Hebrews Lesson 79 February 22, 2007
NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
It is 2007. I know that you already knew that. We started our study in Hebrews in 2005. That means we have been going through Hebrews for two years and we have managed to work our way through 6 chapters. We are going pretty fast. We finished last time with the third major section in the book. Actually we finished the third major section last time. We are getting ready to start the fourth major section. So that means it is time for review and over review. This is the time in which you get to buckle your seatbelts because we are going to fly through Hebrews again.
I want to take some time to go back to remind us of where we have been so that we can understand where this next section fits within the flow of Hebrews. This next section is really the center of what the writer of Hebrews is talking about. It is the largest section. We start in chapter 7 and the teaching section (the explanation, the didactic section of this portion) is from 7:1 down through 10:18. Then 10:19 begins a warning or exhortation section. That is followed by another exhortation and warning section.
Let's just kind of review what this is about. Hebrews as I said at the very beginning doesn't fit the normal pattern of an epistle. We refer to it as an epistle because it has certain characteristics as such. But, it doesn't have the standard greeting from the author, the salutation to a particular group of people at a particular location - grace to you and peace in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - there is nothing like that in the beginning of Hebrews. There is not a typical closing either. So there are elements of it that are distinctly different.
We don't know who wrote it. We are not sure when it was written. We can patch together certain things and come up with a fairly good guess. It was written before the temple was destroyed in AD 70. It is written after 60. It is written before the revolt of the Jews begins which is in 66. So we can conclude that it is probably sometime around 63 or 64 AD.
Some people have thought that it was written by the Apostle Paul, but we've looked at the fact that there are about 7 or 8 different people that are suggested as possible authors. No one knows who really wrote it and they don't know to whom it was written although we have a number of clues. It is most likely written to a group of Jews, probably Levites or priests who trusted Christ as their Savior going through some sort of persecution or rejection because of their stand for Christianity in Israel. They have reached a state where they are sort of stagnant in their Christian lives (if not regressing) and are beginning to waiver. Some perhaps have already wanted to go back into Judaism and others are thinking about it wondering if this Jesus really was their Messiah.
So this is a book (an epistle) that is based on a message. It was probably based on an oral message that was then taken and worked up into a written letter. I think James is much the same way. I John may be the same way as well – that this was a message that had been verbally given because it has some of those characteristics. Then it was written down. It is primarily a message of exhortation. By exhortation I don't mean that it is preaching. It is a challenge. That is what an exhortation is - to personally challenge people to a certain course of action. It is not an emotion challenge. It is a content oriented challenge. Now that is something that fewer and fewer people in our age understand today. In a postmodern world there is less and less an emphasis on the content and more and more an emphasis on the story.
In fact I am going to read an email to you on Sunday morning. As we have been talking about worship I have touched on this whole aspect about postmodernism and worldview and how that is important. I received an email from a friend of mine who is an active duty major in the army. He has gone through Command and General Staff School up at Fort Leavenworth and now he is going through a higher school there dealing with overall strategy in the military. He sent me an email the other day detailing in a general way how much postmodernism has influenced military strategy and military thinking today. He just got through going through a course where all the major figures are all mentioned and talked about in his courses.
When we think about postmodernism, don't just think of this as something that somehow inhabits the halls of academia. It has filtered down to the everyday person. The world today doesn't focus on content. It focuses on form. It focuses on the story. You watch commercials. It is more important about how the commercial impacts you and how it makes you feel and stimulates you through all the colors and movement and everything else than actual meaning and content. Of course that isn't anything new. That has been going on for awhile. That fits within our postmodern mentality. We are not motivated by content any more. We are motivated by images. We are motivated by stories. We are motivated by emotion.
This is not an emotional letter. This is a content driven letter because the God of the Bible motivates people through content, through knowledge, through information. You go back to I and II Chronicles. I and II Chronicles were written to challenge and motivate the Jews who were returning from the exile. They came back all fired up to rebuild the temple and to rebuild Jerusalem. Then after a couple of years they ran out of gas and got discouraged. So I Chronicles was written to challenge them and to encourage them and to motivate them. It is God's motivational speech in the Old Testament. It starts off with 9 chapters of genealogy.
