Greater Because of Superior Existence
Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment. And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end. (1:10–12)
The fourth way in which Jesus is superior to angels is in His existence. In this quotation from Psalm 102 the Holy Spirit reveals that Christ is better than angels because He exists eternally. If Jesus was in the beginning to create, He must have existed before the beginning and therefore be without beginning. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).
Just as you would roll up and throw away an old, worn-out garment when you are done with it, Jesus one day will discard the heavens and the earth. One day “the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). “And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Rev. 6:14). During the Tribulation, as if the heavens were to be stretched to the limit and the corners then cut, they will roll up just like a scroll. The stars are going to fall, come crashing down to earth, and every island and mountain will move out of its place. The whole world will fall apart.
The things that we can see and feel seem so permanent. Like the people Peter warned, we are tempted to think that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). But all these are going to perish, and the Lord is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. The creation will be changed, but not the Creator. “Thy years will not come to an end.” Christ is eternal. He is immutable; He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
Men come and go. Worlds come and go. Stars come and go. Angels were subjected to decay, as their fall proves. But Christ never changes, is never subject to change, is never subject to alteration. He is eternally the same. He is therefore superior to angels in title, in worship, in nature, in existence, and finally in destiny.
The Reigning Lord
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. (Heb. 1:10–12)
No chapter in the entire New Testament sets forth the divinity of Jesus Christ so thoroughly and fervently as this first chapter of the Book of Hebrews. Other chapters are notable for their portrayal of Christ’s deity, such as John 1 and Colossians 1. But for the sheer weight of testimony to the divine nature of Christ, there is nothing in all of Scripture like the barrage of Old Testament verses applied to him in Hebrews 1.
The Deity of Christ
From the very beginning, Hebrews 1 brings Christ into the closest relationship with God and his work. He is called “heir of all things, through whom also he created the world … the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (vv. 2–3). In verse 6 we see the angels worshiping him, and by the testimony of the angels themselves, only God is to be worshiped (Rev. 19:10). But if there is any doubt left that the Son is God, this is dispelled utterly in verse 8, which says to him, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” This is a great trinitarian passage, for the Son is addressed as “God,” and yet it also says that his God has exalted him: “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
With such a testimony, it is impossible to see how the authority of Scripture can be maintained while the deity of Christ is denied. Verse 10, which begins our present passage, is the climax of this whole presentation. Here the Holy Spirit, speaking through the writer of Hebrews, informs us of these words which are spoken by the Father to the Son: “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 traditional, when speaking of the attributes of God, to distinguish between his communicable and incommunicable attributes. Some of his attributes God can and does communicate to us, such as goodness, mercy, and holiness, to name a few. But other attributes are part and parcel of God’s deity, and cannot be communicated to mortal creatures. In these verses, it is divine incommunicable attributes that are ascribed to the Son—attributes like eternity, omnipotence, and immutability. Indeed, we are deliberately reminded of Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Here that work of creation is ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ, with all the implications of divinity that accompany it.
We also observe here a striking contrast between the creation and the Son of God. Heaven and earth, we are told, will perish. The great works of God in creation will come to an end—the majesty of the mountains, the roaring of the waterfall, the beauty of the valley—all these will run their course and ultimately perish. Indeed, like an old set of clothes, they are even now wearing out. Stars are using up their hydrogen; matter is converted to energy and there is loss. Ours is a dying universe with its end in sight.
If this is true of God’s creation, how much more of man’s work! The tallest skyscraper will fall; the dams will burst; the greatest achievements will be forgotten. All this will happen not merely in the long-running course of time, with its decay, but suddenly, by God’s Son when he comes to end history and judge the world. He will “roll it up like a robe,” exchanging it at his desire for a new garment. The apostle Peter writes of this: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).
As Paul writes, “The present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). But of God’s Son we read the opposite: “They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.… But you are the same, and your years will have no end” (Heb. 1:11–12).
It is hard to imagine a more emphatic portrayal of Christ’s divinity, a mighty Lord and God who is worthy of our faith.
