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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Hebrews 1

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Introduction

Introduction

Jesus Christ died at the end of the Jewish age; in fact, His death brought about the abolition of the Old Testament. Paul says:

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:14-17).

The first two verses of chapter one contrast the time when the authoritative message of God was through the prophets to the fathers and the time when it is through the Son to us. During the personal ministry of Jesus, the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets were still in force. Jesus says:

…See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.…The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers (Matthew 8:4; Matthew 23:2-4).

Jesus did not come to destroy the Old Testament. In fact, He says:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).

Since everything had not been completed during the days of Jesus’ personal ministry, none of the law was abolished until after His death. Much of what Jesus teaches in His personal ministry pertains to the kingdom; however, the kingdom and the New Testament did not actually start until after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. The Apostle Peter says:

For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:34-36).

The purpose of chapters one and two is to prove the truth regarding Jesus’ superiority to prophets and angels.

Paul says that (Hebrews 1:1-2) whereas in times past God spoke to Israel using the prophets as mouthpieces, He now has spoken in the Person of His Son (Wuest 51).

Verse 1

Jesus’ Superiority over the Prophets

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Paul points out three specific facts in which the older revelation, that is, the Old Testament, is inferior to the New Testament:

1. The Old Testament was not written all at one time but over a period of many years. We can trace the message of the coming salvation from prophet to prophet as the Old Testament history unfolds it.

2. It was given in divers manners, that is, God’s truth was not set forth in one direct statement, but under many figures, types, and symbols.

3. It was given by the prophets, who were only human. In all these particulars, the Old Testament is different from the New Testament.

Henry Alford says:

This revelation in portions, by fragments, in and by various persons, was necessarily an imperfect revelation, to which the one final manifestation in and by One Person is properly and logically opposed (The New Testament for English Readers 1438).

God who: The word "God" refers to God, the Father. The emphasis of this first verse is that God has spoken.

at sundry times: The words "at sundry times" (polumezos) is an adverb in Greek that is defined as "many portions" (Thayer 529) and translated "many times" (NIV, New Living Translation, New Century Version); "many portions" (NASB); "divers portions" (ASV); "many parts" (Young’s Literal Translation, Darby), "different times" (Holman Christian Standard Bible); "various times" (NKJV); and "many separate revelations" (Amplified). The Apostle Paul indicates that God did not speak His message all at one time; instead, He spoke it to the prophets "at sundry times" meaning "in many parts" (Vincent 377) or "segments" (Fudge 15) or "In divers portions" (Johnson 298). There are separate revelations given to many different prophets over many years until God’s complete revelation was given:

It appears fragmentarily, in successive acts, as the periods of the Patriarchs, Moses, the Kingdom, etc. One prophet has one, another element of the truth to proclaim (Vincent 377).

Alford says:

For not all things, nor the same things, were revealed to all the prophets, but the parts of great mysteries were distributed among them. e.g., Isaiah was inspired to foretell Christ’s birth from a virgin, and His Passion: Daniel, the time of His Advent: Jonah, His burial: Malachi, the coming of His Forerunner. And again some had more, others less, revealed to them (The New Testament for English Readers 1437).

and in divers manners: "Divers manners" (polutropos), found in the King James Version and American Standard Version, is translated "various ways" (NIV, NKJV) and "many ways" (NASB, New Living Translation, ESV, Young’s Literal Translation, Darby). It is also defined by Joseph H. Thayer as "in many manners" (530), therefore informing us that God spoke His revelation in "different ways" as is translated in several versions (Amplified Bible, New Century, Holman Christian Standard Bible). God spoke in different ways to different prophets; for example, to Moses and Abraham, He spoke in promises and visions; to David, in lyrical song; by oral and symbolical predictions through prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Malachi. Marvin R. Vincent says:

Note the different ways in which God imparted his revelations to the prophets to the fathers: in one way through Moses, in another through Elijah, in others through Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc. At the founding of the Old Testament kingdom of God, the character of the revelation was elementary: later it was of a character to appeal to a more matured spiritual sense, a deeper understanding and a higher conception of the law. The revelation differed according to the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the covenant-people (377-378).

God’s message was given in piecemeal, a little here and a little there, bit by bit, and part by part as His people needed it or were able to receive it. Marcus Dods says:

The revelation of God was essentially progressive; all was not disclosed at once, because all could not at once be understood. One aspect of God’s nature, one element in His purposes, reflected from the conditions of their time, the prophets could know; but in the nature of things it was impossible they should know the whole. They were like men listening to a clock striking, always getting nearer the truth but obliged to wait till the whole was heard (247-248).

Bloomfield explains that "divers matters" "expresse(s) the idea of multiplicity as well as diversity; the term being meant to denote the various modes of Divine revelation, by dreams, visions, symbols, and prophetic ecstasy" (467).

A.C. Kendrick explains:

The two terms (sundry times and divers manners) together denote the whole variety of promises, predictions, and symbols by which the divine plan was gradually unfolded under the Old Covenant, as against the one complete revelation made through the Son under the New (17).

spake in time past unto the fathers: Dods says, "The word ’spake’ (lalein) is not used in a disparaging sense, but, especially in this Epistle, is used of God making known His will" (247). It is used in this same sense later in Paul’s writings to the Hebrews:

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; …And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (2:2-3; 3:5-6).

The emphasis here is the fact that God spoke. He had a message that He wanted His people to understand; therefore, He communicated with them in the past and made Himself known to His people through the fathers. Dods says:

…this "speaking" in the past was preparatory to the final speaking in Christ…The earlier revelations were the preparation for the later but were distinguished from it in four particulars – in the time, in the recipients, in the agents, in the manner (247).

The words "in time past" (palai) mean "of old" (Thayer 474), and generally refer to previous ages of the world. In this passage "in time past" refers to the Old Testament messages of God presented to the fathers by the prophets. God speaks to His people by the "fathers" (pater), that is, literally a "nourisher, protector, upholder" (Thayer 494). "The fathers are the Jewish forefathers of the Hebrew Christians" (Fudge 16). God spoke to Abraham,

Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and many other in different ways: in dreams, by a direct voice, and by signs. God spoke "in different ways to different men" (Robertson 334). Jesus speaks of the "fathers" saying, "Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man" (John 7:22). Paul, preaching at Antioch, says:

And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Acts 13:32-33).

