GOD AFTER HE SPOKE LONG AGO TO THE FATHERS: polumerous kai polutropos palai o theos:lalesas (AAPMSN) en tois prophetais: (Ge 3:15; 6:3; 6:13-22, 8:15-19; 9:1-17; 12:1-3, 12:2; 12:3, 26:2, 3, 4, 5; 28:12, 13, 14, 15; Ge 32:24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30; 46:2, 3, 4; Ex 3:1; Ex 3:2-22 Lk 24:27; Lk 24:44 Acts 28:23; 1Pe 1:10;1Pe 1:11 1Pe 1:12 2Pe 1:20, 21)
Referring to Hebrews it has said that "There is no portion of Scripture whose authorship is more disputed, nor any of which the inspiration is more indisputable.
Irving Jensen says that "The main theme of Hebrews may be stated thus: The knowledge and assurance of how great this High Priest Jesus is should lift the drifting believer from spiritual lethargy to vital Christian maturity. Stated another way: The antidote for backsliding is a growing personal knowledge of Jesus. (Jensen, I. L. Jensen's Survey of the New Testament: Search and discover. Chicago: Moody Press)
Key Words (see notes on key words) in Hebrews: Whenever you are studying a book of the Bible make a conscious effort to observe and note the repeated words, phrases or ideas that the author records. In so doing you will begin to better understand the writer's ultimate purpose for the book. You will also "make the book your own" because you will be much more likely to remember the main ideas as you "prospect" for the gold hidden in the key words. Admittedly I have given you a "cheat sheet" below, but don't let that stop you for observing carefully (and marking distinctively) the words in your Bible.
Angel - 13x in 12v - Heb 1:4, 5, 6, 7, (2x), He 1:13; 2:2, 5, 7, 9, 16; 12:22; 13:2
Better - 13x in 12v - Heb 1:4; 6:9; 7:19, 22; 8:6 (2x); He 9:23; 10:34; 11:4, 16, 35, 40; 12:24
Blood - 23x in 20v - Heb 2:14; 9:7, He 9:12 (2x), He 9:13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (2x), He 9:25; 10:4, 19, 29; 11:28; 12:4, 24 (2x); He 13:11, 12, 20
Covenant - 21x in 18v - Heb 7:22; 8:6, 7, 8, 9 (2x), He 8:13; 9:1, 4 (2x), He 9:15 (2x), He 9:16, 17, 20; 10:16, 29; 12:24; 13:20
Eternal - 6x in 6v - Heb 5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14, 13:20
Faith - 33x in 31v - Heb 4:2; 6:1, 12; 10:22, 38, 39; 11:1, 3, 4 (2x), He 11:5, 6, 7 (2x), He 11:8, 9, 11, 13, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 39; 12:2; 13:7
Faithful - 6x in 6v - Heb 2:17; 3:2, 5, 6; 10:23; 11:11
Heaven - 5x in 5v - Heb 9:24; 11:12; 12:23, 25, 26
Heavenly - 6x n 6v - Heb 3:1; 6:4; 8:5; 9:23; 11:16; 12:22
God - 71x in 66v - Heb 1:1, 6, 8, 9; 2:4, 9, 13, 17; 3:4, 12; 4:4, 9, 10, 12, 14; 5:1, 4, 10, 12; 6:1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 13, 17, 18; 7:1, 3, 19, 25; 8:5, 10; 9:14, 20, 24; 10:7, 12, 21, 29, 31, 36; 11:3, 4, 5, 10, 16, 19, 25, 40; 12:2, 7, 15, 16, 22, 23, 28, 29; 13:4, 7, 15, 16, 20
Great - 8x in 8v - Heb 2:3; 4:14; 7:4; 10:21, 32, 35; 12:1; 13:20
Greater - 6x in 6v - Heb 6:13, 16; 7:7, 23; 9:11; 11:26
Jesus - 14x in 14v (see also Son) - Heb 2:9; 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:22, 24; 10:10, 19; 12:2, 24; 13:8, 12, 20, 21
Let us - 13x in 12v - Heb 4:1, 11, 14, 16; 6:1; 10:22, 23, 24; 12:1 (2x), He 12:28; 13:13, 15
Perfect - 9x in 9v - Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:19, 28; 9:9, 11; 10:1; 11:40; 12:23
Priest (High priest, priesthood) - 36x in 33v - Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:1, 5, 6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 3, 5, 11, (2x), He 7:12, 14, 15, 17, 21 (2x), He 7:23, 24, 26, 27, 28; 8:1, 3, 4; 9:6, 7, 11, 25; 10:11, 21; 13:11
Sacrifice - 19x in 18v - Heb 5:1, 3; 7:27; 8:3; 9:9, 23, 26; 10:1, 3, 5, 6, 8 (2x), He 10:11, 12, 26; 11:4; 13:15, 16
Sin (Sinners) - 54x in 49v - Heb 1:3; 2:12, 14, 17, 18; 3:13, 17; 4:6, 14, 15; 5:1, 2, 3, 11; 6:6, 13; 7:25, 26, 27 (2x), He 8:4, 12; 9:7, 10, 15, 26 (2x), He 9:28 (2x); He 10:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 26 (2x); Heb 11:11, 25; 12:1 (2x), He 12:3, 4, 16, 28; 13:3, 11
Son - 25x in 22v (not all refer to God's Son) - Heb 1:2, 5 (2x), He 1:8; 2:6, 10; 3:6; 4:14; 5:5, 8; 6:6; 7:3, 5, 28; 10:29; 11:17, 21, 22, 24; 12:5 (2x), He 12:6, 7, (2x), He 12:8
Therefore - 24x in 24v - Heb 1:9; 2:14, 17; 3:1, 7, 10; 4:1, 6, 11, 14, 16; 6:1; 7:25; 9:18, 23; 10:5, 19, 35; 11:12, 16; 12:1, 12, 28; 13:12
The Verse by Verse Notes will take the position that Paul cannot be established as the author and thus the author is treated as unknown to all except God. This is the only New Testament epistle that does not begin like a first-century letter, with a formal salutation and prayer. It does have an epistolatory ending. The Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, the Septuagint (usually abbreviated LXX) is the source of all the OT quotations from the Old Testament, except two (He 10:30-note; Heb 13:5-note).
Respected Christian theologian R C Sproul once said that "If I were cast into prison and allowed but one book, it would be the Bible. If I were allowed only one book of the Bible, it would be the Epistle to the Hebrews… because it contains our most comprehensive discussion of the redemption wrought for us in the sacrifice of Jesus."
Stedman - The epistle to the Hebrews begins as dramatically as a rocket shot to the moon. In one paragraph, the writer breathtakingly transports his readers from the familiar ground of Old Testament prophetic writings, through the incarnation of the Son (who is at once creator, heir and sustainer of all things and the fullest possible manifestation of deity), past the purifying sacrifice of the cross to the exaltation of Jesus on the ultimate seat of power in the universe. It is a paragraph daring in its claims and clearly designed to arrest the reader's attention and compel a further hearing. (Hebrews 1:1-3 Greater Than the Prophets)
God (2316) (Theos) No other NT Epistle comes to the point as quickly as this one. There is no attempt to prove God’s existence. It is simply a self-evident given. Without benefit of salutation or introduction, the writer plunges into setting forth the superlative glories of the Lord Jesus Christ. These first four verses comprise one majestic sentence in the Greek text and read like the opening of a formal Greek oration rather than the customary "greetings" of a letter and are among the four most important Christological passages in Scripture (cf. Jn 1:1; , 2:7, 2:8, 2:9, 2:10, 2:11; Col 1:15, 16, 17, 19, 19, 20- see notes Co 1:15; 16; 17; 18; 19 20; Php 2:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-see notes Philippians 2:6; 2:7; 2:8; 2:9; 2:10; 2:11)
Hebrews begins like Genesis and John with God. It is significant that the subject of the first verb is God, for God is constantly before us in this epistle, used some 68 times or an average of about once every 73 words throughout the epistle and few NT books speak of God so often. Right at the beginning, then, we are confronted with the reality of God and the fact that he has been active in man's story. How deftly the author unveils the Trinity as active in the revelation of Scripture, here God the Father introduced as having spoken in time past, later noting God the Son (He 2:3-note) and finally God the Holy Spirit (He 3:7-note) After this long opening Greek sentence, the author immediately begins quoting Scripture in the remainder of this chapter.
Spoke (2980) (laleo [word study]) which originally referred to the chattering of birds or prattling of children and evolved in use to the highest form of speech, the thrice holy God choosing language as His primary medium of communication to fallen, sinful mankind.
