Jesus Christ is - The Wonderful One
To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen.

Hebrews Book Study

By Charlie Garrett

and Sergio Voitenko

In Loving Memory of Rory Wilson

Hebrews – an introduction.

An introduction to the book of Hebrews could go on for many long pages and not speak properly of all that it encompasses. And so rather than give an introduction which will inevitably be repeated in substance throughout the entire book, three main points are to be noted. First, “Who is most likely the author of Hebrews?”

No author is assigned to it, and so only an educated guess can be made. The scholar E.W. Bullinger carefully defends the author as Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He does this by making a detailed list of the words used by Paul in his other epistles, and then making a list of the same words in Hebrews. From there, he demonstrates that the number of uses results in a perfection in numbers when Hebrews is added to Paul’s epistles. That listing can be found here –

And secondly, the words of Peter, the Apostle to the Cricumcision (meaning the Jews), demonstrates that this letter is most likely from Paul’s hand. Peter states –

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15, 16

Peter is the Apostle to the Jews. His first letter was specifically written to a Jewish audience. As it says, “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” The “pilgrims of the dispersion” are Jews. It logically follows that his second epistle is to the same group of people based on his words of 2 Peter 3:1 which state, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder).”

As Peter notes that Paul wrote to the same group of people, and as no other letter of Paul meets this requirement, then it is without a doubt that the letter to the Hebrews is from Paul, or that Paul’s letter to the Hebrews has been lost. Based on the numerical perfection of adding Hebrews to Paul’s other letters, it appears that this is, in fact, Paul’s fourteenth, but unsigned, letter.

There would be good enough reason for it not to be signed. Paul’s very name caused (and still causes) deep-seated animosity among the Jews. Therefore, his name is not given in the actual body of the text. Even if Paul is not the author of Hebrews, the letter is purely Pauline in nature. It reflects a well-studied Jew who was fully versed in the law and the prophets, and who was able to lay out a case in a fully convincing and logical manner, just as all of his other letters are laid out.

The second main point of introduction has already been touched upon - “To who is the epistle written?” First, Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So in a real sense, the letter is, as all of Scripture, written to the people of the world. But it is specifically to the “Hebrews.” It is a letter of doctrine, coming after the church-age epistles, specifically intended for instruction of a Jewish audience. It deals with issues that are particularly essential for Jews to understand what they had missed in the coming of Christ; to correct those deficiencies; and to lead them to an understanding of the greatness of Christ – even His surpassing greatness in all ways. And that leads to the third main point of our introduction, which is, “What is the main theme of Hebrews?”

Hebrews is almost like a spiritual technical manual on how to understand the superlative nature of Christ. The author meticulously details his case for Christ’s surpassing of various things or people who are held in high esteem, both in the Hebrew Scriptures and among the Hebrew people. Although there is an overlapping of some of these concepts, Christ is compared to angels (1:5); Moses – meaning the law which bears his name (3:2); the Sabbath (4:1); the high priest who ministers the Old Covenant – meaning the Aaronic Priesthood (5:1); Melchizedek who ministered as a priest before Abraham, and who was also king of Salem (6:20); the Levitical priesthood itself which falls under Aaron (7:11); the Old Covenant as opposed to the New (8:7); the earthly sanctuary of God (9:1); the ministrations and services within the sanctuary (8:6); the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant (8:12); works in order to please God in contrast to faith in Christ (Chapter 11); and finally, heroes of Israel’s past (Chapter 11).

In each of these points (and so much more), Christ and His ministry are shown to be “greater than.” Each point in which a Jew could place his hope is shown to be a false hope in comparison to the surpassing greatness of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Thus, the theme of Hebrews is “Greater Than.”

As noted above, this (or indeed any) introduction is insufficient to express the marvelous wonder which lies ahead in the book of Hebrews, and so the only way to discover that wonder is to enter into the book, and to study it. May you be blessed over the next 303 days as we take in the verses of this book, just like we take in each sunrise, one day at a time.

Life application: If you want to grow in your walk with Christ, then stick around for the next 303 verses, first learning them, and then appropriately applying them to your life as context determines.

Lord God, it is always a wonderful thing to start out on a new adventure. But let us never start out any such thing, or even any day of our lives (which really is a new adventure with each rising of the sun), without first asking You to guide us, bless us, and mold us to Your image. And so today we ask this as well. We are opening up the future – moment by moment – and we ask that You be with us and direct our steps as we go. We pray this in Jesus’ beautiful and exalted name. Amen.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, Hebrews 1:1

Rather than opening with a greeting, or an appeal for blessing upon the reader, the epistle to the Hebrews begins with an outright statement of theological truth. Rendered in its original order, and in a literal translation, it reads, “Variously (in parts), and variously (in ways), formerly the God having spoken to the fathers in the prophets.”

In this, a contrast is going to be made between what God has done, and what He will now do. This is the first half of that contrast. There is a revelation of God through the prophetic word, just as there is a revelation of God in His creation. They differ though. Creation speaks of God’s revelation in a general way (general revelation). We can know He is there, and we can deduce things about Him from creation. However, unless He specifically reveals certain things, we could never deduce them. His name is a good example of this. As His name reflects His being, we are left with a void in our understanding of many things about God without knowing His name. That is only one of a countless host of things that we could never deduce without Him revealing the information to us.

However, God does reveal Himself to us in a special way (special revelation). That is through His spoken word. And so the author says that God, “at various times and in various ways spoke.”

At various times” speaks of God’s progressive revelation of Himself. He reveals what He wishes when He wishes to reveal it. There is a logical, orderly succession of revelations which are leading to a fuller and fuller understanding of who He is, what He expects, how He will fix what happened at the fall, and so on. A good example of progressive revelation is when He spoke to Moses with the words –

And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.’” Exodus 6:2, 3

God chose, at a particular time, and for a particular reason, to reveal His name to Moses. He also chose to conceal what He would do in the church. The Jews had no idea what was coming in Christ, and how he would establish the church. This is spoken of by Paul. He calls it a “mystery” in Ephesians 3:8-13. Elsewhere, this term “mystery” is used to explain other things that had never been previously revealed by God, but which were revealed at exactly the right moment in order to effect His purposes and to reveal His hidden knowledge to the people of the world. This was even alluded to in all the way back in Deuteronomy –

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

Several of the various ways that God spoke are noted in the Old Testament. Job hints at some of them –

For God may speak in one way, or in another,
Yet man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction.” Job 33:14-16

There are times when the Lord spoke directly to an individual, Moses for example. There are other times where He would speak through an individual, such as is recorded in 1 Chronicles 12:18.

Further, God would increase the sophistication of His revelation based on the maturity of the audience, and even within a particular concept – going from elementary revelation of an issue to a more developed and spiritual understanding of that issue. The sacrificial system is a good example of this. At first, the people were instructed to simply obey the sacrificial laws in a prescribed manner. However, it was later revealed that sacrifices without an accompanying heart that was right before the Lord were unacceptable (e.g. see Isaiah 1:11).

These are some of the various times and ways God “spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.” The Greek word for “in time past” is an adverb which signifies “formerly.” We could say, “of old.” It is the way God once spoke, but no longer does. God gave revelation in these times and ways, but that way is now over. The contrasting way will be explained in the next verse. This can be fully understood in Jesus’ words about John the Baptist. In Matthew 11:13, Jesus says, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” Now, something new has come about.

God spoke to the fathers through the prophets. He did it in that way in the past, and He did it at various times and in various ways. However, all things were leading to something greater. Our author will next reveal that to us.

Life application: Hebrews is going to be an involved study. It will contain as much instruction as a technical manual, and it will hold as much doctrine as any in-depth work needed to obtain a doctoral dissertation (and more), but one verse at a time, and each verse in its proper context, and we will get through it all the wiser in the things of God. Let us be patient, meticulous, and willing to see this book through until the end.

Lord God, what an absolute treasure Your word is. Thank You for the many levels of understanding which can be drawn out of it. A child can hear the simple message of Jesus and come to an understanding of his need for Him, and the greatest scholarly mind ever can come away astonished at the depth of information he has learned from a careful study of a particular doctrine found in it. There is abundant wealth in Your word. Thank You for the riches we receive from it! Amen.

...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; Hebrews 1:2

These words are a contrast to verse 1. God once spoke in a certain way to the fathers by the prophets, but something new has come. He “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” The term, “these last days,” is literally “at the last of these days.” One must think of God’s revelation coming in one of two distinct epochs. The first is the period of the Old Covenant; the second is the period of the New Covenant. But what must be considered is that the New Covenant was not initiated until the night of Christ’s crucifixion. Thus, the period of record in the gospels is not included in the New, but in the Old. The New Covenant is given because of the shed blood of Christ, and it is a Covenant given not to the church, but to the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31). The letter to the Hebrews is explaining this to them.

It is in the last of these days that God has “spoken” to us. The word is in the aorist tense. There is a single act involved in the matter. As Cambridge says –

Are, and were, and will be are but is

And all creation is one act at once.”

God’s revelation is put forth, and it has come to us at various times and in various ways, but it is one word which is spoken forth from Him. We are in the stream of time; He is not. The reception of that revelation to the fathers and now to us bears one common element – God has spoken to the people of the world. He once spoke through the prophets; He now speaks through the Son. However, in the Greek, there is no article before “Son,” and the word “His” has been inserted. It more literally reads, “...spoken to us by a Son.” This doesn’t mean one of any number of sons, but the nature of how the revelation is given – “How is the revelation now given? It is given by a Son, not merely by a prophet, or through an angel.” The contrast to verse 1 is further highlighted by this statement. It is this Son, “whom He has appointed heir of all things.”

Again, an aorist verb is used. It more correctly reads, “whom he appointed.” It is the Son who was appointed in the eternal counsels of God to be the means by which God would speak to the people of the world in the time of the New Covenant, and it is this Son who is appointed “heir of all things.”

As soon as the Son is mentioned comes the noting of the appointment as heir. And this occurred not after God made the worlds, but before. God determined before the worlds were made that they were appointed to the Son. What we are seeing is the determining mind of God, before anything existed, concerning the order and structure of how things would be done, and how things would be determined. This is seen with the words following the appointment as heir which state, “through whom also He made the worlds.”

By place the making of the worlds after the appointment of being heir, we are left with the understanding that the Son was designated heir, the worlds were then made, and they were destined to be His possession. Thus, the glory of the Son precedes creation. He was with the Father all along. John 1:1-3 is called to mind with the structure of how Hebrews 1:2 is presented –

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” 

None of the glory of the Son is diminished in what is being said. Rather, it is being highlighted. Finally, the word translated as “worlds” is the Greek word aiōnas. It speaks of an age, a cycle (of time), especially of the present age as contrasted with the future age, and of one of a series of ages stretching to infinity. Thus, this is speaking not just of the physical worlds which comprise the universe, but the span in which they exist as well. Everything associated with the creation is contained in this thought. The word “universe” closes in on the thought, but it is insufficient unless one thinks beyond the physical aspect of it to include the span of the ages in which the universe exists.

Life application: The comments on Hebrews 1:2 by great scholars of the past are lengthy, detailed, and even complicated. Each approaches the words in a different manner, and each struggles to explain what is being relayed in a careful, coherent manner. Be sure to not limit yourself to one commentary on the Bible. There is an immense amount of information out there which is given to bring the student of the Bible to a fuller understanding of the marvelous workings of God.

Heavenly Father, it is beyond our ability to grasp the wisdom which You display in Your creation. From the intricacy of the flowers we see, to the balance of the elements in the world which allows life, to the placement of the worlds in their heavenly orbits for proper order… Nothing is missing, everything works as it should, and beauty and glory are seen in all of it. How great You are, O God. Amen.

...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, Hebrews 1:3

The words here speak of Christ Jesus. First, it says of Him, “who being.” The word ōn, or “being,” speaks of His absolute being. It is in the present tense, speaking of the timeless nature of what will be conveyed. Christ, being now spoken about in relation to God (and in the absolute sense and in a timeless manner), is said to be “the brightness of His glory.” The word is only used here in the Bible. It bears a suffix which intensifies the word “shine.” Thus it is someone who literally blazes forth in radiance. This speaks of the eternal radiance of Christ who shines forth the refulgent glory of the Godhead. This shining glory of God breaks through all darkness. This is both literal and spiritual. In a literal demonstration of this, we have the passage of the transfiguration which gives a glimpse of His glory. In a spiritual sense, we have numerous references in the writings of the apostles, such as 2 Corinthians 4:6 –

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

The glory of God radiates through Christ who is also described as “the express image of His person.” Again, another word unique in Scripture is used to convey the thought, charaktér. One can see where the word “character” we now use is derived from. In the Greek, it signifies an engraving, and thus an exact impression or likeness. The original word signified the tool used for engraving. Eventually, it specifically referred to “a die.” The die would be used to impress an image which then conveyed the reality behind the image.

This express image is of “His person.” This is speaking of God, and uses another rare word to describe Him, hupostasis. It speaks of an entitlement to someone; that which is guaranteed under a particular agreement. The thought here being conveyed is that Christ is in entitlement to the glory of the Godhead; to convey it and reveal it in the creation. He is the link between the unseen God and His creation. He is how God reveals Himself to us. Thus, the glory of God – both His brightness and His essential being – is expressed in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Godhead is in agreement that Christ is the means by which His glory is so revealed. But there is yet more…

We are next told that Jesus Christ is “upholding all things by the word of His power.” Elsewhere, Jesus is clearly shown to be the Creator (e.g. John 1:1-3 & Colossians 1:16). He is here spoken of as the Sustainer. It is a thought similar to Colossians 1:17 which says, “ Him all things subsist” (Darby). Jesus is not only the means by which God created, but He is the means by which all things are sustained. He is how all things are upheld and how they hold together. Without Him there would be no continuance of the creation.

God created by His spoken word. This is seen in Genesis 1. It is expressed also in Psalm 33:9 which says –

For He spoke, and it was done;

He commanded, and it stood fast.”

It is this same Word which continues to uphold that which was created. The word translated as “word” is rhéma. It is a spoken word made by the living voice; an utterance. Christ is the Word, and He both creates and sustains “by the word of His power.” Logically, if the universe was created by Christ, and the universe is sustained by Christ, then He is the omnipotent God. No thing, from the movement of the smallest particle, to the intense boiling heat of ten billion stars, exists or works apart from the sustaining and energetic power of Christ. But there is more…

The author has brought us from God, speaking through His Son, to the understanding that His Son is both the Creator and Sustainer. But He is also our Redeemer. This is seen with the words, “when He had by Himself purged our sins.” The same God who set all things in motion, and who continues to work in the sustaining efforts of the universe, also purged our sins through His own work. It was not through something (or someone) else in creation, but Christ Himself is the agent of our purification.

One must ask, “Why is this placed here in the author’s discourse on the nature of Christ?” The answer shouts back that it is God Himself, through Christ, who alone purifies, sanctifies, and makes holy. Whatever the value of man is, that value stands as the greatest reason for the creation itself. It is not merely that man is a part of creation, but that he is the point of creation. God determined to create, not because He had a need in Himself for the creation, but out of an act of love, He created in order to share His glory with His creatures. Everything that is made was with this in view. And so in order to have that sharing come about, and knowing that man would fall, God chose (even before creating, see Revelation 13:8) to accept what would come about after the fall, which is redemption through the sacrifice of Christ.

It is Christ – the Creator, Sustainer, and Purifier – who then “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The “Majesty” here is God the Father. Christ is said to have “sat down,” thus ceasing from His now accomplished work of purification. The position of His seating is at the Majesty’s “right hand.” This is not a literal, tangible position, but rather a position of authority and power. God doesn’t have parts, and so to express meaning for us to understand, anthropomorphic terms are used. The “right hand” is this symbolic position of power and authority within the Godhead. As Vincent’s Word Studies states, “The verb denotes a solemn, formal act; the assumption of a position of dignity and authority.” He sat down, thus resting from His labors, and with the full power, authority, and dignity of the Godhead being worked through Him.

Life application: Jesus Christ is God. Nothing could be more clearly understood from a right interpretation of Scripture. God did not use a mere part or person in His creation to purify His people. Rather, He took the role upon Himself, uniting with His creation in the Person of Jesus Christ. To state that Jesus Christ is a created being is the highest blasphemy of all. It is a denial of the Son which is explained by John as antichrist –

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22, 23

If you cannot come to the confession of faith that Jesus Christ is Lord (meaning God), you will be condemned when He comes for judgment. Believe and be forgiven.

Lord God, it is hard to imagine the value of man. We are only a part of Your creation, and we are the part which has brought rebellion, hatred, and death to it. And yet, You were willing to come and redeem us from our sins in the Person of Jesus. What is worth such a high cost? What is man that You take notice of Him> Help us, Lord God, to honor You and glorify You for the high cost of Calvary’s cross, and the full redemption we have through the giving of Jesus. Amen.

...having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:4

The author now introduces the first of many “greater thans” that will be seen, either explicitly or implicitly, in the book. This one is Christ in comparison to the angels. The word translated as “better than” is kreittón, and it signifies that which is stronger or more excellent. It is in the comparative form and so it expresses “what is better because more fully developed, i.e. in reaching the needed dominion (mastery, dominance); ‘better’ after exerting the power needed to ‘plant down God's flag of victory” (HELPS Word Studies).

This is now applied to Christ as He has “become so much better than the angels.” What seems peculiar is the abrupt nature of suddenly introducing angels here. The author was speaking of Christ, and all of a sudden He notes Christ’s superiority to angels. It is possible that the letter is written in response to a request concerning Christ’s nature, and he is simply and clearly answering each question. Or it could be that a note of introduction was given with the letter which was not included as a part of the epistle. Either way, the obvious connection to a Jewish audience is seen right here with the comparison.

Angels are noted throughout the Old Testament in many prominent ways. They were considered to have great power and authority, but – without any delay – the author shows the supremacy of Christ over these greatest of heavenly beings after God Himself. Understanding this, the words, “having become so much better,” are not speaking of a development in Christ that was actually lacking. Rather, the words are tied to the thought of having “sat down” after the purification of sins mentioned in the previous verse. The exaltation of Christ was conditioned upon his having fulfilled the human aspects of His ministry. It is what is referred to in the 8th Psalm –

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:5

The lower state of Christ’s humanity is then contrasted with His exaltation. It is not that Christ was essentially lower than the angels in His being at any point, but that His work had to be accomplished in His human state before He was known to truly be the Son of God. This is what the author is now emphasizing. In the accomplishment of this work in and among humanity, He was shown to be “better than the angels,” meaning superior. In this proof, “He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

An inheritance is something which is bestowed upon an heir. Christ claimed to be the Son of God, a title which granted Him all the rights and inheritance of the Father. In the successful completion of His task of redeeming man through the purification of sin, He showed forth His right to that inheritance, being truly the Son of God. If He were merely a man, He would have inherited sin through His father. Upon His attempt to purify sin (meaning a substitutionary atoning death), He would have died and remained dead. The wages of sin is death; having inherited sin would mean He too would remain dead. Only the sinless Son of God could go on forever without the permanent effect of death. This explains the dumbfounded question of the Jews when speaking to Jesus –

We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” John 12:34

The anticipated Messiah (Christ) was expected to live forever. But Jesus, who claimed to be this Messiah, said that He would die. It made no sense to them. But they had missed the connection between His humanity and His deity. As a Son of Mary, He is fully human. As the Son of God, He is deity. In both states He was, and remains, sinless. When He died, it was not for His own sin, but for the sin of others. Thus, in His resurrection to eternal life, He “has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” No angel could ever claim to be the Son of God in the way that Christ is THE SON OF GOD. The full inheritance of the Father belongs to Him, and it is His name which is thus more excellent than theirs. This is what Paul spoke of in Philippians 2 –

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

Paul explained Jesus’ work, and then he cited Isaiah 45:23 where the Lord (Yehovah) stated that to Him every knee would bow. Paul directly equated Christ Jesus, upon the completion of His work, to Yehovah the Lord. Everything tied up in the name I AM THAT I AM belongs to Jesus. To understand that glorious and exalted name, this sermon is a must –

Life application: Jesus Christ is the Lord (Yehovah) incarnate. No other being is superior to Him as He sits at His place within the Godhead. What Jesus have you called on? There is the true Christ, and there are antichrists. The true Christ is the One described in the Bible. He is very God of very God. To deny this is to deny Christ. To deny Christ is to be condemned. Call on Christ Jesus the Lord and be saved. All beings, even all of the heavenly host, shall bow before Him.

Heavenly Father, the one inescapable truth of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. Any other view is a false Jesus and a false gospel. As the Son of God, He has obtained the full inheritance granted to Him, and so we honor You by honoring Him. Praises to You, O God, for what You have done in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You”?
And again:
“I will be to Him a Father,

And He shall be to Me a Son”? Hebrews 1:5

The author now goes from his statement that Christ is “so much better than the angels” to a demonstration of this by asking rhetorical questions. He begins with “For to which of the angels did He ever say.” This is speaking of God making a statement about angels. Did God ever say to one of the angels, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You?” The answer is obvious, “None.” Angels are a part of creation. If they were not, then they would be God. As there is only one God, they are created beings.

The quote is from Psalm 2:7. The words, “You are my Son,” place “Son” in the emphatic position. It is true that angels are termed the “sons of God” in Job 1:6, but this is a collective term. Likewise, Israel is called God’s son as a collective in Exodus 4:22. However, at no time is an angel called, “The Son of God.” A distinction is being made in the use of the singular. But Christ is termed a Son, not merely by calling, but because He is begotten of the Father. It was on a particular day, “Today,” that Christ was acknowledged as such. As noted in the previous verse, it was “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” With His earthly mission complete, the truth of the Sonship was validated. Israel had rejected their king; God had confirmed His Son.

With this unique relationship established, and which excludes anyone else (including angels), the author again turns to Scripture to confirm the analysis by asking his second question. It is based on the same main question as the first, “For to which of the angels did He ever say.” And the question’s proposal is –

I will be to Him a Father,

And He shall be to Me a Son.”

The answer is again, “None.” The quote is derived from 2 Samuel 7:14 (and repeated in 1 Chronicles 17:13 & 22:10), as it is contained in the Greek translation (the Septuagint). Initially, these words were applied to Solomon, but the nature of them led the Jewish nation to understand that they were, like the words of the 2nd Psalm, to be taken in a messianic tone. The words speak of a father in relation to a natural son who issues from him. Solomon was born of David, a king. Likewise, Christ is born from this same line of promise. Each king that issued from David might have been the Messiah, however, only one would be able to claim that role through an eternal, indestructible life. Only Christ meets that qualification. And yet further, Christ is born of the King of the universe. Thus the idea is extended not only to Christ’s messiahship over the Davidic throne, but to the kingship of Christ over all of Creation, including the angels.

It should be noted that both verses used for this line of argumentation have literal, human, fulfillments of them. And so it is easy for some to dismiss these arguments in favor of them speaking of Christ as unreasonably applied to Him. However, the expectation of these passages was, and even today is, that of a messianic fulfillment of them among the Jewish people. This was, like countless other passages of Scripture, the intended use of them all along. There are literal fulfillments of passages in people found in the Old Testament, and then there are the intended reasons for including those passages in Scripture, which is a greater fulfillment in Messiah. This is what is the case with these.

Life application: If you are reading Scripture and come across a passage which seems difficult to understand why God would even bother placing it in the Bible, it is a good clue to you that He is trying to get you to see a pattern, parallel, or picture of Christ in it. In the end, all Scripture given to Israel was for the purpose of them seeing their coming Messiah (John 5:39).

Lord God, it’s hard to understand how people can read the pages of the Old Testament and not see Christ Jesus on every page, and indeed in every word. You have carefully, meticulously, and methodically placed passages in Your word to show Him to us in a thousand varied ways. Studying the Bible from this perspective reveals Him again, and again, and again. Thank You for the sure faith we possess. It is grounded in thousands of years of carefully laid out types and pictures! Hallelujah for this! Amen.

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:

Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Hebrews 1:6

The words of this verse are incorrectly translated by some versions by saying something like, “And again, when he brings in the first-begotten into the world...” In the Greek, the word “brings” is tied to “again.” It is not a supplementary statement to the previous verse. Rather it is a new thought referring to a new point in time. In the previous verse, it spoke of Christ’s first advent (Today I have begotten You). That was when He “by Himself purged our sins” (verse 3). Now it is speaking of a second event.

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world,” speaks of that event. The Firstborn is Christ. He is termed this several times in the New Testament, such as Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:15, 18, and Revelation 1:5. The words, “He again brings” Him “into the world,” is a grammatical tool where the “event is conceived as occurring at an indefinite time in the future, but is viewed as complete” (Vincent’s Word Studies). There is a time which is set, and which God spoke of as accomplished, though it is yet future. It is where the cited Scripture would apply directly to Christ’s second coming. It is stated by the author as, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

Here he does not cite the Hebrew version of the Scriptures, but the Greek translation of it. It is cited in Deuteronomy 32:43 and again substantially in Psalm 96:7. The Greek translation of the Old Testament is what the author consistently uses for his Old Testament citations.

It is true that the angels of God had recognized Christ’s works after they were completed. 1 Timothy 3:16 says that He was “seen by angels.” However, the culmination of Christ’s great redemptive work lies yet ahead at His second coming. It is a time when the fulfillment of this Scripture will be then realized.

It should be noted that in citing Psalm 96:7, it is another of the countless references to the deity of Christ. There, it is applied to the Lord (Yehovah) of the Old Testament. In Hebrews, it is applied directly to Jesus. It is an implicit reference, then, to Christ being the Lord (Yehovah) of the Old. Such is the reason for the inclusion of this. It demonstrates, unequivocally, that Jesus is “greater than” the angels.

Life application: As the angels were created by God, and as the angels will worship Jesus, it is rather obvious that Jesus is God. The particular wording of this verse, and many others, further solidifies this point. If you have called out to Jesus, but not as Lord (meaning God), you have called out to a false Jesus. Jesus is God. This is the message which is seen time and again as we wind our way through Scripture.

Lord God Almighty! Great and glorious are You. You have set the earth in its place as the center of Your attention. And You have placed the earth here as a dwelling for man. Everything is set with this in mind. And then, after the focus of Your attention – we humans – rebelled, You were still willing to send Christ Jesus to redeem us. What is the value of man? If You sent Jesus to bring us back to You, we must have great value. Help us to recognize this, and live lives worthy of that state. To Your glory we pray. Amen.

And of the angels He says:

Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.”
Hebrews 1:7

Our author here once again paints a contrast between angels and the Son. In this, he begins with, “And of the angels He says.” The words are to be contrasted with what will be said in the next verse, “But to the Son He says.” This second set of contrasts is given to show that not just an isolated thought about the superiority of the Son was pulled out of Scripture, but that it is a consistent theme which can be found and relied upon. Further, the contrast is that of the many (angels) to that of One (the Son). And again, the term “angels” signifies messengers who go at another’s bidding. The term “Son” signifies one who is of the inheritance and who thus has authority to send. Understanding this, he now turns to Psalm 104:4 –

Who makes His angels spirits,

His ministers a flame of fire.

The NKJV, cited here, appears to not capture the intent of what is being relayed. The word for “angels,” in both Hebrew and Greek, signifies a messenger. And so the author is showing that angels are messengers. And again, the word for “spirits,” in both Hebrew and Greek, has the dual meaning of “winds.” Young’s Literal Translation more closely follows the intent of the psalm –

Making His messengers -- the winds, His ministers -- the flaming fire.”

This verse in Hebrews is not speaking of the creation of angels as spirit-beings, but the employment of angels as directed beings, likened to the forces of wind and fire. This is what is on his mind here. And those messengers come in the form of wind and fire. This follows through with the thought of what occurs several times in Scripture, such as with Elijah in 1 Kings 19 –

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:11, 12

The Lord created the winds as a resistless force. It cannot be grasped with the hand, and yet it can cause a variety of effects, from cooling the skin to tearing apart the mountains. Likewise, fire is a part of creation which God directs as a consuming weapon of destruction.

Further, the winds are an invisible force, whereas fire is a visible one. And so there is a contrast to show that God is in control of both that which can be seen, and that which cannot be seen. And as another reason for considering this, lightning is known from the Old Testament to be considered the “fire of God,” such as in Job 1:16. Therefore, like the storm which issues forth both wind and fire from God, the angels are likened to the wind and fire of the storm, being directed by God. Whichever way one looks at them, they are created, they are directed by another, and they accomplish the purposes of God for Him. In contrast to this will be the next verse.

Life application: At times, it is hard to determine if a word which has two meanings – such as the Hebrew ruakh which means both “spirit” and “wind” – is speaking of one or the other. And so, these differences normally come down to looking at the rest of Scripture to find out what is on the author’s mind. If a suitable analogy can be made, then the translation which carries that analogy should be used. If not, then it is up to translator’s preference as to which meaning he assigns. In the end, the only way to evaluate these things then is to know the rest of Scripture. Be sure to read your Bible daily. The more you do, the more you will be able to call to mind the many thoughts which surround individual concepts. Read your Bible.

Gracious and merciful God, Your word says that You send forth Your angels for various purposes. At times, they are sent out for destruction, and at times they are sent out as ministering spirits for Your people. We would pray that You would watch over us in mercy, send Your angels to care for us, and to form a wall of protection around us from the entities of evil which are also there, working to bring us harm. Thank You, O God, for hearing our prayer and responding according to Your wisdom and care of us. Amen.

But to the Son He says:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness 
is the scepter of Your kingdom. Hebrews 1:8

The contrast between the angels of 1:7 and the Son in 1:8 is now made. This is evidenced in the words “But to the Son He says.” God was speaking of (or to – the preposition in both verses can mean either) the angels in verse 7, describing their purposes as directed by Him. However now, in a citation from Psalm 45:6, 7 and concerning His Son, He says, “Your throne, O God.”

The author connects the contents of the psalm to that of the coming Messiah. If this were not the standard interpretation of this, he could not have reasonably cited it to a Hebrew audience without his words being completely rejected. But in using them, it is understood that Jewish audiences anticipated that they were to be fulfilled in Messiah. The throne of God, under the rule of Messiah, is what is spoken of here. As the Son is the Messiah, He has inherited the right to the throne of God itself. Thus God is proclaiming that Messiah is God, and the throne of Messiah “is forever and ever.”

The Greek of these words is “unto the ages of ages.” The Greek aión signifies “an age,” or a “cycle of time.” The superlative form used here signifies “for all ages of time,” and thus unto eternity. The rule of Messiah, who is God, shall be eternal. Unlike the angels who are simply messengers which are directed to effect God’s purposes at any given time and for set reasons, the rule of Messiah is from the heavenly throne, and it is for all time and for all governance. That is seen in the next words where the author speaks of, “A scepter of righteousness.”

The scepter is the ruling instrument of a throne. It is what signifies the authority, and when pointed at a messenger, he is directed to conduct the affairs given to him. The Son bears the scepter, and He wields it in righteousness. However, the words in Greek read “THE scepter,” not “A scepter.” As Charles Ellicott says, “Righteousness itself (so to speak, the very ideal of righteous government) bears sway in Thy kingdom.” It is “The scepter of righteousness” which the author then describes as, “The scepter of Your kingdom.”

The kingdom of Messiah is the kingdom of God; He is the Lord (Yehovah). Of Him, and of His authority, Isaiah says –

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

Messiah’s righteousness being “the belt of His loins” means that He is girded with it. He is wrapped and enveloped in righteousness. It is in this state that He exercises His rule. The angels, though great and powerful, have nothing on Messiah. The contrast is made, it is clear, and it is undeniable. Though this is so, the author of Hebrews will continue with words of His splendor in the verses ahead.

Life application: People in today’s world use Jesus as an example of whatever pitiful cause they are pursuing. If it is to argue against the death penalty, they have a verse – pulled out of context – to justify their unrighteous stand. If it is to promote socialism, the same is the case. These people will find out (because they failed to accept the Bible as written during their lives) how mistaken they were about the righteousness of Christ Jesus. He will not allow any such unrighteous behavior, nor does He condone it now. Pay heed to the word, and be advised that it describes the unchanging Christ.

Heavenly Father, we need to know when people misuse Scripture for their own perverse purposes. It has become as common as seeing birds fly in the sky, and it shows a total disregard for Your glory and Your righteousness. Give us wisdom in how to refute such abuses, and to set the record straight about the intent of Your word. This we pray that You will always be properly exalted as shown in the Bible. Amen.

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” Hebrews 1:9

The words of this verse are found in Psalm 45:7 –

You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Two things bear on the first words of the verse, as cited in Hebrews. First, the previous verse said, “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” Thus, it is inferred from those words that Christ Jesus has “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” Secondly, the descriptions prophesied of Christ Jesus throughout the Old Testament bear witness to this same fact as well (e.g. see Isaiah 32:1 and Jeremiah 23:5). Therefore, the author knowing these things, and having known the fully righteous work of Christ under the law, next says, “Therefore.”

It is because of His faithfulness to righteousness and His hatred of lawlessness, that the author says, “God, Your God, has anointed You.” The anointing spoken of here is the anointing of a king, as the term Messiah, or “Anointed One,” relays. The word “Christ” in the Greek carries the same meaning. Because of Christ’s upholding of perfect righteousness, never failing under the Law of Moses, Christ was resurrected to eternal life. He has prevailed over death. In that, God anointed Him to His eternal kingship. In this is seen the Son’s divine glory in His exaltation. In confirmation of the excellence of the anointing, it then says, “With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Thus far, Christ Jesus has been seen compared and contrasted to the angels. This is what is being referred to here. The angels are heavenly beings who attended to Christ during His earthly ministry, for example. But this verse must also surely refer to men as well. Any and all who are companions of the Lord, and who have served God faithfully, stand in comparison to Christ. And yet, Christ has been elevated above them all – angel and man. He stands above them in a Father/Son relationship with God. All of creation, including all creatures in creation, are subjected to the rule and authority of Christ Jesus.

Life application: Offshoot cults and aberrant sects of Christianity will always attempt to diminish the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus is a created being. Mormons state that Jesus was a man who became a god. Hebrews Roots adherents claim that we are obligated to follow the Law of Moses, implying that Christ’s work in fulfillment of it was insufficient to save us, and implying that we need to save ourselves apart from Him. On and on it goes. Jesus Christ is God, and to Jesus Christ belongs all of our praise, honor, and glory – to the glory of God the Father.

Lord God, help us to never diminish the glory of what You have done through Jesus Christ by lessening His glory. Your word says that all should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. If we fail to honor Christ Jesus, we fail to honor You. May this never be! Give us wisdom to always be glorifying of You through our glorying in, and glorifying of, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of Your hands. Hebrews 1:10

The words of this verse are tied directly back to verse 8 which began with, “But to the Son He says.” From there, the remaining substance of verses 8 & 9 was applied to the Son of God, Jesus. The connecting Greek word kai, or “and,” continues that same thought then. The words are still directed to the Son. They continue to be given to show the superiority of the Son over the angels (verse 7 & 8), but they also continue to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is, in fact, God. The words are taken from Psalm 102. This verse consists of Psalm 102:25, and the coming two verses in Hebrews will continue to follow the verses of the psalm. With the addition of “Like a cloak” in verse 12, they are almost a word for word quote from the Greek translation of the psalm.

In Psalm 102:24, the psalmist’s words speak directly to God, and the words to Him then continue to the end of the psalm. It is without a doubt that the thoughts being now ascribed to Jesus, the Son of God, are intended to show that He is the means by which God accomplished the things now stated. To use them in some type of literary fashion, without this being the intent, would be to rob God of His glory. But in understanding that Jesus is the second member of the Godhead, it exalts God. And so, with this understanding, the author begins the quote with, “You, Lord.”

The word kurios, or “Lord,” can have a variety of significations. However, in the case of this citation, it is speaking of LORD (Yehovah of the Old Testament). This is based on the fact that “God” of Psalm 102:24 is called LORD eight times prior to His being called “my God.” The psalmist spoke to the LORD, and then He acknowledges that the LORD is his God. The author of Hebrews accepts this, applies it to Jesus, and then goes on to say, “in the beginning.”

This is speaking of the beginning referenced in Genesis 1:1. If the Son was there at the beginning, then He was there prior to that beginning. As there is, and can be, only one God (there can only be one Necessary Being), then the Son is God. It is He who “laid the foundation of the earth.”

These words demonstrate the creative hand of the Son. It confirms He is the God of Genesis 1:1, and the same God spoken of in John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-18, and etc. There can only be one Creator. All others are contingent beings, and no contingent being can create. To understand this, and the other First Principles of logic concerning the Creator, you can refer to this sermon:

The author continues his quote, which is being applied to the Son, with “And the heavens are the work of Your hands.” Again, this is a direct thought from Genesis 1:1 where it is God who created the heavens and the earth. It is further seen, as noted already, that this God is the LORD (Yehovah) and that Jesus Christ is thus the incarnation of Yehovah. As already alluded to, for one to ascribe these creative efforts to a created being would be the epitome of blasphemy. It would be to rob God of His glory. But in understanding that God has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ in these ways, it exalts God. As seen in a previous verse, when one exalts the Son, they are exalting the Father. There is no jealousy within the Godhead, but a complementing of one another because of the very nature of the Godhead.

Life application: If you are following these commentaries, and are still in denial that Jesus Christ is the One being spoken of in the Psalm, and thus the LORD God (Yehovah), you are basing your denial on a presupposition. You have two options: drop your presupposition, accept Christ Jesus as LORD, receiving Him as such unto salvation, or you will be condemned for believing in a false Christ. Be wise, be discerning, and call on Jesus, who is God.

Glorious God, what an amazing story the Bible tells! You were willing to step out of the eternal realm in order to redeem us. You did all that was necessary, You accomplished the work by Your own hand, and then You simply ask us to believe that what You have done through Christ Jesus is sufficient. Turn our hearts to accepting the truth of Jesus, and save us from our fallen state. We believe! We receive! Thank You, O God, for what You have done. Amen.

They will perish, but You remain;

And they will all grow old like a garment; Hebrews 1:11

The words here are found in Psalm 102:26 –

They will perish, but You will endure;

Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;

It has already been seen in just the few previous verses that the Son was there at the beginning, thus meaning he was there before the beginning in an eternal, timeless state. It has also been seen that the Son is the Creator. Additionally, it was seen in verse 3 that He is the Sustainer of the created order. Now, the eternality of the Son is highlighted with the words, “They will perish.” This is speaking of the heavens specifically, which are mentioned in the preceding verse. The events spoken of were prophesied by Isaiah –

All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,

And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;

All their host shall fall down

As the leaf falls from the vine,

And as fruit falling from a fig tree.” Isaiah 34:4

Isaiah continues to speak of such things in Isaiah 51:6. Peter speaks of these things in 2 Peter 3:12, and Revelation 21:1 says that they will surely come to pass as well –

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”

The author of Hebrews thus demonstrates that the Son is above and outside of His creation. As noted, he is specifically referring to the heavens here, but the heavens are tied to the earth in the other cited passages. If the first heaven and the first earth are to pass away, and if He was connected to them as a created being, He would not endure. And yet He will. The author then confirms the psalm by saying that unlike Him, these things “will all grow old like a garment.”

The heavens are described like a garment which, even if carefully cared for, will eventually decay, become moth-eaten, fray, break down in the weaving, etc. When this occurs, the garment needs to be replaced. This symbolism will continue on into the next verse. But so will the contrast of the Son. Everything created has potential to decay and be replaced; the Son is eternal, and has no potential to be replaced. As angels are a part of the creation (the continued subject which is being contrasted to the Son), and as the Son is the Creator, the angels – like all of creation – are dependent on the Son for their continued existence.

Life application: When we worship Jesus Christ, we are not worshiping a mere man. We are worshiping the Man who came from God. He united with His creation to redeem us; He did not leave behind His deity and simply become His creation in the process. He is and will always remain God in His divine nature.

Glorious God, the mystery of the Trinity is one which is rather difficult for us to grasp. If we talk about it long enough, we will always fall into error concerning the matter. And yet, it is what Your word teaches, in both testaments and quite clearly. Help us to accept the tenet because it is what Your word teaches, but help us to be careful in our attempts to explain it. In the end, what Your word teaches will be understood more fully in the ages to come. For now, we praise You – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Amen.

Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail.”
Hebrews 1:12

This continues the quote found in Psalm 102, specifically verses 26 & 27 –

Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
27 But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end.”

The “cloak” referred to here is found only in 1 Corinthians 11:15 and in this verse. It signifies “that which is thrown around,” and thus it is a covering like a mantle or cloak as an outer garment. The “heavens” of verse 10 are said to be destined to perish, wearing out like a garment. Because of this, the Son will literally roll them up (as the Greek signifies), and in so doing, they will be changed.

In the Old Testament, the heavens are described like an expanse which is spread out. One can think of how a tent or a scroll of parchment is rolled out. This is the thought which is now being referred to, but in reverse. As they were once rolled out, they will be rolled up, and a new expanse will be revealed in their place. This will be the new heavens and the new earth that Peter speaks of in 2 Peter 3.

With this in mind, we are then given a contrast in the Son. The thing which seems so enduring, and even permanent – meaning the heavens – is destined to wear out and be replaced. But of the Son, it says, “You are the same.” The heavens change; the Son remains unchanged in the process. The amazing event of the changing of the heavens will not affect the Son. They are created matter and are thus in time. But the Son is eternal. Because of this, the author – repeating the psalm – then says, “And Your years will not fail.” The meaning is that they will never end.

Though the current heavens and earth are temporary and will come to an end, the Son is unaffected by this. Because He was prior to creation, He is outside of His creation. When the order is changed, He will continue unaffected by that change; He is immutable.

There can be no doubt as to the nature of the Son. The attributes and properties which are ascribed to the Lord God (Yehovah Elohim) of the Old Testament are now referring to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the New. Even a child can understand what is being said here if presented with the evidence. Jesus Christ is the Lord God.

Life application: There should be no doubt in one’s mind concerning the deity of Jesus. If there is, it is based on presuppositions which have been taught into that person’s mind. If one comes to the Bible and simply take its words at face value, no other conclusion can be arrived at than that Jesus is the Lord God (Yehovah Elohim).

Lord God Almighty! It is You who created all things. You were there before they came into existence, and by the breath of Your mouth – by Your spoken Word – all things exist. As the world wears out, and as the heavens wear away, they will be rolled up and replaced. But You, O God, remain unchanged. We serve absolute greatness when we serve You. How great Thou art, O God! Hallelujah and Amen!

But to which of the angels has He ever said:

Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? Hebrews 1:13

The author has been carefully contrasting the Person of Jesus Christ to the nature, being, and authority of angels. He just showed that God, through Christ, created. That reveals that He was there before the creation. He also showed that when the heavens grow old and are rolled up like a garment for replacement, He will be there to accomplish that task. That again reveals that He is outside and above the creation. As angels are created beings, and thus a part of the creation, Christ is “greater than” these creatures. He now contrasts them to the authority of Christ by beginning with, “But to which of the angels has He ever said.”

He” in this verse is speaking of God. The question will be a rhetorical one. It is a question based on a statement which had been made to the Son. It is an appeal to Psalm 110, the most quoted psalm in the New Testament. It is specifically the first verse of that Psalm –

The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

Jesus Himself used these words as a point of theology when speaking to the Pharisees of Israel, and which clearly point to the divine nature of the individual being spoken about in the Psalm –

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’?

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” Matthew 22:41-45

The point which Jesus was making is somewhat lost in the translation. The word “Lord” in this verse is translated from two different words in the Hebrew. The first is the divine name Yehovah (YHVH). The second use is from the word Adonai, meaning “My Lord” when one is speaking to Yehovah. Jesus’ question asks then, “How is it that David calls Him “My Lord,” (meaning “Yehovah”)? David was prophesying, and the words were then recorded in Scripture. How can Yehovah be His own Son?

It is with the understanding that Christ Jesus (the Son) is Yehovah that the author of Hebrews asks His question. To which of the angels has He ever said the words which follow that opening statement in the psalm. First, it was directed to Yehovah, and Yehovah is not a created angel. Secondly, the statement says, “Sit at My right hand.” The words take us right back to verse 3 where the author said that “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” God had “through” the Son, purged our sins. After accomplishing this, Christ Jesus was granted the position of full authority and power of God, meaning the right hand. And not only was He granted that position, but He possesses it in a state of completion of work. To “sit down” means that the work (meaning the purging of sins) is accomplished. It is as clear of a statement of eternal salvation as one can get. If our sins are purged, then we are purged of our sins. The work is accomplished, fully and completely. From there, Yehovah says for Christ to sit “Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

The work on behalf of the people of God is complete, but the enemies of God continue to wage their war. The Messiah sits at the position of authority and power until the time they are vanquished. This includes the time when He shall rule among His people during the millennium (the thousand year reign of Christ mentioned six times in Revelation 20:2-7). After that time, a new order of things will come about as described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, and further detailed in Revelation 21 & 22.

It must be understood again that the “right hand” is not a literal position, but a position which signifies authority and power. God is Spirit. He has no parts. The mind must be cleared of thoughts of the Son sitting next to the Father in a literal sense. Christ has purged our sins, He reigns now with all authority and power, and He will continue to do so until all enemies are vanquished, the last enemy being death (1 Corinthians 15:26 & Revelation 20:14). Only then will things take on a new aspect.

The question has been asked, “To which of the angels has He ever said these things?” The answer is, “To none of them.” Christ is “greater than” the angels.

Life application: Again as in previous verses, Christ Jesus is shown to be the Lord God (Yehovah). When we acknowledge and worship the Son, we are giving glory to the Father. When we fail to give glory to the Son, we fail to give glory to the Father. Imagine those cults and aberrant sects who continuously pretend to glorify God while ignoring the Son. They have missed the key element of what God has done in the world for our salvation. Although it sounds pious to pray to Yehovah (YHVH) and make a pretense about a relationship with Him in this way, it is dishonoring of God to do so when Jesus is not included as the focal point of our worship of Yehovah.

Lord God, thank You so very much for granting us the glorious privilege of seeing You in the Person of Jesus. In Him, we have everything we need to understand You personally, intimately, and fully. Without Him, we are left with a void in our understanding of who You are and the glory You have accomplished for us. Thank You for our beloved Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Thank You, O God. Amen.

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

The question here, speaking of the angels, is actually tied directly to verse 7. In that verse, two words were used which are now repeated in this verse –

1:7 –And of the angels He says:

Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.”

1:14 – Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

Further, the Greek word in verse 7 for “angel” (aggelos) is a noun which signifies a messenger. The Greek word in verse 14 for “sent forth” (apostelló) is a verb signifying the sending forth of a messenger. Everything about the wording chosen by the author is given in contrast to Christ who directs the angels, as opposed to the angels who are so directed. Further, it is Christ who brought about salvation through the purging of sin (verse 3), but it is the angels who minister (to Him) for those who will inherit salvation.

The construction of the verse in most English translations gives the sense that the service is “to” man. This is not the intent of the words. The service is “to God” as they are continually (the verb is a present participle, indicating on-going action) sent forth for those who will inherit salvation. As the service is “to God,” meaning the Son (as is noted in verse 7), then it is showing their subordinate position to Christ Jesus. Again, the supremacy of the authority and power of Christ is on full display in these words.

Understanding the structure now, we can see that the word “all” is an absolute term. Christ is elevated above every angel, and all are in subjection to Him. Every one of them is directed according to His will. Theirs is a function of service. The Greek word is leitourgikos, and it is only found here in the Bible. However, it is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament concerning those who served in the temple. It signified a “divinely-authorized (service) referring to sacred ministering that performs what is acceptable to the all-holy God” (HELPS Word Studies). It is where our modern term “liturgy” comes from. These heavenly beings perform a service to God, just as the human ministers performed to Him in His earthly dwelling.

