The Glories of Christ traced throughout the Epistle
Hebrews 1:1-4; Hebrews 2:5-9; Hebrews 3:1-6; Hebrews 7:1-3;
Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10:19-25; Hebrews 12:1, 2; Hebrews 13:8-16.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
We will now gather up in a comprehensive view some of the glories of our Lord Jesus which we have learned.
In the first chapter (vers. 1-4) the glory of the Son of God is presented to us as He was revealed in the world. Though incarnate, I need hardly say He did not lose a single attribute of Deity.
We have a wondrous collection of glories here — a sevenfold display. First, He is "Heir of all things." Everything that we can conceive is His by right and by gift: His earthly people Israel; all the Gentiles associated with His people in blessing in the millennium; the Church which is the Bride, the Lamb's wife, — everything is His as Heir and Lord of all. God has put all into His hands; as Abraham gave all his possessions to his son Isaac.
"By whom also He made the worlds." Here we have Him as the Creator. "By Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him," as the One whose power brought them all into being; and "for Him" were all things made, as the One for whose glory the whole display of creation exists.
Then, He is the brightness of His glory." That carries us back into the inner glory which He ever had with the Father. God dwelleth in light unapproachable, "whom no man hath seen nor can see;" but "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." He has made known God to us, and all the majesty and splendor that is about God finds its revelation in His Son.
He is "the very image of His substance." He is not merely the outward exhibition of what God is, but He is the very impress, the very character of God's own being. He is thus one with God, so that it is impossible to think of the Son without thinking of God; as our blessed Lord declared: "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father;" and faith ever delights to worship Him as "my Lord and my God."
He upholds "all things by the word of His power." He is the God of providence, and has not left His creation, or retreated back into the invisible glory where He was, but presides over the whole universe. He calls the stars by name, brings them on in their courses, "for that He is strong in power; not one faileth." All the providential ordering of the world, all God's ways in government have been entrusted to His Son. "By Him all things consist."
Now all these are glories of Deity, although possessed by Him who came into the world. But next you have that which seems to speak of Him simply as Son of man; and yet this, too, is but another ray of that glory which declares Him Son of God. "When He had by Himself purged our sins:" — purging of sins is sacrificial work. The details of it are not gone into here. It is simply declared that the divine Son put away sin according to all the value and perfection of His nature, for none other than a divinely valuable sacrifice could have availed for the sin of a guilty world.
And lastly, the seventh glory, He has taken His seat at "the right hand of the Majesty on high." His work of redemption is finished, He has gone on high to sit upon the throne, Lord, Ruler, Master over all things. As you gather the precious thoughts of His divine glory together, one ray (of redemption) shines through them all. As you look upon the throne, and see Him upon it whose brightness is like that of a jasper and a sardine stone, with the rainbow of millennial glory about the throne, (the pledge of God's permanent covenant with the earth) the One who is in the midst of it all, whose place is there by right, is the "Lamb as it had been slain." It is before Him that all heaven delights to bow, even as we delight here to prostrate our souls and to cry aloud:
"Worthy O Lamb of God art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow."
Now we pass to the second scripture (Heb. 2:5-9). The Spirit of God is as careful to dwell upon the details of the perfection of our Lord's humanity as upon those of His deity. There is no fear that you will lose the sense of His divine dignity by dwelling upon the fact of His perfect humanity. Both are blended together in such a perfect way that the heart can worship Him ever.
The question was asked of old in a certain place: "What is man?" As we think of the infinity of creation above us and about us, how small, how puny, how feeble we are! How is it that God takes knowledge of us, that He actually visits us? Why is it that the angels do not occupy a place in the thoughts and purposes of God such as man occupies? We ask again, Why? and we find the answer in the blessed Son of God, in Jesus. Faith says, "We see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor: that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Man is lower than the angels in the order of creation, so Jesus has taken His place lower than they. And when we ask, Why did He take that place? — in the answer we read our salvation.
He is made lower than the angels for the suffering of death. But where do we see Him now, as Man, the One who came down, even unto death? We see Him crowned with glory and honor. And as we look upon that crowned Man on high, the Man upon the throne of God, the Man whom God delights to honor, we can say that He by the grace of God has tasted death for every one. His redemptive work has brought in blessing for all men who will receive it. The whole creation will be, in the coming day, under the blessed results of that redeeming work. This is God's answer to the question, "What is man?"
But we glance now at another glory (Heb. 3:1-6). To an Israelite, Moses was the great leader — you might say, the father of the nation. They rightly looked upon him with the greatest reverence and regard but if Moses occupied a place to the exclusion of One whom God presented to them, he must be set aside. Moses was a faithful servant in all the house of God. But Christ is the maker of the house, and greater than it. He that made all things is God. Moses was a servant in the house He is Son over God's house. Thus, with a thrice greater glory, is Christ beyond Moses.
