Lecture 2 Exposition of Hebrews 1

Exposition of the Book of Hebrews

“Keep Faith in Jesus, Son of God, Great High Priest,

Because He Exceeds All Else”

  1. As we go through the sermon to the Hebrews, we will major on the forest while attempting not losing sight of the trees. We will also learn how to draw a respectable conclusion when faced with an interpretational difficulty.
    1. Keep Faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, because He is a Superior Messenger (1:1-3:6)

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation
    2. Because He is the Heir
    3. Because He Participated in Creation
    4. Because of His Divine Nature
    5. Because of His Priesthood
  2. He is Superior to All Angelic Messengers (1:4-2:18)
    1. Because of His Superior Person and Work (divine) to Angels (1:4-14)
      1. God’s word declares His Sonship (1:5)
      2. God’s word declares angels worship the Son (1:6)
      3. God’s word declares angels are ministers (1:7) but…
      4. God’s word declares the Son is deity (1:8-13)
      5. Conclusion: Angels are mere ministers (1:14)

Warning #1: Pay attention to and do not neglect the clearly-attested salvation offered by the Lord! (2:1-4)

  1. Because of His Superior Person and Work (human) to Angels (2:5-18)
    1. God’s word declares human exaltation over angels (2:5-9).
    2. God’s word declares His human suffering helps His brothers, not angels (2:10-18)
  1. He is Superior to Moses (3:1-4:13)
    1. Because Moses was a Servant and Christ is a Son (3:1-6)

Warning #2 “Do not harden your heart with unbelief and so fail to enter His rest.” (3:7-19)

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  1. Keep Faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, because He is a Superior Messenger (1:1-3:6)

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. *Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)
    2. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
    3. Because He Participated in Creation (1:2c)
    4. Because of His Divine Nature (1:3a)
    5. Because of His Participation in the Creation (1:3b)
    6. Because of His Completed Ministry (1:3c)

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  1. Keep Faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, because He is a Superior Messenger (1:1-3:6)

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)

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Read Heb. 1:1-3:6

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Summary

First, the Son is a superior messenger because of 5 contrasts. (ordered by NKJV)

  1. Unity/Completeness (“various [portions]” [v.1] vs. one “Son” [v.2])
  2. Method (“various ways” [v.1] vs. one “Son” [v.2])
  3. Timing (“long ago”[v.1] vs. “these last days”[v.2])
  4. Recipients (“the fathers” [v.1] vs. “to us” [v.2])
  5. Medium (“the prophets” [v.1] vs. “Son” [v.2])

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Structure

Versus 1-4 make up one sentence. I have divided this section at v. 3 because v. 4 introduces the topic of the superiority of the Son over angels.

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Get the kernel!: God [subject {a noun}] (v1)…has spoken [verb] (v2).

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Exposition

The highlight of the verses is the contrast of “the prophets” vs. “Son.” In the Greek text, there is no article with “Son” (i.e., it is not “the Son” but just “He has spoken to us by ‘Son’”). This stresses the quality of the person of the Son whereas the use of the article (“the”) would have merely differentiated “Son” from the prophets.

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“He’s spoken to us by a Son, wow!”

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Point: None of the prophets were God’s Son. “Son” is superior to any and all prophets. God’s revelation “by [the] Son” is superior in the 5 ways stated above.

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Christ is thus superior to Old Testament revelation.

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  1. Unity/Completeness (“various [portions]” [v.1] vs. one “Son” [v.2])

God did not reveal his word all at once, but he revealed it over a period of centuries. Whenever a prophet spoke, it was always incomplete. The revelation by God was fragmented over the centuries (“various portions”). But now, God has spoken in a unified way, through his one “Son.” God’s revelation through the Son is superior because it is unified in time and complete. It fulfils former revelation.

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  1. Method (“various ways” [v.1] vs. one “Son” [v.2])

Not only at various times, but also God used a variety of methods: rainbow, angels, dreams, a burning bush, and divisions among other “ways.” But now, God used one method: His “Son.” God’s revelation through the Son is superior because it is a unified method.

