I. The Superiority of the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-14)


I. The Superiority of the Son of God (1:1-14)

The recipients of Hebrews were Jewish Christians struggling to persevere in their commitment to Christ in the face of temptations and persecution. The author knew their situation was serious and thus functioned a bit like a parent with a child who is in danger and not paying attention. Out of love, he essentially grabbed these children in the faith to say, “You need to listen to me! This is serious.”

1:1 He opens by explaining how God spoke to the fathers of the faith long ago. As our transcendent Creator, God is unknowable unless he reveals himself. And that’s what he’s done, pulling back the curtain on spiritual matters to disclose himself. The Bible is God’s revelation to us. In times past, he communicated to his people in different ways: by prophets, angels (e.g., Josh 5:13-15), and even a donkey (Num 22:22-41).

1:2 In these last days, however, he has spoken to us by his Son. When the author mentions “these last days,” he’s talking about the New Testament days—everything that falls between the time of Christ’s birth and his return. Jesus’s goal was to put on flesh in order to make God known (see John 1:1, 14, 18). God used various means to reveal himself in the past. But now he’s funneling everything through his Son, the incarnate revelation of God. He is God’s final Word on every subject.

What else does the author tell us about this Son? Jesus is heir of all things. God has bequeathed creation to his Son. Moreover, he is the creative power of God: God made the universe through him. When God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3), Jesus was the Word doing the action (John 1:1-3).

1:3 Furthermore, the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature. Jesus Christ possesses all of the divine attributes. And he couldn’t be the “exact expression” of God without being God. The author of Hebrews, then, heartily agrees with John (John 1:1) and Paul (Phil 2:6): Jesus is God. And not only does he bear all the attributes of deity, he also sustains all things by his powerful word. He’s the creative power of God as well as the sustaining power of God.

Many people feel like they’re coming apart. But if Jesus Christ has the power to keep a universe from unraveling, he has the power to hold you together too! This is why believers must never give up.

After Christ completed his work of redemption, making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. When the high priest entered the most holy place in the tabernacle/temple to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people, there was no chair. He couldn’t sit down because his work was never done. He had to repeat the work over and over.

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was God’s layaway plan. It couldn’t deal with sin once and for all. It was God’s temporary solution, pointing forward to something better. But when Jesus died on the cross for sin, he declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30)—that is, “The sin debt is paid in full.” With his resurrection, his work was complete, and he sat down at God’s right hand—in the seat of authority and power, which guarantees that final victory belongs to him. Thus, believers can have assurance of divine victory in their lives. This is an important theme we’ll see repeated in Hebrews.

1:4 Jesus became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs. God made humans “lower than the angels,” yet he crowned them “with glory and honor” (2:7; Ps 8:5). God created Adam constitutionally inferior to angelic beings, but he made him to rule the earth (Gen 1:28) and manifest God’s rule in history. But when Adam listened to Satan and sinned, he relinquished control. In rebelling against God’s rule, he submitted to Satan’s. As a result, Satan became the “god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4), and the world needed to be reclaimed.

So, who could reclaim it? Well, it had to be a human being—that was God’s plan from the beginning. But sinful humans were under the authority of the devil (Eph 2:2). The only answer, then, was “the last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45): Jesus Christ. He was perfectly righteous and not under Satan’s authority. Nevertheless, he had to inherit a name. He had to become human. Jesus is the Son—both Son of God and Son of Man, divine and human.

1:5-14 The author quotes a number of Old Testament passages to support his statements in 1:2-4 and to demonstrate Christ’s superiority to the angels. Many first-century Jewish Christian revered angels because they were a means of divine revelation. But God never said to an angel, You are my Son (1:5). Nor does an angel have the right to receive worship, which is for God alone (see Exod 20:3-5). Rather, all God’s angels worship the Son (1:6). Not only that, but God calls the Son “God” (1:8-9)! Unlike the rest of humanity, the Son consistently loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (1:9). He is the everlasting Creator of the heavens (1:10-12) who has been seated at God’s right hand with his enemies under his feet (1:13; see Eph 1:20-22). Angels are merely ministering spirits who serve those who are going to inherit salvation (1:14).

So where do we fit into this discussion? The psalm quoted by the author in verse 9 speaks of Christ’s companions. The idea of being a “companion” or “partner” of Christ shows up several times in Hebrews (e.g., 3:1, 14). What does it mean? Well, believers have the opportunity to be Christ’s companions, his partners, who will rule with him as part of his inner circle. This honor is distinct from justification. Those who accept him as their sin-bearer gain entrance by grace into the kingdom of God as heirs. But your participation as Christ’s companion or partner determines the level of your inheritance in the kingdom.

Christ himself had to inherit a name (1:4) even though he was appointed as an heir (1:2). You are an heir by grace. But your obedience and participation with Christ determines your benefits and privileges in the kingdom. If you are a Christian, you have been saved to become a partner and to rule with Christ. You can’t lose your salvation, but God doesn’t want you to lose out on partnership—the calling he has on your life. How important is this to God? He has assigned ministering angels to oversee you and make sure you receive your inheritance in time and in eternity (1:14). However, faithfulness to the King is the criteria to become part of Christ’s administrative cabinet when he establishes his earthly millennial kingdom on his return (3:14; see Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:16-17).