Psalm 102: Lament and Rejoicing
Whenever we see an Old Testament citation, it is good to look back at the passage in its original context, because the New Testament writer often has that in mind as well. This is especially true of Hebrews 1:10–12, which is a lengthy citation from Psalm 102, which has this subtitle: “A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.”
In the first half of that psalm, the writer laments the decaying nature of life, the weakness and ultimately the failure of all created things, and especially of human nature. He writes, “For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered.… Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.… I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink” (Ps. 102:3–9). In particular, the writer sees his mortality as a result of man’s alienation from God on account of sin: “… because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass” (Ps. 102:10–11). Man’s mutability, weakness, and mortality on account of sin make up the content of this lament.
These are cries that will find themselves on the lips of everyone who lives on this earth for any length of time. Our days do pass away like smoke, and our bones do give way. Every one of us must reckon with the fact that death awaits us; even as we live we “wither away like grass,” here today and gone tomorrow. The psalmist seems to be motivated by the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians; in the bitterness of defeat he eats ashes and mingles his drink with tears. And while we live, we too will know the taunts and the oppression of enemies we are too weak to oppose.
But in the second half of the psalm, the lamenting man lifts up his eyes to see God and there he finds a great hope: “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever.… You will arise and have pity on Zion.… For the Lord builds up Zion; he appears in his glory” (Ps. 102:12–16). Though all is lost in this life, though hardship and even death await, though the worst calamity brings destruction, the man who trusts the Lord sees him in his eternal reign of power, his unchanging and unchangeable character, and there he finds hope. For as God said in Isaiah 51:6, “The heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.” Despite all we may lose in this life, through faith in God we receive a salvation that is eternal and secure.
That is how Psalm 102 goes, and with the words of our passage in Hebrews 1 it approaches its end, remembering that God created all things and endures long beyond their end: “They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.… But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
One purpose in Hebrews 1 is to show Christ’s superiority to the angels, and therefore the superiority of the new covenant to the old. That contrast is inescapable in light of these verses. If these things are true of the Son, then he is worthy of all our trust. We would be foolish in the extreme not to turn for our salvation to such a mighty Savior.
Father to Son
In Psalm 102, these words are addressed to Yahweh, the personal, covenant name of the Lord in the Old Testament. What is striking about their repetition in Hebrews 1 is that here they are spoken by God to Jesus, the Son. It is God who addresses him as “Lord,” which is equivalent to the Old Testament “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.”
Indeed, in the light of the New Testament we must see both halves of Psalm 102 as applying to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the afflicted man pouring out his lament before his Father. It is his voice, as he faces and then takes up the cross, that we hear crying out, “For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered.… All the day my enemies taunt me” (Ps. 102:3–4, 8). Jesus, in his humanity, knew what it was to have his days cut short, to die too young, afflicted and despised by men, and abandoned by even his friends. Crucified in shame, he died a cursed death, with all the bitterness and darkness a man can experience.
The second half of the psalm constitutes heaven’s response to the anguished cry of the Savior. Yes, as man he was cursed and rejected and died on the cross, but as resurrected and exalted Son, God says to him: “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever” (Ps. 102:12). Yes, the world may have crucified you, but I have enthroned you! “They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end” (Ps. 102:26–27). Arthur Pink comments:
This was God’s answer to the plaint of Christ’s being “cut off” in the midst of His days.… As man, in resurrection, He received “life for evermore.” Do we really grasp this? For [almost two thousand] years since the Cross, men have been born, have lived, and then died. Statesmen, emperors, and kings have appeared on the scene and then passed away. But there is one glorious Man who spans the centuries, who in His own humanity bridges those [two millennia]. He has not died, nor even grown old: He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever!” [Heb. 13:8].
Seated at God’s Right Hand
Psalm 102 is a wonderful portrait of what the resurrection and ascension of Christ are all about. We can see why the writer of Hebrews turned his thoughts to that great psalm. But in verse 13 we find yet another great psalm, the last of the Old Testament citations used to uphold the supremacy of Christ in Hebrews 1. Verse 13 shows us the opening words of Psalm 110: “And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?”
