Hebrews Lesson 8 April 7, 2005
NKJ Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Open your Bibles to Hebrews 1. These first four verses of Hebrews have got to be one of the most significant passages and elevated terminology in all of the New Testament. The theology that is here is overwhelming. Every clause is loaded with meaning. It is sad today as I reflected on the world around us that very few Christians and very few churches today take the time to comprehend all that is going on in these first four verses. It demands a huge frame of reference of doctrine to be able to appreciate the sublime message of this passage.
Corrected Translation: After God spoke in various forms and in a variety of ways in time past to the fathers by means of the prophets,
The key idea here is that God spoke in the Old Testament. The main verb of the first two verses is in the second verse. God has spoken. This is the crucial idea to understanding the whole framework of the author of Hebrews as he begins. The culminative aorist indicates that the finality to the action. It is over with. God has completed His revelation. Unfortunately, the church throughout history has failed to truly appreciate that, even though they understood that the canon was closed. The canon was not officially closed by a church council until the Council of Trent that was a Catholic anti-Reformational council in the 16th century. They recognized that certain books were canonical, but there never was a church council that said it was closed until the counterreformation.
So down through church history there has been a "leakage" of human viewpoint ideas into Christianity. The worst part of that took place in the period from about 600 AD. History gives us perspective about what is going on today. Things just aren't new. Solomon said that there was nothing new under the sun and that was 900 years before Christ. So we have had another 3,000 years of nothing new under the sun. We have to have an understanding of ideas. This is one thing that I learned years ago in the study of the history of ideas. Ideas don't just pop up. They may be new ideas to you, but these ideas that suddenly gain popularity today are often wrapped in new guises or new clothes and are not much different from something done 100 years ago or 200 years ago or 1,000 years ago. Studying these ideas gives us an understanding of what is involved. Satan in his subtly wraps these things up in very attractive garments. These ideas seem to be very workable and positive. They attract a lot of people. So it is important to understand the history of certain ideas and how they impacted the generations. In the early church, from 500 or 600 AD down to the reformation which began in 1517, you had the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church merged the Bible with church tradition so that in Roman Catholic theology the Bible is a living document. It sounds so contemporary, doesn't it with regard to the Constitution? It is always changing with the interpretations of the popes and their theologians. The assault of Satan continues with ideas that come from the outside. The tendency of almost every theological tradition down through church history is to eventually lose integrity of the Scripture and begin to assimilate Biblical truth with cultural ideas. This is how Satan perverts and dilutes the truth of Scripture so that people give up the sufficiency of the faith. They begin to hear theses other ideas. They sound good and become popular. In many cases they represent the heartbeat of the culture, but they are not Biblical. They may even get wrapped in Biblical terminology. In American history because we are so grounded in Puritan theology and Christianity, everyone wants to claim Bible verses to support their position and to give themselves legitimacy. Politicians on the extreme left quote Bible verses in context and out of context. You wonder when it was that they ever picked up a Bible. It makes them popular. They are trying to make themselves sound like they are in line with American tradition. So you always have this kind of leakage going on.
It is important to understand this because we all deal with it at different levels all the time. Even if you have been a believer for a long time, we often have to face it with our families and friends and coworkers. People ask you questions so you need a good framework.
If you are trying to witness to a Roman Catholic, you must be sure that they understand the phrase "faith alone in Christ ALONE". That is the real issue. If they have understood what is taught in Roman Catholicism, it is hard for them to understand that. I say that with experience. When I was working on my masters at St. Thomas we had some very engaging conversations with some very well-trained Catholic priests. We would try to get them to understand justification by faith alone. When you talk to someone from a Roman Catholic background, they are taught to trust the church, the sacraments, and various works because it is an ongoing process, and to trust in Christ. You see Christ is not alone. To get them to understand that sometimes takes a lot of work. You can ask them if they believe that Christ is the one who will get them into heaven. They will say yes. But they have been indoctrinated with Christ plus something else. You have to take some time on this issue. It may bother you. You may have trouble with it. But they have to understand that. They would say that they believe in Christ died for their sins. Do they believe that if they never take the sacraments they are still saved? Do they believe that if they never do good works they are still saved? That is where the rubber meets the road. So, we have to understand what is going on in the world around us. That is just one example.
