A Series of Answers to Common Questions
In the opening statements of the book of Hebrews the author states that God spoke through his Son “in these last days” (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). The author is obviously implying that God hadn’t spoken through Jesus during the OT period which undermines the Trinitarian view that the Angel of Yahweh is the OT appearance of the prehuman Christ, or that Christ appeared to the OT prophets.
We first read the text within its immediate context before addressing the objection:
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:1-3
The inspired author explicitly says that the Lord Jesus is the Agent of creation, the One through whom God created the universe, and is the One personally sustaining creation by his powerful word. Clearly, to the author of Hebrews Jesus was active all throughout history even before his Incarnation. The point of the writer is not that God hadn’t spoken through his Son during the OT period, but that he hadn’t done so exclusively. The point basically being made is that God spoke to his people through various ways and by different means, i.e. through angels, prophets, dreams, visions etc. Yet some of those ways included speaking through his Son and Spirit, just as Hebrews itself claims:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. HE SAYS, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again HE SAYS, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given me.’” Hebrews 2:9-13
The author quotes the following OT texts and asserts that it was the Son, the Lord Jesus, who was speaking in them:
“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:” Psalm 22:22
“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.” Isaiah 8:17-18
Here is another example of Jesus speaking in the OT:
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, HE SAID: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.”’ First HE SAID, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then HE SAID, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second.’” Hebrews 10:5-9
The passage which the author places on the lips of the Lord Jesus comes from the Greek version of Psalm 40:
“Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and [sacrifice] for sin thou didst not require. Then I said, Behold, I come: in the volume of the book it is written concerning me, I desired to do thy will, O my God, and thy law in the midst of mine heart.” Psalm 40:6-8 Brenton’s Septuagint [LXX]
Furthermore, Hebrews teaches that God also used the Holy Spirit as one of his means of communication during the OT period:
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.” As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”’” Hebrews 3:7-11
The passage being cited is this one:
“For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Psalm 95:7-11
“And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’” Hebrews 10:15-17
The author applied the following text to the Holy Spirit:
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34
In both of the OT texts it is Yahweh God who is speaking, and yet Hebrews ascribes them to the Holy Spirit. What this implies is that the author believed that the Holy Spirit is actually Yahweh God Almighty!
Basically, this shows that the author of Hebrews believed that the Lord Jesus spoke by his Spirit through the prophets, a view shared by the Apostle Peter:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about 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. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:10-12
The writer of Hebrews also states that Moses knew Jesus and willfully suffered for him:
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.” Hebrews 11:24-28
The author seems to be suggesting that Moses’ encounter with God included an appearance of the Lord Jesus, a point which Paul confirms in his own writings:
“I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
It was the Lord Jesus, according to Paul, who led Moses and the Israelites during the Exodus. Interestingly, the Hebrew Bible says that God had sent his Divine Angel to lead Israel into the promise land:
“Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.” Exodus 14:19-20
“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out,” Exodus 23:20-23
“And when we cried to the LORD, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory.” Numbers 20:16
Tying the pieces together we can conclude that Jesus was the One who appeared as a Divine Angel to deliver God’s people.
Jude is another writer who wrote that the Lord Jesus actually delivered Israel:
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude 1:4-5
Some MSS read Lord instead of Jesus in verse 5:
“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” NASB
Regardless of the textual reading, this fact is certain: In context, according to Jude 1:4, the Lord who delivered the people and destroyed the unbelievers is clearly the Lord Jesus.
The apostle John also believed that the Lord Jesus had appeared to the OT saints:
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” John 12:37-41 NIV
John says that Isaiah the prophet had already foretold the Lord Jesus’ rejection by the people because he had seen the glory of Christ. Yet one of the passages which John cites as evidence, i.e. Isaiah 6:9-10, is a reference to Yahweh actually revealing his glory to Isaiah in a visible manner:
“In the year that King Uzziah died I SAW the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of HIS GLORY!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’ And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’” Isaiah 6:1-10
The other passage that John cited is Isaiah 53:1, a reference to the servant of Yahweh who dies for the sin of God’s people:
“Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-12
By combining Isaiah 6 and 53 together, John is obviously identifying Yahweh’s Servant as the Yahweh whom Isaiah saw and who later became the man Christ Jesus. Putting it simply, John is basically stating that the Yahweh whom Isaiah beheld, the One sitting on the throne whose glory was manifested to Isaiah, was none other than the Lord Jesus who became a servant to suffer for our sins, thereby fulfilling the prophecy made in Isaiah 53!
In light of the foregoing, we can now better understand the point of Hebrews. Essentially, the inspired writer wasn’t suggesting that Jesus hadn’t spoken to the prophets during the OT period, but that he wasn’t the only means of communication to the people. Now, however, God speaks exclusively through the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus. In other words, the author is claiming that Jesus is the conduit, the medium, through which all of God’s revelation comes, a point Jesus himself makes:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom THE SON CHOOSES to reveal him.” Luke 10:22
Notice how this text echoes the very point which Hebrews 1:1-2 makes, namely, that all things have been handed over to the Son because he is the Heir and that he reveals God to whomever he chooses since God speaks in and through him.
Thus, God has chosen to make known all of his riches and wisdom to us in Christ to the exclusion of all other mediums:
“that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3
This doesn’t mean that God wouldn’t send angels or prophets to the people, but that Christ is the One who makes known God’s revelation to those commissioned to be emissaries. As the apostle John puts it:
“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” John 20:21-23
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,” Revelation 1:1
The Lord Jesus reveals God’s mysteries to his people by sending an angel to make it known to his apostle John. Therefore, every messenger and ambassador of God receives the divine commission and revelation through the mediation of Christ, coming in the authority and power of the Lord Jesus since the Son is the very focus and essence of prophecy:
“Therefore I SEND YOU prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,” Matthew 23:34
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift… And HE gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,” Ephesians 4:7, 11
“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
Hopefully, this helps explain the point being made by the inspired writer of Hebrews.
All Scriptural quotations take from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless noted otherwise.