If the words of Psalm 102 are God’s verbal reply to the cross, in this quotation from Psalm 110 we see God’s action that accompanied those words. This enthronement is in keeping with what was said in Hebrews 1:3: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted psalm in the New Testament, because of what it tells us about where Christ went when he departed this earth in glory, and what he is doing now. The imagery of him seated comes from the oriental court, where the king sat upon his throne while his vassals and servants stood before him to show their deference and his supremacy. This is the picture the Bible gives us of God’s throne room in passages like Revelation 7, where the angels and elders and living creatures stand before the enthroned sovereign God, worshiping him and ready to do his will. To be told, “Sit at my right hand,” signifies a singular honor and dignity. It shows rank and power and authority in the kingdom.
The fact that Jesus is seated on the throne of God does not mean that he is inactive. Rather, he is attentively concerned with the affairs of his flock. Being seated, he wields authority over and for the sake of the church. Just perusing through the Book of Acts you will see how active the ascended and seated Christ was on behalf of the early church. He sent forth his Spirit to empower his human messengers and to bring many others to faith, as he did on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. When Stephen, the first martyr, was facing the bloodthirsty mob, he cried out, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Jesus stood to receive his own into the heavenly courts.
When the zealous persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, was heading to Damascus to harass the believers there, the risen Jesus appeared to him in all his glory, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (9:4). Indeed, he commands angels and sends them for the service of his people, as was the case when Peter was rescued from Herod’s prison by an angel (12:6–10). This is what the writer of Hebrews tells us about angels in verse 14: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” The angels are servants who are sent; the risen Christ is the Lord who sends.
What a comfort it is to know that our Lord is so busy on our behalf from his heavenly seat of divine authority. We may never know when he has sent angels to minister to us in time of need, to thwart spiritual antagonists, and to strengthen us in times of weakness. Like the chariots of fire that surrounded the prophet Elisha, how many times do we receive unseen help from those ministering spirits that Christ sends to us?
We also know that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to teach us of him, to enlighten our minds in the knowledge of God, to renew our wills, and to guide us in paths of righteousness. We know that Jesus intercedes for us with the Father, ensuring our acceptance in God’s presence, sanctifying our petitions, and pleading our every cause from his seat of honor and favor and authority at God’s right hand. Christ is exceedingly busy on our behalf! He who “upholds the universe by the word of his power,” as we are told in verse 3, also upholds our faith by his prayers for us. As he said to his disciple Peter before his time of weakness: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).
Every Enemy Defeated
Hebrews says that Christ will sit at God’s right hand “until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” In ancient times, a victorious general would place his foot upon the throat of a defeated foe, as Joshua had his commanders do to the captured kings of Canaan (Josh. 10:24). Who, then, are Jesus’ enemies? The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians: “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:24–26).
The curse of the law, sin, Satan, the worldly powers, death, the grave—these are Christ’s enemies. During his earthly ministry he advanced into the ranks of his enemy, casting out demons, purifying leprosy, bringing healing to the sick, exposing hypocrisy, opposing false teaching, humbling the proud, cleansing the temple of moneychangers, and all the while calling sinners to faith and repentance. It is especially in the extension of the gospel that he now overcomes his foes as men and women come to saving faith in him. In the end, he will have no enemies left standing, as the Book of Revelation tells us: “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14). “He will wipe away every tear from [his people’s] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Christ our Lord sits enthroned at God’s right hand until his enemies become his footstool. This is the goal of his activity, after which he will present his triumph to God the Father. And then he will reign forever and ever, as proclaimed by the voices in heaven: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
A Sufficient Savior
Thus concludes the sevenfold exposition of the supremacy and deity of Jesus Christ, going back to verse 4—seven Old Testament passages that prove his superiority to angels. How fitting that this portrait concludes with Jesus seated at God’s right hand, for that is where he is now, reigning as Lord over and on behalf of his bride the church. He is a sufficient Savior, worthy of our trust and praise.