Modern man says that will never motivate anybody. What I have always said is that it is not the Word of God is irrelevant to you; it is that you are irrelevant to God. We don't think like God thinks. It is content. It is history. It is what is happened historically to challenge us and motivate us to greater obedience in God's Word because He is taking us someplace in history. There is a future destiny. Jesus Christ is coming back to planet earth. Jesus Christ is going to come back and establish His kingdom. He needs a cadre of leaders who are going to rule and reign with Him. That is the church. He is in the process of training us. In this time on earth whether it is three score, three score and 10 or four score or whatever it is; that is our training time. We are to take in the Word of God and use that and not give up and not grow weary. That is the major them all through the book of Hebrews. It is built off the implication of the present session of Jesus Christ as He is seated at the right hand of the Father and on the outworking of the sanctification of the saints in light of their future service in the kingdom. I said that when we started off.
That is the theme of Hebrews. It is the implication of the Savior's session on the current sanctification of the saints and their future service in the kingdom. It is all about living today in the light of eternity. That boils it all down and makes it all simple. Everything in this book hinges on what challenges us to live today – to have that eternal scope - not just living for tomorrow or next week or next month or the next decade but that we are living today in the light of eternity.
Hebrews is structured around 5 major sections. We have gone through 3 of them. We are getting on to the fourth one. Each one of those contains a doctrinal exposition or a didactic section from the Greek word didaskolos meaning to teach. It is an instruction based on Old Testament passages. In fact there are 35 quotations from the Old Testament in Hebrews and over 53 allusions to Old Testament passages which combines to make a total of a little over 88 Old Testament references. It is clear that the writer of Hebrews is taking his readers back to all of these different Old Testament passages and then weaving those doctrines together to show them how that affects the Church Age.
Now remember the church wasn't revealed in the Old Testament. He is taking all of these Old Testament passages because they focus on the person and the work of Jesus Christ. Now that the person and work of Jesus Christ (that period of the first incarnation) is over with and because of who He is now at the right hand of the Father, there is a new dispensation oriented to a new purpose based on a new foundation.
What we are going to see when we get into this next section in chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10 is a comparison to show the superiority of Christ in His person over the Old Testament priests - Christ in His priesthood over the Levitical priesthood - Christ in His priestly work on the cross as superior to the Old Testament sacrifices – that the blood of bulls and goats can not take away sin. Then we are going to see the superiority of Christ's completed work on the cross and the implications that it has for the believers living in this Church Age. It is four chapters - 7, 8, 9 and 10 - that are built on an understanding of the Old Testament. As we go through these next four chapters, we will go back to major sections of Exodus to understand the tabernacle and the tabernacle worship. That will be mostly the second half of Exodus where you have all the instructions given by God on the priesthood, the clothing of the priesthood, the tabernacle, and all of the construction. Basically God gives a verbal blueprint for all of this and verbal patterns for all of the clothing and everything for the priests. That is not the kind of passages that you go through verse-by-verse and clause-by-clause, not unless you want to have three people left in the congregation and have half of them asleep.
It is important to understand this in sort of an overview capacity because Christ is taught and revealed in the tabernacle, in the furniture, in the structure. It is foundational to understand that structure when we get into chapter 8 and then into chapter 9. That is what all of that is built on. Then we deal with the covenant which is the Mosaic Covenant. That is chapter 8 - most of chapter 8 – dealing with the issue that we are under a new covenant that replaces the older covenant. Because Christ has come, the older covenant is rendered obsolete. So we have this major shift that takes place - because the priesthood changes, the law changes. The Mosaic Law is rendered null and void and obsolete because Jesus Christ has come.
The implications for the Christian are brought out because Christ has now ascended and He is seated at the right hand of the Father. We saw all of those major doctrines foreshadowed in those early chapters of Hebrews.
In terms of the structure we looked at the first section which is 1:1 down through 2:4. That is really comprised of three elements.
