IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 1, March 1 to March 7, 1999

Hebrews 1:1-4

By Dr. Richard Gamble


    The book of Hebrews begins abruptly by jumping right into its major theme: the uniqueness and finality of God's revelation in his Son Jesus Christ. In just the first four verses, six important truths are proclaimed about Jesus Christ. Three of these relate to him as the eternal Son of God, while three speak of his earthly work.

    Here we will focus our attention on the three truths related to his earthly work. But we while we do so, must keep in mind that knowledge of Christ's saving work for us can never be separated from knowledge of who Christ is himself. Also, we must remember that knowledge about Christ differs from all other types of knowledge. A physician knows more about our bodies than we do, and that knowledge affects him — he often sees the world differently from us. The same is true of farmers, builders, teachers, and many others. As Christians, we will see that knowledge of Christ doesn't just affect us, but it transforms our very being.

    As study Christ's work through Hebrews 1:1-4, the one main point we will emphasize is that everything Christ has received we have also received.


    The initial two verses of Hebrews are set in a rather beautiful threefold structure of comparisons and contrasts:

    1. 1) The Son of God is set in contrast to the prophets. Whereas God spoke long ago by the prophets, he speaks in these last days by the Son.

    2. 2) We are contrasted to the Old Testament fathers. God spoke long ago to the fathers, but now he speaks to us.

    3. 3) The diverse ways in which God spoke with the fathers are compared with the final revelation given to us in Christ. Long ago God spoke at various times, and he speaks to us now, at the end of times.

    Even though diversity exists in the Testaments, the one true God authored both revelations. God's word is always true, and he has spoken truth to both in common. Although there is a difference, an expansion, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is a mistake to say that the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament are fundamental. The Old Testament is not "law" while the New Testament is "gospel."

    The comparison as a whole is beautiful. Jesus, like the former prophets, spoke the word of God, yet unlike the prophets he is the eternal Word who became the Word incarnate.1 Christ's uniqueness is apparent in that he is a Son, different from all the prophets that went before him.

    Further, we are living in a time of greater revelation, in that we live in the days when the Son of God has been revealed. We are in a condition that is superior to those who lived under the Old Testament economy. The diversity that is referred to in the first verse indicates that the visions and other various means by which God revealed Himself were not complete. If the way had God revealed Himself had been perfect and complete, then it would not have been necessary for the completed revelation.

    The passage also points out a contrast between the ages. is continued when the former times are contrasted with this final age. There are distinct ages involved here — "the one marked by incompleteness and anticipation, the other by completeness and fulfillment the one preliminary, the other ultimate." This is a fundamental contrast of Hebrews for the "old order of prophetic utterances, Mosaic covenant, and Levitical priesthood has given way to the new order. It is the order of messianic reality which is final and permanent. Its leadership, its priesthood, and its kingdom belong uniquely to him who is the eternal Son." The expression of "this final age", "at the extremity of the days (of history)," occurs a dozen times in the Old Testament and designates the future time of the Messiah." There is no longer any reason to expect any new revelation; for it was not a word in part that Christ brought, but the final conclusion."2

  3. C. Continuity of Old Testament/New Testament. It sounds as if there is only discontinuity between the testaments. But the continuity is evident as well. It is affirmed that in both the old order and the new it is God who spoke. Notice that it is our Fathers who were spoken to as well as us. It is God who spoke to the Fathers and none other than God almighty! There is a consistency that pervades the whole teaching; the new covenant in Christ "is the realization of the promises, prophecies, and figures, which form the heart of the old order. Christ is the final word of the prophets.

    Transition: Therefore, before we actually finish the second verse of the Epistle the whole theme is set forth. There is a unique supremacy in Jesus Christ that is in comparison with the incomplete character of all religion and prophecy before Him.3 God has spoken to us by a Son, who is the true Word of God and God also truly spoke by the prophets of old. God is the author of both the Old and New Covenants. Christ's presence is the completing of God's prophecy.

  4. II. Christ is:

    A. The Creator: In the last half of the second verse,4 the Son of God is called the creator of the world. Since Christ is the creator of the world, He must have existed from all eternity, from time before time began.5

    [B. The Heir]. Besides being the creator of all things, He is the appointed heir of all things. The "appointed heir" is a direct reference to Christ's mediatorial work. This verse is connected with Psalm 2:8, "Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession". Psalm 2 is in the context of being the Son who is begotten of the Father.

    [C. The Glory of God]. Jesus is the heir and creator of all things and is also in a relationship to the Father. He reflects the glory of God and bears the stamp of his nature.6 This is not abstract theology but an important doctrine of the faith. The Father's glory, which is invisible, is seen in Christ. It is in Christ that the glory of God is fully manifest. The majesty of the Father is impressed upon the Son and seen in Him. The purpose of the author is not a metaphysical demonstration of the likeness that the Father bears to the Son. It is to build up our faith, "so that we may learn that God is made known to us in no other way than in Christ."7

    [D. Upholder]. The Son as creator also means that He upholds the universe by the word of his power. From the beginning God created the heavens and earth according to His own plan and purpose. As he upholds the universe we see a dynamic activity, something that has not stopped happening but continues. God continues to uphold the universe by the word of his power. If God did not continue to sustain the world each and every moment, the world would lapse into non-existence. The Son, is the radiant light of the glory of God, the perfect copy of his nature. He upholds the universe.

