Hebrews 1:1-2:4 - Outline of Hebrews (MENU page)
1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake
in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hebrews begins, as the Bible does, with the Person of God:
  • God exists- Creation declares this fact, without words.
    Gen 1:1; Psa 19:1-3; Rom 1:18-21
  • God spoke- The Creator of intelligent life is able to communicate with man.
    He has told us things about His Person & purposes which could not be learned by observation of nature alone. But how did God speak?
A. God spoke "In time past" (ie., in former times, long ago) - -
  • unto the fathers- ie., the patriarchs of the Hebrew race (eg. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.).
    - God committed the transmission of His Word to the Jews. Rom 3:2; 9:3-5
    - This epistle is written to the Hebrews, ie., Jewish believers in Christ.
  • in sundry times (GK=polumeros, many portions)- over the course of generations,
    God provided a progressive revelation. He communicated to Abraham, and added to those thoughts through Moses, David, Isaiah, etc. (eg., Abraham received promises but knew nothing of the 10 Commandments, Moses received those but he knew little of the Messiah's ministry, Isaiah foretold Messiah's birth, death & kingdom, but he did not know when it would come... etc.)
  • in diverse manners (GK=polutropos, many ways, many methods)-
    - He spoke through dreams, visions, angels, ritual, types, the Law, poetry, history, prophecy...
  • by the prophets (ie., men who spoke for God, sometimes of future things).
    - God used approx. 45 men to write the Bible over the course of 1500 years. Yet, God's revelation was not completed in the OT.
    - Speaking of the writers of scripture, the author of Hebrews has not identified himself. Many believe it to be Paul because
    1. the epistle follows the Pauline pattern of a Doctrinal section (ch 1-10) followed by a Practical section (ch 12-13),
    2. the writer mentions Timothy (13:23), and other factors.
    Others argue against Paul's authorship, observing that Hebrews is not written in the common Greek language style used in his other epistles. The language here is refined and sometimes poetic. But the high subject matter may explain the use of high language. Paul was sometimes moved to write poetry or hymns in other epistles.
         However, we must avoid being distracted by this question. The writer did not identify himself for a purpose: to emphasize that the message of the Book was not from him, but from God. The message was not conveyed by mere pen & ink, but in the Person of God the Son, written in His flesh & blood and by His soul & Spirit.
1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son,
B. God has spoken "In these last days -"
(The last days: A period of closure to God's promises, marked by fulfilled prophecy, and bracketed by Christ's first & second comings. See notes at 2Pet 3:3,4.)
  • unto us- ie., the Hebrew Christians (the gospel was to the Jews first & also to the gentiles)
  • by {in} His Son- In contrast to God's revelation of former times,
    the revelation which He has given in Christ is "final, complete, adequate" [McGee].
    Therefore, Christ is better than (superior to) the prophets.
    He fulfils the OT prophecies. He is the subject of both OT & NT.
    Joh 1:1,2; 16:15; 1Pet 1:10-12; Rev 19:10
In what ways is God's Son superior to the prophets?
whom he hath appointed {ie., established Him as} heir of all things,
1- God's Purposes are fulfilled in the Son.
He is heir- GK=kleronomos, (kler- lot; onomos- name) - the One to whom the allotment belongs.
. . . He is the One whom God has Appointed & Anointed to accomplish His will.
. . . He has the right to that which Adam lost: fellowship w/ God, life eternal, dominion over all things. Psa 8:6; 16:5,6; Mat 21:33-44
Believers, as joint heirs with Him, share in these things which are His. However, our jurisdiction is limited to that which He commits to us. He may assign someone to be ruler "over much." But He is Lord over all. Mat 25:21; Rom 8:17; Eph 1:21-23
by whom also he made the worlds; {lit., by whom also the ages have been prepared. -[Vine] }
2- God's Programs were established by the Son.
God the Son created all things (see v.10).
But the thought here goes beyond the act of physical creation...
He made- ie., arranged, constituted, instituted.
the worlds- GK=aion, ages.
ie., He is the One who set the program for the fulfilment of God's purposes down through the ages. He prepared the lesson plan that culminated in Adam's test, and in the tests of successive generations (eg., the tests of the 7 Dispensations: the ages of Innocency, Conscience, Government, Promise, Law, Grace, Kingdom).
1:3 Who being the brightness {ie., effulgence, outshining} of [his] glory,
3- The Son Projects God's glory into the world.
. . . It is not that He merely reflects God's glory, as moon reflects sunlight. But He is like the sun, which man cannot approach or look fully upon. Yet, the radiation from the sun enables life processes & destroys disease agents.
. . . So, God extends Himself to us, in Jesus Christ, to enable life & to purify. Joh 1:14
and the express image of his person,
4- The Son Presents God's Person to the world.
the express image- GK=charakter, pressed image.