Section One: 1:1-2:4
Doctrinal Exposition 1:1-14
The first is the first 4 verses which is the prelude. The prelude sets up the focal point which is on Jesus Christ. God has spoken in these last days which refers to the last days of the church which is the whole Church Age.
NKJ Hebrews 1:2 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 worlds;
Now remember this because every now and then I have somebody email something to me or I read something that says, "Look at what is going on in the world today. Look at all of the corruption and perversion. We have got to be living in the last days."
Biblically speaking there are two periods of last days. We went over this in those first 4 verses. There are last days for Israel and the last days for the church. The last days for Israel are the tribulation period – the time of Jacob's trouble, Daniel's 70th week. That is the last days for Israel – the tribulation.
Then there are the last days for the church.
The writer of Hebrews says in verse 2, "In these last days."
He considers himself to be in those last days. The whole Church Age is considered the period of the last days. There are trends and cycles of behavior, of spiritual growth and then spiritual regression all the way through the Church Age.
Because we see a lot of perversion going on around us today, I often ask the question, "How does that differ from perversion and cannibalism of the Aztecs in Mexico?"
Of course you didn't hear about that in school because that was not politically correct.
"How does that differ from the degeneracy in Rome by the third or fourth centuries, leading up to collapse? How does that differ from the perversion that went on in so many other cultures and countries around the world all through the Church Age period?"
It is not any worse, you just know about it and get to watch it on TV - especially if you are up about 2 in the morning and you watch some of those infomercials. You really see how this country has degenerated. Watch the evening news. We hear about things that we didn't talk about at all 30 years ago. We didn't mention them in mixed or unmixed company. Now it is on the evening news. We just see it. This isn't new in history. We are just more aware of it now that we have ever been before.
This prelude focuses on the God that has spoken to us by means of His Son. We see the emphasis on the fact that He appointed Jesus Christ as the heir of all things which focuses on the future. In the ascension, He…
NKJ Hebrews 1:4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
That is the angels. So it sets up the discussion of the next 10-12 verses on the superiority of the Son. So from verse 5 down to verse 14 the emphasis is on the superiority of Jesus Christ. This is done through the use of a number of Old Testament quotations that are woven in and out in this section. There are 8 Old Testament quotes here from various psalms as well as from Isaiah in order to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus Christ over the angels and therefore He is worthy to be obeyed. We should not fall away from that.
Practical Exhortation and warning 2:1-14
Then there is a warning that comes in. A practical exhortation and warning are combined in 2:1-14. It is a very short warning. Again it emphasizes hearing and word. A major thing to watch for as we go through Hebrews is that it was set up in those first four verses that God has now spoken.
The implication is that because God has now spoken, you have to respond. You have to obey. We see this theme all the way through this section.
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
NKJ Hebrews 2:2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
NKJ Hebrews 2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
The Old Testament brought such discipline on the Jews how much more discipline is there in store for us if we neglect this salvation. It is not just salvation in terms of not being appreciative or responsive to what happened in the past when we were justified, but it is a focus on the future - salvation in its completion in phase 3.
We come to the next section.
Section two: 2:5 – 4:13
In 2:5-13 the focus is on Jesus in the incarnation. He is made lower than the angels. The focus here is that God sent His eternal Son to qualify for the Davidic sonship. He qualifies for the inheritance. In His deity He was already over the angels. In His humanity (because He passes all of the tests) He is promoted over the angels as a man because He has qualified Himself and He as been made perfect (or complete actually) by means of His suffering. So He sets the course. He is the pioneer of our faith and the captain of our salvation is a term that is used in the New King James in 2:10. The whole section from 2:10 down to 2:18 builds as it focuses on the fact that His qualification in His humanity, in the incarnation qualifies Him to be our High Priest. That is the key thread that he is going to pick up in chapter 7. Christ is qualified to be our High Priest. In 2:17 he says….
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
That means true humanity.
That is "in order that He might become."
That is what He did by passing the test.
NKJ Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
That is part of His role as the high priest.
