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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 1

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Verses 1-14


Hebrews 1:1-4

EXORDIUM intimating in a succession of choice and pregnant phrases, the drift of the Epistle; a condensed summary of the coming argument. It briefly anticipates the views to be set forth in the sequel, of the revelation of God in Christ excelling far, and being destined to supersede, all that had preceded it, as being the ultimate Divine manifestation in the SON, according to the full meaning of the term involved in ancient prophecy;—of the eternal Divinity of him who was thus revealed in time as SON—of his accomplishing, as such, the reality signified by the ancient priesthood; and of his exaltation, as such, to his predestined glory and dominion on high. We find in the introduction to some of St. Paul's Epistles somewhat similar adumbrations of his subject, but none so finished and rhetorical as this. And if its style affords an argument, as far as it goes, against the immediate Pauline authorship of the Epistle, still more does it appear almost conclusive against the view of its being a translation. Not merely the alliteration in πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως, but the Greek structure of the whole with its rhythmical flow, betokens an original composition. The rolling music of the language cannot, of course, be reproduced in an English translation.

Hebrews 1:1

Retaining the order of the words in the original, we may translate, In many portions, and in many modes of old God having spoken to the fathers in the prophets. Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως—not a mere alliterative redundancy, denoting variously:the writer's usual choice use of words forbids this supposition. Nor is the μερῶς of the first adverb to be taken (as in the A.V) to denote portions of time:—this is not the proper meaning of the compound. Nor (for the same reason) does it denote various degrees of prophetic inspiration, but (on etymological as well as logical grounds) the various portions of the preparatory revelation to "the fathers." It was not one utterance, but many utterances; given, in fact, at divers times, though it is to the diversity of the utterances, and not of the times, that the expression points. Then the second adverb denotes the various modes of the several former revelations—not necessarily or exclusively the rabbinical distinction between dream, vision, inspiration, voices, angels; or that between the visions and dreams of prophets and the "mouth to mouth" revelation to Moses, referred to in Numbers 12:6-9; but rather the various characters or forms of the various utterances in themselves. Some were in the way of primeval promises; some of glimpses into the Divine righteousness, as in the Law given from Mount Sinai; some of significant ritual, as in the same Law; some of typical history and typical persons, spoken of under inspiration as representing an unfulfilled ideal; some of the yearnings and aspirations, or distinct predictions, of psalmists and of prophets. But all these were but partial, fragmentary, anticipatory utterances, leading up to and adumbrating the 'one complete, all-absorbing "speaking of God to us in the SON," which is placed in contrast with there all. If the subsequent treatment in this Epistle of the Old Testament utterances is to be taken as a key for unlocking the meaning of the exordium, such ideas were in the writer's mind when he thus wrote. "Πολυμερῶς pertinet ad materiam, πολυτρόπως ad formam" (Bengel). Of old; i.e. in the ages comprised in the Old Testament record. Though it is true that; God has revealed himself variously since the world was made to other than the saints of the Old Testament, and though he ceased not to speak in some way to his people between the times of Malachi and of Christ, yet both the expression, "to the fathers," and the instances of Divine utterances given subsequently in the Epistle, restrict us in our interpretation to the Old Testament canon. Addressing Hebrews, it is from this that the writer argues. Having spoken; a word used elsewhere to express all the ways in which God has made himself, his will, and his counsels, known (cf. Matthew 10:20; Luke 1:45, Luke 1:70; John 9:29; Acts 3:21; Acts 7:6). To the fathers; the ancestors of the Jews in respect both of race and of faith; the saints of the Old Testament. The word had a well-understood meaning (cf. Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew 23:30; Luke 1:55, Luke 1:72; Luke 11:47; and especially Romans 9:5). For the double sense of the term "father," thus used, see John 8:56, "your father Abraham;" but again, John 8:39, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham;" and also Romans 4:1-25. and Galatians 3:7. But this distinction between physical and spiritual ancestry does not come in here. In the prophets. The word "prophet" must be taken here in a general sense; not confined to the prophets distinctively so called, as in Luke 24:44, "Moses, the prophets, and the psalms." For both Moses and the psalms are quoted in the sequel, to illustrate the ancient utterances. Προφήτης means, both in classical and Hellenistic Greek (as does the Hebrew איבִןָ, of which προφήτης is the equivalent), not a foreteller, but a forth teller of the mind of God, an inspired expounder (of. Διὸς προφήτης ἐστὶ Λοξίας πατρός, AEsch., 'Eum.,' 19; and Exodus 7:1, "See I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet"). Observe also the sense of προφητεία in St. Paul's Epistles (especially 1 Corinthians 14:1-40). In this sense Moses, David, and all through whom God in any way spoke to man, were prophets. On the exact force of the preposition ἐν, many views have been entertained. It does not mean "in the books of the prophets,"—the corresponding "in the SON" precludes this; nor that God by his Spirit spoke within the prophets,—this idea does not come in naturally here; nor is "the SON" presented afterwards as one in whom the Godhead dwelt, so much as being himself a manifestation of God; nor may we take ἐν, as simply a Hellenism for διὰ,—the writer does not use prepositions indiscriminately. Ἐν, (as Alford explains it) differs from διὰ as denoting the element in which this speaking takes place. This use of the preposition is found also in classical Greek; cf. σημαίνειν ἐν οἰωνοῖς, frequent in Xenophon; in the New Testament, of. Ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίωι ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια" (Matthew 9:34).

Hebrews 1:2

In these last days. The true reading being ἐπ ἐσχάτον τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων, not ἐπ ἐσχάτων, as in the Textus Receptus, translate, at the end of these days', The Received Text would, indeed, give the same meaning, the position of the article denoting' "the lustier these days," not "these last days." The reference appears to be to the common rabbinical division of time into αἰὼν οὖτος, and αἰὼν μέλλων, or ἐρχόμενος: the former denoting the pro-Messianic, the latter the Messianic period. Thus "these days" is equivalent to αἰὼν οὓτος, "the present age," and the whole expression to ἐπὶ συντέλειᾳ τῶν αἰώνων, "at the end of the ages" (infra, Hebrews 9:26); cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11," for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come." The term, αἰὼν μέλλων, is also used in this Epistle (6. 5); of. 1 Corinthians 2:5, τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν. For allusions elsewhere to the two periods, of. Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Luke 20:35; Ephesians 1:21; Titus 2:12. Cf. also in Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6, where, for "Everlasting Father," Cod. Alex. has πατὴρ τοῦ μελλόντος αἰῶνος. A subject of discussion has been the point of division between the two ages—whether the commencement of the Christian dispensation, ushered in by the exaltation of Christ, or his second advent. The conception in the Jewish mind, founded on Messianic prophecy, would, of course, be undefined. It would only be that the coming of the Messiah would inaugurate a new order of things. But how did the New Testament writers after Christ's ascension conceive the two ages? Did they regard themselves as living at the end of the former age or at the beginning of the new one? The passage before us does not help to settle the question, nor does Hebrews 9:26; for the reference in both cases is to the historical manifestation of Christ before his ascension. But others of the passages cited above seem certainly to imply that "the coming age" was regarded as still future. It has been said, indeed, with regard to this apparent inference from some of them, that the writers were regarding their own age from the old Jewish standing-point when they spoke of it as future, or only used well-known phrases to denote the two ages, though they were no longer strictly applicable (see Alford's note on Hebrews 2:5). But this explanation cannot well be made to apply to such passages as 1 Corinthians 10:11 and Ephesians 1:21, or to those in the Gospels. It would appear from them that it was not till the παρούσια (or, as it is designated in the pastoral Epistles, the ἐπιφάνεια) of Christ that "the coming age" of prophecy was regarded as destined to begin, ushering in "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). Still, though "that day" was in the future, the first coming of Christ had been, as it were, its dawn, signifying its approach and preparing believers for meeting it. "The darkness was passing away; the true light was already shining" (1 John 2:8). Hence the apostolic writers sometimes speak as if already in the "coming age;" as being already citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20); as already "made to sit with Christ in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:6); having already "tasted the powers of the age to come" (Hebrews 6:5). In a certain sense they felt themselves in the new order of things, though, strictly speaking, they still regarded their own age as but the end of the old one, irradiated by the light of the new. To understand fully their language on the subject, we should remember that they supposed the second advent to be more imminent than it was. St. Paul, at one time certainly, thought that it might be before his own death (2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). Thus they might naturally speak of their own time as the conclusion of the former age, though regarding the second advent as the commencement of the new one. But the prolongation of" the end of these (lays," unforeseen by them, does not affect the essence of their teaching on the subject. In the Divine counsels "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Hath spoken unto us (more properly, spake to us) in his Son. "His" is here properly supplied to give the meaning of ἐν υἱῷ. The rendering, a SON, which seems to have the advantage of literalism, would be misleading if it suggested the idea of one among many sons, or a son in the same sense in which others are sons. For though the designation, "son of God," is undoubtedly used in subordinate senses—applied e.g. to Adam, to angels, to good men, to Christians—yet what follows in the Epistle fixes its peculiar meaning here. The entire drift of the curlier part of the Epistle is to show that the idea involved in the word "Son," as applied to the Messiah in prophecy, is that of a relation to God far above that of the angels or of Moses, and altogether unique in its character. This idea must have been in the writer's mind when he selected the phrases of his exordium. Nor is the article required for the sense intended. Its omission, in fact, brings it out. Ἐν τῷ υἱῷ would have drawn especial attention to "the personage in whom God spake; ἐν υἱῷ does so rather to the mode of the speaking—it is equivalent to "in one who was SON." Son-revelation (as afterwards explained), is contrasted with previous prophetic revelations (cf. for omission of the article before υἱὸς, Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 7:28). Whom he appointed (or, constituted) heir of all things; not, as in the A.V., "hath appointed." The verb is in the aorist, and here the indefinite sense of the aorist should be preserved. "Convenienter statim sub Filii nomen memoratur haereditas" (Bengel). Two questions arise.

(1) Was it in respect of his eternal Divinity, or of his manifestation in time, that the Son was appointed "Heir of all things?"

(2) When is God to be conceived as so appointing him? i.e. What is the time, if any, to be assigned to the indefinite aorist?

In answer to question

(1) the second alternative is to be preferred. For

(a) his eternal pre-existence has not yet been touched upon: it is introduced, as it were parenthetically, in the next and following clauses.

(b) Though the term Son is legitimately used in theology to denote the eternal relation to the Father expressed by the Λόγος of St. John, yet its application in this Epistle and in the New Testament generally (excepting, perhaps, the μονογενὴς υἱὸς peculiar to St. John, on which see Bull, 'Jud. Eccl. Cath.,' Ecclesiastes 5:4, etc), is to the Word made flesh, to the Son as manifested in the Christ. And hence it is to him as such that we may conclude the heirship to be here assigned.

(c) This is the view carried out in the sequel of the Epistle, where the SON is represented as attaining the universal dominion assigned to him after, and in consequence of, his human obedience. The conclusion of the exordium in itself expresses this; for it is not till after he had made purification of sins that he is said to have "sat down," etc; i.e. entered on his inheritance; having become (γένομενος not ὢν) "so much better," etc. This is the view of Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Fathers generally (cf. the cognate passage, Philippians 2:9).

(2) It seems best to refer the aorist ἔθηκε, not to any definite time, as that of the prophetic utterances afterwards cited, or that of the actual exaltation of Christ, but indefinitely to the eternal counsels, which were indeed declared and fulfilled in time, but were themselves ἐνἀρχῇ. A similar use of the aorist, coupled with other aorists pointing to events in time, is found in Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30. What this heirship of all things implies will appear in the sequel, By whom also he made the worlds. Interposed clause to complete tits true conception of the SON; showing who and what he was originally and essentially through whom God "spake" in time, and who, as SON, inherited. Here certainly, and in the expressions which follow, we have the same doctrine as that of the Λόγος of St. John. And the testimony of the New Testament to the pre-existence and deity of Christ is the more striking from our finding the same essential idea under different forms of expression, and in writings differing so much from each other in character and style. He who appeared in the world as Christ is, in the first place, here said (as by St. John 1:3) to have been the Agent of creation; cf. Colossians 1:15-17, where the original creative agency of "the Son of his love" is emphatically set forth, as well as his being "the Head of the body, the Church." This cognate passage is of weight against the view of interpreters who would take the one before us as referring to the initiation of the gospel ages; with respect to which view see also the quotation from Bull given below under Colossians 1:3. Here τοὺς αἰῶνας is equivalent to "the worlds," as in the A.V. For though the primary meaning of αἰών has reference to time—limited in periods, or unlimited in eternity—it is used to denote also the whole system of things called into being by the Creator in time and through which alone we are able to conceive time. "Οἱ αἰῶνες, saecula, pro rerum creatarum universitate est Hebraismus" (Bull); of. Hebrews 11:3, καταρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι Θεοῦ: also 1 Corinthians 2:7, πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων: and 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2, πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων.

Hebrews 1:3

Who, being, etc. The participle ᾢν—not γενόμενος, as in Hebrews 1:4—denotes (as does still more forcibly ὐπάρχων in the cognate passage, Philippians 2:6) what the Son is in himself essentially and independently of his manifestation in time. This transcendent idea is conveyed by two metaphorical expressions, differing in the metaphors used, but concurrent in meaning. The brightness of his glory. The word δόξα (translated "glory"), though net in classical Greek carrying with it the idea of light, is used in the LXX. for the Hebrew דוֹבךָּ, which denotes the splendor surrounding God; manifested on Mount Sinai, in the holy of holies, in the visions of Ezekiel, etc; and regarded as existing eternally "above the heavens" (cf. Exodus 24:15; Exo 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11; Ezekiel 8:4; Psalms 24:7, Psalms 24:8, etc). But the full blaze of this glory, accompanying" the face" of God, even Moses was not allowed to see; for no man could see him and live. Moses was hidden in a cleft of the rock while the God's glory passed by, and saw only its outskirts, i.e. the radiance left behind after it; had passed; hearing meanwhile a proclamation of the moral attributes of Deity, by a perception of which he might best see God (Exodus 33:18, etc). Similarly in the New Testament. There also, as on Sinai, in the tabernacle, and in prophetic vision, the glory of God is occasionally manifested under the form of an unearthly radiance; as in the vision of the shepherds (Luke 2:9), the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28, etc), the ecstasy of Stephen (Acts 7:55). But in itself, as it surrounds "the face" of God, it is still invisible and unapproachable; cf. John 1:18, "No man hath seen God at any time;" 1 John 1:5, "God is Light;" 1 Timothy 6:16, "Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto (φῶς απρόσιτον), whom no man hath seen nor can see." It denotes really, under the image of eternal, self-existent, unapproachable light, the ineffable Divine perfection, the essence of Deity, which is beyond human ken. "Sempiterna ejus virtus et divinitas" (Bengel). Of this glory the SON is the ἀπαύγασμα—a word not occurring elsewhere in the New Testament, but used by the Alexandrian writers. The verb ἀπαυγάζω means "to radiate," "to beam forth brightness;" and ἀπαύγασμα, according to the proper meaning of nouns so formed, should mean the brightness beamed forth—this rather than its reflection from another object, as the sun's light is reflected from a cloud. So the noun is used in Wis. 7:26, as applied to Σοφία, which is there personified in a manner suggestive of the doctrine of the Λόγος: Ἀτμὶς γὰρ ἐστὶ τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ δυνάμεως καὶ ἀπόρροια τῆς τοῦ παντοκράτορος δόξης εἰλικρινής … a̓παύγασμα γὰρ ἐστὶ φωτὸς αἰδίου And Philo speaks of the breath of life breathed lute man (Genesis 2:7) as τῆς μακαρίας καὶ τρισμακαρίας φύσευς απαύγασμα ('De Spec. Leg.,' § 11). As, then, the eradiated brightness is to the source of light, so is the SON, in his eternal being, to the Father. It is, so to speak, begotten of the source, and of one substance with it, and yet distinguishable from it; being that through which its glory is made manifest, and through which it enlightens all things. The Person of the Son is thus represented, not as of one apart from God, irradiated by his glory, but as himself the sheen of his glory; cf. John 1:14, "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father;" also John 1:4; John 1:9. The above is the view taken by the Fathers generally, and expressed in the Church's Creed, φῶς ἐκ φωτός. And express Image of his substance; not "of his person," as in the A.V. The latter rendering is due to the long-accepted theological use of the word ὑπόστασις in the sense of personal subsistence, as applied to each of the Three in One. What the Latins called persona the Greeks at length agreed to call hypostasis, while the Greek οὐσία (equivalent to essentia) and the Latin substantia (though the latter word etymologically corresponds with hypostasis) were used as equivalents in meaning. But it was long after the apostolic age that this scientific use of the word became fixed. After as well as before the Nicene Council usia was sometimes used to denote what we mean by person, and hypostasis to denote what we mean by the substance of the Godhead; and hence came misunderstandings during the Arian controversy. Bull ('Def. Fid. Nic.,' 2.9. 11) gives a catena of instances of this uncertain usage. The definite doctrine of the Trinity, though apparent in the New Testament, had not as yet come under discussion at the time of the writing of this Epistle, or been as yet scientifically formulated; and hence we must take the word in its general and original sense, the same as that now attached to its etymological equivalent, substantia. It means literally, "a standing under," and is used

(1) in a physical sense, for "foundation," as in Psalms 69:2, "I sink in deep mire where there is no standing," where the LXX. has ὑπόστασις:

(2) metaphorically, for "confidence" or "certainty," as below, Hebrews 3:15 and 2 Corinthians 9:4;

