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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 1 - Verse 2
Verse 2. Hath in these last days. In this the final dispensation; or in this dispensation under which the affairs of the world will be wound up. Phrases similar to this occur frequently in the Scriptures. They do not imply that the world was soon coming to an end, but that that was the last dispensation, the last period of the world. There had been the patriarchal period, the period under the law, the prophets, etc., and this was the period during which God's last method of communication would be enjoyed, and under which the world would close. It might be a very long period, but it would be the last one; and, so far as the meaning of the phrase is concerned, it might be the longest period, or longer than all the others put together, but still it would be the last one. See Barnes "Ac 2:17"; See Barnes "Isa 2:2".
Spoken unto us. The word "us" here does not of necessity imply that the writer of the epistle had actually heard him, or that they had heard him to whom the epistle was written. It means that God had now communicated his win to man by his Son. It may be said, with entire propriety, that God has spoken to us by his Son, though we have not personally heard or seen him. We have what he spoke, and caused to be recorded, for our direction.
By his Son. The title commonly given to the Lord Jesus, as denoting his peculiar relation to God. It was understood, by the Jews, to denote equality with God, (See Barnes "Joh 5:18"; comp. See Barnes "Joh 10:33,36, ) and is used with such a reference here. See Barnes "Ro 1:4, where the meaning of the phrase "Son of God" is fully considered. It is implied here, that the fact, that the Son of God has spoken to us, imposes the highest obligations to attend to what he has said; that he has authority superior to all those who have spoken in past times; and that there will be peculiar guilt in refusing to attend to what he has spoken. See Heb 2:1-4; comp. Heb 12:25. The reasons for the superior respect which should be shown to the revelations of the Son of God may be such as these:—-
(2.) The clearness of the truths which he communicated to man, on a great variety of subjects, that are of the highest moment to the world. Revelation has been gradual—like the breaking of the day in the east. At first there is a little light; it increases and expands till objects become more and more visible, and then the sun rises in full-orbed glory. At first we discern only the existence of some object—- obscure and undefined; then we can trace-its outline; then its colour, its size, its proportions, its drapery—till it stands before us fully revealed. So it has been with revelation. There is a great variety of subjects which we now see clearly, which were very imperfectly understood by the teaching of the prophets, and would be now if we had only the Old Testament. Among them are the following:—
(a.) The character of God. Christ came to make him known as a merciful Being, and to show how he could be merciful as well as just. The views given of God by the Lord Jesus are far more clear than any given by the ancient prophets; compared with those entertained by the ancient philosophers, they are like the sun compared with the darkest midnight.
(b.) The way in which man may be reconciled to God, The New Testament— which may be considered as that which God "has spoken to us by his Son" —has told us how the great work of being reconciled to God can be effected. The Lord Jesus told us that he came to "give his life a ransom for many;" that he laid down his life for his friends; that he was about to die for man; that he would draw all men to him. The prophets indeed— particularly Isaiah —threw much light on these points. But the mass of the people did not understand their revelations. They pertained to future events—always difficult to be understood. But Christ has told us the way of salvation; and he has made it so plain, that he who runs may read.
(c.) The moral precepts of the Redeemer are superior to those of any and all that had gone before him. They are elevated, pure, expansive, benevolent—such as became the Son of God to proclaim. Indeed, this is admitted on all hands. Infidels are constrained to acknowledge, that all the moral precepts of the Saviour are eminently pure and benignant. If they were obeyed, the world would be filled with justice, truth, purity, and benevolence. Error, fraud, hypocrisy, ambition, wars, licentiousness, and intemperance, would cease; and the opposite virtues would diffuse happiness over the face of the world. Prophets had indeed delivered many moral precepts of great importance, but the purest and most extensive body of just principles and of good morals on earth are to be found in the teachings of the Saviour.
(d.) He has given to us the clearest view which man has had of the future state; and he has disclosed, in regard to that future state, a class of truths of the deepest interest to mankind, which were before wholly unknown or only partially revealed.
1. He has revealed the certainty of a state of future existence—in opposition to the Sadducees of all ages. This was denied, before he came, by multitudes; and where it was not, the arguments by which it was supported were often of the feeblest kind. The truth was held by some—like Plato and his followers—but the arguments on which they relied were feeble, and such as were unfitted to give rest to the soul. The truth they had obtained by TRADITION; the arguments were THEIR OWN.
2. He revealed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. This before was doubted or denied by nearly all the world. It was held to be absurd and impossible. The Saviour taught its certainty; he raised up more than one to show that it was possible; he was himself raised, to put the whole matter beyond debate.
3. He revealed the certainty of future judgment—the judgment of all mankind.
4. He disclosed great and momentous truths respecting the future state. Before he came, all was dark. The Greeks spoke of Elysian fields, but they were dreams of the imagination; the Hebrews had some faint notion of a future state, where all was dark and gloomy, with perhaps an occasional glimpse of the truth that there is a holy and blessed heaven; but to the mass of mind, all was obscure. Christ revealed a heaven, and told us of a hell. He showed us that the one might be gained, and the other avoided. He presented important motives for doing it; and, had he done nothing more, his communications were worthy the profound attention of mankind. I may add,
(3.) That the Son of God has claims on our attention from the MANNER in which he spoke, He spoke as one having "authority," Mt 7:29. He spoke as a witness of what he saw and knew, Joh 3:11. He spoke without doubt or ambiguity of God, and heaven, and hell. His is the language of one who is familiar with all that he describes; who saw all, who knew all. There is no hesitancy or doubt in his mind of the truth of what he speaks; and he speaks as if his whole soul were impressed with its unspeakable importance. Never were so momentous communications made to men of hell as fell from the lips of the Lord Jesus, (See Barnes "Mt 23:33"
;) never were announcements made so fitted to awe and appall a sinful world.
This is language taken from the fact that he is "the SON of God." If a Son, then he is an heir —for so it is usually among men. This is not to be taken literally, as if he inherits anything as a man does. An heir is one who inherits anything after the death of its possessor—usually his father. But this cannot be applied in this sense to the Lord Jesus. The language is used to denote his rank and dignity as the Son of God. As such, all things are his, as the property of the father descends to his son at his death. The word rendered heir— klhronomov—means, properly,
(1.) one who acquires anything by lot; and
(2.) an heir in the sense in which we usually understand the word. It may also denote a possessor of anything received as s portion, or of property of any kind. See Ro 4:13,14. It is, in every instance, rendered heir in the New Testament. Applied to Christ, it means that, as the Son of God, he is possessor or lord of all things, or that all things are his. Comp. Ac 2:36; 10:36; Joh 17:10; 16:15. "All things that the Father hath are mine." The sense is, that all things belong to the Son of God. Who is so rich, then, as Christ? Who so able to endow his friends with enduring and abundant wealth?
By whom. By whose agency; or who was the actual agent in the creation. Grotius supposes that this means, "on account of whom;" and that the meaning is, that the universe was formed with reference to the Messiah, in accordance with an ancient Jewish maxim, But the more common and classical usage of the word rendered by, (dia,) when it governs a genitive, as here, is to denote the instrumental cause; the agent by which anything is done. See Mt 1:22; 2:5,15,23; Lu 18:31; Joh 1:17
It may be true that the universe was formed with reference to the glory of the Son Of God, and that this world was brought into being in order to show his glory; but it would not do to establish that doctrine on a passage like this. Its obvious and proper meaning is, that he was the agent of the creation—a truth that is elsewhere abundantly taught. See Joh 1:3,10; Col 1:16; Eph 3:9; 1 Co 8:6.
This sense, also, better agrees with the design of the apostle in this place. His object is to set forth the dignity of the Son of God. This is better shown by the consideration that he was the Creator of all things, than that all things were made for him.
The worlds. The universe, or creation. So the word here— aiwn—is undoubtedly used in Heb 11:3. The word properly means age—an indefinitely long period of time; then perpetuity, ever, eternity—always being. For an extended investigation of the meaning of the word, the reader may consult an essay by Prof. Stuart, in the Spirit of the Pilgrims, for 1829, pp. 406—452. From the sense of age, or duration, the word comes to denote the present and future age; the present world, and the world to come; the present world, with all its cares, anxieties, and evils; the men of this world—a wicked generation, etc. Then it means the world —the material universe—creation as it is. The only perfectly clear use of the word in this sense in the New Testament is in Heb 11:3, and there there can be no doubt. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were made by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." The passage before us will bear the same interpretation, and this is the most obvious and intelligible. What would be the meaning of saying that the ages or dispensations were made by the Son of God? The Hebrews used the word—
—olam—in the same sense. It properly means age, duration; and thence it came to be used by them to denote the world—made up of ages or generations; and then the world itself. This is the fair, and, as it seems to me, the only intelligible interpretation of this passage—an interpretation amply sustained by texts referred to above, as demonstrating that the universe was made by the agency of the Son of God Comp. See Barnes "Heb 1:10, and See Barnes "Joh 1:3".
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