JESUS THE GREATEST REVELATION
By Pastor Glenn Pease
Anne Graham Lotz in her book Just Give Me Jesus begins her introduction with this story. “Several years ago, Andrew Morton wrote a biography of Diana, Princess of Wales. In his publicity tour for the book he said his information was based on conversations he had with some of her closest friends. His book sold thousand of copies. After Lady Diana’s tragic death in a car accident in Paris, Andrew Morton’s book was re-released. This time he revealed that the source of his information had not been intimate friends of Diana’s but Diana herself. He then produced hours of taped conversations with the princess as proof. And his book sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It made an enormous difference to the reading public to discover the book was not hearsay but what Diana had said about herself.”
God has had many spokesmen through history, and they have revealed God’s will for His people faithfully, but they were only instruments through which God spoke. When Jesus came into history God was doing something different. He was no longer just using the bodies and minds of men to convey His Word. He was Himself in a body and mind speaking directly to man. It was no longer just “Thus saith the Lord,” but “I say unto you.” Jesus was God speaking to man, and not just another tool God was using to convey His Word. He was the Word. He was the greatest revelation of God because He was God revealing Himself. His revelation is superior to all that had gone before Him because He was superior to all that had gone before Him. He was superior to everyone and everything is the major point of this whole book. The first three verses of Hebrews are the greatest summery of Christology you will find anywhere in or outside of the Bible. They reveal Jesus to be superior in these ways:
1. He is superior as a spokesman. He is superior to all past spokesmen.
2. He is superior as a son. God’s ultimate revelation.
3. He is superior in status. Heir of all things.
4. He is superior as source. Creator of all.
5. He is superior in splendor. God’s glory.
6. He is superior in substance. Exact replica of Father.
7. He is superior as sustainer. By His powerful word.
8. He is superior as sacrifice. Provided purification for sins.
9. He is superior as sovereign. At right hand of Father.
Hebrews does a lot of comparing to show that Jesus always comes out on top when compared with any other person or thing. We see it is the first goal of the book to show us that God has done a lot of revealing of Himself by speaking to men in various ways, but that the highest and final way is in Jesus. It is of interest to note that the first verse uses alliteration in that the five key words of “many times,” “many ways,” “past,” “fathers,” and “prophets” all begin with the Greek letter “pi.” I am going to follow that pattern as we look at the three kinds of revelation that the book of Hebrews deals with. They are Past Revelation, Progressive Revelation, and Perfect Revelation.
THE PAST REVELATION
The first things that needs to be made clear is that the superiority of the revelation we have in these last days through the Son does not mean that the revelation that came through the prophets of old is not valid. It was the best that God was giving at the time. It was incomplete, but it was the best that could be had in the days of the prophets. Jesus did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. They were the introduction, and Jesus is the completion. They gave us fragments of God’s purpose, but Jesus gave us the final and full revelation of God’s purpose. Through the prophets we come to know about God, but through Jesus we come to know God, for He is God speaking directly and not though the voice of another.
Jesus made it clear that the Old Testament was God speaking to man about Himself, and that there was a final revelation coming. In John 5:39-40 Jesus says to the Jewish leaders, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jesus is saying that the old revelation was pointing to Him. He makes it even more clear to the two on the road to Emmaus after he arose from the dead. In Luke 24:25-27 we read, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Later he appeared to the disciples and said in verse 44, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Jesus made it clear that the past revelation was valid and was revealing piece by piece the reality of a final revelation, which was fulfilled in Himself. The bottom line is this: As Christians we love the Old Testament as the Word of God, for it shows us how God was working all through history to bring His Son into the world to be the Savior. The whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Christian Bible because it is God’s revelation. The New is in the Old contained; the Old is in the New explained. The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed. The Old was the commencement of revelation, but the New in Jesus was the climax of revelation. Next then we see,
THE PROGRESSIVE REVELATION
God is not longwinded in the sense that He speaks so long that it drives men crazy and they cannot wait to get away. Some preachers can do this in speaking about and for God, but God is one who gets to the point and does not go on and on. He speaks His mind on the issue at hand and then waits for a more appropriate time to add new insight into His will. He knows that the human mind cannot handle everything all at once. So He gave guidance in the past in small bits and pieces, like a parent feeding a baby, or a very small child. They just break off little chunks at a time, for they know the child will choke on larger pieces. God knew His people could not handle more than He gave them, for they failed to live up to the partial revelation that they had. If your baby is choking on what you are giving it, give it less. Less is more when more is too much to handle, and so God just spoke briefly and in part in the Old Testament. "By progressive revelation . . .God brings man up through the theological infancy of the Old Testament to the maturity of the New Testament." (B. Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interp.)
