Hebrews 1:1-4 - A Look At Immanuel 'God With Us'
Last Sunday in Esther 2:5-7we saw that...
God can use sinners to do His sovereign will but the LORD cannot use a sinner to save himself.
Nor can God use a sinner to save other people.
The only way that God can save sinners is if He would send a sinless savior.
At Christmas we celebrated the fact that God had been faithful to fulfill His promise to send this child to redeem and save sinful people. Jesus has done what we could never do!
Now it seems appropriate that we would take this Sunday to consider Jesus as our Redeemer.
A great text to consider for this is Hebrews 1:1-4. It says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
This text can be divided into two sections.
First, in Hebrews 1:1-2awe see that Jesus is the final expression of the will of the Father.
Secondly, in Hebrews1:2b-4 we are given nine attributes concerning Jesus.
Jesus is the heir of all things.
Jesus created the world and all things.
Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God.
Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature.
Jesus upholds the universe by the word of His power.
Jesus made purification for sins.
Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father on high.
Jesus is superior to angels.
Jesus’ name is superior to all others.
Jesus is the final expression of the will of the Father
Our text begins with these words, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son”.
Suppose that your favorite theologians from any generation could stand before you and teach you about the faith. Which theologians would you like to sit under? (The apostle Paul, Augustine, Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Aquinas, Anselm, Owen, Edwards, Packer, MacArthur, Sproul,)
Let’s say that these theologians were willing to stay with you for as long as you needed so that you could begin to understand certain things about God from the Scriptures. All of these theologians might address a particular topic but God may use one of them to answer something in just the right way. As a result of this these theologians would be used to answer your questions convincingly, persuasively and powerfully.
But then after some time (a few months or many years) Jesus Himself would walk in and join you. You might be so caught up in the person speaking that you did not notice. But in that moment whoever was speaking would be silent.
If it was Augustine he would stop speaking.
If it was Luther he would become silent.
If it was Anselm, he too would immediately be quiet.
If it was Calvin, he would stop.
If it was R.C. Sproul speaking on the holiness of God, he would immediately fall to the ground and begin to worship Jesus.
In that moment, every faithful minister would reverently bow in silence towards Jesus as they waited patiently for Him to speak. This is a clear difference between the true believer and a fool. Consider Proverbs 18:2, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."
Before Jesus ever spoke a single word you would know by their reaction that there was something special about Jesus.
This is the picture that the author of Hebrews is trying to convey with these opening words, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son”. When Jesus came on the scene the prophets bowed down in worship.
When Jesus was born Abraham confirmed that Jesus was the promised one.
When Jesus came Moses acknowledged the grace and truth that was in this child.
David acknowledged Jesus as King.
Noah acknowledged that Jesus was the true ark that delivers His people from judgment.
The prophets all acknowledged that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that had been spoken of.
Many may read the words, ‘Long ago...God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…’, and think that these words spoken by the prophets must have been old and out dated so God had to send a more contemporary word.
This would have been true if these prophets spoke of things that they had conceived with their own minds. Or if their words reflected the thoughts of their own imaginations. There are many men who speak in this way. There are many people who would continue to speak even if Jesus walked in the room because they believed that their message was more important than His.
Charles Spurgeon lamented the preaching of such people. He wrote, “Men are very liberal in their views, but they are not liberal in dealing out the precious things of the gospel of Christ. Too many despise the old-fashioned word, and in their heart of hearts hate the doctrine which they pretend to uphold.”
In great contrast, the prophets that the author of Hebrews is speaking about in our text are the true prophets who were called by God to speak the Word of the LORD. Our text clearly says this when we read, “God spoke to our forefathers by the prophets”. These prophets spoke divine words, inspired words, authoritative words, eternal words, true words, and powerful words.
These prophets were the kind of ministers that Charles Spurgeon desired to see ministering in his own day. He said, “O to preach a full gospel fully! - to give it out with the richness and freeness which poor sinners need. This is one of the great demands of the day. O that our brethren would give up their fine spinning...and give something substantial from the storehouse of the everlasting covenant, and plenty of it!”
When you consider the nature of these prophets it seems unbelievable that so many people rejected their message. We see this for example when Zechariah writes, “And the Word of the LORD came to Zechariah saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’” (7:8-10)
The prophets message was inspired and authoritative and yet we read, “But the people refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.” (7:11-12)
If men in their folly will ignore the true prophets, how much more foolish is it to ignore Christ.
When we read the words, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”, we should appreciate a few things.
