Hebrews Lesson 217
October 28, 2010
NKJ Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
We are going to do another final review tonight going through Hebrews one last time. These lessons I try to do periodically when you have a series that goes for some 217 hours or lasts actually about 5 years which is about how long we've been in this study I think. I couldn't remember if I started this when I first started at the church or if I had already started it in Connecticut. A little while after I got here? That's what I thought. So we have been in this for a while; at least five years. There are many things that we've studied as we've gone through Hebrews.
This has been a great study. It's been a tremendous time to learn many things. I know I've learned a lot; I'm sure you have as well. Especially in the middle part of Hebrews in chapter 7, 8, especially 9 as we got into a lot of the sacrifices and going back and doing a lot of detailed study in the Old Testament on the Temple, the Tabernacle, all of the different sacrifices and the different furniture in the Temple and the Tabernacle, putting all that together so that we can have a better understanding of what the writer of Hebrews was saying. We spent almost a year just going through a couple of those chapters because we did so much work back in the Old Testament and that was very, very helpful.
But sometimes as we drill down in a lot of those kinds of details we lose the forest for the trees. We forget that when this was first written to the original audience that it was read to them in a single sitting. And when it was read to them because of the relationship that the writer (the author) had with his audience, because of shared experiences, because of their shared backgrounds, because the audience was extremely familiar with what he was talking about; they were much more familiar with all of the allusions to the Old Testament and references to the sacrificial system than we are. It made a tremendous amount of sense to them and they could catch the major points, the major emphases a lot more than we do.
Furthermore, in light of the way the book of Hebrews fits within the whole canon of the New Testament (the 27 books of the New Testament). When we study Hebrews not only in terms of itself but in light of other revelation that's given in the New Testament plus the Old Testament revelation given through the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the Temple, the Tabernacle and all those different studies; then as we dig down into what the writer said, we are able to come to an understanding of nuances and details and implications that perhaps the original writer and the original audience were not fully aware. It is not that it is contradictory or different, it is that they did not have all of the tools and all of the history of doctrine that we have which comes back to help inform our understanding of Hebrews.
Now that's an odd concept for a lot of people. The best illustration I have of that is to state that most of us have a better, have a more precise understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity: that you have one God, one in essence, but this one God is a perfect unity in a trinity, and there are three distinct persons within that Godhead, and this is expressed in that word that I just used – trinity. We understand that better than any of the writers of Scripture because they did not have that word trinity. So we have a vocabulary today that has been refined and honed down through the centuries that enable us to talk and communicate and to understand some of these more abstract concepts that are in the Scriptures that are were not available in the first century. So it is not that we believe something different. It is that we have a more precise, a more focused understanding of many of these things than the writers of Scripture did – than the Apostle Paul or the writer of Hebrews or the Apostle John.
This is how God constructed His Word so that it wouldn't be of the nature of perhaps a book that we study – an every day book that we might study in philosophy or history or some other discipline where we read it once, maybe twice, maybe three times and probe the depths of the writer's thinking. The Bible is such that the more you read it, the more you understand it, the more you learn, the deeper you go into the teaching, the doctrines and all of the different complexities that are there. Every time you go you see new things and the Lord teaches you new things, and you come to a deeper and richer appreciation of the Lord's plan, purposes in history and the Lord's plan, purposes in our own lives. That is especially something that we find true in a book like Hebrews.
So it is important to not only look at all the details, but also to take time to sort of stand up and get a little further above the teaching that is there to get the overall thrust. We did this at the beginning and now we have we done it several times as we've gone through the text, and now we're doing it again at the end.
So just to review and remind ourselves a little bit about this particular book, one of the interesting things about this book is that it presents a puzzle in a number of different ways. For people who really like mysteries and like puzzles and like to do lots of investigation, there's a lot to give them work in the study of Hebrews. We don't know who wrote it. We don't know whom he wrote it to. We don't know where he was when he wrote it. We don't know where they were when he wrote it to them. We're not precisely sure why he wrote it in terms of the immediate occasion for this writing. There's even been some debate over just exactly what type of literature it is.
Now just because there are debates over issues especially since we're right in the middle of the political season and everybody's all paying attention to the different candidates running for office. You hear one candidate make a case for one thing and another candidate make what may sound to be an equally valid case for something different. What's important is to do a lot of investigation and find out who's actually shading things in one direction or another direction. Just because people make strong cases for different positions doesn't mean that they're even close to the bull's eye when it comes to understanding the truth. There are a lot of people who have been way off course in making certain assertions about different things in the Bible and all they've done is demonstrate their lack of knowledge.
