Hebrews 1

The opening words are worthy of the great theme. In Christ only is the perfection of all that Israel gloried in. Every other person and office, every other walk or object, honoured in God’s living oracles, had it most of all in and for preparing the way for Him. He is the one comprehensive aim of the Holy Spirit, open or understood, positively or negatively by contrast, throughout scripture.

Here that which was comparatively obscure of old is set in the light; for Christ is the true light. It is He who, once dimly discerned, now stands fully revealed, and thus illumines what once seemed dark, what without Him is and must be dark indeed still. Thus is all scripture knit together into one whole. There is the Old Testament; there is also what is called the New Testament, even if the Spirit avoid so characterising it. Together they constitute the Bible, whose unity turns on Christ, once promised, now come and, after accomplishing His work on earth, exalted at God’s right hand in heaven. It is above all God revealed in the Son.

Hence it will be apparent, when once pointed out, why this Epistle does not unfold the mystery of Christ; for this would involve the introduction of what was absolutely unknown to Israel, yea, not then revealed by God. The revelation of the mystery supposes the rejection of the people of God, to make way for an entirely new and distinct purpose where a Jew as such is no more than a Gentile; and the church of God becomes the absorbing scene of the Holy Spirit’s operation to the present exclusion of Israel. The church therefore in its full character implies a break in God’s dealings with His ancient people, not merely because of idolatry which let in the times of the Gentiles, but because of the rejection and cross of the Messiah, His only-begotten Son, which let in the new and heavenly purpose of God in the church, Christ’s body.

Here it is rather the continuity of divine testimony culminating in Christ, Who has laid in His blood and death the unchangeable basis for everlasting blessing, and gives the most glorious expression to its character in His own session as man on the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. For this reason, from the first chapter to the last of this Epistle to the Hebrews, we have the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets cited more fully than in any other part of the N.T. So also the ritualistic services, the vessels, and the holy places are turned to direct account in an elaborate way; and the persons whom the Holy Spirit could employ from the beginning are either detailed or taken in the gross (Heb. 11) till we are brought to Christ, the crown and fulness of all. With this will be found to agree the particulars, which we now proceed to consider.

“In many measures and in many manners God, having spoken of old to the fathers in the prophets, spoke to us at [the] end of these days in a Son.”

The words that compose this grand exordium are most pregnant, as well as undeniable truth. They briefly, yet distinctly, convey the character of the O.T. communications. It was not in their nature to be complete or final. They were essentially piecemeal. No doubt the prophets wrought “at sundry times,” and the modes in which God dealt were “divers”: but neither phrase of the A.V. conveys the force of
πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως. The common translation is borrowed from the Version of Geneva in 1539. Wiclif, in this not faithful to the Vulgate, had dropped altogether the first words, though he rightly gave “in many manners.” Tyndale and Cranmer unite in “diversly and many wayes,” as does the Rhemish with a chance in the order. “In time past,” or “of old,”
πάλαι, is the sole expression of time. It was the same God and the same Christ; yet the object is to prove an immense change of His dealing: God speaking in a Son, after having spoken to the fathers in the prophets; also Christ no longer connected with the earth but in heavenly glory. Then He spoke “in many parts.” His word was but fragmentary, perfect in its object, but in no wise that fulness which it was in His purpose to bestow when the due moment arrived. As a variety of persons were employed in that work, so “many ways” or methods of revealing, as open speaking to Moses, but visions, and dreams ordinarily. “I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets. And by a prophet Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved” (Hosea 12:10, 13).

How mighty the advance now! God, though He be not here revealed in the elevation and intimacy of the Father, “spoke to us at the end of these days in a Son.” The apostle in no way dissociates himself from the chosen nation, though he takes care throughout to show that only the Israel of God the true believing remnant, have valid title. But writing to those who were dull to appreciate that which was absolutely new and above this creation, he gives full weight to all previous revelations, however partial and short of what was now come. not only does he record the honour from God put on “the fathers,” but ranges himself with their sons, as among the “us” to whom His word had now come in a completeness beyond all given before.

“In these last years” (as Tyndale began, followed by all the Protestant English) is too vague a rendering, and apt to be confounded with the different phraseology of 2 Peter 3, Jude 18, or even the more distant phrases in 1 Tim. 4 and in 2 Tim. 3. Still more objectionable is the Rhemish text following the Vulgate. Wiclif is nearer the mark, “at the last in these daies,” though not quite right. “At [the] end,” or [the] last of these days is the literal and true force, the close of these days of the age under the law, when the Messiah comes.

God who spoke to the fathers in past days spoke to us at the last of these days in a Son. The omission of the article has to do neither with the preposition going before nor with emphatic position, as many learned men have said. That there was intention is obvious; for
ἐν τοῖς προφ. would naturally call for
ἐν τῳ υἱῳ. Yet the phrase is anarthrous, and therefore does not present the person as an object before the mind, but brings character into prominence. The prophets were, like Moses, only servants; He in whom God spoke at the end of these days was Son. Compare Heb. 5:8, etc. Such was the quality, such the relationship to Himself, of the One in Whom He now spoke. Our language does not so well bear the absence of the article; but it is regular in Greek, and at once the most forcible and the most accurate form of expressing character, which is precisely what was wanted here. Not in the prophets any longer, nor in angelic guise as often, but as Son God spoke now.

