Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “GOD.” Does this mean that He is God?

Summary

Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “GOD” but the next verse refers to the Father as His “GOD:”

“1:8 Of the Son He says,
YOUR THRONE, O GOD,
IS FOREVER AND EVER
1:9THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD,
HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.
” (NASB)

The reference to Jesus “GOD” in verse 8, for the following reasons, does not mean that Jesus is God in the modern sense of the word:

(1) Jesus is described as theos but that does not mean He is the Almighty.

Firstly, as discussed in the article on theos, there is no word in the original Greek that is exactly equivalent to the modern word “God:”

We use the word “God” for the Almighty; the one who exists without cause and who caused all others things to exist.

The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos but it has a much wider range of meanings. Originally, it was used by the Greeks for their gods, such as Zeus. When Greek became the lingua franca – the bridge or common language – in Europe during the centuries before Jesus was born, the Jews began to use this same word for YHVH (the God of the Old Testament). But theos also retained its much broader meaning. The New Testament, therefore, still uses theos for the gods of the nations (e.g., 1 Cor 8:5) and even for Satan (2 Cor 4:4).

Therefore, when the translator thinks that a specific instance of theos refers to God Almighty, it is translated as “God.” In other instances, it is translated as “god.” 

In the NASB, the word “GOD” is in all caps because it is a quote from the Old Testament. However, in other instances where theos refers to Jesus, for example John 20:28, it might be translated as “God,” indicating that Jesus is God Almighty. But that reflects the interpretation of the translator. It is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of that doctrine.

If one understand Jesus as the Son of God, through whom God created all things, and who still upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:2-3), but who received His existence from His Father, then references to Jesus as theos may be translated as “god,” with a lower “g.”

However, in a Christian context, the words “God” and “god” have assumed special meanings which one would not find outside the church, namely that “god” refers to a false god. For that reason, we do not want to translate theos, when it refers to Jesus, as “god.” Perhaps we should rather translate it as “Son of God.” But the important point remains that the readers must understand that, the fact that the Bible refers to Jesus as God, does not prove that He is the Almighty; the One who exists unconditionally.  

(2) God is Jesus’ God.

Secondly, “GOD” in the next verse (Heb 1:9) refers to the Father. In that verse, the phrase “GOD, YOUR GOD” means that Jesus has a God over Him. God is also Jesus’ God. We find this principle, that Jesus is God, in many other places in the Bible John 20:17; Heb 1:9; 2 Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3, 17; 1 Peter 1:3; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12). If the Father is Jesus’ God, Christ is subordinate to the Father, which is contrary to the Trinity doctrine, in which they are co-equal. 

(3) The king is also called god.

Hebrews 1:8-9 is a quote from Psalm 45. That psalm refers to the king of Israel as “god.” Hebrews 1 refers to Jesus as “god” because it interprets the king in the psalm as a type of Christ and because the psalm refers to the king as “god.

The word that is translated “God” in Psalm 45 is elohim. As shown by the fact that Psalm 45 refers to the king as elohim, this word is similar to theos in that it is used both for the true God and for certain superior human beings. 

(4) Better than angels

A main purpose of Hebrews is to exalt Jesus. The author does this in a number of ways. For example, Hebrews says that the Son has become “much better than the angels” (Heb 1:4). If the writer of Hebrews thought that the Son is the Almighty God, while would the writer try so hard to show that Jesus is “better than the angels?” He could simply have stated that Jesus is God.

(5) Jesus is distinct from God.

Several times, Hebrews explicitly distinguishes, not only between the Father and the Son, but between “God” and “His Son.” For example:

God … has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:1).

Jesus … has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).

If only the Father is “God,” then Jesus is not “God.”

6. Jesus is subordinate to God

In several ways, Hebrews describes the Son as subordinate to God. For example, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). The equality of the Father and the Son is the cornerstone of the Trinity doctrine. If the Son is subordinate to the Father, then the Trinity doctrine collapses.

Indications that Christ is God

The following are other aspects in Hebrews 1 that might be understood as saying that Jesus is God:

7. Only Begotten

Hebrews 1:5 quotes from Psalm 2, saying of Jesus, “you are my son, today I have begotten you.” 

A human son is of the same substance as the human father but we must not assume, since Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God, that this means that Jesus is equal to the Father. He is called the Only Begotten Son of God to show that He has a very unique relationship with God AS FAR AS HIS ORIGIN IS CONCERNED. To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” is an attempt to explain something in human language which human minds cannot comprehend, for it is hidden in the mystery of the infinity.

