Chapter 1

This Epistle is dated from that unsullied glory into which Christ has entered. First, He is seen alone, amid the uncreated light of God’s throne. There He is speaking to us.

Verse 1—God hath spoken. What a mercy! He has spoken twice. First, unto the fathers in the prophets, “at sundry times and in divers manners,”—a bit to one and a bit to another, piecemeal: to Adam, to Abraham, to David and others. It has pleased Him to put all these bits together, and to reveal them to us. We live in an age which, so far as the world is concerned, is darkness itself, but which, as regards God and His Christ, is as clear as day. From the Cross a stream of light has poured which makes all darkness flee.

“In the last one of these days.” In 1 Peter 1:21 we read of “the last one of these times “(Greek). This is the day in which God has come out in the fullest discovery of His grace and love to guilty man—the time of “the exceeding riches of His grace” (Eph. 2:7), such as He had never shewn before to men, nor will again. “Spoken unto us in Son.” There is no “His”; it simply reads “in Son.” The absence of the article implies that our whole gaze is to be directed to the Person through whom God is thus speaking. The same is expressed in chapter 12:25-26. “If they escaped not who refused Him that spoke on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven.” God has been, and is now speaking to us, “in Son.” Ever since Christ went up there to speak for us to God, He has been speaking to us in Him, and the whole of the period of His session there is reckoned as a single “day.” “The last one of these days,” during which God is calling out a people from earth for heaven. Now put that together with what follows in verse 3. What do I see up there? A Man; the very One who has taken up the question of my sin, seated in the uncreated light of God. That sight speaks; it has a voice to me; shall I hear it? Not only has He gone up there as Son of God, but as the One who has put away our sins. He has disposed of the question of sin so completely that He can sit down. Has that sight no voice to me? It has a word to every one. The first word God speaks is peace. From the Cross till the return of the Lord for His saints, God is speaking to us peace by that sight. Christ has settled the whole question of my sin completely and thoroughly. He has done it, and He has “sat down.” Sinner! look up. Do not look down or in, but up to the throne. I cannot tell what joy it has been to my soul, when Satan has sought to harass and upset me, just to look up and see the Sin-purger seated there in the light of God, telling of all my sin put away once and for ever. What a pity that so many of God’s dear children are kept in bondage! But if they do not begin in God’s way, and receive God’s thoughts about His Son, it is not to be wondered at that they are kept in doubt and in darkness. Some will say, “David doubted, and surely we may do the same.” Do you not understand the difference between the saints of the Old Testament and of the New? What the saints of former ages trusted was—He shall do it. What the saints of this present time rest in and rejoice is—He has done it. Five things are here said about the Son.

First: Something about Him in the future.

Verse 2.—“Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things.” God would have us read everything in the light of the Cross. He who is the Heir of all hung on the tree. If the whole universe had been annihilated to put sin away, it would have been as nothing compared with this. He inherits all things, and His people are joint-heirs with Him. What is His, is mine. What was mine—my sins—He took, and called them His (Psalm 69:5, with 2 Cor. 5:21). What was His—“all things” are mine (1 Cor. 3:22). O to think that He who was the Heir of all once hung upon a Cross, with the maledictions of men and demons filling His ears, and with the curse of God upon Him for sin. Do you think He went to that cross, and sank into that grave, for a trifle? Was it all for nothing? “He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11). “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despised the shame “(Heb. 12:3). From the Cross and the grave, God has raised Him to the throne, as a result of His obedience, the appointed Heir of all things. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psa. 24:1), and all things shall yet be put under Him (Heb. 2:8), but He has not yet token possession of His inheritance. For the present the devil is the prince of the world (John 14:30); it lieth in the wicked one (1 John 5:19), but the time of dominion for the appointed Heir will come, and when He reigns His people will reign with Him.

Second: Something is said about Him in the past. “By whom also He made the worlds.” Men of the science speak of “Nature’s works,” and we are prone to think of created things as the work of God; but this as well as other Scriptures shews that creation was the work of the Son. “All things were made by (through) Him, and without Him was not anything made” (John 1:3). If there are other worlds besides the one on which we live, He made them all. The glory of Creator belongs to Him who hung upon the Cross. Was it any wonder that the sun He made withdrew its light, when its Creator hung between two thieves? Thus as regards the past He is the Creator of all; as regards the future, Heir of all.

