The epistle to the Hebrews was written for a threefold purpose. First, to encourage those from the nation of Israel who had truly believed to not lose heart because of the sufferings they were enduring, but rather to go on with Christ.
Second, to convince those still unbelieving in Israel, that the One they crucified was in fact their true Messiah, and to continue to ignore Him was to invite Divine judgement. He Himself had warned of the consequences of not believing Him with the words, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins”, John 8:24.
Third, to warn those in danger of turning back from the profession they had made in Christ that He was their only hope, and their best policy was to place genuine faith in Him to the salvation of their souls.
The writer describes his epistle as a “word of exhortation”, 13:22, the only other use of this expression being in Acts 13:15, where it refers to an address given in a synagogue. This may account for the difference in style from the rest of the epistles. It also accounts for the fact that the word God opens the letter, and not the name of the writer. See Acts 7:7; 13:17.
The first section runs from 1:1 to 2:5, and here the writer declares four things:
That the Lord Jesus is superior to the prophets, whom the Hebrews revered.
That He is superior to angels whom the Hebrews respected.
That He is seated in heaven having purged sins, a thing which Old Testament sacrifices could not effect.
That His place in heaven is the guarantee that He will reign on the earth, which no-one else is qualified to do.
This first section has two themes, and then a warning. The themes are designed to convince the Hebrews that Christ is supreme:
In verses 1-3, Christ ascends the throne of God in heaven, where He is still present, proof positive that His work on earth meets God’s approval.
In verses 4-2:4, Christ is seen in the future on the throne of David, which becomes at last in the truest sense, the throne of Jehovah, 1 Chronicles 29:23.
In 2:1-4 the warning is against neglecting the salvation that Christ came to bring to the nation.
The references to the reign of Christ on earth, (the world or habitable earth to come, 2:5), are made to assure the Hebrews of the following things:
God has not cast them off as a people.
He has confidence in “the carpenter of Nazareth”, for He is His Son.
His character as King-Priest is displayed already in the heavenly sanctuary. This is the sign that He will indeed be a priest upon His throne in a coming day, see Zechariah 6:13.
There is a vital connection between His purging of sins, and the reconciling of all things, Colossians 1:20.
It is worthwhile being in relationship with Christ, for He is the coming King, and His enemies will be made His footstool. To know Him is to be His associate, not His enemy.
That those who were prepared to accept a dual-Messiah idea, with Jesus of Nazareth as the suffering Messiah, but another, yet to come, as the sovereign Messiah, are shown to be wrong. Jesus Christ combines both in His person.
The present exalted position of the Lord Jesus at the right hand of the throne of God would be a great encouragement to the believers amongst the Hebrews. Isaiah was no doubt disappointed by the death of King Uzziah, but he was shown Christ in glory, Isaiah 6, John 12:37-41. Ezekiel must have been depressed as he sat with the captives by the river, but he was shown the throne of God, and the likeness of the appearance of a man above upon it, Ezekiel 1:26. Daniel must have been dismayed by the thought of great Gentile powers dominating the earth, when he knew that was rightly Messiah’s role, but he saw in vision the Son of Man approach the throne of God to be given a kingdom that will never be destroyed, Daniel 7:13,14. Stephen was disowned by his own nation, as his Saviour had been, but what caused his face to glow was the sight of Jesus in heaven, Acts 7:55,56. John, on the isle of Patmos was deprived of fellowship and comfort, but he was given a vision of coming things, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God, and of His Christ, Revelation 5:5-7. So when the word came to the Hebrew believers, “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”, they must have been greatly heartened.
The words “Son”, (who He is in eternity), “purged”, (what He did at Calvary), and “sat down”, (where He is in glory), sum up the epistle. His person, His purging and His place are the key elements which show Him to be better than anything the Hebrews had known in Old Testament times.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 1-3
1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
1:1 God, who…spake- This epistle begins with an emphasis on the way God had spoken to the nation of Israel. This theme continues throughout, for in chapter 2 the word spoken through angels, (the Law at Sinai), is contrasted with the word spoken by the Lord, 2:3, a reference to His speaking when upon the earth. In 3:7 they are exhorted to hear the voice of Christ as Son. In 4:12 the (spoken) word of God is in view, referring to the word of Christ to them, (and hence an incidental proof of the Deity of Christ); whilst in 12:25-29 the warning is against rejecting the word of the one who spoke at Sinai, who speaks now in grace and salvation, and who will speak again in judgement to those who reject Him. Once again the Deity of Christ is affirmed, for the one who shall speak when He comes in glory is the same one who spoke at Sinai. So the latter passage gathers up the three aspects of the speaking, in law, in grace, in judgement. Men either prefer law to grace, clinging to their works, or ignore grace and receive judgement.
It is important for the writer to prove the superiority of Christ not only to the angels through whom the Law was given, 2:2; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19, but also to the prophets, who brought the word of God to the people subsequently. On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses represented the Law, and Elijah the prophets, yet the word from heaven was “hear Him”, for He who had spoken indirectly by the prophets, was now speaking directly, in the Person of Christ. Moses himself had received the assurance from God that a prophet like unto him would be raised up, Deuteronomy 18; Acts 3. The writer is insisting that Jesus Christ was that prophet. See also John 1:21; Acts 3:22. It is important for him to show Christ as superior to prophets, before he turns to the subject of His King-Priesthood, since the prophets as a class were faithful to God, whereas many kings and priests in Israel were not.