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  1. Timing (“long ago”[v.1] vs. “these last days”[v.2])

“Long ago” [Lit. “of old”] refers to the centuries before the incarnation. In contrast, “these last days” refers to the time during the incarnation. At the incarnation, the history of salvation entered a new era. You are now in the “last days” (the period of the first coming of the Messiah and the inauguration of the New Covenant) though perhaps not the “end times” (the period of the second coming of the Messiah).

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In the New Covenant we enjoy the fact that the Spirit has been poured out, that God has forgiven sins and given his people a new nature, and the fact that at least someone has already been resurrected and glorified! God’s revelation through the Son is superior because it is recent.

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  1. Recipients (“the fathers” [v.1] vs. “to us” [v.2])

Assuming the Sermon to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers, this would refer to the Jews’ ancestors.

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In contrast, “us” refers to those addressed by the preacher of the sermon, which also includes the preacher. God’s revelation through the Son is superior because it was given to “us.”

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  1. Medium (“the prophets” [v.1] vs. “Son” [v.2])

God spoke to those fathers by the “the prophets.” “The prophets” would refer to the writing prophets, e.g., Moses, David, Isaiah-Malachi. It would also include the non-writing prophets, for example Miriam, Debra, Nathan, and Elijah and Elisha. God’s revelation through the Son is superior because it was through the Son.

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To look at it a different way…

God has spoken

  1. in these last days
  2. to us
  3. by Son

Whereas previously, he spoke

  1. in many portions and in many ways
  2. to the fathers
  3. by the prophets

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Transition: He is superior to OT revelation.

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Upon reading 1:2b-3, you’ll notice 7 phrases describing the Son in Hebrews 1:2b-3.

  • “appointed heir of all things”
  • “through whom also He made the world”
  • “the radiance of His glory”
  • “the exact representation of His nature”
  • “upholds all things by the word of His power”
  • “He had made purification of sins”
  • “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”

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  1. Keep Faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, because He is a Superior Messenger (1:1-3:6)

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)
    2. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
    3. Because He Participated in Creation (1:2c)
    4. Because of His Divine Nature (1:3a)
    5. Because of His Participation in the Creation (1:3b)
    6. Because of His Completed Priestly Ministry (1:3c)

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  1. Keep Faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, because He is a Superior Messenger (1:1-3:6)

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
    • “appointed heir of all things”

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Naturally related to Sonship is the concept of heirship. A son is an heir. But when we think of an “heir” we typically think “a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death.” What did the Son inherit? The Son’s inheritance in context: Heb. 1:8, 13 and probably 1:2, the “worlds.”

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If inheritance is earned upon death, then the Father must die before the Son is entitled to any property. That of course is not true. God is one and indivisible and never changes. This leads us to a very important…

Question: “How is it that the Son can be an heir if not through the death of the Father?”

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This phrase has as its backdrop Christ’s redemptive work. In other words, the Son is the heir because of his redemptive work.

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This is argued by Psalm 2:7-8. Notice the relationship between the declaration that the “Son,” was “begotten” (referring to the resurrection, a redemptive work Acts 13:33), … with Ps. 2:8, “Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession.” So there is a direct connection between the Son’s redemptive work (resurrection) and his inheritance.

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Answer: He is the heir (Psalm 2:8) because he was raised from the dead (Psalm 2:7).

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A major aspect of Christ’s redemptive work in the sermon to the Hebrews is the concept of the Son’s mediatorial roles. These are his roles as Prophet, Priest, and King.

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A mediator is one who comes in between two parties.

  • A prophet represents God to the people (reveals God to the people).
  • A priest represents the people to God (reconciles people to God).
  • A king reigns over the people for God (rules the people for God).

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)
    2. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
    1. Because He Participated in Creation (1:2c)
  • “through whom also He made the worlds”

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“worlds” (lit: “eons” or “ages”) could refer to …

  1. The world (synonymous with kosmos another word for ‘world’ –it can be used this way.
  2. Human history, the vast periods of time along with all that transpires within them and the whole created universe of space and time.

