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.
Quite a few books of the New Testament were written to churches that were struggling. Perhaps some members had left the faith, perhaps they had been experiencing persecution or ostracism, or there were divisions between believers. Hebrews is one of those letters. The question we ask ourselves should be what is the author’s main concern? How does he intend to address them in their situation?
He brings the recipients comfort by drawing our attention to what holds the greatest meaning in their lives: Jesus. And this is the same for us as well. We are not currently persecuted, but many people are anxious, tired, afraid, or indifferent. His address applies to us similarly today. The question is: are we convinced of the ‘ultimate significance of Jesus, son of God and his revelation’? Especially in times such as these we are pressed to place too much significance in things of lesser value. Our world currently is pursuing various paths of salvation from this virus (historically, one can be saved from sickness as well as from war, but salvation from sin is a Christian category). Whether technological know how (through manufacturing, medicine, or supply chain management) or through knowledge of the situation or making the right decisions, our world is looking to be saved from this virus. Certainly, there is wisdom in listening to the authorities in the government and other experts.
But the author of Hebrews reminds us that there is something of more significance than our current distress (as real as it is). Jesus Christ is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. He has made known to us the ways of salvation, he has spoken about God to us, he has explained the Father to us. But not only did Jesus make known the Father to us in space and time, but he also is eternally co-existent with the Father, displaying his glory by creating the world and sustaining the world. The author of Hebrews is reminding us that at the end of the day Jesus is significant for two reasons: 1. He took on flesh to dwell with us and to make purification for sins through his death, but also 2. He is the radiance of the glory of God. He is God the Son. Or you could say: he is within time in his flesh and also outside time. Jesus is the one who is worthy of worship and worthy of praise both now and forever. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and though your trials weigh you down, there is a most wonderful and lasting contentment in knowing him and his work.
Now this doesn’t negate our current problems. We will still all die, but when we have a proper vision of Christ, we will have a proper vision of the world and of our future. Some saints in the past ‘were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.’
The point is that we have a lasting city. But it is not fully here and now (although we have entered it in part). We have eternal life, but we only experience it in part. The part that we know today is that we have fellowship with God: even though Jesus ascended into heaven, he sent his Spirit to dwell with us as a seal of the things to come. We live today in hope of our future after death where and when we will be with God forever. This is the point of it all and why he can begin with Jesus and not be a negligent pastor: Jesus’ identity and work is of ultimate significance in any distress, and of comfort to even the most distressed person. So today, tomorrow, and the next day, do not forget the joy of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.