This adds a fresh reason why a man’s name, however blessed or in whatever a position, would be unsuitable; and we have already shown grounds why the author in divinely given wisdom and grace preferred his name in particular not to appear, though the character of the truth and the final notices ought to leave no doubt who he was, without any external voucher, inspired or not. This is much confirmed by the next chapter (verses 3, 4), where our Lord Himself is introduced, the Prophet that should and did come, though Son. The apostles themselves, the twelve, were but His hearers, God joining in the attestation both with signs and wonders and divers powers, and distributions of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. How out of place would have been the introduction of his own apostolate! The Son of God, the Christ, had deigned to be the Apostle of our confession (Heb. 3:1).

Was there aught in this justly to offend the warmest love and reverence for the O.T.? Rather does the O.T. bear it out and even require it to seal its own truth. For Law and Prophets bear their consenting witness that One would come, even a prophet like unto Moses, only greater as he himself testifies; who should speak in God’s name, but so that whosoever would not hearken must bear the penalty from God. Then should be made on God’s part a new covenant, not according to the former one when they were brought out of Egypt — a covenant which they broke no less than they idolised it; but a new one marked by God’s grace and power, as the former one was by man’s responsibility and total failure.

This Epistle proves that the Blesser is come, if not yet all the blessing, and appropriately opens with God’s speaking in the Son. His silence after Malachi made it all the more impressive, since that last messenger of Jehovah sealed the O.T. canon. Then the interval of four hundred years, not without marked and varied premonitory signs, is closed by a prophet and more than a prophet in John the Baptist, disclaiming to be more than a “voice,” yet proclaiming One standing in their midst whom they knew not, whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose, the Lamb of God, who baptises with the Holy Spirit. “This is the Son of God.”

With the same truth we start here. God speaking was no new thing; for He had in many parts and in many ways. Now there was no limit; for it was in a Son Only-begotten, full of grace and truth. It was therefore no mere assemblage of revelations from God, divine but partial and suited to the instruments and the circumstances; it was God revealing Himself. His Son was the sole competent One for this purpose. In the beginning of the Epistle it is God so speaking when He was on earth; toward the close it is He that speaks from heaven (Heb. 12:25). Everywhere it is God revealed, and not merely communications from Him. This therefore gives the utmost force and impressiveness and authority in the last resort to every subject that is handled, especially to that change which it is the main object of the Epistle to make known. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of law” (Heb. 7:12).

The immeasurable superiority of Christ, and consequently of Christianity, comes out in this respect at the starting-point, and the more strikingly, because no Christian questions the divine inspiration of all the ancient oracles. Yet every true Christian feels the different and surpassing character, not only of Christ’s words in the Gospels, but of the apostolic writings and the N.T. as a whole. It is truly Christ speaking in them all; it is God revealing Himself in Him as Son, with an intimacy peculiar to Him alone and in all its perfectness. And this superiority we may see running through the entire Epistle. He is above all men and angels; He is God and Jehovah, seated though man where no creature could be. He is the true captain of salvation, not Joshua. He is far above Moses the apostle of the Jewish confession, far beyond Aaron the Levitical high priest, more than filling up the wonderful picture of Melchizedek too. And no wonder; for Moses and Aaron were but servants in that house of which He was the builder, as indeed of all things. They were all brought into, being by Him, and without Him was not one thing brought into being of the created universe.

Nor is it only above all persons and offices that we see Jesus; but He alone gives a fuller and more divine meaning to every institution God set up in Israel. Take covenant in Heb. 8; and sanctuary, sacrifice, and offering in Heb. 9, 10. Everywhere His incontestable superiority is no less apparent; so as in Christianity at least to involve and prepare the way for their passing away, as the shadows and signs of that substance which now abides in all its preciousness to God, in all its efficacy for the believer.

If we look at faith, on which in every way the N.T. lays the utmost stress, others of old may and do show its beautifully refracted colours; but away from so great a cloud of witnesses we must look stedfastly on Jesus if we would see the Leader and Completer of faith. He is the full and pure light of it all. Therefore are we come in spirit even now to such an assemblage of glories (Heb. 12:18-24) as not only eclipses but contrasts with the earthly and terror-inspiring associations of Sinai, whence dates the national distinction of Israel as God’s people on the footing of the law. It is ours, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, to have grace whereby let us serve acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Others, however to be remembered and imitated in their faith, pass; but another blessed superiority is that Jesus Christ, God and man now glorified, is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. And He defines our place with Him both before God and man: within the veil through His blood, without the camp bearing His reproach. What God has joined, let not man’s unbelief and selfishness sunder. The force of this for the Jewish Christian was immense: do we now make them both good in our souls and ways?

It is the voice of the Christ all through if on earth to gain the ear of the remnant and attach them to Himself, to God in a Son; in heaven to detach from all the earthly elements of Judaism which had done for the faithless their worst in becoming a rival through Satan’s wiles, their best in spelling His name who is all and in all them that believe. And here is another superiority which we shall trace in detail, that what He gives us is in each case declared to be “eternal,” in contrast with the temporary good things of Israel. He is the author of “eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). He has found an “eternal redemption,” and we receive the promise of the “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9), even as He by the “eternal Spirit” offered Himself without spot to God, and the covenant consequently is “eternal” (Heb. 13).

