Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The God-Man (Hebrew 1:10-14)

"To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”?" (Hebrews 1:13).

Let’s review the argument in Hebrews 1. The Jews had seen Jesus as He walked the hills of Palestine, and they knew that He was a man. The Christians claimed that He was also God, the Son of God, the everlasting King, and the final revelation of God to man. The Christians claimed that Jesus’ message fulfilled and completed the revelation given by angels in the Old Testament.

The author of Hebrews wants to strengthen the faith of Jewish converts. He does this by pointing to an ambiguity in the psalms and resolving that ambiguity. Psalms 2 and 45, for example, speak of the Davidic king as the begotten son of God, as a god who represents God, and as ruling on a perpetual throne in perfect righteousness. No king however, has ruled perfectly, and a perpetual throne looks suspiciously like the throne of God Himself. Thus, these Psalms have a double reference: First a provisional reference to the Davidic kings, and then a definitive reference to the Messiah who must be god in a greater sense.

He then points out that the permanent, imperishable throne is always God’s own throne, quoting from Psalm 102 to make this point. There is nothing ambiguous in Psalm 102, but how does it relate to the man Jesus Christ who lived in Nazareth and Galilee?

He answers that question by quoting from Psalm 110:1. Behind the human throne in Israel stood the throne of God. Yet this throne was occupied by a divine Master who had God behind Him as well. Here is the imperishable divine throne. But, the human throne in Psalm 45 is going to be perpetual also. Thus, for both of these things to be true, God must become man. We have to have a God-man who brings both thrones together.

Otherwise, the Old Testament is contradictory and is not a true word from angels or anyone else. But if the Old Testament is the true word from angels, it reveals that some second person of God, the Master of Psalm 110:1, is going to become man and be elevated to be the Son of God, ruling on a perpetual divine-human throne. If the Jews deny the Christian message, they cannot have the Old Testament either. If they accept the Old Testament, they will have to become Christians.

The angels were pointing to a throne that would be both divine and human. The human son-king of Israel would be joined to the divine Son of God. The revelation given by the angels served Him and His purposes. No wonder they worshiped Him (Hebrews 1:6). In awe and reverence do the same.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Everlasting Son (Hebrews 1:10-14)

"You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end" (Hebrews 1:12).

The author of Hebrews makes a very bold move in Hebrews 1:10–12. We have seen that the human king in Psalm 45 is said to have a throne that lasts forever. Yet no Davidic king ever measured up to the mark of perfection required to maintain that throne. Thus, the psalm implied that a perfect king was going to come. But the author of Hebrews draws out another point as well. Since the throne is everlasting, we really need an everlasting man to sit on it. A succession of kings won’t do. Thus, Psalm 45 really pointed forward to the incarnation of the Son of God Himself to be that king.

Now the author takes up the idea of an everlasting throne and quotes verses from Psalm 102 that refers directly to God Himself (Psalm 102:25–27; Hebrews 1:10–12). The everlasting throne of God stands in marked contrast to all created things, both heaven and earth. Remember that Genesis 1:1 says that God created two spheres of existence: heaven and earth. Heaven is the abode of the wonderful angels, but it still exists in time and history. Heaven itself will undergo a change, as will the earth, but the eternal throne of God will never change.

Here is the argument: The messianic King will sit on an everlasting throne (Psalm 45). Therefore, He must be God Himself. God and His throne can never change, but the created universe undergoes history, development, and change, and is headed for a big transformation (Psalm 102). Angels are part of that world of change and history, but the Son’s throne is not. Thus, the words spoken by angels can be superseded, but the Word of the Son is final and definitive.

Now the author clinches his argument with a reference to Psalm 110. In Psalm 110, David addresses a King who is the True King of Israel under God: “Yahweh says to my Master, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’ ” (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13). Here is a divine throne with a divine figure seated on it. God never spoke these words to angels, nor ever to a mere man. Any Jew who claimed to believe the Old Testament would have to grant that the Son is superior to angels.

That His throne is everlasting should fill us with awe and wonder, leading us to worship. Be comforted also in this, that the everlasting throne is not subject to decay or rebellion. We can trust in it now and forever more.

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Only Begotten Son (Hebrews 1:1-9)

"For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are My Son; today I have begotten You”? Or again, “I will be His Father, and He will be My Son”? (Hebrews 1:5).

In the early church, numerous heresies arose to challenge the deity of Jesus Christ. As the church responded, she eventually came to formulate the biblical teaching about the second person of the Trinity in this manner: The Son is eternally begotten by the Father. He is equal to the Father, but He is called a Son, and the Bible speaks of His being begotten. God exists in eternity, so there was never a “time” when the Son did not exist. Begetting is not an event in time but simply a condition in eternity. The Son is eternally mature and equal to the Father and also eternally begotten by the Father—and this is a mystery to us because we cannot imagine a timeless state.

The church pointed to statements like Hebrews 1:5 for support. Hebrews 1:5 does not refer, however, to the eternal sonship of Christ (though it can be seen to imply that doctrine). Rather, being begotten as a Son of God is a messianic idea. When a man was anointed as king, he was said to be adopted and begotten by that nation’s god. The same idea, in its pure form, exists in the Old Testament in the Davidic kingship. Thus, when Psalm 2 says that God has begotten the Davidic son-king on this day, it means the day that the son was crowned king. In the context of Hebrews 1:3, which says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, it seems that it is Christ’s ascension and session as King of kings that is meant by the day of His being begotten.