In his writings, Paul often speaks of the "fathers" of the past:

Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen… As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes…Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Romans 9:5; Romans 11:28; Romans 15:8).

Peter speaks of the "fathers," saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4).

by the prophets: The word "prophets" (prophetes) refers to "the Old Testament prophets" (Thayer 553); however, the emphasis here is not on the prophets, but on God. The words spoken are God’s words. J. P. Lange quotes Carl Moll as saying:

The "prophets" are the organs of God’s revelation, completely controlled by Him, and in who His own utterances are heard…They were, as shown by the lalesas (spoke), the tongues of God, and even the form of the prophetic utterances is the result of God’s purpose and agency, and must not be regarded as something barely human and separable from its divine subject-matter (Lange 24).

The term "by" (en) the prophets brings God closer to the hearers of the prophetic word and implies that what the prophets spoke, God spoke. Dods says the prophets "stand here…for all those who had spoken for God, and especially for that great series of men from Abraham and Moses onwards who had been the organs of revelation and were identified with it" (249).

Paul’s message is that the prophets were the inspired spokesmen of God. They were, in fact, the mouths for God. God tells Moses:

Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say…And thou shalt speak unto him and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God (Exodus 4:12; Exodus 4:15-16).

As "the vessels of divine inspiration" (Vincent 378), each prophet gave his own part of God’s message which has now been given completely through Jesus Christ. "The Dictionary of the United Bible Societies’ (UBS) Greek New Testament says that the prophets gave ’little by little, many times’ " (Ellingworth and Nida 5) (Amplified Bible, New Century, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

The prophets, in speaking God’s word, performed several functions:

1. They also told God’s will to their own generation. They warned all the people of their sins. The prophet Micah says, "…As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak" (1 Kings 22:14).

2. When God’s children went into idolatry, the prophets called for a restoration of true religion. The prophet Samuel says:

…If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:3).

Speaking to the people, the prophet Elijah says:

How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word (1 Kings 18:21).

1. The prophets told of God’s judgments beforehand so that God’s children would repent of their sins and be prepared. The prophet Jeremiah says, "And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them" (Jeremiah 5:13). The prophet Ezekiel says, "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations" (5:8).

2. The prophets made known God’s mercies in the midst of judgments. They appealed for God’s children to repent and return to Him. They also made known God’s mind of doing good to His Children after they have been rebuked and punished for their sins.

The prophet Isaiah says, "In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel" (4:2).

The prophet Hosea says:

Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight (6:1-2).

1. The prophets read and interpreted what was not understood by others. They recalled to men’s minds things that they had forgotten. The prophet Daniel says:…I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation (5:17)….Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation (2:24).

2. The prophets prophesied the coming of Christ and His kingdom. The prophet Moses says:

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him (Deuteronomy 18:15-18).

Christians today are no longer under the Old Testament law and the prophets because the law has been fulfilled. It is no longer a simple promise: it is a reality. Jesus says: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).

Not living under the law and the prophets, however, does not mean the Old Testament is without value to Christians today. James D. Bales points out many of the ways in which the Old Testament is useful:

1. Historical background without which we would have little information concerning certain individuals and events mentioned in the New Testament.

2. Credentials of Christ (Matthew 5:17-18; John 5:40-47; Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-46; Romans 1:2-3; Romans 3:21; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 17:11-12).

3. Preparation for the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:9-10; Hebrews 10:1-4; Colossians 2:17; Galatians 3:8-29).

4. The nature of God. Any truth revealed about His nature is still true, although we have in Christ and His covenant the full revelation of God to man on earth (John 14:8-9; Hebrews 13:20).

5. God has always called on men to obey Him. The Old Testament contains warning examples. (1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12). This does not mean that we shall experience the same type of punishment, but it does warn us that sin brings God’s wrath.

6. Examples which encourage and comfort us by showing that God is faithful to His promises (Romans 15:4; Hebrews 2:1-2).

7. The nature of faith. Although we have commandments which often differ from ones found in the Old Testament – and even the ones which are the same (the moral principles) must be obeyed in the light of the New Testament contexts which reveal them in their greatest height, their deepest depth, and their widest breath – the nature of faith is the same in both Testaments, i.e. trust in and obedience to God. This is the reason that Hebrews 11 illustrates to Christians, by Old Testament examples, what it means when something is said to be accomplished "by faith" (Hebrews 10:39; Hebrews 11:1 ff).

8. Anything the Old Testament reveals about the nature of man is still true. For example, Jesus showed people of His day that the Old Testament taught that man survives death (Matthew 22:31-32).

9. Sin’s basic nature has not changed. For example, in the fall of man we see man’s pride, man’s desire to be a law unto himself, man’s desire to be what by nature he is not (God), and man’s tendency to blame others for his actions (Genesis 3).

10. Although we do not go to the Old Testament to learn how to become and remain Christians, we must accept the fact that the Old Testament is inspired. Those who deny its inspiration will deny, when they are consistent (and if they are not consistent, the generation they teach will likely be consistent), the inspiration of the new. For example, if Jesus was wrong in saying that Moses wrote of Him, how can we trust Him when He promised that apostles would be guided into all the truth? (John 5:45-47; John 16:12-15) (Bales 11-12).

Adam Clarke says the excellence of the Gospel above the law is here set down in three points:

1. God spake unto the faithful under the Old Testament by Moses and the prophets; worthy servants, yet servants; now the Son is much better than a servant, verse 4.

2. The body of the Old Testament was long in compiling, being about a thousand years from Moses to Malachi; and God spake unto the fathers by piece-meal, one while raising up one prophet, another while another; now sending them one parcel of prophecy or history, then another but when Christ came, all was brought to perfection in one age; the apostles and evangelists were alive, some of them, when every part of the New Testament was completely finished.