Moses brought Israel out of Egypt, and Joshua led them into Canaan rightly they looked upon him, too, as their leader. But Joshua did not give them rest. They had conflict and fightings in Canaan, and Joshua himself had to predict that if they did not walk in obedience to God, they would be carried out of that good land and lose it after all. But Christ is greater than he, for, "There remaineth a rest to the people of God," and it is Christ who introduces into that rest, as we sometimes sing:
"When of the prize possessed,
We hear of war no more,
And, oh sweet thought, forever rest
On that eternal shore."
Neither did David give them rest. Wherever there is a great deliverer spoken of throughout the Epistle, it is simply to look at him, and, comparing him with Christ, he passes out of view, leaving us free to be occupied with the holy Son of God in all His perfection.
So, also, there is a reference to Aaron, the head of the priestly family who was called of God to the service, But he is only mentioned as an illustration of Christ who has displaced him.
We look at Him next as Melchisedec (Heb. 7:1-3), both King and Priest as King He displaces Moses, Joshua, David and all the kings who had gone before Him. He is King of "righteousness." His kingship is founded upon His personal righteousness, and His having magnified the righteousness of God. He is moreover, "King of peace" that is, He has effected eternal peace as the ground upon which God can be the God of peace for us.
Thus in Melchisedec there is a suggestion of royalty, and we rejoice to recognize it in our blessed Lord, though the main thought in His Melchisedec character is the perpetuity of all that He is as Priest.
The apostle brings up Abraham just as he had Moses and other leaders of Israel. Here is one to whom Abraham had to pay tithes as to a superior, who, as the greater, blesses the lesser. Then he speaks of Levi, the parent of the whole Aaronic priesthood. "Levi, also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham." Christ is thus seen above Abraham and all the priesthood of Aaron. But this greatness is eternal. The priests of the house of Aaron were not allowed to continue by reason of death. So there was constant succession of priests; but this One abides forever. He is made "a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." As you think of the blessedness of His priestly work, of all the perfection and results of His sacrifice, of His almighty intercession for us, of His ability to save "to the uttermost end of time," it all has the stamp of eternity upon it.
He has entered in the Sanctuary, (Heb. 9:24-28) better than the Tabernacle in the wilderness (all of which typically spoke of Him) as the substance is better than the shadow. He has entered into heaven itself. He has found eternal redemption; and there, before God, He is the witness of it. The high priest entered into the earthly sanctuary once a year, with the blood of sacrifice which could not take away sin. Christ has entered into heaven itself by His own blood. He did not enter heaven by His divine right, nor on the ground that He was a perfectly righteous Man — He did not enter merely as the One of the sixteenth psalm. In the fifteenth psalm the question is asked: "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart." The sixteenth psalm describes this perfect One, the Man of faith and the perfect example of it; but you do not find Him entering into heaven at the close of the sixteenth psalm, though He says: "Thou wilt show Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy: at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore."
You have to go on past the sixteenth psalm to see Him enter into heaven. Go on to the twenty-second and there you see One who is forsaken of God. First He must shed His precious blood, and then in resurrection He declares God's name to His brethren.
Then go on to the twenty-fourth psalm and you have at last, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." Wherever He enters, the gates are opened wide to receive the "King of glory," whether it be His earthly city or the heavenly Jerusalem of which the earthly was a symbol. He enters by His own blood into the glory, and the welcome which is given Him there, as King of glory, is on the ground of His having accomplished an eternal redemption, of having glorified God.
If the redemption is eternal, the inheritance which has been purchased by that redemption is also eternal. Our redemption, our blessings, the good things that we have, the peace, the joy, the knowledge of God, the assurance of salvation, the place of sonship, everything has the stamp of eternity upon it. As you look about at the world's power, glory, or pleasure, you can say, They are but for a time. Sin has its pleasures and attractions, but they are evanescent, and soon men have to say with the poet: "My life is in the sere and yellow leaf." The melancholy days have come, and one realizes that life's sweetness is gone, and only the ashes and bitterness are left behind. But oh, how contrary to all that are the blessings which are ours — which abide. "Your joy no man taketh from you." When everything begins to fade, when the outward tabernacle begins to crumble, instead of chilling the heart, or making us feel that the dark days have come, it is rather the bright shining of the light more and more unto the perfect day.
