LESSON 1 - Heb. 1:1-4 - WHO IS JESUS?
INTRODUCTION: Today we begin a new quarterly study of the Book of Hebrews. As a NT book, it's unusual insofar as the writer neither identifies himself, nor the people to whom he was writing; however, the content of the book, together with its frequent references to the Hebrew Scriptures, strongly suggests that his intended audience consisted mainly of Jewish Christians who had been tempted to abandon the Christian church and faith and revert back to their former Jewish worship practices. There were many reasons why these Christian Jews might have been so tempted: pressure from their Jewish families and friends; a longing for the elaborate Temple rituals, festivals, feasts, etc. they had enjoyed in the past; and the loss of special status they had held in their local synagogues.
As to the scope and message of the book, the writer spends the first ten and a half chapters of this thirteen chapter book (Heb. 1:1-10:18) emphasizing the superiority of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant over Moses and the Old Covenant. In Chapters 1 and 2, he focuses primarily of the superiority of Jesus Christ to angels. The Bible teaches that angels are God's messengers but are not God (Heb. 1:14; Rev. 1:1). While angels deserve respect from humans (1 Cor. 11:10), they are part of the created order (Col. 1:16) and subject to judgment for wrongdoing (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6); therefore, we must worship God rather than angels. Moreover, any form of angel worship is in direct violation of the First Commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:3; cf. Matt. 4:10). The worship of angels is still a problem today. Popular media often portrays angels as lovely, delicate, and sometimes feminine beings, whereas Biblical writers cite masculine names, make no reference to gender, and often describe them as fearsome beings (Gen. 19:13;Num. 22:21-39).
Read Heb. 1:1-2 - GOD HAS SPOKEN TO US IN HIS SON
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
v. 1: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways," - A key feature of both Judaism and Christianity is God's revelation to humanity. God has revealed Himself and communicated His will to humans in many different modes:
• God spoke DIRECTLY to persons, such as Noah, Abram, and Moses (Gen. 6 and 12; Ex. 3).
• God spoke through DREAMS (to Jacob in Gen. 31) and VISIONS (to Job in Job 4).
• God spoke through the TORAH (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).
• God spoke through the SCRIPTURES of various types (history, poetry, prophecy, etc.) in OT and NT.
• God spoke through the PROPHETS, who God called to proclaim guidance, judgment, and salvation; the largest body of prophetic revelation being found in the OT Books of the Prophets, from Isaiah through Malachi. However, there is prophecy in other books, such as Moses in Deuteronomy and Samuel and 1 and 2 Samuel.
v. 2a: "in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" - This verse directly parallels v. 1 and can be restated to say: that "God has spoken to us in these last days in His Son" (note the capital "S"). Thus, in the past, God spoke to humanity through the Prophets but now He speaks to us through the Son. The writer's main point: While the other forms of God's revelation were powerful and instructive, God's ultimate revelation came through His Son, Jesus Christ. And from this point forward, we will see the superlative title, "His Son," used continually. The phrase, "in these last days," refers to the New Age brought into existence by Christ, who will bring both judgment and salvation.
APPLICATION 1: The writer of Hebrews clearly demonstrates that God's ultimate revelation came through His Son, Jesus Christ. In earlier times, God spoke to humanity through persons, dreams, visions, the Scriptures and the prophets, but now He speaks to us through the son.
v. 2b: "whom He appointed heir of all things," - This is the first of two factors in the verse that demonstrate the superiority of Jesus Christ, God's Son. An "heir" by definitions is a person who has the legal right to an inheritance. The inheritance to Which God has appointed His Son is "of all things," in other words, every single thing pertaining to the kingdom of God-100 per cent of it!
APPLICATION 2: God appointed Jesus Christ to be the heir of all things. In practical terms, this means that the inheritance to which God has appointed to His Son consists of every single thing included in the kingdom of God.
v. 2c: "through whom also He made the world." - This is the second factor that demonstrates the superiority of Christ: Not only did the Father appoint the Son as heir of all things, but the Son was present at the creation-in other words, Jesus was intimately involved as God's agent of creation-in the creation of all that is in the entire universe. Notice the use of use of the plural "let us" early In the creation story (Gen. 1:16). This is important because it was contrary to the prevailing Jewish view that God worked alone in creation. Note also that aspostic revelation in the Gospel of John traces "the Word" back to the very beginning-before time began-which means that that Word-Jesus Christ--was not created but stood along with God before the creation (John 1:1-3). Later, we hear the apostle Paul using similar language, saying: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col. 1:16-17). This is more divine revelation.
APPLICATION 3: From the beginning, Jesus was involved as God's agent of creation. Jesus was not created but was present with God before the creation and was God's mediator in the creation of the entire universe.