The personal glory of Christ, Son of God, and His work as profound as His dignity is of high account for all, when we see Him to reveal God and give effect to His grace beyond all thought of man. This would, if anything could, draw Jews out of Judaism, when made willing to grow by the knowledge of God. And this we shall find to be the practical gist of our Epistle from first to last; nor was any so suited for the work as Saul of Tarsus, nor any time so seasonable as before Jerusalem was swept away, and the temple with its priesthood and sacrifices came to an open end as already defunct.

The peculiar form of the phrase then “in a Son,” difficult without loss or a paraphrase to convey adequately in our language, is simply to characterise the relationship, not who but what, as in Matt. 4:6, Matt. 9:29, Matt. 27:40, 43, 54; Luke 4:3; John 1:1 (last clause
θεὸς), John 5:27, John 8:54, John 10:33, 36, John 19:7; as well as in Heb. 3:6, Heb. 5:8, Heb. 7:8, 28. Where the person is the object before us, the article is invariably inserted, as may be seen in the context of these texts and in Scripture generally. “In the person of the, or His, Son,” or”‘ in Him who is Son,” would therefore require
ἐν τῳ υἱῳ. A subordinate sense where the article is absent is in no way the truth, in the mind either of’ friends or of foes. Where character is predicated, the article is excluded as here. Only in English we must say “a” or “the,” which so far enfeebles the expression of what is here intended: “a” as capable of implying others, which is not at all meant but the reverse; “the” as presenting Christ objectively, where is meant predicatively that character of intimate relationship to God which is proper to Him only in eternal title and right. Some only have it subordinately by creation, as angels; others again, as the faithful, by sovereign grace through faith in Christ and eternal life in the Son.

Next comes His heirship. “Whom he constituted heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds”:1 testimonies to the glory of Christ of exceeding moment, to which we shall return after citing the passage in full. “Who being the effulgence of his glory and the very impress of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high, become so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a name more excellent than they” (verses 2-4).

As in Rom. 9 to Gentile saints, so here to Jewish, the apostle proves that Christianity reveals the Messiah in a grandeur far surpassing the imagination of the former or the tradition of the latter. He is Son as none else. He is Heir of the universe; and no wonder. For as He created the worlds, so He upholds all things by the word of His power. Yes, the very Man whom they crucified by the hand of lawless men, who was crucified through weakness! At the moment He bowed His head and expired, He was sustaining all creation. It were absurd to think or say so, had He been only man; but He was God; and the dissolution of the tie between the outer and the inner man in no way touched His almighty power.

Jesus then is not merely the Messianic Heir of the nations as in Psalm 2. He is the Heir of all things as He created all. Compare John 1:3. All things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, are to be summed or headed up in Christ: such is God’s good pleasure which He purposed in Him (Eph. 1:9, 10). He is exalted accordingly to the highest seat, the pledge of all that is to follow for now we see not yet all things subjected to Him, but we behold Himself crowned with glory and honour. And we know from elsewhere why He does not yet enter on the immense and glorious inheritance. He awaits the calling out of all the joint-heirs whom He will invest with the inheritance at the same time as He takes it Himself; for if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Such are the wondrous counsels of God, through his Son and to His glory, both before the world for a while, and afterward for ever.

He, Who is the appointed inheritor of the universe, and also fully entitled as being the Creator of the worlds, is yet more set forth in verse 3: being the effulgence of God’s glory and the very impress of His substance or being, and upholding all things by the word of His power. He is in the highest sense (as intrinsically there can be none other) a divine person no less than the Father, and the Holy Spirit. But He is specially the displayer of Godhead, as in power and providence so in goodness, and in grace even to the lost. Compare 2 Cor. 4:4 and Col. 1:15. And this comes into the utmost prominence in the words that follow: “having made,” or when He made, “purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”; where we may observe that, even omitting “by Himself” with the oldest uncials and good versions, etc., the participle carries in itself the remarkable force of having done it for Himself. He took His seat on high on the accomplishment of His work for the purification of sins. For this He had come as being the will of God, and only goes on high to take that place of glory when He had Himself done the work, whereby believers were to be blessed.

It will be observed that Christ is said here to be the outshining of God’s glory. In our Epistle it is not the Father (as in John), but God. Both are true and each has its own importance. And it is scarcely needful to say that “person,” borrowed in the A.V. from that of Geneva, is a mistake. It is “substance” or essential being, as in Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish from the Vulgate. The doctrine of course is one hypostasis and three persons, as is commonly known: both truths are made evident in Isa. 6 compared with John 12 and Acts 28, as indeed by many other scriptures.

Christ’s maintenance of the universe presents His divine glory in a striking way. “By Him all things consist,” as the apostle affirms in Col. 1. They were created by Him and for Him, and they subsist together in virtue of Him. This becomes all the more remarkable because He deigned for the deepest purposes to become true man. This, however, trenched not on His deity; for the incarnation means not Godhead swamped by humanity, but this taken into everlasting union with itself, each nature abiding in its own perfectness, not metamorphosed but constituting together the one person of Christ. As He therefore brought all into being, so does He sustain all the universe, and ever did so.

