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ver. 2.0.17.07.21
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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Hebrews 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-4

Analysis and Annotations

I. CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD AND His GLORY

CHAPTER 1-2:4

1. The Son in whom God hath spoken (Hebrews 1:1-4)

2. So much better than the angels (Hebrews 1:5-14)

3. Admonition and warning (Hebrews 2:1-4)

Hebrews 1:1-6

Sublime is the beginning of this precious document. God who in many measures and in many ways spake of old to the fathers in the prophets, at the end of these days hath spoken to us in a Son, whom He constituted heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the effulgence of His glory and the expression of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, having made (by Himself) purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance a name more excellent than they.”

it is an abrupt beginning with no words of introduction, no salutations or words of thanksgiving and prayer. Only one other Epistle begins in a similar way; the First Epistle of John. The foundation upon which all rests, the Word of God, is the first great statement we meet. It tells us that God has spoken of old to the fathers in the prophets. The prophets were not, as so often stated by the deniers of divine inspiration “Jewish patriots and visionaries,” but they were the mouthpiece of Jehovah “holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The words they uttered are the words of God. And this is true of Moses, the author of the Pentateuch and of all the other instruments used in the production of the Old Testament scriptures. And He spoke in many measures (or parts) and in many ways, in histories, ordinances, divinely appointed institutions, visions, dreams and direct prophetic utterances, which have a fragmentary character; they are not in themselves complete and final. And therefore we find in this epistle the law, the prophets and the Psalms more frequently quoted than in any other portion of the New Testament.

It is a striking characteristic of Hebrews that the names of the prophets, like Moses, David, Isaiah, etc., are omitted. God is the speaker. He spoke in the prophets concerning Him, who is now fully revealed in His glory, that is His Son, the promised Messiah. Our Lord declared of the Old Testament scriptures “they are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39). Before He ever came into the world He also bore witness of this fact “in the volume of the Book it is written of Me” (Hebrews 10:7). God’s speaking in the Old Testament culminated in the manifestation of this Person. “At the end of these days hath spoken to us in a (or the) Son.” The end of these days is the present dispensation as distinguished from the preceding Jewish dispensation. The words “to us” mean primarily in this epistle the children of the fathers to whom God spake by the prophets. (In a general way it applies, of course, to all believers during this dispensation. The opinion of some that Hebrews, the Epistle of James, the Epistles of Peter have no meaning and no message to the Church is pernicious.) “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” ( Romans 15:8). It was to the Jew first. He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and manifested in their midst the power of the kingdom promised to that nation. The Promised One came and God spoke in Him, who is God the Son. The original has no article in connection with the word “Son.” It is simply “in Son.” The reason for this omission is because the character of the One in whom God hath now spoken, and not so much the person, is to be emphasized. The prophets were servants, angels were servants, but He in whom God speaks now is Son; such is His relationship, one with God.

The declaration of the glory of His Sonship follows. He is eternally Son of God, the Only-Begotten, very God in eternity. He is Son of God in incarnation, taking on the form of man, making purification of sins and He is in resurrection the first begotten, declared Son of God by resurrection from among the dead. It is a marvellous revelation of Himself, corresponding to the similar statements in the beginning of the Gospel of John and the first chapter of Colossians. He is constituted the heir of all things as He created all things and is the creator. All things in heaven and on earth are His. He possesses all things which exist. This is God’s eternal purpose concerning Him. All things are by Him and for Him. By Him the worlds were made. (Literally “the ages”; Hellenists understood by it the universe. Its meaning then is equivalent to creation. It is used thus in the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.) The vast universe is the work of His hands and He himself as very God is “the effulgence of His glory and the expression of His substance.” He makes the invisible God visible. He is the perfect impress of God; God is fully revealed in His person who came from glory and dwelt among men. Furthermore, He is upholding all things by the Word of His power.

And He who was all this, and is all this, became man, appeared on earth, assuming manhood, to accomplish the work which He alone could do. By Himself He made purification of sins. The Son of God alone did this and none was with Him. What a blessed, sure, eternally secure foundation of our salvation! The passage shows the personal and perfect competency of the Son of God to effect this mighty work. It was done on the cross, in the death in which He glorified God and which has glorified Him forever. And therefore He arose from the dead and “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” It is significant that nothing is said in the text of His resurrection, in the sense as it is spoken of in other scriptures, that God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory (1 Peter 1:21). Nor is it said that He was told to sit down, but He sat down and took Himself the exalted place at the right hand of God. It is presented in this way because His character as Son is here in view. The place He has taken at the right hand of the Majesty on high is only proper and possible for a divine person. The fact that He took this place and sat down attests the perfection, the completeness and acceptation of the work He undertook and finished on the cross. He is now on the throne of God. David’s throne and His own throne He will receive when as the First-Begotten He returns from the glory. Such is the Messiah, the Christ, promised to Israel; He is God, the creator and upholder of all things, the heir of all things, come down from heaven, in whom God spoke on earth and is still speaking from heaven, who made purification of sins and has gone back to heaven.

