There is a big thing I need to start with. It is always the central point. Jesus is the Son of God. That is a stunning truth for all of us.
I want to know what God is like. I get to see God’s nature through Jesus. Jesus is the exact reflection of God. That is some very good news.
Jesus radiates God’s stunning beauty. Oh, my goodness. Seeing Jesus gives me a glimpse into the beauty of God.
Consider how powerful the word of God is. With a word, Jesus brought the universe into existence. And now Jesus sustains everything.
1 Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs. | Hebrews 1:1-4 Christian Standard Bible
To sonship, heirship, and agency in creation the author adds the son’s being “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint [on human flesh of his [God’s] essence.”
In other words, the son is deity in human form, as the prophets were not, so that from now on we’ll usually capitalize “Son.” As deity, the Son is “sustaining all things,” that is, sustaining the universe of which he’s the heir.
“By the word of his power” means “by the Son’s powerful word.” Now he, the Son rather than God, is speaking; and the power with which he speaks is his own. As God has spoken communicatively, then, the Son is speaking sustaining and therefore even more powerfully than God spoke in the prophets. Compare God’s speaking the universe into existence in Genesis 1; also John 1:1–3. Now that is some real power.
The word translated sustain is φέρωi: to cause to continue by sustaining or maintaining a state—‘to sustain, to maintain.’ φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’ He 1:3. In some languages, however, the closest equivalent of this expression in Hebrews 1:3 may be ‘causing everything to continue to be as it is by his powerful word.’ It is also possible to interpret φέρω as ‘to cause to continue to exist. However, the focus seems to be on the state of being.
More than anything the prophets did, the Son “accomplished the cleansing of sins”. We have missed God’s goal for our lives. Jesus did this in the sense of washing them away. Jesus “sat down at the right [hand] of the Greatness in the heights”, such as suits God’s having positioned the Son to be the heir of all things.
The author calls heaven “the heights” to stress the height to which God has exalted the Son, and he calls God “the Greatness” to stress the Son’s corresponding greatness in that he sits enthroned beside God. But the mention of enthronement in heaven’s heights leads to the thought of angels, who also inhabit heaven. So, the author shifts to the Son’s superiority even to them as well as to the prophets.
The Son became “much superior to the angels inasmuch as he has inherited a more illustrious name in comparison with them.” Earlier he was said to have been made “the heir of all things.” Now he’s said to have “inherited a … name.” A double inheritance, then! The inherited name is “Son,” as the next verse will indicate; and that’s “a more illustrious name” than “angels.” Hence “name” denotes a species and has the sense of “designation” rather than referring to a personal name or even a title. The author doesn’t say here who the Son is. Saving the identification till 2:9 will make for a climax.
Here is the literal translation:
1:1–4: After speaking in the prophets long ago to the [fore]fathers in many parts [= bit by bit] and in many ways, 2 God has spoken to us at the last—[that is,] during these days—in a son, whom he positioned as the heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages, 3 who being the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact imprint of his [God’s] essence and carrying all things by the word of his power, on accomplishing the cleansing of sins, sat down at the right [hand] of the Greatness in the heights 4 because of having become much superior to the angels inasmuch as he has inherited a more illustrious name in comparison with them.
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Heb 1:1–3). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 872–873). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 152). New York: United Bible Societies.