There is another and profounder element of His glory, His effecting in His own person the purgation of sins. To create needed but His word; to sustain, His will; but not so redemption. To command in this case would have been wholly insufficient. The purging of sins could not be without the shedding of blood, without sacrificial death, for which the O.T. prepared men from the beginning. The earthly sacrifices could neither suffice for God’s glory, nor cleanse man’s conscience, as we are taught fully later on. But they were weighty testimonies from the days. of Adam downward, though only elaborated into a system of types most full and instructive by divine inspiration under Moses. Christ’s was indeed

“A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.”

Christ alone gives the full meaning and the true dignity to sacrifice, as is here briefly shown and bound up with the glory of His person. Sin is rebellion against God; it is lawlessness. God therefore is the One invariably concerned, whether it be also a human wrong or not. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight “: yet he who so cried had been guilty of blood as well as of the worst corruption. As God’s majesty and character are thus intimately in question, it is He who undertook to settle all in His Son. But here nothing less could avail than His death, yea, death of the cross, where God Himself laid the sins on the spotless Victim’s head (Isa. 53) that they might thus be borne, and borne away. Not otherwise could there be forgiveness of sins according to God. There must be the purification of sins; and it is the “blood of Jesus Christ His Son” that “cleanseth from all sin,” from every sin.

No wonder this deepest work of God is treated here as part of the divine glory of Christ. He must be man on behalf of men, He must be God to be available with God; He is both in one person; and thus as the justification was thus perfect, the result is unfailing for all who believe. Once cleansed thereby the worshippers have no more conscience of sins; and He, having offered one sacrifice for sins, “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” sat down in perpetuity, as Heb. 10:12 tells us, not only for ever but without a break in the efficacy of His sacrifice. How could it be otherwise if God in a Son undertook that work? And as this is thoroughly reasoned out and applied in the latter part of the Epistle, here we have the great truth stated clearly at the start: a truth “hard to be understood,” by a Jew particularly, accustomed as he was to the routine and repetition of sacrifice as well as of all other Levitical observances. But the Holy Spirit of God does not keep it back, giving it a foremost place in the introduction.

It was scarce needed to say that Christ “by Himself” made purification of sins. For He alone suffered for sins — He alone was sacrificed for us. The Father had His will in giving Him for the purpose; and the Holy Spirit bears testimony to the complete efficacy, as He previously held out types and predictions and promises. But it was for Christ alone to suffer for sin; and this He did to the uttermost. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . It pleased Jehovah to bruise him; He hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,” etc. “He poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53).

And this is the basis of what the apostle elsewhere calls the “righteousness of God,” that righteousness, not of man which the law sought yet found not in the sinful, but of God Who in virtue of Christ’s propitiation can fully bless all that believe, and freely plead with and call on all men as they are. The purification of sins effected by a divine person is not limited and cannot fail; but it necessarily can take effect on none that hear the gospel unless they believe: God would be consenting to the dishonour of the Son if He made light of men’s unbelief. Besides, the word received in faith has a morally cleansing power, as all believers are born of water and the Spirit. But here it is the work, not in man but efficacious before God, which occupies the apostle; and this is the purification of sins by Christ before He sat down at God’s right hand.

What an attestation is that seat of His to the perfection and completeness of the work He undertook! When Jehovah laid our sins on Christ, He was made sin for us, and treated as it deserved at the hand of God. For what did man, or even saints, know then of that infinite task? God indeed marked it by a darkness for which nothing in nature can account, and Christ confessed it in that cry of His inapplicable to all others but Himself: “My God, My God, why didst thou forsake Me?” This was the necessary accompaniment of sin-bearing: absolute abandonment by God. Though He were His God, yet Christ was made sin; and it was no make-believe but real if anything ever was; no slurring over the least sin, no leaving out the greatest. It was Christ bearing the judgment of sin, the sole righteous way for the purification of sins. And the work was done and finished in such perfectness, that the only adequate seat for Him who had borne all was at the right hand of the Majesty on high. David’s throne will be taken another day when blessing dawns for the earth on Israel. And when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the angers with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all the nations. But here is a seat incomparably more august, and in fact proper and possible to none but a divine person. yet is it also presented as the place suited to Him who had just made purification of sins. In this He suffered and wrought; on that He sat down, the work completed and thus accepted. What more glorious for the humbled Messiah? What more blessed in its fruit for the believer? A sacrifice to God, He gave Himself up for us.

There is another word added here, the bearing of which is no less evident on Jewish minds. They thought much of angelic glory. The law they received as ordained by ministry of angels (Acts 7:50; Gal. 3:19). They were wont therefore to regard with awe and wonder those obedient messengers of God’s power, of which there can be no stronger proof than John’s temptation in Rev. 19, 22. Hence the gravity of the further testimony to Christ’s glory here, “made so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a name more excellent than they” (ver. 4).

