Hebrews 1:1-4

Here is installment number 2.

Last time we looked at Hebrews 1:1-2a. Today we will look at 2b-4. Here are the first four verses, again given in the English Standard Version: 1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

This is all one long sentence in Greek. Most translations end verse 2 with a period to help us understand. This paragraph serves as a table of contents for the entire sermon/letter. The first verse and the first part of the second verse tell us about God revealing Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, in the second part of verse 2, Paul goes on to tell us more about the Son Jesus Christ. Paul is answering this question, “What is so great about Jesus Christ?”

The first thing that Paul says about Jesus is quite remarkable. The Son has been appointed heir of all things, even though he was also the instrument of creating all things. The Son is both Creator and Inheritor. This might not make sense to us, but we have to understand that there are different periods in the life of Jesus Christ. Christ has always existed for all eternity. That is one of the things that this text tells us. But then, the Son also came to earth to be born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4). This is called Jesus’ state of humiliation. The best explanation of this state can be found in Philippians 2:5-11. Christ took on our human nature and joined it to his divine nature, making one person. It was as this God-man that Jesus underwent death in order to be raised from the dead (which we just celebrated at Easter). After that, and because of His obedience to God’s law, the Father rewarded Jesus with this inheritance that Paul speaks of here, namely all things. So Jesus is the Son of God from eternity past who created the world, and yet also came into the world as a man, taking a road that led to the cross and resurrection. This in turn made Him worthy of inheriting the world, from the Father’s point of view.

In verse 3, we have exalted language indeed to describe the glory of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that the Son is the radiance of the glory of God. We could think of the sun being like the Father, and the beam that the sun shoots out being like the Son. You cannot separate them, though they are distinct. You cannot see the sun except by the beam: so also you cannot see the Father except through the Son. We might say that Jesus is a “chip off the old block,” or at the very least, “like father, like son.” The words “exact imprint” refer to the practice of stamping a coin. In this case, the Father’s nature is stamped so clearly on the Son, that you can know what the Father is like by looking at the Son. In fact, they are of the same substance. They share the same being. They are different persons, but they have the same being. What a mystery!

The next part of the verse tells us that Jesus Christ not only has created and inherited the universe, but He also sustains the universe by His powerful Word. It should be an alarming fact to us to know that without Jesus’ sustaining power, we would instantly dissolve. This should make us think twice before offending Him by not believing in Him. At the same time, it should comfort us to know that Jesus does in fact sustain the world. God did not simply wind up the world as a toy, and then let it go. No, God still cares about this world. “Word of His power” is a Hebrew form of expression meaning “powerful Word.” This Word is the same Word that spoke the universe into existence.

What Jesus has done on earth is what is mentioned next. He made purification for sins. This refers to our sins. Jesus died for our sins by His death on the cross. This is a once-for-all purification. It happened once. For all time, Jesus has cleansed the sins of the church. That is salvation as Jesus accomplished it. It is applied to us by the power of the Holy Spirit when we become united to Jesus Christ by faith. After Jesus accomplished this great salvation, He went into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. “Majesty on high” is a way of avoiding the name “Yahweh.” This is another hint that the sermon was addressed to Jews. Jews have a fear of using the Lord’s name in vain. So they do not pronounce the name “Yahweh.” Instead, they say, “Majesty on high,” or “the Name.” The important point to be considered is that Jesus had the victory. Sitting at the right hand of the king meant the highest possible honor. Sitting at all was thing that only kings did in a throne-room. And then sitting at the right hand was the place of honor.

Verse 4 is something of a transition to what follows. Here Paul begins to say that Jesus has become much higher than angels. Angels are not even in the same league with Jesus Christ. In the rest of the chapter, Paul will be proving the Jesus Christ is superior to all the angels. The name referred to here which Jesus has inherited can be no other than the title “Son” that Paul mentions in verse 5. “Son” has all the connotations of inheritance. In what way Jesus became “Son” is difficult to describe. However, it is set out in Romans 1:1-7, especially verse 4.

Especially in this season, we need to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” The answer to that question has the most profound implications for our lives. Is Jesus merely a “great moral teacher?” Or is He a liar, or a madman? Or is He the ruler of the universe, who cared enough about you (yes, you) to come to earth and fix what you had made wrong. It is our sin for which He came to make purification. Here is the real kicker: because Jesus is exalted to the highest place, then if we are united to Him by faith, we will be exalted to Jesus’ right hand! We will share in that glory!

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