In the Sanctuary He appears "in the presence of God for us." "Once in the end of the ages hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." I look back at all my sin with all its blackness and shame, and what do I see about that past? That Christ appeared here to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; and the past has been all settled by His perfect work. Here we are compassed with weakness and trial and infirmity; but we can look up where He is, in the presence of God, appearing there for us, ever living to make intercession for us. As our High Priest, He bears our names upon His bosom and upon His shoulders of strength. As we sing:
"Whose love is as great as His power
And knows neither measure nor end."
As we look forward to the future, what is there? Christ still, blessed be His name! His cross behind barring the way between us and all our sins, and the judgment against them; Himself above on the throne, sustaining us while here, and Himself before us for whom we are waiting and desire to see. Not only Christ has entered into the Sanctuary, but we too have a place there (Heb. 10:19-25). Wherever Christ is, — the work of the cross being accomplished — faith boldly can follow Him, though it be heaven itself. Where Christ is received, it is as the Representative of the people for whose sins He died. God has already welcomed Him with the acclaim of heaven, and given Him a place there commensurate with the delight He has in Him; but in the welcome of Christ, blessed be His name, He has welcomed us too.
It is a new sacrificed way, a way opened by His death; the veil that separated us from the holy presence of God because of our sin, by the death of our Lord was rent from the top to the bottom. Now, in the sanctuary, we find the High Priest over the house of God, who leads the praises of His people; and the exhortation is, "Let us draw near." Under the law, with burdened conscience, man stood afar off; but with the conscience once purged, we draw near into His presence, "in full assurance of faith."
Now then we are to "hold fast" the confession of our hope. It is not that we are to be in fear about it; we need not be tempted to give it up; for what would we take in exchange for the blessings which are ours through Christ?
That is what is enlarged upon for us in the twelfth chapter (Heb. 12:1, 2). The apostle had shown them the necessity for holding fast; for there were some among those Hebrews who were not genuine children of God; or else, strongly tempted, their faith held feebly to Christ, — the persecutions and difficulties of the way tempting them to give Him up. He had devoted a whole chapter to a review of the Old Testament men of faith, — Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses were made to bear their witness. As he gets on towards the close, he has not exhausted his theme, but presses on to that which fills his vision — Jesus. He says, we are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, but there is one Witness above all these, one of whom we have been speaking all through, — it is Jesus!
Here is the Leader of faith, the Originator, the Author of it — the One who begets it in us, and who is the full example of it; and He is also the perfecter of faith, who will bring His people into the place of perfection. We can only run our race with patience as we look off from everything else unto Jesus, remembering how He ran it here. There was a joy set before Him: the joy of accomplishing the Father's will, of being back with His Father after His course was run, and of having us associated with Him in the Father's presence. For that joy He endured the cross — endured wrath and judgment at the hand of God; He despised the shame heaped upon Him by man, not allowing it for one moment to swerve Him from His course and object. He has marked a straight way in which we are to follow Him, and a single object for us to run after. Here is a path for the people of God. All the stones have been cast out. It is the highway of the Lord, the way of holiness. No lion or ravenous beast is found there. No one can dispute your way, in the path which Christ has marked for you. If you leave the path, Satan has power; but he has no power when we are in the path which Christ has marked for us. How needful to make straight paths for our feet! How needful that we should not turn the lame out of the way! Christ thus beckons us forward; He would allure us on ever more swiftly as the years go by. The weights, realized as that and laid aside, we find wings to press forward with increasing joy and greater speed on to Himself.
There is next the thought that we have in the last chapter (Heb. 13:8–16). Still, it is Christ! Christ throughout. The Spirit of God is careful to point out that if we have Christ, we have no connection with the sanctuary upon earth. Everything of Christ is outside the sanctuary of man, and this He emphasizes by bringing out what was familiar to the Hebrews, the service of the Day of Atonement. "Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." There was no place for Him in Jerusalem. He instinctively knew this when He drew near the city on His last journey, and wept over it. And though He enters the city according to prophecy, (it is but a little glimpse of that triumphal entry which shall then be effected when He returns to reign for the Millenium and "the King of glory shall come in") He then withdrew and lodged all night outside the city. His place of sorrow and anguish was outside, where He pours out His soul in strong crying and tears unto God. When sentenced to death, the cross was laid upon Him, and He is led out as a malefactor.
Outside the gate, followed by the mocking rabble, followed by the high priests, perhaps in their robes of priestly dignity, all joining in the outcry against Him, whom for His love they nail to the cross. Jesus suffered without the gate: — without the gate of the religious world; without the gate of Judaism; without the gate of everything that apes Judaism; without the gate of everything that speaks of a carnal service, of a carnal religion, that makes the flesh excellent or would seek to improve it; Jesus suffered outside of it all.
