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Mar 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 8, 2020


Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds all things by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent that theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4

I once heard a seminary professor lecture on cultures and worldviews. He explained that our materialistic western worldview does not allow room for the supernatural and that is one reason why we find it difficult to make room for God’s Spirit to work in our lives the way Christians experienced him in the New Testament. We are like the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, where “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief ” (Mt. 13:58).
The professor explained that it is possible for us to make a mental turn to a worldview that includes the supernatural work, but very difficult and would require a paradigm shift. I had the opportunity to ask him how it would be possible for us to experience such a paradigm shift. He was quiet for a moment and then offered two suggestions. “Analogy is useful,” he said, and I immediately thought of Jesus’ parables. Then he added, “And it would be helpful to have a credible guide”–that is, someone with more experience and insight in the realm of God’s Spirit.

The author of Hebrews is a credible guide
– he is an excellent resource for those of us who are always longing to live closer to God
• Hebrews takes us on an adventure of discovering Jesus
◦ it unfolds the mystery of his person
• in Hebrews we look at Jesus through a different lens than other New Testament books
◦ in the gospels, Jesus reveals God; in Hebrews, God reveals Jesus
. . . no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Mt. 11:27)
◦ other than the gospels, no other New Testament book holds such a sustained focus on Jesus all the way through

The introduction to Hebrews is not quiet music and soft lights

It is fireworks and crescendo
– in studying the Psalms, biblical scholars have identified enthronement psalms
• these poems celebrate the coronation of a king
• Hebrews begins with something like that
◦ it celebrates Jesus as he takes his place at right hand of God
◦ as we read in verse 8,
But of the Son he says,
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever . . . .
– the theological soil of the book of Hebrews is the Old Testament
• however, Hebrews is not controlled by the Old Testament or the Hebrew language
• the author quotes scripture from the Septuagint
(the Greek translation of the Old Testament)

At this time last year, we were in Gospel of John
– we observed how it was different from other three gospels
• John provided explanations and insights to the Synoptics
◦ revelations that the disciples did not understand at the time
◦ Hebrews is similar, but goes much further
• at the same time, there are solid connections with John
◦ especially in the introductions to both books
◦ both begin with:
> God creating the world through Jesus
> the glory of God revealed in Jesus
> Jesus as the Son of God
> God being “made known” through Jesus
– the major themes of Hebrews are also present in introduction
• the structure of the book has an alternating pattern
• there is revelation and then warning; revelation and warning; etc.

God has spoken

In the past, God spoke to our fathers; that is, Israel’s ancestors
In the present (these last days) God has spoken to us

In the past, God spoke by (or through) the prophets
In the present he has spoken to us through his Son

The Scriptures are a record of what God said in the past
– the emphasis here is on fact that God speaks, he communicates
• in Hebrews we do not just read scripture, we hear it
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
(verse 5)
◦ the quotes in verses 6-8 are not introduced with, “It is written”
◦ but with, “he says” — God’s word speaks to its readers
• whenever God spoke, he revealed something
– God spoke in the past, long ago
many times – in every period of Israel’s history
many ways – through dreams, visions, prophetic oracles and drama
– whenever God spoke, his word was like a piece of a puzzle
• what people heard was relevant to their lives and experience at the time
• but the whole revelation came and piecemeal and in fragments
◦ no one ever saw the whole puzzle
◦ in fact, it never came to completion in the Old Testament

But in these last days – we are no longer in the past
– things are different now – what has changed?
• it is not that God no longer speaks
◦ he still speaks, but now it is to us that he has spoken
◦ and not only by the former prophets, but by his Son
• now in Jesus the whole puzzle is complete
◦ everything God wants us to know about himself is revealed in Jesus
◦ Jesus could say, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (Jn. 14:10)
– the present situation is connected to the past;
• a continuation of God’s revelation
◦ we have a shared history with Israel
◦ the cumulative message of the prophets is brought to completion
• Jesus and what he does and what he provides,
◦ is “better,” “greater,” and “much more” than what was revealed previously
◦ Jesus is the fullness of God’s revelation

