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Hebrews 1 - Jesus is the Superior and Final Revelation from God (1:1-4)

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Also available:

Introduction
1: Superior Revelation (1:1-4) 2: Superior to angels (1:5 - 2:18)
3: A Superior Rest (3:1 - 4:19) 4: A Superior Priesthood (4:14 - 7:28)
5: A Superior Covenant (8:1 - 10:18) 6: The Better Way of Faith (10:19 - 12:39)
7: Practical Instructions (13:1-25)

Without any introduction or greetings, the author launches straight into his message. Jesus is introduced as the superior, complete and final revelation from God. No further revelation of the Father is needed, which is why we have a closed canon of Scripture. Philip, one of the twelve, once asked Jesus to “show us the Father” (Jn 14:8). Jesus’ reply was “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”. Jesus is the one through whom the Father has been made fully known.

The basis of the argument is that God has spoken. In contrast to man trying to find God, God has taken the initiative. God is a God of revelation. The wonderful truth is that God is not silent. He has spoken, and continues to speak. Everything we know about God is because God has revealed it to us. It is all at his initiative. Theologians often identify two distinct types of revelation. The first is General Revelation, available to everyone, through the physical creation. In Romans, Paul declares that through the observation of creation we can see that God exists (Rom 1:18). The second is Special Revelation, given uniquely to the nation of Israel through the OT and now also through the NT, which reveals the true way of salvation through Jesus. This special revelation came first in the OT through the prophets, but now comes in his Son. The Bible is the story of God’s self-revelation to sinful mankind and revelation of the way of salvation.

Without revelation from God, we would know nothing about him, and could not know him. We would remain in great darkness, lost in our sin, in a totally hopeless situation. Sin acts as a great barrier, which blocks us from knowing God, and excludes us from the way of salvation. Through the OT, Israel was given a revelation of God’s nature, God’s character and God’s ways. This revelation frequently came through the revelation of specific names of God which described him and his ways.

The prophets normally introduced what they had to say with, “Thus says the Lord”. They had authority to speak from God to the people, having received a call and commission to be a prophet (eg. Is 6, Jer 1). They knew that the words they spoke came from God, but they and their messages were inferior to the Son. Each prophet had only part of the full message, giving part of the full picture of the Messiah. For example, Micah predicted the coming of the shepherd king, Isaiah predicted the suffering servant who will bring salvation, Jeremiah predicted the coming of a new covenant, and Zechariah the coming of a humble king. None of the OT authors had the complete message, they all only had a partial message. The Old prepared for the New, which in turn fulfils the Old. There was what is often called a Progressive Revelation of God. Every revelation was true, but new truths and deeper insights were added as the centuries passed through the OT.

The revelations in the OT often took the form of a promise. Men and women of faith believed in that promise and sometimes saw a partial fulfilment of that promise, but never in their lifetimes experienced the total fulfilment of that promise. One of the important themes of this book is that we are now living in the time of fulfilment of those promises, which the people in OT times only glimpsed at from a distance. “All these (the OT heroes of faith) died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them.” (11:14).

There is an immediate contrast between the old and the new, which continues through the whole book. In the time of the Old, God revealed himself in “many and various ways” (v1). These included visions, events, miraculous signs, spoken words through his prophets, and visitation from angels. Even the spoken words varied, Elijah heard a still small voice, while Moses heard the thundering voice from the mountain. But now, in the last days, the time of the Messiah, God has revealed himself fully and completely by the Son.

A sevenfold affirmation of the Son’s greatness is now given, explaining why the revelation given in him was the ultimate revelation from God, which cannot be increased or improved upon.

The first is that he was appointed heir of all things (v2). Jesus was appointed heir because of his death on the cross (2:9), so he will inherit the whole earth and universe. Everything that exists belongs to Jesus. He is the central person of history. The Psalmist proclaimed, “I will make the nations your heritage” (Ps 2:10), and Paul declared, “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow” (Phil 2:10). The amazing truth is that we share in this inheritance as fellow heirs (Rom 8:17), which should give us great security. Everything belongs to Jesus, and we do too.

