By an all-creative word, God conferred on man a place of supremacy in the world that he had made through his eternal Son, commanding him to rule over it for his glory. Man sinned, lost that dignity and jeopardized that destiny. But by a redemptive word in the same Son, now an individual and representative human, God is restoring man to that standing and usefulness.
I. Hebrews 1:1-4 – Speech and Salvation
1. ‘GOD … HAS SPOKEN’ (verses 1 and 2a)
Two eras of divine self-disclosure are in these verses. What marks each off from the other is the coming and ministry of ‘a Son’. They can be roughly equated with our Old and New Testaments. What ties them together is a revealing God.
Speech is only possible for someone who has life. God speaks because he ‘is’ (11:6) and is ‘the living God’ (3:12 and 9:14). He can therefore reveal himself, if he chooses to do so, and because he is light and love he delights to make himself known. God comes near to his human creatures and converses with them. The Bible is God saying, ‘Here I am’, and, ‘This is the way’ (see Isa. 45:18-25).
The God who speaks cannot lie (6: 18) and so he keeps his promises which express his vows and desires (6: 13 and 17). He responds with an open hand to those who seek him (11 :6b), but he also executes his threats against those who ‘refuse’ to hear his voice (12:25). His words have been recorded, and yet, he still speaks through them (Heb 4:7). One and the same God is revealed in both Testaments and binds them together. There is a harmony between them but there are four differences between them
a. ‘Long ago . .. these last days ‘.
These are descriptions of eras of divine self-revelation; phases in God’s speaking to men. The first era is past, and the second era has begun and is current. The use of “last days” is borrowed from earlier OT Scripture where prophets referred to “the latter days” or “the last day” or “afterwards” (see Num 24:14). The “last days” have been anticipated by previous Scripture. “Long ago” is the era of prediction and preparation for the “last days” which are the present era of fulfillment and finality.
b. ‘By the prophets…in a Son’.
God had spokesmen in each era. “Prophets” are related to “long ago” – the era of prediction and preparation. “A Son” belongs to the “last days”, the era of fulfillment.
There are two aspects that contrast the Testaments. The first is that there are (many) prophets but (only) one Son; the second is the contrast between them as human and Him as Divine. John the Baptist dealt with this when he made clear that a prophet is “from the earth and speaks of the earth” whereas the Son is “from above” and speaks “what he has seen and heard.” In other words, there is a vast difference in vantage point from which they see and declare divine things. The prophet saw from below (from afar and in part), and gave testimony in human terms. The Son, from above, hears the words and sees the works of God from an intimate and immediate communion with god, His Father, and he declares and does them.
There is a fullness and finality about God’s self-revelation in a son. Not one of them, nor all of them together, could match “a Son” as a messenger from truth known and declared.
c. “At many times and in many ways”
The Old Testament has variety and progression which lay within God’s self-revelation. It was not the result of human development but was intended to lead people step by step to the Son. The prophets were human. Not one of them, who saw the pre-incarnate Son (John 12:38), could bear the burden or bring the truth which the Son himself could. The prophets were limited in what they could receive and declare being creaturely.
d. “To the fathers…to us”
Hebrews makes sure we realize where we fit into the divine scheme of things and to whom we are to listen. God spoke long ago by the prophets to the fathers. Now God is speaking by His Son “to us”. We must pay special attention to Him. The present era is far more important.
2. ‘IN HIS SON’ (verses 2b and 3)
Christ is God’s Revealer and his Redeemer. Christ’s uniqueness as a son is revealed from three perspectives:
a. In relation to “all things” and “the worlds” – He is their divinely appointed creator, upholder, and owner (heir). Everything is made and upheld and belongs to Him who gave it existence and upholds it. The Son does all of this by God’s apporintment.
b. In relation to the glory and nature of God – He is his radiance and replica. “Radiance” stresses God’s oneness with God while “exact representation” stresses his ‘otherness’ to God. As his ‘radiance’, the Son does not reflect that glory but is the very divine brightness itself bursting into our dark world. The term ‘exact representation’ (imprint) is to the image produced by a die on a seal or a coin. The seal reflects the image on the coin and vice versa. The Son is God.
c. In relation to human sin and its consequences – He is its conqueror. The Son did more than create and uphold the universe in order to deal with sin. God was offended and his people were defiled in sin. Christ atoned for sin to the satisfaction of ‘the Majesty on high’.
