Hebrews Bible Study


1. Destination of the Letter
2. Occasion and Purpose of the Letter
3. Author of the Letter
4. The date of the Letter
5. The message of the Letter

An Outline for the book of Hebrews

I. 1:1--4:13      God's Ultimate Word, Spoken by a Son

A. 1:1-14         Instruction: The Son Superior to Angels
B. 2:1-4           Admonition: Do Not Neglect This Salvation
C. 2:5-18         Instruction: The Son Made Lower than Angels
D. 3:1-6           Instruction: Jesus Worthy of More Glory than Moses
E. 3:7-4:13       Warning: Do Not Harden Your Hearts

II. 4:14--10:18 Jesus, The Ultimate High Priest

A. 4:14-5:10    Instruction: Jesus a True High Priest
B. 5:11-6:20     Warning & Encouragement
C. 7:1-10:18    Instruction: Jesus the High Priest

III. 10:19--12:29 Exhortation & Warning

A. 10:19-25     Exhortation: Draw Near with a True Heart
B. 10:26-31     Warning: Judgment on Apostasy
C. 10:32-39     Exhortation: Do Not Throw Away Confidence
D. 11:1-12:2    Exhortation: Run the Race
E. 12:3-29        Exhortation: Keep the Faith and Face Your Fear

IV. 13:1-25 Concluding Admonitions and Close

A. 13:1-6         True Love and False Love
B. 13:7-19       Concerning Leaders in the Church
C. 13:20-25     Close

1. Destination of the Letter

The title "To the Hebrews'' is not part of the original letter, but was probably added latter when New Testament letters were gathered into a collection (called the cannon). -There is no salutation which would identify the readers of this letter. The destination of the letter must therefore be inferred from the letter itself. It is not as personal as a letter of Paul's. It is more on the order of a sermon (see 13:22, "my word of exhortation").

Still, this book is found to be in a genuine letter form. It grows out of a personal relationship between the author and his readers. The author has lived among the people whom he is now addressing, and though he is at the time of writing separated from them he hopes to be restored to them soon (13:18-19, 23).

The content of the letter indicates that the readers were Jewish Christians, so that the title given by the men of the second century is not unfitting. The readers seem to be Jewish Christians in danger of relapsing into Judaism, thus lapsing back into apostasy.

Where these Jewish Christians lived cannot be made out clearly. Italy is the most likely place, and within Italy, Rome. The letter contains greetings to the church from "those who come from Italy"' (13:24), evidently from members of the Jewish Christian church who are now with the author and are sending greetings to their home church.

2. Occasion and Purpose of the Letter

These Christians had in the past given evidence of their faith and love (6:10). They had stoutly endured persecution and had courageously aided others under persecution (10:32-34).

Their courage and faith had not failed them in times of crisis; but it was failing them in the long drawn, unending struggle with sin (12:4). They were growing disspirited and slack (12:12) the continuous pressure of public contempt, particularly the contempt of their fellow Jews (13:13) had revived in them the old temptation to be offended at the weakness of the Christ they believed in, at His shameful death, and at the fact that the Christ did not fulfill their Judaic expectation and "remain forever" on earth (cf. John 12:34) but was removed from sight in the heavens.

These Christians had ceased to progress in their faith (5:11-14) and were neglecting the public assembly of the church which could strengthen them in their faith (10:25).

Some had perhaps already apostatized (6:4-8); all were in danger of falling away (3:12) and reverting back into Judaism (13:9-14).

Judaism, with its fixed and venerable institutions, its visible and splendid center in the Jerusalem temple and its form of worship, its security and exemption from persecution as a lawful religion under Roman law (at the time Christianity did not know of such protection) must have had for them an almost overwhelming fascination.

The letter is therefore basically just what its author calls it, a "word of exhortation'' (13:22), an appeal to "hold fast the confession...without wavering" (10:23; cf. 10:38; 3:14). The author points his readers to Jesus as urges them to look to Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (12:2)

The author urges the readers to consider Jesus with the eyes of faith and find in Him the strength to overcome their weariness and faintheartedness (12:3). The author is a leader like the leaders whom he describes in his letter (13:17); he is keeping watch not over the theology of his people but over their souls as one who will have to give an account of his leadership.

3. The Author of the Letter

The letter does not name its author, and there is no consistent tradition in the early church concerning its authorship. In the East the letter was regarded either as directly written by Paul or in some sense owing its origin to Paul. The Western church did not attribute the letter to Paul. Tertullian of Carthage (an early church father) assigned it to Barnabas, while in Rome and elsewhere the letter was anonymous.