The author of Hebrews has much to say about Jesus

But he does not repeat what we know from the gospels
– that is, that Jesus was born of a virgin, preached, healed, was crucified and rose again
• all of that took place on the stage of this world
• but other things were hidden behind the earthly screen
◦ the writer wants to tell us about heavenly things
◦ the work Jesus accomplished there, and what he is doing now
– let’s look briefly at the eight statements regarding Jesus in this prologue

whom he appointed heir of all things
– in verse 5, the writer will begin a list of quotations
• the first one comes from Psalm 2, and the whole quote is,
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
and the ends of the earth your possession
(Ps. 2:7-8)
– when human history has run its course and curtain comes down,
• God will hand everything over to Jesus
• through Jesus God created all things
◦ and at the end of human history, he will give Jesus all things
◦ in other words, Jesus is the world’s destiny

through whom he also created the world
– we are not give any information on how this worked
• but it tells us, Jesus existed with the Father prior to his earthly life
– “world” translates a Greek word that is literally “ages”
• we refer to “prehistoric age,” “age of reason,” “industrial age”
• whatever happens in the ages also occupies physical space
◦ so the ages that develop through time, can be referred to as the world
◦ world history

He is the radiance of the glory of God
– God’s glory was one of the manifestations of God’s presence
• it was only seen when God wanted it to be seen
◦ and when he wanted people to know he was there
◦ John could say,
. . . we beheld his glory, as of the only Son from the Father (Jn. 1:14)
◦ and Paul could say regarding those who do not know Jesus, that they are kept from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4)

and the exact imprint of his nature (essence or “very being”)
– think of a rubber stamp and the impression it leaves
• when we talk about a seal made in clay or wax,
◦ “seal” can refer to both the engraved object and its image
◦ it is as if they are one and the same
• the idea is that Jesus is an exact, visible representation of God
He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)
– as William Barclay put it, “Jesus revealed God by being himself.”

and he upholds the universe by the word of his power
– when in the OT God exercised his power, it took two fundamental forms
• his Spirit and his Word – we see both in the creation story
• God who spoke in past, shares his power of speech with Son
◦ as when Jesus drove out demons with a word (Mt. 8:16)
◦ or when he healed the centurion’s servant
say the word, and let my servant be healed (Lk. 7:7)

making purification for sin
– we’ll come to more teaching on this later on
• we’ve spent a lot of time with purification in Leviticus

he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
– having completed his work on earth, took his place in heaven
• in this statement, a dual role is implied:
◦ a priestly role – purification
◦ and what we could call a royal or majestic role
(much more on Jesus’ dual role later)

having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs
– Jesus superiority to angels will fill the remainder of the chapter
– the name of Jesus, that is “above every name” (Php. 2:9) has not yet been mentioned
• the author delays using it until he has prepared his readers to hear it
◦ both Luke and John do the same thing in their gospels
• in scripture, a name was a person’s identity, it defined him or her
Timothy L. Johnson, “In the biblical tradition, the name is more than an arbitrary designator; it evokes the identity of the one named.”
◦ the name is the person
◦ and the person, Jesus the Son of God, is superior to angels

Conclusion: I think the author tied the last chapter of Hebrews to the beginning

We find in chapter 13 a simple statement that seems to stand alone
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (He. 13:8)
– all that Jesus is, he has always been and will always be
• studying the book of Hebrews will deepen our knowledge of Jesus
◦ it will mature beyond romantic notions of “our buddy”
◦ and at the same time avoid the emptiness of sterile doctrine
• the book of Hebrews will also motivate us to persevere through hardship and suffering

I was impressed with, and inspired by Alex Trebek this past Wednesday. He made a public update on the progress of his treatment for pancreatic cancer. He said:
“I’d be lying if I said the journey had been an easy one. There were some good days, but a lot of not-so-good days.”
“I joked with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo treatments will. There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on.”
But he bravely fought on anyway, because he believed it would be wrong to give up.
“That would’ve been a massive betrayal, a betrayal of my wife and soulmate, Jean, who has given her all to help me survive.”
He said it would also be a betrayal to his faith, of his supporters, and of others fighting the illness who were looking to him for hope.

The book of Hebrews will give us reasons to hope
and that hope will give us motivation to endure
And in it all, Jesus will become everything to us

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