Last days - The Gospel dispensation, called the last days and the last time, because not to be followed by any other dispensation; or the conclusion of the Jewish Church and state now at their termination.
By his Son - It is very remarkable that the pronoun αὑτου, his, is not found in the text; nor is it found in any MS. or version. We should not therefore supply the pronoun as our translators have done; but simply read εν Υἱῳ, By a Son, or In a Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things. God has many sons and daughters, for he is the Father of the spirits of all flesh; and he has many heirs, for if sons, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; but he has no Son who is heir of all things, none by whom he made the worlds, none in whom he speaks, and by whom he has delivered a complete revelation to mankind, but Jesus the Christ.
The apostle begins with the lowest state in which Christ has appeared:
"'Twas great to speak a world from nought;
'Twas greater to redeem."
10. As continuing to exercise dominion, when the earth and the heavens are no more! It is only in God manifested in the flesh that all these excellences can possibly appear, therefore the apostle begins this astonishing climax with the simple Sonship of Christ, or his incarnation; for, on this, all that he is to man, and all that he has done for man, is built.
Hath in these last days - In this the final dispensation; or in this dispensation under which the affairs of the world will be wound up. Phrases similar to this occur frequently in the Scriptures. They do not imply that the world was soon coming to an end, but that that was the “last” dispensation, the “last” period of the world. There had been the patriarchal period, the period under the Law, the prophets, etc., and This was the period during which God‘s “last” method of communication would be enjoyed, and under which the world would close. It might be a very long period, but it would be the “last” one; and so far as the meaning of the phrase is concerned, it might be the longest period, or longer than all the others put together, but still it would be the “last” one. See Acts 2:17 note; Isaiah 2:2 note.
Spoken unto us - The word “us” here does not of necessity imply that the writer of the Epistle had actually heard him, or that they had heard him to whom the Epistle was written. It means that God had now communicated his will to man by his Son. It may be said with entire propriety that God has spoken to us by his Son, though we have not personally heard or seen him. We have what he spoke and caused to be recorded for our direction.
By his Son - The title commonly given to the Lord Jesus, as denoting his unique relation to God. It was understood by the Jews to denote equality with God (notes, John 5:18; compare John 10:33, John 10:36), and is used with such a reference here. See notes on Romans 1:4, where the meaning of the phrase “Son of God” is fully considered. It is implied here that the fact that the Son of God has spoken to us imposes the highest obligations to attend to what he has said; that he has an authority superior to all those who have spoken in past times; and that there will be special guilt in refusing to attend to what he has spoken. See Hebrews 2:1-4; compare Hebrews 12:25. The reasons for the superior respect which should be shown to the revelations of the Son of God may be such as these:
(2) The clearness of the truths which he communicated to man on a great variety of subjects that are of the highest moment to the world. Revelation has been gradual - like the breaking of the day in the east. At first there is a little light; it increases and expands until objects become more and more visible, and then the sun rises in full-orbed glory. At first we discern only the existence of some object - obscure and undefined; then we can trace its outline; then its color, its size, its proportions, its drapery - until it stands before us fully revealed. So it has been with revelation. There is a great variety of subjects which we now see clearly, which were very imperfectly understood by the teaching of the prophets, and would be now if we had only the Old Testament. Among them are the following:
(a) The character of God. Christ came to make him known as a merciful being, and to show how he could be merciful as well as just. The views given of God by the Lord Jesus are far more clear than any given by the ancient prophets; compared with those entertained by the ancient philosophers, they are like the sun compared with the darkest midnight,
(b) The way in which man may be reconcile to God. The New Testament - which may be considered as what God “has spoken to us by his Son” - has told us how the great work of being reconciled to God can be effected. The Lord Jesus told us that he came to “give his life a ransom for many;” that he laid down his life for his friends; that he was about to die for man; that he would draw all people to him. The prophets indeed - particularly Isaiah - threw much light on these points. But the mass of the people did not understand their revelations. They pertained to future events always difficult to be understood. But Christ has told us the way of salvation, and he has made it so plain that he who runs may read.
(c) The moral precepts of the Redeemer are superior to those of any and all that had gone before him. They are elevated, pure, expansive, benevolent - such as became the Son of God to proclaim. Indeed this is admitted on all hands. Infidels are constrained to acknowledge that all the moral precepts of the Saviour are eminently pure and benignant. If they were obeyed, the world would be filled with justice, truth, purity, and benevolence. Error, fraud, hypocrisy, ambition, wars, licentiousness, and intemperance, would cease; and the opposite virtues would diffuse happiness over the face of the world. Prophets had indeed delivered many moral precepts of great importance, but the purest and most extensive body of just principles of good morals on earth are to be found in the teachings of the Saviour.