The fact that the author counts himself and his readers among those who received the Word of salvation second hand compared to those who had heard the Lord is conclusive evidence that the author is not Paul (2:3). Paul appeals repeatedly to the fact that he has seen the Lord and had received the Gospel directly from Him (1st Corinthians 9:1; 1st Corinthians 15:8; Galatians 1:11-12).

The general character of the theology of the letter and the authorts acquaintance with Paul's companion Timothy (13:23) point to someone who moved in the circle of Paul's friends and co-workers. Whoever the author might be we know that the author must have been in all probability a Greek speaking Jewish Christian, thoroughly at home in the Old Testament it its Greek translation, and intimately acquainted with the whole worship and culture of the Jews. He was one capable, moreover, of the most finished and literary Greek in the New Testament. The man Origen probably sums up the issue of authorship best when he says ""Who wrote the epistle God only knows certainly!''

4. The date of the Letter

Since Hebrews is quoted by Clement of Rome in his letter : to the Corinthians in the year 96 A.D. the letter must be earlier than that date. We also know that Timothy is still alive at the time of the writing (13:23). But since he was a young man when Paul first took him as his companion in 49 A.D. (Acts 16:1-3), he may have lived to the end of the first century or even beyond.

The readers have been converted by personal disciples of the Lord (2:3) and considerable time has elapsed since their conversion. They have had time for development and growth (5:12). Some of their leaders are already dead (13:7).

We also know that they have endured one persecution which is probably the Neronian persecution of 64 A.D. and are apparently facing another one according to 10:36. Since the author dwells on the fact that the old system of the priesthood and sacrifice was destined to be superseded by a greater and more perfect priesthood and sacrifice, it would seem strange that he does not mention the fall of Jerusalm which took place in the year 70 A.D. All this taken into account leads us to believe that the letter to the Hebrews was written in the latter half of the first century between the years 65-69 A.D.

5. The message of the Letter

The aim of this letter is to strengthen the faith and hope of the readers. It also includes a plea for strong patience and a joyous holding fast to the Christian confession.

There are three major sections of the letter's message. First, the core of the Christian faith is founded on the Old Testament. Second, it is centered in Christ. Third, it is marked by an intense consciousness of the fact that all days since the coming of the Christ are to be seen as the last days.

The pastoral intent of the writer dictates the structure of his letter; instruction alternates with words of admonition, warning and appeal. The statements which expound the surpassing significance of Jesus the Son of God's last Word to man are followed by imperatives which summon men to heed that very Word.

I. 1:1--4:13 God's Ultimate Word, Spoken by a Son.

God has spoken His ultimate Word through only one source His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, God's Son surpasses all previous mediators of God's divine revelation. He is superior to the prophets, to angels, even Moses. Because Jesus is the Father's last and final word of revelation we as Christians need to give heed to this Word of salvation. The author in essence is saying "pay close attention for God Himself is speaking!"

A. 1:1-14 Instruction: The Son Is Superior to Angels

The opening sentence to the book of Hebrews is one of the most magnificent in the Bible. In the introduction [1:1-4] Jesus is given is shown to be superior to all others. The authors asks us to consider His divinity, His ineffable glory, for He is the creator, the preserver and the heir of the whole universe. By an eternal act of God, once for all Jesus made purification of man's sin and brought him eternal salvation.

1:4-14 Jesus compared to the angels

The man argument of this epistle is that Christ is the fulfillment rather than the administrator of the Mosaic system. Jesus Christ is compared to angels, through whom the Law was given (Acts 7:53); and to Moses, the Law-giver; and to the Levitical Priesthood, through whom the Law was administered.

The language used in this section seems to indicate that human beings are a higher order of creation than that of the angels. Human spirits and angels are not the same. We do not become angels when we die. Angels are now in heaven and will be our servants (verse 14). Angels worship Christ as we do (verse 6).

In the opening verses, the author to the Hebrews gives seven Old Testament quotations which cite the witness of God's ancient Word concerning the surpassing greatness of the Son.

1:5b quotes 2nd Samuel 7:14 God's promise to David through the prophet Nathan concerning David's successors, a promise fully fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

15a quotes Psalm 2:7 where God addresses the king on David's throne in words whose full meaning becomes real and apparent in the Son of David, the Son of God.

1:6 These words which in their original setting of Deuteronomy 32:43 called upon the angels to worship the Lord God of Israel as the Avenger and Savior of His people are here applied to the incarnate Son of God, "that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." (John 5:23)

1:7 quotes Psalm 104:4. God's angels ("Messengers") appear in various forms, fulfill their service and vanish. God's Son however endures unchanged.

