Download This  Study For Free!


Please feel free to Download this study.


HEBREWS 1 - 9

(WE SHOULD ALWAYS MOVE FORWARD
IN OUR FAITH)

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
HEBREWS

 

You should move forward in your faith because Jesus Christ is infinitely greater than the prophets, the angels, and Moses (1:1-3:6)

Therefore, move forward in your faith by (1) not hardening your hearts and by
(2) making every effort to enter God's rest (3:7-4:13)

You should move forward in your faith because Jesus Christ is an infinitely greater High Priest than Aaron (4:14-5:10)

Therefore, move forward in your faith by diligently acting on your faith (5:11-6:12)

Move forward in your faith because Jesus' New Covenant priesthood is infinitely greater than Aaron's Old Covenant priesthood (6:13-10:18)

Therefore, move forward in your faith by drawing near to God, following the example of the heroes of the faith, and by persevering in the race (10:19-12:29)

Therefore, move forward in your faith by being obedient to God's instructions (13:1-17)

Closing Words (13:18-25)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Hebrews

1. The author of Hebrews: The book of Hebrews is the only book in the New Testament where we do not have any knowledge about the identity of the author.  Origen, an early Christian leader said, "Who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, only God knows for certain."

2. The letter to the Hebrews:  The book is written to Hebrew Christians who were beginning to consider going back to their Old Testament Jewish practices.  It appears that they were facing great pressure from the Hebrews who did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  The book of Hebrews was written to urge them not to fall back to the ceremonies that pointed to Jesus, but instead he urges them to move forward so that they can experience a deeper and richer faith in Jesus Christ.

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

     It is disturbing to us when we see something that has been started, but not completed: a half-painted house, a book half-written, college half-completed, or an engine half-overhauled but still in pieces all over the garage.  The writer of Hebrews is disturbed that many Jewish Christians had started their Christian life well, but were no longer growing as Christians and were even drifting backwards.  Because it would make it easier and safer for them to co-exist with their non-Christian Hebrew countrymen, many Hebrew Christians were considering going back to their Old Testament forms of worship and service.  They had started well, but their progress had stopped in the baby stages of Christianity; and they were in danger of falling backwards.
     What should be done by Christian leaders when they see that the group of believers they are responsible to God for have stopped growing as Christians?  The author of Hebrews provides us with the biblical pattern for today.  We should never be satisfied with a job half done.  We should, instead, continually seek to move forward in our faith; and exhort, encourage, and also rebuke others to move forward in their faith as well.  We should do all we can so that our faith will not only have a good start, but also a good finish.
     Let us look at how the author of Hebrews encouraged the Hebrew Christians of his time to not fall backwards, but to move forward in their faith.  It will help us to move forward in our faith and instruct us on how we should go about encouraging others to move forward in their faith.


YOU SHOULD MOVE FORWARD IN YOUR FAITH BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN THE PROPHETS, THE ANGELS, AND MOSES (1:1-3:6)

1. Jesus Christ is greater than the prophets (Jesus Christ through
    whom God has now revealed Himself to us is infinitely greater
    than the prophets through whom God revealed Himself in the
    past)(1:1-3).
    "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many
    times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by
    his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made
    the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact
    representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
    After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand
    of the Majesty in heaven."

Thought Question #1:  Give as many examples as you can of predictions by the prophets about Jesus Christ.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, why is the revelation by God of Jesus Christ superior to the revelations of the prophets?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why is the revelation by God of Jesus Christ important to you personally?

 

 

   a. The prophets of the past gave messages ABOUT GOD

God spoke to their forefathers through the prophets at many times (from Abraham to John the Baptist) and in various ways (Moses predicted a coming Prophet; David predicted a coming King; Isaiah predicted a Prince of Peace who would also be a Lamb led to the slaughter; Micah predicted He would be born in Bethlehem, etc.)  All of these were some of the many, many pieces of the picture of Jesus Christ given to us by Israel's prophets.

   b. Jesus Christ, God's present revelation, IS GOD
       How can messages about God compare to God Himself coming to us?
       Jesus Christ is the very ultimate message from God to us.  Why should              they want to go back to their prophets' partial messages about God when          they now have the full revelation of God through Jesus Christ?

   c. Jesus Christ.........

       (l) ...is the Heir of all things
           Where is time heading?  Earthly time is heading towards that time when            He will return, be victorious over all evil, and rule over all.  Then, He will            receive the inheritance that Adam lost when he disobeyed God (Jesus                will one day inherit Adam's lost inheritance).  Everything  around us is                now being ruled by Satan, but it will one day belong to Jesus Christ.(see            Ephesians 1:9,10; Ps. 2; Daniel 7:13,14)

       (2) ...made all things (John 1:3 - "Through him all things were made;
            without him nothing was made that has been made.")
            Everything was made by Him and is heading towards Him.  How can the             prophets compare to Him?

       (3) ...is the Radiance of God's Glory
            We cannot stand the full radiance of the SUN'S glory, but the SON'S                 glory is much greater for it is the full glory of God!  When we look at                 Jesus Christ, we see God's glory.

       (4) ...is the exact representation of God's being
            The Greek word means "impression."  God has exactly imprinted Himself             in human flesh!  For those who have eyes to see, Jesus is God!  See                  John 14:9

       (5) ...sustains all things by His powerful word
            We and all matter are made up of protons, electrons, and other                         electrically charged particles.  How does it all hold together?  Science             has not been able to answer this question.  The Bible gives us the                  answer: Jesus is holding it together!  If He took His hands off the
            power switch we and the whole universe would suddenly and                         immediately and completely cease to exist! See Colossians 1:17

       (6) ...Provided purification for sins
            He who is the heir of all things, maker of all things, exact expression of             God, and holds all things together, became a man so He could die to             purify you and me from our sins!  Should that ever cease to amaze and             thrill us?

       (7) ...sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven
            If you make a strike in bowling, your task is completed and there is                  nothing left to do but to sit down.  In the Tabernacle there were no                  chairs.  Because their task of offering sacrifices was never done, the                  High Priests of Israel could never sit down.  Because Jesus opened the             way for us to God forever, He could sit down.  His work was completed             and there was nothing left for Him to do; so He sat down!

2. Jesus Christ is much greater than the angels (1:4-2:18)

Do you believe in angels?  There is a large emphasis on angels in the Bible: Angels held the mouths of the lions closed when Daniel was in the lions' den.  Peter was rescued from jail by an angel.  Abraham talked and ate with angels.  Daniel was visited by the angel Gabriel and other angels.  Angels appeared to Joseph and Mary before Jesus was born, and angels appeared at Jesus' birth.  Angels are found in 34 of the 66 books of the Bible.  Angels helped Jesus after the temptation and in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was angels who opened Jesus' tomb, and it was angels who met the first arrivals at the open tomb.  When Jesus ascended into the clouds, the disciples looked up and saw two angels.  The angels rejoice when someone turns to God. The book of Revelation is filled with angels.  Therefore, we cannot believe in the Bible and not believe in angels.

Just as angels were active and present in Bible times, so they are present and active now!  In the book of Daniel, we learn that angels are involved behind the scenes in the world's major conflicts.  In Daniel's time God's angels were battling Satan's angel, the prince of Persia.  In our time certainly there is a battle between God's and Satan's angels over Washington, D. C.  There is surely also a battle in heaven going on for every church and every person.  In Ephesians 6 we are told that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, and the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  The Bible tells us that there are angels who are much greater and much more powerful than we human beings.  For example, there were angels who killed the first-born in Egypt, destroyed human armies, and caused Daniel to faint.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, who lived with us here as a man, was and is much greater than these angels!

"So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  For to which of the angels did God ever
say, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father'? Or again, 'I will be his Father, and he will be my Son'? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God’s angels worship him.'  In speaking of the angels he says, 'He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.'  But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God,
your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.'  He also says, 'In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.'  To which of the angels did God ever say, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'?  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

Thought Question #1:  The Jehovah Witnesses teach that Jesus is the Archangel Michael.  How do these verses in Hebrews prove that they are wrong?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do these verses teach us about angels?

 

 

The Jehovah Witnesses and others teach that Jesus was an angel - the Archangel Michael.  The Bible and author of the Book of Hebrews teach that Jesus is much greater than an angel! In fact, He is greater than the angels in at least six ways.

     a. He was given a much superior name (1:4,5)
        "For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son; today         have become your Father'? Or again, 'I will be his Father, and he
        will be my Son'?"  In II Sam. 7:14, God predicted that David would have         an offspring who would be His own son.  At Jesus' baptism, God the Father         told Jesus that He was His own (God's) Son.  As the writer of Hebrews              says, God never said this to any of the angels!

     b. He is much more superior in worth than any of the angels (1:6)
        God says, "Let all the angels worship him."  If Jesus is an angel, He              would not have allowed anyone to worship Him.  From the book of                   Revelation, we learn that an angel would not receive worship from John              (see Revelation 19:10,11 and 22:8,9).  In the Ten Commandments, God             commands, "You shall have no other Gods before me."  Yet Jesus                   received worship from the once doubting Thomas.  When Thomas cried
        out, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for worshiping
        Him.

        Here it says, "Let all the angels worship him."  In the book of Revelation,         John saw thousands of angels worshiping God.  But Jesus did not worship         God; angels worship Him! See Revelation 5  John Bunyan said, "If Jesus be         not God, then Heaven is filled with idolaters."  This is a difficult verse              for the Jehovah Witnesses, for these words are found even in their own              Bible!

     c. Jesus has a much more superior place in Heaven than the angels have              (No angel has the place in Heaven that Jesus has) (1:7-9)
        In speaking of the angels he says, 'He makes his angels winds, his              servants flames of fire.'  But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O         God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the
        scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated             wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your
        companions by anointing you with     the oil of joy.'

        Verse seven is not really clear.  "In speaking of the angels he says, 'He         makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.' "  The only clue is         found in Ps. 104:4, "He makes winds his messengers and flames of fire His         servants."  He is probably saying that just as winds and fire serve God, so         angels serve God.  Angels are like wind in that they are invisible, but              active all around us.  Angels are like fire; God uses both angels and fire to         burn away impurities. 

        But Jesus' place in Heaven is much superior to them.  But about the
        Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and
        righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved
        righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has
        set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.'          Angels minister before the throne of God, but Jesus is on it!  In 1:8, 9,
        the author of Hebrews quotes Ps. 45 where God speaks adoringly of God         who is ruling on an eternal throne. This verse cannot be referring to a             mere human king, for God calls Him God! The Jehovah Witnesses change         the words "Your throne, O God" to "God's throne."  They make this change         not because it is a proper translation or because it makes sense in the              context, but because they do not like to have God talking to God.  This              verse, as clearly as any other verse in the Bible, teaches that Jesus is              God! Jesus is greater than the angels because He occupies God's eternal         throne, and He occupies God's throne because He is God!

     d. He is superior in nature to the angels (1:10-12)
        "He also says, 'In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of
        the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will
        perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  You will
        roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you
         remain the same, and your years will never end.' " Jesus is superior in         nature to the angels because He is their Creator.  (see also Colossians              1:15,16)  He existed before them.  His creation will get old and wear out,         but He will not perish.  He will never end!  The sun is burning out;                   everything is running down like a clock, but Jesus will "remain the same."

     e. He has a superior purpose to the angels. (1:13,14)
        To which of the angels did God ever say, 'Sit at my right hand until I
        make your enemies a footstool for your feet'?  Are not all angels
        ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is Jesus' purpose?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, what is the purpose of the angels?

 

 

        What is Jesus' purpose?  His purpose is to totally defeat all of God's              enemies.  On the other hand, angels are described as our servants in the         Bible.  They are particularly to serve those who will inherit salvation.  To         whom are they to give such special attention?  We Christians are their              special responsibility!  This is a comforting thought, isn't it?  Have you              ever felt alone?  None of us is ever actually alone.  God never leaves or             forsakes us (see Hebrews 13:5) and He has sent angels to us whose              primary purpose is to serve us!

        But Jesus has a much higher purpose than these angels.  He came to              totally defeat all of God's enemies.  They are to become the "footstools"         for His feet.  What does this mean?  When a king of that time conquered         another king, as a symbol of total victory over his enemy, he would put his         foot on his neck.  Jesus' destiny is to put His foot on Satan's neck.  For              this reason, Jesus is much greater than the angels.  Jesus, not the angels,         will ultimately and totally conquer Satan and His forces

     f. His message is much greater than the message "spoken by angels"
        (see 2:2) (2:1-18)
        "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have
        heard, so that we do not drift away.  For if the message spoken by
        angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its
        just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great
        salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was
        confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by
        signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit
        distributed according to his will."

Thought Question #1:  What does the author mean by "drift away"?  How can this happen to you or to another Christian?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do these verses tell us about the miracles that we read about in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the letters to the churches?