Constituted now heir of all things, destined according to God’s eternal decrees to be head of all things, He, as the glorified Man, has “become so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance a name more excellent than they.” The contrast between Him and angels is now made. The Epistle being addressed to Hebrews explains this comparison and contrast on Christ with angels. In the estimation of a Hebrew, next to Jehovah Himself, angels were looked upon as the highest and holiest beings. Then furthermore the law was given through angels (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19), and other angelic ministrations had been prominent in Israel’s history, so that these beings occupied a high place in the Jewish mind. But Christ, the man Christ Jesus, has become so much better than the angels; He is above the angels. His name is above every other name. He is on the right hand of the Majesty on high in the form and likeness of Man. As the Only-Begotten He is the creator of angels. In incarnation He was made a little lower than the angels, and now having finished the work for which He became man, He has received by inheritance that highest position and a more excellent name than angels. Into this wonderful place He takes His own people for whom He suffered and died. In Him all believers are above the angels. Angels are but servants, never said to occupy a throne, for they cannot reign. But Christ has a throne and His redeemed shall reign with Him.

Hebrews 1:5-14

Upon this the Spirit of God quotes seven passages from the Scriptures in which He speaks of Christ and His exaltation and glory in contrast with angels. All seven are taken from the book of Psalms. Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 89:1-52; Psalms 97:1-12; Psalms 104:1-35; Psalms 45:1-17; Psalms 102:1-28; Psalms 110:1-7. The destructive criticism declares that there are no Messianic predictions in the book of Psalms. That blessed portion of the Old Testament has suffered much from the hands of these destroyers of the faith. They say that the Second, the Forty-fifth, and the One hundred and tenth Psalms have nothing to say about Christ, that the King mentioned in these psalms was some other unknown King, but not the King Messiah. How significant that the Holy Spirit quotes now from these very psalms telling us that the Messiah, Christ, is predicted in them. The Hebrews had no difficulty in accepting this for they know these psalms speak of the promised Messiah. (The Lord Jesus used the One hundred tenth Psalm in confounding the Pharisees. He showed that that Psalm speaks of Himself and that it is the testimony of the Spirit. Such is “higher criticism”; it sets aside the testimony of the Son of God and the Spirit of God.)

The first quotation is from the Second Psalm. Never did God address angels in the way He is addressed of whom this psalm bears witness. “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” This psalm reveals the royal glory and world-wide dominion of Christ, the one whom the people ( Israel ) and the nations reject. He is to be enthroned as King upon the holy hill of Zion. As Son He will receive the nations for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. The title here refers to His incarnation, and, secondarily, to His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:33-34). It is therefore not the fact of His eternal sonship which is before us in this statement; it speaks of Him as Son of God in time. The eternal Son of God became incarnate; but this did not lower His eternal Sonship. It is therefore His birth, His entrance into the world of which this psalm bears witness. “But it is of all moment for the truth and His own personal dignity to remember that His Sonship when incarnate as well as in resurrection is based on His eternal relationship as Son, without which the other could not have been.”

Psalms 89:26, 2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 Chronicles 17:13 are mentioned next. It brings out the relationship in which the incarnate Son of God, the promised Messiah, is with God. God accepts and owns Him. “I will be to Him a Father and He shall be to me a Son.” And this relationship was audibly declared and confirmed at His baptism and when on the mount of transfiguration. Such a relationship could never be the portion of angels. In Psalms 89:27 His future glory is made known as it is in the second psalm. “Also I will make Him, my Firstborn, higher than the Kings of the earth.” He is the Firstborn; He will have the preeminence.

The next quotation and argument is from Psalms 97:7. “And again when He brings in the Firstborn into the habitable earth, He saith, let all the angels of God worship Him.” This no longer refers to His incarnation, but to His second coming. He is to be brought into the world and then He will receive the worship of the angels of God. Some have applied this to His first coming. But then He came as the “Only-Begotten” and was sent into the world. Here it is said that as the First-Begotten (from the dead) He will be brought into the world. He, who was cast out from the world and rejected by man, will reenter it in power and glory; God will bring Him back into the habitable earth. When this event takes place the angels will bow in worship before Him, for He comes with His holy angels. It is therefore not His first advent, but His second, which is here contemplated. When He was born, angels praised the sender and not the sent One, but when He comes again He will be the object of angelic worship. This shows His glorious superiority to all the angels.

