Firstborn

Q. Heb 12:23-24 “to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” I thought firstborn refers to Jesus, (Rev 1:5), but why is plural used i.e. whose names are written in heaven?

A. Yes, firstborn refers to Jesus, not only in Heb 12:23, but also in:

Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
• Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
• Col 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
• Heb 1:6 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”
• Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—

Firstborn, or first begotten, is not just first chronologically, but also first in preeminence. He is the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead, and the firstborn among many brethren.

The text reads “church of the firstborn” i.e. “church of Jesus Christ”, not “firstborns”. “Church” is a collective noun, referring to the whole assembly. That’s why it is “whose names are written in heaven”, meaning all those who are born-again. There is no contradiction.

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Father’s Blessing

fathers blessing 1

Q. Why is the blessing of the father so important in OT days? Is there relevance for today?

A. A father’s blessings was important for several reasons:

1. They were usually given before the father’s death, and served as a “last will and testament” governing inheritances:
Gen 27:4, 7, 10 so that my soul may bless you before I die. … and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death. … so that he may bless you before his death.

The firstborn receives a double portion as his right:
Deut 21:17 But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.
But sometimes the firstborn lose their birthright because of folly or sin:
Gen 25:33-34 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
• 1 Chron 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.

2. The blessings contain the father’s observation of the sons’ character, and provide commendation or caution of their conduct to encourage or warn them as the father departs:
Gen 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him. (Read Gen 49)

3. They expressed the father’s wish (“may”) but, at least in the case of the patriarchs, were prophetic and fulfilled, possibly due to their covenant relationship with the Lord:
Gen 27:28-29 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.
• Gen 27:33 Yes, and he shall be blessed. …

Isaac’s words indicate that Jacob will be blessed despite his deceit, because the blessing was not conditional.

I believe nowadays the written will has replaced the verbal will, and that our wish for our children are not prophetic in the same way as the patriarchs’ were. However, the second reason, that of appreciation or advice, is still valid. Frequently a child’s success in life is integrally tied to his acceptance and approval by the father, the lack of which often leads to his struggling to win what he did not have. In that sense I feel the blessing, even though it may be informal, is still relevant today.