8. Worship the Son

God commanded all angels to worship the Son (Heb 1:6). 

We must worship Jesus, for God created all things through His Only Begotten Son. The Son “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:1-3; cf. John 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17).  In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). Everything that God does, He does through the Son.

However, the word that is translated as “worship” simply means to show honor. In the Bible, there are many examples where this Greek word is used to say that one person gives honor to another human being, such as to a king. Furthermore, since God had to command the angels to worship Jesus, Jesus is not the ultimate Source of all things.  The Son must be worshiped but He still is subordinate to the Father. 

Conclusion

That Jesus is called theos does not prove that He is God, for theos can also be translated as “god” with a small “g.”  But translators are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God. To translate theos as “God,” with a capital “G,” rather than with a small “g,” when it refers to Jesus, is an implementation of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.

This article touches on various aspects that are discussed in other articles to show that Jesus is distinct from and subordinate to the Father. See the full list of available articles at the end of this article.

 – END OF SUMMARY –

Purpose

Hebrews 1:8-9 refers to Jesus as “GOD:”

8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER
IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;
THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU …”

GOD” in verse 8 refers to Jesus. “GOD” in verse 9 refers to the Father: He is Jesus’ God.  Since Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God,” the question in this article is whether this proves that He is God. 

All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes, and italics in this article were added by myself.  Bible quotes are from the NASB.

For the following reasons, Hebrews 1:8-9 does not mean that Jesus is God in the modern sense of the word:

1. JESUS IS IDENTIFIED AS THEOS.

There is no word in the original Greek text that is exactly equivalent to the modern word “God:”

In modern English, we use the word “God,” to identify one specific Being; namely, the uncaused Cause of all things.  This word functions as A PROPER NAME FOR THE SUPREME BEING.

The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos, but this is the normal Greek word for the Greek gods, such as Zeus.  This word does not identify any specific being, but a CATEGORY OF BEINGS.  That category includes the true God of the Bible but also includes other beings.  For example, Satan is also called theos, namely “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). 

Theos can be translated either as “god” with a lower case “g” or as “God.”  It depends on who it refers to. When the translator understands a specific instance of theos to refer to the God of the Bible, theos is translated as “God.” In other instances, it is translated as “god.” 

Therefore, whether to translate theos as “God” or as “god” depends on the translator’s interpretation. Translators render theos, when it refers to Jesus, as “God” with a capital “G” because they, generally, are Trinitarians.  If one does not assume the Trinity theory, the handful of references to Jesus as theos in the New Testament may also be translated as “god.”  The fact that Hebrews refers to Jesus as “God” is an implementation of the Trinity Doctrine; not proof there-of.

It is a form of collective circular reasoning: First, the Trinitarian translator capitalizes the “G.” Then the readers exclaim, SEE, it says “God!  Therefore, Jesus is God!”  For a further discussion, see – The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

2. JESUS HAS A GOD OVER HIM.

Verse 9, actually, proves that Jesus is not God, for it says to Jesus, “GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU.”  In other words, Jesus has a God over Him.  God is also Jesus’ God.  This is similar to John 20.  That chapter also refers to Jesus as “God” (v17) but in the same chapter Jesus refers to God as His God:

I ascend to My Father and your Father,
and My God and your God” (John 20:17).

For a further discussion, see – Did Thomas call Jesus “my God” in John 20:28?

3. PSALM 45

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes from Psalm 45:6-7. Psalm 45:1-2 reads:

1 … I address my verses TO THE KING
2 … GOD HAS BLESSED YOU forever

This makes a distinction between God and the king of Israel.  But verses 6 to 9 addresses the king of Israel as God:

6 YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER …
7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED You

9 Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen.
” 

The mention of the king’s wives in verse 9 confirms that “God” in verse 6 refers to the king of Israel as God. The words, “GOD, YOUR GOD, has anointed You” means that the true God is also the God of the king of Israel.

Hebrews 1 refers to Jesus as “GOD” because it interprets the king of Psalm 45 as a symbol of (a type of) Christ and because the king is called “God” in Psalm 45.  This does not prove that Jesus is “God” in the modern sense of the word, for the word that is translated “God” in Psalm 45 is elohim and this word, similar to theos, is used for both the true God and for certain superior human beings. This is confirmed by the fact that Psalm 45 refers to the king as “god.”  Another example is in Exodus 7:1, where “The LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [elohim] to Pharaoh.” The NASB translates elohim about 250 times with a small case “g” “god” or “gods.