Next there is something said about Himself essentially.

Verse 3—“Who being the brightness (or outshining) of His glory.” If God is light, Christ is the effulgence, the shining out of it. There cannot be light without the shining out of it. God is the Sun: Christ is the Sunbeam; if there be a sun there must also be a sunbeam, for both are of the same nature and are indivisible. If there is a Father, there must be a Son in the Godhead. This the Mahommedan and the Unitarian both deny. As the sunbeam passes through the prism and is broken up, yet remains unsullied, so the Son of God was here on earth, the outshining of God, yet bruised upon the Cross, so that His life and His nature might be communicated to us, in order that we might become partakers and reflectors of it. Thus do we become children of God (John 1:12) and of light (Eph. 5:8), reflecting (2 Cor. 4:6) and shedding it forth as light-bearers in this dark and evil world (Phil. 2:15).

Fourth: Another statement of what He is—“The express image of His Person,” or, the exact image of His substance. The idea is, that what God is up there Christ was down here. If the seal is well done, there is a corresponding impression on the wax. That which was manifest in the Son corresponds to what is invisible in God. Christ has the features, if one may so say, the omniscience, the power, the full manifestation of God. There is not a thought in the mind of God but Christ has told it out. There is nothing in God that Christ has not revealed: all is told out. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” or “told Him out” (John 1:18).

These two taken together are very beautiful. “The outshining of His glory “looks at Him as beginning to come forth; “The exact image of His substance “views Him as having come right down as the sunbeam into the moat. So at both ends we see that He is God. And these two expressions taken together, give a very full view of the Person of Him who undertook our salvation. Surely He is enough. Thus we are called to see Him as Heir of all in the future, as Creator of all in the past, next to His substance up there and down here, and last of all as what He is continually doing for the present, “upholding all things by the word of His power.” Were it not for Him, the sun, moon and stars would be nonentities in a moment. It has been argued among scientific men whether things would continue to exist as they are, if the power that created them was withdrawn. The Word of God provides the answer: “By Him all things consist” or “hold together” (Col. 1:17), and all in so perfect order, that astronomers are able to calculate to a day when certain comets will again become visible. And yet the very hands which created and uphold all these were nailed to a cross for me! This miracle of God’s abounding grace far exceeds all the miracles of creation. And this very One is my Saviour. Not our Saviour, or the Saviour in a general sense, but mine individually. O how sweet to be able to say—“Thou art mine—my Lord and my God!”

“When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Every word here is full of meaning. This verse is the key to the entire epistle. It directs our gaze to Christ in His new and wondrous character as Sin-purger on the throne of uncreated brightness. “For Himself” is the exact thought of the original here. He, who undertook to put away our sins, has so thoroughly done it, that He is up there without them. He has so purged our sins, that He has gone in and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty, or Magnificence, on high. Four times in this Epistle do we read of Him as being enthroned. Here in chapter 1:3, as the Sin-purger, the One who has once for all grappled with the question of sin, and who has gone up there with a new glory and a new name, to put everything on a redemption footing.

Second, in chapter 8:1, as the High Priest. Never was there an enthroned high priest before. Yet “We have such an High Priest,” there on God’s throne, to save the saved from being dashed, overwhelmed, fainthearted; to succour and to keep them from being faint-hearted, until He has them all up where He Himself is. Meanwhile He is there to deal with them according to God’s glory and grace, and to bring them safely through.

Third, in chapter 10:12, as the offerer of a Perfect Sacrifice, the effects of which abide continually. The lesson here for us is, that according to the value of the Offering, so is the measure of the Offerer’s acceptance before God. As Abraham stood by his sacrifice (Gen. 15:9-17) and thus received the promise, so the sinner who believes in Christ, and is thus identified with the Perfect Sacrifice, is perfected as to his standing, and is a sanctified man. Alas! that many regard the blood of Christ as of no more abiding value than the blood of bulls and goats. Do you think the writer of this Epistle, with his eye on that perfect sacrifice accepted by God, could have uttered what thousands of professing believers constantly do as they pray, “From everlasting damnation good Lord deliver us”? That sight forbids the thought of such a prayer.