As He has introduced us into the Sanctuary, let us also follow Him with joy outside the camp. "Let us go forth," he says; let us leave that which savors of the flesh; which speaks of the shadows and the darkness and the distance from God; let us leave that which fosters man's self-righteousness; let us turn our back upon it all. Our place is in the Sanctuary before God, and in the place of rejection, of separation from the world and its religion.
"His reproach." No matter what evil may be said against you, if it is for Christ's sake, it is His reproach. Men may mock the little, feeble company. They may say, What do these feeble Jews? as we seek to build the wall or erect the temple and the altar in separation from everything that is not of God. But if Christ's glory fills the heart, we long to bear His reproach — it is an honor. Are you repining at your lot because your path is not quite as easy as it might have been had you gone on smoothly as before? because in your home things are not as they once were, or as you wish them? Are not you willing, do you not esteem it an honor, to bear that little reproach for Christ's sake? Have you persecution from those about you in your daily work because you are a Christian? You may leap for joy that you have the privilege and honor! The Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Let us bear His reproach; let us welcome it; let us invite it, as you might say, by increased devotion to Christ; not challenging the reproach of the world, but choosing rather the reproach of Christ; not stirring up opposition, save as increased devotedness to Christ does so.
Then he would not leave us with merely the thought of bearing reproach, though it be for Christ. It is going forth unto Him. Thank God, you find the Priest in the Sanctuary. If you enter the Holiest, and if you take the outside place for Christ's sake, you also find Him there.
Jesus found the man whose eyes He had opened. He was put out of the synagogue. He seemed to have lost home and friends; he lost his religious leaders; he lost his place in the synagogue. What did he find? Rather, who found him? Jesus found him and revealed Himself to him as He has revealed Himself to us in this wondrous Epistle. "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" We go forth unto Him, then. It is to be with Him. It is not separation from this and from that merely. It is Christ who is the mark and the measure of our separation from all that is here.
Then he says, This lonely path does not continue. "Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come," one "whose builder and maker is God." And what is the glory of that city? In one word: "The Lamb is the light thereof." So as we are seeking a city to come, we are seeking Christ. We would see Him.
As we wait here, we learn to sing the songs of Zion before we reach the place. When Israel was carried into captivity, the enemy required of them a song. They said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." And the answer is returned: "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" Away from Zion, in a foreign land their harps were of no use there; their hearts and their hands drooped because they had been carried there for their sins. But though their city lay in desolation, they say: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." And, as we think of our city that hath foundations, can we not say the same?
But we are not kept from singing the songs of Zion on our way thither ward. Our harps, thank God, are not hung on the willows of Babylon. We have gone forth from Babylon. "By Him, therefore," we offer the sacrifice of praise continually; pilgrim songs on our way: "the fruit of our lips confessing His name."
The pilgrim song is the song of heaven itself, which we shall sing when gathered by the sea of glass in the presence of the Lamb and the glory of heaven. Heaven's glory will not change the song, but make it sweeter and add to its volume. We will offer praise continually there: "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee." But as we tread our way, the pilgrim way as it is, we are singing the song of Zion: not to please the enemy who has carried us captive, but with the joy of the Lord filling the heart. And as the home grows nearer, as we catch glimpses of the glory that is before us, it quickens into fresh song, with triumph and praise: "Unto Him that loveth us and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
We are like a little band of refugees from some foreign country who have landed on strange shores and have found toil and trial there, but who have kept up the songs of their native land. They hear the welcome news that they can go back to their homes. As they take shipping, going across the ocean, you can imagine, as each day brings them nearer home, that they sing those national airs with renewed joy and increased volume; and when they land at last, that song which was so feeble merges into the full strong harmony of their fellow-countrymen at home.
That which we enter into so feebly, the glories and beauties of Christ, is the theme of our praise. As we go on across the wide sea, ever getting nearer to heaven itself, the song of praise and joy should grow sweeter, clearer, fuller and louder until, as we behold Him as He is, there is one burst of praise: "Unto Him that loveth us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." It is Christ, dear brethren. He is all that we have to tell one another of. But He is enough! Christ, Christ
Himself, Christ alone! Oh, may He be everything to us; may we adore Him as He should be adored, here as well as in eternity!
"If here on earth the thoughts of Jesus' love.
Lift our poor hearts this weary world above,
If even here the taste of heavenly springs
So cheers the spirit, that the pilgrim sings,"
"What will the sunshine of His glory prove?
What the unmingled fulness of His love?
What halleluiahs will His presence raise,
What but one loud eternal burst of praise!"