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Hebrews 1:1  (King James Version)

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Topical Studies
<< Philemon 1:25   Hebrews 1:2 >>

Hebrews 1:1-14

The author's direct and indirect references to the threefold offices of Jesus Christ—prophet, priest, and king—provide a link between Hebrews' first and second chapters. Christ holds all three at once, which is impressive. He is a Leader every knowledgeable individual should yearn to serve under because, under His leadership, great things will be accomplished. Those under Him will share the rewards of His achievements.

In Hebrews 1, the author describes the Son as the One through whom God spoke prophetically as “Son” (verse 2). In verse 3, He is the High Priest who provided purification for sins. In verses 6-14, we see Him prophetically, ruling from His throne in His Kingdom, alluding to His royal authority. These verses look far into the future, assuring us that His holding of the office of High Priest is a settled, eternal issue.

Why? The answer appears in Hebrews 1:9: God places Him in that office, anointing Him “with the oil of gladness more than [His] companions,” because He “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,” as demonstrated by His sinless life. He most certainly qualified for it. The quotation from Psalm 45:6-7 is no idle saying. Jesus was head and shoulders above all others in terms of His qualifications to lead.

These brief statements set the stage for the rest of the epistle. Hebrews 1 is a primer of what He has already done and will continue to do and expand upon for the members of the God Family. Remember, Christ Himself dogmatically states, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God is glorified by His Family producing fruit, and without Jesus Christ, no fruit can be produced. Without His work, our salvation would be impossible. As High Priest, He is the literal link between us and sharing eternity with God in His Family. Without Him, we could expect only death in the Lake of Fire.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Ten): Christianity's Claims

Hebrews 1:1-3

The apostle is extolling the present power of the One we worship. His authority and abilities have returned to what they were before He became a man. One of the ideas we are to take from this statement is that, if God were somehow to die, everything would shortly fly apart, so that even the physical life we now possess would end. Thus, anyone who believes God is confronted with an issue of clear, biblical logic about who sits at the controls of the universe under the Father.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)

Hebrews 1:1-4

Christ, by inheritance, has obtained the promises. Are we not co-heirs with Christ? Will we inherit the same things that He did? Verse 4 says, ". . . by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they [angels]." Is He greater than angels? There is no comparison between what He is now and an angel! He is their great Creator.

The writer of Hebrews is tracing the inheritance of the promises from the standpoint of Jesus, the Man, dying, being resurrected from the dead, and ascending to heaven. He is the inheritor of the promises that came to Him as the result of meeting the terms of the covenant given to Abraham. He became the heir, and what was His inheritance? This passage says that His inheritance was to become God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Thirteen)

Hebrews 1:1-14

During the first century, a number of very vocal Jews were hesitant about accepting Jesus Christ as High Priest under the New Covenant. The conference recorded in Acts 15, held to resolve their doubts, provides evidence of this group's existence. However, through the human author, God led, as it were, with a knockout punch in Hebrews' first chapter. Reading the powerful and true statements about Christ from God's own Word, laid out with devastating logic, a convert could find nothing to contradict.

Is there any other person besides Jesus, be he angel or human, whom God names as His only begotten Son? Is there anyone else whom God names as His Son who will inherit all things? Through whom the entire creation came into being? Who has given life itself to all creatures including humans?

God does not stop there. He continues His direct attack. Did God appoint any other person besides the One who became Jesus of Nazareth as “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person”? Does anyone else also uphold all things in creation by the very word of His power?

Did anyone but His only begotten Son purge us of our sins by sacrificing His perfectly lived life in an extremely painful death? Did anyone else rise from the dead and ascend to heaven to be seated at the Father's right hand, filling the second-highest position of power and authority in the entire universe?

All these questions challenge the skeptics to justify their reasons for rejecting Him as High Priest. Is there any room for even an angel, a creation of Jesus and thus on a lower plane than He, to be considered? And that is only the beginning of the questions that surely arose.

What God establishes at the very beginning of this magnificent epistle did not directly answer a few of the Jews' central doubts. What really perturbed the doubters was that Jesus of Nazareth appeared to be just another human, and He obviously died as all humans die. These facts, based on sight, not faith, did not meet their expectations.

The Jews' expectations about the appearance of the Messiah were built—and twisted from time to time—over a 1,400-year, on-and-off knowledge of God. Frankly, in terms of time, it was far more often “off” than “on.” God did not praise even one king of the ten northern Israelite tribes for leading a period of righteous rule over them. The tribes in the southern kingdom, Judah, occasionally had a David, Hezekiah, or Josiah rise to the point of God giving such praise. However, this kingdom eventually fell, and God judged that its conduct had been worse than that of the Kingdom of Israel!

