Spoken To Us By His Son
Key Verse 1:2
“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”
You will notice that this is one of the letters in the Bible that neither introduces an author nor recipients. In other words, he neither tells you who he is nor who he is writing you to, which makes it an open letter to all Christians of all generations, everywhere. But we gather from the context that it was written mainly to the Jewish converts of that time. Many Biblical scholars are conflicted as to who wrote this letter to these Hebrew Christians. But if we were to be pressed to name an author, we would not hesitate to name Paul as its author and for many good reasons, none of which we will get into today. But what I am confident to say is that the real author of this letter and every other book or letter in this Holy Bible is the Holy Spirit himself who inspired the writing of all these writings which we have in our hands today.
The next question is why did the author of Hebrews write this letter to these Jewish Christians? Occasionally, we will have to discuss the reason to better understand the lesson we are dealing with. But to begin with, let me offer a brief explanation. The Jewish converts he was writing to had undergone some terrible suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus. Many of them had been publically insulted, persecuted, imprisoned, while others had had their property confiscated. (10:32-34) Worst of all, all of them had been banished from the synagogues and especially temple worship. It was a great blow to their pride in their Jewish heritage and glory as a people of God. While in weakness and shame, many denied the faith in Christ and returned to their Jewish roots to avoid further persecution, many were seriously contemplating abandoning their faith in Christ and returning to Judaism. This is where the book of Hebrews comes in. The author wrote them a magnificent letter detailing the glories of Christ Jesus over and above everything they had left behind in their Jewish faith and traditions. He basically tells them that what they left behind was a shadow of the real thing— who is Christ Jesus. And what they have now in Christ Jesus is worth every suffering and every sacrifice they made or continue to make because Christ is superior to all— because from the beginning, Christ Jesus had been the point of the Jewish nation and ceremonies and sacrifices and faith— all leading to Christ and culminating in him. So they had better hold on, endure, persevere, live by faith in Christ and for Christ to the end!
The book of Hebrews may be divided into 2 sections, the first section being the doctrinal part, Hebrews 1:1-10:18— and the second section being the practical part Hebrews 10:19-13:25. We can say that that the first three verses of this letter are a summary of the doctrinal section of this letter. Let’s read them together. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” The author begins by affirming that God had spoken in the past by the prophets, but that God had now spoken by his Son. What he is saying is that God had done something marvelous throughout countless ages by speaking to the Jews through prophets, but that now at long last he had done something incredibly and marvelously new and Final by speaking to them by his Son! What had been spoken through the prophets had been the Old Covenant and it was wondrous. But now that God had spoken by his Son, a New Covenant is in place which is eternal and glorious beyond measure. And this is the goal of this letter to the Hebrews, to contrast the Old and the New Covenants. [However, this contrast which he wants to present is based on their unity and not their discord. What this means is this. The author does not want to contrast these covenants as if he is contrasting light and darkness, good and evil. He would contrast them as one would contrast the beautiful night sky with its bright shining stars and glowing moonlight, and emerging of the daybreak upon the rising of the sun. When the sun rises in all its glory, all the brightness of the starts and the glow of the moon become as nothing in comparison. Likewise, when God spoke by the Son, who is the radiance of God’s glory, all things become pale in comparison, even Judaism and the Old Covenant.]
Let’s take a look at these verses more closely then.
