by A. W. Pink
"...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," - Hebrews 1: 2-3
Now, to prevent the Hebrews from concluding that Christ was nothing more than another instrument through which God had "spoken," the Holy Spirit in the verses which we are now to take up, brings before us some of the highest and most blessed of our Savior’s personal excellencies. He there proceeds to exalt the Hebrews’ conception of the Divine Prophet and Founder of the new economy. This He does by bringing into view seven of His wondrous glories. To the contemplation of those we now turn. Let us consider.
1. His Heirship.
"Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things" (verse 2). There are three things here claiming attention. First, the character in which Christ is viewed. Second, His appointment unto the inheritance. Third, the scope of the inheritance.
First, this declaration that God has appointed the Savior "Heir of all things" is similar in scope to that word of Peter’s on the day of Pentecost. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). In both passages the reference is to the honor which has been conferred upon the Mediator, and in each case the design of speaker or writer was to magnify the Christian revelation by showing the exalted dignity of its Author and Head.
That the title "Heir" is similar in force to "Lord" is clear from Galatians 4:1, "The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all." Yet though there is a similarity between the terms "Heir" and "Lord," there is also a clear distinction between them; not only so, we may admire the Divine discrimination in the one used in Hebrews 1:2. Strikingly does it follow immediately after the reference to Him as "Son," in fact furnishing proof thereof, for the son is the father’s heir.
The word "heir" suggests two things: dignity and dominion, with the additional implication of legal title thereto. For its force see Genesis 21:10, 12; Galatians 4:1, etc. "An ‘heir’ is a successor to his father in all that his father hath. In connection with the Father and the Son, the supreme sovereignty of the One is nowise infringed upon by the supreme sovereignty of the Other—cf. John 5:19. The difference is only in the manner: the Father doeth all by the Son, and the Son doeth all from the Father" (Dr. Gouge). The title "Heir" here denotes Christ’s proprietorship. He is the Possessor and Disposer of all things.
Second, unto an inheritance Christ was "appointed" by God. This at once shows us that the "Son" through whom God has revealed Himself, is here viewed not in His abstract Deity, but mediatorially, as incarnate. Only as such could He be "appointed" Heir; as God the Son, essentially, He could not be deputed to anything.
This "appointment" was in the eternal counsels of the Godhead. Two things are hereby affirmed: certainty and valid title. Because God has predestined that the Mediator should be "Heir of all things," His inheritance is most sure and absolutely guaranteed, for "the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul?" (Isa. 14:27); hath He not said, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. 46:10)! Again: because God has "appointed" the Mediator "Heir" we are assured of His indubitable right to this supreme dignity. That which is said of Christ’s being made priest, in Hebrews 5:5, may also be applied to this other dignity: Christ glorified not Himself to be an Heir, but He that saith to Him, "Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee," also "appointed" Him Heir.
Above we have said, This appointment was in the eternal counsels of the Godhead. With our present passage should be compared Acts 2:23,"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Thus there were two chief things to which the Mediator was "appointed": sufferings (cf. also 1 Peter 1:19, 20), and glory—cf. 1 Peter 1:11. How this shows us that, from the beginning, Christ was the Center of all the Divine counsels. Before a single creature was called into existence, God had appointed an "Heir" to all things, and that Heir was the Lord Jesus. It was the predestined reward of His Voluntary humiliation; He who had not where to lay His head, is now the lawful Possessor of the universe.
This appointment of Christ to the inheritance was mentioned in Old Testament prophecy: "Also I will make Him My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (Ps. 89:27). "Firstborn" in Scripture refers not so much to primogeniture, as to dignity and inheritance: see Genesis 49:3 for the first occurrence. It is remarkable to observe and most solemn to discover that, in the days of His flesh, Israel recognized Him as such: "This is the Heir come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours" (Mark 12:7), was their terrible language.
Third, a few words now on the extent of that Inheritance unto which the Mediator has been deputed: "Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things." The manifestation of this is yet future, but confirmation of it was made when the risen Savior said to the disciples, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth" (Matt. 28:18). At that time we will recall God’s words, "I will declare the decree (i.e., the "appointment"), Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heaven for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:7, 8). His proprietorship of mankind will be evidenced when He shall "sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats" (Matt. 25:31, 32). His right to dispose of all will be witnessed at the great white throne. But it is when this world has passed away that His universal Heirship will be fully and eternally displayed: on the new earth shall be "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1)!
