From last week, remember that I titled my book study, The Supremacy of Jesus Christ, which is the very theme of the book of Hebrews. In fact, I read somewhere that the book is more like a sermon preached to a congregation than anything else. It is one that opens up the Old Testament and compares it to the glory and person of Christ to show how Christ fulfilled and completed everything.
You will also recall that Hebrews presents us with a “better” everything. It is an exercise in contrasts, and we have a good example of it in the first 4 verses of this chapter, which we will look at. Let’s dig in to the chapter.
1: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
- First word – God. This word in Greek is the word that translates the Hebrew Elohim and more importantly the YHWH of the Old Testament. The Greek Theos is used in the polytheism of that society to indicate “a god or deity,” and was thus co-opted by the Jews to define the “One True God,” and was thus transmitted to Christian use.
- The next important word here is “spoke.” The Greek laleo is used to translate “to speak” or “to say,” and it for the purpose of this sentence is in the past tense. This is a past completed action in both Greek and English. It is telling us that from long ago, God spoke to us.
- To whom did God speak? Here, it tells us that He spoke to the “fathers.” Recall that the target audience for the book is a group of believing Jews outside of Jerusalem. The fathers that He spoke to that they would be familiar with would be Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the like. We would use the theological reference of “patriarchs” to describe them as a group.
- How did God speak
to them? The verse tells us that it
was “in many portions and in many ways,” but the English does
not have the same strength or meaning as the Greek phrase does. Last week, we learned that the
theologian George Eldon Ladd said that this phrase could be translated,
“fragmentary, coming in many bits and pieces.” It was deliberately so, and was kind of
a judgement on His Old Testament people Israel, as it says in Isaiah 28:
- “”For He says, Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there. Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, “Here is rest, give rest to the weary,” And, “Here is repose,” but they would not listen. So the word of the Lord to them will be, “Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,” That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive.”
- God did this on
purpose. Some have said that He did
this to hide things from the people of that era, and certainly there is
some scriptural support for that in 1 Pet. 1:10-12:
- “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”
- God kept pointing them forward in the Old Testament. He gave a Covenant, He gave a Law, He gave great types through the sacrifices, He gave many prophets, and through them He gave many prophecies about many things, but it was ALL fulfilled in Christ.
2: in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
- In these last days. The writer of Hebrews clearly believed he was living in the last days. John certainly did as well, writing in 1 John 2:18a, “Children, it is the last hour…” So did James, when he wrote in James 5:3, “…It is in the last days you have stored up your treasure!” Peter did as well, writing in 2 Pet. 3:3 that “…in the last days, mockers will come…” and he is also recorded in Acts 2:17 as quoting part of Joel’s Old Testament prophecy about the last days when God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Paul wrote of the day to Timothy in his second letter (3:1) to him. Jude reminds his audience in v.18 of his letter. I am certain that if I took the time to go through all of the books of the new testament, I would find that ALL the authors made reference to us now being in the last days.
- And it is in these last days that God spoke to us in His Son. Who is God’s Son? None other than Jesus Christ. John shows it best for me, though all of the Gospel writers do this. John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
- And God appointed His Son heir of all things. The Greek word here is kleronomos, and literally means “one who obtains a lot.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary puts it like this: “one to whom something has been assigned by God, on possession of which, however, he has not yet entered…” and even references this verse in its list of examples for this usage.
- Through whom also He made the world. John 1:3 says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John and the writer of Hebrews are both telling us that Jesus, the Son of God, is God.
3: And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
- Okay, it says a great deal in this verse, so let’s unpack this a phrase at a time.
- And He is the radiance of His glory. The Greek word for radiance is apaugasma, and means “a shining forth,” said of a light emitted from a luminous body, one that has light itself as opposed to mere reflected light. Think of the Sun versus the Moon here if you need an example. Jesus is literally a shining forth of the glory of God.
- The exact representation of His nature. “Exact representation” is translated by the Greek word charakter, which has a slightly different but related meaning in English. The primary meaning here is actually “a tool for engraving,” a stamp, or an impress, which leaves an exact representation when it strikes metal, like a coin or a seal.
- Upholds all things by the word of His power. Upholds is the Greek word phero, which means bears, carries, or brings. Paul said in Col. 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” This is a similar, and perhaps amplified meaning of the same phrase.
- When He had made purification for sins. This is introducing the priestly aspect of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “purification” is katharismos, a cleansing. The cleansing is one of both action and results. It is a cleaning, and you are left clean. Vine tells us that in this sense, it is used of a moral cleansing from our sins (which is also seen in the text).
