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I. THE CULMINATING REVELATION OF GOD CHS. 1-2
This writer customarily began with a brief statement that presented the theme of each major section of his discourse. The first such statement appears in Hebrews 1:1-4 and introduces the theme of the culminating revelation of God, which continues through Hebrews 2:18.
"The final disclosure of God’s mind and purpose has been made in his Son, who is far superior to the angels; beware then of taking it casually and carelessly (11-24)." [Note: Moffatt, p. 1.]
"It is significant that the subject of the first verb is ’God,’ for God is constantly before the author; he uses the word sixty-eight times, an average of about once every seventy-three words all through his epistle. Few NT books speak of God so often." [Note: Leon Morris, "Hebrews," in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 12.]
God gave many revelations of Himself to Old Testament believers, "fathers" being a shorthand way of referring to them (cf. Hebrews 1:2). Ellingworth suggested that the writer may have referred to them as "the" fathers rather than as "our" fathers because some of his readers were Gentiles. [Note: Ellingworth, p. 92.] Another possibility is that "the" gives more honor than "our." God gave these revelations in many periods of history. He did this by various means and in various ways ("in many portions and in many ways"). Another rendering of this phrase is "different modes . . . and . . . different occasions." [Note: Guthrie, p. 62.] For example, His means included visions, dreams, and face-to-face communication (cf. Numbers 12:6-8). His ways included supernatural interventions into history as well as natural phenomena such as storms, plagues, and other historical events. They also included people, namely, the prophets, through whom He spoke (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). The writer probably used the Greek words polymeros ("portions") and polytropos ("ways") partially for their alliterative value. Moffatt captured this alliteration in English by translating the first part of Hebrews 1:1: "Many were the forms and fashions in which God spoke . . ." [Note: Moffatt, p. 2.]
God’s most recent revelation had come through His own Son. [Note: See Nathan D. Holsteen, "The Trinity in the Book of Hebrews," Bibliotheca Sacra 168:671 (July-September 2011):334-46.] The writer was not denying divine revelation to the apostles. He was stressing the culminating character of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ compared with what He had given the Old Testament prophets. His statement establishes the fact of progressive revelation and strongly suggests the cessation of revelation in the apostolic age. [Note: See F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 3.] God’s final revelation through His Son came first as Jesus conducted His earthly ministry, but it continued after Jesus ascended to heaven and gave further revelation through the apostles (cf. Acts 1:1-2). Man has not taken the initiative to discover God, but God has taken the initiative to reveal Himself to man.
The translators have supplied the word "His" (Hebrews 1:2 a). Its absence in the Greek text (along with the absence of the definite article "the") stresses the character of "Son" as a vehicle of revelation. [Note: See C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, p. 114.] God’s own Son is a superior revelation compared to "the prophets" (Hebrews 1:1). There are seven references to Jesus Christ as the Son in Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 10:29) plus others in some of the Old Testament passages the writer quoted. [Note: See Mikael C. Parsons, "Son and High Priest: A Study in the Christology of Hebrews," Evangelical Quarterly 60:3 (July 1988):192-215.]
A. The Agent of God’s Final Revelation 1:1-4
The writer began his epistle with an affirmation of Jesus Christ’s greatness to introduce his readers to his subject. This section is one sentence in the Greek text. It contrasts God’s old revelation with the new, specifically by presenting God’s Son as superior to all other previous modes of revelation.
"It would be misleading to think of Hebrews 1:1-4 as stating a thesis to be proved, or as giving a précis of the following argument. The author proceeds rather by an interweaving of themes, as in musical composition." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 90.]
"The literary structure of the exordium [Hebrews 1:1-4] exhibits a concentric symmetry (A [Hebrews 1:1-2 a] B [Hebrews 1:2 b] C [Hebrews 1:2 c] C’ [Hebrews 1:3 a-b] B’ [Hebrews 1:3 c] A’ [Hebrews 1:4]): the conceptual correspondence of Hebrews 1:1; Hebrews 1:4 serves to frame the several statements concerning the Son in Hebrews 1:2-3 . . ."
