HEBREWS: THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST
by J. W. Jepson, D.Min.
Copyright © 2004, 2006 by J. W. Jepson.
All rights reserved, including the right to grant the following permission and to prohibit the misuse thereof: The Author hereby grants permission to reproduce the text of this book, without changes or alterations*, as a ministry, but not for commercial or non-ministry purposes. *Permission is given for publication of excerpts and condensed versions.
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(KJV) Scripture quotations from the King James Version are public domain.
(NKJV) Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, New King James Version are copyright © 1990 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
(NASB) Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible are copyright © 1972, The Lockman Foundation.
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1. The Epistle To The Hebrews
2. Jesus Christ: Gods Supreme Revelation
3. Jesus: Man Triumphant
4. Finding Gods Rest In Christ
5. Seize Your Destiny!
6. The Melchizedek Priesthood
7. The New Covenant
Hebrews: The High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, 8-13
8. The True Sanctuary
9. The Effective Sacrifice
10. The Sure Promises
11. The Life Of Faith
12. Discipline For Our Destiny
13. Living The New Covenant In Love
THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
In an unidentified city with an established Jewish community, a group of immature Hebrew believers in Jesus the Messiah were under tremendous pressure to renounce their faith and return to their religious and cultural roots in Judaism.
Think of the appeal. The law and the prophets. The fathers. The priesthood of Levi and the high priesthood of Aaron. The temple in Jerusalem. The covenants. The sacrifices. The exciting and meaningful feasts. The long history. The promises. The homeland. The nation. The kingdom.
In contrast, what did the followers of Jesus of Nazareth have to offer? No impressive buildings. No dramatic feasts. No pompous priesthood. No homeland. Ostracism by family, friends, and community. Increasing hostility by the Roman authority.
Some had already caved, making their renunciation of Jesus final and permanent (6:4-6), even equating His precious blood with the blood of those animals most abhorred by Jews (10:29).
These believers had been ridiculed and persecuted, but none had yet been killed (12:4). Although immature in their faith (5:12), as a whole they were remaining true. They had good spiritual leadership and were urged to follow them and their example (13:7, 17).
The epistle was written some time before the Roman armies under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. The Jewish polity and Mosaic system of worship were still intact, but fading fast and about to disappear (8:13).
An unknown person with obvious apostolic authority and inspired by the Holy Spirit addressed this remarkable letter to these Hebrew believers. Who it was we do not know for sure. The apostle Paul has always been a leading possibility. Tertullian (ca. A.D. 155-222) said that Barnabas was the author. Conjectures include Apollos and Luke. We must agree with Origen (ca. A.D. 185-254), "Who wrote the epistle God only knows certainly" (quoted by Eusebius). Whoever he was, he wrote from Italy (13:24).
The author was personally acquainted with these Hebrew believers. They had shown compassion on him in his bonds (10:34). Now he asks for their prayers that he will be restored to them (13:18), and tells them that he will come to them with Timothy if Timothy comes soon (13:23).
Although at times the author uses a rabbinic style (after all, he is addressing Hebrews), he does not derive the substance of his message from rabbinism or from Philo. The content is more than mere human genius could have produced. The imprint of the Holy Spirit is all over the epistle.
The Epistle to the Hebrews has a very specific focus. It is a magnificent portrait of Jesus Christ as our Savior and High Priest, demonstrating both His humanity and His deity. As the Son of God, Jesus stands supreme and transcendent over creation, over angels, over Moses and Aaron.
In Hebrews we see clearly the total superiority of Jesus Christ to the entire Levitical system of the Old Covenant. The key word of the epistle is "better"--better not in a somewhat comparative sense, but as a complete and permanent contrast. The old was a shadow; the new is the substance. The old was temporary; the new is permanent.
In Jesus Christ we have a totally and permanently superior covenant, sacrifice, sanctuary, promises, hope, priesthood, resurrection, a heavenly substance and a heavenly country. And it is for all who truly believe on Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles.
In chapter 1 and the first part of chapter 2, Jesus is declared to be the supreme message of God, beyond what God spoke through the prophets. By His nature and His name He is far above all the angels, who are commanded to worship Him as God.
So if the Law of Moses, that was given by angels, was of divine authority with built-in penalties for those who transgressed it, how much greater is God's supreme message of salvation in Jesus Christ and how much greater is the guilt of those who neglect it.
In the remainder of chapter 2 we see Jesus fully taking on our humanity and triumphing over sin and death for us. The joining of His eternal deity and victorious humanity makes Him our perfect High Priest. He is both God and man, thus our Mediator between God and us.
In chapters 3 and 4 we are offered God's rest in Christ. Look at Christ carefully. Moses was faithful in God's house (Israel). Jesus is faithful as a Son over His own house (the Church). As believers in the Son, we must not make the same fatal mistake Israel made, described in Psalm 95:7-11. They failed to enter into Canaan rest because of unbelief. We must not fail to enter into (and remain in) God's heavenly rest in the gospel by faith.
In chapters 5 and 6 Christ's high priesthood is emphasized. The Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus Christ is far superior to the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites. For that reason continued spiritual immaturity in believers is inexcusable. We must go on, not go back. The choice before these Hebrew believers was either to crucify Christ afresh or to seize the glorious and eternal hope set before them.
Chapter 7 focuses on Christ's superior and effective priesthood on our behalf. The priesthood has now been changed from the order of Aaron to the order of Melchizedek. Christ alone occupies the Melchizedek priesthood. Because the priesthood changed, so did the law. The "better" hope came by the priesthood and sacrifice of the Son.
Chapter 8 describes five features of Christ's absolute superiority over the old Levitical system. He is the Mediator of the New Covenant. Where the Old Covenant failed because of the failure of the people, the New Covenant is a complete success. Because Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant, only those who know God in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ are in the New Covenant. They are His people; His laws are written in their minds and upon their hearts. They are forgiven and justified.
In chapter 9 and part of chapter 10, two features of the New Covenant are emphasized: the true sanctuary and the effective sacrifice.
The last part of chapter 10 urges the readers to be diligent in their faith in view of God's faithful promises. Even the Old Testament worthies lived by faith and overcame by faith. Chapter 11 is their Hall Of Fame. Chapter 12 continues by saying that faith is a race--not a short dash or sprint but a long distance run. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Stay the course. Follow the discipline and be faithful to it. Be holy. We are headed for a kingdom that cannot be shaken or moved.
In chapter 13 several solid principles and practical instructions are brought together to complete this most magnificent portion of God's inspired word.
Before we explore the Epistle To The Hebrews in detail, we step back and see in it a field of "let us." Here are some of the "heads" of "let us."
Let us fear unbelief (4:1);
Let us labor (be diligent) (4:11);
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith (4:14; 10:23);
Let us come boldly to the throne of grace (4:16);
Let us go on to maturity in Christ (6:1);
Let us draw near to God into the Holy of Holies (10:22);
Let us consider one another to encourage one another (10:24);
Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (10:25 NIV);
Let us lay aside every weight and sin, and run the race (12:1);
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (12:2 NIV);
Let us have grace (be thankful--NIV) 12:28;
Let us take up His cross and go forth to Him, bearing His reproach (13:13);
Let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually (13:15).
The Epistle To The Hebrews is full of information, full of inspiration, and also full of obligation. Let us be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22).
JESUS CHRIST: GOD'S SUPREME REVELATION
Hebrews 1:1 - 2:4
Hebrews 1:1-3. God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, . . . (New King James Version).
Immediately the past and the present are contrasted. In the past God spoke to the Hebrew fathers by the prophets. Now He has spoken to us by "Son"--not any "son," but the one and only Son, the Second Person of the eternal Trinity.
Jesus is the ultimate and final "speech" of God. He is the Word made flesh. The Messenger is the Message. This act of God in Jesus Christ ushered in the "last days."
Who is this Son?
