Hebrews Lesson 15 June 23, 2005
NKJ Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.
We need to remember that Jesus Christ controls history and works things out according to His plans and purposes.
Verse 1 After God spoke in a variety of fragments and in various forms in time past to the fathers by means of the prophets
Verse 2 He has in these last days spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things through whom also He made the ages
Verse 3 Who being the radiance of His glory and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the Word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
The contrast between verse 1 and verse 2 is the partial fragmentary revelation of the Old Testament to and through the Jewish prophets and to the Jewish patriarchs in contrast with the complete and full revelation given through the Son. Even though the Son didn't write and give us the New Testament, it is through His emissaries the apostles who are the foundation of the church that we have the written revelation. The Son is the full and complete revelation of the Lord. That's the contrast. In the middle of verse 2 there is a shift. The shift begins to talk about the significance of the Son.
There are seven things said about the Son.
- He is the one whom He has appointed heir of all things. I want you to keep that first thing in mind because it is parallel to the last. We'll look at the chiasm chart in a moment so you can see that parallel. This is the frame from the beginning to the end of this chiasm, this list of these 7 things.
- Through whom He also made (maneuvers, controls) the ages (dispensations)
- Who being the radiance of His glory. He is the outworking of His essence. He is the exact image of His nature. That should be nature and not person.
- He upholds all things by the word of His power. That is the center of the chiasm as we have talked about the last two weeks.
- After He had by Himself made purification for our sins
- He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
- He is the Messianic King.
This is where we are headed. Look at the chiasm. In a chiasm you have one side of an X so that the center of the X is the focal point. The other statements function like a frame. So it is a literary device to focus our attention on something.
- The Son is contrasted with the Old Testament prophets in 1:1-2a
- The Son is referred to as the Messianic heir in vs. 2b
- The Son's creative work is mentioned in 1:2c. He made the ages.
- The Son's three-fold mediatorial relationship to God is in 1:3. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact image of His nature, and He upholds all things by the Word of His power. That is the three-fold mediatorial relationship to God.
- The Son's redemptive work is C'. He had by Himself purged our sins. He made purification of our sins.
- He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.
- The Son as Messianic King. That is the function that we see happens in relationship to this statement of His sitting down. He is sitting down to wait for the kingdom.
This is the backdrop for understanding the whole book of Hebrews. I don't think anybody has brought that out. Some people have gotten close. In the studies that I have done the last few years several things have come together in my own thinking on this. I think a lot of people have hinted at this. In my thinking it seems to get focused and tight on this particular issue related to the ascension and session of Christ. So the focus is on the Son as Messianic King. In the last verse of the introduction we'll see that He is higher than the angels and He obtains an inheritance that is more excellent than they. It's this whole idea of the Son's inheritance that is the bull's eye on the target of the message of Hebrews. The Son is given an inheritance. He has not realized it yet; it is still off in the future. But He is the designated heir.
To give you a bird's eye view of this whole message, Jesus Christ is designated the Son of God. He is the Son of God. The theologians from the time of Nicea have referred to that phraseology "the eternally begotten Son". People sometimes want to debate whether that is the best term or not. It is the theologically accepted term that has been around for 1600 years of church history. I don't think we need to go back and debate that. It is clear within the Council of Nicea and the Creed of Nicea that when they talk about the fact that He is begotten He is not made. It is not a birth term. It has to do with the fact that 10 quadrillion of years before God ever created a creature, Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity, the eternal Son of God, was being continuously begotten by the Father. That is a term that expresses that father-son relationship. That father-son relationship is inherent to their individual personhood within the trinity. That the first person is the Father and the second person is the Son are not pragmatic terms that are related to the incarnation. The Son isn't the Son because He was born by the Virgin Mary. That relates to His humanity. He is the Son by virtue of His eternal relationship to the Father. He is eternally begotten by the Father. He is and always has been the Son of God. There is a doctrine we are going to have to get into a little bit.
