The old people believed that angels came from a constantly flowing stream of fire which originated as sweat from the beasts who pulled the chariot of the Lord. In more recent times, even the topic of angels couldn’t escape politics; Pharisees believed in them, Sadducees did not.
The Hebrew word for angel is mal’ach and means ‘messenger’…the book of Malachi means “messenger of God”…and teachings about the angels go back to the ancients in the first five books of the Torah. Cherubim guard the garden of Eden with flaming swords, an angel tells Abraham about the child Sarah will bear and then later an angel stops Abraham from slaying his son Issac. An angel saves Hagar and her son in the desert, an angel appears to Moses in the burning bush, and an angel wrestles with Jacob all night long.
“What’s that you asked, Ishmael?” the friend is pulling his old trick again, preparing a proper response as you repeat, “The letter says a lot about angels. Why?”
“The letter says our Lord is superior to the angels and then the writer is very thorough in quoting the Psalms and Samuel to prove his remarks. But I think this last line I read, that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who inherit salvation is especially pertinent now. Many of our brethren have lost heart and no longer follow the Lord.”
As the reader speaks, you realize that the room is not as full as it was when you first became a believer. Many are noticeably missing, and not because they’ve gone on to meet the Lord in glory. Those who are still here in the church have survived persecution from both Romans and Jewish kindred, but many others gave up the fight long ago. For some of them, being a Jew was hard enough without adding the challenge of being in this Christian sect. The burden of the Lord became stronger than the memory of why they embraced Christ in the first place.
“Two kinds of Hebrews live in this city now. Those who are vainly counting on Michael the arch angel and protector of Jerusalem to aid them in a bloody battle for our homeland. And those, like all of us here, who know that through Jesus every thing has changed and the angels are now set in charge of watching after us until we make our way to our final, true home. This letter is encouraging us to understand that Jesus is set over the angels and that He has ordered them to minister to us His followers. Now, let’s read on,” Ishmael’s friend again lifts the letter and reads, ” We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a littlelower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.”
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement forthe sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Ah, this is wonderful. The world to come, the eternal life we seek…it is not being prepared for the angelic host to reign over; but is being prepared for us to join our Lord who already reigns over all things. Even though we can’t see everything that is already subjected to Him, Jesus suffered death in order to pass over to that other world ahead of us. And we are being made holy and put into the same family as our Lord so that one day we will be with Him forever. Then there’s this subject of the priesthood.” Your friend re-reads the last part silently to himself and then says, “Not only is the Lord superior to the angels, listen now to what it says:
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ “
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
…to be continued…