Hebrews 1:2 Commentary

28 Aug

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 is no word “but” in the Greek text, it was added to try to clarify the contrast. And there is a contrast, clearly. But there is also continuity. And that may be why there is no “but” in the Greek text. The author is saying “Long ago, God spoke through the prophets, in these last days He has spoken by His Son.” As the idea is more about continuation more than contrast, there is no “but” in the Greek text.

“These last days” points to a very important idea in the Bible that we often miss. Many Christians believe the phrase “the last days” refers to the end of time, when Christ returns and the world is judge and the universe is made new. But often in the Bible “the last days” just means the time after Jesus has come in His first coming. In Jewish thinking the coming of the Messiah ushered in a new age with new realities and that the stage was now set for God to bring on the new heavens and the new earth. So you see Bible authors throughout the New Testament believing that they were living in the last days, because they were. Once Jesus ascended to heaven the stage was set for Him to return. Jesus could come again at any time and this is the stance the church has tended to live with through the years and it is the right stance. We should live with an awareness of the return of the King. The church of the letter to the Hebrews needed to be reminded that they were living in the last days because they needed reminding that their sufferings were temporary and the rewards are eternal.

God spoke in the past to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son. “He has spoken.” This is not the author’s way of saying God has spoken through Jesus and that’s all in the past. The focus of this phrase is that God’s speech through Jesus is definitive. It is not many times over centuries and in many ways. It is simply God has spoken through Jesus. And it is personal. It is “to us,” certainly meaning to the original hearers of Hebrews but also by extension to all believers. What a blessing to know that God has spoken to us by His Son. Now this makes me think about people who want to hear from God. And they want Him to tell them who to marry or where to go on vacation or what job go to take and they want God to tell them all that and that’s real intimacy with God. And I want to say, “God has spoken to you by a Son, what more do you need?” And this is exactly what the preacher is doing here in Hebrews. The church is troubled, under fire, desperate. And the preacher doesn’t tell them to seek God for ways out of their trouble. He doesn’t tell them to pray for deliverance, he tells them to look to Jesus! God has spoken by a Son! God speaks, and He has spoken definitively by a Son. Trust Him.

You may have noticed I have been saying something different than what is in the ESV. God has spoken “by a Son”, not “by His Son.” The Greek text just says ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ (“He has spoken to us by a Son”). Some might be troubled by this, thinking it implies Jesus is not the unique Son of God but just one of many Sons of God. But the context makes it obvious that this is not the case. I believe it is worded this way because the writer of Hebrews wants to draw the contrast between God’s past speaking and His present speaking. In the past it was many prophets but now it is one Son. This points to the greatness of the Son as the one through whom God has spoken.

When you take verses one and two as a whole you see the great truth that God has been speaking all along. Over and over He has come to fallen humanity and spoken to us. When we felt abandoned, enslaved, hopeless, God spoke. God is a revealer. Hallelujah!

If we want to think of God’s revelation in practical terms, we can say the two stages of revelation correspond to the OT and NT. There is a progress in what God has revealed but it is not, as FF Bruce says, “from less true to more true or from less worthy to more worthy or from less mature to more mature. How could it be so when One in the same God is revealed throughout? The progression is one from promise to fulfillment, as is made abundantly clear in the course of this epistle: the men and women of faith in the Old Testament days did not in their lifetime experience then fulfillment of the divine promise in which they had trusted, “because, with us in mind, God had made a better plan, that only in company with is should they reach perfection” (11:40). The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him.”

Illustrating the first two verses in table form, we come up with something like this . . .

Contrast – THE OLD REVELATION                           THE NEW REVELATION

At various times, various ways

God spoke                                        God has spoken

in the past                                         in this final age

through the prophets                        by His Son

So, as one commentator says, “Jesus is the prophet through whom God has spoken His final word; he is the Priest who has accomplished a perfect work of cleansing for His people’s sins; He is the King who sits enthroned in the place of chief honor alongside the Majesty on high.”

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