(eg., The image on a coin corresponds perfectly to the die from which it is stamped.)
of His person- GK=hupostasis, lit., "under-structure," foundation, substance, essence.
Thus, Christ's likeness to God is perfect & complete, from the inside out. Joh 14:9; Col 2:9
and upholding all things by the word of his power,
5- The Son Preserves all things.
uphold- GK=phero, to bear. In Greek mytholgy, Atlas bore the world on his shoulders passively. But Christ holds everything together. He commands the forces of the universe which are inexplicable (eg., the atom, gravity, etc.). By the power of His word, all things ''consist'' (lit., stand together) or are dissolved. Col 1:15-17
when he had by himself purged our sins,
6- The Son Purged our sins.
purged- GK=katharismos, purified.
The mechanism: by Himself. 2Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26,27; 1Pet 2:24
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
7- The Son Presented Himself at God's right hand.
sat down- implies perfect rest due to the completion of His task.
. . . The completeness of the purification which He provided is demonstrated in that the Sin Purger, who became sin for us, is now seated on God's throne where no trace of impurity can approach or be tolerated. Heb 10:11-18; Rev 4:6-11
Hebrews was written to correct the readers' inadequate understanding of -
- the Person of Christ: He is the God-man.
- the Work of Christ: It is finished.
Who is He to you?
1:4 Being made so much better than the angels,
as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
better- the key word of this epistle.
In vs. 1-3, we saw that Christ is superior to the prophets.
Here, we see that He is superior to the angels.
being made- GK=ginomai, to become.
vs. 1-3: the Son of God "who being..."- eternally existed in His Sonship
vs. 4: the Son of Man "who became..."- obtained by inheritance His Sonship, through His sacrificial death on the cross.
inheritance (same word root as in vs.2)- that which is rightfully His.
more excellent- GK=diaphorus, differing in kind, superior in category.
name- ie., Who & What He is (not a mere title).
He is: the Son of God (vs. 1-3,5), God (vs.6,8), the Lord (v.10).
cp. Isa 7:14; Acts 3:6; Joh 1:12; Php 2:8-11
The angels are but servants.
The emphasis which some have placed on angels is without biblical basis (even to the point of worshipping them. cp. Col 2:18).
Angels are messengers (GK=aggelos) sent to do God's bidding.
Their work is seen primarily in relation to Israel in the OT & again in the Revelation (during the time of Jacob's Trouble).
In the NT, their work in behalf of believers is behind the scenes (eg., Acts 5:19; 12:7-10), they seem primarily to be observers marveling at God's grace (eg., 1Cor 4:9; Eph 3:10).
For Christians, the One "with whom we have to do" (Heb 4:13) is the Son of God, who intercedes for us, has opened access to God's presence for us, and whose Spirit indwells us.
The writer of Hebrews cites 7 OT passages to show the relationship of God's Son to the angels:
1:5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time,
Answer: to none of the angels.
Qualities ascribed to the Son (in vs. 5,6) are not ascribed to angels by Scripture.
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
Quote (1): Psa 2:7 (See the Book Notes study on the Psalms of Messiah for Psalm 2.)
Paul applied this verse to Christ's resurrection (Acts 13:33; Rom 1:4)
God the Father Declared Jesus to be His Son by the resurrection.
And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
Quote (2): 2Sam 7:14, re: the Davidic Covenant, one of David's descendants would reign forever. Neither Solomon nor his successors could fulfill this. But Christ will.
God the Father Declared Jesus to be His Son by the incarnation into David's lineage. 2Sam 7:12-14; Luk 1:30-33
1:6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith,
And let all the angels of God worship him.
Quote (3): Deu 32:43, as rendered in the Septuagint (LXX):
"Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people." (compare with the KJV: Deut 32:43)
- Verse 6 may also allude to Psa 97:7.
     God the Father Declared Jesus to be His Son by commanding His angels to worship Him.
God's angels worship only God. They worship Christ because He is God. Angels surrounded Christ on earth, as they do the throne in heaven: They announced His birth, ministered to Him in His sufferings, declared His resurrection and His return.
again- modifies "bringeth" (due to GK grammatical position)
This sets the primary application of this command in the context of Christ's second coming into the world. (Both Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 97 look forward to that event.)
firstbegotten- GK=prototokos, the chief son, the heir.
The emphasis is His pre-eminent position. Cp. Psa 89:27
world- GK=oikoumene, inhabited earth. See this word as used in Luk 2:1.
Note the context concerns His first coming (Luk 2:9-12).
1:7 And of the angels he saith,
Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
Quote (4): Psa 104:4 The context speaks of God's power over all creation. (Psa 104:1-4)
maketh- GK=poieo, make, change one thing into another.
ministers- GK=leitourgos, servants discharging their appointed duties.
God has absolute control over angels. He created them. He causes them to appear when & as He wills. They are His servants.
