Please note that this article is derived from a sermon series on Hebrews given in Bermondsey Gospel Hall, the audio of which can be found here.
We conclude our consideration of the Name of the Superior Son from the first chapter of Hebrews by looking at the final verses together. The author declares that the Son is superior to the angels in verse 4 and then spends the rest of the chapter demonstrating that this is so. From verse five to fourteen he compares and contrasts the excellent name of angels with the more excellent name of Jesus. He looks at seven quotations from the Old Testament of what God has said to and about them both and shows us that Jesus is superior in three specific ways. There are at least three crucial characteristics of Christ that we learn from these verses – he is divine, eternal and royal. Jesus is God, Jesus is everlasting and Jesus is king. Verses 5-6 we see the Divine Son. While angels are worshippers, he is to be worshipped – the Divine Son. Verses 7-12 we see the Eternal Son. While angels are transient, he is timeless. He has an eternal rule of joy and justice, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…’, and an eternal role at creation and consummation, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning…’. He is the Eternal Son.
Now, in verses 13 and 14 we see the Royal Son. We have seen that Jesus is royal before. The chapter opens by considering Jesus as Prophet and Priest, which will be the dominant themes in the rest of the book. However, verses 3-14 of this first chapter clearly focus on Jesus as King. It starts at the end of verse 3, where the author declares that, ‘After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high…’. It continues in verse 5 when we seen that Jesus is not only the Divine Son, but the Davidic Son – the messianic monarch. As declared at his birth, ‘And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ (Luke 1:31-33). We understood that verse 5 recorded his coronation ceremony, taking up the throne of his father David, for ‘the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David’. And verses 7-12 we understood to show us that this throne would be an enteral throne, for he would reign and rule forever and ever, ‘he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’. Now, as we enter into verses 13 and 14, we see this theme take front and center stage again. The author not only takes us back to verse 5, with the almost identical introduction ‘And to which of the angels has he ever said…’, but to the Son sitting down at the right hand of the majesty on high, with the quotation ‘Sit at my right hand…’. These characteristics of Christ, his divinity, eternality and royalty, can be found throughout the chapter, with each being drawn out into the limelight at different stages. Now it is our turn to focus on the royalty of Christ. The Royal Son.
We have seen that each time the author emphasises a characteristic of Christ in this chapters, he compares it to an aspect of the angels. This time it is no different. After showing us the Majestic Son in verse 13, we are called to consider the Ministering Spirits in verse 14. Let us look at these two themes together and consider once again the superiority of our Saviour.
The Majestic Son – Seated and Successful
If we were to ask a Christian in the first century what the most famous verse in Scripture is, there is strong evidence to concluded that they would say this one. Not Hebrews 1:13, for most of them would not have even heard of the book of Hebrews given that it was only widely circulated as the years passed, but Psalm 110:1. Psalm 110:1 is the most commonly quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament. Time and time again, the authors of the New Testament turn to Psalm 110 to teach us about Jesus. Indeed, it is the most quoted and alluded to passage within this book of Hebrews and we will see it come up time and time again. In fact, it is so dominant in the book of Hebrews, that some suggest that Hebrews is a sermon on Psalm 110.
As we have thought about, its use brings the chapter to an end just as it began, or rather where the introduction finished – picturing Jesus at the right hand of the majesty on high. ‘And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand…’’. If you remember back to when we were considering verse 3, we said that the focus here is not on the posture, that he is seated thus meaning his work is completed, but on the position.
If you are not a Christian, you need to realise first and foremost that the gospel is good news of a work that has been completed. In one sense it is true that our Saviour is seated because our salvation is completed. Hebrews makes this very clear, later in chapter contrasting the seated superior priest to the standing priests of the old covenant, after the sacrifice they had to keep working but the son is seated waiting. ‘And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sons. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.’ (Hebrews 10:11-14) The good news of Christianity is that Jesus Christ was crucified for us. That on the cross he suffered the full punishment for our sins and if we have faith in him, turn away from sin and trust in him for our forgiveness, we can have peace with God. The sacrifice for our sins has been made. That work is completed. And yet the book of Hebrews that even while Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, he is still engaging in a work, a work of a priest not only presenting a sacrifice to save us from the punishment for our sins but interceding for us as we saved from the power of sin in our lives each day. Jesus is not simply waiting for us with his feet up, he not only is the author, but is also the perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). His complete work will not be completed until we are seated at his right hand, just as he is at the right hand of the father, conformed to his image as children of God. There is a completed ministry, but there is also a continuing ministry.
