The Psalmist David, speaking prophetically of Christ’s great accomplishments as our Savior, sang, “His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever” (Ps. 21:5-6). In the book of Hebrews the Holy Spirit tells us something of the great glory of our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the opening words of this magnificent epistle we see that this is the theme of the book.
“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 Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, 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” (1:1-4).
Truly his glory is great in salvation
We are not told who wrote this epistle, when it was written, or to whom it was written. It was obviously written to men and women of Jewish ancestry who were born of God; but we have no indication where they were located. This lack of information is not accidental. God the Holy Spirit, whose Word this is, intended for every person who picks it up and reads it to read it as God’s Word specifically to him.
These Jewish believers, being constantly pressured by family and friends to go back to their former religion, to go back to Judaism, needed encouragement to remain stedfast, to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of hope firm unto the end” (3:6). Like the saints at Galatia, Judaizers were trying to get them to go back to the Mosaic law, back to Jewish ritualism, back to empty, meaningless religious activity, to give up the way of life and faith in Christ. Everywhere, on every side, they were harassed, pressured, and persecuted for the gospel’s sake, because they had abandoned the religion of their father’s and trusted Christ alone for righteousness with God.
In a word, they faced the same pressures God’s saints face in all places and in all ages. This epistle was written by divine inspiration to God’s saints everywhere, inspiring relentless devotion to Christ, by showing us his great glory in salvation.
As we read these 13 chapters describing the greatness of our Savior’s glory in the salvation he accomplished, we should not be at all surprised to see that the focus of the entire epistle is that salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has accomplished. We are reminded of four great facts about Christ and his work as our Mediator throughout this epistle.
1. Everything that the Lord Jesus Christ did for us as our Substitute and Savior he did by himself, alone (1:3; 2:14, 18; 7:27; 9:12-14, 25-26; 12:3).
There was none to help him. He purged our sins by himself, offered himself, gave himself, and obtained eternal redemption for us by himself. His glory is great in salvation precisely because it is his work alone.
2. Everything that the Lord Jesus Christ did for us, as our Substitute and Savior, he did just once (7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10).
There was no need for anything he did to be done twice. Once was enough. He lived once. He obeyed once. He brought in righteousness once. He died once. He arose once. He obtained eternal redemption once. Once is enough.
3. Everything the Son of God did as the God-man our Savior, our Substitute, everything he did for the salvation of God’s elect, he did for us all alike (2:9; 6:20; 9:12; 10:10, 20; 11:40).
He tasted death for us all (2:9). The Son of God died to bring all God’s elect to glory. He entered into heaven for us as a forerunner (6:20). He sanctified every sinner for whom he died by his blood, and perfected us all forever by his once for all sacrifice for us (10:10, 14). The Lord Jesus has made a way for us all to approach and find acceptance with God (10:20). And all God’s elect, every sinner in the universe who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall obtain the same eternal inheritance in Christ (11:40). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Peter, James, and John, Paul, and you, and I shall all be made perfect together.
4. Everything that our Savior did for our salvation, he did perfectly. Nothing needs to be, and nothing can be added to it (10:10-14).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect God, the perfect Man, the perfect Son, the perfect priest, the perfect Sacrifice, the perfect Altar, the perfect Tabernacle, the perfect Captain of our Salvation, and the perfect Surety. And he has “perfected for ever them that are sanctified!”
5. Because everything he did, he did perfectly, and because he is the perfect God-man, because all that he did, he did as our Representative, Substitute, and Surety, everything he did is of infinite value and efficacy.
That simply means everything he did has everlasting consequence. It is forever (1:8; 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21; 10:12-14; 13:20). His throne is forever. His priesthood is forever. He has perfected and sanctified his people forever. His covenant is an everlasting covenant.
Nowhere in Scripture is our Savior’s eternal deity and glorious humanity more clearly set forth than it is in the first two chapters of Hebrews. Remember, the purpose of this epistle is to show forth the greatness of Christ’s glory in the accomplishment of our salvation and to encourage us to remain stedfast in the confidence of our faith in him. What better way could this goal be accomplished than by reminding us at the outset that he who is our Savior is both God and man in one glorious person? Because he is a man like us in all things, sin alone excepted, he is able to understand all our needs. Because he is God over all, he is able to meet all our needs.
