Hebrews 1:2: God’s Eternal Purpose.

“In the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all, through whom also He made the ages”  [author’s translation].

After a reference to the nature of the One through whom God spoke in the New Testament, One who shares the divine essence and nature, the writer continues with two clauses which describe the place of this Son in God’s purpose.

As we think about this, there are at least two other verses we should include here:

Ephesians 3:11,  According to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (NKJV).

2 Timothy 1:9[God] has saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before time began.

We have difficulty grappling with the idea of “eternity” because we are creatures whose lives are described in the Bible as “wisps of vapor,” James 4:14b.  We can’t seem to get much beyond the boundaries of our own lives to realize that God is much greater than we are, and that what He is doing, and wants to do, extends far beyond our earthly years.  We might count seconds, but God counts “ages.”

In the “eternal” purpose of which the writer speaks, Jesus Christ plays a central role, for it is by Him that God’s purpose commenced, it is through Him that it continues, and it is for Him that it will eventually culminate.

2.  “Heir:”  His Exalted Position.

“Whom”.  Jesus Christ in His incarnate state, that is, as Man.  He did not cease to be Man when He returned to Heaven.  As God, everything already belonged to Him; as Man, they were given to Him by the Father, even before the Ascension, Matthew 11:27; 28:18.

“He appointed”, see also Ephesians 3:11; 1 Peter 1:20; Galatians 4:1-4.  As the earthly son was under the control of his father, who determined the conditions and time of the son’s assuming heirship, so the Heavenly Father has determined how and when the Son will actually receive the prominence of which such verses as Colossians 1:18 speak.  See also Matthew 20:23; Acts 1:7.

“Heir of all”.  Implicit in the idea of sonship is heirship.  Heirship implies dominion.  God’s expressed creation purpose for Adam included dominion, Genesis 1:26, 28.  Because of the Fall, Adam forfeited that dominion and Satan moved in as “god of this world,” 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2.  His rule can certainly be seen in recent events.

On the Cross, Christ triumphed over and defeated Satan, though he still walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom [and what] he may devour, 1 Peter 4:8.  Eventually, though, he will be put down and put away for good, Revelation 20:2, 10.

The Lord Jesus Himself told us that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.  While the primary reference might be to sinners whom Jesus came to save, we believe that a wider application may be made.  Whatever the first Adam lost, the Second Adam came to restore, and more, through His incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension, cf. Romans 8:18-22.

While a complete restoration awaits the arrival of the new heavens and the new earth, Revelation 21:1, we believe there will be a “preview,” if we may put it like that, in what is known as the Millennium, which we define as that period of time between the Second Coming and the Great White Throne Judgment, during which time Jesus Christ will rule over this earth in exacting righteousness, Revelation 19:15, that He will indeed and truly sit on the throne of His father David, Luke 1:32, and that, during that time, the OT prophecies of a world-wide time of righteousness and peace will be fulfilled.  The length of this time is given 6 times in Revelation 20, which we deny in any way is to be brushed off as “merely symbolic” or as fulfilled in this present, increasingly wicked age.

We’re aware of the difficulties of this position and that many good men do not see it to be Biblical.  We further admit that there might be a present aspect of the kingdom; nevertheless, we do not see how such Scriptures as Matthew 8:11, 12; 19:27-29; 20:20-23; Mark 14:24. 25; Luke 22:15-18, 29, 30, with many others in both testaments, can be said to be “fulfilled in the church,” that is, if the Word of God has any meaning at all.

3.  “Made the Ages”:  His Eternal Power.

“through whom”.  Through the agency of the Son, the Father brought everything into existence.  In Colossians 1:16, Paul wrote that all things were created in Him and through Him.  “Through Him” speaks of the mediate agency of the Son, and “in Him” indicates the continuing power and providence that He exercises in moving God’s eternal purpose forward.  Science is looking for a “unifying principle” which ties together all the various forces at play in nature.  They’re looking in the wrong place.  It’s not to be found in some impersonal force, but in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead.