Later on the writer will emphasise the fact that Christ is King-priest, so He supersedes the three offices that were prominent in Israel. The Lord Jesus was rejected by elders who governed, (instead of a king), chief priests who officiated, and scribes who taught, (instead of prophets). These were all appointed by men, and as such were false shepherds, who had “climbed up some other way”, John 10:1. These princes of this world were ignorant as to who the Lord of Glory was, 1 Corinthians 2:8, and hence they crucified Him.
At sundry times- literally “in many portions”, meaning that an individual prophet could not embrace all the truth of God. Nor could a prophet be present at all times during Israel’s history. He who is the “I am”, unaffected by time and change, is relevant at all times.
And in diverse manners- divers is the old word for diverse. The prophets spoke in different ways as fitted the circumstance. Sometimes judging, at other times consoling and exhorting. They spoke of coming judgement and coming glory. Some, like Ezekiel, acted out their prophecies. Now, however, everything is concentrated in the Son, who has the capacity to speak in whatever way is relevant. He who is “the truth”, can embrace it all. When Christ asked His disciples who the people said He was, they answered with various suggestions, Matthew 16:13,14. Some of the people saw in Christ likeness to Isaiah, (delighting in salvation), others, to Jeremiah, (weeping, and rejected of his own people), still others, to Elijah, (courageous, reforming, and a miracle worker). Others said He was John the Baptist risen from the dead, showing they thought that He deserved to rise from the dead. We should not be surprised at the names the people mentioned, for since He is the Son of the Living God, and the features seen in the prophets were the expression of the life of God, then they are to be expected in the Son. It is interesting to notice that they did not say He was like Moses, the law-giver, for they appreciated that grace marked Him.
Spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets- Note the contrast between time past and last days. The word for past here means old, in the sense of worn-out. See verses 11 and 12, for Divinely established things wearing out and needing to be replaced, and link with 8:13, where the law-system was waxing old and was ready to vanish away. The Hebrews are being prepared for the truth that even Divinely-established things can become old and in need of replacing. There needed to be a fresh beginning, and this comes in with Christ. Fathers is a term of respect for ancestors, but also a reminder that it was the fathers who ill-treated the prophets, Matthew 23:29-33, and the children of the prophets who were guilty of rejecting “the prophet”, Acts 3:22-26; John 1:21; Deuteronomy 18:15,18,19.
1:2 Hath in these last days- a Hebrew expression for the end of the age of the Law, prior to the age of the Messiah, the two divisions of time as far as Israel knew. Note that the speaking is still in the last days of the law, for the latter did not come to an end until Christ died, 7:18,28. The church age is unknown in the Old Testament. A reminder that a critical point had been reached, and if they miss out on Christ, they will miss out entirely.
Spoken unto us by His Son- The contrast is with the character of the speakers, not between “by” and “in”. The prophets were agents outside of the Godhead, whereas now the speaking is directly by God, in (the person of) His Son, and this gives the speaking a different character, for it is no longer at different times and in different ways, but all centred in the Son. The difference is between the prophets as a class, taken from among men, and Christ in His character as Son, taken from among the persons of the Godhead. So the speaking is now concentrated, in relation to time and content, as with prophets it could not be, and also consummated, for it is now last days, and the Son has come. The parable of the vineyard, Matthew 21:33-46, spoke of servants, more servants, (corresponding to the early and the latter prophets), then last of all, his son, corresponding to Christ as Son of God. The prophets said “Thus saith the Lord”, but Christ said “Verily, verily, I say unto you”. How foolish to ignore such a Speaker! “To whom shall we go, for Thou hast the words of eternal life,” was the confession of Peter, and also of all who truly believe, John 6:68.
The Sonship of Christ indicates Deity, for to be the son of a father means to share his nature. There are expressions in Scripture like “sons of Belial”, (worthlessness), “sons of thunder”, “son of consolation”, “sons of disobedience”. The idea is not that a person is descended from the thunder, for example, but rather that he has a stormy nature.
Christ is presented in Hebrews as God’s Firstborn Son, the administrator of the Father’s affairs. As such, He, like firstborn sons generally, fulfils a prophet/priest/king rôle, speaking to the family for the father, introducing the family into the father’s presence, and administering the father’s affairs. This is all worked out in the epistle as a whole. Hence He fulfils His prophetic role by speaking to Israel, just as He had spoken the worlds into being as firstborn, Colossians 1:15,16, and upholds them by the word of His power. He speaks as priest too, for He ever lives to make intercession, 7:25. He will speak as king, for His voice will soon shake earth and heaven, 12:25-27.
The titles Only begotten and Firstborn compared and contrasted:
Only begotten eternally- “The only begotten Son, which is (permanently) in the bosom of the Father”, John 1:18. “That eternal life, which was with the Father”, 1 John 1:2.
First born eternally. For He was appointed heir before He made the worlds. Creation is by Him and for Him as firstborn, Colossians 1:16. There is no point of time in eternity, so He was ever the appointed one in the eternal counsels.
Only- begotten is in relation to the Father, John 1:18.
Firstborn is in relation to creation and believers, Colossians 1:15,18.
As Only begotten He is alone.
As firstborn He has many brethren, Romans 8:29.
His only begotten relationship is not shared.
His firstborn rights are shared- for Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the church of firstborn ones written in heaven”,
As only begotten, He is in the Father’s bosom, John 1:18.
As firstborn, He is about His Father’s business, Luke 2:49; John 3:35.
Whom He hath appointed heir of all things- the idea of firstborn rights must come from “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named”, Ephesians 3:15. This is seen in the fact that there is no regulation about firstborn rights in the early chapters of Genesis, yet the idea was practised, and given Divine approval. It is therefore a reflection of eternal counsels. No doubt God spoke to Adam about many things as He walked and talked with him in the garden of Eden.