We see that eternally the second person of the trinity is the Son of God. As the Son of God He is higher than the angels, isn't He? As the Son of God He has all power and all authority. But what we see in relation to the ascension and session is that the second person of the trinity is elevated at the ascension over the angels. He is given authority over all things. If that authority and that power are His by virtue of His being the Son of God eternally, then when we talk about Him acquiring this position it has to relate to a different Sonship. What He acquires in that other Sonship that relates to two titles, that He is the Son of Man and the Son of David. It relates to the Davidic Covenant and that eternal dynasty through David that we see the significance. As the Son of Man He goes through His human life dealing with every problem and every adversity and everything that He suffers and passes the test qualifying Him to go to the cross. He sets the template, example, and pattern how we as Church Age believers are to handle all the tests, trials, adversities and suffering that we encounter in life.
By virtue of His passing all of that, He was designated the heir. This is a technical term. The heirship relates to the nations. We will look at this in verse 5 and 6. In Ps 2:8 at the present time He is to be praying to God. He is asking God for the nations to be given to Him as an inheritance. Right now at the session Jesus Christ at the right hand of God the Father is doing one thing that is never talked about. He is our mediator. He is our advocate. He is our high priest. But He is doing something else. He is praying. He is asking the Father to give Him the nations as His inheritance. When we think of the session, we need to think of the other aspects of His priesthood. I am not diminishing them but they are related to this request that He is making about His inheritance. If we follow the Lord Jesus Christ and become co-sufferers with Him as Romans 8 mentions that we will co-reign with Him. This same thing that is happening during the session related to His high ministry priesthood toward us in our spiritual growth sanctification ministry is directly related to what is going on in His session and ultimately in what happens when He gets His inheritance. He is preparing us to rule and reign with Him. Now we understand all that. We have been taught this again and again. But I am coming at this from a little different perspective. What it tells us is that Jesus Christ is building right now the leadership team that He is going to operate with when He returns in His kingdom. That is part of the priestly ministry. When He comes back, we are going to reign as priests and kings. We're in boot camp right now. We're in our basic training session to develop capacity to rule and reign with Him when He comes back as the Messianic King to take possession of that inheritance.
The book of Hebrews comes along and keeps talking about the session. In almost every section or division of this epistle there is a reference to the ascension and session of Christ. Now why is that? It is foundational to the whole exhortation or challenge of this book for believers to persevere in the midst of testing, trials, and adversity. Don't give up the faith. Don't relinquish doctrine. Keep making doctrine a priority in your life. Don't let the details of life crowd out your scale of values. Don't let the pressures and adversities of life shift your priorities so that you give up on your Christian growth and your forward advance. This is what is happening.
The interesting thing is that in all the New Testament the only book that deals with the High priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is the book of Hebrews. Paul never mentions it. He never develops it. It is nowhere in the Pauline epistles. John does not talk about it in any of his books. There are various allusions and references in Paul and John to heirship and inheritance and future ruling and reigning destiny, but it is left under the providence of God to the writer of Hebrews to expound on the significance of this high priestly ministry.
This is important because every commentary you read focuses on Christ as superior. That is the message of Hebrews. Because Christ is superior we are supposed to persevere. The message to these Jews in the first century is that they want to fall back in the old ritual system. Usually it is presented that the thrust of Hebrews is don't give up the ship and go back to Judaism because Jesus is superior to Judaism. That is a major thrust and theme in this whole epistle. But we need to factor in the significance of the session. This is central to understanding this whole argument in Hebrews and what the writer is trying to get across is what is happening in the session with relationship to the future inheritance and possession and how that needs to radically impact how you and I look at what we do everyday.
When we wake up in the morning how do we envision the things we're doing that day. Are we just going through the same old drill day in and day out that we normally do? Or do we have a significant understanding of the fact that we are being trained day in and day out to apply doctrine to situations so that the Holy Spirit can build Christ's character in us so that we are then qualified in the Millennial Kingdom to rule and reign with Jesus Christ? This is what your personal sense of your eternal destiny is all about. The future should be so real to you in terms of where you're headed that it changes your priority structure today and it changes what you are doing with your 70+ years on the earth. That is what the writer of Hebrews is getting at.
So we are coming to this last section in verse 3 that He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. What is the significance of that particular phrase?
Vs. 3 He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
This comes after He made purification or after He Himself made the cleansing for our sins. The sitting down is not simply a sign of completion of the work on the cross. It is that, but it is more than that. He is sitting down because He has to wait on something. That comes out through a study of the Doctrine of the Ascension.
At the cross He made purification for our sins.