Such was the case I think with the King James Version as I pointed out in terms of authorship that if you have a King James translation at the beginning of the book a Hebrews it says "The book of Hebrews according to the Apostle Paul." So the King James Version made a dogmatic assertion that the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews. Nobody knows who wrote Hebrews.
The style of the writing in the Greek is very different from Paul's. The vocabulary is very different. There are a number of other facets that are also different - not that a writer or individual can't write a little differently at times depending on the subject matter. Of course if the subject matter changes he'll use different vocabulary. But especially today with the use of computers and things of that nature we can do some pretty remarkable things in terms of analyzing pieces of literature to see how they relate to other pieces of literature written by the same person. You can really track out a lot of different patterns. So it's pretty well accepted that we don't know who wrote Hebrews. There are a number of different theories. Some people think possibly it was Luke. Other people think it might have been Apollos who was also very much associated with Paul.
There are many concepts within Hebrews that are close to Pauline, that are clearly influenced by Paul's thinking. So it is generally thought that the person who wrote it, especially at the end he says he's awaiting Timothy. So he was one of those who were closely associated with the Apostle Paul. We don't know exactly who it was. There have even been some who suggested it was possibly written originally in Aramaic and then translated into Greek.
There are some very creative theories out there. There are always people who think that they have finally solved the mystery. Then it is important to send them to a doctor so that they can get on their medication. There's always a seminary student every now and then who is over stressed from classes who is studying for his third all nighter and about three o'clock in the morning decides he knows who wrote the book of Hebrews. We don't know.
There are certain clues though about the group that he's writing to. They're clearly a group of people who have an intimate understanding of the Old Testament sacrificial system. They're clearly a group of people who have a Jewish background because of those references. They're clearly a group of people who have a probably a second generation of Christians a group that has gone back to the early days of the church and they are struggling with whether or not they are going to continue. They are weary from persecution. They're weary from facing adversity. They're not different from a lot of Christians that I know and talk to one a day-by-day basis. They're just facing all the different vicissitudes of life, the challenges, the struggles with everything from finances to health, to job, career, family, parents, children, grandchildren, dogs, cats. Everybody is facing their own challenges. Sometimes we're just weary of the struggle and weary of the battle. We just want to quit, go in a hole somewhere and get away from it. They weren't any different from that.
So the basic theme of the book of Hebrews is to challenge these believers with the importance of sticking it out, running the race to the finish line and understanding that the race is merely a qualification for a future position of ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns at the end of the Tribulation to establish His kingdom.
We are going through a boot camp so to speak. We are going through something like (using a military analogy we're going through something like boot camp or Ranger School and how we finish the training will have a lot to do with what kinds of responsibilities and roles we have in the future kingdom as members of the body of Christ who will rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.
So it's important to keep our eye on the end goal. Again and again and again I've emphasized the basic theme that we need to live today in light of eternity and not get distracted by all the details and pressures and disappointments and surprises that we face on a day-to-day basis but to keep our eye on the end game. God is in control. There are no surprises in the plan of God. The plan of God doesn't get upset. God isn't shocked by things that happened. He is in the process of supervising our lives and the details of our lives to bring us to a point of spiritual maturity.
The writer of Hebrews emphasizes that this was a pattern that was seen in the Lord Jesus Christ and if He who was perfect without a sin nature need to matured, needed to be trained and brought to maturity in His humanity by going through various kinds of adversities, various kinds of situations so that He would learn in His humanity how to trust God, claim promises, how to utilize what we usually refer to as the problem solving devices, how to grow in terms of the spiritual skills of grace orientation, doctrinal orientation, living today in light of eternity, our personal sense of eternal destiny, personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind - all of these kinds of things the Lord Jesus Christ had to grow in those things. It's not that He didn't have a sin nature so he didn't sin; He was without sin. But He still had to grow and learn those things in His humanity. He didn't just know them intuitively because of the fact that He was also God.
We talked some about the understanding that Jesus Christ in terms of the hypostatic union - that Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity was eternal God. This is emphasized at the very outset of the introduction of Hebrews. The first four verses in Hebrews chapter 1 give us that orientation and give us through the use of certain phrases and certain terms sort of a hint or foreshadowing of things to come.
