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WE BEG THE READER'S permission thus to begin the opening words of this great epistle with a literal arrangement of the order of the Greek words, which may at first appear strange; but which will profit us as we remember that God thus spake. God did not, as does our English version, place His Name as the very opening word of the epistle. But He sets forth His many Old Testament words, and His divers manners of speaking in that time past to the fathers by the prophets--as contrasted with His speaking to us at the end of these (Old Testament) days ... in a Son!
Now this is a strange manner of speech; to speak in a Son! But thus, in a word, is set before us the great message of Hebrews. God hath spoken to us! How? Not after the former messages in the Old Testament prophets; but in a Person, a Son-Who is now declared to be God, Creator, Upholder, Lord, Heir of all things!
In the "Four Gospels," as four "books of the Bible," Christ is set forth; for in these records God speaks to us in His Son! In Matthew He walks before us as the King of Israel; in Mark as the Servant of Jehovah; in Luke as the Son of Man; and in John as the Eternal Word, "the Only Begotten Son," Creator-God! So it is not in the New Testament as in the former Old Testament portions or manners. in the Old Testament God spake by prophets. Now God hath spoken unto us in (the Person of) His Son. "God was manifest in the flesh."
And here at the beginning let us bow our whole being at this word, God. God has spoken! An old Puritan preacher used to say there were just two things he desired to know: "First, Does God speak (concerning any matter)? Second, What does God say?" Atheists-fools, deny God's being. Deists deny that He has revealed Himself--that He has spoken. The great multitude of humanity ignore Him, living their little selfish earth-lives, to hear at last the fearful words, "Depart from Me." "Hear, and your soul shall live" is the constant message of Scripture. Nor is God named in Hebrews 1:1 as "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," as in Paul's epistles to the Church as such. For the subject immediately taken up in Hebrews 1 is not our salvation or blessing, but the Person and place of God's Son!
First, the whole Old Testament revelation is compassed in simple words: Having of old time spoken unto the fathers* in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners (literally, multi-partedly and multi-manneredly). This of course refers to God's revelation of Himself in the Old Testament, especially the period following Abraham and Genesis 12through Malachi—before the Son was sent. We remember that in these thirty-nine books of the Old Testament there are various parts or "books": history, biography, genealogy, legislation, religious ordinances, spiritual experiences, prophecy. And God spoke in various manners: sometimes by the Spirit directly upon His servants; sometimes through angels, or even in theophanies (appearances of God Himself as the Angel of Jehovah, as to Abraham in Genesis 18); sometimes by conferred Divine wisdom, as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; sometimes through putting His words in the mouth of His prophets; and sometimes through prophetic visions or dreams of the night.
* (In reading Hebrews, Gentile believers naturally and correctly, though unconsciously, assume that "the fathers" belong to them. For a Gentile believer is told that "Abraham is the father of us all," that is, of all true believers: "If ye are Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." (Ro 4:16, Gal. 3:29).
* It will not do at all to view the writer of Hebrews as building up that which God has destroyed, as regards the present standing of national Israel in His sight. We repeat over and over that today Israel is Lo-ammi--"not God's people" (Hos. 1:9); that the Kingdom of God has been "taken away" from that nation (Mt 21:43); that nation having crucified their Messiah, their Messianic promises and hopes were deferred to a remnant at the Lord's return. Meanwhile, God had raised up Christ His Son, and set Him at His own right hand, in a priesthood compared to which Moses and Levi and Aaron were but "shadows." National Israel was left behind at the Cross--as were indeed all men! The Cross was the end of man; God was manifest in the flesh and they spat in His face and crucified Him.)
And here at the beginning let us bow our whole being at this word, God. God has spoken! An old Puritan preacher used to say there were just two things he desired to know: "First, Does God speak (concerning any matter)? Second, What does God say?" Atheists-fools, deny God's being. Deists deny that He has revealed Himself--that He has spoken. The great multitude of humanity ignore Him, living their little selfish earth-lives, to hear at last the fearful words, "Depart from Me." "Hear, and your soul shall live" is the constant message of Scripture. Nor is God named in Hebrews 1:1 as "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," as in Paul's epistles to the Church as such. For the subject immediately taken up in Hebrews 1 is not our salvation or blessing, but the Person and place of God's Son!
First, the whole Old Testament revelation is compassed in simple words: Having of old time spoken unto the fathers* in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners (literally, multi-partedly and multi-manneredly). This of course refers to God's revelation of Himself in the Old Testament, especially the period following Abraham and Genesis 12 through Malachi--before the Son was sent. We remember that in these thirty-nine books of the Old Testament there are various parts or "books": history, biography, genealogy, legislation, religious ordinances, spiritual experiences, prophecy. And God spoke in various manners: sometimes by the Spirit directly upon His servants; sometimes through angels, or even in theophanies (appearances of God Himself as the Angel of Jehovah, as to Abraham in Genesis 18); sometimes by conferred Divine wisdom, as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; sometimes through putting His words in the mouth of His prophets; and sometimes through prophetic visions or dreams of the night.
* (In reading Hebrews, Gentile believers naturally and correctly, though unconsciously, assume that "the fathers" belong to them. For a Gentile believer is told that "Abraham is the father of us all," that is, of all true believers: "If ye are Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." (Rom. 4:16, Gal. 3:29).
* It will not do at all to view the writer of Hebrews as building up that which God has destroyed, as regards the present standing of national Israel in His sight. We repeat over and over that today Israel is Lo-ammi--"not God's people" (Hos. 1:9); that the Kingdom of God has been "taken away" from that nation (Matt. 21:43); that nation having crucified their Messiah, their Messianic promises and hopes were deferred to a remnant at the Lord's return. Meanwhile, God had raised up Christ His Son, and set Him at His own right hand, in a priesthood compared to which Moses and Levi and Aaron were but "shadows." National Israel was left behind at the Cross--as were indeed all men! The Cross was the end of man; God was manifest in the flesh and they spat in His face and crucified Him.)
At the end of these days God did speak unto us in (the person of His) Son, Whom He appointed Heir of all things, through Whom also He made the ages
Astonishing it was, indeed, even in that "old time," that the infinite, eternal, glorious God should speak unto dust and ashes such as man is! But this wondrous fact of God's having spoken in past days is to prepare us (vs. 2) for a more stupendous statement: (God) did at the end of these days speak unto us in (the person of His) Son!*
It should be noted that the words, did speak unto us in Son, (which great fact carries throughout the epistle) refer to the Son at His incarnation and onward. John, indeed, defends His absolute, eternal Sonship in his opening verse: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... All things were made through Him; and without Him was not anything made that hath been made." God spoke indeed through the Old Testament writers. But this was before God spake unto us IN (His) Son. ("In Son", there is no article, there is no possessive pronoun, in the Greek. Again we feel the poverty of English idiom, and must translate, "His Son," or "a Son". But if we say over and over to ourselves the very words, God did speak unto us in Son, our hearts will feel the meaning, though our words cannot translate it.)
It is, in these first two verses of Hebrews, not the fact that God hath "spoken": but that, having spoken to the fathers by divers portions and in divers manners, He has gone beyond these former "Portions" and "manners" of speaking and did speak in (the person of His) SON!
Nor is it to have this Son Himself here speak to us. God speaks: and lo, the Son is there! "This is My Beloved Son!" Nay, infinitely beyond this: for God does not in Hebrews say, "Hear Him." Nay: the Son does not speak to us in Hebrews. But God speaks concerning Him. And it is after the Cross, after the resurrection, after the post-resurrection salutation to Christ--"Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
It is in view of the Divine glory of the Person of Christ, the SON, Heir of all things, addressed as God, Lord, Creator and Upholder of all things; also, indeed, as Son of Man--for as man He is to be set over all things! And we even now behold Him, "because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." Thus is He, the Son, set before us at the very first in Hebrews!
How utterly different is this from Old Testament "words" and "portions." Truly this is another "manner of speaking" than those messages of old time unto the fathers in the prophets. Here is the only begotten Son Who declares the Father! (John 1:18).