Then the next section in the first part of chapter 3:1-6 focuses on His faithfulness in the incarnation. Because He is faithful in the incarnation, He is faithful now.
Doctrinal Exposition 2:5-3:6
Practical Exhortation and warning 3:7-4:13
Then we have our exhortation and warning that comes in 3:7 down through 4:13. There are several quotations there from the same psalm. Again and again we have a quote from Psalm 95:7.
NKJ Psalm 95:7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice:
NKJ Psalm 95:8 "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
You will find it again in 3:7 and again in 3:15 and again down in 4:7. The focal point is that God (just as God had a rest for Israel in the Old Testament) was taking them to the Promised Land. There provision will be made for them. In the same way by analogy God has a rest for us. That is the position we will have in the Millennial Kingdom. If we harden our hearts like they did in the wilderness, then we risk realizing that inheritance and realizing that rest. We went through that and it leads up to a conclusion in 4:9-10.
NKJ Hebrews 4:9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
That is not the faith rest drill. That is talking about a future rest in the Millennial Kingdom.
NKJ Hebrews 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
That is not works in terms of trying to gain God's approbation, but spiritual application, spiritual growth, spiritual service in phase 2. Then we are to be diligent to enter that rest.
NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
This is in Hebrews 4:11.
So that brings us to the third section.
Section three: 4:14-6:20
Doctrinal Exposition: 4:15-5:10
Practical Exhortation: 5:11-6:20
In the third section we have our doctrinal exposition or didactic section from 4:15 to 5:10. The focus is on Christ's qualifications for the High Priesthood. It is building the discussion to compare His priesthood to that of the Melchizedekean priesthood in the Old Testament. But, there is this sudden breaking off that occurs at verse 11 because they have become hardened. They have become dull of hearing. They have regressed spiritually. We have one of the most serious warning passages in the New Testament in verses 4-8. But, there is an exhortation there from 5:11 down through 6:20. The focal point here is that God will not forget.
NKJ Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
NKJ Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
That is the focal point – keep pressing on. Don't give up. God will fulfill His promise to us in the Church Age in the same way He fulfilled His promise to Abraham in the Old Testament.
That brings us up to the start of our new section which is in 7:1 down through 10:39.
Section four: 7:1-10:39
Doctrinal Exposition 7:1-10:18
This is a deep section to cover. I am going to try to cover all of this tonight just to give you a bird's eye view of what is taking place here. We will probably be in this section for a number of months. There is a lot here. There are a lot of doctrines that are referenced all in this particular section. Now the writer returns to his theme of emphasizing the unique high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ in chapter 7:1. He brought us right back to talking about the fact that he has become a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek in verse 20.
NKJ Hebrews 7:20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath
Let me remind you. In verse 20 he talks about Jesus, not Jesus Christ or Christ. The emphasis in Jesus is on the humanity of our Lord, not His deity. It is in His humanity that He becomes our High Priest. The second thing that I mentioned last time is that He has become a High Priest forever. This is eternal. He is going to pick up on the theme of eternality of this High Priest. That is why it is superior to the Levitical priest. Levitical priests died. But the Melchizedekean priest didn't die. The death of Melchizedek is not recorded. Now there are some tricky things going on in chapter 7. We have to learn to think a little differently and we will understand what the writer is saying.
People always get confused about Melchizedek.
In fact last week I got an email from somebody who said, "I have got to talk to a Mormon tomorrow. What is this thing about the priesthood of Melchizedek with the Mormons?"
The Mormons believe that all of their church workers basically enter into one of two orders of the priesthood. They just borrowed that from the Old Testament. You are either a priest according to the Aaronic priesthood or the Melchizedekean priesthood. It has nothing to do with the Bible. It is just their gobble-dy-gook. You go and borrow a lot of terms from the Bible and slap it on your heresy and you can create a new religion.
I used to have a professor at seminary that said, "You men are trained so well that you can do great things for God or great things for the devil because you know so much."
He was right. Knowledge can lead you in two different directions.