Note that spoke is in the aorist tense, in context indicating past tense, the point being that aorist is used both of God speaking by the prophets and also His speaking by Christ, indicating that He has finished speaking in both cases. Beware of those who teach about a new revelation, a word of prophecy, etc. God speaks to us today primarily through His Word and the ministry of His Spirit as we read, study and meditate on His Word. (cp Jer 23:16)
As Francis Schaeffer's book puts it "He Is There And He Is Not Silent."
Pink comments that "Deity is not speechless. The true and living God, unlike the idols of the heathen, is no dumb Being. The God of Scripture, unlike that absolute and impersonal "first Cause" of philosophers and evolutionists, is not silent."
Speak (spoke, spoken, speaking) is clearly a key word in Hebrews (Click 18 occurrences in Hebrews in NAS). Note that God took the initiative to speak in the past and at the last!
This "special revelation" contrasts with "natural revelation" described by Paul as "that which is known about God is evident within (all men) for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Ro 1:19, 20-see notes Ro 1:19; 20)
David parallels this thought in Psalm 19 writing that "the heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." (Ps 19:1, 2-note)
Long ago (3819) (palai) means in the past, of olden times, long before now or of old. "Long ago" is a time phrase which in context refers to the time prior to Messiah's first coming and contrasts to the "last days" inaugurated at His incarnation. The OT revelation is thus no novelty but has its roots deep in the past.
Guzik - Hebrews has 29 quotations and 53 allusions to the Old Testament, for a total of 82 references. Significantly, Hebrews does not refer even once to the books of the Apocrypha. (Hebrews 1)
The writer's emphasis on the Old Testament at the inception of this epistle would be especially meaningful to a Jewish audience trained up in the truths taught by the Law and the prophets.
Paul reminded Timothy to "continue in the things you have learned… from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Old Testament Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2Ti 3:14-15-note)
Barnes adds that since "the object of the (author of Hebrews) was to show the superior claims of the gospel, and to lead them from putting confidence in the rites instituted in accordance with the directions of the Old Testament, it was of essential importance that he should admit that their belief of the inspiration of the prophets was well founded.
The fathers would have been a term familiar to Jewish reader as illustrated by Paul's address to the synagogue in Perga where he said "we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE." (Acts 13:32 33).
Later to the Romans Paul writes "Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (Jews) on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers" (Ro 15:8) (The 9 other similar uses of the phrase the fathers in the NT - Luke 1:17; John 6:58; 7:22; Acts 13:32; Ro 9:5; 11:28; 15:8; Heb 1:1; 2Pet 3:4)
IN THE PROPHETS IN MANY PORTIONS AND IN MANY WAYS: en tois prophetais polumeros kai polutropos: (Nu 12:6, 7, 8;12:7, 12:8 Joel 2:28) (Lk 1:55;Lk 1:72 Jn 7:22; Acts 13:32)
The author in this statement sets his seal upon the Divine inspiration and authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Ray Stedman gives us an excellent overview writing that "The author intends to present a series of arguments for the superiority of Jesus over all rival claims to allegiance which his readers were feeling and hearing. Their attention was easily diverted off in other directions, just as our attention is easily distracted today. They, like us, were being tempted, frightened or pressured into following other voices and serving other masters. In Hebrews 1-7, he examines these rival authorities and reveals their inadequacies. None was, in itself, a false or fraudulent voice. Each was ordained by God and proper in its intended place. Each had served the people of God well in the past, and no teaching or expectation was wrong at the time it was given. But now the final word, the ultimate revelation from God toward which all the other voices had pointed, had come. To this supreme voice the author directs his readers' attention, and ours, by contrasting this final word with the past utterances. First, there were the prophets, God's ancient spokesmen (Hebrews 1:1-3); then the angels, Israel's guardians (Hebrews 1:4-2:18); then Israel's great leader, Moses (Hebrews 3:1-4:7); Israel's godly general, Joshua (Hebrews 4:8-13); and finally the founder of Israel's priesthood, Aaron (Hebrews 4:14-7:28). Each was a voice from Israel's past that needed to be heard but that was woefully inadequate if followed alone. It was clearly a case of the good being the enemy of the best. Eclipsing all these, as the rising sun eclipses the light of the stars, is the figure of Jesus, God's Son, creator and heir of all things." (Hebrews 1:1-3 Greater Than the Prophets) (bolding added)
In the prophets (4396) (prophetes from pró = before or forth + phemí = tell) is literally one who speaks forth and as used in Scripture refers to one who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to His people and to disclose the future to them (Dt 18:18).
Prophetes - 144x in 138v in NAS and always rendered prophet (63) or prophets (81) - Matt 1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 3:3; 4:14; 5:12, 17; 7:12; 8:17; 10:41; 11:9, 13; 12:17, 39; 13:17, 35, 57; 14:5; 16:14; 21:4, 11, 26, 46; 22:40; 23:29ff, 34, 37; 24:15; 26:56; 27:9; Mark 1:2; 6:4, 15; 8:28; 11:32; Luke 1:70, 76; 3:4; 4:17, 24, 27; 6:23; 7:16, 26, 39; 9:8, 19; 10:24; 11:47, 49f; 13:28, 33f; 16:16, 29, 31; 18:31; 20:6; 24:19, 25, 27, 44; John 1:21, 23, 25, 45; 4:19, 44; 6:14, 45; 7:40, 52; 8:52f; 9:17; 12:38; Acts 2:16, 30; 3:18, 21ff; 7:37, 42, 48, 52; 8:28, 30, 34; 10:43; 11:27; 13:1, 15, 20, 27, 40; 15:15, 32; 21:10; 24:14; 26:22, 27; 28:23, 25; Rom 1:2; 3:21; 11:3; 1 Cor 12:28f; 14:29, 32, 37; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11; 1 Thess 2:15; Titus 1:12; Heb 1:1; 11:32; Jas 5:10; 1 Pet 1:10; 2 Pet 2:16; 3:2; Rev 10:7; 11:10, 18; 16:6; 18:20, 24; 22:6, 9
John MacArthur adds that "A prophet is one who speaks to men for God; a priest is one who speaks to God for men. The priest takes man’s problems to God; the prophet takes God’s message to men. Both, if they are true, are commissioned by God, but their ministries are quite different. The book of Hebrews has a great deal to say about priests, but its opening verse speaks of prophets. The Holy Spirit establishes the divine authorship of the Old Testament, its accuracy and its authority, through the fact that it was given to and delivered by God’s prophets." For example the "LORD said to Moses, "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet." (Ex 7:1) (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)
Thus, the prophets were the mouthpieces of God and their words were not the production of their own spirit, but came from the Holy Spirit as emphasized by Peter who wrote that "no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (1Pe 1:21-note)
The prophet John the Baptist quoting another prophet Isaiah explaining that he was but "a voice of One who is crying out in the wilderness (Jn 1:23)
The One giving the message was God, John being His voice, "a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2Ti 2:21-note)
The prophets received their call or appointment directly from God, and some like Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) or John the Baptist (Jn 1:13, 14, 15), were called before birth. Although not all that God had spoken through the prophets was predictive prophecy, this aspect of God's revelation is one of the strongest evidences that the Bible is divinely inspired.
Barclay adds that "it is no part of the purpose of the writer to the Hebrews to belittle the prophets; it is his aim to establish the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is not saying that there is a break between the Old Testament revelation and that of the New Testament; he is stressing the fact that there is continuity , but continuity that ends in consummation." (Hebrews 1 Commentary)
The KJV translates this phrase as by the prophets but the Greek is literally in the prophets.
Kenneth Wuest explains that in is "the preposition en - Used here in the locative case...the locative of sphere. That is, the writers of the First Testament constituted the sphere within which God spoke. He spoke exclusively through them and through no other men, so far as the written revelation is concerned. This preposition is used also in the instrumental case. Then the writers would be looked upon as the instruments in God’s hands by which the First Testament Scriptures were written down." (Hebrews Commentary - essentially verse by verse) (Bolding added)
OT Scriptures documenting that God spoke long ago…
John Calvin = That you may, therefore, understand the full import of this passage, the following arrangement shall be given —
Many portions (4181) (polumeros from polús = many + méros = part) (only use in the NT) is literally "many parts". It means part by part, fragmentarily. The word points to the fragmentary character of former revelation --it came in multiple segments or portions, in many ways, in various manners. Polumeros could refer both to the various geographical locations of the revelation as well as to the various methods of disclosure—direct revelation, dreams, visions, etc.—thus stressing the diversity of God’s Word
In short, polumeros means that God spoke a word here and there, now and then, some at one time, some at another, to some a few words, to others many.
The speech of God throughout the ages past was not unbroken chatter but given in episodes of speech punctuating seasons of silence (eg 400 silent years of the inter-testament period) This phrase is first in the Greek construction for emphasis (emphatic position) and refers to the incremental and progressive revelation (Genesis gives some truth, Exodus some more truth, etc) in which God disclosed Himself in portions of truth at different times until the appearance of the Son, Who Himself is the consummation of Truth (Jn 1:17, Jn 14:6), the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets (Mt 5:17-note).