I repeat, Christ does not speak in the book of Hebrews. He, Himself, is God's message to us here!
And now we behold the snare into which so many have been drawn. They go back to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and study "the teachings of Jesus," as they call them. They dream to honor Him in terming Him "the Great Teacher."
But the fundamental truth set forth in Hebrews is that Christ Himself, the Son of God, is God's message, His voice to us. Herein the message of Hebrews resembles John 3:16, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son"; and again, "He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life" (1 John 5:12).
There comes for everyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ a moment when he HEARS--when God the Father speaks by the blessed Spirit to his heart. Christ, therefore, is no mere Teacher, but the personal Voice and eternal Gift of God to him! Such an one knows what the words before us mean, God hath spoken to us in (the person of His) Son.
The presence of the Son comes steadily before us in the Bible. First the prophecy of "the Seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15); then, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (God with us)--Isaiah 7:14; next, the manner of fulfillment: Gabriel announces to Mary: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God" (Lk 1:35). Then, the angelic rapture, and the song the shepherds heard: "Glory to God in the highest!" The star, and company of worshiping wise men from the East; the voice from Heaven, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him"; the years of His ministry of mercy; Gethsemane--and the accepting of the cup from the Father's hand; the laying down of His life at Calvary; the final word, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit"; the resurrection, and the message to Mary Magdalene, "Go unto My brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God" (John 20:17).
Now all these things are familiar to us; but look again at the language: God hath spoken unto us in Son. We naturally expect to hear that Son speaking to us in this book of Hebrews. From the beginning to the end He is before us, there at God's right hand. The Holy Ghost inspires the writer of Hebrews to portray His eternal deity and glory; His real humanity; and His session at the right hand of the Majesty on high, where He "ever liveth to make intercession." Over the house of God as Son, not servant; greater infinitely than the host of angels, or the servants of God on earth; appearing "before the face of God for us," a seated Priest!--His one offering for redemption forever over! And, in the infinite power and worth of that sacrifice as known by God alone, a "Great High Priest": One able to be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," having been "in all points tempted like as we are--sin apart."
Thus God hath spoken to us in Son. In the silent depths of our hearts we either hearken to God speaking in this Son, and respond to God's invitation to enter in boldly, by the blood of Jesus, to the throne of grace, in a life of faith and praise and worship; or, we "neglect", "drift away", and finally "refuse"--what? The voice of God Himself, speaking to us in His Son! so, it is not the "voice of words," as at Sinai, that comes to us. God speaks to us in a Person, His dear, only-begotten One: Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday, and today, and unto the ages."
Now let us consider the seven marvelous utterances (Heb 1:2-3) concerning this Son in Whom God hath spoken unto US.
- Whom He appointed Heir of all things.
- Through Whom also He made the ages (aionas).
- Being the effulgence of (God's) glory.
- (Being) the exact-expression of His substance.
- Upholding all things by the word of His power.
- He ... made purification of sins.
- He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
First, Whom He appointed Heir of all things--This great revelation naturally evokes a threefold inquiry: First, as to the place of God in appointing Christ Heir. Second, Why Heir, and appointed when? Third, What do "all things" embrace?
The Son shared the Divine glory before the world was. He emptied Himself" when He came into the world. (Philippians 2:7, Revised Version. That is, He laid aside His glory, His power, and His wisdom, leaving them with the Father, and taking the "form of a servant" down here. He spoke of the glory He had with the Father before the world was. He said, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing"; and "I by the Spirit of God cast out demons." This Self-Emptying as to the fact of it, affords no difficulty to simple faith; although the process of it is Divinely inscrutable. Christ when on earth continued just as certainly Deity as from all eternity: "Before Abraham was born, I AM." This voluntarily self-emptied state continued. He said to Peter in Gethsemane, "Thinkest thou that I cannot beseech My Father, and He shall even now send Me more than twelve legions of angels?" He did not make the request. And at another time, He saw a fig tree afar off, and came "if haply" He might find fruit thereon, refraining from using His power.)
Throughout Hebrews (and the whole Word of God, indeed!) we find God the Father and God the Son equal in fact of Deity, yet the Son constantly doing willingly, yea, gladly, the will of the Father; and the Father, just as gladly, constantly exalting the Son.
Now heirship follows sonship: among men, naturally; between God the Son and God the Father, eternally. It is therefore as Son--He having come into the world at the end of the Old Testament revelations; and God "having spoken" to us in that Son--that His appointment as Heir of all things is announced. Indeed, He thus regarded Himself: Mark 12:1-12: They said, "This is the Heir."
Now that "all things" are spoken of, let us reflect that "all things have been created through Him and unto Him." (Col 1:16, Heb. 1:2; cf. Prov. 8, John 1). We find God's plan for the future also in Ephesians 1:9, 10: "According to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him (Christ)" looking forward "unto a
dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth" (not the things of the world below, the lost, though they will bow the knee to Him as Lord--Philippians 2:10).
Christ--Heir of all things, through Whom God created the ages; "all things were made through Him;--"all things were created through Him and unto Him ... and in Him all things hold together"! (Col 1:16, 17). We opened our eyes from sleep and lo, the created light! But it was Christ's voice that spoke, "Let there be light," when darkness had thralled a ruined world. We arose to dress, and lo, for all our clothing He had prepared the materials. We sat down to eat, and lo, all our food had been made by Him. We passed through the garden, and lo! every plant beautiful to the eye or good for food, Christ had created for us. We saw afar the mountains, and lo, it was His strength that had set them fast! We looked beyond the mountains, and the sea was there; but again, "The sea is His and He made it." We looked above the mountains and the sea, and there was the sky, blue and wonderful; but lo! His voice had spoken: "Let there be a firmament!" And as for the clouds, they are "His chariot," and "Behold, He cometh with the clouds," just as a cloud received Him out of the sight of the gazing apostles on Olivet. And He has ascended "far above all the heavens"! He has "passed through the heavens," as the appointed Heir of all things. For as the Son, He inherits all things, which as we have seen, He made, created and also the very ages (aionas), each with its order of things and its Divine purpose.
But someone is weary of all this recital. Someone objects, "I believe man has his place, and his powers, and his planning and thinking." Well, O puppet, what hast thou created? Ye "brought nothing into the world; and can carry nothing out." O dust, living a little while, to dust returning: can you get on without breathing, a day, an hour? Nay, you must depend for every breath, nay every heart beat, on the God "in Whose hand thy breath is"; and He has spoken in His Son--even Christ!
Let us meditate deeply and frequently upon this stupendous statement: God's Heir is Christ!
- This is for eternity: there will be no change in God's mind and the blessed Spirit's delight in this matter.
- Men agree that the surest title known on earth is that by inheritance. By the Divine pleasure and decree, the Son of God comes into possession, forever and ever, of all things. They are His. He is Heir!
- Note the peculiar fitness and safety of Christ's being Heir Of all things. With men, inheriting a fortune is the occasion, often, of the development of inherent selfishness. But Christ, while possessing (even in Gethsemane) the power of self-deliverance, absolutely rejected, even unto death, the path of selfishness. Language utterly fails us to express the boundless, unselfish devotion which said to the very end, "The cup which the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" The Son of God proved what He claimed: "I am come down from Heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me." Mark the sweat falling down as blood in Gethsemane where the Father gave Him to taste the cup of wrath for our sins, ere sin was laid upon Him! And even when forsaken of God, He held fast His claim, "My God!" Oh, for language here, but we have none for the unselfishness and devotion! For all eternity, His death, toward which He "steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem," has proven Him the fit and safe Heir of all things!
- He shares with those He calls "His brethren" with the same infinite readiness, (as we shall find in Hebrews 2), so that we read, "joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). It is as Man that all things will be subjected to Him. And we find (Heb. 2:13-14) that in order for this, God is manifest in the flesh—Christ steps in among men, His creatures, in a body "prepared" by God (Heb 10:5).
Yes, the Son of God has fellow-heirs! And God speaks to us redeemed sinners, delivered from "the hole of the pit," thus: "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:16-17). And again, "Thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son (adult son huios); and if a son, then an heir through God" (Gal. 4:7).
