A New World – Hebrews 1

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“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (image) of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

A study in the New Testament Letter of Hebrews, picking up its theme new heavens and new earth, begins with the temple imagery from the Old Testament. Eden was the first temple, where Adam and Eve were formed in the image (statue/ representation) of God. Christ is the exact image of God, which in ancient language means the presider over new creation. The tabernacle/ temple, a representation of the cosmos, the earth and the heavens, common in all ancient religions, finds its fulfilment in the new creation of Christ.

This isn’t “second person” theology, but God the creator of all things, immanent/ present (Immanuel) in the flesh of his Son, i.e., born of man. He is the one who by his Spirit filled the tabernacle, meaning his glory will fill the cosmos. He fulfils ancient temple hopes by taking away our sin, through forgiving sin on the cross and sets about to establish a new creation without sin.

Christ is better than the angels, in that he is the one who inherits the creation, for its transformation. Christ receives a throne, which means the Adamic rule over the cosmos. This is the throne promised to David’s seed, which inherits the commission of man to rule over the creation. This is similar to Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, who shows Christ ruling until all enemies are subdued under him, until the cosmos is refashioned after God’s image.

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” The only one who can achieve God’s plan for the world is God himself. Only the one who first formed creation has the wisdom to reform it.

“They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.” This doesn’t mean the creation will literally perish. The Old Testament uses this language to speak of creation in the sense of God establishing an order from chaos. Psalm 74 uses the same language for the original creation to speak of God bringing Israel into creation, out of the chaos of Egypt.

“You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures (Israel) of the Wilderness… Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the land; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:13-17)

God formed Israel as a new Adam, a new creation, to bear his image to the world. Hebrews shows the remaking of that world once again, this time by the dissolution of the former creation, cosmos, represented by the temple in Jerusalem. The world of sin, represented by the closed veil in the temple, shall be done away and a new creation established in the nations.

“They shall be changed…” The word here means transformed, renewed. Paul used the word for the transformation of our body in the resurrection. It refers to the new creation, to “make all things new,” the filling of the cosmos with his glory. The creation then becomes a new temple, just as Revelation 21-22 depict, the same language as in Ezekiel’s vision of the renewed world.

Hebrews 1 sets the stage for the rest of the book. Christ is the exact image of God, He is the fulfilment of God’s promise to come and take sin and death out of the world. The script is set in the symbolic use of temple language, commonly understood in ancient times. which the author of Hebrews uses throughout the letter. The temple represents heaven and earth, which is being changed through the cross and resurrection of Christ.