The Son achieved the “purification of sins.” Because of this, he qualified to “sit down at the right hand of the majesty on high” where he now mediates as the high priest of his people. Additionally, he inherited a “more distinguished name,” namely, “Son.” The Author will now demonstrate that this son is vastly superior to even creatures as mighty and glorious as angels.
The letter to the Hebrews uses several comparisons to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus over all persons and things. His priesthood, covenant, and sacrifice completed what the Levitical system could not, and he received even more honor and authority than the great lawgiver himself, Moses.
SON VS ANGELS
The first contrast is between Jesus and the angels, employing several Old Testament passages to demonstrate his superiority over them, as well as his supremacy over all things.
(Hebrews 1:4-7) - “By so much becoming superior to the angels by as much as, going beyond them, he inherited a more distinguished name. For to which of the angels said he ever: You are my son; I, this day, have begotten you? And again: I will become his father and he shall become my Son? But whenever he again introduces the firstborn into the habitable earth, he says: And let all God’s angels worship him! Even as to the angels, indeed, he says: Who make his angels winds, and his ministers of state a fiery flame.”
The argument demonstrates the Son’s superiority by comparing him to persons widely recognized as excellent, in this first instance, the angels of God. If they are glorious and holy, how much more so is God’s Son?
The passage is the first to employ the term “better” or kreittôn in the letter, an adjective of comparison that denotes something or someone that is “better, best, nobler, noblest.” It is used thirteen times to stress the superiority of what God has done in Jesus - (e.g., “better sacrifices” - Hebrew 7:7, 7:19, 9:23).
The reference to his “distinguished name” translates the Greek term diaphoros, meaning that which is “distinct, distinguished, different.” The point is not simply that his name is better than “angel,” but that it is of an entirely different kind and order since he bears the name “son” in contrast to “angels” or “messengers” and “prophets.”
The emphasis is on his position as the “son” and “heir.” Certainly, the author of the letter is aware that this son is none other than Jesus, but the latter name does not appear until the second chapter when discussing his sacrificial death.
TO NO ANGEL
The comparison begins with the rhetorical question - “to which of the angels said He at any time?” The expected answer is “none.” At no point did Yahweh call any angel ‘son’ or elevate any angel to sit at His “right hand.”
Seven scriptural citations are used to demonstrate his superiority over angels, and the first six are divided into three pairs for literary effect:
Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14.
Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 104:4.
Psalm 45:6-7 and Psalm 102:25-27.
The first pair concerns his status, the second, the function of angels, and the third presents the exalted reign of the Son.
The seventh citation is a response to the first rhetorical question - What God said to the Son He never said to any angel (i.e., “Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool”).
The two words that link all seven citations to the letter’s opening statement are “angels” and “Son” - (Psalm 110:1, Psalm 103:20-21, Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:1-4).
Jesus is distinct from the angels because he is God’s Son, and that means he has a close and unique relationship with his Father that no other being has regardless of how powerful and exalted he, she, or it might be. He alone is designated as God’s “Son.”
Thus, he is superior to angels by the very fact that he is a “Son.” Not only so, but God also commanded all the angels “to render homage” to him. His high status is the result of his priestly act by which he “achieved the purification of sins.”
But the comparison to angels also anticipates the exhortation at the end of this first literary section with its description of how the Law was mediated “through angels.” That legislation was given to Moses, the greatest of the prophets, through angels. In contrast, “upon the last of these days,” God has spoken His definitive word through one who is a “son.”