Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentHebrews 1
God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners.
Like the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Genesis, this epistle begins with God. There are no apologetics, no hint of argument, no implied admission of possible error, no suggestion of any doubt, but only the dramatic presentation of the grand assumption that God is and that only a fool could deny it; and yet this opening statement goes far beyond the fact of God's existence, starkly magnificent though that fact appears, and enlightens people with some of the most significant information that it is possible to have concerning God. Thus, he is a God who speaks; and, because only a person can speak, this reveals him as a personal God.
The personality of God is a concept underlying the whole fabric of the Christian faith; and it is exactly here, in a widespread failure of people to know that God is a person, that so much current religious thought has floundered. The depersonalization of the Almighty is the mortal error that underlies the extensive confusion and impotence which are the bane of so much modern religious thought. True religion demands a personal God at the center; and anything else is fatal. If God is not a person, then all religion is a delusion, and faith is bankrupt. William F. Buckley, in NATIONAL REVIEW magazine, noted that the concept of an impersonal God robs religion of its three "R's," these being revelation, regeneration, and responsibility. If God is not personal, there can be no such thing as revelation; for, if there is no speaker, nothing has been spoken. Likewise, there could be no such thing as regeneration, because no one can be the son of some natural law, such as the law of osmosis or the law of gravitation. Responsibility also derives from the fact that God is a person; and, if God is not a person, then feeble, fallible man must be hailed as the highest thing in heaven and upon earth; and it is precisely that delusion which is the source of so much human sorrow. If God is not a person who will hold people accountable and bring them to judgment, then it is intellectually impossible to view man as responsible, ultimately, to anything except himself; and that, it should be noted, is exactly the proposition which in the form of a godless humanism, is bidding for allegiance of people's minds today. Therefore, what a refreshment of the soul flows from the opening words of Hebrews with their bold revelation of a God who speaks, and even what is more, a God who speaks to man!
God also appears in this reference as the author of the Old Testament, having spoken of old to the prophets, and thus being revealed as the author of the Hebrew institutions which he initiated and promulgated by means of divine communication through the patriarchs and prophets, through whom God spoke at various times in several ways. Thus, in the first sentence of Hebrews, the author made it clear that, far from denying the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament, he intended his message to be a bold confirmation of both, his position being the same as that of Jesus who, when quoting the Old Testament, ascribed the words, not to men, but to God, saying, "For God said ..." (Matthew 15:4).
Hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds.
The broad premise here is that the same personal God who gave the Old Testament and its derived institutions has likewise given the New Testament and its system. The same God who spoke of old through the prophets reserved a more noble means of communication for humanity in the setting up of the new covenant, seeing that he did so "in his Son." The contrast in the manner of God's speaking to the Hebrew prophets and in that "at the end of these days" is vivid indeed. Their revelation came piecemeal, here a little and there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:10-13); the revelation for the new covenant was brought in one vast body of truth. The old system was communicated through many persons, the new through the Son alone; and a proper understanding of that epic truth will dispel forever any notion that there could be any prophet, leader, or any other type of seer in the Christian dispensation, with a valid message from God. For God to communicate to mankind through any such persons would be a reversion to the old system. As declared in Jude 1:1:3, the faith was "once for all delivered"!
THE KING'S SEVEN-FOLD CREDENTIAL
The superiority of Christianity over Judaism is set forth in the opening lines of Hebrews and with an emphasis that makes the superiority overwhelming. The new revelation came, not through servants, as in the prophets, but through the Son and heir of all things. The superiority of the new institution is actually the subject matter of the whole epistle; and that superiority derives totally from the Son who in this chapter is presented as none other than God himself, humbled in the incarnation, of course, but only for a little while and for a definite purpose. The credentials of the Son are not few but many; and in Heb. 1:2 and Heb. 1:3, no less than seven credentials of his authority are enumerated.
- "Whom he appointed heir of all things ..." It was in our Lord's status as a man that he was appointed heir of all things, since in his character as God, he created all things. Bruce wrote,
These words no doubt echo the oracle
of Psa. 2:8, addressed to one who is
both the Lord's Anointed and acclaimed
by God as his Son:
Ask of me, and I will give thee the
nations for thine inheritance, And the
uttermost parts of the earth for thy
Our author applies the preceding words
of this oracle to Christ in Heb. 1:5;
but in his mind the inheritance of the
Son of God is not limited to earth; it
embraces the universe, and
particularly the world to come. F1
These credentials, if we may so name them, establish the authority of the King of kings, Christ; and the first of these makes him king by right of inheritance, which is the classical and historical means of establishing kingly authority. In our world, even today, the great fortunes still move along lines of inheritances; and the most stable thrones move on the same trajectory. As a man, Christ is the "firstborn" of all creation, entitling him as the heir of all things, more especially in view of the additional fact that, in the most exalted sense, he is the "only begotten."
- "Through whom also he made the worlds ..." This second credential makes Christ King by right of creation. What one makes is his; and we are Christ's, as are the worlds also, by fact of creation by Christ. This astonishing declaration is supported by other scriptures. "For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible, and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him and unto him" (Colossians 1:16). "All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made" (John 1:3). It is evident that Hebrews presents Christ as a member of the Godhead, present and active in creation, and therefore hailed as maker of the worlds, or ages, but not to be distinguished from "all things." Thus, here is revealed a part of the mystery why God said, "Let us make man in our own image" (Genesis 1:26). Isaiah called him "Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6), thus making our Saviour a partner and participant in the immutable counsels of the Eternal before the world was made, a fact implicit in the words of Christ himself when he prayed, "Father glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). Cargill said:
An astronomer recently announced that
the universe contains twelve
quadrillions of suns, each with its
own solar system. What is a
quadrillion? In the United States and
France, it is the figure 1, with
fifteen ciphers; and in England, it is
the figure 1, with twenty-four
ciphers. Just think of the size of
the universe! It staggers the
imagination. It is foolish to say the
universe centers in the sun. It
centers in Christ. The entire
universe holds together in him. He is
pre-existent. He is Creator. He is
thus fit to be the Lord and ruler of
the world. F2
Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Two credentials of the King are noted under Heb. 1:2, and the other five are given here.
- "The effulgence of his glory" refers to the personal excellence of Christ, making him entitled to the kingship of the world by the very qualities of his life and character, even in the incarnated state; so that, if some means of determining the being most qualified by personal traits to be hailed universal ruler could be applied to all who ever lived on earth, Christ would infinitely surpass all others. This radiated glory of the Lord is called "emitted splendor" by Macknight who said,
The meaning, I think, is that the
divine perfections shone brightly in
the Son, even after he was made flesh.
Hence, John saith in his Gospel
(John 1:14), "And the Word became flesh,
and dwelt among us (and we beheld his
glory, glory as of the only begotten
of the Father), full of grace and
- "And the very image of his substance" is somewhat ambiguous in the common versions; and the scholars give its meaning variously as: "He is the counterpart or facsimile of the Father." F4 "Very God of very God." F5 "The exact representation of the very being of God." F6 "The same essence with the Father," F7 etc. Certainly, then, this refers to the divine right of Christ to receive people's worship, adoration, and obedience. Christ is entitled to be honored as King by divine right and is the only being ever so entitled to rulership; although he is by no means the only one ever to claim it!
- "Upholding all things by the word of his power" makes Christ to be the sustaining force of the cosmos itself, again reminding one of Paul's declaration in Col. 1:16,17, "He is before all things, and in him all things consist." This credential undergirds Christ's throne by right of maintenance and support. One who is the sole support and source of every power within his creatures and creations has every right to rule over them and to expect true love and submission to his will. Perhaps a word is in order regarding the manner of Christ's upholding all things. It is "by the word of his power," hence spiritual by nature; and that spirituality is evident from the very makeup of material things themselves. Dr. John Cleveland Cothran, distinguished mathematician and chemist, has noted that:
Each atom of the 102 elements consists
of exactly the same three kinds of
particles: protons, electrons, and
neutrons; all the protons and neutrons
of a given kind of atom are located in
a central nucleus; all of the
electrons, equal in number to the
protons, spin on their axes and
revolve at relatively great distances
from it - rather reminiscent of a
miniature solar system, so that most
of the volume of the atom is merely
empty space, just as is that of the
solar system. F8
The spinning of those fantastically small particles approaches the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second; and that has been going on since Creation, without any interruption whatsoever! Why? The only intelligent answer must lie in the fact that Someone has commanded it; and who could such a Someone be, but God? Again, from Dr. Cothran,
Our logical and inescapable conclusion
is not only that creation occurred,
but that it was brought about
according to the plan and will of a
Person endowed with supreme
intelligence and knowledge
(omniscience), and the power to bring
it about and keep it running according
to plan (omnipotence), always and
everywhere throughout the universe
Thus, there is a recognizable need for the "upholding" of all things by a word of power, a need supplied by our Lord, who, as that "word of power," is rightful king of all creation. The only logical reason that can be given as to why an electron travels at the speed of light for a thousand years (or a billion) is that Christ has commanded it; and the same is true of suns and galaxies.
