by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Heb. 1:1-14; 2:1-4.
There is a sense in which that clause "so great salvation" is the key to the whole of this letter, for undoubtedly this letter was written with the object of bringing very definitely and clearly before the minds of its readers how great the salvation is which is in Christ; to remind them of the greatness of the salvation. And all that is said in the letter is just an exposition of the greatness of this salvation. It seems that the greatness is opened up along two lines; one is the transcendent greatness of Christ; the other is the wonderful fulness of His own Divine Person.
The Transcendent Greatness of Christ
His transcendent greatness is revealed by placing Him alongside of the greatest others ever known, or at least some of them. Many of the great ones of history are mentioned in this letter, many who have occupied positions of tremendous importance in relation to God on behalf of men, but they are mentioned and brought into view in this letter for the special purpose of showing just how far transcendent the Lord Jesus Christ is.
Transcendent to Angels
The first of these great ones to be mentioned is not a human order at all; it is a celestial, heavenly order - the angels. As we read these passages we note the comparison, the contrast between Christ and the angels. Angels are superior to men. They will not be superior to men when God has man as He intends man to be, but angels are now superior, and we have a wonderful collection of incidents with which angels were connected in the history of this world. We are shown by the Word of God how great is the power committed to them when it is possible for one angel to go out from the presence of God and smite an army of tens of thousands, so that by the activity of one angel in a night the whole host of Senacharib were slain, the whole battlefield covered with corpses, the men who laid down to sleep overnight and never rose again - for an angel of the Lord went out and smote the whole host, the host which had dared to put itself against the Lord and the Lord's people. We have wonderful stories of angelic activity and power in the book of the prophet Daniel.
It is not our intention to go over the Bible stories concerning angels, but it is made perfectly clear that angels are no insignificant force to be reckoned with, and that they are employed by God in an administrative capacity in relation to this world and men, though often unseen; mighty angels, executing the purposes of God. And yet, with all their glory, with all their power, with all their great heavenly vocation, they are shown here in this letter to be much inferior to the Lord Jesus. "Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee?"; ''Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire: but of the Son He says, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." You see how infinitely transcendent Christ is to the angels.
Then a number of men of great name and exploits are mentioned.
Greater than Moses
The next one mentioned in this letter is Moses. Now, Moses was a
great man. There is no doubt about it that Moses ranks in the
history of this world as one of its greatest, not only as in
Israel among the Jews, but recognised everywhere in all nations as
being a mighty man. See how much of the law of our own country is
based upon the law of Moses. Where does capital punishment come
from? It comes from the Bible, the law of Moses: "Whoso sheds
man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." That is the law. We
know it is not grace, but that is the law; and the whole system of
law is founded upon Moses, and much more than that. Moses has a
tremendous influence, not only in his own day but throughout the
ages. He brought a great mob of hundreds of thousands of people
out of bondage in Egypt, and shaped them into a nation, a nation
whose history has gone on and on, and goes on today. It does not
matter where you move about the world, there is always the
distinctiveness associated with that nation. It does not matter
where you go, the Jew is known in every nation. Balaam prophesied
about the Jew and about Israel, that they should not be reckoned
among the nations. Well, they have absolute distinctiveness, they
are not absorbed at all, they stand clear. Moses shaped that
nation, so that it has left this impress upon the history of the
world. We know of the exploits.
Moses was a great man, a great leader, a great organiser, a great lawgiver, perhaps above all, a great man of God, a great saint. But in this letter to the Hebrews the Lord Jesus is brought in alongside of Moses and, incidentally, you see how insignificant Moses is. It says about Moses that he was a servant in God's House, but the Lord Jesus is a Son over God's House. There is all the difference between the Son over the House and the servant in the House, and that is the difference between Christ and Moses.
Exceeding and Excelling Joshua
The next one in order mentioned is Joshua. Joshua took up the work of Moses and took the people over Jordan into the Land of Promise. Joshua conquered the seven kings and the seven nations in the Land of Promise, and substituted them and set Israel in the land by mighty exploits. And yet with all the great conquests of Joshua, the whole thing fell short at one point, the people never came to fulness of rest. The Word here is that if Joshua had given them rest, then no mention would have been made of a rest to come, but because Joshua did not give them rest there remains a rest, and that is where the Lord Jesus comes in. Immediately He is brought in - He is shown to be the One who goes far beyond what Joshua in his greatest and best could do. Joshua could not give fulness and finality of rest, but the Lord Jesus can. He who said: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" has given fulness of rest to the heart of every man and woman who has accepted Him by faith as their Saviour. It is "rest unto your souls". That is where the Lord Jesus exceeds and excels Joshua, as giving rest.