That is the Greek word katharismos that is related to the verb katharizo, the noun katharos– all of which relate to sanctification or purification or cleansing. That is what is necessary for sinful fallen creatures to do in order to maintain fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I just love it when God's plan starts to come together in a lot of interesting ways. I was asked to teach Old Testament survey at the College of Biblical Studies. One of the Old Testament books I have to teach is Leviticus. Leviticus is also foundational to Hebrews. I always wanted to teach a series combining Hebrews and Leviticus. One of the key issues in Leviticus is sanctification. What is interesting and I never realized this until last week that the Hebrew word kaphar is usually translated cover. That is the standard term. In some cases it probably has that idea. Modern studies have indicated through the use of comparative linguistics especially Acadian to see the etymological parallels that the word kaphar probably has the meaning of rubbing out, cleansing, or purification. This is probably the main idea. Kaphar is usually translated in the Old Testament under the word atonement in English. What is really fascinating about this particular word is that for the most part, when the Jewish translators who took the Hebrew Masoretic Text and translated it into the LXX when they made the translation they translated the word kaphar with the katharizo word group in terms of cleansing.
We think of cleansing primarily in terms of post salvation cleansing from sin. That is what you see again and again in Old Testament symbolism. The priest has to cleanse himself when he washes his hand and his feet at the laver before he goes into tabernacle service. A number of the sacrifices are said to be cleansing.
If you start with Leviticus 1, the first offering is a burnt offering. We often tie a burnt offering to salvation. It is used in the New Testament as that picture. One of the other things we have to realize is that when this was written in Leviticus 1, it's talking to Israel as an already redeemed nation. Think about that. The main thrust of these sacrifices some of which we think of primarily as salvation related are sacrifices are given to the nation that is already viewed as a redeemed nation. What this indicates as much as anything is not simply cleansing at salvation, but post salvation cleansing.
Even the Day of Atonement is a Day of Atonement that is to be observed by whom? An Israel that is still in slavery in Egypt? Or by an Israel that has been redeemed from slavery in Egypt? Do you see the significance here? So modern studies are bringing out dimensions of these words that give us a whole new insight. It is not something that is brand new. When we go back and see that the ancient Jewish scribes 200 years before Christ were translating this as a cleansing which we think of as a post salvation sanctification concept that maybe that is the main thrust of these sacrifices. That is not to take away from the fact that they also have a phase 1 salvation impact as well or message. They serve double duty. We are cleansed twice, aren't we? Actually more than that but there are two types of cleansing.
There is a salvation cleansing that takes place at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone when we are positionally cleansed. Then there is the second category of cleansing; the on-gong experiential sanctification cleansing that takes place. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that He made purification for our sins. Once that is accomplished then he moves into stage 2 in His plan - waiting for the ultimate fulfillment of that inheritance promise.
He sits down at the right hand of God the Father.
The Greek word there is the aorist active indicative of kathizo that means to sit down or to take one's seat. It is a passive position. He is not actively ruling. He is not on the throne of David. This is clear from Revelation 3.
NKJ Revelation 3:21 "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
The overcomer will sit with Him on His throne - not David's throne.
"My throne" is in the Millennial Kingdom.
The present sitting of Christ is not on the Davidic throne. A-millennial theologians see it as the Davidic throne. The New Progressive dispensationalism that has come out of Dallas Seminary and Talbot and other places sees Jesus sitting on the Davidic throne right now in heaven. That is why we get so upset about this as traditional dispensationalists who believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture. That is not interpreting scripture literally. These progression dispensationalists are beginning to interpret these passages in the same allegorical symbolic way that amillennialists have historically said.
Let's look at the ascension and session. Let's start reviewing that going point by point through the doctrine of the ascension and session. The ascension took place 40 days after the crucifixion of Christ. The central passage is in Acts 1:7-10.
NKJ Acts 1:7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
They had just asked the questions, "Is the kingdom coming now? Is this the time?"
Jesus doesn't tell them they are dummies. He doesn't tell them that they are wrong and it will be a spiritual kingdom. He doesn't correct their understanding that the kingdom is yet future.
We have seen that Paul uses the same phraseology "times and seasons" when he wrote to the Thessalonians. He tells them that they have already been taught the times and the seasons. That tells us that somewhere between Acts 1:7 and I Thessalonians 4 the church has been taught about the times and seasons. They were taught about the rapture. They were taught about the dispensation of the Church Age. But at this instant, the right before the ascension of Christ, it wasn't the right time for them to know.
