The Final King and Priest
“[The Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”- Hebrews 1:3–4
Jesus in Hebrews 1:1–2 is revealed as the final Prophet, the One who is better than all the earlier prophets. These verses also begin to reveal Jesus as the final King, superior to all the kings who preceded His advent. Our Lord is “the heir of all things” (v. 2).
To understand how Hebrews 1:2 points to Jesus’ kingship, we have to go back to Genesis 1:26–28, where we read that God gave Adam and Eve dominion over creation. Our Lord created our first parents as royalty, as rulers of the earth and as the children and heirs of Himself, the King of all creation. The fall into sin made it impossible for humanity to fulfill this purpose, but in appointing His incarnate Son as “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2), God made Him the truest King, the One to achieve what Adam failed to accomplish. John Calvin comments: “The word heir is ascribed to Christ as manifested in the flesh; for being made man, he put on our nature, and as such received this heirship, and that for this purpose, that he might restore to us what we had lost in Adam. For God had at the beginning constituted man, as his Son, the heir of all good things; but through sin the first man became alienated from God, and deprived himself and his posterity of all good things, as well as of the favor of God.”
Jesus is the King par excellence according to His human nature, but He is also the King of creation according to His divine nature. The author of Hebrews says as much in today’s passage when he calls Jesus “the exact imprint” of God’s nature (v. 3). This image conveys identical correspondence. The Son of God in His divine nature is everything that the Father, the great King of all creation, is in His divine nature. The deity of the Son is nothing more or less than that of His Father, and He possesses the same inherent authority over all that the Father does (Ps. 47:7; John 8:58). As the divine King, the Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power,” sustaining and governing all created things. Therefore, He is greater than even the angels (Heb. 1:3–4).
Hebrews 1:3 also teaches that Jesus is the final and greatest Priest. He made purification for sins—He atoned for the transgressions of His people—and then He sat down. As we will see in the months ahead, His sitting down means that He offered final and complete atonement, as opposed to the old covenant priests whose sacrifices provided only incomplete and provisional atonement (10:11–14). The perfection of Jesus’ priestly ministry makes it better than what the old covenant could offer.
Christ is not merely a good teacher or wise guide; He is the very God of the universe and thus the Ruler of all. His word is supreme and cannot be disobeyed with impunity. We evidence our belief that Jesus is King by putting sin to death by the power of His Spirit and by keeping His commandments. Let us do so today, asking Him to enable our obedience.
Passages for Further Study