"The core of the exordium (B C C’ B’) describes Jesus in an arresting way as the royal Son, divine Wisdom, and the royal Priest." [Note: Lane, pp. 6, 7. Cf. pp. cxxxix-cxl.]
Seven facts in these verses stress the Son’s unique greatness and the culminating character of His revelation. For the writer’s original Jewish readers the number seven connoted a complete work of God, as in the Creation.
First, He is the "heir of all things." All things will fall under His authority. While Jesus Christ is presently in authority over all things, in the future God the Father will subject all things to Him in a more direct sense than the one in which they are now subject to Him (cf. Philippians 2:9-11). The writer introduced the concept of inheritance here and proceeded to develop it in this epistle (cf. Psalms 2:8; Hebrews 2:5-9). The believer’s inheritance is a major theme in Hebrews.
Second, the Son "made the world" (Gr. aiones, lit. "ages," i.e., the whole created universe of time and space). The Son was God’s agent in creation (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He created both matter and history; both ideas are in view here. [Note: Bruce, p. 4.] However the emphasis is on the various dispensations through which the world has passed, is passing, and will pass. [Note: W. H. Griffith Thomas, Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary, p. 22.] Jesus Christ is not a created being, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others claim. He is the Creator of all.
Third, the Son is "the radiance of His [God’s] glory." The Greek word apaugasma, translated "radiance," refers to what shines out from the source of light. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in a veiled way during His incarnation. Peter, James, and John saw that radiance revealed more directly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).
Fourth, the Son is "the exact representation of His [God’s] nature." The Greek word charakter, translated "representation," occurs only here in the New Testament. Greek writers used it to describe the emperor’s picture on Roman coins and the clear-cut impression made by a seal (a facsimile). It did not express a general likeness but an exact duplication of the original. Jesus Christ let humankind know exactly what the nature of God, whom no one has seen, is like during His earthly ministry (cf. John 14:9).
Fifth, the Son "upholds all things by the word of His power" (i.e., His mighty, enabling word). The idea is not so much that Jesus upholds the universe as a dead weight, similar to Atlas shouldering the world. Rather He carries all things forward (Gr. pheron) on their appointed course (Colossians 1:17). Jesus Christ’s word has tremendous power and authority. It is the greatest force in the universe (cf. Genesis 1:3; et al.).
Sixth, the Son "made purification of sins" as no one else could. He did so by His self-sacrifice on the Cross and by His work as the ultimate priest. The Greek word katharismos, translated "purification," means both removal and cleansing (cf. Mark 1:44; 2 Peter 1:9). "Sin" (hamartia) is a very common word in Hebrews occurring 25 times. The only other New Testament book in which it appears more frequently is Romans, where Paul used it 48 times.
"Hebrews views sins and their remedy in cultic [formal Israelite worship] terms. The purification of sins by Christ’s sacrifice is related, on the one hand, to the establishment of a new order of relationships between God and mankind, and on the other hand to obedience (Hebrews 10:1-18, especially Hebrews 1:8-10) and moral effort (Hebrews 12:1-4). Apart from passing references to adultery and the love of money (Hebrews 13:4 f.), Hebrews says little about individual sins, and contains no list of vices comparable to Romans 1:29-31; Galatians 5:19-21; or 1 Peter 4:3. The fundamental sin for Hebrews is that of unfaithfulness to God, which may superficially appear as neglect or lassitude (amelesantes, Hebrews 2:3; or nothroi, Hebrews 5:11), but which in essence is rebellion against God’s will, and more specifically apostasy (Hebrews 2:1-4; Hebrews 3:7-19; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31)." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 102.]
Seventh, the Son "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" when He returned to heaven after His ascension. He took the choice place of honor and authority in relation to God the Father (cf. Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:9; Luke 22:69). Here the writer introduced his key text, Psalms 110, which he proceeded to expound in the chapters to follow.
The writer referred to the place where Jesus now sits ruling as the Father’s right hand in heaven. This is not the same as the Davidic throne, which will be on earth in the future (Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14; et al.). Jesus will begin His rule over Israel on earth as the Davidic Messiah after He returns to the earth at His second advent (Revelation 20:1-6). Presently He rules over the church and the angelic host in heaven (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:10). [Note: See Cleon L. Rogers Jr., "The Davidic Covenant in Acts-Revelation," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):81-82.]