Alas, this poor, poor world! In the words, "We brought nothing into the world ... neither can we carry anything out," Paul wrote the biography of every man! Men have struck gold, heaped it up, and left it--to be paupers eternally! Men have labored, and with genius, to "accumulate," as they say, and have left it forever--paupers. Xerxes of Persia had no limit to his earthly possessions, but dying without Christ, to what was he heir? An eternity with nothing! For Christ has been appointed Heir Of all things! The proud millionaire, yea, they say the billionaire, is with us today. For a few years he is rich and then leaves it all and is poor forever! While some humble servant of his, who had Christ, dying, steps out into an unspeakably glorious eternity, rich beyond all imagination. Why? He is an "heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ," who was appointed Heir of all things. Yea, indeed, let us meditate much on these words. I am writing these words in sight of the most elegant private mansion in all of the United States; but was the builder, who is gone from it now, an heir with Christ? There is no other eternal good!
2. Through Whom also He made the ages--We have this action illustrated in the opening verse of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and earth." Then after the judgment period of verse 2, we have, "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." Here spoke the eternal Word Who gives creative utterance to the counsels of the Deity: "For all things were made through Him" (John 1:3).
Made the ages (aions)--An aion, (English aeon) as we know, is a space of time during which God is developing some special phase of His purpose.
For example, in Genesis 1 there is brought before our eyes an earth surrounded by the "deep," with "darkness" upon its face. That this was not the original condition of the world when created is shown in Isaiah 45:18:--"For thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, (Heb. tohu) that formed it to be inhabited" (or, habitable). That the "darkness" and "deep" were a judgment upon a former condition is also brought out in the words of Genesis 1:2: "And the earth was (Heb., "became") tohu and bohu--waste and empty," whereas God says He created it not tohu, a waste, but habitable, as we just saw.
Note also, when man is created, he is told to replenish the earth, just as Noah was commanded at the end of the Flood: Genesis 9:1: "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth"—which had been emptied of population.
Therefore, the words of Hebrews 1:2, He made the aionas, refer to those processes in each age by which God is bringing to pass His great purpose. It is a solemn word indeed, that "now once at the end (literally, consummation) of the ages (aions) hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb 9:26). The "evil age" that crucified Him is still on, to be ended by His return to earth when the aion to come, the Millennium, will begin. How unutterably wonderful are the words of Revelation 22:4, 5, concerning the saints: "They shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign unto the ages of the ages."
Be it noted now that while in Hebrews 1:2 we are told that the "ages" were "made" (Poieo) through Christ, when we come to the original of calling creation into being, a different Greek word is used-- ktidzo, create: but the same Person, Son of God, is declared to have "created all things." Indeed, it is further
asserted that: "In Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created ... in Him ... through Him, and unto Him." (Let all note these three words, in the Greek, en, dia, is, of Colossians 1:16. They mean, in view of Him, through His direct action, with respect to His honor and glory!) (will, we may say, ties with God; creative command, with Christ, the Word; and the execution of The command, with the Spirit: "Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created" (Ps 104:30). We see the Spirit present in Gen. 1:2, also.)
Who, being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high--
3. Being the effulgence of His glory--We are reminded at once of, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). In John 1, He is therefore the Word by Whom God is, declared unto us. The term "effulgence," used in verse 3, presents the Son as the Person of the Deity in and by Whom the glory of that Deity is manifested. And the glory (doxa) "is the expression of the Divine attributes collectively."
"All that God is--not merely in His ways, but in His being--is expressed absolutely by the Son ... No one has grasped what the Son of God is until he has prostrated his soul before Him 'God over all, blessed forever'! (Rom. 9:5). I would that I could put it so strongly that every soul would bow to the truth of it, the absolutely essential, perfect divinity of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, We admit not one iota of a question, not one shadow of a doubt, not one bit of tarnish upon that glory which God has spread before us on this page."--Ridout, Lectures on Hebrews.
4. And the exact-expression* of His substance--From our Lord's words, "God is a Spirit," many unconsciously conceive spirit, and, consequently, God, as not having "substance." (The very image of His (God's] substance. Two words in this phrase instantly awaken intense interest. In their order they are, (a) "image", or better, impress: the Greek word is charakter. Primarily this word denotes the instrument used in engraving or carving, and from this, the impression made by the die or engraver: "The exact expression (the image) of any person or thing"; in our verse, literally, the exact-expression of substance of Him (of God); (b) "substance"; see comment on #4, text.)
But we must not confuse "substance" here with matter as we know it. In Deuteronomy 4:15, 16, Jehovah indeed protested to Israel, "Ye saw no manner of form on the day that Jehovah spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire; lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image in the form of any figure." But this was a protection against idolatry, as seen in the verses which follow, especially verse 25. But in Exodus 24, in connection with the ratification of the first covenant, we read:
"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, as it were the very heaven for clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: and they beheld God, and did eat and drink" (Ex 24:9-11).
This in no wise contradicts God's word to Moses in Exodus 3. Moses had said, "Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory." God in answer promised to "make all His goodness" pass before him, saying: "Thou canst not see My face; for man shall not see Me and live. And Jehovah said, Behold there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock: and it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand until I have passed by: and I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back; but My face shall not be seen" (vss. 20-23). See also Exodus 34:5 ff. This agrees also with the visions of Ezekiel 1:26-28, 3:12-14, 8:2, 9:3; 10; 11:22. These Scriptures reveal the Triune God, enthroned upon the cherubim. We see in Revelation 5:6 our Lord's essential place there, "In the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and of the elders." Although being also the Son of Man, He is a Lamb (lit., "a little lamb") "as though it had been slain"-about to take the kingdom on earth (but His place is in the glory that He had with the Father before the world was).
This word "substance" in Hebrews 1:3 relates to Deity itself--the "exact expression" of which, the Man Christ Jesus is! 5. Maintaining* all things by the word of His power—John Owen said, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, hath the weight of the whole creation upon His hand." (See Vincent. Who says, "It implies sustaining, but also movement." It deals, as Weiss Puts it, "with the all, in all its changes and transformations throughout the aeons.") Men talk of "the laws of nature"; of the "laws of being." In the absolute there are no such things! In the light of this all-embracing, overwhelming word, maintaining all things, and the method and means by which Christ does it by the word of His power, to talk of the "laws" resident in things is simply infidelity, or sublime ignorance.
Certainly there were creative commands in Genesis: "Let the earth put forth grass ... Let there be light ... Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth ... Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth ... Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind." Again, after making man in His own image, after His likeness, God said "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it."
Nevertheless, man is utterly dependent! As God said to Belshazzar, "The God in Whose hand thy breath is, and Whose are all thy ways"; or Paul to the Athenians, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being"; and, "He Himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things"; or as Job utters it: "In Whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath (spirit) of all mankind" (Job 12:10); so it is, not only with man, but with every living creature and with the plants of the field, which if God command, shall come up "in a night" (Jonah 4:10)--every living thing is sustained in being by the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son. Humbling, but true, O proud man! Yea, blessedly true! Say God's saints.
When the Son of God acted in creation by His Word, did He resort to the "laws" of non-existent things? You say, Impossible. "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that (as a result of which) what is seen (the visible universe) hath not been made out of things which appear." People of simple faith accept it: and there is no other sort of faith: for, "Except ye turn and become as little children ..."!
So the same Person Whose word created still upholds (maintains). Mighty wonder! You object, "Christ Himself said, 'Not a sparrow falleth without My Father'"--making the first Person of the Deity exercise what we call "providence." Alas, how quickly, unless deeply and constantly taught of God, does the human mind become unitarian, rejecting Christ's Deity!
The Jews knew better, who heard His words, "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30). They took up stones to cast at our Lord when He asserted His eternity of being, in John 8:58-59; and again, when He stated His Divine unity with the Father, John 10:30-31. Our Lord's saying that He had come from Heaven, from the Father, divided the multitude, as we see in John 7:25-44, and 8:23; as His frequent claim that the Father that sent Him was with Him, aroused their blind enmity (John 8:16, 20-27).
