Important Words and Relationships from Hebrews 1:1-4

Key Words from Hebrews 1:1-4

Words (incl. verse #) Type Ask Questions Answer Questions Apply Answers
at many times (v.1) Significant When? What are some examples of those times? Grk polumeros; meaning several/many times/portions/parts/fragments/segments. God has spoken throughout history, starting with Gen 1:3 (see John 1:1) when he created the world and everything in it. He spoke to create (creation) . He spoke directly to Moses and through him to the Israelites, he spoke through dreams and signs (Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar). He spoke through prophets by their words and actions (Isaiah walking naked, Is. 20:3). So God has spoken throughout the whole of history, although it is questionable whether he spoke or speaks as often as some claim. Contrary to Bette Middlers song “From a distance”, God is close at hand and continuously speaking to his creation. His first act was to speak (creation into being). When someone speaks, it is not only courteous that you listen, but necessary for what is spoken may be of great importance. How much more should we listen when God speaks?
in many ways (v.1) Significant Is there more than one way to speak? If verbal speech isn’t the only way to speak, how else does God speak? As noted above, God has spoken through words, written and verbal, dreams, visions, and actions. You must not narrow God down into a particular way of speaking or communicating to us. We must not quickly discount the ways that God speaks that may well be unusual to us but valid none the same (Bilquis Sheik is one such example to whom God spoke in various ways). The flip side is also that we should be careful to examine claims that God has spoken.
God spoke (v.1) Significant Why did God need to speak? How does God speak; what does he expect us to do? When God spoke, he had many purposes to his speech. Some examples are to create (Gen 1:1), to comfort (Is. 43:1), to rebuke (Num 22:22-41), to rebuke (Jonah 4:4), to counsel (Gen 4:6).
our (v.1) Significant just the hebrews or is “our” meant for all God’s people (the true Israel) The primary context suggests that “our” is being used to refer specifically to the ancestral lineage that these Jewish Christians had, but it can be reasonably expanded to include all believers given that Paul speaks of the Church as being part of the true Israel (Romans 9:6) This letter is meant for all who are claimed by Christ as his own.
fathers (v.1) Significant Who are they? The forefathers, physical in the case of the Jewish people and spiritual in the case of all believers, from whom we all descendent, beginning with Adam. Our lineage goes back to Eden, to Adam and Eve, to our ancestors (including women like Rachel and Rahab). This heritage is not only for those who are Jews by birth but Abraham is as much my father as anyone else who believes in Christ, and indeed, more so because of faith (Galatians 3:7).
the prophets (v.1) Significant Why did God not speak directly? Why were prophets necessary? Who were these prophets? If God is who he says he is, majestic, mighty and glorious – then who can stand the sound of his voice? The Israelites experienced this firsthand and begged that he stop (Heb 12:19). Even when he spoke at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, some thought it was thunder (John 12:28-29). We do not always here when God speaks, nor can we, for we are often too blind or deaf or afraid and unattentive. There is no guarantee that we would listen to God more if he spoke directly – the Israelites proved this, even though they heard and saw his acts first hand, they still fell into unbelief. Perhaps this is also why Jesus came, so that we could hear from one like us, and perhaps be more willing to listen. It is also why Jesus refused to give signs to the Pharisees because their hearts were so hardened it would have changed nothing (Matt 12:39). There is another issue that will be address later on in Hebrews; was it also due to the content of their message? We must be careful to listen however God speaks because there is no guarantee that we will listen if he speaks in the way we desire him to. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is a good reminder of this (Luke 16:19).
these last days (v.2) – eschaton Difficult When did the last days begin? And why now? What changed? The farthest end, the most important (also means the least) the final item in a series (BDAG). This is the season finale. They started with Jesus’ birth/ascension, after this there will be nothing else. After this comes judgement and glory (1 Cor 15:24). Not all times are created equal. This time is better than the last (before Christ); in this age, in these last days, God has spoken through a better messenger with a better message than before. But those who lived before us need not despair for through faith they both believed the message and received its blessings just as we have.
Son (v.2) Significant Who is the Son? And how is he different to those before him? The Son of God, Jesus, who is a son not because he was created (Heb 1:5, begotten) but as a designation of his pre-eminence over all other beings and creation. He holds the prized position of being one with God, at the right hand side of the father. Unlike all the other messengers who were mere men, Jesus is himself God and speaks in perfect unison with the father – there his message is better – not just because of the message itself (which is better for it pleads for mercy not judgement (Hebrews 12:24) but because the messenger himself is superior. If the message that was spoken by mere men resulted in life or death, blessing or curse, how much more is this message which comes through a far better messenger, going to result in the same?
appointed (etheken) v.2) Difficult Why does the Son need appointing? Was he not always “the heir of all things”? Although Jesus is God and has always been God, not needing to be created, yet there was a sense in which he had to prove his worthiness as a man (not God). For how else would we have listened and embraced his message if he had not shown himself to be truly the Son he claimed to be? So by his life, death and resurrection, he proved himself to be more than sufficient (Heb 5:1-10) We can identify with Jesus. We cannot accuse him of nepotism since he went through the trials that man goes through and overcame them with honor and glory. So we look at him and cannot but say “he is deserving”.