Jesus was born among these people of Judah, and to them, He preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Jews had had an especially long period of free access to the prophets God sent through the centuries, so they had had access to the Scriptures as they came into existence through the prophets. Hebrews 1:1 declares that God ensured that this witness occurred: “God . . . at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.” The Israelites were never totally without access to God's guidance. Their problem was they did not believe deeply enough what He said to allow them to use it to bring Him glory. Like many modern Americans, they mostly did their own thing.

They were not totally wrong on everything, but they were in error enough that they could not come to correct conclusions to give them an accurate picture. For example, some Jews understood enough of the Promised Seed prophecy (Genesis 3:14-15) to know that it would be fulfilled by a great leader among the Israelites. They also knew He would be “the Anointed” and the “Messiah” and lead Israel to material greatness among the nations.

That scenario does not even begin to scratch the fullness of the Promised Seed's accomplishments, let alone that all nations will benefit both spiritually and materially from His greatness. They had only the slightest inkling that His appearance and subsequent accomplishments would bring salvation to the Gentile world too.

So, they had difficulty with the concept that Jesus of Nazareth was both God and man at the same time—even with the idea that He could be divine while in the flesh. They had trouble connecting their understanding of the Promised Messiah with Jesus' public ministry of both words and healings of mind and body, with His sacrificial death, and with the spiritual gifts He gives to heal the elects' minds and spirits, even though a spiritual mind can see that the prophecy in Genesis 3 contains hints of them. To some Jews, influenced by Judaism, these elements were a leap beyond their abilities to grasp.

When Christ's three-and-a-half years of ministry concluded and the church began, virtually everyone called and converted was a Jew. It was not that Jesus did not preach to Gentiles. He preached to the Gentile Samaritans as early as John 4, and His message attracted them, but none were converted during His ministry. Gentiles grasped some level of the truth, but not until God sent Peter to the home of Cornelius, a Roman soldier, and he and his family were converted and baptized into the Family of God, did the middle wall of division separating the Israelites—most specifically the Jews—and the Gentiles began to dissolve, little by little, within the church, the Israel of God.

The biblical record does not suggest in any way that the Gentiles called into God's church had any more difficulty being converted to Jesus Christ than Jews. The Jerusalem Conference resolved much of the “Gentile problem” challenging the Jews, and the church began moving to correct any remaining issues tied to this dispute.

Three things assisted the Jews through this issue:

  1. The apostles' and others' consistent, truthful teaching from the Old Testament in Sabbath services and Bible studies.

  2. The called Gentiles quick understanding of the truth, at least partly a result of their not having to overcome false, Jewish teachings.

  3. The gradual writing of gospels, letters, and other material by the apostles, especially those that became part of what is now the New Testament.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Eight): Hebrews 1

Hebrews 1:1-3

The author of Hebrews begins by extolling the given and achieved qualities of Jesus Christ. He did this partly because some Jews were dissatisfied with His being the High Priest; they considered Him to be unqualified. First on their list of reasons might have been that He was not a Levite (an argument the author engages in Hebrews 7).

The epistle's first verses, however, proceed to prove to the Jews that Jesus is qualified in every way to be High Priest despite His human descent. Israel, not Christ, is the one with the problems. The opening paragraphs demonstrate in a series of biblical quotations why Jesus should be accepted:

  1. He is the Son of God;

  2. He is the heir of all things;

  3. He is the actual Creator God;

  4. He is the brightness of God's glory;

  5. He upholds all things by the word of His power;

  6. He purged us of our sins; and

  7. He sits at the right hand of God on high.

That is a tremendous, unrivaled pedigree.

Why did God halt His sending of prophets? He had a better Prophet to send. Consider these seven shortcomings of all prophets in comparison with Jesus' strengths:

  1. All were human beings with earthly origins.

  2. All were sinful.

  3. All were beset by spiritual weaknesses.

  4. Their messages “came” to them from God; that is, their prophecies did not originate within themselves. What they said might not be the absolute Word of God. Thus, their messages lacked full divine authority.

  5. They did not grasp the fullness of the messages given to them.

  6. They did not understand the fullness of God's overall revelation and purposes.

  7. They only bore witness of the light or message God sent.

Jesus had none of these shortcomings because He was already God and one with the Father. The Jews greatly underestimated His qualifications, but in short order, the author rejects any prophet or angel from having better ones. He also does not stop displaying Christ's qualifications, continuing to add to and expound on them throughout most of the epistle. It becomes overwhelming proof of His fitness to be our High Priest.

Perhaps the Jews underestimated the impact of Jesus' birth, His ministry, His many miracles and healings, His controversies with the Pharisees and the Levitical priesthood, His tragic and “cursed” death, and His resurrection because they were done openly and had been much discussed. In addition, they distrusted His institution of the preaching of the gospel, which included opening salvation to the Gentiles.

