Hebrews Lesson 14 May 26, 2005
NKJ Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!
We are running through these tremendous clauses that the writer of Hebrews packs one on top of the other to talk about the unique person of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Vs 1 After God spoke in a variety of fragments in a variety of forms in time past to the fathers by means of the prophets
Vs 2 He has in these last days spoken to us by means of His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things through whom also He made the ages
Right after he says "His Son" we have noted that there is a shift. The first four verses are one sentence. It has one subject, God. What happens after His Son is the subject of the last 2 ½ verses from 2b-4. We have a shift with a series of relative clauses, the subject of which is His Son. This is one of the most significant passages on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in all of Scripture along with John 1 and Colossians 1. There are three passages that related to Christology - Hebrews 1, Colossians 1 and John 1. This is one of the most significant passages describing who Jesus is as fully God and fully man.
The Son is represented to us as the Son in hypostatic union. That is the thrust here. It is not looking at Christ as simply the Son of God. But he is looking at Him as the Son in hypostatic union because it was the Son in hypostatic union after the incarnation who as part of His objective during the First Advent was to reveal God the Father to man. That is always the mission of the second person of the trinity.
NKJ John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
That includes all of the Old Testament appearances. Those were the pre-incarnate Son of God.
At the incarnation we got the final word. It is the greatest possible revelation of God the Father and His character to man.
He goes to the end and then back to the beginning. The focus here is on where we are headed in terms of our destiny. Our destiny in the Church Age is inseparably linked to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is one reason we study prophecy.
There are three legitimate reasons to study prophecy.
- It is part of the Word of God. 28% of the Scripture was prophetic when it was revealed. That's more that one of every four verses. At this stage, 18% of the Bible is unfulfilled prophecy. Some ask why we need to study prophecy. Some people just want to titillate their imagination and speculate how close we are to the rapture. If you don't think that prophecy is important, then you ignore about 20% of the Scripture. That is almost one of every 5 verses. It says something about the future. That tells us that having a right and proper understanding for God's plan for the future is crucial to the interpretation of that passage. If you don't have a correct view of eschatology, then you do not properly interpret passages that relate to our spiritual life.
- It gives us an understanding of the faithfulness of God in the midst of a changeable world. Stop a minute and think about prophecy in the Bible. Who are the great prophets that we think about? What great prophetic books come to mind? You have the big ones in the Old Testament that we call the Major Prophets not because they were more significant than the others but because they are larger books. In Old Testament times they took up more scroll space. They are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Then you have other prophetic books that are smaller but nevertheless significant such as Daniel, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Haggai and the 12 so-called Minor Prophets that have tremendous prophetic data in them. If you understand the Bible (Most Christians don't really understand the Bible.) and how the Bible was revealed, you realize that when Isaiah had his ministry you
had the invasion of the Assyrians. What was going on when Jeremiah was prophesying? Now you have the Southern Kingdom was being assaulted by Nebuchadnezzer. God was about to take them out under the fifth cycle of discipline. What was happening in Ezekiel? He was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel. It was the same situation. Nebuchadnezzer was on the horizon. A major conquest is about to take place. The people in the land, God's chosen people, are about to be taken into captivity. In the midst of incredible adversity, where their whole world was about to be wiped out and destroyed and when they were about to lose everything near and dear to them, God is telling them about the future. Why? God is saying that He has it under control. In the midst of an unstable world that completely shatters around you, you need to understand that He is still in control, that He is still going to bring about His plans and purposes for Israel and for My chosen people and there is a future destiny for you. So when we study prophecy it gives us tremendous comfort that when thing are not going well in our own day-to-day life, we know how things are going to end. We know that God is still in control and that His plan is still being worked out. Prophecy gives us that understanding.
- It helps us understand what our eternal destiny is, that we are all heirs of God. But there is a special incentive for Church Age believers. If we grow and advance in our spiritual life to spiritual maturity, then we will reach that category of being an overcomer as we saw in Revelation 2-3. The writer of Hebrews refers to the same classification of people as partakers or metachoi or partners of the Lord Jesus Christ. We sometimes refer to them as successful believers, those rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That feeds your understanding of your personal sense of your eternal destiny. The more you understand what's happening prophetically in Scripture, the more it should be motivate you in terms of your spiritual life today. It has nothing to do with titillation or speculation of where we are on the prophecy map or whether or not we are two or three years away from the rapture. Unfortunately a lot of people teach it that way. You see that on television, but that's not correct. Because some people incorrectly handle prophecy doesn't mean that prophecy shouldn't be taught.