As these beings are serving God and “for those who will inherit salvation,” we see that their duties are based on the now-complete redemptive work which Christ accomplished in His purging of our sins. It is He who secured our salvation; it is they who serve Him for the salvation we will inherit. The highlight is on Christ Jesus, and our Savior’s greatness in this regard will continue to be brought to light as we move into Chapter 2.

Life application: As was noted in the explanation of verse 3, it is not merely that man is a part of creation, but that he is the point of creation. Jesus created, He sustains His creation, and He died for His creatures to redeem them. He now sends forth angels according to His will for those who will inherit that salvation. When we consider this, it makes the work of Jesus Christ all the more amazing. Let us consider the love which is displayed in the workings of God in Christ, and let us be humble before Him, ever grateful for the marvel and the magnificence of what He has done.

Lord God, precious heavenly Father, from the breath of Your spoken word, all of creation came into existence. You possess all things, and You control all things. And yet, You still sent Jesus to redeem us when it is we who turned from You. For the endless ages to come, we will surely never be able to grasp the depth of the love You have for Your redeemed. To do what You have done is simply beyond comprehension. And so, dwell in our thanks and our praises. Be pleased, O God, to receive eternal thanks and praise from Your people. Amen.

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. Hebrews 2:1

With the thoughts of Chapter 1 complete, the author now introduces a connecting link to what is coming. This is evidenced by the word “Therefore.” It looks back, expecting the reader to contemplate what has been said. Chapter 1 dealt clearly and precisely with the deity of Christ Jesus and His superiority over the heavenly host of angels. It further spoke about how the message of God was transmitted in the past, but how it is transmitted now (meaning through the Son of God). The revelation of the Son is far superior to the revelation received through the prophets.

This is what we are to consider, and this is what will then look forward to what lies ahead as the author continues. Before he does though, he says – based on the contents of Chapter 1 – that “we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard.” The words, “the more earnest heed,” signify “abundantly.” We are to hold our minds completely on “the things we have heard.”

Because Jesus Christ is God, and because He is superior even to the angels who speak with great authority – even with the authority that comes directly from Him at times – we must pay heed to the words concerning Christ. He has come, He has been revealed for who He truly is, and He has ushered in a New Covenant in His blood. The author will spend much of the book of Hebrews explaining the superiority of this New Covenant over the Old. He will explain what it means to fall back under the Old to the individual. This is all being prepared by him by first laying out the nature and authority of Christ Jesus. What He has said, or what has been relayed concerning Him, bears a dignity which far surpasses any revelation prior to His coming, and it is to be regarded especially worthy of our full attention.

If this full attention isn’t given, something else is bound to occur. As the author says, “lest we drift away.” The word translated here as “drift away” is used only this once in the Bible, and there is a great deal of conjecture as to its true intent. It comes from two words which signify “close beside” and “to flow.” And so no matter what mental image is given, the idea is that something is near, and it moves away from being near. A ring can slip off a finger and be lost. A boat can be improperly moored and float out to sea because of the movement of the tide. Thus, the author is signifying that if we do not pay heed to the message of Christ, we will slip away from God’s mooring in Christ to an open ocean. We will be theologically tossed about on the waves of bad doctrine, and eventually, we will be wrecked on the shores of heresy.

Thus, there is this strong warning and contrast to giving the more earnest heed. Giving heed means security, pleasing God, and life. Drifting away will lead to uncertainty, displeasing God, and death.

Life application: The book of Hebrews reveals Christ. He is God. To not give heed to this (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses) is to deny God. The book reveals that the New Covenant supersedes the Old. To fall back on the Old (such as Judaizers and Hebrew Roots movement adherents do) is to reject the completed work of Christ. On and on it will go. There is a sound anchor in Christ; there is drifting away to bad doctrine and heresy by not holding to the truth of Christ. Be wise, be faithful to God, and cling to Jesus alone.

Gracious heavenly Father, give us wisdom to refute those who teach that which is false concerning Your expectations for mankind. We are called “haters” and “unloving” for proclaiming what Your word proclaims. When that happens, we want to retreat. But in the end, all we need to do is to simply say, “This is God’s words; take it up with Him.” Our obedience to You is not hating. Rather, it is the most loving thing we can do. We are proclaiming the only path to salvation. How could that be wrong! No indeed. It is a mark of true love. Help us then to be faithful to Your word. Amen.

For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, Hebrews 2:2

The word “For” is given to make a contrast between the word spoken by angels to that which comes through the Son. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. It next says, “if the word spoken through angels.” Scholars generally argue that this is speaking of the Law of Moses as having been given through the mediation of angels (meaning heavenly beings). The way Bibles are translated, Stephen seems to allude to this in Acts 7:53. Likewise, Paul also seems to allude to it in Galatians 3:19. In this, it is argued that the Lord communicated the law through angels (meaning heavenly beings) to Moses. However, there is nothing to suggest this. Rather, the law was spoken by the Lord directly to the people (Exodus 20:1), or he spoke out the law face to face with Moses (Exodus 33:11 & Numbers 12:8). From Moses, it was conveyed directly, or along with Aaron, to the people.

The word “angel” simply means “messenger.” In the case of the Law of Moses, it is Moses and Aaron who conveyed the words of the Lord to the people. They acted as the angels, or messengers, of the Lord. Later during the time of the law, it is seen that angels, such as Gabriel and Michael, also spoke out words to certain people though. Further, prophets and seers continued to receive the word, passing it along to the people. The point of what is being said here is that “the word,” meaning the law, was “spoken through angels.” The Lord spoke, and His chosen messengers – be it Moses and Aaron, the prophets, or heavenly angels – relayed His word to the people. And this word “proved steadfast.”

Despite being conveyed to the people through a secondary source, it remained the word of the Lord, and it was considered inviolable. It was set, established, and firm. As Albert Barnes says, “It did not yield to circumstances.” If a violation of the law occurred, there was either a punishment to be meted out, a sacrifice to be made, or a covering over of the sin would be required on the Day of Atonement. When any portion of the law was broken, the entire law was broken (James 2:10). Jesus said as much concerning the law –

For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18

Understanding this, the author then notes that “every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” The word translated as “transgression” is a compound word which signifies “an overstepping.” It signifies a willful disregard of the law of God which defies His set drawn-lines. In this, one could think of the violation of a specific command concerning something forbidden – “You shall not.” The word translated as “disobedience” is also a compound word in the Greek. It signifies that which rises up from a negative attitude, such as one who refuses to properly pay heed to what is said. In this, one could think of the violation of a general command concerning something expected – “You shall.” In such violations of the law, for the offender, there was a “just reward.”

The idea of this is that a repayment of a price due was to be expected. It is a compensation which corresponds to a set standard. One can think of a reward for living in faith, or for punishment when failing to meet a set standard. God is the Source, He sets the standard, and rewards or punishments are set based on that. The Law of Moses was a set standard, and though it was spoken indirectly to the people (apart from the Ten Commandments), it was expected to be adhered to. The “from a lesser to a greater” will be seen in the coming verses.

Life application: The Law of Moses had its expectations. To show the severity of violating its standards, examples of punishment for infractions are given. For example, the first recorded Sabbath-breaker was taken out and stoned. Likewise, a person was stoned for speaking blasphemy. This was what was expected. The explicitly named penalty for numerous laws was given. If the law was this great, and yet something greater is found in the word of the Son, how carefully then should we pay heed to the message which comes from Him, or those who proclaim Him!

Lord God, where can salvation be found apart from Jesus Christ? The answer is given right in Your word. It is not attainable. All salvation in history was looking by faith to the coming Messiah, or it is looking back on the Messiah who has come. Only by faith in Him is man restored to You. Help us not to put our trust in deeds of our own doing, but to faithfully trust in the full and final work of Jesus our Lord. Amen. 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, Hebrews 2:3

The previous verse noted the steadfast nature of the word which was “spoken through angels.” If there was a transgression of it, or disobedience toward it, there was to be a just reward for the violation. That now leads to an obvious question. If that is so with the word spoken through angels (meaning messengers), then “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?” It is a rhetorical question which expresses denial. Q: “How shall we escape?” A: “Indeed, we shall not escape.”

In other words, the author has been carefully showing the supremacy of the Son over the angels. This consumed much of the body of Chapter 1. It was made perfectly evident that the Son is the Lord God. And so if the angels transmitted a word which was to be carefully adhered to, and if that word was violated, one could expect to receive a just penalty, how much more just would the penalty be for neglecting the salvation offered by the Lord? The difference between “word” of verse 2:2 and “salvation” of this verse shows the strong contrast. The angels spoke a word; the Son offers salvation. The word expects obedience or punishment will result; the Son offers salvation or condemnation will result.

It is one thing to sin against God by violating His law. It is an action which leads to separation from God. If no remedy for that sin is provided, then there would naturally be a continued separation from Him. However, the law provided atonement for sin, and so a recovery of the relationship was possible. However, in the coming of Christ, a rejection of Him leaves no possible recovery. He is the full and final remedy which the law only pointed to. That will be explained as the book of Hebrews continues. To neglect the only remedy to the disease which infects us means to be wholly consumed by it.

From there, the salvation is noted by the author with the words, “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.” It seems like a peculiar way of speaking at first, but it is the “beginning” of it by the Lord which is being emphasized. The Greek literally reads, “seeing that it, having at the first been spoken.” The Lord began to speak the message (John was only a herald of Christ who would present the gospel), and that message was then carried on by the apostles. That is noted with the words, “and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.”

The apostles confirmed the word which was at first spoken by the Lord. They became His witnesses to that which they heard and saw. From there, they carried the message out to others, explaining what had occurred, and showing how it was the fulfillment of everything that had been anticipated in the Scriptures.

It is this verse which some use to dispel the idea that Paul is the author of Hebrews. He states in Galatians 1:12 that he received his instruction directly from Jesus Christ by revelation. He also notes elsewhere that he had personally seen the risen Christ. As this is so, and as the author includes himself in this verse with the word “us,” then how could the author be Paul? However, Paul heard the message in Acts 7 at the stoning of Stephen. He certainly heard it by other Jews as he had them arrested. The gospel was, in fact, confirmed to him by those who “at the first began” to speak it. This verse doesn’t deny his other claims of having been instructed by the Lord. Instead, it simply says that the Lord began to speak the message, and then that message was confirmed by the apostles who continued to speak it out. His later reception of doctrine directly from the Lord in no way negates the fact that he first heard the gospel from other apostles and disciples, such as Stephen.

In fact, as an apostle, his words are now being used in the letter to confirm that same word to others who must then make their own decision concerning Jesus Christ. The argument that it cannot be Paul who is writing the epistle breaks down when the words he pens are properly considered. Whether he wrote it or not is unknown, but this verse cannot be used as a confirmation that he didn’t write it.

It should be noted that it is a rare thing in Hebrews for Jesus to be termed “the Lord.” Normally, he is spoken of as “the Son,” or He is spoken of by the position which He is said to fill (such as High Priest). However, in order to make it absolutely certain that “the Son” is “the Lord,” the particular designation is made here. It thus provides a special dignity to the salvation spoken of. As He is the Lord, in rejecting Him, where else could one go? The answer is obvious. There is nowhere else one can go. Salvation is limited to that which is offered through Jesus Christ alone.

Life application: The message of Jesus Christ is an exclusive message. In the modern world, that is deemed as a politically incorrect thought. People don’t want limitations of any kind set on them. However, man is responsible to God, not the other way around. If God has determined that salvation is through Christ alone, then that is the way it is. Be fixed and firm in your presentation of the Gospel. When difficult questions arise which you don’t have the answer to, you still must be firm about those things you do have the answer to. Never waffle in your stand that Jesus Christ alone is the way to being reconciled to God.

Heavenly Father, we are not all theologians with answers to the deeper questions of the faith, but we are all accountable for the basic truths which come with the faith, such as Jesus Christ being the only way to salvation. Even if we can’t answer all of the questions that are presented to us, we can be fixed and firm in what we do know. May we never water down the gospel which says that salvation is only found by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Give us the fortitude to stand on this basic message, because it is the only hope for mankind. Help us in this, O God. Amen.

God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? Hebrews 2:4

These words continue the question began in verse 2. All taken together, they read –

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?”

The words, “God also bearing witness,” are speaking about the “salvation” in verse 2, meaning the gospel message. The author’s claim is confirmed by the words of Mark 16:20 –

And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”

As can be seen both in Hebrews and in Mark, God confirmed the message of salvation found in Jesus with “signs.” A “sign” is something (usually miraculous) which is particularly given to confirm or authentic something else. As HELPS Word Studies notes, a sign “then emphasizes the end-purpose which exalts the one giving it. Accordingly, it is used dozens of times in the NT for what authenticates the Lord and His eternal purpose, especially by doing what mere man cannot replicate or take credit for.”

God is also said to have borne witness through “wonders.” A wonder is an extraordinary event with a supernatural effect being left upon any who witness it. A portent from heaven would be a wonder.

God further bore witness through” various miracles.” The word “miracle” as used here signifies power which comes through God’s ability. In using God’s ability to perform or accomplish something, the result is something that could not otherwise have been accomplished by the individual.

Along with these, God confirmed the gospel message of salvation through Christ Jesus by “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The Greek signifies “distributions.” God distributed the effective working of the Holy Spirit according to His chosen purpose. Some spoke in tongues, some performed healings, and so on. God did this in order to confirm that Jesus, whom these individuals proclaimed, was and is the Messiah. And all of this was “according to His own will.”

The workings of God mentioned in this verse were all at His sovereign discretion. There are times when the apostles could not heal (see Philippines 2:25-30; 1 Timothy 5:23; & 2 Timothy 4:20, for example). There are times when tongues are inappropriate (see 1 Corinthians 14:27-30). The signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit which came to the apostles were for particular reasons, at particular times, and always to confirm God’s word concerning the saving message of Christ Jesus. This is in contrast to how the “word spoken through angels” was received and confirmed.

The lesson here is that if there was a punishment for infractions of the law, how much more can we expect that God will more severely deal with a rejection of the gospel! Trifling with the message of Jesus Christ, mishandling the word which speaks of Him, and using false signs, miracles, and demonstrations of “gifts” of the Spirit are instances deserving of the highest degree of censure from Him.

Life application: The word has been confirmed. The Bible is written, and it speaks of those things which came to pass in order to reveal the truth of Jesus. There is no longer a need for signs, miracles, wonders, and distributions of the Holy Spirit in the manner that came during the apostolic age, nor should they be expected. If someone is sick, we should pray for them, but we should never arrogantly “claim” healing. It is God who decides, according to His wisdom to hear and respond. The gifts we now possess are on a different level than during the apostolic age, and they are to be used to the glory of God. Be wise concerning false teachers, false healers, and false miracle workers. Stick to the word which reveals all we need to know to have faith in the Son.

Heavenly Father, You have confirmed Your word to the people of the world through the apostles You sent forth after Jesus’ ministry. Now, we are asked to live by faith in that same word which has been written as a testimony of His authority. Help us to not follow after false teachers who claim the miraculous. We have Your word, and it is sufficient. Thank You for the surety we possess because of it! Amen.

For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. Hebrews 2:5

The word “For” here is given as an explanatory marker. The author has shown that the salvation provided by Jesus, and which pertains to men, is much greater than the “word spoken through angels.” What had previously been enacted was temporary, but the salvation which comes through Christ Jesus (the Son) is forever. Thus, His rule is also forever (as is explicitly stated in verse 1:8). In this new order or things, verse 1:14 said that the angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.”

With this understanding, he continues with, “He has not put the world to come.” A similar phrase is seen in Hebrews 6:5. Some translations actually make it the same by saying “the world to come.” Others more rightly translate it as, “the age to come.” The reason is that two different words are used. Here, in verse 2:5, it is speaking of the inhabited world. There, it is speaking of the age of time reaching into the future. The author says that the “world” to come, meaning the inhabited earth, is that “of which we speak.” He is conveying his thoughts while using the plural to include his audience. He is ensuring that all are on the same page concerning the issue at hand.

It is this world to come which “He has not put … in subjection to angels.” This returns to the thought of verse 1:14 (as noted above). The idea here is that he first cited verse 1:14. Then he showed the supremacy of what Christ brought about in His work related to salvation, being greater than that of which the angels spoke out; and then he has said that the world to come, which is based on His work of salvation, will not be in subjection to angels. Instead, it will be in subjection to Him, and the angels will minister to man on His behalf. This “world to come” certainly speaks of the millennium. The author is speaking to a Jewish audience about what has been promised to them in their own Scriptures. The distinction to be made is between the current arrangement and that which will be realized in Christ’s second coming.

This must speak of the time of the millennium, because in verse 2:8, he will note that all things will be in subjection to Him. The same idea is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:24-27. This includes death itself. However, death is not said to be cast into the lake of fire until after the millennium. Therefore, the “world to come” is referring to the millennium, and it then extends beyond that when death is finally gone forever.

Life application: It is hard to imagine how replacement theologians can ignore a literal millennial period of reign by Messiah, but they do. However, the author of Hebrews is addressing a Jewish audience who were (and who are) expecting a dispensation where Messiah will rule on earth. They expect this because this is what their Scriptures proclaim, and it is what the author of Hebrews clearly indicates is coming. Don’t be misled into accepting the idea that the church has replaced Israel. The Bible never proclaims this, in either testament.

Lord God, it is a remarkable day which lies ahead when Christ Jesus will rule for a thousand years among Israel. They shall be the head of the nations, and the promises to them will all be fulfilled in the most remarkable way. We must be close! Israel is back in her land, the church is quickly falling away from sound doctrine, and the world is about to receive its just due for its perverse conduct. As You have spoken, so it is coming to pass. Thank You that we have full assurance of our faith because of the prophetic word! Praises to You, O God. Amen.

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? Hebrews 2:6

The author is still speaking of the contrast between the authority of angels and that of the Son. In order to show the supremacy of the Son, he now refers to the 8th Psalm. In this though, he uses an unusual literary technique by saying, “But one testified in a certain place, saying.”

The word “testified” gives the sense of an earnest testimony which thoroughly bears witness to something. The word “certain place,” is better translated as “somewhere.” The Greek word is pou. It is the genitive case of an indefinite pronoun pos. It is wholly indefinite. The question raised then is, “Why would the author not simply say, “In the psalms,” or something more definite. It is the same term he uses in Hebrews 4:4 –

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.’”

Charles Ellicott gives a sound reason for the wording by saying, “As a rule, the words of Scripture are in this Epistle quoted as God’s own utterances; and though the nature of the quotation (which is an address to God) made this impossible here, the writer seems to gladly avoid the mention of the human prophet, perhaps as distracting the thought from the divine prophecy.”

The author (most probably Paul) is writing to a Hebrew audience. In order to ensure that the citation is carefully handled as the word of God, though spoken through a prophet (who is speaking to God), he defers to this literary technique. It then makes sure that his use of the quote is still rightly considered as from a divine source (thus “testified” is being applied to God’s testimony because it is recorded in His word). He then next cites the intended words, beginning with Psalm 8:4 which says, “What is man that You are mindful of him.”

David is speaking to the Lord (Yehovah). He is in awe of the magnificence of the creation which is so splendid and glorious. And yet, God with all of creation to tend to and to rejoice in, still takes notice of man. It seemed almost incomprehensible to David that God would even consider man at all, much less dwell among him (meaning among Israel in the sanctuary) and reveal His thoughts to him (meaning through prophets). This is especially so because man had rebelled against God, and he continued to do so every chance he could get. David was overwhelmed with the idea that God could direct His attention to man considering all of this.

The author continues to cite David’s words of Psalm 8:4 with the words, “Or the son of man that You take care of him?” The term “son of man” is still speaking of man – the ongoing issue of one man to the next. God created Adam, and the details of Genesis 1 & 2 show that man had special value to, and a purposeful relationship with, God. However, Adam turned from God. How could He still then be mindful of him after that? And more, Adam’s sons continued to rebel, even getting worse and worse. Each time God would intervene and call man back to Himself in a new way, directing the steps of humanity as if there was a greater purpose for him. The Greek word for “take care” is one which indicates divine visitation. It isn’t just that the Lord throws him food to eat and walks away, but that He inspects him, visits him, and ensures that he will be OK. David pondered the matter, realizing that there must be more to man than his simply being an animal that could be slaughtered for food or put in a zoo to be gazed at. Instead, there is a quality of man that actually makes him important to God in a most profound way.

The author will continue citing the psalm, directing our attention to the one Man who is the point and purpose of God’s attention to man.

Life application: When we are told to go out into the world in order to spread the gospel, it is because man (all men, from every tribe and nation) have value to God. It is man who devalues himself through his vile conduct and senseless rejection of God. But if man can be turned from that, there is a great and eternal purpose for him in God’s economy. Let us look at our fellow humans with eyes that match those of the Lord, wanting all to be saved and to eternally fellowship with Him.

Lord God, the gospel is a message intended for all men of every color, culture, and condition. It is not a message which is forced on others, insisting they submit to Your rule. Instead, it is a message of love, calling out that we willingly return to You. This is the greatness of the gospel. You have allowed us to return willingly and to be reconciled to You, even though You have done all that is necessary to make it happen. What a wonderful offer of peace and reconciliation! Thank You for this display of love. Amen.

You have made him a little lower than the angels;

You have crowned him with glory and honor,

And set him over the works of Your hands. Hebrews 2:7

The author continues with his quote of Psalm 8. The words here are from the Greek translation of Psalm 8:5. The quote begins by saying, “You have made him a little lower than the angels.” The word translated as “a little” signifies “short” or “a few.” In this, it is speaking in a sense of quantity or measure. The idea is as Vincent’s Word Studies translates the sentence – “Thou didst for some little time make him lower than the angels.”

The translation could go either way – speaking of time, or speaking of position – however, the author is using the words of the psalmist and applying them to Christ Jesus, and contrasting Him to the angels. Therefore, the reasonable thought is that Christ came into the stream of humanity in the form of a bondservant (see Philippians 2:5-11). During His first advent, He was thus “for some little time” made lower than the angels. He subjected Himself to the economy which was “spoken through angels” (Hebrews 2:2). Thus, Christ subjected Himself to a position inferior to them in a legal sense, being bound by the Law of Moses and the words of the prophets.

As a short note of clarification, the Hebrew of these words in Psalm 8 literally reads, “And lower You have made him than God.” David placed man lower than “God/gods” The word is elohim. It signifies something like “other(s) who are ‘over there.’” It can speak of God, angels, or even human judges. What David was actually referring to isn’t completely sure, but the translators of the Greek Scriptures state “angels,” and the author of Hebrews agrees with this in the New Testament. In this, the assumption is that David was using the term elohim as an ellipses for “the angels of God.” This is likely because no definite article is placed in front of elohim by David.

Having said this, the context of the psalm must be considered. David wrote about the glory of man (as noted in the previous verse of Hebrews). He wondered that God was even mindful of him and that He tended so carefully to him. When David said, “You have made him a little lower than the angels,” he was referring to the state of man in the order of ranking. God is supreme. From there, the host of angels were considered as a higher order than man, having access to His throne, and wielding great power and authority. Man, as an earthly creature, would be considered as “a little lower than the angels.” But David (and the author of Hebrews) continues with, “You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

It is impossible to tell exactly what David was thinking, and so we can only speculate that he is referring to man in general. However, he may also have been looking in anticipation to the coming Messiah. Either way, the author of Hebrews leaves no doubt as to the true intent of the Spirit-inspired writings. It is the Messiah who is being referred to in the future/prophetic sense. As for David’s immediate context, we can speculate, without causing any damage to the intent of David, that he was speaking of man in general.

Despite being “a little lower than the angels,” man has been crowned with “glory and honor.” He has been given authority over the realm in which he exists, and it is apparent that he is the highest form of life that walks upon the earth. This thought is explained by the continued words of the verse. They say, “And set him over the works of Your hands.”

