Hebrews 1:1 – 10:18
Hebrews 1 – 2
- God’s Revelation through the Son vs. Israel’s Prophets (1:1-3)
- Christ Superior to the Angels (1:4)
- Seven Old Testament Scriptures Showing Christ Superior to Angels (1:5-14)
- (If You Listened to Angels in the Past, Listen to the Son Speaking Now) (2:1-4)
- Christ as Man in Suffering and Exaltation (2:5-9)
- What Christ Has Done for Believers (2:10-18)
God’s Revelation through the Son vs. Israel’s Prophets (1:1-3)
- The Heir of All Things. All things in heaven and on earth belong to the Son in three ways: as Creator (v.2), as Redeemer (Heb. 2:9), and also as Heir of all things. This last way is special because it has nothing to do with what Christ has done, and everything to do with Who He is. It is God’s eternal purpose to head up all things in the One whose right it is (Eph. 1:10).
- The Creator of the Universe. We find that all three Persons of the God head were involved in creation, but the Son is the special agent to whom the magnificent accomplishment of creation is attributed; “by whom also he made the worlds”. This brings out the Divine wisdom and power of the Son, that he would bring the ordered universe into existence out of nothing! See also John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. It is an infinite power which can only be connected with His deity.
- The Effulgence of God’s Glory. The Son is the “effulgence” or shining out “of his glory”. This indicates that the Person of the Son is the visible manifestation of the glory of God. We see all the attributes of God reflected in the Person of the Son. This was true always, but visibly to man when the Word became flesh. Nothing less than a Divine Person could do this. As to the question of who wrote the epistle, we might ask who among the apostles and prophets saw the Lord Jesus in the condition described in v.3? Only Paul.
- The Expression of God’s Substance. This phrase brings out most clearly the deity of Christ! For the Son to be the expression of God’s substance, He had to be fully Divine. The “expression of his substance” is broader than a Person. In John it is the Word expressing the Person of the Father, but here it is the Son expressing (exactly) the substance of the whole Godhead. This is what is meant by ‘homoousios’; that the three Persons of the Godhead are of one essential substance.1
- The Upholder of All Things. The Son is not only the Creator of all things, but the one who sustains all things too. Things continue as they are because He said it (Psa. 33:9)! We have a related expression in Colossians, “all things subsist together by him” (Col. 1:17), meaning they continue in virtue of Him. It is amazing to think that the very One who lay in swaddling clothes in a manger, the One who was crucified through weakness, was in those very moments “upholding all things by the word of his power”!
- The Purifier of Sins. When it comes to sin-bearing it is specific to “Himself”. It emphasizes that He alone completed the work, and the glory of that completed works rests on Him alone.23 The work of purifying sins is a far greater work than creation, and it is here linked to Christ’s divine glory. This shows that Christ, in that one finished work, settled for ever the issue of sins in the sight of God, whether it be those of Old or New Testament saints. This was something that no number of sacrifices under the law could ever do (Heb. 10)!
- The One Seated at God’s Right Hand. The word “himself” is emphasized in connection with sin-bearing and with being seated at God’s right hand. In v.13 we have a different side of things, where the Son is invited to sit at God’s right hand, but v.3 is a different thought; He “set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high”. It was His right to sit down there, and He took it. It was a place He won Himself. Clearly, there is no inferiority in the Son!
Christ Superior to the Angels (1:4)
Seven Old Testament Scriptures Showing Christ Superior to Angels (1:5-14)
Angels Figure Prominently in the Old Testament. Stephen pointed out that Israel “received the law by the disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53). It was an angelic form that appeared as a flame of fire to Moses, and so on, all through Israel’s history (Ex. 3:2). Angels figured prominently in the Old Testament as the greatest of God’s messengers, so much so that the Jews had a tendency to exalt angels. In fact, a sect of the Jews went so far as to worship angels, called the Essenes (Colossians 2:18-19). Read more…. Having already shown the greatness of Christ in contrast with the earthly messengers the prophets, the writer now shows the greatness of Christ in contrast with the heavenly messengers the angels!
As the Son: His Relationship and Preeminence (vv.5-6)
As the God-Man: His Deity and Perfect Humanity (vv.7-9)
As Jehovah: The Eternal, Unchanging, Self-existing One (vv.10-12)
As the Glorified Man: His Place and Prospect (vv.13-14)
(If You Listened to Angels in the Past, Listen to the Son Speaking Now) (2:1-4)
Warnings Against Apostasy. What we have in the following four verses is the first of five warnings about apostasy in the book of Hebrews. Each warning is like a parentheses in which the writer addresses those among the Hebrews who had made a profession without reality, and were in danger of abandoning their profession. As ch.6 shows us, this would put such a person in a hopeless condition. The five warnings are Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7–4:11, 5:11–6:20, 10:26-39, and 12:16-27. These warnings have been twisted by some to support the false doctrine of conditional security; that a person can be saved then lost again. It is important to understand what apostasy is, and how these passages relate.
Apostasy is abandoning a belief once professed, especially in the context of renouncing the profession of faith in Christ. Apostasy is different from backsliding. A backslider is one who has truly believed on the Son of God, but has fallen into systematic failure, and is in need of restoration. An apostate is one who once made a profession of Christ, even partook of the outward blessings of Christianity, entertained the truth of it in their thoughts, yet never truly believed it, and ultimately turned away from it (1 Tim. 4:1). An apostate for a time is part of "the faith", but then abandons it, having never truly possessed "saving faith". For for such a person there is no possibility of restoration.Read more… In a certain way, it is easier to slip away from Christianity than Judaism, because Christianity concerns what is heavenly, spiritual, and laid hold of by faith.