Read Heb. 1:3-4 - HE IS THE RADIANCE OF HIS GLORY
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
v. 3a1: "And He is the radiance of His glory" - So, in addition to being the ultimate revelation of God, the heir to God's kingdom, and the agent of creation, He is the "radiance of His glory," which is what shines out from the source of light, which Peter, James, and John witnessed directly when Jesus' glory was revealed to them on the mount of the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-2). Glory is a characteristic of God, which is not visual or aesthetic beauty but is the magnificence that flows out from the radiance of God's perfect character and from all that He represents.
APPLICATION 4: Jesus displayed the radiance of God's glory at His transfiguration. Peter, James, and John witnesses this event, which is reported in Matt 17:1ff.
v. 3a2: "and the exact representation of His nature" - The Greek word used for "representation" (charaktér [khar-ak-tare']) was an engraving tool that made an exact duplicate of the original. So, what this verse says is that the character of God the father is exactly replicated in the person of Jesus Christ. And from this, Jesus Christ, during his earthly ministry, revealed to humankind what the nature of God-whom no one has ever seen-was like in every single detail. As the apostle john explained, "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known" (John 1:18).
APPLICATION 5: Jesus Christ is an exact replica of God. During His earthly ministry Christ revealed to humankind the exact nature of what God is like in every single detail-to see Jesus was to see God.
v. 3b: "and upholds all things by the word of His power." - This brings to mind God's creative powers, which are exercised by the agency of His word. We know from the Genesis account that God created the heavens and earth and all life in and on it, including the first humans, by simply speaking it into existence. (Gen. 1 generally). So, this verse tell us that Jesus' word serve as the agency of this power, and by His word, He "upholds"-i.e., is sustaining and carrying forward -all of it "by word of His power." In Short, Jesus is without qualification or exception, the greatest force in the universe.
APPLICATION 6: The entire universe is held together by the word of Jesus' power. By this awesome power, Jesus "upholds"-sustains and carries forward-everything in the entire universe.
v. 3c1: "When He had made purification of sins" - As no one else could, Jesus did this-"made purification of sins"-by His self-sacrifice on the cross and by His work as the ultimate High Priest.
People who accept Jesus as Lord by faith, are purified by Him through the cleansing of our souls that He made possible by His forgiveness of sin, which He does for us once and for all.
APPLICATION 7: By His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus had made possible the purification of our human souls. Christ accomplished this redemption for humanity's sin once and for all.
v. 3c2: "as He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty of high." - Having accomplished His mission, the Son ascended to the heavenly kingdom (Acts 1:9) from which He had descended for His incarnation, and He took His seat at the right hand of the Father, which was the place of Honor (Mark 16:19). The writer referred to the place where Jesus now sits and rules as the Father's "right hand of the Majesty on high." Presently, Jesus rules over the church and the angelic host in heaven (Eph. 4:15; Col. 1:18; 2:10). This is not the same as the Davidic throne, which will be on earth in the future. (Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14). Jesus will begin His reign on earth as the Davidic Messiah after He returns to earth at His second advent. (Rev. 20:1-6). Note: To the original Jewish audience who were tempted to abandon the church and return to Judaism, this and the preceding two verses would serve as a very strong reminder of Jesus' deity as the Son of God, the heir to God's kingdom, the agent of Creation, and the ultimate High Priest who makes purification possible, who now rules from heaven at the right hand of the Father.
APPLICATION 8: Jesus' position in heaven is the place of honor. When Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection, He took his seat at the right hand of the Father, the place of honor.
v. 4a: "having become as much better than the angels" - The previous three verses clearly revealed the Son's superiority to any of God's other messengers-the prophets and even the angels. Now, we see the first of the writer's 13 uses of the term "better" in his book, which, in each instance is designed to contrast the superiority of Christ to what preceded Him in Judaism.
v. 4b: "as He has inherited a more excellent name than they." - From the very start, Christ's superiority is made manifest in the fact that His name is referred to as the Son (grammatically, a definite article with a capital "S"), rather than 'sons," collectively, insofar as OT writers occasionally called angels "sons of God" (Job. 2:1; 38:7). In Jewish culture, people considered a person's name to be more that a simple identification label. They believed that a person's identity was tied-up in the name, expressing features of the person's essential character and status. In the context of this verse, Jesus Christ inherited the superlative name "Son" before creation-before time began (Heb. 1:2; 5:8). And within the Trinity, the "Son" is obedient to the will of God the Father in a manner that corresponds to the way in which Jewish sons dutifully carried out the will of their earthly fathers in that highly patriarchal culture. Bottom line-what is Jesus' name? His name is "the Son"-a name that trumps all other names.
APPLICATION 9: Jesus' name is The Son. Christ's superiority in the kingdom of God is made manifest in the fact that His name is referred to as the Son (grammatically, a definite article with a capital "S").