At the end of chapter 6 the writer sets us up for the transition to go back to the discussion about Christ's superior priesthood. This is the focal point based on these sections.
So the writer returns to his theme. The principle that we find here in the first paragraph which runs from 7:1 to 7:10 is laid out in verse 7.
NKJ Hebrews 7:7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.
What he is doing in these first 10 verses is showing that from the historical incident between Abraham and Melchizedek that Melchizedek is superior to Abraham because the Levites come from Abraham because they are his descendents. If Melchizedek is superior to Abraham then Melchizedek is superior to any of Abraham's descendents. That is his whole argument. The priesthood of Melchizedek is superior and it is not based on human lineage. It is not based on any kind of human factor. It is not based on ethnicity. It is not based on tribal affiliation. It is not based on who your ancestors are. The Melchizedekean priesthood is unique in that way. He is basing this on an idiom. I pointed this out a minute ago.
In verse 3 we have the statement that Melchizedek was without father, without mother, without genealogy.
NKJ Hebrews 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
So you always people come along and say, "Well, was he an angel? Well, that was the pre-incarnate Christ. He didn't have a father or a mother."
That is because you are interpreting a Hebrew idiom (a Middle Eastern way of speaking) in a western mindset. You think it says something it doesn't say. What it is talking about is that these terms are used to refer to an orphan or to a waif or to somebody who has no standing in society because his parents didn't do anything. They are not terms that said there was not a literal mother or father, that he just kind of popped out of nowhere or that he was an angel. That is not what it is saying. There was no record of who his father was. There is no record in the Scripture of who his mother was. There is no record of his death because the Scripture is setting Melchizedek up to be used as a type of this order of priesthood in order to make this point later on. So God doesn't tell us who he was. When we studied Melchizedek back in Genesis 17 and I took you through that, you will remember that I said that the Jews have a tradition. What is interesting about it is that it is a unanimous tradition. All of the Jewish writings agree that Melchizedek was Shem, the son of Noah. Now nobody knows that for sure. He may be. Biblically there is no record of who he was. I think that makes a lot of sense. He may have been Shem. You see we have to stick with what the text says. The text doesn't tell us who his mother or father was because it is not an inherited priesthood. That is the point. It is not an inherited priesthood like the Levitical priesthood which is an inherited priesthood.
We are never told about Melchizedek dying. He was human so he died. We are not told about it because it is setting up this sense of eternality. There is a sense of permanence with the Melchizedek priesthood that is not there with the Aaronic priesthood. They died. We read about the deaths of Aaron and numerous others down through the Old Testament. So the emphasis in this first section (the first 10 verses of chapter 7) is to show that Abraham was subordinate to Melchizedek. It is demonstrated by the fact that he comes back from defeating the alliance of the four kings under Chedorlaomer that Abraham pays tithes. That means that he gives 10% of the spoil to Melchizedek. Of course this one of those passages where everybody wants to go to try to document tithing in the New Testament. What is interesting is that there are 6 or 7 uses of the word tithe in these 10 verses. It means that it is a major element. That is what Abraham did. He gave 10% to Melchizedek and then Melchizedek blessed him.
Now there is another one of my little pet peeves. Everybody today keeps talking about how you blessed me by giving me money.
Pastors say in some churches, "So-and-so come forward and he blessed me with giving me this."
Blessing is a word that is being over used.
Abraham gave money to Melchizedek, but Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Think about that. What we are going to see is that he prayed for Abraham and commended Abraham to God. That is what that means in this context. So we are going to have to look at what blessing means. We are going to have to look at the doctrine of tithing. We are going to have to go back and review Genesis 17 as we come to understand the argument of the writer of Hebrews in these 10 verses. What he is doing is simply establishing the fact that Abraham had to be a subordinate to Melchizedek in order for this to happen. Therefore anybody who descends from Abraham is inferior to Melchizedek in terms of the priesthood. Levites are inferior to the Melchizedekean priesthood.
So he then draws a conclusion in verse 11.
NKJ Hebrews 7:11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?
