Jesus, Heir of All Things

Hebrews 1.

There is great contrast between the things spoken of in the epistle to the Hebrews; on the one hand, evil and apostacy; and on the other, peculiarly precious truth. Indeed, there is perhaps no epistle in which we find more precious truth; just as though God meant to set in contrast the greatness of the evil and the preciousness of His truth. And thus He deals with souls now. A characteristic of the present hour is good and evil in marked contrast.

Evil and the power of Satan are fast spreading; also, the work of God is going on, and the great and deep truths of God are being made known to many souls. Thus the greatest light and the deepest darkness are seen side by side. These things cannot mingle, and therefore the contrast becomes more and more evident. The very light of heaven, in love and grace, is brought so near to the exercised soul, that in the darkest days of declension from the truth it may be said to get the most blessed knowledge of God; just as in Egypt darkness was spread over the whole land, but the Israelites had light in their dwellings.

This epistle sets forth the "heavenly calling" of the Church. It shows us the heavenly glory of Christ, IN WHOM we are; and though that glory will be hereafter manifested on the earth, our "calling" is a calling up into the place where He now is, above (not merely the earth, but) the heavens.

But it speaks also of earth and of the things of the earth. We find ourselves placed in the midst of this dark world, needing the present ministry of the priesthood of Christ, the cleansing power of His blood, and His sympathy. There is the going forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach; we have to be as those witnesses of whom it is said "the world was not worthy." All this is found in the epistle to the Hebrews. It places us in the midst of sin; or why the need of the blood? It places us in the midst of sorrow; or why the need of the sympathy? It says, "Here have we no continuing city;" but before it enters at all upon these earthly things, it opens to us heaven's glory and blessedness, our portion in Christ, and tells us that all is of God. We are set again on earth, as cognizant of this.

Whatever is revealed to us of blessing comes from God. (James 1:17.) Therefore the epistle begins with God. It is God "who hath spoken to us." (v. 1.) Christ spoke, but it was God that spoke by Him. This is the thought throughout. Christ is the "Apostle and High Priest of our profession." (Heb. 3:1-2.) Doubtless the High Priest is merciful and faithful in things pertaining to God; but it was God that "appointed Him." Christ is "that great Shepherd of the sheep" (Heb. 13:20); but it was God who "brought again from the dead," and gave Him as the Shepherd over us. All blessing is through Christ, but it is from GOD.

This first verse refers to instruction given in "divers parts," and in "divers ways." The saints in the Old Testament dispensation - Moses, Samuel, and others - were only instructed partially (i.e. "in parts"), and often years intervened before more instruction was given. None of them could say at any time, "I have all that needs to be known of the mind of God." Now, in this their position was vastly inferior to ours. We can say that we have all the fulness of this knowledge. It is true, "we know" as yet "but in part," and that hereafter we shall "know. even as also we are known" (1 Cor. 13:12); still we have all that we need in the Word, whether it be "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," all is provided, so that no soul can now say that something more has to be revealed, in order to complete the man of God, throughly to furnish him unto all good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17.) And I desire you should think how great a blessing this is. Suppose a soul desires to know the right path, what a blessing for that soul to be able to say, "God has revealed all that I need." This gives firmness and fixedness of faith; it enables the soul to say, "I know." To us there is revealed that which we have to hold fast till Jesus comes.

These Hebrews well knew the peculiar blessings of Israel, God had spoken unto the fathers by Moses and by the prophets; there were sacrifices for sins, appointed of God; and there was a priesthood instituted of God to offer those sacrifices - the value and dignity of the priesthood they knew. But what a truth is taught in these verses! God has now spoken by His "SON." Having been Himself the sacrifice for sin, the "SON" has come to take the priesthood. It is not any longer office dignifying the person of him who holds it, but the person of the Son of God giving dignity and glory to every office that He holds.

There is joy, doubtless, to Christ in holding these offices (for there is joy in holding offices for blessing, and it will be our joy by and by to hold offices for blessing together with Him); but what is His chief glory? Is it not His own excellency - that which He is in Himself? And that will be the saints' chief blessing? It will not consist in any mere dignity of office (though we shall have that, and count it blessed), but in union with Christ the Son of God. Angels might stand in any office, but the chief excellency and the chiefest glory of the saints will be in their connection with the glorious person of the SON of God.

Now, it is the blessedness and the glory of the SON, and the connection of the saints with Him in all His blessedness and in all His glory, which the opening of this epistle unfolds.