It is Christ who renders evident the ground of God’s counsel to raise from among men those destined to a place incomparably higher than that of angels. If the Son of God became man, it was at once intelligible, becoming, and necessary. And the redemption that is in Christ, and our consequent nearness of relationship into which grace brings the believer, make plain our association with Him and our elevation above angels. For they *are not called but kept. Not sunk into moral ruin, they have no experience of the mercy that saves and unites with Christ. Hence angels are never said to reign. They serve, instead of sitting on thrones. We are to reign with Him, yet shall we serve then as we serve now, and all the better through grace, because, delivered from the lowest estate of guilt and evil, we are objects of His ceaseless and infinite love, and shall share His glory as surely as we now rest on His grace. Angels know not either extreme, as we do; but all we boast is through Him who became so much better than the angels as He hath an inheritance more excellent than they. It is the Messiah of whom we are hearing.

Next comes a series of quotations from the O.T. pertinent to the Sonship of Christ just laid down. This fulness of citing the ancient oracles, though found elsewhere in the apostle’s writings and conspicuously in the Epistle to the Romans, is nowhere so rich as here. Nor could we well conceive it otherwise, if he were writing to believers from among the chosen people, and anxious in his loving consideration for them to rest all on God’s word, already known to them familiarly, rather than on his own fresh prophetic communications.

“For to whom of the angels did he ever say, My Son art Thou: I this day have begotten Thee? And again, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstborn into the habitable earth, he saith, And let all God’s angels worship him. And indeed as to the angels he saith, “Who maketh his angels winds and his ministers a flame of fire; but as to the Son, Thy throne, O God, [is] unto the age of the age, and a sceptre of uprightness [is] the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou lovedst righteousness and hatedst lawlessness: therefore God, thy God, anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy fellows” (vers. 5-9).

As Jews they were accustomed to think much of angels, who were seen often on critical occasions by the fathers, and took a most distinguished part in bringing in the law, as well as in heralding or accomplishing, deliverances afterwards, as everyone can see who reads the Law and the Prophets with attention. This tended to produce no small veneration in the minds of the just, and superstition too in such as went beyond Scripture. Christ alone gives and keeps the truth in us by grace. And here we have a clear instance in point, as throughout the Epistle. Not only was the Life the light of men rather than of angels, but the Son of God becoming man really, as He had often anticipatively intervened in human guise, gave proof that the good pleasure of God is in men, and prepared the way for the revelation of the glorious counsels He has ever had for such as believe, in the day of Christ, when even angels are to be in a subordinate place as indeed throughout eternity. This assuredly could not be without redemption, as redemption in the full sense could not be without incarnation, supposed in Heb. 1 and openly stated in Heb. 2, as we shall see. As the Son is incontestably above the prophets, so is He now proved far above the angels and He is the foundation of all our blessedness.

The first scripture quoted is from Psalm 2:7: “My Son art thou: - I this day have begotten thee.” Never was such a word addressed to an angel. It applies only to Christ. But how? The apostle John loves to expatiate on His eternal Sonship. Again, elsewhere in the epistles of Paul He is often shown as Son of God in resurrection (Rom. 1:4, Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18), as of course also when He returns from heaven (1 Thess. 1:10). How is He regarded here? As Son of God born in time: so we see Him in Luke 1:32 and yet more definitely in verse 35. The assumption of flesh in no way lowered His Sonship: Son of God eternally, He was still and no less Son of God when born of the Virgin, as He is in resurrection and evermore in glory; He only, and in virtue of divine right acknowledged of God, and to Jesus solely by the word magnified above all Jehovah’s name.

It is the more important that this should be seen clearly and irrefragably, because even the learned Bishop Pearson, in his famous work on the Creed, over and over again gives countenance to the mystic view 2 of this verse of the Psalm cited in Acts 13:32, 33, as if the apostle had so definitely ruled. But this is quite an oversight. On the contrary, and beyond controversy, the apostle distinguishes in verse 34 the Lord’s resurrection (attested by Isa. 55:3 and Psalm 16:10) from His Sonship in the days of His flesh as in Psalm 2:7. The raising up” (not “up again,” as in A.V.) in 32, 33, is as Messiah on earth; with which is contra-distinguished in 34 God’s raising Him up from the dead.

Hence there is no need or even room for swerving from the simple yet grand truth that, as the Psalmist, so the apostle, in preaching at Antioch of Pisidia and here in writing to the Christian Jews, speaks of what Jehovah said of His Son when born a man. It is therefore His birth in time: “I this day have begotten thee.” But it is of all moment for the truth and His own personal dignity, to remember that His Sonship when incarnate as well as in resurrection is based on His eternal relationship as Son, the great theme of the apostle John, without which the other two could not have been. Here too many Christians have fallen short.

The next citation appears to be from 1 Chron. 17:13 (2 Sam. 7, where the same words occur, being more historical): “I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a son.” This is the assertion of the perfect and mutual affection that reigned between the Father and His Son, now a living man; not what became an accomplished fact as in Psalm 2:7, and what should subsist when He was born of woman, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1).