(3) metaphysically, for that which underlies the phenomena of things and constitutes their essential being. Of the substance, understood in the last sense, of God the Son is the χαρακτὴρ, which word expresses a similar kind of relation to the Divine substance as ἀπαύγασμα does to the Divine glory. Derived from χαράσσω (equivalent to "mark," "grave," or "stamp," with an engraven or imprinted character), its proper meaning is the perceptible image on the material so stamped or engraved, of which it thus becomes the χαρακτὴρ. Thus the "image and superscription" on a coin is its χαρακτὴρ, manifesting what the coin is. The instance of the tribute money (Matthew 22:20) at once occurs to us: our Lord pointed to the χαρακτὴρ on the coin as manifesting its ὑπόστασις, as being Caesar's money. Thus also the lineaments of a countenance are called its χαρακτὴρ, as in Herod., 1.116, Ὁ χαρακτὴρ τοῦ προσώπου. A passage in Philo is illustrative of the sense intended; and it is to be observed (both with regard to the expression before us and to the preceding ἀπαύγασμα) that the Alexandrian theologians are important guides to the interpretation of phrases in this Epistle, their influence on its modes of thought and expression being perceptible. He says ('De Plant. Nee.,' § 5) that Moses called the rational soul the image (εἰκόνα) of the Divine and Invisible, as being οὐσιωθεῖσαν καὶ τυπωθεῖσαν σφραγῖδι Θεοῦ ἥς ὁ χαρακτὴρ ἐστὶν ὁ ἀΐδιος λόγος. Here, be it observed, χαρακτὴρ is used for the form or lineament of the Divine seal itself, not for the copy stamped on the plastic material. And it is applied, as here, to the "Eternal Word," as being the manifestation of what the unseen Godhead is. Hence it would be wrong to understand the word, as some have done, as denoting the form impressed by one substance on another—as though the impression left on the wax were the χαρακτὴρ of the seal. This misconception would mislead (as might also ἀπαύγασμα, if rendered "reflection") in that it would seem to represent the Son as distinct from God, though stamped with his likeness and irradiated by his glory. Arian views about the SON, or even mere humanitarian views about the Christ, might thus seem countenanced. The two words ἀπαύγασμα and χαρακτὴρ, as has been said, express a similar relation to δόξα and ὑπόσρασις respectively, and convey the same general idea of the Son's eternal relation to the Father. But both are, of course, but figures, each necessarily inadequate, of the inscrutable reality. If we may distinguish between them, it may be said that the former especially intimates the view of the operation and energy of the Godhead being through the Son, while the latter more distinctly brings out the idea of the Son being the Manifestation of what the God- head is, and especially of what it is to us. And upholding all things. We have here still the present participle, denoting the intrinsic operation of him who was revealed as Son. Though the word φέρειν, in the sense of upholding or sustaining creation, does not occur elsewhere in the, New Testament, it can hardly have any other meaning here, considering the context. We find a similar use of it in Numbers 11:14; Deuteronomy 1:9, "to bear (φέρειν) all this people alone." And in the later Greek and rabbinical writers parallels are found. Chrysostom interprets φέρων as meaning κυβερνῶν τὰ διαπίπτοντα συγκρατῶν, which comes to the same thing as "upholding" or "sustaining." The meaning is that not only were "the worlds" made through him; in his Divine nature he ever "upholds" the "all things" which were made through him, and of which, as SON, he was appointed "Heir;" el. Colossians 1:17, "And in him all things consist." And this upholding operation must not be supposed to have been in abeyance during the period of his humiliation. He was still what he had been eternally, though he had "emptied himself" of the state and prerogatives of Deity (Philippians 2:7); el. (though the text is somewhat doubtful) John 3:13, "The Son of man, which is (ὢν) in heaven." By the word (ῥήματι) of his power is an expression elsewhere used of the voluntas efficax of Deity—the utterance of Divine power; cf. Hebrews 11:3, "The worlds were framed by the Word (ῥήματι) of God." The writer could hardly have used it in this connection, if speaking of a created being. As to the reference of "his" before" power," whether to the subject of the sentence or to God, there is the same ambiguity in the Greek as in the English translation. Even if αὐτοῦ be intended, and not αὑτοῦ (and the former is most likely, since the pronoun, though it be reflective, is not emphatically so), it may with grammatical propriety refer either, like the previous αὐτοῦ, to God, or to him who thus upholds all things. In either case the general meaning of the clause remains the same. Enough has been said on the whole series of phrases which is thus concluded to show the untenableness of the Socinian interpretation, which would refer them only to Christ in the flesh and to the Christian dispensation. On such interpretation of the first of them Bull remarks, "Interpretatio Socinistarum, Deum nempe dici per Filiam saecula condidisse, quod per ipsum genus humanum reformavit et restauravit, et in novum quemdam statum transtulit, prodigiosum est commentum. Sane juramento aliquis tuto affirmare possit, ex Hebraeis, ad quos scripta fuit ilia epistola, ne unum quidem fuisse, qui scriptoris verba hoc sensu intellexerit, aut vel per somnium cogitaverit, per τοὺς αἰῶνας, saeculaa, significarum fuisse tantum genus humanum, nedum ejus pattem illam, cui tunc temporis evangelii lux effulserat" ('Jud. Eccl. Cath.,' 5.8). When he had made purification of sins. (So, according to the best-supported 'rod now generally accepted text) The aorist is now resumed, denoting an act in time—the act accomplished by him as incarnate SON, previous to and necessary for his entering on the inheritance appointed to him as such. This act, the grand purpose of the Incarnation, was atonement. There can be no doubt that the cleansing effected by atonement, and not the mere moral reformation of believers, is meant hero by purification of sins. The sequel of the Epistle, being, as aforesaid, the lull expression of the drift of the exordium, is sufficient proof of this. For in it Christ is exhibited at great length as the true High Priest of humanity, accomplishing truly what the Jewish priesthood signified; and as having "sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," in virtue of his accomplished atonement (Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12). Nor would the Hebrew readers to whom the Epistle was addressed be likely to understand καθαρισμὸν ("purification") in any other sense than this. The verb καθαρίζειν is the LXX. equivalent for the Hebrew רהַםִ, frequent in the Old Testament for ceremonial cleansing, the result of atoning sacrifice; in which sense it is accordingly used in Hebrews 10:1-39. of this Epistle. The theory of the Jewish ceremonial law was that the whole congregation, including the priests themselves, were too much polluted by sin to approach the holy God who dwelt between the cherubim. Therefore sacrifices were ordained to make atonement for them. The word for "making atonement for" (Greek, ἰλασκέσθαι) is in Hebrew רפַךָ, which means properly "to cover;" i.e. to cover sin from the sight of God. And the result of such atonement was called "purification," or "cleansing." This appears clearly in Leviticus 16:1-34., where the ceremonies of the great Day of Atonement are detailed. After an account of the various sacrifices of atonement, for the high priest and his house, for the people, and for the holy place itself polluted by their sins, we read (Leviticus 16:19), "And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it [i.e. the altar] with his finger seven times, and cleanse it (καθαριεῖ), and hallow it from the uncleanness (τῶν ἀκαθαρσιῶν) of the children of Israel." And finally (Leviticus 16:30), "For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you (καθαρίσαι), that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." It is to be observed, further, that it is especially the meaning of the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement that Christ is spoken of afterwards in the Epistle as having fulfilled. For the phrase, ποιησάμενος καθαρισμὸν ἁμαρτιὼν, cf. Job 7:21, Διατί οὐκ ἐποιήσω τῆς ἀνομίας λήθην καὶ καθαρισμὸν τῆς ἁμαρτίας μου. Its meaning in the Epistle may be that Christ, by his death, brought into being and established a permanent purification of sins—"a fountain open for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13:1)—in his blood, which is regarded as now ever offered at the heavenly mercy-seat (Hebrews 9:12) and sprinkled on the redeemed below (Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 9:22). Thus the distinction, observed above, between the atonement (ἱλασμὸς), of sacrifice and its application for cleansing (καθαρισμὸς) would be preserved (cf. 1 John 1:7 and Revelation 7:14). Sat down; i.e. entered on his inheritance of all things; not simply in the sense of resuming his pristine glory, but of obtaining the preeminence denoted in prophecy as appointed to the Son, human as well as Divine, and won by obedience and accomplished atonement. And this his supreme exaltation (as will be seen hereafter) carries with it the idea of an exaltation of humanity, of which he was the High Priest and Representative. But be it observed that there is no change in the subject; of the sentence. He who "sat down on high" after making purification is the same with him through whom the worlds were made, and whose eternal Divinity has been expressed by the present participles. This identification supports the orthodox position of there being but one personality in Christ, notwithstanding the two natures, and justifies, against Nestorian-ism, the term θεοτόκος as applied to the blessed Virgin, with other cognate expressions accepted in orthodox theology, such as, "God suffered," though in his human, not his Divine, nature; "God shed his blood" (cf. Philippians 2:9, etc). On the right hand of the Majesty on high. The expression is taken from Psalms 110:1, afterwards cited in this Epistle, and prominently referred to in like manner by St. Paul. The figure is suggested by the custom of Oriental kings, who placed at the right hand of the throne a son whom they associated with themselves in the prerogatives of royalty. Occurring as it does first in a Messianic psalm, the phrase is never applied to the Son's original relation to the Father "before the ages," but only to his exaltation as the Christ (on which see Bleek). The same idea seems expressed by our Lord's own words, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). But in the end, according to St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:28), this peculiar "kingship" of the SON will cease, the redemptive purpose being accomplished. It is to be observed that, both here and afterwards (Hebrews 8:1), a fine periphrasis is used for "right-hand of God;" "the right hand of the Majesty on high" and "the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." This may be regarded, not only as characteristic of the eloquent style of the Epistle, but also as implying an avoidance of too local or physical a view of the session spoken of. It is apparent elsewhere how the writer sees in the figures used to denote heavenly things only signs, level to our comprehension, of corresponding realities beyond our ken.

Hebrews 1:4

Having become by so much better than the angels as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they (διαφορωτέρον παρ αὐτοὺς). (For the same Greek form of comparison, see Hebrews 1:9; Hebrews 3:3) "Παρα ingentem printer caeteros excellentiam denotat" (Bengel). This verse, though, in respect of grammatical construction, it is the conclusion of the exordium, serves as the thesis of the first section of the argument to follow, the drift of which is to show the SON'S superiority to the angels. The mention of the angels comes naturally after the allusion to Psalms 110:1-7., viewed and quoted as it is afterwards in connection with Psalms 8:1-9., in which "a little lower than the angels" is taken to denote the state previous to the exaltation; and it is preparatory also for the argument that follows. The more distinguished name, expressing the measure of superiority to the angels, is (as the sequel shows) the name of SON, assigned (as aforesaid) to the Messiah in prophecy, and so, with all that it implies, "inherited" by him in time according to the Divine purpose. Observe the perfect, "hath inherited," instead of the aorist as hitherto, denotes, with the usual force of the Greek tense, the continuance of the inheritance obtained. It' we have entered into the view all along taken by the writer, we shall see no difficulty in the SON being said to have become better than the angels at the time of his exaltation, as though he had been below them before. So he had in respect of his assumed humanity, and it is to the SON denoted in prophecy to be humanly manifested in time that the whole sentence in its main purport refers. As such, having been, with us, lower than the angels, he became greater, the interposed references to his eternal personality retaining their full force notwithstanding. But why should the name of SON in itself imply superiority to the angels? Angels themselves are, in the Old Testament, called "sons of God." It has been suggested that the writer of the Epistle was not aware of the angels being so designated, since the LXX., from which he invariably quotes, renders מילִאֶ ינִףְ by ἀγγέλοι. But this is not so invariably. In Genesis 6:1; Psalms 29:1; and Psalms 89:7, we find υἱοί Θεοῦ. And, whatever be the application of the words in each of these passages, they at any rate occur in the LXX. as denoting others than the Messiah. Nor, in any case, would it be easily supposable that one so versed in biblical lore as the writer must have been had been thus misled in so important a point of his argument. The fact is that his argument, properly understood, is quite consistent with a full knowledge of the fact that others as well as the Messiah are so designated. For it is not merely the term "Son" as applied to the Messiah in prophecy, but the unique manner in which it is so applied, that is insisted on in what follows. The form of his commencement shows this. He does not say, "Whom, except the Messiah, did he ever call Son?" but, "To which of the angels did he ever speak as follows, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee?" In language generally the meaning of a word may depend very materially on the context in which it occurs and other determining circumstances. Indeed, the mere use of the title in the singular, "my Son," carries with it a different idea from its use in the plural of a class of beings. But this is not all. A series of passages from the Old Testament is adduced by way of expressly showing that the sonship assigned to the Messiah carries with it the idea of a relation to God altogether beyond any ever assigned to angels. Such is the position of the writer. We shall see in the sequel how He makes it good.

Verses 1:5-3:1

Hebrews 1:5-1.—THE SON SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS. Here the argumentation of the Epistle begins, the thesis of the first section of the argument having been given, as aforesaid, in the preceding verse, that "the SON is superior to the angels." The second section begins at Hebrews 3:1, the thesis being that "the SON is superior to Moses." Through angels and Moses the Law was given: "Ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator" (Galatians 3:19), the "mediator" being Moses. To show that the Son, in the Old Testament itself, is represented as above both, is to show, what it is the main purpose of the whole Epistle to establish, that the gospel, given through the SON, is above the Law, and intended to supersede it. The conclusion is that the gospel stands in the same relation to the Law as does the Son to angels, who are but "ministering spirits," and to Moses, who was but a "servant." With regard to the agency of angels in the giving of the Law, we do not find it so evident in the Old Testament as might have been expected from the references to it in the New. The "angel of Lord," who appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:2) and went before the people (Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:1-33. Exodus 23:20, etc), seems in the earlier books of the Bible to signify a certain presence and manifestation of the Lend himself, rather than a created minister of his will (see Genesis 16:7, Genesis 16:13; Genesis 22:15, Genesis 22:16; Exodus 3:2, Exodus 3:4; Exodus 23:1-33. Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:21; of. Acts 7:31, Acts 7:35, Acts 7:38); and this has been identified by theologians with the Word, not yet incarnate, through whom all Divine communications have been made to men. It is to be observed, however, that, after the sin of the golden calf, a distinction seems to be made between the presence of the Lend with his people and that of the angel to be thenceforth sent before them (Exodus 33:2, Exodus 33:3). Ebrard sees in the "angel of the LORD" generally, though understood as signifying a Divine presence, a justification of the statement that the Law was given "through angels," on the ground that, though God did so manifest himself, it was not a direct manifestation, as in the Son, but through forms borrowed from the sphere of the angels. It was an angelophany, denoting an unseen Divine presence, not a true theophany. The only distinct allusion to "angels," in the plural, in connection with the giving of the Law, is in Deuteronomy 33:2, "He came with ten thousands of saints;" with which comp. Psalms 68:17. But there is no doubt that it came afterwards to be the accepted rabbinical view that the dispensers of the Law were angels—whether as attendants on the Divine Majesty, or as agents of the fiery phenomena on Mount Sinai (natural operations being often attributed to angels), or as the utterers of the voice that was heard. "Locutus est Deus per angeles" (Bengel). And the writers of the New Testament plainly recognize this view (see below, Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). Hence our author takes for granted that his readers will understand and recognize it, and so implies it in his argument, expressing, as it does, a true conception of the nature of the Mosaic dispensation, and especially of its relation to the gospel. To resume our view of the argument that follows. The first section (as aforesaid) is from Hebrews 1:5 to Hebrews 3:1, having for its thesis the superiority of the SON to angels. The second section is from Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 5:1, having for its thesis the superiority of the Son to Moses. Each section consists of two main divisions, between which in each ease an appropriate exhortation is interposed; the first division in each ease treating of what the Son is in his own person, the second of his work for man; and both sections leading separately to the conclusion that he is the High Priest of humanity. Then, in Hebrews 5:1-14., the subject of his priesthood is taken up. Ebrard happily illustrates the symmetrical plan of the argument thus: "The author, having thus been led from these two different starting-points to the idea of the ἀρχιερεύς, now proceeds to place on the two first parts, which may be viewed as the pillars of the arch, the third part, which forms the keystone." In this third part it begins to be shown, at Hebrews 5:1, how Christ fulfilled in his humanity the essential idea of priesthood. But, for reasons that will appear, the full doctrine of his eternal priesthood is not entered upon till Hebrews 7:1-19, which may be called the central portion of the whole Epistle. The remainder (Hebrews 10:20—end) may be distinguished from the rest as being the distinctly hortatory part (though her-ration has been frequently interposed in the argument), being mainly devoted to practical application of the doctrine that has been established. The following plan of the argument of the first two sections, showing the parallelism between them, may assist us in entering into it as it proceeds:—


Thesis: Christ superior to the angels.

Division 1 (Hebrews 1:5-1).

The name SON, as applied to the typical theocratic kings, and in its final reference and full meaning (as you all acknowledge) pointing to the Messiah, expresses a position altogether above any assigned anywhere to angels. The Son is represented as one associated with God in his majesty, a sharer of his everlasting throne. Angels are referred to only as ministering spirits or attendant worshippers at the Son's advent.

Interposed exhortation (Hebrews 2:1-5). This being so, beware of not appreciating the revelation now given in the Son. In transgression of the Law given through angels was so severely visited, what will be the consequence of neglecting this, accredited to us as it has been?

Division 2 (Hebrews 2:5-1).

The Son also, but never angels, is denoted in prophecy as Lord of the coming age. For the eighth psalm (based on and carrying out the idea of the account in Genesis of the original creation) assigns a supremacy over all created things to man. Man, as he is now, does not fulfill the ideal of his destiny. But Christ, as Son of man, in his exaltation, does. And in him man attains his destined dignity forfeited through sin. His humiliation, suffering and death were for the purpose of thus raising man. His humiliation with this and was a design worthy of God, and in accordance with the purport of Messianic prophecy. For such prophecy intimates association and sympathy of the Messiah with his human brethren. Thus Christ, the SON, is the sympathizing High Priest of humanity.


Thesis: Christ superior to Moses.

Division 1 (Hebrews 3:1-7).

Moses is represented in the Old Testament as but a servant in the house of God. The SON is lord over the house.

Interposed exhortation (Hebrews 3:7-1). This being so, beware of hardening your hearts, like the Israelites under Moses. If they failed, through unbelief, of entering into the rest offered to them, you may similarly fail of entering into the rest intended for you.

Division 2 (Hebrews 4:1-1).

A rest, symbolized by that of the promised land, is still offered to you, and you may enter into it. The ninetieth psalm shows that the rest into which Joshua led the Israelites was not the final one intended for God's people. The true rest is the rest of God himself (" my rest," Psalms 90:1-17), spoken of in the account of the creation—the sabbath rest of eternity. Christ, after sharing our human trials, has passed into that eternal rest, and won an entrance into it for us. Thus, again, a renewed exhortation being interposed, Christ, the SON, is again set forth as the sympathizing High Priest of humanity.