- It does not tell us how He cleansed us in this verse, but it is worth mentioning, because it is the whole root reason as to why He became a human in the first place. God became man very simply because in our original disobedience of Him (See Gen. 3 for details), we broke fellowship with God and died spiritually as a race (all humans, not humans of a certain color or status I might add). God became a man to pay the price of our redemption (death, see Rom. 6:23a) for us, because we could not (see Rom. 3:23). In dying on the cross in our place, he became a substitute for the wrath of God for us, and upon His death, the price was paid. Now if you believe that in your heart, then you should say it with your mouth – out loud, to somebody else, and then find a good bible-teaching church to go to and meet other people of the same opinion.
- He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. Those of you who have been following this study over time know that I grew up on a farm, and that as a result of have a very simple definition of when one gets to sit down. We get to sit when the work is done! Not before! And not only did the Lord Jesus sit down, look where He sat – right beside His Royal and Holy Majesty, God the Father. Why?
4: having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
- Well, because God finished the work, and this gives Him a name that is above all other names. Paul said it in Philippians 2:10-11: “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” A more recent song says, “name above all names, worthy of all praise – my heart will sing, ‘How great is our God.'”
- Most importantly, it is a name better than that of any angel. Why is this important? Well, Lucifer is an angel. Lucifer is that accuser, the Satan (Hebrew word for accuser). It never ceases to amaze me (in a bad way) that people seem to think of Lucifer as an equal to God or Jesus. This simply is not so, and this is one of the places the bible tells us that. The rest of the chapter in fact compares the glory of the Son of God to that of angels in the Old Testament. Let’s look at that.
5: For to which of the angels did He ever say, “You are MY Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again,
“I will be A Father to Him And HE shall be A Son to ME”?
- The writer of Hebrews at this point breaks open the Psalms, the anointed songbook of the bible and quotes Psalm 2:7: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'” If we look at that particular Psalm, we will see that the theme of the Psalm her is the reign of God’s anointed. Another word for anointed is “Messiah” in Hebrew, and “Christ” in Greek. God the Father here is speaking in the poetic language of this Psalm to His Anointed, His Son. And He doesn’t stop there.
- The second passage the writer of Hebrews quotes is from 2 Samuel 7. Let us examine vv.12-14a, the passage with context: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me…” In immediate historical context, the writer of 2 Samuel (likely Ezra the scribe in my opinion) is speaking of Solomon. However, the writer of Hebrews, under the control and anointing of the Holy spirit, tells us that v.14a is about the Messiah, who is clearly being called the Son of God here in Hebrews 1:5.
- This illustrates a couple of interesting concepts we should know and keep in mind when reading the New Testament. The first of those is that the anointed writer of the New Testament can place different emphases on things in the Old Testament than the original (still anointed) writers had, and still be anointed. The second is that the New Testament interpretation is always the one with precedence and authority today. If you have questions about that, shoot me an email. Finally, prophetic scriptures often have more than one context to them. We often look at the historical and geographical contexts of our studies because they help us to understand what is really being said. But sometimes there is a church context as well, and sometimes even a prophetic context on top of that. This is really important to keep straight, particularly with apocalyptic literature like Daniel or Revelation. Moving on.
6: And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”
- The next quote that the writer of Hebrews breaks out is Psalm 97:7. The original is somewhat illuminating here, and it says in the corresponding portion from the Psalm, “All the supernatural powers have worshipped Him…” The word “worship” can mean a number of things here. The Hebrew word simply means “to bow down.” A similar concept to this is “feigned obedience.” It is done, but isn’t necessarily meant as worship. This is being directly applied by the writer of Hebrews to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The wider implication of Psalm 97 is also important. This Psalm is about the expression of the dominion of YHWH. He through the writer of Hebrews is telling us that this part of verse 7 is directly pointing to Jesus. The Psalm itself is about how God will burn up all His adversaries (v.3) and those who love Him will give Him thanks and declare His wonders. Jesus is His glory (v.6) and all the supernatural beings recognized that whether they liked it or not (v.7). And now the author compares the Son with angels.
7: And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels winds, And His ministers A flame of fire.”
The passage being quoted here is Psalm 104:4, and the subject of the Psalm is that of the care of YHWH over all of His creation. The quotation also represents the classic Jewish understanding of the quotation, in that it is referring to angels or supernatural beings that serve God. The important thing to notice here is that he does NOT call them His Son. Notice the next 2 verses.
8 & 9: But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.”
- Verses 8 and 9 here are quotations of Psalm 45:6-7. That is, the Holy Spirit is anointing the writer of Hebrews to open up this text to us and tell us it is about the Son. What does it say? First, His throne is forever. Earthly kings by comparison have their rules end (usually when they die). This one remains, likely because God never dies, being immortal. And the scepter of righteousness, or uprightness is the scepter of the kingdom. It is the instrument of rule.
