His Supremacy

The Letter to the Hebrews is addressed to a congregation that was facing pressure from outsiders, and some members were contemplating withdrawing from the Assembly. It presents arguments for why doing so would be catastrophic, stressing the superiority of the “Word of the Son” over past revelations. The Letter urges its readers to remain faithful to Jesus and the Apostolic Tradition.

Faithfulness is the proper response to persecution, and the Letter warns of the dire consequences of faithlessness to the superior “word” that God has given in His “Son.” Abandoning the Assembly and returning to the synagogue would lead to apostasy, the rejection of Jesus, and severe judgment on the offender - (Hebrews 2:1-4, 6:1-12, 10:22-30).

High Mountain - Photo by David East on Unsplash
[Photo by David East on Unsplash]

The Letter employs a rhetorical technique called 
synkrisis, consisting of comparisons that demonstrate the superiority of one thing over another. For example, it highlights the superiority of the “Son” over what God did under the “former covenant.”

The purpose is not to denigrate past revelations but to emphasize how much the glory of the new surpasses the old. Between each comparison, there are dire warnings against deserting Jesus.

The Letter compares the “Word” of the Son to that of angels, Moses, and Joshua, the priesthood of Jesus with the Aaronic priesthood, his one-time sacrifice with the required repeated animal sacrifices of the Levitical code, and the “former” covenant with the New Covenant inaugurated by the “Son.”

The previous “words” in the “prophets” were partial (“in many parts”), and delivered by various means (prophecy, visions, dreams). The “word” spoken in the “Son” differs in at least three ways. First, God spoke “of old,” but now “upon these last days.” Second, He spoke to the “fathers,” but now “to us.” And third, He spoke “in the prophets,” but now in one who is a “Son.”

As true and gracious as God’s past disclosures were, they were promissory and incomplete. Thus, a fuller word was needed. The past “word” was not incorrect, but partial. In contrast, His complete “word” is now “spoken in a Son.”

Upon the last of these days” provides the time element. With the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, God’s people have entered a new era and the time of fulfillment has commenced - (Acts 2:17, Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10).

SON, HEIR, PRIEST


God appointed the Son as “the heir of all things.”  This alludes to the Second Psalm where Yahweh promised to give His “son” the “nations as an inheritance.” It is one of two Messianic Psalms that figure prominently in the Letter:

  • (Psalm 2:8) – “Ask of me and LET ME GIVE NATIONS AS YOUR INHERITANCE, and as your possession, the ends of the earth.
  • (Psalm 110:1-4) – “Yahweh said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool… Yahweh has sworn and will not repent, YOU WILL BE A PRIEST TO TIMES EVERLASTING AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” – (Emphasis added in both preceding passages).

However, the Letter expands the original promise. The Son is the “heir of ALL THINGS,” not just the “nations” or the “Earth,” and the mention of his “inheritance” echoes the covenant promises to Abraham since Jesus is the heir of the patriarch.

Moreover, he is the “eradiated brightness of the glory, and the exact impress of His very essence,” and he reflects the glory and likeness of his Father. The point is the surpassing greatness of the position Jesus holds as High Priest.

He gained his status as the “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek” through his past accomplishments, “Having achieved the purification of sins, he was appointed heir of all things.” This last clause anticipates the later discussions on his priesthood, covenant, and sacrifice.

Jesus “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty.”  While this applies to his royal reign, more importantly, it refers to his priestly role and activities, especially his entrance into the “Holy of Holies” where he now intercedes for his people.

The Greek term rendered “sat down” contrasts HIS priestly act with the Aaronic high priest who entered the “Holy of Holies” only on the annual Day of Atonement, and only for a very brief time, and the latter NEVER SAT DOWN in the inner sanctum. Yet Jesus did exactly that – he “sat down” - only in the greater and true Tabernacle “in the highest heaven” now cleansed by his own blood. His act demonstrated the completeness of his once-only sacrifice - (Hebrews 7:26-27, 10:11-12).

He entered the heavenly sanctuary “once-for-all” through his sacrifice, thereby obtaining everlasting redemption for his people. Stressing that he “sat down” also indicates the PERMANENCE of his position as the High Priest “forever.”

Jesus “became so much better than the angels,” having advanced beyond them by inheriting “a more excellent name.” In this context, that name is “Son.” The “word spoken in a son” is superior to all past revelations in two ways. First, it is the last in a long series of revelations (“Upon these last days”). Second, it is the culmination of all that preceded him, the “perfecter of our faith” - (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Matterhorn clouds - Photo by Tim Cheung on Unsplash
[Photo by Tim Cheung on Unsplash]

The Letter thus argues 
FROM LESSER TO GREATER. Angels are God’s ministers, and Moses was His servant, but the sonly word is superior to any previous message whether mediated by angels, prophets, or the Great Lawgiver. Rejecting his word will result in far greater punishment than any disobedience under the Mosaic law.

In summary, Hebrews compares the “word spoken in a son” with the past revelations made through prophets, angels, priests, and Moses. It demonstrates the surpassing greatness of the final revelation provided by God in His Son and warns of the danger of abandoning and thereby repudiating it.



RELATED POSTS:
  • God has Spoken - (God is speaking His definitive word in His Son. All previous words spoken by the prophets were preparatory, promissory, and partial)
  • These Last Days - (The era of the Levitical priesthood terminated with the arrival of the word in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our High Priest forevermore)
  • Purification of Sins - (Having achieved the purification of sins, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God where he now intercedes for his people as their High Priest)

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