Sermon: God’s Greatest and Final Word (Hebrews 1:1-3)

God’s Greatest and Final Word

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  [3] He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

I want us to work our way through the Book of Hebrews for one main reason.  I want us together to see Jesus Christ clearly and in all His glory.  We will not see Jesus physically until we die or He returns; however, seek to see Him clearly with the eyes of your heart.  If the Lord grants this vision to us through His Word, we will never be the same.  To see the Lord is to be changed. I pray that our imagined ideas of the Lord will fade away as we see clearly the Lord of Scripture high and lifted up.

When Isaiah saw Jesus in the Temple he was forever changed.  He saw the Lord in a vision, high and lifted up.  The Lord’s robe filled the temple.  Isaiah heard the angels singing and as they sang the foundation of the temple shook because of the glory of the Lord.  Immediately, Isaiah realized a mortal sinful man was in the presence of deity and he believed he would die.  However, the Lord was gracious to him and was going to use Isaiah to be His spokesman.  He cleansed Isaiah’s sin and gave him a job to do.  Isaiah would prophecy for the Lord.

In a text of Scripture referring to Jesus we read:

John 12:41 (ESV)

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

If we are to understand the Book of Hebrews correctly, it’s important to see that it was written to Hebrew Christians whose faith was being challenged by the Jews.  It was written to show the complete supremacy of Jesus Christ over the Hebrew system of Judaism.  Christianity far exceeds Judaism as Jesus far exceeds Moses.  His covenant is superior to the old covenant.

The Old Testament is good but Jesus is better is the echoing truth through this book.

The book begins by comparing the way God spoke in the past with how He speaks now.

Through the course of my Christian life I’ve heard statements from well meaning folks concerning the will of God.  God told me such and such or God said this or that. Most of the time when I have heard such things, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  I understood that the Lord had given them peace about something or perhaps answered prayer.  We must be careful when thinking about such things.  The writer of Hebrews wants to tell us that God has spoken and he did it in certain ways.

1. God Has Spoken (Hebrews 1:1-2a)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

A. God’s Former Way of Speaking (1:1)

To begin with, it’s important to note that God condescends in order to speak to people.  He is the One who takes the initiative and chooses to speak to us, His creation.  God doesn’t owe it to us.  He’s not obligated to speak just as He’s not obligated to save.  To think that God is powerful and awesome in every way and at the same time lowers Himself in order to speak to us is an amazing thought.  He cares about us and wants to communicate His love and mercy to us.

As we think about how God spoke before Christ, we should understand that He spoke in various ways.  This is what the writer is getting at.  God spoke through visions, dreams, and face to face with the prophets but when God spoke to the people; He spoke through the prophet that He appointed.  He spoke to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2ff), He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12ff), to Isaiah in a vision in the temple (Isaiah 6), Amos in a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8).  He spoke to these prophets in various ways and then the prophets spoke to the people.

If we are to understand anything about God, He must reveal Himself to us.  We are desperately in need of revelation.  Humans do not have this kind of knowledge within themselves.  Innate knowledge of God is non-existent within us.

Just look at all the crazy ideas out there floating around about God.  Whenever people try to speak intelligently about God without relying on His revelation people speak falsely.

Even if one goes to the Old Testament and tries to get a clear picture of God, one comes away, at best, with a fragmentary picture.

For example, we just finished the Book of Ruth last week.  We can get somewhat of a picture of our Redeemer Jesus Christ when we look to Boaz, Ruth and Naomi’s redeemer.  However, this picture is not complete.  It is simply a shadow or an unclear image.

Remember, the OT is about Jesus but it is in fragments.  The idea that the OT is about Jesus sometimes is hard to believe and at times meets with resistance.  Jesus knew this to be true and so did Luke writing in Acts.

Luke 24:44 (ESV)

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Acts 28:23 (ESV)

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

The Old Testament prophets spoke truth and spoke about Christ but their prophecies we not complete.  They were only given bits and pieces.  The Prophets did, in fact, know some things but did not know the specifics in many cases.