He is the full radiance of the very glory of God. God has projected His own glory to us in Jesus Christ. Jehovah will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). This means that Jesus Christ is "very God of very God," Jehovah of Jehovah. Jesus is and must be Jehovah in the flesh--Jehovah incarnate. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He has the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9).
Jesus Christ is also the "express image" of God's Person. The Epistle To The Hebrews was written before the invention of photography. So now we understand that Jesus is the living photograph of God. Jesus Himself said to Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
Jesus Christ, now restored to His pre-incarnate glory, "upholds all things by the word of His power." As the Second Person of the eternal Godhead, He participated in the very act of creation, mediating the word of the Father, which was then carried out by The Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2).
Christ is not only the creator of the universe but also its sustainer, for "by Him all things hold together" (see Colossians 1:15-17).
But, look! The great Creator took upon Himself our humanity in order to become our Savior, the sacrificed Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Then having accomplished that great plan of redemption once-for-all, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the death of the cross. For that reason God has highly exalted Him (see also Ephesians 1:20-23).
Jesus Christ rejoined The Father, reassumed His rightful place and prerogatives as co-equal with The Father, but now with the new and everlasting position--our Mediator and High Priest!
Hebrews 1:4-14. having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say:
"You are My Son,
Today I have begotten you"?
"I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son"?
But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
"Let all the angels of God
And of the angels He says:
"Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire."
But to the Son He says:
"Your throne, O God,
is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the
scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and
Therefore God, Your God,
has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than
"You, Lord, in the beginning laid
the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work
of Your hands;
They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old
like a garment;
Like a cloak You will fold
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail."
But to which of the angels has He ever said:
"Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies
Your footstool?" (New King James Version).
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
This passage declares with extensive documentation from The Scriptures that Jesus Christ is absolutely and incomparably higher than the angels in nature, position, function, and power. He became human (lower than the angels) for the purpose of death, but He is now restored to His full glory, glorified with the Father with the glory that He had with the Father before the world began (see John 17:5).
Jesus is not an angel, or even an archangel. He is superior to the angels not only in degree but also in kind. He is qualitatively superior, not merely quantitatively. They are created; He is their Creator.
Being the Son, Jesus possesses an inheritance that the angels are not entitled to. That includes the uniquely superior name: SON. This was accomplished by the one-time-only act of being begotten by The Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. He who was the Son by eternal designation and purpose became so in fact and flesh. And so He will ever be. No angel can come anywhere near this position. To support this the writer of the epistle quotes verse 7 of the great messianic Second Psalm. He draws also from the messianic meanings and implications of 2 Samuel 7:14, 1 Chronicles 17:13, and Psalm 89:26.
Also, all the angels are commanded to worship Jesus Christ. That would not and could not be so if He were only another angel or even the highest of archangels. All creation is obligated and commanded to worship only the Creator. No worship is to be given to any created being--ever.
In verse 6 the writer echoes the Septuagint reading of Deuteronomy 32:43 and also Psalm 97:7.
In verse 6 Jesus is called the "firstborn." The Greek word is prototokos. This certainly does not mean that Christ is a created being. He is eternally pre-existent. In Colossians 1:15 it means that the eternally pre-existent Christ was the mediator in the creating of all things (the "source" of the creation--Revelation 3:14), and for that reason He stands first of (above) all things. In Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5 it refers to His resurrection. Some believe that in Hebrews 1:6 it refers to His second coming (depending on where one places the word "again"). It seems, however, that the reference is to His incarnation--His coming in the flesh to be our sacrifice and Savior. In that case it would refer to His virgin birth. The eternal Son by designation and position became so in fact and flesh in time/space history (see Hebrews 10:5). So He will ever be.
The angels are only created spirit beings, fiery servants of God and His people, as referenced from Psalm 104:4.
The powerful and authoritative declarations of the Father to the Son are quoted from Psalm 45:6, 7 and Psalm 102:25-27. The Father addresses Jesus Christ as God and affirms that He is eternal and immutable (unchanging). He is anointed as King above all created beings associated with Him.
In Psalm 110:1 David refers to the Messiah as Lord and states that Jehovah said to Him (Messiah), "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (KJV). He never said this to any angel, only to Jesus. And that is just where our Lord and Savior is now seated--the right hand of God The Father!
Hebrews 2:1-4. Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (New King James Version).
Therefore (2:1). Big word. High responsibility. Solemn warning. We must pay careful attention to what God has spoken in Christ and regarding Him. If we do not, we will become distracted and drift right on by the truth and lose everything.
In verses 2 and 3, as in other parts of the epistle, the author affirms the divine origin of the Old Testament law and the seriousness of the penalty inflicted on those who willfully violated it (see 10:28, 29). This becomes the point of contrast that shows the higher divine origin of the gospel, and therefore the far greater guilt of those who neglect it (carelessly drift away from it, disregard it). To do so is to miss salvation itself.
The Law of Moses was given by the arrangement of angels (Acts 7:53). God spoke to Moses by angels, and Moses spoke to the people. Now God has spoken directly to us in Jesus Christ. God's revelation--His message--to us in Christ far transcends the Old Testament law and has superseded it. It is direct, not indirect.
God's revelation in Jesus Christ is direct, not indirect. For that reason it places a greater moral obligation on those who are enlightened by it, and also greater guilt and punishment on those who carelessly disregard it.
This offer of salvation in Jesus Christ was first proclaimed by Christ Himself. Following His ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit, those who heard Him confirmed the message correctly to all who would hear. To demonstrate that they were not fabricating the message, embellishing it, adding to or deleting from it in any way, God put His supernatural seal of approval on it by signs, wonders, miracles, and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. This gives the gospel a far superior divine witness and corroboration than the Law of Moses had.
This should once and for all answer the long and logical question of verses 2-4. The bottom line is this: if they who disregarded the Law of Moses, spoken by angels, did not escape their just punishment, they who disregard so great salvation, declared by and in Jesus Christ, will most certainly not escape.
So let us diligently continue to pay more earnest attention to God's saving message in Jesus Christ.
JESUS: MAN TRIUMPHANT
Hebrews 2:5-8. For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying:
"What is man that You
are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You
take care of him?
You made him a little lower
than the angels;
You crowned him with glory and
And set him over the works
of Your hands.
You have put all things
in subjection under his feet."
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. (New King James Version).
Having focused on the deity of Jesus Christ, our attention is now directed to His humanity, specifically how His humanity relates to our humanity and our human condition and need.
In Genesis 1:26-28 we read the original mandate that God gave to man, that is, the human race. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (KJV).
That was Man's original destiny under God--dominion over all, including the age to come. God did not give this dominion to angels, even though angels are a supernatural and therefore higher order of being than we are in our present state. As confirmation of this, the author cites Psalm 8:4-6.
The old order (old covenant) came by angels. The new order in Christ that we are talking about came under man, not under angels.
Because in God's eternal purpose dominion belongs to man, not to angels. We, not angels, are created in the image of God and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26). In God's purpose for us, in view of our high origin and nature, we hold a high position and destiny. Our delegated authority is all-inclusive.
But what has happened? We do not see man exercising his full dominion. Sin has conquered and degraded humanity and reduced it to comparative insignificance in the cosmic order of things. Sin brought death, our terminal enemy. Human rebellion made it necessary for God to put a limit on individual life, especially individual human life. Sinners cannot be allowed unlimited personal opportunity to grow in selfishness and to pursue their personal selfish purposes on earth. That would result in far more evil and misery than exists already.
Nevertheless, human beings still bear the imago dei--the image of God. For that reason we still retain and exercise a very large measure of our dominion over God's earthly creation. God is the Creator--our Creator--and because He has created us in His image and after His likeness, He has endowed us with the ability to be creative also.
We see the results of our God-given creative ability in the sciences and the humanities. No matter how close to us biologically or anatomically it might be, no animal species has even the remotest ability to found and build universities or to invent the computer. There is far more than a missing link. The entire chain is missing!
Notwithstanding all of our creativity and human progress, we still remain under the curse of death because of sin--not only Adam's sin but also mankind's continuance in it.