1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45:6-7. The anointed king of God's people is, as God's vice-regent and executor of His righteousness on earth, called God being under the favor of God. His reign is destined to endure. This ancient promise found its final "Yes" in Jesus Christ. (Cf. 2nd Corinthians 1:20)

1:10 quotes Psalm 102:25-27. Psalm 102 is entitled "A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaints before the Lord." The psalmist his existence shattered, can find grounds for hope only in the God who endures when all else passes away. He wili arise and have pity in His people, so that all "nations will fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the hearth'' will bow before His glory (Psalm 102:12-15). In Jesus Christ God did arise and help and lead all peoples to worship Him; and the words of Psalm 102 are thus given to apply to the Son Jesus Christ.

1:13 quotes Psalm 110:1 God addresses His anointed king. It was with the words of this psalm that Jesus Himself had stated His claim of being the Christ most powerfully. (see Matthew 22:41-46)

The phrase "Stool for thy feet," is a symbol of conquest. (cf. Joshua 10:24)

1:14 "Ministering spirits" The angels who worship (verse 6) the Son are sent forth to serve man, with who the Son has identified Himself and to whom He has given salvation.

B. 2:1-4 Admonition: Do Not Neglect This Salvation!

Note the fearful warning in verses 2 and 3. If disobedience to the word of angels was dangerous how much more dangerous will it be to become neglectful of the words spoken by Jesus?!

Even the Law, "declared by angels" imposed fearful penalties "on every transgression of disobedience"; how much the more does God's final Word of salvation confront its hearers with a dreadful alternative for those who neglect it?!

Those who neglect this word are rejecting the Word of Christ, the witness of His apostles, the witness of the God "who does wonders", the working of His Spirit.

C. 2:5-18 Instruction: The Son was made Lower than Angels

The fact that the Son "was made lower than the angels" (verse 9) takes nothing from His glory and does not call into question His superiority to the angels. Rather, it is the essential part of His glory!

If in His humiliation He is subjected to the "suffering of death," He "tastes death for everyone (verse 9) in order that all men may share in the ttglory and honor" which ''the grace of God'' has designed for man (verses 6,9)

Jesus partakes of man's nature, "in flesh and blood" and dies man's death (verse 14) in order to deliver men from the tyranny of the lord of death, which is, of course, the devil (verses 14-15)

He suffered and was tempted as One who was destined to become "a merciful and faithful high priest to God... to make expiation for the sins of the people (verse 17).

Two theological terms can be used here. Vicariously and victoriously. Jesus has ''made purification for sins" (1:3) and brings the ''many sons of God to glory" (2:10)

2:7 Man is spoken of as a little lower than angels, although in 1:14 angels are called servants of heirs of salvation. What are we to make of all this? In 2nd Peter 2:11 angels are spoken of as greater in might and power.

2:9 Jesus was made a little lower than angels. Possibly a marginal note found in some translations might be helpful. It reads "for a little while lower than angels."

Whatever the nature of angels might be, by way of comparison with man this passage is a side-light on the ultimate grandeur of God's redeemed human creation.

Christ has a unity with man. God created man to have lordship over all things (verses 6-8) Man was created to tend to and protect the earth. He is to care for it. In the meantime Christ has become one with man, sharing with him his temptations and sufferings, even death itself that He might enable man to become one with Him, to share with Him His nature and His dominion. Because of this, Christ has now been crowned with glory and honor.

D. 3:1-6 Instruction: Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses

Jesus is the authorized messenger or the envoy of God, who speaks and acts in His place. He is "high priest" who with intercession and sacrifice represents man before God.

As Christ acts for man, and intercedes for him He can be compared with Moses who delivered God's people from bondage in Egypt (cf. 2:15) as God's spokesman and agent (cf. Exodus 3:10-12; 4:10-17) and more than once stood before God as an intercessor for his people (cf. Exodus 32:11-14, 30-32; Numbers 14:13-19)

Both, Jesus and Moses were faithful in their service in God's house (by the term "house" we mean God's people, His household).

Yet Jesus is according to this letter "worthy of...much more glory than Moses." As Moses served as a servant Jesus was faithful as a Son. As Moses' service pointed beyond itself to a greater future ("to testify to things that were to be spoken later'') Jesus' Word and work ushers in God's final great day. We are to fix our attention on Jesus, and not on Moses.

Many Jewish Christians, in their childish state (5:11-13) had not yet fully learned about the relation of Christ to Moses. It seems that they still thought that Moses was the law giver and that Christ was the executive to enforce the law of Moses on all other nations. In other words, they saw Moses as being first while Christ fit under him. They had it all backward. Christ is far above Moses. He is the heir and owner of the house. He is above the servants in the house.

E. 3:7--4:13 Warning: Do Not Harden Your Hearts

3:7-19 Warning against Unbelief

When God builds and blesses His house, when He gives His people an apostle and high priest, the members of His household are tempted to desecrate the gift and so lose it.