The Greek word translated "upholding" (phero) is found, for instance, in Mark 2:3-4 when they came bringing the paralyzed man. Again, our Lord said in Mark 12:15-16: "Bring Me a denarius ... And they brought it" (phero twice). It is used seven times in one chapter, John 15, concerning bearing fruit, the emphasis being upon the branch's bearing fruit, and not the fruit, the branch. This is the word used in Hebrews 1:3 of our Lord's upholding the universe in every, even the minutest, particular! He maintaineth all things.
Confess that He is God the Son, and as being so He would have all power as part of His eternal glory. Then the word of His power becomes an overmastering thought, beyond the conception of mind, but the delight of faith, like that of a babe trusting its mother. We are not permitted here, as it seems to me, to let a created universe "run along," after giving it certain trends. But the word of His power ("The creating, omnipresent Word"--Ohlshausen) is certainly as much His word as that with which He created all things in the beginning.
The word of His power was constantly spoken of by our blessed Lord in His ministry among men; and He is the same, "yesterday, and today, yea, and forever." He "cast out the spirits with a word"! "I will, be thou made clean," He said to the leper. "Young man, I say unto thee, arise," He said to the widow of Nain's son. "Lazarus, come forth!" He cried at Bethany, "and he that was dead came forth." The centurion of Matthew 8:8-13 entered into faith in the word of His power: "Only say the word, and my servant shall be healed!"
Certainly it is true that our Lord could command an order of things, as we read in Psalm 119:90-91:
"Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth, They abide this day according to Thine ordinances; For all things are Thy servants."
But do not dream that there are any "ordinances" which leave out the direct and constantly exercised power of the Lord Jesus Christ. "In Him (Christ) all things consist," or "hold together" (Col. 1:17). (Bishop Lightfoot says concerning this word: "Hold together, cohere: He is the principle of cohesion in the universe. To take one instance, the action of gravitation, which keeps in their places things fixed, and regulates the motions of things moving, is an expression of His mind. Similarly, in Heb 1:3, Christ the Logos is described as sustaining the universe.)
To conceive that the Son of God can maintain all things by the word of His power, and at the same time or for an instant, be absent from His creation (in the sense in which evolutionists claim) is hideous infidelity which would banish God from His own creation if it could! An example dear to us is our Lord Jesus' constant care for all His saints. Thousands upon thousands are asking Him daily for this and that: and He is able to speak the word of power to all and to each. How? He is God! There is no limit to His power.
"All, all that buds, and blossoms, and rejoices, hath My Beloved made;
His wisdom and His tenderness and gladness told forth in leaf and blade.
All, all that buds, and blossoms, and rejoices, hath My Beloved made;
All moves unto the music of His power that fills the woodland glade."
-- Gerhardt Ter Steegen
Such a song is that of the Christian: not of the pantheist or the atheist, neither of whom want God. Ghastly wonder of all the ages: man, a creature, whose very name is need, need, need; who must be "kept" from outside himself, like a newborn babe supplied with breath, with food, with air; kept in balance by a power wholly without himself; who must be warmed by a created sun; the temperature of his body kept by a marvelous adjustment; his blood kept circulating; his heart kept beating--yet the constant effort of human "science" and "philosophy" is to get as far away as possible from the consciousness of this creating, providing, maintaining Lord God!
6. When He had made purification of sins--This is the most brief and comprehensive statement in all Scripture of our Lord's work at His first coming. "Purification" here is to be conceived of in the largest sense as including not only believers' sins expiated on the Cross, where propitiation and remission were secured; but also the whole task of Christ as to the removal of sins from God's sight--described in one word! ("In the thought of making purification of sins is already foreshadowed the work of Christ as High Priest, which plays so prominent a part in the
Looking at the work done Godward, it is "the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world." Note that it is purification of sins, not, from sin: it is the great work of the Cross, effective everywhere and forever, whereby God pardons and remits the sins of individual believers, and brings in a new creation where righteousness is "at home." But, here used, it is a great word preparing the way, laying the foundation, for the priestly work of Christ revealed in this epistle.
7. Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high—These words present the last of the seven revelations concerning the Person of that Son in Whom God has "spoken unto us." Lack of much reverent consideration of these wondrous words of God concerning the Son accounts for the shallow, doubting "Christianity" everywhere. My first visit to London came just at the season when favored persons were being "received" by royalty (Edward VII). I marked the conduct of those Americans who were preparing to be "received at court," their assiduous daily study of the proper attire, address, and every detail they thought would be important. My heart sank at the contrasting heedlessness of these same human creatures towards their God, and towards that Son in Whom He has now "spoken."
All, the supernal dignity of these words, sat down ... Majesty ... on High!* It is indeed a seated Priest, after an accomplished work, Whom we are to find in Hebrews! But now the infinite greatness of His Person and position is before us. Indeed the word "Majesty" is simply the Greek word "great" formed into a capital noun, used in Scripture only of the majesty, the greatness, of God (Heb. 1:3, 8:1; Jude 25. Compare 2 Sam. 7:22, Ps. 145:3, 6; 1Chr 29:11). THERE IS NO OTHER GREATNESS! May we be brought into this consciousness!
* Four times in Hebrews is Christ seen as having sat down on the right hand of God:
- In Heb 1:3, as Son, Heir, Effulgence, Upholder—after "purification of sins," He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High. This is in view of His Person.
- In Heb 8:1, 2 we have the High Priest's ministry described: "Who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man."
- In Heb 10:12, contrasted with earthly priests, that keep standing "day by day ministering ... He ... sat down on the right hand of God." Here, His sitting down is in view of His one sacrifice. The sacrifice is never to be repeated, therefore the Priest is seated.
- Heb 12:2 He is seen as the Leader (Archegos) of the "great cloud of witnesses who lived, walked and conquered by faith (Heb 11): "Jesus, the Leader and Perfecter of the faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Here neither His Person, His ministry, nor His finished work is before us, but His inner motives in view of the "joy set before Him"; and His consequent "race"--enduring the Cross, despising the shame."
Reflection upon these four wondrous views of Christ's session at God's right hand will greatly edify the believer.
Having become by so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they:
"Better" (the Greek word kreitton) is used thirteen times in this book of Hebrews, out of nineteen times in the whole New Testament. Beginning here in Heb 1:4 with Christ Himself better than the angels we have "better things" (Heb 6:9); "better person" (than Abraham (Heb 7:7); "better hope" (Heb 7:19); "better covenant" (Heb 7:22); "better covenant ... better promises" (Heb 8:6); "better sacrifices" (Heb 9:23); "better possession" (Heb 10:34); "better country" (Heb 11:16); "better resurrection" (Heb 11:35); "better things" (Heb 11:40 and Heb 12:24). No wonder Paul uses the same word "better" in Philippians: "To depart and be with Christ ... is very far better"! (Phil 1:23).
(Jewish minds thought much of angelic glory. They had received the Law as ordained by ministry of angels (Acts 7:5). They were wont, therefore, to regard with awe and wonder those obedient messengers of God's power. There can be no stronger proof of this than John's temptation to worship one (Rev. 19:10, 22:8-9). Hence the weight of the further testimony here to Christ's glory, He having become by so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they.)
This blessed Son having in His humanity the "body" which, He said, His Father prepared for Him (Heb 10:5), was "made for a little while lower than the angels" (Heb 2:9). Astonishing fact! (--which, by the way, eternally protects the elect angels from the pride by which the others were lost, following the dragon in his pride--Rev. 12:4, 8, 9). Now this Son is said to have become so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they. And this was as MAN, remember! For He is here set before us as the Son in Whom God--at the end of the Old Testament days--had spoken! So He is "the Word made flesh" and having as such, "tabernacled among us" (John 1:14), of whom God is here speaking! Read Hebrews 1 over and over!
Now, how much better than the angels had He, though Man, "become"?
- He is the Son of God; they are "servants" (Heb 1:5, 7).
- He is to be worshiped by the angels! (Heb 1:6).
- He is addressed as "God" by God the Father! (Heb 1:8).
- He is addressed as "King"--Whose "sceptre" is that of "uprightness" (Heb 1:8).