“Appointed heir” does not imply a specific moment, since we are thinking of Divine and eternal things- moments of time have no relevance there. Joseph was Jacob’s firstborn son, replacing Reuben, but he was not in control of everything, for the right to rule was given to Judah, 1 Chronicles 5:1,2. Christ, however, has all things under His control. As heir, the Son has a double portion, heavenly and earthly, (compare the stars and sheaves of Joseph’s dream, Genesis 37:6-11). If He has control of all things, (just as Joseph had everything under his hand, Genesis 39:4-6) then we must be linked to Him if we are to have blessing from God. “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”, John 3:35,36.
The fact that He is heir highlights the sin of crucifying Him. The language of the parable was, “Come, this is the heir, let us kill Him”; Matthew 22:38. And chapter 6:6 speaks of crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh. To crucify the Son again is crime indeed!
By whom also He made the worlds- Note the “whom” and “to whom”, with Christ the passive one, whereas in verse 3 it is “who”, Christ’s active work as one charged with representing the Father’s interests, and those of the family of God too. As the Creator, Christ has authority over creation, yet He was in the world, the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not, John 1:10. Angels, demons, animals, birds, fishes, all responded to Him in His lifetime, and recognised Him in some way, but men did not, and crucified Him.
The making of the worlds is one way in which Christ displays what God is, as Romans 1:18-20 indicates. As the Creator, He could bypass what rain did to the vine when it fell, and the best wine was ready in an instant, John 2:1-11. He could also do to a fig tree what happens when rain does not fall, even dry it up by the roots, Matthew 21:19.
“By whom” does not imply He was merely a creature-agent, given power from God to do things. Romans 11:36 says all things are “through Him”, meaning God, but none can give God the power to act. John 1:3 is clear that not one thing that has come into being has done so without Christ, so He did not come into being, or else He made Himself! This subject is returned to in verses 10-12, contrasting the angels with the Creator.
There are three words for world in the New Testament. There is “kosmos”, (which gives us “cosmetic”, and “cosmos”), which, in an ideal sense, is the world of symmetry, beauty, and harmony, (the opposite being chaos), but which has now been corrupted by Satan into the world of hostility to God; “aionas”, (which gives us “aeon”), the world of history; and “oikeumene”, (which gives us “ecumenical”), the world of humanity. The word used here is “aionas”, the world as an age, the world of history, although it is used in 11:3 in connection with things. “The aggregate of things contained in time”, Grimm. The world of matter and time, (which came into being at the same moment, the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1), is the stage for the unfolding of the truth of God. This is now finalised in Christ, for “once in the end of the world (or the consummation of the ages) hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, 9:26.
1:3 Who being the brightness of His glory- He does not merely reflect, but rather radiates the glory of God, as the sunlight has the same character as the sun. He is the Shekinah of Psalm 80, shining forth from between the cherubims above the ark, so that Israel may be saved. Aaron had to make a cloud of incense to shield him from the glory, that he die not, for to see God was to die. But that glory was Christ! Aaron entered the presence of God without his garments of glory and beauty, lest anything detract from the glory of God.
And the express image of His person- “The exact expression of His essence”. Christ expresses in Himself all that the Godhead is in Itself. To see Him is to see the Father, to know His comfort is to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, for He is another comforter of the same sort, John 14:16; Luke 2:25, where “consolation” is the same word as “comforter”. The word person translates hupostasis, which was used in ordinary speech of a foundation. The idea is of an underlying and steadfast thing. Christ is the unique, full, and exact expression of all that God is in the essence of His Being. The Son is personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, the One of whom He is the full expression. Note later quotations that call the Son “God”, and “Jehovah”, verses 8, and 10.
And upholding all things by the word of His power- The Targums, (Jewish commentaries), and Rabbis often spoke of God in this way. This is part of His first-born work, of maintaining and bearing responsibility for everything for the Godhead. He has power sufficient for any task, and can maintain everything intact for God, and also cause it to pass and replace it, as verse 12 says. The idea behind upholding is not simply supporting, or even maintaining, but “carrying toward a final goal”. He so manages the universe that it moves inevitably to the goal set for it in the Divine Purpose.
When He had by Himself purged our sins- So whatever is involved in purging sins, it is given character by who He is that does it, for He did it “by Himself”, in all the glory of His person. In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement is called the Day of Purification.
Notice how the glories of Christ relate to the work of purging sins:
As Son He purged sins, so He did the work with Divine insight.
As firstborn and heir He purged sins, for He cannot inherit a defiled inheritance, whether it be His people, or His land, or His world.
As the maker of all things, He knows perfectly the difference between what things are now, and what they were when He made them very good, including man.
As the brightness of the glory, He brings things back by his purging, so that they glorify God.
As the exact expression of the essence of God, He purges in conformity with the Divine character.
As the upholder of all things, He maintains what He establishes in the material world, and in the spiritual. Note the contrasts, however, for sins are not things, but are moral offences, yet He can deal with these too. He upholds by His word, but can only purge sins through His death.
Note the following facts about the words “by Himself”:
The purging of sins cannot be done by merely speaking, even though He upholds all things by the word of His power.
It cannot be done with the help of another, for all others, (Aaron included, see 7:27), need a sin-offering themselves, so He did it by the sacrifice of Himself, not needing a personal sin-offering.
He needs no special vestments to make Him suitable for God’s presence, as Aaron did; what He is in Himself is enough.
He needs no sacrifice or officiating priest, but did the work alone.
