Reading Hebrews: Chapter 1, verses 1 to 4

My small group at church is currently going through the book of Hebrews. ¬†Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as the supreme revelation of God with a special focus on showing how Christ is superior to the Old Testament covenant of works – that is, the law. ¬†I thought I’d write up a few of my thoughts and notes as I read through the book.

Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV):

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, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 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, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

The author contrasts several ways in which Christ as the revelation of God is superior to the Old Testament revelation.

Category Old Testament Christ
Time “Long ago” “these last days”
Circumstances “at many times and in many ways” “by his Son”
Recipients “our fathers” “us”
Agents “the prophets” “by his Son”

Since the author uses the phrase, “our fathers” we know that the author and the audience somehow identify as Hebrew. The author’s reliance upon the LXX (the Septuagint; the Greek translation of the Old Testament) possibly identifies the audience as Hellenistic Jews.

The author’s use of “these last days” shows us that Christ’s death and resurrection mark the beginning of the “last days” – that is to say, we are currently in the last days. Hebrews 9:26 reads, “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” 1 Peter 1:20 reads, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you”. Finally, in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 he identifies the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost with the “last days” prophesied in Joel.

Kim Riddlebarger has a sermon series on Hebrews and in his sermon on these verses he identifies seven characteristics of Jesus that these four verses describe:

  1. Jesus Christ is the heir of all things (Psalm 2:8; cf. Matt 21:38)
  2. Jesus is the creator of all things (cf. John 1:3, Col. 1:16)
  3. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3)
  4. Jesus is the exact imprint of his nature
  5. Jesus sustains all things
  6. Jesus sits down at the right hand of the Majest on high (unlike the continuing Aaronic sacrifices, Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all)
  7. Jesus has inherited a better name than the angels (He alone sits at God’s right hand which means he possesses the authority of God)

From these attributes we can see that Jesus is certainly superior to angels (mediators of the Old Testament covenant and law). This superiority the author will elaborate further in the rest of chapter 1.

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