At least this proves that he is deity and is necessarily preexistent and involved in the creation.

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Thus, in the first two phrases, we see that everything will end in Jesus Christ (he is “the heir of all things”) just as everything began in Jesus Christ (“through whom also he made the worlds”). He created it; he gets to keep it.

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B. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)

  1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)
  2. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
  3. Because He Participated in Creation (1:2c)
  1. Because of His Divine Nature (1:3a)

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  • “the radiance of His glory”

See John 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 4:6. This is the “radiant light” of God’s glory or the “effulgence” of God’s splendour. This is similar to the light or radiance of the sun. Just as light streams forth from the sun, so also did the glory of the Father from the incarnate Son, on earth.

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Keep in mind this refers to the glory of God manifested through the perfect humanity taken on by the Son. We have a visible illustration of this in Mark 9:2ff.

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  • “the exact representation of His nature”

The Son is the very stamp of God’s nature. “Stamp” refers to an engraved character made by a die or seal, e.g., a coin.

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Just as there is exact correspondence between the coin and its die, so also is there an exact correspondence between the Father and the Son.

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This correspondence involves…

  • the Son’s identity as God in flesh
    • Exact representation of His nature. Thus he is God. Its exact.

…as well as …

  • the Son as a trustworthy revelation of the Father.
    • Son in flesh represents exactly the Father’s nature. The Son in flesh reveals the Father to the point of saying John 14:9.

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A. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)

  1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)
  2. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
  3. Because He Participated in Creation (1:2c)
  4. Because of His Divine Nature (1:3a)
  5. Because of His Participation in the Creation (1:3b)

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  • “upholds all things by the word of His power”

After participating in the creation of the world (1:2c), he continues to participate. He sustains everything by his powerful word. This refers to both his…

  1. Present support (space: constant cohesion)

Read Colossians 1:16-17. Christ is the principle of cohesion in the universe. He makes it a cosmos instead of a chaos (A. H. Strong, ST, 311).

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As well as his…

  1. Predetermined consummation (time: onward movement)

God is directing all things to their determined end. Daniel 11:27

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B. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)

  1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation (1:1-2a)
  2. Because He is the Heir (1:2b)
  3. Because He Participated in Creation (1:2c)
  4. Because of His Divine Nature (1:3a)
  5. Because of His Participation in the Creation (1:3b)
  6. Because of His Completed Priestly Ministry (1:3c)

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  • “He had made purification of sins”

NKJV: “He had by Himself purged our sins”

Previous to sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Jesus “made purification of sins.” What does “purification” mean? kaqarismo,j

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The word for purification has deep roots within the Old Testament sacrificial system. It is deeply tied to the sanctuary.

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It occurs in: Mark 1:44; Luke 2:22; 5:14; John 2:6; 3:25.

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What are we talking about?

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Options:

  1. A synonym for atonement or reconciliation.
    1. Does it refer to the overall saving effect of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?
  2. The cleansing of the conscience.
    1. Used in Hebrews 9:14. However, the reference there is to “dead works” not sin or guilt.
  3. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary by Jesus’ blood following his ascension and previous to his installation as the King/priest at God’s right hand (see next phrase in Heb. 1:3).
    1. The preacher to the Hebrews refers to the necessity of heavenly things being purified with better sacrifices than those used to purify the earthly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:23). Just as the earthly sanctuary was purified from contamination by human sin, so also the heavenly sanctuary was purified by Jesus Christ with his own blood.

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Question: What is the connection then between sin and the sanctuary? And why did the heavenly sanctuary need to be cleansed?

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Answer: When an Israelite sinned, he was made guilty and he also defiled the sanctuary. When offering a sacrifice for sin (a sin offering or a purification offering) he obtained forgiveness and purified the sanctuary.