- "When he had made purification of sins" is the credential which makes Christ king by right of purchase. The United States of America governs Alaska, because it was purchased from the Russian government for $7,000,000.00 in gold. Far greater was the price Christ paid for his human creation, buying them back when they had fallen into sin and were thereby forfeit to Satan. Yes, "Ye were bought with a price"! (1 Corinthians 6:20). And what was it? "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). It is perhaps impossible fully to understand why such a redemption was necessary, but every verse of the sacred scriptures is oriented to the sublime fact that man's incredible conduct in the garden of Eden cut him off from fellowship with his Creator and left him to languish in the kingdom of darkness until he should be redeemed. The interdict could never be lifted until Jesus paid it all upon the cross; and the recognition and appreciation of the marvelous truth that Christ did indeed lift it comprise the most glorious achievement of mortal mind, nor is it to say that such a thing can ever be fully understood until earth and earthly things have passed away.
- "And hath sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." This makes Christ king by right of having taken the kingdom. He is no mere candidate for regal honors, nor is he the "heir apparent"; but by fait accompli, he has already and altogether taken possession and will continue to reign until he has put all enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). This is the credential by which many of the kings of the earth have sat upon their respective thrones. William the Conqueror took the throne of England solely by having the power to do it. He defeated Harold at the battle of Hastings, 1066; and without Harold's consent, and contrary to the will of many in England, he took the scepter anyway. There is the counterpart of this in Christ's credential here considered. He through death slew him that had the power of death, even the devil (Hebrews 2:14), led captivity captive, gave gifts unto men, and sat down on God's throne, called here the "right hand of the Majesty on high."
The representation that Christ has "sat down" is a testimony to the completed nature of his work. In the Jewish economy, the high priest did not sit down when he went into the Holy of Holies, there being no provision of a chair, testifying to the preparatory and temporal nature of the atonement that he made; but not so with Christ who having accomplished all things is seated at God's right hand. Of course, this is not the designation of any place, specifically, the throne of God being a metaphor for the control center of the universe, which in the very nature of things, it is impossible for finite and mortal intelligence to apprehend fully, except by metaphorical comparison to things that are familiar. The metaphor is based upon the custom of ancient kings to elevate their favorite minister to a seat on the king's right hand. Several other expressions similar to this are in Hebrews (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).
Thus, Christ is king by every conceivable right which was ever recognized as proper and legal undergirding of kingly authority, and by all of them at once. Thus, by inheritance, by creation, by personal excellence, by divine right, by right of maintenance, by right of purchase, and by fait accompli, Jesus Christ our Lord is the lawful sovereign of all things. Throughout the farthest reaches of the universe, the natural creations, all of them, suns, satellites, and galaxies, do his will; and what an incredibly strange thing it is that, in all the universe, man alone hesitates and refuses to give full obedience, frequently choosing to cast his lot with Satan and the fallen angels, already doomed and sentenced.
Having become by so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they.
The remainder of this chapter, beginning here, extols the supremacy of Christ, as compared with angels. The force of the argument lies in the outlandish burden of importance the Jewish mind placed upon the function of angels in their history, especially in the giving of the Law of Moses. Cargill wrote that by the time of Christ,
The Jews had developed an elaborate
system of angelology ... They came to
think of angels as intermediaries
between God and man (and) also
believed that there were millions and
millions of them. They had many
duties. They delivered messages,
presided over the destiny of Israel,
controlled the movement of stars,
manipulated history. There were
angels over the sea, the frost, the
dew, the rain, the snow, the hail, the
thunder and the lightning. There were
angels who were wardens of hell and
torturers of the damned. There were
destroying angels and angels of
In spite of the fact that an angel appeared to Cornelius and that an angel released Peter from prison, the visible ministry of angels was a strangely diminishing phenomenon in the early church, the emphasis going more and more to Christ and Christ alone. The author of Hebrews met the issue squarely, identifying Christ as God come in the flesh, and marshaling the Old Testament scriptures themselves to prove his superiority over angels. Significantly, the author did not refute these popular ideas regarding angels by any appeal to his own apostolic authority (though likely he was an apostle, probably Paul), appealing rather to the Old Testament scriptures which the addressees received and conceded to be Messianic. If Paul was the author, and in view of the procedure here, this method of appeal would explain why he chose to identify with them (as in 2:3,4), and to omit all reference to himself as an apostle, or even any personal reference at all. The appeal which the author made to the Jewish scriptures, recognized by that generation as Messianic prophecies, takes all the weight out of the arguments which, during intervening centuries, have been invented to "prove" that those very scriptures were not Messianic.