Hebrews 1:5

For to which of the angels said he at any time. Observe the form of the question, which has been already noticed. It is not, "When were angels ever called sons?" but to this effect: "To which of them did he ever speak (individually) in the following remarkable terms?" The first quotation is from Psalms 2:7; the second from 2 Samuel 7:14. The second having had undoubtedly a primary reference to Solomon, and the first presumably to some king of Israel, probably to David, we may here properly pause to consider the principle of the application of such passages to Christ. It must be allowed that, not only in this Epistle, but in the New Testament generally, sayings which had a primary reference to events or personages in the past, are applied directly to Christ; and in some eases where the justness of the application may not be to all of us at first sight obvious. With regard to this usage, Bengel says, "Veri interpretes verborum divinorum sunt apostoli; etiamsi nos sine illis talem sententiam non assigneremur." But such applications are plainly not arbitrary. They rest on a principle of interpretation which it is of importance for us to understand. First, we may observe that the method was not originated by the New Testament writers; it was one received among the Jews of their time, who saw throughout the Old Testament anticipations of the Messiah. This appears both from rabbinical literature and also from the New Testament itself. For instance, the priests and scribes consulted by Herod (Matthew 2:5) referred Micah 5:2 as a matter of course to the Messiah; and the Pharisees (Matthew 22:44) never thought of disputing the application of Psalms 110:1-7. to him. And not only so. The Old Testament itself suggests and exemplifies such applications. For students of the prophetic writings must be aware how utterances that had a primary fulfillment in one age are sometimes taken up in a subsequent one as though yet to be fulfilled, their scope enlarged, and their final reference often thrown forward to "that day"—the Messianic age—which alone terminates the view of the later prophets. Now, it has been said, in explanation of this mode of treatment, that prophecy often had a double meaning, referring partly to one thing and partly to another; or several meanings, with reference to several different things. But this way of putting the matter is unsatisfactory. Bacon better hit the mark, when, in a well-known passage in his 'Advancement of Learning' (bk. 2), he spoke of "that latitude which is agreeable and familiar unto Divine prophecies, being of the nature of their Author, with whom a thousand years are but as one day, and therefore are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages; though the height or fullness of them may refer to some one age." We may put it thus: It was of the nature of prophetic inspiration to lift the seer above and beyond his immediate subject to the contemplation of some grand ideal, which it suggested to his vision, and more or less perfectly fulfilled. He has, for instance, as the basis of his vision, a David, a Solomon, a Hezekiah, or a Zerubbabel; he has as its framework the circumstances of his own time or of the time near at hand; but we find his language, as he proceeds, rising far above Iris vision's original scope, and applicable to those comprised within it only so far as they embody and realize the ideal which they represent to his mind. Hence the taking up of old prophecies by succeeding prophets, their enlargement and reapplication to new fulfillments; and this, too, in terms transcending the reality of these new fulfillments; as, for instance, when Isaiah, taking up the idea of Nathan's message to David (2 Samuel 7:1-29), applies it apparently to a son and a reign to be looked for in his own age, but at length in language which can have no other than a Messianic reference (Isaiah 9:6, etc; Isaiah 11:1, etc; of. Jeremiah 33:15). Hence, lastly, the application in the New Testament of all such ancient utterances at once to Christ, as being the final and complete fulfillment of the ideal of prophecy, the true Antitype of all the types. A clear perception of this view of the drift of prophecy will remove difficulties that have been felt as to the application of many quotations from the Old Testament, in this Epistle and elsewhere, to Christ. Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; a quotation from Psalms 2:7. This psalm is expressly quoted as David's in Acts 4:25, and has internal evidence of being his, and of having had primary reference to his reign. For the mention of Zion (Acts 4:6) precludes an earlier date, while the circumstances of warfare alluded to do not agree with the peaceful reign of Solomon, nor the picture of undivided empire with any period after the secession of the ten tribes. Further, the rising and consequent subjugation by David of subject races, described in 2 Samuel 8:1-18., presents to us a state of things very likely to have suggested the psalm; and to this period of David's reign it is usually referred with probability by modern commentators. But the question of date and authorship is not material to our view of the prophetic meaning of the psalm. Taking it to be David's, we find as follows: There is a rebellious confederation of subject kings against the dominion of the King of Israel, who is spoken of as "the Anointed" of the LORD. In view of their hostile preparations, the LORD in heaven is conceived as laughing to scorn their devices against him whom he himself had enthroned on Zion. Then the king speaks, "I will declare the decree [or, 'I will tell of a decree']; the Load said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and for thy possession the ends of the earth." Then follows an admonition to the rebels to do homage to this SON, submission to whom is submission to the Loan, and whose anger is as the LORD'S anger. Now, it is evident that the language used transcends literal application to any earthly king. Hence some commentators have been led to suppose that it had no even primary reference to one, being simply prophetic of the Messiah, though suggested by the circumstances of David's day. Thus Ebrard, supporting his view by the assumption (which is usually made) of the message of Nathan to David (2 Samuel 7:14) being the "decree" referred to in the psalm, and the foundation of the confidence expressed in it. He argues that it was not to David, but to his posterity (ערַזֶ), that the position of sonship was assigned, and eternal dominion promised; and hence that David in this psalm (which he considers to have been certainly by him) must have been speaking, not in his own name, but in that of his seed after him, looking adoringly forward to the fulfillment of that glorious hope in the distant future (2 Samuel 7:19). Thus, he concludes, the insurrection of the Syrians forms merely the occasion, but not the object and import, of the second psalm. But, even if the message of Nathan were certainly the basis of the idea of the psalm, we find an instance of the express application of that message to David himself; as well as to his posterity, in Psalms 89:1-52. (see Psalms 89:20-28). It may be, however, that the reference in the psalm is to some Divine intimation, possibly to some prophecy or oracular utterance, delivered to David himself at the time of the inauguration of his own sovereignty, and long before Nathan's message. In any case, it is in accordance with the genius of prophecy, as above explained, that the words should have had a primary reference to David himself, so far forth as he imperfectly fulfilled their meaning. The main thing to be observed is that they represent an ideal of sonship and unlimited sovereignty beyond any that could, as a matter of fact, be considered as fulfilled in David. And this view of its meaning, suggested by the psalm itself, is confirmed by the use made of it in later Scripture. For it is evident that this psalm, together with the passage from 2 Samuel 7:1-29. (to be cited next) is made the basis of a long series of Messianic prophecies (of. 2 Samuel 23:1-39. 2 Samuel 23:1, etc; Psalms 110:1-7; Psalms 89:1-52; Psalms 132:1-18; Isaiah 7-9; Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 11:10; Jeremiah 23:1-40. Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Micah 4:1-13.-5; Zechariah 6:12, etc). Its application to Christ in the New Testament is distinct and frequent (cf. Acts 4:25; Acts 13:33; Roy. Acts 2:27; Acts 12:5; Acts 19:15). As to the phrase, "This day have I begotten thee," there is a difference of view among both ancient and modern expositors. The word "begotten" (γεγέννηκα) naturally suggests μονογενὴς, and is hence taken by some as referring to the eternal generation of the Son; in which case it can have had no application in any conceivable sense to the human type. "This day" has also in this case to be explained as denoting the ever-present today of eternity. So Origen, in a striking passage, "It is said to him by God, to whom it is always today. For God has no evening, nor (as I deem) any morning, but the time which is coextensive with his own unbegotten and eternal life is the day in which the Son is begotten, there being thus found no beginning of his generation, as neither is there of the day." Athanasius takes the same view; also Basil, Primasius, Thomas Aquinas, and many others. The main objection to it is the inapplicability of such a meaning of the words, even in a subordinate sense, to David or any other king of Israel. Alford, indeed, urges that this meaning agrees best with the context in the Epistle, on the ground that the eternal being of the Son, having been stated in the exordium, might be expected to be referred to in the proof. But this is hardly to the point. The writer has now begun his argument from the Old Testament, and is engaged in showing the idea involved in the term Son as applied therein to the Messiah. This, therefore, and not what he has said previously, is what we have to regard in our interpretation; and the most obvious view of the phrase, as it occurs in the psalm itself, is to regard it as a figure denoting forcibly the paternity of God; of. Jeremiah 2:27, "They say to the wood, Thou art my father; to the stone, Thou hast begotten me." It expresses the idea that the "Son of God" spoken of derives his existence as such from him, and not from human ancestry. Chrysostom, among the ancients, understands the phrase as thus referring to the sonship assigned to the Messiah in time, and not to his eternal being. This view being taken, "this day," in reference to the king, may mean the day of the "decree," or that of his enthronement on Mount Zion. In reference to Christ it has been variously understood of the time of his incarnation, or resurrection, or ascension. If it be thought necessary to assign any definite time to it in its application to Christ, the view of its being the day of the resurrection is supported by such passages as Colossians 1:18, πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν: and Romans 1:4, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει .. ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν: of. Acts 2:30 and Acts 13:32, etc., "The promise that was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto 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." This last text, be it observed, is almost conclusive against the eternal generation being understood as referred to; as is also the application of the same text infra, Hebrews 5:5, where it is quoted in proof of Christ's appointment to the eternal priesthood. [" The title of begetting is ofttimes in sacred language to be measured, not by the scale of philosophers' or naturalists' dialect, but of moral or civil language or interpretation. For they that are sons by adoption only, or next heirs by reversion to a crown or dignity, are said to be begotten of those which adopt them, or of whom they be the immediate heirs or successors: and in this sense in the sacred genealogy (Matthew 1:12) Jeconiah is said to have begotten Salathiel. So that David upon his own occasions (whether upon his anointing to the crown of Judah in Hebron, or of Israel in Zion) might in the literal sense avouch these words of himself, 'I will preach the law whereof the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee.' For David to call the day of his coronation, or of his designation to the crown of Judah, or of all Israel, his birthday, or begetting of God, by whose special power and providence he was crowned, is not so harsh as some haply would deem it that either know not or consider not that it was usual in other states or kingdoms beside Judah to celebrate two natales dies, two solemn nativities or birthdays in honor of their kings and emperors: the one they called diem natalem imperatoris, the other diem natalem imperii; the one the birthday of the emperor when he was born of his natural mother, the other the birthday of him as he was emperor, which we call the coronation day. The reason might hold more peculiar in David than in any other princes, because he was the first of all the seed of Abraham that took possession of the hill of Zion, and settled the kingdom of Judah, prophesied of by his father Jacob, upon himself and his posterity Thus Ego hodie genuite, with submission of my opinion to better judgment, is a prediction typically prophetical, which kind of prediction, as hath been observed before, is the most concludent; and this one of the highest rank in that kind; that is, an oracle truly meant of David according to the literal sense, and yet fulfilled of Christ, the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead, both according to the most exquisite literal and the mystical and principally intended sense".] And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son (2 Samuel 7:14); from Nathan's message to David, which has been spoken of above. The words do not in themselves express so unique a sonship as those used in the psalm; but, viewed in connection with the psalm, with their own context, and with subsequent prophecy, they suggest the same meaning. David had formed the design of building a temple; Nathan, by the word of the Loire, forbids his doing so, but tells him that his "seed" after him should build a house for the LORD'S Name, and that the Load would establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." Then comes the text," I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son;" followed by, "If he commit iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men .. but my mercy shall not depart away from him And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever." Now, there can be no doubt that there was a primary and partial fulfillment of this promise in Solomon, who built the temple after David's death. He took it to himself, so far as it was applicable to him, after his completion of the temple (1 Kings 8:17, etc). But it is equally evident that its meaning could not be exhausted in him. The eternity assigned to the throne of the kingdom points to a distant as well as an immediate fulfillment, and the word translated "seed" (Hebrew, ערַזֶ), though applicable in a concrete sense to an individual offspring (of. Gem 4:25; 1 Samuel 1:11), is properly a collective noun, denoting "posterity," and thus naturally lends itself to a far-reaching application. The consideration, however, of especial weight in support of such application is that psalmists and prophets cease not to make this original promise the basis of Messianic prophecy. See, not only Psalms 2:1-12., which may or may not refer to it, but also Psalms 89:1-52, and Psalms 132:1-18., together with other passages which have been referred to in connection with the second psalm. Thus we may properly apply to this particular passage the view of the meaning of prophecy which has been set forth in general terms above, according to which we must regard Solomon, with respect to the sonship assigned to him as well as to his kingdom and the house which he was to build, as but a type and imperfect realization of a grand ideal to be in due time fulfilled.

Hebrews 1:6

And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. The most obvious translation of the Greek here seems at first sight to be, "But whenever he [i.e. God] shall again bring [or, 'bring back'] the Firstborn into the inhabited world, he saith;" ὅταν εἰσαγάῃ denoting the indefiniteness of future time, and the position of πάλιν connecting it most naturally with εἰσαγάγῃ. If such be the force of πάλιν, the reference must be to the second advent; which, however, is not suggested by the context, in which there has been no mention of a first advent, but only of the assignation to the Messiah of the name of Son. This supposed reference to a second advent may be avoided by disconnecting πάλιν in sense from εἰσαγάγῃ, and taking it (as in the verse immediately preceding, and elsewhere in the Epistle) as only introducing a new quotation. And the Greek will bear this interpretation, though the order of the words, taken by themselves, is against it. The "Firstborn" (πρωτότοκος) is evidently the So; previously spoken of; the word is so applied (Psalms 89:27) in a passage undoubtedly founded on the text last quoted. The same word is applied in the New Testament to Christ, as "the Firstborn among many brethren," "the Firstborn of every creature," "the Firstborn from the dead" (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18). And the idea conveyed by these passages may have been in the writer's mind, and intended to be understood by his Christian readers. But for the immediate purpose of his argument he may be supposed to refer only to this designation as applied in the Old Testament to the SON already spoken of. Thus the meaning may be, "But, again, with reference to the time when he shall introduce this SON, the Firstborn, into our inhabited world, he speaks thus of the angels." Or it may be, "But whenever he shall bring a second time into the world the Firstborn who has already once appeared, he speaks thus of the angels." But the first meaning seems more suitable to the general context. The force of the writer's argument is the same, whichever view we take; the point being that, at the time of the advent of the So, whatever advent may be meant, the angels appear only as attendant worshippers. As to the understood nominative to "saith," we may suppose it to be "God," as in Hebrews 1:5. But it is to be observed that λέγει, without an expressed nominative, is a usual formula for introducing a scriptural quotation. The question remains—What is the text quoted, and how can it be understood as bearing the meaning here assigned to it? In the Hebrew Bible we find nothing like it, except in Psalms 97:7, "Worship him, all ye gods," A.V; where the LXX. has προσκυνήσατε αὐτῷ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ. But in Deuteronomy 32:43 we find in the LXX., though not in the Masoretic text, καὶπροσκυνησάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ: the very words, including the introductory καὶ, which are quoted. Hence, the quotations in this Epistle being mainly from the LXX., we may conclude that this is the text referred to. It occurs towards the end of the Song of Moses, in connection with its concluding picture of the LORD'S final triumph, in which the nations are called upon to rejoice with his people, when he would avenge the blood of his servants, and render vengeance to his adversaries, and make atonement for (Greek, ἐκκαθαριεῖ) his land and for his people. Viewed in the light of later prophecy, this triumph is identified with that of the Messiah's kingdom, and is therefore that of the time of bringing "the Firstborn into the world." cf. Romans 15:10, where "Rejoice, ye Gentiles," etc., from the same passage, is applied to the time of Christ. It is no objection to the quotation that, as it stands in the Epistle, "the Firstborn," though not mentioned in the original, seems to be regarded as the object of the angels' worship. The passage is simply cited as it stands, the reader being left to draw his own inference; and the main point of it is that the angels in "that day" are not, like the Son, sharers of the throne, but only worshippers.

Hebrews 1:7

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. A further intimation of the position assigned in the Old Testament to angels, contrasted by means of μὲν and δὲ, with further quotations with reference to the SON. A difficulty has been felt with regard to this passage (cited, as usual, from the LXX) on the ground of the original Hebrew being supposed not to bear the meaning assigned to it. Hence the writer of the Epistle is said to have made use of an erroneous rendering for the purpose of his argument. Certainly the context of the psalm, in which God is represented as arraying himself in the glories and operating through the powers of nature, suggests no other meaning than that he uses the winds as his messengers, etc., in the same poetical sense in which he was said in the preceding verse to make the clouds his chariot; cf. Psalms 148:8, "Fire and hail, snow and vapors, stormy wind fulfilling his word." If so, there is no necessary reference in the original psalm to angels. But it is to be observed, on the other hand, that the structure of Psalms 148:4 is not in the Hebrew identical with that of "he maketh the clouds his chariot" in Psalms 148:3, and hence, in itself, suggests some difference of meaning. For

(1) a different verb is used; and

(2) the order of the accusatives following the verb is reversed; in both which respects the I,XX. correctly follows the Hebrew. In Psalms 148:3 the verb is מושׂ (ὁ τιθεὶς in the LXX), the primary meaning of which is "to set," "to place," and, when followed by two accusatives as object and predicate, denotes" to constitute or render a person or thing what the predicate expresses." In Psalms 148:4 the verb is השָׂעָ (ὁ ποιῶν in the LXX), the primary meaning of which, when used actively, is "to form," "to fabricate." It is used of God making the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:7, Genesis 1:16; Genesis 2:2, etc). When elsewhere, as here, it is followed by two accusatives, one of them is found to denote the material out of which anything is formed. Thus Exodus 38:3, "He made all the vessels (of) brass" (cf. Exodus 30:25; Exodus 36:14; Exodus 37:15, Exodus 37:23). Hence an obvious meaning of Exodus 38:4, so far as the mere language is concerned, would be, "He maketh [or, 'formeth'] his messengers [or, 'angels'] of winds, and his ministers of a flaming fire." (Winds certainly, not spirits, because of the context. But here the Greek πνεύματα is, in itself, as ambiguous as the Hebrew תוֹחוּר and was as probably meant to denote winds) According to this rendering, the meaning of the verse would seem to be that, out of the natural elements of wind and fire, some special agencies are called into being or operation; not simply that winds and fire generally are used for God's purposes. The change of phraseology between Exodus 38:3 and Exodus 38:4 certainly suggests some change in the idea of the psalmist. What, then, are these agencies? What is meant by the "messengers" and "ministers" connected with the elements of wind and fire? The author of the Epistle (and probably the LXX. too, though the words ἀγγέλοι and λειτουργοὶ are, in themselves, as ambiguous as the Hebrew) saw in these words a reference to the angels, who are denoted by the same two words in Psalms 103:20, Psalms 103:21, and who are undoubtedly spoken of elsewhere in the Old Testament as operating in the forces of nature (as in the death of the Egyptian firstborn, the pestilence in the time of David, and the destruction of Sennacherib's army), and seem, in some sense, to be identified with the winds themselves in Psalms 18:10, "He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind;" and in Psalms 35:5, "Let them be as chaff before the wind; and let the angel of the LORD chase them." We say that the LXX., as well as the author of the Epistle, probably intended to express this meaning. It is, indeed, more than probable; for, ambiguous as may be the words ἀγγέλοι and λειτουργοὶ in themselves, the structure of the Greek sentence (in which "his angels" and "his ministers" are the objects, arid "winds" and "flames of fire" the predicates), seems to necessitate this meaning, which is further probable from what we know of Alexandrian angelology. It may thus well be that, whether or net the LXX. (rendering, as it does, the Hebrew word for word) gives the exact force of the original phrase, it hits its essential meaning, as intimating angelic agency in nature. And the learned Jews of Alexandria, followed as they are by the later rabbis generally, and by the writer of this Epistle, were, to say the least, as likely to understand the Hebrew as any modern scholars. The question, however, is not, after all, of great importance. For let us grant that the writer of the Epistle unwittingly adduced an erroneous rendering in the course of his argument. What then? It is not necessary to suppose that the inspiration of the sacred writers was such as to enlighten them in matters of Hebrew criticism. If it guarded them from erroneous teaching, it was sufficient for its purpose. And in this case the passage, as cited, at any rate expresses well the general doctrine of the Old Testament about angels, viz. that, unlike the Son, they are but subordinate agents of the Divine purposes, and connected especially with the operations of nature. It is to be observed, too, that the quotations generally in this Epistle are adduced, not as exhaustive proofs, but rather as suggestive of the general teaching of the Old Testament, with which the readers are supposed to be familiar.

Hebrews 1:8-13

Two more quotations from the psalms with reference to the SON adduced in contrast.

Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:9

But unto the Son he saith. The preposition here translated "unto" is πρὸς, as in Hebrews 1:7, there translated "of." As is evident from its use in Hebrews 1:7, it does not imply of necessity that the persons spoken of are addressed in the quotations, though it is so in this second case. The force of the preposition itself need only be "in reference to." The first quotation is from Psalms 45:6, Psalms 45:7. The psalm was evidently written originally as an epithalamium on the occasion of the marriage of some king of Israel to some foreign princess. The general and probable opinion is that the king was Solomon. His marriage with Pharaoh's daughter may have been the occasion. The view taken by some (as Hengstenberg), that the psalm had no original reference to an actual marriage, being purely a Messianic prophecy, is inconsistent both with its own contents and with the analogy of other Messianic psalms (see what was said on this head with reference to Psalms 2:1-12). Those who enter into the view of Messianic prophecy that has been given above, will have no difficulty in perceiving the justness of the application of this psalm to Christ, notwithstanding its primary import. Like Psalms 2:1-12, it presents (in parts at least) an ideal picture, suggested only and imperfectly realized by the temporary type; an ideal of which we find the germ in 2 Samuel 7:1-29., and the amplification in later prophecy. Further, the title, "For the precentor" (" To the chief musician," A.V), shows that the psalm was used in the temple services, and thus, whatever might be the occasion of its composition, was understood by the Jews of old as having an ulterior meaning. Further, there is possibly (as Delitzsch points out) a reference to the psalm as Messianic in Isaiah 61:1-3, where "the Servant of Jehovah," "the Anointed," gives the "oil of gladness" for mourning; and in Isaiah 9:5, where the words of the psalm," God" (Isaiah 9:6) and "mighty" (Isaiah 9:3) are compounded for a designation of the Messiah; also in Zechariah 12:8, where it is prophesied that in the latter days" the house of David" shall be "as God." The Messianic interpretation is undoubtedly ancient. The Chaldee paraphrast (on Zechariah 12:3) writes, "Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than that of the sons of men." Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. Attempts have been made to evade the conclusion that the king is here addressed as "God,"

(1) by taking the clause as a parenthetic address to God himself;

(2) by regarding" God" as appended to "throne," or as the predicate of the sentence; i.e. translating either "Thy throne of God is," etc. (according to the sense of 1 Chronicles 29:23, "Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king"), or "Thy throne is God [i.e. Divine] for ever and ever." As to

(1), the context repudiates it. As to

(2), it is a question whether the Hebrew is patient of the supposed construction.

At any rate, "God" is understood as a vocative in the LXX. as well as in the Epistle, in which the LXX. is quoted;' and in the Chaldee paraphrase, and all ancient versions, it is understood so also. Probably no other interpretation would have been thought of but for the difficulty of supposing an earthly king to be thus addressed. It is to be observed, however, that the other rendering would express essentially the same idea, and be sufficient for the argument. In either case the throne of the SON is represented as God's throne, and eternal. The only difference is that the vocative rendering makes more marked and manifest the ideal view of his subject taken by the psalmist. For it is most unlikely that a bard of the sanctuary, a worshipper of the jealous God of Israel, would have so apostrophized any earthly king except as prefiguring "a greater than Solomon" to come. It is true that kings are elsewhere called "gods" in the plural (as in Psalms 82:6, referred to by our Lord, John 10:35); but the solemn addressing of an individual king by this title is (if the vocative rendering be correct) peculiar to this psalm. The passage (1 Samuel 28:13) adduced in abatement of the significance of the title, where the apparition of Samuel is described by the witch of Endor as "Elohim ascending out of the earth," is not a parallel case. The word "Elohim" has a comprehensive meaning, depending on context for its precise significance. If vocatively used in a solemn address to a king sitting upon an everlasting throne, it surely implies the assigning of Divine honors to the king so addressed. In this case still more is implied than in Psalms 2:1-12., where the King is spoken of as God's Son, enthroned on Zion, the Son being here addressed as himself "Elohim." It may be that the inspiring Spirit suggested language to the psalmist beyond his own comprehension at the time of utterance (see 1 Peter 1:10, 1 Peter 1:11). It may be added that the ultimate Messianic reference of the expression is confirmed by Isaiah 9:6, where the title El-Gibber ("Mighty God," A.V) distinctly used of God himself in Isaiah 10:21 (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 32:18; Nehemiah 9:32; Psalms 24:8), is applied to the Messiah. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. In this and the following clause is expressed the important idea that the ideal throne of the SON is founded on righteousness, whence comes also his peculiar unction with "the oil of gladness." Only so far as Solomon or other theocratic kings exemplified the Divine righteousness, did they approach the ideal position assigned to the Son. cf. the latter part of Isaiah 10:14 in the original promise, 2 Samuel 7:1-29., and especially 2 Samuel 23:1-39. 2 Samuel 23:3, etc., in the "last words of David." Observe also the prominence of the idea in Psalms 72:1-20. and in later prophecy (cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:2, etc). Therefore, God, even thy God. The first "God" here may be again in the vocative, as in the preceding verse, or it may be as the A.V. takes it (el. Psalms 43:4; Psalms 1:1-6.7). Hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. The primary reference is, not to the king's coronation (as in Psalms 89:20), but to unction as symbolical of blessing and joy, connected with the custom of anointing the head at feasts (cf. Deuteronomy 28:40; Psalms 23:1-6. Psalms 23:5; Psalms 92:10; Song of Solomon 1:12; Matthew 6:17). "Thy fellows," in its original reference, seems most naturally to mean "thy associates in royalty," "other kings;" cf. Psa 79:1-13 :27, "I will make him my Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." Or it might mean the companions of the bridegroom, the παρανύμφιοι. The latter reference lends itself readily to the fulfillment in Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, whose παρανύμφιοι the redeemed are; themselves also being, after their measure, χριστοί (cf. 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27). But they are also made "kings and priests unto God" by Christ (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10); so that either of the supposed original references may be shown to be typical, if it be thought necessary to find a definite fulfillment of all the details of the address to the theocratic king. The view that in the fulfillment the angels are to be understood as Christ's μετόχοι is inadmissible. There is nothing in the psalm to suggest the thought of them, nor does the way in which they are contrasted with the SON in this chapter admit of their being here spoken of as his μετόχοι. Men, in the next chapter, are so spoken of.

