Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chapter 1: 2

“ Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”

The Lord Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”His disciples replied, “Some say thou art John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Mat 16:14). The Lord then went on to ask, “But who say ye that I am?” He wanted to know exactly what opinion His own had of Him.

The world today has made up their minds regarding this ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. Many are willing to admit and accept Him as a ‘great’ religious teacher/founder. For many, he continues to be just one of several ‘gurus’ they could choose from. Others there are who outright brand Him as a fraud or even dismiss Him entirely as a myth. Only true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ own Him as the Son of God, the Creator and Lord of all. As the apostle Thomas they too address Him, “My Lord and my God”.

When Pilate introduced the Lord Jesus to the awaiting crowd of Jews on that most eventful day, he said, “Behold, your King!” (John 19:15). Pilate then asked the crowd, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (Mar 15:2) But the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar”. Alas! They disowned their own Messiah. And to this present day, Jews as a rule continue to reject the Lord Jesus and the New Testament revelation about Him.

However, God’s estimate of His own Beloved Son is far different. Because the Lord Jesus humbled Himself and was willing to take the lowest place, God has highly exalted Him, far above the heavens and has given Him the name that is above every name, in heaven and on earth and under the earth; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father (see Phi 2:9-11). The writer to the Hebrews tells us just as much in the opening words of this letter.

God “hath appointed (the Lord Jesus) heir of all things”. Let men deny Him, reject Him and turn away from Him. The Father’s estimate of the Lord Jesus is summed up in these wonderful words. God thinks Him fit to be heir of all things. Isn’t that wonderful! This Man, who, while in this world could say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head”, has now been appointed heir of all things. And according to the passage in Philippians, this Man was exalted to the highest station because He was willing to humble Himself, to lower Himself to the lowest point possible, sin exempted. May we too, along with God the Father, give the Lord Jesus Christ the highest place, not only in our estimate, but in our lives too. May He alone indeed have the pre-eminence in all things, for He is worthy.

Notice the text says, “he hath appointed”. In other words, it was not Jesus who appointed Himself, but God who appointed Him thus. How wonderful it is to read that, though worthy to do so, the Lord Jesus did not take this honour to Himself. But it was God who therefore bestowed this honour upon Him. We are reminded of Peter’s words, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time”. Of the Lord Jesus we read, “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phi 2:8). In other words, being found as a man, Jesus did not exalt Himself; He chose to humble Himself, to abase Himself (same word Paul uses in chapter 4:12, the only other place this word is found in Philippians in a different form). Isaiah the prophet had indeed predicted that the true Messiah would have such an humble attitude – “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street” (Isa 42:2). When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world the first time, He came as the humble servant of Jehovah, the suffering servant. But the day is not far when He will come to this world the second time; and He will not refrain from speaking up. “The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies” (Isa 42:13). May that day be soon! But in the meanwhile, God the Father has placed Him at His right hand of power, high above all authority, rule or principality. In sharp contrast, of the man of sin we read that he has “a mouth speaking great things” and that he “spoke very great things” and his “look was more stout than its fellows”. But alas! He speaks “words against the Most High” (Dan 7:8,20 &25). And his end is most deserving, total destruction.

According to the scriptures, the son is always the heir of all that the father possesses; and in the words of Paul we might say about every son, “but if son, heir also” (Gal 4:7). The Lord Jesus Christ has been appointed heir of all things because He is the only begotten Son of God. And to be the heir is to also be ‘lord’ of all (see this connection in Gal 4:1).  Although believers are also called “heirs of the kingdom, which he (God) has promised to them that love him” (Jam 2:5), and being children of God “heirs also: heirs of God, and Christ’s joint heirs” (Rom 8:17 – Darby’s translation), the Lord Jesus Christ is uniquely singled out as the Heir of all things seeing also that it was by Him God made all the worlds. The plural word ‘worlds’ is here used as it probably refers to the ‘ages’, which a literal translation of the word seems to imply.

The verb ‘appointed’ is in the aorist tense, which really stresses the fact of the action having taken place with no reference to time. Here we cannot do better than to quote at length from J. Barmby’s exposition of the text in the Pulpit Commentary.

J. Barmby explains

The verb is in the aorist, and here the indefinite sense of the aorist should be preserved. Two questions arise. (1) Was it in respect of his eternal Divinity, or of his manifestation in time, that the Son was appointed “Heir of all things?” (2) When is God to be conceived as so appointing him? i.e. What is the time, if any, to be assigned to the indefinite aorist? 

In answer to question
(1) the second alternative is to be preferred. For (a) his eternal pre-existence has not yet been touched upon: it is introduced, as it were parenthetically, in the next and following clauses. (b) Though the term Son is legitimately used in theology to denote the eternal relation to the Father expressed by the logos of St. John, yet its application in this Epistle and in the New Testament generally (excepting, perhaps, the monogenes huios peculiar to St. John, on which see Bull, ‘Jud. Eccl. Cath.,’ 5:4, etc.), is to the Word made flesh, to the Son as manifested in the Christ. And hence it is to him as such that we may conclude the heirship to be here assigned. (c) This is the view carried out in the sequel of the Epistle, where the SON is represented as attaining the universal dominion assigned to him after, and in consequence of, his human obedience. The conclusion of the exordium in itself expresses this; for it is not till after he had made purification of sins that he is said to have “sat down,” etc.; i.e. entered on his inheritance; having become (genomenos not oon) “so much better,” etc. This is the view of Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Fathers generally (cf. the cognate passage, Philippians 2:9).
(2) It seems best to refer the aorist etheeke, not to any definite time, as that of the prophetic utterances afterwards cited, or that of the actual exaltation of Christ, but indefinitely to the eternal counsels, which were indeed declared and fulfilled in time, but were themselves enarchee. A similar use of the aorist, coupled with other aorists pointing to events in time, is found in Romans 8:29, 30.

According to Barmby, the Son was appointed heir of all things with respect to His manifestation in time. Secondly, this appointment seems to be referring to the eternal councils of God, hence the aorist tense of the verb ‘appoint’.

God has not only appointed the Son heir of all things, He also made the worlds through Him. This word ‘made’ is the same word used in the LXX in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Darby has the word translated ‘created’ in Hebrews 1:2 giving it thus “through who he created the universe”. The word itself simply means to ‘do something’ or to ‘make something’. Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews this word in the Greek occurs only one other time; in Hebrews 7:27 “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the people’s; for this he did once, when he offered up himself”. It’s almost as if the Spirit of God wishes to emphasise these two acts in this book, and they both are performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and besides, they are both accomplished by the Spirit of God! (see Job 26:13 & Heb 9:14) The Lord sacrificing Himself as the perfect sacrifice was not any less spectacular than His creating the universe. It is He who alone could perform both acts, and that with perfection. What a glorious God we worship; not just a God who created this universe out of nothing but is also able, and willing too, to redeem us by the sacrifice of Himself!

The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that the God who created the heavens and the earth, with which creation the Old Testament Scriptures begin, created them through (Gk. Dia) the Son. Therefore the Son could not be anything less than Divine, could not be less than God Himself. Indeed, in the following verse the writer expands further upon this, which we shall look into shortly. The word in the Greek that is here translated ‘worlds’ is not the usual word kosmos. And this word kosmos occurs in Hebrews only once in 11:38 in this form, “of whom the world was not worthy...” This word kosmos usually refers more to the inhabited world, this earth dwelt by men. Whereas the word used in 1:2 is the word aion. This usually refers to, and if often translated, ages. For example Heb 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come” (Darby’s translation). Again in verse 21 of this same chapter we read “ whom be glory for the ages of ages” (Darby’s translation. The KJV however translates it with the word ‘for ever’).

Whereas in Genesis 1:1 the emphasis really is the world of men and the heavens above that were created, in Hebrews 1:2 the emphasis is on the Son creating the ages – past, present and future! He has created all of them. And no wonder, for He alone is able to carry it, bear it and upholding it carry it forward; as mentioned in the following verse.

Beloved, what comfort these words should minister to our fearful hearts. He who is the creator and upholder of all things, all ages, past, present and future, throughout which ages all Glory will be unto Him, He is our Lord and our God. Need we worry about the present or the future? We know not what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future! Our Lord is able to carry us through. May we ever and always find our hearts resting in Him, in Him alone who is our present and our future.

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