NT REVELATION IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST TO ALL MANKIND IS FAR SUPERIOR TO OT REVELATION THROUGH THE PROPHETS TO THE JEWISH PATRIARCHS
What does the phrase “Progressive Revelation” mean to you? The unspecified author of this book to Jewish believers wanted to emphasize their privilege of having received the culmination of God’s revelation. God has now spoken in His Son, the living Word, who is preeminent in so many special ways. You can look at His person, His power, His work and clearly see His supremacy. There should be no temptation to forsake Christ and go back to the OT system as laid out in the prophets. The types and the messianic prophecies were intended to point us to the reality of the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in the stage you now find yourself in these last days, enjoying the final word of God in terms of Progressive Revelation.
MacArthur: The revelation did not build from error to truth but from incomplete truth to more complete truth. And it remained incomplete until the New Testament was finished. . . It progressed from promise to fulfillment. . . It began with the “picture book” of types and ceremonies and prophecies and progressed to final completion in Jesus Christ and His New Testament.
F. F. Bruce: Divine revelation is thus seen to be progressive – but the progression is not from the less true to the more true, from the less worthy to the more worthy, or from the less mature to the more mature. How could it be so, when it is one and the same God who is revealed throughout? Men’s conceptions of God may change, but the evolution of the idea of god is quite a different thing from the progress of divine revelation. The progression is one from promise to fulfilment, as is made abundantly clear in the course of this epistle: the men of faith in Old Testament days did not in their lifetime experience the fulfilment of the divine promise in which they had trusted, “because with us in mind, God had made a better plan, that only in company with us should they reach their perfection” (Ch. 11:40, NEB).
The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him. . . God’s previous spokesmen were His servants, but for the proclamation of His last word to man He has chosen His Son.
Guthrie: Because Hebrews begins like a sermon, without any mention of sender, addressees, or words of greeting, the author opens with a majestic overture, rhetorically eloquent and theologically packed.
I. (:1-2) THE SUPERIORITY OF GOD’S REVELATION IN THESE LAST DAYS IN HIS SON
A. (:1) Diversity of Revelation Long Ago through the OT Prophets
1. Timeframe of Revelation
“God, after He spoke long ago”
Phillips: As soon as we begin the Book of Hebrews, we encounter what is perhaps the single most important statement that could be made in our time: “God spoke”. This is one of the most vital things people today need to know. Ours is a relativistic age; as many as 70 percent of Americans insist that there are not absolutes, whether in matters of truth or morality. Secular society having removed God, there no longer is a heavenly voice to speak with clarity and authority. The price we have paid is the loss of truth, and with truth, hope.
– First, if God speaks in the Bible, then the Bible carries divine authority.
– Second, if God wrote the Bible, then it is enduringly relevant.
– Third, we also hold to the unity of the Bible.
Mohler: Hebrews 1:1 begins with the words “long ago.” Just like Genesis and the Gospel of John, Hebrews opens with a chronological reference taking readers back to the beginning of creation.
2. Target Audience of Revelation
“to the fathers”
3. Transmission Communicators
“in the prophets”
Mohler: The Old Testament is a story in need of a conclusion – a messianic conclusion. The fathers and the prophets indeed spoke the word of God, but that word was not the final word.
4. Manifold Thread of Revelation
a. Many Portions
“in many portions”
• Progressive nature
b. Many Ways
“and in many ways,”
• Historical Events
• Prophecies (direct communication)
B. (:2) Culmination of Revelation Now in His Son
1. Timeframe of Revelation
“in these last days”
Thomas Hewitt: When Christ came the old era was fulfilled and the new age dawned; the final and eternal order became operative in the incarnate Son and the new-born Church; and it will continue to be until the consummation of all things.
2. Target Audience of Revelation
“has spoken to us”
This is God’s final revelation; His supreme revelation; the apex of His revelation; the culmination of His revelation
Piper: He was not silent. God communicates. He means to connect with us. He is not an idea to be thought about. He is a person to be listened to and understood and enjoyed and obeyed. He is a speaking person. There is no more important fact than this: There is a God who speaks that we might know him and love him and live in joyful obedience to him. God spoke. God spoke.
3. Transmission Communicator
a. Nature and Uniqueness of this Communicator
“in His Son,”
A. W. Pink: (on the significance of the Transfiguration and its bearing on Heb. 1): The glory associated with Moses and Elijah was so eclipsed by the infinitely greater glory connected with Christ, that they faded from view.
Leon Morris: In essence the writer is saying God spoke “in one who has the quality of being Son.” It is the Son’s essential nature that is stressed. This stands in contrast to “the prophets” in the preceding verse. The consummation of the revelatory process, the definitive revelation, took place when he who was not one of “the godly fellowship of the prophets” but the very Son of God came. Throughout the epistle we shall often meet such thoughts. The writer is concerned to show that in Jesus Christ we have such a divine person and such divine activity that there can be no going back from him.
b. Status of this Communicator
“whom He appointed heir of all things,”
Psalm 2; Daniel 7:13-14
“through whom also He made the world.”
R. Kent Hughes: The immense scope of Christ’s inheritance comes from his dual functions as Creator and Redeemer. As Creator of the universe, he is its natural heir. (Col 1:16b) Everything in the universe has its purposes and destiny in the heir, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 11:36) Scripture is clear: everything in the physical universe is for him and to him and will consummate in him as heir of a new creation.