We need to consider these things because the Father engineered this entire package from heaven. He knows when and how to advertise and promote His program, and He can do so vividly and with startling impact. Besides the prophets, the Old Testament figures the author selects to compare to Jesus are apparently listed in the order the Jews generally held as being of the highest regard. Abraham and Moses both ranked high on the list.

At the foundation of Jewish resistance to Christ, however, was their insistence that there was no need to change from the historical, traditional, Old Covenant truth that the high priest was appointed from the tribe of Levi, specifically from the family of Aaron. But there was more to their resistance than just this one point. The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers in Matthew 21:33-45 shows that God has continuously attempted to communicate faithfully and honestly with the Israelites—and with Gentiles too. However, the Israelites—most of whom do not know they are Israelites and think they are Gentiles—have always resisted Him and the truth He gave them. Conversely, actual Gentiles seem to grasp the intent of God's message more quickly than Israelites do, probably because they do not have Israelite history and their traditional beliefs blinding their theological vision to the superiority of Jesus and the truths of the New Covenant.

Thus, God's setting aside of the Old Covenant and putting the New Covenant into effect paved the way for the Jews to resist. Theologically, it was too much change for many Jews to digest and accept as it effectively destroyed any reason for Judaism to continue because the New Covenant is far superior to Judaism in terms of salvation. Individual Jews might find a “reasonable” justification for its continued existence, but it was an emotional, uphill fight for them to overcome.

The New Covenant did away with the need for the Temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices made at the Temple. None of those religious activities could even begin to compete with what the New Covenant offered: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of God's Holy Spirit, and a one-on-one relationship with the Creator God, Savior, and High Priest! Even the apostles, who spent three and a half years with Christ, had many questions despite being with their Creator almost constantly during that time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Nine)

Hebrews 1:1-2

By virtue of being divine and humankind's Creator, Jesus of Nazareth has His own individual claim on us. From beginning to end, we owe Him our lives, a fact that the Bible makes abundantly clear, so much that commentator Albert Barnes wondered why people even question it. That God sent Jesus Christ to speak to us of Him and of His purpose is a tremendous honor for mankind. Because One of such authority has spoken, what He said stakes a claim on our attention.

The things the Bible records Him doing in the presence sometimes of thousands are a telling witness. Yet, many treat those miraculous events like fairy tales. Such miracles are impossible for a mere man. Can any common man quiet the roaring winds or calm the waves of a raging sea or heal a dying child from the distance of at least twenty miles just by saying a few words? Yet, if His miracles define the distinction humans make between a created man and Creator God, then men have little or no concept of what constitutes a divine being. What really separates God from man? The separation appears in God's awe-inspiring powers combined with the purity of His use of those powers.

We must conclude that Jesus was indeed divine, God in the flesh. Every action He takes is for our well-being. Humanity, though, still has little or no respect for His words or deeds.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Ten): Christianity's Claims

Hebrews 1:1-4

The first chapter of Hebrews lays the foundation for the theme that will run through the entire book. The author begins with the truth that Christ is superior to angels. He wants his readers to focus on the message, which is important, not only because it is thrilling and of weighty content, but also because of its Source. In times past, the message came through agents or intermediaries—either angels or prophets were sent. This message, however, came right from the top—through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is greater than or superior to any angel or prophet. All of those who came before Jesus Christ are "inferiors."

Thus, when God sent His message through His Son, it was introduced by the very highest Source that it could possibly come from. The author intends us to understand that this message requires us to give it the highest priority of our lives. Nothing supersedes the message that came through the Son of God. No one can present a message anywhere near as great.

The message that Moses gave was, of course, right and true and powerful, but it cannot even be compared to the message that came through the Son of God. That is the theme! Christ and what He has to give us—be it words, His ministrations as High Priest, His efficacious death, His covenant, etc.—are far superior to everything else. Absolutely nothing in life can compare. He has given us the most awesome gifts that any human being could possibly be given.

This is how the author begins his treatise—as if firing a cannon to get our attention! How dare we be apathetic toward this message! That is what he implies. Do we not realize where the gospel came from? It came from the One for whom all things were created and by whom all things were created. He created Adam and gave him the breath of life—and He right now sustains us with His power! Yet the world and the pressures that it puts on us have a way of turning our attention toward other things, do they not? Unfortunately, we give into them so often, so easily.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today

Hebrews 1:1-4

Jesus Christ witnessed to the world of the Father and of God's purpose. When we combine John 1 with Hebrews 1, we see that the evidence of Jesus' witness discloses the record of His divine glory, providing a manifestation that renders men without a valid excuse. These three witnesses—John 1, Hebrews 1, and the witness of Jesus Himself—reveal the glory of God.

