By Rev. Lance Filio
Growing up, my parents restricted my lifestyle. So I learned to live within the means. Because of our small family budget, we adjusted and spent only on essentials. I have no complaints. When I was young, I never wanted more, so I settled with what we have. Yet as I grow up and earned money of my own, I changed. I wanted to buy things for myself. Seeking better things, I remember buying a personal computer, 5-way surround speakers, a DVD-drive, air-con, an electric fan, etc. But being financially immature, I used up my credit limit and sank in debt. By God’s grace, I learned from the painful experience. The incident almost ruined me. Soon, I adjusted my lifestyle and settled my obligations. Looking back, I though I am beyond such temptation. Yet, I was wrong. Just like everyone, I adjusted my lifestyle as soon as I thought I was getting something better.
Christians thinks the same way. Beginning their walk with faith, they thought of following a better way. Rather than persevering until the end, they look away from faith. Instead of gazing in Christ, they seek other ways. Seeking to improve their salvation in him, they neglected the righteousness that comes from faith and sought to set up their own. Sadly, some have perished. Yet by God’s grace, God delivered some from works-righteousness. He enabled them to believe the gospel of God’s saving work in Christ. And, He sustained them with the message of Christ who is better.
The preacher’s message is simple. In his writings, he labored to point them to Christ. He preached Christ to his congregation. Why so? Because Christ is better. When compared to the angels, the high priest, Moses, Joshua, David etc, he is better than everyone who preceded him. Why? Because He is God! As a result, the preacher commends those who endured in faith until the end. He is calling his hearers to stop looking for alternatives. For him, there is no one. He warns against falling away. His hearers need to take hold of Christ in faith.
The message the preacher wrote then the Holy Spirit wants us to apply today. Generation of Christians gets tempted to move away from Christ thinking they are other ways better than him. Soon they discover no one is greater. Christ is the final revelation of God. He is the final prophet, priest and king. He mediated for us a better covenant. We cannot find someone better than him. Again, there is no one. Today, we will hear how Christ is better. And every week, as a congregation, we will labor on every point that the preacher of Hebrews showed these truths. May the Lord continue to sustain his people through the preaching of his Word.
He is the Final Revelation of God
The first two verses of the opening chapter of Hebrews tells us about God speaking in history. Let us read again verses 1 and 2, “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, through whom also he created the world.” There are three important points to learn from these passages.
First, the God of the Bible speaks. They are God’s speech in history. They attest God’s special revelation.
Second, God reveals himself to us progressively. They show us the progress of God’s revelation. It points to a progression in time and intensity. In time, “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” speaks of the former ways of God leading up to “in these last days” when God “has spoken to us by his Son”. By intensity, it began with the variedness of God’s way of revealing himself. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” points to several ways God revealed himself. In contrast, God revealed himself specifically “by his Son”. Progression in time builds up the intensity.
Third, God speaks about His Son. He aims to present us the Son’s distinct personhood. While the person of the Son is distinct from the person of the Father, the Son is fully divine. “He has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” informs us of God the Father speaking to us about his Son and revealing to us his divine personality. He is the “appointed heir of all things” and “through whom he created the world”.
God reveals himself to his people. He is active in creation and in redemption. Specifically, His redemptive acts in history reflects the nature of his person. God actively reveals to us his work of redemption in creation. Geerhardus Vos wrote, “Revelation interprets redemption”. Therefore, we know God by revelation and because of it, we understand redemption. But is this how we know God? In reality, the God man seeks falls short of who reveals himself history. He seeks not after God but an idol. It speaks of his depravity. He runs away from God and his wrath. Therefore, judgement awaits him. In contrast, it is God who reveals himself to his people and rewards those who seek after him. In Jesus Christ, God reveals himself in creation as its Creator and Sustainer. These are God’s transcendental attributes. He is above creation. But while He transcends creation, he also rules over it. In history, God the Son fulfilled the offices of the Old Testament. He is the Final prophet, priest and King. Therefore, the Triune God is both transcendent and immanent. This is what the covenant relationship reveals. God is both Creator and Redeemer. The God who is is also the God who acts.
