Hebrews 1:1-4

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 7, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” -Hebrews 1:1-4

As I wrote about last week, we do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews. But whoever the author is, he starts right in with some great theology! While Hebrews is generally considered to be a letter, it doesn’t start out with the usual letter format of initial greetings, including who is writing and who is the intended audience. Instead, the author starts right into Jesus and His saving work.

The author begins by telling his readers that God is active; He has spoken, and He still speaks. This is a common theme throughout the Bible, starting all the way back in Genesis 1:3 when God spoke light into existence, and He continued speaking the rest of our world into existence throughout the Creation account. God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice, God spoke to Isaiah in the temple, etc. God can convey His message to His people in a variety of ways, and speaking is just one of the ways we see God communicating with us.

This initial phrase in verse 1 of explaining how God spoke to “our ancestors” is one of the ways that the audience of this book may be identified. All of these people to whom God had spoken (at least as far as we have record of) would have been of the nation of Israel, so the author and readers of this book were likely Jewish, hence the name of the book as Hebrews.

The author builds on the past speaking of God and shows that still continues today. The phrase “in these last days” in verse 2 may sound to our ears like the author thinks the end of the world may be upon them. But that phrase is more literally translated as “on the last of these days.” This phrase is found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) where it refers to the time of the Messiah. Here in this context, it means that we are now living in the new age where the Messiah, Jesus, has come. This connects the times of old where God spoke through the prophets and the current time of the letter where God spoke through His Son Jesus.

Next, the author goes on to explain who this Son of God is. He gives 8 different truths about this Son:
1. He was appointed as heir of all things (verse 2)
2. God made the universe through Him (verse 2)
3. He is the radiance of God’s glory (verse 3)
4. He is the exact representation of God’s being (verse 3)
5. He sustains all things through His word (verse 3)
6. He provided purification for sins (verse 3)
7. He sat down at the right hand of God in heaven (verse 3)
8. He became superior to the angels (verse 4)

What do all these mean?

Jesus has been appointed as heir to all things. This shows us that Jesus holds a supreme place in the ruling of the universe. It may seem unusual that He was “appointed” to this role; we would think that the Son would automatically be the heir. But this active verb shows us that God is actively acknowledging Jesus as the heir.

God is the creator, but we know that Jesus was present at Creation and involved in the process. We see this in John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, and Colossians 1:16. The word used in Greek here for “the universe” also refers to time rather than just the physical world we see around us. Jesus has been involved in Creation and all of time.

Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. The word used for “radiance” can also mean a shining forth of brightness or a reflection. Jesus shines forth with God’s glory, and He is a reflection of that glory as well. We see the glory of God through the person of Jesus.

The Greek word translated as “exact representation” is actually spelled like “charakter,” and this is the only time it is used in the New Testament. This word originally referred to an instrument used for engraving, then it referred to a mark stamped on that instrument, like the impression of a die. We see the being or essence of God in the person of Jesus as we would see the impression made from a die.

The idea of Jesus sustaining all things is not like simply holding up the universe, but it has the idea of carrying it along and helping it toward a goal. God did not just create the world through Jesus and then let it go and do its own thing; rather, Jesus is actively working in this world. His Word is active and powerful in this world.

The concept of Jesus providing purification for sins is central to this book. This is why Jesus came to earth - to deal with the problem of mankind’s sin. We will see this concept much more as we continue our journey through Hebrews. The word “purification” can be used in the sense of a ritual cleansing, but it can also refer to the removing of sin from our lives.

After Jesus’ purifying work was done, He “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” The sitting posture shows that that person is resting after their work is done, and the right hand is the place of honor. This phrase tells us that Jesus’ work was done, and because of that, He now has the place of highest honor in heaven.

Finally, even though Jesus has always been superior to the angels, the writer tells us He “became” superior because of the work that Jesus did. He was always God, then He became man to defeat sin once and for all, and then He came back to heaven as much superior to the angels because of what He did on earth. His name is even more important now that He has accomplished His atoning work.

So what does all this mean for us today? This magnificent Jesus that the writer of Hebrews tells us all about is the same Jesus who provided salvation for us. We have the amazing opportunity to be in relationship with God because of Jesus’ work. Give God the glory for that by living your life for Him today!

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