The Radiance Of The Glory Of God

Hebrews 1:7-9 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Good morning Grace church. I’m glad you’re here this morning. If you are a guest or visitor, welcome, we’re really glad you’ve joined us today.

Well, 8 more days until Christmas. How many of you just got a tightness in their stomach or your heart raced a little bit? Maybe you heard me say 8 more shopping days until Christmas. Maybe you are bracing for a dreaded event with your family. If that is the case, would you hit pause on your anxiety or stress and join me in prayer? Hebrews 1 has a word for us this morning to help stem the tide of Christmas rush. Jesus Christ is our glorious king and he is worthy of our attention and worship. Hebrews 1 shows Jesus as superior to angels and the hope is that we would take this season to meditate on the glory of Christ.

This morning as we continue in Hebrews 1, we are looking at the glory of Christ. It feels like a daunting task: To articulate something so transcendent as God’s glory feels like trying to describe a sunset over the Grand Canyon. I can’t come close to capturing it on my own. You almost have to see it. And the temptation for us is thinking that we have to see God’s glory in order to truly believe or understand. But God does not require us to see a visible shining cloud in order to experience and appreciate his glory. In these last days God has given us his Son, who is the Word. And we have been given the word and the Holy Spirit to show God’s glory through preaching. As Jesus told Thomas after the resurrection, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

As Pastor Dave mentioned in previous sermons, verses 1-4 serve as the head for the rest of chapter 1. 1-4 gives the 9 reasons why Jesus is superior to everything else in the galaxy, and the rest of the chapter unpacks these ideas. This morning we will look at what is summarized in verse 3: he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Let’s look at these two ideas before we get to our text in verses 7-9.

The unchanging, eternal reign of Christ is superior to angels
We talk about glory quite a bit at Grace Church, but what does it actually mean? One theologian (Frame, Systematic Theology p. 400) puts it this way: God’s glory is an outshining from him, not only of literal light, but also creative and ethical qualities.

We see many times in scripture God’s glory manifested in a visible brightness. The glory cloud that hovered above the tabernacle and the temple. Many times when people see God, it is accompanied by this visible brightness. Other places speak of his creation testifying to his glory. Psalm 19 says the heavens declare his glory. And it’s also his ethical qualities or in other words, his holiness. God is perfectly righteous all of the time

Verse 3 tells us that Jesus is the Radiance of the glory of God. Radiance is different than reflected. If you’ve ever gone for a walk at night, you know that you can still see in the moonlight. But the moon doesn’t produce any light of its own, it is the light reflected from the source: the sun. The S-U-N is the source of both light and heat. It radiates from the sun. The moon simply reflects the light and bounces it towards earth.

Moses reflected God’s glory. Angels, as we’ll see, reflect God’s glory. The Son is different. He radiates God’s glory. Glory flows out of Jesus.

The second part of this idea is that Jesus is the exact imprint of the nature of God. When someone sent a letter in the ancient world, they would close the letter and then seal it with wax. And then the writer, like the apostle Paul for example, would have a metal print with his initials or a logo and press that into the hot wax to form the seal with his imprint on it. When the recipient saw the letter with the seal of Paul, they knew it was legit. So here the author of Hebrews is again aiming to show the authenticity of Jesus as the message of God. He is the exact imprint of God’s revelation. All of God’s glory is wrapped up in the person of Jesus.

We are created in God’s likeness, but not an exact image of God. A son or daughter bears a mother’s likeness, but he or she is not the exact image of that parent. Jesus is the exact image of God. Colossians 1:15 says he is the image of the invisible God.

Angels possess some glory
Chapter one is all about showing ways that Jesus is superior to angels. Why angels? Why make such a big deal about them? I am not aware of anyone that struggles with worshipping angels and it doesn’t appear that was true for the audience of Hebrews either. It seems that Hebrews 2 gives us the answer:

Heb 2:1-4 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

The author is warning his audience to obey. If they won’t obey the law that was delivered by angels, maybe you will believe Jesus, who is superior to angels. So the two main themes of Hebrews fit together: Jesus is superior to all things, and we must not neglect this salvation.

