As a warning, and by way of apology, I’m reviewing the whole chapter in a single blog entry. I haven’t taken the time to break it down like I usually do. So, this post will be long. I’ve used headings to break it up, and you may want to skim those just to get an idea of where I’m going and end up. I process Scripture this way, and have been missing these entries tremendously. Hebrews is a deep letter, and says profound things about Jesus. I need to think it through.
Jesus as God’s Method of Communication
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB)
So, God used to use prophets to communicate a variety of pieces of His message to His human creatures. Now, His message to us is through His Son, the designated Agent and Heir of creation. There are all sorts of opinions about Jesus, some of them are even biblical. But this letter to the Chosen People, descendants by blood of that Hebrew, Abraham, this letter claims that Jesus is the means by which our Creator communicates with us.
The Gospels aren’t just informative about Jesus, interesting records of His words and deeds, they are the message. Paul’s writings to churches about belief in Jesus aren’t just guidance, they are the pathway to understanding our Creator’s message to us. The letters of Peter, of John, of Jude and James, these aren’t suggestions about how to live in cultures hostile to Jesus, they are course corrections, clarifications directing us back to the message of our Creator given through Jesus.
“In these last days, He has spoken to us in His Son.” It’s a common Greek preposition, “in”, but it has a vast range of meaning. It can refer to location (in a box), it can refer to time (in a moment), or agency (by means of a Son).
That may sound fairly common and boring, but it was a choice to not use “through”, or “with”, or so many other prepositions possible. Instead, the choice was the preposition of agency having the greatest proximity. You can not get any closer than within someone. And, therefore, it holds the greatest impression of intimacy.
Look at Exodus 23:20-23, and see how God used this preposition with regard to His “angel”:
“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.”Exodus 23:20-23 NASB (bold typeface added)
This is an obscure reference, and we’re never told anything further about this angel. For all we know, after the failure of the spies, his job may have been done. But did you notice the sign of his authority over the sons of Israel? The Name of Yahweh was in him. So, to say that the message of our Creator to us is now “in” His Son, Jesus, is no common passing reference.
This message is now made in Jesus, through Whom all things were made (see John 1:1-3). This Jesus, Messenger of God, is also the Agent of creation. Paul refers to Him as the “Firstborn” of all creation (Colossians 1:15). We would be very wrong to consider this a reference to Jesus as created. As the “Agent”, He must be present before anything is created. For He is not the Agent of the creation of this world but of all creation, even the angels, which leads to the next section.
Jesus as Superior to Angels
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.Hebrews 1:3-4 NASB
Jesus is not only the radiance of His glory (that which emanates from and gives evidence of), but He is the “kharakter” of His “hupostasis” (“struck” likeness of His “underlying reality”). In Philippians 2:6, Paul claims that Jesus did not consider “equality” with God as plunder. He used a word, “isos” which only means “equal”. But here, the writer uses imagery beyond “likeness” it is indistinguishable, and not in appearance, but in the “underlying reality” of God. Jesus is indistinguishable from God in underlying reality. There is no discernible difference, on any level, between Jesus, the Son, and God, the Father.
But the writer supports his assertion further by pointing out that Jesus is superior to the superior creatures, angels. He does so using several Psalms, and a reference to David’s descendants in 2 Samuel. The writer’s use of Scripture aside, these references demonstrate that Jesus is not just different but superior to angels. I’ll take them in the order the writer does:
Jesus Is Declared His Son
“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'”Psalm 2:7 NASB
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”2 Samuel 7:12-16 NASB
The 2 Samuel reference is used with Psalm 2:7, and the context of the Psalm is easy, while the context of 2 Samuel is not. Immediately following the reference to “sonship” is a reference to correction for sin, something which cannot refer to Jesus (there was no need for it, right?).
The reference in 2 Samuel is clearly to Solomon, but I included the rest of it because I wanted to point out the obvious reference to that which only fulfills in Jesus. Once we see that this reference is only complete in Jesus, then the rest of it can actually fit nicely into a reference to Him in its entirety. In fact, the writer of Hebrews covers each element of this text in the rest of the letter. And that includes the reference to “correction” (see Hebrews 5:8).
Jesus is superior to angels because He is declared to be the Son of God.
Jesus Is Worshiped by Angels
And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”Hebrews 1:6 NASB
Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,Psalms 97:7 NASB
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
Psalm 97 is a psalm of praise for God. The writer of Hebrews brings in a reference calling all “gods” (in Hebrew) to worship Him. The Greek translation has “angels” in the same place to clarify it’s not a reference to God worshiping something/someone. But what makes this reference a “messianic” reference instead of a reference to the “Father”? Nothing. There’s actually no need.
