About Jesus    -  Steve Sweetman

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The Son Superior To Angels  (ch.1:1-14)


If you have studied any of Paulís writings you notice right away that the author of this letter does not introduce himself.  Paul always states his name and then gives some kind of characterization of his calling in the Lord Jesus.  This is not the case with the author of Hebrews.  He gets right into his text with no introduction.  He gets right into the meat of what he is about to teach. 


The first four verses speak of the supremacy of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They speak to His very nature, similar to what we see in John 11 and 2 and Philippians 2:6 through 11.      


The letter begins by saying, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways."  This sentence tells us something about the writer.  It tells us that he is Jewish because he speaks of "our forefathers the prophets."  We know that the prophets were Jewish.  The author is thus associating himself with the Jewish heritage of those to whom he writes by the use of the word "our."


The writer says that in various ways and at many different times God spoke in times past.  God did speak to Israel in many different ways and at many different times.  God spoke to His people through prophets, through the Law of Moses, via angels, by pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus.  From the day God first spoke to Abraham to the day He spoke through John the Baptist, God did speak to His people, but now He would speak in a new way.


In verse 2 the author says that now, in these last days, God speaks to Israelis through His Son.  In comparison to all the different ways God spoke to His people in times past, speaking through Jesus, His Son, beats them all.     


These beginning verses of Hebrews are one of my favourite verses in the Bible.  They are extremely important due to the fact that right in the beginning of this letter the author addresses the very nature of Jesus.  Remember, those reading this letter were Jews.  They understood that God speaks to people and that throughout their history God has spoken to them through prophets, but now the mouth piece of God is Jesus.   


One might think then that God no longer speaks through prophets and therefore the prophetic ministry ended in the Old Testament.  That's not so.  There are New Testament prophets mentioned in the Bible. There are even woman prophets mentioned in the New Testament.  Once Jesus returned to heaven He authorized His disciples to speak on His behalf. 


Another thing to think about in verse 1 is that God speaks.  God does speak to people.  Christians aren't Deists.  A Deist is one who believes that God created all things and then stepped back from His creation and let it evolve on its own.  This is not Christian doctrine.  God is actively involved in His creation.  He does speak to us.     


Note the term "last days" in verse 2.  Christians often think of the last days as the last few years that will end this age.  Here, the author states that they were already in the last days.  In one real sense of the word, the last days began on the Day of Pentecost.  Peter himself said this when he spoke to the people when he quoted from the prophet Joel that predicted the last days.  Peter was simply saying that the last days had now come with the arrival of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the believers.      


Understanding that in one real sense of the word the last days began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, we should note that Jesus Himself speaks to people in these last days.  I don't think the author is thinking of Jesus speaking during His time on ministry on earth.  How did, or does, Jesus speak in these last days?  Well, He speaks through His Spirit, or, as in the case of the Apostle Paul, He speaks directly to us.          



In verse 2 we see the phrase "Whom He appointed heir of all things."  An heir is someone that is in line to inherit something from their parents.  Notice here that Jesus was to inherit something and that something was all things.  In John 1:1 and 2 we notice that Jesus was God's agent in creation.  Now we see that Jesus has inherited all of creation.  Psalm 2:8 states that the Messiah would inherit the nations. You may think you own your house or your car but you don't.  Jesus owns them.  He owns all things. 


The next phrase says that "Through whom He made the universe."  Again, we see Jesus as God's agent of creation.  It is Jesus who created all things.  That being said, the Greek word translated as "universe" here is "aion" which really means "ages."  It's used in the plural form here.  A more literal translation would be that Jesus created the ages.  This clearly tells us that there is more than one age.  Hebrews believed in two ages; the present age and the Messianic age.  Some Evangelicals believe in many ages, or as they call them, "dispensations."         


Verse 3 is extremely important.  It tells us that Jesus is in fact God.  This truth is the most fundamental truth of our Christian belief.  The author says, "The Son is the radiance of Godís glory."  We should not think of the word "radiance" here in terms of reflection, that is to say, that Jesus reflects the glory of God.  The moon reflects the light of the sun.  It has no light in itself.  That is not what is being talked about here.  In fact Jesus is the glorious light rays of His Father.  He is the glory of God.  He is not the reflection of God's glory. 


