by Dr. Joseph Matos, DBU Faculty

Day 15 of Advent

Today's Reading

Revelation 1:5

Colossians 1:15

5 ..”and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Revelation 1:5

15 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Colossians 1:15

Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem during the days of Caesar Augustus. When he left his heavenly existence to enter his earthly existence, he became their firstborn (Luke 2:7). He was Mary’s natural son. He was Joseph’s adopted son. Because they were faithful Jews, at the appointed time, they presented Jesus to the Lord in the Temple for consecration in accordance with what the Law of Moses prescribed for the firstborn (Luke 2:21-24; Exodus 13:2, 12).

In Israelite/Jewish culture, the firstborn chronologically received special honor, typically in the form of double inheritance compared to other siblings. However, the term “firstborn” also carried with it a meaning of special honor, privilege, and prominence not tied to chronological birth. That is the sense in which the term is used in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” This does not mean that Jesus was created. In fact, in the very same passage, Jesus is described as the creator of all things and is before all things (1:16-17).

This understanding reflects the meaning of “firstborn” in Psalm 89:26-27, which is in reference to David and his royal line to follow: “He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” David himself was not even the firstborn of his own family. But he became the firstborn to God. He held a position of supremacy and preeminence. Jesus has always been “firstborn” in that sense. Paul later referred to Jesus as the firstborn among many brothers by virtue of believers’ being conformed to his likeness (Romans 8:29).

But just as “firstborn” can mean first to be born, so also it was used in reference to Jesus’ resurrection as one who was “firstborn from the dead” (Revelation 1:5). Albeit Jesus’ raised several from the dead during his earthly ministry, chronologically, he was the first to rise permanently. “Firstborn,” then, means first both in the sense of chronology and in the sense of preeminence. The apostle Paul reflected this in that Colossians passage when he said, “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (1:18). The word “supremacy” is the word for first place (similar in root to the word firstborn) and as such some translations say preeminence.

The letter to the Hebrews, in making the case for Jesus’ supremacy that even the angels did not possess, quotes Psalm 97:7: “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” The angels worshiped God at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:13-14). Revelation 1:5, in addition to referring to Jesus as firstborn, reiterates the idea of Psalm 89:27 in mentioning Jesus as “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Then the book is replete with images of the angels worshipping Jesus.

Jesus is preeminent over creation; have you allowed him preeminence in your life?