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With this in mind, Hebrews 1:3 refers to Jesus purification of the heavenly sanctuary by the sprinkling of his blood. See Hebrews 9:12; 12:24. We are not told why the heavenly sanctuary needs purification. But we do know that every trace of sin in the heavenly sanctuary has been removed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

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  • “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”

    After making purification for sins, he ascended up into heaven and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This is a clear reference to Psalm 110:1. In fact, let’s read Psalm 110.

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    The preacher to the Hebrews will continue both of these topics (purification; standing) in later chapters. This is a clear contrast to the Levitical priests who stood every day performing their sacrifices. These sacrifices never cleanse the conscience. But Jesus, after making purification for sin, he took his seat at the right hand of God.

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  1. Keep Faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, because He is a Superior Messenger (1:1-3:6)

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  1. He is Superior to All Human Messengers (1:1-1:3)
    1. Because of 5 contrasts with OT revelation
    2. Because He is the Heir
    3. Because He Participated in Creation
    4. Because of His Divine Nature
    5. Because of His Participation in the Creation
    6. Because of His Priesthood

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  1. He is Superior to All Angelic Messengers (1:4-2:18)

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Why discussing angels? Deut 33:2. The Torah was given to Moses through angels. To say that Jesus is superior to angels is to say that Jesus is superior to all previous messengers and messages from God.

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  1. Because He has a Superior Person and Work (divine) to Angels (1:4-14)

    INTRO: Hebrews 1:4 serves as an introduction to this section, 1:4-14. Notice the hook word “angels.” Angels are mentioned in both verse four and in verse five. Clearly, he is introducing a new topic that contrasts angels with the Son.

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    But getting to the authors immediate point…

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    Why is the Son superior to the angels?

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    Because, 1:4, he has “inherited” a better “name” than they have.

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    Better: This is the first of 13 occurrences of this word (“better name”). Heb 1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:11, 23; 10:1, 34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24; 13:21. It is a keyword in the epistle and thus a key concept especially as it refers to the Son.

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    Note that the Son has “become” superior to the angels (see nkjv) because he has “inherited” a better name. His inheritance is his more excellent “name.” To the Hebrew mind, this name signifies his character and position, not the letters that make up his title.

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    Thus, the Son is better because he has inherited a more excellent character and position than the angels.

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    Recall that the Son is

    • the “heir of all things.”

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    Remember too that He is the heir because he was raised from the dead. Therefore, he also “inherited a more excellent name” (v. 4) through the resurrection as well. Through the resurrection, Jesus is the heir and its through the resurrection that Jesus inherited a more excellent name.

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    The connection here is made in Psalm 2:7, where the psalmist ties in the resurrection with Christ’s position as “Son.” Through the resurrection, Christ inherited the name “Son.”

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    Question: Wasn’t he “Son” (name) before the foundation of the world? Yes, but we’re dealing with an inheritance. Again, his name is his character and position. Now, having been raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand, he has inherited position unknown before the resurrection.

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    1. God’s word declares His Sonship (1:5)

    Hebrews 1:5-14 consists of seven quotations from the Old Testament, primarily the Psalms, in order to support the point found in 1:4: Jesus is superior to the angels because of his superior name, which he inherited.

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    You can see in the verses that the author focuses on the word “Son” thus he focuses on His superior character and position as “Son.”

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Hebrews 1:5 has two quotations. One is Psalm 2:7 and the other is 2 Samuel 7:14. Notice the use of the pronouns.

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  • Psalm 2:7. With a rhetorical question, “for to which of the angels did God ever say,” the author is expecting an answer. “None.” “Have you ever heard about God raising an angel from the dead? He did it for the Son.”
  • 2 Samuel 7:14; cf. also 1 Chronicles 17:13 and Psalm 89:27. It is a statement from Nathan regarding the royal Son of David. It originally referred to Solomon, but it clearly finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. The pronouns stress the personal relationship between the Father and the Son (you, me, I).

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Review: Keep the faith because the Son is superior to all angelic messengers due to his superior name because God’s word declares him to be “Son.” Also because…

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  1. God’s word declares angels worship the Son (1:6)

The preacher continues his argument that the Son is superior to all angelic messengers because of his superior name. In 1:7, he combines two themes from Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 97:7. See also Psalm 65:4.

