Christ the Eternal Son: Better Than the Prophets (Heb 1:1-3)

Posted by R. Fowler White

The author of Hebrews teaches that our perseverance is traceable, in part, to the depth of our appreciation for the surpassing greatness of Christ our high priest. In other words, receiving and resting upon Christ alone, as He is presented in Scripture, is a means by which the grace of perseverance comes to us His people. Captivated by Christ, we grow in our knowledge of His glory as our high priest and, in turn, our hearts are enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience. In Heb 1:1-3, we’re introduced to our great priest as one who is first and most basically the eternal Son. Though, overall, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the Son’s priestly office, our esteem for the Son comes first by seeing Him in His relationships with God and others who are part of the history of revelation, creation, and redemption. Each of the descriptions in 1:1-3 carries implications that we’ll consider all too briefly.

The Son in whom God now speaks appears “in these last days,” that is, at the culminating point in the history of special revelation. Placed as He is in this position, we see the Son in relation to those who preceded Him historically, namely, “the prophets”—presumably Moses and the prophets who came after him. Through them God spoke during a long and varied history of special revelation. Yet the Son, we’re told, supersedes them all. The Son is that Prophet whose appearance had been anticipated since Deut 18:15: He is the one who would lead God’s people to spiritual liberty and would mediate a better covenant (Deut 30:6-10; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:10; 10:16). In other words, the Son is superior to the prophets because He has spoken the final revelation and has accomplished the final redemption!

Moving beyond the Son’s present place in the history of revelation, the author of Hebrews draws our attention to the eternal decree of God (see also 10:7; 13:20; Eph 1:9-10; 3:11; Acts 2:23). According to that eternal purpose, the Son, anointed by the Spirit, was to obey His Father’s will and thereby become the firstborn Heir of all things (cf. Heb 2:10). In other words, here we behold the Son not only as He has come to be in history, but also as He was in the pre-creation situation in relation to God and all created things. As the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, we see that the Son has been a distinct person from the Father but of the same essence as the Father. As the One through whom the Father made the worlds of time and space, we see that the Son was the builder of the visible temple of heaven and earth (1:10 with 3:4): He was before all things, and all things are from Him (cf. 2:10). As He governs all things by His powerful word to their proper goal, we see that all things are to Him. So before we properly consider the Son as priest, we consider Him as someone not only greater than the prophets in the history of revelation, but also as a “before creation and above history” Person equal to God in essence and distinct from the Father, the Alpha and Omega of creation and history.

With the extraordinary portrait of the Son in relation to all things as prelude in 1:1-3a, the writer sets our high priest before us in 1:3b, referring both to His sacrifice and to His post-sacrifice session. The two clauses in 1:3b carry deep and broad theological implications. Suffice it to say that in 1:3b we are already being told that this priest is greater than Levi (Aaron). Particularly by using the wording of Ps 110:1, we read the joyful news that the Son is a priest at rest. No longer standing but rather seated (Heb 10:11-14), the posture of our high priest signals that Zion’s priest has succeeded where Sinai’s priests could only fail. The ramifications of the Son’s work and rest are staggering. He has done the work of offering the sacrifice that cleanses sinners. So, sacrifice is finished; forgiveness is granted! Now the sons of Levi are purified! Now the worshipers that the Levites represented are reconstituted as a holy nation of priests (cf. Mal 3:1-4)! Now the cleansing of the cosmic temple is begun, for earth was the site of His sacrifice, and heaven is now the site of His session!

How is it, then, that we develop a more reverent esteem for Christ? We do so as we receive and rest upon Him alone as the eternal Son who is greater than the prophets of old. In our next post in this series, we’ll look at Christ the God-man in Heb 1:4-14.

8 Comments

  1. October 26, 2020 at 10:08 am

    […] Him alone as He is presented to us in Scripture. In Heb 1:1–2:18, He is presented not only as the Son better than the prophets of old, but also as the Son better than the angels. The angels come before us in Hebrews in two […]

  2. October 28, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    […] we’ve emphasized in part 1 and part 2 of our series, the author of Hebrews teaches that our perseverance is traceable, in […]

  3. October 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

    […] put before us the contrasts between Jesus the Son and the prophets in Heb 1:1-3 and the angels in Heb 1:4-14 and 2:5-18, the writer of Hebrews continues to increase our esteem for […]

  4. November 3, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    […] Him alone as He is presented to us in Scripture. In Heb 1:1–2:18, He is presented not only as the Son better than the prophets of old, but also as the Son better than the angels. The angels come before us in Hebrews in two […]

  5. November 9, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    […] we’ve emphasized in part 1 and part 2 of our series, the author of Hebrews teaches that our perseverance is traceable, in […]

  6. November 12, 2020 at 4:56 am

    […] Posted by R. Fowler White The author of Hebrews teaches that our perseverance is traceable, in part, to the depth of our appreciation for the surpassing greatness of Christ our high priest. In other words, receiving and resting upon Christ alone, as He is presented in Scripture, is a means by which the grace of… — Read on greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2020/10/22/christ-the-eternal-son-better-than-the-prophets-heb-11-3/ […]

  7. November 17, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    […] put before us the contrasts between Jesus the Son and the prophets in Heb 1:1-3 and the angels in Heb 1:4-14 and 2:5-18, the writer of Hebrews continues to increase our esteem for […]


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