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Hebrews 1:1-1:3
Key Verse: 1:3a

At the beginning of this letter the author wrote, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son.” God spoke, so now we have the written words of the Bible. The Son was the focal point of all the words God spoke through the prophets, which were God’s revelation for the salvation of mankind. The Son Jesus himself came into this world as the fulfillment of the prophecies. God also spoke through the Son. Jesus the Son spoke proclaiming the completed message of salvation. He spoke distinctly, revealing himself and so revealing God the Father. And he said that knowing the Father and the Son is eternal life. His words are final and complete for the salvation of mankind. Furthermore, his life fully supported the truthfulness of his words, particularly the events of his death and resurrection. Thus, Jesus is the full and final revelation of God.

The author wrote, “In these last days he has spoken to us through the Son.” Then the writer immediately tells us who the Son is. In the subsequent section, the author clearly and extensively states seven aspects of who the Son is.

Let’s read verses 2-3. “But in these last days he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

First, Jesus is the heir of all things. God appointed the Son heir of all things. A son is different from a servant. A servant, even if he is excellent and works hard, can never become an heir. However, a son inherits his father’s estate on the basis of his sonship. In this world heirship matters. In a family who the heir is is critical. In a kingly line who the heir is is the whole concern. It truly matters. The heir holds the right to future access to all one’s power and wealth. Here Jesus, as the Son, was appointed heir of all things by God the Father. All things include people, riches, honour and glory and power of his kingdom in heaven and on earth. In Jesus’ parable of the tenants, when God finally sent his Son after sending many of his servants, the tenants, who represented the Jews and broadly all mankind, said, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours” (Mk 12:7; Mt 21:38; Lk 20:8). So, they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Yet, they could not rid him of his heirship. God would raise him up. So, in the parable Jesus spoke, quoting the words of Psalms, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” No one would take his heirship away. At Jesus’ time the world was the Roman world to the eyes of the people of the world. The Romans persecuted Christians confiscating their property (Heb 10:34) with the power of the empire. Yet, that was temporal. It is written in Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ…” We must know that he is heir of all things absolutely, for God appointed him to be so.

It is amazing that we believers are co-heirs with him, for we are God’s children. This is written again and again in the New Testament. Romans 8:17 says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” And in Galatians 4:7, “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” And in Ephesians 3:6, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel…in Christ Jesus.” And Titus 3:7 says, “so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” John Trapp, a 17th century Puritan Bible scholar, said, “Be married to this heir and have all.”

Second, Jesus is the Creator of the universe. In verse 2, “…his Son…through whom he made the universe.” The Son was appointed heir of all things. However, virtually he is the Creator. God the Father made the universe through him. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And According to John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” As we studied, Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” But it is notable here that through him God made the universe, which surely means that God the Father and the Son worked together for the work of creation. This is a very unique expression in the Bible, which is obviously true. From the beginning, the Father and the Son worked together. Later, in John 5:16, when the Jews persecuted him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” And the author used the word “universe,” a more realistic and sensible term than “heaven and earth”, as it is written again in 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command…” The formation and existence of the vast universe, which is still expanding faster than the speed of the light, have been made possible because of him.

These days many people think the universe and their lives are random and without meaning. Yet they cannot avoid the inner cry of the human heart, “Who am I? Why do I live? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” They suffer from meaninglessness, loneliness, disorientation and despair. But when we believe that Jesus created the universe, including our lives, we find the meaning and purpose of our life in him and the meaning and purpose of all created things. We can see the harmony in God’s world, and know that I am standing on this planet with an absolute purpose of life which no one can deprive me of, and live beautiful and fruitful life for his glory.

Third, Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. In verse 3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory…” According to 1 John 1:5, “God is light.” 1 Timothy 6:15 says, “He lives in unapproachable light.” Psalm 104:2a says, “The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment….” To the Hebrew people, God’s glory was an outward and visible expression of the majesty of the presence of God. When the Law was given at Mt. Sinai, the glory of the Lord settled on the mountain. And when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of the Testimony in his hands, his face was radiant although he himself was not aware of it. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw this, they were afraid to come to hear him. So, Moses put a veil over his face (34:29-33). John wrote in John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Although he is originally God, he came in flesh with all the glory of God hidden in him. We cannot look into the sun directly, or we will go blind. Likewise, we cannot see God. If we see God we will die (Ex 33:20). Some people say, “Show me God and I will believe.” They do not realize they will die. However, as we can enjoy the light and warmth of the sun as God intended, so we can enjoy God’s light through Jesus, who is the radiance of God’s glory. This is why the Nicene Creed describes Jesus as “Light of Light.” While on earth, Jesus repeatedly said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12; 9:5). And he promised, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

Yet simply because he was not radiant outwardly in shabby clothes with no beauty or majesty to attract people to him, he was despised and rejected. When he spoke to his disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection and about the way of discipleship – to deny oneself and take up his cross – his disciples did not listen to him. Then he took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Then a voice came, “This is my Son…Listen to him.” They fell facedown to the ground, terrified (Mt 17:2-6). In Revelation, when John saw the Risen Christ whose head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and whose eyes were like blazing fire, whose feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, whose voice was like the sound of the rushing waters, and whose face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance, John fell at his feet as though dead (Rev 1:12-17). Then what a grace it is that he lowered himself to the point of becoming our friend, yet still reflecting God’s glory. He gently speaks to us in the written words of the Bible, letting us know God’s glory. There is a hymn song which goes, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim; In the light of His glory and grace” (Hymn 327 in “Sing to the LORD”).