The prophetic revelation was fragmentary, piece by piece in 39 OT books delivered over some 1500 years by forty-plus writers, each contributing "portions" of divine revelation, none in themselves complete. Finally, the revelation is complete in Christ. Hallelujah!
Pink adds that
If is as if God had spoken in a spectrum of pure variegated lights in the Old Testament and that the arrival of Jesus was like a "prism" Who collects all these bands of pure light and focuses them into one final, perfect and pure beam.
Peter alludes to the fragmentary nature of the OT revelation adding that even the
Jamieson - All was not revealed to each one prophet; but one received one portion of revelation, and another another. To Noah the quarter of the world to which Messiah should belong was revealed; to Abraham, the nation; to Jacob, the tribe; to David and Isaiah, the family; to Micah, the town of nativity; to Daniel, the exact time; to Malachi, the coming of His forerunner, and His second advent; through Jonah, His burial and resurrection; through Isaiah and Hosea, His resurrection. Each only knew in part; but when that which was perfect came in Messiah, that which was in part was done away" (1Cor 13:12).
F B Meyer puts it this way - No one prophet could speak out all the truth. Each was entrusted with one or two syllables in the mighty sentences of God's speech. At the best the view caught of God, and given to men through the prophets, though true, was partial and limited. But in Jesus there is nothing of this piecemeal revelation. "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He hath revealed the Father. Whosoever hath seen him hath seen God; and to hear his words is to get the full-orbed revelation of the Infinite. (Hebrews 1:3-4: The Dignity of Christ)
In many ways (4187) (polutropos from polús = many + trópos = a manner) points to the different media and modes through which God disclosed His word, including dream, direct voice, signs, angelic visitations and even in different ways to different men. He spoke to Moses in the burning bush (Ex 3:2ff), to Elijah in a still, small voice (1Ki 19:12), to Isaiah in a vision in the temple (Isa 6:1ff), to Hosea in his family circumstances (Hos 1:2), and to Amos in a basket of summer fruit (Am 8:1).
Many ways also alludes to the different OT literary types including law, history, poetry, allegory, prophecy, etc. The writer's main point in this section is to emphasize that all OT revelation was God speaking to man, albeit in a manner that was fragmentary and occasional, lacking fullness and finality.
Pink observes that "we may see here an illustration of the sovereignty of God: He did not act uniformly or confine Himself to any one method of speaking to the fathers. He spake by way of promise and prediction, by types and symbols, by commandments and precepts, by warnings and exhortations." Expositor’s adds that the people of Israel “were like men listening to a clock striking the hour, always getting nearer the truth but obliged to wait till the whole is heard.”
MacArthur - We must, of course, clearly understand that the Old Testament was not in any way erroneous (2Ti 3:16, 17- note). But there was in it a development, of spiritual light and of moral standards, until God’s truth was refined and finalized in the New Testament. The distinction is not in the validity of the revelation—its rightness or wrongness—but in the completeness of it and the time of it. Just as children are first taught letters, then words, and then sentences, so God gave His revelation. It began with the “picture book” of types and ceremonies and prophecies and progressed to final completion in Jesus Christ and His New Testament… The Old Testament is only a part of God’s truth, but it is not partially His truth. It is not His complete truth, but it is completely His truth. It is God’s revelation, His progressive revelation preparing His people for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)
Wuest - The revelations of First Testament truth were given “at sundry times” (polumeros). The word is made up of polus “many,” and meros “parts,” the total meaning being “by many portions.” It was given also “in divers manners” (polutropos). The word is made up of polus “many,” and tropos “manner” or “fashion,” thus, “different manners,” or “many ways.” In the giving of the First Testament truth, God did not speak once for all, but in separate revelations, each of which set forth only a part of His will. One writer was given one, and another, another element of truth. God spoke in different ways. This does not refer to different ways in which He imparted His revelations to the writers, but to the difference of the various revelations in contents and form. He spoke to Israel in one way through Moses, in another, through Isaiah, etc. At the beginning of the revelation, the presentation was elementary. Later it appealed to a more developed spiritual sense. Again, the revelation differed according to the faithfulness or the unfaithfulness of Israel. Clement of Alexandria associates this passage with Ephesians 3:10, “the many-tinted (polupoikilos) wisdom of God.” The First Testament revelation was progressive. All could not be revealed at once, and because all could not be understood at once. Thus the revelation was given in many parts. In addition to this, it was given in different modes. It was given in the form of law, prophecy, history, psalm, sign, type, parable. Expositor’s says that the people of Israel “were like men listening to a clock striking the hour, always getting nearer the truth but obliged to wait till the whole is heard.” The words “in times past” are the translation of palai. The Greek has two words meaning “old,” archaios, meaning “old in point of time,” and palaios, meaning “old in point of use, worn out, ready to be displaced by something new.” The close association of our word palai to palaios suggests that the writer had in mind by its use, the fact that while the First Testament revelation was not to be cast aside, yet it was time for a new one to be given, one that would be God’s final word, one that would complete and round out the first one. The translation so far reads “In many parts and in different ways of old.” Now comes the word “God.” It is preceded by the definite article which has several functions here. First of all, it serves notice on the reader, that the God of whom the writer speaks, is the same God whom the Hebrew addressees of the epistle profess to worship. Thus does the writer seek to place himself on common ground with his readers in the very beginning of a treatise which is highly argumentative in character. It is the debater’s technique which concedes all it safely can to an opponent. The other function of the article here is to indicate the particular Person of the Godhead spoken of, God the Father. The next word “spake,” is a participle in the Greek text, and is associated with the word “spoken” of verse two, which is a finite verb. That is, “God, having spoken, spoke.” Thus, we have the two revelations, that of the First Testament and that of the New, joined together. (Hebrews Commentary - essentially verse by verse)
Isaac Watts expresses the thoughts of verse 1-2 in hymn:
God, Who in various methods told
His mind and will to saints of old,
Sent down His Son, with truth and grace,
To teach us in these latter days.
Our nation reads the written Word,
That book of life, that sure record:
The bright inheritance of heav’n
Is by the sweet conveyance giv’n.
God’s kindest thoughts are here expressed,
Able to make us wise and bless’d;
The doctrines are divinely true,
Fit for reproof and comfort, too.
IN THESE LAST DAYS: ep eschatou ton hemeron touton: (Ge 49:1; Nu 24:14; Dt 4:30; 18:15; 31:29; Isa 2:2; Jer 30:24; 48:47; Ezek 38:16; Da 2:28; 10:14; Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1; Acts 2:17; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10; 2Pe 3:3; Jude 1:18)
In these last days is rendered variously as - "at the end of these days" (DNT), "But now in these final days" (NLT), "at the end of the present age" (Phillips), "in the last of these days." (Wuest)
The meaning of Hebrews 1:2 is that at the very termination of the times in which God is speaking to man, He speaks, not through the prophets, but in His Son, Who is "the Word" (Jn 1:1-2). So the writer of Hebrews is referring to the incarnation of God's Son at His First Coming. It follows that this is when the last days began. Luke utilizes the same time phrase writing that "in the last days God says that "I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind" (Acts 2:17), a prophecy from Joel 2:28 which was partially fulfilled at Pentecost, at the birth of the Church. Obviously Pentecost is related to the First Coming (and then the ascension) of Christ. We can therefore conclude that the last days were inaugurated by the First Coming of Christ.
Mounce agrees noting that eschatos can refer specifically to Jesus’ return on “the last day” or more generally to the period of time between His (Christ's) first and second coming."
In his Second Epistle Peter exhorted us to be aware "that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2Pe 3:3,4-note). In this context the mockers are not referring to the first but the Second Coming of Christ. It follows that the last days began with Christ's first coming and will extend to His Second Coming.
In summary, the last days are the time period between the First and Second Comings of our Lord Jesus Christ. This time period overlaps with the so called "church age."
Spurgeon - Saving the best for last is always God’s rule. “You have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). Prophets are a very blessed means of communication, but how much more sure, how much more condescending is it for God to speak to us by His Son! Jesus is God’s own Son. What do I know about that wondrous truth? If I were to try to explain it, and to talk about the eternal filiation, I would only conduct you where I would soon be entirely out of my depth, and very likely I would drown all that I could tell you in floods of words. Deity is not to be explained, but to be adored. The sonship of Christ is to be accepted as a truth of revelation, to be apprehended by faith, though it cannot be comprehended by the understanding. There have been many attempts made by the fathers of the Church to explain the relationship between the two divine persons, the Father and the Son. But the explanations had better never have been given, for the figures used are liable to lead into mistake. Suffice to say that, in the most appropriate language of the Nicene Creed, Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” He is co-equal with the Father, though how that is, we do not know. He stands in the nearest possible relationship to the Father—a relationship of intense love and delight, so that the Father says of Him, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt 3:17; 17:5; Mark 9:7). Indeed, He is one with the Father, so that there is no separating them, as He Himself said, in reply to Philip’s request, “Show us the Father”; “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:8, 11).