Today, most Christians insists to experience God in terms of immediate reality. However, they do not base it from God’s revelation in his Word. Rather, they wanted to sense God directly by their experiences. They add the Bible to experience God directly. Yet, they allow it only to confirm with what they think they already know about him. They forsake the transcendental qualities of God in exchange of a hype-immanent god. It denied God’s authoritative revelation in creation and in redemptive history. they want a god but not the God of Revelation. But, we need to understand Scripture does not allow us to see God this way. We need to accept God for who he is and not how we imagined him to be. Our presumptions about God cannot prevail. We need God’s own revelation of himself. Therefore, they need to live according the authoritative instructions of the God’s Word.
So what does God reveal about himself in his Word?
He is the Final Prophet, Priest and King
The preacher of Hebrews continues with God’s revelation about His Son. He explains why the Son is better than everyone that preceded him. The person of the Son is divine, and he is the God’s final revelation in redemptive history but why is he better? Verses 2-3 reads, “Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 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.” The Son excelled in the three offices of Prophet, Priest and King.
As a king, “he is appointed heir of all things”. As God’s son, he inherits all things from his Father. He created everything so by right, he is the owner of all creation. The divine Creator is the divine ruler of all things. No one can match him power and authority. He is the True and Final King.
As a prophet, “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”. As God’s Son, he shows us the God the Father. Jesus said, “he who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9)”. He perfectly reveals to us His Father. The radiance of the glory of God is God’s own glory which only a Divine Person can possess. Jesus mentioned about the glory he had before the world began, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed (John 17:5)”. As the final prophet, the Word explained to us the Father, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18)”. He is God’s personal revelation. No one can match his revelation of God. The Son is the final prophet in history.
As a priest, “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. As God’s Son, he made “purification for sins”. The preacher of Hebrews explains in the succeeding chapters how a high priest offers sacrifices to atone for the sins of God’s people. Yet, the blood of the animal removed no sin until Christ offered his own blood by dying on behalf of his people. By satisfying the wrath of his Father, all those whom he died for received the forgiveness of their sins. Christ is a “once for all” sacrifice to sin. He is the perfect high priest who entered the heavens and earned for us eternal life. There he “sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high” because he completed his work. In him, we have God’s final priest.
Now, we have heard the three offices of Christ explained in various preaching topics. Today, we saw how Scripture exposed these offices in Hebrews 1:2-3. So ending our second point, I would like to continue with the application.
Identifying Christ as our Final Prophet, Priest and King bears several implications in our lives. First, we recognize our need for a Mediator. The preacher of Hebrews assumes this truth so as students of Scripture, we have to align ourselves with this reality. Sadly, we don’t. We assume faith survives our entry to Christianity but not our stay in it. Our mediator is only good for the initial grace but he cannot sustain us in the long haul. We attempt to supplement his work. Christ may be better but God helps those who help themselves. So we help him help us. But, Scripture wants us to see Christ is better. For there is no other. He is our only option. Why? Because no one can match him. He is God! Christ is God’s Final King so we receive his rule over us through his Word and Spirit. He is God’s Final Prophet so we understand his person and work by his revelation in creation and redemption. He is God’s Final Priest so we accept God’s judgment over sin and God’s final solution to sin – his death and resurrection. Christ is indeed better!
Second, we have to distinguish Christ against the pseudo-mediators of our lives. As Christians, we identify those who claim superiority over Christ. We guard our hearts and our minds against those false gods. Paul admonishes us, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)”. These idols are sometimes hard to find. It sometimes shines and they attract our eyes but in reality, they possess refracted light. There is no light in them. They possess none. Yet, the greater light of God’s Word shines forth Christ. When we hear Christ preached, we see the brightness of God’s glory! So we “fix our eyes in Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2)”.
Third, we acknowledge our failure and bring them to Christ. Every Lord’s Day, we recognize this truth in our lives. We approach the throne of God’s grace through the complete and final work of Christ as our mediator. We are confident in we stand before God because we have our sinless Savior standing on our behalf. Hebrews reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).”