1 Peter 1:10-12 (ESV)

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,  [11] inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  [12] It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

What they knew was that God was speaking through them and that there would be more coming later.

The Bible contains what theologians call progressive revelation.  As you turn the pages of God’s Word you discover more and more specific information concerning the Savior.  The prophets were guided along by the Holy Spirit like the wind carries along a sail boat.  They spoke and wrote as the Lord gave them utterance.  No prophet spoke his own words but spoke the words God wanted him to speak.

2 Peter 1:21 (ESV)

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

It’s important for us to also understand what happens when God chooses to speak.  When God speaks things happen.

Sometimes when parents speak to their children, their words are not heard or they are ignored.  It seems at times children possess selective hearing.  The statement, “Clean your room” echoes down the hall and reverberates through the house but it often goes undetected by the ears for which it was intended.

God’s Words are totally different.

Isaiah 55:11 (ESV)

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

When God spoke creation into existence, it obeyed.  God’s Word is what created everything.  When He spoke, Let there be light, light appeared.

God spoke and things took place.  His very Words create.

He has another Word with which He now speaks.  Literally, the text says, in former times God spoke in prophet but now, He speaks in Son.  God has a new mode for which He makes His revelation known.  Formerly, He spoke to the prophet and then the prophet spoke to the people.  Now, God speaks in Jesus Christ.

Humans have a tendency to worship the wrong things.  When God spoke through the prophets and utilized the temple, the people began to worship them rather than God.

Matthew 17:1-5 (ESV)

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  [2] And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.  [3] And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.  [4] And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  [5] He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Do you see Peter’s tendency to worship Moses and Elijah in the same way as he was going to worship Christ?  The problem with the OT was that there was a middle man.  God spoke to the prophet and he spoke to the people.  The people worshipped what they saw which was the prophet or the temple.  Now there is no middle man.  God speaks directly through Jesus.  Jesus is God and so when He speaks in the pages of Scripture we are hearing the words of God Himself.  Jesus is superior to the prophets.

God was clearly saying that there is a difference now in how revelation is given.  In the past you listened to Moses and the prophets, now listen to My Son.

B. God’s Present Way of Speaking (1:2a)

[2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

While it’s important to see the way God speaks in the latter days as superior to the former, it’s important to note that the message is still the same and the God speaking it is still the same.  The OT leads up to the NT as John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus.  His preaching was to prepare the hearts of the people to hear the preaching of Christ and so the OT was to get the world ready to hear the message of the NT.

Now, in Christ, we’ve entered a pivotal point in the salvation of God’s people.  Everything has come together.  When the time was right and everything was in place God came to earth put on flesh and gave us a full and complete revelation.

Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

The OT law could only condemn, it could never save.  When someone says to you that they are in a good standing with God because they keep the commandments, they really don’t understand the commandments correctly.  The commandments, as the law of God, are there to show us our sin.  Only God keeps the Ten Commandments.

While the law can only condemn and not save, the gospel can only save and not condemn.  Jesus is far more important to us than the Ten Commandments.

Aren’t you glad that God speaks Son?

In the past God spoke prophet…

In the present God speaks Son…

In the past He spoke to our forefathers…

In the present He speaks to us…

Israel would hear a prophet speak and they would test his words to see if they came to pass, one prophet after another came.  Today, we must realize that God speaks through His Son and there is no other revelation coming because there is no other Son coming.  We read the pages of the NT to hear the Words of God as He speaks in Jesus.  We must see clearly that the authoritative Words of God are complete and perfect as we have them recorded for us in the Bible.  Since there is only one Son and He has already completely spoken there will not be any more Scripture written.  The cannon of the Bible (the collected books) are complete.

