Exaltation of Jesus in Hebrews

The epistle to the Hebrews presents the exaltation of Jesus - His transition from suffering and death to sovereignty over the Cosmos

Stars over mountains - Photo by Brendan Miranda on Unsplash
Threaded through the 
epistle to the Hebrews is the theme of the transition of the “Son” from one status to a higher one - His elevation that resulted from his Death and Resurrection. His “perfection” resulted from his faithful obedience unto death on behalf of his “brethren.” God vindicated him when he raised him from the dead and exalted him to sit at the “right hand of the throne of majesty” - (Hebrews 1:1-3). - [Photo by Brendan Miranda on Unsplash].

The epistle builds its case with a series of comparisons between the past revelations of God and his final “word in the Son.” It does not denigrate the previous revelations of God, instead, it stresses the superiority of the final one “spoken” in His Son.

Becoming Superior to Angels

Because of his exaltation, the Jesus “became superior to the angels, having inherited a more distinguished name.” To “inherit” something means a change in condition or status. Hebrews validates this proposition with two Old Testament passages:
  • (Hebrews 1:5) - “For to which of the angels said he at any time, You are my Son, I, this day, have begotten you, and again, I will become his father, and he shall become my Son?” - ( Psalm 2:72 Samuel 7:14).
This day” translates the emphatic Greek adverb sémeron, which points to a specific time when Jesus was appointed king. At no point did God ever say such a thing to any angel. Instead, He declared this only to the one designated “Son.” Because Jesus “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,” God “anointed him with the oil of exultation beyond his partners.”

The opening paragraph concludes by comparing the “Son” to the angels, using a passage from Psalms that becomes one of the main scriptural texts used in the epistle:
  • (Psalm 110:1) - “But to which of the angels has he said at any time, Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool?”
Since Jesus was appointed to rule, a position no angel ever received, he is superior to even the highest angel. The first comparison concludes with an exhortation not to abandon the things believers have received already from Jesus:
  • If the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” - (Hebrews 2:1-4).
At the time, the Jewish tradition was that Moses received the Torah from angels. This statement does not disparage the Law, but instead, stresses the superiority of the word “spoken in the Son.” If the word mediated by angels included severe penalties for disobedience, how much more so the “word of the Son”? - (Acts 7:53Galatians 3:19).

Perfecting of the Son

All things were subjected beneath the Son – God “left to him nothing un-subjected.” While not yet do we see all things subjected to him--:
  • We do see Jesus made some little less than angels; by reason of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, to the end that by the grace of God in behalf of every one he should taste of death.”
In the passage, the key verbs are in the past tense, and we are told when this transition occurred - When Jesus “tasted death.” God determined to perfect or “complete” him “through suffering.”  His need to attain “perfection” points to a change or transition of status, one achieved through “suffering.”

Church graveyard - Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash
Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

In the epistle, his “sufferings” refers to death. The Son “paralyzed him who held the dominion of death, the Devil,” by his death. This released all those who, “by fear of death, were all their lives liable to bondage.” He “was obliged in every way to be made like his brethren so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.”  The Greek verb rendered “become” has the basic sense of “becoming” (ginomai) - A change in rank, condition, or status - (
Hebrews 2:14-18).

Becoming Superior to Moses

Next, Hebrews compares Jesus to Moses to demonstrate the superiority of the “Son.”  Moses was more honored than all the other prophets of the old era. Unlike all others, God spoke to him face-to-face - (Hebrews 3:1-6).

The greater rank of Moses stresses the superiority of the “Son” over all those who came before, including Moses:
  • (Numbers 12:7-8) – “Not so, my servant Moses. In all my house, trusty is he: Mouth to mouth do I speak with him, And plainly, not in dark sayings, And the form of Yahweh does he discern.”
As our “apostle,” Jesus is the one sent by God to deliver His final “word.”  As our “high priest,” he represents us to His Father and makes intercession on our behalf. The description of him as “one faithful,” and the reference to Moses as “also in all his house,” together allude to the passage from Numbers - (“My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house”).

In Jewish tradition, this passage demonstrated that Moses received greater honor and rank than the angels.  Since the “Son” is superior to the angels, and since disobedience to his “word” incurs an even greater degree of punishment than disobedience to any word mediated by angels, logically, the “Son” is of superior rank than even Moses.

The keywords - “faithful,” “priest,” “house” – All allude to a prophecy from 1 Samuel 2:35 where God promised to “raise me up a faithful priest; according to that which is in my heart and in my soul will he do. Therefore, will I build for him an assured house.” Jesus is that same promised “faithful priest” set over God’s “house.”

