1:14 those who are going to inherit salvation Refers to believers in the Son. The theme of inheritance appears throughout Hebrews (Heb 6:12; 9:15; 11:8; 12:17). Greek terminology for salvation generally indicates healing, wholeness, deliverance from danger, and victory over enemies. References in the nt usually refer to being saved from sin and death.
1:14 ministering spirits. Angels are called “ministers” in v. 7. Their particular role is to serve those who are to inherit salvation, that is, Christian believers (on inheritance see 6:12, 17; 9:15). Salvation (see 2:3; 6:9) is possible only through Jesus’ work (2:10; 5:9; 9:28). The angels’ important role still pales in comparison to Jesus’ authority as Son of God exalted at the “right hand of the Majesty” (1:3, 13).
1:14 — Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
We may not see most of their activity, but God has given His angels the job of “ministering” to us. We may never know how often an angel spared us from injury, guided us to safety, or engineered some success.
1:14 Angels are mere servants (v. 7) who serve those who will inherit salvation. Salvation here is not justification because it is in the future, not in the past. The reference is to believers who inherit the Kingdom or rule in God’s kingdom as a reward for their service to the Son (9:28; Col. 3:24). The author is speaking about “the world to come” (2:5). References to salvation in 2:3, 10; 5:9; 6:9 probably also concern the future.
1:14. In contrast to the Son ruling at God’s right hand, the angels are ministering spirits. Unlike the Son whose destiny is King over an eternal throne-kingdom, the role of the angels is to minister, not reign. In fact, they minister to those who will inherit salvation. By salvation, our author is thinking not of our Lord’s saving work on the Cross, but a future salvation associated with His Second Coming (emphasized in chap. 1). This is quite clear in light of his use of “salvation” in 9:28, as well as his explicit mention in 2:5 of “the world to come.” Although there is a salvation for believers to inherit, this can be jeopardized by their neglect (2:3). Thus before continuing the author will pause in 2:1–4 to warn his readers.
1:14 The mission of the angels is not to rule but to serve. They are spirit beings whom God has created to minister for those who will inherit salvation. This may be understood in two ways: first, angels minister to those who are not yet converted; or, second, they serve those who are saved from the penalty and power of sin but not yet saved from the presence of sin, that is, those believers who are still on earth.
This means there are “guardian angels.” Why should we be surprised at such a truth? It is certain there are evil spirits who wage unceasing conflict against God’s elect (Eph. 6:12). Is it to be wondered at that there are holy angels who watch over those who are called to salvation?
But we must go back to the main point of the passage—not the existence of guardian angels, but the fact that angels are inferior to the Son of God just as servants are inferior to the Universal Sovereign.
14 The concluding rhetorical question is actually an exegetical comment on Ps 104:4, quoted in v 7. The designation of the angels as λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα, “serving spirits,” echoes the key words in the quotation, πνεύματα and λειτουργούς. The assertion that the angels are sent forth on a mission of service (εἰς διακονίαν) to the heirs of the salvation is a logical inference from the biblical text. Angels clearly have their place in the economy of redemption, but it is not at the Father’s right hand. They are ordained to ministry in the world of humanity (cf. Strathmann, TDNT 4: 231). The readers are, in fact, οἱ μέλλοντες κληρονομεῖν σωτηρίαν, “those who are to inherit salvation.” This formulation conveys the further implication that entrance into the inheritance of salvation is the central theme of the new revelation (cf. 2:3–4; 9:15).
The rhetorical question in v 14 is designed to call the hearers to decision. It demands an affirmative answer. They are to recognize that in contrast to the Son, who is invited to share the divine presence and splendor, angels are sent forth on a mission of assistance to those who find themselves oppressed and confused in a hostile world.
1:14. In contrast to the authority of God’s Son, angels have a servant role. They serve in God’s behalf. He gives them orders which they carry out. Their primary duty is to care for believers. The Old Testament promised that angels would deliver believers (Ps. 34:7). The New Testament records angelic rescues (Acts 12:7–10).
14. Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
From the throne of God and from the seat of honor, commands are given to angels to work in behalf of and for the benefit of the believers, who will inherit salvation. Whereas Jesus sits enthroned in majesty and grandeur, angels are ministering spirits. They must obey and serve. Not a single angel is excluded. Even archangels, including Gabriel and Michael, are sent by God to work in the interest of the saints (Luke 1:11–38; Jude 9).
Scripture teaches that angels are ministering spirits, “sent to serve those [the people of God] who will inherit salvation.” Angels announce the law of God (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2); deliver messages to God’s people (Isa. 6:6–7; Dan. 8:18–19; 9:20–23; 10:12, 14; Luke 1:18–19); minister to the needs of the people of God (1 Kings 19:5, 7; Ps. 91:11–12; Matt. 18:10; Acts 7:38; 12:15; 1 Cor. 11:10); are appointed guardians of cities and nations (Ezek. 9:1; Dan. 10:13, 20–21; 11:1; 12:1); and will gather the elect at the time of Christ’s return (Matt. 24:31; Mark 13:27). However, the angels have not been commissioned to teach or preach to the elect. Nor are they given power to govern God’s people, although the angels stand in the presence of God and share his plans (Zech. 1:12–13).
The angels constitute a numberless host, for John relates in Revelation that he “heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Rev. 5:11; see also Dan. 7:10). Their work continues until the time of the judgment, when Jesus, sitting on his throne, will say to the elect: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
The reference to salvation as an inheritance that the elect will receive on judgment day ought to be understood in the broadest possible sense. When the elect are in the presence of Christ, they will no more experience death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). They will enter a blessed and glorious state reserved for them and given to them for eternity. They shall be with Christ forever. That is the fullness of inherited salvation.
In this quotation the contrast between the Son and the angels has been brought to a climax: Jesus is sitting on the throne and is sending the angels to serve the believers. The contrast indeed is striking. In spite of their holiness, their status, and their dignity, the angels continue to function as ministering spirits to the inheritors of salvation. In a sense, therefore, angels are inferior to the saints.
14. ministering spirits—referring to Heb 1:7, “spirits … ministers.” They are incorporeal spirits, as God is, but ministering to Him as inferiors.
sent forth—present participle: “being sent forth” continually, as their regular service in all ages.
to minister—Greek, “unto (that is, ‘for’) ministry.”
for them—Greek, “on account of the.” Angels are sent forth on ministrations to God and Christ, not primarily to men, though for the good of “those who are about to inherit salvation” (so the Greek): the elect, who believe, or shall believe, for whom all things, angels included, work together for good (Ro 8:28). Angels’ ministrations are not properly rendered to men, since the latter have no power of commanding them, though their ministrations to God are often directed to the good of men. So the superiority of the Son of God to angels is shown. They “all,” how ever various their ranks, “minister”; He is ministered to. They “stand” (Lu 1:19) before God, or are “sent forth” to execute the divine commands on behalf of them whom He pleases to save; He “sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3, 13). He rules; they serve.
1:14 / What then is a realistic estimate of angels and their function? They are ministering spirits; but, as has been shown, they have a subordinate role of serving God. God’s concern is not with angels, but with us, and he accordingly sends them to bring help to those who will inherit salvation. God and the Son are the source of our salvation, as the author will demonstrate so boldly in this epistle. By God’s grace, his servants serve us in and toward this end. The idea of personal aid from angels builds on an ot motif (e.g., Ps. 91:11), recalls the ministry of angels to Jesus (Matt. 4:11; compare 26:53), and is meant as a note of personal comfort and encouragement in the face of real difficulty for these Jewish Christians.
14 The lack of any contrasting citation in v. 14 allows Ps 110:1 to remain the final quotation and the pastor’s definitive description of the present achievement and position of the Son. Verse 7 has convinced the pastor’s hearers that the angels are temporal created beings, God’s “ministers,” here called “ministering spirits.” The hearers must, however, also understand the nature of angelic service. The pastor denies the popular belief that angels ruled the nations or that they performed a heavenly priestly ministry by insisting that “all” of them, in contrast to the sovereign, exalted Son, are “sent out.” The priestly connotation of the word “ministering” makes this denial more emphatic.85 Furthermore, this use of “spirits” (see on 1:7) is unusual and probably indicates the “ethereal” nature of the angels. The Son is in charge of the nations (1:2–3) and, as the pastor will affirm, he alone is heavenly Priest. This vague description of angelic assistance to God’s people draws attention to the all-sufficient ministry of the Son (cf. Acts 12:4–11; 27:23).
The pastor’s opening declaration of the Son’s divine appointment as “heir of all things” (v. 2) bears fruit in this concluding description of God’s people as those “who are about to inherit salvation.” The Son determines both their past and their future. Through him they are the heirs of the OT people of God and thus the recipients of all previous revelation. Through him and the fulfillment he has achieved they are “about to inherit” (1:14) the “salvation” he will bring at his return (9:28). The pastor would not have his hearers forget their past, but his emphasis is on their future. Above all he would have them live so that they will receive this inheritance through the exalted One who is “heir of all things.” In order for them to understand both the privileges that are theirs and the gravity of their situation he will describe how the eternal Son became the fully sufficient, exalted Savior through his incarnation in 2:5–18. As noted above, these verses record the Son’s obedient response to the Father’s affirmations and invitation recorded in 1:5–14. These first two chapters serve as the basis for 4:14–10:18, the pastor’s fuller explanation of the Son’s sufficiency in terms of the high priesthood soon to be introduced in 2:17–18.
However, the pastor can restrain himself no longer. In 2:1–4 he must begin to exhort all who would hear to live as those “who are about to inherit salvation.” The faithful perseverance necessary for reception of this inheritance is founded on giving their full attention and allegiance to “the great salvation” (2:3) the Son has provided. In vv. 1–14 the pastor has prepared his hearers to respond to this exhortation by describing the magnitude of the One through whom the salvation he would have them attend has been revealed and provided. In 2:5–18 he follows up this exhortation by beginning to describe the effective nature of this salvation and the means of its provision.
14 The most exalted angels are those whose privilege it is to “stand in the presence of God” like Gabriel (Luke 1:19), but none of them has ever been invited to sit before him, still less to sit in the place of unique honor at his right hand. Their standing posture betokens their promptness to execute his commands, or simply to abide his pleasure.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
All of them, the highest angels as well as the lowest, are but servants of God, “ministering spirits” (a phrase which echoes the language of Ps. 104:4 as quoted above in v. 7), and not to be compared with the Son. More remarkable still, their service is performed for the benefit of a favored class of human beings, the heirs of salvation. That these should be the beneficiaries of angelic ministry may well be due to their close association with the Son of God, by whom they are being brought to glory (2:10). These angels are clearly different beings from the hostile world-rulers and elemental spirits mentioned in Paul’s epistles, whose influence has been broken over the lives of those who have died with Christ.118
The salvation here spoken of lies in the future; it is yet to be inherited, even if its blessings can already be enjoyed in anticipation. That is to say, it is that eschatological salvation which, in Paul’s words, is “nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11) or, in Peter’s words, is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). Our author does not need to explain to his readers what he means by this salvation; the term and its meaning are familiar to them already. What they do need to understand is the fearful danger to which they will be exposed if they treat this salvation lightly.
The Son of God’s ascendancy over angels has thus been asserted and confirmed by the testimony of Old Testament scripture. Some of the Old Testament passages adduced, and especially the first and the last (Pss. 2:7; 110:1), were already well established in the church as messianic testimonies, and were acknowledged as having met their fulfilment in Jesus. In them Jesus was addressed by God in terms that surpassed the honors enjoyed by the mightiest of archangels, who indeed are called upon to pay him homage in recognition of his sovereignty over them. And the authority of the gospel which the readers of this epistle had embraced was the authority of Jesus, the Son of God, supremely exalted by his Father. As God had no greater messenger than his Son, he had no further message beyond the gospel.
14 The quotations are finished, and the author sums up his argument with another comment specifically on the status of angels that picks up the language of v. 7. They are “serving spirits,” God’s workforce in looking after his human subjects. The Son came to provide “salvation” for human beings (cf. “purification for sins,” v. 3), as ch. 2 will spell out further, and now that it has been made available it is for them to “inherit” what is now theirs (cf. the Son himself “inheriting” all creation and a supreme name as his by right, vv. 2 and 4). Angels neither provide that salvation nor do they need it for themselves (2:16); their role is merely the subordinate function of looking after those who are to be saved.
14. Are they not all, &c. That the comparison might appear more clearly, he now mentions what the condition of angels is. For calling them spirits, he denotes their eminence; for in this respect they are superior to corporeal creatures. But the office (λειτουργία) which he immediately mentions reduces them to their own rank, as it is that which is the reverse of dominion; and this he still more distinctly states, when he says, that they are sent to minister. The first word means the same, as though he had said, that they were officials; but to minister imports what is more humble and abject. The service which God allots to angels is indeed honourable; but the very fact that they serve, shews that they are far inferior to Christ, who is the Lord of all.
If any one objects and says, that Christ is also called in many places both a servant and a minister, not only to God, but also to men, the reply may be readily given; his being a servant was not owing to his nature, but to a voluntary humility, as Paul testifies, (Phil. 2:7;) and at the same time his sovereignty remained to him entire; but angels, on the other hand, were created for this end,—that they might serve, and to minister is what belongs to their condition. The difference then is great; for what is natural to them is, as it were, adventitious or accidental to Christ, because he took our flesh; and what necessarily belongs to them, he of his own accord undertook. Besides, Christ is a minister in such a way, that though he is in our flesh nothing is diminished from the majesty of his dominion.
From this passage the faithful receive no small consolation; for they hear that celestial hosts are assigned to them as ministers, in order to secure their salvation. It is indeed no common pledge of God’s love towards us, that they are continually engaged in our behalf. Hence also proceeds a singular confirmation to our faith, that our salvation being defended by such guardians, is beyond the reach of danger. Well then has God provided for our infirmities by giving us such assistants to oppose Satan, and to put forth their power in every way to defend us!
But this benefit he grants especially to his chosen people; hence that angels may minister to us, we must be the members of Christ. Yet some testimonies of Scripture may on the other hand be adduced, to shew that angels are sometimes sent forth for the sake of the reprobate; for mention is made by Daniel of the angels of the Persians and the Greeks. (Dan. 10:20.) But to this I answer, that they were in such a way assisted by angels, that the Lord might thus promote the salvation of his own people; for their success and their victories had always a reference to the benefit of the Church. This is certain, that as we have been banished by sin from God’s kingdom, we can have no communion with angels except through the reconciliation made by Christ; and this we may see by the ladder shewn in a vision to the patriarch Jacob.
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