Fourth, Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being. In verse 3 where it says, “…and is the exact representation of his being…” the verbal form of the words “exact representation” means “to engrave.” In other translations, it is “the exact imprint of God’s very nature” (ESV, NRSV) or “stamped with God’s nature” (MSG). Just as the image on a coin exactly corresponds to its stamp, so the Son of God bears the very stamp of God’s nature. Jesus is not merely an image or reflection of God. He is the absolute authentic representation of God’s being, because he himself is God. In John 14, When Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us”, Jesus answered, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Through his life on earth he revealed who God the Father really is, compassionate and gracious, holy and righteous, and powerful and almighty. When Jesus saw a man with leprosy, he was filled with compassion and reached out his hand and touched him and healed with a single command (Mk 1:41). When he raised a dead young man from the coffin, the people were filled with awe and praised God, saying, “God has come to help his people” (Lk 7:14-16). He healed a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath before the watchful eyes of legalistic vicious Pharisees. Then Matthew wrote quoting the words of Isaiah, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope” (Mt 12:20-21). He exposed his righteous anger toward crooked and devious religious leaders. Out of holy anger he cleared the temple, driving out all who were buying and selling and overturning the tables of money-changers. He rejoiced when he found one lost sinner sitting on a sycamore-fig tree, who welcomed him, showing his true repentance on his way to Jerusalem. He wept and lamented over unbelieving Jerusalem. He fed the five thousand with five loves and two fish. He calmed the storm, even sleeping in the storm of the sea. He walked on the water. He showed his transcendental knowledge and Lordship as he needed a donkey to ride on at the entry to Jerusalem, When he was arrested, he seemed to be helpless. But at his word, “I am he”, a detachment of soldiers drew back and fell to the ground (Jn 18:6). He was crucified and killed, but he rose again. His life on earth was the complete revealing of Gods’ being, the very being of the only true God. Apart from him there is no God. With him there is the fullness of God. The Son and the Father cannot be separated; they are one. So the Nicene Creed described Jesus as “very God of very God.”

Fifth, Jesus is the sustainer of all things. In verse 3, the words “…sustaining all things with his powerful word” is also a very unique specific expression in the Bible. How can all things be sustained? We know that even taking care of a garden is not easy. Our condo superintendent seems to be very busy every day. The Greek mythical figure Atlas held the whole world on his shoulders. It was so heavy that he could not do anything except standing there. However, Jesus dynamically holds together all that has been made through him. In Colossians 1:17, “…in him all things hold together.” According to physicists, gravity holds everything in the universe together. Jesus is that gravity which holds everything together through his words. Deists claim that God is like an engineer who wound up his creation and let it run, as if he stepped away and is now disengaged. But Jesus is actively involved in his universe, engaging in sustaining it every moment. And his sustaining power is in his word, as the universe was formed by his word of command. He not only created but also sustains all things by the word of his power. Both the earth and the whole universe operates because of hism. Furthermore, each human being’s life is sustained by him. Each day comes because of his sustaining power.

He sustains both physically and spiritually. We call this God’s providence. He is the head of the church (Col 1:18). According to 1 Peter 5, “We through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation.” And Jesus said in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” We thank God for his providence, his moment by moment sustenance through his powerful word.

Sixth, Jesus is the provider of purification for sins. In verse 4 it says, “After he had provided purification for sins…” This is a concise description of the main work of his life on earth. The way to provide purification for sins was through his death. He died for man’s sins. This was the very purpose of his coming in flesh into this world. “He had provided purification for sins” is the most important work among all the works of the Son, although this is written in an incomplete sentence, without main clause. Purification from sin is the Levitical expression related to forgiveness of our sins and cleansing of our guilty conscience through his shed blood. In the Old Testament, numerous animals were sacrificed to provide outer purification. But the Son Jesus provided inner purification, inner cleansing through his own sacrifice. Purification from sins is the most needed thing for all sinful mankind to stand before the holy God, and he is the provider of the purification for sins. This is one key concept of the book of Hebrews. With our sins we can come to no one, but to him. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Seventh, Jesus is the Sovereign Ruler. Verse 4 continues, “…He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” God was pleased with Jesus’ humiliation and suffering for our sins. So God exalted Jesus to eternal glory at God’s right hand. Certainly, it is through his resurrection and ascension. He is the King. His throne is not on earth, but in heaven at present. This is as Jesus said to Pilate at his trial, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (Jn 18:36). This expression, “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”, or its similarity, is written three more times in Hebrews: In 8:1, “…We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven”, in 10:12, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” and in 12:3, “…For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords as Revelation 19:16 says, “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” His throne will be visible even on earth as his time as the kingdom of this world will have become his kingdom (Rev. 11;15).

So far we have seen the wonderful description of Jesus’ deity in verses 2 and 3. Jesus is the Son of God who is the heir of all things, Creator of the universe, the sustainer of all things, the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his being. This Jesus came into the world to save us from eternal condemnation. He died on the cross to purify us from our sins. God raised him from the dead and exalted him as the Sovereign Ruler. He is our Saviour and Lord. He is incomparable and matchless in this world. May we treasure him in our hearts and seek him through his words every day. May we hold fast to him, adore him, and serve him with all our being and devotion for his kingdom.

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