This is what happened when Israel left Egypt under the leadership of Moses (3:16). Men hardened their hearts and put God to the test in the wilderness. In their disobedience and unbelief they provoked God to wrath and forfeited the rest He had promised and provided for them in the Promised Land. Instead, they fell in the wilderness.

This same plight may so very well be in the times of Jesus, the apostle and high priest of the Christian faith. Therefore, the Holy Spirit's warning as recorded in Psalm 95 (3:7-11) must be heeded today ''take care and exhort one another, for the unbelieving heart and the deceitfulness of sin threaten still to drive men into apostasy from the living God." (3:12-14)

We become partakers of Christ if we hold fast unto the end. Thus the author warns for us to be on guard against falling into unbelief and disobedience. This warning is one of the keynotes of the epistle which is repeated with increasing earnestness in 6:4-6 and 10:26-20

The example is cited of the Israelites, who, after being delivered out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders, yet, because of unbelief and disobedience perished in the wilderness and never reached the promised land (verses 16-19).

If they failed because they were disobedient to the word of Moses, what hope can there be for those who are disobedient to Jesus Christ?

The danger of apostasy among the Jewish Christians must have been imminent and serious. The writer may have had in mind the approaching fall of Jerusalem, the most awful calamity in Jewish history, which would tempt Jews to lose faith in Jesus.

4:1-11 Canaan is seen as a type of heaven

The "promise of entering God's rest remains" (4:1). The unbelief of the men under Moses' leadership destroyed them but did not nullify the promise. The rest which God created by His resting on the seventh day of creation endures; it "remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."(4:9)

The promise was not exhausted when Joshua, Moses' successor, brought the people into the rest of the Promised Land. God repeated the promise to the people through David, in the Psalter, "long afterward" (4:7) and opened up the prospect of a rest greater than Canaan could giye. The history of God's promise is cause for salutary fear and spurs His people on to "strive to enter that rest" (4:11) which Jesus, the Son greater than the servants Moses and Joshua, gives to those "who have believed" (4:3).

The promise is forfeited, now as then, when it meets the "same sort of disobedience'' and destroys the disobedient (4:11) for the promise is the live and effective word of God, penetrating discerning, exposing him who hears it to the inescapable scrutiny of his Judge (with whom we have to do, 4:12-13)

Those that entered the Promised Land under Joshua found an earthly heaven, a "heaven on earth" a land of liberty and plenty. The Promised Land was an earthly picture of the heavenly homeland in the eternal beyond.

4:12-13 The Power of God's Word

God's Word, living and active, has power to penetrate the inmost depths of the human heart, to separate and view every motive and desire and purpose and will and evaluate them when we ourselves scarcely know our own motives. God is the one who sees the heart and it is His Word which speaks to our hearts concerning His good and gracious will.

The Israelites of the wilderness missed the Promised land through disregarding God's Word. (3:17; 4:11). Our best hope of reaching our promised land is found in obedience to God's Word. This is a message for the church today. Where is the power? Where is the strength of the church today? It is the Word alone. If we would give God's Word is proper place what mighty things could be gained for Christ's kingdom here?

II. 4:14--10:18 Jesus, The Ultimate High Priest

A. 4:14-5:10 Instruction: Jesus is a True High Priest

There is cause for holy fear in the presence of God's enduring promise, but there is even stronger cause for confidence. In Jesus, the Son of God, we have a great high priest, sympathetic with us in our weakness (verses 14-15).

Through His priestly intercession the awesome throne of God has become the ''throne of grace" for us, a source of divine mercy and grace to help in time of need. (verse 16)

Jesus is a true high priest, being a man acting "on behalf of men" clothed in our humanity, learning a human obedience but suffering (5:1-3, 7-9). He has also that other qualification for true priesthood, divine appointment. He is "called, appointed by God (5:4-6) designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek." (5:10)

The author wants us to remember that Jesus Christ is our high priest as He is compared to the Levitical priests of the Old Testament.

This begins the man theme of the letter to the Hebrews which is a comparison of Christ with the Levitical Priesthood. This comparison will continue into chapter ten.

The priests of the Old Testament were of the tribe of Levi. Jesus Christ was of the tribe of Judah. They were many, He however was one. The offered animal sacrifices. He offered Himself. They died. He lives! This is our joy. Christ is a better priest.

B. 5:11-6:20 Warning & Encouragement

The author has reached the point where he would develop fully the major theme of his letter. Jesus the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. (5:10)

The words of this new section show that the author feels what man a leader of a less-than-perfect flock has felt. He looks at the present state of his charges and feels a disappointed dissatisfaction at their stagnant immaturity. They have not advanced as they should and cling to a bottle-fed infancy when they should be advancing to the solid food of maturity. (5:11-14)

His resolve to lead them on to maturity is beset by a crip pling fear for their future. He sees them drifting with the current which sweeps toward apostasy (6:6) to that dread extremity of impenitence from which there is no hope of return (6:1-8)

But then he recalls their cast and the past (and present) fruitfulness of their love and thus gains the assurance that the God who has begun His good work in them will carry it through to completion.

