Hebrews 1-2: Greater by Being Lower

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 148–149

Jewish Christians struggled to leave behind some of their old beliefs and traditions and to focus completely on Jesus Christ and His gospel. Consequently, Paul began his letter to them with a powerful testimony that Jesus Christ is greater and has precedence over all things except His Father. As you read Hebrews 1–2, notice what Paul taught about how Jesus obtained His power and why He is above the angels.

Understanding the Scriptures

Hebrews 1

Appointed (v. 2)Chosen, selected, ordained 
Heir (v. 2)One who has the right to receive or inherit something 
Express image of his person (v. 3)In His likeness 
Purged (v. 3)Cleansed (refers to when Jesus Christ made payment for our sins) 
Sceptre (v. 8)Staff or stick symbolizing power 
Vesture (v. 12)Piece of clothing 

Hebrews 1:4–8, 13–14; 2:2, 5–9, 16—Angels

The term angel means “messenger.” An angel is any messenger sent by God to do His work. The angels referred to in Hebrews 1–2 were members of Heavenly Father’s family with special callings to serve and do His work. Some angels are Heavenly Father’s spirit children who have not yet come to earth. Others are people who lived on the earth and are (a) spirits in the Spirit World, (b) translated beings (like John the Beloved), or (c) resurrected beings (like Moroni or John the Baptist when they visited Joseph Smith).

Angels without Physical Bodies

Angels with Physical Bodies

outline of man in robe outline of man in robe man in robe man in robe

Living in the premortal world, waiting to be born

Finished with mortality, living in the spirit world

A perfected resurrected being who has finished mortality

A translated being, like John the Revelator

Hebrews 2

Earnest heed (v. 1)Careful attention 
Stedfast (v. 2)Consistent, not subject to change 
Just recompence of reward (v. 2)Fair and right punishment 
Confirmed (v. 3)Testified and taught 
Put in subjection (v. 5)Put under control 
Sanctifieth, sanctified (v. 11)Made pure and holy 
Subject to bondage (v. 15)Like slaves 
Behoved (v. 17)Was necessary 
Reconciliation (v. 17)Full payment (so there is no debt to God) 
Succour (v. 18)Give comfort and help 

Hebrews 2:7–9—“A Little Lower than the Angels”

In Hebrews 1 Paul taught that Jesus Christ was greater than the angels. Then in Hebrews 2 he said Christ was made a little lower than the angels. How can this be? Actually, both statements are true. In Hebrews 2 Paul taught that although Jesus Christ was greater than all except His Father, He had Himself “lowered” to be born as all other men and to be subject to the ills of mortality (to which angels are not subject). Jesus Christ went far beyond enduring the ills of mortality to suffer the pains of all mankind (see 2 Nephi 9:21). He thus descended below what any of the children of Heavenly Father ever will in mortality. Paul explained that by submitting to the conditions of mortality, by His sufferings and Atonement, Jesus Christ learned mercy and obtained power over all things.

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A and B as you study Hebrews 1–2.

Activity A iconLearn More about Jesus Christ

  1. 1.

    List at least five things you learned about Jesus from Hebrews 1:1–4 and 2:9–18.

  2. 2.

    Paul wrote Hebrews to help the Jewish converts increase their faith in Jesus Christ. Which item on your list do you think would mean the most to them? Why?

  3. 3.

    Explain how you could use something you learned about Jesus from Hebrews 1–2 to correct a misunderstanding that people have about Him today.

Activity B iconPonder the Role of Jesus Christ

  1. 1.

    According to Hebrews 2:9–11, why did Jesus allow Himself to be “made a little lower than the angels”? (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section above for help).

  2. 2.

    Find what Paul called Jesus in Hebrews 2:10. How might it make a difference if a person thought of Him that way?

  3. 3.

    Find in Hebrews 2:11 what Jesus is not ashamed to do. How do you feel knowing that?

  4. 4.

    What does Hebrews 2:14–18 tell us about the importance of Jesus experiencing mortality? (You may want to read Alma 7:11–13 and Hebrews 4:15–16 as you consider this question.)