“God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets in many portions and many ways, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son…”
God. “God having of old time…” means He has been active in revealing Himself to His creation from the beginning. It was God, the Creator, who walked with man, the creature, in the cool of the day (Genesis 3.8). The meaning of “old time” here means in the past, in the olden days as compared and contrasted with what is recent. Furthermore, the writer wants his readers to understand that it is old in point of use, worn out, ready to be displaced by something new. The way God used to speak is worn out, displaced by something new, and that is His revelation through His Son, the Lord Jesus.
Of Old Time. In old times God spoke with the patriarchs, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sometimes He revealed Himself to them directly. He also spoke to the fathers “in” the prophets. He told Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” (1.9). The prophets did not voice their own ideas, but the message God put in them. When asked to identify himself, John the Baptist declared, “I am a voice of One crying out in the wilderness” (John 1.23). He did not say he was the voice, but instead a voice, one of many God used to reveal His message. The One crying out was God, John was His articulate voice.
God Spoke. In the Greek New Testament, the word order at the beginning of the verse (Hebrews 1.1) is “in many parts and in many ways of old, God spoke.” The Greeks placed words at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis, so the important point to note here is not that God spoke, but rather the variety of His speaking. The author of Hebrews is preparing his readers for a dramatic and thrilling contrast, and that contrast is really the thesis of his book. He wants us to understand clearly that God has always revealed Himself to man – in the olden days as well as in these last days.
In Many Parts and Ways. In the old days, He spoke “in many parts and in many ways”; that is, He did not speak once for all, but in separate revelations, each of which received only a part of His will. In the old days His revelation was progressive. All could not be revealed at once because all could not be understood at once, so it was given in parts, “in many portions.” And it was given “in many ways.” It was given in the form of law, in prophecy, in bewildering signs, in historical narratives, in the poetry of the Psalms, in the sage instruction of wise men. The writer of Hebrews wants us to recall all the ways God spoke in the past, because now it is different. There is a new way and it makes the old way obsolete – the new way is the final way, and the best way.
These Last Days. “God…hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son.” The word last (eschatos) means “the outermost, the extreme, the last in time or place.” These last days are in contrast to the past days, the “olden time” when God spoke “in many portions and in many ways.” The Old Testament prophets saw the “last days” as the Messianic era, the time when prophecy would find its fulfillment, and the final period of history brought on by the entry of the Son into the world – the incarnate Word – Immanuel, “God with us”!
In His Son. As great and as wonderful as it was for God, the Creator, to reveal Himself to mankind through the prophets, something even more wonderful has occurred. He has spoken to us in His Son! The writer wants his readers to clearly understand at the beginning of his book that Jesus is more than the last in a long line of prophets – oh, He is a prophet, to be sure, but He is much more – He is God’s Son. And He is the last, the final, and the extreme revelation of our expressive God.