Nothing so facilitates our knowledge of the proper glory of the Church as acquaintance with the person of the SON of God.

When we see sorrow and tears, and connect them with the person of one whom we love, we have a much more vivid sense of what human nature is, than when we consider it abstractedly. We sorrow too; our nature sympathises with his. So likewise is it with regard to joy.

All human similitudes must needs be imperfect here. In this second verse are words, given to us of God, by which we may understand a little about the person of the SON of God, and yet they fall short of describing that which fully. expresses what pertains to Christ.

He is called "the brightness (the irradiation) of His glory" - the glory of God. The idea presented by the figure is something like that of the rays of the, sun. If there were no rays we should not see the light of the sun, although the sun might be in the firmament of the heaven. The sun would shine in vain were it not for the beams which reach us. And so the Son of God is like the rays - the shining forth of the glory of God. The same in essence, the "Son" is the irradiation of that essence, in order that it might reach us, that there might be something to teach us the glory of God. Probably, even to the angels the glory of God would have been a hidden glory; they never could have known anything of the glory of God but through the SON; and thus before all worlds they beheld the glory of the SON.

He is also called "the express image of His person" (i.e. substance). This is the nearest approach to declaring God's essence, or essential existence. The word "substance" means essential being, or existence. How little we know about this! God, self-existent-One who never had a beginning, yet full of all that we know of blessed attributes. This we cannot understand, but must believe. And He has said that the SON is the "express image," the "impress," as it were, "of His substance." The illustration is that of the impress of a seal. Though you had never seen the seal, I might show you the impress of it, that which was exactly like it, and from that impress you could form a true idea of the seal. So Christ is the "Impress" of the substance of God, One in whom are essentially all the thoughts and feelings of God; and this, too, the SON was before all worlds.

Though essentially Light, He was also the "Irradiation" of that Light. Though essentially God, He represented God - He was the "Impress" of the substance of God. Being with God, and being God, He became the Manifester of God, so that through Him others learned God.

"And upholding all things by the word of His power." This, too, the SON always was, the Upholder and Sustainer of "all things" (Col. 1:16-17), not by His power only, but by "the word of His power." (Gen. 1:3; Ps. 33:9.) Yet He laid aside the exercise of that power for a time. Whilst here in humiliation, "in the days of his flesh," He trembled and feared. (Heb. 5:7.) It was still His own essential power, but it was kept in abeyance, not exercised, unless called forth in obedient service to God. (John 5:30.) There was this difference between the miracles of Jesus and those of others. He was always obedient; but there were occasions when He used and declared His own essential power, as when He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19.) This showed His power as God; but He never used it except in subjection and in obedience to the Father.

And here is the mystery of the Incarnation. It is that which we cannot understand - what we have to do is to believe. He had human thoughts, and feelings, and sympathies - was truly "man," yet was He "God manifest in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16.) He "feared" and "trembled," "He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death," yet was He the irradiation of the glory of God. The "wisdom" of God (Prov. 8), He took the place of a learner, of one who comes morning by morning to receive instruction. (Isa. 1. 4; Luke 2:52.) That the eternal "Word" should have taken into connection with Himself (John 1:1, 14) a nature like ours, and which felt sensible of distance from God, (although His was ever holy human nature) is the great mystery of the Incarnation, so that not one sorrow which He felt was alleviated by His power as God. He might have poured a flood of light into His human understanding, and not have cried, "I longed for thy commandments" (Ps. 119:13), yet He did not. He might have turned (for He had power to do it) the stone into bread, when He hungered (Matt. 4; Luke 4) yet He did not. It would not have been the path of obedience; He had no command to do so from God. This was one part of the trial of the SON of God, this continual subjection of will, although it was a holy will. And what an unwavering principle of obedience did it prove! (for who but knows how readily we turn to the resource near at hand!) what constancy of soul! even when He might so easily (and it would not have been sin to do so) have brought to Himself the needed relief, still to go on, from year to year, in dependence upon God, still to say, 'No! if I want light, I will wait for it!'

On the one hand, there was all the power of God; and on the other, the weakness of man.

There are two periods mentioned in this chapter, in which God is shown to do something for Christ. 1st. Appointing Him "Heir of all things."

2nd. Bringing again the. first-begotten into the world.