 

 

He says that they must "pay careful attention...to what they have heard, so that we do not drift away."  Is it possible for Christians to "drift away" from God's truth?  The history of Christianity (for example, the Catholic church) tells us that it is possible for those who call themselves Christians to drift far away from what the Bible teaches.  How does this drifting away take place?  We drift away from God's truth when we get discouraged and give up, when we are drawn away by temptation, when we are drawn away by our pride, when we are deceived by our enemy. . . . Demas was drawn away by the pull of the world. See II Timothy 4:9  We know of modern-day television evangelists who have drifted away from God after giving in to sexual and financial temptations.  And many drift away when it gets hard to keep on going.  Each of us can drift away.  We also need to pay careful attention to God's Word so that we do not drift away!

The author of Hebrews states that the law given to Moses was given through the activity of angels ("The law came from Sinai...He came with myriads of holy ones" Deuteronomy 33:2; "you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels" Acts 7:53)  The message of salvation given through Jesus Christ is, according to the author of Hebrews, greater in at least seven ways than the law which was given through angels.

(1) It is the message of the greatest Savior (2:1-3a)
We are not saved by angels, but by the Lord and Creator Himself.

(2) We learned of our salvation in the greatest way (2:3b-4):

(a) It was "first announced by the Lord" (2:3b)

It came to us from Jesus Christ Himself. Our President sends his messages to other countries in many ways: important messages are sent by the ambassador to that country, even more important messages are sent by the Secretary of State, the most important messages he delivers himself.  The most important message of all, the Gospel message, was delivered by God Himself in the flesh: Jesus Christ!

(b) It was confirmed to us by many witnesses that Jesus Christ,

God's Son, actually lived with us and spoke to us (2:3c)
Before we will believe that something happened, we want to hear from eyewitnesses that we can trust.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark,  Luke, and John contain eyewitness accounts about what Jesus did and said!  (See Luke 1:1-4, I John 1:l-3,  and II Peter 1:16-18).  The whole New Testament has been tested to see if it is accurate, and it has been found to be the very best in accurate historical documentation.

(c) It was authenticated by miracles (2:4)

"Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”" (Exodus 4:1-5)

How can we know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ came from God?  Just as miracles took place when God appeared to Moses, so miracles from God also accompanied Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  As the miracles of the staff were to announce to the people of Moses' time that God had appeared to him, "the signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit" testified that God was revealing Himself to the world through Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  God had been working with the nation of Israel through the Temple, the sacrificial system, and the priests, but now He would be revealing Himself through Jesus Christ and the church.  Miracles were His way of signaling to the world about this major change in His method of dealing with mankind.

Notice that the writer of Hebrews speaks of these miracles in the past tense: "testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit."  Because the Temple appears to have existed when the book of Hebrews was being written, the book of Hebrews was probably written before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (In Hebrews 8:3-5, for example, the author appears to be describing the Temple worship which was taking place in their time.)

So, even the author of Hebrews, who lived in the lifetime of the Apostles, saw that the time of miracles confirming the message about Jesus Christ was in his past.  So, it is even more biblically acceptable for us, some 1900 years later, to say that there was a special time of miracles during the time of Jesus and the Apostles.  God chose to accompany the appearance of Jesus Christ the Son of God with amazing miracles to confirm to us that His own Son had become a man and that He would from now on be relating to us through Him.  It is obvious that He is not now performing the same type of spectacular miracles that are described in the Gospels and the book of Acts; no matter how much we might want Him to work this way in our time.

(3) Though He was far greater than the angels, He became lower
than the angels so that He might lift us above the angels!(2:5-18)

(a) God's plan is not for His creation to be ruled by angels, but for

man to be ruler over His creation in the future! (2:5-8a)
"It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.  But there is a place where someone has testified:  'What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.' "

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about why God created man and why He brought you into existence?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is there in this verse that you can get excited about?

 

 

Why did God create us?  "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.' " (Genesis 1:26-28)  He created us to rule over His creation!

In 2:5, the author of Hebrews says, "it is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come"  If angels will not rule in the future, who?  Man!  How can this take place?  Hebrews 2:6-8a explains how this will happen.  God apparently made us to be of little significance, spinning around on this tiny planet in the middle of an infinitely immense universe.  Who are we that God should think of us?  Yet, He made us just a little lower than the angels, put the whole earth under our rule, and made us with His glory and honor!  God's plan is to put everything under our feet.  But this has obviously not happened yet!  Do we have total rule over even our own lawns and gardens?  Yes, if we water them, weed them, and keep a good supply of chemicals on them.  But, God has something much better in store for us.  In the future we will rule over creation and not be ruled by it!

(b) For God's plan for us to happen, it was necessary for Jesus to

also become a little lower than the angels (when He was on
earth He did not appear to be greater than the angels)(2:8b,9)
"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."

Thought Question:  What do you see in these verses that you can get excited about?

 

 

He became a little lower than the angels, so He could RESTORE OUR LOST DESTINY!  By the GRACE OF GOD He became one of us, took the death we deserved, so that He might lead us to the place of glory God intended for us when He created us. 

(c) What was Jesus willing to do, so God's plan for us could be

fulfilled (2:10-13)?
"In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.  Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.  He says, 'I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.'  And again, 'I will put my trust in him.' And again he says, 'Here am I, and the children God has given me.' "

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that you can get excited about?

 

 

It was "fitting" that Jesus would suffer for us.  It is just what you would expect from the kind of God we have.  For Jesus to be a "perfect" Savior it was necessary for Him to suffer.  We should not be surprised that a perfectly loving God would be willing to suffer for us.  Jesus would not have been a perfect lover of us or a perfect Savior until He suffered.  Because He suffered, He was able to be the "author" of our salvation.  He pioneered our salvation.  His life traces our life:  He went from being lower than the angels, He suffered and died, and He was raised above the angels to a place of honor and rule.  He traced this path so that we can follow Him from lower than the angels to a place of honor and rule above the angels.  He made it possible by becoming one of us.  Because He is in the "same family" with us, He now calls us "brothers."  In  Psalm 22:22, it is predicted that Jesus would declare His Father's name to those who are His brothers, because He is a man like us.  We are His brothers!  In Isaiah 8:18, it says that we will become His children, His family members.

(d) For God's plan to be fulfilled, it was necessary for Jesus to save

us from DEATH and the DEVIL (2:14-15)
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death---that is, the devil---and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."

Thought Question:  You guessed it!  What is there in these verses that you can get excited about?

 

 

DEATH - We all know what physical death is like.  An ambulance driver checks for signs of life.  If there are no signs of life, there is death!  Here, the author is talking about spiritual death.  If there are no signs of spiritual life, there is death!  If there is no love, joy, and peace, there is death.  Adam and Eve lost this spiritual life when they believed the devil and disobeyed God.  Since then, the human race is spiritually like a man dying of terminal cancer.

DEVIL - He is the ruler of this world of death. See Ephesians 2:1-3  A picture of the devil's rule is Israel's enslavement under Pharaoh.  The Promised People left the land God gave to them because of their disobedience and became enslaved to the Pharaoh; just as we lost our promised land (Eden) and became enslaved to the devil!  By Jesus' death He conquered and destroyed the devil's rule of death over us, and now we no longer need to fear death.

(e) God's plan is for us to have a Savior that understands our

needs (2:16-18)
"For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

Thought Question:  One last time, what is there in these verses that you can get excited about?

 

 

Jesus is not a cold, unfeeling, unsympathetic God who is far above us and has no compassion.  He was here.  He knows suffering, pressures, doubts, fears, loss of loved ones, and temptations.  It is not that He does not understand what we go through.  It is actually that we do not understand what He went through as a perfect human being who was tempted but never gave into it, who faced the decision that He did at Gethsemane, and who carried the sins of the whole world on His shoulders at Gethsemane.  He does understand and He responds in love when we go to Him with our needs. "Come to me all who are weak and heavy-laden and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

2. Jesus Christ is much greater than Moses (or any man)

(3:1-6)

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.  He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.  Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.  For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.  Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future.  But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast."

Thought Question #1: How can you "fix your thoughts on Jesus"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is it important for you to "fix your thoughts on Jesus"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  In 3:6, it says, "And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast."  What does all of this mean?  (Also, see 3:14)

 

 

In 2:1, the author says, "We must pay more careful attention,...so we do not drift away."  If we moor our boat right, it will not drift away.  We must moor our lives in Jesus Christ.  And in 2:3, the author says, "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?"  David Wilkerson wrote a book titled.  "HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE GIVING UP LATELY?"  The Hebrew Christians that are being written to in the book of Hebrews could have answered the question in the title of this book with a "Yes".  The book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew Christians who were being persecuted and beginning to give up.  If you will look up the following verses in Hebrews, you will see that a primary purpose of the book was to encourage these Hebrew Christians not to give up, but to persevere in their faith:  Hebrews 2:1,3, 3:1,6,12,14, 4:14, 6:9-12, 10:23-25,32-36, 11:1,2,6, 12:1-3.  Also Hebrews 11, called the faith chapter, is about men in the Old Testament who persevered because they believed that God would reward their faith.  And Hebrews 12 is about persevering through tough times because God uses trials to help us toward being like Him.  From these verses you will see the key to understanding this very difficult book.  It was written to help us who are Christians so that we will not fall away from God when the going gets tough.  It was written to encourage us to continue in our faith in God.  If we follow the instructions in Hebrews, instead of falling away from God in tough times, we will grow closer to Him and His ways!  How can we tell if our faith is real saving faith?  We will see in these verses that real saving faith will be fixed on Jesus Christ and it will persevere.

a. We should "fix" our "thoughts on Jesus" (3:1)

In recent years there have been people that we have fixed our thoughts upon.  Great athletes like Michael Jordan, a famous basketball star, and others have been worshiped for their incredible athletic ability.  But how do they compare to Jesus Christ?  Is Jesus greater than Michael Jordan and the other famous athletes?  Did they create Jesus Christ or did Jesus create them?  Michael Jordan has won the basketball championship of the USA.  How does that compare to what Jesus Christ will win?  Michael Jordan's glory was to dunk a basketball beautifully.  Jesus' glory is that He is God.  He is the one who holds the molecules in Michael Jordan together.  Of these two, who most deserve to have us fix our thoughts upon him?  How do we fix our thoughts, then, on Jesus Christ?

"Fix" means that we give serious attention to.  Fixing "our thoughts on Jesus" means to think deeply about Him.  It means to listen intently to His claims; it is climbing a tree to see Him like Zacchaeus did; it is fighting the crowds to touch Him as the woman with the issue of blood did; it is hanging on His every word as Mary the sister of Lazarus did; it is seeking to understand His wisdom; and it is dedicating one's life to understanding why He is beautiful in every way.  Fixing our thoughts on Jesus will enable us to persevere. See Hebrews 12:2-4.

b. Jesus is greater than Moses, because He built Moses (3:2-4)

We see in Numbers 12:1-8 that God gave Moses a special privileged position before Him.  It was only Moses whom He spoke to "face to face."  Moses was faithful in God's house, and he was a hero to the Israelite people.  But Jesus built the house!  He is speaking here of God's household or God's people.  So, the author of Hebrews is saying that Moses was one of God's people and he was a special servant in God's household; but Jesus built God's household and He built Moses.  Jesus is greater than Moses just as a carpenter is greater than the house he makes.  (These verses also explain why it is obvious to everyone that we were created.  When you see a building, you know that there was a builder.  When we see design all around us, we know there was a Designer!  "For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything."

c. Jesus is greater than Moses because while Moses was a servant in

God's house, Jesus is a Son in God's house (3:5,6)
Here, we can see that God's house is not a building, but God's house is His people.  God's building today is not the church building on the corner, but the people of God in whom God dwells.  We are God's people if . . . How can we tell if we are God's people?  We are God's people when we are like the men and women of faith who, through the years, have continued to hold on to their courage and hope through everything that came their way.  "But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house.  And we are his house, if we hold to our courage and the hope of which we boast."  We are God's people if we persevere in our faith through the tough times!!

THEREFORE, MOVE FORWARD IN YOUR FAITH BY NOT HARDENING YOUR HEARTS AND BY MAKING EVERY EFFORT TO ENTER GOD'S REST (3:7-4:13)

1. Do not harden your hearts as the Israelites did in the wilderness

(3:7-19)
"So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.  That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'  So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'  See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.  As has just been said:  'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'  Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?  And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?  And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief."

Thought Question #1:  What does Israel hardening their hearts and not being able to go into the Promised Land have to do with us today?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does hardness of heart develop?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What can you do so you will not "harden your heart"?

 

 

In Hebrews 11 there are examples of those who continued to believe in God even when the tough times came.  There are also examples in the Old Testament of those who gave up when it was no longer easy to believe in God.  The author in these verses provides us with an example of those who did not continue in the faith.  The nation of Israel that was with Moses in the wilderness quit believing when it became hard to continue to believe in God.  They grumbled when the food and water provisions were low; they turned back to the world when they worshiped the golden calves; and they gave up when their spies reported about the strength of the enemy in the Promised Land.
Because of their ceasing to believe God, they did not experience what God     wanted them to experience from Him in the Promised Land.  See also I         Corinthians 10:1-13

a. Why did those in the wilderness not continue in faith?