- For His love of righteousness, and hatred of iniquity, His God had "anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows"--whoever they be! (Heb 1:9).
- He is addressed as "Lord," Who "in the beginning did lay the foundations of the earth," and the works of Whose hands the very Heavens are! (Heb 1:10).
- He shall continue, though these Heavens shall pass away: "They shall perish, but Thou continuest ... Thou art the same; Thy years shall not fail" (Heb 1:11, 12).
- "Of which of the angels hath He said at any time, Sit Thou at My right hand, till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet?" (Heb 1:13).
- "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:14).
- "Not unto angels did He (God) subject the world to come" (whereof in Hebrews we speak, and to which we look forward) (Heb 2:5)
Of course no moral or spiritual excellence is indicated here, for He was ever perfect. But He was, we read, "perfected through sufferings (Heb 2:10, 5:9, 7:28). He went on from trial to trial, from testing to testing, to perfect obedience to God's will--which involved His death, and that as a Sin-offering. But thence God raised Him, and thus He must be held in our minds--from the words of Heb 1:3, "When He had made purification of sins," as a Risen One, seated on the right hand of God! He has taken that place above the angels which belonged to Him eternally as Son and Heir of all things, and now belongs to Him as the "one Mediator between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Few believe in their very hearts that there is a MAN in the glory!--and that Paul wrote of "Christ concerning the flesh," the words, "Who is over all, God blessed forever"!
Note especially that word "become." As God the Son, He could not "become." He could say, "Before Abraham was born, I AM!" But, as having emptied Himself, having taken the form of man, and humbled Himself, even to "obedience unto death, yea, the death of the Cross"--it is thus He is seen in the words before us. His "becoming" took Him for a little while "lower than the angels." Now, raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, and being by the right hand of God exalted, He has taken His seat as Man (none the less God, but as Man) on the right hand of the Majesty on High. And this phrase, become by so much, measures the distance--infinite and incomprehensible to us--between the Risen Christ and the angelic host. How much better? As He hath inherited a more excellent name than they. This "Name" is never for a moment to be thought of as in competition with the angels or other beings. Competition with their Creator? Subjection is their delight! "Glory to God in the highest," they sang when He was born in Bethlehem--to be for "a little while lower than the angels"! How happy is their sweet ministry, "sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation," which service they delight to do. But, brother, it is not the vote of the heavenly beings that makes the Son of God become by so much better than the angels. It is the facts in the case. He is God. They are creatures. The cleavage is infinite, between Him and all creatures and between His work and that of any creature, forever--much as God loves His faithful servants.
Note that it is by so much and not merely so much better. That is, it is a measure Of place, or degree; not of quality of being. (This comparative phrase, in its four occurrences in Hebrews, really sets forth infinity. The measure in each case is beyond measure! Hebrews 3:3, 5 says Moses was faithful in all God's house but Jesus was "counted worthy of more glory than Moses by so much as He that built the house hath more honor than the house." Heb 7:22: "Inasmuch as it is not without the taking of an oath ... by so much also hath Jesus become the Surety of a better covenant." (Not until Heb 13:20 will the great announcement of that "eternal covenant" between God and Christ, by which He was "brought again from the dead," be definitely set forth; but it is doctrinally involved throughout the book from Heb 1:3-4, on.) And Heb 8:6 "He hath obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant.")
The great mystery we must never forget is even that when He became "for a little while lower than the angels," He was still the same in Deity as when He created all things. We must make careful distinction here between "having become" and "having inherited a name." This "inheriting" compels us to regard Him as Man, as the Word made flesh, as the Son, perfected forevermore, and ascended to Heaven. Indeed, the language of the whole Verse sets this forth. He "sat down," the previous verse tells us, and now, "having become," and having "obtained by inheritance," are spoken of Him.
After these seven utterances concerning our Lord's Person (Heb 1:1, 3), God cites seven Old Testament Scriptures, elucidating and proving verse 4. Let us examine these seven quotations made, as usual in Hebrews, from the Septuagint. "The Septuagint was a translation of the OT from the Hebrew into the Greek language, made about 270 to 235 B.C.; so-called because of the 70 translators said to have been engaged in making it. It is the most ancient of all versions of the Hebrew OT."--Angus, Cyclopedic Handbook to the Bible.
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, This day have I begotten Thee? (Ps. 2:7).
That Christ's Deity is here before us leaps into utterance in this verse. These angels are creatures, with the same creature-responsibility possessed by all creatures, a fact which is readily seen in God's pronouncement of future judgment upon the fallen angels in Psalm 82:6-7 (see John 10:34,36), Though called "sons" as created beings--as, indeed, Adam is called, being Divinely, created (Lk 3:38), yet no angel is ever addressed as is Christ. "In OT, 'sons' is applied to angels collectively but never individually. See Ps. 29:1, 89:6. Similarly, 'son' is applied to the chosen nation: Ex. 4:22, Hos. 11:1; but to no individual nation."--Vincent. Here (Ps. 2:7) Christ is addressed in an entirely different manner. First of all, He is the eternal Son. The relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit always existed in the Deity. Second, when He was born in Bethlehem, that is, in the incarnation, He is also called "Son of the Most High" and "Son of God" (Lk. 1:32, 35; see also Isa. 9:6, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given"). Third, when He was raised from the dead He was so saluted, as we read in Acts 13:33: "The promise made unto the fathers ... God hath fulfilled ... unto our children, in that He raised up Jesus."
To what Occasion, then, of our Lord's life, do the words in Hebrews 1:5 refer? To His eternal Sonship? To His incarnation? Or to His resurrection-ascension, and session at God's right hand? Evidently to the last named. Paul said plainly to the Jews in Pisidia: "In that He raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, 'Thou art My Son, this day I have begotten Thee.' And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He hath spoken on this wise, 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.' (Isa. 55:3). Because He saith also in another psalm (16:10), 'Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One to see corruption.'"
Here Paul clearly connects the words of the Second Psalm, "This day have I begotten Thee," with our Lord's resurrection and His salutation by the Father as risen.
In the address, Thou art My Son, This day have I begotten Thee, are these two distinct elements: first, the fact that He is the Son eternally; and second, His public recognition as such afterwards, and most especially at His resurrection, when He was "declared to be the Son of God with power"--as is so emphasized in Romans 1:4.
But in Hebrews 1:5 the question is not when He was called Son, but the fact that He was so called, as over against the fact that no angel was ever thus addressed! We find God speaking to David in the great royal covenant (1 Chron. 17:13; 2 Sam. 7:14) whereby He promised him a Son, the throne of Whose kingdom He would establish forever, of that One of David's house Who should inherit his throne forever:
I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son.
How wonderfully the Spirit of God brings out the thought of God, where our poor minds could not have followed! The words, He shall be to me a Son, are of course spoken of Christ as a Son of David--as Man. As God He was eternally in the relationship of Son. Again we would warn against seeking to probe into this mystery, which faith and faith alone can receive. (A godly and deeply instructed brother has written: "We cannot fathom what He was. Our hearts should not go and scrutinize the Person of Christ as though we could know it all. No human being can understand the union of God and man in His Person: 'No one knoweth the Son, save the Father' ... All that is revealed, you may know; we may learn a great deal about Him ... but when I attempt to fathom the union of God and man ... no man can.") When our Lord was born, He was Emmanuel, God with us (Isa. 7:14); and He was Man, yea, a babe, Who by the spirit of prophecy said, "Thou didst make me trust when I was upon My mother's breasts" '(Ps. 22:9).
There are in Matthew 11:27 three great facts shown unto us by our Lord: first: "All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father" (of this we do not now speak). Second, "No one knoweth the Son, save the Father." Of this we must speak with profoundest emphasis: for this "knowing" is that of which only God, and no creature, is capable. Third, "Neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him." This He has willed for us who, begotten of God, born of His Spirit, are of God's family (1 John 2:13). But it is upon the Father's knowledge of the Son that we must ponder especially in Hebrews 1.