If completion was possible through the Levitical priesthood, then there wouldn't have been a place for another order of priests. Yet in Psalm 110:4 is quoted twice in this section. It is quoted in verse 17 and again in verse 21. It is alluded to in chapter 8:1. So there are three references to Psalm 110:4.
NKJ Psalm 110:4 The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
Now that was written by David. So if there is a need for a Melchizedekean priesthood at David's time (approximately 1000 BC) then that means that the Levitical priesthood that was established in 1440 BC at Mt. Sinai is inferior to the Melchizedekean priesthood. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a need to keep it established and indicate that it was going to be an eternal priesthood which is indicated by the fact the statement "you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek".
So that next section from verse 11 down through verse 19 focuses on the royal priesthood of Christ based on the Melchizedekean royal priesthood then connecting that to the prophecy in Psalm 110:4.
Then in the next section from verse 20 down through verse 28 there is an emphasis again on the fact that this new priesthood of Jesus Christ was made. The old priesthood was made without an oath. They became priests without an oath. He that is Jesus Christ was made a priest with an oath. That is with a binding statement.
NKJ Hebrews 7:21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: "The LORD has sworn And will not relent, 'You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek' "),
Then we have verse 22.
NKJ Hebrews 7:22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
He has become the guarantor. This is a word that is only used this one time in all of the New Testament. It translates the word enguos and it emphasizes a unique dimension to this. It emphasizes the fact that He is more of a mediator. It not only looks back to what He established at the cross in establishing the New Covenant, but also it is a guarantee that God will eventually fulfill His promise and bring forgiveness to those who are saved. So it is a word that looks in two different directions. It is a word that is uniquely applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of His priesthood and what He does on the cross, verse 25 says...
NKJ Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
In other words there is nothing left out. It is a sufficient salvation that covers any and every problems that mankind can have. Again it uses that same root word sozo for salvation. But He is also able to save to the uttermost which has again a future orientation in terms of phase three and the completion of the entire saving plan of God.
Then there is another contrast brought out in verse 28.
NKJ Hebrews 7:28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
It focuses on His finished work and will eventually lead the writer to talk about His ascension and being seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Then we come to Hebrews 8. Hebrews 8 develops the concept that a new priesthood means a new covenant. This was indicated and alluded to back in verse 12 of chapter 7 where we read…
NKJ Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
Now he is going to develop that idea and what that means in chapter 8.
NKJ Hebrews 8:1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
So, he summaries what he has just said in chapter 7.
He begins to work out the implications of that session of Jesus Christ. If He were on the earth He couldn't do what He is doing in heaven. Because He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, He can do unique things in relationship to the church.
So verse 6 concludes…
NKJ Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
Then we come to verse 7. He argues for a new covenant. This is an interesting passage because it is written so much from a Jewish perspective. The writer of Hebrews quotes a well-known passage in Jeremiah dealing with the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-34. He quotes the entire section - all 4 verses. He quotes them verbatim. He starts off by saying...
NKJ Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
He quotes from Jeremiah 31:31 and says…
NKJ Hebrews 8:8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah --
Then he goes on and he keeps quoting the passage. But when it gets all said and done (You have heard me do this. I will read 3 or 4 verses and say, "and the point of this is…" I make one bullet and then we move on. I am not dealing with every detail in those verses) he does this. He quotes all 4 verses because they are the foundation for the New Covenant for Israel in the Millennial Kingdom. He concludes and this is the only point he makes. It is typical rabbinical mid-rash where they will quote a lengthy passage and just make one point.
In verse 13 he says…
NKJ Hebrews 8:13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
He quotes 4 verses and he says, "Okay. I want to point out one thing."
In that first clause he says, "I am going to make a new covenant."
He uses the word new. It means that God always intended that the Mosaic Covenant would not be eternal. It would be replaced. It was a temporary covenant. That was the point. That is the word we should use when we talk about the Mosaic Covenant - not the word conditional or unconditional but the word temporary. There were certain conditions in all of the so-called unconditional covenants. For example, under Abraham the Jews could not enjoy the blessings of the land unless they were obedient. You are not going to see them really enjoying the land until they are obedient in the millennial generation. So there are conditions attached - not to its ultimate application, but to its experiential application. It is a permanent covenant. That means that it is never going to stop. The Mosaic Covenant was temporary. It was never intended to last for very long. So that is chapter 8.
