Resurrection and the Logic of New Creation in the Epistle to the Hebrews

Within the last few decades, two important shifts have occurred with respect to the eschatological expectations in Hebrews. Most recently, David Moffitt’s monograph on resurrection in Hebrews has provoked a renewed discussion about the eschatological beliefs of the author of Hebrews. Moffitt’s work has moved the conversation about the role of Jesus’s resurrection in Hebrews in a positive direction. One aspect left unexplored concerns the connection between Jesus’s resurrection and the author’s eschatological expectations for Jesus’s followers. The more prominent shift concerns the relationship between the first two chapters of the letter, in particular with regard to the time and location of the world (t?? ???o?µe???) in Heb 1:6 and the coming world (t?? ?????µe??? t?? µe????sa?) in Heb 2:5. With respect to the time, the general consensus has arisen that ch. 1 describes the enthronement or exaltation of Jesus rather than the incarnation or Parousia, which were more prominent previously. The shift in time has been accompanied by a shift in location from the earthly to the heavenly realm. However, this general consensus breaks down when one attempts to incorporate the data from Heb 2:5. If Heb 1:6 refers to Jesus’s enthronement in heaven, then to what does the coming world in 2:5 refer? Are the two references to the ?????µe?? equivalent or distinct from one another? Ardel Caneday has elucidated the most common position in favor of equating the two phrases as references to Jesus’s enthronement. This paper attempts to give shape to the alternative that 1:6 and 2:5 are in fact distinct, by appealing to the implicit logic of new creation in the letter. The relationship between the first two chapters of the letter provides the frame through which to read the rest of the author’s eschatological vision. While new creation language is limited in the letter, several pieces of the exegetical puzzle seem to point in this direction. Gareth Cockerill and Victor Rhee have demonstrated the centrality of resurrection as the hallmark of faith in Heb 11, but they did not extend this insight to encompass the promise of perfection with the author’s community in 11:39-40 as a basic expectation of new creation, namely the perfection of the body. The author’s use of rest language in chs. 3-4 as a solely future reality for the people, the description of the spirits in the heavenly throne room in 12:23, and the culmination of the unshakeable kingdom in 12:28 all insinuate a two-step eschatological process. Where Jesus has already gone–namely God’s space–which the people can approach but not enter through Jesus’s mediation, is not the final reality. Ultimate rest, perfection, and the subjugation of all things remains for God’s people at the dawning of the new creation, when God’s space encompasses all space.