A couple of weeks ago there was a man in Atlanta who was up on rape charges. He assaulted and killed the deputy sheriff that was guarding him and then he escaped. He killed several other people. He was holding hostage this young woman. It made the news that she was reading Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life." This mentality has gotten into Christianity. He is one of the fathers of the church growth movement today. That church growth movement has generated a number of methodologies for building churches that have become very popular. One of them is called the Seeker Service. They take the Sunday morning service and move it to a more evangelistic oriented service. The idea is to make it friendly and comfortable so unbelievers can come and not be challenged by doctrines like sin and judgment or anything like that. All you do is teach positive things. You usually have contemporary music. They have drums and guitars. It is more entertainment than it is worship. Why do you need to know this? Because this sweeps everywhere.
There are three major Bible churches in the Houston area that are fairly large. They have been strong centers of Biblical teaching, but they have seen pastoral shifts in the last five years. The pastors who have been anchors for years have left. New men have come in and compromised on methodology. As a result all of these congregations are in turmoil. The pressure comes in how to grow, build and market a church. Marketing and sales dominate. You have seen the billboards. Where did it come from? This is rooted in trends that have gone on for 150 years.
There are three ideas I want to emphasize. One is the power of positive thinking. Everyone likes people who are positive and never talk critically about anything. Consequently you don't learn to think. Then came a movement coined possibility thinking. Another movement is the positive confession movement.
Most of you have been exposed to this over the years. The positive thinking movement was put forth in a book "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. I think Peale retired back in the 60's. He said his greatest spiritual moment was in a Shinto temple in Japan. It tells you that all religions go the same way. That was Peale's orientation. You can't ever say that someone is wrong or that Jesus Christ is the exclusive way to heaven.
Peale's most famous disciple is a man named Robert Schuler. He has the Crystal Cathedral and a lot of people know him. He wrote a book called "The Self Image, the New Reformation". He mailed a copy to every pastor in America. He said that the new reformation would take place if we realized that the issues had changed. He said that talking about sin offends people. So he said that Christ died for one's self-image. He died so that you can have a positive self-image. He said to tell people how wonderful they are and their wonderful potential. He said to always talk about how God loves you. He never talks about sin. So you get the influence of the self-image thing. From Peale you get the idea that if you think positively enough about things you can channel energies and that will create your own reality. All of this stuff sort of merges.
The extreme is the positive confession movement that if I make a positive confession and I really believe it, then it will come true. They have faith in faith. If I believe it strong enough then it is going to happen. This has come down as the health and wealth gospel movement or prosperity theology. Most of this is what you find on the Christian television shows that you don't watch. This is how Satan always changes a culture negatively. Satan is the architect of what the Bible calls the world system. Worldliness is made up of the human viewpoint ideas that dominate in a culture. They start off in some obscure group or someone has some revelation or someone teaches something in the halls of academia. No one hears about it. It goes along for about a generation and then it begins to catch on. The next generation of academics or leaders picks it up on the idea and teaches it as truth. Now it is being taught at the seminary level or the undergraduate level by various professors. They influence people and pastors. Then these men go out into the pulpits of the nation. They promulgate these ideas. People hear them and it sounds good. They are not very discerning. It may have some common sense in it. It may work. Satan cloaks these ideas to sound appealing. And they work! Satan promotes things that work. He wants success. He is the original success man. These ideas float down.
About three days after the incident with the man in Atlanta, Larry King had Robert Schuler on. Robert Schuler was talking about one of his favorite students, a man he had mentored for years. The man he had mentored for years was Rick Warren. It plays out in the purpose driven life. There is one statement of committing you life to Christ. That is as close as he gets to the gospel. There is no mention of sin. There is no understanding of any of the dynamics of the spiritual life whatsoever. So we have to teach discernment.