To sum up, Christ being the Son of God, greeted thus before incarnation and constantly afterwards, is "declared to be the Son of God with power ... by the resurrection from the dead" (Ro 1:4), and thus preached. "'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee,' is His relationship in time with God. It depends, I doubt not, on His glorious nature; but this position for man was acquired by the miraculous birth of Jesus here below, and demonstrated as true and determined in its true import by His resurrection."--J.N. Darby.
And when He again bringeth in THE FIRSTBORN into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him:
In this, the third of these great Old Testament words concerning Christ, the Spirit goes back to Psalm 97:7: "Worship Him, all ye gods." (Perhaps also there is a reference to Deut. 32:43, Sept.) The 97th is one of the psalms of the second coming and millennial reign of Christ. Note first the beautiful name of Christ here (Heb. 1:6): THE FIRSTBORN. It is in itself an absolute title, a name. He is The Firstborn--the immediate expression of the rights and the glory of God. He has universal pre-eminence. Instead of looking at this wonderful Name from the creature's viewpoint, as do the Unitarians, modernists, and all infidels, let us view this Name from its only proper viewpoint, that of God Himself. Then indeed does it begin to teach us marvelous things of blessing!
When we quote Col. 1:15, "Who is the image of the invisible God, The Firstborn of all creation," Unitarian hosts rush to cry, "Yes, the Firstborn, the highest--but a creature, evidently." But let them read the next verse, "For in Him were all things created in the heavens and upon the earth." We press upon the reader that there is no faintest hint of Christ's being a creature, but the exact opposite: "God was manifest in the flesh." The movement is from God toward us, in infinite condescension. The Creator is coming among His creatures. The Second Person of the Deity has stepped into the creature place: not at all becoming a creature, for He Himself created all things! But the Father prepared Him a body (Heb. 10:5) and from the womb of the virgin, according to the word of prophecy, it could now be said, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given ... and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of eternity, Prince of peace." O sinner! O saint! Read this and adore. In proceeding out into His creation should He not have the title, "The Firstborn"? He is not of creation in His origin, but He is one with us in grace.
This name, Firstborn (_Prolotokos) is applied seven times to our Lord (although in Matt. 1:25 and Lk. 2:7 it concerns His birth: "She brought forth her firstborn son"). In Rom. 8:29, "The Firstborn among many brethren"; Col. 1:15, "The Firstborn of all creation," because "by Him were all things created"; Col. 1:18, "The Firstborn from among the dead" (in resurrection, of course); Heb. 1:6, When He again bringeth in The Firstborn into the World; Rev. 1:5. "The Firstborn of the dead" (for Christ did not go back, as did Lazarus, into the life of earth, but was raised in "newness, of life": Rom. 6:4).
It is, we repeat, a title--not the eldest son of a family. See Ps. 89:27, where God, in speaking of David's tenth son (1 Chron. 3:1-5) Solomon, declares, "I will make (or, appoint) him firstborn the highest of the kings of the earth" (2 Chron. 9:22,24).
You remember that in our Lord's prayer in the 17th of John, He asks that the Father will glorify Him "with the glory which I had with Thee," He said, "before the world was." He was there in all eternity past, one Person in the ineffable Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To that eternal past the title, The Firstborn, cannot belong. Where, then, do we begin to find it? In God's motion toward creatures--even ourselves--not angels but men! Why this coming forth into creation and toward creatures? Was not the triune God sufficient in Himself? Were not His attributes all glorious? Was not the fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit enough--infinitely enough?
Nay. God is Love! And He would bestow that love upon creatures, who, by that bestowal, would be forever blessed. And He would reveal the absoluteness of that love in sending the Son of His love to redeem those who were otherwise guilty, lost, and forever undone. So God "brought in" His Son "into the world" first at Bethlehem. Again and again our Lord testified that He had not come of Himself, but that the Father had sent Him: "I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of Myself, but He sent Me" (John 7:28, 29; 8:42; 10:36). Now this was His first coming. And, according to hundreds of passages in the New Testament, as well as those in the old prophets, He is to be sent again into this world. God will again bring in THE FIRSTBORN into the habitable world, where He was once rejected: mark that! God will bring Him back to earth _again, and in revealed glory. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in (Gr., through) Jesus will God bring with Him." Not only will God bring Christ back but the Saints with Him! See 1 Thessalonians 3:13: "The coming of our Lord Jesus with all His Saints"!
(Note: Of the adverb translated "again" (_palin), Thayer says, "Joined to verbs of all sorts it denotes renewal or repetition of the action ... In Heb. 1:6. _palin is tacitly opposed to the time when God first brought His Son into the world." And Alford: "In this epistle, when _palin is joined to a verb, it always has the sense of 'a second time'. The A.V. reading, 'And again, when He bringeth in,' makes 'again' a simple particle, not an adverb, and so obscures this reference to Christ's second coming.")
Second, "the angels" are to be taken into a higher place than they have ever had, even that of worshipers, a new and understanding place, where they will know God's love, and His electing Grace, seen in the redeemed, the members of Christ's Body! The words, Let all the angels of God worship Him, we find marvelously carried out in Revelation 5:7-12. There is deep instruction for us in this passage. After the Lamb has taken the governmental seven-sealed book, the four Living Ones and the twenty-four Elders fall down before Him, having each one a harp, for it is the day of Heaven's joy, celebrating His death and His purchasing (men) unto God with His blood out of "every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation," to "reign upon the earth." Then come the angels. Their time of serving the saints is over, and their time of worship of the Lamb continues. "And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne," John tells us, "and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain" (Rev. 5:11, 12).
Someone may ask, Have not the angelic beings always worshiped Christ the Son, through Whose word they were created? Doubtless they have always worshiped the Triune God. But when in the eternity past did God reveal Himself as at the incarnation when the only begotten Son, Who was in the bosom of the Father, "declared Him"? (John 1:18). It was not that God dwelt in Heaven in thick darkness as He appeared on Sinai. On the contrary, it is written of Him, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable" (1 Tim. 6:16). Read again the note regarding "again" on Hebrews 1:6.
In the various "theophanies" of the Old Testament, the Son was the Speaker--as He was the Speaker of the creative word of Genesis 1:3. And we know Isaiah saw Christ's glory, as God (Isa. 6; John 12:41). Yet not to the Old Testament fathers did God speak "in a Son," as now. Nor do we read in Scripture of any other being than man created in God's imaged and likeness. For God's counsels were connected with Christ as man.*
God will "sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth"--which is the "secret of His will" made known in Eph. 1:9, 10. Vss. 11-14 and following show our direct connection with Christ as God's "inheritance" (vs. 18); while Eph. 3:10, 11 tells us that it was God's intent that now "unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be made known through the Church (the Assembly, the Bride of Christ) the manifold wisdom of God, according to the purpose of the ages (margin) which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
These "ages" run back to the beginning of God's creation, including, we believe, all things God has created. So this "purpose of the ages"--God's great ultimate object in them all, was to reveal Christ, in Whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, and the Assembly, as Christ's fullness (Eph. 1:22, 23).
Just how much the angels knew of our Lord as the Eternal Word, we may not know. What a celebration there was on the night He was born in Bethlehem as God manifest in the flesh! But here in Hebrews 1:6 the angels will be called, we believe, into a ministry of intelligent worship such as they never knew before. Read carefully here 1 Peter 1:11, 12: "Which things angels desire to look into"! What things? Those things concerning "the sufferings of (appointed unto) Christ, and the glories that should follow them." Those matters which concern God's redemptive plan reveal His nature as Love: which things are shown directly to the objects of redemption, lost men; but which must be learned by observation by sinless heavenly beings. Christ "took hold of" (or "gave help to") the seed of Abraham, "not of angels" (Heb. 2:16). So that the pardoned sinner knows the heart of God as no angel, cherub or seraph can!
Having, therefore, beheld God's love in sending His dear Son to the Cross, the angels enter with delight unimaginable upon the worship of that Son, when He takes over the kingdom things, as we said above.