It is said (v. 2) that He hath "set" or "made" Him Heir of all things. God has been pleased to constitute Christ "Heir" in resurrection, to make Him "so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." (v. 4.)

The declared intention of God before the foundation of the world was, that the Son should be "Heir of all things." Angels might have known, but they could not understand this. He was to receive "all things" (as a son receives an inheritance) as the free gift of the Father's love. It is not the glory which He had with God, and as God, before the world was, that is spoken of here.

And there is joy in this to the heart of Christ, as well as love and grace to us, for we are "joint-heirs" together with Him. I can only see what a Christian is, and what his portion is, by seeing what Christ is. Angels are not this; angels understand the excellency of the person of Christ, but they are not "joint-heirs," they have not union with Christ. But God has given us joint-heirship, and union with Christ! There are three things which belong to the Church - sonship, heirship, and union with Christ. We learn what we are by seeing what Christ is.

And shall I say, He gave all this to man universally? Scripture does not say so. Had it been said, 'He taketh hold of the seed of Adam,' then every one that has human nature must not only have been saved, but have been brought into co-heirship of this glory. But it is said, "Of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold." (Heb. 2:16.) And who are they? Those who are of faith. (Gal. 3:7, 29.)

In following on through these things, we must remember that we are one with Him. We can be addressed as "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1), and why? Because, being united to Him, what He has, we shall have; where He is, we must be - and He is "made higher than the heavens."

The first thing spoken of here as having been done by Christ is, that He has by Himself purged our sins. "Who (it is said), when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." This is a very important text. It refers both to what He was as a sacrifice, and also to what He has done as a priest.

Two things were necessary to the purging of our sins in the order of God. (Compare Lev. 16: with chapters 9 and 10 of this epistle.)

1st. The shedding of blood.

2nd. The presenting of that blood to God.

Both these things Christ accomplished "by Himself." This settled the question of sin for ever. And then He took His seat, "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high," as a person who has done a thing which he had to do takes his seat. The expression "sat down" is an official expression. (See Heb. 10:11-14.)

So that we can never rightly think of Christ as where He now is, without seeing that the very circumstance of His being there, in itself shows that our sins are put away for ever. The present possession of glory by Christ is an evidence to me that my sins are put away. What a Wondrous connection there is here between happiness and peace of soul, and His glory!

It is not said, that after He had purged our sins He was made the "brightness of God's glory," and the "express image of His person;" this He was essentially before all worlds. But it is said, that after He had purged our sins, He took His seat on high, "being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels aid He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee?"* Scripture is very particular.

*These words (quoted from the second Psalm) refer to His being begotten from the dead, not to His eternal Sonship. (See Rev. 1:5.)

Consider what the angels must have thought at the entrance of Christ into glory. They had known Him before the world was as God; but they had never known Him there before as man. Never until that moment could they understand what glorified humanity was. It must doubtless have been a great mystery to them to consider "the man Christ Jesus," whilst He was on earth; but the moment He entered heaven as man, He was there before God and angels, the Head of a new race, having all the essential characteristics of God, and yet the nature of man, the sympathies, desires, and feelings of man; at home on the throne of the government of the universe, yet having our nature - truly man. This is the place in which to read the real history of man according to God. Angels see in Jesus what our nature is to be, and by placing ourselves there, we may know the purpose of God about us. He has predestinated us, it is said, "to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom. 8:29.) Man was not made in order that he might experience only vanity, and sorrow, and trouble, though it is true now, that "man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7.) The Scriptures introduce us to the birthday of new humanity; they lead us on to the new heavens and the new earth, and there they leave us. (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1-5.) When we look back to what the Son essentially was before all worlds, and then to what He now is, and onward to what He will be (together with the Church) in the ages to come, this gives us some idea of new humanity and of its glory. There will be nothing terrible to us in glory. John felt himself (Rev. 1) brought into strange and hitherto unknown circumstances, a creature before God, and he fell at the feet of Jesus as dead. But we shall then be suited to it, and happy in it.

In the succeeding verses, we find scriptures quoted which reveal to us various dignities and glories of the Lord Jesus. Some of them speak of that which is permanent and eternal, others of that which is transitory. "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son," appears to be quoted from the typical prophecy about Solomon (2 Samuel 7), and to be connected with the earth, the glory of government.