“also He made”.  There is no English word which adequately shows the meaning of the word translated “made”:  make, produce, build, bring about, operate, put in order, etc.  We get our word “poem” from that word.  Perhaps it tells us that the events and happenings of the world aren’t just some random accident, but are written with intelligence and purpose, a purpose that will ultimately bring glory to the God Who created it.

“the ages”,  not just this tiny planet, nor even the vast, unimaginable reaches of the physical universe, but the much more overwhelming thought of all those times and ages and eons through which God’s “eternal purpose” is moving and unfolding, unhasting and unceasing, in the boundless life He had called into being.
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Conclusion.

We close with three words.

1.  Caution.

Psalm 17:14, 15 refers to men of the world, who have their portion in this life.  Too many professing Christians are like these men, satisfied with the meager provisions of this world and apparently seeking nothing more.  We should be like David in v. 15, who said that he would be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.  That is, as Paul put it, sinless and glorified.

2.  Courage.

Cf. Romans 8:28-30.  Perhaps you are reading this and feel crushed by the moment, whatever that moment may be.  I remember one time opening my Bible and finding a piece of paper in it on which I had written something to the effect that I wondered if things would ever get better.  I remembered writing the note and even something of the despair I felt at the time, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was that had so discouraged me.  That was about 50 years ago.

Or perhaps, like me, you’re dismayed at the current turn of events in our world and see little hope of recovery.

Perhaps the thought that God’s clock ticks in centuries, not in seconds, will help.  We need to look beyond the “now,” difficult though that may be, and rejoice that “then” is on the way, cf. 1 John 3:2.

Have you ever considered Romans 8?  In vs. 17-27, Paul wrote of “infirmity.”  This is trouble on the inside.  In vs. 31-36, he wrote of “injury,” that is, trouble on the outside.  We may suffer greatly.  People may hate us, even kill us.  But in vs. 37-39, Paul gathers everything together, and triumphantly declares that nothing, N-O-T-H-I-N-G, can separate us from the love, care and plan of God, even to the point of our being slaughtered like sheep.  There are Christians right now to whom this last is reality.  It may become a reality in this country.

3.  Challenge.

Whose word are we living by, God’s or this world’s?  Do we bring our steps to the Lord and say, “Here, Lord.  You order them,” Psalm 37:23?  Or have we got all our goals set and all the steps by which those goals will be reached?  Are our lives full of our plans, or are they blank slates, upon which God may write as He will?  Are we willing, like Abraham, to go forth with God, content to let Him guide the way, Hebrews 11:8?   Certainly, we have responsibilities with families, jobs, etc., but are we fulfilling those responsibilities by the wisdom of this world, or by the Word of God?

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Hebrews 1:2: “His Son”

2]  In the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son…. [author’s translation]

In our previous posts, we have seen that the writer asserts that God spoke.  In doing so, he emphasizes the reality, the fact, that God spoke.  Contrary to the “wisdom” of many, the OT is not a patchwork product of men who gathered myths and stories and formed them into a “holy book”; it is the word of God, given in and through “the prophets” by the direct revelation and inspiration of God Himself.

Furthermore, not only did God speak through and to the prophets of old, but He also spoke “in Son,” that is, personally and directly.  The writer described this “Son” with eight statements. We wish to take a closer look at these statements.

We’re spending more time on this section of Hebrews because it is essential that we have a Scriptural understanding of Who Christ is and of what He did.  Christianity stands or falls with Christ and who He is; no other religion so depends on the nature and character of its founder as Christianity.   We believe, further, that the Christ of the Bible and the Christ worshiped by much, if not most, of modern Christianity, not only here in America, but around the world, are two different individuals.  They take a verse here and there from the Bible to construct their Christ, but the Christ of the Bible is as foreign to them as a person would be from another planet.

Is that too strong?  Too judgmental?

Is it?

Only in the Christ of the Bible is there any hope for the reconciliation of guilty sinners to a holy and righteous God.

Who is this “Christ of the Bible”?  Hebrews 1:1-3 gives a succinct description of Him.

1.  “Son”:  His Essential Nature.