Hebrews 1:10-12

And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning, etc. The bearing of this quotation (from Psalms 102:25-27) on the argument in hand is not at first sight obvious; since, in the psalm, the address is plainly to God, without any mention of, or apparent reference to, the Son. The psalm is entitled, "A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD." It seems likely, from its contents, to have been written by some suffering saint during the Babylonian captivity: for its purport is a prayer, rising into confident expectation for deliverance from a state of deep affliction, Israel being in captivity and Jerusalem in ruins. The prayed-for and expected deliverance, portrayed in verses 16-24, corresponds so closely, both in thought and expression, with that pictured in the latter chapters of Isaiah (beginning at Hebrews 40),that we cannot hesitate in assigning the same meaning to both. There is, for instance, the looking down of the Loan from. heaven to behold the affliction of his people (cf. Isaiah 63:15); the setting free of captives (cf. Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 61:1); the rebuilding and restoration of Zion, and in connection with this the conversion of the Gentiles to serve the Lore) with Israel (cf. Isaiah 40:1-31.—66; and especially Isaiah 59:19; Isaiah 60:2). These are specimens of the general correspondence between the two pictures, which must be evident to all who have studied both. But the ultimate reference of Isaiah's prophecy is certainly Messianic: wherefore that of the psalm may be concluded to be the same. And thus we have made one step in explanation of the applicability of this quotation to the argument of the Epistle in confirming its ultimate reference to the Messiah's advent; to the final realization of the ideal of the Son, typified by theocratic kings. But we have still to account for the apparent application to the Son of what, in the original psalm, shows no sign of being addressed to him. One view is that there is no intention in the Epistle of quoting it as addressed to him, the phrase, πρὸς τὸν υἱόν (as has been seen) not of necessity implying such intention. According to this view, the point of the quotation is that the Messianic salvation is made to rest solely on the eternity and immutability of God—of him who, as he created all at first, so, though heaven and earth should pass away, remains unchanged. And the character of the salvation, thus regarded, is conceived to carry with it the transcendent super-angelic dignity of its accomplisher, the SON. So, in effect, Ebrard, who dwells on this as one example of the general character of apostolical exegesis, as opposed to rabbinical, in that, instead of drawing inferences, often arbitrary, from isolated words or phrases, the apostolic interpreters draw all their arguments from the spirit of the passages considered in their connection and this with a depth of intuition peculiar to themselves. Other commentators consider it more consistent with both the context and the argument to see, in the Epistle at least, an intended address to the Son. If this be so, our conclusion must be that this application of the psalmist's words is the inspired writer's own; since it is certainly not apparent in the psalm. It by no means follows that the writer of the Epistle foisted, consciously or unconsciously, a false meaning into the psalm. Even apart from the consideration of his being an inspired contributor to the New Testament canon, he was too learned in Scripture, and too able a reasoner, to adduce an evidently untenable argument. He may be understood as himself applying the passage in a way which he does not mean to imply was intended by the psalmist. His drift may be, "You have seen how in Psalms 45:1-17. the Son is addressed as God, and as having an eternal throne. Yea, so Divine is he that the address to the everlasting God himself in another psalm prophetic of his advent may be truly recognized as an address to him." Whichever view we take of this difficult passage, this at any rate is evident—that the inspired writer of the Epistle, apart from the question of the relevancy of quotation in the way of argument, associated Christ in his own mind with the unchangeable Creator of all things.

Hebrews 1:13

But to which of the angels said he (properly, hath he said) at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? A final and crowning quotation is thus adduced, in the form in which the first quotation referring to the SON (Hebrews 1:5) had been introduced, to complete the view of his superiority to the angels. The quota-lion is from Psalms 110:1-7., the reference of which to the Messiah is settled beyond controversy to Christian believers, not only by its being quoted or alluded to more frequently than any other psalm with that reference in the New Testament (Acts 2:34; Acts 7:55, Acts 7:56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:13, Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13), and by the introduction of its language into the Church's earliest Creeds, but also by the authority of our Lord himself, as recorded by all the three synoptical evangelists. Hence readers of this Commentary will not require a confutation of the arguments of any modern rationalistic critics who have disputed the Messianic meaning of the psalm. Their arguments rest really on their a priori denial of a "spirit of prophecy" in the psalms generally; in their refusal to recognize, what the later prophets recognized, an unfulfilled ideal in what the psalmists wrote of theocratic kings. Let us once recognize fills, and we shall perceive in this psalm peculiar marks of the spirit of prophecy, reaching beyond any contemporary fulfillment, not only in the assignment to the King of a scat at the right hand of the heavenly throne, but also in his remarkable designation as a "Priest after the order of Melchizedek," of which more will be said under Hebrews 5:1-14. and 7. of this Epistle. It is to be observed also how prophets, long after the psalm was written, regarded its ideal as still awaiting fulfillment; e.g. Daniel (Daniel 7:13, etc), whose vision of the Son of man brought near before the Ancient of days, and having an everlasting dominion given him, is referred to by our Lord (Matthew 26:64) in connection with the psalm, as awaiting fulfillment in himself; and Zechariah (Zechariah 6:12, etc.:, who takes up the idea of the psalm in speaking of the Branch, who was to unite in himself royalty and priesthood. The psalm is entitled, "A psalm of David." Though this title is prefixed to some psalms the contents of which suggest a later date, and is not, therefore, considered proof of authorship, it proves at least the tradition and belief of the Jews when the Hebrew Psalter was arranged in its existing form. But we have in this case evidence in the three Gospels of its universal acceptance as a psalm of David by the Jews in the time of our Lord; and, what is of more weight, of his having himself referred to it as such. The whole point of his argument with the Pharisees depends on the acknowledgment of David being the speaker, as well as of the Messiah being the Person spoken of. None of the Pharisees thought of disputing either of these premises; they were evidently received as indisputable; nor can it be conceived (as has been irreverently suggested) that our Lord did not thus give his own sanction to their truth. Nor, further, is there in the psalm itself any internal evidence against its Davidic authorship, though, but for the above testimony to the contrary, it might have been the composition of a prophet of David's day, or written by David for use by his people—the term, "my lord," having thus a primary reference to him. In either of these cases we might suppose the original conception of Zechariah 6:1 to have been that of David himself being enthroned on Zion at the side of the "King of glory" (Psalms 24:1-10) who had "come in;" while Zechariah 6:4 might possibly have been suggested by David's organization of the services of the tabernacle, and by the personal part he took in the ritual when the ark was removed to Zion. Even so, the quotation would answer the purpose of the argument according to the view of the drift of Messianic psalms which has been explained above. But, even independently of the distinct import of our Lord's words, there are reasons (pointed out by Delitzsch) against the supposition of even a primary reference to David in the words, "my lord." Two may be mentioned:

(1) that the assignment of sacerdotal functions to an earthly king is contrary to the whole spirit of the Old Testament;

(2) that God's own throne is elsewhere represented as, not in Zion, but above the heavens. Now, the conclusion thus arrived at, that David himself is speaking throughout the psalm of another than himself, gives a peculiar force to this final quotation, in that the Antitype is distinguished from and raised above the type more evidently than in other Messianic psalms. In others (as we have regarded them) the typical king himself is the primary object in view, though ideally glorified so as to foreshadow One greater than himself; here the typical king seems to have a distinct vision of the Messiah apart from himself, and speaks of him as his lord. It does not follow that David's own position and circumstances did not form a basis for his vision. We perceive traces of them in "the rod of thy strength out of Zion," and in the picture which follows of the submission of heathen kings after warfare and slaughter. But Zechariah 6:1 and Zechariah 6:4 point still to another than himself whom he foresees in the spirit of prophecy. The psalm begins, literally translated, "The voice [or, 'oracle,' Hebrew מאֻןְ] of Jehovah to my lord, Sit thou on my right hand," etc. This sounds like more than a mere echo of Nathan's message, the language being different and still more significant. And that such a vision of a future fulfillment of the promise was not foreign to the mind of David appears from his "last words" (2 Samuel 23:1-39. 2 Samuel 23:1, etc), where also the significant word סאֻןְ is used. And now, mark what the language of this "oracle" implies—not merely the enthronement of the Son on Zion as God's Vicegerent, but his session at the right hand of God himself, i.e. "at the right hand of the Majesty on high;" God's own throne being ever (as has been said above) regarded as above the heavens, or, if on earth, above the cherubim. Such, then, being the meaning of the "oracle" (and it is the meaning uniformly given it in the New Testament), well may it be adduced as the final and crowning proof of the position above the angels assigned to the SON in prophecy.

Hebrews 1:14

Are they not all, etc.? A final expression, adduced in contrast, of the position and office of the angels, as seen above. The A.V. suggests the idea, not conveyed by the Greek, of guardian angels. The more correct translation is, Are they not all ministering (λειτουργικὰ) spirits, for service (εἰς διακονίαν) sent forth, on account of those who are to (διὰ τοὺς μέλλοντας) inherit salvation? The allusion is generally to their office of subordinate ministration in furtherance of the Divine purposes of human salvation; the continuance of such office being denoted by the present participle, αποστελλόμενα.


Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2

The two revelations

In this sublime exordium, which strikes the keynote of his doctrinal teaching, the writer takes for granted:

1. The inspiration of the Scriptures. "God hath spoken." How awful this truth, yet how blessed! With what a clear ringing note of certainty the author assumes it! The Scriptures put forth no theory of inspiration, but they everywhere claim to declare the mind and will of God.

2. The interdependence of the two revelations. It is the same God who has "spoken" in both. The new does not ignore or contradict the old; it rests upon it, develops it, and completes it. The Old Testament, no less than the New, will bear every trial to which it may be subjected by either the lower or the higher criticism.


1. Ancient. "Of old time unto the fathers." "Since the world began" (Acts 3:21). For nearly four hundred years now God had ceased speaking; it was more than fifteen hundred since the first part of the Old Testament had been written; and it was over four thousand years at the very least since God had begun to speak.

2. Given "in the prophets." A prophet is a forth-speaker—a spokesman—one who speaks for another. The prophetic formula was, "Thus saith Jehovah." God's prophets were men; he conveyed his message to his people through human minds and hearts. No prophet wrote as an automaton; his own faculties wrought, and his ink-horn was dashed with his heart's blood. It is very beautiful to see the prophets rising up, one after another, in these far-past days. Together they form a "goodly fellowship;" each was the noblest spirit of his time.

3. Fragmentary. "By divers portions." God had given the former revelation part by part. He delivered it in connection with temporary dispensations—the Adamic, the Abrahamic, and the Mosaic. He gave it first by oral communication, and latterly by Scripture. The Old Testament grew slowly; it took more than a millennium to complete it, and at least twenty-seven different writers contributed to it. The revelation, though of priceless value, was always fragmentary and imperfect; it was meant to be progressive and preparatory. God gave one truth to one age, and another to a succeeding age. The promises of redemption became the longer the more definite.

4. Multiform. "In diverse manners"—in manifold fashion. Now God spoke by dreams, now by visions, now by voices, now by angels, now by similitudes, now by Urim, now by sacrifices and lustrations, now by putting a burning word into the prophet's soul. How various too, is the literature of the Old Testament Scriptures! Now it is historical, now biographical, now legislative, now prophetic, now philosophic, now poetical; as varied as the fresh mind of every contributor, and yet revealing all through the one eternal Mind.

II. THE NEW TESTAMENT REVELATION CONTRASTED WITH THE OLD. The writer merely suggests this contrast, leaving its details to be wrought out in the meditation of his readers. Unlike the Old, the New Testament revelation is:

1. Recent and final "At the end of these days unto us." This refers to the close of the Mosaic economy. Judaism, like the older dispensations which preceded it, had got worn out, and in its turn had passed away; but the Christian dispensation is the final one, to be consummated only at the second advent. So, the new economy shall be ever present and always new, because not to be superseded so long as the world lasts.

2. Given "in his Son." What an element of stupendous contrast! The prophets were only inspired men; this is a Divine Person. The prophets were only servants; this is the Son. The prophets were only God's spokesmen; this is God himself speaking. The Son is the Logos—the" Word," the manifested God. What a view is presented in the following clauses of his Divine dignity and his mediatorial majesty! This first grand sentence of the Epistle reminds us of the scene on the holy mount. It points us away from Moses and Elijah, as did the voice from the excellent glory, saying to our souls, "This is my beloved Son: hear ye him."

3. Complete and perfect. The New Testament presents the truth, not fragmentarily, as the Old Testament did, but in finished form and in undivided fullness. It was entirely written by eight or nine men belonging to one generation. It contains a richer revelation of more developed truth than that which is found in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Son of God, speaking to us through his apostles and evangelists, we see revelation full-orbed at last. For eighteen centuries now the canon has been complete; and, thus, progress in theology can be made only as the result of better understanding of what God has already given us. The laureate's "Ring in the Christ that is to be," cannot refer with propriety to any Christ that is unrevealed.

4. Simple and clear. The Old Testament revelation was multiform—like a painted window, covered over with many-colored and beautiful emblems; that of the New Testament is like a window of pure clear glass, through which we gaze upon the unveiled glory of heaven. The water of life trickled through the Old Testament in a variety of tiny streamlets; it runs in the New Testament with the flow of a broad pellucid river. Christ and his apostles "use great plainness of speech." The New Testament is much shorter than the Old, but it is more inward, evangelical, and spiritual. It is a better revelation as well as a later one; for it contains the substance rather than the shadows—the heavenly things rather than only their patterns. Preaching is a very simple ordinance. The two sacraments constitute the entire Christian ritual. The Old Testament "veil is done away in Christ."

In conclusion:

1. Great as were the privileges of the ancient Hebrews (Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5), how much higher are ours (Matthew 13:16, Matthew 13:17)!

2. How much heavier, accordingly, are our responsibilities (Hebrews 12:25)! What base ingratitude in any one not to listen to the Son of God, and to refuse to shape his life in accordance with the complete and glorious circle of Christian truth!

Hebrews 1:2-4

The glory of the God-Man. So soon as the apostle mentions the "Son," there spreads out before his mind a vast expanse of the territory of revelation—the loftiest shining table-land of truth which the Scriptures open to our gaze. Indeed, this sentence supplies a sublime basis for all true Christology. It describes at once the Redeemer's essential glory as the pre-existent One, and his mediatorial glory as the incarnate Messiah.

I. THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO GOD. The clauses which speak of this solemnize us by their mystery, and dazzle us by their splendor.

1. He is the Son of God. (Hebrews 1:2) "Son" is not merely an official title; it designates the natural and eternal relation of the Second Person of the Godhead to the First. Christ is God's "only-begotten Son"—his Son in a sense absolutely unique, as implying sameness of essence with the Father.

2. He is the Manifestation of God. (Hebrews 1:3) "The effulgence of his glory;"—i.e. Christ is an eternal radiation of splendor from the majesty of the absolute Jehovah. He is "Light of [from] light." The rays which stream from the sun reveal the sun itself; so Christ is the ever-visible radiance of the unapproachable Light. We have but to look to him who is "the Word" for a display of the attributes and perfections of Deity.

3. He is the Counterpart of God. (Hebrews 1:3) "The very image of his substance," i.e. the adequate imprint of his substantial essence. The Shechinah in the tabernacle had not the personal form of God; but the Son bears his real and perfect likeness. Christ has upon himself the exact impress of Deity. He is the Father's alter ego—his very image. "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." So perfectly does the Son bear the impress of God, that he could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

II. THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE UNIVERSE. What is said on this point proves his Deity, the very same acts and prerogatives being elsewhere ascribed to God.

1. He is its Creator. (Hebrews 1:2) The life of the God-Man did not begin only nineteen centuries ago. He is himself" the Beginning "—the Alpha—the Firstborn before every creature (Colossians 1:15-18). He made the natural universe—every star that adorns the arch of night. He ordained all periods and dispensations ("ages")—all geological formations, all historical eras, all economies of religion.

2. He is its Sustainer. (Hebrews 1:3) It is his fiat that holds the universe together. "In him all things consist." On his fingers hang the suns and systems of immensity. It is the Lord Christ who adjusts and governs all the tremendous forces—physical, intellectual, and spiritual—which operate throughout creation. The pulses of universal life are regulated by the throbbing of his mighty heart. He is the Soul of providence, and the Center of history.

3. He is its Possessor. "Whom he appointed Heir of all things." (Hebrews 1:2) As the Son of God, Christ received this appointment and gift in the past eternity. As the God-Man, his Father has constituted him, by another deed of gift, the mediatorial Monarch of the universe. The keys of death and of Hades hang at his girdle. He is the Lord of angels. He has "authority over all flesh." His own people are his peculiar inheritance—the very jewels of his crown.

III. THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE CHURCH. The Lord's mediatorial honors have cast a new luster over even his original renown.

1. He is its Prophet. (Hebrews 1:2) It is as the Teacher of the Church that the writer introduces his name in this magnificent prologue. The eternal "Logos"—the manifestation and counterpart of God—has become "the light of the world." When on earth he taught his followers by personal instruction; and now that he is in heaven, he enlightens the Church by his Word and by the influences of his Spirit.

2. He is its Priest. (Hebrews 1:3) Jesus is more than a teacher, and his gospel is more than simply a philosophy. Mankind, being sinners, have not liberty of access to God; we need some one to approach God on our behalf. We require a priest, and an altar with a sacrifice on it, in order to the "purification of sins." Now, Christ is our Priest. He made "purification" eighteen centuries ago by his life in Palestine and his death on Calvary. He accomplished a work of expiation—an objective atonement. And the efficacy of his sacrifice is chiefly due to the infinite dignity of his person as "the effulgence of God's glory, and the very image of his substance."

3. He is its King. (Hebrews 1:3) This royalty is the reward of his work of "purification." Having made perfect satisfaction for human sin, he ascended on high and sat down upon the throne of sovereign authority. From the right hand of the Father, as the place of supereminent dignity and power, he rules his people by the might of his cross. The "Heir of all things" is fully qualified to be the Head of the Church, and Head over all for the advantage of the Church. The loftiest seraph is immeasurably his inferior. Jesus has been raised as high above Michael and Gabriel as he was eternally above them, and as he therefore inherited a more illustrious name than they (Hebrews 1:4). in conclusion, why does the apostle expatiate thus upon the greatness and glory of the Prophet of the New Testament? Not merely because he delights to do so; but rather, also, to attract our hearts to the love and worship and service of the Lord Jesus, whose creatures we are, and to whom we belong by the purchase of his blessed blood.

Hebrews 1:4-14

Christ greater than the angels.

The Jews used to boast that their Law had been given at Sinai by the instrumentality of angels; and they concluded from this that the Mosaic dispensation would continue as long as the world itself. But the apostle asserts here that the Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, is immeasurably greater than the angels; and he supports his assertion with abundant evidence from the Hebrew Scriptures. Hebrews 1:4 supplies us with the key to this whole passage. The quotations which follow illustrate from the Old Testament the two statements of that verse, while they also justify the glorious titles and prerogatives directly ascribed to the Redeemer in Hebrews 1:2 and Hebrews 1:3.

I. CHRIST HAS HAD FROM ETERNITY AN ESSENTIAL NATURE HIGHER THAN THE ANGELS. "He hath inherited a more excellent name than they." Names in modern times are generally quite inexpressive—mere labels affixed to individuals to distinguish them from others; but among the Jews it was otherwise. The names of God, especially, symbolized attributes of his character. So, Christ's "Name" expresses his nature.

1. He is God's Son. (Hebrews 1:5) In Psalms 2:1-12. we hear his own voice rehearsing from his Father's counsel the decree of his eternal sonship. That decree dates from everlasting; but it was to be "declared" again and again, and particularly by the event of his resurrection (Romans 1:4). Even Nathan the prophet had proclaimed it to David (2 Samuel 7:14) in his prophecy respecting Solomon and "a greater than Solomon."

2. He is Elohim. (Psalms 2:8, Psalms 2:9) The two highest Old Testament names of God are Elohim and Jehovah: none are more distinctive of Deity than these. So Psalms 45:6 is one of the great proof-texts for the supreme divinity of Christ. There the psalmist addresses the coming mediatorial King as God himself, by-and-by to be clothed in human nature. He was to fulfill all righteousness for man, and to be invested as the God-Man with the sceptre of supreme authority above all his brethren of mankind.

