The Angels and the Son
February 22nd, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
THE ANGELS AND THE SON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-22-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews entitled The Angels and the Son.
Last Sunday morning, the message was entitled The Prophets and the Son. May I remind you that you cannot go to sleep and learn the burden of the message of this epistle to the Hebrews. This is not milk. It is strong meat. And people who like to feed on a spiritual bottle all their lives and go to sleep in the church house and never learn anything of the message and interior wonder and glory of the kingdom of Jesus would never be profited by these letters and chapters and messages. But if you will stay awake, if you will open your heart, if you will listen with an attentive ear, it will reward you beyond any study you ever shared in all of your days.
Now let us read it: the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews. Last Sunday morning, I ended with the first part of the second verse, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son," [Hebrews 1:1-2a].
And that was the message last Sunday morning. Now the remainder of the chapter:
By His Son, whom God hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;
Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee? Or again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?
Or again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.
Of the angels He saith, His angels are spirits, just like His ministers a flame of fire.
But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.
And again, in Messianic prophecy:
Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands.
They shall perish, but Thou remainest; they shall wax old as doth a garment;
And as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shalt be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?
Are not angels ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
But the Son is the author of that salvation Himself. Now, when this author comes in that second verse to the Son, he reaches there an elevation, a mountain height, a mountain glory from which he views the great vista of all of the ages. And he leads us to see this Son at the end, the consummation of all history, "Whom He hath appointed heir of all things." And he leads us to the beginning of all history, "by whom also He made the worlds" [Hebrews 1:2].
And he leads us before all history, before there was a foundation of the earth laid, "Who was the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of God’s person." And who leads us to Him throughout all history. "Who upholds all things by the word of His power. " And who leads us to the great and climactic act in history, by which He brought to Himself a new greatness, "when He had by Himself purged our sins, and is now sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" [Hebrews 1:3].
This is one of the glorious passages in all of the Word of God. This Son, God’s Son hath been appointed heir of all things. The end of all history consummates in Him. Just what are all things? It means nothing excepted. Our Lord said, "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" [Matthew 28:18].
And in the third chapter of John, "The Father loveth the Son, and has bestowed upon Him the issue and the destiny, the outworking of all things" [John 3:35]. In the Revelation, "I am He that was dead, and liveth, and I have the keys of Death and of Hell" [Revelation 1:18].
All the armies in heaven march under His banner. And all of the powers above us and beneath us and around us are in His hands. He hath been appointed, ordained, set aside, designated as the heir of all things. Then he leads us to the beginning of history, "By whom also He made the worlds" [Hebrews 1:2]. That is oft repeated in the Bible, "In the beginning was the logos, the Son, The same was in the beginning with God. The same was God. And by Him were all things made that were made" [John 1:1-3].
This is the expression of the genius of His hand. In Colossians 1:16: "And by Him were all things created, things in heaven, things in earth, visible and invisible," The visible creation was made in the Son, by the Son – God’s Son. And all of those invisible orders; the glory of a heaven above us, the invisible world of God’s might and glory, where dwell those creatures of stainless purity and eternal splendor, all of that is the genius of the hands of the Son of God.
"He upholds all things by the word of His power" [Hebrews 1:3]: the expression of the Son throughout all history. Anything that is firm has its permanence, its lastingness in Him, "Upholding all things by the word of His power."
Were it not for Him, this created world would fall back into primeval chaos and darkness. All symmetry, all beauty, all logic, all truth, the spirit of all things of God are in His hands. "And He upholdeth all things by the word of His power" [Hebrews 1:3]. Just by the fiat of His words, just like you saw Him in the earth, He spake and the winds and the waves obeyed Him [Mark 4:39]. He spake and the dead rose to life [John 11:42-43]. He spake, and the deaf could hear [Mark 7:34], and the blind could see [Luke 18:41-42], and the crippled could walk [John 5:8], and the leper was cleansed [Matthew 8:3]. "By the word of His power, He sustains and upholds all things."
"He was before all things, and in Him all things consist, or hold together" [Colossians 1:17]. And in history, in history He became the great expiation of the sins of the human race. "When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" [Hebrews 1:3].
It was sin that brought Him down from heaven. It was the lostness of the human race that incarnated God’s Son. And that sacrifice that saves us was made by Himself. In the Aaronic priesthood, the Jewish temple worship, the high priest offered the blood, the life of others, another sacrifice [Hebrews 9:25].
