“1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 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. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4
In the majestic passage quoted above, the author of Hebrews, under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seeks to establish the supremacy of Christ on the basis of the revelation of God. While most Pauline epistles begin with a greeting of introduction and the establishment of Paul’s apostolic authority, the Author of this epistle begins with the authority of God in revealing Himself first by means of the prophets and “in these last days” by means of His Son. This calls to mind the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-43) where God first sent the prophets, which were killed, and then sent His Son, Whom they also killed.
Having established the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a fuller or greater revelation, that of the Son, in the second part of verse 2 we begin to see in what ways Christ is superior. First, we see that Christ has been appointed heir of all things. This is His Sonship. This is the Father granting inheritance to the Son. We may ask, what is included in this inheritance? The Author here has placed no limits upon this inheritance; it does include all things, namely the universe and all that is in it. Secondly, we see that it is through the Son that God has created the world. In John 1:3 we read, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Paul in his letter to the church at Colossae provides even more detail, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Col. 1:16 So we may conclude with these apostles that it was through Christ and for Christ that all things were made. It was He that was in Genesis forming the universe ex nihilo.
In verse 3, having established the Sonship, eternality, and creatorship of Christ, we begin to see something of an introduction into the nature of Christ. The Divine Author of Hebrews purposes here to introduce the audience, of largely Jewish origin, to the supremacy of Christ as God. He begins by stating, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Here we see first that Christ is declared to be the radiance of the glory of God. Some commentators have described this as the relationship between the sun and the sun’s rays. We may speak of the sun in reference to the visible rays that warm our skin and brighten our path. In this sense, the sun and it’s rays are indistinguishable. Similarly, Christ radiates all that the Father is, namely His glory. “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” John 1:14 Secondly, we see a related phrase that Christ is “the exact imprint of his nature”. This may be understood with the analogy of a ring or signet to a seal. As in past times where a letter or decree was sealed with wax and the ring of a king was impressed upon the wax seal to give it authority so that all would know that this word had come from the king. So it is too with Christ. “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9 Within these two phrases we see the unity between the Son and the Father, but likewise a distinction in their persons. Though distinctly One God, yet uniquely separate in their Persons. “I and the Father are One.” John 10:30
Continuing on in verse 3, which acts as a thesis statement for the book, the Author next asserts the sovereignty of Christ, not only acting as Creator but here described as Sustainer, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Christ as sovereign ruler over His creation upholds the universe by His word. Just as creation was spoken into being (Gen. 1:3), here too it is the Word of God that sustains the universe. This again speaks to the eternality of Christ, “The Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1) and certainly indicates that He has at no time handed the keys of His sovereign rule over creation to another. Meaning that through both His incarnation, as a babe in a manger, and His death in suffering at the hands of man but moreso under the wrath of God, He at all times was upholding the universe by the word of His power. Certainly this must give us reason to pause at the majesty of Christ, “Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied [humbled] Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7.
As though intending to press home the point of Christ’s supremacy even further into the consciences of His listeners, the Author next directs the Jewish mind to the Levitical priesthood with the following statement, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Though merely a preview of the exposition to come regarding Christ as the Great High Priest, this introductory statement is sufficient to see the superior relationship between Christ and the high priest after the order of Levi, set forth under the Old Covenant, and given regulation through much of the book of Leviticus (note the special relationship between Leviticus and Hebrews, particularly as it relates to holiness, i.e. clean vs. profane). Christ made purification for sins as both the Priest and the sacrifice through His penal, substitutionary atonement on the cross, namely His death in the place of sinners suffering the punishment that they deserved. (see Lev. 16) “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Is. 1:18
The posture of Christ is significant here, as seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. This is a position of power and it is a unique activity for a priest, for the work of a priest was never finished under the Old Covenant as he continually made sacrifices. Christ, once again far superior, made the sacrifice once for all (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 9:26; 10:1; 10:10) and sat down, the purification for sins having been accomplished Christ now begins His heavenly session at the Father’s right hand to Mediate a new covenant which is much better than the old (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24). It is here that He makes intercession for believers, acting on their behalf in the presence of the Father. It is here that the Father sees His children through the perfected righteousness of Christ having cleansed their sins and restored the relationship. Christ now lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).
Finally in verse 4, the supremacy of Christ over the angels is introduced and will be expounded upon in the remaining verses of chapter 1, “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” As will be shown by the Author, angels held a special place of reverence in the Jewish world. This can be seen in (Gen. 16; Ex. 3:2; Job 33:23, Matt. 1; Matt. 28:5; Luke 1; 2 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 1:8; Revelation). Angels, as divine ambassadors were believed to even play a role in the given of the Mosaic Law (see Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). So here, the Author makes a special mention of the superiority of Christ over these angelic beings. We should call in mind that Christ created the angels, sovereignly rules the angels, and as has been indicated here, is far superior to the angels.
The second part of this passage serves to magnify the name of Christ as excellent above all others. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow.” How precious is the name of Jesus, the name that He has inherited is far more excellent than man’s, as if that were in question, and far superior to angelic beings who minister in heaven to the Father and Son daily having witnessed the majesty of God first hand. God has called Him Son. (Psalm 2:7) “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-10
“You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
“…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31
From these verses in Hebrews Christ is:
- The Revelation of God
- The Heir of All Things
- The Creator of the world
- The Radiance of God’s Glory
- The Exact Imprint of His Nature
- The Sovereign upholding the Universe
- The Greater High Priest
- The Greater Davidic King
- Superior over all heavenly beings
How then can we not worship this Christ who is set forth in the pages of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and placed under magnification in these verses from Hebrews? How then can we fail to truly surrender to Him, knowing that all things are under His rule? How then can we drift from Him, knowing that it is He that is seated at the right hand of the Father? How then can we walk through this life in fear and anxiety, knowing that Christ upholds all things and that He lives to make intercession for the saints?
This is the Christ; the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature; the Messiah, Immanuel, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is worthy of the worship due His name.
How then can we escape if we neglect so great a Savior?