|Vol. 1, No. 12||Page 6||December 1999|
By Kevin Rhodes
The position of being “firstborn” held great significance in the ancient world. It referred to more than simply birth order. Among males it generally served as a designation for the heir of family authority in regard to ownership, leadership and religion, though this could be altered should the son give it away (Genesis 25:33) or should the father have a reason to divest the elder son(s) of this right (Genesis 49:3-8). In fact, since another son could hold this position, this word as a specific reference to birth order almost disappeared. So the writer of Hebrews intended to indicate much more than a reference to Jesus’ birth when he wrote, “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him’” (Hebrews 1:6 NKJV).
The first chapter of Hebrews presents strong argumentation regarding the superiority of Jesus Christ to angels. Thus, having already introduced Jesus as God’s Son (Hebrews 1:1-2), the writer proceeds to add that this Son has the right of the firstborn. When we then consider the deeper meaning of Christ being the firstborn, it enters a new level automatically because he is God’s Heir. However, this would be contingent upon his receiving the inheritance. As firstborn he would have the rights of ownership of the world that rejected him. As firstborn he would take the role as Leader of God’s people that the Jews denied him. As firstborn he would exercise authority in religious matters that the Jewish sects seemed to covet. As firstborn he would reign at the side of his Father and receive the recognition that he is due (Philippians 2:9-11).
When Jesus walked upon this earth during his lifetime,
most men scorned his position, his identity and his authority. They cruelly
placed him on a cross and murdered him. But his Father raised him from
the dead (Colossians 2:12) and brought him back into this world to demonstrate
his triumph (Colossians 2:15). His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was
nothing compared to the triumphant entry he made from death unto life.
For through this suffering and humiliation, his Father gave him his inheritance
as the Firstborn. Indeed, the world is his, created by him and for him
(Colossians 1:16). He is the Leader of God’s people as he took his place
as head of the church (Colossians 1:18). He has all authority to tell us
how to live our lives and how to have a relationship with God (Matthew
28:18). He reigns as the King of Kings, because he is Firstborn. The character
he proved as he lived upon this earth, gave him his inheritance as Firstborn.
As God promised, “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings
of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant
shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever,
and his throne as the days of heaven” (Psalms 89:27-29). He reigns and
has supremacy above all those that the world considers mighty. The writer
of Hebrews himself makes reference to the Psalms, “Worship Him, all you
gods” (Psalms 97:7). Let us, then, as the angels in heaven do, humble ourselves
and worship Jesus Christ, the Firstborn.