As we explored in our last post, Hebrews opens with announcing the revelation of God as he speaks in the Son. God speaking in the Son is the climax of the history of God revealing himself. The Bible as a whole teaches us that we, as humans, are not able to know God unless God first reveals himself to us. In fact, because God is infinite and we are finite, we recognize that God stoops down to speak to us or as John Calvin puts it, God lisps babytalk to us like nurses do with infants.1 In God’s self-revelation, he communicates at our level for us to grasp.
By speaking in the Son, God shows us who he is most clearly. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—although Hebrews 1 focuses on how God reveals to us the identity of the Son. In seeing the Son, we come to also know the Father (John 14:8-9). In Hebrews 1, the author of Hebrews strings together a seemingly unrelated group of Old Testament texts to reveal to us the identity of the Son and his distinct superiority over all creation, most notably the angels. The Bible draws a clear and firm distinction between the Creator and the creature, and Hebrews 1 shows us Jesus, the Son, is on the Creator side while also being a distinct person from the Father.
The Son’s Identity
Hebrews gives us the identity of the Son. He is the radiance of God’s glory, indicating he shares co-equally in the glory of God (Heb 1:3). He is not the image of God in the sense of a reflection, but the very “impress of his nature” (Heb 1:3), meaning that he is fully and equally God as much as the Father is God. Later in the Nicene Creed the church fathers would articulate that the Son is “light from light.” We might say that the Father is light, the Son is light, the Holy Spirit is light but there are not three lights. Here in Hebrews 1, the Son emanates or radiates the glory of God actively from himself not merely as a passive reflection. The Son is not a mirror of the Father’s glory, he radiates the very glory of God. God who does not give his glory to another (Isa 42:8; Isa 48:11) has an eternal Son, co-equal with him, who radiates all the same divine glory.
The Son is likewise addressed as God (Heb 1:8) and shares in the eternality and unchangeableness of the nature of God in contrast to created things which wear out (Heb 1:10–12). When God speaks to us “in the Son”, he speaks by sending the Son to us in the incarnation. But God also speaks in the Son by exalting him up over all creation.
Hebrews 1:5–14 entails God’s speaking in the Son by revealing to us how the Father speaks to the Son. The Son is not like the created angels but is instead truly God. The Father has now exalted this Son within the creation as he has entered into it, died on the cross, and rose again from the dead. As Hebrews 1:3 says,
“After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
God reveals himself to us by exalting the Son over all creation.
The Son comes down into creation and is made just like us in every respect but without sin (Heb. 2:14,17). Now, the Son is exalted up within the creation. It is likened to a royal installment on the throne. In 1:5, Hebrews quotes both Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 as something the Father speaks to the Son. Scholars like Matthew Bates and Madison Pierce have rightly identified this understanding of Scripture as one divine person speaking to another as “prosopological exegesis.”2 It is as if God is rolling back the curtain to show us the “conversation” between the Father and the Son that goes on in the great acts of redemption. This “peering behind the curtain,” as it were, becomes revelatory for us as to who God is and what he is doing within creation. We do not just have the raw historical acts of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; we have God’s own interpretation of what is going on in this moment.
We do not just have the raw historical acts of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; we have God’s own interpretation of what is going on in this moment.
For Hebrews 1, it is the installation of the Son on the throne of God as the human Messianic-king. It culminates in the quotation of Psalm 110:1. God the Father says to his divine Son, come and sit down in heaven. But, as we see, God has made in his Son in his humanity the royal human who represents God’s people. So he is “firstborn” (Heb 1:6) not in the sense of being a created being but in the sense of being the inheritor of all creation. It is Messianic in fulfillment of the promise made to David (see Psalm 89:27 and 2 Sam. 7:14). Jesus became the highest king over all the earth in his installation on the throne in heaven at God’s right hand.
The use of Psalm 45 is illustrative of this. On the one hand, the Son is addressed as God. But he is also installed on the throne as the ‘anointed one.’ We are told specifically why he was installed: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;” It is because of this quality of earthly life and obedient living (“therefore”) that the Son is installed. The King becomes king within his creation. The Son is and has always been truly God. But the Son also becomes truly man and as a man is raised up and crowned as king for the whole world to see.
Hebrews 1:10-12 is another powerful presentation of the deity of the Son. It is a quotation from Psalm 102:25-27. When he begins the quotation with “and,” the author of Hebrews again puts it as a word that God the Father says to God the Son just like he begins in verse 8 with “But of the Son he [the Father] says.”
Heb 1:10–12 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
It is worth noting that Hebrews follows the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, which has the vocative “Lord” or “O’Lord.” While this call of address to the Lord is not found in the Hebrew, it is clear that as the Lord is being referred to in Ps. 102:18 , 21, and 22 it is the divine name of God, YHWH. In other words: who laid the foundations of the earth? Whose hands have made the heavens? Who is the one who is the same and has no end to his years? It is YHWH (Yahweh, or sometimes in old English: Jehovah).
But wait, is it YHWH or Jesus? The answer is “yes.” Hebrews says YHWH/God the Father says this to the Son. YHWH speaks to YHWH. Father speaks to Son. We have here the very roots of the Trinity. There is one divine being, God with a single essence and glory. But we also have three eternal persons. The distinction of the persons evidence both the identity of the Son as truly God and in the Father addressing the Son in this divine speech. To borrow from the Athanasius Creed: the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord, but we do not have three Lords/YHWHs.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.1.
 2 See Matthew Bates, The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco, TX: Baylor Univ. Press, 2012), and Madison N. Pierce, Divine Discourse in the Epistle to the Hebrews: The Recontextualization of Spoken Quotations of Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2022).