The letter to the Hebrews exhorts believers not to abandon Jesus when difficult times come. It does so by emphasizing the superiority of what God has done in him, comparing the old Levitical system with its imperfect provisions to the new covenant inaugurated in the Son.
The letter demonstrates the superiority of Christ’s ministry, priesthood, and sacrifice over the services, priesthood, and animal sacrifices of the obsolete old covenant.
In doing so, it does not denigrate God’s past revelations. Instead, it shows by comparison how much the new covenant and the “word in the Son” surpass the previous revelations and the “former covenant.”
- (Hebrews 1:1-3) – “In many parts and in many ways of old, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets; at the end of these days, He spoke to us in a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages; Who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his very being, also bearing up all things by the word of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places.”
The letter is addressed to a congregation that is experiencing pressure from outsiders. As a consequence, some members are contemplating returning to the local synagogue to avoid persecution.
But doing so will necessitate conforming to the rituals described in the book of Leviticus. And it will also amount to betraying and dishonoring the Son. Hence, the severe warnings against apostasy threaded throughout the letter – (Hebrews 2:1-3, 2:15, 6:1-12, 10:25-39).
THESE LAST DAYS
Accordingly, “upon these last days,” the superior “Word of God” has been spoken in the “Son.” Thus, this revelation marks the end of one era and the commencement of another vastly superior age.
The Greek sentence begins with two adverbs – polumerōs and polutropōs – both formed with the adjective polus or “much, many.”
Polumerōs is formed with meros or “part,” and polutropōs with tropos or “manner.” The terms stress different aspects of the past revelation “spoken in the prophets.”
The individual “words” spoken “in the prophets” were parts of a larger but still veiled whole (“in many parts”), and each part was revealed in a different “way” and at various times. Presumably, the latter category included prophecies, visions, dreams, and other forms of inspired communication. God did speak before, but He only disclosed portions and foretastes of His coming definitive “word.”
Three contrasts are presented to prove the superiority and importance of His “word” spoken in Jesus. First, God spoke “of old,” but now, He speaks “upon these last days.” Second, He spoke to “the fathers, but now, “to us.” That is, to the followers of Jesus, the church. And third, He spoke “in the prophets,” but now, He is speaking to His people “in a Son.”
The previous revelations were promissory but incomplete. They did not reveal all that God intended to do; therefore, a more complete disclosure was necessary.
As the letter argues, the Levitical code is incapable of achieving the “purification of sins” so desperately needed by all men. And while the older “word” is correct though incomplete, the final one is expressed through one who is a “son.”
The term, “these last days,” provides the time element for the new “sonly” word and the era it has inaugurated. It began with his death, resurrection, and exaltation, following which he “sat down” in God’s very presence – (Acts 2:17, Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10).
SON AND HEIR
In the Greek sentence, there is no definite article or “the” before the word “son.” The omission stresses the class or status of the one who is called “son,” not his identity. The “word” that God now speaks is by means of one who is a son.
A son is in the closest possible relationship with his father, and that familial closeness emphasizes his elevated status. As the “Son,” he is superior even to Moses, the Great Lawgiver and the greatest of the prophets, and to the angels. Therefore, his word is superior to all others. It is not just one among many inspired words, but one with absolute and final authority.
The “Son” in whom God now speaks is the one He appointed “heir of all things.” This is a verbal allusion to the second Psalm, a key passage used several times in the letter.
Yahweh promised to give His Son and Messiah the “nations as an inheritance,” but the letter expands that original promise so that now he is the heir “of all things,” not just of the “nations”:
- (Psalm 2:7-8) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”
The “Son” reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the “exact impress” of His essence. Jesus our high priest reflects the very glory of God. This is not metaphysical speculation about his nature – it points to the surpassing greatness of the position he now holds.
FINAL AND SUPREME
Thus, the “sonly word” is superior to all past revelations. This is especially so in two distinct ways. First, it is the last word in a long series of prophetic revelations. Second, Jesus is the consummation and fulfillment of those previous “words.”
Only in His Son is the final revelation of Yahweh found, not in the ancient priesthood or its animal sacrifices. The Son came to fulfill what those things foreshadowed.
Thus, what preceded the “word spoken in a son” was preparatory, promissory, and never intended to be final. With the advent of Jesus of Nazareth, God has “spoken” with absolute finality, and nothing can ever be the same again.
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