Hebrews 1:14 Commentary

19 Nov

Verse 14 gives us a final statement about the angels, setting them in contrast to the reigning victorious King Jesus we have just seen in verse 13 . . .

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

The author is again drawing a contrast here but also giving the angels their due. In drawing the contrast he does not want to be seen as being down on angels. He is for them for what they do (ministry to the people of God) but he is clear that they are not on the same level as King Jesus. They are spirits, created beings created by Jesus. They are ministering, ministering to God thus subservient to God and we know from earlier in this passage and elsewhere that Jesus is God.

This idea of inheritance is stated in verse 4 and repeated here in verse 14. As Jesus inherited by virtue of His death and resurrection the great Name He had possessed in reality from eternity, so believers have inherited salvation. Through His work Christ gets exaltation and we get salvation. He gets the glory and we get the blessing.

The overall effect of the verse is to bring the reader to realize that the angels, while important, are clearly inferior to Christ.

Do you believe in angels? You have so much help in your life with Jesus. The indwelling Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the angels. Why are our lives with God so often weak if we have all this help? We must walk in these things. How many of us really ever think about the blessing we have from the angels?

It should not be automatically assumed that “salvation” here refers to a believer’s past experience of regeneration. On the contrary it is something future as both the context and the words “will inherit” suggest. As always, the writer of Hebrews must be understood to reflect the ethos of Old Testament thought, especially so here where a chain of references to it form the core of his argument. And it is particularly in the Psalms, from which he chiefly quoted in this chapter, that the term “salvation” has a well-defined sense. In the Psalms this term occurs repeatedly to describe the deliverance of God’s people from the oppression of their enemies and their consequent enjoyment of God’s blessings. This meaning is uniquely suitable here where the Son’s own triumph over enemies has just been mentioned.

That the readers were under external pressure there is little reason to doubt. They had endured persecution in the past and were exhorted not to give up now (Heb. 10:32–36). Here the writer reminded them that the final victory over all enemies belongs to God’s King and that the angels presently serve those who are destined to share in that victory, that is, to “inherit salvation.”

But how do they serve us? The connection between verse 13 and 14 gives us a clue. Verse 13 says that while Christ is seated on the throne, something is happening to bring his enemies under his feet like a footstool. What is that? What is happening? One of the things is that angels are being “sent” to serve those who are to inherit salvation. In other words, there are enemies of our salvation—enemies that want to bring the work of Christ to nothing and make it fail, enemies that want to keep Christians from inheriting salvation (demons, false ideas, sinful impulses, evil persons, etc.). So God accomplishes two things through his angels. 1) He “sends” them to serve us so that we persevere in faith and inherit our salvation. 2) And in the angels’ serving us, the enemies of God are made a footstool for Christ’s feet.

We might wonder here, why all this concern over angels? Here is a place where our worldview comes into sharp contrast with the worldview of Bible times. The people first reading the book of Hebrews believed in a world inhabited by angels, both good and evil. In our world, we have largely ignored or denied this idea. So what does the Bible teach? The Bible, I think, is more on their side than on ours. Now to be sure, they mixed up their belief in spirits with a lot of bad thinking. But we are in danger of the opposite extreme of denying altogether the existence of the spirit world. When we do that we deny a clear biblical truth. There are angels in this world. Maybe there was such a strong belief in angels among those receiving this letter that they were tempted to worship them or maybe some false teaching about the angels had come in to confuse them and that may be the reason they are mentioned here. But I believe there is another reason angels are mentioned here, which we will look at next time when we get into Hebrews chapter 2.

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