He is the Final Mediator of the Covenant
The remaining verses (4-14) speaks about Christ being better than the angels. The emphasis on angels is surprising to modern readers of the Bible. They consider angels as “ancient myth”. Yet compared to the Old Testament, they took angels seriously. Angels are God’s messenger. God sends them to deliver his message to his people. Israel received the Mosaic covenant in Sinai through Moses but with the help of the angels. Angels occupy an important place in God’s dealing with his people. They were instruments of God’s covenant. The preacher of Hebrews is laboring his point within this context. He present Christ is better than the angels. Why? Angels are created celestial beings while Christ is the Creator God himself. The comparison is absurd so Hebrews proves the point.
The preacher began by plainly stating this truth, “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (verse 4).” The whole book is talking about Jesus Christ. The Son refers to the excellent name he possesses. The name makes his superior to the angels. So the preacher exposes seven (7) Old Testament verses to prove his point. He framed these verses as a monologue from God himself speaking through Scripture. Scripture says, God says. What does God say about his Son? What does he say about the angels? The first two OT verses where spoken against the angels. He wrote, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, You are my Son, today I have begotten you? Or again, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son (verse 5)”? It is a rhetorical question. The answer is no one. He is speaking about the Son. The first OT verse comes from Psalms 2:7 and it is a messianic psalm. It speaks of Christ. The second OT verse comes from 2 Sam 7:14 and it speaks God’s covenant promise to David. He is referring to Christ who fulfilled God’s promise of an eternal kingdom. Both verses declare God’s Son as the messiah and since God’s Son is the messiah, no one is better than him.
The next two OT verses God the Father talks about the angels, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, Let all God’s angels worship him. Of the angels he says, He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire (verse 6-7)”. The first OT verse comes from Deuteronomy 32:43 and it is from the Song of Moses. Controversy surrounds this verse. Let it be suffice for me to say there are Greek and Hebrew OT manuscripts that contains the phase, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Theologically speaking, we should worship no creature. Worship belongs to God our Creator. Jesus affirmed this in Matthew 4:10. The Father commands the worship of His Son even from his angels. He calls angels to serve the Son. This is what the second OT verse in Psalms 104:4 convey. The angels worship and serve God’s Son.
The next set of OT verses address the Son directly. The Father now speaks about the Son. But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. And, You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end (verse 8-12).” These OT verses come from Psalms. They are Psalms 45:6-7 and Psalms 102:25-27, respectively. The first OT verse is a royal wedding psalm. It addresses Solomon originally, but it finds fulfillment in Christ. The second OT verse laments the brevity of human life versus the eternal God. It speaks about the restoration of Zion, Christ fulfilled them as well. Theologically speaking, God the Father identified his own Son as God himself. There is no alternative. God says to his Son, “”Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” and “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning and the heavens are the work of your hands”. Christ is both God and Lord! The Holy Spirit gave these inspired Words so we can plainly understand the divinity of God’s Son.
The last OT verse goes back to address the angels, “And to which of the angels has he ever said, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation (verses 13-14)?” Again, it is a rhetorical question. The answer is no one. The OT reference comes from Psalms 110:1-4. It is a messianic psalm. It is Christ who ascended to the throne of God. Christ is the rightful heir to all things. He is the Creator and Sustainer of creation. He is both Lord and King.
The Holy Spirit determined for us to labor and understand these truths. He labored to show us the painstaking reality of Christ’s superiority over all things in creation, earthly and celestial. Christ is indeed better. You might think, “Pastor, why not just tell us the summary and spare us the labor? Why do you need to also wants us to hear about all these details about Christ being better?” Well, we are prone to wonder. We become lazy and seek better things. Thinking we know any better, we lose our gaze on Christ. When this happens, our faith grows weak. Hearing how Christ is better reminds again and again that he is better! The Word creates and sustains our faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” says Romans 10:17. The word of Christ is Scripture speaking about Christ. May the Lord continue to sustain his people by the preaching of His Word.
ZCRC(Imus), Christ is better. He is God’s final revelation. Christ is better than all things creation, both earthly and celestial. He is the final prophet, priest and king. He is a better mediator of the covenant. He is the Creator God who deserves our service and worship. Jesus Christ is God! Let us hear God’s Word and May the Holy Spirit work faith in hearts. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.