Home > Bible Study, J. C. Ryle, S. Lewis Johnson > Hebrews 1:6 — A Reference to Angels at the Second Coming of Christ

Hebrews 1:6 — A Reference to Angels at the Second Coming of Christ

December 20, 2010

S. Lewis Johnson often remarked that he was always learning something new in the Bible, even after so many years of studying. He also observed that the way to prevent backsliding in Christianity is to continue in the Word, really studying it and continuing to learn new things.

Here is one “little” yet interesting thing I recently learned, concerning Hebrews 1:6  (compare the ESV and NASB).  The “Drawing Near” devotional (author John MacArthur) for December 13 highlighted this verse (citing the NASB), and pointed out that angels at present do not fully understand God’s redemptive plan — reference 1 Peter 1:12.  But as Hebrews 1:6 promises, when God again brings Christ into the world, the angels will — at His Second Coming, the angels will worship Him:

Notice that Hebrews 1:6 says, “When He again brings the first-born into the world” (emphasis added). God already brought Christ into the world once–at the second coming He will bring Him into the world in blazing glory. Then the fullness of the prophecy of Psalm 97:7 quoted in Hebrews 1:6 will come to pass: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

In His second coming Christ is revealed in full glory as the Son. More than ever we have reason to join the heavenly chorus in declaring, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).

In my ESV Bible, as with the KJV and NIV, the text reads “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”  I had never thought that much about it, other than that it’s referring to Christ’s incarnation.  But sure enough, the NASB, as well as some other versions including the HCSB, say “when He again brings…”

In S. Lewis Johnson’s exposition of this verse, he explains the future reference in more detail.  The second part of Hebrews 1:6 is a direct reference from Deuteronomy 32:43, from a great prophetic chapter.  The text is also found in Psalm 97.  Both of these Old Testament passages have the context of the coming in judgment and ruling, and so we have biblical support for Hebrews 1:6 being “when He again brings the firstborn into the world.”  S. Lewis Johnson states a few additional reasons, including the Greek grammar and the issue of inheritance:

Now, the scholars discussed this back and forth and have, ever since the earliest days, all the way back.  But there are two or three things that make it very, very, I think, almost certain, that this should be attached to “bringing in the firstborn.”  And we should read it, “But when He again bring the firstborn in.”  In the first place, the position of the adverb in the Greek text would support that.  The tense of the Greek verb would support it, also, as an indefinite relative clause, referring to the future.  And so we’re taking it that way.  We’re taking this as a reference to the Second Advent.

. . . the word “brings into” is a legal term for bringing an heir into his inheritance.  And so since he’s already been said previously here to have been appointed heir to all things, it would be natural then to speak of him being introduced to his inheritance.  Part of his inheritance is the worship of the angels of God; that is his legal heir-ship.  Part of it.

He is also called “the firstborn.”  Now we don’t have time to look at Psalm 89, but that’s what David’s great king is called in Psalm 89.  So in other words, this is a little passage, in Deuteronomy 32, that may be tied in to the Davidic Covenant in that way.  When he brings the “firstborn” the one who inherits the Davidic Covenant into the world, he says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”  Firstborn is a term that does not speak temporally so much as it speaks of position.  The idea of priority passes into the idea of superiority with heir-ship and probably, I say, with Davidic associations.  You could look at Psalm 89, verse 27, and see that.

So much to think about, and so much depth contained in God’s word — and Hebrews 1:6 expands on the joy to be experienced in Revelation 5.  The angels are finally in full action, rejoicing and praising and worshiping Him when He finally comes to rule the earth!

Let us also rejoice in God’s word, and the thought expressed by so many great saints, as in this great quote from J.C. Ryle:

Let us learn the high authority of the Bible, and the immense value of a knowledge of its contents. Let us read it, search into it, pray over it, diligently, perseveringly, unweariedly. Let us strive to be so thoroughly acquainted with its pages, that its text may abide in our memories, and stand ready at our right hand in the day of need. Let us be able to appeal from every perversion and false interpretation of its meaning, to those thousand plain passages, which are written as it were with a sunbeam. The Bible is indeed a sword, but we must take heed that we know it well, if we would use it with effect.

  1. Christian Michael
    February 20, 2022 at 8:57 am

    Thank you for sharing this.

    The Danish translation renders Hebrews 1:6 as if it were words spoken at the birth of Christ.

    Without knowing of the NASB translation, I have myself suspected that Hebrews 1:6 was about the 2nd coming, precisely because of the tense and sentence construction, and that the greek ought to be rendered as the NASB does:
    “Whenever God once again brings his firstborn into the inhabited world …” (greek is not cosmos but the more speciffic ‘oikoumenen’)
    This rendering of the greek implies that the prior words in verse 5, where Jesus is designated/appointed son of God, were spoken the first time God sent his son into the inhabited world – which is precisely how Mark begins his narrative.

    I have also found a narrative fragment of the baptism of Jesus in Romans:

    A) in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son (greek: son of him)

    B) Who came to be from the seed of David according to the flesh (greek: kata sarka)

    B’) Who was appointed son of God
    with power, according to the spirit of Holiness (greek: kata pneuma hagaiosynes)

    A’) Out of the resurrection of the dead: Jesus Christ, our Lord (greek: Lord of us)

    Note how prophetic scriptures + son of him is refracted confessionally in death and resurrection + Lord of us.
    This pairing is, I think, not an accident, but a probable echo of the confession of 1 cor 15, where the death and the resurrection of Jesus are specifically said to be ‘kata tas graphas’

    I love identifying historical narrative fragments hiding within the early letters of the NT.

    Kind Regards,
    Christian Michael

    • February 22, 2022 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment and additional information, Christian.

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