Verse 1 reads: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways”, The One who spoke, is God the Father himself. And perhaps before we get into the actual meaning of the verse, let me make a comment about the words “God spoke”. From the beginning of time, the Bible tells us something very important about God our Father. He is a God who speaks. In other words, he is not a silent God. From Genesis to Revelation, we find him speaking. “God speaks” tells us that he is a God who intended to communicate with his creation. He never intended to remain silent nor aloof and distant from us. But rather he had every intention to be intimate and personal with us. God spoke in order to make himself known to us, to reveal himself to us, to make a relationship with us. We can never forget this nor be thankful enough for that.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways”. God did not speak to our forefathers once or twice but many times and he did so in many ways. From Adam to Abraham to the last prophet Malachi, throughout the centuries of prophesy, God spoke a few words to some (as in the case of some Minor prophets), and to others he spoke many words (as in the case Isaiah or Jeremiah or the Psalms of David). To some he spoke directly as in the case of Adam and Abraham and Samuel, and to others he spoke in dreams or visions as in the case of Daniel. Clearly also God did not confine himself to any one method of speaking. He spoke by way of promise and prediction, by symbols, by commandments and laws and warnings and exhortations. But the question is this: Had God, through all these prophets communicated to them the fullness of his message— Or the fullness of his heart and mind? Although the prophets of old were the very mouthpiece of God, the answer is no! The Old Testament in all its glory, with all the words that had been spoken by God through the prophets was a wondrous revelation about God. But like the stars in the night before the rising of the sun, it was not the full and complete sunlight of God’s glorious revelation and of his spoken word.
Read verse 2. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” After describing God’s revelation to the Jews, the author now goes on to give an account of God’s revelation to the Christians, to us. God who spoke to the fathers now speaks to us. God who spoke in times past, now speaks in these last days. And God who spoke “through the prophets” now speaks “By his Son”. You will notice that now “by his Son”, he no longer speaks at many times and in various ways. But he has spoken— period! And what this means is the clearness, the completeness and perfection of the Gospel revelation we have received as compared with the obscurity of the old Jewish revelation as given by the prophets of old. We are not saying this to undermine what the Old Testament has to say. We are only emphasizing these truths in order to bring to light the glory of the truth which is this: that what God has in these last days finally spoken to us by his Son is far superior and more perfect and complete and final than anything that had ever been spoken in the past by all the prophets combined.
We know that when Jesus came preaching and teaching, he revealed the gospel of God’s grace and truth not at many times and in different ways, but all at once— that is, during his life and ministry on earth. For it was during his life and ministry on earth that the whole will of God was made known. Jesus himself said: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) He also said: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) During his life on earth, Jesus shared with his disciples the full will and revelation of God. It was complete. It was as clear as the Sunlight. Jesus is indeed the full revelation of God. God had spoken by his Son, the complete and perfect and final word to us. All the prophets that ever preceded John the Baptist could testify together with him, just as he had done: “I am not the light, I came only as a witness to the light.” (John 1:8)
The words “In these last days” are in contrast to the words “in the past” meaning that the last days marked or ushered in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. What the author was trying to tell his readers is the finality of the Gospel revelation. In other words, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus is the end of the all revelation from God. Through the prophets God had given predictions and prophesy. But in his Son, he had given the substance and reality of what was predicted and the fulfillment of all prophesy. Paul’s letters testify to this. Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 that “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” And now God had nothing more to send or to give. He has no more revelation to make. Jesus Christ is the final spokesperson of God. The written word we have in our hand here in the Bible is now complete. In this way we can clearly say two things about Jesus. Everything before Christ Jesus spoke of him. And everything since Christ Jesus came points back to him. He is the center and focus of all God’s will and counsel. He is the heart of all that God has planned for his people and for the world now and for the world to come.
Read verse 2. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” God has spoken to us by his Son. These are wonderful words to consider. Who is this Son? Christ is the Son of God is two respects. Let me explain this to you. First of all, he is the Son of God Eternally, and that is, that he is the Second Person of the Trinity of God, ever he is Eternally God the Son. This Son of God took upon himself sinless human nature when he was born to Mary as Jesus. When he did so, he did not stop being God at all. The one born in the manger was the same Divine Peron as he ever was and ever will be in eternity. But now he had taken on himself another nature, an additional nature— the Human nature. In that sense then, he became the God-Man. And for us that means he became our Mediator, our Savior, the One in and through whom God speaks to us, and the one who speaks to God for us. He is our Head, our New Adam in whom we can begin a new life in God.
