By Sam E. Stone
The letter to the Hebrews does not tell us the name of its author. For years Paul was assumed to have written it. Others think Barnabas or Apollos did. Though we cannot be certain of the author, the book was clearly accepted by the early church as part of the Holy Spirit-inspired canon of Scripture.
Most Bible students believe it was written before the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in AD 70, since the temple offerings and activities are mentioned throughout the book. The letter was written to Jewish converts to Christianity, reminding them that Jesus is God’s final revelation and their only hope. This is a needed message for us as well.
Through all the centuries of Old Testament history, Jesus is the dividing line in Scripture as well as for all of history. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets. The writer, obviously a Jew himself, reminded his Hebrew brothers and sisters of the way in which God had revealed himself to his chosen people over the years. This was done through the prophets.
The Old Testament tells of many messengers who prepared the way for the Messiah by speaking and writing the Word of the Lord. This was done at many times and in various ways. From obscure, indirect references (such as Genesis 3:15) to specific prophecies, such as where Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2) or how he would die (Isaiah 53; Psalm 22), the Old Testament prepared the way for the Lord’s anointed. Hebrews shows that there was revelation before Christ (v. 1), in Christ (v. 2), and through Christ (v. 3).
With Christ came also the birth of a new era, the dawn of a new age. In saying us, the writer included not only his Jewish Christian kin, but all of us who are now part of the New Testament dispensation. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter declared that those present were living in the “last days” foretold by Joel centuries before (Acts 2:17). In a new and final way, God completed his revelation to all people through the person of his Son (Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:16).
Jesus is the light of God. He shines on us, much like the sun illumines a dark universe. As the exact representation of his being, Jesus reveals what God is like (John 14:9, 10). He does not simply reflect God; he is God (John 1:1). He not only created the world, but he continues to support and sustain it (Colossians 1:17). On the cross Jesus provided purification for sins. There Christ died for the sins of the world. After his resurrection, he ascended to Heaven. There he remains, seated with full authority at the Father’s right hand.
Superior to Created Beings
Christ is superior to the angels. Angels were important in Old Testament history. The Jewish people regarded them highly. But Jesus is in a class by himself. God’s revelation through his Son not only surpassed that of the prophets (Hebrews 1:1, 2) but the angels as well.
Although while he lived on earth he was made lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), now he is exalted to his permanent, unique place in Heaven. This is indicated by his name: You are my Son. This singular description makes it clear that Christ is elevated above all angels. The writer documented his case by citing seven Old Testament quotations, beginning with Psalm 2:7. As with many Old Testament prophecies the name Son has a dual reference. It was spoken first of Solomon (2 Samuel 7:11-16), affirming God’s blessing on David’s line. It found ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, who was both Son of David and Son of God (Isaiah 9:6, 7).
The writer added that Jesus is God’s firstborn. In the biblical world, a firstborn son had distinct privileges. Jesus is considered firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15). No angel has this honor. God uses angels as his servants, just as he sometimes uses the storm, the wind, and the raging sea. As his servants, angels minister to us even today (Hebrews 1:14). In contrast to the angels, the only begotten Son of the Father sits on an eternal throne. His rule will last forever (Luke 1:33). Other kings serve for a short time, but they have only been anointed with oil. Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38). He is prophet and priest and king. No angel is so honored. We must worship Christ alone!
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.