************ Sermon on Hebrews 1:1-2a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 16, 2015
"God's Last Word for the Last Days"
I History is Divided
A One of the key points of our text is the assertion that God has spoken. Says Hebrews, "In the past God spoke ... in these last days he has spoken ..." (Heb 1:1-2). God speaks. He doesn't leave us without revelation.
"In the past God spoke to our forefathers ... in these last days he has spoken to us ..." (Heb 1:1-2). Even though we are estranged from Him, He doesn't give us the silent treatment -- like we sometimes do when we are estranged from one another. On account of our sin and disobedience, He has every right to remain silent. He has every right to leave us in darkness. He has every right to remain silent, hidden, not seen, and not heard.
But God has not remained silent. He has spoken. He has given to a world lost in sin and misery His revealing, redeeming, and life-giving Word. He has brought Light into darkness. He has given His Word of love to a world filled with hate.
B Hebrews also points out that God has spoken in different ways. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2). We see that God's special revelation to a fallen world was given in two stages: first, to the forefathers through the prophets and, second, to us by His Son.
This two-stage approach of God's special revelation is the great dividing wall of history. Anthropologists like to point to the use of tools of stone, bronze, or iron as forming the walls of history. Others point to the great wall of China which was built to separate civilized China from the uncivilized hordes of Asia or to Hadrian's Wall which was built to protect England from the pagan Scots. Today, we can point to walls and border fences that separate India and Pakistan, Gaza Strip and Israel, Gaza Strip and Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, U.S. and Mexico, North Korea and South Korea, and so on.
But none of these divisions are important next to the division we find in Hebrews. The great division of history is this: God used to speak by the prophets but now He has spoken by His Son.
Here we see that history has been divided into two parts: the days before Christ when God spoke by the prophets, and the time starting with Christ when God speaks by His Son.
Notice, Christ is the center point of history, the focal point of history. All of history points to Christ. That is why Christians, at least, number time in terms of the number of years away from Christ. We number years with either B.C. or A.D. I notice that the secular world has moved away from this. They use CE which stands for "Common Era" and BCE which stands for "Before Common Era." In other words, they don't want to acknowledge Christ as being the center point of history. Man's feeble attempts to dismiss Christ from history is the same as man's feeble attempts to dismiss Christ from Christmas: He remains the focal point regardless of what sinful man says or does.
C When we examine our text carefully we see differences and similarities between the two ages and the two different methods used by God to speak to His people.
In the past God spoke "at many times and in various ways" (Heb 1:1). God spoke in His mighty works of mercy and judgment and made known through His servants the prophets the meaning and purpose of these works; they were admitted into His secret council and learned His plans in advance. He spoke in storm and thunder to Moses and in a still small voice to Elijah. To those who would not heed the gently flowing stream of Shiloah He spoke by means of the Assyrian flood (Is 8:6). Priest and prophet, wise man and poet were in their several ways His spokesman. God spoke in many and various ways in the Old Age. But in the New Age God has spoken in only one way: "by His Son" (Heb 1:2).
In the Old Age God spoke by imperfect prophets. In the New Age He speaks by His perfect Son.
The Word brought by the prophets in the Old Age was fragmentary and incomplete and not fully understood. The Word brought by Jesus is the final and complete Word and tells us everything we need to know for God's glory and our salvation.
D "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2). What we see is progress in the Divine Revelation. Now, progress is something we highly value. We have progressed from the horse to the car, from the ox to the tractor, from the windjammer to the oil tanker, from the bicycle to the airplane, from the fireplace to the furnace, from the candle to the lightbulb. And we are glad there is this sort of progress. We would not want to go back to the pre-oil and pre-electric world in which there were none of the modern conveniences we all take for granted.
Similarly, we should be glad there is progression in God's revelation from prophets to the Son. This does not mean we ignore what came before. This does not mean we consider earlier revelations to be unworthy of our time and attention. The progression is not from the less true to the more true, from the less worthy to the more worthy. Rather, the progression is from promise to fulfilment. What the prophets point to is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
II God's Last Revelation
A "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2).
Hear that phrase, "in these last days." In these last days God has spoken to us by His Son. The phrase "last days" is a technical expression in the Bible. Too many Christians think it is the period of time just before Christ's return. Too many Christians think it is the future time described in great detail by the ending of Daniel, Jesus' discourse in Matthew 24 & 25, and the book of Revelation.
But notice what Hebrews tells us: "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2). The main mark, the most important mark, of the last days is NOT famines and earthquakes and wars and rumors of war and false prophets and persecution. The main mark, the most important mark, of the last days is the appearance of the Son as the voice of God.
"In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2). Meaning what? Meaning we are now living in the last days. Let me repeat that: Meaning we are now living in the last days. Not because Christ is coming soon -- though that is His promise and our prayer. Not because the Devil is busy at work knowing his destruction is sure. Not because the signs of the times are being fulfilled before our very eyes. We are in the last days because God has spoken to us by His Son. The coming and birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the last days. My brothers and sisters, for some 2000 years now we have been in the last days.
