Centrality of the Son in the Kingdom of God: Introduction and Background (Part 1 of 7)

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Centrality of the Son in the Kingdom of God is a 7-part series. You can find others here:

  1.  Introduction, Summary, and Promulgation of the Kingdom (8/27/18)
  2.  Enthronement of Son (9/3/18)
  3.  Qualities of the Kingdom of God – Heb 2:1-4:13 (9/10/18)
  4. The Restoration Ministry of Jesus (9/17/18)
  5. Kingdom and Covenant Relationship & Hebrews as God’s People (9/24/18)
  6. Promise & Oath: First Covenant Incomplete (10/1/18)
  7. New Covenant Complete, Summary & Conclusion (10/8/18)

Introduction

Hebrews is not a book one thinks of as highlighting the metaphysical cosmology of the Kingdom of God. However, a close examination will show how Hebrews places the Son of God at the center of our universe. It is interesting that most authors today refer to cosmology as world view. “The world view of a particular society includes that society’s conception of man’s own relation to the universe, human and non-human, organic and inorganic, secular and divine, to use our own dualisms. It expresses man’s view of his own role in the maintenance of life, and of the forces of nature.” 1

This paper seeks to illuminate how Hebrews places the Son at the center of the Christian world view. This is a position that competes with the world views of other religions and faith systems. It is important to comprehend that biblical cosmology cannot be reconciled with any others.

Background

Through the years the commentaries on Hebrews have rarely dealt with the comprehensive way that the Son is placed at the center of the Kingdom of God. Many of the present day volumes do not, except in a summary way. In Discipling the Nations, Richard R. Deridder alerts us to the central role of the Kingdom of God in Hebrews. 2 The enthronement passage in Hebrews 1:5-14 provides the key by which we can understand the whole of Hebrews. F.F. Bruce concurs there is “emphasis laid throughout the epistle on the occasion of Christ’s exaltation and enthronement….” 3 But few authors actually delineate how Hebrews provides a cohesive framework for the position of the Son.

Most commentaries follow a jigsaw pattern based on the theme of Christ’s superiority to all other spiritual or natural beings. 4 Usually, there is no satisfactory explanation of the interrelated parts. In addition, commentators frequently view sections of Hebrews as being digressive (e.g., the warnings of Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:12-14, 4:11-13, etc.). At best, according to these scholars, the writer of Hebrews bounces back and forth between themes 5 and at worst “proceeds from one part of his theme almost insensibly into the next . . .” 6 Contrary to these views, this article will show how the concept of the Kingdom of God is a factor which binds the chapters into a cohesive framework.

Summary of This Study

Hebrews 1:1-14 shows how the promulgation of the Kingdom of God depends on the enthronement of Son. Next, Hebrews 2:1-4:13 summarizes the character of the Kingdom which is predicated on purification for sins (1:3) and illustrated by the restoration ministry of Jesus. Finally, we will see how Hebrews 4:14-8:13 explains the relationship of the Kingdom to covenant.

The final two sections of Hebrews, that is, 9:1-10:36, expand and deepen the argument of 4:14-8:13 by contrasting the two covenants while chapters 11-13 describe the role of faith in Kingdom living. However, the scope of this article is not sufficient to cover these final sections. As we observe the integrating principle of the Kingdom of God in the first eight chapters, the purpose of this article will be achieved. The reader will understand the relationship of the last five chapters to the Kingdom theme.

 

Promulgation of the Kingdom of God

The Setting (Heb. 1:1-4)

That which was spoken of by God through the prophets has in these last days been fulfilled in Son. The Greek ἐν υἱῷ (in Son) does not carry the definite article and thus conveys the meaning of One who has the nature and character of God. 7 This Son becomes the heir of all things because all things were created through him and are upheld by the word of his power (Heb 1:2-3). Up to this point we have been introduced to the cosmic functions of Son. If we speak of Son in this manner rather than as a particular Son of God, we see his relationship to the λόγος of John 1:1. This way of speaking of Son provides a bridge to Jewish thought and prepares the way for the scripture references which indicate Messiah. In Hebrews 1:8, the definite article is used for the Son where the Son and God are linked. So Son of verse two is the one given the scepter of the Kingdom. The exaltation of Jesus follows.

This Son is Messiah

 At the end of verse three we see that Son also has a relationship to humankind for he made “purification for sins.”  This key point is repeated again and again in Hebrews 2:9-11; 5:9-10; 7:27; 9:12-14, 26-28; 10:10-14. (Purification is integrally related to perfection—see: Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:11, 19, 28; 8:7; 9:9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 26; 10:1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 12, 14, 22; 11:40 and 12:23). The Kingdom of God exists among humans only because the sin question has been dealt with by Messiah. That this one spoken of as Son is clearly the Messiah, we see in the seven Old Testament passages quoted in chapter one, verses 5-13. That is, in Messiah, the Kingdom of God is promulgated as being established. The first link is verse eight—the quote from Psalm 45:6-7. God’s kingdom is the dominion of this Son.

 

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Notes:

  1. Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: An Anthropological Study of the SupernaturalArthur C. Lehman and James E. Myers, Mayfield Publishing Company, 1989. 21.
  2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1975. 172
  3. The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1964) 13.
  4. Charles John Ellicott, Ellicott’s Commentary on the whole Bible. VIII Eph-Rev. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1954) 282.
  5. Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible, Vol. 4. (Moody Press. 1970) 234.
  6. Theodore H. Robinson, “The Epistle to the Hebrews” The Moffatt New Testament Commentary.  (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers.  1933) XIX.
  7. Kenneth S. Wuest, Hebrews in the Greek New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans). 1947) 34.
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About Author

Roger Dixon has been directly or vicariously in some way involved in cross-cultural church planting for nearly 50 years. He and his wife lived in Indonesia for over 30 years and raised 3 children while working among the Sundanese Muslim peoples. Roger has achieved a MDiv at Drew University, a Th.M at Fuller School of World Mission and a Ph.D at Biola School of Intercultural Studies. He was ordained in the Methodist Church in 1963.

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