They are words taken from Psalm 8:6, and it is to be noted that some manuscripts, and thus many modern Bibles, omit the final words of this clause. Whether they were inappropriately dropped out of the citation, or whether they were inappropriately added in at a later date is a subject of debate. However, the overall intent will not be lost, because the next verse in both the Psalm and in Hebrews will complement the words. Under the assumption that the words do, in fact, belong in the verse, David has noted that man has been set over the works of God’s hands, meaning the earth on which we live. This authority was given at the creation of man (Genesis 2:20), and it was restated after the flood of Noah (Genesis 9:1-3). David understood this, and wrote about man in this position, lower than the angels, but with authority over the works of God’s hands.

The author of Hebrews, and quite possibly David as well, looked to these words in an even greater context though. The author is applying them to Christ, having first been subjected to the economy which was administered by angels, and who then was crowned with glory and honor. He prevailed over (and died in fulfillment of) the Law of Moses. From there, and in the fullest intent of the passage, Christ was placed “over the works of” God’s hands. He was granted the full authority, power, and position that rightfully belonged to Him, and which He temporarily set aside. He reclaimed that authority through His completed work. This is the intent of the passage, as the coming verses will continue to reveal.

Whatever David was actually thinking as he wrote out the Psalm, the Holy Spirit who directed him had the intent of it being a prophetic passage which looked forward to Christ Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the words (see John 5:39).

Life application: We cannot get inside the head of David, or other Old Testament writers, and be dogmatic about what they were thinking at times. However, when an Old Testament passage is cited by a New Testament writer, and it is then applied to the Person of Jesus Christ, we can know – with 100% surety – that either the primary or the secondary (or both) intent of the original was to point to the coming Messiah. The truth is revealed in how the New Testament, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applies these verses. We don’t need to argue dogmatically over what is unknown. All we need to do is stand confidently in what is known.

Lord God, there are difficult passages in the Old Testament which we can debate as to their actual original meaning, but when they are applied to Christ Jesus in the New Testament, all doubt as to the prophetic meaning is cleared up. We have a sure word that the Old pointed to the New, and that Christ is the fulfillment of what was spoken so long ago. Thank You for the absolute assurance we have in the full, final, and finished work of Christ our Lord! Amen.

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. Hebrews 2:8

The author now finishes his Old Testament citation with words from Psalm 8:6 –

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet.”

This is, like Psalm102, written by David. Here as before, David may simply have been thinking of the state of man in general. He has been given authority over the earth, and all things in the earth are in subjection to him. The reason this is probably what was on David’s mind is because of what he continues to say in the psalm –

All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.” Psalm 8:7-8

David stood in awe of the fact that the Lord had given man – disobedient man – the authority over such a marvelous part of His creation. However, as already seen in the previous verses, there is an immediate context, and there is a future context. Whether David was also thinking of the Messiah to come or not, the Spirit spoke through David with this intent. And the author of Hebrews clearly presents his citation as such.

Jesus came under the authority of the Law of Moses, but He prevailed over it (Colossians 1:15). In this, all authority and power were given to Him. In one sense then, God “put all things under his feet.” After citing this, the author then says what that means in the context of Messiah. David intended his words to mean all creatures of the earth, however, the Spirit looked to a greater fulfillment in Christ Jesus. The author shows this by saying, “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him.”

It is revealed that the actual intent of the psalm is that “all” is in the complete sense. Everything, without exception, is put in subjection to Jesus Christ. This includes man, the heavenly powers, etc. Everything that exists in creation has been put in subjection to Christ by God. However, the author next contrasts the current state of things concerning the authority of Christ, and what is actual in regards to that authority at this time by saying, “But now we do not yet see all things put under him.” As of now, that ideal which is proclaimed has not yet been become reality.

Though God has granted full authority to Christ, with all things put under Him, that has not yet been fully realized in its totality. Man continues to rebel against Him. The devil and his demons continue to fight against Him. Death, though conquered in Christ, still has power over man. Someday, the devil, death, and Hades will be cast into the Lake of Fire, but that has not yet occurred. It is 100% assured that these things will come to pass, but they have not yet come to pass.

Life application: We need to be able to differentiate between things that are potential and things that are actual. Likewise, we need to understand the idea vs. the reality concerning Christ’s authority. Though something is stated as an accomplished fact, it does not mean that it has actually been realized yet. The reason this is important is because we are still living in a fallen world where bad things continue to occur. If we inappropriately apply verses which actually only apply to the future to our theology concerning the current state of things, we will have an unbalanced view of the world in which we live. In this, when bad things do occur, our faith can easily be shaken. This is the problem with the doctrine of some. They take ideals which are not actualized, and they apply them in a careless manner to our current world. In this, they set themselves up for a certain fall concerning their walk with the Lord. Jesus tells us that in this world we will have tribulation. Paul’s writings continue to confirm that. This is what we are to expect until Christ comes for us.

Lord God Almighty, You have granted Christ full authority over all things, but all things are not yet in subjection to Him. Help us to see the difference between the two, and to not make unfounded assumptions or conclusions in our present walk. We are bound to have troubles, trials, and tribulations because the devil is still actively working out his evil schemes. Help us to live by faith, and to understand that the better life You have promised is yet ahead. Until then, may our faith not falter in times of difficulty. Amen.

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. Hebrews 2:9

The order of this verse in most Bibles doesn’t follow the Greek. There is an emphasis that is thus lacking. A few translations get it right though, such as the YLT –

and him who was made some little less than messengers we see -- Jesus -- because of the suffering of the death, with glory and honour having been crowned, that by the grace of God for every one he might taste of death.”

The thought of verse 2:7 is repeated here. There it said, “You have made him a little lower than the angels.” As noted, this is speaking of the time-frame of being born under the law; a law ministered by angels (messengers). He was placed in this position under the law and the purpose of that was “for the suffering of death.” Christ came to live out the law, perfectly fulfilling its every precept. As Leviticus 18:5 says –

You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”

No person had, or has, met the standards of the law, and thus no man can “live by them.” With the giving of the law, all stood condemned before God, except for His gracious offering of a Day of Atonement which temporarily – year by year – covered over their sins. This will be explained as Hebrews continues. However, Christ was initially capable of taking away sin fully and forever because He was born without original sin. Being born under the law meant that if He could also live out the law perfectly, He would be qualified to do so. The gospels bear out that He was both born and lived without sin, and was thus capable and qualified. That left only one remaining element. Was He willing to do so? The gospels bear witness that He was –

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17, 18

Christ’s suffering of death was for the sin of the world. This is the doctrine of substitution, a doctrine given under the Law of Moses. The life of a perfect, pure, and innocent animal could be substituted in the place of the sinner. Each of these animals only looked forward to Christ. Their deaths were anticipatory of the final Sacrifice of Christ Jesus (see Hebrews 10:4). Christ came in fulfillment of these types and shadows, gave His life to take away sin, and then rose again because He had no sin of His own. In His completed work, validated by the resurrection, He was “crowned with glory and honor.”

This is the return of Christ to the position He had left. He was exalted to the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33), meaning the position of all power and authority. The message of the Bible is that only God can take away sin. That message is fulfilled in Christ, who is God, coming for a little while and placing Himself under His perfect standard. In fulfilling that, He (meaning the Man Jesus who is also God) took away our sin. In this, it was “by the grace of God.”

Grace is unmerited favor. We did not deserve what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. He destroyed the whole world by flood, consigning all but eight people on earth to their fate. Though He promised to never destroy the world by flood again, He was (and is) under no obligation to save a single person from their inevitable doom. And yet He, through Jesus, did just that. Jesus is the grace of God spoken of here. It is He who “might taste death for everyone.”

This does not say that He did taste death for everyone, but that He might do so. These words clearly show the folly of the Calvinist doctrine of “limited atonement.” The Greek words huper pantos signify “on behalf of the whole (everyone).” The scope of Christ’s substitutionary death is unlimited. No person is excepted from what He has done. He has potentially died for all. But there is still the issue of free will.

There are those who will accept what God has done in Christ, and there are those who will reject it. There are also those who simply never heard the gospel and who are left unsaved. All are potentially saved by Christ, but not all actually are. Though His atonement is unlimited in scope, it is limited in actuality. In essence, “God chose everyone in Christ, but not everyone will choose God’s offering of Christ.”

The argument that asks, “What about the person who has never heard of Jesus?” is an invalid argument. They neither deserve God’s grace (grace is unmerited favor), nor do they deserve His mercy. Christ tasted death for everyone, but it is up to those who hear the saving message of Christ to receive it, and it is up to those who have received it to tell others about it.

Christ “tasted” death, as if He drank its bitterness from a cup. We can be freed from this because of the work of Christ. We can instead drink from the Fount of life, Christ. In this, we are given the guarantee of eternal life. If He has tasted death for His elect, then they can never die (be spiritually separated from the Father) again. This then touches on the folly of the Arminian doctrine of salvation. Their claim is that a person who is saved can then lose that salvation. That is also seen to be false. Christ’s work restores life, once and forever, to the person who comes to Jesus.

Life application: Jesus did not die for some, but for all. The choice is up to each who hears as to whether they will receive Him or not. The responsibility is up to each who receives Him to continue telling others about what He has done. Further, Jesus did not come to grant us eternal insecurity. Rather, we have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. Doctrine actually matters. Don’t be swayed by those who teach erroneous messages which deny the full, final, and finished work of Jesus Christ. When you call on Christ, you are saved – once and forever.

Lord God, You have granted people the right to choose the gift of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice or to reject it. Let us be wise and accept the gift. And Lord God, for those who have received Jesus, the deal is done. The salvation He provides is not one of eternal insecurity. Instead, we are saved forever by the Author of eternal salvation. Thank You for the surety we possess in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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 captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10

The word “For” is based on the previous verse which spoke of Christ’s “suffering of death.” The Hebrew audience is being instructed more perfectly on the nature of God. As Jews, they expected a conquering king. This theme, based on the exploits and history of David, was their ideal for the coming Messiah. But before the crown came the cross.

Continuing, the author says “it was fitting for Him.” This is speaking of God. To Him, there is a rightness, an order, and a propriety in the way in which Messiah was brought from suffering to glory. It is, by the very nature of God, the way that it should be. Before the world was created, the plan was set in motion. Thus, it is an eternal design which reflects God’s eternal mind.

Understanding this, the author next explains that it is God “for whom are all things.” Vincent’s Word Studies explains this by saying, “For whom, that is, for whose sake all things exist. God is the final cause of all things.” Everything that exists does so because it finds its ultimate reason in Him. As God created the world for man to dwell on it, then man’s existence must have a reason which is for God. It is to God that man’s existence is to be directed.

Further, the author continues that it is God “by whom are all things.” This is the creative effort of God. He is the One who accomplished the act of creation. There was nothing, and by God’s wisdom, order, and power, all things came into existence and exist as they now are. In these two thoughts – “for whom” and “by whom” – we find that God is the initiator and the final reason for creation. As man’s existence is to be directed to Him (the reason for his existence), then the cross (Christ’s “suffering of death”) is how God has determined that it should most gloriously come about.

It was through the cross that he has brought “many sons to glory.” The idea here is one of a superlative abundance. It is God’s design that the cross of Christ would be the cherished way that man would understand His love and draw many to Him through it. These words are again a stab directly at the heart of the Calvinist idea of predestination and election. God did not merely choose some for salvation and disregard the rest (limited atonement). Rather, He sent Christ to the cross so that the entire body of humanity would have a chance to hear the message and willingly respond to it.

Unlike Islam which teaches submission through force – which is practically the idea of Calvinistic predestination (irresistible grace resulting in limited atonement) because man is supposedly converted apart from his will – the message of the Gospel is one of voluntary yielding to God through His glorious display of love. There is no sinner so lost that God cannot show mercy upon him. There is no people group so void of morality that they cannot hear of what God did in Christ and be converted. There is no color, race, creed, or ethnicity which is walled off from God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith.

It is by God Himself, through Christ Jesus, that this comes about. He is, as it says, “the captain of their salvation.” The word “captain” comes from the Greek archégos. It is not a captain in the modern sense, meaning a junior officer. Rather, it signifies the author of something. He is the first in a long procession of others who will follow. Jesus Christ is the founder and the leader of the salvation which leads man back to God, the reason for their very existence. It is this Jesus who it says, was “made perfect through sufferings.”

The idea of being “made perfect” is tied directly to the words of verse 7 where it says, “You have crowned him with glory and honor.” This making perfect does not carry the idea of being made “better,” as if there was a lack in Christ. Rather, it speaks of bringing to completion, or meeting, the goal. Christ suffered, was crucified, and died with the intent of bringing God’s plan of salvation to fruition. In His passion, man sees the very heart of God, and willingly responds to that glorious offering. The work of Christ makes Him fully and completely suited to bring those many sons to glory. This then explains the constant theme of Paul’s writings – “no works.”

If a person does something to merit God’s favor, then God is not glorified through their salvation. However, if God does all the work necessary, and in such a way that the sinner understands this – full and complete forgiveness through the work of another – then God will receive all of the glory. Again, the reason for man’s existence is to find his end in God. If we feel we have found our end in God through our merit, then we have not found our end in God. The perfecting of Christ through suffering means that in His sufferings He is fully qualified to bring man back to God. There was no lack or deficiency in Him. Rather, He was fully complete before His suffering, but we were not. He has made a perfected way of salvation through His work.

Life application: All hail the name of Jesus.

Lord God, when it says You have brought many sons to glory, it doesn’t mean by advanced selection. Nor does it mean by forced submission. Instead, we have seen the perfecting work of the Author of our salvation – Jesus Christ – and we have seen the deficiency in ourselves. He has filled up what is lacking in us. We come before You as poor beggars, and You have offered us eternal glory in Your presence because of the work of our Lord. All hail the name above all names! We give glory to You, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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, Hebrews 2:11

The word “For” is given to build upon what was just said concerning Christ’s work of “bringing many sons to glory” which was “through sufferings.” The author will continue to speak of the trials of the Savior in connection with our own trials and suffering later in this chapter. He next says, “both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified.” The suffering (For) is being tied in with sanctification. The idea here is that “sanctification” is being used in the sense of a restored relationship with God. In both uses of the word of this verse, it is in the present tense and active voice. Thus, it more rightly says, “…both He who is sanctifying and those who are being sanctified.” It is an ongoing process of what is occurring in those being brought to glory. It is the path to the glory which lies yet ahead.

The author then says, “are all of one.” The words can be taken in a couple of ways. It is possibly speaking of God, who is One. Or, it may be speaking of both Christ, the Sanctifier, and those who are being sanctified. They are all one despite the highly exalted and glorious position which Christ fills. The latter is probably the correct interpretation based on the second clause, “...for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”

He” refers to Jesus. Despite His infinite glory, He is bringing His fallen creatures on the path to glory. It is a certain fact that it will occur, despite the fact that it is presently on-going. But because we are heading there, it is as if we are there. The end is assured. Thus we are “all of one.” And because of this, Christ Jesus is “not ashamed to call” us brethren.

What the author is telling us in these words, is that because of Christ’s taking on humanity and suffering for us, there is now such a strong bond and union between us that we are united as one. It is a bond of brotherhood which now exists. The verse is another implicit reference to the doctrine of eternal salvation. For Christ to save someone, bringing them into the bond of His sufferings, to then cast them off is contrary to the very idea of unity of oneness and the fellowship of being brethren. The verses ahead will continue to describe the bond which now exists because of those who have, by faith, trusted in the work of Jesus Christ.

Life application: We fall, we fail, and we err in our walk. This is true. However, Jesus is fully capable of maintaining our salvation for us. He is our Mediator and our Advocate. He has set us on the path to glory and the end is assured. Be confident that you are (and will remain) saved, despite yourself.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful promise of glory which is given to those who have trusted in Christ Jesus. We have been set on that promised path, and in Your mind, we are already there in the heavenlies in Him. We have absolute assurance that we have been, and will remain, saved. This is despite ourselves. You don’t err. We have surety in Your promises! Thank You for this, O God. Amen.

“I will declare Your name to My brethren;

In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” Hebrews 2:12

The words of this verse are a citation from Psalm 22, a messianic psalm which exactingly describes Christ’s Passion. The time on the cross was a time where the Lord called out to His Father in anguish. Verse 21 then says, “You have answered Me.” Immediately after that come the words of verse 22 which are cited here.

The author has shown that through Christ’s suffering, He has brought “many sons to glory.” In the completion of His work, Christ (speaking to the Father) says, “I will declare Your name to My brethren.” The obvious intent is that Christ is speaking of those He has redeemed as His “brethren.” The focus of the author is on the fraternal relationship between Christ and those He has redeemed. Christ is the One through whom God has now spoken to us (see Hebrews 1:2). He declares God’s name to the world, and those who receive His word are His brethren, and thus children of God (see John 1:12).

The idea of declaring God’s name is one of making Him known. The name identifies and explains the Being. Therefore, the intent is that God in the Old Testament, partially concealed, is being revealed in a more perfect way in the New. God has progressively revealed Himself in human history, and in the coming of Christ Jesus, the more complete and perfect revelation of Himself to the world is seen. The Son is the declaration, and thus the revealing, of God.

My brethren,” then, is in the first and in the greater sense, humanity. But, it is, from the standpoint of the Psalm itself, specifically His people within humanity – meaning the Jews. Christ is the incarnate Word of God. In His humanity, He speaks to His brethren – meaning other humans, and at first to His own (see John 1:11). But as noted already, it is even more specifically applied to those who actually receive that word. This is seen in the words, “In the midst of the assembly.”

The word is ekklésia. It signifies a called out assembly. Israel is a called out assembly. Christ came to and through Israel. However, as John 1:11 & 1:12 (both referenced above) proclaim –

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

And so in this, we can infer from the author’s train of thought a “from the general to the specific.” 1) Christ is a Human; He came to humanity. 2) Christ is a Jew; He came to the Jews – a called out assembly. 3) Christ is the Redeemer; He came for those He redeemed – a specific called out assembly. As the author is writing to the Hebrews, he is specifically speaking to those of Israel who have received Christ. However, it is already understood from the writings of Paul that the idea of being a child of God is not limited to Jews, but to anyone – Jew or Gentile – who has received Him. It is in this ekklésia, or called out assembly, that it is said of Christ towards God, “I will sing praise to You.”

These words are quite often attributed by scholars to Jesus having sung a hymn with the disciples at the Last Supper. This is incorrect. The words cited from the psalm follow after the Passion, not before. Christ is the praise of God. Whether this means Christ is actually the one who sings praises to God, or that it is those “in Christ” who do (being united to Christ), the singing of God’s praise is what occurs after the suffering and among those who have been redeemed; who are His brethren. It is because of the completed work of Christ that this comes about.

Life application: Hebrews is written to… the Hebrews. The author is speaking of matters which pertain to them. However, the truths apply to any who have been redeemed by the Lord. Hebrews is an instruction manual on Christ’s work in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures, and must be taken in that light. And so first and foremost it is given to the Jews, just as Paul’s epistles are first and foremost written to the Gentiles. Both Jew and Gentile are included in their truths, but the audience of address is significant in understanding the full intent of what is said.

Gracious, glorious, and marvelous are You, O God! Help us to never hold back a word or song of praise to You. Whether we are in ease and comfort, or stress and distress, we are still able to praise. And the praise can only elevate our comfort or lower our distress. Either way, it is a win-win scenario when we offer to You the praises that You are due. Praises to You forever and ever, O God. Amen.

And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.”
And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”
Hebrews 2:13

The two clauses of this verse are probably both taken from Isaiah 8. The first one is similar to words spoken in 2 Samuel 22:3 and Isaiah 12:2, but as they are both cited in Isaiah 8, it is that passage which is probably on the author’s mind. He has simply quoted Isaiah 8:17 & 18 –

And I will wait on the Lord,
Who hides His face from the house of Jacob;
And I will hope in Him.
18 Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me!
We are for signs and wonders in Israel
From the Lord of hosts,
Who dwells in Mount Zion.”

As can be seen, the surrounding words are messianic in nature, looking forward to His coming. The author clearly understood this, seeing Jesus as their fulfillment and applying the words to Him and to what is realized in His New Covenant. They are both to be taken as Jesus speaking about God, just as in the previous verse. Jesus has put His trust “in Him” meaning the Lord. As was seen in verse 1:13, this in no way diminishes the deity of Christ, it simply refers to Jesus’ who is both God and man. The citation in verse 1:13 was from Psalm 110 where the LORD (meaning Yehovah) was speaking to Adonai (“my Lord,” also meaning Yehovah). One was referring to God the Father and the other was referring to God the Son.

In both clauses of this verse from Hebrews, the words “And again” are used. Thus both are building on the same concept previously laid out, that of brotherhood. Understanding this, he first says, “I will put My trust in Him.” Jesus has put His trust in God; those who follow Jesus have put their trust in God. In this, the brotherhood is established because all are trusting the same heavenly Father. Christ trusted Him in the completion of His work; we trust in Him through the completion of Christ’s work. And so, the fraternal relationship is strengthened because the object of the trust is the same in both.

One can think of two sons stuck in a pit. The first is brought out directly by the father. In the case of the second, the father says, “I am going to get you out of this,” but the second son is in a deeper part of the pit, and so he uses his first son in the process of getting the second son out. Without the work of the first son, the second would never be retrieved, but both are saved. Both sons have trusted their father, and both have a common bond which unites them more firmly than ever before. This is the idea of the first clause.

The author then continues on with, “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.” The original intent of the words in Isaiah is that Isaiah and his sons had become as signs and wonders to Israel. Isaiah means, “Salvation of the Lord.” He is typical of Christ. His sons are Maher-shalal-hash-baz which means, “Speed the spoil, hastens the prey,” and Shear-jashub which means, “A remnant shall return.” The Lord would judge Israel by hiding His face from them (Isiah 8:17), but a portion of them would be saved. Those whom He calls “brethren” are those who have trusted God’s work in Christ. This is why Isaiah and his sons are used. Their names were equivalent to what God would do to Israel. Thus, the three of them are as “signs and wonders” to the people.

Jesus is God’s Son. The “brethren” are children in relation to God because He has adopted them in Christ. However, they are also “the children whom God has given Me.” They are 1) sons of God; 2) sons of Christ who is the Lord, and 3) they are uniquely Christ’s brethren as well. This is why Christ is “not ashamed to call them brethren” (verse 2:11).

The key to understanding the entire passage as outlined so far is that Christ is both the Son of God, and that He is God. It is the deity of Christ that is on display here. Thus, He is “greater than the angels.” The author will continue to develop this in the verses ahead.

As a final thought, please continue to consider the context. The book is specifically written to the Hebrews. It is they who are being spoken to. Though the Gentiles are also sons of God through faith in Christ, it is important to continue to remember who is ultimately addressed in this book.

Life application: A cursory reading of these verses is enough to give a person the general idea of son-ship, brotherhood, and etc. However, a detailed study of them is really necessary to see the majesty of what God has done for us through the work of Christ Jesus. Be patient, contemplate carefully, and ponder deeply the words of God. In this, you will always be blessed with a fuller understanding of the intent behind the surface words which may at first seem difficult to grasp.

Heavenly Father, we were in a pit of our own making, and yet You came to get us out of it. Jesus voluntarily came to go into the pit and rescue us from it, all the while He trusted in You to deliver Him so that He could then deliver us. Through Him, we are restored to You as sons, and He has called us His brothers. What an amazing story is revealed in Your word. We thank You, O God, for what You have done for us in, and through, Christ our Lord! Amen.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14

The words, “Inasmuch then,” take us back to take us back to verses 9 & 10. This becomes clear by the next words, “as the children have partaken of flesh and blood.” As already noted, Jesus became incarnate that he “might taste death for everyone.” The author builds upon that thought here. He notes that He did this thing, having “partaken of flesh and blood...” The Greek is reversed here. It actually reads “blood and flesh” as it is also found in Ephesians 6:12.

The life is in the blood, and thus without the blood, there would be no movement of the flesh. A war is being waged against man which necessitated Christ to come as a Man just as we are. Blood ran through His body and He walked among us as He waged His battle against the forces of evil. This is evidenced by the words, “He Himself likewise shared in the same.” John, right at the beginning of His gospel, stressed this point. In John 1:14, he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He begins his first epistle with that same thought in 1 John 1:1-3.