The Lord through the Holy Spirit inspiring the writer of Hebrews says that He made the ages. The idea is that He made the dispensations. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who made the ages.
Last time we got into the first couple of clauses that emphasize the deity of Christ.
Verse 3 Who being the (brightness, flashing forth) radiance of His glory and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the Word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
In the first two phrases we get a nutshell Christology that emphasizes the full deity of Lord Jesus Christ. He's not a derivative deity. He's not created deity. He is full deity and is equal to God the Father.
We looked at the structure of these four verses last time and I pointed out that they are in the form of a chiasm. One reason that writers use a chiasm (They are used very frequently in Scripture.) is to emphasize what is in the middle. In a chiasm you have a mirror image between the first few lines and the last few lines. There is a parallelism between the initial statements and the last statements. What the writer is doing is using this structure to focus the reader's attention on what is in the middle.
The Structure of Hebrews 1:1-4
A The Son contrasted with the Old Testament prophets 1:1-2a
B The Son as Messianic Heir 1:2b
C The Son's creative work 1:2c
D The Son's three-fold mediatorial relationship to God 1:3a b C' The Son's redemptive work 1:3c
B' The Son as Messianic King 1:3d
A' The Son is contrasted with angels 1:4
D is the centerpiece.
The Son's redemptive work mirrors His creative work.
The Son as Messianic King is contrasted to the Son as Messianic heir.
The Son contrasted with angels is parallel to the Son contrasted with the prophets in the first statement.
That focuses on the first part of verse 3 and why it's important.
The relative pronoun that begins the sentence shifts to the nominative case indicating that Christ is now the subject of the sentence.
"Being" translates a present active participle from the verb eimi and indicates ongoing existence, the eternality of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two key words are used at the beginning of this verse, brightness and the word charakter translated express image. They are hapoxlagomina in the New Testament. That means it is used one time and used very rarely outside of the New Testament.
The word translated brightness in the NKJ should be translated radiance or flashing forth. The word for glory is the word is doxes meaning weight or glory. That word represents the essence of God.
Literal translation: Jesus Christ continues to be the flashing forth or radiance of His essence.
That is as far as we got last time.
The next clause says that He is the express image of His person. The New American Standard translates it the exact representation of His nature. It is the Greek word charakter (where we get our word character) meaning an impression or a stamp. The word itself refers to an engraved character or impress made by a dye or a seal. It came to mean a characteristic trait or a distinctive mark. It was used with reference to a special distinguishing peculiarity. It has the idea of an exact reproduction. The use of this word emphasizes that Jesus Christ is identical in essence to God the Father. The word was used for a dye stamp used by the Greeks and Romans to imprint coins with an image on a coin as they were minted. What was imprinted was an exact representation of the dye itself. The point here could not be made any stronger in human language that Jesus Christ is the exact representation of His nature. I like the way the New American Standard translates that. The New King James uses the word person. I don't like that because when we talk about the trinity we say the triune God exists as three persons in one essence. What we are talking about here is that there is an identity of essence between the Father and the Son, not the identity of person. They are distinct in their person. They are personality. They are individuals.
The word translated nature is the familiar Greek word hupostasis from which we get the word hypostatic. This is where the early church fathers derived their vocabulary for explaining the union of humanity and deity in the Lord Jesus Christ. The word hupostasis refers the essence, substance or underlying nature of something. It's essential or basic structure. It is what makes something what it is as opposed to something else. The statement is that Jesus is the exact representation of the essence of deity. It talks about Him in the incarnation. The writer is saying that the Son in incarnation is the flashing forth or expression of the glory or essence of God. Then he comes back and says almost the same thing again but in a slightly different way.
There can't be a stronger way to express the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is undiminished deity. This was not something that was manufactured by 300 theologians that gathered together in 325 at the Council of Nicea as acclaimed and popularized in recent years. The group of theologians that met at Nicea was meeting to work on how they articulated and how they understood what the Bible said about the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. They weren't inventing this at the Council of Nicea. It is very clear from early church fathers like Clement and Tertullian made clear statements that they believed in the full and undiminished deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. So this was nothing new.
The issue at Nicea was that if Jesus was full deity, how does He relate to the Father? We say that we believe in one God. How are we going to express this? It looks like we have two gods. That was one of the criticisms from the pagan world at that time. It sounded like two gods to them. How do we put them together?