But the Son of God offers Himself. He is the sacrifice. It is His blood. He is the altar. He bears it into the sanctuary, made without hands. And He does it by Himself. What other ordained priest of man, appointed by hierarchy or order would dare intrude there? He purged our sins by Himself! He alone is the atonement, and the expiation, and the purification of all of the stain in our lives. And because of that expiation, that atonement, that glory in His sufferings and His death, He hath attained to a new greatness, a marvelous greatness, an indescribable greatness. "He is sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
Now we come to the very heart of this epistle. For this author, in presenting the glory and the majesty of that sacrifice, does it in a different way than most of us are accustomed to think. It is our persuasion, and it is the weakness of our preaching that when we speak of the atonement of Christ, the death of Christ, we enlarge upon His sufferings.
It is hardly remembered by us that a hundred thousand million others have suffered just as much. He was not the only one crucified. Between the time Jesus was crucified and the time of the destruction of the nation about thirty or forty years later, it has been estimated there were more than a hundred thousand Jews who were crucified.
When we extend and expiate upon and enlarge upon the sufferings of our Lord, we have lost its real meaning and its real spirit. For example, when the sacrifice was brought to the altar, the Jewish worshipper did not think upon particularly the keenness of the suffering of the animal. The animal was slain just as soon as possible. And in no sense and in no wise was there delay, or delight, or enlargement upon the suffering of the sacrifice. But the efficacy, the power of the sacrifice lay in two things. One, what it was. It was to be without spot, without blemish, without fault [Leviticus 22:21]. It was to be representative of what is perfect. That was first.
And second, it was to be offered according to divine appointment [Hebrews 1:2]. Now, if we enter into the real truth of the atonement of Christ, that is it. He did suffer. Other men have suffered. He did die. Other men have died. He poured out His blood into the earth; other men have stained the soil with their red blood. But the power and the efficacy of that atonement lay in who it was. It lay in the character, the person of the One who offered the expiation, and it lay in His divine appointment, appointment for that atonement.
So the author here, as he goes into this long epistle concerning the efficacy and the power of that atonement of our Lord, he speaks of the glory of the One who is making that expiation. So he describes Him here. And this morning message, we shall take two parts of it. First, what He was in Himself. And second, what He was in comparison to other angelic, seraphic, cherubic heavenly orders of God’s creation.
Now, who it was that offered this expiation. He was the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of God’s person [Hebrews 1:3]. When a man of a finite mind seeks to enter into the unsearchable, inscrutable mystery of the interior life of the Holy and blessed Trinity, he is lost in his mind to conceive of it, much less and much more, baffled in language to express it.
It is a relationship. It is a great mystery that is unrevealed. All we know is that the Son is the brightness of God’s glory, just like the luminous bodies of the heaven have an effulgence, a glorious stream of splendor that issues from them.
So it is with God’s Son. He is the light. He is the glory. He is the effulgence. He is the iridescence. He is the color. He is the luminous glory of the God of this world. But lest somebody think He is just the effulgence, just the attribute of God, just the expression of God, the author says "He is the express image of God" [Hebrews 1:3]. That is, the substance of God is the substance of God the Son. They are the same.
If you have ever taken time to read those endless Christological controversies that storm through the history of Christendom in the centuries following the Lord, there was a heretic called Sabellius. And Sabellianism was this; he illustrated it saying that the Trinity is like the sun. It has substance; that’s the Father. It has light; that’s the Son. And it has heat; that’s the Holy Spirit. That’s the heresy of Sabellianism.
For the Scriptures say that the Son is not just the effulgence of God, that He manifests the attributes of God, but the Scriptures say that the Son is of one in the, and with the substance of God Himself.
Paul speaks in the second chapter of Philippians that the Son was in the form of God – the morphos of God [Philippians 2:6]. Whatever form God has, the Son has. They are the same; the same substance, the same character, the same attributes. The Father God and the Son God in the inexplicable mystery of the Trinity is One – the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.
So when we have the incarnation, we have God in human flesh. That’s why the sacrifice is efficacious, why it is powerful unto the saving of the soul and the deliverance from the power and judgment of sin. The sacrifice is God Himself – the express image of His person.
Now, he describes this glorious Son who made atonement for our sins. He describes Him and in the beginning compares Him to these glorious creatures of God’s celestial kingdom in the invisible world.
Now to a modern audience, we have to stop. We must discuss just for a minute. I never saw an angel, and you never saw an angel. That is, most of us never saw an angel. And in this modern day of scientific formulae and test tubes and all of the genius that goes into the exploration of this visible world, there will be a great askance when this author begins to compare the Son of God, the incarnate God, with those glorious celestial beings who wait upon the Father and do His bidding day and night. What about that?