The author continues next by saying that Jesus Christ came and shared in our humanity so “that through death...” The implication here is that Jesus Christ ultimately came to die. The author has already stressed that He “might taste death for everyone” (verse 1:10). He now says that the sharing in humanity looked to his death as the goal. It was not a mistake or something that merely might have taken place if needed, but that His death was the necessary and logical outcome of having come. It had to occur in order to accomplish that which needed to be done. As God cannot die, the incarnation was necessary. But even more, an angel could not be sent to accomplish this either, because angels cannot die either. They are spirit beings. They have a beginning, but no end. Only in the incarnation could what needed to be done actually come about. And this was that “He might destroy him who had the power of death.”

The wording is incorrect. It should say something like, “He might make ineffective, him who had the power of death.” The devil is not now destroyed, nor will he ever be. He won’t be removed from the scene until the time of the millennium (Revelation 20:3), and he won’t be cast into the Lake of Fire until after the millennium (Revelation 20:10). Even in the Lake of Fire, he will not be destroyed, but will continue on in eternal punishment. However, his power has been brought to nothing for the redeemed of the Lord. It is the devil who has “the power of death.” In dying, Christ was able to render that power ineffective. As He said at the grave of Lazarus –

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” John 11:25, 26

He was not speaking of physical death so much as spiritual death, which is separation from God. It is spiritual death that man experienced at the fall, and which has been inherited by all humans since then. Once a person believes in the work of Christ, they move from death to life. They can never again “die” meaning be separated from God. Christ’s physical death was necessary for this spiritual (and eternal) life to come about in men.

The author finishes up the verse with the thought that it is “the devil” who holds the power of death. Albert Barnes most eloquently explains the universality of the power of the devil –

The palace cannot exclude him; and he comes unbidden into the cottage. He finds his way to the dwelling of ice in which the Esquimaux and the Greenlander live; to the tent of the Bedouin Arab, and the wandering Tartar; to the wigwam of the Indian, and to the harem of the Turk; to the splendid mansion of the rich, as well as to the abode of the poor. That reign of death has now extended near 6,000 years, and will travel on to future times - meeting each generation, and consigning the young, the vigorous, the lovely, and the pure, to dust. Shall that gloomy reign continue forever? Is there no way to arrest it? Is there no place where death can be excluded? Yes: heaven – and the object of the Redeemer is to bring us there.”

The devil possessed absolute power over death, and death came to all. Therefore, it was necessary that Jesus Christ should come and die for us. In doing so, He has broken the bonds of death, and He has released us from its terrifying power. This is the love of God, and the power of that love, as is found in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Life application: Who else has died for mankind that he might be redeemed from the power of death? None have done so because all were already consigned to the same fate. But God in Christ was not. Instead, He voluntarily gave up His life to free us from death. How should we respond to this fact? By hiding it away? By remaining timid about “offending?” By being callous towards those who still face the sad end we have been delivered from? By no means! We are to open our mouths and speak. Once physical death has overcome the spiritually dead soul, it will remain that way forever. Let us not ignore that horrifying possibility in our fellow man.

Lord God, Christ came to share in our humanity in order to render the power of the devil ineffective. Apart from Jesus, that evil serpent has full power over the fate of all men. But Christ has overcome! He has prevailed! And through Him, we are born again to new and eternal life. May we never remain silent about the truth of Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, all men will remain eternally separated from You. But in Him, we are united forever. Help us to be bold in our words of restoration and life as we speak out about Jesus. Amen.

...and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:15

This verse is a part of a whole thought which started in verse 14. Together they say –

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

As is seen then, the author notes in the immediate context that the purpose of Christ taking on human flesh had two aspects to it, one following after the other. First, it was to make void (note commentary on previous verse) the power of the effective working of the devil. In accomplishing this, it would then “release those.” The word translated as “release” is a rare one, having been seen only once in Luke and once in Acts. This is its third and final use. It gives the sense of delivery or removal. Next, he identifies the previous state of those who have been released. It was those who had a “fear of death.”

What he is conveying is that humanity has always been afraid of death. We may ignore it, we may forcibly push it out of our minds, we may deny it, but the lingering fear of death is always there. And this fear is not only for ourselves, but it is also there for those we love. Further, the fear is there in various degrees, such as that of a long, painful, and lingering death. The reasons for fearing death are many. It means the end of the things we enjoy. It normally includes pain. It means that the body we have cared for and cherished will corrupt, putrefy, and breakdown. It means entering either into oblivion or into the presence of God. Either way, it means something completely different than that which we can now associate with. For these and other reasons, humans have a fear of death throughout “all their lifetime.”

From our earliest days, and throughout our entire lives, we are subject to this fear. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown goes so far as to say of this state that “Such a life can hardly be called life.” Man who is destined for death does not have true life. Our existence is vanity personified. The book of Ecclesiastes deals with this minutely.

The author then explains what this fear of death throughout our lives mean. He says by it we are “subject to bondage.” The Greek reads more literally, “subjects of bondage.” In other words, we are not simply liable to slavery, but rather we are completely captivated by it. This is the type of bondage we are in, a bondage which is completely captive to death. It guides everything we do in a very real sense. We look where we walk, we watch what we eat, we avoid certain places, and so on. Though it may not be at the forefront of our minds, it is always there in us because we are captive to it. But this is what Christ came to free us from. It is explained by Paul in Romans. First, it is a freedom from death itself; a granting of eternal life. Secondly, it is a freedom from fear of death, because death has no power over us (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

Death is considered an entity. It is not the simple act of dying, but the fear which accompanies it, which is removed. This is how Paul states it in Romans –

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:15-17

Life application: Unless the rapture comes and we are immediately translated to glory, we are all going to die physically. However, the death that we will face does not stand in victory over us. Instead, we stand in victory over it. Even in the act of physical death, we triumph. With our very last breath, we can still raise our hands to the Lord and cry out, “Victory!” Christ has prevailed; our physical death is merely a step into the eternal life He has secured for us.

Heavenly Father, life is one of bondage to the fear of death. It is an all-consuming and lifelong type of slavery. But in Christ, the bonds are broken and we are set free. We have victory over the foe, and we have the absolute assurance of life which is full, glorious, and eternal. Thank God for Jesus who has broken through and gone ahead of us, showing us the way back to You! Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16

For” is given to build upon what has been stated. The author has been speaking of the bondage and fear of death that men face and how Christ came, partaking in our same nature in order to free us from this bondage. Understanding this, he continues with “...indeed He does not give aid to the angels.”

Angels do not die; they are aeviternal beings. This means they have a beginning but no end. They are also not redeemable. They are either angels which serve in God’s heavenly hosts, or they are fallen and will be cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity (see Matthew 25:41). No aid is given to angels because of this. However, man can be redeemed, and so Christ came in order to “take hold of” him (as the Greek reads) and to lead him by the hand to freedom from bondage. The word used is essentially a metaphor signifying rescue from peril. For the Lord to take hold of someone means exactly this, and this is what Christ came to do.

After this, he then says, “but he does give aid to the seed of Abraham.” As first, it seems curious that he says this, rather than “to the seed of Adam.” However, there are several reasons for using Abraham. The first is obvious, based on who is being addressed in this epistle – the Hebrews. Jesus entered into humanity through the line of the Hebrew people. Abraham was the first noted as a Hebrew in Genesis 14:13. He is also considered the father of their faith. The author is not excluding Gentiles here, but rather is identifying Christ with the people of faith as the psalmist does in Psalm 105:6 –

O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!”

In the Song of Mary in Luke 1:55, the same idea is expressed there. Mary was certainly only thinking of her people, Israel, when she said this. However, a father may have five children, loving them equally, but he may focus on one at a given time and another at a different time.

Secondly, though Paul uses the term “seed of Abraham” as indicating actual genealogy back to Abraham in Romans and 2 Corinthians, he also uses it as a genealogy established by faith in Galatians 3:26-29 –

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Thus, despite certainly talking about a literal genealogy back to Abraham here (as Matthew does in his genealogical record of Matthew 1), the author is not excluding the possibility of those not of the literal genealogy of Abraham from being included. Though it is not the intent of his words now, and it would be out of place to address all who are of the faith of Abraham (meaning Jew and Gentile) as being the seed of Abraham, it is still true that Abraham descended from someone who was not a Hebrew. He was further promised to be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4). And so despite addressing the Hebrew people specifically, and making a point about helping them, Scripture also shows that the help provided to them implicitly (and even explicitly at times) applies to all who are willing to come to God through faith in Jesus.

Life application: It is important to remember who is being addressed in a particular book, or even a section of a book. Paul addresses the Jews at times in the book of Romans, and then he addresses Gentiles at other times. In Hebrews, the addressee is the Hebrew people, and it is from this perspective that the letter is being written. However, this does not negate inclusion of the Gentiles in what is being said. We need to be careful to ensure that what is said to the main addressee is understood, but we can also determine when Gentiles are included in the address – or at least when they are not excluded from the truth which is presented.

What a marvelous story of love and attention is found in Your word, O God. You have looked upon the people of the world and determined that we are worth saving, if we will just come to You on Your terms. We are to come not by deeds of our doing, but by faith in what You have done. By simple belief, confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that You raised Him from the dead, we have peace with You. How simple, and yet how difficult! Help us to put aside our pride and to trust only in what You have done. Amen.

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. Hebrews 2:17

The word “Therefore” asks the reader to go back and review what brought about the coming statement. The words certainly cover everything back to verse 2:10 at least. There it spoke of bringing many sons to glory. Immediately after that it said, “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one.” The thought of Christ sharing in humanity continued right up until verse 16. There, in verse 16, it spoke of giving aid to the seed of Abraham.

Understanding the context, the author says, “in all things.” There is a like for like comparison being made. It is not that the two will be somewhat alike, but that they are alike in all ways. This is confirmed by the next words, “He had to be made like His brethren.” If Christ were made like an angel (verse 2:7), He would not be “like man” in all ways. If He were exempt from a body which could suffer (verse 2:10), He would not be “like” us in all ways. If He were not able to be tempted (verse 4:15), He would not be like us in all ways. And so on.

The verse also directly refers to the final thought before this verse which mentioned “the seed of Abraham.” Christ was made like the seed of Abraham in all ways as well. Vincent’s Word Studies goes so far as to say, “Likeness is asserted without qualification. There was a complete and real likeness to humanity, a likeness which was closest just where the traces of the curse of sin were most apparent – in poverty, temptation, and violent and unmerited death.” This is correct. This closeness, to where the traces of the curse of sin are, was necessary in order “that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.”

The high priest was selected from among the people of Israel. He shared in their family line, he shared in their culture, and he shared in their plight in all ways. He was, therefore, able to empathize with his people in the execution of his duties under the covenant that the Lord made with the people. The same is true with Christ in His ministry. Likewise, it was necessary for Him to be like those He ministered to as well, if He were to initiate a new covenant. The introduction of the role of Christ as High Priest at this point takes the reader back to the very opening words of the epistle. In verse 1:3 it said, “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.”

The thought of the purging of sin is that which pertains to priestly duties. The author has spent all of the past two chapters leading the reader to this point. It is a point which will be referred to from this point on as well. If there is to be a new covenant, there must be a High Priest to administer it. But if there was already a covenant in existence, there must be a valid reason why it needed to be set aside. The author’s words are preparing us for understanding these things by first showing that Christ is suitable to the role. After that, he will then address the how’s and why’s of the introduction of the New Covenant.

In being like His brethren in all ways, Christ is able to be the merciful and faithful High Priest that is needed. Without being able to empathize with His people, there would be a lack of mercy needed to properly conduct His duties. Without facing trials similar to His people, He could not faithfully represent them in their own petition for strength, or for mercy and forgiveness. But Christ can because He did.

He first lived the life necessary, and then He became our High Priest “in things pertaining to God.” This is referring to the system in which the High Priest conducts His duties. There is a need for One to act between God and the people; a Mediator. This job fell to Aaron and his sons under the Old Covenant. In the establishment of a new covenant, there would likewise be this need. The system of sacrifices necessary to appease God, the conveyance of prayers on behalf of the people, the communication of the will of God, the judgment in accord with the covenant’s laws, and so forth, all needed to be accomplished by a suitable mediator. Christ was set to fill this role in the coming of the New Covenant.

To complete the verse, the author then says, “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” The Greek word chosen here, and translated as “propitiation,” is only found elsewhere in Luke 18:13 –

And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”

How could the High Priest truly Mediate in such a way as to petition God for mercy for such a wretched soul unless He had first been made “like His brethren” in all ways? The verb used for “make propitiation for” is akin to the cognate noun which signifies that which is the propitiation – the atoning sacrifice. It is what accomplishes the action which removes the wrath of God, allowing Him to be merciful. That noun is used by John twice – in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10. In both uses, it is speaking of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus for our sins. In the giving of His life, He is able to make that propitiation which is necessary for God to be merciful. He is the very focal point of God’s mercy, and therefore His ministry is perfectly sufficient to accomplish the obtaining of that mercy for His people.

Life application: How can God demonstrate infinite mercy upon His finite and fallen creatures? He can do it through His perfect Sacrifice, Jesus. In the giving of His Son, the void is bridged, the gap is crossed, and the wound of separation is healed. Christ Jesus is the very focus of God’s mercy to His creatures. We don’t just have a hope in eternal life, in Christ Jesus we have the absolute assurance of it. The enmity is ended, and reconciliation is realized because propitiation has been made.

Glorious, gracious, and merciful God… Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:18

The word “For” is based on the explanation given in the preceding verse. Christ “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.”

In being made like His brethren, He endured suffering. As the author states, “in that He Himself has suffered.” It isn’t a matter of logical, but speculative, analogy such as, “Jesus came as a man; men suffer; therefore, Christ must have suffered.” Rather, the gospels bear out that He, in fact, suffered. And His suffering was in both small ways and in a great way. He did not exempt Himself from the trials, pains, and deprivations of life. He got sleepy and went without sleep. He got hungry and had to eat. He mourned and wept. The things common to man were shared in by Christ.

Further, He also endured even that which was beyond what men suffer. He was judged as a sinner when He had no sin. He was punished though there was no iniquity found in Him. And He died a torturous death, not for His own wrongdoing, but the wrongdoing of others.

In all of these ways, He was tempted, because suffering leads to temptation. The stress is on the temptation, not the suffering. In fact, the NAS – in accord with the analysis of Vincent’s Word Studies – phrases the verse as, “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” When He suffered from sleep deprivation, he was tempted to get cranky and sin. When He suffered hunger, He was tempted to get “hangry” and sin. Moreover, He was tempted both passively, and actively. His passive temptations (such as being hungry) could have led to wrongdoing, but He also was actively tempted by the devil as is noted in the gospels. This also could have led to wrongdoing.

In each way that He suffered, He could have fallen into sin through being tempted (Hebrews 4:15). Understanding this, the word “tempt” itself needs to be explained. It signifies “a test,” or “a trial.” Christ was tested through the temptations of suffering, and He remained without sin, having passed the test of perfection demanded by God’s holiness. The author then explains the importance of that for His people (His brethren) by saying, “He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

The idea here is one of empathy. It cannot be said that Christ is unable to empathize with us in our own temptations, afflictions, sufferings, and the like. He shared in our common humanity. He felt the pains we feel and endured the losses we endured. He was belittled by others, and was mocked openly, wrongfully accused throughout His ministry, and so forth. In this, He possesses the knowledge of what it is like to be so tempted, and He can thus give us aid and succor in our own lives as we face similar tests of our resolve and of our faith.

Life application: It is not uncommon to hear people complain that God must have no idea what they are going through. They will also call God unfair for the plight they face. First, God owes us nothing. There is nothing we can accuse God of, nor is there anything we can challenge God over. But even more, He was willing to participate in our humanity in order to understand the very weaknesses we face. Those who reject what the Son has done have rejected the greatest demonstration of God’s tender mercies. He didn’t send Jesus to show how bad we are in comparison to Him. He sent Jesus to reveal how much He cares for us.

Wonderfully loving God! You sent Jesus to participate in humanity and to show us how much You truly care for us. In His trials and tests, He has shown that He truly can empathize with our own times of trial and testing. Thus, He stands as a faithful High Priest who has earned the right to mediate between us. There is nothing we endure that He has not also faced. What a comfort it is to know that You have gone to such great lengths for us. Thank You for our faithful High Priest, Jesus. Amen.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, Hebrews 3:1

The word “Therefore” is a summary of all of the contents of Chapter 2. The words expressed here have their basis in the various thoughts which were put forth there. And so the author next states, “holy brethren.” The term “brethren,” in this sense, speaks of those who are united by faith in Christ. The only time that the word “holy” is affixed to “brethren,” other than here, is in 1 Thessalonians 5:27, but even that is not included in all manuscripts as it is here. The word “brethren” speaks of the unity of those in Christ as sons. This was seen in verse 2:10 where Christ brought “many sons to glory.” The word “holy” is affixed to it because of the sanctification of Christ seen in verse 2:11.

The term “holy brethren” is then being applied to those who are the called out of the Lord. As Israel was called out in the Old Testament and set apart as holy (e.g. Exodus 19:6), so the church was called out as holy because of Christ. It needs to be remembered that the author here is writing to Hebrews. The Gentiles (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:27) have been called out in Christ, and the Jews have likewise been called out in Him. It is He who has sanctified this body of believers.

The author then says, “partakers of the heavenly calling.” This idea was first stated in verse 2:10 in the term “bringing many sons to glory.” Glory is the heavenly calling that is possessed because of Christ. The “partaking” of that calling is based on Christ’s having “partaken of flesh and blood” as noted in verse 2:14. He first partook of our human nature, so that we could then partake of His heavenly state. The calling is from heaven, but it is based on His earthly work. In His triumphing over the flesh, He has imputed His righteousness and given to us the assured glory of heaven.

Based on this, we are asked to “consider.” The Greek word denotes to fix one’s thinking on a matter and to consider it fully, even to a definite and clear understanding of it. The NIV says, “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Though the order doesn’t reflect the Greek of the verse, it is a well-stated translation nonetheless. We are to fix our thoughts on Him, mull over what He has done, pay heed to what it means in our lives, and so on.

Combined with the idea of “consider,” the author first states the descriptive title, “the Apostle.” The word signifies, “to send forth.” It focuses back on the position and authority of the sender. In this case, God sent Him. This goes back to verse 2:4 where it says, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders.” These were accomplished through Christ by the full authority of God. It then goes to verse 2:9 where it says that Christ Jesus was sent, “that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Jesus Christ is the grace of God, sent unto men. He was sent with a commission which included taking on our nature, and dying in that state. Thus, He is the Apostle par excellence.

The author next says, “and High Priest.” This refers back to verse 2:17 where it says, based on His incarnation and fulfilled work, that “He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

The idea of being an Apostle signifies the mission that Christ was sent on. He was sent by God to accomplish the work of God. The idea of being a High Priest is one of the position He now fills based on His accomplishment of the mission in establishing a New Covenant. He was not a high priest of the Old Covenant, nor could He be. That will be explained in Chapter 7. Rather, He was sent on His mission under the Old Covenant in order to establish the New Covenant, being now the High Priest of a far superior covenant.

The author’s words, “of our confession,” refer to our acknowledgment of Christ Jesus as Lord, having received Him as such, and embraced Him as the Messiah of the Jews and the Christ of the nations. The same applies to both Jews and Gentiles, but the context continues to be the author writing to a Jewish audience.

The author finishes the thought by stating who the Apostle and High Priest is, “Christ Jesus.” It is to be noted that some manuscripts (and thus some translations) do not include the word “Christ.” In them, it simply says, “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus.” That would be more in line with verse 2:9 which said, “But we see Jesus...” It is Jesus who is the Person, and who did the things referred to, in Chapter 2. The author sums up all of that chapter in this one verse, and his pen then points to that Name above every name, Jesus.

Life application: If you are in a church which refers to the object of the faith as “Yehovah,” “Jehovah,” “Yahweh,” “YHVH,” or whatever name from the Old Testament that applies to the Lord, you have missed the point of what the New Testament is telling you. The Lord of the Old is Christ Jesus. They are One. God has determined that the name Yeshua, or Jesus, is the name which we are to speak, pray through, adore, follow, pursue, contemplate, and fix our thoughts on. To do otherwise fails to acknowledge the complete and finished work of what He has done in Messiah (Christ). Get your terminology straight, and set your eyes and heart on Jesus.

Lord God, the Name which is above every name is that of Jesus our Lord. You have slowly and steadily worked out Your plan of redemption in human history, culminating in what You did through Him. Help us to never trivialize this. Instead, may we exalt and glorify that magnificent name, JESUS, all the days of our lives. To Your glory. Amen.

...who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. Hebrews 3:2

The word “who” here is speaking of Jesus who was just referred to in verse 3:1. However, this is a present participle, and so “who was faithful” doesn’t convey the meaning of what the author is saying. It is more appropriately rendered “is faithful,” or “being faithful.” We aren’t asked to merely “consider” Him as Jesus the Person, but to think of Him in His faithfulness to God and on our behalf. It is of Jesus that we rightly say, “being faithful to Him.” “Him” here is speaking of God.

Jesus was faithful to God from whom He came. In the eternal mind of God, a plan was set forth to accomplish the redemption of man. There is nothing arbitrary or haphazard in this plan. God determined what would come about, and it is He “who appointed Him.” This is now speaking of God appointing Jesus. God arranged that Jesus would be the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, as noted in the previous verse. It was God’s determination that Jesus would come from Him, uniting with humanity (the incarnation). In this, Jesus would perform all that was necessary to sanctify His people, making them acceptable to God once again. After that, He would continue on as the Mediator of this New Covenant. It is an eternal service of God.

Finally, in this verse, the author then brings in a new comparison, that of Moses. He says, “as Moses.” Moses was looked to as the highest and greatest example of a humble, faithful messenger of the Lord. The books of Moses, time and time again, carefully record his faithfulness in accomplishing the tasks set before him. He was chosen as the human deliverer of the people. He was set in the role of their lawgiver. He was faithful to receive the word of God and to pass it on as it was received. And he even performed priestly functions before the appointment of Aaron as the high priest of the covenant. In these things, he “also was faithful in all His house,” meaning Moses was faithful in God’s house. The comparison is made in these words – Moses was faithful; Jesus is faithful.

In this chapter, Moses will be mentioned four times. The comparison here is then as Moses was the messenger (apostle) sent by God on behalf of His people, so Jesus is the Apostle who was likewise sent. Later, the comparison of Aaron (as high priest) to Jesus (as High Priest) will be made, but the author is slowly and methodically showing the supremacy of Christ in all ways. In that of Moses, it is a high challenge as well as a sensitive one. Moses was, and indeed still is, revered as one of the greatest figures in Jewish history.

Abraham was the father of the faith; Moses was the great deliverer, lawgiver (messenger of the covenant), and leader of God’s people; David was their great king. The author must carefully not diminish the greatness of such people while at the same time show the supremacy of Jesus in all ways. He shall accomplish this because Jesus was the source of these figures’ faith, and He is the anticipated realization of everything they spoke of and hoped for. These men were not looking to be exalted in themselves, but to exalt the Lord through His coming Messiah.

Life application: If you speak to a Jew about the Law of Moses and degrade the person of Moses in the process, you will alienate that person immediately. When speaking of Jesus, it is necessary to show that He was the hope and anticipation of everything spoken by, and about, these men. In properly conveying this, there is a chance he will realize this and call on the One that these great men of faith only pointed to.

Lord God! There are great figures of faith in Scripture such as Abraham, Moses, and David. These men are remembered for their own faithfulness within Your plan, but they and their lives were only markers which pointed to the coming Messiah. What they did, and what they said, all looked in anticipation of Him. And He has come. In the Person of Jesus, all of their hope and all of the typology is realized. Thank You that we possess what they only anticipated. Thank You for Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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. Hebrews 3:3

For” expands on the thought of the previous verse. It said there that Christ Jesus “was faithful to Him who appointed Him.” Moses was then immediately introduced by saying that he “also was faithful in all His house,” meaning “God’s house.” The logic is that if Moses was faithful in all of God’s house, he was still faithful as a servant of God (as will be seen by the term “servant” in verse 3:4). With this understanding, we come to grasp what the author intends with the use of “For.” “For this One” refers to Christ Jesus. It is He who “has been counted worthy.”

