Hebrews Reading Plan: Day 1 (Hebrews 1)

As we walk through Hebrews in our reading plan, below are a few additional thoughts, questions, commentary, and quotes. These aren’t designed to substitute your personal study and reflection on God’s Word, but they’re small supplements to your study. It’s always helpful to begin your study by reading the passage and making some basic observations. See the post “Making Observations”  for basic questions to help you understand and apply what you’re reading.

I’d love to hear about what you’re learning in Hebrews or what God is teaching you in particular through this study. Feel free to leave a comment or question. (To receive these updates daily, you can subscribe by clicking the Follow button on the left-column.)

Study, Reflection, and Discussion Questions

  1. Take a minute to reflect on the fact that the God of the universe has spoken to us and speaks to us through the incarnate Word (Jesus) and the written Word (Bible). Why is that significant? (Thank God for revealing himself to us, speaking to us, and helping us know him. Pray that your time in his Word today would open your eyes to see better who he is, and who he is for you.)
  2. List eight things mentioned about Jesus in 1:4–14, either an attribute, title, action, or description.
  3. Read Exodus 4:22; Psalm 89:27; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:6; Romans 8:29. What do you notice about the usage and meaning of firstborn in these passages? If Jesus is creator and not created, what does the Bible mean when it calls him the “firstborn?”
  4. Jesus is described as righteous throughout Hebrews (see 1:8–9; 4:15; 7:26–28). Why is it important that his kingdom be characterized by justice and righteousness? What are ways you can reflect his justice and righteousness in your own roles and relationships?
  5. What is the significance of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father after completing his work to pay for sin and purify us from sin (see also Rom. 1:3-4; Acts 2:29-36)? When you sin, stray, or stumble, what do you need to believe and hold to about the finished work of Jesus?
  6. Look up the following verses and write a short summary (meaning and significance) for each aspect of Jesus’s supremacy.
  • Heir of all things: Psalm 2:7–8; 72:8; 89:27; Daniel 7:14; Genesis 17:3–8 and Galatians 3:16–17, 25–29
  • Creator: Psalm 33:6; John 1:1–4; Colossians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • Radiance of God and exact imprint of His nature: 2 Corinthians 4:4–6; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; John 1:14, 18; 14:6–11
  • Upholds the universe by the word of his power: Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 4:12; 11:3; Isaiah 55:11; Genesis 1:1–3
  • Made purification for sin: Leviticus 16:30; Hebrews 9:11–14; 10:10–14; 1 John 1:9–2:2
  • Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty: Hebrews 1:8–13; Romans 1:3–4; Acts 2:32–36; Psalm 2:8; 110:1

Kid’s Question: How is Jesus, the Word, used by God to speak to his people (see Hebrews 1:3-4)?

Ideas for Response

  • Write out a one-sentence takeaway from this section. What do you most want to remember, believe, do, or apply?
  • Start a page for notes to record where you see Hebrews refer to Jesus as Prophet, Priest, or King. Or write down anything you see about the sufficiency and supremacy of Jesus
  • Pray this section back to God by praising Jesus for all it tells us about him, and asking God to help you savor Jesus and hold fast to him rather than drifting away.
  • Encourage one another person today with a reminder of who Jesus is (through what you see in Hebrews 1), and that he will be that for them today.

Additional Thoughts

Below are additional thoughts, suggested reading, and commentary on some of the key ideas or more difficult phrases we see in our section today.

Summary of Hebrews’ Message

Jesus Christ is our great High Priest. His ministry is sufficient for our needs and superior to the ministry of the old covenant in every way. Therefore, heed his Word and voice today by drawing near and enduring in faith rather than hardening your heart and drifting away.

Hebrews is written to believers who are likely experiencing trials and persecution. It appears they’ve become somewhat apathetic to God’s Word and are in danger. It seems likely they’re trusting in or considering turning to the old covenant or law and all that goes with it. The author demonstrates the superiority and sufficiency of Jesus so they cling to him rather than going back to shadows. Everything in the Old Testament was a pointer to Jesus, but Jesus is the reality pointed to, so why go back? Everything in the Old Testament law and covenant was insufficient, which is why Jesus came and provide what the law and old covenant could not. Why go back? Jesus is the one we are looking for, both as the fulfillment of all God’s promises and types in the OT, but also as the perfect savior who can fully forgive our sins and restore us to the God who made us. Because of all this, hear and heed the message of Christ and endure by clinging to him. Do not ignore him or his Word.

Jesus is Better

As you read Hebrews, you’ll see Jesus or his ministry described as more excellent, better, or superior at least thirteen times. As God’s Son, Jesus has a more excellent name (1:4), believers have a better hope (7:19), better covenant (7:22; 8:6) better possession (10:34), better resurrection (11:35), and a better word through the better blood of Jesus than Abel’s blood (12:24). See 7:7; 9:23; 11:16, 40; 6:9.

Similar to Colossians or Romans, Hebrews starts right out of the gate by making a bee-line to Jesus. Who Jesus is, and what he’s done for us, and what he’s now doing, aren’t of second importance behind the “practical issues” of life. The joy and strength found in knowing the real Jesus is what satisfies. He is the one who sustains us and keeps us so we endure through the barrage of body-blows from trials. The world is full of temptations to drift away from or deny Christ, both through the allure of pleasure and the anvil persecution, but a heart set on Jesus and Jesus alone will not turn to the left or the right. The world is full of noise, but we find rest in Christ. The world is full of worry and troubles, but we find our peace and hope in Jesus. If our hearts are captured by the glory and goodness of Jesus Christ, in the trenches of warfare we will ask the same question as Peter, “where else would I go?”

