“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by (his) a Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (ages); Who being the brightness of (his) glory, and the express image of his person (being) and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
A CONTINUED SPEAKING OF GOD IN TWO DISPENSATIONS ( Vss 1, 2)
The writer in Hebrews begins with the clear-cut distinction between the two Dispensations of God. He writes from the historical view-point of the end of the first Century A.D. He speaks of the “time past” in distinction from “these last days.” The question is: how are we to understand this distinction? It is my conviction that the latter phrase must not be made to refer to the entire New Testament era, the time from Christ’s ascension till his return with clouds, but that exegetically it refers to the time from the birth of Christ till his ascension to glory at the right hand of God’s Majesty on high. Concerning the former designation of “time past” (palai) there can be no doubt but what it refers to all the ages before the point in time called elsewhere in Scripture the fullness of time. (Gal. 4:4) More particularly it refers to the time from God’s speaking to Adam and Eve in Paradise in the Prot-evangel of Gen. 3:15, till the time of the last prophet Malachi, some 400 years before the birth of Christ. The view-point thus of these two times in which God spoke are that of promise and fulfillment as so beautifully defined in Question 19 of the Heidelberg Catechism,” . . . the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and last has fulfilled by his only begotten Son.” The key-words here are: revealed, published (proclaimed) represented (portrayed) and fulfilled! Such is the perspective of the writer to the Hebrews here in these verses under consideration. And such is the perspective of the entire book of Hebrews.
It is true that the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes that it is God who has spoken; it is He and none else who is the Author and Speaker in the Prophets and in the Son. That is the starting point here, and it is also the end of all contradiction. Thus we read in the book of Genesis “In the beginning God…” And here it is stated that it is this God who continued to speak. It is the same God in both Dispensations with whom we have to do! There is something in the construction of the Greek sentence here which we ought to notice. It is this: the God who spoke through the prophets to the days in a Son! Had He not spoken then He could not have spoken now! Moreover, all that God spoke in time past, was such that it awaited what God spoke in these last days. He continued to speak even though it seemed for a while, during the 400 years between Malachi and the birth of John the Baptist, that he had discontinued speaking. The Old Testament Scriptural canon ends with the announcement of great things to come. (Malachi 4:5-6.)
The writer here also indicates that now this speaking of God has virtually ended. The full counsel of God concerning our redemption is now revealed, and fulfilled. There is really nothing more for God to add to what He has said. He will not continue to speak. Hehas spoken and we have but to heed. And He has spoken in these last days in a Son. That makes it authentic and final. We are to give earnest heed to the things spoken. (Hebrews 2:1-4). Therefore we must not think of this speaking as a continual speaking, an endless repetition, nor must we think here of the Scriptures as being simple a record of what God has spoken: the Bible is the Word of God, and is as suchTheopneustic, that is, it is God-breathed. When we read the Bible we read the Word of God, we read what He has spoken through the prophets to the fathers and what He has spoken in these last days in a Son!
According to the Greek text God spoke in the prophets and in (the) a Son. This means that the writer puts all the prophets in one class. All the prophets together were such that God was speaking in them, in their speaking and writing. They said: thus saith the Lord. And all who heard them heard God speaking to them in these prophets! And all who heard the Son heard God speaking to them in the Son. However, there was a difference in this speaking in the two instances. The speaking in a Son was much more sublime, richer and fuller. For this speaking was not merely in words, but it was in the Son that we hear God speaking much nearer to us: this Son is God in the flesh, Immanuel! God was in Christ reconciling us and the world to Himself. Here is the Mystery of godliness that is great. God is manifested in the flesh. It is for this reason evidently that the writer in the original Greek does not write ““he Son” nor “His Son”, but simply “a Son.” This does not deny that He was the Son as is evident from what follows in the next verses and from the entire letter, but it does emphasize that the speaking was different in these last days. Not the identity of the Son is pointed out, but the manner of the speaking of God is underscored. It was here that God spake as He could not and did not speak in the prophets to the fathers! God spoke in the prophets in “sundry times.” Fact is, that in the Greek text this is really in “many parts.” Each prophet became the vehicle of a “part” of what God had to say to the fathers; it was all piece-meal be it then that in the totality there was progressively more that God spake thus. And in the prophets God spoke in “divers manners.” Each was distinctly the time for the prophet to speak in a certain manner. God spoke in visions, dreams, symbolisms, symbolic acts of the prophets, divine theophanies, or directly through the mouth of the prophets, moving them to speak time past. But the manner was never in a Son in But now in these last days God spoke to us in a Son in the full glory of grace and truth! Thus God continued to speak in these last times!
THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD’S SPEAKING IN HIS SON UNDERSCORED (Vss 2b–4)
1. This is underscored in the identity and deity of the Son. (vss. 2, 3) Thus we read “Whom he hath appointed heir of all things by whom also He made the worlds (ages)” This underscores his greatness and identity. And again we read “who being the effulgence of (his) glory, the expressed image of his being (person).” This underscores the deity of the Son. The two can be distinguished, but may not ever be separated. He is not the one without the other; he is not appointed heir of all things apart from his being the effulgence of glory and the expressed image of God’s being or essence!
The manner of God’s speaking to us in these last days is unique, that is, there is nothing like it or equal to it in all the speaking in the prophets. For this is a speaking in him who has been appointed Heir of all things. The Son is the Heir of heaven and earth; He is the Son in whom Abraham is called heir of the world. (Rom. 4:13) Such was not the case with the prophets. He is heir of creation and all of history and all of the ages are made by him. Thus he is in the Counsel of God, and thus he was appointed (established) Heir of all things. And all of history is the Son claiming his Heirship. For the “worlds” here are the “ages”; it refers to history, the history in which prophets are vehicles through whom God spoke in times past; he controls these ages and gives meaning to them; apart from him all history is meaningless, and the Old Testament Scriptures could only give us an account of a Jewish epic, the glories, the heroes, the fortitudes of a great nation among the nations of the world as these are recorded and acclaimed in its poetry and literature. But now history is the concern of God in the great Heir, a Son, who makes history and leads all things so that they are placed under His feet for the benefit of the heirs of the promises. That makes God’s speech in these last days unique! It is the bringing of the First-born Son through suffering and death, to glory.
Furthermore, it should be noticed that the Son could never be such unless he is also very God. He is “the brightness of (his) glory, the expressed image of his being.” This calls for a bit of exegesis and interpretation. We are dealing here with unfathomable mystery to be sure. However, we must say something about this revealed mystery of godliness which is great.
In the first place, we would notice that the term “brightness” here is the translation of the Greek term “apaugasma.” The term comes from the verb “Augazoo” which means to beam, to shine, to be bright. The term “augee” radiance is used especially of the sun. “”Apaugazma” means to emit brightness. The term is sometimes used of “reflected” brightness. It then is not effulgence of light, but the refulgence of light. It is then mirrored light merely and not light from the deepest source, the Fountain of light. It seems to me that the term “brightness” here must be understood in the sense of “effulgence of light” which comes from the Fountain itself. This is the light which proceeds from the fountain-head of God’s glory itself; it proceeds from God’s virtues of power, wisdom, might, majesty and honor. It means that this Son is in the very light; dwells in the unsearchable light of God Himself. All the glory of God is radiated in and through him in all the world. He is not the mirror of the light, but he is such that the light of God’s glory is in him. In him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily!
In close connection with the foregoing, yea, basic to the foregoing is the deep and impenetrable mystery that he “is the expressed image of His being.” It is true that the King James Version translates “upostasis” by the term “person.” However, in doing so they evidently follow the theological terminology of the Latins who speak of the three persons as the “three Upostasis.” It ought to be stated here and now that a careful study of the term in the Bible shows that such is not the meaning of the term in Scriptural usage. We therefore follow the Dutch and German translations, which translate “Upostasis,” “zelfstandigheid” and “Wesen,” respectively. Wherefore we hold that the term means: expressed image of God’s Being. Now it may be true that we cannot build the doctrine of the essential unity of the Son with the godhead on this one text; it nonetheless remains true that only thus can the Son be said to be the effulgence of God’s glory. He is the “expressed image” of it, that is, he is such that the impress of God’s very being is upon him. When God, therefore, spoke to us in these last days in him, He came very near to us: God visited his people! Says Jesus: He that hath seen me hath seen the Father!