It’s interesting to note that the writer begins by asserting the deity of the Lord Jesus.  You see, if Jesus isn’t truly God, then nothing else matters.  There is no salvation.  If Christ isn’t God, then Christianity becomes merely a bandaid to cover man’s festering corruption and pollution, a social message to address social issues: “justice,” “fairness,” “equality,” etc., but without any ability to solve the underlying problem.  Indeed, that problem, man’s basic sinfulness and his alienation from and opposition to God, is not even recognized.  Often, it is denied.

As we’ve noted before, there is no article (“the”) before the word translated, “son.”  Thus we’re brought to consider the nature and character of the Savior.  The writer isn’t concerned with “relationship” as we might understand it, but emphasizes the agreement in essential nature (deity) which the Son and the Father share.

Jesus is not a “son” by adoption, as some falsely and blasphemously teach, thus “deifying” humanity.  These false teachers hold out the same hope to men, that if we do well enough, God will also “adopt” us.  Such a view is false.  The “adoption” of which the Bible speaks, in which even our physical bodies (though in a glorified state) are to be received into the family of God, is never based on anything but God’s grace.  It’s never a matter of reward or obligation on God’s part.

Nor is Jesus the “Son of God” by “creation,” as Jehovah’s Witnesses and others teach.  Because He is God, He is eternally the Son of God and God the Son by nature and essence.

In addition to Hebrews 1:3, the following verses clearly teach the deity of Christ:

John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and [lit.] God was the Word. John isn’t teaching, as some declare, that “the Word” was merely “a” god, some lesser being, in contrast to the Father. Rather, he is emphasizing identity of nature, that is, whatever “God” is, the Son is.

Implicit in John’s thought is also the fact that the Father and the Son, though sharing the same nature, are not the same “Person.”  That is, the Father is not the Son.  We’ll have more to say about this later on.

Colossians 1:15, Christ is the image of the invisible God.  The word translated “image” means “manifestation” or “representation.”  With the addition of the word “invisible,” Paul teaches that Jesus Christ is the visible manifestation and representation of the invisible God.  The uniqueness of His relationship with the Father is such that He could say, He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” John 14:9.  Again, He is not claiming to be the Father.  We emphasize this because of those who say that He does say that.

Philippians 2:6being in the form of God, [He] did thought it not robbery to be equal with God.  The word translated “form” refers doesn’t simply refer to outward appearance, as we might consider it, but what’s on the inside, so to speak.  It speaks of the nature and essence of the individual.  It’s not what the person looks like, but what he is.  In this case, it means that the Word was equal with, on the same level as, God.  In the words of John 1:1, the Word was God.

Notice further that Paul said, “being…God.”  Cf. John 1:1, 14. the Word was God, the Word became flesh.  Nowhere is there any intimation of the Word becoming (a) (g)God.

John 10:30-33, Jesus made the statement, “I and the Father are one,”  v. 30, literally, “I and the Father, we are one.”  He isn’t saying that He and the Father are the same, in spite of those who claim otherwise.  The sequel shows that the Jews most certainly understood that He was claiming deity:  “…you, being man, make yourself God, v. 33.  There are no articles before “man” or “God.”  The focus is on nature.  The Jews were saying, “You are human, but you blaspheme, claiming to be divine.”

We will look at Hebrews 1:3, but for now merely wish to show that the Scripture is unequivocal in its declaration of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the words of the ancient confession, He is: “very God of very God and very man of very man.”

Do we come to the Bible as the Word of God?  Do we really accept its divine origin?  Do we understand the tremendous privilege we have in its possession in our own language?  Do we understand the responsibility we have toward it? …the eternal repercussions from it?  Do we come to the Scriptures to learn of Christ? or for some other reason?

There are way too many who have advanced degrees in Biblical subjects who deny or question every word from Genesis to Revelation.

Without the Word of God, we have no Christ.

Without Christ, we have no salvation.

Hebrews 1:1, 2: Who Spoke?

1] In many portions and in many ways, of old God was speaking to the fathers in the prophets; 2] in the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all, through whom also He made the ages, 3] Who being [the] radiant splendor of [His] glory and [the] exact imprint of His essence, and maintaining everything through the word of His power, and having accomplished cleansing of sins, was made to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high.  [Author’s translation].

