The epistle to the Hebrews presents the exaltation of Jesus, His elevation from suffering and death to sovereignty over the Cosmos.
Threaded through Hebrews is the theme of the elevation of the “Son” from a lowly to an exalted state. His rise to sovereignty was through his obedient death and subsequent resurrection. In his sufferings, he was “perfected,” and God vindicated his obedience when he resurrected him, and then exalted him to sit at the “right hand of the majesty on high.”
The epistle builds its case with a series of comparisons between the past revelations of God and his final “word in the Son.” It does not denigrate the previous revelations, but it does stress the vast superiority of the final one “spoken” in His Son.
BECOMING SUPERIOR TO ANGELS. Through his exaltation, Jesus “became superior to the angels, having inherited a more distinguished name.” To “inherit” means a change in condition or status. The epistle validates this proposition with two Old Testament passages:
- (Hebrews 1:5) – “For to which of the angels said he at any time: You are my Son, I, this day, have begotten you, and again, I will become his father, and he shall become my Son?” – ( Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14).
“This day” translates the emphatic Greek adverb sémeron, which points to a specific time when Jesus was appointed king. At no point did God ever say this to any angel, but instead, declared it to designated “Son.” Because Jesus “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,” therefore, God “anointed him with the oil of exultation beyond his partners.”
The epistle’s opening paragraph concludes by comparing the “Son” to the angels, using a passage from Psalms that is one of the main scriptural texts applied in the epistle:
- (Psalm 110:1) – “But to which of the angels has he said at any time: Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool?”
Since Jesus was appointed to rule over the Cosmos, a position no angel ever received, by definition, he is superior to even the highest angel. The first comparison of the epistle concludes with an exhortation not to abandon the things believers have received from the “Son” – (Hebrews 2:1-4).
PERFECTING OF THE SON. All things were subjected beneath the Son; God “left to him nothing un-subjected.” While not yet do we see all things subjected to him, “we do see Jesus made some little less than angels; by reason of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, to the end that by the grace of God in behalf of every one he should taste of death.” The key verbs are in the past tense, and we are told when his accession to the divine throne occurred: When he “tasted death.” But first, God determined to perfect or “complete” Jesus “through suffering.” His need to attain to “perfection” points to a change or transition in status, one achieved through “suffering.”
In the epistle, his “suffering” refers to his death. The Son “paralyzed him who held the dominion of death, the Devil,” through his death, which released all men who, “by fear of death, were all their lives liable to bondage.”
To achieve victory over Satan and death, Jesus “was obliged in every way to be made like his brethren so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” The Greek verb rendered “become” denotes “becoming” (ginomai); in this case, a change in rank, condition, and status – (Hebrews 2:14-18).
BECOMING SUPERIOR TO MOSES. Next, Hebrews compares the “Son” to Moses, which emphasizes his superior status. Moses was more honored than all the other prophets, and unlike all the others, God spoke to him face-to-face – (Numbers 12:7-8, Hebrews 3:1-6).
As our “apostle,” Jesus is the one sent by God to deliver His final “word.” As our “high priest,” he represents us to His Father and makes intercession for us. The description of him as “one faithful” and the reference to Moses as “also in all his house,” allude to the passage from Numbers – (“My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house”).
In Jewish tradition, the passage from Numbers demonstrated that Moses received greater honor than the angels. Regardless, since the “Son” is superior to the angels, and since disobedience to his “word” incurs even greater punishment than disobedience to any word mediated by angels, logically, the “Son” is of superior rank than even Moses, the Great Lawgiver.
The keywords “faithful,” “priest” and “house” all allude to the prophecy from 1 Samuel 2:35, where God promised to “raise me up a faithful priest; according to that which is in my heart and in my soul will he do. Therefore, will I build for him an assured house.” Jesus is that promised “faithful priest” who is now set over God’s “house.”
But there is a difference. Jesus is worthy of far more honor than Moses, just as the one who “prepares” the house is worthy of more honor than the house. The “Son” is linked with the “builder,” God. He has been set over the “house,” but Moses was a “servant” in it.