For more information, see the separate article on elohim.  Literally, it is a plural word (gods).  Strong’s defines elohim as “God” with a capital “G,” or “god.”   

INDICATIONS FROM THE CONTEXT IN HEBREWS 1

So far, we have discussed three aspects from verses 8 and 9, namely:

    • The word theos,
    • The fact that the Father is identified as Jesus’ God and
    • Psalm 45, which these verses quote.

The next three points are from the context of Hebrews 1:8-9 in Hebrews 1:

4. Better than angels

A primary purpose of Hebrews is to exalt Jesus.  The letter, for example, commences by saying that:

      • God appointed His Son as “heir of all things” (1:2).
      • Through the Son, God, “made the world” (1:2).
      • The Son “is … the exact representation of God’s nature” (1:3).
      • Jesus “upholds all things by the word of His power” (1:3).
      • The Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).
      • Christ became “much better than the angels” (1:4).

If the writer of Hebrews thought that the Son was God, then there would have been no need to try so hard to show that Jesus is “better than the angels.” He could simply have said that Jesus is God.

5. DISTINCT FROM GOD

Hebrews several times explicitly distinguishes between “God” and “His Son.” For example, it says that “God … has spoken to us in His Son” (1:1) and identifies “God” as “the Majesty on high” (1:3).  If the Son is distinct from God, then the Son is not God, if we use the word “God” in the way that the New Testament normally uses it.

6. SUBORDINATE TO GOD

In several ways, Hebrews describes the Son as subordinate to God. For example, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).  Other examples claim that God is the:

      • Original Owner, because He “appointed” His Son as the heir of all things (1:2).
      • Creator, for He made the world “through” the Son (1:2).
      • True glory, for the Son is the radiance of His glory (1:3).

The equality of the Father and the Son is the cornerstone of the Trinity doctrine. The entire remainder of the Trinity doctrine, such as that the Son has both a human and a divine nature, has been developed to reconcile this supposition with the Bible.  If the Son is subordinate to the Father, then the entire Trinity doctrine collapses.

So far, we have discussed six aspects:

    1. The word theos,
    2. The fact that the Father is identified as Jesus’ God,
    3. Psalm 45, which these verses quote,
    4. Hebrews tries very hard to prove that Jesus is better than the angels,
    5. Jesus is distinct from God, and
    6. He is subordinate to God.

The next two points are further aspects from the context in Hebrews 1 that might be interpreted to saying that Jesus is God:

7. TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU

In verse 5, Hebrews 1 quotes from Psalm 2, saying of Jesus, “you are my son, today I have begotten you.”  We must not assume that this means that Jesus is equal to the Father, in the same way that a human son is of the same substance as the human father.  He is called the Only Begotten Son of God to reveal to us that He has a very unique relationship with God AS FAR AS HIS ORIGIN IS CONCERNED.  To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” attempts to explain something in human language which human minds cannot comprehend, for it is hidden in the mystery of the infinity.  He was not begotten as humans are.  We should not give a literal interpretation to this symbolic language. We should allow the Bible to interpret it for us.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

8. WORSHIP THE SON.

According to Hebrews 1:6, God commanded all angels to worship the Son.  This is similar to Philippians 2:9-10, where we read,

God highly exalted Him (Jesus),
and bestowed on Him the name which is above EVERY NAME,
so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW …
and that every tongue will confess
THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.

We must worship Jesus, for God created all things through His Only Begotten Son. The Son still “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:1-3; cf. John 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17).  “In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  Everything that God does, He does through the Son.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT JESUS IS GOD.

Firstly, in both Hebrews 1:6 and Philippians 2, it is God who commands all beings to worship Jesus.  Philippians 2, for example, says that “God exalted Him.” If Jesus was God, then there would not have been any need for God to COMMAND His creatures to worship Him.

Secondly, in Philippians, “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  In other words; they will NOT confess Jesus as God.