3. The Old Testament was delivered by God in divers manners, both in utterance and manifestation; but the delivery of the Gospel was in a more simple manner; for, although there are various penmen, yet the subject is the same, and treated with nearly the same phraseology thoughout; James, Jude, and the Apocalypse excepted (685-686).

Verse 2

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Paul teaches that not only did God speak to people of the Old Testament but also to those of the New; therefore, in both dispensations God is the author. God presented the first testament for His people; when its purpose was fulfilled, He removed it to establish the second testament. Later in this letter Paul writes:

Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (10:9-10).

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son: The Apostle Paul considers the history of the world as being divided into two great periods of time. The first period is called "these last days," as here in verse 2, or "the time then present" (9:9). The second period of time is called "the world to come" (2:5; 6:5) or "the time of reformation" (9:10).

Alford says the Jewish Rabbis divided time into two stages:

The Rabbis divided the whole of time into "this age," and "the age to come." The days of the Messiah were regarded as a period of transition from the former to the latter, - His appearance, as the ushering in of the termination of "these days," the beginning of the end, - and His second coming in glory as the accomplishment of "these days" or "this age" (The New Testament for English Readers 1438).

Jesus’ appearance on this earth and His ministry is at the end of the first period of time, but it is, in fact, during the first period of time. The dividing point between the first and second periods is when Jesus gives His life for our sins. Paul says, "For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (9:26).

The expression "last" (eschatos) days emphasizes the time of the writing of this letter is what the Jews referred to as the "last days," that is, the day of the Messiah. Isaiah speaks of the "last days":

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (2:1-3).

Other New Testament writers than Paul also speak of the "last days." The Apostle Peter says, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (1 Peter 1:20). James says, "Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days" (5:3). Jude writes, "How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts" (18). The Apostle Peter warns, "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts" (2 Peter 3:3).

The Hebrew Christians to whom Paul is writing this letter are already living "in these last days," that is, in the Messianic Age. Later in this letter Paul will refer to some of the Hebrews who "have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" (6:5).

We must never overlook the fact that, as mentioned in verse 1, God spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets; however, today we must acknowledge that the New Testament dispensation is vastly superior to the Old Testament dispensation. It is superior because now God speaks "by his Son," the prophet of the New Covenant. Paul is emphasizing the nature of the person through whom this final revelation comes. Jesus is infinitely superior to all the prophets who lived before Him. Dods says:

A Son who can be characteristically designated a son, carries in Himself the Father’s nature and does not need to be instructed in purposes which are also and already His own, nor to be officially commissioned and empowered to do what He cannot help doing (249).

The Apostle Peter writes:

For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:22-23).

Fudge says:

The Jews divided time into the Present Age, of anticipation, and the Coming Age, of the Messiah. They expected the Messiah to come at the end of their Present Age. When Christ came, however, the Coming Age crashed into history and the Messianic era of fulfillment became a reality (16).

"These last days," that is, the Messianic Age, begins with the resurrection of Christ and His ascension into heaven. The writer of this Hebrew letter speaks of events leading to "these last days" in chapter nine when he says:

For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (9:26-28).

God has "spoken to us" in the last days, that is, to everyone living in this present age. In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul speaks of the time when God’s people were taught by the prophets, until the time that He began speaking through Jesus Christ. Paul says:

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

whom he hath appointed heir of all things: Paul now describes the rights and dignities of the Son. Jesus has the position and rights of an only Son and heir. Paul will speak of these facts more in chapter three when he says:

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (3:5-6).

The word "appointed" (tithemi) means that Jesus was set or ordained to be "heir of all things." To be "heir" (kleronomos) of all things speaks of Jesus’ inheritance. Thayer says "heir" refers to "one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship" (349). Bloomfield, referring to the term "heir," says:

The best Expositors are agreed that the word is here used in the sense Lord, or Possessor….Still to render it "Lord" is objectionable; since the expression in question was used for kurios, to hint at something further.…the full sense is, "Lord of all things in the world by inheritance," in virtue of his Sonship just mentioned (467).

Through Jesus, God will accomplish His purpose. The Son is to reign over all. "The writer lifts the thought of the despondent to Christ’s triumph and Lordship" (Dods 249). God delivered all things into the hands of the Son. Peter says, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Alford says, "It is in virtue of the Sonship of our Lord that the Father constituted Him heir of all things, before the worlds began" (The New Testament for English Readers 1439). The "heir" of God is superior to all. Paul says, "Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all" (Galatians 4:1). Jesus "came into touch with men and poured His life into human history, at once claiming and securing His great inheritance" (Dods 250).

by whom also he made the worlds: Jesus is not only the Mediator of God’s final revelation but also is the Mediator representing God’s power in creation. By the words, "by whom also he made the worlds," the writer emphasizes that Jesus is not only heir of all things but also He is the creator, the originator of all things in the world. Paul is emphasizing that Jesus is entitled to whatever honors result from the fact that He is God’s agent in the creation of the universe, "by whom also he made the worlds." Speaking of Jesus, John says, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). The term "world" refers to the complete created universe, or as Bloomfield defines, "the whole system of creation, the material universe, comprehending all created things in the heavens and on earth, corporeal and incorporeal, and thus answering to the panta ("all") of John 1:3" (467). In the eleventh chapter, Paul says, "Through faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," (11:3). To the church in Colossae, he writes:

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:16-18).

Dods says:

The mind staggers in endeavoring to grasp the vastness of the physical universe but much more overwhelming is the thought of those times and ages and aeons through which the purpose of God is gradually unfolding, unhasting and unresting, in the boundless life He has called into being. He who is the end and aim, the heir, of all things is also their creator (250).

In the gospel of John, the writer proves that Jesus is the creator of the universe:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (1:1-5).

Verse 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:

Jesus is represented as two absolute "beings" exhibited in two characteristics. First, He is the "brightness of (God’s) glory" and secondly, He is "the express image of (God’s) person."