B "In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2). God has spoken in Christ. We are in the last days. I want you to remember the conclusion that follows from this: therefore, Christ is God's last Word. Did you hear that? Christ is God's last Word. The time is short. The end is drawing near. God's last and final revelation for these last days is Jesus. No further revelation can be expected. No further revelation will be given.
Somehow, though, many Christians want something new and different that is more exciting than what we already have. Many religious cults and sects -- like the Mormons and the J.W.s and Scientology -- thrive on this expectation. Every year, it seems, archeologists find a writing which some proclaim to be a new gospel which ought to be part of the Bible. Examples include the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Judas.
But in these last days Jesus is God's last Word. To use a theological phrase, the Canon is closed; to put it in simpler language, no more books will be added to the Bible. The Bible is complete. The Bible contains everything we need to know for God's glory and our salvation. We should not and cannot expect any further revelation.
Something wonderful happened at the recent debate among the Republican candidates for President. They were asked if they have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first if they were elected. I am absolutely delighted with the answer of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: "Well, I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible." To that we all can say a hearty "Amen!"
We live in a day when people announce, "God talked to me last night ... God told me ... I received a revelation from God." I, for one, am thankful that Senator Cruz clearly is not part of any of this baloney. Don't be confused by these deceivers who claim to have a more recent revelation than God's last word in these last days. If we know what God had said and done in Christ, we have God's last word for these last days. And nothing more is needed. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways but in these last day he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Heb 1:1-2).
III The Four Words
A Last time I directed your attention towards four words that are very important for our understanding of Hebrews. Four words that we find throughout Hebrews. Remember those four words? They are the words "better," "perfect," "eternal," and "once-for-all." Hebrews applies these four words to Christ and His ministry. But these four words also applies to Christ as the Word and revelation of God.
First, the Word of the Son is a "better" word; another translation we can use is that it is a "superior" word. What God says in Jesus is not just the truth; it is ALL of the truth. In Christ, God has revealed all of His heart. Nothing remains hidden. What was only shadowy, vague, unclear, and hinted at in the Old Testament is now made clear in Christ. To use what Paul says to the church at Corinth, then we saw as in a mirror but now we see as though face-to-face.
Some people fear that there are dark and hidden secrets about God, things you will never know, things which fill us with fear or suspicion. But that is not true. In Christ, God has said all we need to know about Himself.
B Second, the Word of the Son is a "perfect" word because Christ Himself is perfect. Remember the five excellencies of the Son? He is the heir of all things, He made the universe, He is the radiance of God's glory, He is the exact representation of God's being, and He sustains all things by His powerful Word. Like God, He is perfect in all His ways. He is God's last, best, and perfect Word.
C Third, the Word of the Son -- like God -- is eternal. The Word, like Christ, is the same yesterday and today and forever. It doesn't change from day to day. It doesn't change with different circumstances.
D Fourth, the Word of the Son is once-for-all. Once for all implies completion. Whenever something needs to be done again and again, that means no one time is complete. One time is not enough. But when something is "once for all" it does not need to be repeated. It is final. It is finished. It is complete. It is full.
"In the past," says Hebrews, "God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways." Notice the repetition. Prophets. Many times. Various ways. Think of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the ceremonies and symbols of the Law, the sacrifices and furnishings of the tabernacle and temple.
"But in these last days God has spoken by His Son." Jesus is God's complete Word. Jesus is God's final Word. Jesus is God's full Word. Jesus is God's finished Word. Jesus is God's Word "once for all." It never needs to be repeated. It never needs anything else. It is full and complete. All that we need to know and see and learn to live as God's children in this broken-down world we find and hear in the Son.
IV Our Response
A What is to be our response to this last and final and wonderful and beautiful Word of God in Christ? I see two responses when I look ahead in Hebrews.
First, Hebrews 2:3 asks, "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation." The answer, of course, is that we won't and we can't. There is no escaping the consequences of sin if we ignore Jesus. There is no escaping the judgment of God. There is no escaping the wrath of God. There is no escaping the punishment of God. There is no escaping the fires of hell.
Congregation, do not ignore God's last Word. For, there is no escape if we ignore Him or neglect Him or reject Him. Come to Him. Have faith in Him. Believe that in Him and Him alone you have all you need to know for God's glory and your salvation. My brothers and sisters, come to the Son, lest He be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for His wrath can flare up in a moment. But blessed are all who take refuge in Him (cf Ps 2:12).
B And there is a second response. Hebrews 2:1 says "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." That's the danger when we don't pay attention to Jesus: we start drifting like a piece of wood floating down a canal.
As I said last week, there are so many voices competing for our attention in this world. And there are so many false teachers with false teachings. So who do we listen to? Listen to the Son. That's the only way we don't drift away.
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