So they wrestled with this over the years. As they wrestled through this in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, they came up with some screwball interpretations. One was brought forth by a presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt by the name of Arius. Arius said that God the Father created Jesus Christ at some point in eternity past. He said that there was a time when the Son was not. That was his famous catch phrase. We have the same thing going on today. Every time some with a New World translation comes and knocks on the front door of your house and it's a Jehovah Witness, that is the exact view that they hold. They believe that at some point in eternity past God created Christ. He is God but He is not the same as God the Father. That is the difference. We say that the Son has same identical essence as God the Father. This is what the writer of Hebrews is developing here.
The definition of the hypostatic union came out of the Council of Nicea.
Definition: The hypostatic union describes the union of two natures, divine and human, in the one person of Jesus Christ. These natures are inseparably united without loss or mixture of separate identity, without loss or transfer of properties or attributes, the union being personal and eternal. Jesus is the undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever.
That means that as they came together in the incarnation and were united, that unity is no longer separable. It is no longer reversible. It is a permanent unity. In that unity you have human nature and divine nature. There is no loss of human characteristics or a loss divine characteristics. He is not partially human and fully God. He is not partially God and fully human. There is no loss of individual attributes. He is fully God. He is fully man. There is no mixture of the attributes. You haven't put Him in a blender and mixed these things up. He is not one nature and two persons. He is one person and two natures.
His deity doesn't pick up human characteristics. They don't leach in over there so that deity is somehow diminished by humanity. Neither does humanity leach over to His deity. We have trouble articulating this. We see Jesus do certain things. He eats. Sometimes we say He did that in His humanity. That is a bit difficult. This is not a multiple personality. The whole person eats but that He hungers shows He is human. That relates to His humanity. But the whole person hungers. That is a difficult concept for us to get our mental fingers around. The whole person suffers. He is one person. So when Jesus thirsts, that one person thirsts. Deity can't thirst so it doesn't indicate anything about His deity. There is this unity there.
There is the same thing when we get into the next sentence that talks about Him being seated at the right hand of God. The fact that He is seated indicates His humanity. Deity doesn't sit. It doesn't have a physical body. That He is seated at the right hand of the Father relates to His humanity. The resurrection body is seated at the right hand of the Father. Deity is still omnipresent. That is where we have difficulty. Our minds can only go so far. We understand that Jesus was incarnate and that the little baby in the manger that is crying and making all those little baby noises and is having to learn how to speak and having to learn how to talk and is developing physically. But at the same time that is going on with His humanity, that same person that has now taken on a finite replication in the manger in His deity He is holding the atoms together and He is holding the universe together. That is the kind of thing that we can only go so far and we start losing it. Don't over think on it. But that is what that next clause means.
It is a personal union. He is not an impersonal force that has some how entered into human history. He is a person. He is the second person of the trinity that is joined with a human person so that a relationship is possible.
It is eternal. That means it never stops. A thousand million years from now Jesus Christ is still going to be in hypostatic union. We will be able to walk up to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in heaven and feel the nail scars and the scar in His side.
Will there be anything in heaven from the physical universe? The only thing we know of fore sure from this universe that will continue into the New Heavens and the New Earth is going to be those scarred hands and feet and the scar in the side. That is always going to be there. There will always be that evidence in heaven of a fallen world even when all else has been erased. He is united together in one person forever.
This is how the church fathers at the Council of Nicea articulated the Nicene Creed.
We believe in one God the Father all Governing, creator of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father as only begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence as the Father, through whom all things came into being, both in heaven and on earth; Who for us and for our salvation came down and was incarnate becoming human. He suffered and on the third day He rose, and ascended in to the heavens and he will come to judge both the living and the dead.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit.
Notice that they start with God and not the Lord Jesus Christ. They emphasize first His sovereignty (He is the father of all governing) and second that He is the creator. He created all things visible and invisible. It doesn't start with Jesus Christ. That is the issue. We believe in one God – not two gods, not three gods, one God.
Now we have to define what we mean by the Son of God. The Son of God means that Jesus Christ comes eternally out of God the Father. There is that eternal relationship there. He is the eternal radiance or flashing forth of God the Father.
I pointed out last time that when we think about the radiance of flashing forth that it is like the rays of the sun coming out from the sun. You can't separate it from the sun. If you cut off the rays you cut of the light. If you cut off the light you cut of the rays. They are inseparably united. So this is the image that is behind this phrase. They understood Hebrews 1:3. They distinguished the concept of being begotten from being birthed. It doesn't imply a beginning. It implies a relationship and an eternal procession. He is begotten not created.