As to the actual place of angels in the economy of redemption, there is a further discussion of that at the end of the chapter; meanwhile, let it be observed that there are no less than seven points of superiority of Christ over angels, catalogued by the nineteenth-century scholar, Adam Clarke, as follows: he has a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:4,5); the angels of God adore him (Hebrews 1:6); the angels were created by him (Hebrews 1:7); even while being a man, he was endowed with greater gifts than they (Hebrews 1:8,9); he is eternal, but they are not (Hebrews 1:10-12); he is more highly exalted (Hebrews 1:13); angels are only servants of God; Christ is the Son of God (Hebrews 1:14). F11
The author of Hebrews laid out a proposition in Heb. 1:4 to the effect that Christ is greater than angels; and he then proceeded to prove it by reference to seven passages in the Old Testament.
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? and again, I will be to him a father, And he shall be to me a Son?
Psa. 2:7 and 2 Sam. 7:14 are the two passages cited, both of which sustain the sonship of Christ. Now, all Christians are "Sons of God," and it is thought that even the angels bear this designation too (see Job 1:6; 38:7); but in the lofty sense intended here, no angel was ever called a son of God. In modern times, Jewish expositors have tried to remove the Messianic application of Psa. 2:7; but the fact remains that both the author and the readers of Hebrews accepted it as a true prophetic reference to the Messiah.
Pierce (as quoted by Macknight)
affirms that the second Psalm belongs
wholly to Messiah; and proves by
passages from the writings of the
ancient Jewish doctors, that they
applied it to Messiah; and that some
of the later doctors acknowledged "it
advisable to apply the Psalm of David,
in order to the better answering of
the heretics" (meaning
Apostolic authority for accepting it as reference to Christ comes from Peter's application of the first three verses to him in Acts 4:25. The question framing both these citations is clearly for the purpose of eliciting a negative response from the readers to the effect, "No, God, thou hast never referred to an angel as thy Son." But of course, he did so address the Messiah.
"This day have I begotten thee" is a statement upon which such things as the so-called "eternal Sonship" and other implications are said to rest. Although widely received, the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is not supported by this epistle, nor by anything else in the scripture. In truth, the scriptures deny such a teaching. By prophecy, Isaiah called Christ "everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6), a patent contradiction of the notion that he was eternally a son. Christ is called God no less than ten times in the Greek New Testament; and the mind cannot accept an idea of true deity that is tainted with any possible kind of inferiority. (See under Hebrews 1:8.) This expositor agrees with the words of John Wesley, as quoted by Adam Clarke:
In 1781 he (John Wesley) published in
the fourth volume of the Arminian
Magazine, p, 384, an article
entitled "An Arian Antidote"; in this
are the following words: "greater or
lesser in infinity, is not; inferior
Godhead shocks our sense; Jesus was
inferior to the Father as touching his
manhood (John 14:28); he was a son
given and slain intentionally from the
foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8),
and the firstborn from the dead of
every creature (Colossians 1:15-18). But
our Redeemer from everlasting
(Isaiah 63:16) had not the inferior
name of Son." F13
To what, then, do the words "This day have I begotten thee" apply? An apostle has given the sure and certain answers; for, in the synagogue at Antioch, Paul said, "God hath raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Acts 13:33). Thus, the begetting mentioned in this place is the resurrection of Christ. It was the resurrection that established all that Christ said and did, confirming the virgin birth, the incarnation, the miracles, the prophecies, everything. Christ, therefore, in his risen human nature and united with Godhead, also glorified with the title of Son, in such a supremely exalted state, was and is far above all angels.