"How rich is our adorable Jesus! The blessed Lord, when He was upon the cross, had nothing. He had not where to lay His head; even His very garments were taken from Him. He was buried in a grave which belonged not to Him or to His family. On earth He was poor to the very last; none so absolutely poor as He. But as man, He is to inherit all things; as Jesus, God and man in one person. All angels, all human beings upon the earth, all powers in the universe, when asked, ‘Who is Lord of all?’ will answer, ‘Jesus the Son of Mary’" (Saphir). Such is the reward which God has ordained for the once humiliated One.
But most wonderful of all is that word in Romans 8:16, 17, "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." This the angels are not. It is because of their indissoluable union with Him that His people shall also enjoy the Inheritance which God has appointed unto the Son. Herein we discover the Divine discrimination and propriety in here speaking of Christ not as "Lord of all things," but "Heir." We can never be "joint-lords," but grace has made us "joint-heirs." Because of this the Redeemer said to the Father, "the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them" (John 17:22).
2. His Creatorship.
"By whom also He made the worlds" (verse 2). The Greek term for the last word is "aionas," the primary meaning of which is ages. But here, by a metonymy, it seems to be applied to matter, and signifies, the universe. "Aion properly denotes time, either past or future; and then comes to signify things formed and done in time—the world . . .The aionas is plainly the synonym of the ta panta ("all things") in the preceding clause" (Dr. J. Brown). Two things incline us to this view. First, other scriptures ascribe creation to the Son: John 1:3; Colossians 1:16. Second, this gives force to the previous clause: He was, in the beginning, appointed Heir of all things because He was to be their Creator. Colossians 1:16 confirms this: "all things were created by Him and for Him."
"By whom also He made the worlds." Here is furnished clear proof of the Mediator’s Diety: only God can create. This also is brought in for the purpose of emphasizing the immeasurable value of the new revelation which God has made. Attention is focused on the One in whom and through whom God has spoken in the "last days." Three things are told us in verse 2 concerning Christ: first, we have His person—He is the "Son"; second, His dignity and dominion—He is the "Heir of all things"; third, His work—He has "made the worlds," heaven and earth. If, then, His dignity be so exalted, if His glory be so great, what must not be the word of such a "Son"! what the fullness of truth which God has made known to His people by Him!
3. His Effulgency.
"Who being the brightness of (His) glory" (verse 3). In this verse the Holy Spirit continues to set forth the excellencies of Christ, and in the same order as in the preceding one. First, the Divine dignity of His person, His relation to the Father—He is the Brightness of His glory. The Greek verb from which "brightness" is derived, signifies "to send forth brightness or light," and the noun here used, such brightness as cometh from light, as the sunbeams issuing from the sun. The term is thus used metaphorically. So ably has this been developed by Dr. Gouge we transcribe from his excellent commentary of 1650: "No resemblance taken from any other creature can more fully set out the mutual relation between the Father and the Son: "1. The brightness issuing from the sun is the same nature that the sun is—cf. John 10:30. 2. It is of as long continuance as the sun: never was the sun without the brightness of it—cf. John 1:1. 3. The brightness cannot be separated from the sun: the sun may as well be made no sun, as have the brightness thereof severed from it—cf. Proverbs 8:30. 4. This brightness though from the sun is not the sun itself—cf. John 8:42. 5. The sun and the brightness are distinct from each other: the one is not the other—cf. John 5:17. 6. All the glory of the sun is this brightness—cf. John 17:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6. 7. The light which the sun giveth the world is by this brightness—cf. John 14:9 . . . Thus the Son is no whit inferior to the Father, but every way His equal. He was brightness, the brightness of His Father, yea, also the brightness of His Father’s glory. Whatever excellency soever was in the Father, the same likewise was in the Son, and that in the most transplendent manner. Glory sets out excellency; brightness of glory, the excellency of excellency."
That which is in view in this third item of our passage so far transcends the grasp of the finite mind that it is impossible to give it adequate expression in words. Christ is the irradiation of God’s glory. The Mediator’s relation to the Godhead is like that of the rays to the sun itself. We may conceive of the sun in the firmament, yet shining not: were there no rays, we should not see the sun. So, apart from Christ, the brightness of God’s "glory" could not be perceived by us. Without Christ, man is in the dark, utterly in the dark concerning God. It is in Christ that God is revealed.