So to summarize what we have been saying so far, God spoke in the past through men, but they were sinful men. Yet in these last days he has spoken to us though his Holy Son, who is God Himself. Their message was fragmentary, incomplete, while the Son’s message was perfect complete and final. While in the times past God had expressed Himself in part, now in his Son God has fully expressed himself and has not held anything in reserve. It is this last statement that needs to be explored a little deeper. And here we go back to what we were saying earlier about the God who speaks and expresses himself through speaking. A speaking God is a God expressing himself and revealing himself to us. All that we know or can know about God is what he has revealed of himself through his Word. The author wants to make this clear. To Israel he revealed himself in part. But to us, he revealed himself in full— completely. So what is God’s revelation in the past? And what is his revelation in these last days?
We know that the Bible is divided into two sections, the Old and the New Testaments. We can actually attribute God’s distinctive character in both these two testaments according to what we had just finished studying in the 1st book of John a few months ago. We read in 1 John 1:5 that “God is Light”. And we read in 1 John 4:8 that “God is Love.” And that is what God is in himself as he is described by character. God is Light. God is Love. And these two characteristics perfectly describe God in the Old and New Testaments.
First, “God is Light”. It was this character that he was revealed in the Old Testament times. What is the very first thing we hear him saying in his word? “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) How does he appear to our fallen first parents Adam and Eve in the Garden in Genesis 3? He appears as “Light”, as the Holy One, the uncompromising God of truth, the eternal judge who judges sin. In what character was God revealed at the time of the flood? Again he is revealed as the “Light” as he dealt with the evil of the day. How about his encounter with the Israelites at Sinai? Once again he revealed himself as the one who is the Fearsome Light. And so it goes throughout the whole of the Old Testament. We cannot say that God’s love was not known to these people. But we can clearly say that it was definitely not fully revealed to them in its fullness. What was clearly revealed in the Old Testament about God’s character is God is Light!
Second, “God is Love”. And this is the character that God is revealed in the New Testament times. In order to reveal his great love character of love, God sent forth the Son of his love. It is only in Christ Jesus that love is fully unveiled and revealed and made manifest to the world, and especially to us who know him and believe in him. That does not mean that in Christ the Light was absent. Not at all! He is in every way the Light of God since in every way he is God himself. But what we are saying is that in the Old Testament, while God’s holiness was made manifest and evident in his character and revelation as God Almighty, so in the New Testament, God’s sweet love is manifest and evident in his revelation in and through the Son of his love. What we hear expressed to us by the Son is God’s beautiful and glorious affections— God’s warmth, his intimacy, his friendship. And all these things deeply appeal to us. They mostly appeal to our hearts rather than to our heads. And it is therefore by our hearts that we can come to know this God, through whom he has spoken to us by the Son of his Love.
Let me expound a little more on this statement “By [his] Son”. If you were to write it down in the original, you would have to italicize the word his, meaning that in the original it would not exist or should actually read “By Son”. But this too is obscure and inadequate a translation. The original actually reads like this: “But in these last days he has spoken to us in Son.” Think about this. “God has spoken in Son.” If this sounds strange at first, it is not! Let me explain. If someone should tell you that he attended a lecture where the speaker spoke in Spanish, you would not have any difficulty understanding what he is talking about. And this is exactly the thought and sentiment here as well. Try to understand it. “In Son” is God’s method of speaking or revelation to us. It is how God chose to reveal himself to us. The idea is that God who once chose to put words in the prophets’ mouths in order to reveal himself partly to us, now has sent his Son in the flesh to be speak and to manifest himself fully to us. What does all this mean? It means that the whole revelation and manifestation of God is now in Christ. Christ Jesus is God’s revelation, his spoken word, his method of communication, his language with us. And as such, He alone reveals to us the Father’s heart. It is not only that Jesus Christ delivered God’s message to us, but that he himself was and is God’s message.