The idea of being counted worthy ties again to His having been faithful to “Him who appointed Him.” Initially, it appears that He is on the same level as Moses. If Moses was faithful to God, and Jesus was faithful to God, then both are counted worthy to the same degree, right? No. The thought continues, “For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses.”

How can this be? To this point, nothing has been said of Him that would justify this, and yet the estimation is made nonetheless. Both were appointed by God, both were faithful, and yet Christ Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses. The idea of “glory” here is that He is worthy of more honor and dignity than that of Moses. This could cause consternation with a Jewish audience, because Moses, and the law which came through him, was considered the foundation of Jewish life. At the end of Deuteronomy, this is said of Moses –

But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, 12 and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” Deuteronomy 34:10-12

The man Moses was thus held in the highest esteem. To now speak of Jesus as being worthy of greater glory thus necessitates a sound and reasonable explanation. And so one is next provided beginning with, “inasmuch as He who built the house.” God is the Builder of the House, but here Christ Jesus is said to be the One who “built the house.”

The Greek word used signifies “to prepare” or “form.” This would include everything associated with the materials, arrangement, etc. This is the job of the architect. He lays out the plans, determines how much brick, piping, wood, etc are to be used. He then shows where those things go, even to the minutest detail. The word used so far has only been found four times in the three synoptic gospels when referring to John the Baptist preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. He was setting up and arranging Israel to be ready for Christ to accomplish His mission. In the case of Christ, it is He who has done all the preparation for the building of the house. It is because he built the house that He “has more honor than the house.”

It seems (but such is not the case) that the author has confusion of thought, equating Christ Jesus with God – God built the house over which Moses presided. But Jesus is the builder of the house. There is no confusion. Rather, it is then an explicit reference to Jesus’ deity. As Vincent’s Word Studies says, “The point of the whole, however, is that Moses was a part of the O.T. system – a servant in the house; while Christ, as one with God who established all things, was the founder and establisher of both the Old and the New Testament economies.”

Moses was a servant in God’s house, but he was a servant to Christ Jesus, and thus Christ Jesus is worthy of more glory, because He is God. The only reason why someone would deny this obvious conclusion is that they would come to the text with a presupposition that this cannot be what the author is saying. However, the next verses will bear out that this is exactly what is being said.

Life application: There are those who hold to the Law of Moses as binding today. However, if one understands that Christ Jesus is the Author of the Old Covenant, and that He has now authored a New Covenant in His blood, thus annulling the first, then it becomes clear that we are no longer under the Old. And such is the case. However, the author of Hebrews had to first demonstrate that Jesus is the Author of both. In doing so, what He has done in no way diminishes the Law of Moses, but rather exalts it in Him and for us. He accomplished for us what we could not do ourselves. Stand firm on the idea that we are not under the Old, but under the New. To reinsert the Law of Moses is to diminish what Christ has done, and it is demeaning to Him.

Lord God, You have freed us from the bondage of the law, and You have given us freedom in a New Covenant. Thank You for our Lord Jesus through Whom You did this wonderful work. How grateful we are that we are freed from condemnation, and we are now set on a path to glory which can never be removed again. When we receive Christ Jesus, we are guaranteed eternal life! Hallelujah for what You have done! Amen.

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. Hebrews 3:4

It has been noted by scholars that this verse, if omitted, would not leave any loss in the train of thought, and so it appears perplexing as to why the author would simply restate the same words in the passage. However, this actually isn’t the case. The word “built” which is used twice in this verse, is the same word which was also used in the previous verse, and which signifies “to prepare” or “form.” It includes everything associated with the materials, arrangement, etc. This is the job of the architect –

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.”

It is obvious from verse 3 that Jesus was the builder of the house in which Moses served in (meaning the Old Covenant). The author now simply assumes the deity of Jesus which has already been revealed in several ways in the previous two chapters. He is the incarnate LORD (Yehovah) of the Old Testament. Using this as an axiom, he now says, “For every house is built by someone.”

Moses did not build his own house. He was a servant in the house which had been built by Yehovah. Now there is a New Covenant (a new house) which has been built. This house, too, has been built by the same Lord, meaning Yehovah, who is the Son. This is revealed in verse 3:6. With this understanding, the author now says, “but He who built all things is God.”

The author is not making a distinction between God and Jesus, as if Jesus is not God. Rather, he is uniting the two by showing that God, in Christ, is the Builder of all things. The same thought is expressed elsewhere by Paul where he uses the idea that God is in Christ, such as in 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 –

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

God and Christ are One; Christ is the means by which God has done these things. Whether it is judging the secrets of men (Romans 2:16); allowing man to die to sin (Romans 6:11); expressing the gift of salvation (Romans 6:23); demonstrating His love (Romans 8:39); reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19); or accomplishing all other acts of His glory, including the building all things, it has been done through Christ. What we now see in this verse then is the confirmation of what was stated in the analysis of the previous verse when citing Vincent’s Word Studies –

The point of the whole, however, is that Moses was a part of the O.T. system – a servant in the house; while Christ, as one with God who established all things, was the founder and establisher of both the Old and the New Testament economies.”

Without the inclusion of these seemingly unnecessary words, a logical connection to God in Christ may have been missed. However, by including it, the thought is brought to full light, even if it should already have been inferred from the nature of Christ. The idea then fits harmoniously with the thought of “the Word” as Jesus is referred to elsewhere. Jesus it the Word of God. It is through the Word that God created all things according to John 1:3. It is Jesus the Son who created all things according to Colossians 1:16. It is God in Christ, who is the Son, who is the Builder of all things here. Each term is given to show a unique aspect of Christ – be it Word, Son, or Christ, etc. – but they are all the same, they are all JESUS.

Life application: Do you have a nose? Go to the mirror and look at it. Is it on your face? From a proper interpretation of Scripture, it is as obvious as that nose on your face that Jesus is God. When people like the Jehovah’s Witnesses come a’knocking, tell them, “Take a hike, Henry Heretic. I follow the Lord God Almighty; I follow Jesus.” Don’t allow anyone to misdirect You from the glory of what God has done in Christ – the Word of God; the Son of God.

Heavenly Father, You are glorious in all that You are. If the beauty, splendor, wisdom, and marvel that we see in the creation is so magnificent, how much more glorious are You, from whom these things came? The house is not greater than the builder, nor is creation greater than the Creator. How gloriously splendid You are, O God. And so we praise You now and forever. Dwell in our praises, O God. Amen.

And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, Hebrews 3:5

This verse makes explicit that which was already inferred. Taken together, the previous verse and this one say –

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.”

The word kai, or “and,” which begins verse 5 is given to continue developing the thought which has already been put forth, and which started in verse 3:2. The “house” referred to is the Old Covenant. The author is telling us that “Moses indeed was faithful.” Moses carefully executed his duties and responsibilities under the covenant which was given through him. But he is, in fact, only a servant of the house. He did not build it, nor was he the head of it. Throughout the law, it is constantly repeated, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying...” The Lord built the house; Moses responded to the command of the Lord, executing his assigned duties as instructed.

The faithfulness of Moses is of high note, and he is thus honored for it, but that honor extends only to the execution of his duties and not to the planning of what was to be done by the Lord who prepared all things in advance. And those things that were planned by God, and then faithfully executed by Moses, were “for a testimony.”

The meaning of this is that they contained truths which would be revealed. A testimony speaks out about a matter. The Lord organized and prepared all things, and then He spoke to Moses who then recorded those things. This made the will of God known to the people. But which people are being referred to? The question is important to consider because the final words of the verse state that they would be a testimony “of those things which would be spoken afterward.” Note that the word “afterward” is italicized. It is thus inserted.

There are two views on what this means. One view is that it merely speaks of those things which pertained to the time when the law was given, and for the people of that dispensation. Hence, Moses received instruction, and he passed on to the people those instructions. His faithfulness was as a testimony of those things which would be spoken to him and for the people who would then receive it. As Albert Barnes states, “The sense is, Moses was a mere servant of God to communicate his will to man.”

The second view is that Moses’ faithfulness was a testimony to things spoken which were coming in a later dispensation. In other words, the Law was pointing forward to the Dispensation of Grace. Vincent’s Word Studies states, “The meaning is that Moses, in his entire ministry, was but a testimony to what was to be spoken in the future by another and a greater than he.” This view is supported by the fact that Deuteronomy 18:15, which speaks of a coming Prophet like Moses, was fulfilled in Christ, as is noted in Acts 3:22, 23.

As the participle is in the future sense, the second option is surely on the author’s mind. It is true that Moses was faithful as a servant, and his faithfulness was a testimony to the people who then received the word through him. That continued on throughout the dispensation of the law. However, the law itself only pointed to Christ. It pointed to Him explicitly in passages such as Deuteronomy 18:15; it pointed to Him implicitly in countless types and shadows; and it pointed to him by revealing truths which the law failed to resolve, as is explained in minute detail by Paul in Galatians 3.

The law which was received by Moses anticipated something better. Moses was faithful as a servant under the law which was given (built) by the Lord. The New Covenant is that better thing which the law anticipated, and the same Lord (Christ Jesus) is the builder of that New Covenant. In this, the supremacy of Christ over Moses is seen; and in this, the supremacy of the New Covenant over the Old is also seen.

The author of Hebrews is carefully leading his Hebrew audience to an understanding that the law is not an end in and of itself. Instead, it, and its servant Moses, both looked forward to the New Covenant. A new dispensation, built on better promises, would come from the Builder of all things.

Life application: The law pointed to Christ Jesus. In the coming of Christ Jesus, the law is annulled. As this is true, why would anyone want to go back under the law? The end-purpose of the law is to lead man to Jesus. In Him, full access to the very throne of God is realized for the people of the world. Let us never fall back on the law which keeps us from access to that throne of grace!

Glorious God, thank You that we have full access to Your throne of grace through the shed blood of Christ. He is our Mediator, and He never fails in this role. When we come to You through Him, our prayers are heard. We can have every confidence that You will handle them according to your infinite wisdom, and You will respond according to what is best for us. May we hold fast to this truth always. Amen.

...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. Hebrews 3:6

The author now contrasts Moses of the previous verse to Christ here. Moses was a servant “in all His house.” This is speaking of Moses serving in God’s house. In contrast to that is Christ who is “as a Son over His own house.” The translation is not good. The word “own” should not be supplied. The Greek reads, “over the house of Him.” The word “Him” is speaking of God. The rendering should be, “but Christ as a Son over His house.” “His” is speaking of God. And so, speaking of God’s house, we can see the contrast –

Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant

...but Christ as a Son over His house

As has already been stated, this in no way diminishes the deity of Christ. He is fully God and fully Man. However, Christ the Man is what is being highlighted here. The Son of God is over the house of God. And what is that house? The author continues with the answer by saying, “whose house we are.” The author speaks in the plural, including himself and all others who are the house. The true house of God consists of the people of God. It is our fixed condition. This is referred to by both Paul and Peter elsewhere –

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4, 5

As you can see, the term “we” is being applied to the house of God cumulatively. An individual is not the house of God, he is a “member” in it, a living stone. And so, after noting that the people of God are, in fact, the house of God, the author then says that this is so “if we hold fast.” Again, he speaks in the plural. It is speaking of the people of the house. This is a theme which the author uses in Hebrews in order to keep the audience strong in the faith that they profess.

He then continues with, “the confidence.” The word “confidence” is a compound word formed from pas, or “all,” and rhésis, or “speech.” Thus, it is “a proverb or statement quoted with resolve” (HELPS Word Studies). It then is a witness to something that deserves to be taken seriously. After this he adds in, “and the rejoicing.” The Greek word speaks of a boasting which focuses on the object of the boasting. If it is in the Lord, it is positive. If it is in self, it is negative.

The author then says, “of the hope.” The hope is the rest of God (verse 3:11) as the house of God. One cannot hope for what one does not anticipate. The hope of the house, meaning the people of God, is a belief that the promises of God for His house will be realized. Thus, the confidence and rejoicing are in this rest that has been granted to the people of God, and which has come through the work of Christ. This hope is what we (plural) are to possess “to the end.” We are not to allow our confidence to waiver, nor are we to allow our rejoicing to falter. They are the evidences of the salvation of the people of the house, and they are what mark each as a member of the house of God, over which is the Son.

The word “end” here is telos. This is not speaking of the end of life, as if in a termination. It is “the point into which the whole life of faith finally gathers itself up” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Thus, this is speaking not of an individual faith which must be maintained, but the collective hope being expressed by the audience. One cannot hold fast to something when they are dead; only the collective can. The author’s examples of this which lie ahead show that this is speaking of a whole group, not merely individuals striving for salvation.

This entire clause, “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end,” is wrongly assumed to indicate one can lose his salvation, as if simply losing our confidence and rejoicing in the work of the Lord is sufficient to condemn us. Actually, the opposite is the case. It is saying that those (plural as indicated) who do have true faith, which is grounded in boasting and confidence, will keep that to the end, showing that they are God’s house (as it says, “whose house we are”). If it were not so, God would have no house, nor could He have one until the very end.

The words are similar to what Paul says in Colossians 1:23 where he says, “if indeed.” The idea is, “If, as I presume.” There is a needful warning for the people of God, but the author does not anticipate failure. Rather, he refuses such a notion.

To think of what is going on, we can look to Israel in their relationship with the Lord. The Lord has promised to maintain Israel forever as a people. However, Israel as a people has often lost its confidence and rejoicing in the Lord. Despite this, they are still the Lord’s, and He has faithfully preserved them. The same is true with each individual in Christ. The Lord will never reject Israel collectively, and He will never reject those individuals who have faith in Christ. He is asking that his audience maintain their confidence as a whole. Christ is over the house (of who we collectively are), and we are to retain the confidence and rejoicing in that unto the end. In the case of the immediate context, the author is writing to the Hebrew believers.

Although this is getting a bit ahead, to show that this is not speaking of a loss of salvation, the coming verses will speak of disobedience and rebellion which lead to not entering God’s rest (verse 3:18). However, verse 4:3 says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” Therefore, those who have believed have entered into God’s promise. The words here, and to come, are speaking of those who have not believed. This will be explained again as the verses continue.

Life application: If we accept the words of salvation as an axiom – that we are saved by grace through faith, and that we are sealed as a guarantee – then we should be confident in that and rejoice in that, together with all the people of God’s house. All who have accepted Christ are individuals who then collectively make up the house of God. The house exists, and so we are to be confident in that. Our individual failure to maintain this confidence will not negate the fact that the house exists.

Lord God, thank You for the assurance of salvation You have granted to those who have been saved by You through the work of Christ. And thank You that this salvation is guaranteed from that moment on. You have given us a deposit until the time of our redemption, the Holy Spirit. No fear here! Knowing that we are sealed, we can be confident in the hope we profess. What Your word says is truth. Thank You for this wonderful assurance. Amen.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Hebrews 3:7

The word “Therefore” is asking us to consider what has been put forth so far. Christ has been presented as greater than Moses who was faithful in the house of God as a servant within the house, meaning those of the Old Covenant. Christ is over the house as a Son, meaning those of the New Covenant. The implication is that the covenant Jesus has established is superior to the covenant given at Sinai, because Christ, the Lord, gave both covenants, and the second is administered by Him personally. The author is addressing the Hebrews who might be considering a return to Moses, rather than accepting the provision of the New Covenant, but that would be a step down and back to a lesser. It would be a rejection of the greater covenant brought forth by God in Christ.

Because of these things, the author then adds in several verses which are considered parenthetical. The word “Therefore” is actually tied to the word “Beware” which is given in verse 3:12 – “Therefore … Beware.” With this understanding, the author begins his parenthetical thought with, “as the Holy Spirit says.” He will next cite Scripture, meaning that the words are inspired by the Holy Spirit. What he cites comes from Psalm 95. This quote here is the last line of Psalm 95:7 –

For He is our God,
And we 
are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice:”

The English translation generally gives an incorrect sense of what is being said in the Greek. “Today” signifies the present. This word will be presented several times in the verses and chapters ahead. When it is, it is normally translated with a capital T, even when it is cited apart from the verse. The capitalization is a highlight on the thought of Today as being whatever moment is being referred to.

The psalm is speaking of the rejection of the Lord in the wilderness wanderings, even before entering Canaan. It is written by David (see Hebrews 4:7) many generations later – Today. The author of Hebrews is quoting the Psalm at the time of Christ – Today. The epistle is directed to the Jews of the end times (after the epistles of Paul) – Today. One must understand the importance of Today in Hebrews to grasp what is being said to the Jewish audience, understanding that it is especially addressed to them.

The author then completes the verse with, “if you will hear His voice.” The words make one think of “If you are willing to hear His voice.” This is not the intent. Rather, it is an imperative – “Oh! That you would hear His voice today.” This can be taken in one of two ways, either, “obey His voice,” or “pay attention to His voice in what will continue to be said in the words of the Psalm.” Either way, it is asking for the reader to be mindful of the word of the Lord. Albert Barnes notes what this actually signifies in a full sense –

His voice – The voice of God is speaking to us:
(1) in his written word;
(2) in the preached gospel;
(3) in our own consciences;
(4) in the events of his Providence;
(5) in the admonitions of our relatives and friends. Whatever conveys to us the truth of God, or is adapted to impress that on us, may be regarded as ‘his voice’ speaking to us. He thus speaks to us ‘"every day’ in some of these ways; and every day, therefore, he may entreat us not to harden our hearts.”

Life application: Today is the day. Paul says that Today is the day of salvation. This is true any day it is Today for the one who does not yet know the Lord. Today is also the day for the believer to present the good news to the unbeliever. Today is all we have. Yesterday cannot be reclaimed, and Tomorrow is a mere hope which may never come. Today we are to be about the Lord’s business before Today is no more and our chance has passed for conducting the work of Today.

Lord God, Your word speaks of Today as being the day. We have no chance of returning to Yesterday to correct deficiencies, to right our wrongs, or to make up for what was left undone. We also have nothing in Tomorrow, except a hope which may never come to pass. Today is what You have given to us to do what is proper and honoring of You. And so help us to use Today wisely, knowing that this day which we possess is destined to end. May we use Today to Your glory. Amen.

Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

In the day of trial in the wilderness, Hebrews 3:8

Here now is cited the next lines of Psalm 95:8 which read –

Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,”

The Hebrew words are meribah (rebellion) and massah (trial), and they speak of the times when the people rebelled against the Lord (Exodus 17:7 & Numbers 20:13) and when they tempted the Lord (Exodus 17:7). The words of this verse in Hebrews are taken from the Greek translation of the Old Testament and they include an article before the word “trial.” Thus it more appropriately says, “In the day of the trial.”

In other words, the verse is speaking of the time of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, from the Exodus from Egypt, at the beginning (Exodus 17), all the way through until the end when they were ready to enter Canaan (Numbers 20). They had rebelled, and they had tested the Lord. By citing it this way, it showed that they were disobedient through and through. Their hearts were hard, their necks were stiff, and they remained stubborn.

The author here in Hebrews now cites this in his parenthetical words (remember that verse 3:7 said “Therefore,” and verse 3:12 will say, “Beware”). Citing the psalm is a warning. “Do not harden your hearts,” asks them to not ignore the divine call of God in Christ. God called Israel in the wilderness and gave them the covenant. Christ fulfilled the law and instituted the New Covenant. They are being implored to recognize this and not turn from it “as in the rebellion.” The word here signifies “to make bitter.” The people stirred up bitterness and irritated the Lord through their lack of faith.

The words then continue with, “As in the day of [the] trial.” The word “day” signifies the entire time frame of the wilderness wanderings, not just a single day. It was a time of trial. The Lord tested the people’s faithfulness, and the people tested the Lord through their unfaithfulness. The idea of testing the Lord is not one of testing Him to do evil (as is noted as impossible in James 1:13), but that His patience towards their actions was tested. In those who demonstrate a lack of faith in Him, the response is wrath.

All of this was “in the wilderness.” The people tested and provoked the Lord continuously. They did it concerning the lack of food, and He gave them manna. They did it at the waters of Massah, and He gave them fresh water. They did it at the incident of the golden calf, and the covenant was reestablished. They did it at Taberah when they wanted meat, and He gave them quail. They did it in Korah’s rebellion, and on the next day after punishing many, He spared them. They did it in the account of the spies who disheartened the people. They did it after that when they determined to go up to Canaan without the Lord’s approval. They did it again at Kadesh when they again lacked water. Even Moses disobeyed through unbelief and struck the rock when he was told to only speak to it.

Again and again, the people provoked the Lord and tested Him. The author cites this because it shows an on-going, even continuous, streak of faithlessness in the provision of the Lord. If the people were judged because of this, how much more should they be judged for rejecting the greater promises found in Christ Jesus!

Life application: The Lord has provided the redemption. He now expects us to demonstrate faith that this is the case. How can we properly live in His rest, when we fail to recognize that we have already been granted it through faith in Christ? In the end, the only ones who actually suffer are us. Let us stand confidently in the faith we have professed in Christ, and let us not test the Lord in our times of affliction.

Heavenly Father, it is not an easy thing to place our faith solely in You, but this is what we are asked to do. Israel was led into the wilderness, and they were wholly dependent on You. In that day, they provoked You and they tried Your patience in their lack of faith. We have been redeemed, and yet we still act in the same manner. Why should we lack faith or be fearful when the outcome is assured? We have all we need in Christ to sustain us for eternity. Is today not a part of that as well? Help us, Lord, in our lack of faith. Amen.

Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,

And saw My works forty years. Hebrews 3:9

The words here correspond to Psalm 95:9, 10. As you will see, the “forty years” is connected to the following clause in the translation from the Hebrew –

When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation,”

It is a close citation of the Hebrew, but it much more closely matches the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The words, “Where your fathers tested me,” speak of “the wilderness” mentioned in verse 3:8. Mentioning the fathers is a way of tying the Jewish audience of Hebrews directly in with those who were disobedient. In essence, he is saying, “The very same people that you descended from are those who tested the Lord.” They were under the covenant that the Lord had made with them, and yet they pushed Him to the limits in regard to that same covenant. Going on, he then says, “tried me.”

The sense here is setting about to make an experiment of how much the Lord would endure. He set the parameters for faithful obedience, and they would step over those boundaries to see what they could get away with. The Sabbath law was given, and an example of Sabbath-breaking is recorded (Numbers 15). The regulations for the priesthood were given, and two of Aaron’s sons decided to go beyond those guidelines (Leviticus 10). The line of the priesthood was determined, and yet certain Levites challenged that decision (Numbers 16). On and on it went with Israel, both testing and trying the Lord. The idea is that Israel set about to push the Lord’s buttons, wondering what kind of a reaction they could get out of Him each time.

Tied into this, the verse next says, “And saw My works.” This is certainly speaking in a two-pronged way. First, they saw His works on behalf of the people. He brought the great plagues upon Egypt. He brought them out through the Red Sea. He guided them with a pillar of cloud and fire. Again and again, His works were on display so that nobody could deny that He had done those things. And yet, they rebelled against Him; and they moaned, complained, and rejected Him. When they did, He would show them His works in another way. He would bring judgment upon them for their disobedience. Time and again such works were recorded, demonstrating that He was displeased with their irreverent and unholy attitude. And this continued “forty years.”

This is the time recorded from the Exodus until their entrance into Canaan. The exact time-frame is recorded first in Numbers as a surety that it would come about, and then in Joshua showing that it had occurred –

According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. 35 I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.” Numbers 14:34, 35

For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lordto whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’” Joshua 5:6

As a parallel to this, the Lord Jesus gave Israel another chance to turn from their ways and to come to Him. From the time that the gospel was preached, until the overthrow of Jerusalem, it was again a forty-year period. Jesus told them that this would be as the sign of Jonah to them. This is recorded in Luke –

And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, ‘This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.’” Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah was his preaching to the people at Nineveh (see Luke 11:32), which said that destruction would come in forty days. Like Israel in the wilderness, a day for a year was applied to Jesus’ words, and forty years later, the temple was destroyed. The people had again rejected the Lord, and they suffered for it.