In these verses we see three divine attributes applied to Jesus Christ: eternity, omnipotent power, and immutability. Each of these attributes gives us compelling reasons to trust him as our Savior.
Ours is a Savior who was there from eternity, when the worlds were born. “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (v. 10). Here is a rock on which we can stand assured. And yet he came into this world as one of us; he took up humanity that he might make a place for man in eternal heaven. Even now he opens a door for all who would come to God through him.
Furthermore, our reigning Lord wields omnipotent might, overcoming all the enemies that oppose his reign, enemies that also enslave and afflict us. And yet it was through the greatest weakness that he lifted the heaviest burden, even the weight of our sins. It was because he submitted to the cross in all its agony and shame that God raised him to the position of glory and authority. On the cross Jesus showed his worthiness to reign in might forever, and therefore God has crowned him Lord of all. From God’s right hand he is able to help us in time of need and save us unto eternal life.
Finally, our Savior is immutable—that is, unchanging and unchangeable: “You are the same, and your years will have no end” (Heb. 1:12). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and therefore we may always turn to him with confidence for salvation. He is never going to change his mind about us or lose his power to save us.
If all this is true, what can a soul need in time or eternity that cannot be found in Christ? Do you need pardon for your sin? See him exalted and know that God has accepted the sacrifice of his blood on your behalf. Do you need reconciliation to God? There he is at God’s right hand, interceding for you and offering his own perfect work as the ground of your acceptance. Do you need newness of life—a new heart, a new strength to follow him? From his heavenly throne he sends mighty resources—even angels to your aid. Better yet, he sends his Holy Spirit to work within you with his own power.
Do you have troubles? Difficult decisions to make? Choices that worry you or problems that cause you fear and anxiety? Christ is enthroned in power, a Savior who cares for you with wisdom and love, with power and a grand purpose for your future. The practical value of this truth is immense, for it leads us to trust him and glorify him with our blood-purchased lives. Do you fear death? He is reigning now until even that last enemy shall be conquered. Because he reigns victorious, death will have no hold on you, but only ushers you into the courts of glory.
What is there you might need but that the risen and reigning Lord and Savior is the answer? There is nothing you might face, nothing you might lack, nothing you might need in all your weakness and sin and human frailty, that is not found abundantly in him who loves you and gave himself for you and now reigns forever as Savior and Lord, who remains the same and whose years shall have no end.
10. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning, &c. This testimony at first sight may seem to be unfitly applied to Christ, especially in a doubtful matter, such as is here handled; for the subject in dispute is not concerning the glory of God, but what may be fitly applied to Christ. Now, there is not in this passage any mention made of Christ, but the majesty of God alone is set forth. I indeed allow that Christ is not named in any part of the Psalm; but it is yet plain that he is so pointed out, that no one can doubt but that his kingdom is there avowedly recommended to us. Hence all the things which are found there, are to be applied to his person; for in none have they been fulfilled but in Christ, such as the following,—“Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Sion, that the heathens may fear thy name, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.” Again,—“When the nations shall be gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.” Doubtless, in vain shall we seek to find this God through whom the whole world have united in one faith and worship of God, except in Christ.
All the other parts of the Psalm exactly suit the person of Christ, such as the following, that he is the eternal God, the creator of heaven and earth, that perpetuity belongs to him without any change, by which his majesty is raised to the highest elevation, and he himself is removed from the rank of all created beings.
What David says about the heavens perishing, some explain by adding, “Were such a thing to happen,” as though nothing was affirmed. But what need is there of such a strained explanation, since we know that all creatures are subjected to vanity? for to what purpose is that renovation promised, which even the heavens wait for with the strong desire as of those in travail, except that they are now verging towards destruction?
But the perpetuity of Christ which is here mentioned, brings no common comfort to the godly; as the Psalm at last teaches us, they shall be partakers of it, inasmuch as Christ communicates himself and what he possesses to his own body.