Everything that God has to say to us is in Son. All God’s thoughts, his counsel, his will, his promises, his gifts, and all are all to be found in the Lord Jesus. Think about the perfect life that Christ lived. His behavior, bearing, demeanor, his ways, his dealings— that is all God “speaking”— God revealing himself to us. Take Jesus’ miracles, his tender mercies, revealing his compassion and displaying his mighty power— that is all God “speaking”— God revealing himself to us. Take Jesus’ death, committing us to the love of God, that while we were still sinners, he died for us, that too is God “speaking” to us. Take also Jesus’ resurrection, his triumph over the grave, overcoming the one who had the power of death, and rising up as the first fruits of all who had fallen asleep, and the harvest of souls to follow— well that too is God “speaking” to us. It was all in Son. God spoke to us directly in Son. It was the language of love. It was a fierce love that sacrificed itself to be with us in person. He did not do it by proxy. He did not do it through prophets. When God wanted to speak to us in these last days, he spoke to us in Son; in Love. His Son is the Perfect and complete expression of who God is.
The most blessed thing in the opening statement of Hebrews (1-3), and which makes it so dear to our hearts is that God has revealed himself in an entirely new character— in Son. It is not so much that God speaks to us in the Son, but that God addresses himself to us in Son-like character, which is the character of love. God might have easily spoken to us Almighty-wise or in “In Almighty” language as he had done at Sinai. But that would have terrified and overwhelmed us. God also could have spoken to us Judge-wise or “In Judge” language as he will surely do one day at the resurrection before the great throne. But if he had done that, he would have condemned us and forever banished us from his holy presence. But thanks be to this gracious God who has spoken to us “in Son” language, in Love, Son-wise, or Love-wise in the tenderest kindest gentlest most compassionate relation he could possibly assume toward us. When the angel made the proclamation to shepherds in the field, it was: “Today in the town of David” not a judge, not even a teacher, but “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) God wants us to know his affection for us that we too might offer him our deepest affection as well.
Jesus is the Son of God. He is God’s final spoken word to us. He is our Savior, our Mediator. But the author wants us to know exactly who Jesus is. So, who then is this Jesus? He tells us in these introductory verses. Look at verse 2b. First of all, Jesus Christ is the one whom God appointed as the Heir of all things. In other words, he inherits all which belongs to the Father, because he is the Son of God. This is very important for us who believe, because we know that God has made us co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Look again at verse 2b and 3b. Second, Jesus Christ is the Creator God. He is also the sustainer of all things as well. “Through whom he made the universe…. Sustaining all things by his powerful word.” However, not just the universe but also “By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) The author here is very clear that the Lord who was born as the Son of God’s love, is also the One through whom all things were created, including this earth and all that is in it, including you and me. Jesus Christ is our Creator God who came down to redeem us from the misery of sin and death and to bring us back to his Father’s kingdom. Not only is Jesus the Creator God, but he holds all things together by his powerful word. It is the word of our Lord that has kept order in this universe thus far. Men of science talk about laws and codes of nature. But we Christians know that all laws governing the universe and all life are held and maintained by the word of God.
Look at verse 3a. Third, Jesus Christ is “The radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:16 that God the Father “Lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” Just as no one can gaze at the sun and not go blind from its radiance, so also no one can gaze upon God and not perish. But God sent his Son in the form of a man, who is the exact image of his Father in order that we might gaze upon his beauty and radiance and glory and marvel without being harmed. Those who have looked intently on Jesus have seen the awesome glory of God in and through him.
Look at verse 3c. Fourth, Jesus purifies us from sin. This is one of the most crucial teachings of the book of Hebrews. Our Lord Jesus came mainly to this world to purify us from sin. This is his unique work as our Eternal High Priest. Sin caused our fall, and brought our first parents the woes that have come upon the whole world, that is, we became subjects to sin and to Satan. And we died in shame and guilt. But the Lord Jesus came to rescue us from that, and by his righteous blood spilled on the cross of his suffering, he has provided us who believe in him and confess our sins, purification from sin and a new and living way back to the Father. (1 John 1:9) What did Jesus do after he had fulfilled his mission? Look at verse 3c. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. In other words, Jesus is now the Sovereign Ruler in heaven. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is worthy of all glory, honor and praise and worship.