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Deeper Commentary

 

CHAPTER 1

1:1 I have suggested on Heb. 13:22 that Hebrews was originally a transcript of a sermon at the breaking of bread meeting at the Jerusalem church, turned into written form, with a few practical comments appended to it at the very end. This accounts for various stylistic features in the book which would otherwise appear rather odd. The style and use of language is very clearly Pauline; that is beyond serious denial. Paul's major concern was that there was going to be a great falling away from the faith, and the initial cause of this was the Judaizing campaign against him and his converts. The large Christian church at Jerusalem, along with the other Palestinian congregations, were under particular pressure to return to Judaism. And it was against this background that Hebrews was written.

I noted throughout commentary on Acts 7 that there are so many connections between Stephen's speech and Hebrews. The Jerusalem church, to whom Hebrews was primarily addressed, would have known Stephen well. Hebrews is full of allusions to Stephen's speech, and my suggestion is that it was not Stephen writing to his own church before his death, but rather Paul expanding upon Stephen's speech. As the bitterly angry Saul, keenly listening to Stephen and grasping his every allusion, he would have felt the goads of Scripture sticking into his conscience. He remembered every word, and after his conversion, he took Stephen's thoughts further. Hebrews, I suggest, is his development of Stephen's words and ideas. The historical characters mentioned by Stephen are also mentioned by Paul in Hebrews 11. Paul draws his sermon in Hebrews towards a conclusion by speaking of how we as Christians have come into association with "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborns, who are enrolled in heaven; and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:22,23). It seems to me certain that Paul had Stephen in mind at this point, a clearly 'just man', who had asked the Lord Jesus in Heaven to receive his spirit, as one of "the spirits of just men made perfect", and whose name as a martyr was for sure "enrolled in Heaven". The anonymity of the letter would be appropriate, as Paul was seen as a heretic and persona non grata among many of the Jewish Christians who were turning back to Judaism.

1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways- Polymeros... polytropos is framed in such a way as to aid memorization, and would be typical of a spoken address; see on 13:22 and 1 Thess. 2:1.

Spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets- The Lord was “the word made flesh"; having spoken to us through the words of the prophets, God now speaks to us in His Son (Heb. 1:1,2 RV). His revelation in that sense hasn’t finished; it is ongoing. Right now, the Lord Jesus speaks with a voice like many waters and a sword of flame- according to John’s vision of the Lord’s post-resurrection glory.
In the first century, you usually began a letter with a preface, saying who you were and to whom you were writing. The letter to the Hebrews has a preface which speaks simply of the greatness of Christ (Heb. 1:1-3), tackling the devaluing of the Lord Jesus and the role of Messiah generally which was being done by the Judaizers. The higher critics speak of how the preface has been lost or got detached. But no, the form of Heb. 1:1-3 is indeed that of a preface. The point is that the greatness of Christ, of which the letter speaks, is so great as to push both the author and audience into irrelevancy and obscurity. It’s significant that the New Testament writers speak so frequently of Jesus as simply “the Lord”. This would’ve been strange to first century ears. Kings and pagan gods always had their personal name added to the title ‘the Lord’- e.g. ‘the Lord Sarapis’. To just speak of “the Lord” was unheard of. The way the New Testament speaks like this indicates the utter primacy of the Lord Jesus in the minds of believers, and the familiarity they had with speaking about Him in such exalted terms.


1:2 Has in these last times spoken to us in the Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, on account of whom also He structured the ages- The immediate purpose of the exalted language appplied to Jesus in Hebrews was to tackle the devaluing of Him by the Judaist element within the church. Judaism understood the likes of David and Moses to be far higher than Messiah, whoever He was (hence the Lord's argument that David called Messiah his Lord, Lk. 20:44). This has of course led to passages like Heb. 1:2 being misunderstood to believe that Jesus created the earth. It could be argued that the prologue to Hebrews is based upon the prologue to John's Gospel. The same ideas recur- the Word of God from the beginning come to expression in Christ, "all things", glory, etc. Note the similarity between "apart from him not one thing came into being" (Jn. 1:3) and Heb. 2:8, "not one thing is not left put under him". Jn. 1:3 stated that "all things" were created by the Word, i.e. the logos / intention which God had of the Messiah. Heb. 1:2 clarifies this (because of misunderstandings in the early church?) to define the "all things" as all the ages of human history. These were framed by God with the Christ in mind. Later in Hebrews we meet the same idea- Heb. 11:3 speaks of how the ages were framed and then goes on to give examples of Old Testament characters who displayed their faith and understanding  of the future Messiah.