"The concept of enthronement at God’s right hand would convey to contemporaries an impression of the Son’s royal power and unparalleled glory." [Note: Lane, p. 16.]
Each one of these seven actions points to the full deity of Jesus Christ. The original Jewish audience, faced with temptation to abandon discipleship of Jesus for return to Judaism, received a strong reminder of His deity at the very outset of this epistle. The writer also presented Him as Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King in these verses. He would say much more about Jesus as Priest-King in the following chapters.
These seven facts also reveal clearly the Son’s superiority to any other of God’s messengers, even the angels. This superiority is clear too in the fact that His name is Son (singular) rather than sons (collectively). The Old Testament writers called angels "sons of God" (e.g., Job 2:1; Job 38:7). Jesus Christ "inherited" the name "Son" before creation (Hebrews 1:2; cf. Hebrews 5:8). Within the Trinity, God the Son carried out the will of God the Father in a way that corresponds to the way in which sons in biblical culture carried out the wills of their fathers. In another sense, Jesus became God’s Son at His ascension by taking His seat at the Father’s right hand with a view to returning to the earth and ruling over it (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalms 2:7).
This is the first of the writer’s 13 uses of the word "better" (Gr. kreitton) all of which contrast Jesus Christ and His order with what preceded Him in Judaism (Hebrews 6:9; Hebrews 7:7; Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6 [twice]; Hebrews 9:23; Hebrews 10:34; Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 11:35; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:24). This word appears only six times elsewhere in the New Testament. The writer used many comparatives (e.g., "more excellent," "lesser," "better," "more," "greater," et al.) to support his argument that the new Christian order is superior to the old Jewish order. This is also a "signpost passage" in which a brief statement (in this case "much better than the angels") identifies a main subject the writer proceeded to develop later (cf. Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 5:9-10; Hebrews 10:36-39; Hebrews 12:11?). [Note: See David J. MacLeod, "The Literary Structure of the Book of Hebrews," Bibliotheca Sacra 146:582 (April-June 1989):187.] "Angel" (Gr. angelos) is another of this writer’s favorite words. It appears 13 times in Hebrews.
"Opinions differ as to what is meant here by ’the name.’ Some take this to mean that in his whole character and personality Christ was superior to any angel. Others think the reference is simply to the name ’Son,’ which is a better name than ’angel’ because it denotes superiority in character and personality. Either interpretation is possible." [Note: Morris, p. 16.]
The writer introduced several concepts in the prologue that he developed more fully later. These include the distinctive quality of the Son’s revelation, the superiority of His sacrifice, His sovereignty, and His greatness compared with the angels. [Note: For another exposition of Hebrews 1:1-4, see David J. MacLeod, "The Finality of Christ: An Exposition of Hebrews 1:1-4," Bibliotheca Sacra 162:646 (April-June 2005):210-30.]
The differences in the beginning of this epistle compared with the beginnings of other New Testament epistles are striking. There is no introduction of the writer, no mention of the original readers, and no benediction, all of which were common features of letters in the first century. The writer obviously wanted his readers to give their full attention to the greatness of Jesus Christ. Some students of Hebrews have concluded that the writer did not identify himself or his readers because he wanted to make Jesus Christ primary in the readers’ thinking throughout this epistle. I think this is very likely.
"In Hebrews 1:1-4 the writer gave christological precision to a cluster of ideas derived from hellenistic Judaism. He boldly applied the categories of Wisdom to a historical figure, Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews was a creative theologian who brought together wisdom motifs and priestly motifs in a tightly formulated statement concerning the dignity and achievement of the Son of God. The opening paragraph establishes a firm christological foundation for all that the writer has to say concerning the character and demands of the revelation mediated by the Son. The joining together of wisdom and priestly notes in the carefully orchestrated presentation of the Son provides the readers with the assurance of Jesus’ sustained concern for them and his ability to strengthen and vindicate the people of God when they become objects of contempt in a hostile world." [Note: Lane, p. 19.]
