1. Jesus: God’s Self-Expression(Hebrews 1:1-3)
Hebrews begins with no preliminary material. Instead it plunges immediately into its main topic: a doctrinal presentation of the nature and role of Christ in relationship to previous revelations of God.
A. Revelation Before Jesus (v. 1)
1. God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.
The author begins by describing the partial nature of revelation before Christ. Two rare and un-usual Greek adverbs, translated at sundry times and in diverse manners, present themselves. Liter-ally, the author is saying that God spoke “in many parts” and “in many ways.” Before Jesus, God’s revelation of himself came in bits and pieces, de-livered sporadically over a long period of time.
These revelations of God were delivered to the fathers of Israel’s history. The messages came via God’s spokesmen, the prophets. The author of He-brews does not minimize the importance of this prophetic voice. Rather, the author wants the readers to realize that there is incompleteness if we stop with the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells of many people who were commended for their faithfulness, yet “received not the promise” (Hebrews 11:39). Thus they were at a certain disadvantage compared with Christians.
B. Revelation in Jesus (v. 2a)
2a.Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.
By last days the author is not intending a reference to the final few days or weeks just before the second coming of Jesus. Rather, last days refers to the final period of human history, the era of Christ. This period is characterized by anew age of revelation. No longer do we receive our knowledge of God in bits and pieces. God speaks through his Son.
There are two major implications to this statement. First, the ministry of Jesus was strategically chosen by God as a way to reveal himself. As John wrote, by experiencing Jesus, “We be-held his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). Later in this same Gospel, Jesus declared, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (14:9).
The second implication is that Jesus is the perfect and complete revelation of the Father. The Old Testament prophets, for all their virtues, were able to give only a fragmentary picture of who God is. God has revealed himself fully by sending His Son; we neither need nor should expect further revelation about God while we’re still in our earthly existence. Therefore Jesus is the culmination of God’s revelation about him-self in this, the final period of human history.
C. Revelation Through Jesus (vv. 2b, 3)
2b.Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Understanding the exact relationship between Jesus and God is difficult. One of the best ways to understand it is the frequent biblical description of the Father-Son relationship. This passage matches this description in two ways. First, as heir of all things, Jesus is the unique Son of God. He shares this level of sonship with no one else. We are able to become sons and daughters of God through faith (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26), but not in the way that Jesus is God’s Son. [See question #1, page 1361
This unique relationship is further explained by the second description: Jesus as co-creator with the Father. In the ancient world a son commonly worked with his father in the family business. The Son has worked with the Father, even in creating the universe. This serves as a further confirmation of Jesus’ sonship and also affirms His preexistence. The Son is not a created being but rather the creator himself.
3. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
To define and explain the true nature of the Christ completely is impossible because of the limitations of human language and understanding. However, the author gives four powerful ho-ages to help us.
First, the Son is the brightness of the Father’s glory. This could be translated as the “reflection of God’s glory.” In this the author emphasizes that Jesus was a visible revelation of God. The glory of God in Jesus was partially uncovered at the transfiguration for the disciples to see (Mark9:2, 3). The miracles of Jesus also were partial revelations of God’s glory (John 2:11).
Second, the Son is the express image of the Father’s person. The original, Greek word used is the one from which we get our English word character. In the ancient world it was used to de-scribe an exact imprint of a coin, a complete and faithful reproduction stamped from the original, engraved coin die. The author is saying that Jesus is a full and faithful representation of the Father, without flaw or defect. (See question #2.page 1361
Third, the description upholding all things by the word of his power expands upon Jesus’ role as creator. This includes the power to sustain His creation (see Colossians 1:17, last week’s lesson).
In some religions the creator and the sustainer are different gods. The fully revealed truth is that the Son shares in both functions.
Fourth, the author reminds his readers that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He ascended to Heaven to be seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This presents the Son as a ruler and judge equal to the Father. It also shifts the focus to the maim of Heaven, where the position of Jesus is far superior to that of any angel. This is the next topic of discussion.
ON THE RIGHT HAND
In the English language the phrase right hand is rich in symbolism. It can mean the hand that is normally stronger (than the left). The Oxford English Dictionary cites a source from the year1000 with this connotation. Another meaning is to symbolize friendship or alliance. This connotation is cited as early as 1591. We normally shake hands with the right hand.
A third meaning is to indicate a person of usefulness or importance, an indispensable or efficient helper. We use the phrase right-hand man, a usage that goes back to 1537. In 1063 General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s left arm was amputated after a wound (which eventually proved fatal); to this General Robert E. Lee ex-claimed. “You have lost your left arm, but I have lost my right!”
A similar meaning is that the right hand is the position of honor. This is probably the meaning intended in Hebrews 1:3. After He had fulfilled His task on earth, Jesus ascended and was seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus represents the right hand of God in all ways—in strength, in alliance, and in honor. Do we hold Jesus in as much honor as the Father does? J. B. N
II. Jesus: Superior to Created Beings(Hebrews 1:4-9)
Recently we have experienced a renewed fascination with angels. Television programs, movies, and novels are filled with fanciful ac-counts of divine visitations. Cards, pictures, and artwork have used angels as a decorative motif. The Bible has comparatively little information about angels. We know that they are a class of beings with supernatural powers. They serve at the pleasure of God. We even know the names of a couple of them: Gabriel (Luke 1:19) and Michael (Revelation 12:7).
While our knowledge of angels is limited, some things about them are very clear in the Bible. First, they are not to be worshiped. Worship is for God alone (see Revelation 19:10). Second, Jesus Christ is not some type of glorified angel. He is the divine Son and far superior to any angel. Apparently the author of Hebrews is aware of misunderstandings related to both of these things. He seeks to correct them in the following verses.