According to these verses, it was because their hearts became hardened by continually going astray from God's ways.  Their hearts became hardened because of their pattern of choosing sin over God.  We can focus on Jesus, on God's goal for us - God's Promised Land for us, and on persevering until the end; or we can give into sinful temptations and fall away from God like the Israelites did.

When Israel did choose sin over God, a hardening process began inside of them.  When we sin, we run from the light of God's truth into a deeper and deeper place of darkness inside of us, a place where we can hide from God.  Outside each of our hearts, we then build a hardened wall to protect ourselves, so that we can sin without feeling guilty or uncomfortable.  We use all manner of deceptions to justify and protect ourselves from the truth. See Ephesians 4:17-19   The Israelites in the wilderness hardened their hearts toward God.  Everyone who chooses sin over believing God does the same today.  Unbelief is not an intellectual inability to be able to believe in God, it is a moral rejection of God that results in a hardening of the heart toward God.

b. What can we do so that we will not fall away from believing in

God like those in the wilderness did?
First, the author of Hebrews warns the Hebrew Christians not to harden their hearts like the Israelites in the wilderness did (3:7,15) and not to have a "sinful, unbelieving heart" like they had "that turns away from the living God" (3:12).  The Greek word that is translated "turn away" in the NIV Bible is the Greek word from which we get our English word "apostate."  An apostate is a term that has come to describe someone who has been a church attender but has left the faith.  How does this happen?  This section in Hebrews explains how people "turned away" from God.  They chose sin over God.   Once we give in and do wrong, it becomes easier to do wrong again.  Finally, we believe that we are not doing wrong.  We have become hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

How can we avoid having this hardening happen to us?  The author says that as long as it is still today and we have not become so hardened that we are no longer able to hear each other's warnings, we are to encourage each other not to give in to sin and to continue to believe in God and His ways.  A T-shirt had these words on it:  "Love God, Hate Sin!"  We need to be continually exposing our Christian brothers and sisters to what is sin, what are the consequences of sin, and that we as Christians must hate sin.  Otherwise, we may give in to sin and fall away from God.  Just as a camp fire burns more brightly when all the logs are burning together, so we Christians are best able to keep from sin when we are working together and helping each other not to give in to sin's temptations.

Finally, in 3:14, he says that "we have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."  The Israelites did not experience God's goal (the Promised Land) because they gave in to sin.  We can experience God's goal for us (our Promised Land - sharing in Christ's life) if we do not choose sin over God and continue in our faith that true life is found only in Jesus Christ.

 

2. Make every effort to enter God's rest (4:1-13)

"Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Thought Question #1:  What is the "Sabbath rest" that Joshua and David did not experience that God wants us to experience?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can we "make every effort to enter that rest"? (Aren't making every effort and rest complete opposites?)

 

 

What is meant here by God's rest?  Are we experiencing God's rest?  Most of Hebrews four answers these questions. 

a. We need to be careful so that none of us will fall short of entering

His rest (4:1-2)
There is a place for healthy fear.  We should be careful and concerned that our car does not drive off the highway.  We need to be careful that we are not like those in the wilderness who missed out on the Promised Land.  Their place of rest was the end of their journey; the Promised Land.  When we take a long vacation trip, we are not able to rest until we get to the end of our trip.  The Israelites were not able to reach the rest at the end of the journey that God had for them because they got sidetracked by their sin and never got to the place of rest.  If we follow their pattern, we also will not get to the end of God's journey for us and will also not enter God's rest.

b. We who have believed have entered God's rest (4:3a)

The word "believe" means more than intellectually agreeing that the Bible is true.  If we really believe something, it will affect our lives.  If we believe that a building is going to collapse, we will take action on our belief and quickly leave that building.  Those who believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us will also be able to rest in the work that He has done for us.

c. God's rest has been available to us since God created the world

(4:3b-4)
God worked for six days to create the world.  His work was complete and it was all good.  All that was left for us to do was to enjoy what He had wonderfully done for us. 

d. Man's sin has prevented mankind from entering God's rest (4:5)

God's rest was available to man at creation, but because of man's sin starting with Adam and Eve, mankind has not yet enjoyed resting in God's work of creation.  Here in this verse, we are told that the sin of the Israelites in the wilderness is a picture of how sin has prevented us from enjoying God's rest.
"They shall never enter my rest." See Psalm 95:11

God desired for the people of Israel to enter the rest at the end of their journey in the wilderness, He desired for them to enter the Promised Land!  But because of their sin they never entered the Promised Land; they never entered God's rest.  Resting in God's work is what God desires for us.  He completed His work for us long ago at creation, but our sin has prevented us from resting in what He did.  Jesus has made it possible now for us to get what is at the end of man's journey.  He has made it possible for us to enter the rest that God originally intended for us when He created us.

e. God's rest is available to those who believe (4:6-10)

God still desires that we rest in the beauty of who He is and enjoy what He created.  What He desired to give the Israelites, a land flowing with milk and honey, is a picture of what He desires to give us today who believe in Him.  The rest in the Promised Land for Joshua and the Israelites who finally did enter God's land was not the final rest; for long after Joshua's time God spoke to David and warned the people who were already in the Promised Land that if they hardened their hearts, they would miss out on God's rest.  The rest He has for us is just like the rest that was available to man right after He completed the world.

We who are Christians can now rest from our labors and enjoy the fruit of His labors.  When we walk with Christ, we experience His rest; but our rest is incomplete to the degree which our faith is incomplete.  We will, however, experience His rest fully when we see Him!  Then we will fully enjoy all that He has provided for us to enjoy. 

f. We must make every effort to enter God's rest (4:11)

The Bible strongly urges us to rest and it also strongly urges us to be diligent.  Which are we to do?  The answer is "Both!"  The reason that we need to make every diligent effort to enter God's rest is because we naturally try to meet those needs that only God can meet through our own futile efforts.  We try to atone for our own guilt, overcome our anxieties, find fulfillment on our own, and find the best life for ourselves with our own wisdom.  If we do not diligently seek to rest in God's provision, we will drift back into punishing ourselves for our sins, worrying, fretting, and living a wilderness existence.  Jesus said in Matthew ll:28-30 to those who were burdened down by trying to do what only God can do, "Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  The rest He spoke of was not and is not a life of inactivity, but it is a life lived united with Him whereby the heavier part of life is carried by Him and not by us.  It is a life of living constantly depending on His grace and love.  We need to make every effort to stop working for what we already have in Jesus Christ. See Romans 10:1,2

g. We move from unbelief and into God's rest when we allow God's

Word to penetrate into the deepest part of our being and to expose
that which is impure (4:12,13)
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Thought Question:  What do these verses have to do with entering God's rest?

 

 

The author of Hebrews has emphasized that what keeps us from trusting God is unbelief and unbelief is a moral heart problem.  We cannot get right with God until our heart is right.  Heart problems need heart surgery.  God's Word is like a two-edged sword, and it is able to penetrate right to the center of who we are!  It is able to expose our deepest thoughts and motives.  Have you ever experienced heart surgery by the two-edged sword of God's Word?  Jeremiah had experienced this type of heart surgery.  In Jeremiah 17:9, he tells us what he learned about his heart and the heart of all mankind after God's Word had penetrated deeply into his inner being:  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"

If we do not harden ourselves against the truth, God's Word will shine in our hearts and expose what we are really like deep down inside.  It will reveal what our real motives are.  Do we want to see this?  No, but we need to see the truth about what is in our hearts if we want to have our unbelief changed to faith.  How can this heart surgery lead to faith and rest?  The truth is that God already knows what we are like on the inside.  Jesus knew what we were like when He died for us.  God knows what we are like and now because of Jesus' blood accepts us "Just as (we are)."  There is no rest, though, until we can stop hiding from God.  "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  (Hebrews 4:13) When we realize that God sees the complete depth of our sin, has paid the full price for it, and now provides us with all that we need for life; all that is left is for us to rest in His grace and provision. 

Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China had a book written about him by his son called Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret.  His secret was that he had learned how to rest in God's provision.  Here is what Hudson Taylor learned:  "The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings.  I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine.  It makes no matter where He places me or how.  That is rather for him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me is His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient."  And in another place:  "'But how to get faith strengthened?  Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.'"  "Taken from Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor. Copyright by Moody Press." (pages 163,161)

We are not to harden our hearts but to open ourselves to the penetration of God's Word.  As it exposes our sin and unbelief, it will lead us into God's rest.  As it exposes to us those areas where we are not resting, but struggling in our own weak and futile efforts, it will free us from carrying burdens that God wants us to lay on Him.  We are to make it our most earnest pursuit that we fully experience the rest that God wants us to experience in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

YOU SHOULD MOVE FORWARD IN THE FAITH BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST IS AN INFINITELY GREATER HIGH PRIEST THAN AARON (4:14-5:10)

1. Jesus is a greater High Priest than Aaron - He alone is from

Heaven and is also a man like us who can understand our
weaknesses (4:14-16)
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Thought Question #1:  What does it mean to you right now that Jesus is able to "sympathize with our weaknesses"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What should be the practical effect on us that we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need"?

 

 

In the previous verses the author of Hebrews warns the Hebrew Christians not to allow sin to harden their hearts toward God.  He warns them about the consequences of turning toward sin.  In these verses he urges them to turn toward God.  They can boldly do this because they now have a High Priest who has opened up the way to God.  They and we can now "hold firmly to the faith we profess."

a. We can move on in faith because there is Someone in Heaven who

understands (4:14,15)
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  There are no more comforting verses in the Bible than these three verses (these two verses and the verse that follows).  Simply put, there is now Someone in Heaven who understands.  The greatest loneliness comes when we feel there is no one who understands.  When someone is gasping for air with asthma, it is helpful when there is someone with him who has also struggled for air and knows what he is going through.  When your mother dies, only someone who has also lost his or her mother can begin to understand what you are feeling.

In these verses we are told that Jesus understands and is able to sympathize with all our weaknesses.  It, of course, is not easy to believe that the Perfect One is able to understand when we are not perfect.  But he also has felt every temptation to disobey the Father as we have, even though He resisted every temptation and never once sinned.  We have no idea what it would be like, though, to never give in to temptation because we often give in to temptation far before the temptation is at its strongest.  Think how much greater the temptation would be if we never gave in to any temptation; if we resisted every temptation as we should and as He actually did.  It is true that He who endured the most was the One who resisted temptation the most!

In Hebrews 12:3-4 it says, "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood."  The opposite of sympathy is apathy.  We may feel that He is apathetic and totally separate from what we are going through.  But He was here.  He lived a life on this planet just like we are living.  He was born of a woman, went through childhood, was an adolescent, and grew up to an adult.  He lived His life minute by minute as we do, and He went through all that we go through.  He felt in His flesh all that we feel in our flesh, and He felt it even more intensely.  There is Someone in Heaven who understands.  God understands!

b. Because there is Someone in Heaven that understands, we can confidently

approach God for help (4:16)
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Warren Wiersbe has titled his commentary on Hebrews, Be Confident.  What gives us confidence to approach someone?  King Herod who was king over Israel when Jesus was born was power hungry and insanely suspicious.  He murdered anyone whom he thought was a threat to his throne.  He murdered his wife, her mother and three sons.  A Roman leader said that it was "safer to be Herod's pig than Herod's son."  How would you like to approach his throne?  Could you have done it confidently?  Could you have approached rulers like Hitler and Stalin confidently?  We can be fearful to approach God's throne because we may expect that we will receive something like what we would receive if we had approached Herod's throne.  We are fearful because we may expect to receive judgment, anger, rejection or indifference.  But we will not find this when we approach God's throne.  At God's throne we will not get what we deserve; but we will find mercy, grace and help in our times of need.  Someone has said that the blood of Christ changed God's throne of judgment into a throne of mercy.  We cannot boldly approach a throne of judgment; but we can boldly approach a throne of mercy.

Because we may not have found mercy, grace, and help when we have come to other authority figures in our lives, we may find it hard to believe that we will find mercy, grace and help at God's throne.  But even if we have found it nowhere else, we will find it when we approach God.  We no longer approach a God who is like a judge in a courtroom who will only give us what we deserve, but we approach God who now gives us what we do not deserve.  We now approach a throne of grace.  What does the future have in store for us?  None of us can be sure.  But we can be sure that no matter what we face and no matter what our need, we will always be able to confidently approach God's throne of grace "in our time of need" and we will find help.  This is the rest that we now have in Jesus Christ.  We can hold firmly to our faith because Almighty God understands, loves us, is merciful towards us, and He will always be there to help us.  We have God's Word on it!

As the dearly loved hymn says:  "What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!  What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!  O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!  Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?  We should never be discouraged--Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Can we find a friend so faithful  Who will all our sorrows share?  Jesus knows our every weakness--Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care?  Precious Savior still our refuge--Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?  Take it to the Lord in prayer; In His arms He'll take and shield thee--Thou wilt find a solace there."  We can approach this God confidently and we will find rest there!

2. Jesus is a greater High Priest than Aaron - He alone fulfills all the

requirements of a High Priest (5:1-10)
"Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.  This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.  No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.  So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'  And he says in another place, 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek."

