“An Exalted Prophet – Hebrews 1:1-5”
by Kegan A. Chandler
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:1-5 NASB)
In this beautiful introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer informs us that in ages past, God spoke to man through many different prophets (and they killed all of them!) but now, after those ages had passed, God finally gave the world a final prophet: His own Son! After having rejected all of the previous prophets, God said: “Surely they will listen to my own Son!” But of course, Jerusalem killed him too!
In the letter’s opening statement, we are meant to understand that Jesus is the ultimate prophet concluding a long line of prophets sent from God. No other prophet has been a better oracle for God’s word, no other prophet has had such intimate knowledge of God, and no other prophet has been such a perfect leader and example to us. Which is why in verse 3 the writer says “and the Son is the exact representation of God’s nature”.
There has never been a better man to show us the way to God.
The most vital aspect to understanding verse 1-2a is the ‘temporal’ nature of the statements. The fact they communicate a time period in which the Son was not speaking says a great deal about the error of the popular doctrines that the Son was eternally begotten, and has been existing and working since before time began.
Hebrews 1:1-2a soundly refutes idea that the Son has existed eternally, or that he pre-existed in another form before he was the MAN messiah Jesus (1 Tim 2:5) born in the first century.
Verse 1 begins with “Long ago” or “in ages past”.
Following, the NIV reads “BUT in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”.
Apparently, God has been speaking in many portions and many ways in the past, but it is only now (post Jesus arrival) that God has spoken to us through His Son. So before Jesus was born, God was not speaking through a Son. This totally dismantles the popular theories that in the Old Testament when we see “the angel of the LORD” that it is Jesus. Other teachings suggest that the priest Melchizedek encountered by Abraham in Genesis is a “pre-incarnate Son”. Jehovah’s Witness as well as countless Protestant groups teach that in the Old Testament we can see the “pre-incarnate Christ” walking and talking and delivering messages from God to men, but Hebrews 1:1-2 says otherwise.
Clearly God did not speak through Jesus until a certain time which the Hebrews’ writer calls “these last days”, which have taken place after God had spoken to all the fathers in the past. It is only in “these last days” that he has spoken through Jesus. This is because Jesus didn’t literally exist yet. Jesus certainly did not “pre-exist”, (whatever ‘pre-existence’ means, I cannot comprehend. I try and imagine, for a moment, how one can exist before they exist?) The Bible testifies that Jesus was a real man exactly like his brothers in every way. Real Humans do not pre-exist…(unless you’re a Mormon!)
Humans are brought into existence in the wombs of their mothers.
Jesus did not literally exist until he was born (just like his brothers), but he was indeed foreknown in the mind/plan of God. The divine plan for Jesus is what all of creation came into being for. This is what the famous introduction to the Gospel of John is concerned with—Jesus is what the Word (Greek: logos– word, saying, plan, message) eventually became. This is what Hebrews 1:2 is concerned with when it says that God made the world “through Jesus”.
Many will try to use this verse to try to prove that Jesus created the world or actively had a hand in the Creation events in Genesis, but that is clearly not what the text says. It doesn’t say that “Jesus created the world”, instead it says “God created the world through Jesus”. God was the author of the physical world, and certainly God was alone in creation (Is 44:24). Jesus himself had no hand in creation, rather it was the plan for Jesus that was the core motivator for creation. Jesus also never says that he is the Creator, but always says the Creator is someone else—God (Matt 19:4, Mark 10:6). Jesus of course never claims to have had any part in the act of the Genesis creation, and consistently attributes the authorship elsewhere.
If the Son were actually the Creator of Genesis, then Hebrews 1-2 is lying when it says that God didn’t speak through a Son until these last days. When the universe sat in darkness, who was it that called Creation into being by the words of his mouth?
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…”
(Hebrews 11:3 NKJV)
“By the word of YHWH were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6 AKJV)
Hebrews shows us that it was not the Son who spoke the world into existence in ages past. “Let there be light!” was surely spoken by none other than God, not by Jesus or through the person of Jesus or anything of the sort.
