God has Spoken!
The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts believers not to abandon Jesus when difficult times come, and it does so by emphasizing the superiority and finality of what God has done in His “Son.” The word “spoken” in Jesus is superior to the earlier and preparatory revelations provided “to the fathers in the prophets.” The Letter compares the Levitical system with its incomplete provisions and repeated sacrifices to the “better” priesthood and the “once for all” sacrifice of the “Son,” Jesus Christ.
Thus, the Letter demonstrates the superiority of the Son’s ministry, priesthood, and sacrifice over the priestly services and repeated animal sacrifices of the now obsolete Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial rituals of the “former covenant.”
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The Letter does not denigrate God’s past revelations. However, it shows by comparison how much the “Word spoken in a Son” has surpassed the previous “words” made “in the prophets to the fathers.”
Hebrews was sent to a congregation that was experiencing pressure from outsiders. Consequently, some members were contemplating returning to the local synagogue to avoid persecution and other difficulties.
- “In many parts and in many ways of old, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets; upon the last 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 impress of his being, also, bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, having achieved purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High, By so much becoming better than the angels, by as much as, going beyond them, He inherited a more distinguished name” - (Hebrews 1:1-4).
The Letter contrasts how God spoke in the past with how He is speaking now; partially, “of old” to the “fathers in the prophets,” but now, definitively “upon these last days to us in a Son.”
It then describes the accomplishments of the “Son” through several declarations with each prefaced by the relative pronoun “who.” It includes an allusion to what will become the Letter’s main proof text, Psalm 110:1, 4 (SEE Studies in the Epistle to the Hebrews by Joseph B. Rotherham, The Restoration Library, page 21).
Only in the final clause of the opening sentence does the Letter identify explicitly who this “Son” is by ending it with the word “name.” He inherited a “more distinguished NAME.” This prepares the reader for the next paragraph in which the one identified as “Son” is compared to the “angels” of God.
THESE LAST DAYS
If the discouraged believer returned to the synagogue, he or she would need to conform to some of the rituals detailed in the Book of Leviticus. But that would mean dishonoring the “Son” by whom God has spoken with great finality. Hence, the severe warnings against apostasy in the Letter - (Hebrews 2:1-3, 2:15, 6:1-12, 10:25-39).
“Upon THESE LAST DAYS,” this superior “word” has been “spoken” in one who is a “son.” This “better” revelation marks the end of one era and the commencement of another and vastly superior age.
The Greek sentence begins with two adverbs, polumerōs and polutropōs, both formed with the adjective polus, meaning, “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” given “by the prophets” were parts of a larger but incomplete whole, or “in many parts.” Each 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, or “glimpses and shadows” of His coming “good things.”
Three contrasts are presented to prove the superiority of this final “word.” First, God spoke “of old,” but now, He speaks “upon these last days.” Second, He spoke to “the fathers, but now, “to us,” the Assembly. Third, He spoke “in the prophets,” but now, He is speaking in and by one who is “a son.”
The earlier revelations were promissory but incomplete. They did not reveal all that God would do for His children. Therefore, fuller disclosure was required. As the Letter argues, the priestly services and sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood were incapable of achieving the “purification of sins” and the “cleansing of the conscience.”
The term, “these last days,” provides the time element of this “word.” It began with the death, resurrection, and exaltation of the “Son.” Afterward, he “sat down” in God’s very presence where he now intercedes for his people as their “High Priest forevermore.”
Whatever the Letter means by the term “last days,” the period began with the exaltation of the “Son” to the “right hand of the Majesty in High Places” - (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 through ONE WHO IS A SON.
A son is in the closest possible relationship with his father. That familial closeness emphasizes his elevated status. As the “Son,” he is superior even to Moses, the greatest of the “prophets,” though a “servant” rather than a son in God’s “household.” Therefore, his “word” is vastly superior to all others by its nature as well as its content. 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 as the “heir of all things.” This alludes to the Second Psalm, another key proof text of the Letter. Yahweh promised to give His Son the “nations as an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth.” But the Letter shortens and clarifies that original promise so that now he is the heir “of ALL THINGS” - (Psalm 2:7-8).
This “Son” reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the “exact impress” of His very being. Jesus EXPRESSES THE VERY GLORY AND NATURE OF GOD. The Letter is not engaging in metaphysical speculation about the nature of God or the Son. Instead, it points to the surpassing greatness of the position he now holds. Only in His “Son” can His true essence and splendor be revealed and comprehended.
Thus, the “word” of the Son 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 utterances. Second, the “Son” is the means of this communication and the consummation of those past “words.” Only in him is the definitive word of Yahweh found and fulfilled.
What preceded the “word spoken in a son” was preparatory, promissory, and never intended to be God’s final answer. With the advent of the Nazarene, God has “spoken” decisively and with absolute finality, and nothing can or will ever be the same again.