It should be noted that the 'ages' which Christ was to be involved in creating refer to "the world to come"- for Heb. 2:5 says that this passage is speaking about "the world to come". Heb. 9:26 adds indirect support by commenting that Christ died at the end of "the (singular) age"; the ages [plural] to come are the eternity of God's Kingdom which is made  possible through His work. Thus the idea is not that He created the world, but rather that through His work, the ages /to come/ were made possible through Him. And therefore those ages before Him find their meaning in the context of He who was to come and open the way to eternal ages.


We read of “the Son… by whom [Gk. dia] He [God] also made the worlds [Gk. aion]”. 'Dia' can mean ‘for whom  / for the sake of / on account of'. It doesn’t always mean that, as it’s a word of wide usage- but it very often does mean ‘on account of’ and actually frequently it cannot mean ‘by’. There are stacks of examples listed in Appendix 11 of The Real Christ.  Thus in a creation context, we read that all things were created dia, for the sake of, God’s pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Significantly, when 2 Pet. 3:5 speaks of how the world was created “by” the word of God, the word dia isn’t used- instead hoti, signifying ‘causation through’. This isn’t the word used in Heb. 1:2 about the creation of the aion on account of, dia, the Son. Eve was created dia Adam- she wasn’t created by Adam, but for the sake of Adam (1 Cor. 11:9). 1 Cor. 8:6 draws a helpful distinction between ek [out of whom] and dia- all things are ek God, but dia, on account of, Christ (1 Cor. 8:6). The context of Heb. 1:2 features many examples of where dia clearly means ‘for the sake of’ rather than ‘by’. Just a little later we read in Heb. 1:14 of how the Angels are “ministering spirits” who minister dia, for the sake of, the believers. Because of [dia] Christ’s righteousness, God exalted Him (Heb. 1:9). The Mosaic law was “disannulled” dia “the weakness and unprofitableness thereof” (Heb. 7:18). The weakness of the law didn’t disannul the law; the law was disannulled by God for the sake of the fact it was so weak. Levi paid tithes dia Abraham (Heb. 7:9), not by Abraham, but for the sake of the fact he was a descendant of Abraham. Jesus was not an Angel dia the suffering of death (Heb. 2:9). Clearly here the word means ‘for the sake of’ rather than ‘by’. Jesus was born a man for the reason that He could die. He was not an Angel who was then made ‘not an Angel’ by the fact of death. That makes no sense.

Note that aion [AV "worlds"] is a plural- if this verse means 'Jesus created the earth', then, did He create multiple, plural 'earths'? That the word means 'the ages' or ‘an age’ is again clear from seeing how else 'aion' is used. In almost every case where the word aion occurs in the New Testament, it doesn’t mean ‘the physical planet earth’, but rather an age or situation on the earth, rather than the physical planet. In Eph. 2:7 we read of “the ages to come”- and it is the word aion again. The church will glorify Jesus “throughout all generations”, and this is paralleled with the phrase ‘the aion of the aions’ [Eph. 3:21- AV “world without end”; the same parallel occurs in Col. 1:26, “hid from aions and from generations”]. Clearly aion refers to periods of time rather than a physical planet. Just a few verses after Heb. 1:2, we read that the son will reign ‘for the aions and the aions’, or in English “for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). Surely the combined message is that the previous ages / aions existed only for the sake of Christ, and He will rule over all future aions. There is the aion to come [AV “the world to come”, Heb. 6:5], and Christ will be a priest “for ever” [Gk. ‘for the aion’, Heb. 5:6]. The aion to come is the eternity of God’s Kingdom. It will be, in somewhat hyperbolic language, an eternity of eternities. Later in Hebrews we read that Jesus made His sacrifice for sin “in the end of the world / aion” (Heb. 9:26). If an aion ended at the death of Jesus, then clearly the word doesn’t refer to the physical planet- but rather to the age which then ended. The Hebrew writer clinches this view of aion in Heb. 11:3, where he prefaces his outline of Bible history from Abel to the restoration from Babylon by saying that the ages / aion are framed by the word of God. Response by faith to God’s word, seeing the invisible with the eye of faith, occurred amongst the faithful in every aion. The aion [AV “worlds”] were framed by the word of God. Consider other uses of the word aion where clearly it refers to the ages and not to a literal planet (Mk. 4:19; Lk. 1:70; 16:8; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:6,8; 3:19; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:10).