The phrase "to which of the angels" opens and closes this section of the text (cf. Hebrews 1:13). This literary device (an inclusio) marks off a literary unit by using the same word or phrase at the beginning and at the end of a discussion (cf. Hebrews 2:5-16; Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 5:1-10; Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 7:1-10; Hebrews 12:14 to Hebrews 13:20).
David prophetically referred to Jesus Christ as God’s Son in Psalms 2:7, the verse the writer quoted first. [Note: See. Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms , 1:95-97.] The Old Testament writers referred to angels collectively as the "sons of God" (Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7), but they did not refer to any one of them as the Son of God. "Son of God" is a title that referred to the Davidic kings (2 Samuel 7:14) and specifically to Jesus Christ, God the Son (Mark 1:11; Luke 1:32). "Today" evidently refers to Jesus Christ’s entrance into heaven. This happened after His resurrection and at His ascension.
The eternal Son of God ". . . entered into the full exercise of all the prerogatives implied by His Sonship when, after His suffering had proved the completeness of His obedience, He was raised to the Father’s right hand." [Note: Bruce, p. 13. Cf. Hebrews 1:3.]
Another less probable view, I think, is that this day was the day of Jesus’ resurrection. [Note: Philip E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 54-55; Pentecost, p. 48.]
"The writer is clearly more concerned to demonstrate the significance of the begetting in terms of the Son’s status, rather than to tie it down to a specific occasion." [Note: Guthrie, p. 73.]
The second quotation, from 2 Samuel 7:14 or 1 Chronicles 17:13, like the first, ties in with the Davidic Covenant and advances the previous point. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, He is also the promised son of David (Luke 1:32-33; Luke 1:68-69; Romans 1:3). Even though Jesus Christ was always God’s eternal Son, He became the Son prophesied to rule over David’s house. He received permission to rule the whole earth after His ascension (cf. Psalms 2:8).
To summarize, the title "Son" refers to Jesus in three separate respects. He was always the pre-existent Son (Hebrews 1:3 a-b; cf. Hebrews 5:8), He became the incarnate Son at His birth (Hebrews 1:2 a), and He became the exalted Son when He returned to heaven. [Note: See Lane, pp. 25-26.]
Note the chiastic style of the quotations, which begin and end with references to the Son surrounding references to the Father. This has the effect of stressing the Father but uniting the Son closely with Him.
B. The Superiority of God’s SON 1:5-14
The writer proceeded to explain the exaltation of Jesus Christ to help his readers appreciate the fact that He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy concerning the Son of David. He did this so they would appreciate Him properly and not overemphasize the importance of angels. Angels were very important in Judaism primarily because multitudes of them assisted God in giving the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). They also appeared occasionally to make very important announcements (e.g., Genesis 16:9; Genesis 31:11; Exodus 3:2; et al.).
"The internal structure of the first major segment of the address (Hebrews 1:5 to Hebrews 2:18) exhibits the writer’s customary style of alternating between two types of literary genre, exposition and exhortation. The chain of OT passages demonstrating the superiority of the Son to angels (Hebrews 1:5-13) is expository in character and lays the foundation for the solemn appeal in Hebrews 2:1-4." [Note: Ibid., p. 22.]
The "hook-word" that connects these two sections of the epistle (Hebrews 1:1-4 and Hebrews 1:5-14) is "angels." Lane provided the following helpful comparisons. [Note: Ibid.]
|Parallels between Hebrews 1:1-4 and Hebrews 1:5-13|
|Hebrews 1:1-4||Hebrews 1:5-13|
|A Appointment as royal heir (Hebrews 1:2 b)||A’ Appointment as royal Son and heir (Hebrews 1:5-9)|
|B Mediator of the creation (Hebrews 1:2 c)||B’ Mediator of the creation (Hebrews 1:10)|
|C Eternal nature and pre-existent glory (Hebrews 1:3 a-b)||C’ Unchanging, eternal nature (Hebrews 1:11-12)|
|D Exaltation to God’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3 c)||D’ Exaltation to God’s right hand (Hebrews 1:13)|
"Christology is the central focus in all the theology of Hebrews, and two titles of Christ are central to its Christology: Son of God and High Priest. Around these two focal points all the major ideas in Hebrews concerning Christ’s person and work can be located. Christ as High Priest is actually the more distinctive and important idea in the theology of the book, but Christ as Son of God is foundational." [Note: Buist M. Fanning, "A Theology of Hebrews," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p. 370.]