10–12 Here again is a quotation (slightly adapted) from the LXX text of a psalm that corresponds quite closely to the Hebrew. Psalm 102 is titled “a prayer of an afflicted man” and contrasts the psalmist’s own wretchedness with the eternal power of the Creator. Its concluding verses, quoted here, celebrate the eternity of God over against the transience of the created order. The choice of this text here identifies the Son with the eternal Creator over against the angels, who are themselves part of his creation. This identification was probably aided by the introduction in the LXX both of “he answered” in v. 23 of the psalm, suggesting a change of speaker so that now it is God addressing someone else, and also of the address Kyrie, “Lord,” in v. 26 (in the Hebrew the addressee is identified as “my God” in v. 24), ho Kyrios, “the Lord,” being an established title of Christ. But v. 6 has already shown us that our author is capable of applying to Christ what the OT says about God without any such prompt. It is a natural development from what he has said in vv. 2–3 about the Son’s agency in creation.
10–12 (f) The sixth quotation is taken from Ps. 102:25–27 (LXX 101:26–28). The psalm, which begins “Hear my prayer, O Yahweh,” is truly described in its superscription as “a prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint, and pours out his complaint before Yahweh.” Both he and Zion, his city, have experienced the judgment of God, but he makes confident supplication for mercy and restoration for himself and Zion, that men and women may assemble there once more to give praise to God. He is oppressed by a sense of the brevity of his personal span of life, with which he contrasts the eternal being of God. In comparison with his own short life, heaven and earth are long-lived; yet heaven and earth must pass away. They had their beginning when God created them, and they will grow old and disappear one day; but the God who created them existed before they did, and he will survive their disappearance. As one man in his lifetime outlives many successive suits of clothes, so God has seen and will yet see many successive material universes, but he himself is eternal and unchanging.
The words in which the psalmist addresses God, however, are here applied to the Son, as clearly as the words of Ps. 45:6f. were applied to him in vv. 8 and 9. What justification can be pleaded for our author’s applying them thus? First, as he has already said in v. 2, it was through the Son that the universe was made. The angels were but worshiping spectators when the earth was founded, but the Son was the Father’s agent in the work. He therefore can be understood as the one who is addressed in the words:
Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth;
And the heavens are the work of thy hands.
Moreover, in the Septuagint text the person to whom these words are spoken is addressed explicitly as “Lord” (“Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth”); and it is God who addresses him thus. Whereas in the Hebrew text the suppliant is the speaker from the beginning to the end of the psalm, in the Greek text his prayer comes to an end with v. 22; and the next words read as follows:
He answered him in the way of his strength:
“Declare to me the shortness of my days:
Bring me not up in the midst of my days.
Thy years are throughout all generations.
Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the
This is God’s answer to the suppliant; he bids him acknowledge the shortness of God’s set time (for the restoration of Jerusalem, as in v. 13) and not summon him to act when that set time has only half expired, while he assures him that he and his servants’ children will be preserved forever. But to whom (a Christian reader of the Septuagint might well ask) could God speak in words like these? And whom would God himself address as “Lord,” as the maker of earth and heaven? Our author knows of one person only to whom such terms could be appropriate, and that is the Son of God.
That our author understood this quotation from Ps. 102 as an utterance of God seems plain from the way in which it is linked by the simple conjunction “and” to the preceding quotation from Ps. 45. Both quotations fall under the same rubric: “But to the Son [God says].” If in the preceding quotation the Son is addressed by God as “God,” in this one he is addressed by God as “Lord.” And we need not doubt that to our author the title “Lord” conveys the highest sense of all, “the name which is above every name.” No wonder that the Son has ascribed to him a dignity which surpasses all the names angels bear. Nor is our author the only New Testament writer to ascribe to Christ the highest of divine names, or to apply to him Old Testament scriptures which in their primary context refer to Yahweh.105
10 After affirming that the Son was “God,” it was appropriate to ascribe Ps 102:25–27 to him. This psalm fits so seamlessly with Ps 45:6–7 that the pastor uses a mere “and” to connect the two. He quotes Ps 102:25 in v. 10 to affirm the Son’s creatorship and Ps 102:26–27 in vv. 11–12 to affirm his sovereign deity and role as final judge of all. This Scripture confirms and amplifies the prologue’s description of the Son as Creator, Sustainer, and universal Heir.
The pastor has put the pronoun “you” at the beginning of v. 10 in order to pick up the “your” at the end of v. 9. The title “Lord” follows naturally from the “God” of vv. 8–9 and facilitates easy application of this psalm to Christ. “From the beginning” is a clear reference to the time of creation.71 “The earth” and “the heavens” encompass the whole created order. The attribution of creation directly to the Son goes beyond the agency of v. 2 and thus underscores the inclusion of the Son within the Godhead. When Scripture speaks of the earth’s “founding,” it affirms the solidity of creation.73 Thus use of this term in v. 10 emphasizes the sovereignty of the one described in v. 11 as “rolling up” this solid creation as if it were nothing more than a piece of cloth.
11–12 By continuing the quotation from Psalm 102 the pastor contrasts the eternity of the Son and the mutability of the creation over which he is sovereign. What he has made he also brings to its end.
The two ways in which the pastor deviates from the LXX text are important for determining his message. First, in v. 12a he appears to have substituted “you will roll [them] up” for “you will change [them].” Second, in v. 12b he has repeated the phrase “as an article of clothing” from v. 11. The repetition of “as an article of clothing” adds grammatical smoothness.76 It also changes the structure so that the first line of v. 12 becomes the center of a chiasm and the focal point of the passage: “and as a covering you will roll them up.”
(a) They will be changed,
(b) but you remain;
(c) and all as an article of clothing will become old,
(d) and as a covering you will roll them up;
(c1) as an article of clothing they will be changed.
(b1) But you are the same,
(a1) and your years will never cease.
The mutability of creation is announced in line (a), “they will be changed,” continued in line (c) “and all as an article of clothing will become old,” and concluded in line (c1) by bringing the idea of “an article of clothing” and “change” together: “as an article of clothing they will be changed.” These lines liken creation to a piece of clothing that becomes worn out and is thus “changed” in the sense of brought to an end.
The eternity of the Son is introduced in line (b), “but you remain,” continued in (b1), “but you are the same,” and concluded in the final line (a1), “and your years will never cease” (cf. 13:8). The Son’s role in creation makes it obvious that these verses refer to a life which is eternal and not merely endless.
Verse 12a (line d) brings both of these themes together. It is not just that the creation is temporal and the Son unchanging and eternal. He is the one who will bring the creation to its end: “As a covering you [the Son] will roll them [the heaven and earth] up.” The pastor’s choice of “roll up” instead of the LXX “change” fits well with the clothing imagery. It will be no harder for the Son to remove this creation than for a human to fold up a coat or a blanket. Thus “as a covering you will roll them up” reinforces “whom he appointed heir of all things” from v. 2 as well as “bearing all to its intended end by his powerful word” in v. 3. This affirmation lays a foundation for the final judgment and shaking of the world in 12:25–29.
In vv. 5–12 the pastor has amplified and given Scriptural support to his description of the Son in the prologue. He has emphasized the divine sovereignty and eternity of the one who is “Son” (1:5), “God” (1:8), and “Lord” (1:10). In vv. 13–14 he concludes by reminding his hearers that, in accord with the divine invitation of Ps 110:1, this Son has been exalted to God’s right hand. The “Lord” of v. 10 is the one to whom this psalm pertained. Nothing is more fundamental to the pastor’s concern than the truth divinely attested in this psalm.