So "we do not yet see all things put under" man.
Hebrews 2:9. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (New King James Version).
Man's destiny--his dominion--is fully realized in Jesus! He came down to our level, a little lower than the angels, to defeat everything that defeated us, including sin and death itself; and He did it as MAN, identifying with us in all things. Where Adam and his descendants failed and were defeated, Jesus (the last Adam--1 Corinthians 15:45) succeeded and is victorious. And He did it "by the grace of God," the same grace that is now offered to all. He experienced death for every human being. His victory is our victory, including our ultimate triumph over death. Though it is sufficient for all, it is efficient only for those who repent and believe.
Jesus is crowned. There is a Man in the glory! In Him we see humanity in full victory and dominion. (Please read Philippians 2:5-11).
Hebrews 2:10-13. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:
"I will declare Your name to My
In the midst of the congregation
I will sing praise to You."
"I will put My trust in Him."
"Here am I and the children
whom God has given Me." (New King James Version).
It is exactly what God would do. It is a "God-thing." It perfectly fitted God's nature and character. It was perfect. It was unique and outstanding.
What was it?
It was to make the Author (Pioneer, Leader, Captain) of our salvation, Jesus Christ, perfectly suited to be our Savior and High Priest through suffering.
"Perfect" does not imply any moral or character imperfection in Jesus. Our Savior was totally without sin. He was morally perfect.
"Perfect" means fully qualified through personal experience. God allowed Jesus to experience the entire range of human trials and temptations. Jesus knows human life because He lived it. He overcame every enemy of the human race, including sin and even death itself. And He did it as Man by the grace of God. Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Now the defeated sons of Adam can become the victorious and glorious sons of God through Jesus Christ by faith. Christ went ahead, secured the victory, and opened the way for us to follow. As the victorious and glorified Son of Man, He is now the Prototype and Head of the new humanity, those who are redeemed by faith in His blood. In Him man's dominion is restored.
Christ has sanctified us by His blood and is not ashamed to call us His brothers. In His humanity He is one of us. And it all came out of the eternal purpose, plan, and power of God.
In verses 12 and 13 we read three supporting passages from the Old Testament Scriptures: Psalm 22:22; Isaiah 8:17; and Isaiah 8:18.
Hebrews 2:14, 15. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (King James Version).
Jesus took upon Himself full humanity so that, as one of us, He could experience death on our behalf. This does not mean that His was merely an ordinary death. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
By this death Jesus Christ totally defeated Satan and his power of death. "Destroy" does not mean to put out of existence. It means to "put out of commission," render powerless. Satan had the power of death; he no longer has it. Death's ultimate power has been broken. Jesus Christ demonstrated that in His resurrection. It will be fully displayed when Christ returns.
Hebrews 2:16-18. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (New King James Version).
The victorious humanity of Jesus Christ fully qualifies Him to be our all-sufficient High Priest.
Jesus did not reach down as it were to take hold of fallen angels to lift them up and restore them. Instead, He reached down and took hold of the fallen "seed" (descendants) of Abraham to lift them up to become truly the sons of God. This did not happen under the old covenant. Abraham was justified by faith (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6). Yes, Abraham was justified by works (James 2:21), not in the sense that his works supplemented his faith but that faith proves its reality by action. It has been said that we are justified by faith apart from works, but we cannot be justified by a faith that does not work (see Galatians 5:6).
Abraham's physical descendants, particularly his descendants through Isaac and Jacob, were in condemnation under the Law of Moses. Jesus was born of the seed of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). He died and rose again to justify the seed of Abraham by faith (Acts 13:38, 39). Now, all who are "in Christ" are the justified "seed of Abraham" (Galatians 3:29).
Once Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the eternal Trinity, was committed to be our Savior, it obligated Him to follow through and experience everything that was required for Him, as our sin-bearer, to become perfectly qualified to become our "merciful and faithful High Priest."
Jesus Christ is both the Sacrifice and the High Priest, faithful to God and merciful to us.
So then, in the things in which He Himself has also suffered, Christ is fully able to help those who are also being tempted and tested. Jesus was tested and proven faithful. Now He is able to help those who are being tempted and tested. The Greek word that is translated "succour," "aid," "help," in the various versions is boethesai. It means "run to the cry." So cry out to Him, your High Priest. He is listening, and He will run to your cry!
FINDING GOD'S REST IN CHRIST
Hebrews, Chapters Three and Four
Hebrews 3:1. Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. (New King James Version).
"Therefore." The theme continues and develops.
"Holy brethren." In 2:10 they are called sons of God, whom He is bringing into eternal glory. With that eternal destiny in view they are referred to here as "holy brethren." These are recurring reminders of who they (and we) truly are in God's eternal plan for us through Jesus Christ.
They share in a heavenly calling, and the author of the epistle urges them not to lose sight of that high calling, the calling to be "glorified sons of God" (2:10).
The apostle Paul states his own personal determination to attain his destiny in Christ. In Philippians 3:14 he writes, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (KJV).
"Consider." Fix your mind on Christ Jesus. Focus on Him. Get a clear understanding of who He is. The very fact that these Hebrew believers were seriously considering turning their backs on Jesus is clear proof that they had no clear concept, no full realization, of who He really is. Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of their (and our) confession. They were in grave danger of repudiating their confession and thus suffering unimaginable eternal loss. If we realize who and what is the truth that we confess, we will do what we are urged in 4:14 to do--get a firm grip on it and never let it go.
Hebrews 3:2-6. who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (New King James Version).
Moses was faithful in all of God's house (Israel). So Christ also was faithful to God. The big difference--and the one that shows Christ's superiority over Moses--is that God through Christ built the house and thus Christ is Lord over the house, His own house (the Church).
We are that house "if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end."
In other words, the hope is real. It is not a sham, an illusion, a religious myth. Remember, "hope" is the anticipation of what is absolutely certain. It is based on God's word and His works. It has been firmly established by God's great historical redemptive acts in Jesus Christ. It is the "anchor" of our souls (6:18, 19). That is why we have absolute confidence, courage and boldness in it and why we glory and rejoice in it. So, get a tenacious "bull-dog" grip on it. Don't "fumble the ball." Hold fast (get a firm grip) on what you have in Jesus Christ, and do not let anyone take your crown (Revelation 3:11).
Hebrews 3:7-15. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
"Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts
as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tested Me,
And saw My works forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, "They always go astray
in their heart,
And they have not known My ways."
So I swore in My wrath,
"They shall not enter My rest."
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said,
"Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the
rebellion." (New King James Version).
Another "therefore." For this reason we are urged to "beware" (take heed, take care, see to it--verse 12). Most contemporary versions connect "Therefore" with "Today . . . ," making "as the Holy Spirit says" a subordinate clause. That makes "Beware . . ." in verse 12 a new sentence. The King James Version connects "Therefore" (Wherefore) with "Beware" (Take heed) in verse 12, making the entire reference to what the Holy Spirit says in Psalm 95:7-11 a parenthesis. That places more force on "Beware." The one translation is "Therefore . . . Do not harden . . . ." The other is "Therefore . . . Beware, . . . ."
The sense of the passage seems to call for the direct connect between "Therefore" and "Beware," with the quotation from Psalm 95:7-11 a parenthetical supporting reference between the two.
However that might be, we are reminded of the solemn warnings in Psalm 95:7-11 and how those warnings speak to us today. God has spoken. Are we listening carefully and attentively?
Do not harden your hearts! Proverbs 28:14 warns us that the person who hardens his/her heart will fall into a calamity.
Verse 13 declares that people are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
The examples are taken from the early history of Israel. They tempted God at the waters of Meribah (Exodus 17), and throughout the 40 years of their wanderings in the wilderness. That is called the day of "temptation"--embitterment, exasperation. They refused to believe what God said, demanding instead that God first prove Himself--His integrity, His honesty, His ability to do what He promised. Their attitude was, "Let's test God and prove Him first. Let's see if He is worthy of our trust."