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“Again” (“But when he again”) either refers to

  • an introduction, as a connector between previous quotation and present quotation (“Again [let me say something else], but when he brings”)

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  • “again” refers to another time when he “brings the firstborn into the world.” So it would read, “when he brings the firstborn into the world again.” (a second time).

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Therefore, this is either referring to the first or second Advent. I prefer the second coming because Hebrews 2:5 clearly refers to the world yet to come. Either way, the point is that …

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the angels are required to worship the Son. Thus the Son is superior to all angelic messengers because angels worship the Son.

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  1. God’s word declares angels are ministers (1:7) but…

A quotation from Psalm 104:4. This verse clearly ties in with 1:8. “On the one hand (1:7) but on the other hand (1:8).”

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Two points are contrasted.

  • Clearly, angels as ministers or servants (v.7) are contrasted with the Son who is addressed as “God.” (v8)
  • The word “spirit” can also be translated as “wind.” The wind is transitory (v.7), but the throne of God lasts for ever (v.8).

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  1. God’s word declares the Son is deity (1:8-13)

    Hebrews 1:8-13 present Old Testament quotations proving that God’s word declares that the Son is God. Hebrews 1:8-9 is a quotation from Psalm 45:6-7.

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    This psalm was originally written to celebrate the marriage of the King. Clearly, the addressee of verse six is a King. Note the context (esp. v.1). The King is called “God.” Clearly, we have a reference to the messianic, Davidic King. [God is addressed v. 6. and verse 7 God has a God!]

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    The preacher’s major point is that the reign of the Son is eternal and exalted above all others (Heb. 1:9 “beyond your companions”). It goes like this: Because the messianic King has loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, the Father has anointed (lit. “Christ-ed) the Son with the oil of gladness, a reference to the anointing of a King previous to the beginning of his reign. His gladness would refer back to the duration of his reign, that it is “eternal.”

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    Thus we have God the Father anointing God the Son. Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life and therefore he is now positioned at the Father’s right hand above every creature.

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    Hebrews 1:10-12 comes from Psalm 102:25-27. This brings us back to the concept of the Son as an agent in creation (v. 10) as well as his eternal nature (v. 12).

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    Clearly, the preacher’s point is that the “LORD” referred to here is the Lord Jesus Christ. Since he has already proven that the Son was involved in creation, and since the word “LORD” is often used to refer to Jesus, the author sees no reason to offer additional proof. If the Son was an agent in creation, then he also did… Heb. 1:10…. “laid the foundation of the earth.” And so, unlike the angels, the Son will remain and stay the same; his years have no end.

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    But, Hebrews 1:13, a contrast. He quotes Psalm 110:1, which was alluded to in 1:3. In good sermonic form, the preacher again asks the same rhetorical question found in 1:5 “to which of the angels did God ever say….”

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    This is the most often quoted verse in the New Testament. The “right hand” often refers to a place of blessing and honour.

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    In Psalm 110, Yahweh says to my “Adonai” (Lord) “Sit at my right hand…” Thus Yahweh has said this to the Son, not to any angel. Thus, the Son gets the place of blessing and honour, not an angel.

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  2. Conclusion: Angels are mere ministers, don’t you think? (1:14)

    Heb. 1:14 stated in the form of the question brings it home to the listeners. Questions really make things settle in the heart more.

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    “So,” says the preacher, “don’t you think then that they are all just ministering (transitory) spirits?” But the Son is forever! Persevere!

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Recap: Point of Chapter 1

The preacher is preaching to Christians who are tempted to abandon the faith.

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“Do not abandon faith in Jesus, because the Son is a superior messenger! He is better than any human or angelic messenger. God spoke through the Son in one period of time and in one way, not ‘long ago’ like the prophets, but in these ‘last days.’ And he has spoken to us!

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Look, the Son is superior because he is the heir of everything. He participated in creation, he has the divine nature, he continues to participate in creation, and he has completed his priestly ministry. He has also inherited a superior character and position than the angels

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