At the very beginning we have this emphasis on God and divine revelation, which is very important throughout the book of Hebrews. Again and again and again we have references to God speaking, God's promises, living on the basis of God's promises, trusting those promises. In Hebrew 11 we went through all those different heroes, all those different faith heroes from the Old Testament from Abel to Enoch to Noah to Abraham to Moses. All through the Old Testament you see these individuals who believed the promise of God.
Now a promise is something that God revealed, something that God spoke. So one of these themes that you can trace through Hebrews is the fact that God spoke again and again and again. His speaking always entailed a certain response from those to whom He spoke. When He spoke there was that expectation of an obedient response. When there was a disobedient response there were consequences.
So the writer introduces this is at the very beginning by saying:
NKJ Hebrews 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways
Emphasizing the different modes and ways and means in which God revealed Himself in the Old Testament.
spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
The fathers being those who were in the Old Testament
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;
So there is a greater revelation that came by the Lord Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ is the eternal God who became flesh. He is the incarnation of God in the flesh as the Apostle John said in the first chapter of John that:
NKJ John 1:14 …we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
NKJ John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
So there was this revelation of the deity of God that was seen in Jesus Christ so that these aspects of God's personhood (His attributes) were more real, more observable, and more immediate than it ever had been before. So there is a higher level of revelation given through His Son.
He goes on to indicate that this Son is of the one whom He appointed heir of all things
NKJ Hebrews 1:2 …through whom also He made the worlds;
So Jesus Christ here is seen as the immediate one, the immediate creator where as God the Father is viewed as the planner, the architect. It is God the Son who is the immediate one. He's the onsite building contractor. It is God the Holy Spirit also who's involved and we see that in other passages.
But we also see in verse 3 the emphasis on the eternality or the attributes of Jesus Christ as fully God.
NKJ Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory
Or the outward expression
and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power,
That's the word character. He is a perfect representative having all of the attributes of God. You can't escape the claim in this verse that Jesus Christ had all of the attributes of deity, that he is fully God.
But He is not only fully God; He is also fully human. In His humanity He did things that were separate and distinct from His deity. In His humanity He by Himself - the New King James uses the words "He purged our sins" which is the Greek word katharismos which means He cleansed. He provided cleansing for sin which is the foundation for forgiveness of sins that He paid the penalty for all sin on the cross
when He had by Himself
That means apart from aid from the other members of the Godhead.
purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
NKJ Hebrews 1:4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
I emphasized when we went through this that if He became something higher than the angels that can't be talking about His deity because in His deity He was already and always had been higher than the angels because He was not created. He's eternal. The angels were created. So in His deity He was always superior to the angels but in His humanity as a creature He had to go through a training process that culminated in His service to God at the cross where He paid the penalty for our sins. As a result of that He then becomes the heir, the designated heir of God, the heir of all things. He is elevated by means of His humanity to His position at the right hand of God the Father.
Now the rest of the chapter emphasizes the distinction between Jesus as the eternal Son of God as being higher than the angels and the angels who are lower than Jesus Christ because they are creatures and He is not. So in this section we learn a lot about the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ is really the focal point of the book of Hebrews and understanding His full significance. He's the one who provides first and foremost purification or cleansing for our sin in the third verse the first chapter. As a result He is elevated to position the right hand of God the Father. He is elevated over the angels which puts man who according to the psalms is first created lower than the angels and then elevated above the angels because He fulfills the purpose of mankind as being created in the image of God in terms of His position over the creation.
He is the one therefore because of His promise of inheritance in verse 8 who is the one who will receive the righteous kingdom.
NKJ Hebrews 1:8 … A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.
But He doesn't have that kingdom yet. He is to await it because God says as we see in verse 13 quoting Psalm 110:1:
NKJ Hebrews 1:13 …"Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"?
Jesus Christ as the Son of Man is still seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting this distribution of His inheritance and the kingdom.
So what we see as we go through Hebrews in terms of the structure is that there are five different sections. Each section has two components. There is a doctrinal exposition or there is a teaching section that develops a certain key element or key aspect related to God's plan and God's work in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then there's a practical exhortation which is another word for a challenge or application and a warning. Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the warning is just a few verses as part of the larger exhortation. So the first four verses give us the introduction and prelude to the book.