The writer begins Hebrews with the assertion that God spoke!  As he develops this thought, he sets up a three-fold contrast between the revelation of the Old Testament, i.e., the First Covenant, (in particular the Mosaic Covenant, but here including more than that), and the New Covenant, that is, the New Testament.

1.  Method.

The First Covenant was given in many portions over a long period of time – about 4000 years, and was not God’s final or complete revelation to Man.  The New Covenant was given complete in the relatively short span of about 60 years and is God’s final and complete revelation to man until the Second Coming.

2.  Recipients.

The First Covenant was given to “the fathers,” the New Covenant “to us.”  The First Covenant, while certainly inspired by God and intended for our “instruction” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14, especially vs. 6, 12) is nevertheless not the basis for either our faith or our conduct.  Those who attempt to mold the NT church or believers on OT patterns do so mistakenly.  From such a view, we have such doctrines as the Romish priesthood, the Reformed idea of a church-state, and infant baptism.

The idea of a church-state, or an “established church,” such as England and other nations have, and which the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution was designed to prevent, gives to the church magisterial, that is, civil, authority.  Historically, this has resulted in the suppression and persecution of dissent.  History records that both the Roman Catholic and Reformed churches vigorously wielded the civil sword against those who differed from them.  Millions have died at the hands of church authorities for the heinous crime of desiring to worship and serve God only as the Bible teaches and not as some church dictates.

Though many will disagree with us on this, and many who practice it are indeed known by the Lord, yet infant baptism has done for the Reformed churches what the invitation system has done for fundamentalist-type churches:  filled them with lost people.

The Romish priesthood denies the Mediatorial office of Christ, substituting the Virgin in His place (“Hail, Mary, full of grace.  Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”.)  There is no Biblical authority for this.  In fact, the last thing Mary said in the sacred record is found in John 2:5, “Whatever He says to you, do it,”  This is still wise advice.  These practices also deny the liberty and right of the individual believer to come personally and directly to God in prayer and for forgiveness.  Cf. Hebrews 4:16.

All these errors, and others, have come upon Christians simply because they have failed to distinguish between the First and New Covenants.

3.  Messengers.

The spokesmen of the First, or Old, Covenant, though they were truly prophets, were just men, like those to whom they spoke.  They were not “God.”  In the New Covenant, God spoke “in son,” emphasizing the nature and character of the Spokesman.  Though Man, Jesus was also God.

Having stated the equal inspiration of the Old and New Covenants, yet also maintaining the position of the New over the Old, the writer at once answers the question, “Who is this ‘son’?”  He demonstrates that the Son, the spokesman of the NC, is far superior to “the prophets,” the spokesmen of the OC, whom the Jews held in high regard.  Including the noun “son,” the writer makes eight statements about Him:

1.  “son”, His essential nature.
2.  “heir,” His exalted position.
3.  “made the ages,” His eternal power.
4.  “radiant splendor,” His evident deity.  In the words of an ancient confession, He was very God of very God.
5.  “exact imprint,” His earthly being.  That same confession:  He was very man of very man.
6.  “maintaining,” His effectual providence.
7.  “cleansing,” His efficacious sacrifice.
8.  “made to sit,” His earned preeminence.

Numbers 1 – 4 deal mainly, but not exclusively, with His deity; numbers 5 – 8 mainly, but not exclusively, with His humanity.  Corresponding numbers go together.

For example, numbers 4 and 5.  These refer to His essential being, deity (4) and humanity (5).  He was God; He became Man, John 1:1, 14.  In His incarnation, He didn’t cease to be God.  In His resurrection and ascension, He didn’t cease to be Man.

Numbers 3 and 6 speak of His power, referring to the creation of all things (3), and to their preservation and continuation according to God’s eternal purpose (6).

Numbers 2 and 7 refer to His position.  He is “heir” (2) because (7) He laid aside His eternal glory and prerogative in order to assume human existence so that He could be the substitute for and Savior of His people, Philippians 2:5-11.

Numbers 1 and 8 refer to His unique nature and character. (1) eternally God the Son, one with the Father in essence and nature, yet (8) still truly human.