1:10–12 / The longest quotation in this chain is the sixth (Ps. 102:25–27). In the midst of his troubles the psalmist praises the Lord (Yahweh) as providing the permanence and security that he so painfully lacks. It is understood that these words are meant to apply to the Son. What is in view is the eternality of the Son over against all that is transitory. The opening lines, in the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands, echo the statement of the prologue that the Son is the one “through whom he [God] made the universe” (v. 2). The Son is identified as the Lord (Yahweh). So far as the created order is concerned, the time is coming when it will be revamped, altered completely. In metaphorical language of the last times, the Lord will roll up the heavens and earth like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But in the midst of eschatological crisis with all else appearing to fail, you remain the same, and your years will never end, the psalmist affirms. There is nothing else of which it can be said that it will remain forever, except God and what he chooses to sustain. Angels are even less in view in this passage than in the preceding one. The Son is being extolled as God. And the christological prologue of vv. 1–4 is thus undergirded by the quotation of these ot passages.
Vers. 10–12.—And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning, etc. The bearing of this quotation (from Ps. 102:25–27) on the argument in hand is not at first sight obvious; since, in the psalm, the address is plainly to God, without any mention of, or apparent reference to, the Son. The psalm is entitled, “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” It seems likely, from its contents, to have been written by some suffering saint during the Babylonian captivity: for its purport is a prayer, rising into confident expectation for deliverance from a state of deep affliction, Israel being in captivity and Jerusalem in ruins. The prayed-for and expected deliverance, portrayed in vers. 16–24, corresponds so closely, both in thought and expression, with that pictured in the latter chapters of Isaiah (beginning at ch. 40.), that we cannot hesitate in assigning the same meaning to both. There is, for instance, the looking down of the Lord from heaven to behold the affliction of his people (cf. Isa. 63:15); the setting free of captives (cf. Isa. 42:7; 61:1); the rebuilding and restoration of Zion, and in connection with this the conversion of the Gentiles to serve the Lord with Israel (cf. Isa. 40–66; and especially 59:19; 60:2). These are specimens of the general correspondence between the two pictures, which must be evident to all who have studied both. But the ultimate reference of Isaiah’s prophecy is certainly Messianic: wherefore that of the psalm may be concluded to be the same. And thus we have made one step in explanation of the applicability of this quotation to the argument of the Epistle in confirming its ultimate reference to the Messiah’s advent; to the final realization of the ideal of the Son, typified by theocratic kings. But we have still to account for the apparent application to the Son of what, in the original psalm, shows no sign of being addressed to him. One view is that there is no intention in the Epistle of quoting it as addressed to him, the phrase, πρὸς τὸν υιόν (as has been seen) not of necessity implying such intention. According to this view, the point of the quotation is that the Messianic salvation is made to rest solely on the eternity and immutability of God—of him who, as he created all at first, so, though heaven and earth should pass away, remains unchanged. And the character of the salvation, thus regarded, is conceived to carry with it the transcendent super-angelic dignity of its accomplisher, the Son. So, in effect, Ebrard, who dwells on this as one example of the general character of apostolical exegesis, as opposed to rabbinical, in that, instead of drawing inferences, often arbitrary, from isolated words or phrases, the apostolic interpreters draw all their arguments from the spirit of the passages considered in their connection, and this with a depth of intuition peculiar to themselves. Other commentators consider it more consistent with both the context and the argument to see, in the Epistle at least, an intended address to the Son. If this be so, our conclusion must be that this application of the psalmist’s words is the inspired writer’s own; since it is certainly not apparent in the psalm. It by no means follows that the writer of the Epistle foisted, consciously or unconsciously, a false meaning into the psalm. Even apart from the consideration of his being an inspired contributor to the New Testament canon, he was too learned in Scripture, and too able a reasoner, to adduce an evidently untenable argument. He may be understood as himself applying the passage in a way which he does not mean to imply was intended by the psalmist. His drift may be, “You have seen how in Ps. 45 the Son is addressed as God, and as having an eternal throne. Yea, so Divine is he that the address to the everlasting God himself in another psalm prophetic of his advent may be truly recognized as an address to him.” Whichever view we take of this difficult passage, this at any rate is evident—that the inspired writer of the Epistle, apart from the question of the relevancy of quotation in the way of argument, associated Christ in his own mind with the unchangeable Creator of all things.