Then we get into chapter 9 where the writer is going to describe the priestly function under the Aaronic priesthood in the tabernacle. (He never talks about the temple. That is interesting. He always goes back to the tabernacle.) He shows how the operation of the high priest in the tabernacle foreshadows the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He talks about each of the different elements in the tabernacle. You have the tent. Literally it is the skene in the Greek. The Greek word skene means a dwelling place. You have a cognate for it, even in the Russian. They borrowed it from the Greeks. Skene didn't come from the Greek originally. Skene has three consonants – s, k, n. Those are the three consonants in the Hebrew word Shekinah. Shekinah means dwelling. It doesn't mean glory. It means the dwelling. Shekinah is the word that is never found in the Hebrew Old Testament. It is only found in rabbinical writings. It was the word they used to develop a circumlocution to describe the presence of God in the tabernacle and in the temple in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word Shekinah means the dwelling. It came over to the Greek as skene.
The word skene describes the tent of meeting where God dwelt inside the tabernacle. There were two compartments in the tent of meeting, which we call the holy place. There was the outer place which we call the holy place and then the inner room which we call the Holy of Holies. Sometimes it is translated the most holy place. The outer part of the tent of meeting had three pieces of furniture according to Exodus - the lamp stand, the table of showbread. It is a hendiadys for the table of showbread. It also had an altar of incense that was right up against the veil. The altar of incense pictured prayer that was going to God who dwelt among the cherubim. So the writer of Hebrews connects. We will have to get into the technical exegesis because it looks like he is placing it into that inner compartment, but he really isn't. He is identifying it with the inner compartment because that is what the altar of incense (the intercessory prayers) was connected to – the presence of God. The prayer is going to the God who dwelt between the cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant.
Then you go inside that second veil to the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant and the cherubim of glory.
Verse 6 and following talk about the earthly service of the Levites. The Holy Spirit in verse 8 is showing that all of this has a greater symbolic meaning. Verse 9 it was a symbol for the present time to perform the service that completes the work of salvation. That is the idea that is brought about in those next verses from verse 6 down through verse 10.
Then we have a reference to the heavenly sanctuary in verse 11.
NKJ Hebrews 9:11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
That should be a more complete tabernacle.
That is not of this creation.
The verbiage that we see in this chapter shows that the earthly temple or tabernacle is patterned after heavenly courtroom where we have the presence of God and heaven. It talks about how He enters into a holy place because the blood of the bulls and the goats couldn't take away sin.
NKJ Hebrews 9:12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
NKJ Hebrews 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,
NKJ Hebrews 9:14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
In other words the Old Testament sacrifices where merely pictures. They were shadows. They simply pointed to what Jesus Christ was going to do.
NKJ Hebrews 9:16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
So this word covenant doesn't get introduced until chapter 8. But from chapter 8 on it is used over 20 times in these chapters showing us that it is a major theme in this particular section.
NKJ Hebrews 9:17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
So it is establishing the fact that this eternal covenant had to be established by death. Then it is going to talk about the blood of Christ and why that is significant. So we are going to have to take time to study that doctrine of the blood of Christ. It builds on this from verse 23 on.
All of this is under girded by the doctrine of atonement, the doctrine of the Day of Atonement, and understanding those Old Testament images of what happened at that time when the High Priest goes into the Holy of Holies and would put the blood onto the Mercy Seat as an act that would propitiate the Father.
This word atonement is a word that is only used in the Old Testament. There is no Greek word for atonement. The word atonement is never used in the New Testament. That is for a number of different reasons. There has been a lot of debate over the idea of atonement in Scripture. The concept that I was brought up on and that you always heard is that atonement from the Hebrew word kaphar had the idea of covering sin. What is interesting is that it may have that connotation in a few places, but recent studies over the last 20 years indicate that it probably is closer to the meaning of purification which fits with the LXX. In a vast majority of places the LXX translates kaphar with the Greek word katharizo meaning to be cleansed. We confess our sins. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Katharizo means to cleanse us from unrighteousness. That word kaphar has the idea of cleansing us or purifying us from sin. That is what the picture is that we have on the Day of Atonement. So we have to pull all of those things together.