Thought Question #1:  What type of person can perfectly represent us before God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Find as many characteristics of our perfect representative before God as you can in 5:1-10:

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you believe it was like for Jesus when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane? ( when "he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.")

 

 

Thought Question #4:  Since Jesus went to the cross after crying out to the Father, why does the author of Hebrews say that "he was heard"?

 

 

Thought Question #5:  Though the author of Hebrews will explain about it in Hebrews seven, why do you think that Jesus was a "high priest in the order of Melchizedek"?

 

 

a. He was and is a man (5:1-3)

Every High Priest of Israel starting with Aaron were fallible men just like the people they represented before God.  Because they were men and had human weaknesses themselves, they were able to understand the human weaknesses of the people they represented.  Aaron was able to understand human weaknesses because he was very human himself.  We are all very familiar with how weak he was!  What was his most well-known sin?  It was, of course, when he led Israel to worship a golden calf.  When Aaron offered sacrifices for the sins of the people of Israel, he also offered them for his own sins.

A human High Priest is able to deal "gently" with those "who are ignorant and going astray."  The Greek word that was translated "gently" is an interesting word.  It is the Greek word metriopatheinmetrio = moderate and pathein = suffer or feel.  It is the ability to choose not to be too sympathetic (lenient) with those who do wrong nor too unsympathetic (harsh) towards them.  When a child cries at night, should the parent allow him to cry himself to sleep or pick him up every time he cries?  Dealing "gently" with the child is finding that middle ground.  Jesus shows that middle position.  He is both the lion and the lamb.  He took the whip to the money-changers, but on the cross He said, "Forgive them, they know not what they do."  He called the Pharisees "hypocrites," but it broke his heart.  He hated the sin but loved the sinner.  He died on the cross for every man, and that included these very same Pharisees.  This is the type of representative we have before God.  He is what we would want as the perfect parent, policeman, teacher, and President; and He is our perfect representative before God.  His humanness provides Him with the understanding of our human weaknesses; it enables Him to represent us before the Father with gentle understanding.  He is greater than Aaron, however, for though He understands our weaknesses, He will never need to offer a sacrifice for His own sins.

b. He was appointed by God (5:1,4-6)

Not just anyone can represent us before God.  He must be chosen to represent us by the Highest governing authority of all.  He must be chosen to represent us by God.  God did choose a certain man to represent Israel before Him.  He chose Moses' brother Aaron, and after him he chose his son Eleazar (see Numbers 20:24-26).  Jesus was appointed in the same way.  At His baptism, the Father spoke to those present and to all of us that Jesus Christ was His own Son.  This fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 2:7 that is quoted in 5:5, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father."  The author also introduces the prediction in Psalm 110:4 that Jesus would be a High Priest in the line of Melchizedek rather than in the line of Aaron.  (He would be as Melchizedek was, both a priest and a king.   Hebrews 7 deals with Jesus' new type of priesthood in greater depth.)

Jesus was officially appointed by God to be our High Priest, our representative before God.  It has been part of God's eternal plan that we would have a representative before Him who was chosen from among men and One who has been eternally appointed by Him.  Some of the most popular television shows have been courtroom shows.  A good explanation for the popularity of these shows is the need that each of us has for someone to represent us before the Highest Court.  We do have that man and it is not a fictional-perfect lawyer like Perry Mason, but the Highest Court has appointed for us the very best representative possible.  Our court-appointed lawyer is the Son of the Judge!

c. He fully submitted to God (5:1,7,8)

In 5:1 we are told that the High Priest was chosen "to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins."  In 5:7,8 a description is given to us of how Jesus perfectly fulfilled this High Priestly function: "he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears."  What do His prayers, petitions, cries, and tears have to do with Jesus offering a sacrifice for our sins?  What is described here is what happened at Gethsemane.  It was there that Jesus faced His greatest decision, the decision about whether or not He would offer up the most costly sacrifice for our sins that could ever be offered.  These verses portray for us how our High Priest went infinitely beyond the High Priests of Israel, for he offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  The anguish of facing that sacrifice was so great that He said to the Father, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death"!  And He asked the Father, "If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me?"  He was not anguished because He faced cruel torture and death.  Men had faced this before.  But no one had ever faced bearing the penalty for the sins of all mankind.  Jesus faced the infinite wrath of God for all the sins committed by all men of all time.

Paying the punishment for each sin that each of us has committed was part of what was in Jesus' mind as He faced the cross.  This is why His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow" and why "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."  Possibly it was His terror of what was before Him that forced blood right out of His veins and out of His pores!  We do not understand fully what Jesus was facing that day.  But we know that He was facing the outer darkness that each of those who choose to reject God is facing right now.  If non-believers knew that they were heading toward, they also would be in the same type of terror and agony that filled Jesus' soul on the night before His crucifixion.  Yet, though He knew what was ahead, He chose to do it for us!

But, He prayed that He would not stay in that state and be in judgment forever.  The Father heard His prayers, and He was rescued from death.  How do we know that the Father heard His prayers?  The empty grave tells us the Father heard His prayers, and it also tells us that His payment for our sins satisfied God's justice.  We see in these verses why the Father heard His prayers: "he was heard because of His reverent submission."  He was heard because He perfectly submitted to the Father.

d. Therefore, He was acceptable to God (5:9,10)

"and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek."

Jesus did not become a perfect High Priest and could not have offered a perfect sacrifice until He succeeded as a man where all other men had failed.  We disobey; but He perfectly obeyed.  And so a man was able to come before God with a perfect sacrifice so that we might follow behind Him and also enter into the very presence of God.  He was not a High Priest who offered sacrifices for Himself and had to do it continually, but He was a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek who offered Himself as a sacrifice once for all and cleansed us from sin forever (Again, we will be learning more about the meaning of Melchizedek in chapter seven.)

THEREFORE, MOVE FORWARD IN YOUR FAITH BY DILIGENTLY ACTING ON YOUR FAITH (5:11-6:12)

1. Move on from milk to meat by acting on what you know (5:11-6:2)

In almost every church there are children in every stage of physical growth.  There are children in nearly every church who are just beginning to crawl, and there are children who are just beginning to drive a car.  But, what if the child who is just beginning to drive had stopped growing at the crawling stage?  If physical growth stops, we would become concerned and immediately take the child to the doctor.  The Bible talks about another type of growth, spiritual growth.

God gave us physical life when we were born into this world.  When we believe in Jesus Christ, His spiritual life is also born in us.  We begin the Christian life as a baby, and we are also to grow in this new spiritual life.  It is called spiritual growth.  Just as there are stages in physical growth, so there are stages in spiritual growth.  In almost every church there are also Christians in every stage of spiritual growth.  There are baby Christians, mature Christians, and everything in between.  Babies almost always grow physically into adults.  Baby Christians, however, do not always grow into mature Christians.

We are concerned when we see that a baby is not growing.  We should also be as concerned when we see that a baby Christian is not growing.  This is the reason for the book of Hebrews.  The Jewish Christians were not growing and some that they thought were Christians were falling away.  The author of Hebrews writes to them to encourage them to grow.  He first points out their lack of growth and then He urges them to grow.

a. Milk Christians (How to recognize it when Christians are not growing)

(5:11-13)
"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness."

Thought Question #1:  In what ways is our spiritual growth similar to our physical growth?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you think that Paul started talking about them being spiritual babies?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Have you grown spiritually to the place where you should be for the amount of time that you have been a Christian? (Do you still act like a baby Christian at times?  Are you unable to handle meaty teaching like the meaty teaching that Paul will start to explain in chapter seven?) (Explain your answer – Where might you need to grow?)

 

 

Paul wanted to immediately explain to them about Melchizedek, but he could not because he knew they were not mature enough to understand.  They were stuck in the baby stage of Christianity and still could only handle milk.  Babies are not yet ready to chew and digest meat.  These Christians were not ready to chew and digest the meat about Melchizedek.  They had been Christians long enough to have gone beyond the baby stage of Christianity.  They should have already become teachers, but instead they needed to learn the elementary truths all over again.  They were like someone stuck in the first grade getting first grade lessons over and over and over again.

It is possible for Christians to go to Sunday School and church for years and years, but never come to the place where they know the truths of God so well that they can teach it to others.  The years go by, but their growth as Christians remains in the baby stage.  Paul found the Corinthian Christians still to be in this baby stage.  They were acting no differently from non-Christians.  As is true in the non-Christian world, there were factions and arguments among the Christians at Corinth. See I Corinthians 3:1-4

Here in Hebrews, the problem was that they were "slow to learn" or dull toward God's ways.  Parents are unable to talk to their five-year-old son about most of the things in their adult lives.  The child is "slow to learn" about these mature types of things.  The author of Hebrews was like an adult Christian who was unable to talk to the baby Hebrew Christians about the things he was learning in his mature Christian world.

b. How we grow from milk (immature) Christians to meat (mature)

Christians (5:14-6:2) (HOW WE MOVE FORWARD IN THE FAITH!)
"But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."

Thought Question #1:  Why should every Christian eventually be able to be a teacher?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  In these verses, what are some examples of basic baby Christianity that we today need to leave so that we can move on to maturity?

 

 

(1) We grow by constantly putting God's Word into practice in our lives

(5:14)
We grow in the Christian life just like we learn in all areas of life.  For example, we grow in the Christian life in the same way we learn to become a good driver.  How do we become a good driver?  We do a lot of driving in every type of situation.  Over a period of years we become an experienced driver.   We can hear a lot about love on Sunday morning and even that Jesus and His love are in us.  But, we only grow in loving when we over a period of years do a lot of loving in every type of situation in our lives.

We also grow in the Christian life by putting in to practice what we learn in the Bible.  As James says, we become "doers of the word" (see James 1:22-24).  As we grow by putting into practice what is taught in the Bible, we begin to develop the ability he describes here; we become trained to be able to "distinguish good from evil."  Through our putting into practice what we are learning in the Bible, we, over a period of time, become experts on what is right and what is wrong.

(2) We grow by leaving the elementary teachings behind and moving on to

meat (6:1,2)
They were not interested in going beyond baby food.  He urges them here to go beyond the basics of Christianity to the more advanced teachings.  He was urging them to leave first grade and to move on to second grade.  He lists here three main interests of baby Christians: (1) How we become a Christian:  Here, he calls it "repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God."  They each needed to go beyond thinking about how they became a Christian and focus on growing as a Christian.  Churches need to go beyond giving salvation messages to Christians, to focusing on urging Christians to grow in their faith.

We have probably all been around a Christian who years after he or she became a Christian is still only talking about what happened shortly after he or she became a Christian.  This person has not moved beyond the baby, new Christian part of the Christian life.  Churches can also be stuck in sharing primarily only the Gospel and baby Christian truths.  Christians and churches need to move beyond these milk stages of the Christian life.

(2) The ceremonies of the faith:  An important ceremony for the Christian is baptism.  For these Hebrew Christians, the Old Testament ceremonies were an important part of their national traditions.  The baptisms mentioned here were the washings that were part of the Old Testament ceremonies that were symbolic of how Jesus washes and cleanses us from sin.  The laying on of hands was also a part of the Old Testament ceremonies.  The High Priest laid hands on the sacrifices which were symbolic of our sins being placed on Jesus Christ.  These Hebrew Christians needed to go beyond the symbols and focus on the reality to which the ceremonies pointed.  For some churches and Christians, their Christianity over the years has been primarily a once a week ceremony.  They are also stuck in the very baby stages of Christianity.  They also need to be urged to move forward from milk to meat in their Christian lives.

(3) A focus on future things:  Here, they were focusing on "the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."  What is the new Christian's favorite book?  His or her favorite book is often the book of Revelation.  New Christians are often very interested in the fascinating prophecies about the future in Revelation and other books of the Bible.  We do not need to discourage them in their interest in prophecy.  For example, Paul gave the new believers in Thessalonica detailed teaching about the end times. See II Thessalonians 2:1-6  It is wrong and hinders growth in Christians, though, when we focus only on what is exciting, such as prophetic truths.  If we teach new Christians or any Christians only what they find to be exciting, we will also be a part of keeping them in the baby stages of Christianity.  This practice is similar to giving children what they want such as ice cream, pop, and candy and not urging them to eat the food which is the healthiest and will produce the best growth in them.  We also need to urge Christians to move beyond the exciting truths of prophecy so that they can dine on that which will help them to continue to grow in their Christian lives. 

What are the ABCs of Christianity today?  They are such things as Sunday school stories, John 3:16, how we became a Christian, and a fascination with prophecies about the future.  We need to urge the Christians in our churches to move beyond the baby stages of Christianity so that we and they can go on to maturity.

2. Some who were once enlightened have fallen away from God (6:3-8)

"And God permitting, we will do so.  It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned."