Note the word "glory" above.  It's translated from the Greek word "doxa" from which we get our English word "doxology."  This word in its simplest form means an opinion, and estimation of something or someone.  In Biblical terms it speaks to the majesty of who God is.  When we sing a doxology we sing the praises of God's majesty.  We verbalize our opinion that there is no one like God.  He is one of a kind.  He has no rivals or no competition.           


The author goes on to say that Jesus is  "The exact representation of Godís being."  The Greek word "charakter" is translated as "representation" here.  It represents an exact duplicate and was often used in the first century Greco-Roman world as an identification ring that was dipped in wax to represent one's signature. The waxed implant was an exact representation of the ring.  Jesus is the exact representation of God.  That is why He could tell Philip in the book of John that if you saw me you have seen the Father.     


In the same verse the writer says that Jesus "Sustains all things by His powerful word."  One of the basic elements of our universe is the atom.  The atom is made up of a nucleus that is surrounded by orbiting electrons.  It is similar to our solar system.  As the planets orbit the sun, so electrons orbit the nucleus.  These small little things donít collide because they maintain a constant speed in their orbit.  Another reason why they donít collide into each other is because Jesus holds all things, including these atoms, together.  Jesus is not only the Creator of all things.  He is also the Sustainer of all things. 


I do believe in natural law, that is to say, God has created all things to work as they were meant to work, but, underlying natural law is Jesus Himself.  If Jesus takes His finger off of any aspect of natural law, things get very chaotic.  If Jesus takes His hands off of anything, and the includes our governments, things get pretty chaotic.


The Greek word "rhema" is translated as "word" here.  It's not the Greek word "logos."  Most commentators suggest that rhema here is the spoken word.  Jesus speaks, no matter how that looks right now, and things are immediately accomplished.   


Verse 3 is a long verse.  It goes on to say that "After He had provided purification for sin; He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven."  The reference to purification is speaking about the sacrifice of Jesus made on the cross.  This is a Jewish term.  Jews would understand what is being said here.  They might not agree, but they did understand the idea of a sacrifice purifying for sin.  This is what was happening in the animal sacrifices in Old Testament times.  The writer of Hebrews is clearly saying that Jesus is the one who has purified you of your sins.  He will elaborate later on this point in detail, but for now he wants to make this point in the very beginning of his letter.


When it says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty, the people in the first century understood that to mean that Jesus took a place of authority alongside of God.  It is figurative language.  It does not necessarily mean that Jesus is actually sitting on a big chair beside God somewhere in Heaven.  It does mean that Jesus now, as a result of His great sacrifice, has been exalted to a place of ultimate supremacy and authority over all things.  You now see that Jesus has created all things, sustains all things, and is Lord over all things.  Jesus is indeed central in all that there is and ever will be. 


You might want to think of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:24 to 28.  He says that once Jesus has conquered the last enemy of God, which is death, He will then hand all things over to His Father.  At that time, He will become subject to the Father.   I see this meaning that right now Jesus has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18) as He sits alongside of God, but the day will come when He will hand that authority back over to His Father.  


In these first three verses you see that Jesus is God.  He is the exact representation of God.  He is also Christ or Saviour, due to His act of purification on the cross.  He is also Lord of all things and in the utmost place of authority.  So right off the bat the author tells you who Jesus really is.  There is no doubt that the Jewish Christians needed to be assured of these truths because they were being lured away from this truth by false teachers. 


As a result of all of this, in verse 5 the author says that Jesus is much more superior to any angel.  Jews held the angels in high esteem.  Between the prophet Malachi and the time of Jesus on earth the Jews had developed a huge theology concerning angels, a theology that can't be seen in the Old Testament.  I think the author might have this in mind when he says that no matter how high you esteem angels, you must esteem Jesus even higher.   


Some commentators suggest that the author had the Gnostic belief in mind here, and that may be true.  Like the Jewish theology of angels I just mentioned, the Gnostics also believed in a very highly organized and authoritative angelic structure that was a mediator between them and God.  They put great emphasis on angels who would speak to them the words of truth.  Some of these Gnostics believed that Jesus was the supreme angel.  


In verse 4 the author speaks of the supremacy of the name Jesus has inherited.  The name referred to here, in context, is not Jesus, Lord, or Christ.  It is Son.  


From here to the end of this chapter the writer quotes a number of Old Testament Scriptures to prove the points that he has just made concerning Jesus.  The first of these quotes is from Psalm 2:7.  "You are my Son."  These words suggest Deity.  They tell us that Jesus was the Son of God, thus at the least, Jesus must have something of God's DNA in who He is.