Who being the brightness of his glory: The "brightness" (apaugasma) of his glory in the Greek refers to the "shining or beaming forth of the glory, the display of it to the world" (Humphry 405). Jesus’ being the "brightness" of God’s glory means He is a manifestation of the glory of God. He is the "brightness" "inasmuch as he perfectly reflects the majesty of God; so that the same thing is declared here of Christ metaphysically, which he says of himself in an ethical sense in John 12:45" (Thayer 55): "He that seeth me seeth him that sent me." Jesus radiates from God. Fudge explains this phrase well:

Christ is its very emanation and radiance. He is to the Father what rays are to a light, or flames to a fire, or beams to the sun. Without this Son, man is in the dark concerning God and salvation. God’s magnificence as deity is fully seen in Jesus Christ who was God in human flesh (18).

Speaking of "the brightness of his glory," Bloomfield says:

The Redeemer is the true and proper representative of the Infinite Perfection of the Deity; intimating that he is that to the Divine Father, which the solar light incident on our world is to the same light as the source of its emanation (468).

Bradley H. Alford says "the brightness of his glory" refers to "the Father’s glory i.e. its full expression as contrasted with the few and broken rays of it vouchsafed through the medium of the prophets" (524). Just as one cannot separate the sun’s shining from the sun, neither can we separate the Divine nature of Christ from that of the Father. Jesus is one with the Father and one essence or substance with the Father.

Jesus perfectly reflects God’s "glory" (doxa), meaning He perfectly reflects God’s "magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace" (Thayer 156); that is, He reflects majesty in the sense of the absolute perfection of the deity. Paul says, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

and the express image of his person: Jesus makes the invisible God visible. The words "express image" (character) mean "impress" that is, "the object on which the features of another are expressed" (Dean Alford’s Greek Testament 524) or "the mark stamped upon that instrument or wrought out on it; hence univ. a mark or figure burned in or stamped on, an impression; the exact expression of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect" (Thayer 665). Dods illustrates "the express image" by comparing the marking on a coin:

…"the express image" denote(s) the impress or mark made by the graving tool, especially the mark upon a coin which determined its value; hence, any distinguishing mark, identifying a thing or person, character. "Express image" translates it well. The mark left on wax or metal is the "express image" of the seal or stamp. It is a reproduction of each characteristic feature of the original (251).

Jesus Christ is a visible representation of the substance of God; that is, God can be seen in Jesus. He is the exact and complete representation of God because He is the Son of God. There is nothing that is in God the Father that is not reproduced in His Son Jesus. John records:

Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake (John 14:9-11).

The two clauses, "the brightness of his glory" and "the express image of his person," are similar in purpose and convey the impression that during Jesus’ redemptive activity on earth there is no time that Jesus does His own will; He always does the will of God. The divine attributes of being "the brightness of his glory" and "the express image of his person" lend effectiveness to all of His work. The Son’s will is the express image of God’s will. The Apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus, says, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).

and upholding all things by the word of his power: "Upholding" (phero) literally means "foundation" (Dean Alford’s Greek Testament 524), "preserver" (Thayer 650), or "supporting" (Bloomfield 468). The words "all things" refer to the universe. Jesus, the Son of God, has all power; and His power is manifested by His word. Jesus is not only the creator but also the foundation, the sustainer, of the universe. By His powerful command, Jesus causes the universe to function as it does. The universe would not continue to exist if it were not that Jesus maintains it. When Jesus speaks, whatever He wants done is done; it may be to calm the winds, to raise the dead, to heal the lame, to forgive sin, or it may involve the creation of the world. Nature and science obey His words. The phrase "upholding all things by the word of his power" presents an astounding portrayal of the infinitely energetic and all encompassing power of God. The "power" (dunamis) mentioned here refers to Jesus’ "inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth" (Thayer 159). When Jesus speaks, nature obeys; that is, He speaks and the rains begin; He speaks and the rains cease, just as when He speaks the winds obey. Matthew records:

And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (8:23-27).

The "word of his power" refers to the active and powerful word of Jesus that upholds and sustains the universe. "The word is that in which the Son’s power manifests itself" (Vincent 384). The word of the Lord upholds or supports, or is the pillar of, all things. The psalmist writes:

Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly; The earth and all its inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah (Psalms 75:1-3).

when he had by himself purged our sins: Paul has been writing about Jesus’ power in creating the world; now he goes on to another contribution He has made for man. When God sent Jesus into this world, it is not like one of the prophets going to a certain city or country to deliver a message; instead, Jesus comes bearing the message that He will prepare the way of salvation by personally purging our sins; He achieves forgiveness for them.

A.R. Ashwell points out:

Observe also the emphatic words which precede this, namely, "by himself", shewing that Christ was sufficient to Himself for the purging of our sins as for all else. For this is an anticipation of one of the most important of all the arguments in the Epistle, that namely beginning at ch. ix. 14., where, among other points of the perfection of Christ’s priesthood, it is noted that it was Himself that He offered, His own blood that He presents in the true Holy of Holies (Commentary on the New Testament, Hebrews, not numbered).

Vincent says:

In carrying on all things toward their destined end of conformity to the divine archetype, the Son must confront and deal with the fact of sin, which had thrown the world into disorder, and drawn it out of God’s order. In the thought of making purification of sins is already foreshadowed the work of Christ as high priest, which plays so prominent a part in the epistle (384).

Jesus made atonement for our sins. It is a one-time action (see 9:12-14, 26-28). Paul says Jesus "purged" (katharismos) our sins referring to the time "when he had done away with the guilt of our sins" (Humphry 405). Man’s sins are "purged" when he is "cleansed from the guilt of sin" (Thayer 312) at baptism as a likeness of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. After Peter names the seven Christian graces, he says, "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (2 Peter 1:9). When Paul writes to the church at Rome, he says:

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).

sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: Sitting on the right hand of the throne of God was obviously a solemn act and has always been considered the place of the greatest eminence; it is a position of dignity and authority. Clarke says, "The king himself, in eastern countries, sits on the throne; then next to him in the kingdom, and the highest favourite, sits on his right hand; and the third greatest personage, on his left" (687). This procedure is also carried out in the Old Testament:

Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand (1 Kings 2:19).

