“God, having formerly spoken (in many different ways and by various methods) to our ancestors through the prophets, now speaks to us through His Son. He is the predestined Lord of everything, through whom God also made the universe. He radiates the glory of God as the perfect expression of His nature and character, continuing to sustain the world by His mighty power. After giving Himself as an offering to cleanse us from sin, He took His rightful seat of highest honor beside God in heaven.” (paraphrased)
The subject of the epistle is found in the very first word: God. It is a name the author uses 68 times. The writer makes no attempt to prove God’s existence; He simply states His communicative methodology.
God spoke to us in many parts (polumeros) and in many ways (polutropos). Polumeros refers to the fact that each prophet conveyed only certain aspects of God’s truth. Polutropos carries the idea that each prophet used different methods to portray that truth. The contrast here is between the fragments given to us by the prophets and the complete truth epitomized in His Son. Only Jesus Christ can proclaim, “I am the truth” (Jn. 14:6).
God’s former spokesmen are His prophets, but He is not limited by prophecy in order to reveal Himself. He manifested Himself to Daniel in dreams (Dan. 1:17) and in visions to Ezekiel (Ez. 1:1). To Jacob, God appeared as an angelic visitor (Gen. 32:24), but to Abraham He came in human form (Gen. 18:1-2). The finger of God wrote on temple walls (Dan. 5:5) and on tablets of stone (II Cor. 3:3). He spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice (I Kgs. 19:12) and to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:2). No one can discover God: He must disclose Himself.
Christ is not the last in a long line of prophets; He ushers in the Messianic Age. Prophets were involved in the progressive revelation of God in the Old Testament, but Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s revelation in the New Testament. While the writer does not belittle the work of the prophets, he shows their limitations compared to Christ’s limitless power.
The Jews divided time into two eras—the present age and the future age. “These last days” refer to the final dispensation – the age in which we live. As the object of prophecy, Christ is the catalyst that binds world history together.
The dynamics of this epistle rest on the wonderful reality of God’s Son. His sevenfold glory is herein revealed: He is Heir, Creator, Revelator, Representative, Sustainer, Redeemer and Ruler. Prophets may speak forth the Word of God, but Christ is the Word of God (Jn. 1:1).
He upholds all things through His powerful word (rhemati). He not only created the planets, He maintains their orbits. Because He made everything, He is Lord of everything. His absolute authority should teach us both obedience and gratitude. John affirms, “without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). Paul states, “all things were created by Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). Everything in the universe originated and is sustained by the Son of God. He is the Heir of all things and we share His wealth as joint-heirs (Rom. 8:17).
Jesus does not merely reflect the effulgent brightness of God’s glory, He is God’s glory. Because Christ has the nature of God, He is distinguished from all other beings. The Son bears the image of the Father. The Greek word is charakter, from whence we derive our English word “character.” Christ reveals the character of God. He is God’s image, picturing the impression stamped on a coin. When you see Jesus, you see exactly what God is like. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9).
He walked on earth like a man, yet exhibited powers only God can manifest. He wept like a human being, but as God, He raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:35-43). He was hungry, but created food for five thousand others (Lk. 4:4 & 9:14). He walked up a mountain with two men, but was transfigured as Diety before them (Mt. 17:2). Though crucified as a common criminal, He ascended into heaven as God incarnate (Acts 1:9).
The description of the Son in this passage points to His ultimate accomplishment: redemption from sin. Christ’s atonement is a primary theme in this epistle. The One who created human beings came to redeem them. So horrible is the problem of sin, it is only rectified through God’s Son. This He does “by Himself”. No Aaronic priest could sit down after performing the tabernacle sacrifices, for his work was never finished. Christ, as our great High Priest, rests from His sacrificial work and is seated at the right hand of God.
In these initial verses, Jesus is set forth as our ultimate Prophet, Priest and King. As our Prophet, God speaks through His Son (1:2). As our Great High Priest, He purifies sins (1:3). As our King, He sits on God’s right hand of power (1:3). Only committed Believers can hope to fathom the deep truths the author proceeds to unveil.
QUESTIONS: JESUS SUPERIOR TO PROPHETS
1. The opening word of Hebrews is the book’s subject. What is it? (See Gen. 1:1)
2. Who speaks for God in the New Testament? (1:2)
3. What same word is found seven times in this epistle? (1:2, 5:8, 3:6, 4:14, 5:8, 6:6, 7:28 & 10:29)
4. What now exists because of Christ? (1:2)
5. Read John 1:1-3. What title is given to Jesus in this passage?
6. According to John 1:14, what happened to this person?
7. What is Christ appointed to be? (Hebrews 1:2)
8. What word is used to describe the glory of Christ in Hebrews 1:3?
9. According to John 1:17, what comes through Jesus Christ?
10. What is held together by the word of Christ? (Col. 1:17)