Verses 1 and 2 say that “GOD” spoke through the prophets and then through the Son… this makes “God” the motivator—the prophets and the Son [are] His mouthpieces who are subordinate to Him. Of course, this doesn’t fit with the Trinitarian idea that the Father and Jesus are CO-EQUAL parts of an eternal being and that no one is greater than the other.
The words being spoken belong to God.. which is what Jesus says: “I say nothing on my own but say only what the Father has taught me” (Jn 8:28)— Jesus is a mouthpiece for someone else who is calling the shots, just like all the other prophets, though he is the greatest prophet ever—the one written about by Moses, in fact.
As for the middle part of verse 2—(this is life-changing to me) “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world”…. The clear testimony that God has appointed Jesus to be the “heir” perfectly displays that the Father and the Son are NOT equal. If someone is an “heir” to something, that means that at one point in time, he did not possess it. Everyone knows what it means to be an ‘inheritor’… it means that you receive something as a gift that you didn’t have before from someone to whom it originally belonged.
Remember, God says this about himself: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool—try and show me the house that you could build for me!” (Isa. 66:1)… there is no doubt that all of creation belongs to God—He IS the Creator, after all.. and that is the point: God cannot be an ‘inheritor’ of anything. The fact that the Bible repeatedly calls Jesus an “heir” (and us “co-heirs”, praise God!) is very incompatible with Trinitarian teaching which demands Christ to be co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. If Jesus is God from all eternity, then the world has always belong to him. However, Hebrews 1:2 is clearly teaching us that all things belong to God and He is giving all things to His heir, Jesus.
We must ask ourselves: What is the point of Hebrews chapter 1? Is the writer of Hebrews trying to tell us that Jesus is God Almighty? He (and all of the other biblical authors) have had thousands of chances to come out and tell us plainly if that’s what they mean. But instead, this writer hits several clear points that in no way communicate Christ’s “godhood”, but rather communicate Christ’s “subordination”, his central place in God’s plan, his “inheritance”, and many other ideas that are foundationally incompatible with Trinitarian teaching.
Next we have verses 3 and 4, which really settle the whole matter concerning who the author of Hebrews believes Jesus to be. It says that “Christ sat down at the right hand”……… How many times have we heard “Jesus sits on the throne” in teaching and in worship songs? But the Bible says he is sitting beside God in heaven; he is awaiting the time when he will sit down on the throne of the earth, not the throne of Heaven.
(See Psalm 110:1)
And finally, the coup de grace: “he became as much superior to the angels”. Jesus became superior to the angels, because he wasn’t superior to them before his ascension into Heaven/glorification. Remember, Trinitarian teaching says there was no time when Jesus was not 100% YHWH. But if we say that Jesus is God Almighty then we are placing God “for a little while lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9). I do not believe that God would appreciate us believing that He was beneath the angels, his own creation and servants. Jesus had to ACHIEVE superiority to the angels.
Here is the point: If the writer of Hebrews believed that Jesus was God, then there would be no reason to state that Jesus is greater than the angels as such should go without saying.
To make the point further, he says that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature. If Jesus is God, wouldn’t this also go without saying? Furthermore, can anything be a representation of itself? If the writer of Hebrews really believed Jesus is God and if the people he was talking to believed the same thing, why write a letter like this?
So we must ask ourselves again: what is the writer’s point? Is he writing to tell us that Jesus is God, that Jesus is the Creator? Or is the writer telling us that the man Jesus has been given all power and authority? It is surely as Peter said:
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: GOD has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” (Acts 2:36)
Praise be to the God of Jesus, the God who heard the prayers of His Son and rescued him from death (Heb 5;7), who crowned him with glory and invited him to sit beside him in power—giving him authority over every angel and every man and every living thing; tree, fish, flower, and blade of grass—truly all of Creation has come into being for this man!
Our Brother Jesus—Our King—the firstborn inheritor of the world (Rom 4:13), who has ascended through obedience and submission to the Creator who is blessed forever!