3. He is Jehovah. (Psalms 45:10-12) The idea conveyed by this Divine name is that of self-existence. Now, the apostle does not hesitate here to apply to Christ the language of Psalms 102:1-28.—a Jehovistic psalm—in celebration of the eternity and majesty of the Eternal. The Covenant-Deliverer of captive Zion is none other than Jehovah Jesus. It was he who created the universe; and he shall remain unchanged—the everlasting Stay and Strength of his children—after the heavens shall be no more. For he is the I AM. Immutability is one of his glories. Contrast now with this the name and nature of the angels. God nowhere addresses any one of them as his "Son." No angel is called Jehovah. None receives the name Elohim in the way in which this appellation is given to Christ. Instead of that, the angels are created beings (Psalms 102:7). They are servants of God, who in their qualities and uses resemble the winds and the lightning. The cherubim fly swiftly like the "winds;" the seraphim burn with holy ardor like a "flame of fire." The Son of God is not the peer of the angels: he is Jehovah Elohim; and the loftiest spirits in the heavenly hierarchy are his creatures.

II. CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED IN TIME TO A PROPORTIONATELY HIGHER OFFICIAL POSITION. "Having become by so much better than the angels." He became superior to the angels in his official capacity as the God-Man Mediator—as much superior as he had been from the beginning in his essential nature. His mediatorial pre-eminence began clearly to appear nineteen hundred years ago, in connection both with his humiliation and his exaltation.

1. When on earth, Jesus received angelic worship. (Psalms 102:6) This had been predicted in Psalms 97:1-12. And, accordingly, when Christ became incarnate, angels thronged round his manger-cradle, proclaiming his advent, and celebrating it in a burst of choral praise. Angels ministered to him after the temptation, and sustained him under his great agony. Angels attended at his resurrection, and haunted for a time his empty tomb. Angels encompassed him in his final ascension to glory.

2. Now, in heaven, he sits on God's right hand. (Verse 13) His official exaltation had been predicted in Psalms 110:1-7. God never said, "Sit thou on my right hand" to any angel, i.e. to any creature. Therefore the illustrious Priest-King of that psalm is not a creature; and, if not a creature, he must be the Creator. The session of the Mediator at the right hand of Jehovah implies that the entire universe is subject to his scepter. He employs the holy angels, and he controls and restrains the "spiritual hosts of wickedness." Contrast now with this the official position of the angels (verse 14).

(1) They are "ministering spirits" to the Mediator of the new covenant. They stand before the throne upon which he sits—waiting his commands, and eager to do his pleasure.

(2) He employs their service on behalf of those "that shall inherit salvation." The angels encamp round about believers; they watch over little children; they are instruments of good to the poor and the forsaken; they carry away the spirits of the departed into Abraham's bosom; they will gather the saints at the final judgment.

Learn in conclusion:

1. The plenary inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. The author quotes what Nathan and David and the other psalmists said, as being the words of God himself. He is evidently fully persuaded that the Old Testament writers express with superhuman insight the very mind of God regarding his incarnate Son.

2. The reality of the angel world and of angel help. It seems to be always difficult for the Church to hold, in its scriptural purity, the doctrine of the angels. On this subject may be noticed the rationalistic error, the Gnostic error, the Romish error, and. the Protestant error. Many Protestants give no place in their living faith to the truth about the angels.

3. The necessity of living for the glory of our Divine Redeemer. An intellectual persuasion of his true Godhead is not enough; we must take home the sublime Christology of this chapter to our hearts, and allow it, by its power reigning: within us, to mould and guide our entire lives.


Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2

God's revelation of redemptive truth to man

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners," etc. God has spoken to man. A very significant fact. It suggests the Divine interest in his human creatures. It teaches that man is capable of receiving communications from the infinite Mind. tie can understand, appreciate, and appropriate to his unspeakable advantage the thoughts of God concerning him. He is under obligations to do so. Man's attitude towards the communications of God should be that of devout attention and earnest investigation. Our text teaches that God's revelation of redemptive truth to man—

I. WAS MADE THROUGH MAN. "God... spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets;" Revised Version, "in the prophets." The prophets were not simply predictors of future events; the word is applied to the sacred lawgiver, historians, poets, etc. God spake in them and through them to the fathers. "It was the very condition of the prophet's inspiration," says Robertson, "that he should be one with the people. So far from making him superhuman, it made him more man. He felt with more exquisite sensitiveness all that belongs to man, else he could not have been a prophet. His insight into things was the result of that very weakness, sensitiveness, and susceptibility so tremblingly alive. He burned with their thoughts, and expressed them. He was obliged by the very sensitiveness of his humanity to have a more entire dependence and a more perfect sympathy than other men He was me, re man, just because more Divine—more a Son of man, because more a Son of God."

II. WAS MADE GRADUALLY. "At sundry times;" Revised Version, "by divers portions." The revelation was given piecemeal, by fragments, in and by various persons, and in different ages. Very gradual was the revelation of redemptive truth to man. God's first communication (Genesis 3:15) was like the evening star, serene and solitary; the fuller communications of the patriarchal age were like the starry hosts of night; the revelations made to Moses were like the light of the fair and full-orbed moon, in which that of the stars is lost; and those made by succeeding prophets were like the dawn of the day, when the moon grows pale and dim; and the supreme revelation was like the radiance of the sun shining in noontide splendor. This gradualness of revelation may be seen in many things, e.g.:

1. The character of God. Very gradual was the unfolding of the nature and character of the Divine Being to man. The measure of the revelation was adapted to the measure of the human capacity. Jesus, the Son, revealed the essence and heart of the Father. "God is a Spirit." Parable of the prodigal son. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

2. The salvation of man and its method.

3. True human character and blessedness (of. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 with Matthew 5:1-12).

4. The immortality of man. We find in the Bible longings for immortality, inquiries after it, hints concerning it, anticipations of it, but not until the final revelation in Christ was it brought into clear and assured light (2 Timothy 1:10). This gradualness of the Divine unfoldment should be remembered by us we study the Divine communications. Let us not expect to find in the earlier portions what the later alone can contain, or put to Moses inquiries which only the Son can reply to.

III. WAS MADE VARIOUSLY. "In divers manners." This is true:

1. Of God's communications to the prophets. He communicated with them by Urim and Thummim, by dreams, visions, ecstasies, by quickening and directing their thoughts, etc. God is not limited as to his modes of access to and influence over the minds of men. He can call them into active exercise, impress them with deep convictions, etc.

2. Of the communications of the prophets to men. They spoke in prose and poetry, in parable and proverb, in history and prediction, in forcible reasoning and glowing eloquence. Each prophet also has his own style. God's revelations in the Bible and in nature are alike in this, that they are characterized by endless and delightful variety. In nature we have the majestic mountain and the lowly valley, the massive oak and the modest daisy, the serene stars and the storm-driven clouds, the booming ocean and the rippling rivulet. Equally great and beautiful is the variety in the sacred Scriptures.

IV. IS CHARACTERIZED BY UNITY. The revelation was given "by divers portions and in divers manners;" it came through different men and in widely distant ages; yet all the portions are in substantial agreement. The voices are many and various, but they meet and combine in one sweet and sublime harmony. In the different portions of the revelation we discover unity of character—every portion is spiritual, pure, sacred; unity of direction—every portion points to the last great revelation, the Divine Son; unity of purpose—to make man "wise unto salvation." We conclude, then, that while the speakers were many, the inspiring Mind was One only. Or, keeping more closely to the phraseology of the text, though the voices were many, the Speaker was but one. In this marvelous unity in such great diversity, we have the basis of a cogent argument for the Divine origin of the sacred Scriptures.

V. IS PERFECTED IN HIS SON. "God... hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son;" Revised Version, "hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son." The revelations made in and by the prophets were imperfect. "They were various in nature and form, fragments of the whole truth, presented in manifold forms, in shifting lines of separated color. Christ is the full revelation of God, himself the pure Light, uniting in his one Person the whole spectrum" (Alford). It is quite appropriate that the perfect revelation should be made in and through the Divine Son. The Son will be perfectly acquainted with the Father, and therefore able to declare his will. The Son wilt resemble the Father, and therefore be able to manifest him. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son," etc. No one knoweth "the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him;" "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The Divine revelations of redemptive truth to man culminate in him. No new or further revelations will be granted unto us; but to the devout, patient, and earnest student, new and brighter light will stream forth from the revelations already given. Many of the utterances of the Son are as yet only very partially and imperfectly understood even by his most advanced pupils. His words are of inexhaustible significance; and. that significance will become increasingly manifest to the prayerful and patient inquirer.

CONCLUSION. Let us rejoice that we have this latest and brightest revelation of God, this clearest utterance of his will concerning us and our salvation. Let us heartily accept this revelation. It is truly accepted only when it is acted upon; i.e. when we have received the Son of God as our Savior and Lord.—W. J.

Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 1:3

The transcendent glory of the Son of God.

"His Son, whom he hath appointed Heir of all things," etc. The Divine Son, the last and brightest revelation of God to man, is here set before us as supremely glorious in several respects.

I. IN THE VASTNESS OF HIS POSSESSIONS. "Whom he appointed heir of all things." Because he is the Son of God he is constituted Heir of all things. The whole universe is his. "He is Lord of all." "All things that the Father hath are mine; "All mine are thine, and thine are mine? His lordship is universal. His possessions are unlimited. His wealth is infinite. What an encouragement we have in this to trust in him! "The unsearchable riches of Christ" are available for the supply of all who follow him.


1. He is the Creator of all things. "By whom also he made the worlds." The innumerable worlds in the universe of God were made by the Divine Son as the" acting Power and personal Instrument" of the Father. Alford: "The universe, as well in its great primeval conditions—the reaches of space and the ages of time, as in all material objects and all successive events, which famish out and people space and time, God made by Christ." He "laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of his hands." "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that hath been made;" "In him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth," etc. (Colossians 1:16). All creatures in all worlds were created by him. Creation is a revelation of his mind and might. The glory of creation, rightly understood, is the glory of the Creator—the Son of God.

2. He is the Sustainer of all things. "And upholding all things by the word of his power." The universe which he created is upheld and preserved in being by the expression of his almighty power. "In him all things consist;" they are held together by him. The universe is neither self-sustaining nor is it forsaken by God. It is not a great piece of mechanism constructed by the Creator, and then left to work of itself, or to be worked by others. His almighty energy is always and everywhere present in it. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." How stupendous the conception that the boundless universe, with its countless worlds and much more countless inhabitants, is constantly sustained in existence and. in beautiful order by the word which utters his power!

3. He is the Savior from sin. "He by himself purged our sins;" Revised Version, "He made purification of sins." This does not mean purification by the moral influence of his teaching and example. There is a reference to the purifications of the Levitical law, by which ceremonial uncleanness was typically removed. "According to the Law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "In the atonement," says Ebrard, "in the gracious covering of the guilt of sin, consists purification in the scriptural sense. So that an Israelitish reader, a Christian Jew, would never, on reading the words καθαρισμὸν ποιεῖν, think on what we commonly call 'moral amelioration,' which, if not springing out of the living ground of a heart reconciled to God, is mere self-deceit, and only external avoidance of evident transgression; but the καθαρισμὸς which Christ brought in would, in the sense of our author and his readers, only be understood of that gracious atonement for all guilt of sin of all mankind, which Christ our Lord and Savior has completed for us by his sinless sufferings and death; and out of which flows forth to us, as from a fountain, all power to love in return, all love to him, our heavenly Pattern, and all hatred of sin which caused his death." This atonement is completed. It admits of no repetition; and nothing can be added unto it. "When he had made purification of sins." The purification is finished, and it is perfect. Thus we see that in his works, as Creator, Sustainer, and Savior, our Lord is supremely glorious,

III. IN THE DIVINITY OF HIS BEING. "Who being the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his person; Revised Version, "the effulgence of his glory, and the very Image of his substance." These words suggest:

1. That the Son is of one essence with the Father. Canon Liddon: "That he is one with God as having streamed forth eternally from the Father's essence, like a ray of light from the parent fire with which it is unbrokenly joined, is implied in the expression ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης." Let us not think of this glory as a material thing. It is moral and spiritual. Moses prayed," I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee," etc. (Exodus 33:15-23). Beyond this, perhaps, it becomes us not to speak of the glory of the Divine essence; it is mysterious, ineffable. Jehovah said to Moses, "While my glory passeth by, I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by," etc. (cf. 1 Timothy 6:16).

2. That the Son is the perfect revelation of the Father. He is "the very Image of his substance," or essential being. The word χαρακτὴρ signifies the impression produced by a stamp, a seal, or a die. As the impression on the wax corresponds with the engraving on the seal, so the Divine Son is the perfect likeness of the essence of the Father. Hence he said, "He that beholdeth me beholdeth him that sent me." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." And St. Paul, "He is the Image of the invisible God."

3. That the Son is personally distinct from the Father. As the impression on the wax is quite distinct from the seal by which it was made, so the figure suggests that our Lord is "personally distinct from him of whose essence he is the adequate imprint."

IV. IN THE EXALTATION OF HIS POSITION. "Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."

1. Here is a glorious position. "At the right hand of the Majesty on high." This is spoken of his exaltation as the Messiah and in his human nature, after the completion of his work upon earth and his ascension into heaven. "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross," etc. (Hebrews 12:2). "Being in the form of God, he counted it not a prize to be of an equality with God," etc. (Philippians 2:6-11).

2. Here is the highest realm. "On high;" i.e. in heaven. "Christ entered, into heaven itself" (Hebrews 9:24). "Heaven, in Holy Scripture, signifies … usually, that sphere of the created world of space and time, where the union of God with the personal creature is not severed by sin, where no death reigns, where the glorification of the body is not a mere hope of the future" (Ebrard). Into that sphere our Lord in his crucified but now risen and glorified humanity has entered, and is enthroned "on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22).

3. Here is a waiting attitude. "Sat down." "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." He is waiting for all things to be subjected unto him, "in the majestic certainty of his triumph over all who shall oppose the advance of his kingdom."


1. In him who "made purification of sins "let us trust as our Savior.

2. Unto him who is essentially Divine let us render the full homage of our heart and life.—W.J.

Hebrews 1:4, Hebrews 1:5

The exaltation of the Son of God above the angels of God.

"Being made so much better than the angels," etc. The angels of God are great and exalted beings. Our Lord spake of them as "holy angels" (Matthew 25:31). David said they "excel in strength" (Psalms 103:20). St. Paul designates them "his mighty angels' (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Deeds involving stupendous power are ascribed to them (Isaiah 37:36; Acts 12:7-11). They are said to be "full of eyes," to indicate their great intelligence (Revelation 4:6, Revelation 4:8). They are represented as occupying a most exalted position and. offering the highest worship (Isaiah 6:1-3). In their ranks the highest order of created beings is to be found (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). But our Lord is greater than the angels.

I. IS THE PRE-EMINENCE OF HIS NAME. "He hath inherited a more excellent name than they."

1. The pre-eminent name—the Son of God. This appears from Hebrews 1:5, "For unto which of the angels," etc.? The first quotation is from Psalms 2:1-12., which is generally regarded as Messianic. The second is from 2 Samuel 7:14, which is applicable primarily to Solomon, but principally to him who is both "the Root and the Offspring of David." Angels are called "sons of God" in the sacred Scriptures (Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7); so also are true Christians (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2). But to One only is given the title the Son of God, even to "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father," and of whom the Father speaks as "my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." It is probable that in this name there is a depth of significance, a height of dignity, and a fullness of glory of which at present we have little or no conception.

2. The acquisition of this name. "He hath by inheritance obtained" it. "He hath inherited" it:

(1) Because of his relation to the Father. It belongs to him by his very Being, "by virtue of his Divine filiations. Angels may be, in an inferior sense, the sons of God by creation; but they cannot inherit that title, for this plain reason, that they are created, not begotten; whilst our Lord inherits the 'more excellent name,' because he is begotten, not created."

(2) And, perhaps, because it was promised to him in the Old Testament Scriptures; as in the passages quoted in cur text.

II. IN THE CORRESPONDING PRE-EMINENCE OF HIS NATURE. Names and titles in the sacred writings, generally speaking, are neither given for their euphony, nor are they merely complimentary, but they express realities in the circumstances, or character, or calling of the person to whom they are applied. This is especially the case in respect to the Son of God. "The dignity of his titles is indicative of his essential rank." He is called the Son of God because he is the Son of God in a peculiar and exclusive sense. The name is indicative of his nature, which is essentially Divine.

III. IN HIS CORRESPONDING PRE-EMINENCE AS MEDIATOR. "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath," etc; Revised Version, "Having become by so much better than the angels," etc. The "having become" refers to the exaltation of our Lord in his humanity. In like manner it seems to us that the "This day have I begotten thee" refers to his resurrection from the dead. St. Paul certainly applied the words thus (Acts 13:32, Acts 13:33). And he writes, God's "Son, who was born of the seed, of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection of the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord." And St. John speaks of "Jesus Christ, the First-begotten of the dead" (Revelation 1:5). We conclude, then, that "begotten" is used figuratively, and that by it is intended the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, by which he was declared to be the Son of God with power, and his exaltation to his mediatorial throne. And this brings us to our present point, which the fourth verse teaches us, that the exaltation of our Lord consequent upon the completion of his redemptive work upon earth is commensurate with the exaltation of his essential nature; or, that his glory as Mediator corresponds with the dignity of his name and nature. Alford: "Observe, that the κρείττων γενόμενος is not identical with the κεκληρονόμηκεν, but in proportion to it: the triumphant issue of his mediation is consonant to the glorious name which is his by inheritance; but which, in the fullness of its present inconceivable glory, has been put on and taken up by him in the historical process of his mediatorial humiliation and triumph." The redemption of humanity was an undertaking beyond all human power, and transcending even angelic wisdom, love, and might. Its accomplishment demanded the resources of Godhead. Our Lord has redeemed man in a manner worthy of himself as Son of God, and his exaltation as Redeemer corresponds with the pre-eminence of his transcendent Name. And more, this "exaltation must be conceived of as belonging, not to his humanity only, but to the entire undivided person of Christ, now resuming the fullness and glory of the Godhead (John 17:5), and in addition to this having taken into the Godhead the manhood, now glorified by his obedience, atonement, and victory (see Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:6-9; Acts 2:36; 1 Peter 3:21, 1 Peter 3:22). The Son of God before his incarnation was Head over creation; but after his work in the flesh he had become also Head of creation, inasmuch as his glorified body, in which he triumphs sitting at God's right hand, is itself created, and is the sum and the center of creation" (Alford).

Let his pre-eminence as Mediator inspire us with, confidence in him as our Savior.

2. Let his essential lore-eminence inspire us with adoring reverence towards him.—W. J.

Hebrews 1:6

The Son of God the Recipient of the worship of the angels.

"And again, when he bringeth in the First-begotten," etc. This verse, as Ebrard remarks, "is unquestionably one of the most difficult in the whole Epistle." We have in it:

1. An august relationship. "His First-begotten." This title is appropriately applied to the Son of God:

(1) Because he existed before all creatures. "He is the Firstborn of all creation' (Colossians 1:15); "In the beginning was the Word."

(2) Because it was given to him in prophecy. "I will make him my Firstborn," etc. (Psalms 89:27).

(3) Because of his miraculous conception (see Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:30-35).

(4) Because of his resurrection from the dead. £ "He is the Firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). And it may well be that in this place all these applications of the title are combined in setting forth the unique and august relation of the Divine Son to the God and Father.

2. A remarkable epoch. "And again, when he bringeth in the First-begotten into the world." There is much diversity of opinion as to what event in the history of the Son of God is referred to here. Some take it as denoting the resurrection of our Lord. Others, his second coming; as Alford, who translates," But when he again hath introduced the First-begotten into the world." And others, his incarnation. "It cannot be 'a second bringing in of the Firstborn into the world' that is here spoken of," says Ebrard, "seeing that nothing has been said of a first." This seems to us the correct interpretation. It is very significant that the heavenly intelligences should be summoned to worship him "even when he was entering upon his profound self-humiliation." The angel Gabriel foretold his birth (Luke 1:26), the angel of the Lord announced it, and a multitude of the heavenly host celebrated it in joyful worship-song (Hebrews 2:9-14). This introduction of the First-begotten into the inhabited world is the greatest epoch in history. Antecedent ages looked onward to it; subsequent ages date from it, and have been influenced by it to a degree far surpassing human conception.

3. A significant command. "He saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." Whether these words are quoted from Deuteronomy 32:43 or Psalms 97:7, or whether both passages were in the mind of the writer, we shall not attempt to determine. To us it seems most probable that he quotes from Deuteronomy. But we turn to the homiletic suggestions of the quotation.