It is only after accomplishing His task of freeing man from sin that Jesus sat down at God’s right hand. He then could perform His work of mediating the eternal covenant. The scriptures picture Jesus as being at God’s right hand (Mark 16:19; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; Colossians 3:1). The "right hand" generally refers to the place of honor. David writes, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Psalms 110:1). Paul speaks of this place of honor when he writes to the church at Ephesus:

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23).

Jesus’ sitting down "on the right hand of God" indicates His work is complete. The good news of salvation, that is, God’s message for man, is delivered; it is finished. Dods says:

In contrast to the ever-growing and never complete revelation to the fathers, which kept the race always waiting for something more sufficing, there came at last that revelation which contained all and achieved all. But the expression not only looks backward in approval of the work done by the son, but forward to the result of this work in His supremacy over all human affairs (252).

"The Majesty on high" obviously refers to sitting next to God in heaven; He is in the place of highest honor. Jude refers to God’s majesty in the last verse of his letter, "To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever, Amen" (Judges 1:25). Paul, later in this book, proves "Majesty on high" is the same as the "throne of God":

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (12:2).

Conclusions

Jesus’ Superiority over the Prophets

In verses 2 and 3 Paul has given six specific characteristics that illustrate Jesus’ supremacy over the prophets:

1. Jesus’ universal lordship—"appointed heir of all things" (verse 2).

2. Jesus’ part in creation—"he made the worlds" (verse 2).

3. Jesus’ likeness to God—"brightness of his glory, and express image of his person" (verse 3).

4. Jesus’ relationship to the world—"upholding all things by the word of his power" (verse 3).

5. Jesus’ redemptive work—"when he had by himself purged our sins" (verse 3).

6. Jesus’ exaltation—"sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (verse 3).

Verse 4

Jesus’ Superiority over the Angels

Verse 4 is part of a long sentence that begins in verse 1; however, Paul introduces another subject to prove Jesus is not only superior to the prophets but also superior to the angels. Paul will discuss Jesus and the angels throughout chapters one and two.

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Being made so much better than the angels: Some of the children of Israel may have thought that because Moses’ law had been given through the ministration of angels, it was superior to all other laws. Paul, however, shows that "the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant since Jesus, the spokesman of the New Covenant, is superior to the angels who introduced the Old Covenant" (Bales 22). Jesus becomes "so much better" (kreitton), that is, "more excellent" (Thayer 359) than the angels by taking His seat at God’s right hand. This exalted position is the result of His earthly work. The words "being made so much better" also describe the position and recognition awarded to Him because of His work. It is as mediator of the new revelation and mediator of creation that He assumes supremacy.

"The exaltation of the Mediator to the right hand of sovereignty is in keeping with His designation as Son, a designation which marked Him out as superior to the angels" (Dods 252). Paul’s message to the Hebrews is that Jesus is more excellent than the angels in position and in authority.

as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they: "More excellent name" refers to the dignity and glory attained by Jesus who is superior to the angels because He has a "more excellent" (diaphoros) name (Thayer 143). His "name" (onoma) or His "title" (Thayer 447) is "Son" (see verse 5); that, of course, surpasses the angels’ title of messengers or servants. The expression "hath by inheritance obtained" (kleronomeo) means "to receive the portion assigned to one, receive an allotted portion, receive as one’s own or as a possession; to become partaker of, to obtain" (Thayer 348); therefore, Jesus receives by inheritance the name, the "Son" (see verse 2). B.W. Johnson says, "Our Savior has other names, but this name only is received by inheritance. This superiority is shown by the manner in which God addresses the Son" (298).

Christ’s earthly "name" is Jesus; His divine name or title is "Son." Kendrick comments on this name:

…which was gloriously confirmed when, by his resurrection and ascension, he was constituted "Son of God with power." The name, or title, conferred upon him in his exaltation, and to which answers the "becoming so much mightier" of our passage (20).

Paul writes to the church in Philippi:

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus completed His perfect work of preparing for man’s redemption; therefore, He took His inherited seat in heaven at the right hand of God.

Verse 5

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, 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?

Beginning with verse 5, Paul gives scriptural proof from the Old Testament of the superiority of Jesus to the angels as the eternal Son of God. The Hebrew Christians obviously have been in the habit of referring these passages to Jesus; otherwise, it would have been useless for the apostle to quote them in his arguments. Dods says:

The first two quotations (verse 5) illustrate the giving of the more excellent name; the remaining quotations exhibit the superiority of the Son to angels, or more definitely the supreme rule and imperishable nature of the Son, in contrast to the perishable nature and servile function of the angels (253).

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: No individual angel is ever called "the Son of God." The only time the title "Son" refers to the angels is when the entire class of angels is referred to, not to a specific angel. The class of angels is mentioned as sons of God because of the greatness of the angels. The style in which God addresses Jesus shows His superiority to the angels. Paul’s argumentation here is sound, based on the silence of the scriptures. In the scriptures, angels are called the sons of God only because of their creation; therefore, the conclusion is that the angels are inferior to Jesus because Jesus is the "begotten" Son of God. The psalmist prophesies of the Messiah when he writes, "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Psalms 2:7). Paul’s emphasis, in verse 2, is on the word "Son." He is stressing the divine nature of Christ by quoting God, the Father, when He uses the first personal pronoun, "I," saying "this day have I begotten thee." There is no doubt that the psalmist refers to Jesus in this passage because in preaching to the church in Antioch, Paul says:

God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou are my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Acts 13:33).

Alford says:

This Psalm seems to have been written by David to celebrate the fulfillment, in part at least, of the promises made him by Nathan (2 Sam. Vii. 8-17), which promises, as well as David’s words respecting them, had a meaning reaching beyond that occasion, and pointed to one "greater than Solomon" (Dean Alford’s Greek Testament 524).

