Notes on Hebrews
The key phrase of the Epistle to the Hebrews is found in the words, “So much better” (Chap. 1:4). The Epistle outlines the spiritual significance and yet the inadequacy of the Old Testament covenant, and shows the superiority of its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This divine treatise, for such it is, may be logically divided into four distinct sections: the excellency of His person (Chaps. 1-4), the establishment of His priesthood (Chaps. 5-8), the evidence of His propitiation (Chaps. 9-10), and the enrichment of His pathway (Chaps. 11-13).
It is an interesting observation that the Lord Jesus is seen in each of these sections as being seated. In the first (1:3), He sits down as Saviour in the dignity of His person after making purification for sin. In the second (8:1), He sits down as Priest in the dignity of His office after He experiences the pathway by which He leads His people home. In the third (10:12), He sits down as Victor in all the dignity of accomplished redemption after satisfying the claims of justice by His death on the cross. In the fourth (12:2), He sits down as the Pattern in all the dignity and beauty of perfect humanity.
The positions in which Christ sat down are significant. In Chapter 1:3, He sat down “on the right hand of the Majesty on High.” In His humiliation He was surrounded by the defilement of sin, yet, even in death remained undefiled. In His exaltation; He, therefore, is associated with the Majesty on High, and in this we see His competence. In chapter 8:1, He sits down “on the right hand of God.” As Priest He is able to touch the sceptre on our behalf. Here we see His compassion. In chapter 10:12, “He sits down on the right hand of the Throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” This becomes the place of honour and distinction because of His victory on the cross. We rejoice to see the completion of His work. In chapter 12:2, He sits down “on the right hand of the Throne of God.” The throne is suggestive of grace. As the Author and Finisher of faith He has reached the goal and now dispenses mercy and grace to His own in order that they follow the path He has trod. Here we see His contribution to all our needs.
In verse one we have the glory of the Old Testament prophet; and in verses 4-6, we have the glory of the angels. Just as the stars fade before the glory of the rising sun, so does the glory of the prophet and the angel before the sevenfold glory of the Eternal Son (Vs. 2-3).
Verse one reveals the expressed glory of the Everlasting Word. As the Word, the Lord Jesus made the inaudible God audible. As the Light, He made the invisible God visible. As the Word we hear through Him the voice of God, and as the Light we see through Him the character of God. As the Alpha and Omega He is the sum total of divine communication to man. This verse reveals His voice “as the sound of many waters.” As the rivulets run down the mountains to unite in the harmony of a placid lake, so the voices of the prophets unite in the harmony of the voice of the Son of God.
Having created the worlds and purchased the inheritance, Christ now has the right to administer these. The word “heir” is used three times in the Epistle to the Hebrews (1:2, 6:17, 11:7). In the first, we see the Guarantor; in the second, the guarantee of the inheritance; and in the third, we have the gateway by faith to the inheritance.
“He made the worlds.” There are four words for “world” in the Hebrews: “Aiones,” the eternal ages (1:2), the same word as “ever and ever” (1:8); “kosmos,” the material world (10:5), “oukoumene,” the inhabited world (1:6); “ge”, the physical world (1:10).
Let us now look at the essential glory of the Eternal Son. In verse 3, we have the display of His glory, the description of His person, and the dimensions of His power.
The brightness or effulgence of His glory is an unusual statement, the word brightness being used only here in the New Testament. It means not only reflection but independent existence. It is the manifestation of a glory that essentially belongs to the Godhead.
Christ was “the express image of His person” (Lit, the stamp of His essence). The word translated stamp or image here actually is the Greek word for character. It is only used here in the New Testament although it is found in the writings of Philo. He uses it to describe man as a coin stamped with the being and type of God. The stamp of God’s essence was inherent in Christ. In a much lesser degree man was made in the image of God. He was created to reflect the moral, rational and regal image of God in the Universe. That image has been defaced by sin, but will be restored in all who will share in the fruits of redemption.
His power holds the Universe together: “Upholding all things by the word of His power,” or better, “Maintaining all things by the utterance of His dynamics.” Maintaining implies sustaining as well as movement and deals with all changes and transformation since time began. “Upholding” is the same word as in Mark 2:3-4, where they brought the palsyed to Christ. It is used seven times in John 15 concerning fruit-bearing. The concept in the Hebrew passage is that of the absolute and complete dependence of the Universe on Christ.
His excelling glory now claims our attention in verses 4-6. Here His superiority over the angels is threefold: in name (V. 4), in nature (V. 5), and in position (V. 6). The term “more excellent” is from the word “diaphores” which is found three times in Hebrews and once in Paul’s writings. It has the thought of variety. “The more excellent name” (1:4) is descriptive of the varied facets, of glory in the person of the Lord Jesus. “The more excellent ministry” (8:6) describes the variety of graces in all that He said or did. The “divers washings” (9:10) are the results of the variety of guilt in the sinner. Paul uses the word in Romans 12:6, to describe the variety of gifts in the church.
The comparative, “by so much,” appears four times in the Hebrews and indicates superiority beyond measure. As Christ proved Himself to be “so much better than the angels”: the persuasive Godman. “Christ is counted of more glory than Moses, by so much, as He that built the house has more honour than the house” (3:3): the priestly Governor. “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament” (7:22) the positive Guarantor.
We shall now consider the exhibited glory of the Firstborn (Vs. 5-14). In these verses there are seven quotations from the Old Testament. In these the goings forth of the Firstborn are traced from pre-incarnation times to the great eternal state. The first two refer to His eternal Sonship (Psa. 2:7. 2 Sam. 7:13-14), the third to His coming in glory (Psa. 97:7), the fourth and fifth to His exaltation and rule (Psa. 104:4; 45:6-7), the sixth to the expansion of His millenial rule (Psa. 102:25-27), and the seventh to the culmination of all things when the kingdom shall be delivered up to the Father, and God shall be all in all (Psa. 110:1).