Thought Question:  These verses are very controversial; some of the most controversial verses in the Bible.  It centers on whom the author of Hebrews is talking about in Hebrews 6:4-8?  Do you believe he is talking about Christians who have lost their salvation, a hypothetical situation that could never happen, or people who have never become Christians?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

In 6:3, the author says, "And God permitting, we will do so."  This statement assumes that there are some who can go on in the faith and there are also some who are not permitted by God to go on.  Why can't they go on?  The author of Hebrews gives his answer in the next verses.  In 6:4-6 we have these strong words: "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."

Some would say that those who cannot go on and those who cannot "be brought back to repentance" are those who were once Christians but have lost their salvation.  In this interpretation, they are those who became Christians, but then have turned from God and lost their salvation.  The problem with this interpretation is the many verses in the Bible that state that once we are saved we are eternally God's children. See Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 1:1-14; John 10:14-18  It would not be eternal life if it were not eternal.  According to I Corinthians 5, even those who turn away from God's narrow path after becoming a Christian will still remain saved, though they will lose the reward they would have received if they had continued to follow Christ. See I Corinthians 5:1-5  This interpretation of these verses also means that someone can lose his or her salvation and be unable to repent and return to being a Christian.  Some who would interpret these verses in this way would not go so far as to say that someone could lose his or her salvation permanently by turning away from God after they have become a Christian.  They would say you could lose your salvation, repent, and then regain your salvation.

Another interpretation is that the author of Hebrews is speaking of a hypothetical situation.  He is presenting a horrifying hypothetical situation.  If someone was illumined by God's Spirit and became a Christian and then turned away, what would happen?  He would then have no way of salvation left, since he would have rejected the only way of salvation that there is - Jesus dying for our sins.  So, according to this view, the author of Hebrews is arguing, why would you choose not to follow Christ all the way?  It is the only option that you have.  If you turn away from the only path of salvation, what will you have left?  It makes no sense for you to do so since there is no other way of salvation for you to turn to.  Why would you do that which, if it were possible, will lead only to condemnation?

Who is the author of Hebrews referring to?  Who is the person who cannot be restored to repentance?  There is a another option that Bible commentators offer to us:  They say that he is referring to those who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit and understand who Jesus is, but harden their hearts and reject Him before they become Christians.  It is this interpretation that I believe best fits the context.  The figure of speech that he uses in 6:7,8 fits best with this interpretation.  "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned."

In these verses the author of Hebrews uses this figure of speech to divide people into two different categories: those who are enlightened by God's Spirit and respond and become Christians; and those who are enlightened by God's Spirit and reject this work of the Spirit and choose not to become Christians.  Those who become Christians are like the land that was rained upon and produced a crop that was able to be used by the farmers.  The other group, those rejecting the work of the Spirit, are like the land that received the same rain as the other land, but it produced only thorns and thistles.  This second land was worthless to the farmers, and in the end it needed to be burned.

It is my conclusion, then, that the people referred to in 6:4-8 are those who were drawn to God, but never became Christians.  This last land is a picture of those who have been enlightened by God's Spirit, but have rejected Him; and are worthless toward God and will face God's judgment in hell.  The Christians that Hebrews is written to were not in this group.  The next verse after these two verses makes that clear:  "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case---things that accompany salvation." (Hebrews 6:9)

They were "enlightened."  They had gone from the darkness of not understanding about God into the light of understanding about Him.  Yet they had chosen to go back to the darkness.  They had "tasted the heavenly gift."  They not only heard about the new life in Jesus Christ, but they had felt and experienced a taste of this new life.  They had chosen to stop experiencing the life of Jesus Christ and to go back to death.  They "shared in the Holy Spirit."  What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that Jesus talks about in Matthew 12?  Since Jesus is warning his listeners that they need to be careful not to do it, it is something that is possible to do.  They could reject Jesus, and it would not be a permanent rejection of Jesus; but if they blasphemed the Holy Spirit, it would be a permanent rejection of Jesus.  It occurs when someone has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, understands who Jesus is, and hardens his or her heart and completely rejects Him.  A person who is worried that he or she might have committed this unforgivable sin has not committed it; for that person shows by his or her concern that the heart has not become permanently hardened against God in permanent rejection of Him.

They "tasted the goodness of the word of God."  They understood that the Bible is more than just a dry religious book.  They had even come to understand that it is the very words of God.  Yet, they chose to turn from these very words of God.  They tasted of the "powers of the coming age."  They had begun to understand what Heaven will be like.  Yet, they had chosen not to want to go there.  They had experienced all of this and yet had rejected it!

The author of Hebrews is teaching that God's Spirit brings some into an understanding of spiritual things that the non-Christian does not naturally have.  (But, those who are referred to in these verses rejected God even when they understood Whom they were rejecting!)

Kenneth Wuest, the eminent Greek scholar, holds this view (though he believe that it could only be committed by the Hebrews of Jesus' time).  Here are some of his observations.  First of all with reference to the words, "shared in the Holy Spirit," he has this to say: "the Greek word translated "partakers" ["shared" in the NIV] does not mean "possessors" in the sense that these Hebrews possessed the Holy Spirit as an indwelling Person who had come to take up his permanent abode in their hearts.  The word is a compound of the Greek verb "to have and to hold" (echo) and a preposition meaning "with" (meta), thus "to hold with."  …Thus the word signifies one who participates with another in a common activity or possession.  It is so used here.  These Hebrews became participators in the Holy Spirit insofar as an unsaved person can do so, namely, in the sense that they willingly co-operated with Him in receiving His pre-salvation ministry, that of leading them step by step toward the act of faith.  This word in the context does not at all imply that these Hebrews had been born of the Spirit." "Taken from WORD STUDIES IN THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1947 by Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co."

Most Christians have known those who they thought were Christians, who have later completely turned their back on God.  These who reach such a state of hardness where they can actually see Jesus Christ's goodness and then hate Him are just like those who were able to cold-heartedly crucify Him.  So, by rejecting Him who was crucified, they are crucifying Him all over again.    What they are doing is similar to what Satan does, for he understands who God is, but still has rejected Him.  As was mentioned earlier, this type of hardened rejection of God is doing what Jesus called the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 12:22-37  It is certainly what Judas did when He rejected Jesus.  The other disciples appeared to believe he was one of them, yet Judas left them.  He was never a Christian for Jesus referred to him as a "devil" and as one who was "doomed to destruction."  See John 6:70 and 17:12

The Hebrew Christians also saw those who appeared to be fellow Christians falling away from the faith.  As the tough times began to come, the falling away of those that were rejecting Jesus Christ was a strong discouraging influence, pulling them away from continuing to move forward in their trust in Jesus Christ.  The author of Hebrews reveals to them that they should not be discouraged by these who were falling away from God.  Instead, they should be motivated not to be like them, for these who had rejected Jesus Christ were also eternally rejected by God.

An illustration which explains what the author of Hebrews is seeking to do here is as follows:  A coach of a high school track team starts strong with a large turn-out for the team.  But, as the practices get tough and as he is appropriately demanding on them as he seeks to train them to be the best team he can put together, some who have turned out begin to quit the team.  As those on the track team begin to see their friends falling away from the team, some begin to get discouraged.  Some even consider quitting themselves, and others lose their enthusiasm for the team.  What would this track coach need to do to encourage those who are left on the team to work at their highest level?  He might do what the author of Hebrews is doing here.  He might choose to explain to the team that some of those who turn out for the team each year fall away because they were never really ready to do what it takes to be on a track team.

He is not surprised that some fall away each track season.  We should not be surprised or discouraged when some who have been excited about the Christian life fall away from it after a time.  For it is often true that they never really became Christians.  Jesus prepared Christians for the falling away of some who profess to become Christians when He taught in Matthew thirteen on the parable of the soils.  The seed of the Word of God falls (1) on some soils that are not receptive to the Word, (2) on some soils which are partially receptive but do not provide good enough soil to sustain plant life; and (3) on some soils which can produce a good crop. See Matthew 13:1-23 (Notice that Jesus' teaching on the soils follows Jesus' words in Matthew 12 on the "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.") See also Acts 7:51

The seed which falls on the rocky soil and the soil covered with thistles will not sustain plant life.  Some people are like these two types of soil.  They show interest and understanding of the Christian life for a while, but time shows that they were not good soil for God's Word; they fall away from the Christian life.  As John says in I John, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed than none of them belonged to us." See I John 2:19

3. But you, continue on in your faith (6:9-12)

"Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, how can we gain confidence of our salvation?

 

 

Once more, we can be sure that those he describes in 6:4-8 were never Christians, for in these verses he tells the Hebrew Christians, "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case--things that accompany salvation."  As he says, they had demonstrated the reality of their faith by their love toward God and the way they helped God's people.  We think of the judgment of the sheep and the goats described in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus accepts those categorized as sheep because they gave to God's people who were hungry and in need.

These Hebrew Christians are urged to continue to show this "same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure."  This reminds us of II Peter chapter one where Peter urges the Christians he is writing to be diligent in seeking to grow as Christians so that they would make their "calling and election sure." (See II Peter 1:3-11)

Finally, he urges them not "to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."  Hebrews 11 gives us a pattern for the type of faith that is characterized by those who are truly God's people.  It is continuing to believe and obey God through every type of trial.  It is trusting Him when the circumstances in our lives seem to be telling us that God is not faithful or dependable.  This type of faith requires that we not be lazy, but active in our faith, persevering until the end.

 

MOVE FORWARD IN YOUR FAITH BECAUSE JESUS' NEW COVENANT PRIESTHOOD IS GREATER THAN AARON'S OLD COVENANT PRIESTHOOD (6:13-10:18)

1. Jesus Christ is a greater High Priest than Aaron (continued) -

He is a greater High Priest than Aaron because He is a High
Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (6:13-7:28)
The author of Hebrews began in chapter five, verse ten to tell his readers that Jesus Christ was a greater High Priest than Aaron because He was a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Then, he apparently realized that this truth would not be easy for them to learn.  And because they would not be receptive to hearing and seeking to understand what he had to say, he, in 5:11-6:12, exhorts them to be willing to go beyond spiritual milk and to seek after solid food.  After this exhortation, he does take them beyond milk and gives them the solid food or spiritual meat about Jesus being a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.  He continues with this theme in 6:13.  Are you ready for spiritual meat?  Read on!

a. Because Jesus' Melchizedek priesthood is an eternal priesthood

rather than an earthly priesthood like Aaron's, He gives us a certain
and an eternal hope (6:13-20)
How can we be certain that what God has promised us, He will do?  An earthly example will help us see what our need is in this type of situation.  An owner of a car who had put her car up for sale needed to tell a prospective buyer than she could not pay off the loan she had made on the car and receive the title from the lending company until the buyer paid her the full price for the car.  But if the buyer gave her the money, would he have any guarantee that she would sign over the car to him and give him the title after she already had the money?  A lawyer recommended that they write up an agreement, have it notarized, and sign it.  The two copies of this agreement were the guarantee that both would fulfill their parts in the agreement.  And so the car was sold successfully.  Has God done anything like this to help us feel better about His promises to us?  As we continue from 6:13 through chapter 10, we will see that God has made a detailed agreement with us and He sealed it (notarized it) with the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. We begin in 6:13-20 to look at this agreement and the certain hope that it provides to us.

(1) Abraham trusted in his agreement with God and he received what was

promised to him (6:13-15)
"When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, 'I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.'  And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."

Thought Question #1: What are some methods that you have used to ensure to someone that you were going to follow through on a promise to them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How is what you did to ensure that you could be trusted in your promises similar to what God did with Abraham?

 

 

When we make a promise to someone, there are various ways we use to assure them that we will follow through on our promise.  When we put a down payment on a house and then sign our name on an agreement that we will make monthly payments on that house, the owners or mortgage company can gain some assurance that we will make those payments for the following reasons: their legal rights, our history of paying our bills, our job security, our income, and our financial assets.  In the courts in the past, people swore on the Bible, "so help me God" that they would tell the truth.  This oath gave those in the courtroom some assurance that they were telling the truth.

What did God give Abraham to give him assurance and confidence that He would fulfill the promise that He had made to him?  Who can God swear by?  Since there was no one greater than He, He swore by Himself.  The Lord appeared to Abram (later, his name was changed to Abraham) while he was in Ur of the Chaldees (modern-day Iraq) and said, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."  Then God made this promise to Abram, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:1-3)  These verses record God's promise to Abram.

In Genesis 15, God used a method of making a covenant that was used in Abram's time to turn His promise to Abram into a covenant or an official agreement between Him and Abraham.  The only difference is that Abraham was asleep when God made the covenant.  It was only a one-person agreement.  Rather than the two humans who were making the agreement passing between the halves of slaughtered animals, God alone passed between the pieces of the animals, making a solemn agreement or covenant with Abram while he slept.

In Genesis 17, God confirmed His covenant with Abram and with his descendants by making circumcision a sign of His covenant with Abram.  At this time his name was changed to Abraham.  In chapter 22 we learn that after Abraham was willing to obey God and offer his only son as a sacrifice to God, God honored Abraham's willingness to offer Isaac by providing another sacrifice to replace Isaac and by swearing an oath to Abraham.  "The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, 'I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.'" ( Genesis 22:16-17).  And so, because God could swear by no one higher than Himself, He swore by Himself.