Three things were purged in Leviticus 16:16-19 as a result of propitiation- the sanctuary, reminding us that Christ has purified the heavenly sanctuary, of which the tabernacle was a representation, Hebrews 9:23; the altar of incense, reminding us that the Lord Jesus ever liveth to make intercession for us, Hebrews 7:25; the people, Leviticus 16:30, reminding us that we have been purged in conscience from dead works, to serve the living God, Hebrews 9:14. The phrase is literally “made purgation for sins”, so it is the work itself in view here, not the result of the work in persons being individually purged from sins; that comes later, in 9:14.
There are three main results from propitiation. In relation to God, the demands of God regarding sins are met fully. In relation to man, there can be reconciliation to God, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 5:11. In relation to heaven and earth, the defilement of sin can be removed, so that God can righteously bring in a new heavens and a new earth which shall never be spoiled by sin, John 1:29, Daniel 9:24.
Sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high- literally, “He set Himself down”, confident of His place with the Father, and of the sufficiency of His work. As His work of purging sins is complete, He can sit down, as no Aaronic priest was able to do, see Hebrews 10:11-14. As Son, He ever had the right to be on the throne, but now as firstborn Son, and moreover as a man, He is given the place at the right hand of the Father. See the incident in Genesis 48:12-14 which shows the importance of the right hand of a father. As one who is the brightness of the glory, He had dealt with sins in conformity with the majesty of God, and God can now be appropriately designated “The Majesty”, with every question as to whether He was able to deal with sins finally removed. “Majesty” means greatness, and Christ ensures that nothing can reduce God’s standing and dignity. In chapter 1, Christ is seated as firstborn. In 8:1 He is seated as one firmly established; in chapter 10:12 as finaliser, and in chapter 12:2 as the faithful one.
As the heir He is responsible for Administering.
As the one who made the worlds, for Creating.
As the one who is the brightness, for Radiating.
As the one who is the image, for Expressing.
As the one upholding all things, for Preserving.
As the one who purged sins, for Propitiating.
As the one who is sat down on the throne, for Completing.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 4 TO 14
1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
1:5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
1:6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
1:7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
1:9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
1:10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
1:11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
1:12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
1:13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
There is a correspondence between the seven-fold glories of Christ in verses 1-3, and the seven quotations from the Old Testament in verses 4-14, as follows:
|His Son.||Thou art My Son.|
|Appointed heir||By inheritance…He shall be to Me a Son.|
|Made the worlds||Of old Thou hast laid the foundation of earth.|
|Brightness of glory||Psalm 104- “Clothed with honour and majesty”.|
|Express image||Thou Lord (Jehovah)…|
|Upholding all things||As a vesture Thou shalt fold them up.|
|Sat…on the right hand||Sit on My right hand.|
A summary of the seven quotations is as follows:-
|First||God to the Son.||The decree establishing His rule.|
|Second||God speaking about the Son.||The devotedness which marks His rule.|
|Third||God speaking to the angels.||The deference to be given when He rules.|
|Fourth||God speaking about the angels.||The demands He makes when He rules.|
|Fifth||God to the Son, and about Him as God.||The Deity of the one who rules.|
|Sixth||God to the Son, and about Him as Jehovah.||The duration of the One who rules.|
|Seventh||God to the Son, but never to the angels in the same terms.||The dominion of the One who rules.|
1:4 Being made so much better than the angels- the idea behind “being made” is “having become”, or “proving Himself to be”. He becomes, by purging, superior to the angels who administered the first covenant, with its purging only of the flesh, Hebrews 9:13. The word for made here is “ginomai” which is used “in passages where it is specified who or what a person of thing is or has been rendered, as respects quality, condition, place, rank or character”- Grimme. So the Son has proved Himself to be superior to angels by all the things He is said to do in verses 1-3.
As He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they- The more excellent name is Firstborn Son, and because the idea of inheritance is bound up with the word firstborn, (for the size of a son’s share of the inheritance depended on whether he was firstborn or not), as soon as this Firstborn Son begins to enter into His inheritance, then He can begin to be called by His proper title of firstborn. It is part of the inheritance, and so He can be said to inherit it. He is “Firstborn from among the dead”, Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5. The words “so much”, and “as”, taken together, give to us the idea of the measurement of the glory of His name, bearing in mind that the name is more than a title, and involves reputation. The measure of how much better He has become, is the greatness of the name He is given, and the greatness of this name is understood from the next verses, hence the “for” at the beginning of verse 5. God Himself leads the way in these quotations by introducing His Son into the world under the title Firstbegotten.
1:5 For unto which of the angels said He at any time- The angels rejoiced when the earth was established, and they will no doubt rejoice again when it is delivered from the bondage of corruption, but they have not been given the task of doing that. See 2:5. The angels could never be only begotten sons, but Lucifer was called the son of the morning, Isaiah 14:12. He may have been the first one created, and might aspire to the title firstborn. Hence his hatred of, and opposition to, the Son of God.
Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?- Angels are called sons of God in the Old Testament, Job 1:6, but to none of them were these words spoken, for the word son is being used in a distinctive sense here in relation to Christ. In Luke 3:38 Adam is called son of God, but when in Luke 4:3 the Devil tempted Christ he said, “If Thou be the Son of God command this stone that it be made bread”. Clearly, the Devil distinguishes the sonship of Adam from that of Christ, for there would have been no point in tempting Adam to turn a stone into bread.