And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Scholars say that the author here quoted from the Septuagint translation of Psa. 97:7, the common versions reading, "Worship him all ye gods." Christ is here called the "firstborn," a favorite expression of Paul who referred to Christ as "the firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18); and as "the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15). This expression emphasizes the honor and dignity and primacy of Christ.
Of special interest is the word "again," in which it appears that God's commanding of all the angels to worship Christ has special reference to a second time that Christ is brought into the world; and thus this has been applied to the second coming. For example, Hewitt, in Tyndale's Commentary, said, "The reference would seem to be to the second coming of Christ." F14 However, there is one vast consideration that requires that it be construed as a reference to the resurrection of Christ from the dead; because it is certain that angels now worship Christ and that their doing so does not wait upon some future event like the second coming. Besides, Christ's being raised from the dead was genuinely a coming "again" into the world, his descent into Hades separating between the two times he was in the world. If it should be insisted that this view would relegate the ultimate coming of Christ in judgment to the status of a third coming, this is not logical; because the two comings of Christ, if they be so viewed, were so intimately connected that they stand as one. The big point of this quotation, however, should not be lost sight of; and that is the fact that God has commanded the angels to worship Christ. Great and glorious as angels assuredly are, Christ is infinitely above them.
And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels winds, And his ministers a flame of fire.
The pertinent fact of this quotation from Psa. 14:4 is in its reference to the status of angels as servants, that is, ministers of God. Some have concluded that the function of angels, at least partially, is to cooperate by means of using the winds and fire to bring about God's will; but if such should be true, there is surely no information given in regard to how it is done and under what circumstances it could be expected. Christ's rebuking the winds and the waves was hailed by Richard Trench as evidence that the fallen angel, Satan, could at least take advantage of certain disorders in nature, or even cause them. F15 Surely an even greater power pertains to the angels who kept their first estate. That superiority of Christ is seen in the elevation of the Creator above the creature, the master above his servant.
But of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom.
This quotation is from Psa. 45:6 and relates to the Godhead of Christ.
CHRIST AS GOD
This verse has proved offensive to commentators who apparently resent such a blunt reference to Christ as God; but all kinds of learned arguments, predicated upon the Greek word, whether nominative or vocative, are not able to obscure the obvious and only meaning. Such would-be translations as "God is thy throne," or "Thy throne is God," etc., do not make sense nor harmonize with anything else in the Bible. God is not a chair to be sat upon; and no throne could possibly be God! The reluctance of people to allow so forthright a declaration of Christ's deity has been often noted. Bruce commented on this, saying "That he should be addressed as God has seemed too daring to many commentators who seek to evade it or explain it away." F16 Significantly, the most widely accepted versions of the New Testament allow it to stand as here and in KJV and RSV. Hebrews 1:8 must therefore be allowed to take its place as a witness of the eternal power and Godhead of Christ. Other passages bearing the same witness are; John 1:1; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Philp. 2:6; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; and 1 John 5:20. To be sure, there are an almost unlimited number of other passages in which Christ's deity must be inferred, as for example, in "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58).
A more indirect assault upon the plain meaning of this text is the allegation that would make Psalm 45 merely an epithalamium extolling the virtues of King Solomon (of all people)! Solomon does not fit the declaration here. His throne was not forever and ever; he did not love righteousness, but did love a thousand women; and, as for hating iniquity, he was a gross idolator. No, in the words of Christ himself, "A greater than Solomon is here"!
Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
This is a continuation of the quotation from Psa. 45:6,7; and it cites the reasons for Christ's exaltation as being founded upon his love of righteousness and corresponding hatred of evil. Can one imagine an application of this Psalm to Solomon? (See under above verse.) The anointing seems not to refer to any formal or official ceremony of appointment for Christ but rather to the happiness and joy which flowed unto him because of his successful encounter and resulting triumph over sin, death, and the devil. In one sense, Christ was anointed at his baptism; but this appears rather as a reference to that overflowing of joy of Jesus, mentioned again in Heb. 12:3.
Verses 10, 11, 12
And, Thou, Lord in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of thy hands: They shall perish; but thou continuest: And they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up, As a garment, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, And thy years shall not fail.
This quotation is from Psa. 102:25-27; and the great significance of its use here is in the fact that words originally addressed to Jehovah are unhesitatingly applied to Jesus Christ. Westcott was quoted by Hewitt writing of this verse that it is "the application to the Incarnate Son of words addressed to Jehovah." F17
Not merely the fact of creation by the Almighty, but the divine supervision of the universe and watchful control of all its changes are affirmed here. Bruce justified the application of this passage to Christ on the basis of the twin facts that the author had already said (Hebrews 1:2) that:
It was through the Son the worlds were
made (and that) person to whom these
words were spoken is addressed
explicitly as the "Lord," and it is
God who addresses him thus! F18
Christ as the changeless one is the theme of these verses. The universe is constantly changing, however imperceptible those changes appear to the fleeting glance of people. Whatever the wreck of the matter and crush of worlds the future holds, the work and glory of Christ will not be affected. Of special interest is the comparison of the sidereal creation to a garment, indicating that the starry heavens themselves are but the usable and disposable accessories of Godhead. They are God's garments and are subject to age and change. Exell has this,
The stars are the jewels on his brow;
the sky his flowing train; the
flowering landscapes, the shining
seas, the gorgeous clouds - the fine
needlework and wrought gold of his
imperial raiment. F19
In the light of this revelation, how foolish, therefore, must appear such things as sun worship, or the temptation to view the universe as eternal.
But of which of the angels hath he said at any time, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet?
The seventh quotation is Psa. 110:1; and the complete verse is thus: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Here is another instance of God's being both the speaker and the person spoken to; and it is upon the most convincing evidence that this Psalm is considered Messianic, seeing that Christ himself thus applied it when he pressed the question upon the Pharisees, "How then doth David in the spirit call him Lord?" (Matthew 22:43,44). Added to this, Jesus also identified himself as one "sitting upon the right hand of power" (Mark 14:62), and Paul declared that "He must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25).
This reference to "enemies" is a reminder of the opposing forces of evil, against which the servants of Christ are destined to strive throughout the days of their pilgrimage; and, as Exell expressed it,
Even so with the Church of Christ, in
which this day we confess ourselves to
have our portion, from the first day
of her peregrination in earth until
her last entrance into glory, there is
a perpetual hatred between the serpent
and her Head and between the seed of
the serpent and her children, in which
strife every one of us particularly
have our fight, so that from our
mother's womb until we lie down in the
grave our life is a warfare upon the
From that beleaguered citadel of faith in which every child of God is besieged and threatened by the encroachments and frustrations imposed by the evil one, how glorious is the refreshment that comes from a glance heavenward where the Head and Redeemer sits in eternal enthronement, exercising all authority in heaven and upon the earth. Not to lose sight of the argument the author made from this passage, how utterly beyond the glory and authority of angels is that of Christ!
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?
The angels have the nature of servants, or "ministers," as stated here, and thus must ever be accounted inferior to Jesus our Lord; despite this, however, those shining creatures of the unseen world possess a magnificence beyond our imagination; and the service they give to God and their activities on behalf of the saints, so mysteriously mentioned here, are matters of surpassing interest and curiosity. Salvation appears in this verse, not as something people may earn, but as a blessing they shall "inherit," thus corresponding with the same view prevalent throughout the New Testament.
In view of the attention lavished in this chapter upon angels and their place in the economy of redemption, it is considered appropriate to set forth some of the basic scriptural teachings concerning them. They are innumerable (Hebrews 12:22); and from such impressions as may be gathered from our Saviour's reference to "legions of angels" (Matthew 26:53) and the use of words like "archangel" (Jude 1:9), as well as from our Lord's making angels of little children to be of the highest rank in heaven (Matthew 18:10), it is inferred that the angelic host are an organized company, or kingdom; and it is possibly from the nature of such an organization that the various words like "seraphim," "cherubim," and "archangel" have been derived, these terms standing for the several ranks or powers of the angelic company.
The intimate connection of the angels with the affairs of the kingdom of God is seen in the rejoicing of angels over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7) and in the promise of Christ to confess his followers before God and his holy angels Mark 8:38). The angels attended Christ's earthly mission, announced his conception and his birth, strengthened him in Gethsemane, awaited his call during the passion, rolled away the stone from his grave, announced his resurrection, and escorted him to glory. In the second advent, Christ will appear with ten thousand angels (perhaps a symbolical number for an infinite host) (2 Thessalonians 1:7); and to those angels of his power shall be assigned the task of separating the precious from the vile (Matthew 13:41,49). The love of angels for people, though incapable of comparison with the love of Christ for people, is nevertheless a valid assumption from the above premises; and the loving regard of angels stands as an effective foil of the hatred engendered against people by Satan and his angels.
The verse before us is a flat declaration that angels perform services for them that shall inherit eternal life; and a fair inquiry is, "What services?" The scriptures reveal the following kinds of services performed on behalf of people by the angels of God: (1) They bear away the souls of the righteous in death (Luke 16:22), as in the case of Lazarus. (2) They oppose purposes and designs of Satan, not in their own names, but in the name of the Lord (Jude 1:6). (3) They execute the punitive judgments of God upon the incorrigibly wicked, as in the case of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35) and that of Herod (Acts 12:23). (4) They exert influence over the rulers and governments of nations, as in the case of Persia (Daniel 10:20). (5) They aid providentially in bringing the unsaved to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, as in the case of Cornelius (Acts 10:3). (6) They exercise solicitous care over little children, as shown by Jesus' words (Matthew 18:10). (7) They are actively employed in maintaining free course and availability of the word of God, as indicated by a mighty angel's holding in his hand "a little book" open (Revelation 10), a book which must certainly be hailed as the New Testament.
People can know nothing of angels except what God has revealed through the Bible; and, even from the Bible, it is possible to make incorrect deductions; but some things are definitely clear. There are countless millions of angels whom God created to perform his will throughout a vast theatre of operations, cosmic in dimensions, with particular emphasis upon those matters that concern the salvation of people. Great as the privileges of angels appear to be, it would seem that there are two prerogatives not given them. It is not recorded that any of them ever preached the gospel, nor is it indicated that they have the power to reproduce themselves. Worshiping of the angels is forbidden (Colossians 1:18); and they have no mediatorial function between God and man, that position being reserved to Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:5).
Footnotes for Hebrews 1
1: F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 4.
2: Robert L. Cargill, Understanding the Book of Hebrews (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1967), p. 5.
3: James Macknight, Apostolic Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 509.
4: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1016.
5: Thomas Hewitt, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), p. 52.
6: Clarence S. Roddy, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1962), p. 18.
7: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1829), Vol. 6, p. 686.
8: John Cleveland Cothran, Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1958), pp. 40, 42.
10: Robert L. Cargill, Understanding the Book of Hebrews (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1967), p. 10.
11: Adam Clarke, op. cit., p. 682.
12: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 510.
13: Adam Clarke, op. cit., p. 694.
14: Thomas Hewitt, op. cit., p. 56.
15: Richard C. Trench, Miracles (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), p. 156.
16: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 19.
17: Thomas Hewitt, op. cit., p. 59.
18: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., pp. 21-22.
19: Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967), p. 53.
20: Ibid., p. 60.
21: W. Jones, op. cit., p. 41.
22: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 961.
23: J. B. Lightfoot, op. cit., p. 321.
24: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 214.
25: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 963.
27: John B. Nielson, op. cit., p. 699.
28: S. J. Eales, op. cit., p. 3.
29: E. Earle Ellis, Wycliffe New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 891.
30: Alfred Barry, op. cit., p. 273.
31: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 967.
32: E. Earle Ellis, op. cit., p. 895.
33: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 396.
34: Adam Clarke, op. cit., p. 666.
36: S. J. Eales, op. cit., p. 4.
37: Alfred Barry, op. cit., p. 274.
38: E. Earle Ellis, op. cit., p. 895.
39: John B. Nielson, op. cit., p. 708.
40: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 412.
41: E. Earle Ellis, op. cit., p. 895.THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
42: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 183.
43: William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 87.
45: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. VI (London: Carlton and Porter, 1829), p. 213.
46: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 102.
47: F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 113.
48: A. S. Peake, op. cit., p. 543.
49: F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 109.
50: A. S. Peake, op. cit., p. 531.
51: Ibid., p. 532.
52: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 983.
53: Alfred Barry, op. cit., p. 111.
54: William Hendriksen, op. cit, p. 88 footnote.
55: James Burton Coffman, The Mystery of Redemption (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1976).
56: Ernest G. Ashby, op. cit., p. 486.
57: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 436.
58: B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 63.
59: David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Vol. IV (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), p. 194.
60: B. C. Carlin, op. cit., p. 64.
61: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 437.
62: William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 141.
63: Ibid., p. 143.
64: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 974.
65: Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 769.
66: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 50.
67: Ibid., p. 48.