OceanSide church of Christ
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JESUS CHRIST: THE PROPHET OF GOD (Heb. 1:1-3)
Victor M. Eskew
The prophets of old were God’s spokesmen. These servants, often referred to as “men of God,” were sent among God’s people to instruct, warn, rebuke, and tell them about God’s future plans. They were not always received very well. They were ridiculed, rejected, persecuted, tortured, and some were put to death. The righteous, however, held these men in extremely high esteem.
There is one prophet, however, who rises above all others. He was predicted by the law-giver of the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 18:15. Moses wrote: “The Lord thy God shall raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken.” This prophet was none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God (Acts 3:20-23).
When the inspired penman of Hebrews opens his exhortation, he does so by contrasting the prophets of the Old Testament with the Son of God who speaks for the heavenly Father in these last days. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manner spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).
The writer of Hebrews had one purpose in mind as he wrote. He wanted his readers to know that the New Covenant is far superior to the Old Covenant. In order to prove this, he set before his readers one contrast after another. His first contrast is between the prophets and the Son of God. These men, though great and courageous and faithful, pale in comparison to Jesus, “the Prophet of the last days.” This is easily seen in the description given of Jesus in these three brief verses.
First, Jesus is said to be the Appointed Heir, “…whom he hath appointed heir of all things.” An heir is the one who receives the allotted possessions of another. Jesus will receive these things of the Father in heaven (Ps. 2:8) because He is the Son of God. The Old Testament prophets were servants, but they were not sons. Too, they were only men. They were not deity.
Second, Jesus is described as the Almighty Creator, “…by whom also he made the worlds.” Jesus Christ is the one who spoke God’s marvelous design for the Creation into existence. John affirmed this in his Prologue of his gospel. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul also writes of Jesus as the Creator in Colossians 1:16-17. The seers of the Old Testament were inspired of God. Many of them performed miraculous works. They, however, could not speak things into existence. They did not have the ability to create something out of nothing. This ability could only be claimed by one prophet, Jesus Christ. This one ability alone sets Him above all the others.
Third, Jesus is characterized as the Absolute Brightness of God, “…who being the brightness of his glory.” One word that can be used to describe the God of heaven is light. “This is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Jesus radiates this same glory. He, too, is said to be light (John 8:12). John again writes: “…(and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The prophets of God were men made in the image of God. They, however, did not possess the radiance and majesty of deity as did the Christ.
Fourth, Jesus is set forth as an Actual Reproduction of the Father, “…and the express image of his person.” The words “express image” mean “exact copy” or “exact expression” of the character and nature of God. Jesus is so much like the Father above that He could say: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Men like the prophets sought to be like God. In some ways, they could replicate His image, but they would always fall short of perfection. Not Jesus! He manifests the character of the Father in every way. He does not fall short on any point.
Fifth, the inspired penman proclaims that Jesus is the Authorizing Force of the Universe, “…and upholding all things by the word of his power.” Not only did Jesus Christ create the heavens and the earth, but He also sustains them. The word “uphold” means “to bear up.” Tom Wascaster makes this comment in his commentary on Hebrews: “Christ actually ‘bears or guides along (pheron)’ the universe in the way that He wants it to go. It is not that He is holding it up like one hold weights, but rather that He, by His providence and power, is governing and sustaining the order about us” (p. 37). Not one human prophet can boast of this ability. Without the power of God, they could control nothing in the Universe.
Sixth, the author of Hebrews presents Jesus as the Active Agent in the forgiveness of sins, “…when he had by himself purged our sins.” Jesus came to earth and gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins. He shed His blood so that the sins of mankind could be removed. When Jesus established the Lord’s Supper, He spoke of the power of His blood to cleanse man of sin. “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Jesus could do this because of His sinless perfection (Heb. 4:15). Not one prophet of the Old Testament could have served as a sacrifice for sins. The lives they lived were righteous, but they were not sinless and perfect.
Seventh, Jesus Christ is portrayed as the Ascended King, “…sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The right hand of a monarch was a place of both honor and authority. When Jesus ascended and drew near to the Ancient of Days, He was given a kingdom (Dan. 7:13-14). Presently, He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords (I Tim. 6:15). He will continue to reign until the last enemy, death, is destroyed at the resurrection (I Cor. 15:25-26). Jesus can do this not only because He is the Son of God, but also because He lives. All of the other prophets are still in their graves. Death keeps them from being able to reign in any capacity.
The Jewish Christians to whom Paul wrote the book of Hebrews were being tempted to go back to Judaism and the Old Covenant. Hebrews was written to exhort them not to leave Christianity. If they left, they would be returning to a Covenant whose prophets were greatly inferior to the Prophet of the New Covenant. Why forsake a divine Prophet for prophets who cannot compete with the character and properties of the Son of the living God?