These words were originally spoken to David when he ascended the throne of Israel, Psalm 2:7, which is dated BC 1047, the year after David began to reign. As king in Israel, David was to administer for God, the primary task of the firstborn. David had been harassed and hunted for many years by Saul and his supporters, but at last he was brought into prominence in Israel, and the anointing which had taken place when he was but a lad, now authorised him to reign. So it is that David writes of God saying, “Yet (despite the raging of his enemies, verses 1,2) have I set, (or anointed) My king upon My holy hill of Zion”, Psalm 2:6. But now these words find their fulfilment in Christ, and all that was foreshadowed by the reign of David, shall come to pass through David’s son, who is also David’s Lord, Matthew 22:41-46.
The fact that these words can be spoken in a limited sense to David, yet not in any sense to the angels, shows that it is to a man that these words come. The believers in Acts 4:25,26 applied the words of Psalm 2 to the Lord Jesus as He was raged at by the kings of the earth. Now the writer to the Hebrews is quoting later verses from the psalm, to show that the one Israel rejected and crucified is indeed to be established by God as His firstborn, “higher than the kings of the earth”, Psalm 89:27.
Psalm 2:7 is quoted again in 5:5 to show that Christ in resurrection and ascension has the title of firstborn, now that as High Priest He has displaced Aaron as priest.
In Acts 13:33 the words are used in connection with Him being raised up in Israel at His baptism, with the words of Psalm 16 being used to show that He was not left in the grave. The baptism of Christ marked the beginning of His prophetic ministry.
The Hebrew word “yalad” meaning begotten, used in Psalm 2:7, is also translated “declare their pedigree” in Numbers 1:18. It was unheard of for one who was Son of God to be crucified on a cross, and be cursed of God, but God has declared His pedigree by raising Him from the dead, as Romans 1:4 also indicates, “declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead”.
It is important that the Hebrews be reassured that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, and that His present place in heaven is not a signal that the kingdom they expected will not be established. If He disappoints them in that, then He might disappoint them in other ways. So the seven quotations which are made here serve to show His competence to reign. Chapter 2:5 assures us that what is being spoken of in these verses is the time when the habitable earth in the future, (the world to come), will be under the sway of God’s king. The seven quotations (which have to with His manifestation on earth the second time), enforce the truth set out in the opening verses, with their seven-fold description of Christ’s glories, (which glories were manifest when He came the first time).
Peter made it clear on the Day of Pentecost that David was still in the grave, and had not ascended into heaven. But Christ is risen, and ascended, thus showing that the way is open for the throne of David to be occupied by a man who is clear of death, and can reign for ever. So not only by His birth is He uniquely qualified to sit on David’s throne, (for all others of David’s line through Solomon are unable to overcome the obstacle represented by God’s curse on Jechoniah’s descendants, Jeremiah 22:29,30), but by His resurrection also. He is able to reign without interruption for ever, with none raising an objection.
And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?- This is a statement that was made in the first instance to David about Solomon, his immediate successor. “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever”, 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Solomon did indeed proceed out of David’s bowels, verse 12, and have an established kingdom. He did indeed build a house for Jehovah, verse 13. It is also true that he committed iniquity, verse 14, yet the kingdom was not taken away from him, verse 15. Now clearly the house and royal line of David has been interrupted, so how can the promise that they will be established for ever be fulfilled? Only by Christ coming of the seed of David, and rising from the dead to be alive for evermore. The writer to the Hebrews, inspired by the same Spirit that inspired Nathan to prophesy to David, understands this, hence he shows that the vitally important part of the prophecy, upon which all the rest depends, was perfectly fulfilled in Christ. Because this is so, there is no question of Him being disciplined for iniquity, or having the throne removed from Him. It is noticeable that the writer of the Book of Chronicles does not mention anything about iniquity, and also tells us additional things that God must have said through Nathan to David, but which the writer of 2 Samuel 7 does not record; for he was concerned to encourage those who had returned from exile in Babylon, and one way he did it was to record the history of the kings of Judah in such a way that features which will be seen to perfection in the Messiah are highlighted.
|2 Samuel 7:12-15||1 Chronicles 17:11-14|
|I will set up thy seed after thee…||I will raise up thy seed after thee…|
|I will establish his kingdom…||I will establish his kingdom…|
|He shall build a house for My name…||He shall build Me a house…|
|I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever…||I will stablish his throne for ever…|
|I will be His father…||I will be His father|
|He shall be My son…||He shall be My son|
|If he commit iniquity…||(omitted)|
|Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever…||Settle him in Mine house and in My kingdom.|
|Thy throne shall be established for ever.||His throne shall be established for evermore.|
“I will be to Him a Father” signifies that God will guarantee to Christ all the resources He needs, in terms of affection and direction, to enable Him to reign on the earth. Just as He was dependant on the Father when here the first time, it will be the same when He reigns- He will not be independent then either. This is indicated by the fact that on the Mount of Transfiguration, when a preview of the coming kingdom was given to the disciples, He is said to have been praying, Luke 9:29.
“He shall be to Me a Son” indicates that all that a father expects from a son will be forthcoming from Christ, in terms of loyalty and diligence. This too will be manifest when He reigns, for His reign will be mediatorial, on behalf of the Father, to whom He will then give it up at the end of 1000 years, 1 Corinthians 15:24. Therefore Jesus the Messiah can be relied on by God- He should be relied on by the Hebrews. Being more honoured than any angel, and more than two of the most illustrious kings Israel have ever had, David and Solomon, He is surely worthy of their trust.
1:6 And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world He saith- the word for world here is “habitable earth”, just as it is in 2:5.