In the fourth Old Testament citation concerning the Son's place above the angels, we see their former ministry described thus: And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels winds, And His ministers a flame of fire:
This is quoted from Psalm 104:4, the word "maketh" indicating, according to a revered expositor, "He created them so." "The thought expressed here is that God employs His angels in the physical operation of the universe"--Conybeare. Here the angels are servants, whereas in the following verse, the Son is addressed as God. For it is a state of being, not a ministry, that is in view in all this passage. It is the Son of God above the angels, although God created them able "to fly swiftly" (Dan. 9:21)'and to be His ministers Whose throne is "fiery flames." See again in Daniel 7:9, 10, and Revelation 8:2 God surrounded by these ministers, as Gabriel said (Lk. 1:19), "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God."
("It will be well to trace through the Revelation the Very remarkable, often wholly unexpected, and hitherto unrevealed angelic activity.
"We have already noticed ... the constant and prominent part angels have in the ministration of affairs in Heaven: Rev. 5:2-11, 8:3-5; then (8:6-11:15) the seven angels with the trumpets, sending terrible direct judgment from Heaven. How God places in angels, 'Mighty in strength' the execution of His plans, is concretely suggested in Rev. 10:7. In Rev. 14:18 we find the angel 'that hath power over fire'. In Rev. 16:5, 'the angel of the waters'; in 16:8, an angel the agent that gives power to the sun to scorch men with fire; and in 19:17 an angel standing in the sun, speaking His message. These are instances of the remarkable Powers and offices Possessed through Divine gift by these beings called angels. God continually and Personally ministers the affairs of this earth; and we learn from such verses as Rev. 7:1, that He does it through angelic ministers. He loves to delegate His power to His faithful servants."--The author's book, The Revelation, pp. 109-110.)
In the fifth and sixth citations of Scripture here in Hebrews 1, we have several marvelous features. In the first place, both these quotations, (first, vss. 8-9, from Ps. 45; second, vss. 10-12, from Ps. 102) are assertions of our Lord's Deity: the first, with respect to His Person; the second, with respect to His creatorship. In the second place, these quotations are taken out of their Old Testament context by the Holy Spirit, and applied to Christ in a manner that is startling. Finally, like all the seven citations of Scripture we are considering, they are utterances of God the Father, concerning, or directly unto, God the Son.
But of the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee With the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.(Here, as Deity, He is addressed as God by God the Father, and, as also Man, by the words, "Thy God." For as Man, He "emptied Himself--of His glory, power and wisdom (Phil. 2:6-8).)
This, as we have said, is from the beautiful 45th Psalm (which read), a rapturous welcome of the Lord at His second coming in glory, by the saved remnant of Israel: as the first verse says, "I speak the things which I have made touching the King."
Notice the enraptured words addressed to Christ: "Thou art fairer than the children of men; Grace is poured into Thy lips: Therefore God hath blessed Thee forever."
Here Christ is plainly addressed as Man--as note "Thy fellows," in the preceding verse.
But we come to the sixth verse in this 45th Psalm, and He is addressed as God! The Spirit of God quotes this verse in Hebrews 1:8, and addresses it to Christ: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. No Unitarian evasion can escape it. Here God goes away back before the incarnation. Vain and dangerous indeed it is for the human mind to speculate on the union of Deity and humanity. Christ is both. Faith receives it!
Here are three things: First, the Son addressed as God by the Father. Our Lord's walk, words, and works were in full consciousness of this: "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only brake the sabbath, but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:18). There are no degrees in Deity!
Second, the Son as the Lamb shares the throne of Deity. Nor does this conflict with 1 Cor. 15:28: "When all things have been subjected unto Him (Christ), then shall the Son also Himself be subjected to Him that did subject all things unto Him, that God may be all in all." "For He must reign till He hath put all His enemies under His feet" (vs. 25). It is an administrative throne (rather than "mediatorial," as it has been sometimes called) on which He "must reign till". It is not the throne of Heb. 1:8. Therefore when that work of administering judgment to the enemies is completed, Christ voluntarily "shall deliver up the kingdom of God, even the Father." The fact, however, that He has (a) become man, and (b) had all things delivered unto Him of the Father for the task of putting down foes, does not detract from His own essential, eternal Deity. Even in the final revelation to us, the throne of God (Rev. 22:1, 3) is "The throne of God and of the Lamb"--a precious word! For the words "The Lamb" show Him Man, as we know Him to be God!
Third, the Lamb, seen in the midst of the throne in Rev. 5:6, does not retire into that throne of the triune God again, but is "the Lamp" of the glory of God in the new Jerusalem forever (Rev. 21:23). He is Man forever, being God from eternity to eternity. He sits "forever" upon the throne with God: "equal with God." Yet His eternal delight, as when upon earth, is to do the will of the Father; and the Father's eternal delight is to glorify the Son!
Now we proceed, in Psalm 45:6, 7, quoted in Hebrews 1:8, 9: "And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom." Both in the psalm and here, we may see the righteousness of Christ's millennial reign.
Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee With the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.
We shall note what this word "fellows" (_metochoi) means. It occurs five times in Hebrews.
We must remember that the 45th Psalm, which is here before our eyes, is "a goodly matter touching the king"--that is, concerning Christ at His coming to reign. Verses 3-5 of this psalm see Him with His sword upon His thigh, riding on prosperously, His "arrows sharp," the "peoples falling under Him," "the King's enemies." This corresponds with our Lord's coming as "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:11-16). There, "the armies which are in Heaven followed Him." They are seen as companions, "fellows." But the words: God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness, gives us a blessed view of that day of delight when our blessed Lord comes upon that glorious hour appointed by the Father (Acts 1:6, 7) when He enters upon His kingdom. He will indeed say on that day to His faithful servants, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21, 23).
But His joy will abound "above" theirs, in these respects:
- He is God the Son; they are creatures.
- He has therefore infinitely loved righteousness and hated iniquity.
- He has been looking forward to that day (the millennial coming) which Psalm 45 depicts, from ages past.
- As Psalm 2 and Hebrews 10:13 and many Scriptures show, the holy purpose of God involves the overthrow in wrath of all His final enemies. And when the day comes, it will be measureless joy to the Son to clear the unrighteous away--just as it was a delight to do the Father's will in bearing the sin of the world.
In the Millennium, our Lord will "rule in the midst of His enemies," for although all obey, it is written that they "yield feigned obedience" (Ps. 18:44, 81:15, 66:3), and rush to Satan's banner when he is loosed (Rev. 20:7-9).
We must receive into our thinking the fact that His infinite joy includes the removal of final foes.
Note further the holy love and holy hate which marked Christ's course on earth, resulting in that anointing with the oil of gladness to which our Lord refers in the words, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" or in Hebrews 12:2, "Who, for the joy that was set before Him." The eternal, immeasurable gladness of Christ as having done to the utmost the Father's will, and having been anointed of Him--ponder upon it--His "fellows" share it in due measure.
Verse 10: Thou Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Thy hands:
The circumstances of this passage are profoundly moving to a spiritual heart. For in Psalm 102:23, 24, our Lord Jesus in speaking thus to the Father: "He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said, O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days: Thy years are throughout all generations."
How blessedly human are such words! At thirty-three a man has just found his vigor, and the things of earthly life have their greatest interest and power. This beautiful, touching appeal is made by the Man Christ Jesus to God as His God, when it is revealed to Him that His days are to be shortened, that His strength is to be weakened--for, "He was crucified through weakness" (2 Cor. 13:4). "Take me not away in the midst of My days," pleaded the Man Christ Jesus. And then the argument with His God: "Thy years are throughout all generations." How this must have touched the very heart of God His Father! And what answer does He make to His Son? Now, have simple faith and be prepared for what the Spirit of God does at this place. For, though Christ is speaking in Psalm 102:23, 24, God answers Him in verses 25-27! We should look upon the earth and the heavens as becoming old" (Heb. 1:11). Thus shall we become occupied with Him to Whom God says, But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
Again we remark that these mighty words of comfort are addressed by God the Father to His dear Son then in humiliation, in answer to His cry, "Take Me not away in the midst of My days." The Father declares to His Son, pointing to the eternity past, that He, the Son, Whom He addressed as Lord (Heb. 1:10), made the earth and the heavens! Then, pointing to the eternity coming, He assures Him, But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. It is God the Father's answer to His Son's cry--and what an answer!
