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
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
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.