They fought over that terminology. The word translated "same essence" was the word homoousias. The other word they wanted to use was homoiousias. The difference is the little letter we call "i". In the Greek it is iota. Edward Gibbon who wrote "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" did not like Christianity. He was very anti-Christian. He said that all they did was argue about the use of these two words and it did not make an iota worth of difference. All your life you used this phrase and now you know where that it came from. Ultimately everything is theological. At least I like to think so. So they argued about that. It makes a tremendous difference. Did Jesus have the same essence as the Father or is He just like the Father – derivative essence? They determined that He was of the same essence as God the Father. That is what the Scripture teaches.
That was the Nicene Creed. If you grew up in an Episcopal Church or some Presbyterian Church or Roman Catholic Church you may have grown up reciting that on a regular basis not having any idea what it really meant.
So Jesus is the radiance, the flashing forth of His glory.
Upholding by the Word of His power is the third thing that is said about Jesus at the center or third part of the chiasm.
The word translated upholding doesn't simply mean sustaining it. That is the idea in Col 1:16-17. Jesus Christ sustains the universe. Right now He is holding everything together. That means that nothing mankind can do can destroy the planet. We can't pump enough hydro-fluoride carbons into the atmosphere to destroy the planet. Jesus Christ is holding everything together. We don't have to worry about global warming. Jesus Christ controls the atmosphere and the environment. But that is not what this is saying.
This is the present active participle of the Greek verb phero. It doesn't mean simply to hold something as you might hold a heavy weight or hold something together as if it might fall apart. It isn't holding two or three components together so that everything will continue to function. It has the idea of carrying it along to its conclusion. So the concept is a dynamic concept and not a static concept. He isn't standing there holding things together in one place. It has the idea of movement. The Son's work of upholding involves not only support but also movement. He is the one who carries all things forward on their appointed course to their ultimate destiny. It is another way to of talking about the fact that Jesus Christ controls history. It is therefore parallel to the idea stated at the end of verse 2 that He made the ages. He made the dispensations. It expands on that idea saying that not only did He make the dispensations, but He is the one who is moving things progressively through the dispensations to their ultimate and final resolution. There is not only intelligent design in the universe but that intelligent design has a plan and a purpose. The intelligent designer has created everything with a destiny in mind. So we are going somewhere. It is not just random events and random chance. When you encounter problems and difficulties and adversity in life, it isn't random. There is a plan and a purpose. There is an intelligence. There is a loving wisdom behind everything in history moving it in a particular direction toward its resolution. The Jesus Christ is the one who is directly involved as the second member of the trinity. He moves all things along by the word of His power.
We have two different words in Greek that are translated by the English term "word". The first is a word you may be more familiar with, logos, from which we get the word logic. It has the idea of a thought, word, or reason. All of that is part of the meaning of logos. It talks about the word as an abstract concept.
The word we have here is rhema speaks of a spoken or articulated word. It is not a word in the abstract but it is a word that is spoken. It is the idea that we have in Genesis 1 that God spoke and things came into existence. He said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Psalm 33:9For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
Jesus Christ carries things forward by His spoken word. He is directly involved in the creation and the on-going maintenance of creation. This isn't the picture of the god of deism that is pictured as the watchmaker who builds the watch, winds it, and sets it over on the shelf and goes to do something else as things unwind. He is personally involved in the ongoing progression through time of the creation. He is controlling it and directing it by the word of His power.
The Greek word for power is dunamis. It indicates His power, His ability or His capacity. When God is the subject of this noun, the focus is divine omnipotence. What actuates the power of God is the spoken word, the spoken command of the Lord Jesus Christ. So we see here that in this three-fold statement that is at the heart of the structure of Hebrews 1:1-4 that Jesus is the one who is the radiance of God's glory. He is the exact representation of His character. And He is the one who is upholding everything by the Word of His power. All of that talks about His function as deity.
That is the idea of the Day of Atonement. You don't have to get three or four years of Hebrew to figure that out.
NKJ 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
NKJ 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What do those two verses have in common? The idea of cleansing.
Now most of you remember that a few years back a pastor came out that began to teach that you didn't have to confess your sins with I John 1:9. That isn't an unusual position. Among Christians there basically developed over the centuries 6 or 7 different models of sanctification. The problem is that six of those basic approaches to the spiritual life are all based on the idea that you grow by doing the right things and not doing the wrong things. Follow the positive mandates of the Scripture and avoid the prohibitions and you'll grow as a Christian. But that is nothing more than pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. That is trying to mature by the flesh – doing it by your own effort.