New Christians are often shown God's promises to them (of forgiveness of sin, new life, eternal life, and others) and then asked, "Would God lie to you?"  The answer, of course, is, "No!"  So, God's promise should be enough.  But, so that we might be even more sure, be doubly sure, God swears by an oath.  God comes down to our level.  We are used to entering into agreements by signing our signature or by swearing oaths (the marriage commitment , for example), so for our sake God swears an oath for us.  Abraham believed God's oath to him and after Abraham waited patiently, he received the promise (after waiting 25 years, Isaac the promised son was born to Sarah and Abraham). See Genesis 12:3,4 and 21:5

In 6:12, the author urged his readers to not become lazy but, instead, "imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."  Next, we will see that God has not only made a promise to Abraham, but He has also made a PROMISE to us.

(2) God also made a promise to us and confirmed it with an oath

(6:16-18)
"Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged."

Thought Question:  In what ways do these words "greatly" encourage you?

 

 

To help us, as He did with Abraham, God comes down to our level.  He only needed to make a promise to us; and because He never lies, that should be enough for us.  But, "because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it by making an oath."  The result, we are told in these verses, is that we now have two "unchangeable" reasons that God who cannot lie has given to us so that we can believe that His promise to us will be fulfilled.  What are the two "unchangeable" reasons that we now have so that we can trust in God's promise to us?  First, God's promise, because it is from God is enough; and, second, God's oath that even further confirms the promise that is already totally and completely trustworthy!  And we are told that God did this so that we might be "greatly encouraged"!  As we continue in Hebrews, we will learn that the oath was pictured in the Old Testament symbolism of the Tabernacle and Temple sacrifices and has been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(3) Jesus Christ our Melchizedek High Priest entering    behind the

curtain into the true Tabernacle is the anchor for our hope
(6:19,20)
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

Thought Question:  How is Jesus Christ, our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, "an anchor" for your soul? (Answer this question after you have completed the questions on chapter seven)

 

 

Many of us have been in situations where we were waiting for someone to fulfill a promise to us.  Someone may have bought something from us and only paid for half the cost.  Until we receive the final payment, we are trusting that this person will pay the final amount.  During that period before we receive the final payment, we are waiting for the promise to be kept to us.  All Christians are in this position.  We are waiting for the rest of God's promise to be kept to us.

In these verses we are told that our confidence in God's promise and His oath to keep His promise are "an anchor" for our soul to hang on to as we go through this time of waiting until the promise is fulfilled.  What is the securest place to put an anchor?  The Prudential Life Insurance Company says that if we trust them it is like putting our anchor in the Rock of Gibraltar.  But a man by the name of Harry Truman put his trust in a rock-Mt. St. Helens!  He found that even a rock is not a secure place to put our anchor.  Is there anything totally secure?  Only having a sure and certain relationship with God gives us total security.  He is the only True Rock.  Is our anchor in the securest place of all?

The people of the Old Testament put their trust in their relationship with God through the human High Priest of the family of Aaron.  He entered into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle on their behalf once a year with a blood sacrifice for their sins.  We put our trust in our relationship with God through a High Priest of another order, the order not of Aaron but of Melchizedek.  Jesus Christ did not enter the earthly Tabernacle, but Heaven itself.  And He did not enter once a year, but once forever.  Also, He did not go in and come back out, but He is still there.   Finally, the people of Israel were not able to follow their High Priest into the presence of God, but we can follow our High Priest Jesus Christ right into the presence of God; right into the Holy of Holies.

In the next three and a half chapters, we learn in detail why Jesus' High Priesthood gives us a "firm and secure" place to anchor our hope.   Because he went behind the true curtain and into Heaven, we can be secure and confident that our relationship with God, the True Rock, has once and for all time been settled and that God will fulfill His promise to us!

b. Because Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, therefore,

Melchizedek was greater than Aaron of Abraham's family (7:1-10)
"This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.  First, his name means 'king of righteousness'; then also, 'king of Salem' means 'king of peace.'  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.  Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!  Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham.  This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.  And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.  In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.  One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, why do you believe that Jesus was not a High Priest in the order of Aaron?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What can you learn about the importance of Melchizedek from the verses?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What can you tell from these verses as to why Melchizedek was a greater Priest than Aaron?

 

 

Who is Melchizedek?  Our first reaction to this question may be, "Who cares?"  It may seem that the question and the answer to the question are totally irrelevant to our lives.  For this reason, it is tempting for to just pass over the seventh chapter of Hebrews; for the whole chapter is about Melchizedek.  It may remind us of other long names we find in the Bible like Nebuchadnezzar, Abimelech, and Mephibosheth.  We tend to be overwhelmed by these long, unfamiliar and foreign-sounding names.  The whole seventh chapter of Hebrews is dedicated to explaining the importance of a man with one of these long, unfamiliar and foreign-sounding names.  It is no wonder that many who read the Bible have not made a concerted attempt to understand this chapter.  Yet it is a critically important part of the precious gold that we are to dig out of the Bible, refine, and apply to our lives.

Who was this Melchizedek?  It will not be easy to understand.  As the author of Hebrews says it is solid food or meat.  It will be a stretching experience for all of us.

(1) Who was Melchizedek (7:1a)

Outside of the book of Hebrews, Melchizedek is only mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4 (four verses).  In Genesis 14:18-20, we find these words, "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,  And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.'  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything."  In Psalm 110:4, it says, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'"  As it says here in Hebrews 7:1, he was both "king of Salem and priest of God Most High."  He is the only priest mentioned before Moses.   Moses received instructions at Mt. Sinai to establish a kingdom of priests. See Exodus 19:5,6   He is the only man before Jesus Christ to be both a king and a priest.  King Uzziah tried to be both a king and a priest when he offered incense before God.  He immediately became leprous. See II Chronicles 26:16-21

(2) Melchizedek's encounter with Abraham (7:1b-2a)

In Genesis 14 it describes how Abram (later his name was changed by God to Abraham) rescued his brother Lot from an alliance of warring kings.  On the way back, he was met by the friendly king Melchizedek, the king of Salem (later to be the area where Jerusalem was located).  He was more than a king, for Abraham gave him tithes and Melchizedek blessed him.  Abram somehow knew that Melchizedek was truly a priest/king of God!

(3) The meaning of Melchizedek's name, the meaning of his being

king of Salem, and the meaning of the brief description of him in
the Bible (7:2b,3)
Peter's name means "rock" and Abraham's name means "exalted father."  God's names for them were important in describing their parts in God's plan.  Peter's faith in Jesus Christ became the "rock" upon which the Church was built.  Abraham was the "exalted father" of the Israelite nation and of all who have faith in God as he had.  Melchizedek's name is also very important as a description of the most important part of God's plan.  His name means "king of righteousness."  His name is a description of a future king who will be righteous and who will bring in righteousness.  Also, he was the "king of Salem." "Salem," like the Hebrew word Shalom, is the word for peace.  "Jerusalem" has the meaning "a foundation for peace" or a place for peace.   So, Melchizedek was a king of righteousness and peace, and he pointed to a coming King who would bring righteousness and peace to man.

But, Melchizedek was also significant as a priest.  Different from the priests in the line of Aaron who were of the tribe of Levi, Melchizedek is described without there being any reference made to his family line.  Also, there is no mention of his birth or his death.  As the author of Hebrews says, he "like the Son of God remains a priest forever."  He was a picture for us, from way back in the times of Genesis, of a coming king who would bring in righteousness and peace.  And he was also a picture for us of a priest from outside of the family of Aaron who was from before time and who would be a priest forever.  Melchizedek was a prediction of our King/Priest Jesus Christ!

(4) Melchizedek the king/priest was greater than Abraham, the

founder of the Jewish nation; therefore he was greater than all of
the Jewish priests who were of the tribe of Levi (Levi was a great-
grandson of Abraham) (7:4-10)
As we see in Genesis 14:18-20 quoted earlier, when Abraham conquered the kings that had taken his brother Lot prisoner, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils.   Tithe means 1/10.  When we give tithes of our income, we are saying that we know that nothing is ours, that God owns everything, and that we are giving Him a tithe of our income to acknowledge that we are merely stewards of His possessions.  Here, Abraham, voluntarily gave 1/10 of his plunder to Melchizedek who was a representative of God.

In Israel, God chose the tribe of Levi to collect tithes.  Yet, Abraham, the father of all the Jews including the tribe of Levi, paid tithes to Melchizedek.  What is the conclusion to all of this?  Undoubtedly, very few without the help of Hebrews chapter seven would have noticed from reading the Bible that Melchizedek had a higher position with God than Abraham (and, therefore, that he also had a higher position with God than the whole Israelite nation including the tribe of Levi and the High Priest of Israel).  The simple conclusion is that Abraham - the father of Moses, the father of David, the father of all the famous Jewish men, and the father of all Israel-saw Melchizedek as greater than himself and gave tithes to him and was blessed by him.

As we were "in Adam'" when he sinned in the garden, so the priests of Israel were "in Abraham" when he gave tithes to Melchizedek.  What the author of Hebrews was telling these Jewish Christians is that even in the Old Testament it says that there was someone greater than their Jewish priests.  He was seeking to change their mindset.  They saw their Jewish religious system as the greatest system of all.  It was hard for them to see someone coming to them who claimed to be greater than their religious system and greater than their High Priest.  The author of Hebrews wanted to show them that the religious system that they were part of was only a temporary model of God's plan and that it needed to be replaced by the eternal and real plan of God to which the model pointed.  Therefore, they did not need a High Priest who was part of the temporary model, but an eternal High Priest.  As Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and an eternal King/Priest, so they needed a greater High Priest than Aaron who is an eternal King/Priest.

Melchizedek, the king/priest of what would become Jerusalem is a picture of the future King/Priest of the New Jerusalem, Jesus Christ.  Abraham is a picture of all of us who believe in Jesus Christ.  He gave tithes to the king/priest of his time who had a higher position before God than Abraham himself.  We give our lives to the One who has the highest position before God of all!

Before we go on, it is necessary to explain the function of a priest.  A doctor's purpose is to lead us to health.  A priest's purpose is to lead us to God.  "Priest" comes from the Latin word that means bridge-builder.  The High Priest in particular is to be a bridge-builder between God and man.  In the following verses through the middle of chapter ten, we will see that Jesus Christ is the perfect bridge-builder between man and God.  No mere man could do this, but only the God/man could be the perfect and sufficient bridge between God and us.

c. Jesus was not a High Priest of the earthly and temporary Levitical

priesthood, but a High Priest of the Heavenly an eternal Melchizedek priesthood (7:11-28)

(1) Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, not of Levi (7:11-14)

"If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?  For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.  He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.  For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, why do you need a different priesthood than the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood?

 

 

Because the Levitical priesthood could not perfectly fulfill the function of the priesthood by uniting God and man, there was the need for another priesthood that could fully accomplish the purpose of the priesthood and unite God with man.  So, there is a need for a totally new system!  The Old Testament priests came from the tribe of Levi and operated according to the Old Testament Law.  They needed to be replaced by the priesthood of Jesus Christ who did not come from Levi, but from Judah.  The Old Testament Law with all of its physical regulations, like offering sacrifices before the Temple, needed to be replaced by the church that no longer emphasizes physical regulations, but emphasizes our eternal and spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  The Levitical priesthood was a picture of the true priesthood that does completely unite man with God.

(2) Jesus' Melchizedek priesthood is based on His indestructible life

(7:15-19) (Jesus' priesthood will never end; it is forever!)
"And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.  For it is declared: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'  The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, why is it important to you that Jesus is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood and not the Aaronic Priesthood?

 

 

In Psalm 110:4, the psalmist predicted that a priest was coming who would be "a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek."  Aaron's priesthood was "weak and useless" because he died.  He is no longer here to draw us near to God.  Who could be a priest forever?  Who else could fulfill this prophecy but Jesus Christ!  Jesus alone is our High Priest today and will be our High Priest forever.   It is because only He has "indestructible life."  He, therefore, provides all of mankind a much better way to draw near to God than the past, temporary, and mortal High Priesthood of Aaron.

(3) Jesus' priesthood came with an oath (7:20-22)

"And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant."

Thought Question:  Do you sometimes wonder about the following: "Will I really live forever?"  How are the words in these verses helpful to you?

 

 

In 6:13-20, we learned that God not only made a promise to Abraham that he would have a son and descendants, but God also added an oath to His promise.  Here we see that God made an oath that Jesus Christ will be a priest to mankind forever.  He will be our representative before God and unite man with God forever!  God's promise is enough, but God has gone even further by swearing an oath that we will always have One to represent us before Him and unite us with Him.  The fact that God did swear an oath shows that His oath about Jesus being our High Priest is extraordinarily important!  Jesus is now our "guarantee" that we can return to God without fear.  We all know how far we fall short of what we should be before God.  In our country, the news media bring out many imperfections in the lives of those who are candidates for government positions.  How well would any of us stand up if all our sin were shown to the whole world?  Yet because of Jesus Christ our High Priest and God's oath about Him, we have a "guarantee," and we can now enter into God's presence without fear.

