Last time we saw that the writer of Hebrews gave an extensive argument based upon quotations from the Old Testament scriptures against the idea that Jesus is a created angel rather than the uncreated, eternal God who Himself (the Word of God) created and sustains the world including the angels. Since we don’t know to which specific Jewish church(es) this letter was written, we can’t possibly know their history(ies). However, it is reasonable to assume that a false concept of Jesus as a created being was being voiced in that/those congregation(s) just as it was in the Gentile churches of the day, and continues even today in many ostensibly “Christian” denominations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus the Hebrews author felt there was a need for the discussion we just studied.
A Call to Heed the Preaching of the Gospel of Salvation Through Faith in Christ
The Hebrews writer now concludes the discussion of Jesus’ relationship to the angels whom He created, and turns to the subject of the reason God sends them forth – to proclaim salvation by faith in Jesus. The messianic Jewish congregation(s) to whom Hebrews was written would have been familiar with the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to Jesus – the Messiah – given through the angels and the prophets. The Hebrews writer now urges his readers to believe and heed the Gospel which has been preached by the angels, by human evangelists and prophets, and by the LORD Himself.
1:14Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? 2:1Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? [Hebrews 1:14-2:4 – NKJV]
Hebrews 1:14Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
In Genesis 27 Jacob conspired with his mother, Rebecca to deceive his father, Isaac, into giving Jacob his blessing rather than Jacob’s elder brother Esau. After Isaac died, Esau intended to take revenge on Jacob and kill him, so Rebecca sent Jacob away to live with her family in Padan Aram until Esau’s anger abated. On the way to Padan Aram, Jacob stopped to sleep at a place called Luz.
Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. [Genesis 28:12 – NKJV]
The LORD spoke to Jacob from the top of the ladder and blessed him in that place, which Jacob renamed Bethel – the House of God. We have no way of knowing the missions upon which God was dispatching the angels Jacob saw in his dream, but apparently angels are continually being sent forth by God to do His bidding.
Last time, we saw that the Hebrew word – מַלְאָךְ mal’ak translated into English as “angel” in the Old Testament – means messenger or representative. Similarly, in the New Testament the Greek word – ἄγγελος aggelos – means messenger, envoy, or one who is sent. In our discussion last time we saw a few Old Testament instances in which God used angels to perform mighty works such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but God also uses angels as His messengers, bringing God’s prophecies to those to whom God sends them.
Old Testament Examples of Angels Acting as Messengers
- Daniel 8 – The angel Gabriel – Hebrew גַּבְרִיאֵל Gabriy’el meaning “warrior of God” or “man of God” – is directed by God to explain to Daniel the meaning of the prophetic vision he had seen of a Ram and a Goat. Gabriel told Daniel that the vision was of the future defeat of the Persian Empire by the Greek empire of Alexander the Great.
- Daniel 9 – Gabriel again appeared to Daniel, and gave him the so-called “Seventy Weeks” prophecy that was partially fulfilled to the very day by Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His sacrifice on the cross the following Friday. This amazing prophecy delivered by Gabriel was fulfilled so precisely that Biblical skeptics once claimed that the book of Daniel must have been written after the fact. That contention was blown out of the water, of course with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to about 150 BC, and contain Gabriel’s prophecy almost identical to modern Torah texts.
- Zechariah 1 and 2 – Angels were dispatched by God to bring a message of encouragement to the people who had returned to Judah in the years immediately following the Babylonian captivity.
New Testament Examples of Angels Acting as Messengers
- Luke 1 – Gabriel – Greek transliteration גַּבְרִיאֵל Gabriy’el – appeared in the Holy Place of the temple at the altar of incense to prophesy the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias.
- Luke 1 – Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to announce the upcoming birth of Jesus the LORD.
- Matthew 1 – An unnamed angel appeared to Joseph telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife after Joseph found out that she was pregnant with Jesus.
- Luke 2 – Perhaps the most famous message ever delivered by an angel – the birth of Jesus…
8Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:14“Glory to God in the highest,“And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” [Luke 2:8-14]
- Matthew 2 – An angel warned Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee from Bethlehem to Egypt because King Herod had ordered all of the young children of Bethlehem to be killed. After Herod’s death, the same angel or another one appeared to tell Joseph it was safe to bring the family home.
- Matthew 28 – An angel rolled away the stone so that the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body might see the empty tomb, and then announced to them that Jesus had risen from the dead.
- Acts 8 – An angel appeared to Philip telling him to go out to the road where he found the Ethiopian eunuch reading the prophecy of Isaiah, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to him.
- Acts 10 – An angel told Cornelius the centurion to seek the Apostle Peter in Joppa and bring Peter back so that the Gospel was preached for the very first time to the Gentiles.
- Acts 27 – An angel reassured Paul during the tempest onboard the ship from Crete to Rome that the ship would be lost, but all aboard would be saved.
Here in Hebrews 1:14, we see another function the angels perform at God’s bidding – ministering to (serving) God’s people. Imagine! God uses these amazing, powerful beings to serve His children’s needs.
Old Testament Examples of Angels Acting as Ministering Spirits (Servants)
- Genesis 21:14-19 – An angel of God provided water to Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. Note – This may have been a christopany.