An illustration from nature may help: By shining, the sun is revealed. Likewise, the Son of God displayed brilliance in His demeanor like the sun in all its glory, and it was recorded by far more witnesses than for any other ancient personality. In His witness, He made God known to mankind.

All of nature depends on the sun's light and radiation. In like manner, because of the light of Jesus' life and the warmth emanating from His message about His way of life, humankind is dependent even in its ignorance. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Psalm 84:11 reads, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

It follows, then, that to those who consider carefully, His generosity in service to humanity is overwhelming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Ten): Christianity's Claims

Hebrews 1:1-2

We know the title given to the epistle to the Hebrews is reasonably correct, and Hebrews 1:1-2 provides the internal proof. God sent His prophets to the Hebrew Israelites, including the greatest prophet of all, Jesus Christ. There is no evidence He sent prophets to other nations with any regularity.

However, we must understand that this epistle was not written to Hebrews in general. Like the other epistles, it is directed primarily to Hebrews—Jews or Israelites—who had converted and were fellowshipping in church congregations. Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude, and Matthew were all Israelites, as were others converted through them. Note that other apostles did not send their epistles to the world; they sent them to church of God congregations. Paul explains this spiritually, writing in Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” The “Jews” addressed are people with God's Spirit.

The epistle to the Hebrews is inspired, and Christ's words to His church were passed around to all the congregations. This epistle was most certainly not restricted only to Hebrew Christians but was fully intended for all Christians since its instruction is vital to everyone's salvation. Yet, it went first to aid the Hebrews because of what was happening at that time both spiritually and culturally within their nation because of their faith in Jesus as Savior.

The author writes in Hebrews 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” This verse indicates that the Hebrew recipients were not young in the faith. Acts 8:1 records what was happening immediately after Stephen's martyrdom: “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Hebrews 10:32 reminds the epistle's original recipients about their earlier persecutions: “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” We can conclude that the epistle was written to a group of Christians who were not young in the faith.

Hebrews 13:24 adds: “Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you,” giving the impression that the congregation may have been relatively large. It also suggests that the epistle probably went first to the congregation in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22) and then copies were made and sent elsewhere.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Two)

Hebrews 1:1-4

This opening paragraph broaches the core of the entire epistle. The remarkable amount of material here is reminiscent of what is written in John 21:25: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Names and titles identify people, objects, and even political, religious, or cultural movements within societies. Historical names and titles tend to identify those personalities who lived at the forefront of significant human occurrences of the past. They appear in our histories because people desired to know and understand their activities for their own edification.

God's early dealings with Abram are an example. In Genesis 11:26, God begins the history of their relationship. Before God speaks directly with Abram, we find that his father's name was Terah. God also provides us with Abram's birthplace, Ur of the Chaldees, and his lineage beginning with Shem, son of Noah.

As time passes, God also informs the reader that Abram married Sarai, who was then barren. He leaves the length of time within this first contact unspecified, but God eventually speaks to Abram in Ur and commands him to depart. However, by the time Abram and Sarai leave Ur for Canaan, the elderly Terah seems to have decided to move with them, and he leads the group from Ur to Haran, a city far to the north. In Haran, Terah seemingly abruptly dies at age 205, leaving Abram, Sarai, Lot, and the unnumbered remainder of Abram's party to continue to Canaan without him.

While Abram and Sarai were in Ur, God never appeared to them. He did no more than speak to them. Not until Genesis 12:7 does the Bible first mention God appearing to him, and by then, they had arrived in Canaan.

Also, at some time after their arrival in Canaan, the term “the Hebrew” is added to Abram's identity (Genesis 14:13). Perhaps this was done to distinguish him from other Abrams whom God did not want confused with the biblical Abram. Maybe He did it to help future readers make a positive identification. We have always accepted that the term “Hebrew” identified a person as being a descendant of Eber. However, scholars claim that this is not the only usage of the term's root, saying that “Hebrew” was used anciently to distinguish a person who had “crossed over.” This usage implies an individual with no long-term community roots, a wanderer. A Hebrew, then, was a traveler into an area who had crossed a border, a mountain range, or a river, or even one who changed loyalties into, say, a new religious belief.

The beginning of the epistle to the Hebrews contains a compact form of a similar procedure of identification. God inspired the human author to focus immediately on the central Personality of the entire letter—Jesus Christ—identifying Him by titles and by His associations with a magnificent series of mindboggling accomplishments and bestowed honors. By the time the brief, four-verse opening paragraph is concluded, God has already set a strong foundation for convincing those skeptical about Jesus' qualifications that, yes, He is qualified to be High Priest under the New Covenant to assist the elect children whom God is calling into His Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Eight): Hebrews 1

<< Philemon 1:25   Hebrews 1:2 >>

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