Thirdly, the word that is translated “worship” (the Greek word proskuneó) has a much wider meaning than the English word “worship.”  The word “worship” implies that the one who is worshiped is God, but there are many examples in the Bible where this Greek word is used to say that one person gives honor to another human being, such as to a king.  Proskuneó simply means to show honor.  Literally, it means “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”  For example, the three wise men came looking for the “King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2).  When they found Him, “they fell to the ground and proskuneó Him” (v11); not because He is God, for they did not think of Him as God, but because He is “born King of the Jews.”

Fourthly, in Philippians 2, Jesus is worshiped “to the glory of God the Father.”  He is not worshiped independently from God, but “to the glory of God.”  To glorify the Son is to glorify the Father.  We worship the Father through the Son.

CONCLUSION

Even though the Son is worshiped, He is still subordinate to the Father.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is worshiped.

CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE ARTICLE

That Jesus is called theos does not prove that He is God, for theos can also be translated either as “god” with a small “g.”  But translators, generally, are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.  To translate theos as “God,” with a capital “G,” rather than with a small “g,” when it refers to Jesus, is an implementation of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.

For a further discussion, see, God is the Head of Christ.

TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE

      • Does Hebrews 1:8 prove that Jesus is God? (main topic)
      • The meanings of the Greek word theos (God or god)
      • Implications of the fact that Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45.
      • The meaning of the Hebrew word elohim (brief);
      • Jesus is distinct from God in Hebrews 1.
      • Jesus is subordinate to God in Hebrews 1.
      • Jesus is begotten by God (brief).
      • Jesus is worshiped in Hebrews 1 and in Philippians 2;
      • Why we must worship Jesus (brief).

Available Articles – Christology

SUMMARIES

SPECIFIC BIBLE BOOKS

SPECIFIC BIBLE PASSAGES

ORIGIN OF THE SON

SUBORDINATE

EQUALITY

JESUS IS CALLED GOD.

      • Overview – Overview of the verses that refer to Jesus as theos.
      • Theos – The meaning of theos – the word translated “God.”
      • John 1:18 – The original text of this verse is in dispute.
      • John 20:28 – Did Thomas say that Jesus is God?
      • John’s gospel – Discussion of theos in this gospel.
      • Romans 9:5 – The translation depends on punctuation.
      • Hebrews 1:8 – The next verse says that God is His theos.

JOHN 1:1

OTHER

If you are interested in Christology, I recommend Dale Tuggy’s podcasts, even though he understands Christ vastly different from me.

Hebrews 1:1:3 – Christ’s message superior to the Old Testament Prophets

Christ’s message is superior to that of the Old Testament prophets because He—the Son of God and Creator of all—is superior to them.

Throughout the letter, the writer contrasts the old with the new and elevates the new above the old.  .  In the first three verses the writer argues that Christ is superior to the Old Testament prophets, for He is God’s Son and God’s spoken word—the exact representation of God’s nature—through whom God made everything and through whom God still holds everything together.   “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”.

But the writer’s real purpose is to show that Christ’s message is superior to that of the Old Testament prophets.  God’s love and mercy for weak sinners are made visible in the person of Christ.  He also revealed how man may be reconciled to God, the resurrection of the body and the certainty of the future judgment of all mankind.  The purest and most extensive body of moral principles on earth are found in Christ’s teachings.

1:1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways 1:2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son
whom He appointed heir of all things,
through whom also He made the world.
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and
the exact representation of His nature,
and upholds all things by the word of His power.
When He had made purification of sins,
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Introduction

Jesus is superior to the Old Testament Prophets
Old Testament Prophet

This letter to the Hebrews does not have an introduction like we would normally find in other letters.  These first three verses serve as introduction, but also immediately confront the reader with the main theme of this epistle, which is the superiority of Christ.  In these verses the writer argues that Christ is superior to the Old Testament prophets, but his purpose is to show that Christ’s message is superior to the messages of the Old Testament prophets. (Compare 2:1-4)

The Old and the New

Throughout the letter, the writer contrasts the old and the new and he elevates the new over the old.  In the current verses the old is how God revealed Himself through the apostles, and the new is how He revealed Himself through His Son.

Spoke

God exists outside of our physical limitations of space, matter and time. He cannot be seen by our eyes or measured in our laboratories. He said,

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We are not equipped to know anything about God. If God had not spoken, we would have been without knowledge or hope. But we do have hope, for God has spoken. He has spoken through prophets and through His written word. Most importantly, He has spoken through His Son.