The whole of history, with all its ages, and all that is to come, exists solely for the sake of Christ. He is the One who gives meaning to history. Further, if this verse means 'Jesus created the earth', then OK, question: Genesis and many other passages say God created. If this says Jesus was the actual creator, then is Jesus directly equal to God? Also, if Heb 1:2 is saying that Jesus is the creator of earth, the One through whom God did the job, then, why do we have to wait until Hebrews to know that? There's no indication in Genesis or even in the whole Old Testament nor in the teaching of Jesus that Jesus was the creator of earth on God's behalf. That's my problem with the pre-existence idea- it's nowhere in the Old Testament. So would believers have been held in ignorance of this fact for 4000 years? If so, then, is it so important to covenant relationship with God? I am sure David, Abraham etc. believed that God and not Messiah created the earth. If they'd have been asked: 'Did Messiah create the earth, or God? Does Messiah now exist?', they'd have answered 'No' both times. Surely?

It is argued by trinitarians that dia + the genitive, as we have in Heb. 1:2, means that the ages were made by the instrumentality of Christ. But dia + genitive doesn't only mean 'by whose instrumentality'. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised , p. 90 explains the uses of dia with genitive:
"1. With a genitive, through
a. Used of place or medium through
b. Used of time, during in the course of; through
c. Used of immediate agency, causation, instrumentality, by means of,
by; of means or manner, through, by, with
d. Used of state or condition, in a state of".

Meaning (b) appears relevant to Heb. 1:2 because it is dia Christ that the aions (a time reference) were created. This would require us to read in an ellipsis: "Through the (period of the ministry of) the Son, God framed the ages". Or, "Through(out) the Son, God framed the ages", i.e. all God's purpose throughout the ages was framed with Christ in mind. Acts 3:18 uses dia + genitive to explain how God had spoken of Christ "by" or throughout the period of all His "holy prophets".

1:3 Who being the brightness of His glory and the exact image of His person, upholds all things by the word of his power- Nearly all the titles of Christ used in the letter to the Hebrews are taken from Philo or the Jewish book of Wisdom. The writer to the Hebrews is seeking to apply them in their correct and true sense to the Lord Jesus. This explains why some titles are used which can easily be misunderstood by those not appreciating this background. For example, Philo speaks of “the impress of God’s seal”, and Hebrews applies this to the Lord Jesus. The phrase has been misinterpreted by Trinitarians as meaning that Jesus is therefore God; but this wasn’t at all the idea behind the title in Philo’s writings, and neither was it when the letter to the Hebrews took up the phrase and applied it to Jesus. This sort of thing goes on far more often than we might think in the Bible- existing theological ideas are re-cast and re-presented in their correct light, especially with reference to the Lord Jesus. Arthur Gibson notes that “there is an important second level within religious language: it is a reflection upon, a criticism of, a correction of, or a more general formulation of, expressions which previously occur”.