A. Name Above Angels’ (vv. 4, 5)
4.Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
What does your name mean? I recently learned that the name “Tiffany” does not mean “expensive jewelry.” It comes from the Greek word The ophanos, meaning “presence of the divine.” What a powerful name for a baby girl! The author’s first point in showing that Jesus Is superior to angels has to do with His name. We treat names casually in the modern world. We use nicknames, shortened names, informal names, and other variations. In the biblical world, however, names were highly significant. They were chosen carefully and usually had a clear meaning. For example, Pharaoh’s daughter named her adopted baby “Moses” (meaning drawn) because she “drew” him out of the water Exodus 2:10). The more excellent name in mind were is not “Jesus” or “Christ” but “Son,” as will be explained in the following verses.
5.For unto which of the angels said he at anytime, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
The author draws upon two well-known Old Testament passages to make his point: 2 Samuel7:14 and Psalm 2:7. Jesus is designated Son by God himself. This is a name and (more importantly) a title that Jesus shares with no one else, not even angels. [See question #3, page 1361 Al-though these verses probably applied to Kings David and Solomon in their original context, Jesus had discussed this question during His ministry (see Matthew 22:42-45). In so doing He had shown himself to be the ultimate Son of God, superior to David (compare Acts 2:25-32).
B. Worthy of Worship (v. 6)
6. And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
The author uses another Old Testament quotation to show the readers what it means to be the Son of the Father in Heaven: He is worthy of worship. See Revelation 5:13, where worship in-:hides both God and the Lamb (Jesus).
The source of this quotation is probably the Greek (Septuagint) version of Deuteronomy32:43. In that version heavenly beings are commanded to worship God. No creature, including angels, is exempt from the obligation of worshiping God and worshiping His Son.
C. Rules in Heaven (vv. 7-9)
7. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. The author now quotes Psalm 104:4 to define the glorious function of angels. They are powerful spiritual beings who are servants of God. To describe them as a flame of fire reminds us of passages such as Genesis 3:24 and Exodus 3:2.8, 9. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, oh God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou he loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
The author now uses his most formidable quotation: Psalm 45:6, 7. David and Solomon had been promised an eternal throne or dynasty (see Psalm 89:4, 29, 36). But neither of these esteemed kings was ever promised he would be a god. Thus their promise of an eternal throne is fulfilled only in Jesus. [See question #4, page 136.1
There is another important detail in this quotation that should not be missed. When God the Father anoints God the Son, He literally makes Him Christ. The term Christ (or its Old Testament counterpart, Messiah) means “Anointed One.” Jesus is not a self-anointed messiah. He is anointed by God for a special ministry, the most important ministry in the history of the world.
Jesus himself proclaimed, The Spirit of the Lord . . . hath anointed me to preach the gospel”(Luke 4:18).
The sweeping claims about Jesus Christ in this beautiful text still serve today as guideposts in our quest to know Him more fully. He is the unique Son of God, the ultimate revelation of God the Father, the co-creator and sustainer of our world. I, -41 pug.
WHAT DO You LOVE?
When I was a youngster, I used to love going to my grandfather’s farm. There were fascinating animals, and the wooded area at the rear of the farm was an exciting place to a suburban kid. When I got older, I used to love riding my bike and exploring residential and factory areas several miles away. I loved eating banana splits. I also loved playing baseball; the kids on our block often would play several hours every day, all summer, straight through the heat and humidity of July and August.
In my adult years my tastes have changed. Now I love to sit in a comfortable chair with at all, cold glass of caffeine-free diet cola and a big bowl of popcorn, and read a book. Other people love to go to NASCAR races. I have a friend who loves to participate in Civil War reenactments. Some people love watching sunsets. Others love taking walks along the beach or in the woods. What do you love? Jesus loved righteousness. That’s a much more lofty value, isn’t it? We tend to love things. Jesus loved virtues. He loved doing God’s will. He loved doing what was right in God’s sight. When He was baptized, He said it was to fulfill all righteousness. He did not live just to fulfill His own selfish desires or seek His own pleasures; He waited to fulfill God’s will in all things. He loved righteousness. Do we?
A. Personal Revelations
A recent newspaper story claimed that a majority of people have hidden aspects to their lives that would embarrass them if revealed. The classic example of this is the traveling salesman who has two wives and families residing in different cities. He may operate for years by spending part of each week at the different locations. When such arrangements are made public, the result is tragic, with strong feelings of betrayal.
Many people, however, have “dirty little secrets” on a smaller scale. The ability to remain anonymous in our electronic age has led many into online pornography, affairs, and other secret yet sinful behavior. An overemphasis on the “right to privacy” has proved to be a stumbling block to some Christians, even Christian leaders. The secular press delights in uncovering these transgressions and revealing the hypocritical lifestyles of guilty believers. There is nothing more comical to the critics of the church than the preacher who rails against adultery on Sunday morning and visits his mistress Sunday night. There are some things about God that remain hidden to us. There are, however, no foul details that are hidden. God is pure and holy and righteous consistently, without any deviation at anytime.
We can learn much about God from studying the Old Testament, but even more by looking at Jesus. The life of Jesus shows us that God is loving and compassionate. God loved us enough to send His only Son to redeem the world as an offering for human sin (see John 3:16, 17; Romans5:8). God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ is the sure foundation of all Christian faith and hope. This stands as a great assurance and comfort to all believers.
Holy Father, thank You for sending Your Son to help us understand You better. Because of His death, we need never doubt Your love for us. He has revealed Your heart to us, and we rejoice in that revelation. We pray in His name, the name far above any angel’s, amen.
C. Thought to Remember
Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation and is far superior to the angels.