The sure promise of God, made doubly sure by His assuring oath, still holds for them and can realize the full assurance of hope. This God directed look gives him the strength to continue his task of keeping watch over these wavering souls, not "sadly" but "joyfully'' (9:20; cf. 13:17)

5:11-14 Dull of Hearing

Here is a personal message to the original recipients of this Epistle. In former times they had been notably zealous in ministering to the saints (6:10). But now they had forgotten even the first principle of the gospel (5:12)

If the traditional view that this Epistle was addressed to the Judean Church is correct (and we assume that it is) then this passage evidently refers to the decline from the spiritual and brotherly quality of the Jerusalem church described in Acts 4:32-35. The Epistle of James, written shortly before, implies a worldly, selfish church.

As times passed, many thousands of Jews had accepted Jesus as their Messiah (Acts 21:20). Still holding to the old materialistic idea of the messsanic kingdom, that it would be a political kingdom in which the Jewish nation, under the rule of the Messiah, would rule the world. So that their Christian faith was largely of the nature of a political slogan!

After the death of James this idea seems to have so largely dominated the Jerusalem church, that the writer tells them that instead of being teachers of the Christian world. as the Mother church should have been, they, like little children, needed to be instructed over again in the basics, the principles of the Gospel of Christ. (verse 12)

6:1-20 Warnings Against Apostasy

The language seems to imply that the Jerusalem Church quite largely had fallen from the high standards of Christian living that had once been theirs, and was headed away from the goals toward which they should be earnestly struggling.

The fall of a Christian, spoken of in verse 6 may be partial or total; just as a person may fall from the top of a building to a projecting ledge, or all the way to the bottom. As long as the apostasy is partial, there may be hope. But when it becomes total, recovery may be impossible.

The sin here spoken of may be similar to the ''unpardonable sin" mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28-30. The implication is that that sin consisted in attributing the miracles of Jesus to Satan, and which, in Luke 12:9-10, is connected with the denial of Jesus.

This sin referred to her is the fall of a Christian. The essence of the fatal sin, whether by a Christian or by one outside the church is the deliberate and final rejection of Christ. It is as if a person in the bottom of a well, to whom a rope is let down, slashes the rope above his reach, thus cutting off his only hope of escape. For those who reject Christ, there will never be another sacrifice for sin. (10:26-31). They will have to suffer for their own sin.

Over against this fearful warning against falling away from Christ, the writer is very positive that, for those who remain faithful and true to Christ, the hope of eternal salvation is absolutely sure and steadfast, based on the immutability of God's promises to those who trust in Him. (verses 9-20)

C. 7:1-10:18 Instruction: Jesus the High Priest

Jesus is the true High Priest. But more then that, He is a priest of a higher order. His priestly office (chapter 7), the better sanctuary in which He ministers (chapter 8), and the final and perfect sacrifice which He offers (9:1--10:18) all mark Him out as the ultimate High Priest, the Mediator who has established God's new and final covenant.

His new and ultimate order of things in which the Law is superseded and God's grace holds free and final saws.

The whole section, so richly elaborated, is designed to overcome the Judaic tendency to take offense at Jesus at the two points where offense was likeliest and strongest...

[1] His "shameful" death on the cross and His present hiddenness

[2] The fact that His life and priestly ministry signified the "end of the law" (cf. Romans 10:4) that law which the Jews revered as the inviolable and eternal Word of God.

7:1-10 Melchizedek

The eternal priesthood of the Messiah is fortold and promised in Psalm 110:4 (cf. Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20). It is foreshadowed in Genesis 14:17-20. in the figure of the priest-king Melchizedek and in the story of his meeting with Abraham. Both what is said and what is left unsaid of Melchizedek in the sacred record mark him as "resembling the Son of God...a priest for ever" (verse 3) and as being thus distinct from and superior to those priests who are "descendants of Levitus and derive their authority from the Law. (verse 5)

Christ, as a priest after the order of Melchizedek is an important teaching from the Scriptures. What this means is that Jesus was not a Levitical priest, but His priesthood was similar to that of Melchizedek, a personage of the past, predating the Levitical priesthood by some 600 years.

Melchizedek was a priest far greater than Abraham, to whom the levitical priests, still in the loins of Abraham, paid tithes.

The account of Melchizedek is in Genesis 14:18-20. He was the King of Salem, and priest of God most high. A king and priest together.