"This day" (semeron), meaning "today" (Thayer 574), refers to the day Christ was "begotten" (gennao), that is, He was "cause(d) to arise" (Thayer 113). It is not Jesus’ existence that begins "this day" but instead, it is His relationship with God, as Son. Paul’s emphasizes that Jesus is superior to the angels because of His relationship to God, the Father. Johnson, speaking of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, says, "He was born from the dead and God, who raised him, thus demonstrated that he was his Son" (299). Paul writes in Acts:

And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption (13:34-37).

Paul writes to the church at Rome about the day Jesus becomes the Son of God:

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:3-4).

Clarke explains well:

This day have I begotten thee, must refer either to his incarnation, when he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit; or to his resurrection from the dead, when God, by this sovereign display of his almighty energy, declared him to be his Son, vindicated his innocence, and also the purity and innocence of the blessed virgin, who was the mother of this son, and who declared him to be produced in her womb by the power of God. The resurrection of Christ, therefore, to which the words most properly refer, not only gave the fullest proof that he was an innocent and righteous man, but also that he had accomplished the purpose for which he died, and that his conception was miraculous, and his mother a pure and unspotted virgin....his resurrection demonstrates him to have been the Son of God; therefore every thing built on this foundation is more durable than the foundations of heaven, and as inexpugnable as the throne of the eternal King (688).

D. B. Cameron says:

Christians are also referred to as sons of God, not because of a divine nature, but because of their adoption…The title "only begotten son" belongs to him exclusively, for no one else is from eternity begotten of God as he is, and therefore possessing all the attributes of Deity. In that respect it seems to us to be impossible that there should be another Son. Being called the first born with reference to the rest of God’s children, his title expressed his superior station among them (48).

And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son: In this phrase, Paul quotes from 2 Samuel 7:14 where the writer says, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son…" in which the context refers to Solomon; however, as is true with many Old Testament statements, the same is true when applied to Jesus Christ. God, the maker of the universe, is called "Father" (pater). The two pronouns, "I" and "he" in this phrase emphasize the personal relationship between the speaker, God the Father, and the one to whom He is speaking, Jesus the Son.

The Father of Jesus Christ, as one whom God has united to himself in the closest bond of love and intimacy, made acquainted with his purposes, appointed to explain and carry out among men the plan of salvation, and (as appears from the teaching of John) made to share also in his own divine nature; he is so called, … by the apostles (Thayer 495).

Paul’s statements proving Jesus as the "Son" of God is important to his readers. Many of the Jews expressed doubt that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God; therefore, Paul proves His Sonship by the scriptures. He obviously wants them to know that this fact is not a new revelation; instead, it is prophesied in the Old Testament. Notice that Paul’s statement, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son," is a quotation referring to David, a type of Christ. The scriptures say:

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…. (2 Samuel 7:12-14).

Verse 6

And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world: The word "bringeth" (eisago) means "to lead in" (Thayer 187) or "ushering in" (Bloomfield 469). This verse beginning with "And again" suggests Paul is referring to Jesus’ second coming. Jesus was first brought into this world when He was born of the virgin Mary; one day there will be a second coming in which He will be "led in" for the final judgment of the inhabitants of the world. Johnson reports, "Macknight thinks that Christ was brought into the world the first time when he was born at Bethlehem; that the time referred to here is when he comes again to judge the world" (299).

W.G. Humphry says:

"Again" would not stand where it is in the Greek if it introduced another quotation, as it does in the preceding verse; and the ancient expositors, Gr. And Latin, as Chrysostom, Ambrose, the Vulgate, &c., together with many moderns, as Tholuck and Alford, have understood it to mean, "when God bringeth his first-begotten Son a second time into the world (at his resurrection, or at his second advent) …" (406).

The term "firstbegotten" (protot), also translated "firstborn" (NIV), is used of Christ in three ways:

1. Firstbegotten in relation to the other children of Mary.

Luke records, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).

Matthew says, "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS" (1:25).

2. Firstbegotten in relation to other men.

Paul says, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).

To the Christians in Colossae, Paul writes, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).

3. Firstbegotten in relation to creation.

Paul says, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:15).

he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him: This statement points forward to the second coming of Christ when the angels are to "worship" (proskuneo) Him, thus proving Jesus is superior to the angels. Paul is probably referring to the prophecy of the psalmist:

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods (Psalms 97:6-7).

The angels "worship" the Son "by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication" (Thayer 548). Jesus’ first coming, born of a virgin, was in lowliness and below the angels; however, His second coming will be in an exalted position as the Son of God with angels worshiping Him. Paul, having shown that "Son" is a designation reserved for Jesus only and not to any individual angel, now advances a step to show the relation of angels to Jesus is one of worship.

Bloomfield writes:

The Almighty Father speaking by the voices and writings of his holy prophets, and by the course of his providence as it unfolds his eternal decrees; making known to principalities and powers in the heavenly places his counsels of righteousness and mercy; "introducing" to the admiration and praises of all holy intelligences Him who is the great Effector of those counsels, the Surety of the everlasting covenant, the Only-begotten, the Brightness of his glory, and the Express Image of his Essence, when about to clothe himself in the likeness of sinful and suffering flesh; and thus by act and authority saying to those loyal and delighted beings, "Worship Him, all ye gods!" (469).

Verse 7

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

"Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire" is a quote from Psalms 104:4. Paul contrasts Jesus with the subordinate position of the angels by declaring a twofold relationship between the angels and God: (1) the angels are as changeable as the wind, and (2) the angels are servants.

