“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, though whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV).
Hebrews was written primarily to Jewish Christians who were undergoing intense persecutions, and were considering returning to Judaism in order to escape the persecution of the Roman rulers. The Jews practising Judaism were not compelled to worship the Emperor of Rome; the Christians (Jews and Gentiles) were not exempted. Hence severe persecutions and even martyrdom were the consequences for the believers.
The epistle begins by impressing the readers of the superiority of the revelation which has come through the Son over all previous revelations that had been given. It is not only superior but it is also unique – it is altogether separate and distinct and apart from all others in its superiority. And this is in fact the final and supreme revelation of God – God has spoken in and by His Son and to ignore this revelation leads to dire consequences.
What is it that is so unique, different, distinct and supreme in this final revelation in His Son? Understanding this and appreciating it would make a great difference to the Jewish Christians at the time of this epistle, and this applies equally to us believers in our time. Both periods are times of suffering, persecution and terror in these last days (between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus) for the believers then and the bellievers now. We need to take time to understand this final and supreme revelation of God in His Son.
God in the past spoke to the believers by the prophets. And although the prophets spoke with authority, (‘Thus said the Lord’) and there was general unity in their revelations, yet their overall revelation was partial and incomplete. Hebrews tells us that God has spoken in His Son perfectly; at last a Prophet has come who is perfect, complete and enduring. God speaks now through One who is perfect: the Son. The revelation in this respect is full, complete and perfect. In His Son is the perfect Teacher and complete Prophet. If we understand this, then we know that there is no need for further revelation through another prophet; the words of the Son are perfect words and His revelation is final and complete.
Jesus Christ is not just the perfect and complete Prophet – He is the perfect and complete Priest. In the past, the problem of sin has given rise to the need of the priestly order with its accompanying ceremony, rituals and sacrifices. Yet not one of the priests was perfect and none of the offering for sin was adequate. We are told that the shedding of the blood of bulls and goats can never make anything perfect or purge the conscience from dead works. We need a perfect offering before God’s holiness and righteousness can be satisfied – it is only in Christ that there is found the perfect offering and oblation, and it is only Christ who qualified to present the perfect offering in offering Himself as a lamb without spot or blemish and entirely without sin. No other offering is needed – the high Priest in Christ has given the final and perfect offering in offering Himself.
The Lord Jesus is perfect also as King. There had been kings and rulers, but not one of them was worthy of man’s entire loyalty and obedience. Jesus is the One who alone was found worthy to unlock the seals and to open the Book of Life, and to take His seat at the right hand of the Father (Rev.5:9-10). The Son is the exact image of the Father – He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
So in the Son, God has spoken perfectly – perfect Prophet, perfect Priest, a perfect offering and a perfect King. God has spoken finally, completely and perfectly. Hence to ignore God’s revelation in and through His Son invites eternal disastrous consequences. This is the last word of God – nothing further can be added, nothing further can ever be done. So the Jewish Christians should not turn away from God’s final and complete revelation in His Son; similarly, we cannot afford to turn away from His final revelation – there is no room for us to add anything further or to remove anything from this final and supreme revelation in the Son.
We have seen in the previous sharing that God has spoken finally and perfectly in His Son – He is the final and complete Prophet (greater than Moses and all the prophets before Him and there is no need for another prophet); He is the final and complete Priest (He is the perfect offering, once for all, and He is the perfect priest after the order of Melchizedek and there no longer needs to be another offering, and He has finished His offering and now sits at the right hand of the Father); He is the supreme and perfect King (One who is perfect, eternal and just) – this is the last final word that God has spoken finally in Christ. God came Himself in His Son – “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”.
But what has God said in His Son? We must not reduce what God said in HIs glorious gospel to a mere humanism, to a mere concern about social conditions or a mere concern for political change, forgetting the eternal consequences tied up with the gospel.
God has spoken to us in a final manner concerning Himself – the first word of God to man is always a word about God, not about man. Man, in his self-centredness, has always been waiting for something which will make him happier or more comfortable. In our concern about men, we have forgotten God.
Christ has spoken concerning the holiness of God in a way that none of the prophets ever spoke. The prophets of old told us of God as the Creator and of the giving of the law. But it is only in the Son that we begin to understand something of the holiness of God. As we look into the face of Jesus, we see His spotlessness, His perfection, and as we observe His hatred of sin and evil, we have a revelation of the holiness of God. It is in Christ, upon the cross that we see the holiness of God. The holy God would not leave sin unpunished and as we, in Adam, are condemned and are not able to pay the penalty of sin or to remove the guilt of sin and death, God, in His Son, took upon Himself to be our substitute and sacrifice, so that God can be just and righteous to forgive us our sin and to save us from eternal condemnation.
In Christ, we see also the love of God. Only He has spoken fully and authoritatively to mankind about the love of God and in HIm (the Son), we begin to know the meaning of God’s love. We observe HIs compassion, how He never passed by suffering – He showed His compassion, His sympathy, HIs tenderness – and He expressed for us those memorable words, ” A bruised reed will He not break, and the smoking flax He will not quench”.
Christ has given us a revelation of the terrible nature of sin. Why has the Son of God ever come into this fallen world? What is the explanation of His incarnation? There is only One who who is adequate to deal with the problem of sin – there was no other way to deal with it. If the prophets, the priest and the ceremonies and rituals had been adequate to deal with it, the Son would never have come. Why did God, in HIs Son, condescend to leave heaven, to become a babe in Bethlehem, to take on flesh, to endure the contradiction of sinners, to die a cruel death on the cross? There is only one answer – the problem of sin is so terrible and so deep that there was nothing less that could have been adequate to solve it. The Son came because He has to come and He came because He loves the Father and He loves us. While we were yet sinners, enemies of the cross, He died for us.
In His Son, God has spoken concerning the way of salvation. Salvation is in the Son – he who has the Son has life – it is in Him alone. Christ is the only way of salvation – He is God’s way of salvation – there can be no other. We need to hold on to this – the author of Hebrews told the Jewish Christians this and He is telling us the same message. “How can we escape if we deny so great a salvation?”
And God has spoken to us – He has not only spoken to the Jewish Christians, not only to the first apostles and martyrs but He has spoken to us, to you and me. We must realise that God has spoken to us. The greatest tragedy is that the teeming masses of mankind have not realised that God has spoken to them in the Son of His love. He has spoken and we are all left without excuse.