In the Old Testament, almost all of the time, when you see the word "sons", plural, it is in reference to angels. 


The question we should ask, "When did Jesus become God's son?"  There are a couple of answers to this question.  Some say Jesus became God's son at His incarnation while others say He became God's Son at His ascension into Heaven in Acts 1.  In answering this question we must remember that at His baptism God called Jesus His Son (Luke 3:23, John 1:34).  So, at least at this point in time God understood Jesus to be His Son.  I suggest that Jesus became God's Son in a literal and human sense of the word at His conception.   


Also in verse 5 the author seems to be quoting 2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 Chronicles 17:13.  He quotes, "I will become His Father and He will become my Son," or, first born Son as some versions put it.  Note the future tense here.  The future tense makes perfect sense here since the quote is from the Old Testament.  That being said, some suggest that this passage speaks of the end of this age when Jesus is the first born among many sons.  That is to say, when the believers inherit their glorified bodies, they too will be sons of God, in the same way as Jesus is the first born Son in His glorified body.


Concerning the words "first born," we see these words in verse 6.  See again what I said in the last verse concerning Jesus being the first born of God.  Some suggest this passage is speaking of the return of Jesus to earth because of the word "again."                  


Verse 6 appears to be from Deuteronomy 32:43 but if you look this verse up you won't see it as it is quoted here.  This is a quote from the Septuagint.  In cave number 4 of the Dead Sea Scrolls we have seen this very quote of Deuteronomy 32:43 but it is slightly different from the Hebrew version. 


Whether the author had Jesus' incarnation in mind or His second return, the quote he uses clearly states that the angels worship Jesus the Son.  Remember, the author is making the point here that Jesus is superior to angels, and thus the reason for these quotes.    


In verse 7 the author quotes from Psalm 104:4.  He says that God "makes His angels winds."  Once again, the writer is in the process of making a clear distinction between Jesus and angels.  Here he says that angels are made like the wind.  The Greek word translated as "wind" is the word "pneuma," that simply means a wind or breath.  This is also the Greek word that is translated as spirit in the New Testament.  I suppose this is the best way to describe a spirit.  A spirit canít be seen.  The wind canít be seen yet the wind has certain effects on things around us that can be seen.  The word "wind" is a good word to use in reference to describing a spirit and his effects.  You might say that the Holy Spirit is the Holy wind of God.   Actually Jesus Himself relates people born of the Spirit to wind in John 3:8 where He says, "The wind blows where it pleases Ö"  He is saying that those who are born of the Spirit is like the wind because the Spirit Himself is like the wind.  You cannot see where the wind has come from; neither do you know exactly where it is going.  You may know the general direction of where it came from and where it is going, but you canít be geographically exact.  The same is true with Christians and the Spirit of God.  Not that we and the Spirit are fickle and donít have any clue or idea of a plan of action.  The idea in John 3 is that non-Christians, non spiritual people, cannot understand the things of the Spirit.  They can see certain effects that have come about because of Christians and the Holy Spirit, but to understand the whyís and the whereforeís of it all are beyond them. 


All of the above being said, the author is speaking of angels here in verse 7.  It's angels that are spirit, who become these flames of fire.  As yet, I'm not quite sure what the author is getting at when speaking of flames of fire.    


Verse 8 is extremely important.  The author quotes from Psalm 45:6 and 7.  "About the Son He says, 'your throne O God will last forever.'".  This is one of a few Scriptures that specifically says that Jesus is God.  Understanding that Jesus is God is the most fundamental truth that we must believe as Christians.  This truth separates us from all other religions in the world.


Note the author speaks of Jesus' eternal throne.  The throne in relation to Jesus is confusing to some.  There are actually 2 thrones that Jesus sits on.  He sits on an eternal throne in Heaven right now, but, when He returns to earth He will sit on David's throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years as He rules the nations of the world.  Once the thousand years is over and God creates a new heaven and earth, Jesus returns to His eternal throne.


The last half of verse 8 says that "Your righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom."  The Greek word translated as "scepter" is "rhabdos."  This word simply means a staff or a rod.  Scepters are often symbolic of authority.  The writer is basically saying at some future point righteousness itself will have authority over all things.  This will happen of course when Jesus returns for those He loves and for those who have not rejected His love.  When He returns, He will put all things under His feet, resulting in the rule of righteousness in the world.  This rule of righteousness will be seen during the thousand year rule of Christ, but, it will continue for ever on the new earth.  