Moses was an “attendant” or “servant” in the house “for a testimony.” As the faithful “attendant,” he was the witness to the word that would come. Thus, the Law given by angels was preparatory for the later and superior “word spoken in the Son.”
Metaphorically, “house” refers to the living community of the saints. Jesus is “over His house whose house are we.” Believers remain his “household” as long as they hold fast their “confidence and boast of hope.”
LEARNING OBEDIENCE. In the “days of his flesh,” Jesus offered up supplications to the one who was able to save him out of death. Most likely, the passage refers to his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though God hearkened to him because of his devoutness, yet “even though a son, he learned obedience from what things he suffered.” In this way, he was “made perfect” or “complete” – (Matthew 26:36-46).
Once again, Hebrews presents the “Son” who was “made perfect” by his sufferings. Because of this, he also “became to all those who obey him the Author of everlasting salvation.” Once again, his present status is based on his past obedience. Implicit is his change of status, his elevation to a vastly higher position.
BECOMING A PRIEST FOREVER. Christians have “a mighty consolation…an anchor of the soul, both secure and firm,” because their “forerunner” entered the interior of the “sanctuary” through the “veil.” Thus, he “became a high priest forever according to the rank of Melchizedek,” a rank he did not previously hold – (Hebrews 6:18-20, Psalm 110:4).
As our everlasting “high priest,” Jesus “became a surety of a better covenant” than anything provided in the Levitical legislation. His appointment as “high priest” occurred when he “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” after his resurrection.
As the high priest after the rank of Melchizedek, he has attained “a more distinguished public ministry” than any of the Levitical priests, and he became the “mediator of a better covenant” based upon “better promises.” These statements convey the idea of the Son “becoming” something “better” than what was provided under the old system – (Hebrews 8:1-6).
BETTER TABERNACLE, COVENANT, SACRIFICE. Jesus “approached as high–priest…through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,” one not made-by-hand. Moreover, “through his own blood he entered once for all, having discovered everlasting redemption.” The reference to “blood” stresses the actuality of his death, the pouring out of his lifeblood. He died a genuine human death on behalf of his “brethren” – (Hebrews 8:1-13).
This “new covenant” is vastly superior to the old one. Through the “blood of the Christ, who offered himself unspotted unto God through an everlasting spirit,” the “new covenant” purifies our conscience from dead works so we can render divine service to God. The “blood of Christ” indicates that he was able to enter the greater Tabernacle “once-for-all” because of his obedient death.
In contrast to the “first covenant” with its repeated animal sacrifices, it was necessary that the heavenly counterpart of the Tabernacle be established “with better sacrifices than these,” namely, via the death of the “Son”. The direct result was his entry “into heaven itself,” to be “manifested before the face of God for us.”
Because of his superior sacrifice, Jesus has no need to “offer himself often,” unlike the Levitical priests and their repeated sacrifices. Instead, “once-for-all, upon a conjunction of the ages, for a setting aside of sin through means of his sacrifice,” he offered himself. Thus, “having been offered once for all for the bearing of the sins of many,” he also will appear a second time “apart from sin.”
Believers have been made holy “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once-for-all.” Unlike every other priest who must “stand daily publicly ministering and continually offering the same sacrifices,” Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins evermore,” after which he “sat down on the right hand of God.” By his “one offering,” he achieved the “purification of sin” and “perfected for evermore those who are being made holy,” and thus became our “faithful high priest” who lives evermore to intercede for us.
SUMMARY. Thus, Hebrews presents a consistent picture of the “Son” who was exalted to the right hand of God because of his faithful obedience unto death. Though his exaltation, Jesus BECAME our “high priest” forevermore. He accomplished this “in the days of his flesh” when God “perfected” him through suffering and death. Because of his obedience, He delivered the Son “out of death”; thereafter, he “passed through the heavens” to become our “faithful high priest.”
His “perfection” and exaltation were accomplished through his death. God vindicated that sacrifice by raising him from the dead, then exalting him to sit at “the right hand of the throne of majesty.” Thus, the epistle bases the present status of the Son on the historical events of his obedience, death, resurrection, and exaltation.