As to the second text there has been little discussion among orthodox men. Not so in the third, which stands in our Epistle identical with the Vatican (not the Alexandrian) Septuagintal text of Deut. 32:43, and in substance with Psalm 97:7). But it has been keenly urged as to the prefatory words that “again” (
πάλιν) belongs to
εἰσαγάγῃ, and denotes a new and second introduction of the Messiah, instead of being as in the A.V. and many others the mark of another citation. Not a few ancients, mediaevals, and moderns have so understood, though they differ widely as to the alleged second introduction. But the Pesch. Syr. found no such difficulty as the Vulgate; nor did Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Wolf, any more than the fullest of modern commentators, Bleek. It is assumed that
πάλιν would not stand where it is in the Greek if it introduced another citation; yet the good scholar who so speaks allows that in point of interpretation the rendering of the A.V. is much to be preferred! Is this really safe? That a false version yields better sense than the true? That the true is not justifiable grammatically?

The fact is that the collocation stands alone, as far as I can see, in the N.T., and that there is nothing either way in the LXX. Now in the other instances of the N.T. there is no case precisely like this before us, not only no o{tan de; , but nothing analogous. I do not admit (until a real case is produced adverse to what is confessed by a candid and competent man, Canon Humphry, to be a much preferable resulting, sense) that we are driven to deny an elasticity to the Greek, of which our tongue is perfectly susceptible. Englishmen are certainly not tied down to such an order, as “Again, when he bringeth in.” What proof is there that the far more pliant Greek is more restricted? Not infrequently there are solitary examples of collocation or construction even in the N.T. as in other writings. If we may say, “And when, again, he bringeth in,” etc., I know not why the writer may not with equal liberty have adopted a corresponding order, even though there be no other instance of or call for such a variety.

What then is the grammatical principle or the usage which is supposed to be traversed here? “In this epistle, when it is joined to a verb, it has always the sense of a second time, e.g. Heb. 4:7, Heb. 5:12, Heb. 6:1, 6.” Is it not unfortunate that the very first is adverse? It is no more joined to a verb there than in the verse debated. It means “Again, he limiteth,” not “He limiteth a second time.” No one doubts that in verse 12, like 6:1, 6, it means iterum (not rursus, particularly when used as a sort of parenthesis, as in Heb. 1 and often elsewhere). Indeed, the very first occurrence in the N.T. refuses this imaginary canon of grammar. Our Lord said (Matt. 5:33)
πάλιν ἠκούσατε, of which the unequivocal and universally allowed sense is, again, ye heard, and not, because a verb follows, Ye heard a second time. To say “joined to a verb” begs the question. Is it really so? We may be assured it may not be.

The fact is that the apostle’s object appears to be, not defining time when God ushers the Firstborn into the world, but (whenever it shall have been, past or future perhaps) proving the universal homage of all God’s angels to the glory of the Son. And surely Luke 2:13, 14 is a beautiful witness to it. Nor is there the smallest ground to limit “the firstborn” to resurrection. As any reader may see, Col. 1:15 points out the Lord Jesus as the Firstborn of all creation, quite distinctly from His subsequent and still more glorious position of Firstborn from the dead” in verse 18 (cf. Rev. 1:5). “Firstborn as such is therefore more suitable to Him simply as incarnate; which tells, as far as it goes, against construing
π. with the verb as “a second time.” At the same time it is frankly allowed that the fulfilment of Deut. 32 or of Psalm 97 as a whole awaits the Lord’s second advent.

We have, after this, words cited from two psalms, Ps. 104:4 as to the angels, which no Jew would dispute, and indeed such messengers and servants cannot but be angelic, whatever Calvin may argue to the contrary; Ps. 45:6, 7 as to the Lord Jesus. I have no right to pronounce on the true objects and the true predicates in the Hebrew. But it cannot be doubted that the Epistle to the Hebrews cites from the Sept. as in the Vat., save in the form of the last words; and there the true order admits of no question. So the meaning of the earlier psalm is beyond just controversy. The glorious beings of heaven, its natural denizens, are made to do God’s will in providence and to act in wind or flame. But instead of making Christ this or that, He says, Thy throne, O God, is for the age of the age (for ever), and the sceptre of uprightness is sceptre of Thy kingdom.

Here, be it remarked, that it is a question of the time of fulfilment no more than in Deut. 32 (or Psalm 97); for it is very certain that the judicial kingdom described in Psalm 45 is still future, having had no real accomplishment yet. But none the less is the recognition of Messiah’s glory most available even now for the object of the Epistle. For God owns the Messiah as no less than Himself — and, if God, it cannot be a mere question of time, whatever of glorious display may yet be in store.

The past too is not forgotten, nor ever can be by God. “Thou didst love righteousness and didst hate lawlessness.” Such was Jesus as man here below; for in truth He is both in one person, neither more truly God than man, nor man than God. Compare Phil. 2 “Therefore God, thy God, anointed thee with oil of gladness beyond thy fellows.”

How beautiful to see the largeness of grace and truth. After this lofty owning of Messiah as God by God comes the fullest acknowledgment of others. He Himself is no more ashamed to own us His companions or fellows than God is to own Him God. He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one. Yet He is God no less than the Father, Who will have all men honour the Son even as ]Himself. What have infidel dreams of progress to compare with simple and sure Christian truth?