Previous to the time of Moses sacrifices were offered by the heads of families. Thus the priest of each family was the father or grandfather, or great grandfather, the oldest living man in the paternal line. As the family grew to be a tribe, the head came to be king of the tribe as well as priest, and thus he was a king-priest, or Priest-king.

In the days of Moses, when the aggregate of families of God's chosen people had grown to be a nation the nation was organized. Soon places were set apart for sacrifice, a ritual was prescribed, and a special hereditary order of men was created to act as priests. This order was from the family of Levi.

Later another family was set apart to supply the Kings, the family of David. A king ruled the people while a priest, as mediator between God and man offered sacrifices. One family supplied the kings; another, the priests. But Christ was both! He combined the office of King and that of Priest, like Melchizedek.

What is the meaning of "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life?" Not that it was actually so, but that it appeared so in the Old Testament records. Levitical priests were priests because of their genealogy. But Melchizedek, without genealogy, was the recognized priest of the human race at that time.

Hebrew tradition is that Shem, who was still alive in the days of Abraham, as, as far as is known, the oldest living man at the time, was Melchizedek. A mysterious, solitary picture and type, in the ancient past, of the coming eternal Priest-King.

7:11-12 Levitical Priesthood Temporary

It was imperfect, those sacrifices being insufficient to take away sin (10:4). It was carnal (verse 16) that is, they were priests solely because they were of a certain family without regard to any spiritual qualifications. And the covenant under which they operated had been superceded by another covenant (Hebrews 8:8)

7:13-28 Christís Priesthood Eternal

All of the marks of the priesthood of the law are merely preliminary to Christ's ultimate priesthood. The promise pointed, not to Levi, the tribe designated by the Law of Moses as the priestly tribe, but the tribe of Judah (verse 14) from which our Lord was to spring.

Another priest arises by virtue of God's potent promise, and with His coming the old order passes; the former commandment which established the Levitical priesthood, is set aside (verse 18) the introduction of a better hope (verse 19) which really effects what priesthood is designated to effect, that is, enable men to draw near to God, makes clear the weakness and uselessness of the old legal order in comparison with the new, how much better is the new covenant ensured by the ultimate His Priest Jesus Christ. (verse 22)

This new hope and new priesthood is God's promise at work, promise in its purest form, the "oath" of God. In His oath God commits His life to the blessing of men (cf. Genesis 22:15-18).

His oath (Psalm 110:4) gives man the everlasting priest, always alive to "Make intercession" (verses 23-25) the sinless Son who "offered up himself'' in sacrifice once for all (verse 27) and thus was ''made perfect'' as priest, capable of interceding for sinful man "forever" (verses 26-28)

The Levitical priests offered sacrifices every year. Christ died once for all. Theirs was unavailing. His removed sin forever. Christ lives on, the mediator of an eternal covenant and an endless life.

Eternal is one of the favorite words of this epistle. Eternal salvation (5:9); eternal judgment (6:2); eternal redemption (9:12); eternal spirit (9:140; eternal inheritance (9:15); eternal covenant (13:20). It is also a favorite word in John's Gospel.

8:1-13 The New Covenant

The author gives further instruction. Jesus' priestly ministry is the true sanctuary, the heavens mediating the new and better covenant.

The Son's priesthood is of another order that that of the Levitical priesthood and superior to it, as both the promise (Psalm 110:4) and prefiguration (Genesis 14:17-20) and their fulfillment (7:15-16) show.

This superiority is manifest also in the place of His priestly ministration, "heaven'' (verse 1) the "true tent" the "heavenly sanctuary" of which the earthly sanctuary where the descendents of Levi serve as but a "copy and shadow" (verse 5).

In the earthly sanctuary the sons of Levi serve and die (cf. 7:28) As the appearance of the Son as ultimate Priest ushers in a whole new divine order of things (7:12; 18-19) so His ministry in the new heavenly sanctuary involves a new order of things, the promised new and better covenant (7-13)

No longer is man thrust into the presence of God by a commandment of the Law; he is drawn near to God under this new priesthood in the new sanctuary by the inner impulse of a renewed mind and heart in which God is known and His law is inscribed; the reluctance and resistance of sinful man is overcome by God's creatively renewing forgiveness of sins (verse 12).

Christ brought to mankind a new covenant. The first covenant centered around the tabernacle services and the Ten Commandments had served its purpose (9:1-5). Its Laws were written on tables of stone (9:4).