The central doctrine of this epistle is Christ’s eternal priesthood and his finished, efficacious sacrifice for the redemption and salvation of his people. The book of Hebrews stresses the infinite importance and efficacious power of Christ’s sin-atoning blood in obtaining eternal redemption for us, in purging the conscience, and in opening to us the heavenly sanctuary.
The key word in the book of Hebrews is “better” (1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24). One purpose of this book is to show us that Christ is “better” than all who came before him. He is better than the prophets, better than the angels, better than Moses, better than Joshua, and better than Aaron. He is Surety of a better covenant, established upon better promises, giving a better hope. Christ our Savior is better than the tabernacle, the altar, and the mercy-seat. He is a better Sacrifice, offering better blood, giving us a better access to and better standing before the holy Lord God. In all things Christ is better than all others. He is infinitely better. He is the best!
Better than the Prophets
Christ is better than the prophets (1:1-4). Each of the prophets gave us a partial revelation of God and his purpose. Reading the prophets and studying their messages, we leave each one thinking (as they intended), “This is not the final word. There is more to be revealed.” Christ is the perfect, complete, full, and final revelation of God.
The prophets were mere messengers. Christ is the Message. The prophets were mere men. Christ is the Creator, Ruler, Redeemer, and Savior of men. The prophets were sinners in need of atonement. Christ is atonement. By his one sacrifice, “he purged our sins” and “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” because his work was finished and accepted.
Better than the Angels
Christ is better than the angels (1:4-2:18). The angels are creatures of God. He is the Son of God (v. 5). The angels were commanded of God to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, his incarnate Son, as God, even in his humiliation as he came into the world (v. 6). God never commanded an angel to sit with him on his throne; but he said to his Son, when he had finished his work of redemption as our Substitute, “Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (vv. 7-13). Christ is one with the Father, in every way his equal. But the angels are “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (v. 14).
They minister for those who shall be the heirs of salvation; but Christ is our Savior (2:6-18). He visited the earth in human flesh, made a little lower than the angels, that he might taste death for all his elect (referred to by the words “every man” in verse 9). His elect are every man numbered among the many sons he shall bring to glory (v. 10). His elect are those who are sanctified by him, whom he calls brethren (v. 11). His elect are the children the Father gave him to redeem and save (v. 13). His elect, the every man for whom he tasted death, are the seed of Abraham, on whom he took hold to redeem and save (v. 16).
Better than Moses
Christ is better than Moses (3:1-19). Moses, of course, represents the law of God. He was a servant in the house. Christ is Builder and the Master of the house. God’s elect, his church and kingdom, are his house (3:6). In this house Moses was a servant for a season. But Moses could not bring the children of Israel into the land of promise because he represented the law, and the law cannot save. It cannot give rest. Moses had to die in the wilderness. Joshua was raised up to take his place and to lead Israel into Canaan, into the land of rest. But Joshua, too, was but a man typical of Christ.
Better than Joshua
Christ is better than Joshua (4:1-16). As Joshua brought Israel into the typical land of promise, the land of blessedness, bounty, and rest, so the Lord Jesus Christ brings God’s elect into rest by his omnipotent grace. As Israel’s enemies were conquered by the hand of God in Joshua’s day, so our enemies were conquered by God our Savior, our Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:13-15).
Better than the Sabbath
Christ is better than the sabbath (4:9-11). The Old Testament sabbath was, like everything else in Old Testament worship, typical of Christ who is our true Sabbath. The sabbath rest of faith in Christ was typified by God ceasing from his works of creation and resting on the seventh day, and in Israel resting in Canaan. As the Lord God ceased from his works, sinners enter into rest when they cease from their works and trust Christ alone for acceptance with God. Just as surely as Christ our Substitute has entered into his rest in glory, there is a vast multitude of sinners in this world who must also enter into his rest. They must enter in because God ordained it, and because Christ has obtained it for us.
