Enthroned On High
The Book of Hebrews is a unique book within the New Testament canon. We do not know who wrote this book. What we do know, however, is that the author of Hebrews had a keen understanding of the Hebrew faith. More than any other New Testament book, Hebrews provides a detailed explanation of how the ancient rites of the Old Testament find fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.
This has caused many to surmise that the author wrote this book for Jewish readers as a kind of apologetic for the Christian faith. And yet, in that this book has been canonized in Holy Scripture, we should regard the contents of this book to also be relevant for you and I in 2005.
I submit to you that the relevance of this book is due, in large measure, because it ably addresses the age-old question, ‘How does humanity approach God?’ How does the created being get on with the Creator?
The answer provided in this Book, and elsewhere, is Jesus Christ. The way to approach the God of the Universe is through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the burden of the Book of Hebrews.
The Book begins on an upbeat note, declaring first that “God has spoken” (1:1). This is an encouraging reminder. We want God to speak to us. We want to know what God expects from us; we want to know how to get on in this world as we were intended.
Because if we are to have any hope of pleasing God, He will need to communicate clearly with us. I think back to the days when I began playing rugby at Ridley College. I did not grow up playing rugby and so it was a bit of a learning experience for me. What complicated the learning experience was my coach—a great big Englishman (I have nothing against Englishman, so please bear with me!).
My difficulty with this coach was that he taught by way of correction—that is, he primarily instructed us after we had committed a serious blunder. These blunders, in my mind, could have been easily avoided if we had some advance instruction. Without this advance instruction, we lacked certainty and confidence that we were playing the game of rugby as we ought.
Thankfully, the God who calls us to Himself has not been silent. God does not wait for us to ‘mess up’ before He instructs us. We have advance instruction from God, and it is comprehensive. We are reminded, “God has spoken” to humanity—“God has spoken long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways” (1:1).
This is a reference to the fact that throughout the Old Testament, God frequently communicated with His people, and not by a single means, but by a variety of means that included human beings (prophets), visions, events, and angelic revelations.
The author then connects how God has spoken in the past with how God has spoken to us for today. The author writes, “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” (1:2).
In other words, what has been said in the past through a variety of means was intended to prepare us for God’s definitive word, given in His Son, Jesus Christ. You could say that Jesus is ‘God’s final word’. That is, there will be no new plan introduced to humanity. The message will not need to be updated.
I find it comforting that, in a world where everything seems to change, God’s message to humanity, given through His Son, remains totally unaltered. And, in order to help us better understand the sufficiency this message, the author of Hebrews establishes for us, in this chapter and beyond, the supremacy of Christ.
For some, to hear that Jesus is God’s Son is enough. But, lest we be slow in appreciating the supremacy of Christ, we are also told that the Son has been “appointed the heir of all things” (1:2). What does that mean? Was there a time when Christ was not the heir? No, time elements are apt to confuse when talking about the God of eternity (Guthrie, Hebrews, 64). The eternal nature of the Son’s supremacy is evident in the subsequent declaration that it was through the Son that the world was made (1:2).
What a staggering statement! Jesus is not some new addition to the cosmos, sent merely to redeem us—He is the Creator of the cosmos! The One who created this vast Universe with its innumerable stars and planets is the same One who took on human flesh and lived among us.
With that being said, we must be careful. Though Christ existed for a time as a man, we must not reduce Him to merely being a man. Though He walked with us, for a time, like a created being, we must not imagine Him to be less than our Creator. And lest we seek to detach the person of Christ from the Godhead, we are told that (Christ) “is the radiance of (God’s) glory and the exact representation of His nature” (1:3).
The second half of that statement explains the first half, and does so with an interesting comparison—the Greek employed here is commonly used to describe the work of a stamp. The idea is that the impression a stamp makes is identical to the pattern on the stamp, and yet there remains a distinction between the stamp itself and the stamp’s impression (Guthrie, Hebrews, 66).
Who is Jesus? Jesus, the Son of God, though distinct from God the Father, is the identical impression of His Nature—and, as such, shares with the Father all authority and power. In other words, the Son is equal to the Father—they are one and the same. Like the Father, Christ is said to “uphold all things by the word of His power” (1:3).
That statement takes things one important step further. The author of Hebrews does not present Christ as the God who merely creates the Universe and then leaves the mechanisms of creation to keep things rolling. No, Christ not only created everything—past tense, but He is said to be “upholding all things by the word of His power”—present tense! That is to say, we are talking about a God who remains dynamically involved with His creation.
This is good news. We are being assured that God is not far off. God is not indifferent towards our predicament. As we struggle with the effects of sin and suffering, God is not sitting with folded arms, but rather, as the author of Hebrews reports, Christ “made purification” for our sins, following which “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).
I would like to hit the ‘pause button’ for a minute to ask you a question. The question I have for you is this: What is the greatest human need? This is not a question about ‘wants’, but a question about genuine human need. What do human beings need more than anything else?
I suspect that if I took this question to the halls of Humbertown Shopping Centre I would receive a variety of answers. Perhaps someone, on their way into Loblaws, would answer ‘food and sustenance’. ‘If we don’t have food and drink, we cannot survive.’ Perhaps someone heading upstairs to the Remaxx office would answer that ‘what we need most is a home—a place to safely lay our head at night’. Perhaps someone going into the Royal Bank answers that ‘we can’t have food or a home unless we have money—a bank account with lots of money is what we need most.’ Someone else, on their way down the escalator to the doctor’s office answers that ‘we need good health more than anything.’
I certainly concur with the notion that health, money, food and a safe place to lodge are essential human needs. And, admittedly, if all that there is to this life is to be found in this world, I am inclined to wholeheartedly agree with the assertions of my imaginary interviewees.
However, what if there is more to this world than what we see? What if the biblical authors are correct in describing a heavenly realm—a realm that is pure; a realm where God dwells; a realm that is free from the contamination of sin?
If the biblical authors are correct, then my imaginary interviewees at Humbertown have not provided the best response. If the biblical authors are correct, what human beings need more than anything else in the world is purification from our sins.
If humanity is riddled with sin, and if the heavenly realm is totally free from the contamination of sin, then it logically follows that humanity’s greatest need is not the preservation of physical health or temporal acquisitions, but rather, our greatest need is gaining spiritual health and deliverance from sin.
In Hebrews chapter 1, we are told that the One through whom the world was made, came into this world to provide for our greatest need.
And the success of Christ’s rescue mission is communicated clearly through the phrase, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).
Christ’s position on the throne in Heaven is indicative of the Father’s approval of His work, and the action of sitting down carries the connotation of fulfillment (Guthrie, Hebrews, 69)—it is a demonstration that the sacrificial work is entirely done.
If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, then you are free from sin’s dominion. Christ need not be crucified again for you, to atone for future sins—the work is done.
Friends, last Sunday we examined a passage of Scripture that challenged us to return to our “first love”, Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:1-7). If any would ask why Christ should be positioned first in our life, I would bring such a person to Hebrews chapter 1. Jesus Christ has obtained, for all those who turn to Him, deliverance from sin.
The One who created the Universe and governs it by His power; the One who created us and came into this world to rescue us from our dire predicament, now sits enthroned in heaven above. This One, Jesus Christ, the King of angels, calls you and calls me to live for Him.
As Jesus Christ is first and foremost in this Universe, He must also be first and foremost in our lives. And so, may we give Him nothing less. Amen.