The following things are brought out in this chapter with regard to the reign of Christ over the earth as the sphere of Christ’s rule in the future:
|1.||Verse 5||Christ is heir of it.|
|2.||Verse 7||Angels serve it.|
|3.||Verse 8||God’s throne governs it.|
|4.||Verse 10||Earth was made for it.|
|5.||Verse 12||Earth is folded up at the end of it.|
|6.||Verse 12||Christ reigns continuously throughout it.|
|7.||Verse 13||Enemies are expelled from it|
|8.||Verse 14||Saints inherit it.|
|9.||Chapter 2:4||Miracles foreshadow it, for they are the powers of the age to come, 6:5.|
God has decreed that in all things Christ should have the pre-eminence, as is seen in the following scriptures:
|In Hebrews 2:8||All things are to be put under Christ as man.|
|In Ephesians 1:10||All things will be gathered together into one in Christ.|
|In Luke 24:44||All things must be fulfilled.|
|In Colossians 1:20||All things must be reconciled.|
|In 2 Peter 3:11||All things shall be dissolved, to make way for a new heaven and earth.|
The scene, then, is millenial, and God is going to introduce His Son into this world again. At His first coming, He was sent by God, but when He comes to earth again, so pleased is His Father because of all He was the first time, He is going to personally introduce Him. Perhaps this is what the Lord Jesus meant at the time of the Mount of Transfiguration experience, (when the power and coming of Christ were manifested to the apostles, 2 Peter 1:16), when He spoke of coming “in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels”, Luke 9:26.
And let all the angels of God worship Him- This is a quotation from Psalm 97:7. In that psalm the kingdom of Christ is anticipated, and especially the beginning of it when He comes in flaming fire taking vengeance on His enemies. Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8, with Psalm 97:3. It is Jehovah who is said to come in Psalm 97, but Jesus is Jehovah, equally with the Father and the Spirit. At that time all the angels (the meaning of “gods”) will worship Him, in effect acknowledging that to none of them has the honour of reigning been given.
1:7 And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire- having told us things about Christ to show why He is superior to angels, we now learn what makes the angels inferior to Him. This is a quotation from Psalm 104:4, which speaks of God as the creator and sustainer of all things. Indeed, the psalm is a commentary on the six days of creation, and then finishes with what may be thought of as a Sabbath hymn of praise to God. Since the Son is the exact expression of the essence of God, the writer is free to attribute what is said of Jehovah in Psalm 104 to Christ. And the matter he emphasises is that He made the angels! Here is further proof of the inferiority of angels to Christ, for they, for all their glory and might, are simply the product of His hand.
Consider the following facts about angels in comparison with Christ:
“For by Him (Christ) were all things created…whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”, Colossians 1:16.
The angels are said to be made as spirits, so they have not the ability to die, as Christ had because He took flesh and blood. They will never attain to the glories He has won by His death.
Notice, too, that they are His angels, they belong to Him by creatorial right, and therefore in gratitude to Him for ever making them, they ought to worship Him.
They are said to be His ministers, for while Christ has taken the form of a servant, and serves man, He is not said to serve angels.
They are a flame of fire, sent out on missions of burning judgement, whereas Christ came in grace, and rebuked disciples who wanted to call fire down on men, Luke 9:54-56.
Given the supreme worthiness of Christ, it is only right for them to worship Him.
1:8 But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever- this is the second thing that God says directly to His Son. The words are a quotation from Psalm 45, which is a marriage song for a king, a song of loves. The psalm speaks of God anointing this one, yet He is called God! The throne of Solomon is called “the throne of the Lord” in 1 Chronicles 29:23. Here is the full expression of that. When Solomon sat there it was only the throne of God in a faint sense, but when God manifest in flesh sits on it, then it will indeed be the throne of Jehovah. The promise to David was that his seed would reign for ever, and here is the fulfilment of the promise, for Christ is risen from the dead to die no more, and He is coming to establish a kingdom which shall last for ever, Daniel 7:14. “Of His kingdom there shall be no end”, Luke 1:33. How Satan must shudder at these words, for they indicate that what he sought from the beginning shall never be his. They explain his hostility to Christ when the wise men sought one who was born king, and when he motivated Herod to slay the infants, Matthew 2:2,16.
A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom- verse 4 of Psalm 45 exhorts Christ to ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness, and this He will do. He shall come from heaven riding on a white horse, Revelation 19:11-16, and shall judge all the injustice of the earth. At last He will be vindicated for His stand for the truth when He came the first time, and shall “bring forth judgement unto truth”, Isaiah 42:3. All the meekness He displayed before the kings of earth at His first coming will be recompensed, too, for “the servant of rulers”, shall be worshipped by kings and princes, Isaiah 49:7. The emphasis, however, is on His righteousness, for “He that ruleth over men must be just”, 2 Samuel 23:3, and David had to admit that his “house was not so with God”, verse 5, yet he remembered that God had made with him an “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure”. When David’s son and David’s Lord reigns, righteousness will be established for ever. The word for righteousness in this verse means straightness, and is connected with the word used in Matthew 3:3, “make His paths straight”. Men gave Him a reed, the symbol of weakness, as if He had no power to rule, and as if He could be shaken in the wind, but He was, and will be, steadfast, upright and true in His judgement in the future, as He was in His dealings in the past.
There is a connection between the word for sceptre and the word for tribe. Jacob had used this word for sceptre when he prophesied that the sceptre would not depart from Judah, nor the law-giver from between his feet, until the coming of Shiloh, Genesis 49:10, Shiloh being one of the names of the Messiah. Judah, however, had given up his staff to Tamar, Genesis 38:18,26, and subsequently had to admit that she was more righteous than he was, for she knew that it was her duty to have children, in case she was destined to be the mother of the Messiah. While this was happening, Joseph was being tempted by Potiphar’s wife, and overcoming. Hence while the right to rule was taken from Reuben and given to Judah, the moral character demanded of a ruler was only found in Joseph, hence the rôles are divided in Israel’s family, but are united in Christ. He has the right to rule as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but has the moral character to do so, for He is the Lamb slain, Revelation 5:5,6.