Psalm 103:7 says, "He made known his ways unto Moses, his works unto the children of Israel" (KJV). Israel had seen God's works, but they did not know His ways. So God was totally disgusted with that generation.
So God vowed within Himself that they would not enter into His rest.
God has one true rest for His people. The weekly rest on the Sabbath Day was an earthly sample of it. So was the rest that God wanted Israel to enjoy in Canaan, even though the generation that died off in the wilderness never experienced it.
God's true rest is experienced only in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 New King James Version).
This is called "gospel rest." It is the perfect rest of the soul in Christ. The struggle is over. The rebellion is ended. The rebel has gladly surrendered and is now happily reconciled to God and in moral harmony with Him. Peace with God means peace with one's self. All the painful inner conflict between God and reason on the one hand and selfishness and pride on the other is past. The destructive dysfunctions and life problems that were caused by the person's disobedience are solved or being solved.
This results in eternal rest. Eternal rest is not eternal inactivity and boredom. Heaven is a busy place. Eternal rest is perfect fulfillment and satisfaction in God's presence, fellowship and service. The redeemed will enjoy that rest forever in Heaven.
So then, "beware" (verse 12). "See to it!"
To what? That none of you has an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.
Let's look at that warning carefully. First, the "heart." The moral heart is where the core character choices are made. It is the direction of the will, the set of the soul, either for or against God and the truth.
Unbelief is more than an opinion, more than a mental disagreement with an idea or assertion. It is a refusal to believe, even when truth, reason, and moral obligation demand belief and obedience. That is an evil heart.
In the case of these immature Hebrew believers who were under pressure to abandon Jesus Christ and go back to the old religious system and its culture, such a choice would mean the rejection of what they knew to be the truth. Therefore it would be unbelief, and an evil choice of the heart.
Even though they might have thought that they could forsake Jesus Christ and continue to worship God, the sobering truth is that if they forfeited the Messiah, they also forfeited God.
They would in fact be "departing from the living God." No one can be a true worshipper of God who rejects His testimony concerning His Son, Jesus Christ.
"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23 New King James Version).
"Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9 New King James Version).
So we are to exhort (warn, urge, encourage) one another daily, "while it is called 'Today'." Today is always the present opportunity and obligation. Yesterday was "Today" for those who lived it. Now it is gone. If and when it comes, tomorrow will be its own "Today." What we really have is Today. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2 KJV).
Sin is deceitful. It is rationalized, normalized, popularized. It has been said that the unthinkable first becomes controversial; then eventually it becomes unquestionable. This is a hardening process that can callous the heart of any believer whose moral senses are not kept alert and sharp. That is why we are to exhort and encourage one another daily.
This is necessary because our relationship with Christ is not a one-time experience. It is eternal, and whatever is eternal is continuous. We have become partakers--personal sharers (as in verse 1)--of Christ if (as in verse 6) we keep a firm grip on our confidence all the way.
"Confidence" here does not mean our level of certainty. It means the certainty itself--the essence, substance, reality that forms the ground and basis of our confident state of mind. For example, if you were walking across a correctly engineered steel and concrete bridge, your confidence is not in your mind. The bridge itself is your confidence. It is the basis of your confident state of mind.
So, let us not take eternal life for granted, but hold fast to the truth of the gospel and the hope that is laid up for us in Heaven (Colosssians 1:5).
Hebrews 3:16-19. For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (New King James Version).
These verses contain three pointed questions, each with its own answer, and also a conclusion.
Verse 16. Who provoked (exasperated) God? The whole bunch.
Verse 17. With whom was God disgusted (as in verse 10)? Those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness.
Verse 18. Who were excluded from entering into God's rest? All who refused to believe, who were unmoved by the truth and therefore disobedient.
Verse 19. The conclusion? They were excluded because of their own unbelief. The fault was not in God. God had promised and provided the "rest" that is attained and maintained through faith. Faith resulting in obedience brings the soul into a harmonious relationship with God--God's "rest." Unbelief shuts God out of the soul and robs the soul of a personal knowledge of the Father and the Son, which is eternal life (John 17:3).
Hebrews 4:1-10. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
"So I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest."
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest." Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said:
"Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts."
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (New King James Version).
Therefore consider Jesus (3:1). Therefore beware (3:12). Therefore fear (4:1). Therefore be diligent (4:11). Hold fast (4:14). Therefore come boldly (4:16).
This is no religious game. The truth is serious business. God is none to trifle with. One's eternal destiny is nothing to be careless about.
This should build into us a healthy, godly fear. It is more than "be careful." It is fear. God's promised present and eternal "rest" has been left behind. It is still there, fully valid, unclaimed by the unbelieving generation. The very thought that we might fall short of it ought to scare us, so much so that we will be constantly diligent (verse 11) not to fall after the same example of unbelief.
The promised rest is attained by faith and only by faith. Merely hearing the word is not enough. It must be mixed with faith; only then does it become united with us and a part of us. A head full of truth will do a person no good unless it comes alive in the heart and life by faith. We must be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22). If we do not, we will be self-deceived, thinking ourselves to be religious when in fact we have fallen short of God's "rest"--the personal relationship with Him that is eternal life.
We who truly believe from the heart actually do enter into God's rest. That rest is a "finished product" that has been provided from "the foundation of the world," even though masses of people have not entered into it. It is a provision from eternity in the sovereign purpose of God. And so at the judgment Jesus will say to His sheep, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34 KJV).
Chapter 4, verses 4-7 give Biblical references to God's "rest." In verse 4 the seventh day is mentioned as the first reference to God's rest. The quotation is from Genesis 2:2. Then, the reference in Psalm 95 is repeated. We notice that God's statement, "they shall not enter into my rest," is given three times (3:11; 4:3, 5).
It is God's rest, and that rest is still there. God's promise has not been completely fulfilled nor has it been withdrawn. Some must enter into it! God would not have done what He did to provide it if He knew that no one would enter into it. Through David (Psalm 95) God limits the opportunity to "Today," which is now our "Today." So let us hear and obey the word, and not harden our hearts as the unbelieving generation did.
"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2 KJV).
Verse 8 says that Joshua did not give the nation the promised rest when he led them in the conquest of Canaan. Had Joshua done so, God through David (Psalm 95) would not have spoken by implication of a future fulfillment of that rest, the fulfillment that we now experience in Jesus Christ.
It is available now--Today--to be attained by faith.
It is a finished work. The fact that God "rested" does not imply that He got tired. When God "worked," He did not labor.
When we enter into God's "rest" by faith, that is the end of our own struggling. "Religion" is full of human works and struggling, as we see from the apostle Paul's example in Romans 7. Before he "rested" in Christ, he struggled constantly to be righteous. And it is important to remember that Paul's experience described in Romans 7 was not the struggle of a believer against temptation. It was the struggle of a sinner against his own conscience. That is why he was such a "wretched man" before he entered by faith into Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah's "rest shall be glorious" (Isaiah 11:10). And so Jesus invites all of us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV). It is not trying, but trusting; it is not struggle, but surrender.
Hebrews 4:11-16. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (New King James Version).
Anyone who has traveled by train in Europe knows that the trains there run on precise schedules. When it is time for a train to depart, the door closes and it is on its way. If you miss it, you miss it.
Some years ago my wife and I traveled through Europe by train. In one part of our journey we were in a large city where we had to change trains. Something came up that delayed us. Time was running short. After asking some quick questions at the station, we finally found the right train. My heart sank when I saw it. It seemed to be a mile long, and our car was way down at the far end!
I grabbed the handles of both pieces of luggage, and we were off for the races. We brushed by people, trying to be as careful as possible to avoid a collision. Our sense of urgency was heightened by the fact that we were not sure which car was ours. Providentially, when we reached the general area, there it was right in front of us. We clambered aboard, luggage and all, just in time. Finding our seats, we literally fell into them, nearly out of breath.
What stands out in my memory above everything else in that experience was the sense of total relief and rest that swept over me the moment we settled into our assigned place.