Christ as Man in Suffering and Exaltation (2:5-9)
- To make atonement for sins (v.17). The sins of mankind, and the whole issue of sin, is a terrible outrage against the glory of God. Christ became a man first and foremost to glorify God with respect to the issue of sin (John 13:31-32). This work of propitiation was done on the cross, but incarnation was necessary in order for Him to accomplish it. The same can be said of the substitutionary aspect of the cross; “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). In order to accomplish substitutionary atonement, the Son had to come in incarnation, with a human spirit, soul, and body, in which He bore our sins on the cross.
- To fulfill the counsels of God with respect to man (vv.7-8). The purpose for which God created man will be fulfilled to His ultimate satisfaction and glory. The first man failed in his place, but the Son became man to accomplish that purpose. In the glorious reign of the Son of man, that purpose will be accomplished. It could not happen without the incarnation!
- To annul the devil by death (v.14). The defeat of Satan required that a righteous man would enter into death and then rise again! Angels cannot die, so the Son had to become a man to offer Himself in death.
- To be able to sympathize with us (v.10, v.18). Another great reason for the incarnation is that manhood fitted the Son of God to be our merciful and faithful high priest. In His pathway here on earth Christ passed through every experience necessary to make Him able to sympathize with us perfectly as our great High Priest, making Him a perfect Leader! We could not have this without the incarnation.
What Christ Has Done for Believers (2:10-18)
- Faithful towards God, “in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people”. This is the most important aspect, as it deals with the issue of God’s glory regarding our sins. Note the erroneous translation “reconciliation” could give the wrong idea that God will be reconciled with sin. We read of persons and the creation being reconciled, but never of sins. On the day of atonement, which occurred once a year, the high priest would put on a “holy linen coat” and make the offerings that the Lord required. When he did this, the high priest acted as the representative of the people, and in type offered that which was necessary for the satisfaction of the claims of God. All that God is as light and love has been fully manifested in the cross. This one-time sacrifice of Christ laid the foundation for His on-going intercession!
- Merciful towards man, “to help those that are being tempted”. After the day of atonement, the high priest would change back into his garments of “glory and beauty” and resume the role of intercessor. Christ could have partaken in humanity but chosen a privileged life, such as a noble or merchant family would have afforded Him. But “it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren”, in order that He could sympathize with us in every circumstance. Our Leader was made perfect through sufferings (v.10), and those sufferings also fortify Him to be a “merciful and faithful high priest”. He has suffered “being tempted”, not tempted of the flesh which He had not (Heb. 4:15), but by the trials of the path and the wiles of the Devil, etc. He was tempted beyond what we will ever experience, and He went through it without compromising or yielding. As such, He is able to help those that are being tempted, because we too will suffer if we do not give into temptation (1 Pet. 4:1).12
- This was the term put forward by the First Council of Nicaea (325) to resolve the controversy over Arianism, which taught that Christ was not fully divine. The Greek word homoousios means “of one substance”. The creed produced at the council was intended to put an end to the controversy.
- The Greek verb has here a peculiar form, which gives it a reflective sense, causing the thing done to return into the doer, throwing back the glory of the thing done upon the one who did it. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- There are a number of things the Lord does by Himself; He comes for the saints Himself (1 Thess. 4), He restores the discouraged soul Himself (Luke 24), and here we find He “made by himself the purification of sins”.
- The assumption of flesh in no way lowered His Sonship: Son of God eternally, He was still and no less Son of God when born of the Virgin, as He is in resurrection and evermore in glory… To partake of blood and flesh through and of His mother was in no way to forfeit His title. Son of God from everlasting to everlasting, in time also as man He has God declaring “I today have begotten thee.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- This is the assertion of the perfect and mutual affection that reigned between the Father and His Son, now a living man; not what became an accomplished fact as in Psalm 2:7 [incarnation], and what should subsist when He was born of woman, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- Some have erroneously taken the word “firstborn” to indicate that Christ came into being at the incarnation. However this denial of eternal existence of the Son is easily refuted by the earlier verse (v.2) which states that He created all things, and the following verses (vv.7-8) that show He was never created!
- At the same time it is frankly allowed that the fulfilment of Deut. 32 or of Psalm 97 as a whole awaits the Lord’s second advent. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- It is Jehovah from above who thus answers Jehovah below in the midst of His entire submission to sorrow and humiliation “crucified in weakness.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- It is the preaching of a great salvation made by the Lord Himself when on earth; not the gospel preached and the Church united after the death of Christ. This testimony, consequently, goes on to the Millennium without speaking of the Church, a fact to be noticed not only in these verses but in the whole epistle. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Collected Writings, vol. 28, p. 4
- In Hebrews 2 four reasons are given why Christ took flesh and blood: first, to make atonement; second, for God’s glory and counsels; third, to destroy him that had the power of death; fourth, that He should go through every sorrow, and so have sympathy with us. – Darby, J.N. Brief Thoughts on Philippians.
- Note: Psalm 8 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews 2.
- He sympathises with us in our holy, not in our unholy, temptations. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.