Eschatos can refer to the lowest status or "last place" (Mt 19:30)
Eschatos indicates the meaning “last” in the sense of a final stage in a process. For example, in Rev 15:1 the “last seven” plagues of judgment against the earth are declared to be the completion of God’s wrath against the wickedness of humankind.
Eschatos can indicate the final element in a significant series.
One of the more notable uses of eschatos is when it is coupled with hemera (day) to give us the well known phrase "last days." See preceding discussion for the "when" of the last days. As noted above eschatos means "last" in time, last in a series, the final stage in a drama. Eschatology then is the study of the "last things", especially the times preceding and culminating in the Second Coming of the King of kings (Rev 17:14-note, Rev 19:16-note). Indeed, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ is the final (eschatos) stage of the drama, the consummation of the history ("HIS-story") of the world! The phrase "LAST DAYS" (eschatos hemera) is found in both the NT & the OT (Specifically in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT.) See below for discussion of the prophetic significance of the 20 great OT passages that use "eschatos hemera", "last days".
As noted above, ESCHATOS describes the very DAYS in which we are living and which began at the First Coming of Christ, for "in these LAST DAYS (God) has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb 1:2), "in the LAST DAYS God says 'that I will pour forth My Spirit upon all mankind" (Acts 2:17), in the LAST DAYS difficult (dangerous, hard, troublesome) times will come (2 Timothy 3:1), "it is in the LAST DAYS that you have stored up your treasure" (James 5:3) and "in the LAST DAYS mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts and saying 'Where is the promise of HIS COMING?'" (2 Peter 3:3-4). Indeed, HE IS COMING AGAIN, for He Himself promised that we "will see the Son of Man COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory" (Mt 24:30), a promise which was repeated by John who declared "BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen." (Rev 1:7-note). Father, hear our cry - "Maranatha" ("Our Lord Come!"). Amen (1 Corinthians 16:22)
Eschatos is used to describe a number of entities in the New Testament - Money ("last cent" - Mt 5:26, Lk 12:59); the state of one's soul (Mt 12:45, Lk 11:26, 2Pe 2:20), a place "in line" so to speak (Mt 19:30, 20:16, Mk 10:31, Lk 13:30, cp Mt 20:8, 14), the day of resurrection of believers (Jn 6:39, 40, 44, 54, 11:24); judgment day of unbelievers (Jn 12:48); how to be "first" (Mk 9:35, Lk 14:10); Christ (the last Adam - 1Co 15:45); the last trumpet associated with our bodies being changed in the twinkling of an eye (1Co 15:52); the time of the Second Coming (1Pe 1:5); the last plagues which complete the outpouring of God's righteous wrath (Rev 15:1-note, Rev 21:9-note) and finally, eschatos describes death as the "last enemy" (1Cor 15:26) who will "at last" be destroyed forever (Hallelujah!)
The Greek word Eschatos "has a variety of meanings depending upon the larger frame of reference: farthest extent in space, final element of time, and last piece of money." (The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary 2:576)
NIDNTT writes that "The adjective eschatos, attested from Homer onwards, is a superlative form derived from the prep. ek/ex, out of, away from, and originally designated the person or thing that was furthest outside (ex). Spatially it meant the place furthest away (e.g. Hesiod, Theog. 731, the utmost ends of the earth), temporally the last events of a series (e.g. Hdt., 7, 107), materially the extreme, rarely the highest (e.g. Libanius, Orationes 59, 88, greatest wisdom), mostly the lowest place in order of rank (e.g. Plato, Tht. 209b; Diod. Sic. 8, 18, 31, the most miserable of men)… The Gk. language uses the term eschatos to designate the end-point of a continuously conceived succession of circumstances… In qualitative respects eschatos designates an extreme positive or negative intensification (Pindar, Ol. 1, 113, the highest reaches its peak with kings; Plato, Rep. 361a, greatest injustice; Gorgias 511d, extreme danger). (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)
What happens in the last days (observations derived solely from the passages which use "eschatos")?
There is a pouring forth of God's Spirit (Acts 2:17); there will be difficult, dangerous, perilous times (2Ti 3:1); mockers will come (2Pe 3:3, cp Jude 1:18), God has spoken (past tense) in His Son (Heb 1:2, cp "last times" 1Pe 1:20); treasure will rust (Jas 5:3). Compare to the phrase the last hour - antichrist coming (1Jn 2:18).
Eschatos - 52x in 47v - Eschatos is translated in NAS = end(1), last(46), last of all(1), last man(1), last men(1), late(1), remotest part(1).
Matthew 5:26-note (For context see Mt 5:23-25) "Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent (a small Roman coin).
Comment: In the ancient world debtors were jailed till the debts were paid. Reconciliation should be made today. If there is any bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, hatred (or any other sin) that is separating you from someone, you need to "pay up the last cent" so to speak!
John MacArthur: The basic teaching is plain and unmistakable: we are to make every effort, with no delay, to make our relationship right with our brother before our relationship can be right with God and we can avoid chastening. (MacArthur, John. Matthew. Chicago: Moody Press)
Beloved, this verse begs the question, a serious, sobering question - Is that any other individual made in the image of God with to whom you "owe a debt?" Jesus thought this issue was so important to our spiritual life that He included it in the disciple's prayer "forgive us our debts as (just like, in the same manner) we forgive those who trespass against us." (Mt 6:12-note) And then of all the points in this great prayer, the one to which He gave extra attention was forgiveness (Read His "exposition" in Mt 6:14-15-note)
Matthew 12:45 "Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."
Matthew 19:30 "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
Matthew 20:8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.'
Matthew 20:12 saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'
Matthew 20:14 'Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
Matthew 20:16 "So the last shall be first, and the first last."
Matthew 27:64 "Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first."
Mark 9:35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
Mark 10:31 "But many who are first will be last, and the last, first."
Mark 12:6 "He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
Mark 12:22 and so all seven left no children. Last of all the woman died also.
Luke 11:26 "Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
Luke 12:59 "I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent."
Luke 13:30 "And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last."
Luke 14:9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.
John 6:39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:54 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Comment: In the previous four passages in which Jesus repeats the phrase "on the last day", clearly accentuates the eternal security of every believer's salvation. Glory!
John 7:37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. (Context tells what believers are to "drink" - Jn 7:38, 39! Not water but the Spirit!)
Comment: At dawn during the Feast of Tabernacles the priests took water from the Pool of Siloam in a golden vessel and brought it to the temple. As they approached the Water Gate the trumpets sounded “a short blast, a long one, then another short one. At the morning offering the water along w. wine was poured on the altar from two silver bowls. Perhaps at this time Jesus stood and cried out w. a loud voice (Edersheim, The Temple, 281f).
John 11:24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
John 12:48 "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
Acts 1:8-note but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
Acts 2:17 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;
Acts 13:47 "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'"
1 Corinthians 4:9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
1 Corinthians 15:8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
Comment: The last in a "series" - The apostles were brought out to make the grand finale
1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Comment: "By separating it and drawing special attention to it, emphasis is placed on the fact that the reign of Christ is not complete until death is conquered; everything is still in process.” (1 Corinthians. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament).
In 1Cor 15:24 at the end of the Millennial Reign, Christ "delivers up the (Millennial) kingdom to the God and Father." Christ "must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet" (1Cor 15:25) which is accomplished at the end of His Millennial reign which then is followed by the Great White Throne Judgment at which time "death and Hades" are thrown into Gehenna, the Lake of fire (Rev 20:14-note), so that then the last enemy death is abolished! Hallelujah to the King of kings!
1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
2 Timothy 3:1-note But realize this, that in the last days difficult (dangerous, hard, perilous - demon of Mt 8:28 was "dangerous") times will come (literally "will stand", will set in, will be at hand).
Hebrews 1:2-note 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.
James 5:3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
Comment: Do not a suggestion of irony, for the treasure in mind is not their riches, but the misery that awaits them. What are you storing up for yourself? Treasure on earth or heaven? Where is your heart? (Mt 6:19-21-note, Mt 6:24-note)
1 Peter 1:5-note who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Comment: The word "time" is kairos which signifies the fit or appointed time or moment. The idea is that this is the last in an order of time. In this context, this is the appointed time when our inheritance is fully completed by the last episode of redemptive history (Mt 25:34).