Now, if we had not exercised determined diligence, we would have forfeited that rest. A few moments of careless dawdling would have landed us in a very difficult and stressful situation.
That is what verse 11 is saying. We do not work to earn God's "rest." It is the gift of His free grace. At the same time, we cannot be careless about it. God's "rest" is not a state of spiritual and moral apathy. His rest energizes us! The free gift is for those who take the gift and the Giver seriously, who put their heart and soul into it, who get a firm grip on it.
The word of God is serious business. It is alive and active. It is thorough in its penetration. Nothing escapes its probing thrust. It lays everything bare.
The word "open" in verse 13 comes from the same word as "trachea." It is like jerking the head back and exposing the neck. That is the picture here of the all-penetrating eyes of God.
So here, as throughout the epistle, the glories of our great High Priest and His full salvation are balanced with solemn warnings about the horrible consequences of carelessness and unbelief. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (10:31). "For our God is a consuming fire" (12:29). There is no "cheap grace" here!
In verse 14 the epistle transitions back to its main theme; yet it continues to urge us to hold fast to the eternal realities that we confess (as in 3:6).
Our High Priest is not one who is unable to "feel with us." He was tempted and tried in every way that we are. He felt the pressures of life just as we do. He was in a different time and culture, of course, but what He experienced was just as intense and trying as what we experience today in whatever culture we live. He sensed the same powerful passions. And He overcame them all. He was without sin!
Having come through that human experience completely victorious, Jesus Christ is now able to bring everyone who comes to Him completely victorious through the same human experiences. So let us come with complete confidence to the throne of grace, where our High Priest is now in session, to obtain (take) the mercy He offers, and to find "well-timed help" (boetheian--from the same word as "run to the cry" in 2:18) in time of need!
SEIZE YOUR DESTINY!
Hebrews, Chapters Five and Six
Hebrews 5:1-3. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. (King James Version).
The high priesthood of Aaron was ordained by God for the purpose of offering gift offerings and also sacrifices for the sins of the people of Israel.
These common sins of the people were ceremonial transgressions done in ignorance or in carelessness, errors due to misguided straying, actions done in the impulse of the moment by giving in to human weakness. They did not include determined disobedience. The Law of Moses made no provision for that. "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses" (Hebrews 10:28 KJV).
These human high priests were able to have compassion on those who committed offenses in ignorance and also on the erring. That is, he could be "measured" (moderate) in his feelings and attitude toward them. Why? Because he himself was "wrapped around" with human weakness.
Thus the Aaronic priesthood met its two essential requirements: divine appointment and human sympathy.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Aaronic priesthood was ordained by God, it was essentially deficient because of the moral weakness and failings of the priests themselves. On account of this the priests themselves had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 5:4-11. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him:
"You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You."
As He also says in another place:
"You are a priest forever
According to the order of
who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (New King James Version).
Under the Old Covenant no one could just assume the position and honor of the high priesthood. It was given by divine appointment only to those called by God, namely, to Aaron and to those among his descendants who succeeded to the office.
In the same way Jesus Christ did not assume on His own the glory and position of eternal High Priest. He was given that glorious position by the decree of the Father. The One who said to Jesus, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You" (Psalm 2:7 NKJV), also said to Him, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4 NKJV).
So we see the connection between "Son" and "Priest." The Son is the Priest!
In the "days of His flesh" (His incarnation), after He had offered up prayers and supplications" (His agony in Gethsemane), Jesus was heard (His intercession was received) by the Father because of Christ's absolute godly reverence. He was completely successful before the Father as an intercessor. Accordingly, He is now forever established as our Intercessor.
Jesus, the Son-Priest, "learned obedience by the things which He suffered." This does not imply that Jesus ever was disobedient. He always fully obeyed the Father. Unlike the priests under the Law, Jesus had no sins of His own to atone for. He was always victorious over sin. Yet His lifestyle of constant, uninterrupted, full obedience was strengthened by what He suffered. To become "perfected" (fully qualified) to become our compassionate great High Priest, Jesus (Son-Priest) had to experience the same trials and temptations that we experience.
Jesus Christ did not take the attitude, "I am God; therefore I know what you are going through." Instead, He became one of us so He could go through it with us in time-space human experience. His attitude is, "I am God the Son. I know what you are going through because I am also fully human. I have been there and done that--and I am still here. I am here for you."
Jesus Christ became fully qualified morally by His fear (reverent piety expressed by His perfectly careful life) and experientially by His sympathy with human weakness and suffering.
Having therefore become complete for the position of High Priest, He became the author (source, cause) of eternal salvation to all who yield loving obedience to Him in faith. Jesus is now called (addressed, titled, designated, hailed) by God: "High Priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm110:4). Christ's eternal Melchizedek Priesthood is totally superior to the old temporary Aaronic priesthood.
This preliminary reference to the Melchizedek priesthood is somewhat of a "teaser." It introduces "a person concerning whom" and "a subject concerning which" many things could be said (and will be said later in Chapter 7). But it was difficult to bring out the full interpretation of this truth to these immature believers because they were "sluggish of hearing." Their spiritual "receptors" were not tuned in and turned up.
Hebrews 5:12-14. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (New King James Version).
It was hard to explain to these believers the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ. Only the spiritually mature or maturing can grasp it. So the author of the epistle reproves them for their continued spiritual immaturity. The same reproof should greatly benefit all today who are content to remain stuck in spiritual infancy year after year. They are not in the battle because they are still on the bottle! They are "high-maintenance/low-impact" Christians.
Considering the length of time that this group of believers had been in the faith, they should be mature and knowledgeable, able to teach others. Instead, they need someone to teach them the elements (first principles) of the oracles of God. They had come to need milk. They were not prepared to digest even a soft spiritual diet. They were even much less prepared for solid spiritual fare. Spiritually they were like infants whose baby teeth had not yet come through. They were still "gumming" the gospel.
By contrast, the believers at Rome were "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another" (Romans 15:14 KJV).
A marvelous quality of God's word is the range of its adaptability to each believer's stage of spiritual maturation. Babes in Christ are urged to yearn for the pure milk of God's word (1 Peter 2:2). They are like the newborn infant who looks at its mother and thinks: "breakfast!"
A new believer reads a passage from the Bible and feeds on the milk it contains. As the same believer grows in grace and knowledge, he or she feeds again on the same passage and discovers "cereal." Continuing to advance in Christ, the believer looks again at the same passage and says, "yum--veggies!" Eventually the mature believer studies the same Bible passage and exclaims, "beefsteak!"
It's all in there!
Notice, the milk-feeding Christian is unskilled in the word of righteousness. The Bible is more than historical literature and information (although it is certainly that). It reveals moral truth that builds character. It produces spiritual grown-ups, adults who have their moral and ethical "organs of perception" (a medical term) developed by "locking them in" to The Scriptures. They know by exercise (a gymnastic term) how to distinguish between good and evil.
These knowledgeable, experienced, well-rounded and well-grounded people no longer ignorantly blunder into non-biblical and harmful behaviors, relationships and situations. Like the early believers at Rome, they are able not only to discriminate between good and evil in their own practical living but also to guide others in the principles and path of righteousness.
Hebrews 6:1-3. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (New King James Version).
Here we have another "therefore," urging us to act decisively based on what has just been said. This is an appeal to progress in doctrinal truth and its practical application to daily living.
When constructing a building, no builder lays a foundation and calls that the finished product. That would be unthinkable. And certainly no builder would lay the foundation, tear it up, and re-lay it over and over. That would be insane.
The same is true of building the "edifice" of our personal spiritual life and character. Repentance, faith for salvation, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal judgment--these are the elementary teachings about Christ. They are the foundational truths of salvation.
But we must not stop after laying the foundation, much less build it over and over again. We are to lay it right the first time, then leave it and go on and build upon it.
New and immature Christians have a high calling to grow up in thinking, character, and conduct; and that high calling places a solemn responsibility upon each of us. It is also an exciting adventure, full of possibilities and certainties for time and eternity.