As we look at verse 7, the author sets up a comparison between the angels in 7 and Jesus in 8-9.

Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”

The author quotes Psalm 104:4. If you remember, we went through Psalm 103 earlier this Fall and Psalm 104 is related. Ps 103 commands us to bless the Lord and focuses on God’s attributes. Psalm 104 also calls us to bless the Lord, but this time the focus is on God’s creation and how he upholds it. The Psalm emphasizes God’s glory within creation, and the angels are mentioned within the context of creation. Verse 4 of Psalm 104 is now quoted here in Hebrews chapter 1: he makes his angels winds and his ministers a flame of fire.

Angels are created. And that means that all of the amazing things that angels do, it is reflected glory. They don’t have their own glory. And further they aren’t made in God’s image.

So what exactly do angels do? Angels are messengers. We see this in the accounts of Abraham, Jacob, Daniel, Mary and Joseph.

They carry out God’s decrees and purposes for the world. As I mentioned before, they ministered the ten commandments. Hebrews 1:14 says that they minister to those who will inherit salvation.
They worship God, battle evil spirits and minister to the saints.

Angels take the form of people. Heb. 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

There is more to say about angels, their roles and their nature, but one thing to keep in mind concerning angels: there is a lot more going on than we understand. Here’s an example from 2 Kings 6:15-17.

The king of Syria sends his army to find the prophet Elisha to snuff him out. They arrive and encamp outside elisha’s door at night. So Elisha’s servant goes to the door and sees the army surrounding the city. The servant’s eyes get big with worry and he asks, what are we going to do?

16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

It was as if the servant got glasses to see the world as it really is. There is more than meets the eye in this world. We tend to settle for what our eyes can see or our minds can explain, but the Bible seems much more comfortable with the spiritual and physical realms overlapping. Let’s move on to verse 8.

V8-9 Jesus’ glory surpasses angels’
‘But concerning the Son…’ the author is saying, yeah angels have a kind of glory, they do cool things like become wind, and flames of fire, they fight against evil creatures and serve the saints, but the son is in a completely different category.

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

The quote in verses 8-9 is from Psalm 45. What we see there is a Psalm about a wedding. There is a king getting married to his bride. The original hearers understood this as the king of Israel, God’s earthly representative. The phrase “O God”, is an address. It’s addressing the king as God. The author of Hebrews takes this title and ties it to Jesus. It is explicitly saying Jesus is God. He is the exact imprint of the nature of God and the ultimate king that was promised to Israel.

Compared to angels, who seem to be able to change form and natures, the Son’s nature does not change. He is and had never not been the exact imprint of the nature of God.

Now, he took on a second nature as a man, but his divine nature does not change. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That makes Jesus exceedingly trustworthy. He will not suddenly change his nature. It makes the promises he makes exceedingly trustworthy. Jesus is not an unpredictable ruler who changes his mind on a whim or subject to his emotions.

An eternal and righteous rule
Jesus sits on the throne. Angels sit around the throne. Jesus has always ruled and will rule forever and ever. Angels, like all creation have a beginning. Angels serve under Jesus’ rule. Jesus is more glorious than angels, because he is God. Verse 4 says he sits at the right hand of the majesty on high. He rules right now and there is nothing in this universe outside his eternal rule.

The other kingly item is the scepter. Jesus rules with a scepter of uprightness. Said another way he rules with justice. The idea of a scepter spans back to Genesis. As Jacob blesses his sons, we read that the scepter will not depart from Judah. This is the tribe that will become the royal line of Israel. In Numbers 24:17 Balaam prophesied that “a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab.” Moab being Israel’s enemy, the scepter is used as an image of vanquishing Israel’s foes. The theme runs all the way to Revelation where God’s foes will be crushed to pieces by a rod of iron. The one who holds the sceptor represents God and his righteousness. And he will avenge anyone opposed to God’s righteous rule

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;” Someone could be an all-powerful king but rule in terror. There have been plenty of dictators and tyrants throughout history. It’s also not enough to have righteousness established. Think about most of the Kings of Israel and Judah. God’s righteous law was established, but it was not upheld by the kings. They did wickedness and often encouraged wickedness in their kingdoms. But Jesus loves righteousness and hates wickedness. And he rules with uprightness. He combines both the love of God’s laws with the ability to rule according to God’s laws.

