If you were going to paint a portrait of Jesus Christ, what would you paint? Would you go for a traditional head and shoulders portrait? Would you paint an action scene and have him rescue Peter from the Sea of Galilee or perhaps have him feeding the 5,000? Would you have Jesus performing a miracle or teaching the multitudes?
I believe the writer of the book of Hebrews faced a similar question as he began his book. Rather than limit himself to one simple portrait, he uses seven phrases in 1:2-3 to describe who Jesus is. Some of them look to what Jesus did in the past, some point out what Jesus is doing in the present, and some look at what will take place in the future. The theme is the supremacy of Christ as God’s final word.
Hebrews 1:2–3 – but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Jesus is the Heir (2). This phrase probably alludes to Psalm 2:8 and explains that as the Son, Jesus will inherit all things. Nothing material or spiritual is excluded from the inheritance. This title anticipates his future reign. While the appointment has been made, it won’t be consummated until the end of the age.
Jesus is the Creator (2). The typical Greek word for world is “kosmos” from which we get our English word cosmos. However, the writer uses the word “aionas” which means “the ages.” Not only did Christ create the world, but he created time, space, energy, and matter. Christ created the whole universe and everything that makes it function.
The three titles in verse 2—Son, heir, and creator—point out that Jesus is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. They speak to his relationship with the Father from eternity past to eternity future.
Jesus is the Radiator (3). The moon reflects light; the sun radiates light because it is the source of light. Jesus does not simply reflect the Father’s glory. He radiates glory because he is part of it! Christ reflects the Father’s glory because he shares the same divine nature as the Father, yet he is distinct from the Father in his person.
Jesus is the Representor (3). If you examine a coin, you see the image or likeness of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. When you examine Jesus, you don’t merely see a general likeness of God, you see an exact duplicate of the Father. Jesus revealed the Father to the world because he was fully God in human form.
Jesus is the Sustainer (3). The phrase, “he upholds the universe,” makes us think of the Greek god Atlas holding up the world. Whereas Atlas held a dead weight, Jesus carries the universe forward to its designed goal. It demonstrates what Jesus is doing right now. It gives us great confidence to know that the world will not fall into utter chaos and that God’s plans will triumph.
Jesus is the Priest (3). Whereas the priest in the Old Testament offered a sacrifice to make atonement for the sins of the people, Jesus was the sacrifice and died in our place. Through his death on the cross, Jesus removed our sins, provided for our forgiveness, and cleansed us from the stain of sin.
Jesus is the Ruler (3). In the Old Testament, the priest never sat down because his work was never finished. There was always another sacrifice to offer. In contrast, Jesus completed his work as High Priest and sat down at God’s right hand. The is the position of honor, authority, and power. Sitting down connotes a position of dignity, settled continuance, and rest.
Jesus Christ is the heir, creator, radiator, representor, sustainer, priest, and ruler. Jesus reigns supreme as God’s full and final word. Today we proclaim him as Lord and bow before him.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 17, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.