4. His Being.
"The express image of His person," or, more literally, "the impress of His substance" (verse 3). The Greek for "express image" is a single word, and the verb from which it is derived signifies "to engrave," and in its noun form "that which is engraved," as the stamp on a coin, the print pressed on paper, the mark made by a seal. Nothing can be more like the original mold or seal than the image pressed out on the clay or wax, the one carrying the very form or features of the other. The Old Testament saints did not perfectly "express" God, nor can angels, for they are but finite creatures; but Christ, being Himself God, could, and did. All that God is, in His nature and character, is expressed and manifested, absolutely and perfectly, by the incarnate Son.
"And the very impress of His substance." Here again we are faced with that which is difficult to comprehend, and harder still to express. Perhaps we may be helped to get the thought by comparing 1 Timothy 6:16 with Colossians 1:15: "Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see," "Who is the image of the invisible God." All true knowledge of God must come from His approach unto us, for we cannot by "reaching" find Him out. The approach must come from His side, and it has come, "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18).
"The very impress of His substance." This is the nearest approach to defining God’s essence or essential existence. The word "substance" means essential being or essential existence; but how little we know about this! God—self-existent: One who never had a beginning, yet full of all that we know of blessed attributes. And Christ, the incarnate Son, is the very "impress," as it were, of that substance. As we have said, the original term is taken from the impress of a seal. Though we had never seen the seal we might, from beholding the impress of it (that which is exactly like it), form a true and accurate idea of the seal itself. So Christ is the Impress of the substance of God, the One in whom all the Divine perfections are found. Though essentially Light, He is also the Outshining of the "Light"; though in Himself essentially God, He is also the visible Representation of God. Being "with God" and being God, He is also the Manifestation of God; so that by and through Him we learn what God is.
"The very impress of His substance." It is not enough to read Scripture, nor even to compare passage with passage; nor have we done all when we have prayed for light thereon; there must also be meditation, prolonged meditation. Of whom were these words spoken? Of the "Son," but as incarnate, i.e., as the Son of man; of Him who entered this world by mysterious and miraculous conception in the virgin’s womb. Men doubt and deny this, and no wonder, when they have nothing but a corrupt reason to guide them. How can a sin-darkened understanding lay hold of, believe, and love the truth that the great God should hide Himself in a frail human nature! That Omnipotence should be concealed in a Servant’s form! That the Eternal One should become an Infant of days! This is the "great mystery" of godliness, but to the family of God is "without controversy."
But if the human mind, unaided, is incapable of grasping the fact of the great God hiding Himself in human form, how much less can it apprehend that that very hiding was a manifestation, that the concealing was a revealing of Himself—the Invisible becoming visible, the Infinite becoming cognizable to the finite. Yet such it was: "And the very impress of His substance." Who was? The incarnate Son, the Man Christ Jesus. Of whose "substance?" Of God’s! But how could that be? God is eternal, and Christ died! True,yet He manifested His Godhead in the very way that He died. He died as none other ever did: He "laid down" His life. More, He manifested His Godhead by rising again: "destroy this temple" (His body) said He, "And I will raise it again"; and He did. His Godhead is now manifested in that "He is alive forever more."
But God is immutable and self-sufficient, and Christ hungered and thirsted/ True; because He was made "in all things like unto His brethren," and because that from actual experience of these things, He might be able to "succor them that are tempted." Moreover, He manifested His self-sufficiency by miraculously feeding the five thousand, and by His absolute power over all Nature—ruling the winds and waves, blasting the fig tree, etc.
But God is Lord of all, and Christ was "Led as a lamb to the slaughter": He seemed so helpless when arrested and when hanging upon the cross! But appearances are deceptive; sometimes it is a greater thing to withhold the putting forth of power than to exert it! Yet glimpses of His Lordship flashed forth even then. See Him in the Garden, and those sent to apprehend Him prostrate on the ground (John 18:6)! See Him again on the Cross, putting forth His power and "plucking a brand from the burning": it was the power of God, for nothing short of that can free one of Satan’s captives! Yes, Christ was, ever was, the "very impress of His substance," "for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).