His superior work (1:10–12)
The argument about the superiority of Christ over the angels is now presented in another form. The angels are but creatures, they are made for God’s purposes (1:7); but Christ is not a creature. He is God’s appointed agent in the work of creation; through him God ‘created the world’ (1:2). As part of the created order, the angels belong inevitably to that which is transient, temporary and perishable. Even the beautiful earth and the resplendent heavens will perish, but he remains the unchanging Christ. It is interesting to note that the first readers of this letter were reminded that, in a world characterized by change, they could be assured of the companionship of the changeless Lord Jesus Christ. The word must surely have come to them with encouraging assurance: Thou remainest. He is the same and his years will never end. This inspiring conviction not only comes at the beginning of the letter but is also asserted at its close. He is ‘the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (13:8).
10. He also says,
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.”
The sixth quotation from the Old Testament is taken from Psalm 102:25–27. The psalm, actually a prayer of a believer who is grieving for Zion, ends with a song of praise about the unchangeableness of God. The writer of Hebrews applies this song of praise to Christ, the eternal Son of God. The author needed the words of this psalm to explain the introduction to his epistle: “But in these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:2–3). The sixth quotation therefore was prompted by the introduction, in which the writer set forth the doctrine of the eternity of the Son, through whom everything was created and through whom all things are sustained. What formerly was said of Israel’s God has now been applied to Jesus Christ. The Son of God is Creator and Upholder of the universe and as such is far superior to angels. For that reason, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the pronoun you to express the contrast between the “Lord, [who] laid the foundations of the earth, in the beginning” and the angels, who serve only as God’s messengers.
In the original Hebrew text of Psalm 102:25, the address Lord is lacking; the Greek translators supplied the word, which was used as a title of respect by those who addressed Jesus. The author of Hebrews, who relied on the Greek translation of the Old Testament, understandably applied this section of Psalm 102 to the Christ, because the title Lord appeared in the Greek text.
The phrase in the beginning immediately calls to mind the creation account in Genesis. And the words “laid the foundations of the earth” are a figure of speech, a synonym for creation. The creation of the heavens and the earth is recorded in Genesis 1. It is but natural that for reasons of balance and completion the psalmist says, “And the heavens are the works of your hands.” Paul summarized all of these comments by saying of the Christ that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth” (Col. 1:16).
11. “They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12. You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
The message of this portion of the psalm is the unchangeableness of God, a characteristic that the writer of Hebrews ascribes to the Son. Everything changes, deteriorates, passes away—except the Creator. Henry F. Lyte captured the thought when he wrote:
Change and decay
in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not,
abide with me.
Although heaven and earth have been created by the Son who is eternal, they do not share his eternity. They are and will remain temporal. The heavens and certain parts of the earth (for example, the mountains) seem to exhibit timelessness. Yet they are subject to change, as Isaiah prophesies: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail” (51:6).
Everything the Creator has made bears the mark of time. The psalmist uses the illustration of a garment that changes, gradually deteriorates, is eventually rolled up and discarded. The Creator, however, lives forever; he is the same because his years never end. His years never end inasmuch as they never began. The Son has no beginning and no end. Certainly this can never be said of angels, who may live eternally in the presence of God. Their beginning dates from the moment the Son created them.
The citation from Psalm 102 teaches the distinguishing characteristics of the Son: he is the Creator, almighty, unchangeable, and eternal. The preexistence of the Son is indicated by the phrase in the beginning; his permanence, by the clause you remain the same; and his eternity, by the words your years will never end.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 35–36). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Phillips, R. D. (2006). Hebrews. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 37–45). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (pp. 47–48). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 44–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Bruce, F. F. (1990). The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed., pp. 61–63). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Cockerill, G. L. (2012). The Epistle to the Hebrews (pp. 111–114). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (p. 35). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Hebrews (pp. 15–16). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Brown, R. (1988). The message of Hebrews: Christ above all (pp. 42–43). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 45–47). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.