Then last of all, in chapter 12:2, as the Beginner and Completer of the path of faith, our perfect Exemplar. He began, went on, and ended trusting God, and going onward in His path, right up to the Cross. Did He lose by it? See the end, the recompense of reward. Seated there the voice comes to us, “Follow Me.” Obedience, though seemingly unprofitable here, will have its full reward there; faith, though often tried, its joy and crown. The result of gazing upon that enthroned One, is a perfectly purged conscience. To deny this, is to doubt the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Conscience is like a looking-glass. When looking at self, it reveals only sin. When turned to Christ, it is “clean every whit,” not a spot or stain upon it, but perfectly purged to reflect His glory. “We all with unveiled face reflecting as in a glass the glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). What a change! How unspeakably grand for the soul to keep looking off and up unto Jesus! That glorious sight is the key to the Epistle. Read it with this in your view, and its seeming difficulties and strong statements will all be solved.

Verse 4, shews that He has not gone up one whit higher than He was before. Essentially He could not (John 6:62), nor could He ask for any higher glory than that which He by inheritance eternally possessed (John 17:5). But in His new character as Son of Man and as Sin-purger on the throne, He has received a new glory, and God has fixed a new centre, from which He will work till all has been brought under Christ, and established on a redemption footing.

Then follow several citations from the Old Testament about Christ. They are evidently not all to prove the same point. What, then, is their order, and what their combined teaching?

1st—We see Christ in Resurrection (verse 5).

2nd—Christ as Son at the right hand of God (verse 5).

3rd—Christ coming back again (verse 6).

4th—Christ on His millennial throne (verses 8-9).

5th—Christ and His perfection to all eternity (verses 10-12).

“This day,” in verse 5, refers to resurrection, as Acts 13:33 clearly shews. The quotation is from Psalm 2:7, and is here applied to the Lord Jesus. He who was God’s “only begotten Son” is in resurrection His “first begotten,” and thus God addresses Him “My Son” (see also Rom. 13). The quotation is again used in chapter 5:5, to shew that it was in resurrection that Christ was formally invested with the Priesthood. The next quotation, “I will be to Him a Father,” is from 2 Sam. 7, that long and beautiful passage, so full of promise to David, and here applied to Christ as the promised Seed to whom in resurrection “the sure mercies of David “are confirmed. How do these words apply to Christ? They bear two different meanings in both Greek and English. “First, “I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son,” then, “I will be to Him for a Father, and He shall be to Me for a Son.” Both forms of expression are found in 2 Cor. 6:16-18. “I will be their God,” “And will be (for) a Father unto you.” The one refers to the reality; the other to the manifestation. When God lifted up His Son and set Him on His throne, after earth had rejected Him, He manifested to all that He was His Son. He found Him a home, and set Him on His own right hand, till His enemies shall be made His footstool.

The third quotation, “When He bringeth again the first begotten into the habitable world,” implies force, and contrasts with His former coming in grace, when men ignominiously expelled Him from it. God will bring Him back clothed with Almighty power, so that resistance will be useless. But the statement shews that there will be foes of His in that world still who have the will, if they had the power, to crucify again the Son of God. These His enemies, rejecters of His grace, will sink into a more awful doom than demons, because not only have they sinned, but they have also rejected the Sin-purger. Now the full force of Divine judgment will descend upon them, because they turned their backs on Him to whom, had they but turned their faces, they would have been so completely purged from sin as to welcome the sight of Christ in glory.

“Let all the angels of God worship Him.” In Rev. 5:6-10, we see the Church is the first in Heaven to worship Him; then the angels follow in their smaller measure. But it would seem as if here, in view of all creation, and especially before that motley crew who in all ages have said “We will not have this man to reign over us,” the angelic host render their homage to Him. Thus judgment and worship are His, and in that very world too where He once was cast out and crucified.

Verse 7, is a parenthesis, contrasting angels as servants with the Son. Angels were created to serve, and if they, like the cherubim in Ezekiel, chap. 1, run and return as a flash of fire in their service, with what power and intelligence will the redeemed serve in glory?

Verses 8, 9, view Christ as seated on His own throne, the throne of millennial glory, where as Son of Man He shall reign. Now He is on His Father’s throne, for His reigning time is not yet.

“Thy throne, O God.” Here God is heard proclaiming with joy the Godhead of the Son, which puny worms of the dust are bold enough to deny. His qualification for rule is here also established by an eternal right. His fitness to hold the sceptre is shewn by His perfect submission and obedience to the will of God, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,” points to His path here below, in a world where darkness rather than light was loved by men, and where lawlessness characterised even religion. The reward for such love and hatred was not on earth, but in resurrection, God has fully vindicated and honoured it.

“Therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness.” The allusion is to the anointing of the high priest, when “the precious ointment” was poured upon his head (see Ex. 30:22-30; Psa. 133:2). “Above thy fellows.” Here a new and very beautiful truth is introduced. Angels are ministers but not “fellows “to the Son. None but His saints—the many brethren of which He is the first-born —have this honour conferred upon them. They alone share and are “joint-heirs “with Christ. O to think that we who had no claim, nothing but sin, have been called to be “fellows “of the risen Son of God. On the Cross, hanging between two thieves, God claimed that dying One as His fellow, when He said, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man who is My fellow” (Zech. 13:7); now on the throne, He calls us His fellows. How wonderful are God’s ways! For God to call Christ His fellow on the throne would not have been so wonderful, but it was that dying One, scorned and rejected of men, whom He thus addressed “My fellow.” And, again, had Christ while on the Cross called us His fellows, it would not have been so wonderful, but there He was alone; now from His glory, He greets those whom He has purged from their sins, and made fit to dwell in that light into which He has gone as His “fellows.” As the precious ointment poured upon the head of the high priest ran down to his garments, so the Spirit which our Great High Priest has received, He has bestowed upon His people (see Acts 2:39), for while the Spirit is said to come to us from the Father (John 14:16, 26), He is equally said to come from the Son (John 16:7). And in all this joy and gladness, Christ has the fullest share. While the joy of His redeemed will be “full,” His will be “exceeding joy “when He presents them faultless before the presence of His glory (Jude 24). It was with this “joy set before Him “that “He endured the Cross, despising the shame” (chap. 12:2). As each wanderer is found and brought back to God, He says, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost” (Luke 15:10), and when all His redeemed are safely gathered, and His bride complete, He will rejoice over them as “the Bridegroom over the bride.” “He will rest in His love and joy over them with singing” (Zeph. 3:17), for the joy of the Blesser must ever exceed the joy of the blessed. O to think of the Man of Sorrows being thus made glad, as He sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. “His fellows “are anointed with the same Spirit, which is to them the “earnest” of what awaits them in glory (2 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 1:14).

Verses 10-12.—”Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid.” His glory as Creator and His perfections to all eternity appear here side by side. He formed creation; He will unmake it and make it again, but He Himself is ever the same. “Thou remainest,” or as we have it, in chap. 13:8, “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” In Psa. 102:2, 12, from which the citation is made, Christ says as man, “My days are consumed like smoke”—”My days are like a shadow that declineth.” Then God answers, “But Thou, O Lord, shall endure for ever, and Thy remembrance to all generations.” The old creation is to be set aside in order that a new creation may take its place, and like as the Tabernacle of old rested upon silver sockets—not on the shifting sand of the desert—which silver was the atonement money of the children of Israel; so this new creation will stand on redemption, and be headed up in Christ, and thus provision is made for its continuance and perpetuity. And all this He will do in His character as Sin-purger. From that ground He will never recede, but every act of His in glory and in judgment, will be as the One who has glorified God in the purgation of sin, and ‘‘sat down.” That seated Sin-purger on the Throne is God’s new Centre, from which everything must take its character in glory, grace, and wrath.

Verses 13, 14.—”Sit Thou on My right hand.” Christ is not yet on His own throne, for this He waits. Yet grace reigns, and God speaks “in Son,” but when He who now sits rises up, He will “speak in His wrath” (Psa. 2:5), and crush those who reject Him beneath His feet as foes. Meanwhile His people are His fellow-heirs, waiting in the consciousness that they are about to inherit salvation, and to them angels are sent forth to minister.

O to think of these angels who shall worship the Son before all creation, when He is brought again into the world, being equally willing now to minister to the heirs of salvation. They care not for human praise; it is enough for them that they are serving God, “hearkening to His Word” and “doing His pleasure” (Psa. 103:21).

And what a host they are: “thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” (Daniel 7:10); “an innumerable company of angels” (Heb. 12:22), and the people of God only “a little flock” (Luke 12:32). Hundreds of them may hover around a “little one” who belongs to Christ. Thus, what people speak of as “Providence” we learn to be the ministry of angels, who while there are “fellows” of the Son of God, whose willing servants they are, are sent forth to guard and guide them along their pilgrim way.