(d) He has given to us the clearest view which man has had of the future state; and he has disclosed in regard to that future state a class of truths of the deepest interest to mankind, which were before wholly unknown or only partially revealed.
1. He has revealed the certainty of a state of future existence - in opposition to the Sadducees of all ages. This was denied before he came by multitudes, and where it was not, the arguments by which it was supported were often of the feeblest kind. The “truth” was held by some - like Plato and his followers - but the “arguments” on which they relied were feeble, and such as were untitled to give rest to the soul. The “truth” they had obtained by tradition; the “arguments” were their own.
2. He revealed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. This before was doubted or denied by nearly all the world. It was held to be absurd and impossible. The Saviour taught its certainty; he raised up more than one to show that it was possible; he was himself raised, to put the whole matter beyond debate.
3. He revealed the certainty of future judgment - the judgment of all mankind.
4. It disclosed great and momentous truths respecting the future state. Before he came, all was dark. The Greeks spoke of Elysian fields, but they were dreams of the imagination; the Hebrews had some faint notion of a future state where all was dark and gloomy, with perhaps an occasional glimpse of the truth that there is a holy and blessed heaven; but to the mass of mind all was obscure. Christ revealed a heaven, and told us of a hell. He showed us that the one might be gained and the other avoided. He presented important motives for doing it; and had he done nothing more, his communications were worthy the profound attention of mankind. I may add:
(3) That the Son of God has claims on our attention from the manner in which he spoke. He spoke as one having “authority;” Matthew 7:29. He spoke as a “witness” of what he saw and knew; John 3:11. He spoke without doubt or ambiguity of God, and heaven, and hell. His is the language of one who is familiar with all that he describes; who saw all, who knew all. There is no hesitancy or doubt in his mind of the truth of what he speaks; and he speaks as if his whole soul were impressed with its unspeakable importance. Never were so momentous communications made to people of hell as fell from the lips of the Lord Jesus (see notes on Matthew 23:33); never were announcements made so suited to awe and appall a sinful world.
Whom he hath appointed heir of all things - see Psalm 2:8; compare notes, Romans 8:17. This is language taken from the fact that he is “the Son of God.” If a son, then he is an heir - for so it is usually among people. This is not to be taken literally, as if he inherits anything as a man does. An heir is one who inherits anything after the death of its possessor - usually his father. But this cannot be applied in this sense to the Lord Jesus. The language is used to denote his rank and dignity as the Son of God. As such all things are his, as the property of a father descends to his son at his death. The word rendered “heir” - κληρονόμος klēronomos- means properly:
(1) one who acquires anything by lot; and,
(2) an “heir” in the sense in which we usually understand the word. It may also denote a “possessor” of anything received as a portion, or of property of any kind; see Romans 4:13-14. It is in every instance rendered “heir” in the New Testament. Applied to Christ, it means that as the Son of God he is possessor or lord of all things, or that all things are his; compare Acts 2:36; Acts 10:36; John 17:10; John 16:15. “All things that the Father hath are mine.” The sense is, that all things belong to the Son of God. Who is so “rich” then as Christ? Who so able to endow his friends with enduring and abundant wealth?
By whom - By whose agency; or who was the actual agent in the creation. Grotins supposes that this means, “on account of whom;” and that the meaning is, that the universe was formed with reference to the Messiah, in accordance with an ancient Jewish maxim. But the more common and Classical usage of the word rendered “by” ( διὰ dia), when it governs a genitive, as here, is to denote the instrumental cause; the agent by which anything is done; see Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:15, Matthew 2:23; Luke 18:31; John 2:17; Acts, Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43; Acts 4:16; Acts 12:9; Romans 2:16; Romans 5:5. It may be true that the universe was formed with reference to the glory of the Son of God, and that this world was brought into being in order to show his glory; but it would not do to establish that doctrine on a passage like this. Its obvious and proper meaning is, that he was the agent of the creation - a truth that is abundantly taught elsewhere; see John 1:3, John 1:10; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6. This sense, also, better agrees with the design of the apostle in this place. His object is to set forth the dignity of the Son of God. This is better shown by the consideration that he was the creator of all things, than that all things were made for him.