3 Enoch [also known as The Hebrew Book Of Enoch] spoke much of an Angel called Metatron, "the prince of the presence", "the lesser Yahweh", who appeared as Yahweh to Moses in Ex. 23:21, sat on "the throne of glory" etc (3 Enoch 10-14). Early Jewish Christianity appears to have mistakenly reapplied these ideas to Jesus, resulting in the idea the first of all Jesus was an Angel, and then coming to full term in the doctrine of the Trinity. J. Danielou devotes the whole fourth chapter of his survey of the development of Christian doctrine to the study of how Jewish views of Angels actually led on to the Trinity. Paul's style was not to baldly state that everything believed in by the Jews was wrong; he recognized that the very nature of apostasy is in the mixing of the true and the false. He speaks of how Jesus truly has been exalted and sits at God's right hand (Rom. 8:34) and has been given God's Name, as the Angel was in Exodus (Phil. 2:9-11); but his whole point is that whilst that may indeed be common ground with the Jewish ideas, the truth is that Jesus is not an Angel. He came into physical existence through Mary ("made / born of a woman", Gal. 4:4), and as the begotten Son of God has been exalted above than any Angel. The language of Heb. 1:3-6 clearly alludes to the Metatron myth and deconstructs it in very clear terms. For Jesus is described as "being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image / pattern of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become by so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? and again, I will be to him a Father, And he shall be to me a Son? And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him".

When he had accomplished the purification of sins- In a sense, all sins were purged by the Lord's death. Sin, the 'devil' of Heb. 2:14, was destroyed; He "made an end of sins" (Dan. 9:24). We can easily forget the wonder of this; Peter uses the same word about those who had forgotten their purging [s.w.] from their old sins (2 Pet. 1:9). They lacked the spiritual vision to look back to the cross and perceive that now, human sin is no longer a barrier between God and ourselves. The Lord's blood is therefore of such power as to purify even our conscience from the guilt of past sins (Heb. 9:14; Tit. 2:14). But this was all achieved at a specific historical point- when the Lord died on the cross.

He then sat down on the right hand- In his time of dying, Stephen saw the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). But about 13 times in the New Testament, the point is made that the Lord sits there, unlike the Mosaic priests who stood (Heb. 10:12). The Lord Jesus was passionately feeling for Stephen; and He just as emotionally and passionately feels for us in our struggles. This alone should lift us out of the mire of mediocrity. Prayer will have meaning and power. It won’t just be the repetitious conscience-salver it can descend into. Many of those 13 NT references to the Lord being seated at the right hand of God are in Hebrews; and this again encourages us to see Hebrews as Paul's deeper reflections upon Stephen's speech. This would especially be the case if the Jews in the council actually saw something of what Stephen saw.

Of the Majesty in Heaven- It is a majestic, glorious theme of the Bible that God is revealed as a real being. It is also a fundamental tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the Son of God. If God is not a real being, then it is impossible for Him to have a Son who was the “image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). The Greek word actually means His “substance” (RV). Further, it becomes difficult to develop a personal, living relationship with ‘God’, if ‘God’ is just a concept in our mind. It is tragic that the majority of religions have this unreal, intangible conception of God.

1:4 He thus became so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they- Judaism was obsessed with Angels, reflecting the pagan notion that there were various 'spirits' controlling various aspects of life. This idea likewise entered the Catholic and Orthodox churches. But the point is laboured here that the Lord Jesus as begotten Son of God is far better than Angels. The more excellent Name would appear from :5 to be connected to His Sonship. Angels are also "sons of God" but not in the ultimate sense in which the Lord Jesus was the only begotten Son. Angels too can bear and manifest the Yahweh Name just as we can, but the Lord inherited that Name in a "more excellent" sense than them; for He had achieved the characteristics of that Name within His own personality. This all adds even more wonder to the fact that by being "in Christ", all that is true of Him becomes true of us; and we are co-heirs with Him, inheriting as He did (Rom. 8:17), fully sharing in all His glorification.