    [E. Mediator] He has also made purification for our sins. He has done this once for all, during human history. That activity was performed in his being incarnate, living a life of humiliation, suffering the death upon the cross, and being raised from the grave.

    What is important is what has happened after these events were accomplished. After that, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He was received into heavenly glory that He might govern all things. This salvation that Christ acquired for us was not some temporary thing, for He has eternally taken a seat on high. We do not see him now, but that is a cause for our rejoicing! He has received nothing less than the kingdom given to him by the Father.8 It is in heaven that Jesus Christ is making intercession on our behalf (Heb. 7:25).

    There is a particular context in which we should understand how Christ is being honored. The reference is to the Son of God as the Mediator, who for our redemption humbled himself. For a little while he was lower than the angels and has become, once and for all, superior to the angels.

    [F. Inheritor of Name]. Christ has also inherited a name that is superior to any of the angels. The reference here is at least two-fold. In Hebrew times, the name of a person was more important than we give it today. A name signifies the character or at least the hoped-for character of a Person. More important than that is the meaning behind inheriting this name.9 This superior name speaks of the supreme honor that is due Christ.

    Transition: These four brief verses have much to say concerning our Savior. We learn of Him as the Prophet of God, as the Priest who makes intercession for our sins, and the mighty King who now rules over heaven and earth. It is a fact that Jesus Christ was born in a low estate, and made full atonement for our sins. It is a fact that He has been exalted on high. We also know that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, have been made sons and daughters in His Sonship, and that we will see Him as He is at the day of Resurrection. The movement of God in history is complete, from Old Testament hidden to New Testament revealed. He has received a name above every other name! He is Lord and will never be defeated! He will never again appear in an estate of humiliation! PAUSE

    [III. Christ as Heir: Redeemed as Heirs]. Christ's work as Heir, as Mediator and as Inheritor has implications for us. The work of Christ is applied, at least in part, to us as well.

    [1. As Mediator]. The ground for applying Christ's work to us is because of vs.3b. "After he had made purification for sins," Obviously not His sins. "Having made purification for sins" is part of the package of descriptions of this Son of God. It is His work as mediator that is in the author's mind when he is described as "having made purification for sins". Christ mediates between the Holy God who cannot stand sin and sinners like us.

    [2. As Heir]. Christ took upon Himself the heirship so that He might rescue what we had lost in Adam. Adam was the heir of all good things, but in his sin that inheritance was lost. Throughout the New Testament, Christians too are called "heirs and Sons", yet that idea cannot be understood outside of Christ being the first heir, being the Redeemer of God's covenant people.10 It is through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ that we become heirs.11

    [3. As Inheritor of an exalted name]. Christ's name is exalted. We bear his name as Christians. We too have an exalted name. Our earthly names may not be very exalted, but our supernatural spiritual name "little Christs" the meaning of Christian, is exalted.

    Our God is a powerful God and we are His people; what a cause for rejoicing!

    The mighty Jesus Christ will never leave us nor forsake us.

    He is in control of all things.

    All praise to his powerful name!

    1. This passage brings us into immediate connection with the beginning of the gospel of John, and the theological connection between this passage in Hebrews is very similar to what John is saying in his gospel.
    2. Paul says the same thing in I Cor. 10:11, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." [This truth has two practical implications, the first being that in Jesus Christ God has spoken for the last time; we need not go beyond Christ looking for further revelations or prophecies or speaking in tongues. The second is that we should not come short of Christ, that is, be content that the fullness of all of God's revelation is found in the Old Testament, as the Jews do.]
    3. We have here another reflection of the teaching of Paul who says in 2 Tim. 3:16, that all Scripture is God-breathed; for we are reminded that it was God who spoke by the prophets.
    4. Note the similarity in presentation between Hebrews and the Gospel of John: God's Word, mentioned in the first chapter of John, who was in the beginning with God, created all things.
    5. Again this is found in Paul, in Col. 1:16 and I Cor. 8:6: that in him and through him all things without exception were created.
    6. There is correlation here with what John is saying in 1:14, that we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. This agrees with Paul in II Cor. 4:6 concerning "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ".
    7.John recounts Jesus' saying in the 14th chapter, "He who has seen me has seen the Father," and Paul reminds us that Christ is the image or likeness of God. (2 Cor. 4:4).
    8. As Paul says in Philippians 2: "Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Here is the classic doctrine of Christ in His three offices as Prophet, Priest and King. For as the Prophet the Father spoke by him, as Priest he has made purification for our sins and as King he sits at the right hand of God.
    9. The is the same as Paul's in Eph. 1:19ff. Where he says: "the immeasurable greatness of God's power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might, which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come". The same may be seen in Phil. 2:9f.
    10. Paul expresses this beautifully in I Cor. 3:21 f. When he assures the believers that since they are Christ's and Christ is God's, all things are theirs.
    11. This teaching of verse 2 is made more complete later on in v. 10 when Psalm 102 is applied to the Son, who did found the earth in the beginning and that the heavens are the work of His hands. Yet this Psalm is addressed to the Lord, to Yahweh who is the eternal Sovereign of all things. Jesus Christ is the eternal, sovereign God of all things, creator of heaven and earth!