Thus we have in this chapter the glory which Christ had as the Son before the world was, the glory which He now has, and the glory which will be displayed when He is ushered again into this world, as it is written: "When He bringeth again [margin] the First-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him."*

*This is evidently a quotation from the Septuagint version of Deut. 32. The following is the translation of verse 43: "Rejoice, ye heavens, with Him, and let all the angels of God worship Him; rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in Him; for He will avenge the blood of His sons, and He will render vengeance, and recompense justice to His enemies, and will reward them that hate Him; and the Lord shall purge the land of His people."

From the dignity of His Person, and from the glory which He now has, we may learn a little of what that coming glory will be. But the first moment that we shall really know that glory is when God thus commands the angels to worship Him. It will be the time of the "manifestation" of our own glory as "sons of God." (Rom. 8:15-19; 1 John 3:1-2.) And this is what the apostle means when he says, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." (1 Thess. 4:14.) When He comes in His glory, we shall be in the train of that glory. The moment after He had purged our sins He could take His place on the throne of God, the pledge of the Church's final glory (chap. 6:20); the moment He comes again, we shall be made practically to know the result of His work, in the glory. Intermingled with our experience of glory, now there must be a trembling, for glory is always terrible to nature, the judgments of God terrible to human feelings. But we are told, that when He comes again, when we are brought into the glory, we shall be made like unto Himself; and this by God's transforming power: He is able to make us like unto Christ, and that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Cor. 15:49-53.) We shall have none of the feelings of our present nature, of old humanity then. All that is of mere nature will be broken off and laid aside, and we shall be like Christ.

"Of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. (Ps. 104:4) But unto the SON He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Ps. 102:25-26) And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail," (Ps. 45:6-7)  etc. (Heb. 1:7-14.) Who is this displayed as King on his throne - worshipped by angels - around whom all things are gathered? The living and eternal God. Christ Jesus may have been under the power of Satan and of death for a season - wondrous thought! - yet is He unchangeably God. Nothing can alter or affect His essential and eternal Godhead and glory.  

And we are spoken of as "His fellows." We cannot understand the nature of our union with Christ. Godhead is not ours, nor ever can be; and yet we shall have capacities and powers resulting from union with Him in all that He is, even as God.

It is said that He is anointed with the oil of gladness "above" His fellows, and when that is said, all is said. It is true we are but the receivers, while He is the Source; in Him that is essential which in us is derived; yet in every felt blessing we are to be one with Him. And we shall not desire that it should be otherwise; we shall rejoice to say, 'Let all things be of God.' (2 Cor. 5:18.) We shall see the fitness of our being but receivers, and of His being the Source, as it is said, "His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

The being anointed with the "oil of gladness" is spoken of in connection with what He was here, as loving righteousness and hating iniquity. We can easily understand that joy - it is a peculiar spring of joy to the heart of Jesus. But we may enter a little into the same character of gladness; and this we shall in proportion as, while here, we also love righteousness and hate iniquity.

The thought conveyed by the word, "a sceptre of righteousness," is that of the shepherd's rod. A king should be to his people what a shepherd is to his flock. Now Christ will hold the "rod" in that day as a Shepherd King, and it will be a "sceptre of righteousness. And we shall share in His rule. But then he holds it now (though not for the world, yet) for His Church. Do we recognize this rod? Truth becomes practically blessed to us when looked at, not abstractedly, but as connected with ourselves.

When we read this chapter, we can say, 'This is what our inheritance is.' If it sets us above angels, how much more so above the flesh, whether in ourselves or in others! How lovely soever the flesh may appear, we are far above it. With such a portion and such a glory, can we desire station or dignity here? It gives contentment to those who are low in the world, and abasement to those who are great. These are the inward feelings produced in saints by the knowledge of the glory. In outward things there are two lines of difference between those who are one in Christ, and with Christ: First, as regards gifts in the Church; these the Holy Ghost divides to each severally as He wills. Secondly, as to natural arrangements and relationships appointed of God; these things are right and good, and we find them so, when received in the Spirit. If they act on the flesh, they bring sorrow. Paul and Onesimus as to inward feelings were on a level, but in the Church they had different places and gifts; so also as men.

These are great things respecting the glory of Jesus, and our union with Him, but it is God's word, and not man's. The same word which tells us of Adam and his sin, tells us of this. We did not see Adam sin, yet we believe that he sinned, and we feel the consequences of his sin. Why should we not as fully receive the testimony of God, when He speaks of our union with His SON, and of the glory into which we shall be brought, as heirs together with Him?