Christ is Superior to the Prophets Part 1 – Hebrews 1:1-2a
Pastor Mark Hardy November 9, 2014
There is an interesting book called The World’s Worst Predictions that lists some of history’s all-time “prophetic” goofs. For example, did you know:
• In 1773 King George II said that the American colonies had little stomach for revolution. Well, he predicted wrong!
• In the early 1800’s an English astronomy professor said that air travel at high speed would be impossible because passengers would suffocate. The world’s largest passenger airplane today is the Airbus A38 that can seat up to 853 people and has a maximum cruising speed of 676 mph.
• In 1912 an official of the White Star Line, a prominent British shipping company, speaking of the firm’s newly built flagship, the Titanic, declared that the ship was unsinkable. We all know what happened to the Titanic!
• In 1939 the New York Times said the problem with television was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn’t have time for it. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day, which is 28 hours/week or 2 months of nonstop TV watching per year. In a 65-year life that person will have spent a total of 9 years glued to the tube.
Now from these examples obviously we can see that just because someone makes a “prediction” doesn’t mean that it is anywhere close to being true. But that’s wasn’t true about the “true prophet” of Israel during the Old Testament times, who was a spokesman for the one true living God. He was a channel or instrument of divine revelation. And to test or discern whether a person was a true prophet or a false prophet, every time he spoke for God he had to be 100% accurate on his prophecy or future prediction and 100% consistent with any previously given revelation, for God would not contradict Himself. Therefore, if a “so-called” prophet said something that either did not come true or came true but contradicted what God had revealed earlier, then that person was a false prophet and was to be put to death.
The consequences were severe because God’s revelation of Himself and His will to man in His many chosen prophets was a very serious matter. This is the first thing we see as we begin looking at the text of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 1.
In Hebrews 1:1-2a we see two stages of divine revelation whereby God revealed Himself to man, so that we might know Him, His will and His only way of salvation. The first stage of divine revelation is this:
I. God has Spoken in the Prophets
A. Look at v. 1: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
1. As we saw last time, the overall theme of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus Christ over everyone and everything. Now as we come to the opening statement of vv. 1-3 the author doesn’t waste any time with an opening salutation like other letters that contain a personal greeting and the names of the author and of the people addressed. Instead, he plunges right into the exposition of this grand theme.
2. The first three verses are a kind of summary of the entire epistle. And although the author moves immediately to how Jesus Christ is superior to the prophets, in vv. 1-2a the subject is “God” the Father, which he will refer to 68 times throughout the letter.
3. Therefore, right at the beginning we are confronted with the reality of God and the fact that He has been active. And the first divine activity commented on is that “God has spoken.” The same word “spoke” is mentioned two times in vv. 1-2 and refers to God choosing to communicate or reveal Himself to man, and both times the word is in the aorist tense in the Greek, indicating that God’s speaking is complete or finished.
4. Now the author of Hebrews is not talking here about God revealing certain things about Himself in creation, which is known as “General (or Natural) Revelation.” This is seen in Romans 1:18-20, which says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
5. David proclaimed about God’s physical creation in Psalm 19:1-6, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech. And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
6. Although the speech of the physical creation of God is unspoken, it is deafening in its constant declaration of God’s invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature. And yet, unregenerate man doesn’t hear it, for they have “suppress(ed) the truth in unrighteousness.”
7. However, general revelation in itself is not enough to tell us who the Creator-God is. Therefore, when the writer of Hebrews tells us that “God. . .spoke” he is talking about what is called “Special Revelation.”
8. Since the Creator-God is so high above us, for us to know anything about Him He must first take the initiative to tell us, which He did. This is why Francis Schaeffer appropriately entitled one of his many books, “He is There and He is Not Silent.”
9. F.F. Bruce said it like this, “‘God has spoken.’ This initial affirmation is basic to the whole argument of this epistle, as indeed it is basic to Christian faith. Had God remained silent, enshrouded in thick darkness, the plight of mankind would have been desperate indeed; but now he has spoken his revealing, redeeming, and life-giving word, and in his light we see light.” (pg. 45)
B. Now look again at when and to whom God has spoken in v. 1: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets… (Stop there)
1. Here we see how God wrote the Old Testament, which happened “long ago” or in the past Old Testament era. During that time God spoke “to the fathers,” referring to the Old Testament saints, who were our spiritual ancestors.