3. ‘HAVING BECOME SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE ANGELS’ (Verse 4)
Christ gained superiority as a result of his atoning work, which resulted in his enthronement at God’s right hand. This conferred a ‘better name’ than angels possessed. He became Lord. He was, of course, Son from all eternity but the author has a Messianic sonship in view. He was God’s eternal Son by virtue of being begotten of the Father from all eternity but it was by virtue of an obedient life and an atoning death that he became God’s kingly Messiah.
Jews had an excessively high regard for angels as connected to the most significant events in their religious and national history. However important angels or prophet are, the Son exceeds them all. He takes this up in Heb 1:5-14.
II. Heb 1:5-14 – Angels over Son?
The author quotes the Old Testament from Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7: 14; Deuteronomy 32:43 or Psalm 97:7; Psalm 104:4; Psalm 45:6; Psalm 102:25-27 and Psalm 110:1. All these quotations consist of words spoken by the Father to his Son which confirm the designations given to him and mark him off from all the angels. They demonstrate what is meant by the Son’s having a name that angels do not possess, and they build up a case for his superiority:
1. Verse 5 provides the foundation for all that follows. It combines two remarks from Psa 2:7 and 2 Sam 7:14. Kingship is the dominant theme and not sonship. The king is described as a son and not vice versa. Psalm 2 promises a son and 2 Sam promises a king of David’s line who will build a house for God (see Heb 3:6 and Heb 10:21). “Today” and “begotten” point to an enthronement and not eternal begetting (see Acts 13:33). The writer underlines that a promise of kingship was not made to any of the angels but God’s king is a “Royal-Son” and not a created angel.
2. Verse 6 is addressed to the angels, but it is about the Son. The author quotes Greek versions of Deut 32:43 or Psa 97:7. Each is a divine word addressed to angels. The angels are called to worship God who is going to come into his world to judge and bless. Worship is the duty of the angels to God.
But it is “the firstborn” whom they are to worship. The firstborn had the highest rank and special inheritance in the family. This term continues to emphasize kingship. 2 Sam 7 speaks of an eternal reign of a son of David referring to the Messiah who God would bring into the world. The one to be worshipped in the Deut and Psalm texts is Jehovah. In Hebrews it is the Son: in other words, the Son is divine.
3. Verses 7-9 contrasts the royal Son and the angels.
Verse 7 quotes from Psalm 104: 4, which celebrates Jehovah’s sovereign rule over all created things and natural processes, including angels and their activities. Angels are Jehovah’s ministers, his servants in the execution of his purposes. Verses 8-9, in contrast with verse 7, quote from Psalm 45, which exults n the triumph ofJehovah’s king over his enemies and his marriage to his people. This king sits on a throne, is addressed as God (by Jehovah), is a perfect king for God (a man after God’s own heart in all respects) and is rewarded with the gift of the Spirit for his people whom he takes into union with himself.
4. Verses 10-12 contain no specific reference to either ‘angel’ or ‘Son ‘.
But it is the Son who is being addressed. The quotation is from Psalm 102:25-27 in which the eternity and immutability of Jehovah, the creator, are being contrasted with the changeability of all things created. All of that is now said to be true of the Son.
5. Verse 13, which quotes from Psalm 110: 1, is addressed to the Son-King of David who is given universal sway.
This position was not given to any angel. Rather, all angels are servants of this royal king and accomplish his designs. As ‘spirits’, they are incorporeal beings created by the Son; as ministers (servants) they perform his commands. They are dependent upon him and subservient to him. Far from being superior to him they are not even superior to believers, because they stoop to serve them, protecting, guiding and strengthening them according to the directives of the Son.
The Son is therefore King, not only over creation, but also over the church. He is therefore infinitely higher than the angels in both the natural and the spiritual realms. He has no equal in the purpose of God and is therefore to have no rival in the esteem of his people.
Taken from: Jones, Hywel. Let’s Study Hebrews. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2002.