Christ's Laws would be written on our hearts (8:10)

The first covenant was temporal. Christ's covenant would be everlasting (13:20). The first covenant was sealed with the blood of animals. Christ's covenant was sealed with His own blood. (10:29). It was a better covenant with better promises, based on the immutability of God's Word (6:18)

"Better" is one of this epistle's favorite words. Better covenant (8:6). Better promises (8:6). Better hope (7:19). Better possession in heaven (10:34). Blood that speaks better than able (12:24). Better country, heaven, not Canaan (11:16). Better Resurrection, never to die again (11:35)

9:1-10 Christ and the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle was a sanctuary of this world. The true Tabernacle, not made with hands, is Heaven (9:1,11,24)

The priest entered once a year; Christ entered once for all. (verse 7,12)

The High Priest obtained annual redemption; Christ obtained eternal redemption (10:3, 9:12). The High Priest offered the blood of animals; Christ offered His own blood (9:12). The High Priest's sacrifices cleansed the flesh; Christ's sacrifice cleanses the Conscience (9:13,14)

9:15-28 The New Testament

The New Covenant is here called "The New Testament." A testament is a will, a bequeathment to heirs, effective only after the death of the maker. The New Covenant is the will which Christ made for His heirs, which could not become effective until, by His death, He had atoned for their sins.

This is where we get the names of the two divisions of the bible: Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament is the story of the covenant of the Law. The New Testament is the story of the covenant of Christ. The abundant use of blood in the rites of the Old covenant prefigured the urgent necessity of some great sacrifice for human sin (verses 19-22).

"Once for all" (verses 26-28). Christ offered Himself once for all (7:27). Once for all He entered the holy place (9:12). Once for all put away sin at the end of the age (9:26). Men appointed once to die (9:27). Christian sanctified once for all by the offering of Christ (10:10). Christ once offered shall appear a second time for His waiting heirs (9:28). Here the Lord's coming is called His second coming.

10:1-18 No Sacrifice Needed.

There is no need for further Sacrifice. Christ's death is entirely sufficient to take care of all previous sins and those that in weakness we may in daily life commit. The blood of Jesus covers all sin!

III. 10:19--12:29 Exhortation & Warning

The writer bids his readers to recall the believing steadfastness of their former days when the light of God's salvation first broke upon them, for their encouragement he calls the roll of ancient men of faith and bids his readers look to Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of their faith, and so to run with perseverance the race they must run, cheered on by the great cloud of witnesses who ran the race before them (10:32-12:3).

He teaches them to see even in their present sufferings the hand of God who gives the Father who disciplines every child whom He receives as His own (12:4-11). He urges them to repent of their past slackness and to grow strong again before the time for repentance be forever past.

The final splendor of God's gracious speaking is more awesome than were the terrors of Mount Sinai when the Law was given (12:18-24).

To refuse Him who is speaking now is to ignore the final warning spoken from heaven itself and invites the judgment of Him who though He gives to all who will receive and have the gift a kingdom that cannot be shaken--will prove a consuming fire to all who will not offer Him the acceptable worship which is His due (12;25-29).

A. 10:19-25 Exhortation: Draw Near with a True heart

God can now forgive and will forgive those who place their trust in Christ. Let us therefore hold fast to Christ the author tells us (verse 23) He, and He alone, is our Hope and our Savior.

The true heart (verse 22) is the heart of one whose eye is fixed on Jesus the great priest (verses 19-21) and can therefore draw near to God in confident faith(verse 22) and unwavering hope (verse 23) living a life of responsible love (verse 24) in the fellowship of the worshipping church.

B. 10:26-31 Warning: Judgment on Apostasy

As we recall what the author has already said in 6:4-8 he continues. The harsh warnings on apostasy are the negative counterpart to the warm and winning invitation of 19-25 prepared for, however, by the mention of the "Day" in verse 25.

Another fearful warning against falling away from Christ. Addressed to Christians who had once been strong and firm even suffering for the name of Christ and who had given their all in their compassion for their fellow-sufferers (32-32) some of whom were now losing interest in the things of Christ (verse 25).

C. 10:32-39 Exhortation: Do Not Throw Away Confidence

The author looks to his readers' past and finds there a joyous stamina of faith (verses 32-34) which is encouraging to him and can be an incentive to them. "Therefore do not throw away your confidence!" (verse 35)

The light that shone on them at their conversion (verse 32) has illumined dark days for them; in that light they can still endure, "do the will of God and receive what is promised."(verse 36)

ln the little while before the Lord's return (verse 37) they need not be among the number of the apostates who 'tshrink back and are destroyed''. They can stand in the ranks of ''those who have faith" and live (verses 38-39) by God's promise.

The point is that there has been One Sacrifice for sin. There will never be another. Whoever will not avail himself of what Christ has done for him on the cross may as well make up his mind to say goodby to God forever, and go his own way, and suffer for his own sin (verses 27-31).