I learned this after Robert Schuler's book came out. I made some comments without mentioning anyone's name. Then some little old lady comes up and says I should be more like Robert Schuler. We need to mention names today because sheep are dumb. They can't connect the dots.
Joel Osteen also claims Robert Schuler mentored him and his father as well.
Where did these ideas come from? Back around 1850 there was a man named Finias Parker Quinby. He had a famous disciple by the name of Mary Baker Patterson Glover Eddy. She founded the Christian Science movement. It was the idea that bad health or sickness was all in your mind. You just had to believe that you were well and you would be. See how similar that is to positive thinking? The idea didn't come from her. She got the idea from E. W. Kinyon. He flourished in the early part of the 20th century. He wrote a whole bunch of books and had a very popular ministry in Pentecostal churches. His positive thinking techniques that came from Finias Parker Quinby and his school of metaphysics in Boston came into Christianity. E. W. Kinyon rejected Christian Science teaching because there wasn't enough of the blood of Christ. He meant that it didn't have enough Christian terminology or Bible verses. So he took Christian Science teaching and cloaked it in more Biblical sounding terminology to create this whole system. Kenneth Hagen plagiarized E. W. Kinyon. Some of you have heard of him. He was out of Tulsa. He influenced all of the major Pentecostal thinkers. As a congregation you need some idea of where these things come from. They borrowed ideas from outside of Scripture and cloaked them with Biblical terminology and then inserted them into the Scripture as part of how to interpret and understand the text and the Christian life. All of these ideas of human potential entered in through these major movements. They have impacted the church growth movement. They have impacted people like Rick Warren. They have impacted people like Joel Osteen. This is the framework they are coming from. You won't read any mention of sin in their books.
This is what happens when you don't believe clearly in the cessation of revelation. It is not just a matter of sitting out there like you do. It is a matter of putting it in seminaries and colleges. Ideas just seep in. We haven't created leak proof institutions that can keep this out. Today people are more interested in a church that operates on this mentality. This is worldliness. It is the message of the world. It assuages their guilt complex about what they are doing. They feel like it is Biblical. We will feel this pressure as a local church. Many of the younger men have been influenced by this thinking today. People want to be told how great they are and that God loves them and have entertainment. They don't want to think and read their Bibles. They don't want to realize that they are sinners and that God has a gracious plan of salvation and a gracious plan of recovery. The goal is growth. He wants to take you somewhere. He wants to prepare you to rule and reign with Him.
I don't know how anyone could teach this in the shallow mentality that is around today. This is such rich language telling us all about what God is doing in these days.
NKJ Hebrews 1:2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
We need to correct the translation on this so let's go through some exegesis. The phrase "in these last days" tells us that the Church Age is understood overall as a period called the last days. The Jews had a threefold understanding of history. This term referred to the last stage of God's outworking of history. It was a rudimentary dispensational view. It includes the Church Age as well as the Tribulation. It is everything between the cross and the realization of the kingdom of Christ when He establishes it at the Second Coming. There is a contrast between how God revealed Himself. In the last days it has come by the Son. It is not ongoing. The timeframe is parallel to the previous verse. We are now talking about these times.
The main verb of the whole sentence from 1:1 to 1:4 is the verb has spoken. God is the subject. The verb here is the aorist active indicative of the verb laleo. The verb means to speak. It is usually has to do with an overt speaking. It is vocalization not just something that is thought. It is an overt speaking. That God has spoken. The consumative aorist refers to a finished act. It looks at an event in the past as being completed and finished. The idea of God speaking through His Son is viewed as a completed and finished act. It is being completed by the apostles. The Son never wrote anything down. He did not have someone recording for Him or keep a diary. He didn't have someone taking notes. It was all handled through the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture as God the Holy Spirit wrote through them after the Son ascended to heaven.
"To us" refers to church age believers.