Bibliology (specifically the writer’s uses of the Old Testament), eschatology, and soteriology (specifically progressive sanctification and perseverance) are also major theological emphases in Hebrews. [Note: Trotter, pp. 185-222.]
The writer cited seven Old Testament passages to prove Jesus’ superiority over the angels (Hebrews 1:4). As mentioned previously, the number seven was especially significant to the Jews as representing the completeness of something (e.g., the work of creation, etc.). Probably the writer used seven facts in Hebrews 1:2-3 and seven passages in Hebrews 1:5-13 to impress completeness strongly on his original readers.
"The author has an unusual method of citation; he almost always neglects the human author of his OT quotations (exceptions are Hebrews 4:7; Hebrews 9:19-20), though throughout the rest of the NT the human author is often noted. Instead, without actually saying ’God says,’ he normally ascribes the passage he quotes to God, except, of course, where God is addressed, as in Hebrews 2:6. Twice he attributes words in the OT to Christ (Hebrews 2:11-12; Hebrews 10:5 ff.) and twice to the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 10:15). No other NT writer shares this way of quoting the OT. . . . The effect is to emphasize the divine authorship of the whole OT." [Note: Morris, p. 7.]
"Unlike Paul, who shows a preference for the introductory formula kathos gegraptai ["as it is written"], the writer of Hebrews never introduces a quotation from the OT with a form of the verb graphein, ’to write.’ His preference is for the verb legein, ’to say,’ especially in the form of the present participle legon, ’saying.’ The text of the OT is presented dynamically. The writer is persuaded that God continues to speak today in the biblical passages that are cited. . . ." [Note: Lane, p. cxvii. See also his discussion of the writer’s use of the Old Testament, pp. cxii-cxxiv.]
The writer’s contrast of Jesus Christ’s authority and name with that of the angels suggests that his original readers may have regarded the angels too highly. This was true of certain first-century sects within Judaism, one of which was the Essene community that lived at Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls have revealed that this group had a highly developed angelology and regarded angels with more veneration than they should have. Nevertheless all the Jews regarded angels highly because God had given the Mosaic Law and other special information to them through angelic mediation (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). [Note: See ibid., p. liv.]
What the writer said about angelic mediators applies to those who claim to mediate knowledge concerning God and the after-life to humankind. Such self-proclaimed mediators today include leaders of some cults, some New Age proponents, Shirley MacLaine, and other advocates of reincarnation. Finding one’s spiritual "guide" and "channeling" to the unseen world through that being is popular in some circles. This also applies to people who claim to reveal how human beings can find God and secure His acceptance while denying biblical revelation on these subjects.
We can see the superiority of the Son also in the third quotation from Deuteronomy 32:43 (in the Septuagint) in that the angels worship Him as Yahweh. "Again" may go with "brings" implying Jesus Christ’s second advent. [Note: Westcott, p. 22.] On the other hand, it may go with "says" implying the first advent. [Note: Bruce, p. 15.] In this case it would simply separate this quotation from the former one. The word order in the Greek text favors the first option, but the sense of the context favors the second. Many translators and interpreters connect "again" with "says." [Note: See Hughes, p. 58.] The point is that the angels worship the Son. The angels worshiped Jesus at His first advent (Luke 2:13-14), and they will undoubtedly worship Him at His second advent.
The title "first-born" reflects the sovereignty, uniqueness, and superiority of Messiah (Psalms 89:27). It does not always mean born first chronologically. Solomon exercised the sovereignty of the Davidic house as Israel’s king even though he was the tenth son of David chronologically (1 Chronicles 3:1-5). The title describes rank and honor here. The first-born received special blessings (inheritance) from his father.
"The context requires that oikoumene ["world"] be understood as the heavenly world of eschatological salvation into which the Son entered at his ascension [cf. Hebrews 2:5] . . ." [Note: Lane, p. 27.]