1:5 For to which of the angels said He at any time: You are my Son, this day have I begotten you? And again: I will be to him a Father and he shall be to me a Son?- Ps. 2:7 is applied to the Lord's resurrection in Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4. But the rest of Psalm 2 is quoted about various points of the Lord's work; at His birth, death, resurrection, return and at the time of the final rebellion against Him. And the original application appears to be to David and then to Hezekiah. Clearly it is not always so that if a verse is quoted in one context in the New Testament, then the surrounding context of the original quotation must refer to the same time. And it is likewise clear that the same scripture can have multiple fulfilments; Psalm 2 is a classic cse of that. The insistence upon context as the guiding light of interpretation is often misplaced; because the mind behind the word of God does not work according to the Greek influenced linear thinking of the European mind, with its emphasis upon logical corrolary and linear progression and development of thought and context.

James Dunn quotes Tertullian, Justin, Epiphanius and Clement as all believing that the Lord Jesus was an Angel: "So too Jewish Christians of the second and third centuries specifically affirmed that Christ was an angel or archangel... Justin's identification of the angel of Yahweh with the [supposedly] pre-existent Christ". It was this Jewish obsession with Angels, and the desire to make Jesus understandable as an Angel, which led to the idea that He personally pre-existed and was not quite human. And hence the specific and repeated emphasis of the New Testament that the Lord was not an Angel but because He was a man and not an Angel He has been exalted far above Angels (Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:16; 2:8-10; Heb. 1; 1 Pet. 1:12; 3:22; Rev. 5:11-14). It's the same with the idea of Melchizedek, whom the Qumran community and writings understood as an Archangel. The commentary upon Melchizedek in Hebrews stresses that he was a man ("consider how great this man was...", Heb. 7:4)- therefore not an Angel. He was a foreshadowing of Christ, and not Christ Himself. It would appear that the commentary upon Melchizedek in Hebrews is actually full of indirect references to the Qumran claims about Melchizedek being an Angel and somehow being the Messiah. Sadly, too many trinitarians today have made the same mistake as the Jews- arguing that Melchizedek was somehow Jesus personally. The Jews of Qumran were quite obsessed with Angels- they also suggested that Gabriel was somehow the pre-existent Messiah. Bearing that in mind, it would appear that the descriptions of the Angel Gabriel announcing the conception and birth of Jesus are almost purposefully designed to show that Gabriel and Jesus are not the same but are two quite different persons (Mt. 1:20,24; 2:13,19; Lk. 1:11,19,26-38; 2:9).

Hebrews 1 can be a passage which appears to provide perhaps the strongest support for both the ‘Jesus is God’ and ‘Jesus is not God’ schools. Meditating upon this one morning, I suddenly grasped what was going on. The writer is in fact purposefully juxtaposing the language of Christ’s humanity and subjection to the Father, with statements and quotations which apply the language of God to Jesus. But the emphasis is so repeatedly upon the fact that God did this to Jesus. God gave Jesus all this glory. Consider the evidence: It is God who begat Jesus (Heb. 1:5), God who told the Angels to worship Jesus (Heb. 1:6), it was “God, even your God” who anointed Jesus, i.e. made Him Christ, the anointed one (Heb. 1:9); it was God who made Jesus sit at His right hand, and makes the enemies of His Son come into subjection (Heb. 1:13); it was God who made / created Jesus, God who crowned Jesus, God who set Jesus over creation (Heb. 2:7), God who put all in subjection under Jesus (Heb. 2:8). And yet interspersed between all this emphasis- for that’s what it is- upon the superiority of the Father over the Son… we find Jesus addressed as “God” (Heb. 1:8), and having Old Testament passages about God applied to Him (Heb. 1:5,6). The juxtaposition is purposeful. It is to bring out how the highly exalted position of Jesus was in fact granted to Him by ‘his God’, the Father, who remains the single source and giver of all exaltation, and who, to use the Lord’s very own words, “is greater than [Christ]” (Jn. 14:28).

