Without question, the central fact of true Christianity is Jesus Christ—His Person and work. However, His work would be ineffectual and incomplete apart from the glories and perfection of His divinity and humanity—all that these mean and imply united together in one splendid Person with two unmingled natures. As such, the wonder of His person is on display in the first chapter of Hebrews. Written to Jewish believers tempted to forsake their sufficient Savior in the face of militant and increasing persecution, the anonymous inspired writer is used of the Holy Spirit to instruct and counsel His disciples in the perfect sufficiency of who Jesus is. To that end, the writer appeals to the highest authority he knows: For who could describe Jesus better than His own heavenly Father?
The author relies heavily on marshaling Old Testament passages to highlight the Father’s declarations about His Son. There are nine declarations, which I will discuss grouped together for clarity and space.
A. He is eternal Son and exalted firstborn (vv. 5-6)
That Jesus is called the “Son” implies several things: The nature of His relationship with the First Person of the Trinity (a Father-Son relationship); His divine nature (He shares His Father’s divine essence as a son shares his father’s humanness); His lovely, humble deference to His Father (as a son yields to his father’s headship); His inherent honor (for who could be more glorious than One who in His nature bears the essence of God Himself?); and, even, His kingship (the Davidic king became Yahweh’s adopted son through the covenant and thus the mediator of covenantal blessing and provision; what was imperfectly modeled by even the holiest human Davidic kings is perfectly unveiled forever in the final Davidic king, Jesus, Yahweh’s eternal and covenantal Son).
The excellent quote from the great Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof used in Sunday’s message bears repeating: “[The eternal generation of the Son] is that eternal and necessary act of the first person in the Trinity, whereby He, within the divine Being, is the ground of a second personal subsistence like His own, and puts this second person in possession of the whole divine essence, without any division, alienation, or change.” From all eternity the Father and Son have been in the most intimate and most life-giving of relationships. Though fully and eternally God in every way, the Son delights to find His life-source in and at the hand of the Father’s gracious, eternal, and self-giving love. In response, the Son gives Himself wholly to the Father in a communion of surrender, devotion, and delight. The Father in turn sees the complete and perfect reflection of Himself in all the Son is and does, for They share the one perfect divine essence while remaining separate Persons. The Son glorifies the Father in the perfect exposition and expression of His and Their divine excellencies, and within the progress of Scriptural revelation the full definition of what it means for Jesus to be “the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13 NJKV) is revealed.
As with “Son,” the title “firstborn” implies a complex of things. Perhaps most immediately, in Jewish thought the firstborn was the one who received a double portion of his father’s inheritance. He was in pride of place, a privileged relationship. He was also intended to be dedicated to Yahweh in a special, set-apart relationship, in recognition of His mercies to the nation in preserving Israel’s firstborn (Exodus 13:2, 11-16; 34:19). This is at least part of the reason why Jesus was Mary’s “firstborn son” (Luke 2:7). In addition, Palm 89 makes it clear that firstborn was another Davidic title, carrying with it a covenantal commitment by God to exalt the king, give him His authority, and establish His rule and its realm (the kingdom) forever (vv. 27-37). Because Jesus became incarnate as the Son of David, His being firstborn should be understood as saying His covenantal relationship with Yahweh affords Him the place of utmost preeminence in Israel, the church, time, and eternity. While “Son” primarily focuses on Christ’s utter deity, “firstborn” indicates the exalted quality of His humanity.
B. He is King, God, and Lord (vv. 8-10)
After a blunt contrast with the angels in verse 7 which accents their servanthood (dignified though it is), the writer continues to explore the supremacy of Jesus Christ. First is His kingship. Quoting from a Psalm which highlights Solomon’s kingship as a kind of type of the Greater Son of David, the author emphasizes Christ’s present royal position (“throne”), exercised authority (“scepter”), realm over which He rules (“kingdom,” the present form of which is the church), and His holy character (“loved…hated”). Indeed, it is this latter point which is why the Father anointed Him as king (“therefore”). This, too, demonstrates a contrast between kings like Solomon and David and the final King—for, while their kingship was an act of divine grace, only Jesus could merit His rule by His flawless sinlessness! The Father is called Jesus’ “God” (v. 9) which highlights His human nature. The next verse applies the strongest language of deity to Jesus. Verse 10 calls Him Yahweh (“Lord”)! Good monotheistic Jews did not call human beings Yahweh. This would have been the height of blasphemy…to use the personal, covenantal, dearest name of the one true and living God for a man?! Unless, of course, that man was not only a man, but Yahweh in a human body. The Prophet like unto Moses (Deut. 18:21-22) was greater than him in that this Prophet would bear the very nature of the eternal God untied to a sinless human nature in one glorious and all-sufficient Person. The covenant-making-and-keeping God who revealed Himself to Abraham and spoke the world into being was a human, touchable, accessible and here to keep His promises to Israel and the world.