But there is a difference.  Jesus is worthy of far more honor than Moses, just as the one who “prepares” a house is worthy of more honor than the house. The “Son” is linked with the builder - God. Christ has been set over the “house,” but Moses was a servant in it.

Moses was an “attendant” in the house “for a testimony.” As the faithful “attendant,” Moses was a witness to the word that would come. Thus, the Law given by angels was preparatory for the later and superior “word spoken in the Son.”

Metaphorically, “house” refers to the living community of the saints.  Jesus is “over His house whose house are we.” Believers remain his “household” as long as they hold fast their “confidence and boast of hope.”

Learning Obedience

In the “days of his flesh,” Jesus offered up supplications to the one who was able to save him out of death.  Most likely, this refers to his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though he was hearkened to because of his devoutness, yet “even though a son, he learned obedience from what things he suffered.” In this way, he was “made perfect” or “complete” - (Matthew 26:36-46).

Once again, Hebrews presents a “Son” who was “made perfect” by his sufferings.  Because of this, he also “became to all those who obey him the Author of everlasting salvation.” His present status is based on his past obedience. Implicit is his change of status to a higher position.

Becoming a Priest Forever

Christians are reassured. They have “a mighty consolation…an anchor of the soul, both secure and firm” because their forerunner, Jesus, entered the interior of the sanctuary through the “veil.”  Thus, he “became a high priest forever according to the rank of Melchizedek” - (Hebrews 6:18-20, Psalm 110:4).

As our everlasting “high priest,” Jesus “became a surety of a better covenant” than anything from the Levitical legislation. His appointment as “high priest” occurred when he “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” and this due to his resurrection and exaltation.

As the “high priest according to the rank of Melchizedek,” he has attained “a more distinguished public ministry” than any of the Levitical priests – He became the “mediator of a better covenant” based upon “better promises.” These statements convey the idea of the Son “becoming” something “better” than what was provided under the old system - (Hebrews 8:1-6).

Better Tabernacle, Covenant, Sacrifice

Jesus “approached as high–priest…through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,” one not made-by-hand; moreover, “through his own blood he entered once for all, having discovered everlasting redemption.” The reference to “blood” stresses the actuality of his death - The pouring out of his lifeblood.  That is, Jesus died a very genuine human death - (Hebrews 8:1-13).

This “new covenant” is vastly superior to the old one because through the “blood of the Christ, who offered himself unspotted unto God through an everlasting spirit,” it purifies our conscience from dead works so we can render divine service to God.
The “blood of Christ” indicates that Jesus was able to enter the greater Tabernacle “once-for-all” because of his obedient and very real death.
In contrast to the “first covenant” with its animal sacrifices, it was necessary for the heavenly counterpart of the Tabernacle to be established “with better sacrifices than these,” namely, the death of the “Son”. The direct result was his entry “into heaven itself,” to be “manifested before the face of God for us.”

Because of his superior sacrifice, Jesus has no need to “offer himself often,” unlike the Levitical priests and their repeated animal sacrifices. Instead, “once-for-all, upon a conjunction of the ages, for a setting aside of sin through means of his sacrifice,” he offered himself. Thus, “having been offered once for all for the bearing of the sins of many,” he will appear a second time “apart from sin.”

Believers have been made holy “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once-for-all.” Unlike every other priest who must “stand daily publicly ministering and continually offering the same sacrifices,” Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins evermore,” after which he “sat down on the right hand of God.” By his “one offering” in death, the Son “perfected for evermore those who are being made holy.”


The epistle to the Hebrews presents a consistent picture of the “Son” who was exalted to the right hand of God because of his faithful obedience. God has spoken to us fully in “these last of the days” in this same “Son,” the one who “achieved the purification of sins” and “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

By his exaltation, Jesus BECAME our “high priest.” He accomplished this “in the days of his flesh” when God “perfected” him through suffering. Because of his obedience, He delivered the Son “out of death.” Thereafter, Jesus “passed through the heavens” to be appointed a perfect and “faithful high priest” who intercedes for his people.

In Hebrews, the “perfection” and exaltation of Jesus were accomplished through his faithful obedience unto death.  God vindicated his sacrifice when he raised him from the dead and exalted him to “the right hand of the throne of majesty.” 

Thus, the letter to the Hebrews bases the present exalted status of the Son on the historical events of his obedience, death, resurrection, and exaltation.


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