1:6 And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world He says: And let all the angels of God worship him- "Brings" is strictly 'brings again' and refers to the resurrection, as noted on :5. The quotation is not from the Masoretic Text but from the Septuagint of Dt. 32:43 and perhaps Ps. 97:7. This indicates that the inspired writer considered that material in the LXX which is not in the Hebrew text is inspired by God and worthy of quotation as such. The context of both those passages is hardly that of the Lord's resurrection; but as noted on :5, the New Testament writers tend to quote without attention to context. Dt. 32:43 LXX is also quoted by Paul in Rom. 15:10. Another example of this kind of thing would be how in Romans 3 there is a quotation from Ps. 14:1-7 LXX; but sixof the quoted verses are not in the Hebrew text.

We might well wonder why Paul is quoting verses only found in the LXX in order to prove that the Lord Jesus is greater than Angels; and why he insists on quoting only from the LXX. It's as if he is making some kind of point about the Septuagint. I suggested on 1:1 that Paul was appealing to the Jerusalem Christians, in terms which recalled the witness of their famous martyr Stephen. What brought about Stephen's demise was his apparent backing of the Greek speaking Jews in the Jerusalem church. This might explain why Paul is appealing specifically to them by quoting so insistently from the Septuagint and even from passages which are only to be found there and not in the Hebrew text.

1:7 And of the angels He says: Who makes His angels winds, and His servants a flame a fire- The quotation from Ps. 103:4 LXX only demonstrates the Lord's supremacy over Angels by stating that God makes the Angels into winds / spirits and flames- we recall the Angel seen by Samson's parents ascending in a flame of fire- whereas He has made His Son to be a king with a sceptre. The Lord Jesus is able to rule and decide issues on His own volition and agenda, rather than simply be sent as Angels are sent to obey the Father's agenda.

1:8 But of the Son He said: Your throne, O Mighty One, is for ever and ever, and the sceptre of your kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness- See on :7. The Angels are sent out with temporary power to perform specific tasks they are given to perform; whereas the Lord Jesus is an eternal Kingdom, with a seceptre, i.e. ruling and issuing orders Himself rather than taking them. Ps. 45:6,7 quoted here is clearly about Solomon in its initial application, so it is fruitless to argue that "Mighty One" refers only to God Himself. For it can be applied to human kings.


1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows- We should not see sin as something to be regretfully avoided and denied; the Lord's example was of hating sin. And that hatred of sin arose out of the depth of His love for righteousness. Being loved and exalted above his brethren is a Joseph allusion. The idea of "your God" anointing Messiah with joy above His "fellows" is all impossible to make sense of within the standard Trinitarian paradigm. The connection between anointing and joy is that there were traditionally expressions of joy and praise when a man was anointed or chosen for some special task such as rulership. David in writing this surely had his heart on the way that he had been anointed above his brethren. And yet "fellows" is being interpreted as referring to the Angels; the Lord Jesus was anointed above them.

1:10 And: You, Lord, in the beginning did lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands- Heb. 1:10 appears to quote words about God (from Ps. 102:25) and apply them to Jesus. To take a Psalm or Bible passage and apply it to someone on earth, even a normal human, was quite common in first century literature (Oscar Cullmann, The Christology Of The New Testament (London: SCM, 1971) p. 234). It's rather like we may quote a well known phrase from Shakespeare or a currently popular movie, and apply it to someone. It doesn't mean that that person is to be equated with Romeo, Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth etc. By quoting the words about them, we're saying there are similarities between the two people or situations; we're not claiming they're identical. And seeing that the Son of God was functioning for His Father, it's not surprising that words about God will be quoted about the Lord Jesus.

In the same way as the Angels are so closely associated with their charges that they are identified with them, so the Angels are described as the things in the natural world which they have created. The quotation of Ps. 102:26 in Heb. 1:10 can appear to pose major problems for belief in the humanity of Christ and that the world will never be destroyed. The context in Hebrews is again Christ's superiority over the Angels; however, the context in Ps. 102 is of Christ on the cross thinking of the eternity of God, how that "of old", "in the beginning" (clearly alluding  back to the beginning of the natural creation in Gen. 1), God created the Heavens and earth by His Angel-hands. But "they shall perish... wax old like a garment... as a vesture shalt thou change them" (Ps. 102:26). This language is similar to that used elsewhere about the ending of the Angel-oriented Mosaic Law (e. g. Heb. 8:13). Thus the literal Heavens and earth will not perish, but the Angelic system that created them will do. Thus both the natural creation and the Mosaic system are identified exactly with the Angels that created them.