The author of Hebrews is writing to them during this forty-year period. However, his words speak out to the Jewish audience of today, warning them of what will come upon them for continuing to reject the Lord and pursue their own perverse path.

Life application: The Bible says –

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

When will God’s people wake up and pay heed to the lessons of the past? God doesn’t change. By learning what pleases or displeases Him, from what is recorded, we can make right decisions about how to conduct our own lives. Let us study the word of God, and rightly apply it to our lives.

Heavenly Father, Your word is given to us to show us many things. One of those things is to know what is pleasing to You, and another is to know that which displeases You. By knowing how You have dealt with people in times past, we can know how You will deal with us now. Give us wisdom to not reject this, but to realize it as a certain truth. And then help us to live in accord with what You have revealed. May we be pleasing to You always through knowing and living out what You have revealed. Amen.

Therefore I was angry with that generation,

And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,

And they have not known My ways.’ Hebrews 3:10

These words continue with the quote from Psalm 95, specifically verse 10 –

For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.’”

In this verse, he begins with, “Therefore.” That is not a part of the psalm, but it is inserted by the author of Hebrews to show the logical outcome of what transpired. That outcome is based on the content of verses 3:8, 9 which speak of the hardening of the hearts of Israel, and of their provoking and trying the Lord. In response to that, the outcome is stated beginning with, “I was angry with that generation.”

The word translated as “angry” is found only here and in verse 3:17 of this chapter. It signifies feeling indignant at something. The Lord had displayed His greatness among Israel, and they had constantly rebelled against Him. Thus, He was truly irked at them. Based on this, the Lord then says, “They always go astray in their heart.”

Several of the wonders performed by the Lord were noted in the review of verse 3:9. That was but a few of them. Further, the cloud and the pillar were always present with the people. As it says at the close of Exodus –

Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

Despite the wonders, despite the continuous and visible presence of the Lord, and despite His corrective measures, Israel never stopped going astray in their hearts. It is the theme of their lives, being a contrary and stiff-necked people. The Lord could have eradicated them, He could have sent them back to the bondage of Egypt, or He could have multiplied their punishment of forty years of wandering if he wished. But forty years was sufficient to show that they would not change even if the time was doubled or tripled. They had proven themselves unable to be corrected. And this was because, as the Lord says, “And they have not known My ways.”

To know means both to understand and to acknowledge. The Lord had given His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances. They were given to instruct and guide the people. And yet, they neither grasped the importance of them, nor did they acknowledge their usefulness in either daily life, or in a proper relationship with the Lord. In the end, the reason for this comes down to a single word, faith. The people failed to trust the Lord and have faith in His decisions. The miracles worked among them were unable to correct the hardened state of their hearts, and the Lord thus made a determination concerning them. That is the subject of the next verse in Hebrews. It is a subject which will then be discussed in great detail by the author as he continues.

Life application: We don’t have the miraculous outward displays of the Lord before our eyes as Israel did, but we do possess two things which should stand as sufficient evidence of the Lord’s presence among us. The first is His word. It testifies to us of Him, and it should be sufficient to convince us of His presence in an ongoing way in the world today. The second is the ability of the word to change the lives of those who accept it for what it is. So many have been changed by the word, so continuously and for so many centuries, that it confirms the power of the word. We ignore this at our own peril. Be sure to believe the gospel message which contains such transformative power and be sure to apply the precepts of the Bible to your lives each day.

Lord God, there is power in the gospel message to change lives – both of individuals, and of groups of people. It has been preached for 2000 years, and those who have received it have had changed lives. In Your word, and in what it brings about in others, we have all the surety we need to accept it for what it is, by faith. Thank You that we have such a sure and precious word. Amen.

So I swore in My wrath,

They shall not enter My rest.’” Hebrews 3:11

This verse completes the references to Psalm 95, it being an exact quote of verse 11 of that psalm. The people of Israel had tested the Lord, tried His patience, gone astray in their hearts, and had not known the Lord’s ways. This continued on throughout the entire duration of their time in the wilderness. Therefore, the Lord’s wrath was aroused to the point where it says, “So I swore in my wrath.” He was pushed to the point where He swore, meaning He made an absolute statement which would not be revoked.

The “wrath” which is referred to by the psalmist, and which is then again referred to here in Hebrews, is originally recorded in Numbers 14:26-35. It is a promise that those of the congregation of Israel, who had been brought out of Egypt and saw His marvelous workings on their behalf, would be consumed in the wilderness. They would not be allowed to enter Canaan as He had said to them when He led them from Egypt. This is what the next, and final, clause of the psalm is referring to with the words “They shall not enter My rest.”

The “rest” spoken of here is receiving the inheritance promised to them. It is entering and possessing the land of Canaan. This is seen, for example, in Deuteronomy 12:9 –

...for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you.”

The reason they would not enter and possess was because of unbelief, as is noted first as a warning to the audience of Hebrews in verse 3:12, and then as explained of the people in the wilderness in verse 3:19. The people lacked faith (belief) in the Lord, and He said that because of this, “They shall not enter My rest.”

This is important to understand. Verse 3:6 is a verse (as noted at that time) which is used to show that we must persevere in our own selves in order to keep our salvation. However, verse 4:3 will negate such a thought when it explains that, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” It is not something that must be attained; it is something that has been realized – and that through belief.

The author is clearly showing the difference between those who have not believed and those who have. If those who have believed have entered their rest, then it cannot be that when he speaks of a future entering into God’s rest, that it applies to those who have already attained that state.

The word translated as “rest” here is found only once outside of the book of Hebrews, in Acts 7:49 when speaking of the place of the Lord’s rest. Now, it will be used eight times in chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews. Though it is speaking of Canaan as the anticipated rest for the people of Israel, that is only being used as a picture of entering God’s true rest, which is the promise of dwelling securely with the Lord for those who are saved. Tied up in this then is the “rest” of God which is noted in Genesis 2:3 –

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

That “rest” of God was then cited as the basis for Israel’s observance of a Sabbath day in Exodus 20:8-11 –

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

The Sabbath, then, was given as a sign to Israel of the rest which God was in, and which would someday be granted to the Lord’s people. Entrance into Canaan was a picture of entering that state of rest – God’s eternal Sabbath. These things need to be understood now because they were only pictures, not the reality themselves. It is by faith in Messiah that one actually enters into God’s rest. First, this happens upon belief in the work of the Messiah. In that act, a person is given the guarantee of having been placed positionally into God’s rest (Hebrews 4:3). It is done in God’s mind. At some future point, that guarantee will then actually be realized when we enter into His presence.

How can it be verified that these two rests – the Sabbath and entering Canaan – are only types of heaven? Because Moses did not enter Canaan (God’s rest). If those in the wilderness were actually not saved, Moses would not be saved. However, Moses is clearly accepted by God as evidenced by his presence with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration as is recorded in the gospels. He was not lost, nor was every person in the wilderness lost eternally. Further, those who did enter Canaan would all be considered “saved.” However, Joshua 7 will show that Achan was destroyed soon after entering Canaan because of his faithlessness. Therefore, these things are recorded as examples of spiritual truths only.

Those who were saved, and those who are not, are up to the Lord. What is important to understand is that Israel was collectively being used as types of what occurs in the individual now in relation to Christ – believe and be saved (enter God’s rest), or be condemned through unbelief.

Life application: The study of Hebrews brings out truths which are often very hard to grasp. It is as if they are right at the edge of our thinking, but it seems as if words are actually insufficient to properly explain what is occurring. Such is not the case, but clinging to the commentary of a single individual will inevitably leave a void in our understanding of what is being relayed. Read the word, think on the things it says, check out various commentaries, and then read the word and think on what is being said again. In the end, the one thing that is sure is that we are saved – eternally – by having faith in Jesus Christ.

Lord God, You gave us types and pictures of what You would do in the coming of Messiah all throughout the Old Testament. Each story, each law, and each precept was given to help us understand Him and His work better. In His coming, we can read those things and see the marvel of what You have done through Him. Thank You, O God, for the wonder of life in Christ. By simple faith in His work, everything from those writings then makes sense. We have a sure hope which is grounded in Him! Amen.

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; Hebrews 3:12

The words of this verse now resume the “Therefore” of verse 3:7. Everything since then has been parenthetical – “Therefore...Beware, brethren...” Understanding this, the word “Beware” is given as a warning based on what came before the “Therefore.” In verse 3:6 it says, “whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” Now, as a warning concerning that, he warns his audience to beware, and then says, “brethren.” He is speaking to his Jewish audience who are in the same situation as were the Hebrews of old. It is they who were referred to in the examples provided from Psalm 95.

The principle of unbelief has been exactingly established. They saw the great and awesome works of God, and they still turned their heart from him in unbelief. The author knows the past, and he is warning so that the pattern will not be repeated in those he is writing to. However, he then says, “lest there be.” The words are in the indicative mood signifying that it is not merely possible that it could happen, but that there is a reason for thinking it will be so. If the past is a good judge of what will happen again, then it seems such will be the case.

From there he says, “in any of you.” In these words, he is not only appealing to the group, but also individually. There is the group who is to be watchful, but there is the need to look at each person within the group and ensure that they not fall into unbelief. If it appears this is the case, then they are to take the advice that will be provided in the coming verse. For now, the “any of you” is speaking of having “an evil heart of unbelief.”

One can see the words of verse 3:8 being repeated here. There it said, “Do not harden your hearts.” Now that is being repeated to the audience. In essence, he is saying, “lest there be in any of you – as will most likely be the case based on past experience – an evil heart of unbelief.” And why would he assume that? It is because of what followed in verse 3:10, “They always go astray in their heart.” Instead of accepting that God is in control, relying on His provision, and remaining faithful, they departed from him. Their hearts were evil, and they lacked faith that He would, in fact, fulfill His words to them.

In their unbelief, their heart was considered evil because it led them to depart “from the living God.” The living God is now set apart from all other gods which are mere lifeless idols. He is alive, and thus He is aware. As He is aware, He knows of the needs of His people, and He will provide according to the promises He has made to them. Not one of them shall fail. However, if their heart is one of unbelief, as the living God, He is not unaware of their turning. In such a case, He will bring judgment on them, just as He has done in the past.

What needs to now be understood is that “the living God” is being equated to “Christ as a Son over His own house” of verse 3:6. The turning away from the Lord in the Old Covenant is equated to turning away from Christ in the New. To do this is to leave oneself exposed to the same wrath of God that befell those who tested and tried the Lord in the past.

Again, it needs to be considered what is being spoken of concerning God’s rest. Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan because of the sin of unbelief in striking instead of speaking to the rock. And yet we know that Moses is a saved person. The “rest” then was something that was anticipated in Canaan, and it is based on Creation (God rested on the seventh day). This needs to be remembered to understand what is coming in the verses ahead, especially as the author moves into the next chapter.

Life application: Faith is what God looks for in His faithless creatures. He asks His people to believe His promises, and to hold fast to them. We cannot expect anything beyond what He has promised though. For example, God has promised His people heaven where all things will be made new, including no more pain. But this is not heaven. We cannot expect to live in this current life free of pain. Our faith is to look forward to the promises while enduring the present which may be lacking what is only to be realized in the future.

Heavenly Father, help us not to question Your goodness as we face pains, tears, and loss. You have promised a day ahead when such things will be behind us. But that day is not yet here. Until then, we will experience all kinds of temptations and trials. And so help us to look in faith to that more perfect time, and to endure this current life without losing heart in Your sure promises. They will come to pass. Until then, help us to remain strong in our faith. Amen.

...but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

The word “but” is given as a contrast to what was just said. The author spoke of any one of the congregation as having an “evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” In order to keep that from occurring, he offers sound and practical advice, which is to “exhort one another daily.” The word “exhort” here means to build up and encourage one another, to give comfort, and to console. The theme is found throughout the writings of Paul, such as in 1 Thessalonians 4:18. There he says to “comfort one another.”

The idea here is to not be like those in the wilderness, and to grumble and complain about how bad their situation was, and how much better it was before He brought them out of Egypt. It was as if God had made a mistake by bringing them out, and He became the object of their blame. If such a root of bitterness were to arise, others were to encourage him in an attempt to quell the bitterness. From there, he says, “while it is called ‘Today.’” A literal rendering of the Greek would be, “as long as the Today is proclaimed.” The word “Today” is prefixed by a definite article, setting it off as a particular moment in time.

The thought brings the reader back to verse 3:7 which said, “Today if you will hear His voice.” There was a day when the voice of God was heard. It was disregarded, and so God, through the Psalmist, said again, “Today if you will hear His voice.” The author of Hebrews, citing this many, many centuries later again says, “Today if you will hear His voice,” and he tells them that daily the Today is proclaimed. But the word “while” indicates that it is a set time. Someday, the Today will be gone. Today is the day. It is a day when God’s voice can be heard, and it is a day when salvation can be found. It is reflective of Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 6 –

We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says:
In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2

Grace is offered Today. It is Today then that the reader is to exhort one another concerning this offering, as the author then says, “lest any of you be hardened.” The word “you” is in the emphatic position which is intended to contrast the reader of Hebrews with the fathers. He is specific that what happened to them should not be repeated. The hardening he refers to is what was stated in verse 3:8 – “Do not harden your hearts.” He will continue to explain this, and then he will restate it again in verse 3:14. It is obvious that he fully expects this possibility to arise, because there has already been the example set in Israel during the wilderness wanderings. The hardening happened, and it was “through the deceitfulness of sin.”

In the Greek, there is an article before “sin.” It is “through the deceitfulness of the sin.” Here, sin is personified. It is as a living force that creeps in and steals away the softened heart, causing it to harden. The specific sin spoken of is that of the previous verse, unbelief. The Hebrew audience is asked to encourage one another, and to do so while it is “Today,” because there may be those who simply refuse to believe. The deceitful enemy is there before them, and they must ensure it is challenged until a state of belief exists. If they believe, they will enter God’s rest (verse 4:3), if they fail to believe, they will not (verse 3:19).

Life application: For the believer in Christ, we are sealed with God’s Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the eternal life which is promised. But that only comes through belief. Apart from belief in the finished work of Christ, there is nothing we can do, and there is nothing we can give to God, which will bring us to salvation. The author is building his argument for his Jewish audience, preparing them for the decision. Will they choose Christ, or will they go back to temple worship? Though Hebrews was written to the first century Jews, while the temple was still standing, its placement in Scripture shows that the words are directed to the Jews of the end times, when there will be another temple standing. What path will they choose? The author exhorts them to not be caught up in the deceitfulness of the sin of returning to the temple service.

Heavenly Father, You have placed the sun and the moon in their orbits, and You have dug out the pits of the oceans. Birds fly through the expanse of the sky, and monkeys swing in the trees. Everything has a place, and all things work according to Your purposes. Why does such obvious wisdom fail to spark the mind of man? Why do we turn from it and say it was all just time and chance? Lord, help us to understand Your presence, and to acknowledge You for Your acts of glory. Great are You, O God, and greatly are You to be praised. Amen.

For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, Hebrews 3:14

The words here have a similar ring to the words of verse 3:6. Both are in the plural (we), both include the conditional “if,” and both speak of “the end.” Putting them side by side will show this –

3:6 – 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.

3:14 – For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 

Understanding this, we see that verse 3:14, like verse 3:6, is not a verse which speaks of an individual possessing and keeping his salvation. The words speak of the collective body being 1) Christ’s house, and 2) partakers of Christ.

For we have become” are words directed to the Hebrew audience. “For” is given to explain what was just said about exhorting one another lest there be a hardening of one of the group. “We have become” asserts a fact. There was a point at which they had gone from one state to another. The tense is perfect, the mood is indicative, the voice is active – “We are become.” The audience has “become partakers of Christ.”

As the author is speaking to the Hebrews, he is making the statement that the Jewish people have become partakers with Christ. The word “partakers” signifies companionship and sharing in something. There is a partnership which has been enjoined through the union. It is the same word given in verse 3:1 which says, “partakers of the heavenly calling.”

They are included in all of the rights and benefits which are granted to the Messiah, which He bestows upon them as His people. This is the same as the group who were brought out of Egypt. They had become the people destined for entrance into Canaan. However, because of the failure of the people through unbelief, that right was taken from them and another generation took their place. The same is true with the Hebrew audience here. They had become partakers with Christ. Everything that was promised to them would be granted to them. However, there is a caveat. The author goes on to say, “if we hold the beginning of our confidence.”

Indeed, it is a conditional thought – “We have become… if.” This is speaking to the whole, just as it did of those who were in the wilderness. If there was not a collective positive response, there would not be a granting of the benefit. The Cambridge commentary notes that the word “beginning” here “does not here imply anything inchoate or imperfect, but is merely in contrast with ‘end.’” The Pulpit Commentary then explains the thought with, “Go on as you began.” The Hebrews had been selected, Messiah had come, they carried the ball from there. If this confidence continued, they would indeed be and remain “partakers of Christ.”

The Greek word translated as “confidence” here is not the same as in verse 3:6. There, it was a boldness; here, it is an assurance. It is that which gives substance to something, as if in a guarantee. Understanding this, the author finishes up his thought. The Hebrews were to hold fast to their confidence (their assurance) “steadfast to the end.” Like in verse 3:6, the word “end” here is telos. This is not speaking of the end of life, as if in a termination. It is “the point into which the whole life of faith finally gathers itself up” (Vincent’s Word Studies).

Thus, this is speaking not of an individual faith which must be maintained, but the collective faith being expressed by the audience. One cannot hold fast to something when he is dead; only the collective can. There is no “individual” reference being made here. Rather, it is the Hebrew people who are being addressed as a community who are being instructed on entering God’s rest. And his focal point for this state is the awesome day known as “Today.” Again, as after 3:6, the author will provide an example of the collective loss of a right when he speaks of the group of people who were denied entry into Canaan, meaning the “rest” which was promised to them.

As before, this is not speaking of individual salvation, but a state which belongs to the whole. The question is, did the Hebrew audience of this epistle hold fast to the confidence in a manner which was “steadfast to the end”? No! Israel as a whole failed to do so, and the church went from Jewish-led, to Gentile-led. They did not, as a group, remain partakers of Christ.

However, as has been noted before, the letter to the Hebrews is placed after the Gentile-led church-age epistles. It is a clue tied to the dispensational model. Israel was set aside, the Gentiles assumed control, but Israel will again be the focus of God’s attention. Because of this, there is yet hope for them! After the removal of the church, the attention will again be directed towards Israel. At that point, the words here will also again apply to them. If they meet the conditional “if” of these verses, they will enter their rest, meaning the millennium. The book is written, and it shows that they will, in fact, do so. Until then, there is individual salvation, but Israel as a whole is not yet again included in what is stated here concerning Today.

Life application: Though the doctrinal truths of the book of Hebrews apply to whoever is reading it, there is an intended audience to whom the author is specifically speaking – the Hebrew people. Ripping them out of the context, and then shoving the Gentile-led church into these verses, does a disservice to what is being said. It also leads to misdirected theology and people who believe they can lose their salvation. This is not the intent of what is being alluded to here.

Lord God, help us to keep our interpretation of biblical passages in their intended context. In doing so, we will be sound in our theology, able to answer questions properly, and we will certainly avoid perceived contradictions which otherwise arise. Above all, help us to not make the error that the church has replaced Israel. If we can get this one precept right, everything else rightly and logically finds its place. Help us to remember this! Amen.

...while it is said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Hebrews 3:15

It can be seen from these words that verse 14 is actually a parenthetical and explanatory thought. Taken together and placing parenthesis around it will show this –

...but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,) 15 while it is said:

Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’”

The author again cites Psalm 95, and his focus is once again on “Today.” The call is made, and it is one which requires a response. Through the psalmist, the Lord is looking back to the events of the past and showing what the results of the hardening of the heart through unbelief will be. He then sets a new day, based on those words, calling it Today. On that day, whatever day it is, and even unto the consummation of the event, the onus is on those appealed to, meaning the Hebrews, to not harden their hearts.

The Lord spoke to Israel and they rebelled, temping and testing Him. Christ now speaks again Today. The gospel has been proclaimed, and it must be responded to in order for Israel to enter their rest. Again, this is not to be applied individually. The words “you” and “your” are plural. It is true that salvation is something that occurs to individuals, and each who is saved is assured God’s rest, but that is not what is being spoken of here. Rather, it is speaking not of an individual rest, but of corporate rest for Israel.

This is certain because of verse 4:3 which speaks of those who have believed as entering into their rest. Each individual is a part of the whole. Out of all of the people who were 20 and above who came out of Egypt, who was it that entered Canaan? Only Joshua and Caleb. But even those who were younger, and who went in with them, did not enter God’s rest. This will be explained in Chapter 4 as well.

Life application: Chapter 4 will speak of the seventh day after creation, the day of God’s rest. This is the day which is anticipated for God’s people, a time of rest from their labors. It is a time where the ideal of Eden is realized. That ideal is man living in harmony with the Lord. For those who are looking forward to that, there is one way for it to come about, which is by faith. The unbeliever will have no part of God’s rest. What happened to Israel in the wilderness was given as a warning to people now. Believe God, and enter His rest. As God’s provision is in Christ, then we are to believe in Christ. In that belief, we enter God’s rest. When Israel believes in this provision, they will enter into the millennium, the seventh day of rest.

Lord God, Your word says that at some point, Christ will return and set up a thousand-year kingdom on earth; but before that day comes, there will be times of immense disaster and cataclysmic destruction on earth. This self-inflicted wound will come because we – as a species – simply fail to believe. For those who have trusted Christ, the promises of salvation are assured. For those who have not, bad times lie ahead. Help us to get this word out so that many may believe and be saved. Amen.

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Hebrews 3:16

The author now asks a question based on the words of the psalm that he just cited. Those words implored his Hebrew audience, that if they hear the voice of the Lord, to not harden their hearts as they did in the rebellion, meaning the time in the wilderness. It is based on the idea of it being Today. Obviously, he is telling them that Today is the Day. The voice of the Lord is calling. If, in fact, they hear, they need to respond differently than those who the psalm speaks of.

Now he asks “For who, having heard, rebelled?” It is an obvious question that requires an answer from the audience – both individually and collectively. Why is this so? Because he then answers the question for them, saying, “Indeed, was it not all.” He speaks of the entire congregation as a whole, not merely as individuals. It is already known that Joshua and Caleb did not harden their hearts, and they both entered Canaan. Further, Moses appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, clearly showing that he is a saved person. Thus, this cannot be speaking of salvation, but of entering God’s rest as a group of people.

With this understanding, we can see the error of the KJV which makes this verse a statement rather than a question, by translating this passage as, “For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.” It would be utter nonsense to say, “For some,” when speaking of over six hundred thousand men (plus their families) when only two adults entered into Canaan. Further, it is shown, quite clearly, that Joshua and Caleb did not enter the promised rest because the passage is speaking of the collective whole (see verse 4:8), not individuals. Rather than a statement, the Greek forms a question – “For who, having heard, rebelled?” This is confirmed then by the word “all” in the next clause.

The entire congregation (all) are “who came out of Egypt.” The author is clearly speaking of the collective whole that was led by Moses. Again, as stated in previous verses, the entire passage is taking the thought of the Hebrew people rebelling against the Lord, and thus not entering into His rest. Any individual that believes in Christ will enter that rest (verse 4:3), but when the collective rebels, the rest is denied to it. This is why the psalmist again sets another day, calling it Today. Israel has a Day in which they must believe as a whole before they can, as a whole, enter God’s rest. Jesus said as much in Matthew 23 –

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Matthew 23:37-39

After Jesus completed His work, were there Jews who believed? Obviously so. Acts testifies to this, and the author is one of them. Who is Jesus referring to then? He is referring to the collective whole as represented by their leaders who He calls “Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is the seat of power. The leaders in Jerusalem represent the whole, just as Moses represented the whole in the wilderness.