So, "let us go on." That is, "let us be borne on." Let us all advance together in love, knowledge, and Christlikeness.
"If God permits." That is, if they are ready, if they have indeed laid the solid foundation of repentance, etc. Otherwise, God would require them to do so. Some people try to by-pass this essential foundation and build an edifice of "spirituality" without real moral integrity. They "talk the talk," but they do not "walk the walk." Their spiritual "front" can be quite impressive. But they are hollow on the inside, where real spirituality resides.
Hebrews 6:4-8. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (New King James version).
This is one of the most solemn and stern warnings to believers not to abandon Christ. This is not about or addressed to people who have merely "tasted" (mouthed) the gospel and "spit it out," or have been only enlightened and brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit but not converted. In the word of God, "tasting" and "partaking" mean personally experiencing the reality.
We must keep in mind to whom this epistle was initially addressed. These were Hebrew believers who were under pressure to renounce and abandon their personal Savior in Whom they had placed their trust for salvation and with Whom they had come into a personal saving relationship. They were born-again believers. If they were only pre-Christian--interested but still unregenerated--this entire passage would be completely out of harmony with its context. In that case it would make little or no sense. The attempt to force it to fit that meaning requires exegetical contortion. Verses 4 and 5 contain a four-fold description of believers.
Chapter 10, verse 29 gives us an insight into what is meant for these Hebrew believers to "fall away." "Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (NKJV). "Common" here means unsanctified and therefore unholy (unclean). In renouncing Jesus Christ, they placed the blood of Jesus in the same category as the blood of a pig.
This was no ordinary "backsliding." It was a crucifixion--their crucifixion--of Jesus.
In their International Critical Commentary on the Epistle To The Hebrews, page 80, Driver, Plummer, and Briggs put it so clearly and forcefully. "The meaning of the vivid phrase is that they put Jesus out of their life; they break off all connection with him; he is dead to them . . . . as if he is not worth their loyalty! Their repudiation of him proclaims to the world that they consider him useless, and that the best thing they can do for themselves is to put him out of their life."
The impossibility is not that they never could be saved, but that they never would. If they would truly repent, they would be restored. But they so definitely, publicly, and finally renounced Jesus Christ that to persuade them to repent would be a human impossibility. The impossibility is not with God; it is with them and with any human effort to change them. It is their "sin unto death" (1 John 5:16).
Verses 7 and 8 illustrate the point by the analogy of the two fields and by the contrast between what they produce. Both fields are fertile. Both receive an adequate supply of rain. The one produces food and thus uses God-given resources to fulfil its God-given purpose for humanity. It has God's blessings. The other produces thorns and thistles and thus uses God-given resources wastefully and detrimentally so far as people are concerned. Left to itself, it functions under the curse ("cursed is the ground . . . . Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth . . . ." See Genesis 3;18, 19).
Being Hebrews, these endangered believers must have caught the full force of the analogy and its application to them. They were well acquainted with what The Scriptures say about God's blessings and His cursings upon different fields. See Genesis 27:27; Deuteronomy 28:2, 3, 15, 16; Proverbs 24:30-34.
The issue for them (and us) is whether they were going to stay true to the Son of God, produce the fruit of the Spirit, and receive God's blessings and approval; or turn away from the Messiah, place themselves under the curse, become a spiritual wasteland producing only what is useless and detrimental to themselves and others, and in the end suffer the fire of God's judgment.
In addition to the Old Testament passages regarding blessed and cursed fields, they also knew what Jesus said in His parable of the "tares" and the wheat. "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire . . ." (see Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
Eventually God will purify His earth by purging out of it all who use it and its resources to produce "the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11).
Hebrews 6:9-12. But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (New King James Version).
The tone changes abruptly and completely to one of confidence and commendation. The writer addresses them as "beloved," and affirms his confidence that they will remain faithful, experience the "better things" and the blessings attached to salvation, even though he has just warned them of the horrific consequences awaiting those who do apostatize.
They are fruitful, and God will remain fully cognizant and appreciative of the practical expressions of their love. Later in the epistle (10:32-34), they themselves are urged to remember the fervency of their first love and how that love was expressed in so many sacrificial ways.
Now (verses 11 and 12) they (and we) are urged to put the same diligence (as in 4:11),
the same energy, into pursuing our hope (our destiny) to the end. "Each of you," shake off the spiritual and moral sluggishness mentioned in 5:11 and diligently follow the example of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
This theme, this high calling, this holy ambition, this supreme motivation of life, this diligent pursuit of the HOPE recurs throughout the entire epistle. We saw it in 3:6; we see it here again in 6:11; we will be reminded of it again in 6:18-19 and 7:19.
In his first epistle the apostle Peter urges the same diligence. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13 KJV).
Hebrews 6:13-20. For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (New King James Version).
We are now assured of the certainty of the fulfillment of the divine promises. Before, we had a warning in the form of an example (40 years in the wilderness); now we have encouragement in the form of an example (Abraham).
In verses 13-15 our steadfastness is our response as believers to God's sure promises of our eternal destiny. Here again, as so often in the Bible, Abraham is cited as an outstanding example of faith, the faith that follows-through.
The emphasis here is on God's promise and His oath. God's promise and His oath are what Abraham relied on completely and what motivated him to persevere until he obtained the promise. We are to follow the same example diligently, with the assurance that, if we do, we also will obtain the destiny promised to faithful believers.
Verses 16-20 focus on the nature and the certainty of the "two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie"--His promise and His oath.
Great emphasis is placed upon God's oath, because His oath establishes the absolute and unchanging certainty of God's decree and purpose. By His oath, God put Himself personally into the promise, pledging Himself to it and backing it up with all of His divine qualities. Nothing can be more sure!
God's promise alone is sufficient ground for belief. Still, some of His promises are conditional. Their fulfillment depends on whether or not the attached conditions are met and fulfilled. By contrast, God's oath is unconditional and irrevocable!
By God's immutable promise made irrevocable by His immutable oath, we who have fled to Christ for refuge have a strong encouragement.
The thought of fleeing to Christ for refuge reflects back to the cities of refuge established in Israel (see Deuteronomy 4:42 and 19:5).
This hope, this sure destiny in Christ, is an anchor that is fixed in eternity, securely fixed by God and in God. It is like a ship's anchor attached firmly to an unmovable rock. We do not see the anchor, only the rope as it disappears beneath the surface of the water. But we know that the anchor is there and that it is secure. So it is with the certainty of the destiny of God's elect. We do not see the anchor, but we know where it is and we have a firm grip on the rope. We cannot see it, but we know that it holds.
This hope, this certain destiny, is the anchor of our souls. It keeps the soul from drifting, no matter how much the storms rage, the winds blow, and the waves rise and fall.
No, this is not "pie in the sky," but an anchor in the Holies! It is where Jesus, our forerunner, went ahead and is now preparing a place for us (John 14:2). He is our High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
So, let us "lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:12). It is the gift of God (Romans 6:23). Get a firm grip on it and never let it go. Trust God completely. He "is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24 KJV).
THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD
Hebrews, Chapter Seven
Hebrews 7:1-3. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace," without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. (New King James Version).
The focus of this chapter is Jesus Christ and the absolute superiority of His priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood.
Just who is "this Melchizedek"? We meet him in Genesis 14:18-20. When Abraham returned from defeating the coalition of kings that had captured his nephew Lot, Melchizedek came to meet him. "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, . . ." (KJV).
Melchizedek was the "king-priest" of "Salem" (Jerusalem). He took the initiative to meet Abraham and his men with food and drink. He blessed Abraham and gave blessing to God, and Abraham gave him the tithe of all he took in battle (probably Lot had never tithed on it himself!). The ancient Jews thought that Melchizedek was Shem.
We lose sight of Melchizedek until King David by the Holy Spirit suddenly announced the majestic decree of the Father to Christ: "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm110:4 KJV).