All right, we are going to pause just for a moment. When I look at the visible world, this tangible, mundane, terrestrial, physical, material world, when I look at it, I am amazed as you are at the abundance of the differentiations in God’s created universe.
It is ramified in every department that God has made. In the heavens above, there is the fiery, shining orbit of the sun. There are these luminous planets reflecting His glory. There’s the quiet, meek moon in its robes of night splendor. There are the plunging fiery comets, fearlessly making their way through the endless heavens – just all kinds and varieties and colors and sizes and shapes; what God hath wrought in the infinitude of His glory in the heavens above us.
Now when I come to the earth around me, I see the same infinitude of variation. Not anything is alike. Out of the billions and billions and uncounted multiplied billions of God’s snowflakes, He doesn’t even make two of them alike. God likes variety. His women are not all redheads; some of them are brunettes. They are not all redheads and brunettes; some of them are blondes. God likes it that way. However you are, you ought to rejoice in it. God likes you that way. He likes variety. We don’t all want to be blondes. We don’t all want to be redheads. We don’t all want to be brunettes. God likes us different shapes and colors, big and tall and skinny and fat; God likes us that way.
All God’s creation is the same way. There will be the ocean and He likes His ocean. There is the dry land and He likes His dry land. There are the fauna. There are the flora – all of God’s animals. And there are hundreds of thousands of them; all kinds of insects, all kind of butterflies, all kinds of everything that creeps and crawls and flies and swims, God’s world of the animal universe. And then God’s world of His flora, there are the beautiful orchids. There are the lowly chokeweed and sunflower, and all of those infinite varieties of God’s created vegetable world.
Now if I could make an observation about God that would be true, it would be this. That God likes variety. He likes things different. And He makes all kinds of things.
Now when we reach the world of the invisible, I would suppose if I know God; watching what He does, and I can see, I would deduct the truth. I would suppose the fact that God did not create in the invisible world just one order of sentient beings, who could think His thoughts and love Him and worship Him. But knowing how God loves to multiply the fullness of the expression of His power and His nature, I would suppose that there were other sentient beings in this world beside us.
Now whether they live on Mars or not, I don’t know. I don’t enter into that. I do not think so. But we may not be the only sentient beings in this universe, in God’s created universe. But whether we are or not, it would be logical to suppose that in God’s heaven there are sentient beings who look upon His face, and who worship Him, and who do His bidding, and who are in obeisance, in reverence and love with God and to God Himself.
Now we do not have to deduct that. I just started that way because of this critical scientific age in which we live. We do not have to deduct that God would have in His universe sentient beings of different order, just like we see in God’s physical universe all kinds and types of things.
But in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, we are constantly brought to face, face to face, with God’s beings who are holy, and luminous, and shining, and glorious, and who serve Him and do His bidding.
When the first parents were driven out of the garden of Eden, there were cherubim; cherubim who were placed there with a flaming sword to guard the tree of life [Genesis 2:24]. When Abraham looked toward the East, there were messengers from heaven who were going down to Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 18:1-2]. There were those heavenly messengers who led Lot out of Sodom that he might live [Genesis 19:15-16]. When Jacob dreamed, there were those same glorious beings, up and down that shaft of light, from earth to heaven [Genesis 28:12]. There was an angel that appeared to Mary and announced to her she was to be the mother of this foreordained, foretold Child [Luke 2:26-35]. In a dream, an angel spake to Joseph what he should do in the protection of that little life [Matthew 1:19-25].
Angels ministered unto Him in His ministry in the earth [Matthew 4:11]. Angels guarded the tomb [Luke 24:4-7], and when He ascended into heaven, messengers from God spake words of comfort to the apostles [Acts 1:11]. An angel opened the prison doors when the apostles went out to preach again. An angel awoke Simon Peter, and the iron chains fell from his arms, and the great iron door opened of itself, as the angel conducted Simon Peter out into the streets of the city [Acts 12:7-10]. An angel appeared to the apostle Paul in the storm, telling him to be of good cheer; God had saved him and given him all of those who were with him [Acts 27:22-23].
I haven’t the beginning of the time to speak of the disclosure in the Bible of these glorious angelic beings, whom God hath created to be His servants in that upper, celestial and invisible world that we call heaven.
Now, this author says that the Son of God, who was incarnate, who was made flesh and who tabernacled among us, that this incarnate Son of God is made greater than that whole order of the celestial hosts that worship God and that do His bidding [Hebrews 1:4]. For, says this author ",under which of the angels said He at any time, ‘Thou art My Son,’" quoting the second Psalm. To what angel did God ever say, "Thou art My Son?" Or to what angel did God ever say, "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?" Or to what angel or in behalf of the Son, God gave the commandment: "Let all of the angels of God worship Him" [Hebrews 1:5, 6].