And what a testimony by the Father to the Son's Creatorship is this verse of Hebrews 1!* The Father willed creation, the Son spake it, the Spirit executed it! (Ps. 104:30). (Fosdick, the infidel who has publicly, in print and by voice, denied all the fundamentals of the faith of the gospel, has a sermon on "The Danger of Worshipping Jesus of Nazareth." What will God say to the Fosdick atom in that day--in view of this verse, where God addresses Jesus as, "Thou, Lord," and makes Him the Creator?)
Verse 11: They shall perish; but Thou continuest; And they all shall wax old, as doth a garment.
Here self-existent Deity is ascribed to Christ. Then as to what He has made, the earth, the heavens: They shall perish, as contrasted with Christ's continued existence. Our Lord Himself said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away." It is not in God's mind to preserve forever this present creation. Its end is revealed in they shall perish ... wax old ... be rolled up ... exchanged! How brief is the existence of present created things! Poor man, in all his thinking and living, treats the present earth and heavens as abiding. The mockers of the last days make what they regard as the fixed permanence of the universe the basis of their scoffing at Christ's coming, with the stupendous changes it involves, saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Pet. 3:4). Every believer should read often the two closing chapters of the Revelation, and remember that the present creation is to be exchanged, as our next verse in Hebrews tells us. Before the face of the Sitter upon the Great White Throne of final judgment, "The earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them ... He that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new."
And as a mantle shalt Thou roll them up, As a garment, and they shalt be exchanged:
What an expression and prophecy! Christ will be the One before Whose face earth and Heaven flee away. Note the word exchanged, rather than changed,* for there shall be a new Heaven and a new earth, in place of the old, which shall utterly pass away.
* "To cause one thing to cease, and another to take its place."--Thayer.
As Stuart well remarks, "The heavens are often represented as an expanse, and to roll them up, is of course to remove them. The language, however, in the case before us, is borrowed from the custom of folding up, laying aside, garments that have become unfit for use."
Covert says of the new heavens and the new earth: "Both heavens and earth are _new. They are of new materials: not merely a purifying of the old. They are not new because they are a fresh modification of the old materials! This verse teaches us that the heavens and earth are new in their materials, as well as in their form. 'The earth is new, for the old earth passed away.' If I say 'A new man-of-war graced the port of Plymouth, for the old Victory foundered in the Atlantic'--none would suspect me of asserting that the old vessel was fished up, and that its timbers, rearranged, constituted the new vessel. 'The former earth and heaven passed away.' The former chapter exhibited the destruction of the old creation; it had no longer any locality. Now we are presented with the final state which succeeds."
We hear also Isa. 51:6: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment." "The course of thought is easily traced: as the garment which has grown old is rolled up and changed, so the former heavens and earth shall give place to the new heavens and the new earth."--Moulton.
But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. Here we see Christ's uncaused continuance of being. Every creature changes, every creature's years fail, for creatures are dependent. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in One, are not dependent, but are seen to all eternity-past, and to come!
But of which of the angels hath He said at any time, Sit Thou on My right hand, Till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet?
This is the seventh of these wonderful citations concerning the Son of God's position above all angelic creation. Angels and saints are much in the mouths of Romanists, as with the early Gnostics, who built up a series of higher and higher powers they called "demiurges"--finally to reach God! How we praise God for the simplicity of His Word! Christ, and Christ alone, God's dear Son, is the Word of God! As to God's purposes for the future, Christ's enemies shall be by God placed beneath His feet. For this we see our Lord waiting, in Chapter 10:13. Note this word "enemies." We have it here in Chapter 1:13, from Psalm 2; and in Chapter 10:13: "Henceforth expecting till His enemies be made the footstool of His feet"; and again, Chapter 10:27, "A fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries." We shall not pause here to describe these "adversaries," except to say that they are those who "will not that this Man reign over them" (Lk. 19:14, 27).
Perhaps no utterance of Scripture is more misunderstood than this 13th verse, yet see how plain it is:
- The Son of God is asked to sit at the Father's right hand.
- It is promised, as to His enemies, not that they shall be converted, but that they shall be made the footstool of His feet.
- The Father is seen bringing back His Son to this earth, for it is on earth that both human enemies and Satan himself are, at Christ's coming, put beneath His feet. See Revelation 19:11-21. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:25, which we have noted above; and see that Psalm 110:1 is quoted by our Lord in Matthew (22:44), Mark (12:36), and Luke (20:42); and by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:34, 35)--besides here in Hebrews 1:13.
- At the time when God the Father will bring back His Son into this world, men are seen arrayed against Him: His "enemies." Only the willfully blind can possibly deny this. This absolutely contradicts the mouthings of "Modernists" that this world is going to be won by "moral suasion," and what they call "the kingdom," by human effort: "movements," "uplifts," man's appeals to "what is best in humanity." No less does this Scripture give the lie utterly to "Postmillennialism," together with the horrid bastard, "a-millennialism."
"Enemies"! Yes, this world has not changed, except every day for the worse, since "both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed" (Acts 4:26). "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God." We have not words, nor this book pages, to paint the picture! The Son believes exactly what the Father tells Him of His future "enemies," and that they shall be made the footstool of His feet, and therefore is "expecting" this event. This 13th verse of Hebrews looks forward to the stupendous scene of Revelation 19:5 ff., when, against the glorious Lord Who comes riding with the armies of Heaven to tread "The winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty," we find the kings of the earth lined up, under God's great enemy, the Beast, the Antichrist (Rev. 19:19).
But "Modernism," along with the wretched sect-slaves whose "standards" declare that man will make a "better world," that "the kingdom is already here," and that this world shall be prepared for Christ by being better instructed, better exampled and led, until it is so turned to God that Christ will be welcomed here!--all this, the first chapter of Hebrews proclaims to be a lie! That any so-called "great denominations" and their Bible-ignorant "standards" that hold it, only proves it is false. "Great"? In whose eyes, pray you? In His Who forbade sects? Great in numbers, property, worldly religious influence, yes. But all that is Laodicea! Christ will spue it out.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?
What a ministry for the "angels of His power," the "mighty in strength"! To them, service is a delight. The thought of a seat above others--to "be as the Most High" indeed entered the heart of the "anointed cherub" (who is now Satan), the Adversary. But it is farthest from the imagination of "the elect angels." Even to little children these love to belong, as "their angels," always "beholding the face of the Father," in their interest. They fulfill God's word, hearkening unto the voice of His word (Ps. 103:20), and His word at present is that they shall serve creatures beneath them, them that shall inherit salvation,*- with a humble fulfillment of this ministry that we should meditate upon. God will duly reward it.
Ministration-Salvation: In these two words appears the measureless difference between angels and the redeemed. Michael, the archangel, is seen in Dan. 10 and 12 sent to instruct that prophet. Gabriel, who "stands before God," was sent to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist, and to the virgin Mary, foretelling Christ's birth. All angels are seen in such "service."
But as for them that shall inherit salvation, these (although in themselves sinners, such as the angels were preserved from being) are made objects of value, worth and dignity, only to be measured by the infinite price paid in their redemption, and by the place God assigns them--to be directly connected with His own person and glory in Christ, forever!
So the first chapter of Hebrews sets forth the Son, "having made propitiation of sins," and having "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High," as "having become by so much better than the angels as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they," as we have seen. But they that shall inherit salvation--those sons He brings to glory--are so absolutely connected with Him that it is written, "He that sanctifieth and, they that are sanctified are all of one."
You may say the question in verse 13 was, What angel did God ever command to sit at His right hand till He made his enemies his footstool? True, there was no such angel, as we know. But we desire to emphasize, at the close of this first chapter: First, that believers are inheritors of salvation--what a heritage! And second, that such "heirs of God" are constantly being served by heaven-sent angels! But remember always the great word of this first chapter--that God's Son is Heir of all things--God, Lord, Creator and Upholder of all things!
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension