THE KING’S SEVEN-FOLD CREDENTIAL – Hebrews 1


God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Hebrews 1:1‭-‬3 ASV

THE KING’S SEVEN-FOLD CREDENTIAL

The superiority of Christianity over Judaism is set forth in the opening lines of Hebrews and with an emphasis that makes the superiority overwhelming.

The new revelation came, not through servants, as in the prophets, but through the Son and heir of all things.

The superiority of the new institution is actually the subject matter of the whole epistle; and that superiority derives totally from the Son who in this chapter is presented as none other than God himself, humbled in the incarnation, of course, but only for a little while and for a definite purpose.

The credentials of the Son are not few but many; and in Hebrews 1:2 and Hebrews 1:3, no less than seven credentials of his authority are enumerated.

1. “Whom he appointed heir of all things …” It was in our Lord’s status as a man that he was appointed heir of all things, since in his character as God, he created all things. Bruce wrote,

These words no doubt echo the oracle of Psalms 2:8, addressed to one who is both the Lord’s Anointed and acclaimed by God as his Son:

Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Our author applies the preceding words of this oracle to Christ in Hebrews 1:5; but in his mind the inheritance of the Son of God is not limited to earth; it embraces the universe, and particularly the world to come.

These credentials, if we may so name them, establish the authority of the King of kings, Christ; and the first of these makes him king by right of inheritance, which is the classical and historical means of establishing kingly authority.

In our world, even today, the great fortunes still move along lines of inheritances; and the most stable thrones move on the same trajectory.

As a man, Christ is the “firstborn” of all creation, entitling him as the heir of all things, more especially in view of the additional fact that, in the most exalted sense, he is the “only begotten.”

2. “Through whom also he made the worlds …”

This second credential makes Christ King by right of creation. What one makes is his; and we are Christ’s, as are the worlds also, by fact of creation by Christ.

This astonishing declaration is supported by other scriptures.

“For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible, and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him and unto him” (Colossians 1:16). “

All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made” (John 1:3).

It is evident that Hebrews presents Christ as a member of the Godhead, present and active in creation, and therefore hailed as maker of the worlds, or ages, but not to be distinguished from “all things.”

Thus, here is revealed a part of the mystery why God said, “Let us make man in our own image” (Genesis 1:26).

Isaiah called him “Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6), thus making our Saviour a partner and participant in the immutable counsels of the Eternal before the world was made, a fact implicit in the words of Christ himself when he prayed, “Father glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5).

An astronomer recently announced that the universe contains twelve quadrillions of suns, each with its own solar system.

What is a quadrillion?

In the United States and France, it is the figure 1, with fifteen ciphers; and in England, it is the figure 1, with twenty-four ciphers.

Just think of the size of the universe! It staggers the imagination.

It is foolish to say the universe centers in the sun.

It centers in Christ.

The entire universe holds together in HIM.

He is pre-existent.

He is Creator.

He is thus fit to be the Lord and ruler of the world!

3. “The effulgence of his glory” refers to the personal excellence of Christ, making him entitled to the kingship of the world by the very qualities of his life and character, even in the incarnated state; so that, if some means of determining the being most qualified by personal traits to be hailed universal ruler could be applied to all who ever lived on earth, Christ would infinitely surpass all others.

This radiated glory of the Lord is called “emitted splendor”

The meaning, I think, is that the divine perfections shone brightly in the Son, even after he was made flesh.

Hence, John saith in his Gospel (John 1:14), “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.”

4. “And the very image of his substance” is somewhat ambiguous in the common versions; and the scholars give its meaning variously as:

“He is the counterpart or facsimile of the Father.”

“Very God of very God.”

“The exact representation of the very being of God.”

“The same essence with the Father, etc. Certainly, then, this refers to the divine right of Christ to receive people’s worship, adoration, and obedience.

Christ is entitled to be honored as King by divine right and is the only being ever so entitled to rulership; although he is by no means the only one ever to claim it!

5. “Upholding all things by the word of his power” makes Christ to be the sustaining force of the cosmos itself, again reminding one of Paul’s declaration in Colossians 1:16,17, “He is before all things, and in him all things consist.”

This credential undergirds Christ’s throne by right of maintenance and support.

One who is the sole support and source of every power within his creatures and creations has every right to rule over them and to expect true love and submission to his will.

Perhaps a word is in order regarding the manner of Christ’s upholding all things. It is “by the word of his power,” hence spiritual by nature; and that spirituality is evident from the very makeup of material things themselves.

Dr. John Cleveland Cothran, distinguished mathematician and chemist, has noted that:

Each atom of the 102 elements consists of exactly the same three kinds of particles: protons, electrons, and neutrons; all the protons and neutrons of a given kind of atom are located in a central nucleus; all of the electrons, equal in number to the protons, spin on their axes and revolve at relatively great distances from it – rather reminiscent of a miniature solar system, so that most of the volume of the atom is merely empty space, just as is that of the solar system.

The spinning of those fantastically small particles approaches the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second; and that has been going on since Creation, without any interruption whatsoever!

Why?

The only intelligent answer must lie in the fact that Someone has commanded it; and who could such a Someone be, but God?

Our logical and inescapable conclusion is not only that creation occurred, but that it was brought about according to the plan and will of a Person endowed with supreme intelligence and knowledge (omniscience), and the power to bring it about and keep it running according to plan (omnipotence), always and everywhere throughout the universe (omnipresence).

Thus, there is a recognizable need for the “upholding” of all things by a word of power, a need supplied by our Lord, who, as that “word of power,” is rightful king of all creation.

The only logical reason that can be given as to why an electron travels at the speed of light for a thousand years (or a billion) is that Christ has commanded it; and the same is true of suns and galaxies.

6. “When he had made purification of sins” is the credential which makes Christ king by right of purchase. The United States of America governs Alaska, because it was purchased from the Russian government for $7,000,000.00 in gold.

Far greater was the price Christ paid for his human creation, buying them back when they had fallen into sin and were thereby forfeit to Satan.

Yes, “Ye were bought with a price”! (1 Corinthians 6:20).

And what was it?

“Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

It is perhaps impossible fully to understand why such a redemption was necessary, but every verse of the sacred scriptures is oriented to the sublime fact that man’s incredible conduct in the garden of Eden cut him off from fellowship with his Creator and left him to languish in the kingdom of darkness until he should be redeemed.

The interdict could never be lifted until Jesus paid it all upon the cross; and the recognition and appreciation of the marvelous truth that Christ did indeed lift it comprise the most glorious achievement of mortal mind, nor is it to say that such a thing can ever be fully understood until earth and earthly things have passed away.

7. “And hath sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This makes Christ king by right of having taken the kingdom. He is no mere candidate for regal honors, nor is he the “heir apparent”; but by fait accompli, he has already and altogether taken possession and will continue to reign until he has put all enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25).

This is the credential by which many of the kings of the earth have sat upon their respective thrones. William the Conqueror took the throne of England solely by having the power to do it.

He defeated Harold at the battle of Hastings, 1066; and without Harold’s consent, and contrary to the will of many in England, he took the scepter anyway.

There is the counterpart of this in Christ’s credential here considered.

He through death slew him that had the power of death, even the devil (Hebrews 2:14), led captivity captive, gave gifts unto men, and sat down on God’s throne, called here the “right hand of the Majesty on high.”

The representation that Christ has “sat down” is a testimony to the completed nature of his work.

In the Jewish economy, the high priest did not sit down when he went into the Holy of Holies, there being no provision of a chair, testifying to the preparatory and temporal nature of the atonement that he made; but not so with Christ who having accomplished all things is seated at God’s right hand.

Of course, this is not the designation of any place, specifically, the throne of God being a metaphor for the control center of the universe, which in the very nature of things, it is impossible for finite and mortal intelligence to apprehend fully, except by metaphorical comparison to things that are familiar.

The metaphor is based upon the custom of ancient kings to elevate their favorite minister to a seat on the king’s right hand. Several other expressions similar to this are in Hebrews (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

Thus, Christ is king by every conceivable right which was ever recognized as proper and legal undergirding of kingly authority, and by all of them at once.

Thus, by inheritance, by creation, by personal excellence, by divine right, by right of maintenance, by right of purchase, and by fait accompli, Jesus Christ our Lord is the lawful sovereign of all things.

Throughout the farthest reaches of the universe, the natural creations, all of them, suns, satellites, and galaxies, do his will; and what an incredibly strange thing it is that, in all the universe, man alone hesitates and refuses to give full obedience, frequently choosing to cast his lot with Satan and the fallen angels, already doomed and sentenced.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Job 38:4‭-‬7 RSV

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