through whom…created (v. 2) Significant, difficult How did God create the world through the Son? Where else do we see this idea? John sums it up (1:1) – Jesus is the Word through which God spoke and brought all things to life (through him all things were made, and without him nothing was made that was made). This is a hard concept to understand. Interestingly, I think Jordan Peterson has some worthwhile thoughts about the relationship of words (truth) and their power to create, it may be worth listening to some of his podcasts on the issue. However, his explanation is only restricted to a psychological understanding of the matter whereas Jesus the Word created all things, physical and not. The whole world is held together by one thing – Jesus. Without him at the core, without the Word that creates and brings life, existence crumbles. Most certainly it would crumble physically for he is its primary constituent; but also we see how economies, societies, well-being, education and more are affected by the Word and its principles. The “death of God” in the 19th century brought about untold tragedies in the 20th. Societies which have retained and lived out the principles and truths of this Word, even without faith, prosper, while those that do not seem to struggle.
radiance (anaugasma) …of the glory (doxa) v.3 Difficult What is glory? And how does it radiate? What is glory? And how does it radiate? Thayer – Jesus “perfectly reflects the majesty of God” or alternatively he is the source of that brightness (BDAG). With God being unnapproachable, Jesus is God-approachable, with all his glory contained within him. Unlike the Israelites who could not touch God (Heb 12:20) we can approach him with boldness and confidence knowing that we will be welcomed and received (Heb 4:14).
exact imprint of his nature (v.3) Difficult What is the nature of God? And how is it imprinted on/in Christ? Jesus is the same as God, he is the “reality” of God. Everything that God, whom we have not and cannot see, is embodied and expressed in Christ and displayed to us. He makes God more than a mere concept but displays that God is true and real. To see and know God, one needs to only look at Jesus. His words, thoughts, actions, feelings and promises. In him is contained all of who and what God is. This is important for daily life – we will know him and therefore God through scripture and communion with him in prayer, song, meditation, and enjoyment of him and his creation. It also means that evanglism is to be a simple matter – to those who seek God, show them Christ.
upholds…the the word Significant why does the universe need “upholding”? Which “word” is this? Since the universe was created through Christ (Genesis 1:3, John 1:4) it reasons that he is the one who holds it together. Therefore, if Jesus were to be removed from the centre, it would all crumble (both physically and metaphysically since the structure and order of successful societies relies heavily on the principles which emanate from the Word). To remove Christ from the core of society is a dangerous thing. There is correlation between societies which have embraced (or at one time embraced) his word and their success; those which have not seem to struggle (Africa is a classic example, although the gospel is raging like wildfire and many are coming to faith, it is not true that that faith is yet being lived out in the same way that it was by European and American societies for example).
purification for sins (v.3) Difficult Whose sins? And how does he purify them? Sin, both its original and continual commission, broke the relationship between God and man in a way that could only be redeemed by full atonement (satisfaction) of that guilt. Therefore, full justice had to be executed, and by man for it was man who had sinned, and the penalty was death. No man or animal could satisfy this sin, and therefore it was up to God himself to pay for the sins of helpless man. For this reason Jesus came, embodying the entirety of God’s nature and fully satisfied the demands that justice required. Unlike the blood of Abel which cried for revenge against Cain (Heb 12:24), Jesus’ blood cries out for mercy on our behalf. So although we feel guilt and shame that our sins are what he died for, we must rejoice for he did it gladly. If he had not, we would all be but damned.
sat…at the right hand (v.3) Significant, Difficult What does it mean to sit at the right hand side of God? An allusion to Psalm 110:1 (NET). The right hand side was the place of prestige and honor, of favor with the king (BDAG). Jesus sits at the right hand of God as a sign of God’s approval of everything that he is and all that he did. His sacrifice was utmost and it pleased God fully. There is only one space on his right hand side and whoever wants to be in God’s favor must come through Christ who occupies it. Therefore we can have full confidence that God loves us and approves of all those who believe in Jesus just as he loves Him.
angels (vs. 4) Repeated Why is it important to note that he is superior to angels? Where do we stand in measures of importance compared to angels? Because of their nature (flying, radiant, appearing, power) angels have always held a prestigous position in the minds of men as something better than mere humans. It is why John in Rev 22:8-9 falls down and almost worships one. If Jesus is to be taken more seriously than angels, then he needs to show he is better than them. We must honestly and thoroughly investigate if Jesus is indeed better and more desirable than all other things
name…more excellent (v.4) Significant What name do angels have? And how is Jesus’ name better than theirs? Jesus’ name can save, heal, raise from the dead, demolish evil. What angel can claim that? Jesus is not just a mere name, he is not only a word. If approached in the right manner, he is a powerful word that can change and transform lives.

Key Relationships from Hebrews 1:1-4

Relationship (incl. verse #) Type Meaning
God spoke (vs. 1) Grammatical Past tense, describing the former way through which God communicated
these last days (vs. 2) Chronological The last days or final, most important age as compared to the former age. It began with the advent or resurrection of Christ.
the world (vs .3) Geographical/Spatial The world – earth, the habitation of men, as opposed to heaven the dwelling place of God.
the universe (vs. 3) Geographical/Spatial God created not just the world, but the entire manifest and hidden creation.
After…he sat down…having become (vs. 4) Logical The pathway to Jesus’ majesty/glory was through his sacrifice and suffering.

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