Again, Melchizedek is absent from the subsequent pages of divine revelation until the Holy Spirit re-introduces him in the Epistle To The Hebrews.
Much more is said about him here than in the two short statements in Genesis and The Psalms. But, just who is this person? We read a "teaser" back in Hebrews 5:10 and 11. Jesus is called of God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Concerning Melchizedek and the Melchizedek priesthood much could be said that was hard for the immature Hebrew believers to understand. This seems to imply that there is something more to this than mere typology. It takes spiritual receptivity and maturity to understand this mystery.
Currently there are two basic views regarding Melchizedek. The one view regards him as only a man, an ancient Canaanite king-priest who was a remarkable type of Jesus Christ. The references to him in the Epistle To The Hebrews are interpreted to fit this view by those who hold it. This seems to be the view held by the great majority of Bible scholars.
The other view regards Melchizedek as a christophany, that is, an Old Testament appearance of Christ in human form. At present (2004) I favor this view.
A christophany is not the Incarnation. The Incarnation was a one-time event, when the Second Person of the Trinity became fully man while at the same time remaining fully God. A christophany is far less than that, although in itself it is still a divine event.
We find instances of christophany in the Old Testament. In Joshua 5:13-15 we read that at Jericho "the Captain of the host of the Lord" met Joshua. Joshua fell down at his feet and "did worship." Then "the Captain of the Lord's host" ordered Joshua to remove his shoes because the place was holy. Now, mere angels refuse to accept worship (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:20; 22:8, 9). Worship belongs only to God. This Person not only accepted worship from Joshua but also commanded him to perform an act of deep reverence.
The appearance of the "fourth man" in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25) could also be a christophany, and is so regarded by many.
In the Greek original, Hebrews 7:1-3 appears to be one continuous sentence. The subject of this long sentence is "Melchizedek" (verse 1). The predicate is "remains" (verse 3). "Melchizedek . . . remains." Everything between the subject and the predicate builds up to the predicate.
Between the subject and the predicate we read a majestic series of categorical statements about "this Melchizedek." He is "king of righteousness" and "king of peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God."
To say that the author of the Epistle To The Hebrews is merely following the interpretive methods of Philo is to deny its divine inspiration and therefore its rightful place in the canon of The Holy Scriptures. What a loss that would be. That goes against all the evidences of its divine inspiration. The imprint of the Holy Spirit is all over this epistle.
Also, the position that Melchizedek was just a Canaanite king/priest who happened to be a type of Christ only because there is no record of his ancestry, his father's name, his mother's name, his birth, and his death does not rise to the demands of the text. In fact, such a typology breaks down immediately due to a complete lack of parallelism. In the case of Jesus, we do know His ancestry (Matthew 1 and Luke 3), His mother's name (Mary), the history of His birth, and the time when He gave up His mortal life on the cross.
If indeed Melchizedek was a christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in human form, that would make "made like the Son of God" (verse 3) to mean "made a facsimile off from the Son of God." In that case (to use a modern term), Melchizedek was a "fax" of Christ. Jesus is the original.
Hebrews 7:4-10. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the greater. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. (New King James Version).
We are directed here to observe "how great (dignified, distinguished) this man." Please notice that "was" is not in the text of the original here and in Genesis 14:18.
The point here is the surpassing superiority of the everlasting Melchizedek priesthood over the old Levitical (Aaronic) priesthood that it replaced. Melchizedek is greater than Levi and Aaron, as is demonstrated by the fact that they potentially and positionally "paid" tithes to him through Abraham (verse 9).
Melchizedek's genealogy is not counted from Levi (nor subsequently from Aaron). But he received tithes of Abraham and blessed him (literally, "has taken tithes," and "has blessed").
Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Beyond dispute, that places Melchizedek above Abraham!
Verse 8 declares that the Biblical record concerning Melchizedek stands as a witness to the fact that "he lives." That establishes the Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus Christ on "the power of an endless life" (verse 16), and as a continuation of that life.
In verses 9 and 10 we read that, "so to speak," Levi paid tithes through Abraham, being "still in the loins of his father [that is, great grandfather]" at the time. This does not support the notion of the pre-existence of souls or the doctrine of traducianism (that the soul as well as the body is begotten and produced by the parent or parents). It is merely a Semitic figure of speech meaning descendants.
The Melchizedek priesthood received tithes, and still does.
So we have three proofs of the ascendancy and superiority of the unique and everlasting Melchizedek priesthood over the temporary Aaronic.
1. The Melchizedek priesthood was established before the Aaronic.
2. Melchizedek took tithes of Abraham and thus indirectly, positionally,
and potentially from Levi and thus Aaron.
3. It is never recorded that Melchizedek lost the priesthood through death.
He lives (v. 8)!
Hebrews 7:11-19. Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies,
"You are a priest forever
According to the order of
For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (New King James Version).
The transfer of the priesthood from Levi and Aaron to Melchizedek made necessary a transfer also of the law. A different priesthood must bring in and administer a different law. So when the priesthood changed, so did the law.
Remember, Melchizedek is king of righteousness and king of peace. So the law of the Melchizedek priesthood is righteousness and peace (and also joy in the Holy Spirit--Romans 14:17). This is now the law of the kingdom of God; and remember, Melchizedek was and is both king and priest.
If perfection (moral integrity in a saving relationship with God) came by the law, there would be no need for a different priesthood. So in anticipation of this, God provided ahead of time for the Melchizedek priesthood. God knew that the Aaronic priesthood would never save people from sin and bring them into a right relationship with Himself. God provided the Mosaic law under the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood (see Exodus 19:24) as a "tutor" to make us aware of sin and to bring us to Christ (see Galatians 3:19-25).
The Mosaic law and the Aaronic priesthood were only temporary provisions. By contrast, the Melchizedek priesthood is an everlasting order. It was God's "Plan A" from the beginning.
Verse 19 emphasizes the "better hope." We read about it in Chapter 6, verses 18 and 19. Remember, "hope" in the Bible contains no element of uncertainty. It is the anticipation of what is absolutely certain.
The old law separated us from God because of our sin. The old priesthood of Aaron could not secure victory over sin; so fellowship with God was impossible under the law. Even in Old Testament times all who came into a right relationship with God were justified by faith, not by the law or by any of their own works (Romans 4; Hebrews 11). Their works were the result of their faith and the proof that their faith was truly a living faith (James 2:14-26).
The hope came by the sacrifice and high priesthood of the Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:18, 19). The new hope said to the old order, "Move out! I'm taking your place!"
Hebrews 7:20-28. And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
"The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
'You are a priest forever
According to the order of
by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (New King James Version).
This brings us to the divine oath in Psalm 110:4, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (KJV).
The priesthood of Aaron and his successors operated without a divine oath. Because of this, they had no permanent decree to guarantee the permanency and perpetuity of that priesthood.
By contrast, the Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus Christ was established by an irrevocable oath. God declared Jesus Christ "a priest forever." On this solid basis Jesus Christ is God's guarantee of a better and everlasting covenant for all who believe in Him.
The high priesthood of Jesus is far superior to the Aaronic pristhood also in the fact that the Melchizedek priest is not subject to death. Death prevented the high priests under the Aaronic order from continuing. The priesthood was transmitted from generation to generation. But Jesus arose from the dead and is alive forevermore. His priesthood is non-transferable. He and He alone holds it permanently and forever. The Melchizedek Priesthood has always had, now has, and will always have only one Priest--Jesus Christ!
That is why He is able to save "to the uttermost" (completely and forever) all who come to God through Him. He ever lives to make intercession for them. He is ever interceding. He is our High Priest, our Mediator, our Advocate, our "Attorney" at the right hand of the Father.
There is no other mediator--not angels, not Mary, not "saints," not earthly priests. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5 KJV).
No other mediator is necessary. Jesus is our all-sufficient, fully qualified, totally successful, completely victorious, perfectly reliable High Priest.