The author argues and shows that Jesus is better than any alternatives, namely the old covenant belonging to Israel. The promises given to Israel through Abraham and David, which the law-covenant of Moses—given by angels—helped mediate, was always incomplete and only partially fulfilled. These were “types” pointing to an “anti-type” that would fulfill them. Jesus is the true Israel who is the seed of Abraham who brings us into eternal rest in the new eden, the son/heir of David on the Davidic throne building a kingdom, the perfect and one-time sacrifice that cleanses sin completely, the mediator of a better covenant, and the prophet-priest-king Israel looked for and needed. Hebrews provides a thorough, deeply theological argument that Jesus is the true and better Israel, and so he fulfills and improves everything Israel looked for through his new and better covenant. Therefore, why drift away and turn back to the old covenant when Jesus is supreme and sufficient. He is the true word and final word to all God’s plans and promises for his people.

Heir of All Things (1:4)

As Son, all authority belongs to him and all things now are his. He inherits them or is the rightful owner of them by virtue of his unique relationship to the Father (Rom. 1:3-4). This phrase is likely taken from Psalm 2:8, pointing to the coming Davidic King and Son of God who would the heir of all nations (see Psalm 72:8; 89:27; 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Dan. 7:14). This also draws on the Abrahamic promise in Genesis 17:5 that Abraham would be the father of many nations, which as the OT develops we learn includes both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus is the fulfillment (telos) of both these things as he becomes the father of many nations and heir of all nations (see Gal. 3:16-17, 25-29). In fact, not just nations, but all things. (Hebrews will continue to highlight the development of the Abrahamic promise as moving from one people to all people, and one place to all places. See Heb. 3-4; 11:9-10, 14-16.)

But as we learn about Christ as the seed of Abraham, Davidic heir, and true Israel, this not only reveals truth about Jesus but it informs who we are and what we receive as those in him. In Christ, we become heirs to the promise (an inheritance which often focuses on salvation, rest, and even land/rest/home). See Heb. 6:17; 9:15; 11:19; Gal. 3:16-17, 25-29. All the unconditional promises of God to his people become ours through our union with Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

“In the OT, inheritance language is typically used with reference to the land of Canaan, which was promised to Israel as an inheritance (cf. Deut 4: 38; 12: 9; Josh 11: 23). But the Son is the heir of ‘all things,’ which echoes the promise given to the Davidic king in Ps 2: 8: ‘Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession.’ The Son is the heir because he is the Davidic king, the fulfillment of the covenant promise made to David that he would never lack a man to sit on the throne. The Son as heir matches in the chiasm his sitting down ‘at the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (1: 3). The Son’s heirship is tied to his kingship, to his rule over all, and hence it commences with his exaltation to God’s right hand.”[1]

“The Last Days” (1:2)

For more on “last days,” see 1 Peter 1:20; Heb. 9:26; Acts 2:17. 2 Tim. 3:1. See also Ligon Duncan, “The Last Days.”

The “last days” in the NT time/period the OT looked forward to when its types, predictions, shadows, and promises would be fulfilled. The “last days” isn’t the “end times” right before Jesus returns, but the eschatological age of the period of Christ’s reign and fulfillment—which is already inaugurated but not yet fully consummated. There is in the last days, “this age” and the “age to come,” which refers to the future, eternal reign of Jesus on a restored earth.

“The ‘last days’ is a term by which he refers to that whole course of time between the ascension of Christ and His bodily return in His second coming.”[2]

“The last days (Gen 49:1; Num 24:14; Isa 2:2; Jer 23:20; 25:19; Dan 10:14; Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1) represent the days in which God’s saving promises are fulfilled, and they have now commenced with the coming of the Son. Believers no longer live in the days when they await the fulfillment of what God has promised. They live in the eschaton; ‘the ends of the ages have come’ (1 Cor 10:11). It is inconceivable that the readers would embrace the old era with its sacrifices and rituals now that the new has come in Jesus Christ.”[3]

Why the focus on Angels?

“If we examine the letter as a whole, and what the author says in the next chapter, we discover the most probable answer. The angels were the mediators of the Mosaic law (2: 2; cf. Acts 7: 53; Gal 3: 19). In stressing the Son’s superiority to the angels, the author features Jesus’ supremacy over the Mosaic law and the Sinai covenant. Hence, the reference to the angels ties into one of the central themes of the letter. The readers should not transfer their allegiance to the law mediated by angels. Such a gambit should be rejected, for they would be opting for what is inferior since the Son rules over angels as one who has “inherited” a name better than theirs. God promised to make Abraham’s name great (Gen 12: 2), and the same promise is given to David (2 Sam 7: 9). And this covenant promise, first given to Abraham and then channeled through David, finds its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ.”[4]

Jesus who is greater than the angels, becomes temporarily below the angels in glory through his humility of the incarnation, only to take his place above them and over them at the resurrection/ascension. But Jesus is the king, whereas angels are servants of the king. Jesus is the true Son, while angels are messengers.

 

Footnotes

[1] Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 55.

[2] Ligon Duncan, “The Last Days,” https://rts.edu/resources/the-last-days/

[3] Thomas Schreiner, Hebrews, 54.

[4] Schreiner, Hebrews, 59.

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indycrowe

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