Christ the God-Man: Better Than the Angels (Heb 1:4-14)

Posted by R. Fowler White

Our esteem for Christ becomes more and more reverent as we receive and rest upon Him alone as He is presented to us in Scripture. In Heb 1:1–2:18, He is presented not only as the Son better than the prophets of old, but also as the Son better than the angels. The angels come before us in Hebrews in two capacities: 1) as heavenly messengers who delivered the old covenant revelation at Mt Sinai (2:2); and 2) as guardians of post-fall access to God’s presence, initially in Eden’s sanctuary (2:7 with Gen 3:24) and later in the most holy place of the old covenant sanctuary (9:5 with Exod 25:18-22). We’ll look in this post at the teaching of Heb 1:4-14.

In 1:4, the writer of Hebrews contrasts the Son and the angels, capturing in that contrast the reason for the Son’s rest at the Father’s right hand. In 1:5-14 the writers accents the fact that the Son is in a new state of exaltation. The point is not that the Son, born as man, has now become God. Rather, the Son, who has always been the exalted God, has now been exalted as man. In fact, the seven OT texts in 1:5-14 with which the writer expands on his statements in 1:4 contain some of the most sublime declarations of the Son’s eternality and deity in all of Scripture. In this context, however, the Son’s supremacy to the angels rests not so much on His eternality and deity, but especially on the new state He has entered and on the new honor He has received. Keeping these things in mind, notice how the author’s citations describe the Son’s exaltation.

First, in 1:5-6 the Son who has taken His seat on high is the One whom the Father had begotten, that is, in this context, begotten as the Firstborn from the dead (cf. Col 1:18; Rev 1:5). Though other texts teach us the Son’s eternal generation and identity as the Firstborn of all creation (e.g., Heb 1:2; see also Col 1:15-17), the preceding and following contexts of 1:5-6 imply that it is most probably His re-emergence into the world at His resurrection from the dead that is in view in 1:5-6. As such, it is in the new, post-resurrection phase of the Son’s messianic role in history that He and the Father are said now to enjoy their unique relationship. Second, in 1:9 the Son who has received the Spirit-oil of gladness from His God and Father is the One who had rendered to Him the perfect obedience that satisfied His law (cf. Acts 2:33-36; Eph 4:7-11). To be sure, we read of the Son’s eternality, deity, and royalty in 1:8. The focus in 1:9, however, is the Son’s new status: He is the servant who in life and in death subjected Himself to God’s law and is now rewarded for His obedience. Finally, in 1:13 we hear echoes and amplifications of 1:3. The Son who gave Himself as the final sacrifice for sins (1:3b) is not only seated in heaven: He now awaits the reward of final victory for His obedience. He who is the immutable Lord and builder of the cosmic house in 1:10-12 is also in 1:13 the One who, after humbling Himself, has already been exalted at His first coming and will again be exalted at His second coming (9:28). Thus, the Son is before us once more, both in His immutability as the eternal God and in His mutability as the once humiliated, now glorified man—who will be glorified yet again!

All told, then, the exaltation of the Son our high priest is undeniably connected with His eternality and immutability, but that exaltation is not completely or exclusively explained by those attributes. According to Heb 1:4-14, the esteem we are to have for the Son, particularly in contrast to the angels, will come as we appreciate His role in the history of creation and His role in the history of redemption. In other words, we understand Christ’s priesthood better when we receive and rest upon Him as the Son who is greater than the angels. He is now and forever, in His one Person, God ever-glorious and man at-long-last-glorified. Our next post in this series will focus on Christ the Victorious Son in Heb 2:1-18.

3 Comments

  1. October 26, 2020 at 10:10 am

    […] How is it, then, that we develop a more reverent esteem for Christ? We do so as we receive and rest upon Him alone as the eternal Son who is greater than the prophets of old. In our next post in this series, we’ll look at Christ the God-man in Heb 1:4-14. […]

  2. October 28, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    […] we’ve emphasized in part 1 and part 2 of our series, the author of Hebrews teaches that our perseverance is traceable, in part, to a […]

  3. October 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

    […] put before us the contrasts between Jesus the Son and the prophets in Heb 1:1-3 and the angels in Heb 1:4-14 and 2:5-18, the writer of Hebrews continues to increase our esteem for Christ by turning in chs. […]


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