Hebrews 1:6 says that when God brought Jesus into the world, at His incarnation, He commanded the angels to worship Him (as everyone knows from the Christmas story). Thus, there is a sense in which Christ was begotten by the Father in the womb of Mary at His incarnation. Also, at His baptism the Father declared Jesus to be His Son. But the fullness of that messianic sonship arrived when Jesus was crowned in heaven at His ascension.

Other kings were adopted by God and thus begotten by Him in the sense of being His sons. The eternal Son, however, created the world and is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:2–3), and thus is begotten by God without being adopted. This points us to the concept of the eternally begotten Son, the only begotten Son.

We’re in pretty deep theological waters in these early verses of Hebrews. Read Hebrews 5:11–14 for clarity and evaluate yourself. Then reread today’s lesson and contemplate God’s truth. Don’t expect to understand everything, however, because there is mystery here.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Greatness of the Son (Hebrews 1:1-9)

"So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs" (Hebrews 1:4).

The author of Hebrews is concerned to establish the full authority of God’s revelation through Jesus Christ, especially the new covenant. He has pointed out that Jesus is the very Son of God, and the perfect embodiment of God’s revelation. Now he begins to argue that point from the Old Testament.

Angels mediated between God and man before Christ, especially the Angel of the LORD, who was a preincarnate manifestation of the Son of God. Angels were present at Mount Sinai and frequently brought God’s Word to man (Hebrews 2:2). Although man was created as God’s image, and thus higher than the angels, his fall took him to a lower place. The author of Hebrews needs to establish that the Son is higher than the angels, and that the words spoken by the Son supersede (without contradicting) the words spoken by the angels at Mount Sinai.

He does this by saying that the Son has a more excellent name than the angels, the name Son. Now, in the Old Testament angels are called sons of God, as in Job 1 and 2. Never, however, is any angel called the Son of God. It is clear that angels (and also men) are sons of God in a created sense, but only the second person of the Trinity is the Son of God in an eternal sense.

The author quotes from Psalm 2, where God says to the messianic King, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (Psalm 2:7). This might be said of David or Solomon, but never in a full sense. The Jews knew from reading the Psalms that there was a King spoken of there who had absolute power and before whom all nations would bow permanently. They knew that David’s kingship was only a foreshadowing of this greater kingship. Thus, they knew that the person addressed in Psalm 2:7 was not David and was not an angel. The author of Hebrews argues that it is the Messiah.

Similarly, in 2 Samuel 7:14 God told David that He would be Father to David’s greater son to come. This can refer only partially to Solomon since Solomon was a sinner. No, the full reference has to be to a non-angel who is to come, and who is the Son of God in the fullest sense.

A favorite method of reasoning used by the writer of Hebrews is to argue “from the lesser to the greater.” Verse 4 is an example. If angels are great (and these believers knew they are), how much greater is Christ Jesus. Reflect on the surpassing greatness of His name, work, and power.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Greatness of the Son (Hebrews 1:1-4)

"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" (Hebrews 1:3).

Hebrews 1:2–3 list seven excellencies of the Son. We looked at two on Monday: (1) the Son is the heir of all things God has made, and (2) the Son made the universe in the beginning.

Third, Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory. Glory is the visible manifestation of God’s own essence. Glory is what shines forth from God. Here the idea is that the Son is the shining that comes from the Father. God cannot help but be glorious, and so He inevitably shines forth. That eternal shining is the Son of God. Unlike the shining of the created things, however, God shining is a second person.

Fourth, the Son is the exact representation of God’s being. Human beings are the created images of God, but the Son is an exact, uncreated image of God the Father. Being fully God, the Son is an absolutely authentic representation of God’s being. Thus, there cannot be any higher authority than words spoken by the Son. There is, in a sense, no need for us to see the Father because the Son perfectly represents Him.

Fifth, the Son sustains all things by His powerful Word. The Son is the Father’s eternal Word, and that uncreated Word aspect of the Son knits the created universe together.

Sixth, the Son has provided purification for sins. This will be a major theme in Hebrews. In the Levitical law, the specific idea of impurity was this: Sin caused impurity, and impurity put a barrier between the sinner and God. God would not allow anyone to draw near to Him until he had been cleansed of impurity. The Son has taken away impurity once and for all, removed the barrier, and given us access to God.

Seventh, the Son has been enthroned at the right hand of the heavenly Majesty. His entrance to the throne is proof that the barrier caused by impurity has been removed.

These seven glories are a literary structure. One and seven are linked, the Son as Heir and King; two and six are linked, the Son as Creator and Recreator (Purifier); three and five are linked, the Son as the Glory-radiance of God that sustains all. Central is number four: the Son as exact copy of the Father.

Copy and memorize the seven wonders of the Son. Reflect on the arrangement of these seven descriptive phrases. Imagine the radiance of God’s glory pervading and sustaining the universe. Consider how the central phrase relates to the two outermost phrases. This will help you see why God so structured this passage.