Hebrews 1:1- 2:4 - Outline of Hebrews (Book Notes menu page)
1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake
in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
The Epistle to the 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 and 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 3:1,2; 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 Ten Commandments, Moses received those but he knew little of the Messiah's ministry, Isaiah foretold Messiah's birth, death and 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, the Law and its ritual, types, poetry, history, prophecy...
  • by the prophets (ie., men who spoke for God, sometimes of future things).
    God used approximately 45 men to write the Bible over the course of 1500 years (2Pet 1:21).
    One of those men wrote this Epistle to the Hebrews, but did not identify himself.
    Many believe the author was the apostle 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, in Heb 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 and ink, but in the Person of God the Son, written in His flesh and blood and by His soul and 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" refers to a period of closure to God's promises, marked by fulfilled prophecy, and bracketed by Christ's first and second comings. See the Notes at 2Pet 3:3,4.)
  • unto us - ie., the Hebrew Christians (The gospel was proclaimed to the Jews first. Rom 1:16)
  • 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 fulfills the OT prophecies. He is the subject of both the OT and NT.
   Joh 1:1,2; 5:39,46-47; 1Pet 1:10-12; Rev 19:10
   In what ways is God's Son superior to the prophets?
whom he hath appointed {ie., established as} heir of all things,
1- God's Purposes are fulfilled in the Son. 2Cor 1:20
He is heir- GK=kleronomos {kler, 'lot'; onomos, 'name'} - the One to whom the allotment belongs.
  • He is the One whom God has Appointed and Anointed to accomplish His will.
  • He has the right to that which Adam lost: fellowship with 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; Joh 1:1-3).
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 fulfillment 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). [See Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, lesson 2 - The Seven Dispensations.]
1:3 Who being the brightness {ie., effulgence, outshining} of [his] glory,
3- The Son Projects God's glory into the world. Joh 1:14
It is not that He merely reflects God's glory, as moon reflects sunlight. Rather, He is like the sun, which man cannot approach or look fully upon. Yet, the radiation from the sun enables life processes and destroys disease agents.
So, God extends Himself to us, in Jesus Christ, to enable life and to purify. Joh 1:4
and the express image of his person,
4- The Son Presents God's Person to the world.
the express image {GK=charakter, pressed image (as on a coin)}
     (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 and 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 either "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, accomplished cleansing of, expunged} our sins...
     The means of purification: 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; 5:6
Hebrews was written to correct the readers' inadequate understanding of:
  1. the Person of Christ: He is the God-man.
  2. 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'- is the key word of this epistle.
In v.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, ie., having become}
v.1-3: the Son of God "who being..."- eternally existed in His Sonship.
v.4: the Son of Man "having become..."- obtained by inheritance His Sonship,
     through His sacrificial death on the cross.
by inheritance (same word root as 'heir' in v.2) - that which is rightfully His.
a more excellent {GK=diaphorus, differing in kind, superior in category}
name - ie., Who and What He is (not a mere title).
He is: the Son of God (v.1-3,5), God (v.6,8), the Lord (v.10).
     cp. Isa 7:14; Acts 3:6; Joh 1:12; Php 2:8-11
The angels are servants of God.
Some have placed an unbiblical emphasis upon angels, even to the point of worshipping them. cp. Col 2:18; Rev 22:8,9).
Angels are messengers {GK=aggelos} sent to do God's bidding.
Their work is seen primarily in relation to Israel, in the OT and also in the book of Revelation (during the Time of Jacob's Trouble).
     In the NT, their work, in behalf of believers, is mostly 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 seven 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 v.5,6) are never ascribed to angels by Scripture.
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
Quote (1): Psa 2:7
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.
     [For more on this Messianic Psalm, see the Book Notes on Psalm 2.]
And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
Quote (2): 2Sam 7:14 - In the Davidic Covenant, the LORD promised king David
that one of his descendants would reign on his throne 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, and declared His historic resurrection and His future return.
again, when he bringeth...- "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 (cited above) look forward to that event.
the firstbegotten {GK=prototokos, the chief son, the heir}.
This word emphasizes His preeminent position. cp. Psa 89:27
into the world {GK=oikoumene, inhabited earth}
See this word, in Luk 2:1 (where the context concerns His first coming, Luk 2:9-12),
and in Acts 17:31 (where the context concerns His second coming).
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, do, make, appoint}
ministers {GK=leitourgos, servants, worshippers, those who discharge holy duties}.
God has dominion over His angels. He created them as spirit beings. He causes them to appear when and 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 (v.8-12).
Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever:
{the} sceptre of righteousness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Quote (5): Psa 45:6,7
O God {GK=o theos, lit., "the God"} - God the Father addresses the Son as 'the 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 (symbolized by 'oil') without measure. Joh 3:34; Col 1:18-20
  - is above all others. He calls redeemed men his brothers (Heb 2:12), but He is above them.
In His fulness, He is God's "Fellow." cp. Zech 13:7; Col 2:9
     [For more on this Messianic Psalm, see the Book Notes on Psalm 45.]
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
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 (see 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 created 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 (Rev 1:8).
The Source of creation is also the Closer of creation (2Pet 3:5-13).
     [For more on this Messianic Psalm, see the Book Notes on Psalm 102.]
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
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
     [For more on this Messianic Psalm, see the Book Notes on Psalm 110.]
1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits,
sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Angels are ministering spirits, who minister to men, in behalf of God (cp. v.7)
to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.- This may refer to:
  1. The future work of angels, 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, Gal 3:24,25), 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 (eg., 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, angels 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 God's message of judgment to Sodom.
    Destruction was swift and complete. Gen 19:12,13
  • Angels had a part in communicating the Mosaic Law which condemns sin
    and prescribes 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 -
As Christ is better than the angels, so the salvation which He communicates...
-- is complete. It surpasses all prior messages through prophets and 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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