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 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. (Hebrews 1:1–4)
These first four verses of the letter to the Hebrews are just one extended sentence in the original Greek. And some scholars have called it the most magnificent sentence in ancient literature.
Hebrews 1:1–4 puts Jesus before our eyes in sevenfold glory. Before the author even says “look to the Son” (as he will later: “consider Jesus” in 3:1; “looking to Jesus” in 12:1–2), he starts his letter by rehearsing the honors that make God’s Son worth looking to.
When someone asks you to tell him about Jesus, or you need a pointed text to “look to the Son,” perhaps return to this amazing single sentence at the beginning of Hebrews. Note three glories in particular.
God Made the Universe and History for Jesus
After Hebrews introduces Jesus as God’s Son, the first description that follows is “whom he appointed the heir of all things.” It’s a surprising first thing to say about Jesus, especially because he goes on to mention creation (“through whom also [God] created the world”). Wouldn’t it make better sense to start with creation? Why heir first, then creator as the “also”?
Even before God made the world, he planned for his Son to be heir. God made the world to give it to his Son as a gift. All history (not just “the world,” but “the ages”) is the Father giving his Son an inheritance fit for God. Don’t think that God only decided to send his Son to our rescue as Plan B, after we messed up. Rather, Jesus was the planned heir and hero from the beginning. God created the world to do what happy fathers rejoice to do for their sons: give them gifts.
Jesus Shows Us God and is God
That he is “the radiance of the glory of God” means he is the shining forth, or the out-streaming, of God’s glory. He is what humans see of the sun of God. He is what we humans feel and smell and touch and ultimately taste of God. And he is what we hear of God: he is the “Word,” the final and decisive revelation of God.
But he is not just radiance, but “the exact imprint of [God’s] nature.” Just as a stamp makes the same mark each time, so he and his Father are from the same mold, so to speak. The Son is the exact imprint of his Father’s nature. Jesus is every bit as much God as his Father is — “self-same perfect in Godhead,” as the ancient creed says. Jesus is God in his own right, and no lesser in essence than his Father.
And as God, Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Lest we think because he is God’s heir, and God’s radiance, that he is somehow lesser than or not fully God, take note: not only is he “exact imprint” of the divine nature, but he holds the universe together moment by moment — and does so with such authority that he accomplishes it by his word. As the apostle Paul confesses in Colossians 1:17, “in him all things hold together.”
Jesus Gave Himself For Us
When Jesus made purification for sins, it was not for himself. He had none. Rather, he did for us what we could not do for ourselves. “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). He could be our mediator, and make purification for sins, because he is both one with the Father (John 10:30) and one with us (Hebrews 2:11).
It’s controversial today to say that Jesus is the only way, but what’s so easy to overlook is the amazing truth that there is any way at all. It can sound like we’re saying, “Your way doesn’t count; only ours.” That’s not the heart of true Christianity. What we’re saying is that we’re all spiritually, eternally, really and truly dead in the water, and the only chance for us is that God himself would become one of us to die for us and then bring us with him into his presence.
Set Your Eyes on the Savior
So as we look to the Son, we will not be content simply to affirm that he is a prophet, or a good moral teacher, or an exemplary life. We will say that Jesus is God himself, the one who made you, came in the flesh, to save you. He is fully God and fully man in one person. He is Grace Incarnate, come from outside ourselves, to rescue us from the evil that is inside ourselves. And he gave his own life to make purification for our sins, then rose in triumph, and now is seated on the very throne of the universe, and you can know him for yourself. Look to him. Look to the Son.