The worlds - The universe, or creation. So the word here - αἰών aiōn- is undoubtedly used in Hebrews 11:3. The word properly means “age” - an indefinitely long period of time; then perpetuity, ever, eternity - “always” being. For an extended investigation of the meaning of the word, the reader may consult an essay by Prof. Stuart, in the Spirit of the Pilgrims, for 1829, pp. 406-452. From the sense of “age,” or “duration,” the word comes to denote the present and future age; the present world and the world to come; the present world, with all its cares, anxieties, and evils; the people of this world - a wicked generation, etc. Then it means the world - the material universe creation as it is. The only perfectly clear use of the word in this sense in the New Testament is in Hebrews 11:3, and there there can be no doubt. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were made by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The passage before us will bear the same interpretation, and this is the most obvious and intelligible. What would be the meaning of saying that the “ages” or “dispensations” were made by the Son of God? The Hebrews used the word - צולם ‛owlaam- in the same sense. It properly means “age, duration;” and thence it came to be used by them to denote the world - made up of “ages” or generations; and then the world itself. This is the fair, and, as it seems to me, the only intelligible interpretation of this passage - an interpretation amply sustained by texts referred to above as demonstrating that the universe was made by the agency of the Son of God. Compare Hebrews 1:10 note, and John 1:3 note.
Jesus was misunderstood by His brothers because He was not like them. His standard was not their standard. In looking to men they had turned away from God, and they had not His power in their lives. The forms of religion which they observed could not transform the character. They paid “tithe of mint and anise and cummin,” but omitted “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” Matthew 23:23. The example of Jesus was to them a continual irritation. He hated but one thing in the world, and that was sin. He could not witness a wrong act without pain which it was impossible to disguise. Between the formalists, whose sanctity of appearance concealed the love of sin, and a character in which zeal for God's glory was always paramount, the contrast was unmistakable. Because the life of Jesus condemned evil, He was opposed, both at home and abroad. His unselfishness and integrity were commented on with a sneer. His forbearance and kindness were termed cowardice. DA 88.1
Of the bitterness that falls to the lot of humanity, there was no part which Christ did not taste. There were those who tried to cast contempt upon Him because of His birth, and even in His childhood He had to meet their scornful looks and evil whisperings. If He had responded by an impatient word or look, if He had conceded to His brothers by even one wrong act, He would have failed of being a perfect example. Thus He would have failed of carrying out the plan for our redemption. Had He even admitted that there could be an excuse for sin, Satan would have triumphed, and the world would have been lost. This is why the tempter worked to make His life as trying as possible, that He might be led to sin. DA 88.2
But to every temptation He had one answer, “It is written.” He rarely rebuked any wrongdoing of His brothers, but He had a word from God to speak to them. Often He was accused of cowardice for refusing to unite with them in some forbidden act; but His answer was, It is written, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28. DA 88.3Read in context »
The Lord is disappointed when His people place a low estimate upon themselves. He desires His chosen heritage to value themselves according to the price He has placed upon them. God wanted them, else He would not have sent His Son on such an expensive errand to redeem them. He has a use for them, and He is well pleased when they make the very highest demands upon Him, that they may glorify His name. They may expect large things if they have faith in His promises. DA 668.1
But to pray in Christ's name means much. It means that we are to accept His character, manifest His spirit, and work His works. The Saviour's promise is given on condition. “If ye love Me,” He says, “keep My commandments.” He saves men, not in sin, but from sin; and those who love Him will show their love by obedience. DA 668.2
All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us. DA 668.3
As Christ lived the law in humanity, so we may do if we will take hold of the Strong for strength. But we are not to place the responsibility of our duty upon others, and wait for them to tell us what to do. We cannot depend for counsel upon humanity. The Lord will teach us our duty just as willingly as He will teach somebody else. If we come to Him in faith, He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Our hearts will often burn within us as One draws nigh to commune with us as He did with Enoch. Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength. Power for obedience, for service, will be imparted to them, as Christ has promised. Whatever was given to Christ—the “all things” to supply the need of fallen men—was given to Him as the head and representative of humanity. And “whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” 1 John 3:22. DA 668.4
Before offering Himself as the sacrificial victim, Christ sought for the most essential and complete gift to bestow upon His followers, a gift that would bring within their reach the boundless resources of grace. “I will pray the Father,” He said, “and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you.” John 14:16-18, margin. DA 668.5Read in context »
What is the work of angels in comparison with His condescension? His throne is from everlasting. He has reared every arch and pillar in nature's great temple. Behold Him, the beginning of the creation of God, who numbers the stars, who created the worlds—among which this earth is but a small speck, and would scarcely be missed from the many worlds more than a tiny leaf from the forest trees. The nations before Him are but “as a drop of a bucket,” and “as the small dust of the balance” ... (Isaiah 40:15). HP 40.5Read in context »
Giving an account of the last days of Sir Davis Brewster, his daughter writes: “He thanked God that the way of salvation was so simple. No labored argument, no hard attainment, was required. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ was to live. He trusted in Him, and enjoyed His peace.” The last words of this great man of science were: “Life has been very bright to me, and now there is the brightness beyond. I shall see Jesus, who created all things, who made the worlds. I shall see Him as He is. Yes, I have had the Light for many years. Oh, how bright it is! I feel so safe, so satisfied.” RY 154.3Read in context »