(4) Therefore, Jesus, in His position as our forever priest, will

always intercede with us before God (7:23-25)
"Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
Thought Question:  What does verse 25, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them," mean to you today?

Thought Question:  What does verse 25, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them," mean to you today?

 

 

When we think of Jesus Christ, it is easy to think about Him as He was 2000 years ago.  But, He still lives and He no longer exists as the mere fleshly human being of 2000 years ago.  He is now exalted before God's throne.  John the Apostle saw Him in His present glory:  "I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me.  And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone 'like a son of man,' dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.  Then he placed his right hand on me and said:  'Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!' " See Revelation 1:12-1)  The human High Priests of Israel did their best to represent Israel before God; but only Jesus can represent us completely before God and do it forever!

How about right now?  Do you believe that Jesus is living right now and interceding for you?  According to these verses, He "always lives to intercede for" those "who come to God through" Jesus Christ.  If that describes you, and you have "come to God through him," He is interceding right now for you, for me, and for all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ!

(5) Unlike Israel's High Priests who had to offer sacrifices for their own

sins, Jesus is a sinless and perfect High Priest and representative
before God for us (7:26-28)
"Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever."

Thought Question:  How does Jesus Christ, our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, perfectly meet your need for a representative before God?

 

 

Jesus perfectly meets our need for a High Priest before God.  Anyone who has been working for a long time in the hot sun knows how water perfectly meets our need that comes from our thirst.  If we have been busy all day and have not had a chance to eat since breakfast, we all know how a good dinner meets our need at that time.  When we are living our life separated from God, guilty and empty inside, Jesus Christ is just what we need.  For He alone is the holy and blameless Son of God, the God/man, who can offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins so that we might no longer be separated from God!  This is the message of the whole Bible.  As John the Baptist said, "Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" See John 1:29   As Isaiah said, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us have turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." ( Isaiah 53:6)  And Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) See also I John 2:1,2

You may have had good friends to whose homes you went regularly when you were young.  You felt quite at home there.  But you could not have entered their home freely if you had not been with your friend.  We are also able to freely and comfortably enter into God's home and into God's presence because we are now always entering His presence with God's Son, our High Priest.  "For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath which came after the law, appointed the Son who has been made perfect forever."

Through Jesus Christ, the Melchizedek High Priest, we now have continual access to God forever.  May these few verses about Melchizedek be forever precious to us.  For Jesus Christ is above any human system.  He is part of a heavenly system that draws us far beyond where any type of human religious system could draw us; it draws us right into the presence of God.  When we read the Bible, when we pray, when we worship with other Christians, when we fellowship with God's people, when we serve God, when we share the Gospel, and when we live out our lives, we are not relating ourselves to some human religious system, but we are now forever united with the heavenly realm where God lives!

2. Jesus Christ is greater than Aaron - He is a High Priest of the

New Covenant which is much better than the Old Covenant
(8:1-10:18)
Whenever Christians take the Lord's Supper, we typically at some time in the ceremony repeat Jesus' words, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."  (See Luke 22:20)  We divide the Bible into the Old Testament (the Old Covenant) and the New Testament (the New Covenant).  What is meant by testament or covenant?  They are simply another word for our commonly used word "agreement."  Therefore, the Old Testament and the New Testament are God's old agreement and new agreement with mankind.  Some believe that in the Old Testament God punished man for sin, but in the New Testament, God looks the other way and does not punish sin.  They believe that now anything goes.  Hebrews 8 through 10, though, teaches us what is the actual difference between the Old and New Covenants.  We will learn in the following chapters that the Old Covenant was a picture of the New Covenant.  God gave us the Old Covenant first to picture the New Covenant.  The New Covenant was the covenant that God desired and planned to make with mankind.  In these verses we will be shown the differences between the Old and New Covenants, and we will learn about the new agreement that God has made with us!

a. The Old Covenant and the Tabernacle were a copy of the New

Covenant and the true Tabernacle in Heaven (8:1-6)
"The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.  Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.  If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.  They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle:  'See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'  But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, why did there need to be a New Covenant to replace the Old Covenant?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why was it important that Moses follow exactly the instructions God gave to him about building the Tabernacle?

 

 

Most boys enjoy model airplanes.  But they often do not have the opportunity to see the real planes.  All they have are the models.  Old Testament Israel only had the model or a copy of how unholy men and women can enter into the presence of God.  Model airplanes are not the real thing, but they are usually a very good likeness of the real airplane.  Also the model or copy that God gave Moses was a perfect model or copy of how He would make it possible for unholy men and women like you and me to come into the presence of a holy God.  That is why Moses was warned that he was to make everything exactly as God said he was to make it. See Exodus 25:40  Israel came into God's presence through their High Priest.  But, their High Priest approached an earthly Tabernacle with the sacrifices of animals.

Jesus is High Priest in the higher heavenly order of Melchizedek, and He entered the true Tabernacle that is not a copy.  He came before God in Heaven with His sacrifice.  In verse one of this chapter in Hebrews, the author says Jesus "sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven."  The High Priest of Israel, however, never sat down in the earthly Tabernacle.  Because the High Priest of Israel's work was never done, there were no chairs inside Israel's Tabernacle.  Jesus was able to sit down because once He had offered His sacrifice, His work was done forever.  When He was on the cross He shouted, "It is finished!"  He completed His work so He sat down.  Please take notice where He sat down.  He sat down at the right hand of His Father in Heaven.  And that is where He sits right now!  He serves us not on earth like Israel's High Priests and not in any house made by men, but in the true House of God in Heaven.

Just as the children playing with model airplanes are much different from pilots who fly real airplanes, so the High Priest entering the Tabernacle model of Heaven was much different from Jesus entering the very presence of God in heaven!  Jesus could not be a priest on earth, because there were already priests ministering to Israel on earth.  He came to be High Priest not in the earthly priesthood that was a model, but He came to be our High Priest and to represent us in the actual presence of God in Heaven.

b. Because the Old Covenant was only a copy and because Israel failed

even to obey the copy, God provided them with a New Covenant.
(8:7-13)
"For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.  But God found fault with the people and said:  'The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.  This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'  By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear."

Thought Question #1:  According to 8:7-13, how does the New Covenant differ from the Old Covenant?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, why is the New Covenant superior to the Old Covenant?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  There are two words that stand out in these verses.  What are these two words and why are they important to you?

 

 

The author begins by reminding his readers that God, in the book of Jeremiah (31:31-34), said that because Israel had failed to obey the Old Covenant that He would give them a New Covenant.  In Jeremiah 7:23-27, Jeremiah records God's words to Israel:  "I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.  But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.  They went backward and not forward.  From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets.  But they did not listen to me or pay attention.  They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers." See also Jeremiah 8:7-9  Because Israel had horribly failed in their Old Covenant agreement with God, they stood hopelessly condemned before a holy God . . . unless He made a new agreement with them.

God, of course, knows man's heart, and He knew from the beginning that Israel would not obey Him. As recorded in Exodus 19:8, the people of Israel said that they would "do everything the Lord has said."  We see God's response to their promise in Deuteronomy 5:29: "Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever."   As Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure."  It is for this reason that the Old Covenant had to fail.  The people of Israel said "We will."  But because their heart was not actually inclined to obey God, they never would do what they said they would do.

The New Covenant does not speak about what man will do for God, but what God will do for man!  "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel."   Then He lists what He will do for Israel and for us:  "I will put my law in their hearts."  At carnivals, next to the rides that are more dangerous or require more maturity, there are often wooden figures.  Children need to stand next to these figures to see if they can go on the ride.  If they are shorter than the wooden figure they are unable to go on the ride.  The Old Covenant was like these wooden figures.  It gave Israel a standard that they needed to measure up to, but it did not give Israel the ability to obey the standard.  The Old Testament law showed Israel that they were to be and do good, but it did not help them to be and do good.  As it says in Romans 8:3, the law was powerless to get us to do good because it was "weakened by the sinful nature" (our flesh).  Our flesh is "hostile to God" and His ways. (Romans 8:9)

In the Old Covenant, the Law was written on stone.  In the New Covenant, God writes His law on our hearts so that we will be able to want to obey Him.  God changes us on the inside, so we will want to obey Him from the heart.  God has given Christians a whole new set of desires; we now want to do what we used to hate to do.  He has written His law on our hearts and minds!

"I will be their God and they will be my people."  God also gives us the ability to know Him.  If a Christian is asked why he is so sure that he knows God, he would probably answer, "I just know that I know Him."  God has made it possible for us to know God.  To us, God is no longer way out there and unreal to us, He is our Father.  As God promised in Jeremiah 31, God has made us His people.  God is our God!  "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."  Even in the Old Covenant we can see forgiveness pictured as the people approached the High Priest and approached God at the Tabernacle with animal sacrifices for their sins.  But when Jesus gave His blood for our sins it was no longer a picture; for through Him we have forgiveness forever and God will remember our sins "no more."

Because of the New Covenant, God will not give us what we deserve.  Religion occurs when the emphasis is primarily on our responsibility to obey God's requirements.  In religion there is not the emphasis on the "I will(s)" of these verses.  Man can never climb this infinitely high mountain.  So God in His love for us has provided the New Covenant where He does what we cannot do.  He gives us the ability to want to obey Him; He gives us the ability to know Him and to be His people; and He forgives all our evil.  Jesus' High Priesthood is infinitely superior to Israel's priesthood and covenant agreement with God.  In the Old Covenant, Israel was doomed to failure; in the New Covenant, because of God and what He has done, we are enabled to succeed.

c. The Old Covenant Tabernacle is an illustration to help us

understand about the True Tabernacle in Heaven (9:1-10)
(The Tabernacle and the Tabernacle ceremony is a picture of how
we can be cleansed from our guilt before our holy God)

(1) The Tabernacle described – it is a picture of the place where

Cleansing from sin was to take place (9:1-5)

(a) The first room of the Tabernacle - the Holy Place (9:1,2)

"Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.  A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe the first room of the Tabernacle symbolizes?  (Does it symbolize anything for us who are Christians?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you think that the Altar of Incense was in the first room of the Tabernacle and is in the Holy of Holies in 9:3-5 and is not found in this first room?

 

 

This is the room where only the High Priest and the priests could enter.  This room would have been dark except for the lampstand that was there.  The priests were able to see because of the light of the lampstand just as we the Church, today's priests, are able to see in this dark world because of Jesus the Light of the World.  There was food in this second room, the table of consecrated bread.  This bread is a picture of Jesus, the Bread of Life, providing us with the only spiritual food that satisfies our soul and our spirit.  It would appear that this first room is a picture of the world after Jesus came to us.  When He was here, He provided light for a dark world and bread for a spiritually hungry world.  Today, through Christians He continues to provide spiritual light and spiritual food.

There is a problem in these two verses:  In the Old Testament description, the altar of incense was in this first room.  But here in Hebrews, we are told that it is in the Holy of Holies.  The answer to this problem is probably that on the Day of Atonement, incense from the altar of incense was brought into the Holy of Holies. See Leviticus 16:ll-13  When Jesus died, resurrected and ascended into Heaven, the true Day of Atonement took place and now the incense is permanently in the Holy of Holies.  (There will be an explanation of what this means to us who are Christians in the following section of verses.)

(2) The second (inner) room of the Tabernacle - the Holy of Holies

(9:3-5) "Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant.  This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.  Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe the Holy of Holies ("the most Holy Place") symbolizes? (Does it symbolize anything for us who are Christians?)

 

 

Thought Question #2: What do you believe the items that were in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle symbolize? (Do they symbolize anything for us who are Christians?)

 

 

Behind the second curtain was the Holy of Holies.  Jesus Christ has now left the first room - the world that He once lived in and has entered the Holy of Holies.  As the High Priest of Israel took the incense into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, Jesus has permanently entered the Holy of Holies with incense.  The Altar of Incense represents our access by prayer in Jesus' name into the presence of God (In Revelation 5:8, we are told that incense symbolizes the "prayers of the saints").

The Christian lives in two worlds.  We are physically present in this physical world.  But, we are also spiritually present before the very throne of God.  As it says in Hebrews 4:16, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence."  And in 7:19, the author talks about us drawing near to God. See also Ephesians 3:12  And especially in Hebrews 10:19, we are told that we have "confidence to enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus."  So, we as Christians have our feet planted on this earth, but our spirit has constant access to Heaven.

In the Holy of Holies (the second room) in the Tabernacle was found the "gold-covered ark of the covenant."  The ark, which was similar to a chest, contained three items:  (1) the "gold jar of manna" (a reminder of God's provision of food to Israel while they were in the wilderness, and a picture of God's eternal provision to us of all that we need spiritually),  (2) "Aaron's staff that had budded" (a reminder of Aaron's staff that budded to show that God had chosen him alone to be High Priest of Israel; see Numbers 17)  (It is a picture of Jesus Christ who was revealed to be our High Priest by going from being dead to being alive forever.), (3) the "stone tablets of the covenant" (a reminder of God's holy requirements for Israel and a picture that holiness will always be the basis for fellowship with God in the Holy of Holies).  "Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover." (a picture of God's throne and the angels surrounding God's throne) (The glory of God appeared between the gold cherubim and above the gold atonement cover.  See Exodus 25:17-22)

(3) The Tabernacle ceremony described - a picture of how cleansing

from sin was to be done (9:6,7)
"When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance."