We saw them do so when He was incarnate in Bethlehem [Luke 2:13-14]. If we could have opened the doors of glory and have listened to the divine commandment before the incarnation, we could have heard the decree of God, "Let all the angels of God worship Him" [Hebrews 11:6]. Then He says of the angels, they are just messengers like the other of God’s forces in the earth. But unto the Son He says: "Thy throne is forever and forever" [Hebrews 1:7-8].
And again he says, "In the beginning, Thou didst lay the foundation of the earth" [Hebrews 1:10]. What angel made the earth? Or what angel shall sit upon God’s throne forever and forever? And to which of the angels said He at any time, "Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool"? [Hebrews 1:13]. As he speaks of the glory of the elevation of the Son of God, who was incarnate, who was made flesh and who tabernacled among us [John 1:14].
Now in the little moment that remains, may I say, what does that mean to us at this moment and this hour? Several things, one: in this day when Christendom is torn and severed apart, with scholars and with philosophers, who deny the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, they take the supernatural out of the four Gospels. And every other day there is a book published that describes Jesus as being just another one of the founders of great religious systems. And you can go to the bookstore and buy the books. Here is a volume, and on the outside it will give the pictures of the men who founded those great religions. There is a picture of Zoroaster, and on the inside what Zoroaster did. There is a picture of Gautama, of Buddha, and describes what Gautama did. There is a picture of Mahavira and on the inside what Mahavira did. And there is a picture of Lao Tse and on the inside what Lao Tse did; and of Mohammed and what Islamic religion is; and Confucius and what Confucianism is; an eclectic philosophy and what eclectic philosophy is; and a picture of Jesus, and what Jesus is.
But this author says, "Let all the angels of God worship Him" [Hebrews 1:6]. In nowise is He to be degraded and compared with these authors and promulgators of man-made religions. He is God, the Son, and the highest God in heaven above and in earth beneath! "And He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him." And by the side of the cherubim and the seraphim, and the orders of God’s creation, we too bow down and worship God the Son.
All right another thing: how it pertains to us. There is a constant writing, writing publication. It never ends. These men who think they have discovered those secret laws by which religion is developed, and it comes up from the root and comes up from the dull caveman and comes up from the uncivilized, and it evolves, and it develops until finally we have this expression among expressions in the religion of the Jew and of the Christian.
And he goes further to say, and as we keep forward in this evolvement, following those secret laws that he says and are supposed to guide to the development of religion, and he says, we shall continue to develop. And we shall arrive at that glorious day when Christianity itself will be superseded by some greater knowledge that man has discovered for himself.
He describes our religion as none other than a reaching out of the human spirit. And all of these words in the Bible are just a wishful hope and thinking of a people who aspire and aspire and reach up and up and up. And some of these days, he says, in our growth and in our evolving we shall outgrow the Christian faith itself.
I held a revival meeting in a town. And the pastor of the First Unitarian Church in that town announced that his church was not a Christian church. He said, "We have grown beyond Christianity, and we are not bound down," he says, "anymore by the revelation of Jesus Christ. We have gone beyond the knowledge and the revelation of Jesus Christ. And we are no longer," he says, "a Christian church. We are above a Christian church."
And my brother, if you are ever saddened by the thought that someday the Christian religion might be just a memory like those dead, forgotten religious systems of the empires of the past, turn to the Book and read: "Thy throne, O God, is forever and forever!" [Hebrews 1:8].
When they are forgot and dead, the throne of God on which sits Messiah the Lord shall stand forever and ever. And we live in an age of scientific inquiry. And these men of science are probing the inside, the underneath, all of those invisible things of the material kingdom of God’s universe.
May I say something that is God’s honest truth? Don’t you ever think that we need fear or tremble before the probing of those scientific instruments as they look into the invisible world of the atom, and as they look into the vast infinite world of God’s firmament. Don’t you ever be abashed, because we are just reading the handwriting of God in the little atom, and we are searching out the lacework, the handiwork of God in the great universe above us.
And when these scientists sometimes say and they ought not to say it – that science shall someday make religion unnecessary – all of these things are vestigial and we will slough them off, and the day will come when science will supersede religious faith and the Lord Jesus Christ, just turn with the author and say: "In the beginning, O God, Thou hast laid the foundations of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands" [Hebrews 1:10].
And whether we read the material of the universe or here in the Bible, it is the same author:
They shall perish, but Thou remainest. Heaven and earth may pass away, but God and His Word shall abide forever.
They shall wax old as does a garment, as a vesture shall thou fold them up and they shall be changed: but Thou are the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
[Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 1:11-72]
Don’t you ever tremble as though science shall supersede the great revelation of God. When the very same science is probing the star out there and the atom here hath folded and vanished away, God shall still abide and remain forever. And to us, He shall someday be visible and only Lord and God and King. "Sit on My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" [Hebrew 1:13].
We war against the night. We war against evil. We war against Satan. We war against the kingdom of the powers of darkness. We war against disease and age and death, and seemingly are vanquished. Don’t you be disturbed. "Sit on My right hand," says God to God the Son, "until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool."
Disease, and death, and age, and the grave, and hell, and all of the powers of darkness shall be conquered, and He, He, He, He shall reign as King and Lord over all of God’s heavenly hosts and over all God’s sainted people in the earth. "And these angels, they are just ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who are the heirs of salvation" [Hebrews 1:14], that little child and these children, those aged parents of yours, these fathers and mothers in the declivity and decline and senility of life, God’s angels watch over them! And that lonely one, in solitary hurt and weeping and disappointment and frustration, unto the ends of the earth, all for whom Jesus died and whom He loved, there are God’s angels, His ministering Spirit, watching over them for good and for God.
Ah, this man has a message. We just don’t ever listen. This man has a message; we’re just too busy to read it. That’s why, may God bless the pastor, and you pray for him, as he studies and as he asks God to put in his mind these great and eternal truths that shall save our souls and prepare us for that day when the elements shall melt with fire, when the very heavens and the earth shall pass away! [2 Peter 3:10]. And beyond, there, framed in eternal glory with thousands and myriads of His angelic hosts, we behold Him who is our own Lord and our own Savior. Bowing before Him now, worshipping before Him then.
Now while we sing this song of appeal, somebody you in this balcony around, somebody you on this lower floor, to give your heart and your life in faith to Christ; would you come and stand by me? "This morning pastor, I give my heart to Jesus, and here I am." Or a family you, all of you, father, mother, children you come this morning as God shall lead the way. I can’t save anybody. If I were to try, it would be so feeble. The invitation is not from me, it’s from God. It’s the Lord that calls us. It’s the Lord that saves us. It’s the Lord that bids us. It’s the Lord that forgives us. It’s God who keeps us, and in that confession and in that committal, down one of these stairwells or into one of the aisles, would you come and give me your hand? "Pastor, I’ve given my heart to God. In token thereof, in sign thereof, I give you my hand." Would you come and stand by me this day? While all of us stand and sing.
THE ANGELS AND THE SON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The glory of the Son of God
A. To the end of all history: "appointed heir of all things"(Hebrews 1:2, Matthew 28:18, John 3:35, Revelation 1:18)
B. To the beginning of all history: "made the worlds"(Hebrews 1:2, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16)
C. Throughout all history: "upholding all thingsâ€¦"(Hebrews 1:3, Mark 4:39, 7:34, John 5:8, 11:42-43, Luke 18:41-42, Matthew 8:3, Colossians 1:17)
D. Within history He became the atonement for human sin: "Himself purged our sins"(Hebrews 1:3, 9:25)
1. Efficacy and power of the sacrifice (Leviticus 22:21, Hebrews 1:2)
II. God Himself in the Son
A. Human language is baffled to express it
B. Substance of God is the substance of the Son(Hebrews 1:3, Philippians 2:6)
III. Greater than the angels
A. The abundance of differentiation in God’s created universe
1. Reasonable to suppose a variety in God’s spiritual universe
B. Brought face to face with them in the Bible(Genesis 2:24, 18:1-2, 19:15-16, 28:12, Luke 2:26-35, 24:4-7, Matthew 1:19-25, 4:11, Acts 1:11, 12:7-10, 27:22-23)
C. Author places Jesus in contrast with these glorious beings(Hebrews 1:4-8, 10, 13, Luke 12:13-14, Psalm 2:7, John 1:14)
IV. The meaning for us
A. Christendom severed with those who deny the claims of Jesus, taking supernatural out of the Gospels
1. He is not to be compared with man-made religions(Hebrews 1:6)
B. We are told by some that in our evolving we shall outgrow the faith
1. God’s throne is forever (Hebrews 1:8)
C. Progress of science will not supersede the great revelation of God(Hebrews 1:10, Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 1:11-72)
D. He shall someday be our visible God and King (Hebrews 1:13)
1. The angels are ministering spirits(Hebrews 1:14)