"His" should not be there. Draw a line through it. There is no article with the noun. "By means of Son" is en plus the dative huios. It is the instrumental of means. It is by means of Son. There is no article associated with the noun. The writer emphasizes the quality of the noun, the superiority of Jesus Christ. Without the article it emphasizes the quality of the Son in contrast to the prophets. You have to understand something about who the Son is.
Doctrine of Sonships of Jesus Christ
- There are six Sonships of Jesus Christ in the Scripture.
- One Sonship describes His undiminished deity. The other five emphasize different aspects of His humanity.
- First Title: He is the Son of Abraham. Jesus is called the Son of Abraham in Matthew 1:1. Here the emphasis is on His Jewishness as a descendent of Abraham. He is a Jew. It also relates Him to the Abrahamic Covenant. According to Paul in Galatians He is the seed identified in the covenant.
- Second Title: He is called the Son of David. This indicates His royal lineage back to David. It also emphasizes His royalty and His royal relationship to David and the Davidic Covenant. It is also a fulfillment of prophecy. Jeremiah 23:5-6, Isaiah 9:6-7
- Third Title: He is the Son of Adam. That is found in Luke 3:38. Luke's genealogy traces Him all the way back to Adam. The emphasis is on His genuine humanity. It is the background for being able to bear our sins because He is united with us according to Romans 5:12-21.
- Fourth Title: He is the Son of Man. This indicates His humanity. In Hebrew idiom, if you wanted to describe some one as a miser you would say that they are the son of a miser. If they were a happy person you would say that they are a son of happiness. If they were an encourager you would say that they are the son of an encourager. Barnabas was a son of an encourager. When you see the title Son of Man it is emphasizing His humanity. It is not talking about a derivation of being born. It is talking about humanity. He is characterized by true humanity. That is how the term is used in Mark 2:27-8, John 5:27-9, 6:29, 6:62. It also emphasizes His suffering and that He endured physical punishment in His humanity. A third way that this title is used is unique to the Gospel of John. John emphasized an element that comes out of Daniel 7. In the vision that Daniel sees of all the kingdoms there is the Son of Man destroying the kingdom of man when He returns. Daniel 7 pictures a supra-historical figure coming out of heaven that destroys the kingdoms of man that are arrayed against God. That is the thrust of Daniel 7. So when John uses that term it is loaded with prophetic significance. This is the one coming to destroy the kingdoms of man. That emphasizes Jesus in His preexistence as well.
- Fifth Title: He is the Son of Mary. This is found in Mark 6:3. The emphasis is on His genuine humanity, the virgin conception, and His birth through Mary. She is not the mother of God. This term was introduced in the 3rd century AD. Technically she is the mother of the humanity of Christ. She is not the mother of God.
- Sixth Title: He is the Son of God. The emphasis is on His deity. It is saying that He is God. It indicates that He is full deity. Hebrews 1, Psalm 2, Luke 3:38 He is fully God. It emphasizes that Jesus is one of the persons of the trinity and is undiminished deity.
When we come to a passage like Hebrews 1:2 we have to ask which sonship is in view here? What we are seeing is that this is a messianic concept emphasizing His relationship. Remember he is writing Jews and the fulfillment of the Son in light of these Old Testament verses. Psalm 2 is the first verse quoted. It is tremendous to see how all of this ties together and lays a foundation for what Jesus Christ is doing in the church today.
The use of the title without the definite article emphasized the quality of the Son. Then we have a series of relative clauses that follow this telling us about the Son and why He is so significant. We see why it is that everything that preceded the Son is viewed as a lesser category. Once the Son is on the scene, what is revealed through Him surpasses and supercedes everything and is therefore an ending to revelation.
The verb appointed is the aorist active indicative of the Greek verb tithemi. It means to set, place, establish, appoint, assign, or appoint to a position. This is a technical term. God the Father is the subject of the verb. He appoints the Son to a particular position demonstrating the authority of the Father over the Son.