Better than Aaron
Christ is better than Aaron (4:14-7:28). Beginning at the end of chapter 4 and going through chapter 7, the Holy Spirit tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ is our great High Priest, and that he is a Priest better than Aaron, with a better priesthood than Aaron’s typical priesthood in Israel.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (4:14-16).
All Aaron could do was offer typical sacrifices and make ceremonial cleansings. Christ is a better Priest. His work is neither typical nor ceremonial, but real and sure. He is a Priest who is able to save and save unto the uttermost all who come to God by him. He who is our Priest is the omnipotent Lion of the tribe of Judah (7:11-27). If our Lord, who came not from the tribe of Levi but from the tribe of Judah, was to be our High Priest, “there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (7:12). The law regarding these things was disannulled because of its weakness and unprofitableness (7:18; Rom. 8:4).
The Lord Jesus Christ could not be our great High Priest before God, except the Levitical law which required the priests to be of the tribe of Levi be set aside and be made of no effect. That legal system under which the Jews lived and worshipped God in the Old Testament was only temporary and typical. Once Christ came and fulfilled it in its entirety, he put and end to the typical, Levitical system altogether (Rom. 10:4).
“It is yet far more evident” that our Lord Jesus Christ is a great High Priest infinitely superior to Aaron because those priests were temporary, made priests “after the law of a carnal commandment,” without an oath, for a limited time. Christ was made a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek and the oath of God in his eternal decree, by the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:11-27).
A Better Covenant
Christ is the Surety and Mediator of a better covenant (8:1-13). The old covenant was a conditional covenant of law and works. In that covenant the whole weight of responsibility was upon the shoulders of men. The new covenant, of which Christ is the Surety, is an unconditional covenant of pure, free grace. In this covenant nothing depends upon men. In this covenant the whole weight of responsibility was laid upon the shoulders of One who is mighty, our great Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ. This new covenant of grace is that of which Jeremiah spoke (Jer. 31:31-34).
“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (8:6-12).
A Better Tabernacle
Christ is a better Tabernacle (9:1-28). Everything in the Old Testament tabernacle, and later the temple, was typical of Christ. They were but “a figure for the time then present...until the time of reformation.” Christ is the true Tabernacle. He is the true place of worship and blessing.
“Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator” (9:11-16).
A Better Sacrifice
Christ is a better Sacrifice (10:1-39). All the laws, sacrifices, holy days, and religious observances of the Old Testament were only typical rituals. They could never take away sin and give sinners acceptance with God. Christ did and does!
“Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away:
A Sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.
Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove:
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing redeeming love!”
Christ and his sacrifice, his finished work as our Substitute and Savior is the whole of our acceptance with God, the whole of our peace from God, and the whole of our assurance before God (10:4-22).
A Better Object of Faith
Christ is the better Object of faith (11:1-40). In chapter 11 the Apostle shows us that Christ is the better Object of faith, better than any that any man may choose, for he is the only Object of faith among God’s saints throughout the ages. He alone is the One by whom Abel worshipped God and by whom Enoch walked with God and pleased him. Christ is the Ark of Salvation in whom Noah trusted. He is the One with whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked. Joseph, Moses, and Joshua, Rahab, Samson, and David, all God’s saints of old believed him, lived by him, died in him, and reign with him in heaven today.
Let us, like those countless multitudes of old, trust Christ alone as our Savior. It is only by believing him that we can know our election by him (11:1-3). It is only by faith in him that we can understand the things of God. (11:3). And it is only by believing him that we can please God (11:6).
A Better Motive
Christ is the better motive (12:1-29). The book of Hebrews calls for perseverance in faith, urging us to continue in the grace of God. We have many examples to follow. But our best and only real inspiration and motive is Christ himself.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (12:1-3).
In a word Christ is a better Savior than any to whom we might look, for he is the only Savior there is, “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (13:1-25). Those who serve at the altar of freewill, works religion cannot eat at this Altar (v. 10). As he suffered outside the city for us, bearing our reproach, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (v. 14). “By him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (v. 15). Truly, his glory is great in salvation!
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (13:20-21).