The first teaching section, the first section, teaches on the superiority of Jesus as the Son over the angels and the implications for that. The implication then is brought out in chapter 2:1-4 where we read:
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed
Or earnest attention
to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
The "therefore" is a conclusion". Because Jesus is the Son of God, because Jesus is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, because He became a human being and fulfilled all of God's plan and purposes in His person for God's plan for the human race, because He cleansed us, purged all sin, He has now after the resurrection been elevated to a position that the right hand of the Father from whence He will come to take His kingdom and receive the inheritance. We are part of it. Therefore we must not treat this lightly. We must take this into account; and we must pay detailed attention to these things that we have heard.
Notice the emphasis here on hearing something. It is the Word that God has now spoken through the Lord Jesus Christ, Hebrews 1:2.
NKJ Hebrews 2:2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
Here again we're talking about that revelation of God. This is really goes back to the Old Testament revelation because the angels were involved. We learned from Galatians that the angels were involved in mediating that revelation from God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Also there are Old Testament passages that indicate that as well.
NKJ Hebrews 2:2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
Here He is using an Old Testament illustration. If these commandments from God in the Old Testament were such that when they would disobey it resulted in certain negative consequences and disobedience received its just reward that is indicating a punishment. The question is, how shall we who have a greater revelation escape (judgment terms of divine discipline) if we neglect so great a salvation? This verse is often taken out of context and often quoted to refer to justification but the word salvation here is a pregnant use of this word salvation. It refers to the entire plan of deliverance that God has for all of humanity in all of the human race leading to its ultimate deliverance, its culmination in the future a Millennial or Messianic Kingdom.
NKJ Hebrews 2:3 how shall we
We as believers today
Escape discipline from God
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,
NKJ Hebrews 2:4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Again we have the principle that whenever God reveals anything (if it's in private He always validates it and documents it in public) there is always objective verifiable evidence that this is God's Word. That is why if you go back into the Old Testament and look at the tests of a prophets in Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18, God recognized that there were always people who come along and said, "Well, God told me this."
Joseph Smith claimed to have direct revelation from God. Muhammad claimed to have direct revelation from God. The Buddha claimed to have insights into the divine things. There are always people who come along and say, "Thus says the Lord," or "God told me this."
There has to be a way to evaluate it because they can't all be saying the same thing because they're contradictory. They contradict one another. So either they're all lying, or if they're all telling the truth, then God is really confused has no idea what He's talking about. The only alternative is that there has to be a way of validating and verifying who is speaking the truth. So God lays out those principles of validation and verification in Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18. God always had confirmatory evidence whenever He spoke through miracles, signs and wonders and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as indicated here.
Then we go into the second section. The second section is a little bit longer. It goes from 2:5 to 4:13. We went through the doctrinal part, the teaching part, the explanation of key principles from 2:5 through 3:6. Then there's a longer exhortation section from 3:7 to 4:13.
Now the main principle that we see in the second section is the emphasis on Jesus Christ in His humanity, that He is trained by God through the things that He suffers, the adversity He faces, the difficulties He had to go through as a human being in the process of growing up. Luke says in Luke 2:42 that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with both God and man. That passage is talking about Jesus in terms of His childhood growth. So Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature. Stature is the physical part; wisdom is His mental, His intellectual spiritual growth. "In favor with God and man", i.e. in terms of His relationship with God on the one hand and other human beings on the other hand.
We don't normally think of that – that in His humanity Jesus had to learn the Torah. Jesus had to learn the Old Testament. He did not know the truth intuitively. He did in His deity but in the union of His humanity and deity Jesus is not running over here to His deity and downloading data whenever He needs an answer to the question. That would be like the original Internet: "I've got a problem here. I'm gong to run over here and I'm going to use my Internet Explorer to go access to information to help me solve my problems in my humanity."
If that were true, then the Scripture could not come to us and say that Jesus is a pattern for our life because we can't do that. We can't access divine attributes to solve our problems. And the whole point is that Jesus faced life just as we face life. The difference is He did not have a sin nature. He didn't have a propensity to sin. He did not have an inherited sin nature from Adam. He didn't have the imputation of Adam's original sin. He never committed any personal sin. So He is the exact mirror as it were of Adam in his original creation being absolutely perfect and without sin. What Jesus demonstrates is that by being completely and totally dependent upon God in utilizing the identical resources that we have; He does not sin and He grows to maturity and He fulfills God's plan for His life. Then He's qualified to go the cross and He goes to the cross and dies on the cross for our sins.
Key verse here is verse 10 of chapter 2.