First, Jesus is the climactic revelation of the will of God. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the will of God. Because of this, we read in Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”. Because of the coming of Jesus Christ there is no other gospel worth our attention. Jesus deserves our full attention and devotion.
Secondly, we should recognize that Jesus came and fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 5:17) Therefore we are to listen to Him, place our faith in Him, worship Him, obey Him and follow Him. As faithful ministers the prophets longed to see the coming of the Messiah. As faithful stewards the prophets pointed us to Jesus so that we might recognize Him.
Thirdly, we should realize that Jesus is not just another method, another way, or another person in a particular time through which God would speak. When Jesus came into the world the need for God to speak at many times and in many ways came to an end! And because of Jesus' superior word the Holy Spirit now bears witness to this word and to the Person of Jesus Christ concerning these things. (Westminster Catechism: “...our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”)
We are given nine profound truths about Jesus
Let’s now consider the remainder of our passage in Hebrews 1:2b-4 which says, “...whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Jesus is the heir of all things
Proverbs 13:8 says, “The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.”
When people believed that Jesus was only a poor man from Galilee they did not threaten his life. But when they realized that He was the heir of the Father’s kingdom they wanted to kill Him all the more.
When Jesus approached Jerusalem just before His crucifixion He spoke of this when he told the parable of the Wicked Tenants. In Luke 20:13-14 we read, “The the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him. ’But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir, let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’”
Normally, a son receives his inheritance when the father dies, but Christ died so that He could receive this inheritance. Having received the inheritance Jesus is willing to share it with those who will receive Him by faith. (Psalm 2; Romans 8: 16-17 – The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ).
Jesus created all things
Paul describes Jesus as creator of all things in Colossians 1:15-17 by saying, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
The apostle John says it this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”
Jesus is the exact radiance of God’s glory
Our kids recently learned about this when they memorized the catechism which asks, “How many persons are there in God?” The answer is, “There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance and equal in power and glory.”
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Jesus radiates the glory of God. He does not reflect the glory of God like the moon reflects the glory of the sun. The same perfection and holiness that is in the Father is also the Son.
Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature
These words are a strong affirmation of the nature, character and substance of Jesus Christ as being equal to the Father. This is a good verse to consider if you are talking to a Mormon, Muslim or a Jehovah Witness who denies the deity of Christ.
Jesus is the perfect representation of what the Father is like. We read in John 14:8-10, “Phillip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Phillip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works.”
Jesus is not like Jacob who deceived Isaac by putting on a costume and pretending to be Esau. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. To see Jesus is to see the Father.
Jesus upholds the universe by the word of His power
Jesus sovereign and providential Word is over all things that He has created. R.C. Sproul has said, “There are no maverick molecules in the universe.” Jesus oversees all things, has authority over all things, He rules over all things.
Jesus made purification for sins
The word ‘made’ in ‘Jesus made purification for sins’ is in the middle voice. This speaks of the fact that Jesus alone can purify and make clean that which is dirty, soiled, and sinful.
We saw last week in Zechariah 3 a beautiful picture of how God purifies His people. In Zechariah 3:3-5 we read, “Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.”
Then in Zechariah 3:8b-10 we saw that the LORD would purify his people finally and decisively when He would send His Son Jesus Christ. We read, “...behold, I will bring my servant the Branch...and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.” As a result of this purification there would be perpetual peace between them and God and the gospel would be declared by those who have received this purification and peace, “In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”
Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father on high
In Zechariah 3 Joshua the High Priest was not asked to sit down at the right hand of the Father after he had been cleaned up. Instead he was commanded to walk according to the Lord’s charge (3:7). Jesus, however, having lived faithfully, justly, righteously and holy in life and in death is now glorified with the Father and sits at His right hand. In this sense we see that Jesus is given the greatest honor, Jesus is at perfect rest, and His position there by God’s right side will forever continue.
Jesus is superior to angels
Although Jesus was born as a little child and took on flesh and blood like all of us, He nevertheless is superior to the angels who are greater than men in many ways. Perhaps there is no greater witness to this fact than the angels themselves. When the angels pronounced the birth of Jesus they said things like:
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:31)
And an angel of the LORD appeared to them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the LORD. (Luke 2:10-11)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’ (Luke 213-14)
Or consider Revelation 19: 9-10, “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Finally, consider Colossians 1:15-20,
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Jesus’ name is superior
Paul said in Philippians 2:9, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so 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.”
Luke writes in Acts 4:12 these words, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
What does Hebrews 1:1-4 reveal to us?
Dr. Thompson summarizes it this way, “When you place your faith in Jesus Christ and have a relationship with Him, you have a relationship with Almighty God.”