1:8 But unto the Son [he saith],
In contrast to the servanthood of angels, the Son is Sovereign (vs.8-12).
Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever:
a
{the} sceptre of righteousness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Quote (5): Psa 45:6,7 (See the Book Notes study on the Psalms of Messiah for Psalm 45.)
O God- GK=o theos, lit. "the God". God the Father addresses the Son as God.
The Son - is the Sovereign God.
- reigns in righteousness.
1:9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;
therefore God, [even] thy God,
hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
The Son - has the Holy Spirit (oil) without measure. Joh 3:34; Col 1:18-20; Col 2:9
- is above all others. He calls redeemed men his brothers (2:12) but He is above them.
In His fulness, He is God's "Fellow". cp: Zech 13:7
1:10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth;
and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
Quote (6): Psa 102:25-27 (See the Book Notes study on the Psalms of Messiah for Psalm 102.)
In the Psalm, these words are spoken by the Father as encouragement to the Son who was about to be cut off in the prime of His life. (cp. Psa 102:23-27)
The Son - is Creator of all. (Angels are created beings. Col 1:16)
1:11 They shall perish; but thou remainest;
and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
The Son - Transcends all things. Cp: Isa 34:4; 51:6; Mark 13:31-37
1:12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed:
but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
The Son - Transcends all time.
He is unchanging. He is eternal. He is the "I Am", Jehovah. cp. Psa 102:12
He is the beginning and the end. The Source of creation is also the Closer of creation.
1:13 But to which of the angels said he at any time,
Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
Quote (7): Psa 110:1 (See the Book Notes study on the Psalms of Messiah for Psalm 110.)
The Son -Sits on the Throne of God.
In contrast, the angelic beings most closely associated with God's Throne, must shield their faces from His glory. They fly about the Throne, but no angel would think to sit there. Isa 6:1-7; Rev 4:6-11; 5:6
1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits,
sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Angels -minister to men, in behalf of God.
minister for...heirs of salvation- This may refer to: (see note at v.4)
  1. The angels' future work, with primary focus on Israel, during the Tribulation,
    after the Church is removed by the Rapture. Note the future tense: "shall be."
  2. A present ministry to pre-Christians.
    As the Law was a schoolmaster to bring us to faith in Christ (by conviction of sin), so, angels may watch over the physical well-being of those "foreknown" of God, until they come to faith.
  3. A present ministry to Christians to keep them in God's Way (cp. Psa 91:10-12).
However, the point of the passage is not to define the work of angels, but rather to demonstrate that in whatever they do, they are subject to the Son of God.
Christ is better than the angels. He is God the Son. They are His servants.
2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things
which we have heard, lest at any time we should let [them] slip.
Therefore (considering all of ch. 1) -
  • because the revelation we have received has come to us by God's Son,
    who is superior to the OT prophets, and superior to angels...
  • because that revelation in His Son is complete and final...
give heed- ie., give attention to, turn to, hold to
(as a mariner holds his course for the safe harbor).
lest we let them slip- lit., lest we drift away
(as a boat brought to the pier but not tied securely to it).
Loss follows simple neglect.
(Illustration from McGee: A man fell asleep in his boat on the Niagara River. He did not awake until entering the rapids. It was then too late to take effective action. He went over Niagara Falls to his death.)
Some ask: What must I do to be lost?
You are lost already. If you neglect the anchorage of which God has told us, you will perish.
The question is: What must I do to be saved?
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Acts 16:30,31
But don't delay, for "now is the day of salvation..." 2Cor 6:2
2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast,
and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
the word spoken by {ie., through} angels was stedfast- ie., God's Word is sure,
even though the messengers who deliver it may be inferior to Him. Examples:
  • Angels brought the message of Sodom's judgment.
    Destruction was swift & complete. Gen 19:12,13
  • Angels had a part in communicating the Mosaic Law which condemned sin and prescribed its certain consequences. Acts 7:51-53; Gal 3:19; Heb 10:28,29
2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation;
which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord,
and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him];
How shall we escape? Even God Himself cannot provide an alternate way of escape.
His salvation -
  • is "so great"- "God so loved... that He gave His only begotten Son..." (not an angel). Joh 3:16-18
  • was proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son: "I am the way..." Joh 14:6
  • was confirmed by Christ's disciples, who were eyewitnesses. Acts 10:40-42; 1Joh 1:1-3
2:4 God also bearing [them] witness,
both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles,
and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
His salvation -
  • was confirmed by God, at His discretion,
  • through supernatural signs. (eg., at Pentecost) Acts 2:4-21; 3:1-21
  • through supernatural enabling of men for ministry (by the Holy Spirit). 1Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:8-11
As Christ is better than the angels, so the salvation which He communicates-
-- is complete. It surpasses all prior messages through prophets & angels.
-- is final. It will not be superseded by subsequent messages.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?

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