Psalms 104:1-35 speaks of angels as servants. “He maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.” They are spirit and not flesh. They are made to do His will and can never be anything else but servants. And then the contrast is shown what the Son is by the quotation from the Forty-fifth Psalm. Angels are servants and cannot reign nor can they ever occupy a throne, “but unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom.” He is addressed as God in this psalm in which He is revealed as the coming King Messiah. He has a throne which is forever and ever, and as Messiah, and the promised King, He will have an earthly throne and rule with a sceptre of righteousness, He loved righteousness and hated iniquity when down here and therefore He is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows. Thus we learn from this psalm His deity. He has a throne forever and ever. His humanity: He was on earth and loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Who are the fellows mentioned? Angels are not His fellows and could not be. His fellows are all they who are made one with Him through grace and who will be ultimately conformed to His image. It includes the believing remnant of Israel and all who put their trust in Him.

“This is a remarkable passage, because, while on the one hand the divinity of the Lord is fully established as well as His eternal throne, on the other hand the passage comes down to His character as the faithful man on earth, where He made pious men--the little remnant of Israel who waited for redemption, His companions; at the same time it gives Him (and it could not be otherwise) a place above them” (Synopsis of the Bible).

Still more remarkable is the sixth quotation from Psalms 102:1-28. Wonderful as His glory is in the Forty-fifth Psalm, the One hundred second Psalm surpasseth it. No human being would have ever known the real meaning of this psalm if it had not pleased the Spirit of God to give it in this chapter. The little word “and” shows that in Psalms 102:25-27 the Son of God is addressed by God as the creator of all things. It is Jehovah’s answer to the prayer of His Son suffering as man and dying. “He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days, Thy years are throughout all generations.” These words as well as Psalms 102:1-11 in this psalm are the expressions of the Man of Sorrows, the suffering Messiah. And Jehovah answers Him and owns Him in His humiliation, approaching the death of the cross, as the Creator. He was ever the same; His years cannot fail. He, the Son of God, had laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the works of His hands. And He will do, as the Sovereign One, what God attributes to Him. “They shall perish, but Thou abidest; they shall grow old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou roll them up, and they shall be changed, but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” Such is He, whose glory the Spirit of God reveals in the Holy Scriptures, who became Man, suffered and died, and risen from the dead, sits at the right hand of God. He is the unchangeable One, creator and sustainer of the universe.

The final quotation is from the One hundred and tenth Psalm, which is more frequently quoted in this Epistle than elsewhere. The preceding psalm, the One hundred and ninth, predicts His rejection by His own. In the opening verse of this psalm the Messiah is seen again in His deity and humanity. He is David’s Lord and David’s Son. His work is finished on earth. He has taken His place of rest (the symbol of the work done) sitting down at His right hand and waiting for the hour when God makes His enemies the footstool of his feet by bringing in again the First-begotten into the world. To no angel did God ever say, “Sit on My right hand.”

Once more are angels spoken of as ministers. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?” They minister now to those who are the heirs of salvation, who bear the title of sons in His Son and who possess His life. How little God’s people make use of this comfort. An active and simple faith is needed to perceive in what men carelessly regard as accidents of time and place, the positive workings of angels’ ministry. They minister to God’s people now in a way unknown to us. “It is a truth which brings the shadow of God’s majesty with a peculiar nearness over the believer’s soul. That we are seen of angels is an assurance to which the Spirit elsewhere practically bids us heed (1 Corinthians 11:10). A happy thought, yet one of sobering effect to be thus seen; to be the objects of near gaze, and very contact, to those holy visitants of watchful love, who, standing as the bright apparitions of heavenly majesty beside the throne on which the Son of God now rests, are sent forth to speed upon their way the pilgrim brethren of the Lord” (A. Pridham).

Hebrews 2:1-4

This is the first parenthetical exhortation of this epistle, well suited to the condition of those Hebrews to whom it was first addressed. They are exhorted to give more earnest heed to the things which they had heard, that is, the gospel of salvation in this Christ, whose glory is displayed in the opening chapter. This salvation was at first spoken by the Lord when He was on earth. He began its proclamation. It was continued by those who heard Him, that is by His apostles, and finally God the Holy Spirit had put His witness to it with signs and wonders and gifts. If then the word spoken through angels (the law dispensation) was steadfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just retribution, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” It is a warning to Jews who were halting between two opinions and to those who had in a measure accepted outwardly the truth of Christianity without having laid hold in earnest and in faith of that salvation. If this great salvation, which God offers now not through angels, but in His Son, is rejected or neglected there can be no escape.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/hebrews-1.html. 1913-1922.


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Friday, July 21st, 2017
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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