Jesus rules with righteousness and justice.His rule is an eternal rule. Even more glorious, Jesus didn’t sit back while we floundered in our sin. Jesus came to fulfill the law perfectly through his obedience on earth. We can only be righteous through faith in Christ. Because Christ loved righteousness.And yet it gets even more glorious. He set his scepter aside to personally take on injustice and wickedness. On the cross he became the very thing it says he hates: wickedness. This week’s Fighter Verse 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’

He suffered injustice at the hands of men, so that our sin could be atoned for. God’s glory radiated at the cross.

Therefore, He is anointed above all
Because Christ loves righteousness and hates wickedness, he is a worthy king and is anointed above all. Look at the rest of verse 9.
“therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

There is no other king like Christ. Just as David and other kings in the Old Testament and in the ancient world were anointed, Jesus was anointed. The words Messiah and Christ mean ‘anointed’. But he was anointed not just with oil, but with the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 61:1-3 is a well known passage that Jesus later quotes in Luke explains this anointing and its purpose. You are probably familiar with the first half, which he fulfilled in his earthly ministry. Maybe less with the second:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

Jesus rules now in glory, but not everyone acknowledges his reign. His second return we will see him in the fullness of his glory and he will return to fulfill the rest of Isaiah’s prophecy. He will bring his scepter of justice with him, not only to ultimately heal all brokenness, but also judge wickedness.

And he’s also bringing his ministers of flaming fire with him.
Listen to the description of his return from 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
‘when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.’

How about that image? If you think angels in flaming fire are cool, how about the thought of fiery angels returning with the radiance of the glory of God right there in the middle?

The injustices we see and experience now will be dealt with. Rebels to God’s law will be brought to justice. He will take vengeance on wickedness. Corruption will be replaced with uprightness.The king will rule with justice on earth. Jesus will return in glory and rule in glory. His glory is so radiant, he will light up the New Jerusalem.

How do we apply this truth about Jesus? Allow the glory of Jesus to set everything else in the right perspective. Meditate on this radiance of the glory of God. Memorize a passage of scripture that details the glory of Jesus. Find a place that tells of his infinite worth, or his holiness. Remind yourself that anything you see in creation or anything creative anyone does is a reflected glory of the supreme ruler of the universe.Tonight the kids will tell the Christmas story in our play. As you watch that tonight let this sink in. this baby possessed the fullness of deity, was, and is the exact imprint of God.

– Maybe you are in the middle of depression and life feels cloudy. Or you have physical pain that discourages you. Look to the radiance of the glory of God and be amazed. Remind yourself of the hope of someday seeing Jesus in the fullness of his glory.

– Love the things that Jesus loves and hate the things that Jesus hates. In the power of the Holy Spirit, pursue holy living. And recognize your sin as wickedness and turn from it. If you have been trying to find satisfaction in lesser things. Repent. And be amazed that the Lord is gracious to us. That’s glory.

If you have not repented before and believe in Christ, do it now. Turn away from your sin. Repent and believe that Christ lived and died for the forgiveness of sins. Do not wait. The King is returning in judgment.

– Lastly, don’t forget that we were made to reflect the glory of God. As we grow in our love for Jesus, we will better reflect his glory. As we love the things he loves and hate the things he hates, we will look different to the world. And we can share the glory of Christ with the people around us.

Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. All of the perfection and beauty of God the Father is equally found in the Son. All of this glory in one man, the LORD Jesus Christ. And it’s only through faith in his work that we could be saved from sin. May we be increasingly grateful and full of awe at his incarnation this Advent.