Number 8 poses a difficulty for some.  Believing that Jesus merely returned to some former angelic state, they ask, “If he were God, how could he be exalted higher than He was before?”

Those verses which tell of His exaltation give a two-fold answer.

1.  He is exalted in His deity, because of the Incarnation.  As an example, suppose an earthly king stepped down from his throne in order to rescue some of his subjects at the price of great personal suffering and indignity.  On returning to his throne, the honor and praise he would receive because of the successful completion of his task would in no way detract from nor deny his kingship before the mission.  So with Jesus Christ.  Eternally God, yet He receives more glory because of His stepping down from His throne to rescue His people.

2.  He is exalted in His humanity, because of the Resurrection.  His humanity has been elevated to the dignity and glory of His deity, so that fully God, fully Man, he sits at the right hand of the Father.  1 Timothy 2:5 clearly establishes His present humanity:  For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (emphasis added).  Hebrews 8:6; 9:15 and 12:24 all confirm His present role as Mediator, so that it can’t be argued that 1 Timothy just refers to His earthly ministry.

It’s interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same thing with 1 Timothy 2:5 that they do with John 1:1.  Since there is no article (“the”) before “man Christ Jesus” in the original text, they translate it, “a man Christ Jesus,” just as they translate John 1:1, “the word was a god,” citing the absence of the article before “god.”  They assert that John was not claiming deity for Jesus, but merely that He was “godlike.”

Did Paul write to Timothy that Jesus was merely “manlike”?  Or was he asserting His real and true humanity, just as John asserted His real and true deity?

Hebrews: 1:1-2, God Has Spoken….

1] In many portions and in many ways, of old God was speaking to the fathers in the prophets; 2] in the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages

[Please note: the above is my own translation.  I claim no particular scholarship or authority for it.]

In the introduction, we noted that Hebrews is both a defense and a declaration of the position and preeminence of the Lord Jesus.  His position is that of sovereign Lord and Ruler of all, though that has not yet been made fully manifest.  His preeminence, the writer asserts, is that He is superior to everything that the Jews held in high regard:  Moses, the prophets, the priesthood, even Abraham; and that the New Covenant, of which Jesus is the sole Mediator, succeeds and fulfills the First Covenant, of which Moses and Aaron stand as representative mediators.  To a large degree, Hebrews answers the question:  How do men approach God?

The pride of the Jews was that God was their God.  He had spoken to them, cf. Deuteronomy 4:6-8, 2 Samuel 7:23, 24.  This is where it all began with the Jews.  This is where it begins with Hebrews.

1.  God Has Spoken Formerly, 1:1.

He spoke in bits and pieces, as it were, over a period of time through and to many different individuals.  What we know as the Old Testament wasn’t given all at once, but a little bit at a time to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David and all the other named and unnamed prophets of the OT period.  Clement of Alexandria associated Hebrews 1:1 with Ephesians 3:10, the many-tinted [polupoikilos] wisdom of God.

Thus, the OT was a progressive revelation, cf. Isaiah 28:10, beginning with the origin and fall of mankind through Adam.    This included the first prophecy in Genesis 2:16, a prophecy of ruin if Adam and Eve disobeyed a simple restriction, then the first redemptive prophecy, Genesis 3:15.  This revelation continued until the final prophecy of the coming of the Sun of righteousness, as well as the ministry of His forerunner, Malachi 4:2-6.

The OT was also a patient revelation, taking nearly 4000 years to complete.  Since God was pleased to take so long a time to reveal Himself to His OT people, perhaps we shouldn’t expect an instant understanding of it.  We must continue to read, to study, and to meditate if we would unlock this treasure.  There are great riches in the OT, but they aren’t uncovered by the casual and occasional glance at a verse or two.

The OT was also a varied revelation.  That is, God didn’t just narrate or dictate His Word one word at a time, but over time used law, prophecy, history, psalm, sign, type or symbol, parable.  Now He spoke through a gatherer of sycamore fruit, now through a shepherd, now in the sunlight of His favor, now in the thunder of His judgment, now as the people were obedient, now as they were rebellious.