The writer has already pointed out the equality Jesus has with God, therefore this reference is only to show that God is worshiped by these angels. They are not equal with God, have not become equal with God, and will not ever be equal with God. Jesus is, but they are not.
Angels Are Messengers and Ministers
And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”Hebrews 1:7 NASB
He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers.Psalm 104:4 NASB
The Hebrew and Greek for this reference are not in opposition, as it might seem. The structure of Hebrew poetry leaves out certain elements that then require some interpretation. For instance, the Hebrew is literally, “One making His messengers spirits (or winds). The normal Hebrew grammatical element designating the direct object is missing, so what is the direct object, “His messengers” or “winds”? One has to be the direct object. But does it change the meaning either way? Apply the same logic to the next segment.
God makes use of flames and wind to achieve His purposes, and deliver His messages, and Jesus is neither flame nor wind. That is the point here. He is not “subservient” to the Creator, He is the Creator.
Jesus Is The Creator-King
But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”Hebrews 1:8-9 NASB
The use of Psalm 45 is interesting, because the Psalm is interesting. It purports to be a love poem perhaps referring to the marriage of Solomon to the princess of Tyre. But it has clear references that are difficult to ascribe to descriptions of Solomon. For instance, both the Hebrew and Greek refer to God’s throne. It’s clearly God’s, and not an earthly king, except, perhaps by extension of the reference “gods” to refer to Solomon. It isn’t typical Hebrew practice to deify human kings. Not even in Solomon’s day.
Yet the reference immediately switches to “God, your God” having anointed the “king”. It’s an odd reference to follow the reference to God, the reference to His throne, and clear indication of a divine king. So, it’s possible that this was initially a reference to an earthly king, but along the way, someone left out “your God” from Psalm 45:6. If so, this happened so early, that it became a reference to the Messiah to come rather than Solomon. A happy accident or divine intent? Whatever works for you, as long as you see it refers to Jesus, who is The King, but also the Creator…
And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”Hebrews 1:10-12 NASB
The writer has asserted that Jesus is the Agent of creation. Here the writer asserts that Jesus is as eternal as the Creator. Psalm 102 is worth a good careful read. The context of our quote is this:
I say,Psalm 102:24-28 NASB
“O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days,
Your years are throughout all generations.
Of old You founded the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
Even they will perish, but You endure;
And all of them will wear out like a garment;
Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.
The children of Your servants will continue,
And their descendants will be established before You.”
The Psalmist cries for help to the One having created all things, Who alone endures beyond all that which He created. So, the writer of Hebrews isn’t relying on this Psalm as “proof” of Jesus as Creator, he is connecting Jesus as Creator to this familiar poetic verse. He simply asserting, “This refers to Jesus”. We want an “argument” with supporting elements, and so on. The writer side-steps the whole thing and simply says it is so. Or does he?
Isn’t Psalm 102 a “messianic psalm”? If it is, if it relates to the life of Jesus, and speaks of Him, His ministry, and His role in history, then so does this passage. Psalm 45 jumps to different “characters”, but this psalm does not. It is God who comes to restore Jerusalem (v.13-15). It is God who rescues prisoners (compare v.19-21 with Luke 4:17-21). And it is Jesus who does these things. The psalm is Messianic, and Jesus is the Creator.
Jesus Rules Over Defeated Enemies
There will be a day when the enemies of Jesus will become His “footstool”. It sound odd to modern ears, but Scripture is not a modern book. Yet, it still sounds harsh, regardless of historical period, and it is. Comparing the angels to Jesus, the writer concludes with this:
But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “?Hebrews 1:13-14 NASB
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
Jesus sits to the right of the Father until that time that all His enemies are His footstool. Even speaking figuratively, this refers to a real time. There will be a time when all enemies of Jesus will be subjected to Him. The audience of the Hebrews knew exactly who those enemies included. Those enemies had oppressed these disciples of Jesus already, taking property, freedom, and even life. For them to hear that, one day, the One they follow will subject these enemies is comforting. It tells them that one day, all will be right in the world. The rebellion put down, and the righteous King will reign.
Our struggle is that it seems wrong to oppress those who oppose God. Somehow that makes Him as bad, in our modern minds, as the oppressors themselves. It’s not, we’re wrong, and to our shame, balance will come in spite of us. It will be best for us to be found on the right side when that happens. And, for the record, being an oppressor before our Savior comes is the wrong side.
If you held on to the end, bless you, and I, again, apologize for the length. It’s a full chapter. There’s more to come, though hopefully in more manageable bite sizes.