Long ago to the fathers in the prophets … in many ways (1:1)

I Am
Moses and the burning bush

The fathers include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but perhaps also other important figures in Israel’s history.  The prophets Include Moses, who refer to himself as a prophet (Deut. 18:15).  The ways in which God revealed Himself includes visions, dreams, physical appearance, historical events, prophecy, poetry, proverbs, direct communication and impressions.  Elijah once stood upon the mountain before Yahweh, and there was a great and strong wind which rent the mountains, and broke the rocks into in pieces; but Yahweh was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.  The earthquake was followed by a fire; but Yahweh was not in the fire.  Yahweh then spoke to Elijah is a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

In these last days (1:2)

This phrase is most often interpreted as meaning ‘recently’.  However, Jesus said, His disciples believed and the entire New Testament teaches that the Lord is coming soon.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews similarly wrote:

all the more as you see the Day approaching. …  For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay” (10:25, 36-37).

It is therefore also possible that the writer’s intention was to say that his generation was the last generation before Christ’s return.  The phrase “last days” is also found elsewhere in the New Testament, where it also implies the last days before Christ’s return:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking” (2 Peter 3:3)

’and it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My spirit on all mankind’” (Acts 2:17)

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:1-2)

Spoken to us in His Son (1:2)

What the writer implies is that, when the Son of God speaks, we better listen, for there is no higher authority.

Tested unto death
Son of God

The title “Son of God” was understood by the Jews to denote equality with God:

Jesus said, “My Father is working until now” (John 5:17).  “For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (v18)

John 10 records Jesus saying “I am the Son of God” (v36).  Therefore the Jews wanted to stone Him, saying, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (v33).

Revelation is gradual. 

At first we discern only the existence of some object – obscure and undefined; then we can trace its outline; then its color, its size, its proportions, its drapery – until it stands before us fully revealed. So it has been with revelation.  There is a great variety of subjects which we now, with the benefit of Christ’s teachings, see clearly, which were very imperfectly understood by the teaching of only the Old Testament prophets. Among them are the following:

(a) The character of God:

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (John 1:18)

Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27)

(b) How man may be reconciled to God.

But I say to you
Sermon on the Mount

(c) Christ’s moral precepts are superior to those that had gone before him. Prophets had delivered many moral precepts of great importance, but the purest and most extensive body of moral principles on earth are found in Christ’s teachings.

(d) He has given to us the clearest view of the future state. He disclosed many truths of the deepest interest to mankind, which were before only partially revealed.  This includes the certainty of a state of future existence – which the Sadducees previously were able to dispute.  He also revealed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The Saviour raised up more than one to show that it was possible; and He was himself raised, to put the whole matter beyond debate.  He revealed the certainty of future judgment – the judgment of all mankind.

Hebrews 1:2-3 presents us with seven facts concerning Jesus the Son, to emphasize His superiority.  He:

  • Is Heir of all things;
  • Made the universe;
  • Is the radiance of God’s glory;
  • Is the exact representation of God’s being;
  • Sustains all things by his powerful word;
  • Provided purification for sin; and
  • Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven;

Whom He appointed heir of all things (1:2)

God foretold, through Daniel, of a coming world-wide and everlasting kingdom over which a certain human being would rule:

… with the clouds of heaven one like the Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion … that all the peoples … might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion(Daniel 7:13-14).

Jesus often used the title in this passage—”Son of Man“—for Himself.  It is He that will inherit that everlasting dominion.

Through whom also He made the world (1:2)

Creator of the entire universe

He not only made the world; He is the creator of the entire universe.

All things have been created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16, cf. John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6.)

Genesis 1 teaches that God created by speaking; “God said … and it was so” (Gen. 1:9).  “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God” (Heb. 11:3).  Therefore John refers to Jesus as “the Word”, that is, He is God’s spoken word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  (John 1:1-3)

This is not something which humans are able to understand, simply because we are unable to understand God.

The word translated “world” is aiōn, and properly means “age” – an indefinitely long period of time. But it can also mean the world – the material universe.  The only clear use of the word is in Hebrews 11:3, where it means “worlds”: “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” In this verse “the worlds” parallels “what is seen”.

He is the radiance of His glory (1:3)

When Moses prayed, “show me Your glory“ (Ex. 33:18), the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed,

The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6-7)

When he came down from Sinai
Moses face shining

Moses had gone up on Mount Sinai and had stood in God’s presence.  When he came back down, his face shown with the brightness of reflected glory.  Jesus did not have a physical type of radiance, but He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12); God’s love and mercy for weak sinners is made visible in the person of Christ:

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all“ (1 John 1:5).

He is … the exact representation of His (God’s) nature (1:3)

God the Father is all Spirit (John 4:24), meaning He exists beyond the limits of this physical universe. We human beings therefore cannot experience the Father as He truly is.  But Jesus—the Word of God—reveals God. The Son of God bears the exact image of God on himself.  He is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).  Do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Do you want to know how God thinks? Listen to Jesus.  He said:

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)

But Philip said to Him,

Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (v8)

Jesus responded,

Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (v9)

We can begin to understand this by drawing an analogy to how we communicate or reveal our thoughts in the physical word.

When we conceive an idea in our mind, nobody can see our thoughts.  They are invisible, yet they certainly exist.

If we want to reveal our invisible thoughts to the world, we must transfer our thoughts into the physical realm for others to receive and understand.  The brain communicates our thoughts to our mouth where it becomes logos: spoken words.  The spoken word leaves our mouth and enters the physical world as sound waves.

The spoken word reveals our thoughts.  When someone hears our spoken word, they come to know something that was previously invisible and unknowable.

Still, the world’s knowledge of our invisible thoughts will be partial at best.  But what if our mind could take on a physical form for all to see?  Then the world could come to a complete and full understand of our invisible nature.  Our entire nature – our thoughts and character and personality – would be on display in a physical form.  We could be fully known.

God with us
Immanuel

Likewise, God the Father reveals Himself to the world via His Son (i.e., the Word).  “’They shall call his name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:23).

The Fathers of the Christian church held that the Son of God, as to his divine as well as his human nature, was “derived” from the Father. Hence, the Nicene creed speaks of him as “begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made”. But modern theologians find this is incredible and impossible. They hold that a derived being cannot in any proper sense be “God”.  If there is any attribute which the Scriptures have ascribed to Christ with clearness, it is that He always existed;

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

The Bible maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus, but also says that all the fullness of Deity dwells in Jesus.  How do we reconcile these facts?  For a more detail discussion, see Jesus, Son of God.

He … upholds all things by the word of His power (1:3)

Paul similarly wrote, “In Him all things hold together“ (Col. 1:17). The Lord Jesus commanded the waves and the winds, and they were still (Mt. 8:26-27).  He spoke to diseases and they departed, and to the dead, and they arose.  “Upholds” is present active and means continual action “to carry”.   Jesus carries all things continually.  The universe is maintained and held together by this same Word that brought it into existence.  It is not merely the earth with its rocks, mountains, seas, animals and human beings, but it is the universe – all distant worlds.  He holds up this vast universe so that it does not sink into anarchy or into nothing. There can be no higher idea of omnipotence than to say that he upholds all things by his word.

This is an astounding truth; that all things are held together by somebody who became a human being and still is a human being.  It is difficult to imagine that one human being could say such things of a fellow human being (Jesus).  The Holy Spirit influenced on them must have been strong.

When He had made purification of sins (1:3)

Sanctified
Set apart for holy use

This is a key thought in the New Testament.  Also in Hebrews it is repeatedly stated that “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10).  “Through His own blood” He obtained “eternal redemption” (9:12).  God sacrificed His Son (the Lamb of God – John 1:29) for the sins of the world.

However, probably most the important principle in Hebrews is that His death is part of a bigger process required for human salvation.  His death enabled Jesus to “become a merciful and faithful high priest … to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2:17).  “The blood of Christ, who … offered Himself without blemish to God, (will) cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (9:14) through Christ’s work as high priest in “the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands” (9:11).  We also see this principle typified in the old Jewish sacrificial system; the priest not only killed the animals; they always had to do something afterwards with the blood.

When we say that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, we should not think of this literally.  There is no literal container in heaven with His literal blood.  His blood is a symbol for His death.  Neither are we simply saved by His death; we are saved by His death because he “offered Himself without blemish to God” (9:14).  If He sinned before He died, He would not have been “without blemish”.  We are therefore saved by His perfect life, even when suffering the highest levels of temptation; even unto death.  For a further discussion, see Why Jesus had to die.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:3)

This is a quotation from Psalm 110.  The concept of “right hand” of God is not a physical location as much as it referred to a position of exaltation and supremacy.  The person that sits at the right hand of a sovereign is the most important person after the sovereign himself.

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9).