The quotation from Psalm 45 was most distinct and conclusive. No Jew then, if now, could doubt that the psalm refers throughout to the Messiah introducing and maintaining His kingdom on earth in association with the godly Jewish remnant. Christ is seen as King, not Head of the church (though godly Jews are now anointed as His partners, before He appears in His royal glory). But the one object for which it is cited is to prove that God recognises the Messiah as God. It is not men only nor angels, nor Jews nor Gentiles. It, is “God,” the divine title, not of special earthly relationship, but of essential nature in contrast with the creature. What an answer to reproach and rejection!

It might be supposed impossible to find any ascription beyond this in honour of Christ; but it is not so: the next witness exceeds. Here is another and higher testimony to the Son from the fourth book of Psalms (Ps. 102:25-27): “And, thou in the beginning, Lord, didst found the earth, and the heavens are works of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou continuest; and they all shall grow old as a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou roll them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (verses 10-12).

The “And” simply connects this fresh quotation with the former as said to the Son. But the divine title differs. It is the name which every Jew owns as incommunicable and supreme. “God” may be used subordinately in peculiar circumstances of those who represent His authority as kings or judges. Compare Ex. 21, 22; Psalm 82. But Jehovah, in the LXX., translated “LORD as here used, is never applied otherwise than to God in the highest sense, and this in special or covenant character of relationship with Israel as the Everlasting and Immutable. It is therefore anarthrous.

The force of this application of the closing words in the psalm is immense. It is Jehovah’s answer to the prayer of the afflicted, the humbled, cast off, and suffering Messiah, and especially to His petition in verse 24. No language can more thoroughly show Him man when overwhelmed and pouring out complaint before Jehovah, yet the Holy One of God, so born and so sustained under unparalleled temptations in unbroken dependence and obedience. In verses 1-11 Messiah spreads out His distress, His heart smitten like grass, His enemies’ reproach, Himself taken up and cast down because of Jehovah’s indignation and wrath — certainly not against Him but for Israel’s sake — so that His days were as a shadow. Then from verse 12 He contrasts Jehovah’s permanence and fidelity to His covenant as the security of Zion, whatever her desolations, even in the set time to have pity on her, with the results sure and blessed, not only for the generation to come, but for the peoples and kingdoms and nations in that day of fearing and serving Jehovah. Lastly, in verses 23, 24, He spreads before Jehovah His own strength weakened and His days shortened, and begs not to be taken away in the midst of them, while owning that Jehovah’s years are throughout all generations. Thereon follows the glorious answer to the self-emptied and suffering Son: “Of old didst thou lay the foundation,” etc. “They shall be changed, but thou art the same,” etc.

It is Jehovah from above who thus answers Jehovah below in the midst of His entire submission to sorrow and humiliation “crucified in weakness.” Jehovah will arise and build up Zion; and when He does, He will appear in His glory; but Zion shall not be without her humbled and afflicted Messiah, whatever the weakness He bowed under for the glory of God and the deliverance of His people; for the Son is as truly Jehovah as the Father. “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah thy Elohim is one Jehovah.” Such is the meaning of Psalm 102, as interpreted by one no less inspired than he who wrote the Psalm. Without Heb. 1 we might not have found it out; with it we at once see that no other interpretation gives adequate meaning to the Psalm. But what a proof of Christ’s supreme deity, and this grounded on His possession of the ineffable Name from Him Who has it confessedly! The divine glory of Christ is the answer to all appearances and every dilemma.

If it be argued that the word “Lord” (
κύριε) in the LXX. has no counterpart in the Hebrew, the answer is that the truth meant in no way depends on the insertion of that word, but on the attributes of creative and judicial glory, as well as divine unchangeableness in His changing all creation ascribed to the Messiah by Jehovah. He was man, and crushed to the uttermost, as must be if He made good the errand of grace on which He came — righteously vindicating God in the face of sin and delivering the people on whom lay indignation and wrath; and this He did in suffering weakness, not in power, but He is owned in that suffering as ever the same, the Eternal: not only as having an everlasting kingdom, but as the One who was and who is and who is to come, the Ancient of days albeit Son of man, as John testifies in Rev. 1. We may compare also Dan. 7:13, 22, where the Son of Man, who came to the Ancient of Days, is Himself also identified with the Ancient of Days. So careful is scripture while exhibiting His manhood to mention His deity.

The contrast of perishable creation with the permanence of Christ (really Jehovah) deserves to be weighed. For the assumed perpetuity of the world is a root principle of infidelity, and never more than in the matter worship of modern philosophers, the revival of ancient heathenism. Scripture, on the contrary, insists on the certainty of a God of judgment, and not less physically than morally. All depends on His sovereign and holy will. It is not only that science is obliged to confess divine intervention in creating and destroying (I say not annihilating, for this is false) the earth many times and through many periods, ever so long between its original call into being, and its being made the dwelling of man. But since Adam’s children lived on it, a judgment both moral and physical has borne witness, however scorners may be willingly ignorant, that God is not indifferent to wickedness breaking through creature bounds; for the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; as it will surely meet with a more signal doom, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. Now all judgment is committed to the Son. He has executed it, as He will execute it.