Paul slammed the Galatians for this.
NKJ Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
What were they trying to do? They were trying to follow the Mosaic Law in order to grow. That is what you have in most of the models of sanctification. It includes Roman Catholic theology, Lutheran theology, Reformed theology, holiness theology, Pentecostal theology, and dispensational Augustinian view of sanctification.
In the early 80's a book was written for seminary students where a different theologian from each camp wrote on the subject and the other guys critiqued it. It is great for pastors and theological students who are studying these things because it helps you see the contrast between the different views. What irritated me when this controversy went on about ten years ago is that the people who were dropping confession were ignorant of this book.
Dr. Walvoord wrote an article called The Augustinian Dispensational View of Sanctification. When that book came out I was in the doctoral program at Dallas Seminary and there were doctoral students who said they didn't know there was a distinct dispensational view of the spiritual life. I don't blame them because it wasn't taught. What distinguished the dispensational view of the spiritual life from the others is the dynamic of confessing of your sins so that the Holy Spirit can be recovered in His sanctifying ministry understanding that we need to walk by the Spirit. But when we sin we walk by the flesh. There has to be a recovery mechanism other than trusting that God is going to get me back over there somehow. That's I John 1:9. But then everyone got hung up on the word confess. The issue isn't confession. That's the mechanic. The issue is cleansing. That's what you see that goes through everything from before the Mosaic Law in the patriarchal period to the Mosaic Law in the Church Age and even in the future generation in the Millennial Kingdom when there is a restoration of the temple.
In the millennium, there is a restoration of animal sacrifice but they are related to sanctification not salvation. There are going to be people and priests born in the Millennial Kingdom who have old sin natures. They will be born in the Millennial Kingdom and will work in the temple. They will need a process of ceremonial cleansing. That is why they will have ceremonial sacrifices for ceremonial cleansing in the millennial temple. What is pictured (I wrote a detailed scholarly article on this for Chafer's journal to demonstrate this.) is that in all the dispensations there is always a method of cleansing from post salvation sins. It is pictured in the tabernacle, the Mosaic Law, the temple and the future temple through the ceremonial sacrifices.
The word that is translated for atonement is the word kaphar. For years it was thought that the basic idea was to cover. It was the idea of covering sin. When sin is covered by sacrifice, then God was appeased. There is a correlation between that concept and the concept of propitiation. The righteousness and justice of God is satisfied when He looks at the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. That idea is somewhat present here.
The Jews translators used the word exilaskamai meaning to appease, propitiate, or to make atonement. The LXX used the word kaphar. What is interesting is that in Exodus 30:10 where you also have a passage that deals with the Day of Atonement, the word that they use for atonement is a different Greek word. The predominant Greek word to translate atonement in the LXX isn't exilaskamai; it is katharismos. It is cleansing. Recent studies have indicated that cognates to the Hebrew word kaphar that you find in the Acadian language indicate that the core meaning of kaphar is cleansing, not covering. That is exactly what we have the writer of Hebrews referencing here.
He by Himself had made purification or cleansing for our sins.
There are two types of cleansing in the Christian life:
- Related to salvation. It deals with all of your pre-salvation sins and gets you saved.
- As we go through the Christian life, you commit sin and have to recover from those sins so that the Holy Spirit's ministry is restored in your life to produce spiritual growth.
What we are talking about in verse 3 is that when Christ had by Himself made cleansing or purification for our sins. When He finished it He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
That introduces the Doctrine of the Ascension and Session. I have been reviewing that for the last four Sundays Country Bible Church in Brenham. We will review them again. The concept of ascension and session is foundational to the book of Hebrews. When we started I said that Hebrews was all about unpacking the significance of the doctrine of the present session of Christ and its significance for the believer's future rule and reign with Him. So we're going to review the session and ascension. Don't think that because you have heard it once or twice that you have a clue. I have taught it 6 times in two years. Every time I teach it I get new insight. It is an extremely difficult thing to understand. I try to make it digestible for folks because it pulls together so many different strands from the Old Testament and New Testament. But it is so crucial to understand. The only book in the New Testament that deals with the present session of Christ and His high priesthood is Hebrews. It is foundational. Most people are lost when they want to understand the real significance of Hebrews because they don't appreciate the significance of the present session of Christ.
We will start there next time.