Hebrews 1: 1-6 Sermon The Eternal Son of God: Prophet, Priest, and King (Rev. Erik Veerman)
The Eternal Son of God: Prophet, Preist, and King - Rev. Erik Veerman
We’ll be taking a break from our Proverbs study until January. In the meantime, we’ll be in the book of Hebrews for a brief Advent series.
Last year for advent, we spent time the book of Matthew chapter 1 - Jesus’ genealogy and his birth narrative.
The year before we looked at Luke 1… both Mary’s song - her Magnificat as well as Zechariah’s song.
This year, our Advent focus will be a little bit different. We’ll be considering who Jesus is as the Son of God - specifically as Prophet, Priest, and King. This morning will be an introduction from Hebrews 1, then next week, Prophet, the following week Priest, and then Sunday morning, December 24, Jesus as King.
You can find Hebrews 1 on page 1187 in the provided Bibles. We’ll focus on the first 6 verses. Later in this short series, we’ll consider the rest of chapter 1.
As I read, listen for the different aspects of Jesus’ identity as prophet, priest, and king.
Reading of Hebrews 1:1-6.
Back when I was in grade school, I always enjoyed visiting my grandparents. They had a large farmhouse in western Pennsylvania. As a kid, there was lots to explore, both inside and outside.
And one of my memories was their large formal living room. It had bookshelves and chairs and tables, and a big picture window that let the afternoon sunlight in, which light up the whole room. In front of the window, my grandmother had strategically hung a set of crystal prisms. They were oval shaped glass-like prisms with angled surfaces. When the sun hit them, it would refract the light in different colors around the room. Small little colored spots would appear on the walls and furniture - yellows, blues, greens, reds. Of course, I would stick my hand out to capture the light on my palm. It was mesmerizing because at the time, I didn’t know how a prism worked.
How could this sunlight turn into different colors? I didn’t realize that the sunlight was actually made up of different colors… and the prisms were simply revealing that.
In a similar way, Hebrews 1 is like a prism. Instead of revealing the different colors of the sun s-u-n, it is revealing different aspects of the son s-o-n. Essentially who Jesus is - His nature as God and the different redemptive roles he fulfills.
I think it’s a beautiful thing to consider the breadth of Jesus’s identity and ministry. At least for me, it expands the awe I have of God in how he accomplished salvation for his glory and our good. And, I would add, it deepens my understanding of and relationship with Jesus – my savior, my Lord, my king, my hope, and my redeemer.
The prism of Hebrews 1.
This morning, we’ll begin with Jesus as God’s son. And then we’ll briefly consider Jesus as prophet, priest, and king from these verses. It will be an introduction to his three redemptive offices. That’s what we call them. Like the “office” of president or the “office” of governor. The redemptive offices of Jesus are “prophet,” “priest,” and “king.” As I mentioned, over the next 3 weeks we’ll be exploring each in details from Hebrews.
But before we get there, let me make some introductory comments about the book. We haven’t studied Hebrews together so let me briefly touch upon the author and audience.
First, we do not know who wrote Hebrews. We often refer to the author as simply… “the author of Hebrews.” Over the centuries, different possibilities have been suggested.
· Some believe that the apostle Paul wrote this letter. The problem with that view is that the style and grammar in Hebrews is very different from the apostle Paul. John Calvin points out that the author’s teaching approach is also different than Paul’s. So, I think it’s unlikely to be him.
· Others have proposed Apollos or Barnabus. Those could certainly be possibilities.
· But in the end, it’s best to simply say: we don’t know. God does.
Second, as the title of the book indicates, it’s written to a Hebrew audience – a Jewish audience. If you were to flip through chapter by chapter, you will see dozens of Old Testament quotes. And what the author is emphasizing is how Jesus has fulfilled the promises and prophecies of old. How he is greater than the angels, greater than Moses, greater than the High Priests and the priesthood. His covenant is greater than the old covenant.
Those were all shadows of the one to come. But now Jesus has come and fulfilled them all as the promised Savior.
When I think about the book of Hebrews, I think of ever chapter as a different sermon about Jesus. In some ways, it teaches us how to exposit the Old Testament and explain how Jesus has fulfilled God’s promises.
Many have said that the book of Hebrews can be summarized this way: The supremacy of Christ. I think that’s a good succinct summary.
So, this Advent, as we briefly study Hebrews. we’ll behold Jesus for who he is as God, and as Prophet, Priest, and King.
Jesus: God in the Flesh
Number 1. Jesus as God – God in the flesh – fully and truly God in every way. The first thing I want you to see is that Jesus is referred to as God’s Son. That’s right there in the middle of verse 2.
And related to that, there is a clear distinction in these verses between God (including his Son) and his creation. We, you and I, are his creation. The whole world is his creation. God the Son is not identified as being created. In fact, God the Son is the one, “through whom [God] created the world.” That’s right there at the end of verse 2.
You may remember, just 3 weeks ago, we were studying Proverbs chapter 8. That amazing chapter is about the wisdom of God in Christ, who was there at the beginning. In God’s wisdom through Christ, the full expanse of the universe was made. And if you remember, we considered a couple of New Testament texts which speak of Christ as creator.