1:9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity- looking back on the life of Christ at His first coming, it is clear He was righteous, so He is called Jesus Christ the righteous one, 1 John 1:1. – His love of the one, and hatred of the other, was complete. He did not even stand in the way of sinners, much less walk in it, Psalm 1:1. The word to David’s house was “if he commit iniquity” As we saw in verse 5, Solomon did commit iniquity, but “a greater than Solomon is here”, Matthew 12:42, and He is totally free from all wrong. Here is one of David’s line, yet who is not descended through Joseph the son of David, Matthew 1:20. The marriage of Joseph to Mary before Christ was born ensures, however, that He has the legal right to the throne. According to Jewish law, any child born to a man’s fiancé was legally his child, even if he was not the physical father. Therefore the legal claim was stronger than the physical claim, so Christ’s claim to the throne through Joseph is sound. Note that Christ’s resurrection is “far more evident”, Hebrews 7:15, and by implication that His birth of the tribe of Judah is evident, verse 14. It is said that the Temple records Matthew probably consulted to compile the genealogy he gives were destroyed in AD 70. But God saw to it that the genealogy of Christ was preserved in another place before that happened.
Therefore, God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows- the one who is the true God, is Messiah’s God, for He is a dependant man upon the earth. A specially scented oil was reserved for the favoured guest at a feast, so that he was honoured above his fellow-guests. Since Psalm 45, from which this is quoted, is a song of loves, probably composed to be sung at the marriage of a king, the feast is a marriage feast, that of the King’s Son, Matthew 22:1-7.
Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power; in other words, by the one the oil symbolised, not the symbol. David was anointed twice, first in obscurity, as “the least”, 1 Samuel 16:11, margin, keeping the flocks, whom they did not bother to call, who was, so to speak, “despised and rejected of men”. Then he was anointed again, once he had gained the throne. This anointing was “according to the word of the Lord by Samuel”, 1 Chronicles 11:3. In other words, it was a reaffirmation of his original anointing, but this time surrounded by the nation, who described themselves as bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. He was anointed above his fellows, the nation, just as he had been anointed above his fellows, his brethren.
Note the first and last words of the quotation, “Thy throne, O God…Thy fellows”. In Zechariah 13:7 the word used for fellow means an equal, a direct testimony to the equality of the Shepherd with God. This is plain testimony to the truth of the Deity of Christ in the Old Testament, justifying His claim that the Old Testament testified of Him, John 5:39. Here, however, the word means one who has been joined in fellowship with another, and this time we have an direct testimony to the true manhood of Christ, for He has men as fellows, yet He is addressed as God. The word “fellows” in Hebrews 1:9 is the same as partakers, or companions, the words used in 2:14 and 3:1.
1:10 And, Thou, Lord- a further quotation, this time from Psalm 102:25-27. The psalmist had lamented his position, and this is often taken as previewing Christ’s sufferings during His life, especially as depicting His experience in Gethsemane. In which case the psalmist contrasts the brevity of his life, with the fact that Jehovah’s years would not fail. It is possible, however, to read it as if there is a change of speaker, so that the words, “Thou Lord” are spoken by Jehovah to the Messiah. Certainly all that is said in this quotation is true of Christ. Each of the persons of the Godhead may rightly be called “Jehovah”, just as they all may rightly be called God. Each one may fully represent the whole Godhead in its power and authority. In Romans 10 the apostle Paul does not hesitate to quote “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”, (bearing in mind that the words as originally penned by the prophet Joel referred to Jehovah), for he insists that to be saved we must confess Jesus to be Lord, i.e. to ascribe Deity to Him. So it is here. The psalmist ranges over the whole of time, from the beginning to the end of things. And before, and during, and after these things Christ remains in His timeless, unchangeable grandeur.
In the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands- God asked Job the question, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”, Job 38:4. Then it is said in verse 7, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”. It seems that the heavens (with all their hosts, stellar and angelic) were made before the earth; hence the angels could rejoice at the founding of the earth. This effectively disposes of both the Old Earth theory and the Gap-Theory. Both these ideas suppose that what God pronounced as very good was built on the ruins of former rebellion. Those angels who fell must have done so after the creation week, for all was very good on the seventh day. The millenial reign of Christ was prepared for from the foundation of the earth, Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4:4,5.
1:11 They shall perish, but Thou remainest- even Divinely established things perish, and are replaced, and this is relevant in another direction, for the law system was decaying, waxing old, and was ready to vanish away, 8:13. The Hebrews are being prepared for the idea that Divinely established things are to be done away- they do not have to continue for ever just because God sets them up. So with the system of sacrifices. Remain means “to continue without interruption” for there is no principle of change with God, whereas creation will perish or be destroyed through the active intervention of God. Peter speaks of the Day of God, the eternal day when He is supreme, “by reason of which” (margin) the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up”, 2 Peter 3:10. The earth is not only made to continue for ever, Psalm 104:5, (it has no built-in obsolescence), but also to be dissolved at the moment of God’s choosing. The entrance of sin and corruption into the world has not disrupted the Divine Programme. After all, Christ is the Architect of the Ages, for He made the worlds of time and space.
And they all shall wax old as doth a garment- Isaiah 40:22 speaks of God stretching out the heavens as a curtain, and here they and the earth are likened to an old, worn-out garment. In this verse the universe is destroyed by Divine design, whereas in the next verse it is folded up because of decay.