MacArthur writes: Christians possess some of the benefits of salvation in this life, but the great fullness of redemption is yet to come. God has promised unfathomable glories in the eternal perfection of heaven that will one day be the conscious experience of every believer. He is the source of the believer’s inheritance; it came because of His mercy and by the gracious means of the new birth; and it remains perfect and eternally secure, a reality all believers can fix their hope on. (MacArthur, J.. 1 Peter. Chicago: Moody Publishers)
1 Peter 1:20-note For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you
Comment: Last times is a synonym for the last days, the time period between the first and second comings.
2 Peter 2:20-note For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
2 Peter 3:3-note Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,
Comment: Little wonder that they scoff! There denial of Jesus return facilitates as it were, their self gratification. As Paul summed it up "There is no fear of God before their eyes!" (Ro 3:18-note). See Jude's warning where "last time" is synonymous with last days. (Jude 1:18).
1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
Comment: Last hour is a synonym of last days or latter days.
Jude 1:18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."
Revelation 1:17-note 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,
Revelation 2:8-note "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
Revelation 2:19-note 'I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.
Revelation 15:1-note Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.
Revelation 21:9-note Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
Revelation 22:13-note "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Eschatos - 64x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (most in Jeremiah = 14x) - Ge 33:2; 49:1; Ex 4:8; Lev 23:16; 27:18; Nu 2:31; 10:25; 24:14; 31:2; Dt 4:30; 8:16; 13:9; 17:7; 24:3; 28:49; 31:27, 29; 32:20; 34:2; Josh 1:4; 10:14; 24:27; Jdg 15:7; Ruth 3:10; 1Sa 29:2; 2Sa 2:26; 13:16; 19:11f; 23:1; 24:25; 1Kgs 9:26; 17:13; 1Chr 23:27; 2Chr 9:29; 12:15; 16:11; 20:34; 25:26; 26:22; 28:26; 35:27; Ezra 8:13; Neh 5:15; 8:18; Job 8:7, 13; 11:7; 18:20; 23:8; 42:12; Ps 73:17; 135:7; 139:4, 9; Pr 5:11; 19:20; 23:32; 25:8; 29:21; 31:25; Eccl 1:11; 4:16; 7:8; 10:13; Isa 2:2; 8:9; 37:24; 41:22, 23; 45:22; 46:10; 47:7; 48:20; 49:6; 62:11; Jer 6:22; 9:2; 10:13; 16:19; 17:11; 23:20; 25:32; 30:24; 31:8; 49:39; 50:12, 41; 51:16, 31; Lam 1:9; Ezek 35:5; 38:6, 8, 15, 16; 39:2; Da 2:28, 29, 45; 8:19, 23; 10:14; 11:20, 29; Hos 3:5; Joel 2:20; Jonah 2:5; Mic 4:1; Hag 2:9; Zech 14:8.
Eschatos is frequently in the Lxx in a phrase "first to last" which summarizes the deeds of kings- 2Chr 9:29 Solomon, 2Chr 12:15 Rehoboam, 2Chr 16:11 Asa, 2Chr 20:34 Jehoshaphat, first to last, 2Chr 25:26 Amaziah, 2Chr 26:22 Uzziah, 2Chr 28:26 (Ahaz) acts; 2Chr 35:27 (Josiah)
OF THE WORD ESCHATOLOGY
Eschatology (eschatos + logos - the "last word") refers to the last things or final events in God’s relationship with history and creation. In short, eschatology is teaching about the "end times" or more literally the doctrine of last things. A modern dictionary definition defines eschatology as "a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind." Another secular dictionary says this term relates to "the end of the world" which is a somewhat "bleak" outlook! Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary states that eschatology is "the study of what will happen when all things are consummated at the end of history, particularly centering on the event known as the Second Coming of Christ." Unger says that eschatology is a "theological term employed to designate the doctrine of last things, particularly those dealing with the second coming of Christ and the events preceding and following this great event."
The Zondervan Encyclopedia gives us a good perspective regarding the significance of eschatology (or why believers should know prophecy) writing that "
It is hardly possible to overestimate the importance of eschatology to Christian faith: life without faith is empty, and faith without hope is impossible. If the “eschatology” of modern science—death for the individual, death for the species, death for the entire system of wheeling suns that we call the universe—is the only truth by which we can live, then indeed “let us eat, and drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The Christian, however, does not believe that death is the last word. For him the resurrection of Jesus Christ has robbed death of its victory and brought hope and immortality to light. It is the content of this hope that the Christian doctrine of eschatology sets forth. (Silva, M., & Tenney, M. C. The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 2, D-G. The Zondervan Corporation)
John MacArthur observes that "The last days are days of fulfillment. In the Old Testament the Jew saw the last days as the time when all the promises would be fulfilled. In these days Messiah would come and the Kingdom would come and salvation would come and Israel would no longer be under bondage. In the last days promises would stop and fulfillments begin. That is exactly what Jesus came to do. He came to fulfill the promises. Even though the millennial, earthly aspect of the promised Kingdom is yet future, the age of kingdom fulfillment began when Jesus arrived, and it will not finally be completed until we enter into the eternal heavens. The Old Testament age of promise ended when Jesus arrived." (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)
LAST DAYS IN THE SEPTUAGINT
The Septuagint (LXX) Greek translation of the Hebrew OT repeatedly uses virtually the same Greek words (eschatos = last + hemera = day) to describe the last days, a term that any Jewish reader should have been familiar with. In the OT the term last days most often foretold of the coming "Great Tribulation" (Mt 24:21) and/or the establishment of Messiah's earthly (millennial) kingdom. In all of the following Old Testament passages the Hebrew time phrase is translated by the Greek words eschatos (last) and hemera (day) (The actual Greek phrase = ep eschaton ton hemeron) which is literally "last days." Below is a summary of all the Old Testament passages that use eschatos in an eschatological sense.
Genesis 49:1 Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come (Lxx = eschatos hemera = last days [ep eschaton ton hemeron]).
Comment: The days to come is more literally "the latter end of the days." While not everyone agrees with this interpretation, Jacob's phrase appears to be very compatible with what will happen to the 12 Tribes of Israel in the last days just before Messiah's Second Coming. Certainly the book of Revelation speaks of events which are related to the 12 Tribes (See Rev 7:4-note). John MacArthur agrees writing "Throughout the Pentateuch, “the latter days” refers to the time when Messiah will establish His kingdom (see Ge 49:1, 8–12; Nu 24:14–24; Dt 32:39–43)."
Numbers 24:14 "And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron])."
Comment: The Jewish reader should have been familiar with Balaam's last and greatest prophecy regarding Israel and the Messiah as Balaam informed King Balak (Nu 24:14) "what (Israel would) do to (his) people in the days to come (= the last days)" going on to foretell of the Messiah, saying "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A Star shall come forth from Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise from Israel… One from Jacob shall have dominion… " (Nu 24:17, 24:19)
Deuteronomy 4:30 "When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]) you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice.
Comment: In the Septuagint the last phrase of Dt 4:29 is "in your affliction" (Lxx = thlipsis = same word used by Jesus to describe the "Great Tribulation" in Mt 24:21) (See Daniel's seventieth week).
Bible Knowledge Commentary comments: “The later days (Dt 4:30) may refer to any time after the initial dispersions, but the ultimate reference is to the time when the Lord Jesus will return to earth to establish His 1,000-year kingdom (Rev. 20:4). At that time a repentant Israel will finally seek the Lord… look for Him with all her heart and… soul and will obey Him (Dt 4:29). (Bolding added)
Deuteronomy 8:16 "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]).
Comment: The phrase "in the end" in English translation of the Septuagint is literally "in the last days." While it is conceivable that this passage could refer to Israel's future and the good that God will do to them at the termination of the Great Tribulation, it is difficult to be as certain about this passage as some of the others in this list.
J Vernon McGee comments: At the “latter end,” in the future Millennium, God promises to make Israel the leading nation with earthly blessings. God has not promised that to the church, my friend; so don’t appropriate that promise for yourself. The Lord Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2–3). The hope of the child of God today is that Christ is coming to take us out of this world. The hope of Israel is in this world. That distinction is of utmost importance. If you try to mix these promises, it will cause utter confusion. Too many so-called theologians use a blender. They put the whole Bible into a blender, and they really mix it up! If you let the Bible stand as it is, you will see that God is very specific when He makes promises. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Wordsearch)
Deuteronomy 31:29 "For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days (literally - "the end of days" Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]), for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands."
MacArthur comments: “The latter days” (lit. “at the end of the days”) referred to the far distant future. This was the time when the king would come from Judah (Ge 49:8–12) to defeat Israel’s enemies (Nu 24:17–19). Here it is revealed that it would also be a time when disaster would fall upon Israel because of evil done, thus bringing the Lord’s wrath. The description of God’s judgment on Israel and the nations in this song can’t be limited to the immediate future of the people as they entered the Land, but extends to issues which are eschatological in time and global in extent, as the song indicates (32:1–43). (Bolding added)
Deuteronomy 32:20 "Then He said, 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness.
Comment: The Lxx uses eschatos to translate end so that the English rendering of the Lxx is "will show what shall happen to them (Israel) in the last days (days is not in the Greek text though)."
Isaiah 2:2-note Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains (referring to Jerusalem), And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.
Comment: Isaiah (and Micah = Mic 4:1 is virtually identical to Isa 2:2) foretell of Messiah's glorious millennial reign in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 23:20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back until (expression of time - should always cause you to pause and ask "What time is it?") He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart. In the last days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]) you will clearly understand it. (Jer 23:20)
Comment: Jeremiah prophesied of the coming Great Tribulation (so named by Jesus), the "time of Jacob's distress" (Jer 30:7)
Jeremiah 30:24 The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back, until He has performed, and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; In the latter days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]) you will understand this."
Jeremiah 49:39 'But it will come about in the last days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]) that I will restore the fortunes of Elam,'" Declares the LORD.
Ezekiel 38:8 "After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years (Lxx = eschatos heton [ep eschaton heton]) you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them.
Comment: This passage is yet future.
Ezekiel 38:16 and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It will come about in the last days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]) that I shall bring you against My land, in order that the nations may know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog." (Ezekiel 38:16)
Comment: This passage is yet future.
Daniel 2:28-note "However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]). This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.
Comment: Daniel's comments here introduce his following description of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream followed by the interpretation. Note that the prophecy in Daniel 2:28-45 deals especially with what will happen to the major Gentile kingdoms of the world history (specifically the kingdoms that interacted with God's chosen people Israel). In Daniel 7, the eschatological writings deal in more detail with what will happen to Israel. Finally in Daniel 10-12 there is even greater detail of what will happen to the nation of Israel in the last days or the end times. Given the miraculous "rebirth" of Israel in May, 1948 after almost 2000 years of non-existence as a sovereign nation, it is hard to believe that some Christians make the absurd statement that God is finished with Israel and has transferred all His OT promises to the Church. Louis Berkhof was so convinced that God was finished with Israel that in 1947 in his famous book on Systematic Theology he flatly stated that Israel would never again become a nation state, (a belief that fit with his amillennial belief). Beloved, if God had been finished with Israel as a land and as a national entity, it is hardly conceivable that He would have gone to the "trouble" to rebirth the nation in a single day!
Daniel 2:29-note "As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future (Lxx = eschatos hemera = last days = [ep eschaton ton hemeron]); and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.
Comment: Note that future is rendered last days in the Septuagint, referring to the time preceding and including the Second Coming of Christ (the Stone in Da 2:28).
Daniel 2:45-Note (one version of Lxx, but not Theodoret) Daniel 2:45 "Inasmuch as you saw that a Stone (Messiah at His Second Coming) was cut out of the mountain without hands (supernatural) and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold (Da 2:35-Note = "all at the same time… not a trace of them was found"!), the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron] = "upon the last days"); so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy."
Comment: Remember that 25% of God's Word was prophetic at the time it was intially penned. Therefore we dare not reduce our study of prophecy to that of a neglected "step child" lest we find ourselves unaware of the "signs of the times." Indeed, God "has made known" (Da 2:28, 29) to His children who have eyes to see and ears to hear "what the Spirit says to the churches" (cp Rev 2:7) regarding "what will take place upon the last days!"
Daniel 8:19-note He said, "Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.
Comment: "Final period of indignation" in Lxx is "ep eschaton tes orges" literally the "time of wrath." This is a difficult passage and it is best not to be dogmatic. Some see this as referring only to Antiochus Epiphanes, while some see this ancient foe to be a "type" of the future antichrist. Finally, some see a double fulfillment, partially fulfilled in Antiochus and finally fulfilled in the Antichrist. The difference between "type" and "double fulfillment" is minimal as both in some way see a prediction of the future Antichrist.
David Guzik comments: Some see this Antiochus and Antichrist connection, and some do not. Martin Luther wrote, "This chapter in Daniel refers both to Antiochus and Antichrist." John Calvin wrote, "Hence Luther, indulging his thoughts too freely, refers this passage to the masks of Antichrist."
Daniel 8:23-note "In the latter period of their rule, When the transgressors have run their course, A king will arise, Insolent and skilled in intrigue.
Comment: See interpretation of preceding passage.
MacArthur's comment: The far fulfillment sees Antiochus in Da 8:23–25 as prophetically illustrating the final tribulation period and the Antichrist. In such a view, the king here is also the “little horn,” as in Da 7:7; 8:9 and the willful king in Da 11:36–45.
Daniel 10:14-note (The archangel Michael was sent to Daniel to give him ) "Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people (Jews = Israel) in the latter days (Lxx = eschatos hemera [ep eschaton ton hemeron]), for the vision pertains to the days yet future.
Comment: Careful observation reveals that the last three chapters of Daniel (Da 10-12) comprise a single "vision" and must be interpreted as a "unit" in order for one to arrive at the correct interpretation. This section unequivocally refers to the yet future time that immediately precedes the return of the Messiah Who will deliver Zion, remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel) at which time "all Israel will be saved." (i.e., all of those who by grace place their faith in Christ.) (Ro 11:25-note).
Micah 4:1 (See comments above on Isaiah 2:2) And it will come about in the last days That the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it.
NIDNTT summarizes the sense of eschatos as used in the Septuagint translation - Yahweh will make it possible for his people to turn back (Hos. 3:5). He will destroy his enemies (Jer. 23:20; 30:24). The nations will come to Jerusalem and receive instruction from Israel (Isa. 2:2ff.; Micah 4:1ff.). Salvation will penetrate “to the end of the earth” (Isa. 48:20; 49:6). Here the local significance has a universal eschatological function. In all this Yahweh will reveal himself as holy (Ezek 38:16, 23). However much the individual pictures of salvation presented by the various prophets differ, the expectation of a comprehensive age of salvation “at the end of the days” brought in by Yahweh himself is common to them all. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)
HE HAS SPOKEN TO US IN HIS SON: elalesen (3SAAI) hemin en huio: (Heb 1:5;8 2:3; 5:8; 7:3; Mt 3:17; 17:5; 26:63; Mk 1:1; 12:6; Jn 1:14;17 18 Jn 3:16; 15:15; Ro 1:4)
Spoken (2980) (laleo) is in the aorist tense which in context speaks of a past completed action. In other words in reference to God speaking by the prophets and also "in His Son" the aorist tense indicates that God has finished speaking in both cases. As A T Robertson says the first aorist indicative here indicates that God "did speak in a final and full revelation."
Bob DeWaay adds that…
God spoke periodically and partially in the Old Testament prophets, but finally and fully by the final "Prophet" His Son -- the OT prophets were but channels while the Son as Prophet is the culmination. The OT prophet Moses in fact foretold of the final Prophet (God's Son), declaring to Israel
In the prophets God had given predictions and foreshadowing but in His Son, He provides the fulfillment and substance. The idea is not merely what Jesus said, but what He is.
Luke records that
Stated another way, Jesus is the end of all prophecy (Rev 19:10-note), and of the law of Moses (Jn 1:17).
As Guthrie writes
The Son divides history for everything before pointed toward Him and everything since points back to Him. Or as someone else has said "The Old Testament slopes upward to Christ". The OT revelation is not irrelevant to the New but is continuous with it for the same God has spoken in both. The Old prepares the way for the New, which the author emphasizes again and again in Hebrews, continually substantiating his arguments with quotations from the Old Testament. As someone has well said, the Old is the New concealed and the New is the Old revealed.
Pink quoting Adolph Saphir (his well-respected commentary is listed above) comments on the contrast between Old Testament and New Testament writing that
Son - Lacks the definite article (the) in the Greek - so the idea is that the absence of the article fixes attention upon the nature and not upon the personality of the mediator of a new revelation. God spoke to us in one who has this character—that He is Son (cp "a Son" in Heb 3:6-note, Heb 5:8-note)
WHOM HE APPOINTED HEIR OF ALL THINGS:on etheken (3SAAI) kleronomon panton: (Heb 2:8;2:9 Ps 2:6;2:7, 2:8, 2:9 Isa 9:6, 9:7; 53:10, 11, 12; Mt 21:38; 28:18; Jn 3:25; 13:3; Jn 16:15; 17:2; Acts 10:36; Ro 8:17; 1Cor 8:6; 15:25, 26, 27; Eph 1:20, 21, 22, 23; Php 2:9, 10, 11; Col 1:17; 18)
As noted in the derivation of this word (see below), heir or kleronomos is derived from the term lot and referred to a situation in which lots were drawn to divide property or select a winner; the one who drew the lot was the heir. The word came to be used for dividing the property that a father left to his children when he died. Only one son meant only one heir. Christ is the heir of all things precisely because God has only one Son, so only one Heir.