· One of them is the Gospel of John chapter 1. It says in John 1 verse 3, “all things were made through him.” That is, through Christ, through God the Son.
· And also very similar is Colossians chapter 1. It says, “For by him, all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.”
The prepositions are helpful here. Everything was created “through him” or “by him.” It’s not that God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were uninvolved. No, creation was an act of God - the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. God the Son was and is the instrument through which creation came to being. Sometimes we say, Christ was the agent of creation.
I want to make the point really clear here: God’s Son was not created. No, rather he is God and is central in all of creation coming into being.
This is really important. Over the last two years, we’ve had Jehovah’s Witnesses come to our door, I think, 3-4 times. You will also see them on Main Street.
In talking with some of you, I know that that you are also dialoging with them. Well, they would say that God’s Son is not part of the Trinity. He is a lesser god, they believe, who has some of the powers of God. They would also say that Jesus Christ was created by God before he created the world. And also, they will say that Jesus himself is not God in the flesh. As some of you know, they will often go here to Hebrews 1 to argue their point.
For example, they will go to verse 5 and say “see, Jesus was begotten, that means he was created.” Furthermore, they will point out the word ”today” there in verse 5. To them, it means there was a time when the Son did not exist.
That’s a lot, isn’t it? And as you know, they have their script.
Well, what do you say to all of that? Do you say, “can I give you the phone number to my pastor?” You’re welcome to do that, but they are not going to call me.
There’s a lot to say about Jesus being fully and truly God – it’s all through the Bible. But let’s focus on Hebrews chapter 1.
First, let me respond to the word “today” in verse 5. It does not mean there was a day when God’s Son didn’t exist. Rather, verse 5 is referring to the incarnation – when God became man. When through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was begotten by God, in his mother Mary. We know this because the apostle Paul quotes the very same verse (Psalm 2:7) in the book of Acts chapter 13. There, the apostle specifically uses it in reference to the incarnation. In other words, Hebrews 1:5 in no way suggests that the Son of God was created.
In fact, quite the contrary. Let me give you 3 brief reasons from verse 3 why these verses testify to Jesus’s divine nature:
1. Let’s go to the beginning of verse 3. “Jesus is the radiance of the Glory of God….” “is…” “Jesus is the radiance….” It does not say Jesus reflects the radiance of the Glory of God. No, it’s not like the moon reflecting the light of the sun. Rather, Jesus has all the glory of God because he is God. He radiates the glory of God as God.
2. Second, verse 3 continues, Jesus is also “the exact imprint of his nature.” In the Greek, it implies identical in form. Jesus being, in other words, is one and the same nature as God because he is God. That statement alone is pretty clear. There are dozens of New Testament passages that support this, including words from Jesus himself.
3. And third, verse 3 continues. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” That adds to what we already talked about - Jesus as creator God. What an amazing testimony to the power of Christ as God – as creator of all things.
You see, verse 3 testifies to Jesus in all his glory as God.
Now, much more can be said, of course. In fact, as we work through Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King, it will add to the testimony that Jesus is indeed God in the flesh.
Well, I hope that does two things for you. I hope it helps you in your conversations to stand firm on Jesus as fully and truly God. And I hope that it draws you to an even deeper awe and reverence – that this Jesus whom we worship, the one we celebrate at advent, is not some little “g” god. But rather he is God the Son, the one through whom all things were created, the exact imprint of God’s nature. And who upholds the universe… he uphold us… by the word of his power. The entire cosmos is created by and sustained by the Son. Very God of very God…
Next, Jesus as prophet. Now, next week we’re going to dive deep into this redemptive office, but in the meantime, there’s so much here in these opening verses.
Jesus as Prophet is where this chapter begins. It says: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets… but, ” it says, “ in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
A prophet, by the way, is one chosen by God to speak the word of God on behalf of God. In the Old Testament time, there were many prophets. In the Scriptures, there are 16 prophetic books, but there were dozens of other prophets mentioned in Scripture. Think of Elisha, Elijah, Nathan. Each of their prophetic messages were similar, but for different contexts. And what did they do? They called the people to repentance and back to God. They warned about coming judgment. They proclaimed God’s mercy. They performed signs and miracles which demonstrated their call as prophets and demonstrted God’s power. They foretold what was to come, including the Messiah. But in the end, each of their voices died out. Each prophet was limited and each prophet was a frail, fallen man. Even the repetition of prophecies and the number of prophets revealed a weakness in the prophetic role of old.
But then we read Hebrews 1. There’s a finality to Jesus as Prophet. His prophecy is for all… every people and nation. Jesus is not just a new prophet that has come on the scene. No rather, his words… his voice is the voice of God.
God has given us his Son, through whom God now speaks.
· Jesus is the Word of God as God himself, as the apostle John writes.
· He is the final and ultimate pronouncement of mercy and judgment.
· His words are eternal because he is eternal.
· His signs and miracles culminate in the greatest sign and miracle of all… his death on the cross and his resurrection.
· And it is his word, as we considered in verse 3, which upholds the universe.
And let me point out something important in verse 2. That phrase “last days” is a special phrase. It’s specifically referencing the New Testament times. It doesn’t say “these days” but instead “last days.” You see, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others prophesied that the “last days” would come. Those days would usher in a final prophet who would bring fulfillment to their prophecies. It is his voice which would go out to the world. In other words, we are in the last days. The author of Hebrews is declaring that the time has come because God’s Son has come. The Word made flesh has come. He is THE prophet. Through him, the last days have come.
And notice, the reference to “last days” in verse 2 doesn’t only apply to Jesus as the ultimate prophet. No, the description of the “last days” continues. It also includes Jesus’ fulfillment as priest and king. Let’s consider priest next.
Jump down to the end of verse 3. There’s a short phrase there… sometimes we skip right over it. It says “After making purification for sins, he [that is, Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
That sentence right there is the Gospel - Christ is the one who purifies us from our sin. In some way, that one sentence summarizes the driving emphasis of the book - Jesus as the ultimate High Priest. A priest, by the way, was the one who represented the people before God. He was their intermediary… their go-between to God.
And what the priests of old did were to made sacrifices for the people. Sacrifice after sacrifice, year after year. And these sacrifices were to make purification (or cleansing) for sins. That’s what verse 3 references. But the problem was, (1) the priests had to make sacrifices for themselves, for their own sin, and (2) the sacrifices were inadequate. You see, the whole Old Testament sacrificial system was pointing to something greater. A greater sacrifice and a greater priest. In fact, one in the same.
As God the Son, Jesus’ himself was the only sacrifice that could once-and-for-all cleanse us from our sin. And as God in the flesh, he was the perfect priest – the perfect mediator between God and man.
Let me submit to you this: in order for Jesus’ sacrifice to be effective as a once-and-for-all sacrifice AND in order for him to be the eternal mediator, Jesus had to be fully and truly God and fully and truly man. That goes back to the question earlier about Jesus as God.
Before we move on to king… let me mention one more thing about Jesus as the Priest. He lives. Verse 3 highlights that. Jesus is now seated in heaven… it tells us. After his sacrificial death, Jesus was raised and then ascended to heaven. You can also see the present tense there in verse 3. Jesus IS the radiance of the Glory of God. He UPHOLDS the universe. He overcame death as the perfect sacrifice so that he could be the perfect priest and continually intercede for his people from heaven.
Now, you may have more questions about the Old Testament sacrificial system… and maybe the role of the High Priest… and how it all relates to Jesus. Well, stay tuned for 2 weeks from today. We’ll be in chapter 9.
That bring us to one last redemptive office. Jesus is King. THE King. The greater king.
You see, the kings of Judah and Israel all had their weaknesses. Some were downright evil. But even the good kings like David and Solomon and Hezekiah and Josiah had their weaknesses. Their governing was limited. Their sins were apparent. They all passed from this earth.
But we have a king today. Not an earthly king, but an eternal king. And one without any limitation or sin.
Let me note two things here from the text.
First, verse 3 identifies Jesus as the “heir of all things.” What’s an heir in this context? Well, Jesus is the heir to the throne. He’s the one who has the full status as heir to the eternal throne of God – Heir to God the Father.
The author of Hebrews notes that Jesus is the heir of “all things.” That’s language of dominion and authority. He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” as Revelation 19 puts it.
And the second thing to note is at the end of verse 3. We already considered part of this. It says, “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Actually, this is the first of four refences in Hebrews to Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father. The phrase “right hand” is significant because it indicates power and authority. The one who sits on the right hand of a throne is the one given authority to govern and judge. He has all the majesty and glory of the one next to whom he sits. In other words, it’s a testimony of Jesus as equal with the Father in authority and glory and power. He is our king.
Let me summarize it this way. Jesus is the eternal King with all dominion, power, authority, and Majesty… all of that “due his name.” That’s from verse 4 – Jesus is superior than the angels. Why? Because he is the Son. That’s his name. That means Jesus is worthy for us to ascribe all those attributes to him because he is king of kings.
So, Jesus is Son the God – He’s one with God… He’s the ultimate Prophet as the eternal Son of God and Word of God. He’s the perfect high Priest. He’s the triumphant King with all God’s radiance and power.
And he’s all of that together. Isn’t that the incredible part? The prism of Hebrews 1 merely reveals who Jesus is in all these aspects of his nature and ministry. They are not separate. but are unified in the person and work of Christ. The dominion of his kingship, his priestly intercession, and the authority of his prophecy as the Son are who he is and what he has and will do for all eternity as the redeemer of the world.
And in conclusion what is our response? Worship!
Look at the response of the angels in verse 6! Worship. “Let all God’s angels worship him.” When the Son of God entered the world as a baby in a manger, what did the angels do? They worshipped. Verses 5 and 6 here takes us back to Luke 2. Do you remember that? The angel appeared to the shepherds. He announced the great joy of the birth of the Savior, who IS Christ the Lord, he declared. And then verse 13 of Luke 2. “and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’”
This advent, may we worship Jesus with the angels… worshipping our Lord in all the radiance and glory of God due his name as our Prophet, Priest, and King. Amen.