I. ANGELS WORSHIP, THEREFORE WORSHIP IS BECOMING IN ALL INTELLIGENT BEINGS. Angels are the highest created beings. If worship is necessary for them, it is necessary for those also who are less in their faculties and lower in their positions, yet capable of reverent approach to the Supreme Being. Man needs worship for the right and harmonious development of his being. Without worship the highest powers of his nature will decline and die for want of exercise, and its holiest possibilities will not even be attempted. Moreover, since worship is appropriate and becoming in the angels of God, it is not less so in his human creatures. No attitude is more befitting in us than that of adoration.


1. Angels, by virtue of their intelligence, are capable of estimating his claims to their worship.

2. Angels, because of their holiness, would not pay their worship to one who was not worthy of it. Hence, in worshipping the First-begotten of the Father, they are an example to us. Their worship attests his worthiness.

III. "ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP" THE SON OF GOD, THEREFORE HE IS WORTHY OF THE WORSHIP OF EVEN THE HIGHEST CREATURES. Angels even of the highest rank worship him (Isaiah 6:1-3; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 5:11-14). Hence we infer that the most intelligent, the wisest, the mightiest, the most exalted of men should worship him.

IV. ANGELS ARE UNDER OBLIGATIONS TO WORSHIP THE SON OF GOD, BUT MAN IS UNDER MORE AND MIGHTIER OBLIGATIONS TO WORSHIP HIM. Angels are commanded to worship him. "He saith, Let all the angels," etc. They worship him because of what he is in himself; because he is essentially Divine, and supremely, infinitely perfect—" the effulgence of the Father's glory," etc. They worship him also because of what he is in relation to them. He is their Creator and Sustainer. These reasons for worshipping the Son apply to us as much as to these heavenly intelligences; and, in addition to these, we are impelled to worship him by a motive more tender in its character and more mighty in its constraining force than any of these. He is our Savior. He gave himself for us. He died for us. He redeemed us with his own precious blood. And now "he ever liveth to make intercession for us." How sacred and strong, then, are the obligations which bind us to worship him! "Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power," etc. (Revelation 5:12); "O come let us sing unto the Lord," etc. (Psalms 95:1-7)—W. J.

Hebrews 1:7-9

The Son and the angels.

"And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels," etc. Here are two quotations from the Psalms; the first from Psalms 104:4, the second from Psalms 45:6, Psalms 45:7. Whether the latter Psalm applied primarily to Solomon or any other king of ancient Israel or not, it seems to us quite clear that it applies to the ideal King, the Messiah. Our text presents additional illustrations of the great superiority of the Son to the angels.

I. THE ANGELS ARE MESSENGERS OF GOD, THE SON IS HIMSELF GOD. They are messengers who execute his behests. "His angels do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word" (cf. Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19, Luke 1:26). But the Son is called God by the Father. "Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Since God the Father thus addresses him he must really be God; for he calls persons and things by names which correspond to their natures. There is a wide interval between the most honored messenger and the only begotten Son and Heir of the Father, between the highest of created beings and the uncreated God.

II. THE ANGELS ARE SERVANTS, THE SON IS THE SOVEREIGN. They are "his ministers." They serve him swiftly and joyfully. All their service is religious in its spirit. Their work is indeed worship. But, however important the nature of their service, however exalted its spirit, however perfect its performance, they are still servants and subjects. But the Son is the Sovereign. The Father saith unto him, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever," etc. The throne and scepter are symbols of royal authority. "All authority hath been given unto me," said our Lord, "in heaven and on earth;" "I sat down with my Father in his throne;" "His kingdom ruleth over all."

III. THE ANGELS SERVE IN THE PHENOMENA AND FORCES OF NATURE, THE SON REIGNS RIGHTEOUSLY IN A SPIRITUAL EMPIRE. "Who maketh his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire." These words are variously interpreted. Dean Perowne (on Psalms 104:4) says, "He clothes his messengers with the might, the swiftness, the all-pervading subtlety of wind and fire." Alford's exposition is different: "He makes his messengers winds, i.e. he causes his messengers to act in or by means of the winds; his servants flames of fire, i.e. commissions them to assume the agency or form of flame for his purposes." And Ebrard: "Throughout the New Testament (for example, Romans 8:38; 1 Peter 3:22) the angels, at least a class of them, are regarded as δυνάμεις of God, i.e. as personal creatures furnished with peculiar powers, through whom God works wonders in the kingdom of nature, and whom he accordingly makes to be storm-winds and flames of fire,' in as far as he lets them, so to speak, incorporate themselves with these elements and operations of nature. It is a truth declared in the Holy Scriptures of great speculative importance, that the miracles of nature, for example the lightnings and trumpet-sounds on Sinai, are not wrought immediately and directly by God, the Governor of the world, but are called forth at his will by exalted creatures specially qualified for this work. This position the angels hold; they are there to work terrible wonders in the sphere of nature before the eyes of a yet uncultivated people." But the relation of the Son to man is spiritual, and his rule is supremely righteous. The eighth verse gives us three ideas concerning his government.

1. It is perfectly righteous. "The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom."

(1) His rule over man as an individual is righteous. All his requirements are in harmony with and tend to promote our well-being. In keeping his commandments "there is great reward."

(2) His rule over man in his social relations is righteous. What could be more equitable or more wise than the great rule laid down by our Lord for the regulation of our conduct toward each other?"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."

(3) His rule over man in his relations to God is righteous. He requires us to obey, reverence, and love God. Is it not reasonable and equitable that the most excellent and gracious Being should he loved? that the greatest and most glorious Being should be reverenced? that our Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign should be obeyed? "The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just; and good." His reign is not only equitable, but benevolent.

2. It is perfectly righteous because of his love of righteousness. He reigns in uprightness, not as a matter of policy, but of principle; this grand feature of his government springs from his own infinite affection for righteousness, and the perfect righteousness of his character. "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;" "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness."

3. It is perpetual because it is perfectly righteous. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." His reign is eternal because it is equitable. "The throne is established by righteousness." Earthly

"Empires wane and wax,
Are founded, flourish, and decay."

But "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end," etc. (Isaiah 9:7). "He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

IV. THE JOY OF THE ANGELS IS MUCH INFERIOR TO THAT OF THE SON. "Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" Notice:

1. The nature of this anointing. "Anointed thee with the oil of gladness." This anointing does not indicate the inauguration of our Lord to his mediatorial office. The figure is taken from the custom of anointing the head of the guests at festivals (Psalms 23:5), and is intended to set forth the supreme joy of the Son upon the completion of his redemptive work, and his exaltation to "the right hand of the Majesty on high."

2. The reason of this anointing. "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee." Because of the perfection of his character, and of his life and work upon earth, the Father has blessed him with supreme joy.

3. The extent of this anointing. "Above thy fellows," or associates. Since the design of the writer is to exhibit the superiority of the Son "to the angels, we must, I think, take μετόχους as representing other heavenly beings, partakers in the same glorious and sinless state with himself, though not in the strict sense his 'fellows.'" £ His joy is deeper, higher, greater, intenser than that of any angel. Behold, then, how much greater is the Son than the angels in all the points which have come under our notice!—W.J.

Hebrews 1:10-12

The Son and the universe.

"And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation," etc. The main subject of the writer is still the same—the superiority of the Son to the angels; and he here adduces further proofs of his superiority by setting forth the relations of the Son to the universe, in words which he quotes from Psalms 102:25-27.

I. THE SON IS THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands." Notice here:

1. His existence before the universe. In the beginning he laid the foundation of the earth. When was that? Six thousand years ago? Nay, millions of years ago. The expression takes us "back to the fathomless abyss of ages of ages." Yet the existence of the Son takes us back beyond that, to us, incomprehensibly remote period. As the artist must have existed before the picture which he painted, and the architect before the edifice which he designed, so the Son existed before the universe which he made. "His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

2. His agency in the creation of the universe. He "laid the foundation of the earth," etc. The heavens and the earth have not always existed; they had a beginning. They were not self-originated, but were made by Another. In the strict sense of the word, they were created by our Lord. He did not merely arrange or form the heavens and the earth out of pre-existent materials; he created them. He "laid the foundation." He began at the beginning, etc.

II. HE PRESIDES OVER THE CHARGES OF THE UNIVERSE. "They all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed." Changes are ever going on in the universe. Spring with its fresh and youthful beauty passes into the glowing and. gorgeous summer, etc. There are changes in the earth and in the seas. Even the mountains, which seem so stable and immutable, are subject to change. Suns and stats also are mutable. The heavens and the earth are growing old; they have had their infancy and. youth, etc. These changes are not effected by blind, unintelligent forces or laws. The Son of God superintends all of them. He is the Framer of all the laws of Nature, and the Force of all her forces. He is the Sustainer as well as the Creator of the universe. To the thoughtful and devout man this fact imparts a deeper, tenderer interest and attraction to the changes which take place in nature. Our gracious Savior and Lord is also the Superintendent and Sovereign of the universe.

III. HE IS UNCHANGEABLE AMIDST THE CHANGES OF THE UNIVERSE. "But thou art the same." He is the same in his being and character, in his will and purposes. Presiding over a universe in which all things are continually changing, yet with him there "is no variableness or shadow of turning." He is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." He is the same in knowledge. His understanding is infinite, and he knoweth all things. He is the same in purpose. The writer of this Epistle speaks of "the immutability of his counsel." "He is of one mind." He is the same in affection. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, nor shall the covenant of my peace be removed." "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." What an inspiration this supplies to trust in him! It was thus, indeed, that these words were originally employed by the psalmist; for, as Ebrard points out, it is not "his unchangeableness as the immaterial Spirit that is spoken of (in Psalms 102:27), but the unchangeableness of Jehovah in his acts, in his relation to Israel, in a word, the Divine covenant-faithfulness." And upon this the psalmist bases his hope of the restoration of prosperity to Israel. Because he is immutable in his character and purposes and relation to his people, we may safely confide in him. "He abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself."

IV. HE SURVIVES THE DISSOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE. "They shall perish; but thou remainest ... And thy years shall not fail." We do not think that the annihilation of the heavens and earth is taught here, but that their present form and aspect shall pass away. Their substance will remain, but their present appearance will perish. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

"The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."


But the Lord shall remain forever and ever. As he existed before the universe, so shall he exist when its present forms have disappeared forever. He is "from everlasting to everlasting." "I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore."

CONCLUSION. How immeasurably greater, then, is the Son than the angels! They could not create a world; but he created the entire universe. They have no sovereign control over the transformations of any world; but he is the supreme Agent effecting all the changes in every province of all worlds. They change; their knowledge changes by way of increase, and with new discoveries they have new admirations; their affections also change, growing more deep and intense; but he is superior to all change—the Immutable. They are not essentially immortal; their continued existence depends upon him; but he is essentially immortal—"the living One," the Eternal. Seeing that the Son of God is immutable and eternal, we have the strongest encouragement to trust in him at all times. Both in his power and in his willingness to save he is ever the same, and-" he ever liveth." His "years shall not fail."—W. J.

Hebrews 1:13, Hebrews 1:14

The sovereignty of the Son and the service of the angels.

"But to which of the angels said he at any time," etc.? The writer is still treating of the preeminence of the Son over the angels; and he shows it in the facts that he is a Sovereign and they are servants.

I. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE SON OF GOD. "But to which of the angels said he at any time, sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" This quotation the writer makes from Psalms 110:1-7. This psalm is confessedly Messianic. It is frequently quoted in the New Testament as applying to our Lord. "And no psalm more clearly finds its ultimate reference and completion only in Christ." The quotation teaches that:

1. The Son is exalted to the mediatorial throne. "Sit thou on my right band." "He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (See our notes on "The exaltation of his position" as stated in Psalms 110:3)

2. He is exalted by the highest will. "But to which of the angels said he at any time," etc.? "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand," etc; "Him God exalted with his right band to be a Prince and a Savior."

3. He is exalted with the sublimest expectation. "Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet." Here are several points.

(1) Our Lord has enemies; e.g. ignorance, superstition, unbelief, vice, crime, wicked men, etc.

(2) These enemies will certainly be subjugated to him. Their subjugation is guaranteed by the Most High: "Till I make," etc.

(3) These enemies will be completely subjugated to him. "Thine enemies the footstool of thy feet." The reference is to the ancient custom of conquerors placing their feet upon the necks of vanquished nobles or princes in token of their complete subjection (cf. Joshua 10:24).

(4) He is waiting their subjugation with assured expectation.

II. THE SERVICE OF THE ANGELS OF GOD. "Are they not all ministering spirits," etc.? Notice:

1. The nature of the angels. "Spirits." We do not enter upon the question whether angels are pure spirits or not. It seems to us that they are not without some form or vesture; that they are not "unclothed, but clothed upon." Their bodies are spiritual. "There is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." Angelic forms are not gross and material, but refined and ethereal. They do not impede their activities or clog their aspirations, but are the exquisite vesture of their bring and the suitable vehicle of their power. (On the qualities of these spirits, see introduction of our homily on Psalms 110:3, Psalms 110:4)

2. The office of the angels. "Ministering spirits."

(1) They are servants of God. Alford: "The διακονία is not a waiting upon men, but a fulfillment of their office as διάκονοι of God." And Robert Hall: "They are not the servants of the Church, but the servants of Christ for the benefit of the Church." They are "ministers of his that do his pleasure" (Psalms 103:20, Psalms 103:21).

(2) They are servants of God on behalf of his people. "Sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation;" or, "Sent forth for ministry on account of those who shall be heirs of salvation." Christians are called "heirs of salvation" because they "are children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:14-17). And the salvation which they shall inherit is not mere deliverance from danger or release from the penalty of sin; but complete and everlasting salvation; transformation into the image and participation in the blessedness of the Lord. Unto these children of God angels minister. The nature of their ministry in ancient times we are able to gather from the Bible; e.g. to Lot (Genesis 19:1-38); to Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8); to Elisha (2 Kings 6:16, 2 Kings 6:17); to Daniel (Daniel 6:22; Daniel 9:20-27; Daniel 10:10-21); to Zacharias (Luke 1:11-20); to Mary (Luke 1:26-38); to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-14); to Mary Magdalene and other women (Luke 24:4-7; John 20:11-13); to the apostles immediately after the Ascension (Acts 1:10, Acts 1:11); to the apostles in prison (Acts 5:19, Acts 5:20); to St. Peter (Acts 12:7-10); to St. Paul (Acts 27:23, Acts 27:24). They also ministered to our Lord after his temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11), and in his agony in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). And there are statements of Holy Scripture which bear upon their ministry. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him," etc. (Psalms 34:7); "He shall give his angels charge over thee," etc. (Psalms 91:11, Psalms 91:12). They minister to us now chiefly by their influence upon our spirits. They quicken within us true thoughts and pure feelings; they help us to detect Satanic suggestions and to repel Satanic solicitations; they inspire the timid with courage, and whisper hope to the despondent—

"And the wearied heart grows strong,

As an angel strengthened him,
Fainting in the garden dim

'Neath the world's vast woe and wrong."

(Johann Rist)

They suggest caution and watchfulness to the unwary; by their serene invisible presence they solace the sufferer; and they serve about the dying bed of the saint, and convey the emancipated spirit to its heavenly rest. "Lazarus … was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom."

(3) They are commissioned by God for this service. He appoints to each one his sphere of ministry; and by him they are "scat forth" to fulfill their commissions.

"Oh, th' exceeding grace
Of highest God that loves his creatures so,
And all his works with mercy doth embrace,
That blessed angels he sends to and fro.
To serve to wicked man, to serve his wicked foe.
"How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to succor us that succor want!
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!
They for us fight, and watch, and duly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
And all for love, and nothing for reward.
Oh, why should heavenly God to men have such regard?"



1. The dignity of the Christian. Angels minister unto him. God cares for him; for he sends forth the angels to promote his interests.

2. The dignity of service. Angels, the highest orders of created beings, serve God by ministering unto little children, distressed Christians, and afflicted saints.

3. The supreme dignity of the Son of God. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many;" and now he "is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him," Well does Dr. J. H. Newman say, "When we survey Almighty God surrounded by his holy angels, his thousand thousands of ministering spirits, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before him, the idea of his awful majesty rises before us more powerfully and impressively. We begin to see how little we are, how altogether mean and worthless in ourselves, and how high he is and fearful. The very lowest of his angels is indefinitely above us in this our present state; how high, then, must be the Lord of angels! The very seraphim hide their faces before his glory, while they praise him; how shamefaced, then, should sinners be when they come into his presence!"—W.J.


Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2

The two Testaments a progressive revelation of God.

These verses form the keynote of the Epistle. The Hebrew Christians were being cast out from Jewish worship and fellowship. To be excluded from the temple, the center of national unity, the home of the people to whom pertained "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises, and the fathers," was to be reduced to the level of the uncovenanted Gentiles. The writer encourages them in their trial by exhibiting the far greater glory of him to whom they had come than that they had been called to leave. Moreover, the old dispensation was hastening to its end; Judaism was dying out; the temple-worship was about to cease. The writer foretells this in prophetic symbolism (Hebrews 12:26, Hebrews 12:27), Thus he seems to stand on the ruins of an old world. But the Epistle is to show a new world rising from its ashes—the first done away that the second may be established. The stars are fading, but only because the sun has risen; the types are cast aside, but because the reality has come. Priest and sacrifice, altar and temple, national greatness and sacred lineage,—they are all going. "Let them go," says he," for in their place has appeared with unspeakable glory the great fulfillment of them all—the Lord Jesus, who abideth for ever." That is the substance of the Epistle—the glory of the old economy fulfilled and surpassed in Christ. The subsequent chapters are but "a prolonged echo of this opening strain." The subject of these words is—The two Testaments a progressive revelation of God.

I. THEY TEACH THAT IN HOLY SCRIPTURE GOD HAS SPOKEN TO MAN. "He spake … he hath spoken." We might expect God to speak because a revelation is necessary. The world needs God, perishes without him, cries out after him. The world cannot find God; to the utmost earthly wisdom he is unknown. God is a God of goodness and love; his works declare it; then God must reveal himself to man.

1. Scripture declares itself to be God's voice. Christ and the apostles affirm this of the Old Testament. You cannot believe in Christ without accepting the Old Testament as an infallible declaration of the Divine will; for so he accepted it. They also affirm this of their own teaching in the New Testament: "We speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth."

2. The effects of Scripture prove that this witness it bears to itself is trite. As the apostles proved their mission by "signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost," so does the Bible; that it is a divinely inspired utterance is proved by Divine results. It meets the complicated needs of human nature, satisfies the heart, opens blind eyes, casts out evil spirits, transforms the character, regenerates the world, turns the wilderness into paradise. It does what only God can do; then God is in it.

II. THEY TEACH THAT IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WE HAVE GOD'S PERFECT UTTERANCE TO MAN. "God … hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son."

1. Since God is the Author of both revelations, we may expect to find the new in the old. "God spake to the fathers … God hath spoken to us." And God is One; then we must expect to find the revelation one. Scripture is not two books, but a unity. See this in its outline; it begins with, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;" it ends with the creation of the new heavens and earth. It begins with the story of man's expulsion from the garden—paradise lost; it ends with the vision of redeemed man dwelling under the tree of life, on the banks of the river of the water of life—paradise regained; and between the beginning and the end we have the steps by which that develops into this. Thus the New Testament and the Old throw mutual light on each other; we cannot sever them without hurt. He who only reads one knows neither.

2. Since Christ is the Substance of the New Testament, the new revelation will be a distinct advance on the old. The text contrasts as well as compares them. There is a sense in which Christ may be said to be the Substance of the Old Testament—"To him give all the prophets witness;" and we do not understand it unless we read it with Christ as the key. But in a far higher sense is he the Substance of the New. "God spake to the fathers in many parts," i.e. in fragments. One aspect of truth was seen in one type, another in another; they needed to be combined if the full truth was to be known. "And in diverse ways," by types, prophecies, requirements, providences, angelic ministry, human teachers, etc; thus the old revelation had great disadvantages. Mark the contrast: "He hath spoken unto us by his Son." No longer in fragments or by many voices, but by one living Person, the embodiment of the Father's thoughts concerning us; "the Word" made flesh. Christ not only the Messenger, but the Message.

3. Since Christ is God the Son, there can be no revelation beyond what is given in him. As long as God spoke by human teachers a greater and better might arise; but when he spake by his Son the climax was reached. The Son knows the Father perfectly, and can make no mistake as to the mind of the Father. To know how God feels about men, learn of Christ. "This is my beloved Son: hear him." To know what God is, look at Christ. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." To know what God would give, study Christ. He is God's "unspeakable Gift;" "in him are hid all the treasures," etc. All that God has to say to us we hear in Jesus, and there can be nothing beyond that.


1. If God has spoken, it leaves man's ignorance without excuse. No one with this Book need be in ignorance on Divine things. If God has spoken it is to teach us something; then he cannot have spoken so unintelligibly that we cannot understand him. If he has spoken here, we may rely on this Book as on a rock. Distinguish between human interpretation of truth and the truth itself; but when you have discovered the truth, hold it and assert it positively. What is truth? What God hath said.

