Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.
Long ago God used dreams, visions, angels and even inanimate objects like a burning bush as well as the urim and the thummim to communicate His word to His prophets. This word He communicated concerned the promise of the Son. And we know this word He spoke proved to be reliable and true. After all, every word He spoke to the prophets concerning the Son has come to pass.
Long ago our fathers had only the promise of the Son. Today, we have the testimony of this promise fulfilled. We have the word of the Son, clothed in flesh and blood, crucified, buried, risen and ascended. The word of the promise has been fulfilled, and it found its fulfillment in the last days.
In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter assured the people that neither he nor the other disciples were drunk, as the people had at first supposed. He stood to his feet to tell the people that what they had just heard was, in fact, the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit which God had made to the fathers long ago. To prove his point, he quoted from the prophet Joel:
15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Peter tells us that this prophecy was fulfilled at the day of Pentecost. He even states this in verse 16, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel.” The last days Joel was referring to was the last days of the old covenant.
Just as the final remnants of that old covenant were already swept aside, God fulfilled the promise He had spoken to the prophet Joel. And with this the old covenant was now just a memory. A new day had dawned upon us. The Spirit promise of the new covenant had been fulfilled. I will put My Spirit in you and cause you to walk in My ways.
In this sense, God’s plan and purpose for the salvation of His elect in Christ proved to be a revelation gradually unfolded. At the start we had was a vague promise in the garden of Eden concerning a Seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. God revealed more about this in His word to the prophets as Old Testament history gradually rolled by.
The author reminds his readers of this fact. He reminds them there is no new revelation to be had, nor is retreat into darkness a viable option. That is, if it is their intent to return to legal bondage under the old covenant, then they would do well to remember they are also going to be retreating into the days of prophets and dreams and the promise unfilled.
Peter tells us in his first epistle, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” (1 Peter 1:10)
Let this serve as a warning. People who have heard the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and yet desire to retreat still into the legal bondage of old covenants are betraying the very gospel they have heard. After all, is this not a return to a time when God’s purpose and plan was not yet fully revealed?
History as a Line or a Circle
Indeed there is another significance to this phrase, “in the last days.” If there are a last days, then there must also have been first days. There must also be a final day.
At the time this epistle was written Greek philosophy held that history was cyclical. They envisioned it as a circle of endless destruction and rebirth. Never was there a true beginning and never would there be a true ending. Instead, everything would live, suffer, die and then be reborn all over again at the next rebirth of the earth. Worse yet, nothing would ever changed. Everything that had happened would happen again . . and again . . . for eternity.
If you were one of the millions of wretched lower classes suffering in poverty and/or slavery, then you had only an eternity of suffering to look forward to.
Happily for us, Scripture rejects this. The word of God holds there was indeed a beginning, and that before the beginning there was God.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Scripture portrays history as a horizontal line with a beginning, a middle and an ending. And behind it all is the Beginner who began it all, sustains it all, and has ordained every occurrence within it.
It need not be said the significance this holds for the human race. What man does matters. Every human has a part to play in history, whether this part be evil or good, minimal or significant. That this part has been ordained for him by God from eternity does not alter the fact that he plays the part and that no cow or bird or bacteria can play it for him. History is not written by the beasts of the field or by the fish in the sea.
Of course, there is the temptation to think ourselves as more than we ought. It need not be said the significance history as a straight line gives to the human race, but it certainly can be overestimated. God is the one who has ordained it and created it. It all exists for His purposes, for His glory rather than for man’s. History may not be written by the beasts of the field or the fish in the sea, but neither is it the free will invention of the creature.
There is some similarity between the opening passage of John’s Gospel and of the opening passage here in the epistle to the Hebrews. Here in Hebrews our author begins at the same place John began; with the Word and His place within the Holy Trinity.
God spoke. He has spoken by His Son. The same Son through whom He created the world. The same Son who is the exact imprint of God’s nature and the radiance of His glory. The same Son who even now upholds the universe by the word of His power. The same Son whom He appointed heir of all things.
The word “imprint” here comes from a Greek word that we derive our word “character” from. It refers to an exact likeness. The Son in His Divine nature is the exact likeness of the Father, the radiance of the Father’s glory. Gill asked us to observe the sun and its ray, both are of the same nature, nor is one before the other, and yet they are distinct from each other, and cannot be divided or separated one from another
Our fathers had the word of God spoken to them by the prophets. If this word proved to be reliable and trustworthy, then how much less an excuse do we have today now that we have the word of God spoken directly to us by God Himself.