Meditations in Hebrews 1: 4. Heir of all things
Heb 1:2 in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things,
I don’t know why, but talk of inheritances and heirs have never rung clearly with me but I am praying for something new here. I know what an inheritance is; it is what someone leaves in their will. I know what an heir is; it is the person who receives the inheritance in the will of another, more often than not, an older family member. But God doesn’t make a will because God doesn’t die.
Nevertheless, the writer says that the Father has ‘appointed’ the Son to be His heir, the one who will receive all that He owns. Oh yes, when a person makes a will they don’t hold on to bits of what they own for themselves because they won’t be around to enjoy those bits when the other comes into their inheritance! What the Father wills for the Son is literally everything in Creation (because he goes on to speak of Creation).
When Jesus was teaching, he used a parable about a landowner with a vineyard that he let out. The rent for the vineyard would be fruit at harvest but when the owner sent servants to collect some fruit they were beaten, killed or stoned. Eventually he sent his son, “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, `This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” (Mt 21:38 – also see Mk 12:7 & Lk 20:14) which they then do. It is clearly about Israel and Jesus and his coming death. All three Synoptic Gospels have and it is as if Jesus wants us to note the language – he is an heir and he has an inheritance, this land, this people, God’s people.
Now there are two passages in the epistles that speak to this and we need to quote them in their entirety to catch the full thrust of what is being said. First from Ephesians: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:18-23)
Paul wanted them to understand their hope, an inheritance for all believers, His power (in reality the power of His Holy Spirit) that transforms and conveys eternal life. That is OUR inheritance, everything flows from that and we have it of course because of the Cross. But, says Paul, that’s the same power (now in us) that raised Jesus from the dead and lifted him back to heaven so that he could sit at his Father’s right hand again, for now and eternity, where he is above everything and every one in existence. Jesus’ inheritance FIRST means his right to sit at the Father’s right hand ruling over everything, but everything. This is what the kingdom of God is all about, about His Son ruling over this kingdom over all of creation, man and beast, powers and principalities. The mystery which I believe we have never yet understood, is that al of this is “for the church.”
The second passage, again from Paul, comes near the end of 1 Corinthians: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:22-28) The end outworking of the kingdom of God under the rule of His Son, is that one day there will come a time when the Son leaves his Father’s side and returns to the earth as a conquering king (see Rev 19) and subdues anyone and anything that has so far refused to come under his rule. When he has done that he will hand back the completed project to the Father. Until then, he is the rightful heir to the kingdom of God, the rule of God on earth.
A third passage may also shed some light, that of Revelation 5 where the lamb stands before the throne in heaven and is found to be the only one worthy to undo the scroll of the end time history. Those around the throne sing of his work of redeeming mankind and add, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev 5:12) Because he died on the Cross he was deemed worthy to receive his inheritance, these seven things of this verse. There never has been, nor ever will be, one who can compare in any way with the unique Son of God, Saviour of the World yes, but also ruler of the world, which he continues to do in a benign manner until the great and glorious day comes when he will wind it up.
When was this inheritance established and declared by the Father? It must have been before even the Creation of all that we know. Jesus was able to say to the Father, “you loved me before the creation of the world,” (Jn 17:24) and the apostle Peter tells us that, “He was chosen before the creation of the world.” (1 Pet 1:20) so that, looking forward into the future, the apostle Paul could say of God’s planning, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” (Eph 1:4) Why? Because they agreed then on, “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev 13:8) Yes, that was all part of the package we call the will of God decreed from before the foundation of the world, so that the fruit or outworking of the Cross would entitle Jesus to reign over all things from then on at his Father’s right hand. That was his inheritance. Hallelujah!