C. He is Creator, eternal, and immutable (vv. 10-12)
As if the exaltation of Christ in the previous verses were not enough, the author now flows seamlessly into examining several key aspects of the deity he has just declared. Recalling that the OT quotes emphasize the Father’s view of His Son, we see that the Father ascribes to Him essential attributes of deity. Using the same Psalm 102 quotation, the Father emphasizes Jesus’ creation of the world from nothing, as well as His eventual renewal/recreation of the world at the close of the Millennium. He is eternal, in contrast with the world, for He remains while it perishes (“remain” is in the present tense). He also bears the divine stamp of changelessness, for the Father says of Him (as He inspired the psalmist to say of Himself), in contrast to the changing world, “You are the same” (v. 12).
D. He is appointed by the Father to sit at His right hand (vv. 13-14)
The crescendo of these wonderful truths about the Father’s view of His Son comes in verses 13-14. Dependent on all that came before it, the author hears the Father’s voice and writes down one final glorious reality: The perfect Son—the eternal divine Son, the holy God, the perfect Davidic Son, the true and perfect Man—has been invited by the Father to sit at His right hand as the ruler of all things. Quoted here and either quoted or alluded to almost twenty other times, Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted psalm in the NT. Hebrews’s author loves the Davidic theme, and without question Psalm 110 is a clear Davidic and messianic text. It describes the ministry of the ideal messianic Davidic king; even the idea of being at God’s right hand is a privilege afforded the king by covenant (e.g., Psalm 16:11, 18:35; 63:8; 80:15, 17). Being exalted to God’s right hand to rule is not merely a privilege of Jesus’ deity (for God is always equal to God); it indicates that the human man, the perfect and promised Davidic ruler, has been affirmed by God as His man and has been honored with the privilege of beginning to exercise that Davidic authority.
That Jesus is seated indicates three things. First, His work is done. He substituted Himself for the sins of His people, broke the curse of sin and death, and He never needs to be offered again. His one perfect death is enough; He sits to rule (Hebrews 10:12; cf. 1 Chron. 29:22-23; 2 Chron. 6:10, 12). Second, He is in the highest place of power and authority. Ephesians tells us that it is here that Jesus is far above all rule and authority, and that from this place of “veto power” He is bequeathed to His bride, the church, for her victory and blessing (1:22-23). Third, He sits as conquering and victorious king. Here is where the progressive fulfillment of prophecy becomes so sweet. Jesus’ Davidic kingship has both present and future aspects. As king, He has chastened the nation of Israel by setting it aside under His divine curse for its rejection of its covenantal responsibilities toward Him as Messiah and God. In their place, He has for the duration of this age grafted in a new, mystery institution, the church, and includes them in kingdom promises (Matt. 21:42-43; Rom. 11:11-22). In the future, after the Tribulation, Jesus will complete His Davidic ministry by coming back, regrafting national Israel into the olive tree of blessing, and sitting upon the throne in Jerusalem ruling as king over Israel and the world for a thousand years. Just as His first coming did not eliminate the need for a future return but assures us of an imminent completion of what He began, so His current Davidic authority should only make us anticipate His faithfulness to His promises to Israel in the future.
Hebrews chapter 1 sets on display the multifaceted glories of Jesus Christ like few other chapters. Here, we fall on our knees; this is holy ground. Here, we see Jesus, who bears His Father’s nature, is exalted to the highest place, is eternal God Himself and the perfect, promise-keeping King. He is the One to whom we can run for anything we might need. He is the One who can overrule trial and answer prayer. He is the One who, in His perfect humanness, sympathizes with and intercedes for us—and Jesus always gets His way. He died for us, lives for us, rules over us, and will one day rescue us into the fullness of His promises. O, come let us adore Him: Christ the Lord!