Greater than Aaron
The next one mentioned is Aaron, the greatest of Israel's priests, the one man in the midst of all (not only of that nation, but all the nations) who was allowed to go into the immediate presence of God; Aaron, who stood as the mediator between God and man. The glorious garments which were made for him, with all their magnificence; and the jewel-bestudded breastplate which he wore were just symbols of the greatness of the office which he occupied. He was among men a man of tremendous importance, because he stood to represent man in the presence of God, and he stood to represent God in the presence of men. That is no small thing. He offered the sacrifices for the sins of men. And yet the Lord Jesus, when He is brought in and is compared with Aaron, is seen to go far beyond him. We are told how much Aaron could do, and then just how much Aaron could not do. We are told that, while Aaron did all this, and was all this, he never made anything perfect. Why? For one thing it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins. That at best was only a type, a symbol, an illustration. And then, if you are going to remove sin, you are dealing with the whole question of death, because the wages of sin is death; and a man has not only to be able to deal with sin, but he has to be able to deal with death. And it says that Aaron died; therefore Aaron, with all that he was, fell a prey to the very thing that he stood against. Death overcame him; therefore he was not able to make anything perfect, because he was subject to death.
Then the Lord Jesus is brought in as God's great High Priest, not offering bulls and goats as sacrifices, not taking their blood, but His own Blood, offering Himself without spot to God; and then, in offering Himself and dying for our sins, conquering death in the very act, vanquishing death, so that He was not overcome of death, but lives forever to make intercession. The sentence in the letter to the Hebrews is: "He is able therefore to save to the uttermost...". "Uttermost" means that He is able to save right on to the end. Aaron could not do that because he died; but Christ, because He lives, can save right on forever. Aaron at best could only go so far and then had to give up his work as imperfect, unfinished, but Christ can go on in the power of an endless life saving, saving, every day.
Who is your saviour, yourself or your Christ? Christ, because He lives forever and has conquered death, can carry on your salvation for eternity; not for a week, a fortnight, three weeks, a month, and then break down. How much greater is Christ than Aaron! He lives for ever; He can save, therefore, right on to the end.
We dare not go on with the comparisons. We have mentioned these four: angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron. They are great names, great powers, but nothing compared with Christ. And because Christ is so infinitely greater as a Deliverer than Moses; as a Rest-giver than Joshua; as a Saviour from sin than Aaron; as a Power from heaven than angels; so infinitely greater, then we are beginning to see what the meaning of this word is: "so great salvation" in Christ.
The Fulness of His Divine Person
There are many other things said here along the other line, the second line. You have only to look at the first chapter again and see what is said about the Lord Jesus and His Person.
God has spoken in Him as His Son.
Chapter 1 verse 2: "God... has at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son". God spoke by the prophets once, but now He has spoken in Him as His Son. God has spoken in Christ on a higher level than ever God spoke before, as His Son.
God has spoken in Him in a supreme way.
The second thing in the same verse is that God has not only spoken in Him as His Son, but He has spoken in Him in a supreme way: "God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions...". God spread His speech over many generations, many manners, many portions, by many individuals; and each individual only had a bit of God's speech. The prophets just had a fragment of God's speech to men, and God was speaking over a long stretch of years through a whole host of men, and each man only had a bit. But now: "at the end of these days", God has spoken in completeness in His Son. He has gathered it all up in His Son. It is a fulness of God's speech in Christ. When you come to the Lord Jesus you do not come to a fragment, you come to the fulness; you do not come to one of the divers manners or divers portions, you come to the fulness of God's speech. How infinitely greater He is than the prophets, who only had a little bit. He has it all!
See what the prophets were able to do. Elijah was one of the divers portions, the divers manners, but what mighty things happened through Elijah. Kings went down before Elijah. The nation was shaken to its foundations by the word of Elijah. The heavens were closed by the space of three years and six months by the word of Elijah, and then the heavens were opened because Elijah prayed. Mighty things were done by that one man, who was just one of the many portions and manners of God. If one man can do all that, and all the others had a measure, and you gather it all up in Christ, you see how infinitely greater Christ is. How great salvation!
He is the Heir of all things.
Look again at this word: "Whom He (God) appointed heir of all things". Christ is the heir of all things. Then salvation comes to us in the heir of all things. All things are the heritage, the inheritance of Christ. That is a big "all things". That "all things" means heaven and earth and all that is in them, forever and forever, are the appointed inheritance of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and as such a One He brings salvation to us.
If the Crown Prince of the greatest nation on this earth were to come to us and offer us deliverance from our poor estate, we should say: "This man is able to do it: he has the resources, he has much influence and power, he is a great man, we can trust him!" But here is the Heir of all things, who is to be King of kings and Lord of lords, to inherit all things, heaven and earth and all things in the coming age, and He comes and offers salvation. He can do it; therefore how great He is, and how great a salvation this must be if it is in the Heir of all things.
God made the worlds through Him.
