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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

Some points and questions on Hebrews 1

When reading the Bible, we should always follow the principle of context - the context of the passage, the book, and the whole Bible. Historical and cultural context can be informative but are not the basis of interpretation. The Bible is the word of God and is thus self-validating (Heb 6:16-18). That is the only way it can be. If the scriptures are subject to man, then they do not carry the authority of God. Each book of the Bible is part of the whole. The Bible does not contradict itself, and any interpretation that creates an apparent internal conflict is an error. Each book has a particular purpose, but they all harmonize to give us a whole body of literature. For example, we can read about God as the Creator throughout the Bible, but the book of Genesis provides the account of creation in chapters 1 and 2. The main point of the book of Hebrews is to show how the new covenant is better than the old one called the law of Moses (Heb 7:22, Heb 8:6, Heb 9:23, Heb 11:40). The word better appears 13 times.

The main point of Hebrews 1 is that Jesus is better than the angels. The writer of Hebrews is not specified in the book, but the evidence seems to point to Paul. The writer illustrates this point several ways including the application of four quotes from the Old Testament. Some people use these points to attempt to show that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead while others affirm that the Bible teaches there is one God who is a Spirit and therefore not a person (Jn 4:24), there is only one divine Spirit (Eph 4:4), that Spirit was manifested in the flesh as Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God (Jn 1:1-14, Jn 14:7-11, 2Cor 5:19, Col 2:8-12, 1Tim 3:16), and that same one Spirit is given to men as the gift or baptism of the Holy Ghost (Jn 14, Acts 2, Phil 1:19, Col 1:27). Some even assert that Jesus was just a man and not God at all. Which interpretation matches the context better?

Hebrews 1:1 says that God spoke in the past by the prophets. Verse 2 says He then spoke by His Son. It also says He has appointed Him heir of all things, and by Him made the worlds. There is clearly a distinction made here between God and His Son, but what is the distinction? Is it between two separate and distinct divine persons, or is it between the two aspects of Jesus Christ - divine and human? Let the scriptures speak for themselves. Does God get appointed by someone, and if so by whom? It makes more scriptural sense that the divine appointed the human. The next phrase says that God made the worlds by His Son. Is this a literal description of how God made the worlds, as in God took the hands of the Son and manipulated them? Does it mean God delegated the creation to the Son? How does one divine person delegate to another? Would that not make them unequal - the delegator being superior to the one delegated to? Jesus said, "My Father is greater than I (Jn 14:28)". Therefore, the Father and the Son are not co-equal persons in the Godhead. The Father is God, divine, and Spirit. The Son is the humanity and flesh God manifested Himself in. Also, God made the worlds by Himself with no other (Is 44:24, Neh 9:6, Job 9:8, Ps 136:4-9). So, what does the phrase "by whom He made the worlds" mean? It means that God knew before the foundation of the world that man would need Him to come in the flesh to be our Savior, and He made the worlds based on that knowledge (Jn 1:1-14, Jn 17:5 & 24, Rom 16:25-26, 1Cor 2:7, Eph 1:4, 2Tim 1:9, Titus 1:2, 1Pet 1:20). He planned our salvation even before Adam and Eve sinned. There cannot be a thorough discussion of the implications of the foreknowledge of God here, but God predestined the salvation made available through the blood of Christ to all who choose to put their faith in Him. Also, Jesus as God the Father is the Creator (Jn 1:3 & 10, Col 1:16).

Hebrews 1:3 gives us five clauses describing who Christ is and what He did. The first two describe Him. He is the brightness of God's glory, yet God said, "my glory will I not give to another (Is 42:8)". Jesus also made some interesting and relevant statements about the glory of God (Mt 6:13, Mt 16:27, Mt 19:28, Mt 24:30, Mt 25:31, Jn 11:4, Jn 12:28, Jn 13:32, Jn 16:14, Jn 17:1 & 5 & 22). These verses are scripturally and logically impossible to explain except by the Biblical doctrine that Jesus Christ is God manifested in the flesh. That is why glorifying the Son is glorifying the Father without any contradiction or conflict. They are not separate and distinct persons who need separate and distinct glory.

The next clause in Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the express image of God's person. To understand this, we need to look at the Greek words translated here. The words "express image" are from the one Greek word charaktēr, which means "the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect, i.e facsimile (Strong's Concordance)". The Greek word eikōn is translated image in several places pertaining to Christ being the image of God (Rom 8:29, 2Cor 3:18, 2Cor 4:4, Col 1:15, Col 3:10). The Greek word morphe is translated as the word form (Phil 2:6-7). It means, "the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision, external appearance (Strong's )". Thus, Jesus is the visible manifestation in the flesh of the invisible God (Jn 1:18, Col 1:15). The word translated "person" in this verse is the Greek word hypostasis, which means "a substance, real being, the substantial quality, nature, of a person or thing". This is different than the word prosopon, which means face, outward appearance, or presence (1Cor 13:10, 2Cor 2:10, 2Cor 4:6, Rev 22:4). Thus, the use of the word person does not denote separate and distinct persons in the Godhead, but the visible manifestation of the invisible God in the flesh.

Hebrews 1:3 continues with " upholding all things by the word of his power". Strong's says the specific meaning here is "of Christ, the preserver of the universe". That again makes Him the Creator and sustainer of all else. The verse then says that Christ by Himself purged our sins. This does not mean that Jesus did this as a separate person in the Godhead. First, He did this by His blood which clearly refers to His humanity (Mt. 26:28, Rom 5:9, Eph 1:7, Col 1:14, Heb 9:12). Yet, because He is God manifested in the flesh, it was also God's blood (Acts 20:28). Second, Christ was not a separate divine person who died alone (Jn 10:18, Jn 16:32, Heb 9:14). Verse 3 concludes with "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high". Is this a description of a geographical location or symbolic language describing the exaltation of Christ? The phrase "right hand" is used throughout the Bible to describe power and honor (Gen 48:13-20, Ex 15:6, 1Ki 2:19, Job 40:14, Ps 16:11, Ps 20:6, Mt 25:33, Mt 26:64, Acts 5:31, Rev 1:16). If Jesus is literally sitting on the right hand of God, why did He literally stand on it in Acts 7:55-56? If God is omnipresent, where is His right hand (1Ki 8:27, Ps 139:7-8, Jer 23:24)? If heaven is His throne, where is the right side of it (Is 66:1, Acts 7:49)? Isn't Jesus the One sitting on the throne (Ps 45:6, Is 9:7, Is 22:23, Dan 7:9, Mt 19:28, Mt 25:31, Lk 1:32, Acts 2:30, Heb 1:8, Rev 1:4, Rev 7:17, Rev 20:11, Rev 22:1-4)? There is no reference to more than one throne in heaven anywhere in the Bible. In their visions, the prophets always saw only one throne (1Ki 22:19, Is 6:1, throughout Revelation).

Hebrews 1:4 says that Jesus "hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than" the angels. How does one divine person receive an inheritance from another? The Son is God manifested in the flesh. He is human. He received the inheritance. Also, what is the inheritance? It is a more excellent name than the angels. Philippians 2:9 says, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name". Jesus in His humanity died for us and God raised Him from the dead. He then ascended to heaven. He was "by the right hand of God exalted (Acts 2:33)".

Hebrews 1:5 quotes Psalm 2:7 and says, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee". Being begotten in time and being eternal are exact opposites. The Son was begotten via the virgin Mary in time and space (Mt 1, Lk 1-3). The eternal, infinite God caused a virgin to conceive. He was manifested in that body. Again, the distinction is between the divine and the human, not between divine persons.

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45:6-7 and says, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever...God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Is this a literal conversation between divine persons, or a prophetic, Messianic passage? The issue of the throne is addressed above, but to reiterate, the Son is the humanity God manifested Himself in. The humanity died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is now sitting on the throne. Jesus is both God and man as evidenced by verse 9. God does not get anointed by another and does not have equals (Is 40:25, Is 46:5). The word Messiah in Hebrew or Christ in Greek means anointed. The man was anointed, not a divine person (Lk 4:18, Acts 10:38).

Notice that as Hebrews 1 continues after verse 9, verses 10-12 use singular pronouns to speak of the subject which is the one God manifested in the flesh. Verse 10 says the Lord made everything. Isn't Jesus the one and only Lord? Verse 13 quotes Psalm 110:1 which states, "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." This is addressed above about verses 3 and 8, but also the Hebrew in Psalm 110:1 says, "Jehovah said to my Adonai". This once again illustrates the dual nature of Jesus Christ in a prophetic, Messianic passage, not a literal conversation between two divine persons. Jesus quoted this verse (Mt. 22:41-45, Mk 12:35-37, Lk 20:41-44). He asked the Jews how Christ is David's son if David called Him Lord. They could not answer. He was pointing out that He was a man, but not just a man. He was also Jehovah, David's lord, manifested in the flesh (Rom 1:3-4).

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