Lesson One—Hebrews 1:1-4 The Son Of God… Superior to Prophets

In the first seven chapters of this letter it is the Person of the Son of God who is presented to us, displacing all else—the Man in the Glory of God. In the next three chapters we are introduced to the Place where He serves as our High Priest—The Sanctuary of Glory. In the last three chapters it is The Path of Faith that leads to the Glory. To enable us to follow Jesus in the outside place the Lord gives us a sight of Him in the inside place within the veil of heaven.

The Glory of the Son (vv. 1-4)

As soon as our attention is directed to the Son of God, His glory flashes upon us. We gaze upon Him through the opened heavens and notice: first a sevenfold glory encircling His brow (vv. 2, 3), and then sevenfold praise surrounding His Person (vv. 5-14) as God sets Him forth as the Lord of the angels. In seven quotations from the Psalms we follow Him along the pathway of the purpose of God and His triumphal progress is accompanied by a rhapsody of praise. From Bethlehem’s manger to the throne of glory His pathway is marked by the Father’s infinite delight in His Son. Angels wonder as they gaze upon a Man who is their Lord. We worship and adore Him as those who are His companions sharing His glory through infinite grace.

1. The Heir of All Things

The first glory of Christ as displayed here is that of heirship. If He is the Son of God He must be the Heir. Isaac was Abraham’s well beloved son and Abraham gave all that he had to that son. He had laid him on the altar of sacrifice. He was spared the actual experience of laying his hand upon him, but who can fathom the depths of anguish that father endured as he lifted the shining blade ready to plunge it into the heart of his beloved? Received back from the altar to Abraham’s heart and home Isaac is made the heir of all things. Abraham says, “He shall have all things.” And of our Lord we read in John 3:35, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.” Therefore the Son could say, “All things that the Father hath are Mine.” And all that the Son possesses He shares with His loved co-heirs. What wondrous grace!

2. The Creator of the Universe

The second ray of glory takes us back to creation. The Son of God is the Creator of the universe. He made all things. We are told that there are more than twenty million worlds sown through the vast spaces of the universe. Every bit of their illimitable resources is the product of His wisdom and power, and we exclaim, “What glory is Thine, O Lord.”

And not only is the Son the great Architect and Builder of the Universe, He is also the Planner of the Ages. All cycles of time as well as all worlds were made by Him. Not only the vast reaches of infinite space but also the equally vast expanses of infinite time. The mind staggers in seeking to grasp the vastness of the physical universe, but much more overwhelming is the thought of those times and ages through which the purpose of God is gradually unfolding to its glorious climax and consummation. All history is simply “His story,” and at the end of the story, when all is told, we shall read it in the light of the glory; and learn that all was one vast disclosure of love; and that grace triumphed over all the work of the enemy. What a comfort this is in a dark and evil day when evil seems to triumph and the righteous are brought low. Our Lord sitteth o’er the waterfloods directing their course. We have nothing to fear.

3. The Effulgence of God’s Glory

The third ray of glory takes us back into the distant reaches of a past eternity before the pendulum of time began to swing. Christ ever was and now is the outshining of God’s glory. It is displayed in Him and inherent in Him. Effulgence is the word used here. It can also be translated “beam.” The Son of God is the glory of God poured forth like the sun’s rays that greet us in the morning. The sun when it rises drives away the lords of darkness that have ruled the night. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” The darkness is passing, the true Light now shines.

The Son of God created the universe and is to inherit it so that He may fill it with the glory of God. He is the Center and Sun of a vast universe of bliss, where every trace of sin, every bit of darkness will be banished from it forever by the full and blessed display of the glory of God. The believer enjoys that light now; with unveiled faces we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The early church sang of Him,

Hail gladdening Light, of His pure glory poured,
Who is th’ Immortal Father, Heavenly, Blest.

Being judged for sins is with Christ a thing of the past, and so it is for all who are Christ’s. He bore the judgment we deserved. He was judged for our sins, died for our sins, and saved us from the judgment our sins incurred, and assures us that, “He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). For as He is, so are we in this world.

This then is the fruit of God’s perfect love to you, that He has waylaid you by His love, saved you by His grace, and made you as safe as Christ Himself. God could not do more, but His perfect love would not do less.

4. The Revealer of God

As we gaze upon the blessed Person of the Son of God we discover in Him the fourth glory. He is the very impress, the image of God’s being. He is

“God manifest, God seen and heard.”

Since no man hath seen God at any time (John 1:18), how is it possible for us then to know Him? “The only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, HE hath declared Him.”

In Him most perfectly expressed,
The Father’s self doth shine.

Someone said, “I had been converted and trusting in the Lord for months but I had an undefined fear of God. I loved the Lord and could trust Jesus anywhere: but I had an idea that God was a little different from Christ, and thus I could not feel the same confidence in Him. But it’s all different now. I have got hold of Christ as the image of the invisible God, and it has made me happy. I look at Jesus in the thirty-three years of His life here below in this sorrow-stricken, sin-stained world, where He was the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and I say, There is the One who tells me what God is. I remember that scene outside the little town of Nain. A group were wending their way to the village cemetery. That is a sad sight at any time anywhere. But this was especially sad and pitiful, for the one carried to the grave that day was the only son of a poor widow. The Lord Jesus was nigh unto the gate of the city, and when He saw the woman, He had compassion on her. The heart of Jesus was arrested, and then He arrested the funeral. ‘Stop’ said He. And then He said to the sorrowing woman, ‘Weep not.’ And when He had thus said He came and touched the bier, and said to the young man, ‘Arise.’ Now He might have restored that young man without touching him, but that touch told a story of love. Nor did that touch defile. He had God’s relationship to evil. He stood not only apart from the actuality of sin, but from the possibility of it. And then He restored the young man to his mother. How tender, how gracious, how compassionate was the Saviour, and that tender compassionate Man was the blessed, perfect expression of what God is in the very springs of His nature, for God is love” (Dr. Wolston).