2. If God has spoken, his Word must be man's ultimate authority. We must have infallibility or we can have no rest. Where is it? The Church in her history has proved that she is not infallible. Man's moral consciousness proves that it is not infallible, for the "inner light" in different men points in different directions, is perverted by sin, bribed into silence, educated into error. There is no infallibility if it be not in the Bible. But it is here, for here God hath spoken. Then find your creed in it, and base your life on it, making it in all matters the final and authoritative court of appeal. It must be madness to oppose personal opinion or expediency to what the Lord says.

3. If God has spoken, irreverence and neglect of Scripture are man's loss and shame. "God hath spoken!" Then with what solemnity should we listen to his voice; with what constancy should we draw near to this temple to hear his will; and with what awe, taking our shoes from our feet, as on holy ground! Think of God speaking, and no "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," rising from our heart! Are you neglecting Scripture? Remember God has no other voice after this; Christ is his last appeal to men. "Having, therefore, one Son, his well-beloved, he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my Son." "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son;" to be deaf to that last appeal is to have God speechless to us forever.—C.N.

Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 1:3

The surpassing glory of Christ, who is the Substance of type Christian revelation.

I. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE PERFECT DEITY OF CHRIST. If the doctrine of the Trinity is not here, it is at least implied that in the Godhead there are more Persons than one. "God hath spoken by his Son;" "God hath appointed him;" "Through him God made," etc. Then the Father and Son are distinct Persons. But, as clearly, they are one God, for there are statements here with reference to the Son which could not be made of one less than Deity. The Deity of Christ is here set forth in three particulars.

1. In his possession of the Divine nature. "The effulgence of his glory, the very image of his substance." Not "the brightness of his glory," as though there were one point where God's glory is greatest, and that point Christ; but "the effulgence," the shining forth of what else would be hidden. The beams of light are the effulgence of the sun; without them we could not see the sun or know he is there. So Christ is" God manifest in the flesh." Not "the image of God," as though parallel with "Let us make man in our image;" but "the very image of his substance." The idea is that of a showing forth what else would be concealed. "The Image of the invisible God;" "No man hath seen God," …the only begotten … hath declared him." Christ is the showing forth, shining forth on man of God, so that "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." But this would be impossible unless he were himself God. A created being can utter something about God, or bear faint resemblance to him, but he who reveals God perfectly must be God's coequal self.

2. In his fulfillment of the Divine work. "Through whom he made the worlds,… upholding all things by the word of his power." Only God can create. But "all things were made by Christ; without him was not," etc. Take the hundred and fourth psalm, "the natural theology of the Jews," and in every verse in which David speaks of the natural world subsisting on God's bounty you may insert the word "Jesus." Where Coleridge, in his 'Ode to Sunrise in the Vale of Chamounix,' makes snow-clad peak, and thundering avalanche, and mysterious glacier, and verdant valley, and azure sky, echo back the one word "God," we may substitute the word "Jesus." Isaiah heard the angels sing," Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." But "this spake he of Jesus;" that greatness is that of Deity.

3. In his occupation of the Divine position. "Whom he hath appointed Heir of all things." Christ on the throne of the universe, "Lord of all." That involves a right to the homage of all, the position of Controller of all, and the end for which all things exist. That can only be true of God. "Jehovah reigneth; he doeth his will," etc; "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only;" "The Lord hath made all things for himself." Christ can look abroad on everything that is and happens, and say, "It is mine." And when the end comes, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of angels will be heard crying, "Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and. strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing;" and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, will respond, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne."

II. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE UNION OF DEITY AND HUMANITY IN ONE GLORIOUS PERSON. No word about Christ's humanity, but the idea is here. The passage could not have been written had not God become man. For it declares his Godhead. Then he was God from everlasting. But mark the expressions: "Appointed Heir of all things;" "Made better than the angels." Neither of those expressions can you apply to Deity. As God, Christ has an inalienable property in the universe, and cannot be "appointed" heir to it; so, too, he is better than the angels, and cannot be "made" better. He who can be "appointed heir" anti "made better" must be a creature. Here, then, is a great mystery; there must be a sense in which Christ who was God, was also, at some time, a creature. This would be inexplicable but for our knowledge of the Incarnation. See what this points to.

1. The assumption by him of human nature. We depend for our knowledge of that entirely on Scripture; but there it is stated plainly, "The Word was God … the Word was made flesh." He who creates and upholds and is Heir of all things, he who is "the effulgence," etc., was born, and lived, and suffered, and worked, and obeyed, and died, and was buried as man.

2. The necessity for the union of these two natures for his mediatorial work. Apart from the Incarnation Christ could be no Savior. Since the Law had been given to man, man must keep it if God's moral government is to be vindicated; and since man had broken the Law, by man must the penalty be endured. The Savior, therefore, must be man. But the race had sinned; no man, therefore, could redeem his brother; none, moreover, who was not under personal obligation to fulfill the Law. The Savior, therefore, must be God. The Incarnation alone met the necessity.

3. The reassumption of Divine glory in the capacity of Mediator. Christ ascended to the throne of the universe as God-Man; that explains his being "appointed" to that position. As God he had an inalienable right to it; his appointment to it was in that twofold nature he had adopted as Redeemer; he was always "Head over all things," but on his ascension he was made "Head over all things to the Church." He has now received his eternal glory for the good of his people. All he is and has as God, he holds in pursuance of his redemptive work. What a future for the world, when the glory and resources of the Godhead are given over to secure its salvation! What security and benediction for the people of God!

III. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE RELATION OF THIS GLORIOUS PERSON TO A SINFUL WORLD. The worth of dwelling on the glory of Christ is in the fact of the relation he has entered into with regard to men; to cherish the thought of his greatness is to find redemption glow with a new meaning. What is Christ to man as Redeemer? The Old Testament speaks of him as Prophet, Priest, and King. All these are in our text. "God hath spoken unto us by his Son"—there is Christ our Prophet. "He made purification of sins"—there is Christ our Priest. "He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high"—there is Christ our King.

1. Think of his prophetic work in the light of his glorious nature. What does he teach? He is not merely the voice, he is "the Word." He himself is what God says to us; the substance of the gospel is just Christ. How much we hear in him when we know that he who, as Jesus of Nazareth, was humbled, sorrowful, bruised, accursed for us, was the God of such surpassing glory! In proportion as we understand that glory will be the force and sweetness of the message heard in beholding Jesus, that "God is love."

2. Think of his priestly work in the light of his glorious nature. The expression, "he made purification of sins," was used in the sense in which the Hebrews would naturally understand it—the sense of cleansing of sin by sacrifice—and evidently refers to Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, "the offering of his body once for all." But what wonderful light beams on that redemption when we know the glory of him who made it! What grace is in it then! what security! It is the glory of Jesus that makes him able to save the worst. It is because he is God that his blood cleanseth us from all sin.

3. Think of his kingly work in the light of his glorious nature. The sitting down on the right hand of the Majesty on high must refer to his mediatorial kingship, for it was after he had made purification of sins. But think of the glory of that kingship. Christ "Heir of all things" for us. For us he is Lord of providence; then providence is on our side. For us he is Lord of all temporal resources; then the supply of our needs is assured. For us he is Lord of the spiritual world; then no foe above our strength shall assail us. He Who on the highest throne is crowned with glory is as truly there for us as for us he was crowned with thorns. The hand which now wields the scepter of the universe, wields it as truly for us as for us it was pierced at Calvary. What safety, what blessing, that means for the Church!

We cannot speak of the glory of the Son of God as we would, nor think of it as it is; but we may meditate on it, rejoice in it, try to understand it better, and praise him for it, till in the fuller light and with the fuller powers of the higher world—

"We at his feet shall fall,
Join in the everlasting song,
And crown him Lord of all."


Hebrews 1:4-14

The greatness of the angels revealing the greatness of the Lord.

Our ideas with regard to the angels are mostly vague, or poetic, or formal, never evoking holy thought or inspiring praise, or breathing on our soul an hour's calm, or strengthening us to strike a blow at sin. We think there is nothing practical about the doctrine of angels, and so we pass it by. We have Christ, we say; we do not need the angels; they who have the king overlook the courtiers. Yet a considerable portion of Scripture is Occupied with instruction concerning them. So we conclude there is great spiritual worth in the Bible doctrine of angels, if we understand it right. What this is we may gather from the purpose of the passage before us. To discover the reason for which the writer here dwells on it at length is to have the key to the question—What benefit can this doctrine afford to our spiritual life? The writer's aim is to show that the new revelation is better than the old, and to this end he sets forth the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatness of Christ is his theme, and in unfolding this he begins with the doctrine of angels; and there we see the use of the doctrine. By an adequate knowledge of the angels we arrive at a more adequate knowledge of Christ; their greatness, who are his creatures and servants, affords a fuller conception of his own glorious majesty. The subject, therefore, is—The greatness of the angels revealing the greatness of the Lord.

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE ANGELS. This is implied in the fourth verse—" having become by so much better than the angels." Unless they were most exalted, the writer could not venture to bring Christ into comparison with them. How great must they be of whom it can be written that Christ is greater! Let us think of them briefly. We might almost assume, apart from Scripture, that angelic beings exist. In other departments of nature there is a regular gradation from lower to higher forms of life; it is therefore improbable that man is the only creature of his order. Man's powers are so limited that there is evidently room for a race, or indeed for an ascending series of races, of intelligent beings superior to man. Moreover, when we consider the greatness of God, and the worship and love and service due to him, it is hardly conceivable that the dwellers on one small planet are the only creatures in the universe capable of rendering these. Nor can we imagine that, if man had not been created, God would have been left without worshippers, or that when men fell there were none left to praise him. When we turn to Scripture this assumption is confirmed. There we read of "principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world;" an "innumerable company of angels;" angel and archangel, cherubim and seraphim; "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands."

1. Think of the sublime position of these celestial beings. As in Isaiah 6:1-3 or Revelation 5:11. They have nearest access to Jehovah, surround his throne, attend his Person, behold his glory. That future blessedness which is the highest hope of the people of God is already inherited, to a great degree, by the angels. They are at home in heaven.

2. Think of their holy character, With no human imperfection, no stain of sin, for ever beholding the holiness of the Most Holy, how perfectly they must reflect his holy image!

"Eternal Light! Eternal Light!

How pure the soul must be

That stands within thy searching sight,
And shrinks not, but with calm delight

Can live and look on thee!"

3. Think of their glorious nature. "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow, and for fear of him the keepers became as dead men;" "I saw another mighty angel clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." The "living creatures" were "full of eyes before and behind." Some are called "seraphim," i.e. burning ones. The cherubim were described by a combined symbol of man, lion, eagle, ox, i.e. utmost intelligence, strength, flight, and service.

4. Think of their exalted work. See instances in Scripture of the varied and high missions of judgment and mercy and ministry on which they are sent. They serve the King ceaselessly. Our prayer for earth is that the Divine will may be done here as in heaven. Jacob's vision is always being fulfilled, and the ancient hymn of the Church, "To thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens," etc.

II. THE GREATNESS OF THE ANGELS REVEALS THE GREATNESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. That is the substance of Revelation 5:5-13. These verses consist of a series of quotations from the Book of Psalms. From certain psalms (which were applied to Christ) the writer draws certain statements with regard to our Lord, and the angels, and he uses these to show that the greatness of the angels illustrates the surpassing greatness of the Redeemer. There are, thus, three lines of contrast drawn here.

1. Christ is the God whom these exalted angels worship. (Verses 5, 6) In a sense peculiar to himself the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son. Others may be sons of God, but he is the" Only-begotten," which must mean equality and oneness with the Father; for he who commands, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only," says also of Christ, "And let all the angels of God worship him." Christ the supreme Object of the worship of these exalted and innumerable angelic beings. Rank above rank, angel and archangel, principality and power, cherubim and seraphim, rise in the order of being and glory, these above those, others higher still, and still others higher, till the highest rank of created majesty and splendor is reached. But far above the highest is one glorious central throne, round which these countless hosts all circle, and before which they bow in worship—and the Lamb is in the midst of the throne.

2. Christ is the Creator from whose hands they came. (Verse 7) In the great powers of nature are depicted the resistless might and rapid movement of the heavenly hosts as they sweep through space, unrestrained by the laws that bind us lower creatures. But however great they be, they owe all to him, the Son, whose handiwork they are. "He maketh his angels winds." As the work extols the worker, and the greater the work the more glorious the worker is seen to be, so of all created things none more truly extols him by whom all were made, than the exceeding glory of the angelic host.

3. Christ is the King whose will they perform. (Verses 8-14) The idea here is in the main that Christ is the King, righteous, eternal, universal, victorious. The angels only stand as servants before him, or fly at his bidding. How great must the King be that has such a retinue (see Ephesians 1:20-22)! Angels escorted him on his ascension; attend him in his redeeming work, and rejoice with him over repentant sinners; fly from his presence to minister to his people; when he comes in judgment he "will bring all the holy angels with him." How great the King served by myriads of such servants as these, and leading in his train princes, powers, potentates, dominions, of such surpassing glory!

III. THE GREATNESS OF CHRIST AND THE ANGELS REVEALS THE GREATNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER. See what a practical truth we have been considering. The apostle closes this sublime description of Christ with its bearing on "the heirs of salvation." This chapter leads up to them. Very suggestive that it does close with that word. The greater the angels are, the greater Christ is. The greater Christ, our Helper, Friend, Savior, Sanctifier, is, the greater we, his people, are. See here.

1. The believer's greatness in being made, in so glorious a universe, the subject of Divine love. How great the contrast between man and the angels! And of them the universe is full. This shows the marvel of the grace which fixed its love on the fallen sons of Adam. Why should our lower and comparatively insignificant race be the object of redeeming mercy? "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" How great is man when he becomes the object of such love!

2. The believer's greatness in the exalted relationship between him and the celestial beings. Take the first verse of this passage: Christ "became so much better than the angels;" that can only refer to him as God-Man, for as God he was better than the angels. Christ, then, holds this position as Mediator; that is, for us; the greatness of Christ is on our behalf. Take the last verse of the passage: "Are they not all," etc.? All the angels, however high their rank, wait unseen on us, doing their Lord's will. However lowly the "heir of salvation" may be, angelic messengers are passing from the throne to him perpetually, upholding, guiding, protecting, comforting, enriching. "Cherubim rally at his side, and the Captain of that host is God." How great is the believer, heir with such a King, and attended by such ministrants!

3. The believer's greatness in the glory of that future state of which angelic life affords a glimpse. Christ said that in the resurrection we should be "equal to the angels." What may that mean of new powers, dignity, service, holiness, and all immortal! But the tenor of Scripture affirms that we shall surpass the angels. They are servants, we are sons—"joint-heirs with Christ." They bow before his throne, we are to sit thereon. How great is "the heir of salvation"! This unspeakable glory is the end of his journey, and the King of kings himself, and the celestial hosts, his convoy by the way!—C.N.


Hebrews 1:1-3

Christ as Prophet of the Church.

This Epistle was written to those Jewish Christians who were in danger of relapsing from their profession of faith in Jesus and returning to the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Jewish Law. If we consider that they had been brought up in the acknowledgment of the Mosaic rites as being of Divine origin, with the power of early impressions; that it was a vast step from Moses to the simple and spiritual system of the gospel; that there were many forms of persecution to be endured, and that the love of many waxed cold, it will appear that such an Epistle was necessary, and admirably adapted, by its assertion of the superiority of Christ to all the prophets and priests of the past, to prevent apostasy and restore and confirm their faith.

I. HERE ARE FOUND THE PROGRESSIVENESS OF DIVINE REVELATION. God conveyed portions of truth to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and the prophets; and in divers manners, as in vision to Abraham, face to face to Moses, by Urim and Thummim, by proverb and psalm, and by prediction and apocalyptic images. This was gradual revelation, and was suited to the ages of the Church before Christ came, who treated his disciples in this way and said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).

II. NOTE THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST AS THE PROPHET OF THE CHURCH. This is to be seen in his superiority to all preceding teachers who were sent by the Divine Spirit to make known the will of God. He was the Son:

1. In his resemblance to his -Fail, or in creative energy. "Without him was not anything made that was made."

2. In resemblance of sustaining power, by which he upholds all law, preserves all harmony in creation, and maintains all life, from the highest seraphs to the humblest believers, and even to the lowest forms of existence.

3. Resemblance in personal glory. Jesus Christ is the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his person; the latter idea drawn from the monarch's portrait stamped upon golden coin. Such words are the best human language supplies; and the treasures of these Divine ideas are put in the earthen vessels of our speech, and fall infinitely below the sublime reality. Our Lord's condition on the holy mount best illustrates the thought of his resemblance to the glory of his Father, when the ineffable resplendence which streamed from himself appeared to add emphasis to the words, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

4. Resemblance of power of enjoyment. He is to be "Heir of all things." Abraham was to be heir of the world; but here is a wider inheritance, which no finite mind can ever grasp. Jesus Christ is to be the Heir of all the results of his incarnation, ministry, and sacrifice. He is to see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied; and through eternal ages he will receive the gratitude and adoration of a "number that no man can number." All judgment is committed to him, and on his head are many crowns.

III. OBSERVE THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST AS THE PRIEST. There is here a suggested contrast to priests of the Jewish Law. It is said he purged our sins by himself; then he stands before us as the One in opposition to the many who did not continue by reason of death. Aaron, Eli, Zadok, and Joshua successively disappear. There is a contrast between other priests and our Lord, who did not offer victims, as sheep, goats, lambs, and kids; but offered himself through the eternal Spirit. There is unlikeness inasmuch as the services of the ancient priests did not purify the conscience; but the sacrifice of our Lord cleanses by faith from all sin, restores to the Divine favor, and imparts the enjoyment of Christian hope. There is a contrast between the priests of the old Law in respect of dignity. The ancient ministers of the temple had to offer for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people; our Lord was "holy, harmless, separate from sinners." The descendants of Aaron had to minister in the holy of holies when it was darkened by the smoke of sweet incense, and none dare to sit down near the mercy-seat; but the Redeemer sits down "at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Once more, the Jewish high priests ministered for their own nation, while other populations in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria had no share in their service; but our Lord is exalted, and sits a priest upon his throne, and a multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues enjoy the benefit and blessing of his ministry.—B.

Hebrews 1:4-9

Christ superior to the angels.

As angels had an important ministry under the Law of Moses, it was desirable to show the. Christians who had been drawn from Judaism, and were disposed to return to it, the superiority of our Lord to them in their nature and office.

I. THIS APPEARS IN THE GLORY OF HIS NAME, which is his by nature and inheritance. Angels are called "sons of God," and rejoiced as creation with its wonders rose before their view. Israel was named "Jehovah's firstborn" and his "children;" and magistrates and judges were, as bearing the Divine image of authority, called "sons of God." But no monarch or angel is called "the Son," and this our Lord seems to recognize. When about to ascend from earth he said," I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17).

II. THE ROYALTY OF THE SON OF GOD IS ASSENTED, It is said in Psalms 2:7, "This day have I begotten thee;" and in 2 Samuel 7:14 it is written, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a son." These passages declare in a prophetic manner the appointment of our Lord to the office and dignity of a King. He is placed above all angels, and is described as an all-conquering Monarch. The promise originally made to David is fulfilled in the person of our Lord, who, according to the angel's message to Mary, should be called "the Son of the Most High," and should reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:33). "All power was given unto him in heaven and in earth." After Daniel had seen visions of the worldly empires represented by fierce monsters, he beheld the form of the Son of man, whose dominion should last forever.

III. THE FUTURE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GLORY IS ANNOUNCED, according to eminent authorities, in the words, "when he shall have brought his First-begotten into the world." This refers to his second coming, when "he shall come in the glory of his Father with his holy angels." There is to be a sublime and unrivalled manifestation of his majesty, when myriads of the angels shall come to swell his triumph and to attend him, as ministers and servants of state attend their monarch on occasions of public importance.

IV. CHRIST IS THE OBJECT OF ADORATION TO ANGELS. The text, "Let all the angels of God worship him," is derived from the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:43, which is a part of a grand prophetic outline of the future of Israel. To offer worship presupposes that he who bends the knee is inferior to the person who is honored. St. Peter refused worship, and said to Cornelius; "Stand up; for I also am a man." St. John fell down at the feet of the angel and was counseled to worship God. Here, as a proof of the unutterable superiority of our Lord, we are told that the mighty angels, principalities, and powers are commanded to pay homage to him who is Lord of all.

V. THE GLORY OF HIS KINGLY CHARACTER AND RULE JUSTIFIES THEIR ADORATION. The proof is drawn from the ancient prophecy of the forty-fifth psalm, which was placed in the liturgy of the Jewish Church. Here we note the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ, who always loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and whose words, works, and sufferings shone with the Divine beauty of holiness. His scepter was one of uprightness, and was a contrast to the crooked policy and cruel oppression of some earthly monarchs. God anointed him with the oil of gladness above all his fellows in the royal line of David—with the joy of his exaltation to the right hand of the Majesty on high, where he has an enduring throne.