When we see that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, we are primarily to think about his position over his posture. If you remember, we said that the right hand was a position of honour and power. It is a position of honour, like the seat at the head of a family dinner table or the chair in a certain corner of the living room beside the fire. Jesus is seated in the best seat in the house, shown the honour and respect he so truly deserves. It is also a position of power, it is the place of second in command, literally the right hand man of the Father. As we thought before, in that position he has been given all power and authority. ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…’ (Matthew 28:18). The royal sceptre has been placed into his hands and he uses justly and righteously, bringing in his kingdom of justice and joy. ‘Crown him the Lord of peace, whose power a sceptre sways, from pole to pole that wars may cease and all be prayer and praise…’ (Matthew Bridges).
However, before all is prayer and praise, there is unfinished business. The Son is to occupy his current position ‘until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’. Just as there is a completed work of Christ and a continuing work of Christ, there is also a coming work of Christ. The Superior Son remains where he is, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, until he is successful over all of his enemies. Until is the key word. Christ will remain seated until. Until that day, when God has destroyed all of the enemies of Christ, every other ruler and king. All those who would raise themselves up against him, who reject his lordship over this earth, will be defeated. He will be triumphant over all his enemies, they will be made a footstool for his feet. Just like God promised in the very beginning, the seed of the woman will finally have crushed the seed of Satan (Genesis 3:15). Evil will be undone, the Devil defeated, and all the consequences of sin and suffering will be conquered.
There is not one power or authority, no ruler or society that can stand up against King Jesus. Look back over history, over the 2000 years since he sat down at the right hand of the Father, and find an authority that has been able to resist the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus will be victorious, triumphant over all. Christians, it doesn’t matter if we look like being on the wrong side of history now. If it looks that we are being, or will be, defeated at this moment, in this season. Christ is triumphant in the end. When we stand at the end of history, and look back from the brink of eternity, we will be on the winning side.
Christ will remain seated until he is successful over all his enemies. Until he destroys that last enemy that is identified for us in 1 Corinthians 15. When the Eternal Son destroys death itself, when the dead are raised to newness of life. When the graves are opened and the seas give up their dead. When clothed with resurrection bodies we shall be like our risen Lord. When the men of dust are bear the image of the man of heaven. When death is swallowed up in victory. ‘Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death… when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection to him, that God may be all in all.’ (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
What about us? Where are we in all of this? Well if you are a Christian, this is the story in which we live our lives. We are part of this great narrative of the universe. Jesus himself tells us, places us within this story in Luke 19:11-27. “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that zto everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (Luke 19:12-27)
As servants of this coming King, this one who has went away to receive his Kingdom, we are to engage in business until he comes. While he is waiting, we are to be working, for night will come when no man can work. Our King has gone away for a little while to receive his kingdom, and when he returns he will punish the rebels, those will not have him reign over them, and reward those who have been his faithful servants. If we are faithful to him in this moment, in this short season of our lives. If we lay own our lives to serve him, if we spend our lives investing in his kingdom, laying up treasure on earth rather than heaven. If we labour in this life for our Lord, if we endure the suffering and sorrows we face, we will not only enjoy a reward, but become shares and partners in his coming rule of justice and joy. ‘For if we endure, we will also reign with him.’ (2 Timothy 2:12). No wonder Paul can declare at the end of 1 Corinthians 15, having spoken about Christ’s triumph over all his enemies, ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’. (1 Corinthians 15:58). When we labour for this Lord, when we work while he waits, when we serve the Royal Son, the one who is both seated and successful, we do not waste our lives.
The Ministering Spirits – Sent and Serving
In one final comparison between the superior son of God and angels, significant servants of God, the author sets this text of the Majestic Son beside the statement of the ministering spirits. ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?’ While the son is seated and waiting, they are sent and working. The angels are sent out from the presence of God to minister and serve down here, while Christ, Hebrews tells us, is ‘one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places…’ (Hebrews 8:1). They minister on earth, while he ministers in heaven. Jacob got a glimpse of this in his dream in Genesis 28:12 at Bethel, when he seen ‘a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!’
What are the angels doing while here on earth? Well we considered previously the great works that they have accomplished on this earth. They have served as Guardians of the Garden, Rescuers of the Righteous, Proclaimers of Promises and even Servants of Sinai. They have shut the mouths of lions, broken the bonds of Egypt, rescued the righteous from danger, and struck down thousands in an instant. The have even been Messengers of the Messiah, announcing the birth of Jesus Christ to the world. Their service didn’t stop on the arrival of the superior son however, for they became Ministers to the Messiah, strengthening him when he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11) and overwhelmed with grief in the garden (Luke 22:43). Not only ministers to the messiah, but Envoys of Easter, declaring that their Lord had broken the bonds of death and risen from the dead (Luke 24:4-7). And yet their story does not end here, for Hebrews tells us that once the son had ascended to the father, to be our minister in heaven, they continued to be sent to earth to minister to us here. It was an angel that opened the jail to allow Peter to go free (Acts 12:7), an angel who came to speak to Philip (Acts 8:26), an angel who struck down Herod who was persecuting the church (Acts 12:23) and an angel who appeared to Paul in the midst of the storm on his way to Rome (Acts 27:23).
Angels are significant servants of God. And they have not retired. That is why, the writer of Hebrews, when he draws this letter to a close urges his readers ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ (Hebrews 13:2). These significant servants of God are still working in this world. While the son waits, his servants are working. The same ministering spirits that strengthened the son in the wilderness after a forty day fast and a fight with the Devil come to minister to and strengthen us. The same angels who strengthened Christ as he was agonising in the garden before heading to be crucified, are working in our lives so that we might be crucified with Christ, that we might be crucified to the world and the world crucified to us (Galatians 6:14). For, ‘are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?’.
They are sent out to serve for our sake. Notice that it does not specifically say that they serve us. They are not our servants, no they are servants of the Son, the one who is enthroned at the right hand of the father, and yet they are deployed for our sake. They serve him by ministering to and strengthening us. And the simple argument of the author to show the superiority of the Son is, in the words of the Son himself, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.’ (John 13:16). Angels are significant servants of God, and yet the Son is superior. Whether angels remain in heaven and worship him there (Hebrews 1:6), or descend to earth and work for him here, in both realms the Son is clearly superior.
That’s the simple summary of the argument, and yet as we have seen time and time again it is not sufficient to capture all that could be said, for even in service the Son is the superior of the angels. For this Majestic Sovereign, this Royal King, the Divine and Eternal Son, became a servant for each one of us. When God sent forth his Son, he was also sending forth his servant. Our Sovereign became a servant for us. When he entered this world he would declare, ‘The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Luke 20:28). He served in healing, he served in teaching but above all else he served in dying. The Royal Son, before being robed with glory, served us by being stripped and shamed, before being worshiped and honoured he served us by being mocked and abused, before being seated beside the Father on a throne, he was crucified beside two thieves on a cross. Before the crown, came the cross. The salvation that we inherit was purchased in his blood. And yet we can rejoice and give thanks because the head that once was crowned with thorns, is crowned with glory now. ‘Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exulted’. (Isaiah 52:13).
When we return to our series in Hebrews we will further together of why the author has spent so much time demonstrating the superiority of the son over the angels. Why it is he has been dealing with the Name of the Superior Son. We will move into chapter two to consider this salvation that he mentions, this such a great salvation. We shall consider not the Name of the Superior Son, but the Role of the Suffering Son. And yet, for now we can take these truths, ponder them and turn them into praise. For now let us simply worship and give thanks for the Royal Son, that we have a Majestic Sovereign who is enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Who will remain seated until he is successful over all his enemies, until they are made as footstools for his feet. ‘O worship the king, all glorious above; oh, gratefully sing, his power and his love; our shield and defender, the ancient of days; pavilioned in splendour and girded with praise.’