We see Christ at the grave of Lazarus. He weeps. His heart was touched with sorrow and sympathetic love. He fully expressed the heart of God. He sighed in communion with the heart of God as He saw what sin had done. He wept in sympathy with the sorrowing sisters. All that God is in the essence of His being and nature is expressed in the words, the sighs, the tears, yes, in every movement of the Man Christ Jesus.

As the impression made by a seal on molten wax is the exact resemblance of that seal, so Christ is the exhibition in His Person of the full character of God, the very expression of His substance, for He is God.

5. His Providential Power

This is the fifth ray of glory. He upholds all things by the word of His power. All things “hang together” by the word of His power. He keeps the universe going. Who could do that but God? But He is God, and whether it be the falling of a sparrow to the ground, or the rotation of the earth on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour as it speeds through space in its tremendous orbit at 1200 miles per minute, it is the same word that regulates all.

Let us consider a simple illustration suggested to Job by Jehovah. “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him which is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:16). Have you ever wondered how water gets into the clouds? If you take a large microscope on a sunny day and focus it on shallow water, you will see some sun-heated, small, thin, filmy vapors shoot up. These vapors form the clouds above, and millions of tons of water are held in place suspended in the heavens by the word of His power. By that same word they empty themselves upon the earth. He lifts up His voice and abundance of waters cover the earth (Job 38:34). By the “word of His power” Peter walked on the stormy deep as if it were solid pavement.

Once a year, the longest day of the year, a crowd gathers at Stonehenge, on the plains of Salisbury, England. A curious group of ancient monoliths, supposed to be of

Druidic origin, are situated there. At some distance from the main group of stones a single stone stands. Early in the morning, just as the sun clears the horizon, the shadow from this isolated stone creeps across the plain but once a year and touches a central stone, supposed to have been an altar, where human sacrifice was offered when the shadow thus fell. The phenomenon of the shadow tip touching the altar just that once each year is due to the perfect timing or synchronization of the rotation of the earth on its axis with its revolution round the sun. Who is the One who thus guides the earth in its motion? What power! What precision! He upholdeth all things by the word of His power.

6. The Purger of Sins

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore how exceedingly wonderful it is that the One to whom is ascribed every attribute of divine power, is the One who in dying put away all our sins. As we gaze at this sixth bright ray of glory we bow in worship.

Gazing on the Lord in glory,
While our hearts in worship bow;
There we read the wondrous story
Of the Cross, its shame and woe.

We have a special interest in the heavens for He who has gone into the glory is the Saviour of sinners. The Man who has opened the heavens to us and who fills them with His glory was on the cross for us. He went to the glory via Calvary where He left all our sins, having put them away once and forever.

If all the sins that men have done,
In will and word, in thought and deed,
Since worlds were framed and time begun,
Were heaped on one poor sinner’s head:
The blood of Jesus Christ alone
Could for that mass of sin atone
And sweep it all away.

He sits enthroned on high as the One who has settled forever the question of our sins.

7. The Lord of Glory

Thus we see the final ray—four times in this epistle we find Him at the right hand of God. He sits there as the Purger of our sins and thus we are cleansed and have access to the Holy Place. He sits there as our Great High Priest and thus He represents us on high and enables us to journey on to the glory. He sits there as the Offerer of the unique sacrifice, in view of complete victory over all His enemies. He sits enthroned as the Author and Finisher of our faith, with the prospect of eternal joy when He shall realize that for which He suffered. And the pearl of His heart’s deep longing shall be seen resplendent in heavenly glory.

The universe exists only as the scene for the display of His glory, and the glory to be displayed soon is revealed to faith now.

Surely He is “better than the angels” and His name is more excellent than theirs (v. 4).

There is no name so sweet on earth,
No other name in heaven,
The matchless Name before His birth
To Christ the Saviour given.

The mention of other names strikes no such response in these hearts of ours as does the name of JESUS.

Jesus of all things Heir, God hath ordained;
All things were made by Him, by Him sustained.
Brightness of glory He, Effulgence of God’s love,
Image of Deity sent from above.

When He had purged our sins with His own blood,
He took His seat at the right hand of God.
There at the Father’s side—the Majesty on High,
He sits who was made man, for man to die!

Angels were praising Him—sang at His birth:
“Glory to God on high, Peace upon earth!”
Angels shall praise again when in the Victor’s train
Heirs of salvation come with Him to reign.

It is said of Samuel Rutherford that the mention of the name of the Lord Jesus would cause him to burst forth in a very rhapsody of praise in which all the glories of the blessed Son of God would be blazoned forth in glowing words. The mention of “The Son” causes the writer of the letter to the Hebrews to burst forth in praise.