D. 11:1-12:2 Exhortation: Run the Race

When Moses led Israel into the Promised Land, He set before them "life and death, blessing and curse" and asked them to choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) The same choice confronts the wandering people of God in the last days; and the choice-of-life is faith. (10:39)

The whole record of God's dealing with man in the Old Testament from creation onward, is one long demonstration of the crucial necessity of "having faith!"

The record of the men of old shows that man can live only by faith in the sunlight of God's favor. Only by faith, indeed, can man live in God's world as God's creature at all, for only faith can know that the world is God's creation and the theater of His royal rule over His creation. The Old Testament record of the patriarchs is a record of their faith. By faith Abraham obeyed (verse 8) when God called him and entered into God's invisible future. Thus the author of the Hebrews in some of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture gives for us the heroes and heroines of faith. Consider these people of faith...

-Abel's Faith: First sacrifice for sin (verse 4 Genesis 4:1-15)

-Enoch's Faith: Walked with God; translated (verses 5,6 Genesis 5:22-24)

-Noah's Faith: Kept on building the Ark when nobody thought there would be any use for it (verse 7 Genesis 6:14-22)

-Abrahamís Faith: Started, he knew not where, to find the city of God; was willing to offer his son, in confidence that God would bring him back to life. (8:10; 17-19; Genesis 12:1-7; 22)

-Sarah's Faith: Came to believe what she at first had laughed at as impossible (11,12; Genesis 17:19; 18:11-14) -Isaac's Faith: Foretold the Future (20; Genesis 27:27-29)

-Jacob's Faith: God would fulfill His Promise (21; Genesis 49)

-Joseph's Faith: Bones to rest in Canaan (22; Genesis 50:25)

-Moses' Faith: Chose to suffer with Israel: Forsook Egypt; Kept the Passover; Crossed the Red Sea; Saw Him who is Invisible (23-29; Exodus 2:2-11; 12:21,50; - 14:22-29)

-Joshua's Faith: Walls of Jericho Fell (30; Joshua 6:20)

-Rahabís Faith: Cast her lot with Israel (31; Joshua 2:9; 6:23)

-Gideon's Faith: Waxed Mighty in war (32; Judges 7:21)

-Barak's Faith:  Subduced Kingdoms (32; Judges 4)

-Samson's Faith: From weakness made strong (32, 34; Judges 16:28)

-Jeptha's Faith: Defeated Armies (32, 34; Judges 11).

-David's Faith:  Obtained Promises (32, 33; 2nd Samuel 7:11-13)

-Jeremiah's Faith: Was Tortured (32,35, Jeremiah 20:2)

-Elijah's Faith:   Raised the Dead (32,35; 1st Kings 17:17-24)

-Elisha's Faith:  Raised the Dead (32,35; 2nd Kings 4:8-37)

-Zechariah's Faith: Was Stoned (32,37; 2nd Chronicles 24:20,21)

-Isaiah's Faith:  Was Sawn Asunder (32,37; Tradition)

E. 12:3-29 Exhortation: Keep the Faith And Face Your Fear

Surrounded by a vast crowd of those who in former ages, had run their race for God victoriously, and who were now gazing with breathless interest at the initial struggle of the New-Born Church, the runners are urged to keep their eyes on the goal and strain every nerve and muscle to win. (verses 1-2)

And be not discouraged by their sufferings; for chastening is one of the means by which God's saints are perfected (verses 3-13).

And be very careful to guard against defiling themselves in any way, lest they sell their birthright (verses 14-17).

Sinai and Zion (verses 18-29). The terrifying demonstrations of the inauguration of the Old covenant are contrasted with the heavenly fellowships of the church. One vast brotherhood, in which the saints on earth and the spirits of the redeemed and an infinite host of angels, are in sweet and mystic communion around the throne of God. There they will be forever and ever. (verses 22-24)

IV. 13:1-25 Concluding Admonitions and Close

A. 13:1-6 True Love and False Love

This epistle, though argumentative in nature closes with tender appeals to its readers to be loyal to Christ and to follow Him in all the ways of life, especially in brotherly love and kindness and purity and goodness and with unceasing prayer and unwavering faith in God.

B. 13:7-19 Concerning Leaders in the Church

As Malachi was the Old Testament's final message to the nation founded to bring the Messiah into the world, so the Epistle to the Hebrews is the New Testament's final message to the nation after the Messiah had come. Written shortly before the Jewish state was swept away by the fall of Jerusalem. "One of the most appalling events in all history." Thus the people of God are encouraged to remain faithful to Christ and to listen to godly and good instruction.

C. 13:20-25 Close

With the last five verses the author encourages the reader to keep the faith and the eyes of faith on Jesus our Savior.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +


Concordia Self Study Commentary Martin H. Franzmann, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO. 1979 pp.233-248