2. And notice that God spoke to them “in the prophets.” The “prophets” were spokesmen or messengers of God. These Old Testament prophets need not be limited only to those who were popularly regarded as prophets in Israel, but also included all those who were used as or instruments to give divine revelation to men, such as Abraham, Moses, David, and many others.
3. Now through the fact that the Old Testament was given to and delivered by “the prophets” of God, the author of Hebrews shows that the Spirit of God establishes its divine authorship, inerrancy and authority.
4. We also see this in 2 Peter 1:20-21 where Peter says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In this context the word “prophecy” refers to the Old Testament.
5. Also in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul declares, “All Scripture is inspired by God (i.e. God-breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
6. In our society today where it seems that most people believe there is no absolute truth and everything is relative, we as Christians can know for sure that the inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word of God is the one and only standard for truth.
7. The author of Psalm 119 said in v. 143, “Your law is truth.” (Verse 151) “…all Your commandments are truth.” (Verse 160) “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.”
8. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
9. James 1:18 states, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”
10. And 2 Timothy 2:15 tells every believer to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
11. Now since the Bible alone is absolute truth, it alone must be our standard for truth by which we be able to discern truth from error, right from wrong, and good from bad.
C. Now notice how God spoke? Look at the last part of v. 1: …in many portions and in many ways.
1. First, God’s revelation in the Old Testament was given to men “in many portions,” which refers to the 39 books of the Old Testament. In other words, the Old Testament Scriptures came in bits and pieces, fragments, and in multiple parts through many different prophets.
2. No one prophet delivered it all. It is amazing that in authoring the Old and New Testaments the Spirit of God totally controlled and used 40 different human authors with their unique personalities, backgrounds, and styles of writing over the course of 1,500 years (1400 B.C.-A.D. 90), in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), so that every word they wrote was the very word of God that He wanted them to write.
3. Second, God’s revelation in the Old Testament was given to men “in many ways.” Since God loves variety, there were many ways in which God spoke to men.
4. He did this sometimes directly, sometimes by a parable, sometimes through a type or symbol, sometimes through an angel, sometimes through a theophany, which is an appearance of God Himself as the “Angel of the Lord,” sometimes He spoke in mighty works of mercy and judgment, sometimes it was through the Urim and Thummim, and sometimes through a vision or dream.
5. For example: God spoke directly to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2ff) and in thunder, lightning and with the voice of a trumpet (Ex. 19:19; Deut. 5:22ff); He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice (1 Kgs. 19:12); He spoke to Isaiah in a vision in the temple (Isa. 6:1ff), and He spoke to Ezekiel in visions as well; He spoke to Daniel through dreams; He spoke to Hosea in his family circumstances (Hos. 1:2); and He spoke to Amos through a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1).
6. The “many ways” God spoke in the Old Testament also included many different literary forms and types. There is narrative, poetry, history, biography, genealogy, law, doctrine, ethics and morality, warning, encouragement, prophecy, and so on.
7. Therefore, the entire Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi it is all God speaking; it is the very Word of God. But as important and authoritative as it is, the Old Testament was incomplete.
8. It was merely preparing God’s people to receive His complete and ultimate revelation. We see this in the second stage of divine revelation, which is this:
II. God has Spoken in His Son
A. Look at v. 2: in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
1. This morning we are going to look at just the first part of this verse. The phrase “in these last days” frequently refers in some way to the time of the Messiah (Num. 23:14; Jer. 33:14-16; Mic. 5:1-4; Zech. 9:9, 16).
2. Here it means that in Jesus Christ the new Messianic Age has arrived. Since He came, it has been the “last days.”
3. Notice that in this Messianic Age, God “…has spoken to us (i.e. Christ’s church) in His Son.” This single sentence crystallizes the message and the meaning of the New Testament; it is the main hinge on which all of the arguments in the whole epistle turn.
4. Now it is significant that in the Greek there is no article “the” before the word “Son,” which emphasizes the quality of Jesus’ sonship. Jesus Christ is superior to the prophets because He is in a totally different category altogether.
5. In stark contrast to having spoken and given revelation in the past through His many prophets, now God has spoken the message of redemption in only one Person, His only begotten Son. God’s full and perfect revelation of Himself and His will awaited the coming of His Son.
6. In the incarnation God became a man. Jesus Christ is the God-Man—100% God and 100% Man without a diminishing or a mixture of His divine and human natures.
7. This is clearly seen in John 1:1-2, which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Verse 14) “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Verse 18) “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
8. Jesus Christ Himself is the ultimate Word of God. God’s Word to man has been fully spoken in His Son.
9. There is now nothing left to be said. Whereas no prophet had been given God’s whole truth, Jesus is God’s full, complete and final revelation.
10. Jesus is the embodiment of truth, for He proclaimed in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
11. From beginning to end the whole of the New Testament centers on Jesus Christ. The four gospels tell His story: In Matthew He walks before us as the King of Israel; in Mark as the Servant of Jehovah; in Luke as the Son of Man; and in John as the Eternal Word, the Only Begotten Son who is the Creator-God.
12. All of the epistles comment on Christ’s story, and the book of Revelation tells of its culmination. The fulfillment of the messianic prophecies began with the coming of the Messiah and all of the prophecies and promises of God will be fulfilled when He returns (2 Cor. 1:20).
13. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
14. This is why the apostle John warns in Revelation 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
15. However, since Jesus’ own people rejected Him and His revelation, the fulfillment of all of the promises of the last days have yet to be fully realized.
B. Therefore, in these first two verses the author of Hebrews shows two stages of divine revelation that correspond to the Old and New Testaments respectively.
1. Although the Spirit of God is the Author of both, the Old and New Testaments represent two dispensations, two covenants, two modes of worship, two sorts of religions, two ways in which God has communion with man and man draws near to God.
2. Therefore, God’s revelation to man is a story of progressive revelation that goes from the prophets in the Old Testament and culminated in Christ in the New Testament. There is no more progression beyond Him.
3. This progression was not from error to truth but from promise to fulfillment, from anticipation to culmination, from incomplete truth to complete truth. And it remained incomplete until Christ came and the New Testament canon was finished.
4. The progressive revelation of the Old Testament described God’s program of redemption and His will for His people. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
5. And 1 Peter 1:10-12 states, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”
6. Therefore, the Old Testament was preparatory and intended to pass away, while the New Testament is ultimate and destined to last forever because it is a complete revelation of an everlasting redemption in Christ.
7. Philip Hughes summarized this well saying, “The old order of patriarchal expectation, prophetic utterance, Mosaic covenant, and levitical priesthood has given way to the new order of messianic reality which, unlike the old, is final and permanent because its leadership, its priesthood, and its kingdom belong uniquely to him who is the eternal God.” (pg. 37)
In closing, God has spoken in the prophets and in His Son! But in these opening two verses we have seen that Christ is superior to the prophets and the Old Testament God used them to write. So what does this mean to us practically? I think this: Just as the author of Hebrews knew that the struggling believers who received this letter needed to understand that Christ was superior because He is God Himself in human flesh, and therefore, they should turn to Him alone for the help they needed in dealing with their difficult circumstances, so we too who are facing various challenges in our own lives need to understand and do the same thing.
What have you been going through and dealing with lately? Remember this: As the God-Man, who is superior to everyone and everything, Jesus alone can help whatever your need might be!
The author then goes on to state seven marvelous truths about the Son of God in vv. 2b-3 that show not only His greatness, but also why the revelation given in Him is the highest God can ever give. We will look at each one of those truths next time.
Before I pray let me ask you, “What is your need today?”
• Maybe you have never received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord and need to begin a new relationship with Him. If that’s the case I would love to talk to you after the service.
• Maybe you are a Christian who has wandered away from the Lord in your heart. Your Heavenly Father knows where you are at, He loves you and wants you to come back to Him. You do this by surrendering to Christ’s Lordship in your life.
• Maybe you are going through a difficult trial in your life and you need God’s strength to endure and to continue to fight the good fight of faith. If you need prayer the elders would love to pray with you.
Whatever your need might be, Jesus alone is the answer and He can help you!