NKJ Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him,
That is God the Father.
for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory,
That is talking about the future long-term end result plan of God.
to make the captain of their salvation
That is the Lord Jesus Christ.
That is the word telios there.
So Jesus goes through the same test patterns that we do, the same adversity tests teaching Him to trust God, teaching Him to claim promises, teaching Him all those things; but He never fails. The difference is that we fail far too often, fail all the time initially and it takes us a long time to finally get the point and to get our focus right. The end result is that He grew to maturity and He fulfills God's plan in a perfect way. As a result of that He is qualified to be our High Priest.
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren,
In order to fulfill it, He had to be just like us. That's the point. He had to face those challenges, those temptations and tests just like we do without any additional resources. So He's not over here trying to access His deity to help Him out with the problem. What He's doing is He's taking the Word of God that He has with the Spirit of God and He's applying it to the situation. So He's had to be made just like us:
that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
In making propitiation for us that is to satisfy the righteous demands of God the holy demands of God He had to be qualified; and to make propitiation He dies as our substitute. Well to die as our substitute He has to be like us. A dog couldn't die for a man. A lamb couldn't die for a man. A bull in the Old Testament – that's where the writer of Hebrews is going to go by the time we get into chapters 7, 8 and 9 that these animal sacrifices couldn't do the trick. They were important because they depicted the spiritual issues related to sin and the payment of sin and the problem of death as a penalty for sin. But, an animal can't die for a human being. Only someone who is a human being can pay the penalty as a substitute for another human being; and so the high priests had to be made just like us.
NKJ Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted,
So His temptation, His testing, was real as we studied.
He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Then there's a conclusion in verses 1 through 6. In verse 7 we get into the challenge and the warning. The challenge goes back to Old Testament incidences in the wilderness when the Israelites coming out of Egypt disobeyed God. When they rumbled and complained in the wilderness, when they complained that there wasn't any rain and there wasn't any food; and God says:
NKJ Hebrews 3:9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years.
Again and again and again they saw these great miracles of God bringing water out of the rock, bringing manna every morning, every evening and then providing the sustenance for their clothes. Their clothes never wore out. That would be really frustrating for most of the ladies that were out there in the wilderness because they didn't get to go to DSW and shop for shoes every other week because their shoes never wore out and their clothes never wore out. Nothing ever wore out. Everything was maintained by God. They lived in the center of the miraculous for forty years; and yet they rejected God.
That's a great evidence for us because it reminds us that it's ultimately not about evidence. It's ultimately not about that empirical quantifiable evidence. That's important. I'm not denying that. I'm not saying it's irrelevant; but that's not the ultimate issue. The ultimate issue is a matter of an individual's volition. Do they want to know God or not? Do they want to trust God or not?
So they fail so they didn't enter into the rest which was the Promised Land. God punished them by saying, "You're going wander in the wilderness for forty years; those who survive through the end they're just going to get to the border of the Promised Land but they're never going to get in."
That included Moses, and Moses never got in. Moses because of his disobedience had to die, and he never entered into the land. The only two that entered into the land from the wilderness generation from the Exodus generation were Caleb and Joshua because of their obedience.
So the warning here is don't be like them. Don't sacrifice your future based on the present disobedience. That is verse 19 of chapter 3. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
NKJ Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
So there's the warning here in terms of our spiritual life never to give up, never to forget there's a future destiny. There always remains a rest for the people of God. This is talking about the entering into the Millennial Kingdom. That's in verse 9.
So then we're commanded in verse 11:
NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
That is the example of disobedience from Exodus generation. Then we're told that we can handle this because we have a great High Priest who:
NKJ Hebrews 4:14 has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
Don't give up. Don't fall out and fall by the wayside because:
NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
He understands our weaknesses. He has gone through the tests. That doesn't mean He has gone through every single, exact, precise, circumstance but He has gone through the basic issues. The general categories of testing were all there and He passed. Because of that He can sympathize with our weaknesses.
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Now we have trouble with that because as I pointed out because we think of temptation as that inner subjective attraction to doing what we shouldn't do. But testing is also objective. A trap can be baited and we're not attracted to the bait.
I often use the example of being on a diet. We've all had that common experience and there are things that we know we shouldn't eat, we're not supposed to eat. When we see the ice cream or the cake or whatever the ladies have fixed put out the kitchen after class we are drawn to it. But if we have eaten well and we're not hungry and we've been doing well in our progress, then it really doesn't even attract us. That's the difference that we see: the difference between a subjective inner attraction to do something we know we shouldn't versus that external baiting of the trap.