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits: The term "spirits" (Pneumata), sometimes translated "winds" (RSV, NIV, ASV), is defined as "a movement of air" (Thayer 520). Paul’s message is that Jesus instructs the angels to go forth in the semblance of wind to fulfill His purpose.

and his ministers a flame of fire: The word "ministers" (leitourgos) means "servants" (Thayer 376) and is often translated such (RSV, NIV, ASV). Angels are God’s servants endowed by Him with capacities that enable them to serve Him. It refers to "those by whom God administers his affairs and executes his decrees" (Thayer 376). Just as angels can be made in the form of "spirits," that is, "winds," they can also, at the instruction of Jesus, be in the form of "a flame of fire," having reference to lightning. Paul uses the wildest of natural forces, "winds" and "lightning," to prove Jesus is superior to the angels. When Jesus needs "fire," He speaks; and the angels are presented as "fire" and lightning. If He needs "winds," He speaks; and the angels become "wind." As seen in this verse, the angels are merely servants of Jesus; like the physical forces of nature, they are dependent upon Jesus. In contrast to these qualities are those ascribed to Jesus, as the Son.

Verse 8

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

These words are from Psalms 45:6-7 where the psalmist writes:

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

These words were part of a marriage song; however, apparently it was originally intended as a picture of our future Deliverer, Jesus Christ, and His marriage to the church.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: The words "But unto" are better "rendered, not ’unto’ the Son, but ’respecting’ " the Son (Bloomfield 470). Thy "throne" (thronos) refers to "the divine power belonging to Christ" (Thayer 292) and indicates that Jesus is not only the Son of God but is "God," is recognized as a King, and thus has all power and authority. Jesus personally speaks to His apostles of His throne, saying:

Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).

The Apostle John is told to write:

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne…And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them (Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:11).

Matthew later records:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats (25:31-32).

Jesus’ "throne," that is, His power, His authority, is "for ever and ever" (aion), which is literally translated "unto the aeon of the aeon" (Vincent 390). This expression means His power is not limited by space or time, "but can only mean ’eternal’ " (Wuest 37). In other words, Jesus has an eternal throne, an eternal kingdom.

a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom: Jesus’ "scepter" (rabdizo), that is, His "royal scepter" (Thayer 560), is used here figuratively to refer to His authority and shows the characteristic of His Kingdom. Jesus, as a King, has a scepter of "righteousness" (euthutes), emphasizing that His authority is based on righteousness or "rectitude" and "uprightness" (Thayer 259).

Paul says Jesus’ righteous authority is "the scepter of thy kingdom," meaning His kingdom is ruled with a righteous scepter; therefore, He is a divine King with an eternal throne and rules in perfect righteousness.

Verse 9

Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Because Jesus loves righteousness and hates iniquity, God the Father anoints Him. Johnson says, "He is the Anointed, and above all other anointed kings, priests and prophets" (299). Dods says:

The anointing as King is here said to have been the result of his manifestation of qualities fitting him to rule as God’s representative, namely, love of right and hatred of iniquity.

…It is the Messiah’s love of righteousness as manifested in His earthly life which entitles Him to sovereignty (256).

Thou hast loved righteousness: The words "hast loved" (agapao) "denotes to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it" (Thayer 4); therefore, Paul’s message is that Jesus is unwilling to abandon "righteousness" (dikaiosune) or, as Thayer defines, Jesus is unwilling to abandon "integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness, correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting" (149).

and hated iniquity: As much as Jesus loves righteousness, He "hated" (miseo) or "detests" (Thayer 415) "iniquity" (anomia), that is, He detests "contempt and violation of law" (Thayer 48).

therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness: The word "anointed" (chrio) refers to "consecrating Jesus to the Messianic office, and furnishing him with powers necessary for its administration" (Thayer 673). In other words, God, the Father, anoints His Son, Jesus, in the Messianic office and gives Him all power.

The word "anointed" (chrio), according to Kenneth S. Wuest, means:

…is never used…in connection with oil, but uniformly of the anointing with the Holy Spirit, although in the secular documents it had the same meaning as aleiphoHebrews 1:9 presents a seeming deviation of the rule that chrio is never used in the New Testament in connection with the anointing with oil. We have "God hath anointed thee (the Lord Jesus) with the oil of gladness," and chrio is used. How true the inspired writer was to the genius of the two words as they are used in the New Testament, for the word "oil" here does not refer to literal oil, but is symbolic of the Holy Spirit (124).

Wuest further says:

There are two Greek words (aleipho and chrio), both meaning "to anoint," and as used in the New Testament, referring to different kinds of anointing, and for different purposes. These are translated by the one English word "anoint." In order to arrive at a full-orbed accurate interpretation of the passages in which the word "anoint" occurs, it is necessary to know what Greek word lies back of the English translation (122).

God anoints Jesus with the figurative oil of "gladness"

(agalliasis), "exultation" and "extreme joy" (Thayer 3).

above thy fellows: The word "fellows" (metochos) literally means "partner (in a work, office, or dignity)" (Thayer 407). There are different views regarding who these "fellows" are. Some believe the "fellows" refer to angels; however, angels are never partners of Christ; they are always servants. Others believe "fellows" may refer to all men and has reference to men as being partakers of His flesh and blood; that is, as man, Jesus also is human. A third view, which seems more likely, is that the "fellows" refers to Christians. Christians are sharers of Jesus as being children of God (sons and daughters of God). Jesus was the firstborn, but there are many other sons. In chapter two, Paul says:

For it became him, for who are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee (2:10-12).

Verse 10

And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

These words, along with verses 11 and 12, are a quotation found in Psalms 102:25-27 where the psalmist writes:

Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Johnson says, "A part of the preceding part of the Psalm speaks of the Messiah’s Kingdom, and hence these verses may well apply to the Messiah, especially as they harmonize with what we are told elsewhere of his glory" (299).

Another reference to the Lord’s work in creation and His superiority over the angels is in a Psalm of David:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (8:3-9).

And, Thou, Lord: The word "And" introduces a new quotation describing the majesty of the Son, by calling him "Lord."

in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth: Jesus’ superiority to the prophets is clearly seen in the fact that in the "beginning" (arche) He was the Creator of the universe—He is the "origin…the beginning of all things" (Thayer 76). John writes:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3).

and the heavens are the works of thine hands: The term "heavens" (ouranos) refers to "the vaulted expanse of the sky with all the things visible in it" (Thayer 464). The "heavens" are the "works" of the hands of Jesus. The term "works" (ergon) means "any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, mind." Simply put, the heavens are created by the "hands," that is, the power of Jesus. The word "hands" (cheir) here is figurative "symbolizing his might, activity, power; conspicuous…in creating the universe" (Thayer 668).