Now in verse 28 of chapter 9 we read…
NKJ Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
You don't have it yet - not the way he is using the word salvation. It is a future oriented concept. Remember – phase one you are saved from the penalty of sin (You are made spiritually alive when you were spiritually dead) – phase two we are saved from the power of sin in sanctification – phase 3 we are saved from the presence of sin (the old sin nature). That is glorification. That is how salvation is used in the book of Hebrews. It is focusing on that destiny.
Then we come to chapter 10 where we see that in the preceding section the efficacy of the blood of Jesus has been emphasized and now the emphasis is on the fact that this is a once for all sacrifice. It is not to be repeated. In the Old Testament those sacrifices had to be repeated day in and day out. The ritual went on again and again. One priest died and another priest took his place. He died another priest took his place. He died another priest took his place. There is repetition; but it is all inadequate. It goes on and on and on. It was simply a shadow of what Jesus would do. Jesus on the cross provides the real substance. So we come back to the fact in verse 1…
NKJ Hebrews 10:1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect
There is that repetition idea.
NKJ Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
They cant' do it!
NKJ Hebrews 10:5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.
But Jesus came into the world in order to provide the perfect sacrifice.
That is the focus of verses 5-7. Verses 5 through 7 are a quote from Psalm 40: 6f.
NKJ Hebrews 10:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.
NKJ Hebrews 10:7 Then I said, 'Behold, I have come -- In the volume of the book it is written of Me -- To do Your will, O God.' "
Nobody in the Old Testament could say that. David was still a sinner. He couldn't perfectly do the will of God.
Only Jesus in all of human history could truly say perfectly, "Lord, I have come to do your will. I have come to fulfill the plan of salvation."
So this psalm is put into the mouth of Jesus, into His thinking, at the moment of the incarnation. So that is developed.
Then we look down to verse 10.
NKJ Hebrews 10:10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
That is talking about our positional sanctification.
Then we come to the last section in the didactic part which is verses 11 through 18. They connect the work of Christ to our sanctification which is related to His intercessory ministry and His current priesthood.
Notice verse 11.
NKJ Hebrews 10:11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
This is the Levitical priesthood ministry.
This man in His humanity. He paid for our sins.
NKJ Hebrews 10:12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
That goes back to Psalm 110:1.
NKJ Psalm 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."
So that is alluded to there.
NKJ Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
That's phase 2.
So the connection is made with what Christ did on the cross. His high priestly work, the completed once for all salvation on the cross, is connected there to our spiritual life and spiritual growth. Out of that he is going to bring an exhortation (a challenge) and then a warning. This is one of the toughest warning passages to deal with. The exhortation covers the whole section from 10:19 down to 39 and the warning is found in 10:26 to 39. We are going to have to spend a considerable amount of time working our way through that particular warning passage.
That will finish up the fourth section and bring us up to the fifth section, the last section that goes from 11:1 to 13: 25. That will take us to the last section, the didactic section followed by two exhortations.
Next time we come back we will start getting into the details of the Melchizedekean priesthood and what is going on there. We have to look at Melchizedek. Is he an angel? Is he Jesus? Is he the pre-incarnate Christ? Who is he? What is all of this about? He is without father. He is without mother. Not only that, how does tithing fit in? What is this whole thing about Levi paying tithes through Abraham? That is the foundation for a view called traducianism - this whole debate over the transmission of the soul. When does a person become a living person? At conception? At birth? What does the Bible teach? It is all tied up in the debate that has gone on in the church for ages on traducianism verses creationism. That isn't talking about Genesis 1:1 creation. There is a lot of stuff embedded in these first 10 verses that we will have to touch on in the next couple of weeks.