"The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fixed his Word, his saving power remains
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns!"

The angels are ministers in his glorious kingdom, and fly with the force of mighty winds and with the swiftness of the lightning-flame. He saith, "Go," and they go; "Come," and they come; "Do this," and they do it; for all are his servants.—B.

Hebrews 1:10-12

These verses affirm the glory of Christ in his creative power, and in the unchangeableness of his nature. The quotation from Psalms 102:1-28. is cited with fearless confidence as belonging to him "who was God," and was "with God," and without whom "was not anything made that was made." This truth, addressed to Christian Jews by a Jewish writer, is the most conclusive proof that it was the work of the Holy Spirit to raise their minds, so jealous for the honor of Jehovah, to an understanding and cordial acknowledgment of the sublime mystery of the glorious Three-One. Our Lord is immutable and always like himself, and therefore stands in rightful contrast to angels; and to men, who are exposed to changes in action and feeling, and now are weak and then strong, now sorrowful for sin and then rejoice in forgiveness and recovered peace. He is ever the same, and amid the vicissitudes in which the foundations of the earth will be overthrown, and the fabric of heaven will become like some threadbare and worn-out garment, he will be unchangeable. This truth is repeated at the close of the Epistle, in words well known to Christian hearts, which declare that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." This thought was full of the richest consolation to those who looked with anxious eyes at the disappearance of the Mosaic Law; and is an abiding justification of the faith and hope of believers, who have begun a career of spiritual life which must be marked by changes now, changes in death and the resurrection, and through the experiences of eternity; for his word remains in all its validity and power, "Because I live, ye shall live also."—B.

Hebrews 1:13, Hebrews 1:14

The contrast between our Lord and the angels reappears in the impressive quotation from Psalms 110:1-7., which is so entirely Messianic that it is alluded to no less than ten times in the range of the New Testament. It affirms the superiority and supremacy of our Lord in so conclusive a manner that no ingenuity of perverse interpretation can successfully apply it to any monarch, priest, or warrior whatsoever. All enemies who steadfastly resist his claim must be overthrown by his righteous and sovereign might. Some have been brought down and are now under his feet. Rebellious Jerusalem was overthrown. Western idolatries have left their witness to his power in broken columns and deserted temples. Hereafter systems of evil, false philosophies corrupt institutions, impenitent and irreconcilable men, and probably some nations, must yield to his judicial sentence and final punishment. Some things he will dash in pieces like a potter's vessel. He sits at the right hand of the Father; but the angels are ministering spirits, and go forth at his bidding to assist and protect those who shall in time enjoy the fullness of salvation.—B.


Hebrews 1:1

God speaking to men.

I. THE GENERAL TRUTH THAT GOD SPEAKS TO MEN. The possibility is assumed of such a communication from God to men. Nothing less can be meant than this—that even as one man can clearly make known the thoughts and wishes that are in him to another, so God can communicate his thoughts and wishes to a being with a nature like man. It is quite allowable to say that a voice of God speaks forth from the things he has made, just as a voice speaks forth from our works and actions; but beyond all voices we thus infer there is surely a direct utterance of God. What an inspiring thought, that at any moment a voice may come to the heart of man out of the infinite depths, not heard indeed by the outward ear, but still making evident that it is not something imagined from within, or something that rises from a purely human and earthly level! Thus we may classify the words that are spoken to a man:

1. There is soliloquy. When a man listens to his own heart, to its suggestions, its apologies, its speculations, its putting of pros and cons. There are things said and listened to which dare not come out in audible speech.

2. The speech of men to each other, full of limitations and imperfections, only too often trifling, frivolous, barbed with sneering, contempt, envy, jealousy.

3. The speech of God to men, of which the first chief thing to be noticed is that it does come from above; not from the confusion within, or the confusion without and around.

II. GOD SPEAKING TO CERTAIN MEN BY PROPHETS. This Epistle went forth originally within the limits of a nation. The writer is writing to Hebrews; he at once bids them look to the past, the distant past, and yet the past out of which their present had come. They had to consider their fathers, and thus the succession in which they themselves stood. As they looked hack they looked along a line illuminated by a special and heavenly light. The sacred books, the Scriptures which they have to search, are pervaded by the recorded speeches and acts of Jehovah; so that if these speeches and acts be cut out, all the rest drops into incoherent fragments. Surely this description of God here gives us one of the rules whereby we are profitably to read the Old Testament. We have in the Old Testament God speaking to the fathers—to the fathers in many generations, to the fathers in different circumstances; we have words to Israel in its beginnings, words to it in its bondage, in its wilderness and tent-life, in its settlement, in its glory as a united kingdom, in its civil discord and separation, in its idolatries, in its time of desolation by foreigners, anti its final exile. Hence the opportunities for warning and threatening on the one hand, and consolation and promise on the other. It must also be considered how God spoke to each generation of the fathers by men belonging to that generation. What was true of the fathers was true of the prophets; one generation goeth and another cometh. We must not measure the prophetic work by the writings that have been preserved. There must have been many, many prophets beyond the few whose names we know, and some day all their faithfulness and usefulness may be revealed. In any case, we can estimate the class from the specimens, and while we estimate we glorify the class, seeing what God can do through the agency of brother men—picked men, it is true, but still entirely men of like passions with ourselves; and thus, while we see the glory of the prophets, we see also their limitations. The prophet lives, speaks, dies, and his work is done. When he dies another living man must rise, who has a sensible contact with his fellow-man. New times bring new needs, and new needs have to be met by new voices. Prophecy is in many parts and after many fashions, it is spoken to many generations by many prophets; but note behind all the uniting force. It is one God who speaks in all and to all. There is variety, advance, light, at the beginning, ever increasing toward the perfect day, but nowhere any discord, any contradiction. In studying the Old Testament it is wisdom to feel sure that there is harmony in its utterances, if only we can find that harmony out.

III. GOD SPEAKING TO US BY HIS SON. Jesus, of course, was a Prophet; One who came from God, had the Spirit of God in him, and spoke the words of God. But he was not a prophet as his predecessors were. The marks of frailty, ignorance, and sin are on them. Manward they may be faithful enough, speaking every word Jehovah has put in their mouths, whatever the peril, whatever the pain. But Godward, what a difference between the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus! Jesus never speaks out of such ignorance and despondency as does Elijah. The words of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5-7, how strangely they would sound if imagined ascending from Jesus! God has spoken to us by a Son. The one ever-living Son, as contrasted with the many-dying prophets. The prophet had his day, a glorious day if he was faithful, but brief at the longest. The day of Jesus, as God's Speaker to men, is described in that later expression of the Epistle—"the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Jesus ever liveth, not only to make intercession for us, but as the well-beloved Son of God, to speak to us the words of his Father. The words of Jesus, inwrought as they are with the very substance of the New Testament, are ever to be taken as the word of a being still living, still in contact with men, still making one in every company gathered together in his Name, still saying, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age."—Y.

Hebrews 1:2

Jesus Inheritor of all things.

One position suggests another. The idea of sonship naturally leads on to the idea of inheritance. Among the Israelites especially would this be so, for inheritance is much spoken of in the Old. Testament. The son looks forward to inherit and control the father's possessions. Thus, while the individual cannot defy death, the race can in a modified kind of way. And so this passion of man for transmitting his property to his posterity is here used to begin that glorifying description of Jesus which runs through this Epistle. Jesus is a Son, and if a Son, then an Heir. Moreover, inheritance is according to the father's possessions. Jesus is Heir of all things, because his Father is Maker of all things. We shall do well also, in considering this word "heir" inserted in this particular place, to bear in mind the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Matthew 21:33). There is little doubt that it was in the mind of the writer, and the slightest hint to the wise is enough. Thoughtful readers of the Epistle who knew their Gospels would be quick enough to take the hint. For when thus a mention had been made of God speaking in the prophets, and then speaking in the Son, there was obviously further suggested how these prophets had been treated, and finally how the Son himself had been treated. As to how the prophets were treated, read onward from Hebrews 11:32. And. now the Heir comes forward. Thus we are at once brought face to Face with a claim. We are not allowed time to plume ourselves on privileges, in that, while former generations had only prophets to speak to them, we have a Son. The claim is the same, whether it be made through the humblest of the prophets—even through a murmuring Jonah—or through Jesus, the Son of God. It is a claim on us for the result of our work in the great inheritance. Jesus is Heir of all things, therefore Heir of that little section in which we have been working. Let it also be recollected that Jesus, in being Heir of all things, makes us as children of God—joint-heirs. Every one who lives for Christ enriches all the sons of God. Jesus is Heir of all things that he may make believers in him sharers with trim according to the widest of their capacities and. opportunities. What a glorious picture of deep, exhaustless satisfaction is here, and how much beyond the dreams, generous as they are often reckoned to be, of an earthly communism!—Y.

Hebrews 1:3

Jesus as the Brightness of God's glory.

I. THE GLORY OF GOD IS MANIFESTED TO MEN. Our relations of dependence upon God are exalted by our perception of him upon whom we depend. It is not as if a hand stretched out of the unseen, laying before us our daily bread, and then withdrawing itself, as if it concerned us nothing to know the Giver provided only we got the gift. God. is desirous that we should both know him, the Giver, and as much of his glory as it is possible for man to know. "The glory of God." could not have been an unfamiliar phrase to Hebrew Christians. The glory of Jehovah appeared to the children of Israel just before the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:10). Also on Mount Sinai, at the giving of the Law. Also when the tabernacle was completed the glory of Jehovah so filled it that Moses was not able to enter (Exodus 40:35). When Solomon built a house for Jehovah, the glory of Jehovah so filled the house that the priests could not stand to minister. Consider also the crowns of Isaiah and. Ezekiel. Every created thing has its glory, and though there are times when that glory may be in retirement, yet there are other times when the glory comes forth into full manifestation. How much more, then, must there be a suitable and sufficient manifestation of the glory of God himself!

II. THE FULL MANIFESTATION OF GOD'S GLORY IS IN JESUS. The expression here, "brightness," or rather "effulgence," is in harmony with all those numerous passages in which light is connected with the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. The light which we see is but the expression of an invisible existence behind it. We speak of the rays of the sun; but what is the sun itself but condensed radiance? And so when we come to Jesus and. think of the light streaming forth from him upon human ignorance, misery, and despair, we are reminded by the way in which he is here spoken of that Jesus is not to be considered by himself. By him the invisible is made visible. The love of the Father becomes a radiant, communicable emotion in the incarnate life of the Son. All those bursts of intolerable light which filled the tabernacle were but symbols of that true light, the effulgence of the Divine glory, which lighteth every man coming into the world, and. which has dwelt among us in flesh as in a tabernacle. Blessed are those who can see this Divine effulgence, and discern the difference between it and the effulgence of other lights. The dwellers in the immediate district where Jesus had been brought up never thought of explaining the wonders of his life by the fact that he was the ἀπαύγασμα of the Divine glory. Many thought it a sufficient explanation to say that he was Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Consider in connection the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:1-18., where he speaks of the god of this world blinding the minds of unbelievers, so that there should not shine unto them the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the Image of God; and then he goes on to speak of how the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shined in our hearts, to illuminate them with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.—Y.

Hebrews 1:3

Jesus as the express Image of the Divine substance.

The more we ponder the various terms used for describing Jesus in the introduction to this Epistle, the more we see how the writer is striving to glorify Jesus by separating him from the common mass of men and presenting him to our thoughts in the most intimate relation with God. It is meant to be regarded as a relation of the closest correspondence in all possible ways. To say that God is the Father and Jesus the Son is not enough; for the son does not always resemble the father; indeed, the deep differences between son and father are but too often emphasized by the natural relation between them. Hence the multiplication of terms to indicate the closeness of correspondence between Jesus and God. They are bound in one, even as the ray of light with the source from which that ray emanates. And then comes this peculiarly difficult expression concerning the χαρακτὴρ and the ὑποστάσις. Evidently no English words can set forth exactly the meaning either of the Greek words themselves or of the relation indicated by them. We can only make a guess at the writer's drift. He is referring, we may take it, to the connection between form and essence. Every essence has its approximate form, and every form indicates a peculiar essence. Thus we always find the essence of humanity along with a certain kind of body, a certain shape, a certain arrangement of organs, a certain quality of intelligence; and wherever we see these signs we infer a peculiar essence underneath. We can know nothing of the essence apart from the form it takes, nor can we imagine the form continuing without the essence. Form and essence make up the unity. Even so the writer of this Epistle seems to look upon the unity which is constituted when God, the Essence, flows out to us in the form furnished by the person of Jesus.—Y.

Hebrews 1:3

Reality over against phenomena.

It is very striking to notice in this third verse that the assertions with respect to Jesus are not at all the assertions that would have been made by the bulk of his contemporaries. They did not see all this glory being manifested, this essence of divinity shaping itself, this mighty sustaining of all things, this cleansing away of sin, this assumption of a seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Have we not to notice again and again in the level of ordinary life that what a man seems to the multitude to be doing is not at all the thing he is really doing? Many of the Cumberland peasants could see in Wordsworth only an idle man, who spent much of his time rambling about and muttering to himself. All the poems that came out of his musings and mutterings they would reckon as nothing at all. And assuredly the most conspicuous instance of this lack of understanding is to be found in the view that many have of Jesus. They see nothing of the glorious nature, the far-reaching power, the cleansing sacrifice, the lofty exaltation; and yet all these are realities. Take, for instance, that which is here spoken of Jesus: "He made through himself a purification of our sins." The Hebrew was in the habit of connecting purification of sin with certain outward appearances. He expected to see a priest known by his garments, an altar known by its construction. If Jesus had been bound, like a human sacrificial victim, on an altar and slain by a priest, then many would have had no difficulty in thinking of him as a sacrifice. If we would get to truth, we must break away from appearances and get to the essence of everything Christ has said and done. Things are not what they seem. Have we not the best of evidence in our senses every day that the sun goes round the earth? Yet it can be proved by flawless logic, to him that will understand, that the earth goes round the sun. Realities contradict appearances. The natural man has his standard of life, movement, possibility; and the spiritual man, taught and guided by the Spirit of God, has his standard.—Y.

Hebrews 1:4-13

Christ exalted above the angels.

I. CONSIDER THE ANGELIC DIGNITY. The word "angel" as employed here to be taken in a very wide sense, as "angel" primarily denotes office and service rather than nature. Jesus himself, looked at from a certain point of view, was an angel, a messenger, an evangelist. God can make a messenger, as we are reminded in this passage, from the winds and the flame of fire: e.g. the burning bush was a messenger to Moses. But doubtless there is also a special reference to those who in the Scriptures are peculiarly indicated by the word "angel." Such a being came twice to Hagar in her need, and stayed Abraham when he was on the point of slaying Isaac in sacrifice. The angels Jacob saw ascending and descending are not to be taken as merely creatures of a dream. An angel touched the great Elijah in his solitude and despair, and more than once directed him in his goings. Notice, also, the glorious appearing to Manoah and his wife. Nor must the dreadful errands of angels be forgotten—their connection with the destruction of Sodom and of Sennacherib's army. These are the visitations mentioned, but how many more there may have been unrecorded! The angelic visitations of the New Testament must particularly be recollected, because they were fresh to the knowledge of writer and readers of this Epistle. And if we are not to set down these manifestations to mere hallucination, then it is plain that the beings manifested must have belonged to a glorious order. Such a being, breaking suddenly upon the vision of a man, could not but awe, and might even terrify. Of such a one it might even be said, "Surely this is a son of God." But that would be a fallacy, springing from mere magnificence of appearance. And yet it is a fallacy which, in other shapes, will ever deceive the judgment of men till they put that judgment under guidance of the Spirit of God. Men of great intellectual power, men of genius, are reckoned to have in them something that lifts them for ever above common men. Whereas the dazzling brightness and beauty flowing from them should put us on our guard. In the Divine order of existence the spiritual man is ever higher than the natural man, although the natural man may look far more imposing. Mary saw an angel once, and probably the glory from him appealing to the senses was such as she did not see in her own Son all the time he was on earth. Angels are to be taken as the crowning illustration of all that is most magnificent and impressive in the way of outward splendor.

II. THE ELEVATION OF JESUS ABOVE THE ANGELS. To emphasize this, the writer appeals to certain passages from the Old Testament Scripture. The line of his appeal is plain. He assumed that these passages related to the Christ. He knew, and his readers knew, that Jesus was the Christ, and hence they all feel that God himself has exalted Jesus in his way far above all principality and power. And it must have been a very practical thing in those days thus to insist on the supremacy of Christ over angels. For, as there were pseudo-Christs, so there was danger of pseudo-angels. The devil appearing as an angel of light may not have been the mere figure it seems to us. Paul hints at the possibility of an angel from heaven preaching some other gospel. There might be a splendid appearance seeming to have authority in it. Spirits had to be tried whether they were of God. We know from the First Epistle to the Corinthians how the wonderful attracted men rather than the useful. And so we need to be reminded that it is not an angel, purposely glorious to the outward eye and appearing occasionally to a Zacharias or a Mary, or even as that terrible form who rolled back the door of the sepulcher and made the keepers shake and become as dead men, who is nearest God in heaven. The meek and lowly Jesus, moving about among men, despised and rejected, so that they see no beauty that they should desire him, is far above the angels. And, indeed, he also in due time and for certain purposes can appear in a visible glory which makes all angelic glory seem a common and feeble thing trey.

Hebrews 1:14

The mission of the angels.

I. THE HABITUAL POST OF THE ANGELS. They are ministering spirits, literally, "liturgical spirits." The work of the priests and Levites in connection with tabernacle and temple was known as a liturgical work. Again and again in the Septuagint the work of Aaron and his subordinates is indicated by this verb, λειτουργεῖν. AS the angels are called liturgical spirits, so the priest and his subordinates might have been called liturgical men. They were the men who, on behalf of all the people, managed things pertaining to the worship of Jehovah. So in several passages the officials connected with the court of a king are known as liturgi—liturgical men. And if we would see what is meant by calling the angels liturgical spirits, we cannot do better than consider, first of all, Isaiah 6:2, Isaiah 6:3. There we read of the six-winged seraphim, who cried one to another and said, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." Saying this, they were engaged in liturgical service. Then turn to Revelation 4:1-11., where we read of the four living things, each, like the seraphim, six-winged, who rest not day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." These four living things were also engaged in liturgical services. What priest and Levite were on earth, angels were and are in heaven. Nor angels alone. The spirits of the just made perfect are joined to seraphim, and all others of the heavenly host by whatever name they may be called, in liturgical service.

II. THE SPECIAL SERVICE OF THE ANGELS. These liturgical spirits are sent forth on errands of helpfulness to God's people on earth in their times of emergency. They are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation—heirs of salvation, but not yet rejoicing in a deliverance from every sort of evil. We are saved by hope; we are in process of salvation, but the process involves trials and sufferings. We are not without notable instances of what is meant by angelic service to the heirs of salvation. Jesus himself was, in a certain sense, an heir of salvation. He had to be saved from this body of death, if not from this body of sin. And concerning him we read how, at the close of the temptation, angels came and ministered to him. Then, more important still, because the service is more definitely indicated, is the opening of the prison doors to liberate the apostles (Acts 4:19), and the after-opening to deliver Peter from the hands of Herod (Acts 12:7). And though comparatively few such instances of διακονία be recorded, that is not to say that only a few happened. Nor is it to be said that angelic service has ceased. Angels may render very important and comforting services to men, although they themselves may not be seen.

III. THE EXAMPLE ANGELS THUS GIVE TO CHRISTIANS. Angels find their habitual employ in adoring God, in serving him in heavenly worship. But from worship they may at any moment be turned to work, and work most agreeable to the will and pleasure of their Master, doing something which will be felt as a help by some one who is dear to Christ. The λειτουργία fits for the διακονία, and. the διακονία, faithfully rendered, sends back with fresh zest to the λειτουργία. There is a place for both; and we, who have also to go forth to minister to the heirs of salvation, shall find our ministry all the more effectual if only it can be truly said. of us, in the best sense of the word, that we are liturgical Christians. That man whose reading of the Scriptures has in it not only quantity but quality, not only recollection of words but increasing perception of meaning, who reads that he may understand and obey—such a one is a liturgical Christian. He is constantly enriching his heart, getting nearer to God, and, as a matter of course, better able to serve men. We must always be serving God, whether in those things which have the formal look of Divine service, or in those which may look nothing more than a temporal ministry to men. We may at the same time be λειτουργοί towards God and διακονοί towards men; we can pray without ceasing, and also follow in the footsteps of him who came, not to be ministered to, but to minister.—Y.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/hebrews-1.html. 1897.
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