1:12 And as a vesture thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail- So the heavens and the earth perish, but He remains; they are to be folded up, and changed, but He is the same, never putting off His garments of glory and beauty; they wax old, like Aaron who dies outside of Canaan, but His years do not fail, and He has entered in. “Thou art the Same” indicates the unchangebleness of His Deity, whereas “Thy years shall not fail” speaks of His resurrection manhood. “He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest Him it, even length of days for ever and ever”, Psalm 21:4. He is Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, (on earth), today, (in heaven), and for ever. The Same is a Divine title, used in the Old Testament to emphasise the unchangebleness of God. This is revealed in Christ, who was always consistent and unvarying in His character. When asked “Who art Thou? He could reply, “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning”, John 8:25.
Notice the ways in which these verses prepare us for the later teaching of the epistle:
“Thou art My Son” not only guarantees His reign in a day to come, but since the same scripture is quoted in Hebrews 5:5, His priesthood is guaranteed and given Divine sanction also.
He is priest upon His throne, whether in the future on earth, Zechariah 6:12,13, or at present in heaven, Hebrews 8:1.
He is high priest in virtue of His Deity and manhood, (Jesus the Son of God, Hebrews 4:14), so we may count on His ministry at all times. He combines Divine authority with sympathy as a man.
He loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, reminding us that His priesthood is not to sympathise with our sins, (for He is unable to do that), but rather to succour us so that we do not sin, Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16.
He remains, and ever liveth to intercede for us, 7:25. Zecharias remained (same word) speechless, Luke 1:22.
He is the same, and has an unchangeable priesthood; 7:24.
He does not fail, for He saves to the uttermost, right on to the end, 7:25. The Greek word gives us “eclipse”, telling of one who is never overshadowed or overcome by another.
He will never change His “priestly garments”, nor will they ever wax old and wear out.
1:13 But to which of the angels said He at any time, “Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?”- This is a rhetorical question, demanding a negative answer. The psalm said, “The Lord said unto My Lord…” so clearly angels are not being addressed. Only one who is Lord can respond to this invitation. Yet He does so as man! It is one of the most amazing things possible, that there is a man on the throne of God. This fact alone should have settled the matter of Christ’s superiority over everyone else. Note that whereas in verse 3 Christ sat Himself down, confident that He had the right to do so, here, He sits down by invitation. This assures us that He was justified in His confidence in verse 3. Lucifer sought to exalt his throne above the stars of God, and be like the Most High in His exaltation and majesty, Isaiah 14:12-15. Here is one who humbled Himself, and has been exalted, whereas Lucifer sought to exalt himself and has been abased, Luke 14:11.
The right hand was the place for the firstborn. Joseph had been displeased with his father because he had crossed his hands when blessing Ephraim and Manasseh. He had presented Manasseh, who was born first, to Jacob’s right hand, but Jacob, by crossing his hands, gave Ephraim the firstborn’s place, Genesis 48:11-19. So Christ is not only firstborn Son and heir by appointment in eternity, verse 2, but also by position at God’s right hand. This position is reserved for Him until a certain time. The particular word for “until” used here means “up to the time when”. His position is a moral one, just as Queen Elizabeth is said to be on the throne of England, although she in fact rarely sits upon it physically. This verse does not imply that He cannot come for the church before the defeat of His enemies at His coming to earth, because even 1000 years after that event He will still have enemies that need to be subdued, see Revelation 20:7-9.
Note the recurring theme of enemies throughout the epistle, 10:13; 10:27; 12:25-29; 13:13, (camp is a military word, suggesting Israel were encamped against Christ, and were in military array against Him, see Psalm 2:2; Acts 4:25-28). Joshua had made his captains put their feet on the necks of the defeated kings of Canaan, to show their utter subjection, Joshua 10:24.
Benjamin, Jacob’s 12th son, and Joseph’s true brother, was “son of my right hand”, according to his father, but Benoni, “son of my sorrow”, according to his mother, Genesis 35:16-20. He was born near Bethlehem, and amid sufferings and death, for his mother died giving birth to him. Jeremiah recalls this in connection with the sufferings of the people of Israel, Jeremiah 31:15, and Matthew quotes his words in connection with the slaughter of the infants at the birth of Christ, Matthew 2:18. This shows that He is able to relate to the sufferings the people of Israel go through, even the sufferings of the Great Tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, Jeremiah 30:7.
So the first quotation in this chapter reminds us of what Leah said when she bare Jacob his first son, Reuben, “Behold, a son”. And now the seventh quotation has reminded us of Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, the son of his father’s right hand.
1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits- far from having a right to the throne, every one of the angels is a minister, serving the interests of the throne of God. And they are spirits, whereas Christ has acquired for Himself the right to sit on the throne of God by what He did in manhood.
Sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?- Far from being seated, the angels speed forth to minister for the heirs of salvation. Note it is “for” and not “to”. Their service is indirect, and has to do with the physical preservation of those who will enter the kingdom. All spiritual preservation is in the hands of Christ, for He is the author of eternal salvation, but He delegates lesser and temporal things to the angels. See, for instance, Genesis 19:15; Acts 12:7-11,15.
Heirs of salvation are those who, literally rendered, “are about to inherit salvation”. This is the Greek way of saying it will be sure to happen. As the Captain of salvation, 2:10, Christ leads His people into ultimate and eternal salvation, whether saints of this age brought to glory in heaven, or tribulation saints who enter the kingdom on earth. A description of the latter aspect of salvation is found in the words of Zacharias in Luke 1:69-79: “That He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life”. Luke 1:74,75.