5. His Administration.
"Upholding all things by the word of His power" (verse 3). The Spirit of truth continues to describe the dignity and majesty of Him in whom God now "speaks" to us. Here is a declaration that is unequivocal in meaning and unlimited in its scope. Against the statement "by whom" God "made the worlds," it might be argued that, after all, the "Son" was only a minister, an agent whom God employed for that great work. In reply it would be sufficient to point out that there is no hint in Scripture of God ever having assigned to a mere creature, no matter how exalted his rank, a work which was in any wise comparable with the stupendous task of "making the worlds." But as if to anticipate such an objection, to show that the "Son" is high above the noblest and most honored of God’s ministers, it is here affirmed that "He upholdeth all things by the word of His power," that is, His own power; we may add that the Greek reads "His own" as in Matthew 16:26—"his own soul"; and "His own house" (Heb. 3:6). The "upholding" of all things is a Divine work.
We have said that the term "Heir" connotes two things: dignity and dominion. In the opening clauses of verse 3 the dignity of the Mediator is set forth; here, it is His dominion which is brought before us. As it was said that He is appointed Heir of "all things," so are we now told that He upholds "all things"—all things that are visible or invisible, in heaven or earth, or under the earth: "all things" not only creatures, but all events.
The Greek word for "upholding" means to "carry or support," see Mark 2:3; it also signifies "to energize or impel," see 2 Peter 1:21. It is the word used in the Septuagint for "moved" in Genesis 1:2. That which is in view in this fifth glory of Christ is His Divine providence. "The term ‘uphold’ seems to refer both to preservation and government. ‘By Him the worlds were made’—their materials were called into being, and arranged in comely order: and by Him, too, they are preserved from running into confusion, or reverting back into nothing. The whole universe hangs on His arm; His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing and directing the complicated movements of animate and inanimate, rational, and irrational beings, to the attainment of His own great and holy purposes; and He does this by the word of His power, or by His powerful word. All this is done without effort or difficulty. He speaks, and it is done; He commands, and it stands fast" (Dr. J. Brown). What a proof that the "Son" is God!
He who appeared on earth in servant form, is the Sustainer of the universe. He is Lord over all. He has been given "power over all flesh" (John 17:2). The Roman legions who destroyed Jerusalem were "His armies" (Matt. 22:7). The angels are "His angels," see Matthew 13:41; 24:31. Every movement in heaven and earth is directed by Jesus Christ: "by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:17). He is not only at the head of the spiritual realm, but he "upholds all things." All movements, developments, actions, are borne up and directed by the word of His power. Glimpses of this flashed forth even in the days of His flesh. The winds and the waves were subservient to His word. Sickness and disease fled before His command. Demons were subject to His authoritative bidding. Even the dead came forth in response to His mighty fiat. And all through the ages, today, the whole of creation is directed by the will and word of its Heir, Maker, and Upholder.
6. His Expiation.
"When He had by Himself purged our sins" (verse 3). Here is something still more wondrous. Striking is it to behold the point at which this statement is introduced. The cross was the great stumbling-block unto the Jews; but so far was the apostle from apologizing for the death of the "Son," he here includes it as among His highest glories. And such indeed it was. The putting away of the sins of His people was an even greater and grander work than was the making of the worlds or the upholding of all things by His mighty power. His sacrifice for sins has brought greater glory to the Godhead and greater blessing to the redeemed than have His works of creation or providence.
"Why has this wonderful and glorious Being, in whom all things are summed up, and who is before all things the Father’s delight and the Father’s glory; why has this infinite light, this infinite power, this infinite majesty come down to our poor earth? For what purpose? To shine? To show forth the splendor of His majesty? To teach heavenly wisdom? To rule with just and holy right? No. He came to purge our sins. What height of glory! what depths of abasement! Infinite in His majesty, and infinite in His self-humiliation, and in the depths of His love. What a glorious Lord! And what an awful sacrifice of unspeakable love, to purge our sins by Himself"! (Saphir).
"ByHimself purged our sins." This has reference to the atonement which He has made. The metaphor of "purging" is borrowed from the language of the Mosaic economy—cf. 9:22. The Greek word is sometimes put for the means of purging (John 2:6), sometimes for the act itself (Mark 1:44). Both are included here: the merits of Christ’s sacrifice, and the efficacy thereof. The tense of the verb, the aorist, denotes a finished work, literally, "having purged." Another has suggested an additional and humbling thought which is pointed by this metaphor—the filth of our sins, which needed "purging" away. The contrastive and superlative value and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is thus set before us. His blood is here distinguished from that of the legal and ceremonial purifications. None of them could purge away sins—Hebrews 10:4. All they did was to sanctify to "the purifying of the flesh" (Heb. 9:13), not to the "purifying of the soul!"
