Hebrews, installment 3

Here is the third article I wrote.

Hebrews 1:5-6 (ESV): For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
From verse 4, we saw last time that Jesus is superior to the angels. For the rest of the first chapter, Paul is going to prove that assertion by a series of Old Testament quotations that he applies to Jesus Christ.

Paul is sermonizing here, which means that he uses skills of rhetoric to get his point across. So, when he says “To which of the angels did God ever say,” he really means that God never said anything like this to any of the angels. Again, he is supporting the point he made in verse 4. Notice also that Paul says “God says.” Paul views the Bible as the Word of God. It is not just Isaiah, David, or Moses speaking: God is speaking.

First, he quotes Psalm 2:7, a royal Psalm having to do with coronation. Ultimately, the Psalm refers to Jesus Christ, though immediately referring to David or Solomon. But what does “today” mean? Scholars are divided on this issue, but the best explanation seems to be that at the time-point of Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus entered into a new phase of Sonship (the phase of exaltation). Probably Romans 1:4 supports this understanding (“declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead”). “Begotten,” then, in Hebrews 1:5 does not mean that Christ had an actual beginning here, or that He was born, coming into existence. Rather, it means the same thing as “first-born” does in verse 6, which is “pre-eminence.” When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, in other words, He acquired a new pre-eminence, an exaltation, that He did not have while He was on earth.

The second quotation comes from 2 Samuel 7:14 (parallel with 1 Chronicles 17:13). The context in Samuel is the covenant that God made with David. So what Paul is saying in Hebrews is that ultimately the covenant made with David has its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Again, there is an immediate reference to a promise about Solomon in the Samuel passage. However, Solomon is a type of Jesus Christ. A “type” is a person, thing, action or idea that points forward to something better. For instance, the temple and the tabernacle are both “types” of Jesus’ body, as He Himself says in John 2:19 (“Destroy this temple”). There are types all over the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a treasure hunt for types that point us to Jesus Christ. So Solomon the lesser son is a type of Jesus Christ, the greater Son.

At the beginning of verse 6, we have a small translation problem. The New King James Version and several others read this way: “But when He again brings.” Other translations, including the English Standard Version, read this way, “And again, when He brings.” The question is, does the word “again” mean another quotation (the ESV rendering), or does it mean a second bringing of Christ into the world (the NKJV)? Again, scholars are divided. I think the best rendering is the ESV version, given the frequency with which the word “again” introduces yet another quotation elsewhere in Hebrews (see verse 5 and 2:13, for instance).

Does “bringing the first-born into the world” refer to Christ’s Incarnation? Probably not, if the resurrection was just referred to in verse 5. The term “world” must be defined by the context, which in this case is 2:5 “the world to come.” For Hebrews, time is divided into two ages: the “now” age and the “coming” age. What is interesting, however, is that the “coming” age has invaded the “now” age, and that this happened at Jesus’ resurrection. A new age started with Jesus’ resurrection (that is why we worship on Sunday). At the time of Jesus’ resurrection and consequent exaltation into heaven it was appropriate for all the angels of heaven to worship Jesus. That is what we must do as well. We must “kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and we perish in the way” (Psalm 2:12).


1 Comment

  1. February 5, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Dear Sir,

    Please forgive me, I’m not sure what your name is, I couldn’t find your name on this blog. I have a question and was hoping that perhaps you can I could speak by phone, or by e-mail. My question is about Hebrews 10:26 – 31 and Galatians 5: 4 – 5, in light of the topic of Apostasy and clearly defining/identifying when someone has committed this unforgiveable sin.

    If you wouln’t mind, please e-mail or call me at: martin@smithmcclure.com or (301) 809-1880.

    Thanks and Take care,

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