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Tuesday
May292007

Seven Statements about the Son: Heir of All Things

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Yesterday I listed seven statements about the Son made by the writer in Hebrews 1:2b-3. Let’s look at the first one: whom he appointed the heir of all things.

And let’s live dangerously by starting at the end, moving forward from finish to start. Since each bit of the whole statement means all of what it means because of what follows it, why not just start with what follows in the first place? Beginning at the end, then!

  • All Things
    This is everything in the whole universe, the whole created order, everything in heaven and on earth. Or, irreverently, the whole enchilada: not just people, not just the earth, but everything that exists or will exist.

    How do we know that all things is so universal in scope? Because, first of all, the very next phrase says that the Son is the creator of what exists. How can he be heir to less than the whole of what he himself has made? And secondly, this tells us the Son is God’s own heir, since it’s God the Father (See verse 1.) appointed him heir. Christ is heir to God’s estate, you might say, and God’s estate is all of the created order, so the “all things” that Christ inherits is nothing less than everything that exists.

  • The Heir
    Christ is God’s heir. In this instance, we can’t understand heir as we normally do, as the one who comes into possession of an estate after someone dies, since God is eternal. Leon Morris says that “in the New Testament [the word heir] is often used of firm possession, no matter how the possession took place.”So at the very least, this means that all of creation belongs to Christ.

    That Christ is heir also means that all of the universe is intended for him. This phrase, “heir of all things,” taken together with the next one, “through whom also he created the world,”  echoes (but in reverse order) Colossians 1:16:

    For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

    Christ is the “through whom” and the “for whom” of creation—both the Creator and the heir. In God’s plan, what was created was created to be Christ’s possession.

    In addition, the word heir carries with it the idea that Christ is God’s Son. In the estate of the whole universe, in the domain of the entire created order, in the land of Everything-That-Is-and-Ever-Will-Be, the high position of son of the owner is his. This would put him on the same plane as God the Father himself. He is, then, God’s equal.

    And there may be one more thing. It’s hard not to think of the phrase “heir of all things” without thinking of Psalm 2:8 (Psalm 2:7 is quoted in verse 5, after all!) where God says to his Anointed:

    I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.

    If our author is indeed alluding to this Psalm with this phrase, then he is intentionally pointing to Christ as the Messiah with this statement, too.

  • He Appointed
    The he, of course, is God the Father. Any difficulty in this phrase is with the meaning of the word appointed. What meaning is added by saying that Christ is appointed heir that wouldn’t be there if the statement simply said that Christ is heir? It may mean merely that Christ was designated heir in advance. This would go along rather nicely with Psalm 2, where God says that his Anointed, whom he declares to be his son, will inherit the earth.

    Or it could be pointing to a specific event in which Christ is appointed heir, like his ascension, when he returned to the place of honor that was his before he humbled himself to carry out his sacrificial work. Taking the statement this way makes it parallel to the statement at the end of verse 3 of this passage, where it says that after Christ made “purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The idea, then, would be that once Christ’s work was finished, he was appointed once more to his position as heir of all things. We find the same idea in Hebrews 10:12-13:

    But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

    Upon his ascension, Christ assumed the position of active ruling heir at God’s right hand. It may be that it is in this sense that the writer intends us to understand Christ’s appointment as heir. His appointment is made on the basis of his finished redemptive work in which he redeemed people and destroyed sin, death, Satan, and all the forces of darkness; yet he awaits a future time when the full effect of his inheritance becomes reality.

    I’m leaning toward understanding appointed in this last way, because one of the major themes of the whole book of Hebrews is that with the coming of Christ and his completion of his work, things have changed, and changed in a big way. Directly preceding this statement, as a quick example, the writer tells us that “God spoke …  by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken … by his Son.”

    But whatever is meant precisely by the word appointed, it means that it is by God’s authority that Christ inherits, and that we can be sure that in the end, “The kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom … of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

So what does the statement that God has appointed Christ heir of all things mean to us?

  • It shows us Christ’s exalted position—his equality with God.
  • It ensures for us that Christ will keep his promises, because everything belongs to him and he has authority over everything.
  • It ensures those who belong to Christ that they will inherit as well, since they are fellow heirs with Christ.
1 Leon Morris, Hebrews: Bible Study Commentary, page 18.

Can you think of other things to add to the list of what this statement means for us? Anything else you’d like to add, like why you agree with the way I understand this statement or why you disagree? Perhaps you’ve a comment on the meaning of  the word “appointed” here, or you’d like to let us know whether you think this is an allusion to Psalm 2:7 or not.

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Reader Comments (3)

Thy syte is mightily faire vnto myne eyes.
Maye the Lorde bless thee.

May 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWhite Badger

I think the idea of Jesus being "appointed" by God is a direct result of Jesus' sacrifice. This concept is also mentioned by Paul in Philippians 2:9-11 where there seems to be a much clearer "cause-effect" relationship: Jesus was obedient to death on a cross. Therefore God exalted Him.

July 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChad Dalton

I can't remember whether I remembered the Philippians 2 passage when I wrote this, but it certainly would be good evidence that Christ is appointed heir as a result of his sacrificial work.

July 12, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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