Christians can grow sluggish in their Christianity. They can start to loosen their grip on the faith once for all delivered to the saints. And they can do this as recipients of the heavy blessing of God. Cotton Mather once said, “Religion begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother.” Moses said something similar. He sang of God making his people ride on the high places of the earth that they might eat the increase of the fields. And then, “Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15).
The solution of course is not to go on a diet from the blessings of God. The solution is to truly taste and see that the Lord is good and so give thanks. That’s the logic of the text before us. The original hearers, like us today, needed to pay closer attention to what God had said to them and done for them through his Son (ch. 2:1-3). And where we will we get strength to do that? In God’s Son (ch. 1:1-14)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Paul begins by pointing out that God spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets (v. 1). And he contrasts God’s manner of speaking back then with his manner of speaking in “these last days” (v. 2). In these last days, God has spoken to the saints by his Son. Many things are acknowledged of this Son through whom God spoke to his people: He has been appointed heir of all things, not just some things (v. 2). He was the one through whom God made the worlds (v. 2). He is the brightness of God’s glory, and his express image such that if you have seen Jesus Christ then you have seen the Father (v. 3). This Son upholds all things by the word of his power, the same all things that he is inheriting, remember (v. 3). This Son purged our sins and is sat down at the right hand of God on high (v. 3).
The Son of God has obtained a better “name” than angels (v. 4). Now, this assertion can be confusing. Why does it need to be made? Doesn’t everyone already know that the Son of God is better than the angels? Well, yes, they do. Paul isn’t speaking to the supremacy of Christ’s divine nature to the angels. He’s speaking to the supremacy of the Godman, Jesus Christ, and particularly his mediatorial office as the Godman.
This idea is further expressed in verse 5 and 6. In verse 6, the angels of God worship the Son when God brings him into the world. The point is not simply that the angels worship the second member of the Trinity. The point is they worship the Son of God made flesh. In verse 5, Paul signals that God has not exalted any angel like he has the Son. For God said to the Son, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Paul is quoting Psalm 2 here. And the “begottenness” happened on a “day.” And that needs explaining. (Remember Peter said that Paul wrote things hard to understand).
When the Apostle John refers to the “only begotten Son” in John 3:16, he speaks of Christ’s eternal Sonship to the Father. That eternal Sonship is, of course, eternal. Therefore, it did not happen on “a day.” Psalm 2 and Hebrews 1:5 speak to a different begotteness, a different thing. Psalm 2 signals that “this day” was the day of Christ’s resurrection. And the begotteness refers to the Father raising the Son from the dead. Paul makes this very clear in Acts 13:33. He cites this same verse from Psalm 2 while referring to the Father raising the Son from the dead. God has not done the same for angels, they are ministering spirits (v. 7).
Several Old Testament texts are referenced as Paul points out the supremacy of the Son. God the Father says many things of the Son. He speaks of the Son’s never-ending throne (v. 8), his love of righteousness, hatred of iniquity, and exceeding gladness (v. 9). The Son laid the foundation of the earth, built the heavens with his hands, and will remain after they grow old and he folds them up like a dress (v. 10-12). Christ is better than angels for he has ascended to the right hand of God with his enemies being made his footstool, while the angels minister to Christ’s people (v. 14).
The application of all of this is that the saints must pay closer attention to what God has said through this exalted Son, lest we let his words to us slip (ch. 2:1). If God’s word delivered by angels in time past was so steadfast that every disobedience was punished, how much more will be the case for those who neglect the great salvation brought by Christ himself (ch. 2:2-3)?
CHRIST WHO PURGED OUR SINS
Paul’s logic runs something like this: Would you leave God? Would you slip away from him? May it never be! God has not only saved you. He has saved you through his Son.
The passage is not concerned with the supremacy of Christ abstractly considered. It is not merely a matter of putting God’s Son on one side of the scales and the prophets and angels on the other side. The Son, whose supremacy is in view, is the Son who purged our sins. He is the Son of God who entered the world. He is the Son who was “made a little lower than the angels” and then was raised from the dead and exalted above the angels as the Godman. And when he was raised up there in the heavens, he took you all with him for you are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
This Christ is not merely the Word spoken to you that you must hear. He is the Word that binds you. What does he bind you to? He binds you to God. Would you slip away from God’s word? It is the Word made flesh that binds you to God. Would you loosen your hold on the Word? It is the word that upholds you and all things.