The second is that it was through the Son that God created the worlds (v2). Jesus was God’s agent of creation, the co-creator of the universe. In Genesis, God said, “Let us make man in our own image”. The Hebrew has a plural pronoun for God used with a singular verb, so there is even a hint of the Trinity in the Creation account. The same truth is proclaimed by John, “all things were made through him (the Word)” (Jn 1:3), and by Paul, “In him all things were created” (Col 1:16). Proverbs chapter 8 personifies Divine Wisdom who was there before Creation, and made the universe together with God, “I was beside him, like a master worker” (Prov 8:30). The Son has been with the Father for eternity. He was pre-existent, before the incarnation. The Jesus the readers followed was more than a mere man who had lived a few years earlier in Israel and had been executed as a common criminal, he was the divine co-creator of the universe.

The third is that he is the reflection of God’s glory (v3). This reflection is like the radiance from a bright source of light. Jesus is God’s glory personified, the full revelation of God’s glory, of the majestic presence of God. At his transfiguration, Jesus was changed (metamorphosed) before them, and his face shone (Mt 17:2). In the Gospel of John, the signs that Jesus performed were manifestations of his glory (Jn 2:11).

The fourth is that he is the exact imprint of God’s very being (v3). The word imprint uses the imagery of coin making, where the die and the coin are a perfect match. The Son shows the exact character of the Father. Jesus claimed that to see the son is to see the Father (Jn 14:9), and Paul describes him as the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).

The fifth is that he sustains all things by his powerful word (v3). Jesus worked with the Father to speak the universe into being, and here, his word keeps the universe together. This double aspect of being both creator and sustainer is also seen in Colossians, “in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17). Jesus was dynamically active in creation and continues to be so since then until the end of the world. Creation was by the spoken word of God, and the universe is also sustained and held together by his word. This completely contradicts the deist concept of God as the as a watchmaker who made the universe, wound it up and left it to run on its own. Jesus was active in creating the universe at the beginning, and is still active today holding it together, and moving it towards its destiny. This again should give us great security, we can trust him for our future.

The sixth is that he made purification for sins (v3). The focus now changes from the cosmic functions of the Son to his work of redemption and salvation. This describes his work as a High Priest, which becomes an important theme later in the book, especially in chapter 7. It is an awesome thought, that the co-creator of the universe give his life to set us free. Jesus was the priest and the sacrifice, so the problem of sin is dealt with completely.

The seventh comes as a consequence of the sixth, that he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (v3). Because his work of salvation is complete, he could sit down. Later the contrast is made between the priests standing, continually at work (10:11-12), and Jesus seated, showing that his work is completed. The right hand of God is the place of honour and authority, showing his exaltation and supremacy. Jesus predicted this himself, “From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk 22:69), a statement that led directly to his death for blasphemy. This truth is also stated in Psalm 110, which is frequently quoted in Hebrews as a key text. “The LORD says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’.” (Ps 110:1).

In this short but profound passage, Jesus is described as the prophet who brings God’s final word to men, the priest whose perfect work cleansed people’s sins, and led the way to draw people near to God, and the king enthroned in the chief place of honour alongside God Almighty. Nobody in the OT was allowed to perform all three roles. Jesus is qualified to be the perfect mediator between a holy awesome God and sinful mankind. The last verse of this section links to the next discussion about the superiority of Jesus over the angels.

Also available:

Introduction
1: Superior Revelation (1:1-4) 2: Superior to angels (1:5 - 2:18)
3: A Superior Rest (3:1 - 4:19) 4: A Superior Priesthood (4:14 - 7:28)
5: A Superior Covenant (8:1 - 10:18) 6: The Better Way of Faith (10:19 - 12:39)
7: Practical Instructions (13:1-25)