Our Chronological bible study is nearly complete. When we were reading the Old Testament, we read history. When we began reading the New Testament, we began understanding everything Jesus did for us, but there’s so much packed into each week, it’s not possible to completely address everything we read this week in the book of Hebrews, one of the most complex books in the bible to understand. Today we will only cover the first 4 verses of Hebrews, although even that is a breakneck speed. One could spend many weeks just studying these verse that answer the question, “Who is Jesus? And why is He better?”
We have spent 11-1/2 months reading through the bible chronologically, understanding the purposes of God’s plan to give us free choice and also save us from ourselves. Throughout the Old Testament, God established a sacrificial system with a temple, a high priest that acted as an intermediary, and an unblemished lamb to take the punishment of a wicked people. All because God loves us.
And when that system turned into pharisaical rules and regulations, God intervened. It was always God’s plan at the right time to send a high priest forever, an unblemished lamb forever, and the temple of the holy spirit to dwell in man, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. A messiah, a savior, who would change everything. And as we approach Christmas, we see these promises being fulfilled –
Isaiah 7:14 –
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:6 –
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice, From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Micah 5:2 –
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
God’s people had been told there would be a Messiah and after 400 years of silence, the silence was broken. An angel spoke to Zacharias in the temple telling him that he and his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist. An angel spoke to Mary telling her that she would give birth to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. An angel spoke to Joseph telling him about Jesus. Matthew 1:20 –
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The Angels broke the silence of 400 years with the announcement that Jesus was coming. And that is our anticipation this year and every year as Christmas nears – Jesus is coming!
We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we do know they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews has over 40 Old Testament quotes, quotes that would have been sacred to any Jew in the first century. The author makes the case that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Jesus Christ is the final authority of all things in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ is our High Priest forever, and Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. The book of Hebrews systematically compares Jesus to the prophets of old, the priests, the sacrifices, and even the angels; and without hesitation, Jesus is superior to all.
And at Christmas time, the lyrics to this familiar song illustrate the amazing savior we have described in the book of Hebrews –
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
So let us study the awesomeness and majesty of the baby born in Bethlehem in just the first four verses of Hebrews 1:1-4 –
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Chronological Bible, December 17th, p.1555
The first four verses of Hebrews connects what we have been studying now for 51 weeks. There is an acknowledgment of how God spoke in the lives and writings of the prophets in the Old Testament. The foundation had been laid in each of the Eras of the Old Testament from the days of Adam and Eve, through David and Solomon, through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Nehemiah, and all the way through John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus.
These past couple of months we studied the Gospels and the Epistles, we looked at the life of Jesus. We saw the ministry of Jesus through healings, miracles, sermons, and parables. And then we saw the establishment of the church and how Paul wanted to make sure that all, even those in the uttermost parts of the world, would know Jesus Christ.
But today, the author of Hebrews wants us to understand the fullness and authority of Jesus Christ. Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King – Jesus Christ is superior to every prophet and servant of God in all the sacred pages of the Scriptures. This is the theme throughout the book of Hebrews. Jesus may have begun His human life as a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, yet He is the Heir of all things, the brightness of His glory, the express Image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power; knowing He was destined to become the purification for our sins.
Let’s uncover eight truths in these first 4 verses. I tell you in advance that there are 8 so you can take notes and number them, and also when we get to around 7 we know the end approaches and we can get to lunch before the Methodists do.
Heir of All Things (v2)
So, to fully appreciate Jesus, the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the heir to all things. What is an heir?
“Heir” suggests both dignity and dominion, with the added implication of legal title. All things will fall under His authority. Christ is the heir of all things precisely because God has only one Son and one Heir. Christians are also called adopted children and therefore heirs of God, but only because we are clothed in Christ Jesus with whom alone God is well pleased.
When Jesus is described as the ‘Heir of all things,’ it means that everything is His. He is the ultimate authority over all things and the rightful owner of all things. You look up in the sky at night and see the moon and stars; they belong to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. You look at the beautiful Christmas trees that are decorated with lights this time of the year; they belong to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. Everything belongs to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. Because of Jesus’ obedience – even to death on a cross – Philippians 2:9-10 says
God has 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.
Jesus did not just bring us the message of His Father. Jesus *is* the message.
Through Whom Also He Made the Worlds (v2)
John begins his gospel with this truth in John 1:1 –
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (Chronological Bible, September 24th, p.1272).
Jesus was part of the creation process with God, the Father. Everything that was made, was made through Him. John wanted us to know that Jesus was not just the Son of God but was Creator with God.
