Hebrews 1:4 ends with a transition from Jesus being far better than the Prophets to Jesus being far better than the angels. It says that Jesus sat down next to the Father in heaven after having made atonement for our sins and “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Names and titles were nearly the same things on the day the author penned this idea. The writers of the United Bible Societies handbook for translators acknowledge this when they comment, “In this type of context greater must be understood in the sense of ‘more important,’ or ‘of higher rank,’ or ‘of greater authority.’” They go on to elaborate: “In a number of languages one must distinguish clearly between a personal name which identifies an individual, and a title indicating rank. In this context, the emphasis is upon the title which was given to Jesus.”[1]

The first part of this Epistle explains that God used to speak through the Prophets but today, He speaks to us through His Son. Jesus’ message to us is superior to the message of the Prophets that foretold Him and His life. Jesus’ message is so important because that’s what Moses and the prophets spoke about, and Jesus is the fulfillment. So Jesus is more important or greater than the Prophets. Many Jews believed that the OT, especially the Law of Moses, was delivered to Moses through angels. So when the writer of Hebrews turns his attention to Jesus’ superiority to the angels, he does so to give even further credence to Jesus and his teachings. This was important because, in the early Church, people were drawn to angel worship at times. Paul warns against that in Colossians 2:18; he writes, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels.” Then again, we read in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

What the author of Hebrews is doing in this Epistle is saying pretty much what God said to those at Jesus’ transfiguration as recorded in mark 9:7, “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’” I’m arguing that God doesn’t speak to us through prophets anymore! Notice that at the transfiguration, both Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. When Peter wanted to honor all three by building tents for them, God spoke and singled out Jesus as his beloved son that should be listened to. Anyone claiming the gift of prophecy today is on shaky ground biblically. God doesn’t speak to us through angels today, which would have been a good thing to acknowledge when Joseph Smith met the angel Moroni. Jesus is the message of the whole Bible from beginning to end. True preaching is about Jesus, who he is, what he’s done and what he says. Pay attention to him; listen to him!

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 13.