The OT was also a partial revelation.  By this, we mean that God didn’t tell Israel everything He ultimately intended that men should know.  He gave them what they needed to know to make them a nation and, as individuals, to be His people.  But there were things that He kept “secret,” as even Moses acknowledged in Deuteronomy 29:29, The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” 

Finally, the OT was a passing revelation.  What does this mean?  In the original language, there are two words translated, “old.”  One is archaios.  We get our word “archaic” from it.  It means “old in point of time,”  The other word is palaios, “old in point of use, worn out, ready to be replaced by something new.”  Perhaps the writer is telling us that the OT, having served its purpose, at least so far as the first coming of Christ was involved, was coming, or had come, to an end.

This does not cancel the prophetic implications for the nation of Israel, cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 10:6; 12:9-14.  The events recorded by the NT were necessary to lay the groundwork for the fulfillment of those prophecies.  Now isn’t the time to deal with what the OT says about Israel, except to say that it is not “fulfilled in the church.”  Even the OT, as in the verses noted above and many others, tells of a change in the covenantal relationship between Israel and her God.  The OT also prophesies of God’s blessing to the Gentiles.  The NT tells us more about that.

2.  God Has Spoken Finally.

When.  “in the last of these days”.  There are some who try to tell us that this phrase means that revelation is still going on, and they are the recipients of it.  This is not true.  The writer is clear that Jesus Christ is, and brought, the final revelation of God to men.

“These days,” referring to the time of the One through whom God spoke, were “the last days,” not of or during the Church age, as we might understand it, but were the last days of the Old Testament age, Galatians 4:4.  God accurately foretold the time, to the year, of the First Coming of Christ, Daniel 9:24, 25.  Cf. Mark 1:14, 15.  In passing, God also foretold, for that generation that will see it, the very day of the Second Coming, Daniel 12:11, 12.  Cf. Matthew 24:15.  Incidentally, Matthew tells us that the Daniel wasn’t all fulfilled by the First Coming of Christ.  Neither was the rest of the Old Testament.

To whom.  “Us,” that is, believers, in this case, Jewish believers, directly, not through priest or sacrifice.  Although God has been pleased to set the office of “pastor-teacher” in the local assembly, such a one does not speak as the OT prophet did.  Implicit in the OT revelation is the thought of “barrier.”  Men could not come into the presence of God directly, but had to go through the priest.  Cf. Exodus 19:10-13.  In the OT, God spoke to the prophets, and the prophets relayed the message to the people.  In Christ, God has spoken directly to us through His Word.  Cf. Hebrews 9:8; 10:19-20.

Incidentally, this “directness” was a stumblingblock to the early church.  The first believers were all Jews, who had been taught that one could only come to God through the sacrificial system, and that could only be accomplished at Jerusalem.  One had to become a Jew, or at least one of two different kinds of proselytes.

This change was the difficulty of the “Judaizers” who plagued Paul and the early church.  They tried to put believers back under the OT Law, cf. Acts 10:15.  We have a lot of their descendants with us today.  Early believers found it extremely difficult to receive the idea that one no longer came to God indirectly, through a place, that is the Temple, or through a procedure, that is, the sacrifices, or even through the priesthood, but one comes to God directly, through a Person, the Lord Jesus.

Through Whom. “In [His] Son,” literally, “in Son.”  There is no article in the Greek.  This emphasizes the character and nature of the One through Whom God spoke.  The writer expands on this thought, and we will do so in the next post, Lord willing.

Hebrews: The Preeminence of Christ. Introduction

The Book of Hebrews isn’t commonly taught in the church. Perhaps some few verses, or chapter 11, are referred to, but the book itself seems to be largely ignored. Perhaps this is because it is believed that the book doesn’t really apply to us, since it speaks of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices.  To a large degree, this might be true, as we’ll see in a moment, however, the purpose of the writer is that we might consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, 12:3, and there are many things beside priests and offerings which take our mind off the Lord.  The book does indeed have a message for us.

The Nature of Hebrews.