The Greek word for worlds in Hebrew 1:2 is interesting, it’s “aiōn” which encompasses not just the material world but also the ages, the history. Jesus is the creator of all time, matter, and space. Jesus Christ is not a created being, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others claim. Jesus is the Creator, the Creator of everything.
And then John tells us the truth of Christmas, John 1:14 –
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Chronological Bible, September 24th, p.1272).
The Creator became a baby in Bethlehem as Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us in the manger. John even mentions that “we beheld His glory” which leads us to the next truth.
Being the Brightness of His glory (v3)
the Son is “the radiance of His [God’s] glory.” The Greek word apaugasma , translated “radiance,” refers to what shines out from the source of light. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in a veiled way during His incarnation. Peter, James, and John saw that radiance revealed more directly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
But Jesus isn’t just the sun peaking out from behind some clouds. He is the blazing, magnificent revelation of God Himself.
The Express Image of His Person (v3)
The Son is the exact representation of God. The Greek word for “representation” is “character”, from which we get the English word, well, “character.” Greek writers used it to describe the emperor’s picture on Roman coins. The image on the coins was precisely the image on the engraving tool, an exact duplication.
And although no one has seen God, Jesus Christ let people know exactly what the nature of God is like. Jesus put it this way in John 14:8-9a –
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
Upholding All Things by the Word of His Power (v3)
The Son “upholds all things by the word of His power.” The idea is not so much that Jesus upholds the universe as a dead weight, similar to Atlas shouldering the world.
Rather, Jesus carries all things forward on their appointed course. Colossians 1:15-17 says
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
The Word of Jesus Christ has tremendous power and authority. It is the greatest force in the universe.
By Himself Purification for Our Sins (v3)
The Son “made purification of sins” as no one else could. He did so by His own sacrifice on the Cross, and by His work as the ultimate priest. The Greek word katharismos , translated “purification,” means both removal and cleansing. The word for “sin,” hamartia , occurs in Hebrews 25 times, more than any other book except Romans.
Hebrews doesn’t say much about individual sins, and doesn’t contain any list. The fundamental sin for Hebrews is unfaithfulness or neglect toward God which is our rebellion against God.
Though we celebrate His birth at Christmas, we cannot forget why He was born. He was born to die. He died to live again and so that we may live with Him.
Sat Down at the Right Hand of Majesty on High (v3)
Goodness, I feel we are rushing through this, and we’re barely into our second verse. But in case you’re counting, this is number 7. Take that, Methodists.
Number seven, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” when He returned to heaven after His ascension. Today, He is at the place of honor and authority in relation to God the Father, ruling over the church and the angelic host in heaven. The Lord Jesus completed what He came here to do; now, He rules heaven and church while we wait for His second coming.
Better Than Angels (v4)
The previous seven truths lead to this ultimate truth. Jesus is better than angels. It sounds almost anticlimactic. But it is significant because so often people will elevate angels even above Jesus.
Angels served as messengers who would come to deliver a message from God to His people. However, Jesus does so much more. He is not simply a messenger that brought a message from God to His people. Jesus is the message. Jesus is not simply a message of salvation and redemption. He is salvation and redemption.
The writer of Hebrews is declaring that Jesus is “so much better” than the angels. Jesus is beyond compare. All other prophets have come and said, “Thus sayeth the LORD to you.” But only Jesus could say, “I AM the LORD who has come to you.”
This is why Jesus is better than angels. Angels did not become flesh to understand our situations. Angels cannot empathize with us or know our weaknesses. And angels did not die for our sin. Jesus, however, did all of these things.
And I see this at every Christmas, the celebration of Santa Claus and reindeer and snowmen and Christmas ornaments. But Santa Claus is not the reason for the season. Jesus is the reason for the season.
Jesus is better. And this is what the whole book of Hebrews proclaims – our infinite need being met in the infinite love of God to us in Jesus Christ. Whatever else one may exalt, Jesus is better. Way better. The name of Jesus is above every name.
Philippians 2:9-11 –
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Hebrews 1 points to the full deity of Jesus Christ –
- Heir of all things (v.2)
- Through whom also He made the worlds (v.2)
- Being the brightness of His glory (v.3)
- The Express Image of His person (v.3)
- Upholding all things by the word of His power (v.3)
- By Himself Purification for our sins (v.3)
- Sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high (v.3)
- Better than the angels. (v.4)
The original Jewish audience, faced with the temptation to abandon discipleship of Jesus for return to Judaism, received a strong reminder of His deity at the very beginning of Hebrews 1. Jesus is Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King.
Jesus is our Reason for the Season. Jesus is Better.
To God be the glory. Amen.