"The manner and power of this purification form the subject of this whole Epistle. But in this short expression, ‘by Himself He purged our sins,’ all is summed up. By Himself; the Son of God, the eternal Word in humanity. Himself: the priest, who is sacrifice, yea, altar, and everything that is needed for full and real expiation and reconciliation. Here is fulfilled what was prefigured on the day of atonement, when an atonement was made for Israel, to cleanse them from all sins, that they may be clean from all their sins before the Lord (Lev. 16:30). Thus our great High Priest saith unto us, Ye are clean this day before God from all your sins. He is the fulfillment and the reality, because He is the Son of God. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). The church is purchased by the blood of Him who is God (Acts 20:28, with His own blood). Behold the perfection of the sacrifice in the infinite dignity of the incarnate Son. Sin is taken away. Oh, what a wonderful thing is this!" (Saphir).
7. His Exaltation.
"Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (verse 3). Unspeakably blessed is this. The One who descended into such unfathomable depths of shame, who humbled Himself and became "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," has been highly exalted above all principality and power, and dominion, and every name which is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. All-important is it, too, to mark carefully the connection between these two wondrous statements: "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." We cannot rightly think of the God-man as where He now is, without realizing that the very circumstance of His being there, shows, in itself, that "our sins" are put away for ever. The present possession of glory by the Mediator is the conclusive evidence that my sins are put away. What blessed connection is there, then between our peace of soul, and His glory!
"Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Three things are here denoted. First, high honor: "sitting," in Scripture, is often a posture of dignity, when superiors sit before inferiors: see Job 29:7, 8; Daniel 7:9, 10; Revelation 5:13. Second, it denotes settled continuance. In Genesis 49:24 Jacob said to Joseph that his "bow sat in strength," fittingly rendered "abode in strength." So in Leviticus 8:35, "abode" is literally "sit." Though He will vacate that seat when He descends into the air (1 Thess. 4:16) to receive His blood-bought people unto Himself, yet it is clear from Revelation 22:1 that this position of highest honor and glory belongs to Christ for ever and ever. Third, it signifies rest, cessation from His sacrificial services and sufferings. It has often been pointed out that no provision was made for Israel’s priests to sit down: there was no chair in the Tabernacle’s furniture. And why? Because their work was never completed—see Hebrews 10:1, 3. But Christ’s work of expiation is completed; on the cross He declared, "It is finished" (John 19:30). In proof of this, He is now seated on High.
The term "the Majesty on high" refers to God Himself. "Majesty" signifies such greatness as makes one to be honored of all and preferred above all. Hence it is a delegated title, proper to kings, cf. 2 Peter 1:16. In our passage it denotes God’s supreme sovereignty. It is brought in here to emphasize and magnify the exaltation of the Savior—elevated to the highest possible dignity and position. The "right hand" speaks of power (Exo. 15:6), and honor (1 Kings 2:19). "On high" is, in the Greek, a compound word, used nowhere else in the New Testament; literally, it signifies, "the highest height," the most elevated exaltation that could be conceived of or is possible. Thus we are shown that the highest seat in the universe now belongs to Him who once had not where to lay His head.
It is to be observed that in Hebrews 10:2, 3 the Holy Spirit has, briefly, set forth the three great offices of the Mediator. First, His prophetic: He is the final Spokesman of God. Second, His kingly: His royal majesty—upholding all things, and that, by the word of His power, which affirms His absolute sovereignty. Third, His priestly: the two parts of which are expiation of His people’s sins and intercession at God’s right hand.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out how that everything in these opening verses of Hebrews is in striking contrast from what Israel enjoyed under the old economy. They had prophets; Christ is the final Spokesman of Diety. They were His people; He, God’s "Son." Abraham was constituted "heir of the world" (Romans 4:13); Christ is the "Heir" of the universe. Moses made the tabernacle; Christ, "the worlds." The law furnished "a shadow of good things to come"; Christ is the Brightness of God’s glory. In Old Testament times Israel enjoyed theophanic manifestations of Christ; now, He is revealed as the Image of God’s person. Moses bore the burden of Israel (Num. 11:11, 12); Christ, "upholds all things." The sacrifices of old took not sins away; Christ’s sacrifice did. Israel’s high priests never sat down; Christ has.