

The angels are here to help us. We have supernatural strength from God to help us. However, we must remember that the angels are but servants of the Lord.

Suppose after World War II the citizens of France went out and grabbed a couple of allied soldiers and bowed before them and said, “Please rule over us!” The soldiers, I am sure, would point out that they were only doing their job. They work and represent their country. The position of “ruler” must be given to the government or the power behind the soldier, not the individual soldier.

It is the same with angels. When we worship and exalt angels we are honoring the servant rather than the power behind the servant. 

What Does All This Mean Practically?

Though all this talk about angels is interesting it does raise a question: Why is this important? First it is important because one of the most effective tactics of Satan is to cause lesser things to crowd out the main thing in life. If Satan can get us to water down our view of Jesus, He has us moving away from the gospel. A weakened Christ is not one who can save us.

If Satan can get us to give the attention that should go to Jesus to someone or something else, He gains an advantage in our lives. He can take that wedge and drive it deeper and deeper between us and the Lord.

All around us people are trying to make Jesus into someone who is more like us. They want to make Him more tame and acceptable. They create a Jesus that “understands” their rebellious way and one who believes it is really OK that they resist Him because we are doing the best we can. However, Jesus is not tame. He is the Son of God, the Ruler of the Universe, the only One who can rescue us from Satan and from ourselves! The Jesus of our imagination is a tool of the Devil!

Second, if we are clear on Christ we will repent of our angel obsessions. We should respect angels, we should be grateful for angels, we should learn about angels, but we must not elevate them (or anyone else) to the position that is occupied by Christ alone. We also should stop telling people that when people (especially children) die, they become angels. God has called us to be sons and daughters of God! Becoming an angel is not our goal in living . . . angels serve us! Our goal, our privilege is to be part of God’s family (which will make us over the angels).

Third, we are reminded that we must constantly be pointing others to Jesus. In John 3:27-30 people came to John the Baptist to ask whether or not he was the Messiah the world had been waiting for. John answered,

27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. 28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

John understood that his job was to do the work of the Kingdom of God. His job was to point people to Jesus.  We need to remember this. As long as people are focusing on the church, on a teacher, on a particular experience, or anything else . . . we are being led astray. My job is not to call you to follow me . . . it is to say, “Follow Him!”

We have been given an incredible gift. Not only are we saved by the blood of Christ, He has given us the gift of becoming a part of His family. We must constantly pray that our Lord would remind us of who we are to Him. We must labor to keep the main thing, the main thing in our lives. The main thing is actually not a ‘thing’ at all . . . it is a person. It is our Lord Jesus. He is God become man. We should be His attentive and devoted followers because anything less is to ather than being seduced by different kinds of “wrapping paper”.

[1] John MacArthur HEBREWS (Chicago: Moody 1983) p. 22-23

[2] N.T. Wright Hebrews for Everyman

[3] Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., Taylor, L. C., & Comfort, P. W. (1997). Hebrews (p. 12). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[4] Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Heb 1:4–14). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

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