- 1 Kings 19:5-8 – An angel provided food and drink to Elijah when he ran away from Queen Jezebel who had ordered him killed after the execution of 450 prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel.
New Testament Examples of Angels Acting as Ministering Spirits (Servants)
- Luke 22:43 – An angel strengthened the LORD Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- John 5:4 – An angel periodically stirred the waters of the Pool of Bethesda after which the first person to enter the water received healing.
- Acts 5:19 – An angel freed Peter and John from the prison where they had been held for preaching the Gospel.
- Acts 12 – An angel once more freed Peter after he had been imprisoned by King Herod.
Hebrews 2:1Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
Having stated that God sends His angels to minister to those whom He is saving by the truth of His Gospel, the Hebrews writer now continues with a word of warning that if we do not diligently heed the Gospel witness sent to us, we may drift from the faith. Does this verse imply that it is possible for us to lose the eternal salvation which we receive from God when we confess with our mouths Jesus as our LORD, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead? I think not. Recall that the letter to the Hebrews was written to born-again Jewish believers, not to the unsaved. I believe that the writer here is referring to our Gospel witness to others, and our usefulness to God as ministers of His Gospel rather than our own salvation. Consider what Paul (the presumed writer of Hebrews) had to say in writing to the church in Corinth about God’s judgment of our works.
9For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. [ 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 – NKJV]
But the real thrust of Hebrews 2:1, isn’t with regard to our earthly works and the eternal rewards God ties to them, but rather I think it speaks of the eternal impact upon our very own souls and the souls of those to whom God sends us due to our acknowledgement or rejection of the Gospel message God sends to us through His messengers (angel and human). The passage that springs immediately to my mind is Jesus’ parable of the sower…
3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. [Matthew 13:3-8 – NKJV]
18“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” [Matthew 13:18-23 – NKJV]
Clearly, as we know from Ephesians 2:8-9, it is God’s grace, not our works which save us…
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9 – NKJV]
The question that immediately springs from this understanding of our salvation by faith alone is – Why would God choose to save us? The answer is found in the very next verse…
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:10 – NKJV]
It is this recognition of our salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone, and its implication that we are therefore called as God’s witnesses to this Gospel, that the writer is talking about here in Hebrews 2:1
2For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
We have seen that God has sent angels and prophets at various times to proclaim prophecies of the coming of the LORD Jesus. By the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, many of these prophecies had already been fulfilled by His birth, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. We also saw that God used angels to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and to punish the nation after David disobeyed God by counting the people. In Hebrews 2:2, the writer reminds us of these things, and then goes on in Hebrews 2:3 with a word of warning to those who would deny or ignore the Gospel preached by the LORD and by His disciples…
1God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2has in these last days spoken to us by His Son… [Hebrews 1:1-2a – NKJV]
Today, we have a tremendous blessing that the Hebrew congregation(s) to whom this letter was written did not have – the written record of the Gospel preaching of the LORD Jesus, and His disciples that we find in the four gospels and in the book of Acts. Here are just a few examples of such preaching…
Perhaps the most well-known is the conversation Jesus had with one of the Jewish leaders, Nicodemus, who came to Him by night to ask Him about the Gospel…
13No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. [John 3:13-19 – NKJV]
Jesus preaching to the masses in Galilee…
37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” [John 6:37-40 – NKJV]
Peter preaching when he and John had been brought before the Sanhedrin after they healed a lame man at the temple gate by the power of the Name of Jesus…
8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ [Psalm 118:22] 12Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:8-12 – NKJV]
Peter preaching at the house of Cornelius the Roman centurion, bringing the Gospel to the gentiles for the first time…
34Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ— He is Lord of all— 37that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” [Acts 10:34-43 – NKJV]
4God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Of course we find stories of miracles performed by Jesus and His disciples throughout the gospel accounts and the book of Acts. Not the least of these miracles certainly was Jesus’ resurrection from the dead by the power of His own Spirit. We also see examples of the ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts after the Spirit was first poured forth on the day of Pentecost just as prophesied by the prophet Joel, and Jesus Himself had promised right before He ascended to Heaven…
28“And it shall come to pass afterwardThat I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,Your old men shall dream dreams,Your young men shall see visions.29And also on My menservants and on My maidservantsI will pour out My Spirit in those days. [Joel 2:28-29 – NKJV]4And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” [Acts 1:4-5 – NKJV]8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. [Acts 1:8-9 – NKJV]1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4 – NKJV]
As we have just studied, in Hebrews 1:14 – 2:4 the writer of Hebrews admonishes his readers to heed the Gospel of salvation testified to by the angels and prophets, by Jesus Himself and His disciples, and confirmed through the miracles performed by Jesus and His disciples and by the manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit among believers. Just so, Jesus also urged those who had witnessed His miracles to believe the Gospel He had preached, if only due to the awesome miracles He had performed…
37If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” [John 10:37-38 – NKJV]
10Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. [John 14:10-11 – NKJV]
In the next lesson, we will continue our study of Hebrews 2 as the Hebrews writer delves into Jesus’ miraculous incarnation in human form, and God’s wonderful plan of salvation from sin for all mankind through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross.