Jesus is God's Full & Final Revelation
by Michael R. Finney
The audience of the Letter to the Hebrews were Jews who had professed belief in Jesus as the Messiah. But they struggled with the temptation to reject this profession and return to the practice of ritual Judaism. Why? In order to avoid persecution. Rome was persecuting Christians at this time, but they afforded Judaism a "protected religion" status. After all, since Christianity is rooted in Old Testament Judaism, how could this hurt?
Those of us who are Christians find ourselves in a slightly different, but similar situation today. Our founding fathers rightly insisted that there should be freedom of religion--the right to hold one's own beliefs about God without fear of persecution. But we have moved far past that today, to the place where all religions are viewed as equally true. We live in a culture which is profoundly relativistic concerning religious truth. Our culture has mistakenly applied Einstein's theory of relativity (which is true with regard to physics) to the realm of spiritual truth. The result is an ironic intolerance: to hold any other position than that all religions (however contradictory or lacking in evidence) are equally valid, that all roads lead ultimately to God, etc. is to be branded an uninformed, arrogant, close-minded, self-righteous bigot.
In such a culture, Christians are under strong pressure to compromise the uniqueness of Christianity's claim to be the truth. Can't we free ourselves of unwanted flak -- and remove unneeded barriers to other people by agreeing that Christianity is just one way among many? Many so-called Christian "scholars" have concluded just this. Listen to Hans Kung: "A man is to be saved within the religion that is made available to him in his historical situation. Hence it is his right and duty to seek God within that religion in which the hidden God has already found him. The religions (of the world) are the way of salvation for the people of the world's religions the ordinary way of salvation."
It is this mentality that the author of Hebrews sets out to refute. He argues that this is wrong because Christianity is better than Judaism Jesus has fulfilled the Old Testament way of approaching God and thus superseded it and rendered it obsolete. To revert to Judaism is to reject Jesus. Instead of going backward spiritually by practicing Judaism, they need to move forward by following Jesus. And this is even more so with regard to other religions.
Jesus is greater than the Old Testament prophets (1:1-3)
Read verses 1-2a. In one sentence, the author defines the relationship between the Old Testament and Jesus. Over a period of 1,000 years, God spoke truly and accurately through an unbroken succession of prophets. He revealed Himself and His plan for mankind through many means (dreams, visions, voices, writing, etc.). This gradually growing body of revelation, though true, was by definition incomplete. It predicted a coming One; it foretold a future salvation. But God has spoken His final and complete Word through Jesus. The author emphasizes this point in two ways:
"at the end of these days" means that the period of partial revelation has come to an end with the coming of Jesus ("in His Son").
"has spoken" emphasizes the once-for-allness of God's revelation through Jesus.
Just as the light of the moon is superseded by the rise of the sun, so the revelation about God from the Old Testament has been superseded by the coming of Jesus.
The reason the revelation given through Jesus is better than that given through the prophets is that Jesus is superior to them. They were God's fallen human spokesmen; Jesus is God's unique Son. In verses 2b-3, the author gives five unique characteristics of Jesus which set Him infinitely above any Old Testament prophet.
He is the world's rightful ruler (heir). This is the meaning of "Messiah" -- God's selected ruler.
He is the agent of the world's creation (made the world).
He is the perfect manifestation of God (radiance of glory and exact representation of nature) -- see John 14:9 and 1:18.
He is the sustainer of the world and the prime mover of history (upholds all things).
He is the provider of complete forgiveness (made purification and sat down).
Of course, the author is assuming his audience believes that the Old Testament is inspired revelation from God. Their problem was understanding the relationship between that revelation and Jesus. I realize I cannot make the same assumption with many of you. If you doubt or have problems with this, let me challenge you to consider two things:
If a personal God exists, it is reasonable that He would be both willing and able to communicate about Himself and His purpose for our lives in a way that would understandable and enduring (i.e., written). This is exactly what the Bible claims to be.
The evidence for the Old Testament's claim is vastly superior to any other "scripture." Only it anticipates our need for objective evidence and supplies it through fulfilled historical prophecy.
Jesus is better than the angels (1:4-14)
Now the author proves from the Old Testament that Jesus is better than the angels (read 1:4a). This issue was important to his audience because the Old Testament Law was revealed through angels (read 2:2). If Jesus is better than angels, then His revelation is also better than that which came through angels.
Today there are many "Christian" sect groups which teach that Jesus was an angel. Two of the most well-known ones, Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses, teach this. The New Age Movement reduces Jesus to an "avatar" -- one revealer of God among many. But in verses 5-14, the author proves from the Old Testament both that Jesus is superior to angels and that He is God. In fact, this passage contains some of the clearest proofs of the deity of Christ.
Read verses 4b-5. Jesus has a unique relationship with God the Father. The fact that God calls Him His "Son" gives Him a status higher than any angel. To those who object that He can't be God if He is God's Son, note:
These passages refer to His incarnate state. Jesus was God's Son in regard to His humanity in the sense that God was His Father (Luke 1:35).
At the same time, to be God's Son meant to share the same nature as God (John 5:18)
Read verse 6. Jesus' deity is made even clearer here, because God commands the angels to worship Jesus. God specifically forbade the worship of anyone but Himself in Deuteronomy 6:13.
Read verses 7-9 and 13-14. God gave Jesus authority to rule over humanity, while the angels are servants of humanity to help them come to salvation. Notice also that Jesus is called God (ho theos) in verse 8.
Read verses 10-12. Jesus is pre-dates all creation. Here He is called YHWH (verse 10: "I AM"), which is the unique name of God.
How could it be any clearer? Jesus is the full and final revelation of God because He is God's Son and divine! The sect groups and the New Age Movement should have the integrity to admit their views contradict the Bible rather than claiming it supports them!
Warning: If you disregard this message, there is no other way to avoid God's judgment (2:1-4).
So what? Is winning a debate all that's at stake? No! This is where the rubber meets the road! Read 2:1-3a. He is using shipping language. If a ship refuses to pull into the only harbor, there is no other shelter from the storm! In the same way, if we reject the only means of rescue God gives us, there is no other way to escape His judgment. When God provides us with His Word, we disregard it to our own peril!
The nation of Israel learned this lesson the hard way concerning their use of God's real estate (verse 2). God gave His Law to them and told them that following it was the only way they could dwell securely in the land. But they felt there were other ways to do this (e.g., treaties, other gods), and "drifted away" from God's Word to such an extent that by the time of Josiah, finding it was a major discovery (2 Kings 22:8)! As a result of their disregard of God's Word, they found themselves carried away into exile and captivity as a judgment from God. The fact that many of them didn't believe God would do this had no bearing on the final outcome. God kept His Word!
The stakes are much higher when it comes to the message about Jesus (verse 3a)! If we disregard God's provision of Jesus to forgive our sins, there is no other means of salvation! Contrary to our relativistic culture, the Bible says God has revealed Himself through one Book and completely through only one Person -- Jesus. If you want to know God, you're going to have to come to Him through Jesus. And if you reject Jesus as God's only perfect revealer and Savior, there is no other way provided.
With so much at stake, doesn't it make sense to carefully consider this claim? Can you honestly say that you have carefully investigated Christianity and proven that it is untenable? Or is it that you (like most) have never really investigated it?