The next thing, in the same verse, is: "through whom He made the worlds". God made the worlds through His Son. Think of that! The Lord Jesus was the Instrument, the Agent in the creation of the worlds. The very existence of these worlds is the result of His activity. The One who created it is the One who comes to offer Himself as the Saviour. Surely He can do it! He has not sent one of His servants; He has come Himself, as the Creator of all things, to be the Saviour. He who created can surely save! How great salvation!
He is the express image of God's Person.
He is the full representation of God: "the express image", the effulgence of God. This is God coming in the Person of the Lord Jesus, God being represented in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. It is God come near in Jesus Christ.
He sustains all things.
In verse 3 it says that He upholds all things by the Word of His power. He is not only the Creator; He is the sustainer. Christ sustains all things. Does it not amaze you that the One who was the Creator, and who was the Heir of all things, and the very One who upholds all things in this universe by His own power, let Himself be taken by men and spat upon, stripped, mocked, smitten, ridiculed, despised and then nailed on a cross? Amazing! How great a salvation, that He should have gone all that way for us! It is not that He was helpless in the hands of men. He was the Creator and Sustainer of all things. It was not that He was too weak to do anything for His own deliverance. He said He had only to ask His Father and He would send Him twelve legions of angels. We have thought of one angel smiting a mighty army. What will twelve legions of angels do? And yet He did not ask! He was working out your salvation and my salvation, and the angels must not interfere with that. How great salvation! God was doing that. The Creator and the Upholder of all things was doing that. How great salvation!
He accomplished purification of sins.
Has ever any other being done that? "When He had made purification of sins". Oh, yes! He has done it, and those who put faith in Him come to know it; those who enter into the good of it, that know what it is to be purged, cleansed and saved from sin, when they accept Christ as Saviour by faith. He did it in His cross. It is made good to those who trust Him, who accept Him, who believe on Him.
He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
This Christ, who accomplished the purging of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High. He is at the right hand now. The right hand is the place of honour and of power, and He is in that place; and the salvation is related to such a One. Salvation is in such a One; not now a Man walking about this earth, despised and rejected of men; but salvation now is in the One who is at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
He has inherited a title more excellent than the angels.
"He has inherited a more excellent name than they." That means the title of Christ. It is not just bearing a name, it is a title - which represents position - more excellent than the title of the angels. It is the Name which represents power and glory far above the power and the glory of the angels. He has inherited it! That is, it has been conferred upon Him. Paul says elsewhere: "God has given unto Him the name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, things in earth, things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord". He has inherited that Name by the work of His cross.
All this wonderful revelation of the Person of the Lord Jesus gives us just a little idea of the greatness of the salvation which has come, if He is the Saviour. Need anyone despair? Need anyone fear? Need anyone for a moment feel that theirs is a hopeless case? No! Not if He is the Saviour! If it were a man, even a great man, we might have some doubts, but it is this One, such a One as this, who is the Saviour. No case is hopeless when you put it into the hands of One like this. No case is too difficult for Him. No life too great a problem. No power of sin and evil too great and mighty in its mastery of a life for Him. He is Master, and more than Master of the greatest situation that you can present to Him.
The Finality of Things in Christ
The last word is concerning the finality of things in Christ. This Word says that it is at the end that God has spoken in Him. Now the end has come. God's final speech is in Christ. There is no more after that, and that is why it is such a hopeless outlook if we neglect so great salvation. There is no more salvation to come; the end of it is in Christ. This is the last phase of God's dealings with men; it is in His Son, the Lord Jesus. How shall we escape? How can we? If God is not going, after this, to do anything for man's salvation. He has finished it in Christ, and Christ is the last speech to man, it is all full and complete in Christ and there is no more to be done; if that is so, if we neglect, where is our chance? There is no chance after this life if once we have been brought face to face with the Lord Jesus here. The mercy to us is that He lets us stay here long enough to have Christ presented to us, even perhaps twice, thrice, a dozen times. But the time comes when Christ is no longer offered to us as Saviour. The end comes; God closes the door. There is no more salvation and we may be lost through a long eternity, having neglected the so great salvation.
We do not like turning to the dark side. We always like to dwell upon the bright side. Why should men be coerced, almost driven? Is not the presenting of the greatness of the Saviour enough? If it is not, it is a desperate thing that men and women should have to be argued with, pleaded with, constrained in the presence of so great a salvation. But there is the dark side: "Now is the day of salvation", says God's Word; and it is the day of the so great salvation. But it is a day, and every day closes. It is just possible to go beyond the time where it is possible to be saved. No one can decide when they can be saved. God has appointed a limit. God says, "Now". Salvation's day may close suddenly, but "now" the great salvation is presented.
Let us keep the greatness of the salvation always in view; the greatness of the Saviour; and let us not neglect, because of the greatness.