Why is that important? If we are going to understand authority relationships and if you are going to understand freedom, then you have to understand the trinity. The trinity is not just an abstract doctrine. It represents ultimate reality. When you back beyond creation and when you go back beyond the angels, what you have that existed for eternity was a triune God of three distinct persons of one essence. They are all eternal. They are equal in their essence. The Father is not superior to the Son. The Son is not inferior to the Father. The Holy Spirit is not inferior to the others. They are equal in their essence/person and being but yet there is an authority structure. It means that the authority structure doesn't say anything about the quality or essence of a person. It means you can work for a boss who is a loser and it doesn't mean that he is better or worse than you. It means that you can be in the military and be under an officer that is not very qualified for his position and it doesn't mean that he is a better person that you are. It means that as a woman you can be in a marriage and be brighter and smarter and more positive spiritually than your husband and it doesn't mean that you are better than him or he is better than you because he is the one God put in authority. That is what we don't understand in this country. We want to make the person in authority better than the others. Failure to understand this is at the core of the feminist movement. It subverts and reverses the authority structure within society and lays the groundwork for internal collapse and internal rot. Families fall apart. Marriages fall apart. Churches fall apart because you subvert the basic authority structure that God designed. The radical feminist movement says that is you are equal and you can't be under the authority of anyone. They think that you ought to be able to do everything the other person can. Since the parts are interchangeable, you end up with same sex unions. All of this goes back to understanding the trinity.
It affects how you understand social structures. Only on the basis of a Trinitarian God can you have total equality of the parts where the whole also has significance and importance. In a nation you have the importance of the nation as a whole. In a totalitarian government the one is more important that the parts. Or, the parts can be more important than the whole. You end up in anarchy and fragmentation. Those are the two extremes. The Trinitarian concept says you can hold both at the same time. You can give real value to the significance of each individual citizen without the state absorbing and taking away power and authority from the parts. On the other hand the parts can give real authority to a centralized government. The Founding Fathers understood these distinctions. It came out of their understanding of the trinity. The Puritans had some great insights.
We see at this juncture an introduction of the role of the Son within the framework of the trinity. The Father is in authority. He appoints the Son to be the heir of all things. That is the word kleronomos. The concept of inheritance in the Scripture going back to the Old Testament is the idea of possession and ownership. At one time He appointed Christ as the owner, the possessor. He has the title deed to the universe. He doesn't have it yet. He has been designated as the owner of the universe. It is not activated until He establishes His kingdom at the Second Coming. This is foundational to understanding what is going on with the church in the Church Age. Not only are we heirs of God but if we advance in the spiritual life so that we are the over comers and the metachoi, then we are being prepared to be joint heirs with Christ to rule and reign with Him as priests and kings in the millennial kingdom. All of that is embedded in that one phrase. Christ is the heir of all things.
It is through the Son that He made the worlds. It is not just worlds. This is dia plus the genitive of intermediate agency of ainos. God the Father used the Son as an intermediate agent. The Son constructs history. The Greek word ainos is in the plural form so it means ages not worlds. This is saying that God has spoken to us by His Son. He is the heir of all things. Through Him He laid out the dispensations.
All of this is part of a magnificent plan that God has constructed. With the absolute chaos that entered the universe when sin entered the universe it was like a massive fragmentation. Adam's sin disrupted and distorted everything in the universe. Planet earth is the centerpiece. When Christ comes and pays the price for sin on the cross, this lays the foundation for pulling everything back together. When He is elevated to the right hand of God the Father at the ascension, He is decreed to be the Son and is given the title deed to the earth. This is a decree that is made. How do you know this?
In Revelation 4 and 5 there is a scene in heaven. John sees the angels who are looking for someone worthy to open a scroll. What is the scroll? The scroll is the title deed to the earth. Jesus is worthy to open it and activate it. That brings all the judgments that culminate in the Second Coming. He returns and establishes the kingdom. It reverberates through the universe. It is the final pulling back together of everything that fell apart when Adam sinned. It is a magnificent plan. We have to understand the ascension and session. That is what the writer is dealing with.
That is a taste of what is coming.