1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
The prologue of the book of Hebrews runs from 1:1-4. The topic is the surpassing greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is especially true as God’s means for revelation to man. He transcended the prophets and angels in delivering God’s message to man.
The book of Hebrews begins without a greeting or introductory remark as is usual among the epistles.
In the first four verses we see the seven-fold glory of Christ. We find the motif of the entire epistle in the prologue–the supremacy of Christ.
“God” here is preceded by the definite article “the” in the Greek. The God of this passage is the God of the Old Testament.
who at various times [parts]
God revealed Himself during different periods of the Old Testament. He used different communicators at different times. Each gave partial revelation. He gave one part at one time and another part at another.
and in various ways [fashions]
God used different ways to communicate His thoughts to man. His revelation in the Old Testament came through visions, dreams, prophets, divine events, theophanies, and direct speaking. God did not communicate uniformly to His people.
spoke in time past [old on point of time]
God’s speech in the “time past” referred to the Old Testament (He 1:5-13). It was time now that He give new revelation. He gave His final revelation in the New Testament and especially in Christ. The God of the Bible is a God who speaks, who reveals who He is and what He does. He is not silent.
The idea that God spoke is fundamental to the Judeo-Christian faith. If God had not revealed Himself in the Bible, then we would know very little of Him. We would know something of Him in creation, but little else.
to the fathers [forefathers]
The “fathers” here refers to Jewish people of Old Testament times (Lu 1:55). God gave revelation through His communicators to Israel. He sealed His thoughts to them (Ro 1:1-3). Since God spoke at one point of time to the fathers, He would now speak to us through His Son. He had an Old Covenant, but now He would have a New Covenant.
by [through] the prophets,
The “prophets” here were those to whom God gave revelation, not only in the prophetic books. God did not give His revelation directly but indirectly through the prophets; although they used human capacity to write Scripture, they were under control of the Holy Spirit in every word they wrote (2 Pe 1:21).
God distributed truth at different times and ways until Christ came.
God revealed Himself progressively in the Old Testament; however, He reached the apex of His revelation in Jesus. The revelation from Adam to Malachi was only partial or incomplete but not erroneous. The older Testament was written over 1500 years by more than 40 writers. God completed His revelation with the New Testament and with the person of Christ (1 Pe 1:10-12). The New Testament confirms the Old (2 Ti 3:16). Old Testament revelation looked forward to New Testament revelation.
God could not reveal everything that man needed to know all at once because we could not understand it in one fell swoop. That is why Old Testament truth is shadows and not pure light; it is refracted light, not direct light. It is type, not antitype.
The prophets were only conveyors of revelation, but when the Son came God Himself spoke in a final and complete way.
Our verse shows us how God wrote the Old Testament and how it prepares us for the first coming of Christ into the world. The only way we can know anything about God is for Him to communicate it to us. We live in a time-space realm, but God is not constricted to either. God is transcendent and lives in a realm where man does not have the capacity to reach. We are finite, but God is infinite.