The storyline of the Bible is a progressive one leading up to the pinnacle of revelation, who is Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12 (ESV)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

We shouldn’t let the phrase in these last days trip us up.  When Scripture speaks of the last times or last days, it has in mind the time when the Messianic prophecies are fulfilled.  In other words, when Jesus came 2000 years ago those Messianic prophecies came to pass and placed us in the last days.  We see the last days as the time between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.  We are presently in the last days, hear God speak by the lips of Jesus and we are currently waiting on His return.

Next, the writer shows us why this NT revelation is superior to the OT.

2. Jesus is Superior (Hebrews 1:2b-3)

Simply put it is superior because Jesus is superior.  To express the excellence of the Son, we have described for us what the Son has done which is far superior to what the prophets had done.

whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  [3] He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

What Jesus has done that no one else could do…

A. Jesus Inherits All Things

whom he appointed the heir of all things

Everything belongs to Jesus.  He owns all of creation.  This means that Jesus owns all people.  They are His to do with what He wills.  He has all authority and all ownership.

Matthew 28:18 (ESV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

What does it mean to us that all of creation belongs to Jesus? One thing it means is that I belong to Him.  He is Lord over me.  He can do whatever He wants with me.  We are the clay and He is the Potter.

Romans 9:21 (ESV)

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?

B. Jesus Created the World

through whom also he created the world.

Not only does the Lord own all things, but He made everything.  He is the Creator.

Col. 1:16 (ESV)

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him.

Only God is the Creator.  Only God can create.  Only God creates out of nothing.  He spoke into the emptiness and the darkness obeyed.  In saying He created everything; we must realize that we are included in that statement.

C. Jesus Is God

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature

This is a strange concept for us to understand.  It doesn’t mean that Jesus reflects the glory of God, as some translations have recorded.  The moon reflects the glory or light of the sun but has no light of its own.  Jesus does radiate God’s glory.  In other words, He produces God’s glory not simply reflects it.

Rev. 22:5 (ESV)

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Jesus is the exact imprint or substance of God.  The Son causes the radiance of the Father to shine forth so that humans can understand and partake of it.

John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John understood completely that Jesus had His own glory as One of the godhead.

D. Jesus Maintains the Universe

he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Here the author refers to Jesus maintaining the universe which he made by His Word.  We should listen to Jesus because it is His Words that create.  No prophet could create by speaking a word.  The Lord is so powerful that by simply speaking, the elements obey.

Have you ever had one of those toy plastic pipes that came with the Styrofoam ball?  As you blew the ball floats.  Jesus does this with every planet in the universe with blowing but by speaking.  His Word is the power that upholds our planet.

E. Made the Sacrifice for Sin

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Why listen to Jesus?  Because this same Jesus, who creates, maintains and inherits all things is the same Lord who gave up His life for sinners.  His perfect sacrifice freed sinners by purifying our sin.  Our sin has been taken away.

Why has the OT been overshadowed by the NT because we have the completed revelation through God Himself.

Jesus is the perfect Word of God given to people.

One thing to clearly see in this text is that God writing through the apostle wants us to see that without a doubt we can and must trust the final and greatest Word given to us by Jesus Christ.

Summary-

Throughout Scripture Jesus is known as possessing a three-fold office.  He is Prophet, Priest and King.

1. What we hold in our hands, God’s Word, is our sufficient source of eternal knowledge.  The Bible is God’s final, decisive word to the world.  If we are to know God, then we must come to His Word for instruction.  We must recognize that God has nothing more to say to us, than what He says to us in His Son-the revelation of which we have in the New Testament.  Jesus is the final prophet!

2. Jesus is also the final priest! Through Jesus’ obedient, sacrificial, substitutionary death sin has been dealt with once and for ever.  If you have trusted Christ as Savior, then you can be assured that your sins have been removed-past, present, and future.

3. Jesus is the final King. He is the King of kings!   Jesus sits at the right hand of Majesty.  God has highly exalted Him due to His death.  God was pleased with His Son’s sacrifice.  In light of all this, what should our response be?

God would tell us, This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!

Jesus is God’s final and greatest Word.

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