Thought Question:  What do you believe is symbolized by the priests being able to enter only the first room?

 

 

Leviticus 16 describes in detail the Day of Atonement, which was to take place on the 10th day of Israel's 7th month.  At the time, according to God's instructions, the High Priest of Israel was to offer sacrifices for the sins of Israel for that year:  (1) The High Priest was instructed to bathe in water and put on white linen.  (2) He was to offer a bull calf for his sins.  (3) He took incense into the Holy of Holies to hide the Ark from his sight (so he would not die).  (4) He was to sprinkle the blood of a bull for his sins on the mercy seat on top of the ark.  (5) He was to offer a goat on the altar for the people and to take the blood behind the veil.  (6) He was to place his hands on a live goat and confess Israel's sins on it and send it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.  (7) He was to remove his linen garments in the Holy Place, wash up, and put on his holy garments.  As we shall see, the High Priest of Israel and what he did on the Day of Atonement was a picture of what Jesus Our High Priest did on the actual Day of Atonement when He died for us, entered Heaven to offer His blood before the throne of God, and was restored to His place of glory.

Why were the priests unable to enter the Holy of Holies or the "Holy Place"?  Read the next verses for an answer to this question.

 

(4) Three weaknesses of the Tabernacle and its ceremony (9:8-10):

"The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.  This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.  They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order."

Thought Question:  Suppose you were living during the time of the Tabernacle:  In what ways would the Tabernacle and its ceremonies fall short of what you need?

 

 

1) Weakness #1 - As long as the first Tabernacle was standing, ordinary people could never enter God's presence. "But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year. . . . The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into  the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing."  During Old Testament times only the High Priest entered into the Holy Presence of God in the Holy of Holies. In those days an ordinary person like you and me could not enter directly into God's presence. (9:7, 8) 

2) Weakness #2 - Because the ordinary worshiper was not able to enter into God's very presence, it shows that the sacrifices that Israel and the High Priest offered were not enough to open the way so that the people of Israel could directly and individually approach a holy God (9:9).  "This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper."  The sacrifices that were offered in the Old Testament times were not enough to make it possible for unholy people like you and me to enter into God's presence.

3) Weakness #3 - The sacrifices and washings were only external ceremonies and were unable to cleanse us on the inside.  Can animal blood pay for human sin?  Animal sacrifices and ceremonial washings could never pay for our sins!  One pastor said that it was like buying new clothes each time you get dirty, but never taking a bath.  They would cover over the dirt, but they would never remove the dirt.  So the outward ceremonies of the Israelite Tabernacle could not cleanse Israel on the inside. (9:10)  "They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washing--external regulations applying until the time of  the new order."  We need something that is more than a ceremony and we need something which cleanses us on the inside.

d. Jesus, the true High Priest, entered the true Tabernacle with His

blood to cleanse us from sin (9:11-10:18)

(1) The blood of animals could never have cleansed us from sin, but

only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin (9:11-14)
"When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what was the Tabernacle ceremony's ultimate goal?

 

 

Thought Question #2:    What is meant in 9:14 by Christ's blood cleansing "our consciences from acts that lead to death"?

 

 

As the well-known Christian hymn states: "What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus."  Jesus, our High Priest did not enter a man-made building like the Tabernacle, but as it says in 9:11, He entered into the Tabernacle of God that is "greater and more perfect" and that is "not man-made."  He entered the very presence of God in Heaven.  He also did not take with Him the blood of goats and calves as Israel's High Priests did on the Day of Atonement, but as it says in 9:12, Jesus entered the presence of God one time ("once for all") with His own blood.  Only the blood of Jesus can completely and once and for all pay for our sins.  Jesus paid for our sins completely, and He offered His payment for our sins right before the very throne of God!

What does he mean in 9:14 when he says that Jesus' blood has been fully sufficient to "cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death"? Justly deserved guilt before God separates us from God and His holy, righteous and just requirements for fellowship with Him.  Separation from God, the only source of true life, is "death."  Sinful "acts" lead to this separation from God and "death."  Only the blood of Jesus Christ can remove the death caused by our sinful acts.  Only the blood of Jesus can remove our sense and feeling of just guilt before God, so that we can now serve Him with a free conscience.

In 9:13, the author mentions the unusual ceremony described in Numbers 19 about a water of cleansing that contained ashes from a red heifer.  This cleansing water prepared from the ashes of a red heifer---that was slaughtered and burned---was sprinkled on those who had touched a dead person to ceremonially cleanse them.  The author probably used this ceremony of the red heifer to show that ceremonies like this were only outward, and did not cleanse the people of Israel on the inside.  They do not cleanse our consciences from our moral guilt before God.  We need to be cleansed before God on the inside, and only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us before God on the inside.

(2) Because only Jesus' blood could cleanse us from sin, He has

become the mediator of a new covenant between God and us
(9:15)
"For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."

Thought Question:  In this verse, the author of Hebrews talks about a "promised eternal inheritance" that we who "are called" are to receive.  What does the Bible say about what will be part of that "inheritance"? (Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:27; Romans 8:29; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:3)

 

 

Most of us have seen a movie or a television show in which the family of a rich man who has recently died are sitting in a circle in a lawyer's office, waiting for the reading of the will.  That is what we are doing as we read Hebrews 9.  We are learning about what we have inherited as a result of Jesus' death.  Only in this case, the riches that we have inherited are not only riches that we can enjoy as long as we live these seventy or so years, but riches we can enjoy eternally.

In Hebrews 9:15-28, the author explains why God can justly give ordinary people like you and me with all our faults and sins, an inheritance that is both infinite in its riches and eternal in its length.  First of all, it was necessary that we have a perfect mediator who would intervene on our behalf before God.   A mediator is someone who seeks to assist two parties so that they can come together in agreement or someone who seeks to settle disputes between two parties.  Because of our sin, we are unable to make ourselves right with God.  There is need for a mediator between God and us.  This whole section in Hebrews describes how Jesus Christ our High Priest mediated for us with God so that we could become right with God forever.  He is the mediator of the New Covenant or the new agreement with God.  The message of the Bible is that we are hopelessly separated from God who is holy because we have broken His holy standards.  God sent his Son to mediate between Him and us.  He reached out to us when we couldn't and wouldn't reach out to Him!  To put it simply, the whole Bible is a description about how God has reached out to us.

Here are a few of the verses that tell us how Jesus humbled Himself and became our mediator:  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)  "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7,8)  "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)  "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)  "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men." (I Timothy 2:5-6)  "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

Jesus, the God-man, is the perfect mediator between God and man.  God has sent many mediators to us to bring us to Him.  The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and leads us into the truth about God.  The Prophets, the Apostles, and other writers of the Bible were used by God to tell us the truth about God and us.  But only Jesus our High Priest could deal with our sin so that we could come to God boldly and be free from guilt.  As we will see, He was both the one who offered the sacrifice for our sins and He was the sacrifice that was offered for our sins.

Because of what Jesus did, we are now "co-heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17) 

(3) The New Covenant must be made with blood (9:16-22)

"In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.  This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.  When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.  He said, 'This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.'  In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies.  In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

Thought Question:  Why is there such an emphasis on "blood" in the Bible and in these verses?

 

 

We cannot read the Bible without seeing that there is a great deal said about blood.  For example, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 70 oxen, 14 rams, 98 lambs and 7 goats were sacrificed.  You can see why some have called Christianity the "religion of the slaughterhouse" and a "gospel of gore."  Why is there so much blood in the Bible?  Two reasons are given in these verses: 1) The first reason there is so much about blood in the Bible is that there needs to be blood before the New Covenant can be put into effect.  The New Covenant is like a last will and testament left by somebody for us.  If someone left an inheritance for us, we would not be able to receive this inheritance until that person died.  The New Covenant, that leaves an inheritance for us, did not go into effect until after Jesus died.  (We have already received the first installment of our inheritance:  "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." See Ephesians 1:13,14

2) The second reason why blood is so important in the Bible is that blood is needed to make us clean before God.  Blood was used for symbolic cleansing even in the Old Covenant arrangement.  After Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, he revealed the Ten Commandments and God's rules to the people of Israel.  The Israelites said they would do everything that God required of them.  The next morning, Moses made sacrifices before the Lord.  After the people again said they would do all that God commanded them to do, Moses "took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, 'This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.' " See Exodus 24:1-8 and Hebrews 9:20

In these verses in Hebrews, the author adds details that are not contained in Exodus 24.  The extra details are as follows:  Whereas Moses only mentions sprinkling blood on the people, the author of Hebrews adds that there was "water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop" and that he "sprinkled the scroll and all the people."  F.F. Bruce concludes that "our author may well have drawn upon some other source which is no longer extant." "Taken from THE NEW INTERNATIONAL COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS by F.F. Bruce. Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  Apparently, nearly 2000 years ago in the time of the author of Hebrews, there were traditions or writings that were available to him that gave him greater details about what happened when Moses performed this ceremony with blood.  Now we only have what is written in Exodus 24.

The "hyssop" was a branch of a bush that was used for sprinkling. See Exodus 12:2;Leviticus 14:4,6; I King 4:33; Psalm 51:7   The "scarlet wool" was deep red and symbolized blood and the depth of our sin.  See Isaiah 1:1; Leviticus 14;4-6; Numbers 19:6

Moses' words as he sprinkled the people with blood, "This is the blood of the covenant" are very similar to Jesus' words at the Last Supper.  Many wonder how blood cleanses something.  Sprinkling blood on a suit or a nice dress would not appear to cleanse, but to stain them.  He is obviously not talking about physical cleansing, but some other type of cleansing.  The type of cleansing that blood is capable of performing is moral cleansing.  Which, then, is more important, physical or moral cleansing?  Soap cleanses us from dirt; blood cleanses us from guilt!

In 9:22, we find one of the most important verses in the Bible: "and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."  Nothing else can remove our guilt from us but the shedding of blood.  Nothing else can make us right with God but the shedding of blood.  Nothing can cleanse us from sin or give us forgiveness but the blood of Jesus Christ.  Punishing ourselves does not help, nor do good works cleanse us at all before God. "What can wash away our sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

(4) Jesus purified the heavenly sanctuary by the once and for all offering of

His blood (9:23-28)
"It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Jesus Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to pay for the punishment that we deserve for the sins that we have committed, are committing, and will commit?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Because we have a God-given conscience (for those whose conscience has not become calloused), there is a sensing that we deserve to be punished.  What are we doing when we feel that our sins cannot ever be forgiven?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you find in these verses that would help you to give an answer to a person that said, "I believe that we will get a second chance to be saved after we die."?

 

 

(a) Jesus did not enter an earthly building with His blood, but a heavenly

sanctuary (9:23,24)
If a judge's son breaks the law, can the judge say, "That's okay"?  He loves him, but he still cannot let him off and be a just judge.  God is both our Judge and our Creator.  Can he ignore how we have broken His laws?  The Bible says we all have sinned and fallen short of God's requirements; we all are law-breakers in the eyes of God our judge.  As has been emphasized, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."  There is a need for blood to be shed to pay for our sins.  But the blood of the animals that were shed in the Old Testament times did not remove the guilt of our sin from us.  Also, the blood needed to be offered in a better place than within the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple.  These were only "copies" of what Jesus would do when He did His High Priestly work on our behalf.

These "copies" were like a man's photograph of his wife.  The photograph is okay, but it is nothing like actually being with his wife and talking to her.  You can't sit down on the front or back porch under the stars and talk with a photograph; you can't hold hands with a photograph; and you cannot share your life with a photograph.  The Old Testament ceremonies were just pictures.   The real thing was Jesus' offering of Himself as a sacrifice for our sins in the very presence of His Father in Heaven.

(b) Jesus did not need to offer sacrifices over and over again like the High

Priests of Israel did each year on the Days of Atonement (9:25-26)
Does Jesus need to offer Himself as a sacrifice every time we sin?  If we sin down here, does He each time need to make a sacrifice up there?  Each time we sin, we feel that some price must be paid to pay the penalty for our sin; some form of penalty or self-punishment.  But how much punishment is enough?  The SON OF GOD offering His blood for us is enough in God's eyes!!  ONE time was enough!

(c) Just as we die once and after that comes the judgment, so Jesus died once

to pay for our sins (9:27-28)
9:27 is a very important verse in the Bible.  "Just as a man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment."  It clearly tells us that there will be no second chance after we die.  If we do not choose in faith to receive what Jesus did for us when He died for us, then we will face God's judgment.  If we do not come to Jesus now as our Savior and Lord, we will one day face Him as our Judge!

Just as we will die once and then face the judgment, so Jesus only died once.  When He returns, it will not be to pay the penalty for our sins, but to bring us the eternal inheritance that is now ours because of what He did when He entered Heaven with His blood.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Hebrews