In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world, who is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, sustaining all things by the word of power. (Hebrews 1:2–3)
he has spoken to us by a Son Jesus is God’s own Son. What do I know about that wondrous truth? If I were to try to explain it, and to talk about the eternal filiation, I would only conduct you where I would soon be entirely out of my depth, and very likely I would drown all that I could tell you in floods of words. Deity is not to be explained, but to be adored. The sonship of Christ is to be accepted as a truth of revelation, to be apprehended by faith, though it cannot be comprehended by the understanding. There have been many attempts made by the fathers of the Church to explain the relationship between the two divine persons, the Father and the Son. But the explanations had better never have been given, for the figures used are liable to lead into mistake. Suffice to say that, in the most appropriate language of the Nicene Creed, Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” He is co-equal with the Father, though how that is, we do not know. He stands in the nearest possible relationship to the Father—a relationship of intense love and delight, so that the Father says of Him, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt 3:17; 17:5; Mark 9:7). Indeed, He is one with the Father, so that there is no separating them, as He Himself said, in reply to Philip’s request, “Show us the Father”; “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:8, 11).
heir of all things Of which nature of Christ does the apostle speak in this sentence, “whom he appointed heir of all things”? I do not think that Paul here separates the two natures, so as to speak with absolute reference to either one or the other; but he speaks of the person of Christ, and in that person there is God, and in that same person there is most surely and most truly man. But we must take this description of Jesus Christ as appointed “Heir of all things” in his person as man, and as God and man combined; for, as God alone, Christ is necessarily “Heir of all things” without any appointment; but in his complex person as God and man conjoined, the Father has appointed him to be “Heir of all things.”
Now, what does this mean but that Christ possesses all things as an heir possesses his inheritance, that Christ is Lord of all things, as an heir becomes lord and ruler among his brethren. This appointment is to be fully carried into effect by-and-by; for, “now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb 2:8). Christ is Lord of all the angels; no seraph spreads his wing except at the bidding of the “Heir of all things.” There are no bright spirits, unknown to us, that are beyond the control of the God-man, Christ Jesus; and the fallen angels, too, are obliged to bow before His omnipotence. As for all things here below, material substances, people regenerate or unregenerate, God has given Him power over all flesh that he should give eternal life to as many as His Father has given Him. He has put all things under His feet, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” He is Heir, or Master, and Possessor of all things;—let me say, of all sorts of blessings, and all forms of grace, “because he was well pleased for all the fullness to dwell in him” (Col 1:19); and as surely as time revolves, and you mark the fleeting minutes upon the dial’s face, the hour is coming when Christ shall be universally acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords. Already I seem to hear the shouts go up from every part of the habitable globe, and from all heaven and all space, “Hallelujah! For the Lord God, the All-Powerful, reigns!” (Rev 19:6). All must willingly, or else unwillingly, submit to His sway, for His Father has appointed Him “Heir of all things.”
through whom he also made the world I love to think that He who created all things is also our Savior, for then He can create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. If I need a complete new creation—as I certainly do—He is equal to the task.
who is the radiance of his glory Shade your eyes, for you cannot look upon this wondrous sight without being dazzled by it. Some commentators say—and it is not an inappropriate analogy, though we must not push any analogy too far—that, as light is to the sun, so is Jesus to the glory of God. He is the brightness of that glory. That is to say, there is not any glory in God but what is also in Christ: and when that glory reaches its climax, when God the Ever-Glorious is most glorious, that greatest glory is in Christ. Oh, this wondrous Word of God—the very climax of the Godhead—the gathering up of every blessed attribute in all its infinity of glory! You shall find all this in the person of the God-man, Christ Jesus.
representation of his essence Whatever God is, Christ is. The very likeness of God, the very Godhead of Godhead, the very Deity of Deity, is in Christ Jesus.
Dr. John Owen, who loves to explain the spiritual meaning in the Letter to the Hebrews by the types in the Old Testament, explains the brightness of the Father’s glory by a reference to the Shekinah over the mercy seat, which was the only visible token of the presence of God there. An extraordinary brightness is said to have shone forth from between the cherubim. Now, Christ is God manifesting Himself in His brightness. But, on his forehead, the high priest wore a golden plate, upon which was deeply engraved, in Hebrew letters, the inscription, “Holiness to [or of] Yahweh.” Dr. Owen thinks there is a reference, in this “representation of his essence”—this cut-out inscription of God, as it were—to that which was on the forehead of the high priest, and which represented the glorious wholeness or holiness of Yahweh, which is His great glory.
You see how glorious was His original—the “representation” of His Father’s person. How lowly did He become to purge away our sins, and that by Himself, too, using His own body to be the means, by His sufferings, of taking away our guilt. Not by proxy did He serve us, but by Himself. Oh, this is wondrous love!
sustaining all things by the word of power Just think of it. This great world of ours is upheld by Christ’s word. If He did not speak it into continued existence, it would go back into the nothingness from which it sprung. There exists not a being who is independent of the Mediator, save only the ever-blessed Father and the Spirit. “In him all things are held together” (Col 1:17), that is, continue to hold together. Just as the foundations uphold a house, so does Jesus Christ “sustain all things by the word of his power.”
Only think of it; those innumerable worlds of light that make unbounded space to look as though it were sprinkled over with golden dust, would all die out, like so many expiring sparks, and cease to be, if the Christ who died on Calvary did not will that they should continue to exist. Surely, if Christ upholds all things He can uphold me. If the word of His power upholds earth and heaven, surely, that same word can uphold you, poor trembling heart, if you will trust him.
* * *
Adapted from the Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, available digitally as part of the Spurgeon Commentary Collection: New Testament Letters, and coming soon to print.
In honor of Charles Spurgeon’s birthday, we’re giving away a paperback copy the Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews as well as the Spurgeon Commentary: Galatians! See this blog post for entry rules.