1 In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; 2 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. 3 He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.
So, with just a few strokes of his pen, the author establishes that what God has done in Jesus is the center of the center. First notice the contrast that he sets up between God speaking in the past, and God now speaking in Jesus:
In many and various ways ------------ Only one way
of old -------------------------------------- in these last days
to our fathers ---------------------------- to us
by the prophets ------------------------- by [his] Son
The one thing that has remained consistent is that the God who is, is a God who speaks. He is not a God who remains silent, or who waits for us to come towards Him. Instead, He is a God who addresses us first, who opens up the communication.
But the point the author seeks to drive home here is that in Christ, the way that God speaks is unique from all that came before. The Son is not just one more prophet, even the greatest of all the prophets. His coming as God’s word is amazing and distinctive and it ushers in, not just a new age, but the final age, the “last days”. Something truly cataclysmic has occurred, and nothing will ever be the same again.
So, what is so unique, so superior in God’s speaking by, or in, His Son? Well, the author tells his readers with a few rich and succinct statements. Let’s go through these, one phrase at a time. First the author tells us that this Son by whom God spoke is God’s appointed heir of all things and is the One through whom all was created. The Greek word that here is translated “world” actually encompasses more than our earth. It includes all things and is similar to Paul’s statement in Col. 1:16 . We see here that this Son has a unique relationship then to all of creation. The Word that God speaks to us in the Son is the Word through whom all things are created, including time, space and material creation. The Word addressed to us in the Son comes to us from outside of creation, and is intimately connected to us—He is our beginning and our end. The Son is not created or made, but the one through whom everything else that is, has come into existence. The Son exists eternally as does God the Father.
Having spoken of the Son’s relationship with creation then, the author turns to describing the relationship of the Son with God Himself. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe (lit. all) by his word of power. Notice that the verb tenses here are all present tense, which indicates continuing action or being. In speaking then, of His relationship with God, the author is speaking of Who the Son essentially is in His being. And who He is cannot be separated from the being of God Himself.
The Greek that is translated here “He reflects the glory of God” is more literally, “who being the radiance or brightness of the glory”. The Son doesn’t just reflect God’s glory, He is the actual shining forth, the visible radiance of the glory that is God. Here, in the Son, we see the very gloriousness of God—here and only here, in the Son, is where the glory that is the essence of God shines forth.
The second phrase is not a change of topic, but a filling out of the first. The literal Greek is “the character of the reality of him”. The Son is the “wholly valid revelation of this transcendent reality of God” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. VIII, p. 585). The word translated here “character” or “stamp” is a word that refers to a tool for engraving. The transcendent reality of God is here engraved or stamped in the Son; He is the exact likeness of God.
The last phrase here, upholding the universe (lit. all) by his word of power, speaks of the present action of this Son. He is currently, continually upholding all that has been created. Of what prophet could this be said? Of what created being? This word, spoken in these last days in the Son, is Himself continually at work in creation. Nothing continues, nothing exists apart from His working. He is not upheld, but like God the Father is the one who upholds the whole universe.
Now we can see more clearly why God speaking in His Son is so very different from all the times and ways He spoke before. All of what was spoken by the prophets was revelation about God. Now, in the Son—we have the self-revelation of God. What the prophets gave us were signs, Jesus is the reality. The eternal God is speaking Himself into the world He has created! This is truly astonishing. God has not sent someone else to tell us more about Him. He has come Himself.
Theologian Thomas F. Torrance writes, “When we look into the face of Jesus Christ and see there the very face of God, we know we have not seen and cannot see God anywhere else or in any other way but in him for he is God himself become human, and there is no God except the God who has come and meets us in Jesus.”
When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Now, having established the wonderful nature of this Word, the author speaks of what the Son has accomplished. The verb tenses have changed again—this time to indicate completed action. The author is telling his readers even more about the uniqueness of this word. This word, spoken in these last days to us by the Son, has the effect of purification, or cleansing of sin. And this cleansing has been completed in the Son, its fulfillment signified by His now being seated at the right hand of the Father. There is a movement that this self-revelation of God goes through, a development that reaches completion. This word is effective in our lives to purify and enable us to draw near to God.
This idea of a development or movement occurring in the Son’s being spoken into creation continues in the last verse of this section: having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. This may seem odd to us at first. Isn’t the Son of God already superior? And how does He inherit a name that is superior to the name of angels if He already was the Son of God?
Actually, this statement will be developed through the rest of the book of Hebrews, so we cannot fully answer these questions now. But we can say a few things. The Son, when He becomes the word spoken in these last days, becomes incarnate. He assumes human flesh in order to be truly spoken into our fallen world, into actual time and space. It is as the word made flesh, as the Son of God and Son of Man that He accomplishes the cleansing of our sins. And the process that He goes through, this incarnation in order to speak the self-revealing of God, leads to His exaltation, now as this incarnate Son.
What does all this mean? It reveals to us that the God who is, is a God who is not content to be without us. He not only tells us about Himself in the prophets, but He Himself meets us, gives Himself to us for our healing in His Son. Jesus, as the word spoken in the Son, stands uniquely alone as God’s first and last word to us. God has Himself addressed us in the person of Jesus. What word that any prophet has ever spoken add to this word of redemption to us? In Jesus we meet the invisible eternal creator God, in person, in time and space, in flesh and blood. In Jesus we meet and hear and watch God himself face to face.
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