Q&A: The Last Days in Hebrews

The Last Days in Hebrews

In what ways did the author of Hebrews believe that history had reached the last days with the coming of Jesus Christ?

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Answer

The epistle to the Hebrews begins with a contrast between earlier times and these last days. "In earlier times, God spoke to the fathers through the prophets in various ways and means and so forth, but in these last days he has spoken to us" – the expression in the original is subtle – not just by his Son, as if the Son is one more prophet, but "he has spoken unto us in the 'Son revelation.'" The climax of all of this anterior revelation is the Lord Jesus himself. It's not that God spoke through the prophets, and now he speaks through Jesus as one more prophet, but Jesus himself is the Word. That's not the vocabulary that Hebrews uses, but in this respect he's like John's gospel: "In the beginning was the Word" — God's self-expression — "and [this self-expression] was with God, and [this self-expression] was God." Well, in these last days, these climactic days, these consummating days, then God's final revelation has been disclosed, and this Son shows up as the exact radiance of his glory. That's almost saying, "the light of his light." How do you distinguish between radiance and glory? That's partly the point. He's the exact stamp of the very nature and being of God. And so the culminating revelation is in Jesus Christ, and that's what makes this the last days. So, what you have is the coming of the final revelation and there is no more revelation of that order to be given until all that has come because of him is fulfilled. So, that's why we live in the last time, the last hour, the last days, until the culmination comes when Jesus himself returns at the end of the age. So, there's a kind of running tension in the epistle of the Hebrews, as in various ways in much of the New Testament, between a joyful, cheerful recognition that we are already in the last times even though there is persecution and tribulation. In the words of 1 John, we know it's the last times because there are antichrists that are already here. But at the same time, the last battle has been fought, the supreme revelation has come. This has eclipsed the earlier revelation, and now what we're waiting for is the culmination of all things, the glory yet to be revealed, and that's what makes this the last times.

Answer by Dr. D.A. Carson

D.A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and Co-founder of The Gospel Coalition