THE LAST DAYS AND OUR DAYS
Paul says that God has spoken to his people by his Son “in these last days.” These “last days” can be easily misunderstood. So a word about them is in order. We do not live in these last days. And these last days are not in our future. Rather, these “last days” refer to the Jewish age or the old covenant. When Paul wrote, the Romans were soon to destroy the temple in Jerusalem. The destruction of that temple was an act of God signifying the vanishing of the old covenant. Jesus referred to this in Matthew 24:1-2 when he said to his disciples that not one stone of the temple would be left on another.
That temple destruction was not merely about the destruction of temple worship. It signified the removal of the old covenant, the end of an age. We see Paul expressing this same idea later in the book in Hebrews 8:13. There he speaks of a new covenant that God is making. And he writes, “In that he saith, a new covenant, he made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
That old covenant was glorious. It was so glorious that Paul says “the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance” (2 Corinthians 3:7). But, he adds that this old covenant glory was coming to an end. And it would be replaced with a new covenant that was even more glorious.
You live in the epoch of the seen Christ, of the revealed mystery. The veil of the temple has been torn in two. You live in the time of the gathering together into one both things in heaven and things on earth. You are members of the new covenant. And the Virgin-born Son of God is the mediator of this new covenant and Lord over all things in this new covenant era.
You live in the days after the last days. And they are days of great wonder and glory. How then should you live? You should give more earnest heed to the things God your Father has said to you through his Son (Hebrews 2:1).
PROPHETS, ANGELS, AND GOD’S SON
Speaking about the word of God, Paul stirs up the saints to reverence for that word by contrasting the various ways God has delivered his word to his people. In time past, God spoke by prophets. And in time past, he spoke “by angels” (ch. 2:2). And the word that he spoke by prophets and angels was steadfast. We’re not dealing with a shaky word back then and a stable word here and now. We’re dealing with a rock-solid word back then, (the kind of rock you could build a house on), and diamond-hard Mount Everest word here and now (the kind that supports the world-wide growth of an everlasting kingdom).
In both cases, God speaks. The contrast is not between prophets and angels themselves speaking in the old and the Son speaking in the new. The contrast is that God spoke by prophets and angels in the old. And he has now spoken by his Son in the new. Think book publishing. There is an author from whom the word originates and there is a publisher of that word.
Paul says in Galatians 3:19 that the law was “ordained by angels.” God spoke the law by these angels on Mount Sinai. John Owen said these angles “raised the fire and smoke; they shook and rent the rocks; they framed the sound of the trumpet . . . and therein proclaimed and published the law.” Not many men would not complain about having an angel as his publisher. That’s a sure word.
How much more then ought we to take confidence in the word published by the Son of God, the Word made flesh? Take this to heart. Man often cast his doubts in a humble light, “I just don’t know. I haven’t quite made up my mind, still exploring.” We often do the same with anxiety. But the doubting man and anxious woman do not doubt an idea. They do not doubt a sentence in the sky. They doubt a person, and his name is the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the only way to snap out of your worrisome unbelief. God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him!” God said that on the mount as Jesus was transfigured and his face shone as the sun. And his face still shines today. So, hear him. He’s the Living Christ. Hear him.
The only appropriate response to this word from God is that of the disciples on that mount, “The fell on their face and were sore afraid” (Matthew 17:6). That’s it. No more huffing and puffing, no more what-iffing. Hear him and fall on your face in fear.
THE ETERNAL THRONE AND KINGDOM
We have every reason to because this Christ through whom God speaks to us not only purged our sin. He not only ushered in the new covenant era. And he not only is superior to prophets and angels. He has been raised up and seated on an eternal throne (ch. 1:8). And he is a happy king, anointed with the oil of gladness.
This king rules over his kingdom. And here is glory, you are in that kingdom. Look around, you are fellow members in that kingdom. And the kingdom that we find ourselves in will be around after Christ folds up the heavens like a curtain on moving day. The Palouse hills will be wrapped up like a bed sheet. And the kingdom we are in right now will still be here. And the King of this kingdom will still be here.
Do you feel shaky? That’s because things are being shaken. Well who is doing the shaking? God is. He says so in this very book, “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (Hebrews 12:26). Do you feel breakable like a clay pot? That’s because you are a clay pot. Do you feel like a brick that could be pulverized if dropped from too high up? That’s because you are a brick. You are a brick being placed one upon another. And you are a dwelling place for God. The designer and builder of this house is God. He is building this eternal kingdom and we are receiving it even now, “And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:27-28).