1:11 They shall perish, but You continue; and they all shall wear out as does a garment- As noted on :10, the purpose of the quotation is to demonstrate the Lord's superiority over Angels. One approach is to understand the Hebraic way of stating that 'even X shall happen to prove the greatness of Y'; e.g. heaven could pass away [X] but the Lord's words would not [Y] (Mt. 24:35). This is not to say that X shall literally happen; it is stated as a hyperbole, to demonstrate the greatness of Y. And that may be the case here too. God's eternity is contrasted with the [relative] passing of the Heavens, which were made by Angels. "They shall perish" may not therefore mean they shall literally perish.

The context of Ps. 102 is however pertinent. The "set time [had] come" suggests that the Psalmist is writing maybe in captivity in Babylon as the predicted 70 years of Judah’s captivity there came to a close, and he looks forward to the promised restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem. He enthuses in :16 that "Yahweh has built up Zion"- although He had not then done so (:13). The earlier part of the Psalm laments this. But the Psalmist believed in God’s prophecies of doing so, and considered them as good as already fulfilled. Faith is all about adopting God’s perspective, seeing future promises as if they have already been fulfilled, thereby enabling us to live the Kingdom life now in its essence. Then in Ps. 102:25 we read of how "Of old, You laid the foundation of the earth, the heavens are the work of Your hands". The language of laying foundations is nearly always used about the laying of the foundations of the new, rebuilt temple at the time of return from exile (Ezra 3:10-12; 5:16; Is. 44:28; Hag. 2:18; Zech. 4:9; 8:9); and this is the context of this Psalm (see on :13 and :16). The ‘heavens and earth’ refer to Israel (Is. 1:2) and the temple. Although they had ‘perished’ in the Babylonian invasion and destruction of the first temple, God remained and would, the Psalmist believed, install a new temple system (as outlined in Ez. 40-48). However, this never quite happened as God intended due to Judah’s weakness, and so these prophecies were reapplied to how the entire Jewish system based around the temple and Law of Moses would ‘perish’ and God’s new temple system based around the exalted Lord Jesus would come into existence (Heb. 1:10 and context).

1:12 And like a cloak You shall roll them up as a garment, and they shall be changed; but You are the same and Your years are without end- See on :10 and :11. The Jewish system would be rolled up (see on :11), as a scroll that is not going to be read any more; the Law would end. But Messiah would remain eternally. It was the Lord Jesus by His sacrifice which changed the Jewish system. The same word is used of the Lord's 'changing' the customs delivered by Moses (Acts 6:14).

1:13 But of which of the angels has He said at any time: Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?- Again the contrast is between the Lord being given a throne to sit on, from whence He can direct and control; and the Angels who are servants, sent forth to fulfil the will of Him that sits upon the throne (:14). See on :3 He then sat down on the right hand. The footstool refers to that which the King reigns over; we the enemies who were reconciled become the Lord's footstool, and we are 'made' like this by the Father's will and desire to glorify His Son in this unique way.


1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of those that shall inherit salvation?- "All" Angels are obedient servants; this of itself rules out any argument for some Angels being sinful. Their 'sending forth' from the Heavenly throne room has a literal aspect to it- see on Is. 37:36; Ex. 7:4. But in this context the argument is that the Lord Jesus is the enthroned King, whereas Angels are servants sent forth to serve us; and thus the Lord's supremacy over Angels is established. Indeed it could be argued that the position presented is that the Lord Jesus has been enthroned by the Father, and He sends forth the Angels to do His service for the sake of our salvation. The Lord Jesus is therefore the Lord of Angels.