But in addition to his natural inheritance as Creator, as Redeemer he has also earned a vast inheritance of souls renewed through his atoning work of reconciliation on the cross. We are his inheritance! (Eph. 1:18)
II. (:3a) SUPERIOR REVELATION BECAUSE OF THE SUPREMACY OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST
A. Radiance of His Glory – Makes Visible God’s Glory
“And He is the radiance of His glory”
J. Vernon McGee: Brightness means “the outshining”; it means “the effulgence.” The material sun out in space gives us a good illustration of this. We could never know the glory of the sun by looking at it because we can’t look at it directly–it would blind us if we tried. But from the rays of the sun we get light and we get heat, and probably we get healing from it. That is the way we know about the sun. Now in somewhat the same way we would know very little about God apart from the revelation that God has given in His Son. The Lord Jesus Christ is the brightness we see. No one has seen God, but we know about Him now through Jesus Christ. Just as the rays of the sun with their warmth and light tell me about the physical sun, so the Lord Jesus reveals God to us today.
Mohler: The idea of “radiance” goes back to the notion of the shekinah glory in the Old Testament. The shekinah was a shining, visible glory that demonstrated the majesty of God, as in the exodus (Exod 13:21; 40:34-35) and at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 8:10-11). Looking at Christ is the way we see most fully the glory of God.
B. Representation of His Nature – Makes Visible God’s Essence
“and the exact representation of His nature,”
Wuest: This word was used in classical Greek of an engraver, one who mints coins, a graving tool, a die, a stamp, a branding iron, a mark engraved, an impress, a stamp on coins and seals. Metaphorically it meant “a distinctive mark or token impressed on a person or thing, by which it is known from others, a characteristic, the character of.” It was a Greek idiom for a person’s features. It was used of the type or character regarded as shared with others. It meant also an impress or an image.
R. Kent Hughes: Now, when you take these two facets – Radiator and Representor – together, you have a remarkable exposition of the identity of the Father in the Son. As Radiator – “the radiance of God’s glory” – Jesus is part of the source, one with the Father. This is what John emphasizes when he says, “the word was God” (John 1:1). But also as Representor – “the exact representation of his being” – Jesus is distinct, much as John also emphasizes hen he says, “the Word was with God.” Jesus is all God, “very God of very God.” When you see him, you see the Father. But he is also a distinct person. This is all bound in with the mystery of the holy Trinity.
III. (:3b) SUPERIOR REVELATION BECAUSE OF THE SUPREMACY OF THE POWER OF CHRIST
“and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
Kent: the sense involves both upholding and movement toward some goal. It is one of Christ’s functions to sustain this universe in its existence and operation, and to carry it forward to reach the consummation which God has planned.
IV. (:3c-4) SUPERIOR REVELATION BECAUSE OF THE SUPREMACY OF THE WORK OF CHRIST
A. (:3c) Ultimate Reward for His Work
1. Work of Redemption and Atonement
“When He had made purification of sins,”
Mohler: The word purification is not one we typically use to summarize the gospel. This word encapsulates the priestly work of Christ and recalls the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. The rest of Hebrews, particularly Hebrews 9-10, will further expound on the significance of purification. The author introduces the term here in order to prepare readers for the trajectory of the rest of his argument.
2. Privilege of Enthronement – Place of Honor and Authority
“He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
F. F. Bruce: Thus the greatness of the Son of God receives sevenfold confirmation, and it appears, without being expressly emphasized, that He possesses in Himself all the qualifications to be the mediator between God and men. He is the Prophet through whom God has spoken His final word to men; He is the Priest who has accomplished a perfect work of cleansing for His people’s sins; He is the king who sits enthroned in the palace of chief honor alongside the Majesty on high.
Piper: Christ took his seat as the active ruling heir of all things by virtue of his death and resurrection. He not only has the right be the heir of all things because he made all things, but also because he defeated his enemies and purchased a lost people from sin and death through his death.
B. (:4) Ultimate Recognition of His Work
1. More Excellent Ministry
“having become as much better than the angels,”
Kent: Better (kreitton), a term occurring thirteen times in the epistle, is one of the characteristic words of Hebrews as the author sets forth the superiorities of Christ to any other person, group, or institution.
Mohler: Literature from the intertestamental period – the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, often called Second Temple Judaism – demonstrates an intense focus on angels. Some of this theological reflection was good, but it was also mixed with error. Many people in Israel considered angels to be both God’s messengers and Israel’s protectors. Many Jews looked at angels as those who would come as the army of God to rescue and vindicate the nation. Second Temple literature also attests to the rise of the notion of “personal angels,” or what we might call “guardian angels.” Due to this fascination with angels, the author of Hebrews, writing to a Jewish audience who was familiar with Second Temple literature, needed to recalibrate the theological understanding of his audience – particularly concerning Christ’s relationship to angels.
2. More Excellent Reputation
“as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Verse 4 is a perfect transition into the main topic of Chapter 1 which is the Superiority of Christ over angels
George Zemek: Although v. 4 is syntactically dependent upon the main structure of Heb. 1:1ff, it is really the introduction to the next major section which compares Christ to the angels, Heb. 1:4 – 2:18.
R. Kent Hughes: Jesus is superior to the angels because he always was God’s Son and because two Old Testament Sonship prophecies (Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14) were marvelously fulfilled by him at his incarnation and resurrection and exaltation. His name is “Son,” while all that can be said of angels is that they are messengers.
Parunak: His work as redeemer leads to a position of honor superior to the angels. In closing this introduction, the author reminds us that we should not be surprised with this superior position. It is what we should already expect, based on the prior statements of v. 2. As Son and heir to the father, “by inheritance,” he already had a more excellent name. Now, by his work in purging our sins, he has in action become what he already was in position, better than the angels.