They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; The word "They" specifically and contextually refers to the heavens and the earth. The earth and the heavens, just as all other things created by God, will pass away. Alford compares the earth and heavens to a garment that is put away. He says, "As a mantle is folded up to be put away, when a fresh one is about to be put on" (Dean Alford’s Greek Testament 526).

They shall perish: The heavens and the earth will "perish" (apollumi), meaning "to be blotted out (or) to vanish away" (Thayer 64); however, as stated in the next verse, the heavens will be changed and folded as a garment. Paul’s prophecy of the future destruction of the present order of things indicates everything created will be changed in some way, but not necessarily destroyed in the same way.

but thou remainest: The word "remainest" (diameno) means "to stay permanently, remain permanently, continue" (Thayer 140). As Jesus existed before nature and was its author, so also He will "continue" to exist after the universe in its present form has come to an end. Even though Jesus’ creation of the heavens and the earth will perish, He is unchangeable; He will never leave us; He is permanently with us. Bloomfield, speaking of Jesus, says He "is unconnected with time, who was, is, and is to be; who ’is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever’ " (471).

and they all shall wax old as doth a garment: The words "shall wax old" (palaioo) are defined as "to become old, to be worn out…by time and use" (Thayer 474). Paul emphasizes that as a worn out garment is considered "old" the heavens and the earth will eventually be "old" and of no value.

Verse 12

And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

As magnificent as the earth and heavens are, they all will be treated as an old garment and folded and put away; however, Jesus and His kingdom will always remain the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up: The word "vesture" (peribolaion) is "a wrapper" (Thayer 502) and refers to a loose enveloping garment. The suggestion to "fold them up" according to Humphry indicates "the careful putting away, than the casting off of a thing that is done with. The Hebrew word in the Psalm signifies ’change’ " (406). The "them" in this phrase refers to the "heavens" in verse 10. The earth will be destroyed; however, Jesus will carefully put the heavens away.

and they shall be changed: The "heavens" will not be destroyed or annihilated; however, the heavens will be "changed" (allays) or "transformed" (Thayer 28).

but thou art the same: While the heavens and the earth will be changed, Jesus will be unchanged.

and thy years shall not fail: Jesus’ years will never "fail" (ekleipo), that is, His years will never "cease" or "stop" (Thayer 197). This phrase reemphasizes the same fact as the preceding phrase: with Jesus, there is no change. Bloomfield says Paul’s message of Jesus is that it "contains the idea of absolute unchangeableness, and both ascribing to the Messiah the Divine attribute of immutability" (471).

Verse 13

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

Paul’s quote here comes from Psalms 110:1. In verses 13 and 14, Paul presents the final contrast between the place of Jesus, as the Son, and that of the angels in the human redemptive history. With these words, Paul is showing that Jesus not only has a better title than the angels but also a higher station and function.

But to which of the angels said he at any time: By the word "But," Paul continues his contrast between Jesus and the angels begun in verse 8; therefore, he says: "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever… But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?"

Sit on my right hand: No angel is told by God to sit on His right hand. This honor is given only to Jesus, the Son.

until I make thine enemies thy footstool: The word "footstool" (upopodion) means "to subject, reduce under one’s power" (Thayer 644). The phrase "make thine enemies thy footstool" is an expression of soldiers in reference to the custom of putting the feet on the necks of conquered enemies as a way to subdue them. Joshua writes:

And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them (10:24-25).

Peter refers to enemies as a "footstool" when he says, "For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool" (Acts 2:34-35). This same idea is presented by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians about the enemy called death:

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

Paul’s point in referring to Jesus’ enemies being His footstool is to show His complete supremacy. Dods says:

The horizon of human history is the perfected rule of Jesus Christ. It is the end for which all things are now making. Whereas the angels are but the agents whose instrumentality is used by God for the furtherance of this end…They have no function of rule, but are directed by a higher will to promote the interests of those who are to form Christ’s kingdom (257).

Verse 14

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Johnson says:

The work of angels can be learned in the Scriptures from the missions in which they are engaged. It is to aid in carrying out the plans of God for the government and salvation of our race. Under the rule of Christ they are his ministers to aid in the work of redeeming man (300).

Examples of the works of the angels can be found in Acts 5:19; Acts 10:1-8; Acts 12:23.

Are they not all ministering spirits: The word "ministering" (leitourgikos) means "relating to the performance of service" (Thayer 376). The "spirits" refer to angels; therefore, Paul is emphasizing that angels were created by God to work out His plan of salvation. It is important to notice that Paul says, "Are they not all" ministering spirits; that is, every angel without exception was created to be a servant of God.

sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation: Angels are not merely spirits who minister to and serve God and Christ but also they serve those "who shall be heirs of salvation," that is, the saved—those who go to heaven. Paul’s stated fact that the angels are "sent forth" to minister "is used by way of showing that they have no self-derived dignity, but are only sent forth, with delegated authority, which is the constant doctrine of the Old Test., and the Jewish writings in general" (Bloomfield 472).

The conclusion of chapter one is that Jesus Christ is superior to the prophets and to the angels. Fudge writes:

Christ is Prophet of prophets – God has spoken in Him for these last days. He is Priest of priests – by Himself he made atonement for sins. He is King of kings – seated at God’s right hand, reigning over a kingdom of righteousness. Old Testament Scripture shows Him to be God’s divine Son, David’s prophetic descendant, and worthy of worship. Whereas angels are messengers, Christ is eternally Lord and divine King. As everlasting Creator of all things, he is also now victorious Vicegerent at God’s right hand. The voice from heaven at Christ’s transfiguration aptly sums up our author’s argument in the first chapter: "Hear ye Him!" (24).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/hebrews-1.html. 1993-2022.
 
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