So Jesus was tested objectively in all points as we are but there's never the internal correspondence to it because that's a result of our own sin nature. So He's objectively tested in all points as we are yet without sin. That gives us a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses and we can go to Him terms of the daily needs that we have in the spiritual life.
Chapters four and five developed the concept of His priesthood and takes us to the point of quoting again Psalm 110:4 that He's a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. In those first ten verses ending with that quote from Psalms 110:4 it sets us up for the next section that comes after 6:9.
There's a lengthy practical challenge here that starts in 5:11 that we need to pay attention, not become spiritually dull but pay attention and be consistent in our daily application. Once again talks about the first principles of the oracle's of God in verse 12, the need to pay attention to what God has revealed to us. This is again connected down to 6:1, the elementary principles of Christ then moving on in terms of doctrine and understanding what God has revealed to us.
The warning passage in 6:4-8 is the one that many people go to and think that it's talking about either people who lost their salvation or it's talking about people who can't be saved, but it's actually talking about believers who turn their back on the grace of God. They don't lose your salvation, but they do put in jeopardy their future rewards and ruling responsibilities in the kingdom.
Now then starting in chapter 7:1 through the end of 10, this is the core section of book, which as I pointed out in the introduction is not really an epistle. It is more of a written sermon. It doesn't bear all the marks of an epistle like Romans or 1 Corinthians or Galatians. It's more like 1 John or James. It seems to bear the marks of having been more of a sermon that is then written out and put into a form that is something that is similar to an epistle.
So in the next section the emphasis goes to the high priestly ministry of Christ and its implications. It's in this section where we have an emphasis in chapter 7 on this high priestly ministry that Jesus has. He's not a high priest like Aaron because Aaron's high priestly ministry (Aaron the older brother of Moses) was a high priest because he's in the tribe of Levi.
In the Old Testament the Levitical priesthood was based on physical qualifications. You had to be of the tribe of Levi. You couldn't have certain deformities or physical problems. There was not a spiritual qualification, just physical qualifications. But that qualification is one that was limited. Those priests could not pay their own sin penalty. They have to also have their sins propitiated or atoned for through sacrifices. Those priests died. They did not have an eternal priesthood. That was a limited priesthood. It could only apply to Israel.
But the Melchizedekean priesthood is a distinct priesthood. It was a priesthood that preceded the call of Abraham. We're introduced to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 after Abraham defeated the coalition of the five kings that had invaded into Sodom and Gomorrah and into the land of Canaan and captured a number of people, terrorized a lot of people and had stolen and taken a lot of plunder. Then that Abraham got his servants together, and they defeated this army and rescued those who had been captured. On his return home he had gone through Jerusalem and paid tithes to Melchizedek who was the priest-king of Salem which is Jerusalem. So it predates the founding of the Jewish race through Abraham. The Melchizedekean priesthood is a universal priesthood that applies to all mankind. It is that royal priesthood of Melchizedek that is the pattern for the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the argument here.
He goes on and starting in verse 20 of chapter 7 to emphasize that this priesthood is founded upon an oath or a covenant. It is a legally binding contract. Jesus' priesthood is based on a covenant that is superior to the covenant of Moses. It is based on be on the New Covenant.
This leads us into chapter 8 with an emphasis on the fact that we have such a High Priest as Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. The earthly priests of the tribe of Levi were temporary. They served as a copy, a shadow of heavenly things.
NKJ Hebrews 8:5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
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.
That is, better promises. Once again this whole idea of covenant promises is part of the revelation of God, and we are expected to obey this revelation of God. This New Covenant is specifically identified as the New Covenant that God promised that He would make between the House of Judah and the House of Israel with his real estate. This is quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and the next section of chapter 8 from 8:7 down through 8:13.
Then it goes on to show the superiority of Christ's sacrifice over the sacrifices of the Old Testament. That was all of the detail in chapter 9. The basic point there was that the High Priest in the Old Testament was also a sinner. The first thing he had to do on the Day of Atonement was to take a sacrifice into the Temple for himself and his family. Then he would take another sacrifice for the nation.
