When it comes to biblical texts that teach Christ’s deity, we probably think of passages like John 1 (“The Word was God,” John 1:1), or 2 Peter 1 (“our God and Savior Jesus Christ,” 2 Pet. 1:1). But there’s another text that arguably teaches Christ’s deity more relentlessly than either of these, and that’s Hebrews 1.
Hebrews 1 is a majestic meditation on how Christ is better than angels. Now the question of how Jesus compares to angels isn’t exactly on the front-burner of most modern evangelical minds (angel-oblivious people that we are). But for first-century Jews, there would’ve been few better ways to demonstrate Jesus’s divine nature than to prove that he is greater than the angels.
But before we count the ways in which Hebrews 1 teaches the Godhood of Jesus, let me share with you a useful teaching tool that can help us appreciate this amazing chapter.
H.A.N.D.S. of Jesus
In their excellent book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Robert Bowman and Ed Komoszewski creatively spell out five different ways the Bible bears witness to Jesus’s divinity using the acronym H.A.N.D.S.
H – Jesus shares the Honors of God
A – Jesus shares the Attributes of God
N – Jesus shares the Names of God
D – Jesus shares the Deeds of God
S – Jesus shares the Seat of God’s eternal throne
Believe it or not, Hebrews 1 contains examples of all five. So let’s take them in mnemonic order.
1. Honors: Whom Do the Angels Worship?
We see this most clearly in Hebrews 1:6, which reads, “And when he [God] brings the firstborn into the world, he says ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”
If there’s one thing that’s clear in Scripture, it’s that God alone ought to be worshiped. When Satan tried to bribe Jesus into worshiping him, Jesus responded, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matt. 4:10). Worship is an honor reserved for God. End of discussion.
And yet worship is also an honor that Jesus receives from all rational creatures: human beings (Matt. 14:33), fallen angels (Phil. 2:10), and holy angels (Rev. 5:8–14). According to Hebrews 1:6, the God who commands people to worship him alone also commands the angels to worship Jesus.
When angels worship Jesus, he doesn’t tell them to get up.
Angels aren’t exactly known for being casual about worship. Twice in the book of Revelation, an angel rebukes the apostle John for trying to worship him (Rev. 19:10; 22:8–9). This should remind us how glorious and mighty angels really are. If we were to actually see one, we’d probably be like John—our first instinct would be to fall down and worship him.
But we’d be rebuked. Angels tell men to “worship God” (Rev. 19:10; 22:9), but God tells angels to worship the Son. That should tell us something about who Jesus is. When angels worship Jesus, he doesn’t tell them to get up.
2. Attributes: Who Is the Unchanging, Eternal Image of God?
God’s attributes are those perfections that Scripture ascribes to him that make him who he is. Some attributes he shares with us, but others belong to him alone. For example, God alone is eternal and unchanging and all-powerful and all-knowing.
And yet according to Hebrews 1:10–12, the Son is also unchanging and eternal. “[The heavens] will perish, but you remain . . . like a garment they will be changed, but you are the same, and your years will have no end.” Who else but Yahweh could say “For I the LORD do not change”? (Mal. 3:6). Apparently Jesus can.
Who else but Yahweh could say ‘For I the LORD do not change’? (Mal. 3:6). Apparently Jesus can.
Further, verse 3 implies that the Son actually shares all of God’s attributes. It describes him as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Statements like this serve as the basis for the doctrine of the Son’s eternal generation. The Son’s way of being God is to be eternally from the Father by generation (whereas the Father is from none), but otherwise he is the exact imprint and spitting image. They share every divine attribute.
3. Names: Who Is Israel’s Lord and God?
Two of the most prominent Old Testament names for God are applied to Jesus in this chapter. Both come by way of quotations from the Psalms.
The first is “God.” It’s true the Hebrew Old Testament occasionally refers to the angels as “gods” (elohim; Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:7). But Hebrews 1:7–8 shows that they’re not the kind of God that Jesus is.
Of the angels he says
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever . . . ” (Heb. 1:7–8)
Here the Son is explicitly addressed as “God,” as an Old Testament passage speaking of God is applied to the Son (though even in this quotation, God the Son is distinguished from God the Father; note verse 9).
The second name is “Lord.” Immediately after citing Psalm 45 and calling the Son “God,” the author cites Psalm 102:25–27, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning” (Heb. 1:10). The word here is kurios, the Greek word typically used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew YHWH, “the LORD,” God’s covenant name. The small but solid number of verses calling Jesus “God” may impress us more, but the astounding number of passages calling Jesus “Lord” should impress more than they do, given that “LORD” (YHWH/kurios) is the most commonly used name for God in the Old Testament.
And if you wonder if this “Lord” is someone less than fully God, just wait till you hear what he did.
4. Deeds: Who Made the Heavens and Earth?
The Bible is clear that God alone made the heavens and earth. He says so himself in Isaiah 44:24:
I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself.
As for the angels, they were present when God “laid the foundations of the earth” (Job 38:4), but only as spectators and singers (Job 38:7), not as creators.
Genesis 1:1 is about Jesus.
Yet Hebrews 1 is clear that the Son is the one “though whom God . . . created the world” (Heb. 1:3). It was the Son who “laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of [his] hands” (Heb. 1:10). In other words, Genesis 1:1 is about Jesus.
The idea of Jesus being the Creator also connects with names (he is Lord and God; Heb. 1:8, 10) and with attributes (he must be omnipotent and eternal; Heb. 1:11–12).
5. Seat: Who Sits at God’s Right Hand?
The author’s final argument for Jesus’s superiority to angels comes in verse 13. Citing Psalm 110:1, he asks rhetorically:
And to which of the angels has [God] ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
The answer is “none of them.” God wasn’t exalting one angel above others when he invited the Son to sit on his throne (cf. Rev. 3:21). And while it’s true that this invitation was given in history as a result of the Son’s obedience here on earth (Heb. 1:4; cf. Phil. 2:9), it’s consistent with the fact that he was already the divine Son in eternity before the world was made (Heb. 1:2–3).
So there you have it. Five ways the Bible bears witness to Jesus’s Godhood, wrapped up in a memorable acrostic, right there in one amazing chapter. Hide it in your heart. Store it away for conversations with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
And don’t forget to join your ministering angel in worshiping the one who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature.