Lower Than the Angels
From Gospel Translations
“You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:7).
- Hebrews 2:5–8a
Now that the greatness of the Gospel message has been discussed, the author of Hebrews returns to the greatness of Christ Himself. This shift is made so that the work and role of Christ can be prominently emphasized throughout the rest of the epistle.
The rest of chapter 2 discusses Jesus’ role as the Founder of Salvation. The author begins by talking about the world to come and its ruler (v. 5). This world to come is none other than the new heavens and the new earth that are promised to us throughout the Scriptures (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1). This world to come is a future event, at least partly, because the final consummation of the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated has yet to occur. The world to come will not be subject to the angels as its rulers. Rather, we are to infer from the author’s previous teaching about the angels that the world to come will be subject to Christ Himself.
Psalm 8 is then quoted to further reinforce that Christ, and not the angels, will be the ruler of the world to come. John Calvin rightly points out that at first glance it seems strange that the author quotes this Psalm as a Messianic Psalm. After all, the Psalm does appear to be just a description of humanity in general and not the Messiah in particular. However, the Psalm must point beyond itself because man does not now possess all the glory that he should. Although we retain much of the honor that comes from being in God’s image, the Fall has tainted us, and we do not manifest God’s glory as fully as we once did. The Psalm points beyond itself to the one who will manifest this glory not only because His humanity is sinless, but also because His deity is so glorious. It points us to the one who will return to us the glory and dignity we have lost. It points us to Christ who will make everything subject first to Himself (2:8) and then to us because we will reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12).
This Jesus, who fulfills the purpose of man as outlined in Psalm 8, is for a little while made lower than angels (Heb. 2:7). In the Incarnation, Christ was made temporarily lower than the angels because it opens up the possibility of death, something which angels do not suffer. But gloriously, this temporal humiliation will lead to an eternal exaltation — first for Christ and then for His people who will reign with Him.
In His humiliation, Christ fulfilled God’s intent for man to be the perfect ruler of the earth. Christ is highly exalted and will one day enable us to rule with Him. As you go about your daily business, thank God for this humiliation and ask Him to make you a good ruler of your present kingdom in anticipation of the ruler that you will be.
Passages for Further Study
2 Tim. 2:11–13