But Jesus does not need to die for Himself because He is without sin. He is the High Priest of a superior covenant. The blood as it states in verses 13 and 14 (the blood of bulls and goats) and the ashes of a heifer all of which are related to the purification rituals of the Mosaic Law. This really didn't do anything to solve the sin problem. But it pictured something that had to happen. There had to be a sacrifice that was efficacious and universal that could solve the problem, the sin problem. It could pay the penalty and it had to be done through this sacrifice. So Jesus Christ is the one who did this, verses 27 and 28.
NKJ Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
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.
But the point is that He is the one who provided that sacrifice.
Chapter 10 continues that theme that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin; but that it is Jesus Christ who fulfills that sacrifice by being a perfect sacrifice.
NKJ Hebrews 10:10 By that will.
That is will of God
we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all
The next section from verse 11 to 13 emphasizes again that He is the one who made this perfect sacrifice and as a result of that He is accepted by God and elevated to the right hand of God.
This takes us down to the practical exhortation in 10:19-39 in which there's a significant warning in verses 26 through 39. The point of the of the exhortation or the challenge is to hold fast to your confession; not to give up, not to become weary, not to become tired, not to become overwhelmed because there is an eventual judgment. There is eventual accountability. This is part of the warning. Don't treat this lightly because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 4:24 as well as Hebrews 12:28. So this is the warning that we need to have endurance.
NKJ Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
The promise is the Word of God (the revelation of God) to us. Now he's going to illustrate that by going to the lives of these Old Testament saints who were given a promise and who believed God, believed the promise, lived their lives on the basis of the reality of that promise even though they never saw the promise fulfilled in their whole life. He starts by giving a description of faith in verse 1 that faith is external evidence of an internal reality.
NKJ Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
A person's trust in God is sort of an external evidence of an internal reality of his hope. That is his future expectation and confidence. By faith, i.e. in trusting God, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. Once again that takes us back to the very beginning that God has spoken to us through His Son. His speaking implies accountability.
Then he gives illustrations: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. All of these over came and illustrated this principle because at some point whether it's a big way like Abraham or small way like some of the judges. Gideon, Jephthah, Samson are mentioned. At some point they believed God for a promise. That the thing that he's illustrating. It comes right out of verse 36.
NKJ Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
So that's what these all did. They understood the promise. They obeyed God in either a small way or a large way, and they received the promise. So now these Old Testament believers stand as it were (12:1, 2) as a crowd in a stands as witnesses that have gone before us. Just as they ran their race and Jesus ran His race with endurance and He didn't give up; He didn't fade out in the stretch; but He reached the goal and served God. We too are to run with endurance the race that is set before us.
But life is like a contest. It's like a race. It's like an athletic event. We have to be trained. We have to be disciplined. We have to keep our focus on the end-game, the end result, the end zone and reaching that final goal, that final prize. That means that the coach is going to train us. The coach being God is going to take us through both positive discipline in terms of teaching us to get rid of the things that are non-essential in life, the things that distract us and also in terms of negative discipline in terms chastening.
There's a quote there from Proverbs 3:11-12 quoting the fact that:
NKJ Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction;
NKJ Proverbs 3:12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
So there is training.
Therefore because of this and because the temptation to not make it to the end, we are to be strengthened. There's the challenge we studied recently in 12:12-17 that we are to strengthen the hands that hangs down and the feeble knees. In other words when we want to get off course, when we want to give up, we need to be strengthened and that means that we need to pursue peace with all men and not to become distracted by bitterness or mental attitude sins or losing sight of the end game of our own inheritance.
The negative example of Esau is given.
Then there's a comparison once again made to Mount Sinai - the contrast of law and grace (Mount Sinai and Mount Zion) in verses 18 to 24. The focus takes us right back to Jesus who is the mediator of the New Covenant and the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel taking us back to check for the first part of chapter 11.
Then we have our final warning section in verses 25 to 28.
NKJ Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
Let us hold on to grace; not give up on grace and continue to serve God. This serving of God then is spelled out in terms of this final series of exhortations or challenges in chapter 13:1-17 all of which emphasize different aspects of what it means to love one another, the first verse "Let brotherly love continue."
At the end we are told just closing comments from the author to pray for them and then a final benediction (a closing statement).
NKJ Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
NKJ Hebrews 13:21 make you complete
Just as Jesus was made complete through the things He suffered, it is God who can make us complete in every good work to do His will through Jesus Christ.
in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
So Hebrews then is really not an epistle like these others that I've said but it is a message as the writer says in verse 22 of exhortation. It is a challenge for us not to give up, to stay the course and to keep our eye on the end game. That is the message of Hebrews.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.