And He is perfectly suited to us. He fits us. He is exactly the High Priest that we need, and need so desperately. He became one of us. He came into our situation and overcame it by living sinless in it. Then He took our sins upon Himself, died in our place, and conquered all of our enemies including death itself. He is now the Man in the glory--holy, innocent, pure, safe from harm from sinners, and lifted higher than the heavens. He is passed through the heavens (Hebrews 4:14) to the very throne of God the Father.
He is far above the old daily routine of the Aaronic high priests. They had to offer sacrifices daily, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. Jesus, our High Priest, had no sin of his own. That qualified Him to offer up Himself once-for-all for us. He is both the Sacrifice and the High Priest. He presented His own blood before the Father. The Father fully accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. Now we can come directly to the Father through Him, to "obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14 KJV).
The old Mosaic law made priests of men who were morally weak. But the word of the oath (Psalm 110:4) established Christ as our High Priest. His qualifications and His preparations are complete. By the divine oath and His human triumph He is perfected forever, fully able to meet our every need. He is now in session. Come directly to the Father through Him. No appointment is needed.
THE NEW COVENANT
Hebrews, Chapter Eight
Hebrews 8:1-6. Now this is the main point of the things we are saying; we have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (New King James Version).
This section (8:1-6) heads up what has just been said about the high priesthood of Jesus Christ and introduces the essential features of His high priesthood: the new covenant, the true sanctuary, the effective sacrifice, and the sure promises. All of these are taken up and developed in order in the next few chapters.
In this section we see five features of the absolute superiority of Jesus Christ. These are said to be "better" than what they replaced. They are "better," not in the comparative sense of merely a moderate or even great improvement but in the absolute sense of a total contrast.
Feature number 1. Christ is an absolutely superior Priest to Aaron, and His priesthood is absolutely superior to the entire Levitical system. We have "such a High Priest" as is described in Chapter 4:14 through Chapter 7:28.
Feature number 2. Christ conducts His high priestly ministry in a "better" sanctuary, the true sanctuary (verses 2 and 5). He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens (verse 1; see also Hebrews 1:3). He finished His redemptive work and entered into His high priestly ministry.
This is not merely an "ideal" sanctuary, but the real sanctuary, the true tabernacle which the Lord erected and not man (verse 2). The earthly tabernacle was only a copy of the heavenly order. Christ's priesthood is the heavenly order. He is in Heaven itself, now appearing in the very presence of God the Father for us (see 9:24).
Feature number 3. Christ offered a "better" sacrifice (verses 3 and 4). That is, He offered Himself once-for-all. That all-sufficient, once-for-all sacrifice was offered by the Melchizedek priesthood only.
Feature number 4. Christ is the Mediator of a "better" covenant (verse 6). That new covenant is the subject of the rest of Hebrews Chapter 8.
Feature number 5. That new covenant was established and rests on "better" promises (verse 6).
Therefore, Jesus Christ has a more excellent (surpassing) ministry. This is the sum, the head, the main point.
Hebrews 8:7-13. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them," says the Lord. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days," says the Lord, "I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." In that He says, A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (New King James Version).
Verse 6 is transitional and leads us into the subject of the new covenant. Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice of Himself established the new covenant and thus abolished the old.
God always deals with mankind through a covenant relationship. Each covenant that God established has been based on a sacrifice, a sacrifice for sin. An atoning sacrifice is essential to a right relationship with God and personal communion with Him. Sin separates man from God; so before we can have fellowship with Him, the barrier of sin must be removed. Before the New Covenant that was done provisionally and potentially by animal sacrifices. Animal sacrifices could not take away sin because they could not satisfy the demands of the broken moral law. They were only a temporary provision until the permanent sacrifice was made. Faith in the temporary provision was counted as faith in the permanent one that was to come.
When God dealt with Adam and Eve after they sinned, He clothed them with garments made out of skin. This implies that an animal had been sacrificed (Genesis 3:21). It was under that covenant arrangement that Abel brought an animal sacrifice to God (Genesis 4:4).
God's covenant with Noah and his descendants was sealed with blood sacrifice (Genesis 6:18; 8:20-22).
On Mount Sinai God gave the Law and established the Mosaic Covenant with Israel. At a dramatic moment Moses "took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words" (Exodus 24:8 KJV).
Later, God made a special covenant with king David and his royal descendants (see 2 Samuel 7:12, 13; 2 Chronicles 21:7; Psalm 89:3, 28, 34; Jeremiah 33:21). Nothing is said directly about a blood sacrifice, possibly because the Davidic Covenant operated within the Mosaic Covenant and was ultimately fulfilled in David's Son, Jesus Christ. We do have evidence of a blood sacrifice attached to the Davidic Covenant, however. In Leviticus 2:13 God commanded that salt be included first in all meal sacrifices and then in all sacrifices (see also Ezekiel 43:23 and 24). When the ten northern tribes revolted against the Davidic royal line, king Abijah (David's grandson) raised an army in a futile attempt to force them to return. Before the disastrous battle, Abijah gave a speech to the opposition from Mount Zemarim. In it he stated that God had given the kingdom to David by "a covenant of salt" (2 Chronicles 13:5). If Abijah's claim is correct, it would imply that a blood sacrifice had been offered in connection with the establishment of the Davidic Covenant.
The New Covenant was established by Jesus Christ. The New Covenant had been prophesied many times in The Scriptures (see Isaiah 42:6; 55:3; 61:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:40; Ezekiel 16:60, 62; 37:26; Hosea 2:18; Zechariah 9:11; Malachi 3:1). Hebrews 8:7-12 is a direct quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34.
At last! We now have the New Covenant that God promised so often and so long through the prophets of Israel! It the supreme, the effective, the final, the EVERLASTING Covenant! Through Christ we have come into a real, vital, living, personal covenant relationship with God!
When Moses announced the Old Covenant, he dramatically splashed the blood of the sacrifice out toward the people, saying, "Behold the blood of the covenant . . ." (Exodus 24:8). When Jesus announced the New Covenant, the scene was far less dramatic but far more profound. Gathered with His disciples just before He sacrificed Himself on the cross, our Lord took the cup and calmly announced, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
In the New Covenant God's laws are placed into our minds and written in our hearts. Because it is an internal rather than an external covenant, our relationship with God is now internal and not merely external.
He is our God and we are His people. "Through him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:18, 19 KJV).
All who are in this covenant relationship with God know Him, because we came into personal fellowship with Him by the Holy Spirit through personal faith in Jesus Christ.
We have both forgiveness of sins and justification before God. Because of the complete sufficiency and full effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, God grants His full mercy to all who truly believe on Christ from the heart; and our sins and our iniquities He will never recall.
The New Covenant promises and provides full salvation. That is the closing promise; that is the supreme and ultimate blessing. [God] "also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6 New King James Version).
By bringing in the New Covenant, God made the old obsolete. At the time of the writing of the Epistle To The Hebrews, the old was decaying and becoming old. In fact, it was ready to disappear (verse 13). It was "out of gas" and merely coasting on its own religious and cultural momentum. Its demise was closer than they realized. The Old Covenant and all that was associated with it disappeared in A.D. 70 when the Roman army under Titus destroyed the temple and put an end to the old system.
The New Covenant is the everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20). Anything else would be abysmally anticlimactic. What would there be to go back to? Animal sacrifices after Christ has shed His blood and presented it before the Father on our behalf? Never! That would be consummate sacrilege.
No, the New Covenant is God's final and ultimate covenant. There is no other sacrifice and never will be--no other salvation; no other Savior; no other High Priest!
Remember, there is no salvation apart from the Covenant, and no Covenant without the sacrifice.
Also, there are always two parties to a covenant. The two parties to the New Covenant are God and the believer. Like any covenant, the Everlasting Covenant contains both benefits and responsibilities. On His part, God is faithful to His promises, and He has gained our eternal love, devotion, fellowship, and obedience. On our part, we are to give Him our eternal love, devotion, fellowship, and obedience--willingly and gladly. That is our free response to His free grace. And what do we gain?
Hebrews: The High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, chapters 8-13