Instead of being sovereign, the angels are servants. The fourth quotation is from Psalms 104:4. By describing the angels as "winds" the psalmist was drawing attention to their spirit nature, invisibility, power, and role as servants of a higher Power. As flames of fire they are God’s agents of judgment and illumination. Wind and fire were also symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. They were appropriate designations of both the Holy Spirit and angels because both served the Father in similar ways as His servants. Even though the angels are as swift as wind and as powerful as fire, they are inferior to the Son.
By contrast, the Son’s ministry is to rule, not to serve as angels do. His throne is eternal, not ending, and immutable, not changing. This fifth quotation, from Psalms 45:6-7, describes the final triumph of David’s Son, the Messiah, who is also God. The Son is superior to angels also because He is God.
"This and the following quotation (Hebrews 1:10-12) are used to show that the Son is addressed in scripture both as God and as Lord. . . . The point of Hebrews 1:8 b, for the author of Hebrews, seems to be that the Son exercises royal power, whereas the angels are mere leitourgoi (["ministers"] Hebrews 1:7)." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 122.]
"Jesus’ deity is more powerfully asserted in Hebrews than in any other New testament writing, with the exception of the Gospel of John." [Note: Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, p. 305.]
The prophets predicted that Messiah would be righteous. Jesus Christ demonstrated this quality during His earthly ministry (cf. John 8:46). The anointing to which the writer referred probably took place after His ascension. Messiah is God, yet God (the Father) anointed Him.
"The anointing of the Son is not to be thought of in connection with coronation rites, but as symbolizing the joy of festival occasions, when the practice of anointing was followed." [Note: Guthrie, p. 77.]
The "companions" probably include all other righteous beings, angelic and human, including faithful Christians (cf. Hebrews 2:10-11; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 12:8). Part of the quotation in this verse does not argue the superiority of Christ over the angels. The writer probably included it because it makes a statement he developed later in this epistle. The term "companions" describes those who have intimate, not just superficial, association with Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 5:7). [Note: See John Soden, "The Use of Psalms 45:7-8 (6-7) in Hebrews 1:8-9," Exegesis and Exposition 2:1 (Summer 1987):51-70.] The NASB translators rendered the Greek word, metochos, "partakers" everywhere else it occurs in Hebrews (i.e., Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 12:8).
Psalms 102:25-27, the sixth quotation, also referred to Messiah. The Son is Creator (cf. Hebrews 1:2). This verse looks back to the past. "Lord" is master (Gr. kurie) and refers to God in the passage the writer quoted.
This quotation is important to the writer’s argument also because it reveals the immutability of the Son. After God burns up the present earth and heavens, He will create new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10-12; Revelation 21-22). Many people in the Greco-Roman world believed that the world and the universe were indestructible. [Note: J. Héring, L’Epître aux Hébreax, p. 8, cited by Guthrie, p. 78.] Even though the earth as we know it will end, the Son’s rule will continue eternally and with it His joy. The millennial kingdom will only be the first phase of Messiah’s endless earthly rule.
Note that the quotations tied together with "and" begin and end with the Son’s eternal nature (Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 1:12).
"The attribute of permanence in the Creator corresponds to the durability of his throne and serves to reinforce the contrast between the mutability of the angels and the stable, abiding character of the Son." [Note: Lane, p. 30.]
The seventh and last quotation in this series is from Psalms 110:1. Angels stand and serve, but the Son sits and rules (cf. Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; Matthew 22:43-44; Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33-34; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; 1 Peter 3:22). The vindication predicted here will take place when Jesus Christ returns at His second advent and at the various judgments of God’s enemies that will follow that return (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15; et al.). Jesus Christ’s present rule on His Father’s throne over the church is not the same as His rule on David’s throne over David’s earthly kingdom (cf. Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2). [Note: See Rogers, pp. 81-82.] Eventually every knee shall bow to Him (Philippians 2:10-11).
One writer identified a chiasm in the quotations in Hebrews 1:3-13.