Nor is it only that these or those subordinate parts of creation shall perish. But as the earth and the heavens were the works of the Son’s hands (John 1:3), so they all shall wax old as a garment. Nor is it from creature’s defectibility, but from the Creator’s righteous will: “as a mantle shalt Thou roll them up.” The unchangeableness of the heavens and of all that is visible or invisible in them is no more true than that of the earth and of all in it that men aver to continue as they were. The astronomers, the geologists, the chemists, the physicists, the physiologists, to speak of no more, are apt to swamp all recognition of the true God in sole occupation with His works, and thus sink into an atheism so much the more guilty, because it is apostasy from the only true Light that revealed Him. Yet not more truly are they to die than they must rise. For the resurrection of Christ gives the pledge of clearance from judgment, yea, of present justification to His own, and of sure judgment to follow for all who despise Him. Christ’s resurrection proves the succession of cause and effect to be in fact under God’s absolute control — as is true of every real miracle. There will be a grand change to inaugurate Christ’s coming; a complete and final one as the result when the kingdom gives place to all thinks made new for eternity.

This series of quotations closes with words taken from the opening of Psalm ex., which is again Jehovah’s utterance to Messiah on His rejection.

“But unto which of the angels hath He said at any time, Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool of thy feet? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of those that shall inherit salvation?” (verses 13, 14).

Psalm 110 is the more striking as immediately following the psalm which describes the son of perdition, Messiah’s betrayer. Here the rejected of Israel and of man is told to take His seat at God’s right hand, a fact alluded to or quoted throughout the N.T. perhaps more than any other O.T. statement, unless it be to His sacrifice or His kingdom. Nor need we wonder at this. Christ’s present glory is asserted therein. It gives occasion to the bringing in of “the mystery of Christ.” It is the starting-point of the gospel in its heavenly character. It explains the enigma of Christ exalted above, whilst rejected outwardly and having nothing of His rights as Yet here below. It equally falls in with the mystery of Israel’s eclipse while unbelieving, and with Satan’s claim as the god of this age.

No angel was ever invited as He is to sit on that throne. Indeed, though the saints are to sit with Christ on His throne in the age of His display, no angel will ever be. Angels were made to serve, not to reign; they never did, nor will. Dominion was given to Adam, the type of Him that was to come. God ever had the Kingdom in view from the foundation of the world. Of this kingdom Christ is the destined King. But as He will have in His grace the changed saints to reign with Him, so also He will have saints unchanged set on His right hand and despisers on His left, when He sits on His throne of glory and judges all the nations according to their treatment of His messengers (His brethren) to be sent forth just before He appears again.

Never will the church sit where Christ sits now, nor any member of it, even apostle or prophet. It is peculiar to God Who calls Christ there: because Christ is also God and Jehovah (as we have seen no less than He who sent Him), Christ sits there. During the Apocalyptic period judgments from God fall successively and with increasing intensity on guilty man, especially in Christendom; and at length, when His enemies are set a footstool, Christ personally appears to tread them down. Then when in association with His ancient people, Jehovah sends the rod of His strength out of Zion, and Christ rules in the midst of His foes. But such no longer are the Jews, who once constrained the Gentiles to crucify Him; they offer themselves willingly in the day of His power. He will have then the dew of His youth, the generation to come. “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.” Men corrupt themselves more and more, whatever they vaunt of progress. Nevertheless under Christ there will surely be the best wine for the earth kept till then. And then will the blessedness be shown of Jehovah’s oath about the great Melchizedek; for though Christ is so now as to order, only then will it be exercised. He will bring out the bread and the wine for the victors in all their meaning, blessing man on the part of God most high, and blessing God on man’s part. For indeed will it be the good age, and every one and thing in its due place, which He only can accomplish. No doubt that day will open with wrath, as we know it will close with judgment when time melts into eternity.

But then again the aim of the Spirit is not to open out the coming glory for the earth, but to demonstrate the singular dignity proper to Christ at God’s right hand in contrast with angels who at best are all ministering spirits sent forth on service for those that are to inherit salvation. Higher than this they never rise. Christ might and did become David’s Son; but He was also David’s Lord, as our Lord Himself put the case to the Jews, and unanswerably, because their lips were held fast in unbelief. But faith here answers at once. He was God equally with the Father. Where else then should He sit but at God’s right hand? Surely none the less because man or Israel would have none of Him. The first of Israel’s royal line, the father (after a long succession then to come) of Him whose is that kingdom everlasting, though yet awaiting it, owns his Son by the strangest reversal of nature as his Lord: a thing unaccountable, unless He were God, the Root as well as Offspring of David. The holy angels are sustained of the Lord. It is ours to know salvation, whether as now seen complete in Christ (as in Eph. 2, etc.) or as completed in us at His coming and therefore future (as here and elsewhere).

τοὺς αἰῶνας, in general “the ages,” but also beyond just dispute used by Hellenistic Jews for the universe (perhaps as the theatre of the divine dispensations or ages) as here and in Heb. 11:3. See Eccles. 3:11 in the Sept., and elsewhere.

2 “As He was raised from the dead, out of the womb of the earth unto immortal life,” etc. (Exposition i. 57, Oxford, 1797). “The grave is as the womb of the earth: Christ, who is raised from thence, is as it were begotten to another life,” etc. (i. 173). “Upon the morning of the third day did those words of the Father manifest a most important truth, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (i. 400).