Having looked ahead at the what the writer of Hebrews said about Messiah being superior to angels, let’s double back and examine what else the author says about Jesus being superior to the Prophets.
We saw two blogs ago how God spoke through the Prophets at “many times and many ways.” Through many centuries and in many different manners, God spoke to the fathers through the Prophets.
In the New Covenant era, the same God continues to speak to Israel; only this time, He changed his entire mode of speaking. Whereas in past generations he spoke through the Prophets, now he is speaking “by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). This is a vital statement that should not be passed over quickly. It speaks of the permanence of the new order which was inaugurated by the appearing of the Son. Whereas the Old Testament period contained a fragmentary revelation, the Son has come and by his word given us a full and final revelation. What the Son has brought is a permanent order.
But notice when that happens—“in these last days (1:2). The writer includes himself as being in the last days. Most people, when hearing the term ‘last days’ are conditioned to think of days yet to come, just preceding the Second Coming of Christ. But that is not how the writer uses the term. Most likely he is referring to the end of the Old Testament era. The last days in Scripture, therefore, is the entire period between the first and second coming of Jesus. It begins with the ascension of the Lord Jesus and the pouring out of the Spirit and ends with the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice how Peter quotes the prophecy of Joel in chapter two which promised the outpouring of the Spirit “in the last days (Acts 2:17). The fact that this occurred two thousand years ago is proof that the last days are that entire period between the two comings.
This is followed by seven great statements regarding the Son, which are unparalleled in all of Scripture. Time only allows a brief flyover. The Son is first described as the One God appointed as being “heir of all things.” There is a natural progression here from his being a Son to his being the heir. Usually, when there is an heir, there has to be the death of the one who appointed him as heir. In this case, it is not the One who appointed him who died, but the One who is to inherit all things who has suffered death. The appointment of Messiah as heir is simply that the Father, from eternity past, ordained that Messiah would eventually inherit everything. In Ephesians 1, Paul refers to it as “the summing up of all things in Messiah.”
The writer then refers to Messiah as the agent through which also “he created the world.” Numerous passages in the New Testament demonstrate that God created all things through the Lord Jesus. This is the clearest evidence in the text for his deity. Jesus Messiah is very God of gods since He is the creative force in the universe.
The word translated radiance in verse 3 is the word for “out-raying’ or ‘effulgence’; an old English word meaning “brightness taken to the extreme.” The word ‘out-raying’ refers to the manner in which we receive the sun on our earth. We only know the sun by its rays. We can’t look at the brightness of the sun for too long without it hurting our eyes. In the same way, we cannot see the Father directly; he is too glorious to gaze upon. This is the meaning of Scriptures such as, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18).
The word translated “exact imprint of his nature” is the single Greek word, charakter. It was originally used of stamping coins with an impress so that the duplicate perfectly reflects the original. Even so, Jesus is the perfect imprint of the Father so that he mirrors him perfectly. Remember, when Jesus was asked by Philip to show them the Father? (John 14:8). Jesus answered by saying, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’ (14:8-9). In other words, Jesus is saying that He bore the impress of the Father’s nature so that to see Him was to see the Father perfectly.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to state that “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). This statement does a frontal assault on the theology known as Deism—the belief that God created all things but then removed himself from the creation, letting it run on its own. But here in Hebrews the writer makes it clear that not a molecule runs on its own, being sustained by Messiah’s power. This is another way of saying ‘Jesus is Lord.’
The writer than refers to the fact that Messiah had made “purification of sins.” Here, the writer introduces the main focus of the entire epistle; that Messiah is our High Priest. This One accomplishes what no priest under the Old Testament (OT), ever accomplished—putting away our sin, fully and finally. He will spell this out later in the letter.
This section ends with the glorious truth that after Messiah made purification of sins, he “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). One thing you will never find in the Tabernacle or Temple is a chair or place for the priest to sit down. Why? Sitting implies that something is finished and under the OT, the priest’s work was never finished. The only chair was the Mercy Seat which speaks of Messiah’s finished work. He now rests in what He has accomplished; it is a ‘finished’ work. And from there he invites us to now enter his rest. That becomes an important theme later in this glorious letter.