Verse 9 says that "You (Jesus) have loved righteousness and hated wickedness" (Psalm 45:6 - 7).  Does Jesus actually hate something?  You mean Jesus doesnít love everything.  That is right.  Jesus does hate wickedness.  Some may debate what is wicked and come up with varying ideas on what is right and what is wrong, but we should stick to Scripture, which is pretty clear on what is wicked.  It is when we depart from the Bible that we begin to have our own private definitions of certain words.  This should never be the case.  We should never redefine what the Bible has already defined.

The next phrase says that "God, your God, has set you (Jesus) above your companions."  The Greek word ďmetochosĒ is translated as companions.  This word means ďto share or to partake.Ē  Therefore, the writer is saying that Jesus is set apart, a major step up from the rest His companions.  Again, this speaks to the supremacy of Jesus over all things, which is, one of the major themes of this book.   

I'm not sure whom the word "companions" refers to here in verse 9.  It might refer to angels because the issue here in chapter one concerns Jesus being superior to angels.  On the other hand, it might refer to believers in Christ.  At the moment, I'm just not sure.   

Note that God is Jesus' God.  Jesus may be God's Son.  God may be Jesus' Father, but, God is still Jesus' God.  For this reason the Apostle Paul often uses the phrase "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  This is one of the most fundamental Biblical truths.  Christians do not serve a generic, one god fits all, god.  We serve a specific God and He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  No other religion serves this God.     


The author goes on to say that Jesus has been "anointed with the oil of joy."  Just when Jesus was anointed with joy is debatable, but maybe it was at His ascension seen in Acts 1.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before Him.  This, at least, should tell us that the anointing of joy was future to the cross.  If it is not at His ascension it might well be when all of the redeemed join Him in their glorified bodies.   


From verses 10 through 12 the author quotes from Psalm 102:25 to 27.  "In the beginning, you O Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth."  The word "Lord" is in reference to Jesus.  The word "Lord" is not found in the Hebrew text but it is found in the Septuagint. Again, we see that Jesus is the agent of creation.  Jesus is in fact the Creator.   


The last part of verse 10 says
hat the "Heavens are the work" of Jesus hands.  Jesus did not just create the earth.  He created all that is in the universe as well.


Verse 11 says that what was created "will perish but you will remain."  I think the pronoun "you" refers to Jesus.  The author then says that Jesus "Will roll them up like a robe."  He says the same in verse 12.  This reminds me of Revelation 20:11 where the heavens and earth fled from the presence of God.  Just maybe, as verse 11 might imply, Jesus is the one who causes the heavens and earth to flee from God's presence.   


Verse 12 states that Jesus' "Years will never end."  Again, this speaks to the eternal nature of Christ, one of the five main attributes of God Himself.  


Verse 12 also speaks to the fact that Jesus will roll up the heavens like a robe.  This might well be figurative language used by the author, but, Quantum physics has now discovered that time, apace, and the universe can now be rolled up.  What might have been understood figuratively in the past has become a scientific fact.  Science is thus catching up to what the Bible has said all along.         

The quote in verse 13 is from Psalm 110:1.  It speaks of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God.  As I have previously stated, the term "Right hand of God" is figurative language to mean that Jesus sits in authority with God.  The author makes the point that no angel has ever, or will ever, sit at this place of authority at God's right hand.  The author is clearly placing Jesus is a supreme place above the angels.


In verse 14 the author puts angels in their proper Biblical perspective.  He says that they are "Ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation."  Those of us who will inherit salvation are those who have given themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ.   Angels minister to us and they do in many ways that we just do not see.        


One thing I note here is that angels are spirits.  Some people believe that when angels appear to humans they appear in a form recognizable to humans.  Otherwise, they don't normally look as they appear to humans.  This might well be the case.  We can say for sure though that angels are spirits.  The author of Hebrews makes that clear.


The whole point that is being made by all of the above Old Testament quotes is that Jesus is superior to angels.  He is making this point because of Greek influence on the church that stated Jesus was an angel, albeit, the supreme angel.  Jesus was not a created angel.  He is the eternal logos of God.  Hebrews, chapter 1, makes it very clear that Jesus is God and this is the most fundamental belief Christians must adhere to concerning Jesus.  If you do not believe in this Jesus, you do not believe in Jesus.


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