- This continues in verse 9. You have loved uprightness and hated lawlessness. Righteousness here could also be translated Justice, and lawlessness is literally anomos, without law. Because of these characteristics, it says to the Son further, that God, the God of the Son, has anointed Him. The word in Hebrew for anoint is the same root as “Messiah,” and in Greek is chrio, the same root as “Christ.” What has he anointed the son with? The oil of gladness here. This speaks of the benefit of the exultant gladness and rejoicing that comes with such anointing.
- Above Your companions. This phrase may not reflect what was done properly English. The word for “above” is para, meaning beside, or by the side of, or an extended meaning “in the midst of.” The word for “companions” can also be translated as “partners” or “partakers,” and that may signify something very foundational – that may involve us as “partakers” of the divine nature in some way being present when God did that, either by actual presence or by foreknowledge. Yes, you heard me, this may involve the chosen ones, the ones who have believed in Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone, through the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone – the elect. I don’t know this for sure, I’ve only just discovered this myself, but could this be hinting at the Sovereign Election by the Father outside of time of those who would also believe on the name of the Son, and who He gave to the Son as a Gift? I don’t know. But it kind of looks that way.
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like A garment, And like A mantle You will roll them up; Like A garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.”
- Still speaking to the Son, the Old Testament quotations continue, this time from Psalm 102:25-27. But do you see what the text attributes to the actions of the Son? It says He was there at the beginning and laid the foundations of the Earth. Wow, that sounds like John 1:3, doesn’t it? I mean at what point does the “skeptic” finally see that it was Jesus all along, Himself God, that made everything? See? “And the heavens are the work of your Hands!”
- The text continues by telling us that the Son is an eternal being! “They [the heavens] will perish, but You remain” is the very next line. “They will become old like a garment” (that wears out over time, Isa. 51:6), “and like a mantle You will roll them up…” Not only did the Son make everything, He will be involved in their destruction as well. Think about what that means for all our environmental efforts. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be responsible residents, but it is all going to be destroyed by the Son, though the Son will renew it all first so He can rule over it.
- And then, “Like a garment they will be changed.” Not only did the Son create all things, not only will He unmake all things, but He will replace all the things He unmade with something different and He will create THAT! And whatever it will be, I think it will be safe to say that it will be different and better than it is now. And yet, HE, the Son, will never change. “But You are the same, and your years will not come to an end.” It says at the end of this book (13:8) that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
13: But to which of the angels has He ever said,
“Sit at MY right hand, Until I make Your enemies A footstool for Your feet”?
- Now, compare that to angels. To which angel ever has God the Father EVER said, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”? The Psalm the author is quoting here is Psalm 110:1. We know it is a Psalm of David, and it is the one that the Lord Jesus quotes in Matt. 22:44, the instance where Jesus asked the Pharisees what THEY thought about Messiah. He asked them whose Son the thought He might be. Because it no longer fit into their Jewish narrative, they gave their politicized answer – the Son of David. Then the Lord Jesus asked them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord’?”
- What that means in terms of THIS study is that the anointed author of the book of Hebrews under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is asking what angel that has ever been said to. This is what is known in speakers’ circles as a rhetorical question. It does not need to be answered because it is a known answer. In this case, it is a very easy answer – NONE OF THEM. Not even Lucifer, who has grand designs on the throne of the Son. Unfortunately for Lucifer, he will be made a footstool for the Son’s feet.
14: Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
- Here is the main point of the chapter summed up in part by this verse. Angels are NOT the Son, and the Son is NOT an angel. He is a better way of communicating, He is a better redeemer, He is a better creator that created the angels, and He is better than the angels in many ways, such as heir, Son, and God, for example. He is a better representation of God Himself, being God Himself.
- Angels, by way of contrast, are all spirits, and meant to serve those who will inherit salvation. Every single one of them. Even the evil ones. They are all servants of a sovereign God. God uses their inclinations to serve His own cause and for His own glory. When I got to preach through part of the book of Job as part of the pastor’s sermon series, we discovered as a congregation that even the Satan is an unwilling servant of God, only able to operate within the limits that God set.
- Now, we generally refer to evil angels as demons, and this passage is primarily about the ones that God chose (yes, even angels are elect, according to 1 Tim. 5:21, KJV; NASB reads Chosen, the Greek is still eklecktos). THOSE angels are sent to render service to the saints. Service here is diakonia, service, or ministry.
- This could also be seen as a rhetorical question. The answer everyone is supposed to get to is, “YES!” The answer is evident in the way the question is formed. “Are they not all…”
And that is the chapter for this week. We have had a fantastic start to Hebrews seeing that the Son, Jesus Christ, is indeed Supreme, being the Son who inherits, God Himself, the shining forth of the glory of God the Father, the express image of God the Father in nature and substance, and our Redeemer, who is so much better than the angels, who if I’m being honest are pretty awesome in power and duty.
Next week, Chapter 2!