What is getting ready to happen? Jesus is getting ready to leave, isn't He? This is His final statement to the disciples. It is wait here until the Holy Spirit comes.
This gives a mission statement to the church as a whole body down through the generations. They started in Jerusalem. Then there was persecution and they got scattered and went to Samaria and Judea. Then there was more persecution. The Apostle Paul and Peter and others began to go to the outermost part of the earth. We are still doing it.
NKJ Acts 1:11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
Two angels address the disciples. They are standing there with their mouths hanging open. They just saw Jesus physically and bodily take off and go up through the sky. This took place on the Mt. of Olives. He will come back in the same way. He left in a physical way. He will return in a physical way. He left in resurrection body. He will return in resurrection body. He left identified as the individual, Jesus of Nazareth. He will return that way. He is not returning as the Holy Spirit. He is not returning in some cloud of judgment as predorists argue that happened in 70 AD when Judea was taken out under the fifth cycle of discipline. He is going to come back to the same place, to the Mt. of Olives. He is going to move from the Mt. of Olives to the East Gate and come into Jerusalem and then He will take His place as the Davidic King. So He is going to come back in the same way.
When we look at this we see a major shift from what appeared to be God's plan in the Old Testament. We have to answer certain questions.
Why did Christ have to ascend at all? Why did He go up and come back with an angelic army and establish His rule? Why didn't He just establish His rule without leaving? The angels could appear and He could establish His rule. Why did He have to leave? What is going on here? Why not just begin the kingdom?
Why did Christ have to ascend before the sending the Holy Spirit? There is this direct relationship indicated in John 16:7.
NKJ John 16:7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
That ought to set off all kinds of bells and whistles in back of your mind if you are paying attention. This tells us that some thing unique is happening here in relation to the Holy Spirit. We come to this from our dispensational orientation automatically we should recognize that certain things are going on here that we can only explain dispensationally. That is why no one has done much to tap the significance of the session of Christ in the ways that we are doing that. You can't see things if you are not approaching the Scripture from a pre-millennial, pre-tribulational, dispensational framework holding to a consistent literal interpretation of Scripture.
Why did Christ have to ascend before giving the spiritual gifts? Ephesians 4 emphasizes this. He gives these leadership gifts. The only ones that survive are pastor-teacher and evangelists. Why did He have to ascend before He gave those gifts? Those gifts function in relation to this ascent of Christ and His session.
All of this is explained and understood when we see how it all fits together. I am not going into every nook and cranny of this doctrine in the next few weeks because we will see it again and again as we go through Hebrews. I am gong to unpack this gradually.
Doctrine of the Ascension and Session
- The Jews at the time of the First Advent expected a one-coming Messiah. They didn't anticipate a dual advent. We talk about First Advent and Second Advent. The first time He came in incarnation and was born in the manger in Bethlehem. He will return a second time when He returns in glory to establish His kingdom at the end of the tribulation. We understand that. But if you were a Jew living in 50 BC or 10 BC or 5 BC, you were thinking that the Messiah was coming to establish a glorious kingdom and somehow redeem the world in terms of sin. But you just thought of one coming. That shaped their understanding. When Jesus did start teaching that He was going to die and come back, they had a difficult time with that. Even John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was the guy. Think about that. John the Baptist was a cousin. He is miraculously born as well because his mother is one of the 6 barren women in the Scripture. She gives birth to him as the result of an angelic visitation. She is not impregnated by the angel but as a result of the announcement by the angel she is told that she will give birth to a child. The father was told that he would father the child. That would be John. His mother Elizabeth is a cousin of Mary's. She is pregnant a few months before Mary is. So from the time of his birth he would have been told that he had a special role in the kingdom plan of God to announce the Messiah. When Jesus his cousin comes down to the Jordan he says, "Behold the Lamb of God." He baptizes Jesus. In that baptism the heavens open and he hears the voice of God. He saw the literal physical three-dimensional dove that is the Holy Spirit appear and come and settle over Jesus. He has seen all of this. Then when Jesus starts talking about the fact that the kingdom isn't going to come now (He has been rejected so it has been postponed) he is so confused. He asks if he has made a mistake. That is hard for us to factor, isn't it? But he gets really confused there. Jesus eases his anxieties. The Jews expected a one-coming Messiah.
- The Jews confused the cross and the crown. They wanted the crown before the cross, the glorious Messiah before the suffering Messiah. We can see clearly that He had to suffer before He could reign. He couldn't bypass the cross and go directly to the kingdom. That is what Satan wanted Him to do. That is why that was a temptation in the wilderness. That is why after fasting for 40 days and He is in a state of physical weakness, He was tired and hungry. He was fully aware of what He would go through in terms of the cross. Satan comes along and says, "I will give it to you. You don't have to go through the suffering". Suffering is a key word that we are going to see in Hebrews. Suffering doesn't necessarily mean that you are beaten down. It means that you are going through adversity, testing of some kind or another that you have to apply the Word. Jesus is given the opportunity to bypass the cross. But He does not do that. He passes the test.
NKJ 1 Peter 1:10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
The Old Testament taught that but the Jews didn't appreciate it. They saw that one coming and did not make that distinction. If they had made that distinction, they might have wondered why. That is one reason why the Church Age wasn't revealed. The Church Age wasn't revealed in the Old Testament because the Jews would have had some indication of their own failure. So this means that they had a legitimate choice to accept the Messiah when He came and the kingdom could have come in when Jesus Christ offered it to them. We know that they didn't. God has real contingency in His plan. So the kingdom was presented. You see this pattern in all the gospels, at least the synoptics – Mathew, Mark and Luke. From the incarnation to the end of His second year, there is the offer of the kingdom. Then there is this rejection of the king that crystallizes in the Pharisees accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub.
Jesus calls it the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. So the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not simply denial that Jesus Christ is your Savior. You can't blaspheme against the Holy Spirit today. It was a historically conditioned sin. I believe it was historically conditioned to that time only. The Jews rejected him and that was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 12, Jesus spells out that there were serious consequences and that is what happened in AD 70. Israel goes out under the fifth cycle of discipline. So He began the ministry with the offer of the kingdom. There is a rejection of the King. This leads to the crucifixion of the King. It is foundational to understanding everything related to the session, your inheritance and your spiritual life. We just can't escape it. This is foundational.
I know that there are some people that when we get into this study it brings in so much that your head starts spinning. That is why you have to hear it again and again. I have taught this about 6 times. Each time I can synthesize it a little better. Each time I go through this it is like the Lord taking out a 2 x 4 and hitting me on the head with it to get my attention on a few things. It opens up so much in terms of understanding the spiritual life today and what is going on. This is why prophecy is important. Prophecy has to do with what the end goal is and what is going to happen tomorrow eschatologically speaking. That is tomorrow in terms of the next age or dispensation. When we get a clear fix of that in our head, then it begins to change the way that we live today.
This is an extremely mundane example for those of you who struggle with the extra pound or two. If we had a clear vision of what we would look like if we stuck with a diet for a few months, it would be a lot easier to exercise that discipline in the mean time. Once you get that set in your head, it makes it a lot easier. That is the idea here. As a believer if you get a solid mental picture of what is going to happen after you die and what your eternal destiny is; it focuses you on what you are doing now. There are a lot of mundane issues in life that we get so bent out of shape over and spend so much time being distracted with that would disappear. Then we see what has happened to Ulan and we realize that we spend a whole lot of time on things that are not essential. We have to understand this kingdom issue.
- John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples all proclaimed a message about the proximity of the kingdom. "Repent for the kingdom is at hand." This isn't a salvation message. They had a salvation message. This is related to Israel's basic orientation towards life. They were legalistic. They were told that they had to straighten up, change their minds, and be grace oriented or the kingdom wasn't going to come. The kingdom was being offered. All of these guys had that message.
NKJ Matthew 3:2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
NKJ Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The disciples were sent out to teach.
NKJ Matthew 10:6 "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Notice it's not to the gentiles, but to Israel. What do you think is going on? The kingdom of heaven is the crucial message.
- Near the midpoint of His ministry the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus as Messiah leading to the postponement of the kingdom.
Now that sets up for understanding the ascension. Jesus has to ascend. The kingdom is being postponed. What is happening now during the session has to do with the preparation of what is going to happen then.
Next time we will tie in Daniel 7 and Psalm 2. Psalm 2 also sets us up for Hebrews 1:5.
This helps us understand what the Lord is doing now and I hope this has a great impact for you.