Heir (2818) (Kleronomos [word study] from kleros = lot + nomos = something parceled out, allotted) is literally a sharer by lot. Kleronomos signifies not only one who inherits or obtains a portion but also signifies one who takes into possession of the portion.
Kleronomos also conveys the ideas of dominion and authority. The truth that the Son is appointed heir of all things emphasizes the infinite superiority of the Son to the prophets.
Jesus "knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands" (Jn 13:3) and that "all things that the Father has are Mine" (Jn 16:15) declared that "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Mt 28:18)
The entire universe belongs to the Son by divine appointment for He is "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36) He will reign over all things as "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." (Rev 19:1-note)
The Son as "Heir of all things" is the fulfillment of OT prophecy. For example Isaiah predicts that "a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this." (Isa 9:6, 9:7)
The psalmist records God the Father speaking to God the Son declaring "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession." (Ps 2:8)
Not only is the Son Heir of all things but "if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal 3:29) "heirs of the promise" (Heb 6:17-note), heirs "of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb 11:7-note), heirs "of the world" (Ro 4:13-note), "heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Ro 8:17-note) "heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him" (Jas 2:5) for the Son promises that "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." (Rev-note)
When and how does the Son inherit His possession? In Revelation 5 John "saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals" (Rev 5:1-note)
Kay Arthur, who is very respected in the area of interpretation of Bible prophecy and John MacArthur, one of the most respected Biblical expositors of Scripture in the world, both interpret the "book" (scroll) as the title deed to the earth.
Roman law required that a will had to be sealed seven times, to protect it from tampering and as it was rolled up, every turn was sealed and each of the seven seals could not to be broken until after the person whose will it was had died. John recognizing the significance of the sealed scroll began to "weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it." (Rev 5:4-note)… One of the elders said" to John "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." (Rev 5:5-note)
Having paid the price of redemption (Rev 5:9-note) the "Lamb (the Son… Heir of all things) standing, as if slain… came, and He took (the scroll) out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne." (Rev 5:7-note)
Then as "the Lamb broke (the first) of the seven seals" (Rev 6:1-note), He initiates the 7 year period often referred to as the Tribulation although not specifically designated as such in Scripture (the "great tribulation" refers to the last half). The rapidly unfolding events lead to the trumpet judgments culminating in the mid point of the 7 year period when John records that "the second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly. And the seventh angel sounded (the 7th Trumpet judgment) and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." (Rev 11:14, 15-see notes Re 11:14; 15)
And so as the Lamb unrolls the seven seals and the seventh trumpet blows John records that the earth belongs to Christ, the appointed legal "Heir of all things". Satan fully understands the truth in the Revelation and armed with that knowledge, approached Jesus in the wilderness to tempt Him to take control of the world by falling down and worshiping Satan (Mt 4:8, 4:9). Since the beginning of time, Satan, the ruler of this world, has known that he was a temporary "squatter" and so he has continually tried to prevent the true Heir from receiving His inheritance but as Hebrews and Revelation record he will not succeed.
Spurgeon - Of which nature of Christ does the apostle speak in this sentence, “whom he appointed heir of all things”? I do not think that Paul here separates the two natures, so as to speak with absolute reference to either one or the other; but he speaks of the person of Christ, and in that person there is God, and in that same person there is most surely and most truly man. But we must take this description of Jesus Christ as appointed “Heir of all things” in his person as man, and as God and man combined; for, as God alone, Christ is necessarily “Heir of all things” without any appointment; but in his complex person as God and man conjoined, the Father has appointed him to be “Heir of all things.” Now, what does this mean but that Christ possesses all things as an heir possesses his inheritance, that Christ is Lord of all things, as an heir becomes lord and ruler among his brethren. This appointment is to be fully carried into effect by-and-by; for, “now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb 2:8). Christ is Lord of all the angels; no seraph spreads his wing except at the bidding of the “Heir of all things.” There are no bright spirits, unknown to us, that are beyond the control of the God-man, Christ Jesus; and the fallen angels, too, are obliged to bow before His omnipotence. As for all things here below, material substances, people regenerate or unregenerate, God has given Him power over all flesh that he should give eternal life to as many as His Father has given Him. He has put all things under His feet, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” He is Heir, or Master, and Possessor of all things;—let me say, of all sorts of blessings, and all forms of grace, “because he was well pleased for all the fullness to dwell in him” (Col 1:19); and as surely as time revolves, and you mark the fleeting minutes upon the dial’s face, the hour is coming when Christ shall be universally acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords. Already I seem to hear the shouts go up from every part of the habitable globe, and from all heaven and all space, “Hallelujah! For the Lord God, the All-Powerful, reigns!” (Rev 19:6). All must willingly, or else unwillingly, submit to His sway, for His Father has appointed Him “Heir of all things.”
THROUGH WHOM ALSO HE MADE THE WORLD: di' hou di hou kai epoiesen (3SAAI) tous aionas: (Pr 8:22-31; Isa 44:24; 45:12, 18, Jn 1:3; 1Cor 8:6; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16 17)
Through (1223) (dia) is a marker whereby something is accomplished or effected. In other words the Son as Heir is also the "Intermediate Agent" accomplishing the work of creation.
Spurgeon - I love to think that He who created all things is also our Savior, for then He can create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. If I need a complete new creation—as I certainly do—He is equal to the task.
John declares that
Paul in refuting the "Colossian heresy" that Jesus was a created being writes that to the contrary
Paul reminded the Corinthians that "there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by (dia = through) Whom are all things, and we exist through Him." (1Cor 8:6)
The world (165) (aion [word study]) does not mean the material world but “the ages” and here refers to the whole created universe of time and space. Jesus as God's "Agent" created both matter and history.
The Amplified says that "He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time". According to rabbinical use, aion refers not only to the periods of time, but also to the content of the world. Jesus Christ is not a created being, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and others claim but as Scripture clearly records, He is the Creator of everything, not merely the vast, magnificent, mysterious physical universe, but the times and ages through which the purpose and plan of God are gradually unfolding.
Wuest notes that "the Son is the Divine Agent not only in the original creation of the physical universe, but also in the operation and management of that universe and all its creatures all down the ages of time. And that makes Him better than the prophets.
Godet - Every being, to reach existence, must have passed through the thought and will of the Logos
Henry Alford adds that aion includes "God’s revelation of Himself in a sphere whose conditions are Time and Space, and so all things existing under these conditions, plus these conditions themselves which exist not independently of the Creator, but are His work, His appointed conditions of all created existence, so that the universe, as well in its great primeval conditions,—the reaches of Space, and the ages of Time, as in all material objects and all successive events, which furnish out and people Space and Time, God made by Christ.”
The Son is responsible not only for the physical earth but also created time, space, energy, and matter -- whatever has been at any time, is, or shall be. Christ created the whole universe and everything that makes it function and He did it all by speaking "the word (rhema = spoken word) of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." (Heb 11:3-note)
The irony is that the Son, Who is Heir of all things, also created all things. Jesus, then Who is the “last word,” is also the “first word.” The writer is giving clear testimony of the Son’s Deity for only God can create.
Wuest summarizes the first 2 verses - The New Testament is better than and takes the place of the First Testament because its Founder, the Messiah, is better than the prophets, since Messiah is God the Son, heir of all things, and creator of the universe"
The writer reminds his readers later that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb 10:4-note),
He goes on to explain "but when Christ appeared as a High Priest… He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle (in contrast to the earthly tabernacle and the Holy of holies that the Levitical priests entered once a year on the Day of Atonement) and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood… (into) the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse (or "purify" - katharizo) your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? … but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (see notes Heb 9:12; 9:13; 9:14; Heb 9:26).