"A The Son’s status as royal King (Psalms 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14) (Hebrews 1:5)
B The Son’s status as Divine Wisdom (Deuteronomy 32:43: Psalms 104:4) (Hebrews 1:6-7)
C The Son’s status as royal King and Divine Wisdom (Psalms 45:6-7) (Hebrews 1:8-9)
B’ The Son’s status as Divine Wisdom (Psalms 102:26-28) (Hebrews 1:10-12)
A’ The Son’s status as royal King (Psalms 110:1) (Hebrews 1:13)" [Note: Herbert W. Bateman, IV, "Two First-Century Messianic Uses of the OT: Hebrews 1:5-13 and 4QFlor 1.1-19," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 38:1 (March 1995):26.]
God revealed a primary purpose and ministry of the angels in this verse. It is to assist human beings in reaching their final deliverance over their spiritual enemies. This includes bringing us to conversion. However, it also involves protecting and strengthening us so that we may one day obtain our full inheritance with Christ in glory. This ministry of service is obviously inferior to Jesus Christ’s ministry of ruling.
Was the writer speaking of all Christians or only of faithful Christians when He wrote of "those who will inherit salvation?" The word "salvation" (Gr. soteria) occurs seven times in Hebrews, more than in any other book of the New Testament. [Note: For a study of salvation in Hebrews, see Brenda B. Colijn, "’Let Us Approach’: Soteriology in the Epistle to the Hebrews," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:4 (December 1996):571-86.] In some of his other uses of "inheritance" and "inherit" he referred to all Christians as inheriting from God (e.g., Hebrews 9:15; cf. Hebrews 11:8). At other times he apparently meant only faithful Christians (e.g., Hebrews 6:12; cf. Hebrews 11:17). I think he was probably speaking of all Christians here in view of what he just said about the ministry of angels. There is no other Scripture that limits the angels’ ministry to faithful Christians or indicates that angels have a special ministry to faithful Christians (cf. Matthew 18:10).
"’Inherit’ is often used in the NT in senses other than the strict one of obtaining something by a will. It can mean ’obtain possession of’ without regard to the means. It is used of possessing the earth (Matthew 5:5), the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), eternal life (Mark 10:17), the promises (Hebrews 6:12), incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:50), blessing (Hebrews 12:17), a more excellent name (Hebrews 1:4, . . .)." [Note: Morris, p. 20.]
This writer spoke of the inheritance of Christians as the Old Testament writers spoke of the inheritance of the Israelites. Our inheritance refers to all that God wants to give His people. We will inevitably receive some of that (cf. 1 Per. Hebrews 1:3-9). However, we can forfeit part of our inheritance through unfaithfulness, as Esau did (Hebrews 12:16) and as the generation of Israelites who died in the wilderness did (Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:11). [Note: See the Appendix, at the end of these notes, for a chart that clarifies what all believers will inherit and what faithful believers will additionally inherit.]
"In contrast with the first part of this verse, the last three words ["will inherit salvation"] are all major concepts in Hebrews." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 133.]
Thus this section closes with a positive encouragement for the readers. The writer’s array of Old Testament quotations in this pericope presents one of the most glorious Christologies in Scripture. He placed emphasis on Jesus’ future reign as God’s King who is also David’s Son. In summary, the Son is superior to the angels in seven respects.
1. He is the Son of God (Hebrews 1:5 a).
2. He is the promised son of David (Hebrews 1:5 b).
3. He is the sovereign whom angels worship as Yahweh (Hebrews 1:6).
4. His ministry is not that of a temporary servant like the angels (Hebrews 1:7).
5. His ministry is that of the eternal ruler (Hebrews 1:8-9).
6. He is the immutable creator (Hebrews 1:10-12).
7. He is the sovereign who will rule as victor over all His enemies (Hebrews 1:13).
"The writer of Hebrews uses seven eschatological passages in Hebrews 1:5-14 to demonstrate Jesus’ right to rule in the coming millennial kingdom. Because of this extensive quoting from six psalms and 2 Samuel 7, the term soteria (’salvation’) in Hebrews 1:14 is best understood in the Old Testament sense as deliverance from the enemies of Yahweh and participation in His kingdom." [Note: T. Kem Oberholtzer, "The Warning Passages in Hebrews," Bibliotheca Sacra 145:577 (January-March 1988):96-97.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent