At Christmas most of the world sees Jesus as a baby in a manger—nothing more. But considering its innate love for sin and hatred for God, we should not be surprised by that shallow perspective.
What ought to concern us is that many believers fall into the same myopic trap around this time of year. Caught up in the trappings and traditions of the season, they quickly lose sight of why we’re celebrating Christ’s birth in the first place. In simple terms, their emphasis on Christ’s infancy blinds them to His supremacy.
The writer of Hebrews opens his epistle with a vivid reminder of the One who took on flesh for our sake.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1–3)
The writer of Hebrews begins His epistle by describing the incarnation as the supreme revelation of God. And although the writer may have personally known the Lord as a man who walked this earth, he was also acutely aware of Christ’s eternal superiority over all things. The preeminence of Christ forms the central theme of his letter and he begins by pointing out seven key aspects. We’ll examine four of them today.
Christ Is the Heir of All Things
The first aspect of Jesus Christ’s preeminence concerns His inheritance: “whom He appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). That is an unqualified statement asserting that God has planned for Jesus ultimately to inherit absolutely everything. It adheres to Jewish inheritance laws that said the firstborn child received the wealth of the family’s estate.
Because Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, He is logically the firstborn Son as well. Therefore, Christ is the heir of all that God has. The psalmist predicted this very reality, “I [God] will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). Everything in the created order, whether the material or spiritual world—everything God has ever created—belongs to Jesus Christ.
It’s amazing to think that a Galilean carpenter, crucified on a cross outside Jerusalem, is actually the heir to the universe. Admittedly, when Jesus was on earth He owned little or nothing. One thing He did own was His cloak, and the Roman soldiers gambled for ownership of that while He was on the cross. He was even buried in a borrowed grave. But some day, all that exists will belong to Christ, and everyone—people, angels, and all powers in the universe—will bow before Him. “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).
It’s also incredible to realize that believers will be joint heirs with Christ: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17). If you know Christ, you are a part of His bride, the church, and He, the Bridegroom, allows you to share His inheritance. And someday you will see Him return as King of kings and Lord of lords to make final claim of His inheritance and exercise sovereign, everlasting rule over all that exists. Therefore, once you say Jesus is Lord, you also say He is the heir of all things.
Christ Is the Creator of All Things
The second aspect of Christ’s preeminence listed in Hebrews 1 is His power in creation: “through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:2). That statement is perfectly consistent with John 1:3, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (cf. Colossians 1:16). Jesus created everything, both the material and nonmaterial parts of the universe. And His creatorship is a characteristic of our Lord—second only to His sinlessness—that really sets Him apart from us.
The Greek word rendered “world” in Hebrews 1:2 does not mean the material world but “the ages,” as it is usually translated elsewhere. Christ created not only the physical earth, but also time, space, energy, and every variety of matter. He effortlessly created the entire universe and finished it as something good. For that reason, the creation, which was marred by humanity’s sin, longs to be restored to what it was originally (Romans 8:22)—and one day Christ will create a new and perfect heaven and earth.
Christ Is the Radiance of God’s Glory
The writer of Hebrews further establishes the preeminence of Christ by citing that “He is the radiance of His [God’s] glory.” “Radiance” literally means “to send forth light.” It indicates that Jesus is the manifestation of God to us. Just as the sun’s rays illuminate and warm the earth, Christ is God’s glorious light that shines into the hearts of people. And as the sun cannot be separated from its brightness, so God cannot be separated from the glory of Christ.
Jesus Christ is the radiance of who God is, and He affirmed that fact during His earthly ministry: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). Christ can transmit that light into our lives so that we can radiate the glory of God to others. God sent His glorious light, in the person of Jesus Christ, into a morally dark world to call sinners to Himself. No one would ever be able to see or enjoy God’s true radiance if it weren’t for His Son and those who know Him.
It is truly a blessing to know that Jesus Christ can come into your life and give you the spiritual light to see and believe God. Jesus’ brightness points you to salvation, which in turn results in purpose, peace, joy, and genuine fellowship for all eternity.
Christ Is the Essence of God
Hebrews 1:3 goes on to declare a fourth element of the preeminence of Christ, namely, that He is “the exact representation of His nature.” Jesus possesses the essential nature or being of God the Father. That is, He has all the attributes that are indispensable to who and what God is, such as immutability (unchangeableness), omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. He is the exact stamp or replication of God. In the words of the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ is “very God of very God.”
The apostle Paul teaches us basically the same truth in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Here, unlike Hebrews 1:3, the Greek word translated “image” is eikon, from which we get the English term icon, meaning a precise copy or reproduction. But both verses communicate the same truth. Christ possesses the essential nature of God and manifests the attributes of God. In His being, Jesus is what God is, and in His person He displays that essence to everyone who sees Him.
This season you may find yourself standing with others to admire a manger scene. Perhaps you can ask the person next to you, “Do you know who that baby is—who He really is?”