The book of Hebrews was written to explain the gospel of God’s grace to born-again Hebrew believers. The writer wants to show that salvation in Jesus Christ is far superior to the Hebrew religious system. First-century Jews revered the ancient prophets and angels, some to the point of worshiping them (Colossians 2:18), so the author of Hebrews begins by establishing the superiority of Jesus Christ over the prophets (Hebrews 1:1–3) and angels (Hebrews 1:4–14).
Old Testament Scripture was something Hebrew Christians would understand and appreciate. Thus, these opening passages include multiple citations to confirm the exalted preeminence of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 1:6–7, Jesus is proved to be better than the angels. Angels are spiritual messengers who dispense information and revelation on God’s behalf. They are highly significant beings but play a subordinate, inferior role to the Son of God: “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire’” (ESV).
No angel in the Bible holds a position as exalted as Jesus Christ. Instead, angels bow in reverence to Him because they recognize His nature to be far greater than their own. Indeed, angels worshiped Jesus at His birth (Luke 2:8–14), proving they are lower-ranking beings than the Son of God. As messengers who do God’s bidding (Psalm 103:20), angels serve the Son of God. Jesus makes His ministers and servants as “winds” and “flames of fire.” This passage in Hebrews 1:7 alludes to Psalm 104:4: “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”
To the early Hebrew believers, Jesus makes His ministers a flame of fire was a straightforward declaration of the angels’ subservient, lesser position as agents of Jesus Christ. Angels were created by Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). They are spirits without bodies (Hebrews 1:14), but they can take on human form (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). In the original language, the word translated as “winds” conveys the basic meaning of “spirits,” indicating their swift and subtle nature. “Flame of fire” communicates fiery devotion and all-consuming fervor. Yet, in the natural realm, the wind is invisible and ephemeral. Even the hottest flames eventually burn out. Like angels, these transitory, fleeting elements of nature cannot compare to the Son of God, who is substantial, majestic, and eternal (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9; John 1:14; 14:9).
While Jesus ministered on the earth, angels were always on call, ready to serve Him (Matthew 26:53; Psalm 91:11–12). After the Lord was tempted in the wilderness, “angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:11). Just before His arrest, as Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43).
In days of old, God sent His angels to shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 3:28), guide believers in ministry (Acts 8:26), and deliver apostles from prison (Acts 12:6–11). Over and over throughout the ages, angels have performed the Lord’s bidding (1 Kings 19:5–7; Psalm 78:23–25; Genesis 19:15; Daniel 3:28). Still today, Jesus makes His ministers a flame of fire, sending out angels to protect, deliver, help, and serve His human followers (Acts 5:19; Psalm 34:7; 91:11–12).