Angels and us

Angels have always been of interest in the religious sphere, the entertainment business, books, and more. There is even a baseball team that the name. In the religious realm it is simply that angels are part of the testimony of Scripture as messengers of God. They represent an “avenue” in which we can be assured that God is there, interested in us, and watching. Angels have been portrayed as warriors and as neophytes attempting to “win their wings” as they counsel humans losing their way.

In today’s readings, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews focuses on a different role – as administrators of the world – but not so the world to come. The biblical evidence for the angelic government of the world is early: it goes back to the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:8 where the establishing of the nations is described: “He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the divine beings” (NAB) or as more literally translated from the Septuagint: “he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the angels of God.”

In later books of scripture this implication becomes explicit: in Daniel, for example, we meet the angelic “prince of Persia” and “prince of Greece” (Dan. 10:20), while Michael is “the great prince” who champions the people of Israel (Dan. 10:21; 12:1).

But to the author of Hebrews, the world is in transition given the death and Resurrection of Jesus who is now enthroned at the right hand of God establishing a new world order – while not present in its fullness, it has been inaugurated. The author is concerned that people are becoming disheartened that the fullness is not present and perhaps even the inauguration is being called into question. But the author assures them – and he makes pointed argument: It is not the Son of God who is Ruler of the world, but rather the Son of Man (Heb 2:6). In chapter 1 Christ was superior as the Son of God; here he is superior because he is a human being. God created human beings “a little lower than the angels” in this world with angels as administrators.  But Jesus the man is superior to the angels but was made “for a little while lower” than them in that he suffered death (v. 9). The subjection of all things to Christ still belongs to the future, but the process has begun with Jesus’ exaltation to heaven after his death. And it is in that world, where the Son of Man rules, that we who are called “brothers” (v.12) will be a little “higher” than the angels. Jesus is a brother to human beings, and like us he praises and puts his trust in the Father. So should we.

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