MacArthur - This truth must have seemed especially remarkable to those to whom the book of Hebrews was first written. The cross was a stumbling block to Jews, but the writer does not apologize for it. Instead, he shows it to be one of the seven excellent glories of Christ. (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)
MacDonald nicely summarizes the purifying work of the Son writing that "The Creator and the Sustainer became the Sin-bearer. In order to create the universe, He only had to speak. In order to maintain and guide the universe, He only has to speak… but in order to put away our sin once for all, He had to die on the cross of Calvary. It is staggering to think that the sovereign Lord would stoop to become the sacrificial Lamb. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,” as Isaac Watts’ hymn says." (Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson )
SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND (see notes)
GOD. What word could more fittingly stand at the head of the first line of the first paragraph in this noble epistle! Each structure must rest on him as foundation; each tree must spring from him as root; each design and enterprise must originate in him as source. "IN THE BEGINNING-GOD," is a worthy motto to inscribe at the commencement of every treatise, be it the ponderous volume or the ephemeral tract. And with that name we commence our attempt to gather up some of the glowing lessons which were first addressed to the persecuted and wavering Hebrews in the primitive age, but have ever been most highly prized by believing Gentiles throughout the universal Church. The feast was originally spread for the children of the race of Abraham; but who shall challenge our right to the crumbs? In our endeavor to gather them, be thou, God, Alpha and Omega, First and Last. In the original Greek, the word "God" is preceded by two other words, which describe the variety and multitudinousness of his revelation to man. And the whole verse is full of interest as detailing the origin and authority of the Word of God, and as illustrating the great law which appears in so many parts of the works of God, and has been fitly called the law of
VARIETY IN UNITY.
That law operates in Nature. The earliest book of God. No thoughtful man can look around him without being arrested by the infinite variety that meets him on every side. "All flesh is not the same flesh; … there are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one; and the glory of the terrestrial is another… One star differeth from another star in glory." You cannot match two faces in a crowd; two leaves in a forest; or two flowers in the woodlands of spring. It would seem as if the molds in which natural products are being shaped are broken up and cast aside as soon as one result has been attained. And it is this which affords such an infinite field for investigation and enjoyment, forbidding all fear of monotony or weariness of soul.
And yet, amid all natural variety, there is a marvelous unity. Every part of the universe interlocks by subtle and delicate links with every other part. You cannot disturb the balance anywhere without sending a shock of disturbance through the whole system. Just as in some majestic Gothic minster (monastery, a cathedral church) the same idea repeats itself in bolder or slighter forms, so do the same great thoughts recur in tree and flower, in molecule and planet, in diatom and man. And all this because, if you penetrate to Nature's heart, you meet God. "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." "There are diversities of operations; but it is the same God which worketh all in all." The unity that pervades Nature's temple is the result of its having originated from one mind, and having been effected by one hand, the mind and hand of God.
That law also operates throughout the Scriptures. There is as great variety there as in Nature. They were written in different ages. some in the days of "the fathers"; others at "the end of these days" for us. In the opening chapters, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, Moses has embodied fragments of hallowed tradition, which passed from lip to lip in the tents of the patriarchs; and its later chapters were written when the holy city, Jerusalem, had already been smitten to the ground by the mailed hand of Titus.
They were written in different countries: these in the deserts of Arabia; those under the shadow of the pyramids; and others amid the tides of life that swept through the greatest cities of Greece and Rome. You can detect in some the simple pastoral life of Palestine; in others the magnificence of Nebuchadnezzar's empire. In one there is the murmur of the blue Aegean; and in several the clank of the fetter in the Roman prison-cell.
They were written by men belonging to various ranks, occupations, and methods of thought.. shepherds and fishermen, warriors and kings; the psalmist, the prophet, and the priest; some employing the stately religious Hebrew, others the Chaldaic patois, others the polished Greek-every variety of style, from the friendly letter, or sententious proverb, to the national history, or the carefully prepared treatise, in which thought and expression glow as in the fires--but all contributing their quota to the symmetry and beauty of the whole.
And yet, throughout the Bible, there is an indubitable unity. What else could have led mankind to look upon these sixty-six tractlets as being so unmistakably related to each other that they must be bound up together under a common cover? There has been something so unique in these books that they have always stood and fallen together. To disintegrate one has been to loose them all. Belief in one has led to belief in all. Their hands are linked and locked so tightly that where one goes all must follow. And though wise and clever men have tried their best, they have never been able to produce a single treatise containing that undefinable quality which gives these their mysterious oneness; and to lack which is fatal to the claims of any book to be included with them, or to demand the special veneration and homage of mankind.
The world is full of religious books; but the man who has fed his religious life upon the Bible will tell in a moment the difference between them and the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The eye can instantly detect the absence of life in the artificial flower; the tongue can immediately and certainly detect the absence or presence of a certain flavor submitted to the taste; and the heart of man, his moral sense, is quick to detect the absence in all other religious books of a certain savor which pervades the Bible, from Genesis, the book of beginnings, to the Apocalyptic announcements of the quick coming of the King.
And in the possession of this mysterious attribute, the Old and new Testaments are one. You cannot say there is more of it in the glowing paragraphs of the Apostle Paul than in the splendid prophecies and appeals of the great evangelic prophet, Isaiah. It is certainly in the Gospels; but it is not less in the story of the Exodus. Throughout, there is silence on topics which merely gratify curiosity, but on which other professed revelations have been copiously full. Throughout, there is no attempt to give instruction on science or nature; but to bend all energy in discussing the claims of God on men. Throughout, the crimson cord of sacrifice is clearly manifest, on which the books are strung together as beads upon a thread. And throughout, there is ever the subtle, mysterious, ineffable quality called Inspiration: a term which is explained by the majestic words of this opening verse, "God, having spoken of old to the fathers, hath at the end of these days spoken to us."
Scripture is the speech of God to man. It is this which gives it its unity. "The Lord, the mighty God, hath spoken, and called the earth." The amanuenses may differ; but the inspiring mind is the same. The instruments may vary; but in every case the same theme is being played by the same master-hand. We should read the Bible as those who listen to the very speech of God. Well may it be called "the Word of God."
But the Scripture is God's speech in man. The heavenly treasure is in vessels of earth. "He spake unto the fathers in the prophets… He hath spoken unto us in his Son." It is very remarkable to study the life of Jesus, and to listen to his constant statements as to the source of his marvelous words. So utterly had he emptied himself, that he originated nothing from himself; but lived by the Father, in the same way as we are to live by him. He distinctly declared that the words he spake, he spake not of himself; but that words and works alike were the outcome of the Father, who dwelt within. Through those lips of clay the eternal God was speaking. Well might he also be called "the Word of God"!
And here the words of the prophets in the Old Testament are leveled up to the plane of the words of Jesus in the New. Without staying to make the least distinction, our writer tell us, beneath the teaching of the Spirit, that he who spake in the one spake also in the others. Let us then think with equal reverence of the Old Testament as of the New. It was our Saviour's Bible. It was the food which Jesus loved, and lived upon. He was content to fast from all other food, if only he might have this. It was his one supreme appeal in conflict with the devil, and in the clinching of his arguments and exhortations with men. And here we discover the reason. The voice of God spake in the prophets, whose very name likens them to the up-rush of the geyser from its hidden source.
As God spake in men, it is clear that he left them to express his thoughts in the language, and after the method, most familiar to them. They will speak of Nature just as they have been accustomed to find her. They will use the mode of speech whether poem or prose which is most habitual to their cast of thought. They will make allusions to the events transpiring around them, so as to be easily understood by their fellows. But, whilst thus left to express God's thoughts in their own way, yet most certainly the divine Spirit must have carefully superintended their utterances, so that their words should accurately convey his messages to men.
In many parts of the Bible there is absolute dictation, word for word. In others, there is divine superintendence guarding from error, and guiding in the selection and arrangement of materials: as when Daniel quotes from historic records; and Moses embodies the sacred stories which his mother had taught him beside the flowing Nile. In all, there is the full inspiration of the Spirit of God, by whom all Scripture has been given. Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, … searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify" (2Ti 3:16 ; 2Pe 1:20, 21 ; 1Pe 1:2).
We need not deny that other men have been illuminated; but the difference between illumination and inspiration is as far as the east is from the west. Nor do we say that God has not spoken in other men, or in these men at other times; but we do say that only in the Bible has God given the supreme revelation of his will, and the authoritative rule of our faith and practice. The heart of man bears witness to this. We know that there is a tone in these words which is heard in no other voice. The upper chords of this instrument give it a timbre which none other can rival.
The revelation in the Old Testament was given in fragments (or portions). This is the meaning of the word rendered in the Old Version sundry times, and in the Revised divers portions. It refers, not to the successive ages over which it was spread, but to the numerous "portions" into which it was broken up. No one prophet could speak out all the truth. Each was intrusted with one or two syllables in the mighty sentences of God's speech. At the best the view caught of God, and given to men through the prophets, though true, was partial and limited.
But in Jesus there is nothing of this piecemeal revelation. "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He hath revealed the Father. Whosoever hath seen him hath seen God; and to hear his words is to get the full-orbed revelation of the Infinite.
The earlier revelation was in many forms. The earthquake, the fire, the tempest, and the still small voice-each had its ministry. Symbol and parable, vision and metaphor, type and historic foreshadowing, all in turn served the divine end; like the ray which is broken into many prismatic hues. But in Jesus there is the steady shining of the pure ray of his glory, one uniform and invariable method of revelation.