Hebrews is a book of

1.  Worship.

It exalts the Lord Jesus.  It is, in a sense, an exposition of Colossians 1:18, that in all things He [Christ] might have the preeminence…. There are two things Satan doesn’t want:  for men to worship or to serve the true God.  If he can get them away from doing that, then they are, in effect, worshiping and serving him.  So he has introduced a great number of substitute gods and activities to draw them away from God.  So long as men don’t worship or serve the true God, Satan doesn’t much care what they believe about Him.

But Hebrews is also a book of

2.  Warning.

As we’ll see in a moment, Hebrews was written to people who were being tempted to leave Christ and to go back to the “old way” of doing things, so to speak.  While the exact historical situation is gone, still the book speaks directly to our own day, and to the diluted and distorted views of grace which allow “believers” to live pretty much as they want to, without regard to what God might want of them.

Background of Hebrews.

Perhaps about 30 years had passed since the death and resurrection of our Lord.  Persecution was rising and the Temple had not yet been destroyed.  This impressive building, with its attendant ritual and ceremony, was still there in apparent contradiction of our Lord’s prophecies of its destruction, Matthew 24:2.  The question might have arisen, “Why suffer all this?  Why not just go back to the sacrificial system of Moses?

“Why not find some ‘common ground’?”

Date of Hebrews.

Hebrews 2:3, 4 seem to indicate that quite a bit of time had passed, yet the Temple was still standing and sacrifices were still being offered, cf. 10:11.  There is no mention of that terrible war which began in 67 A.D., which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and which included the leveling of the Temple.  It would seem therefore that the book was written in the 60s A.D., perhaps to prepare the Jews for the coming destruction of all they held dear, as well as to warn them to persevere in following the Lord Jesus.

Author of Hebrews.

Since the earliest days, there has been uncertainty as to who wrote this epistle.  The point is, though, regardless of whether Paul or Barnabas or Luke or Clement of Alexandria or any of the others said to be the author…, if the Holy Spirit isn’t its primary author, as we believe He is, then it doesn’t really matter who wrote it.

Key Word: “better”.

This does not mean “improved”,  The “New Covenant” is “better” than the First, or Mosaic, Covenant, and Christ, as fulfillment and benefactor of the New Covenant, is “better” than the people mentioned by the author.

1.  The New Covenant is better than the First.

a.  The First was typical, or symbolic; the New is actual.

The ceremonies and sacrifices of the First Covenant, though real, were only symbolic of the realities, Hebrews 9:9.  The New Covenant brings their fulfillment.

b.  The First was only “temporal,” temporary, or “carnal,” dealing only with the physical, 9:10; the New deals with the “eternal,” 9:12.

c.  The First dealt with the “natural,” the New with the “spiritual.”  By this, we mean that under the First Covenant, there was no provision for help or enabling  for those under it to fulfill its obligations, cf. Deuteronomy 29:4.  The New guarantees such help, Hebrews 8:10-12.

Work and run, the Law commands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
But sweeter sounds the Gospel brings –
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.

d.  The First demonstrates man’s guilt; the New declares God’s grace.

e.  The First is a “shadow of good things to come,” Hebrews 10:1; the New is “the good things” themselves.

2.  Christ Himself is “better.”  We see this in how the book presents Christ in relationship to the Covenant.

a.  He is THE SPOKESMAN of the New Covenant, 1:1-4.  Here He is seen as PROPHET.

b.  He  is THE HEIR of the New Covenant, 1:4-2:9.  Here Christ is seen as LORD.  Though Hebrews isn’t a book about prophecy, being more concerned that we be prepared for the future than that we be taught about it, there are things in it in which our understanding of them will be influenced by how we view the future.

It’s sadly true that often even Christians, or at least professing Christians, don’t pay much attention to Christ as Prophet or Lord, being more interested in their own affairs than His.  Perhaps that’s why the writer spends a great deal of time in the third view of Christ:

c.  He is THE MEDIATOR of the New Covenant, 2:10-10:18.  Here Christ is seen as PRIEST, as well as, in contrast to the First Covenant priesthood, SACRIFICE.

Outline of Hebrews.

 I.  Christ and the New Covenant, 1:1-10:18.
II.  The Christian and the New Covenant, 10:19-13:25.