If you have ever been out walking during the late afternoon, and you are walking away from the sun you can see your shadow cast on the road ahead of you, and it can be the size of a blimp as it stretches out dozens of feet before you. Much of the Old Testament revelation was like that shadow. It was not real, but only the image cast by the better things yet to come. It was the best at the time, and by obeying the law of God, which was a shadow, you could please God and be a righteous person. There was nothing false about the revelation in the past. It came by means of authentic men of God, who were His prophets. It was good, but it was far short of the best. It was just a shadow of what was to come. When what it foreshadowed did come it was foolish to stick with the shadow and ignore the reality. The Jewish Christians to whom this book was written were in danger of doing that very thing by slipping back to the ways of Judaism that were more familiar than the new ways of the Christian church. That is why the New Testament makes an issue of the difference between the shadow and the reality.
"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming-not the realities themselves."
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
What was fine in the old days is now folly in these new days, for these are the last days. There is no more revelation to come, for this is the final age, and there will not be another age coming with some new revelation. Progressive revelation has an ending point where you reach the peak beyond which there is no place to go. You cannot keep climbing a mountain once you reach the top, and you cannot keep getting higher revelation once you have received the highest and greatest that there is. Progressive revelation ended with Jesus. He is the pinnacle of revelation beyond which there is no higher place to go. Jesus said to His disciples, "Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Mt 13:16-17). Jesus is that final Word that all the people of God had been longing to hear.
God kept getting closer and closer to mankind, and He became more and more intimate until He actually became one with them and became a man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. There was no way God could come closer and reveal Himself more completely. There was no next step, for progressive revelation had reached its final stage and highest level. Progressive revelation was concluded with the coming of His Son. People often meet for the first time on the internet and begin to share about themselves. They get to know each other quite well over a period of time, and may even send pictures of each other. But the final revelation of who they are is when they arrange to meet in person. Once that happens, and they are conversing face to face, it is folly to think you can know them better by type on a screen. The prophets are like type on the screen, but Jesus is meeting God face to face. He is the superior, the final, the ultimate, the greatest revelation of God.
Mike Bradaric has put together a list of the ways that God revealed step by step more and more information about the coming Messiah. He writes, “At differing times throughout the OT, God was revealing more and more of himself and how he would redeem a fallen humanity.
In Genesis 3:15 he revealed that a Redeemer would come from the human race
In Genesis 12:1-3 he revealed that the Redeemer would come from Abraham descendents
In Genesis 28:14 he revealed that the Redeemer would come from the seed of Jacob and thence forth would be called Israel
In Genesis 49:10 he revealed that the Savior would come from the tribe of Judah
In 2 Samuel 7:16 he revealed that the Savior would come from the house of David and that he would rule forever
In Isaiah 7:14 he revealed that he would be virgin born
In Micah 5:2 he revealed that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem
Psalm 22 he revealed the kind of death the Savior would die
In Malachi 4 he revealed that John the Baptist would come before him to announce him
In Isaiah 53 he revealed not only the nature of his death, but manner of his burial and his resurrection.
The Old Testament saints had many pieces of the puzzle, but they could not get the full picture of the Messiah put together until they received that large missing piece in the center of it, and that piece was Jesus. Even when Jesus came He could not give a full revelation of all God’s plan, for men were not capable of grasping it.
Jesus said he had many things to tell his disciples but they were not ready. You do not tell your young children about income taxes and wills, for they are not ready for such things. So God’s people needed to be prepared for they were not ready. God is like any intelligent parent and that is why He gives Progressive Revelation. He tells people what they can grasp, and then builds on that to reveal more when they are ready. It is called going from the known to the unknown, which is the essence of education. Next we see-
THE PERFECT REVELATION
The goal of the book of Hebrews is to so exalt Jesus that there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that He is the ultimate and supreme revelation of God. In these first three verses the author makes it clear that Jesus is superior in every category. I like the way one author described them as the narthex to a great cathedral. In these opening words we begin to see the grandeur and majesty of the One this book is all about. Lightfoot has called it "the most beautifully constructed and expressive sentence in the New Testament" It may, in fact, be the most expressive sentence ever written, for it says what is never said elsewhere in such completeness. With less than a hundred words it conveys more than can be found anywhere. It cannot be matched in any other part of God’s Word. There is nowhere where Jesus is more exalted. Let me repeat the list again:
1. He is superior as a spokesman.
2. He is superior as a son.
3. He is superior in status.
4. He is superior as source.
5. He is superior in splendor.
6. He is superior in substance.
7. He is superior as sustainer.
8. He is superior as sacrifice.
9. He is superior as sovereign.
There is no higher source of revelation, and there is no other that can compare, for Jesus is in a class by Himself. It is folly to even dream of finding a greater source, and a greater Savior. To drift away from Jesus and begin to look for some greater source of knowing God and His will is like giving up on the sun for a source of light and raising fireflies in hopes of meeting your need. Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is the supreme revelation of God, and that there is only judgment ahead for those who will not receive Him as God’s final and perfect revelation. The author compares all of the values of the Old Testament to what we have in Jesus, and shows that what was in the past was good, but that what we now have in Jesus is far superior, for it is the best. Your crayon was good, but your ballpoint pen is better. Your candle was good, but your electric light is better. Your well was good, but your indoor faucet is better. We could go on and on illustrating the point that the old was just fine at the time, but now there is that which is far superior. That is the theme of Hebrews as it shows us all that was revealed was good, but in Jesus we have the better and perfect revelation. The old was a preview, but Jesus is the full feature. Someone has made a top ten list in Hebrews that goes like this:
10. Better than the prophets.
9. Better than the angels.
8. Better than Moses.
7. Better than Joshua.
6. Better than Aaron.
5. Better message.
4. Better maturity.
3. Better covenant.
2. Better sacrifice.
1. Better rest.
Someone else has made lists of what is better and perfect in Hebrews, and they are:
1:4 Christ is better than the angels
6:9 Better things that belong to salvation
7:7 The less (inferior) is blessed by the better (superior)
7:19 A better hope is introduced
7:22 Jesus is the surety of a better covenant 8:6 Christ is the mediator of a better covenant
8:6 New covenant established on better promises
9:23 Better sacrifices
10:34 Heaven a better substance or possession
11:16 Heaven a better country
11:35 They obtain a better resurrection or life
11:40 God had provided something better for us
12:24 Christ's blood speaks better things than the blood of Abel
2:10 Perfect through suffering
5:9 Being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him
6:1 Let us go on unto perfection (KJV)
7:11 If perfection had been obtainable by the Levitical priesthood...
7:19; 9:9 Law made nothing perfect
7:28 ...the Word of the oath... appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
9:9 Sacrifices cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper
9:11 Greater and more perfect tabernacle
10:1 The Law and sacrifices cannot make perfect
10:14 His single offering has perfected for all time those who are sanctified
11:40 Old Testament faithful not made perfect apart from Christ
12:23 Spirits of just men made perfect
13:21 Make you perfect in every good work
I have made my own list of what is better just is this first chapter. There is really no end to the lists you could make, for if you compare Jesus with anything or anyone, He always comes out better.
Better Messenger-the Son v.2
Better than prophets v. 2
Better revelation of God v. 3
Better relation to the Father v. 3 & 5
Better power source-the king of universe v. 3
Better than angels v. 4
Better name than angels v. 4
Better joy v. 9
Better in permanence v. 11
Better victory that is complete v. 13
The goal of the book of Hebrews is to make it so plain that what we have in Jesus is so much better and so superior to all that God has given in the past that no sensible person would dream of forsaking Jesus for the old ways of Judaism, or, for that matter, the ways of any other religion. When you have the best and the perfect revelation you do not put your trust in anything less. From the point of the incarnation on everything that is pleasing to God must be Christ-centered. This is the standard by which we measure and judge all teachings and beliefs. Jesus is the final, supreme and greatest revelation. As one author wrote, “The prize jewel in the treasure chest of Hebrews is Jesus.” We still study the revelation of the past and treasure it, but it always needs to be upgraded by comparing it with what Jesus said. He would say often, “You have heard what it was said to the people long ago…….But I tell you….” Matt. 5:21-22. Jesus was always upgrading the Old with the final revelation of what God wants man to be and do. In Him the revelation becomes perfected. Consider the following questions-
Is everything you say of equal importance?
Is everything the President says of equal importance?
Is everything God says of equal importance?
We are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, but does that mean that all are equal? Is the Old Testament equal to the New Testament? This book of Hebrews answers all of these questions with a resounding No! God updates his Word to man in Christ and what he says through Jesus is more important than what he said in the Old Testament. Much of the past Word was to prepare for the final Word in Christ. When the fulfillment came the preparation was finished and completed. This means that many of the laws that God laid down for Israel are now obsolete for us as Christians. The ceremonial and Sabbath laws are no longer in effect, for they were fulfilled in Christ. They were God’s ultimate Word at the time they were given, but when God upgraded His Word in Christ the old became obsolete. That is the theme of much of the book of Hebrews. When the sun rises you can put away your candles, and when the real Savior comes you can put away your types that pointed to Him.
The practical value of knowing that Jesus is the greatest revelation we can have of God is that it gives us a way to evaluate every situation in life. The “what would Jesus do” theme is our guide. He is the revelation of what God would do. He responded to every need of every individual He met with compassion. We cannot do what He did in terms of healing and raising the dead, but we can show the same love and caring spirit He showed. We can have the same hatred he had for the legalism of the Pharisees that made religion a burden. We can have His same heart that desires to forgive and bring about peace and reconciliation for those who have gone astray. In every situation of life it is valid to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” He is the revelation of God’s will in every situation. We do not know what Jesus would do in every situation, but we will be more likely to respond as He would if we are looking to Him as our highest example, and the most perfect revelation we have of God’s ideal person.
The Old Testament was like the alphabet and the New was the beginning of reading. They needed the foundation of the alphabet before they could understand the full revelation of God. The world is full of truths, but only in Christ do we get the full truth. He is the highest revelation of who God is and what his plan is. Christians do not have a monopoly on truths, for there are truths in Judaism and most other religions, but the fullness of truth is in Jesus. He is the truth and the last word on truth because He is the greatest revelation.
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