Life application: These verses are completely misunderstood because 1) the audience is not properly identified. It is the Hebrew people who are being spoken to. And, 2) the audience is taken as individuals, when in fact it is speaking to the whole about a matter which affects the whole. God has promised rest to His people (of whom the Gentiles are included). However, that rest for Israel is yet ahead for them as a people. Individuals enter God’s rest through belief, but the nation of Israel also enters into that rest as a whole through belief. It is the latter which is being referred to now.

Heavenly Father, Your word tells us that for those who trust in Christ, a state of rest is entered into. The work of God is to believe in the One You have sent, Jesus. He is our rest, and He has accomplished the work which grants us that state. All You ask us to do is to believe. What a gift! May many come to understand that the work is complete and that the rest is assured, all because of faith in Jesus. Thank You for what You have done through Him! Amen.

Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? Hebrews 3:17

The questioning of verse 16 continues now. The answer to each question is expected to be the same. He had asked who it was that rebelled? He then asked if it wasn’t the same group who came out of Egypt as led by Moses. Indeed, it was so. Israel had been brought out, and they had rebelled. Now he asks, “Now with whom was He angry forty years?” The answer is the same, “Israel.” It was their own forefathers who had rebelled, and it was they with whom the Lord was angry for forty years. That is recorded in Numbers 14:26-35.

The author next asks, “Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?” Again, it was so. Israel had sinned through unbelief. That is explicitly stated in Numbers 14:11 –

Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?’”

In that verse, the Lord ties their unbelief in with rejecting Him. Because of this, it says that their corpses fell in the wilderness. The word translated as “corpses” is found only here in the Bible. It literally means “limbs.” It is as if they rotted away as they traveled, falling apart limb by limb. It is the description used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and which the author continuously refers to for his citations. The idea here is that the corporate body, known as Israel, fell one after another until they were all dead. With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, all of those counted in the census perished before entering Canaan.

The author is using this example, which is then referred to in the psalms, to ensure that Israel understood that there was collective guilt in the past, and the same was sure to result again if they failed to believe the signs performed among them. This occurred in Israel’s failure to believe the signs of the Messiah. John testifies to this fact –

But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:

Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’

39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:

40 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” John 12:37-41

History had repeated itself, and Israel was about to fail to enter into their rest once again. The kingdom age would not come for Israel. But God has promised them this rest, and it will come about. A time is yet ahead in which it will be realized. Until then, their entry is on an individual basis, through faith in Christ. Someday, however, the collective body will believe, and they will enter the rest promised to them.

Life application: The Lord has spoken, and He expects us to believe His word. When we fail to believe, it is a rejection of Him. His word is intricately tied up in who He is. He is not a man that He should lie. When He speaks, it is a reflection of His character. Let us never be found wanting in our belief in His word.

Lord God, Your word is given, and we are expected to receive it as such. We are shown that a lack of belief in Your word is considered a rejection of You. Your word testifies to the coming of Christ Jesus, and thus a failure to believe in that is to reject You. Your word then explains the work of Christ and how it relates to our daily walk. To fail to walk according to what it says is again a rejection of You. Help us to get this straight, Lord. What Your word says reflects who You are. May we hold fast to what You speak, staying true to You always. Amen.

And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? Hebrews 3:18

The rapid-fire questions concerning Israel and their disobedience continue in this verse. The author now asks of them, “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest?” Israel was instructed that they were to go up to Canaan and subdue it, taking it as their possession. Rather than accept this course of action, they believed the bad report of the spies who were sent to determine the status of the land. In their refusal to trust the Lord by accepting that He would go before them and ensure their success, they turned their hearts back to Egypt (Numbers 14:4). Because of this, the Lord vowed –

Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.” Exodus 14:30

The idea of entering God’s rest was to be that of going into Canaan and subduing it. As God’s people, they would dwell in His presence and be free from external worries. It would be typical of heaven, a place of rest in which a state of rest exists. However, the Lord’s words went beyond allowing them to enter the land. Instead, those who were twenty and above would all die before even one of them, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, could put one foot into the land. And this was because, as the author says, they “did not obey.”

The Lord had set them on the path to Canaan, and they refused that path. Their disobedience was a complete lack of faith in the Lord’s promises. What is apparent, from the words of the psalmist, is that not only did the Lord promise that they would not enter His rest, but that rest which was anticipated would be put on hold. The next generation of Israelites entered Canaan, but David shows that the rest which was hoped for was still not realized at his time. The words, “Today, if you will hear His voice,” shows that God’s rest was still anticipated, even at David’s time. This will be explained in Chapter 4.

Life application: Whose voice is it that gives rest? It is obvious that it is the Lord, meaning Yehovah. That is based on the promise of rest being granted to the people of God, even in the Law of Moses. However, David, speaking of the same Lord, will show that His rest had not been realized for Israel. The author of Hebrews says that the rest which was promised is found in Jesus. As this is so, then it must be that Jesus is the incarnation of the Lord, Yehovah. It is hearing and believing His voice that allows entrance into God’s promised rest. Trust in Jesus, call on Him, and enter into the rest of God which has been anticipated since the beginning.

Heavenly Father, it is so very wonderful to know that there is a place of rest set aside for Your people. We look forward to the day when that will be realized in us. You have said that by faith in Jesus, we have entered Your rest. It is as assured to us as the coming of the new day. And so we shall have no fear now as we await the consummation of the promise we now possess! Thank You for Jesus who makes all things new. Amen.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19

The Greek reads, “And we see.” The author is not making a logical conclusion (So) based on the previous questions. Rather, he is issuing a statement of fact (And) that “they could not enter in.” The Hebrew people had been brought out of Egypt, they had seen marvelous signs of the Lord’s power and ability to accomplish all that He spoke, and yet every time the slightest difficulty arose, the people moaned and rebelled, acting as if the ability of the Lord to continue saving them was used up. Access to the land of Canaan was paved, but “they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

They were called out as a group of people, and as a group of people, they rebelled. In their rebellion, the Lord told them that they were barred from entering in. Only two were excepted – Joshua and Caleb. All others died along that same paved path. The Lord was not only capable of bringing them out of Egypt, but He was capable of leading them into Canaan, and of subduing the land before them. The only obstacle to the entire process was their unbelief. Because of their failure to believe, they did not obtain their promised rest.

The chapter ends on this note. It is from here that the author will explain what this means to his audience, and how they can ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated in the time set before them.

Life application: Though written to the Hebrews, the lesson to be learned does not change in regard to anyone else. God has spoken. Will we accept His word as it is written out and show faith in what it says? It is obvious that to not accept His word – be it in salvation, or in what salvation means for us into the future – is to openly demonstrate that He cannot be trusted. Let us never wring our hands in worry that even a single word will fail of His promises. He is God, and His word cannot fail.

It is so wonderful to know that we have a sure word from You, O God. And in that sure word, we can and should completely trust. Are You not God? Do You not know the end from the beginning? And is it not impossible for You to lie? As these are axioms, then why should we allow our hearts to fail when times of difficulty arise? Help us to remain steadfast that Your word is given as an everlasting guarantee. Amen.

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. Hebrews 4:1

The word “therefore” is given for the reader to contemplate what has been said about the people not entering God’s rest because of unbelief, as stated in Chapter 3. From there, it says, “since a promise remains of entering His rest.” This is the key idea of the argument, and it is that upon which the whole discussion turns. There was the promise of rest, it was not believed by the people, and yet now the promise of rest still remains for God’s people. The truth of the matter still stands; it is yet ahead in God’s redemptive plans.

From there he says, “let us fear.” It is these words that actually begin the verse in the Greek. It bears a special emphasis by saying, “Let us fear, therefore.” The emphasis is on the word “fear,” not the word “us.” In essence, “Lest us (each of us within the group should be in the same mind) fear...” The fear he is referring to isn’t a fear of something like wrath or being condemned, but one of uncertainty of an outcome. An example of this thought would be, “O dear, I fear I may have missed the train.” The “rest of God” still stands as a promise and the author says that his readers should fear “lest any of you seem to have come short of it.”

This is not speaking of coming short of it in qualification, such as, “I didn’t make the grade, and thus I am excluded.” Rather, it is speaking of timing and surety of being able to attain what is still available. As Vincent’s Word Studies states it, “Since this promise remains, let us fear to distrust it.” Continuing the example of the train might help.

1) The train is set to take the people to their rest. However, because the people in the wilderness did not believe God’s promise of entering His rest, the train never took them there.

2) The psalmist then said, “Today,” when speaking of hearing God’s voice – the very thing that will allow them to enter His rest. The promise of rest still awaits. If not, he could not say to them “Today.” He is asking them to hear God’s voice (believe), and in believing they will enter His rest.

3) Now in Hebrews, the author says, “Don’t worry, the promise of rest still stands. ‘Today’ is still the day. And because the promise still stands, let us fear to not believe that it is true.” It is God’s rest which is still anticipated, and it is attained by belief in God’s promise. The train is still at the station, waiting to take the people to God’s rest. Let us fear to distrust it. The clock has not run out, the train has not left, and those who believe will be there on time.

It should be noted that the citation by Vincent’s Word Studies (above) is completely opposed by the scholars at Cambridge. They say that the words should be translated as “should seem to have failed in attaining it.” They then explain that with the words, “The Greek might also mean ‘should think that he has come too late for it;’ but the writer’s object is to stimulate the negligent, not to encourage the despondent.”

As you can see, they dismiss the logic of Vincent’s Word Studies. However, the context of what has been said, and that of which is coming through verse 4:10, supports what Vincent proposes. Each point of this will be explained in those coming verses as the author continues. It is true that the author will stimulate the audience to not be negligent, but that is because the promise of God’s rest is still available. The people are not to be despondent that they have missed the train.

Life application: This is a difficult verse to understand without explanation. Translations of the Bible are given to hopefully provide a snapshot of what is being conveyed, but quite often they simply cannot do so without additional commentary. And in reading commentaries, there may be a multitude of opinions on what that one verse is saying. Therefore, it is unwise to 1) read a single translation of the Bible lest an unsound opinion arises about what is being relayed; and 2) to stick with a single commentator on the Bible who may have derived an unsound opinion about what is being relayed. The more versions we read, and the more commentaries we study, the more we will have sufficient more information to arrive at a sound conclusion as to the original intent of the passage.

Lord God, there is a promise of heaven for those who believe in Christ Jesus. We should not fear that we have missed that train because of our past failures, but we should believe in the promise, come to the cross, and receive our ticket which grants us that access. Let us not be despondent that we have missed out because of what has been, but let us be confident in what can be – all because of Jesus. Thank You that the promise is still available to us. Amen.

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. Hebrews 4:2

The word “For” is based upon that which was said in verse 4:1. There, it spoke of the promise of God’s rest still standing, and for those who are being addressed to not feel as if they have failed in their chance to attain it. Understanding this, it says, “indeed the gospel was preached.” This is not a good translation. Although it is the same word translated elsewhere as “gospel,” it is not speaking of the technical term that we consider the preaching of the gospel in this dispensation. Rather, it should say, “good news.” The “good news” of God’s rest was conveyed “to us as well as to them.”

This is speaking of those in the past who were promised God’s rest during the time in the wilderness. The same promise which was made to them was also conveyed, as the author now says, “to us.” The promise of God’s rest is still obtainable, and this is why the previous verse indicated that those now being addressed should not feel as if they have missed their opportunity to enter into it. There still stands the promise of God’s rest. Those in the past heard it, “but the word which they heard did not profit them.”

The Greek reads, “but the word of the message did not profit them.” It is not speaking of the word they heard, but rather the word of God which promised rest. The word of the message was given, but it had to be received and acted upon, and it was not. And why? It is because it was “not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Paul says elsewhere that “ comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The word of hearing was of no value to them because it was never incorporated into those who heard it.

The Lord promised them rest, and yet they continuously failed to believe Him. Their words and actions demonstrated this. As Vincent’s Word Studies says, “They did not make the promise of rest their own. Their history was marked by continual renewals and rejections of the promise.” Because this is true, the Lord set a new day, calling it “Today,” and offers His rest to the people. The train has not pulled away from the station, and the audience of this epistle has a chance to obtain the rest if they will – unlike their fathers – respond in faith to the word of the message.

Life application: It needs to be remembered who is being addressed. It is a Hebrew audience who is being instructed on the completed work of Jesus Christ. Though it was written in the first century AD while a temple was still standing, its placement in the Bible, after the letters of Paul, show that it is intended to appeal to the hearts of those Jews after the church age. The truths of Hebrews applies to Gentiles, but the main intent of the message is to appeal to the hearts of this group who are seemingly without hope, but who are being encouraged that there is still, in fact, hope.

Gracious and merciful heavenly Father, we can trust in the promises of Your word, because we can see how faithfully you have dealt with Your unfaithful people Israel. The record of their history shows a careless attitude toward You, but You have preserved them nonetheless. You promised this would be the case, and Your promises have remained true. How can we not expect the same when You make sure promises to us? Thank You that we will never be cast away when we come to You in faith. Amen.

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.
Hebrews 4:3

Again as with the previous verse, the word “for” is used to build one thought upon another. Verse 4:1 said, “Therefore.” That called for the reader to consider the lesson to the people about not entering God’s rest because of unbelief, as stated in Chapter 3. He then said, “For,” to say that the same good news of God’s rest which was conveyed in the past was again conveyed to the recipients of the epistle, showing that it was still attainable. However, those in the past did not profit from the message because of unbelief. With this understood, he now again says, “For.”

Each preposition is chosen to build a case concerning God’s rest and how to enter it. Understanding this, he says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” The thought looks backward and forward. “Believed” is contrasted to the unbelief of verse 4:2, while “enter that rest” looks forward to what he will say about the unbelievers as this verse continues.

The statement made by the author shows the certainty of the matter. The words “having believed” are from an aorist participle in the Greek. The action of entering the rest is accomplished in the belief. In other words, it points to the moment when the person put his faith in the finished work of Jesus. It was offered, it was accepted, and the rest was entered. There is nothing conditional about the matter. We are not in the process of entering, nor are we on the way to doing so. Rather, as Vincent’s Word studies says, it “is a fact which characterizes us as believers.” God’s rest has been attained through belief.

The importance of this statement cannot be overstated. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is the place where God’s rest is found. He is the place of rest which the Sabbath only anticipated in type and picture. When the Sabbath was given in Exodus 20, it said –

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11

The Sabbath was given because it was based on the seventh-day rest of God. The author will refer to that seventh day in verse 4:4. The Sabbath was only a type of the Christ to come. He who is the means of access into that seventh-day rest. When a person believes in Christ, they enter into the true Sabbath rest of God. The substance (Christ) replaces the mere shadow (Sabbath observance). This is what Paul refers to in Colossians 2:16, 17 –

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

We are no longer bound to the shadow because we have entered into the substance; we are in God’s true rest. To support this, he then returns again to Scripture with the words, “as He has said.” In this, he will repeat the verse from Psalm 95:11 which he cited in verse 3:11 –

So I swore in My wrath,

They shall not enter My rest,’”

He has logically built his case. There was 1) a promise of Israel entering God’s rest under the Old Covenant. However, because of unbelief, 2) entry into that rest was denied. And yet, 3) the psalmist says, “Today,” when calling for hearing God’s voice. He is renewing the promise of entry into that rest. Now, 4) the author speaks of belief in Christ (verse 3:1) as allowing entrance into that same rest, which is 5) guaranteed the moment belief in His finished work is exercised.

The entire thought is given, and will continue to be explained, for the same reason as the rest of the book of Hebrews. It is a call to come to Christ through the New Covenant, and to not rely on the Old for one’s relationship with God. The author is showing the “better than” of Christ over Moses, and the superiority of the New over the Old. Finishing up the verse, he now says, “although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” This will continue to be explained in the coming verse. But for now, the question is, “What works?”

There are works which are said to have been finished “from the foundation of the world.” There is the promise of a future access into God’s rest for the people of God. He cannot merely be speaking of the rest which is spoken of in Genesis 2:2 (which will be cited next in verse 4:4), because that was before the time of Moses. Further, the words used for “rest” in the Hebrew of Genesis 2 and Psalm 95 are not the same. In Genesis 2, it is shabath – the state of rest. In Psalm 95, it is menukhah – the place of rest.

It also cannot be the rest which came for those who entered Canaan with Joshua (coming in verse 4:8), because the psalmist speaks of another day (Today) after the time of Joshua. And so the rest which is being spoken of is the rest found in Christ who is referred to in 1 Peter 1:17-21 as having been foreordained “before the foundation of the world” to die as a “lamb without blemish and without spot.” And who is then referred to again in Revelation 13:8 as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The answer to “the works” of this verse is, “The works of Jesus Christ who was ordained from the foundation of the world to die and thus allow God’s people into His promised rest.” Though they occurred in the stream of time, God’s works in Christ were finished from the foundation of the world. When God spoke the created order into existence, it was with the intent of allowing those works of Christ, which were already accomplished in God’s mind, to be performed by Him in the stream of time. This is why Jesus said in John 6:29, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Our work is to believe in Him as the Christ and as the One to complete the works ordained for Him before the foundation of the world. In this, we enter God’s rest. The Sabbath, which is based on creation (and which was later said to be based on redemption in Deuteronomy 5:12-15), was simply a type of the rest which is found in Christ. The creation itself is merely the vehicle by which Christ could accomplish His work. Hence, the seventh-day rest after creation, which is referred to in Genesis 2:2, is a state of rest which exists in anticipation of what Christ would do by leading us into our place of rest. One thing leads to another, and all things find their fulfillment in Christ.

Life application: In Christ, we have entered God’s rest. Be at peace. The works are finished.

Lord God, thank You for the rest we have found in Christ Jesus. By faith in Him, we now possess that which was completed from the foundation of the world – a perfect, absolute, and guaranteed rest. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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”; Hebrews 4:4

Again as with both verses 4:2 and 4:3, the author begins with, “For.” One thought logically follows the next as he builds a case concerning the availability of God’s rest for his audience. The words, “For He has spoken in a certain place,” are the same formula found in verse 2:6. Instead of saying that Moses wrote the thought, he applies the utterance to God who is the inspiration behind the words of Moses. Thus, he says, “in a certain place.” More correctly, it should say, “somewhere.” The indefinite nature is a way of ascribing the writing of the whole body of the Hebrew Scriptures to God.

It is somewhere in this body of writing, given by God, that He has spoken “of the seventh day in this way.” He is equating God’s rest with the seventh day after creation. This is then supported by quoting the Scripture which says, “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” This is a quote from Genesis 2:2. God worked six days and then He rested on the seventh.

It is noticeable that each of the six days of creation was followed by a statement which said, “So the evening and the morning were the [nth] day.” However, no such statement is given for the seventh day. God rested, and that state of rest continues on. It is speaking of the work of creation itself which is given as a pattern of the dispensations of redemptive history. There are seven dispensations, the last being the millennium.

The millennium, then, forms its own picture of God’s place of rest. This was what Canaan was to be for those who were redeemed from Egypt, but they did not receive their rest because of unbelief. And so God, through the author of the psalm, set another day which He called, “Today” (verse 4:7). Those who believe Today enter God’s rest (verse 4:3) which has been anticipated since the creation of the world. But it must be remembered that chapter 3 spoke of the Hebrew people in the plural. The promise of rest was given to them. It is accessible individually, but it is also left for them collectively. The rest of God is provided not through works of the law, but through belief in what the law pointed to, Christ. Until Israel comes to this collective understanding, they will not enter God’s rest as a people. Until then, only those who believe individually have access to this rest.

God rested from His works, and yet God’s work of redemption occurs within the stream of time through the work of Jesus Christ. The seventh day after creation is God’s resting from His labors, and yet His labors continue on in the Person of Jesus in anticipation of a final day when God’s people will enter the place of God’s rest. Understanding this, we can then grasp what Jesus was speaking of in John 5 –

For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.’” John 5:16-19

Christ’s works lead His people to the state of rest in His place of rest. This is seen in Isaiah 11:10 which speaks of the millennial reign of Christ. There, the word used is menukhah, the place (noun) of rest seen in Psalm 95, not shabat, or the state (verb) of rest found in Genesis 2 –

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:1

Everything centers on what God has done and continues to do in Christ Jesus. Entering into God’s rest comes by faith (belief) in God’s word as it points to Him.

Life application: The concept of God’s rest is being precisely stated by the author of Hebrews for the express purpose of getting his Hebrew audience to understand their need for Jesus, both individually and collectively. For any who believe in Christ Jesus (Jew or Gentile), they enter God’s rest; ceasing from their labors. For Israel as a whole, they will enter God’s rest when they have been refined and purified through the tribulation. Someday, they will collectively believe in Him, and they will enter into His promised rest, a rest which they have thus far failed to enter.

Gracious and merciful Lord God! We know that Your works have been finished from the foundation of the world, and that Your rest is available to us as a promise. The question is, “How do we enter that rest?” The answer comes back to us from the pages of Scripture as “Believe in the One whom You have sent.” Christ accomplished all that was necessary to grant us access into that wonderful place of rest. Thank You for what You have done through Him. We believe He did it all, and so we receive what You promise. Thank You for Jesus our Lord. Amen.

...and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Hebrews 4:5

Here we have a repetition from verse 4:3. God had rested (verb) on the seventh day, and yet the Psalmist said that the Hebrews of Moses’ time did not enter God’s rest (noun) because of unbelief. A place of rest was promised to the Hebrew people, but those with Moses did not enter into that place, and therefore it logically follows that some must still enter it (as verse 4:6 will explicitly state).

God rested from His works of creation on the seventh day. This implies that everything in creation has been completed; there is nothing else to create. If there is a place of rest within that creation as is clearly the case, and that place of rest is promised to the Hebrew people, then it logically follows that it is still awaiting them.

We are not to forget, however, that any who have believed do enter that rest (verse 4:3). This is true whether it is a Jew or a Gentile that believes in the finished work of Christ. We have attained what God has promised. But the promise to Israel collectively has not yet been attained. Until they, as a people, believe in the completed work of Messiah, they will not enter that place of rest. But it will happen. The prophecies of the Bible show it is coming. It didn’t happen at the time of Moses, meaning those under the law, but it will happen in Christ Jesus.

Life application: The repetition of the verses in Hebrews is given for precision of thought. A place of rest exists for the people of God. As God finished His works of creation and then rested, the place which is being spoken of was there in the creation at that time. It is a place intended for occupants to enter. Who will enter it? Those who have faith in His works, meaning that which is accomplished by Messiah within the stream of time which came at creation. Through faith in Him, that place of rest is granted. Believe in Christ, and enter God’s rest.

Lord, how faithful You are to Your promises! Though it may not be pleasant, why should we worry when things are difficult or filled with trial? These cannot take away the surety of the good things which lie ahead, and which You have promised, for those who trust in You. And so may we be joyful in our hope even if troubled in the here and now. Because of Jesus, only goodness and blessing is coming. Thank You that we are assured of this. Amen.

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, Hebrews 4:6

In this verse, we have a continuation of the same logical progression of thought which has been presented: 1) God’s labors of creation are ended and He rested. 2) He promised rest to His people Israel. This rest was offered to those who came out of Egypt with Moses. However, that same rest was not appropriated by Moses, nor was it appropriated by Joshua (verse 4:8) who followed after Moses, and who brought Israel into Canaan. Because of this, 3) It, therefore, “remains that some must enter it.” What this means is “that which was available in past times still remains available.” Because it is promised, and because the promise was not laid hold of, the promise remains unappropriated.

This will be made evident in the coming verses. But for now, the author states it as a fact. And the reason for this is that “those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience.” As noted in verse 4:2, the term “preached” is not appropriate. It should say, “those who were the first to receive the announcement of the good news.” The Israelites were informed that they were selected as God’s people, and would receive the promised inheritance of His rest. However, because of disobedience, meaning unbelief, they did not enter into His rest.

With this understanding, we need to refer back to verse 4:3 which said, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” It is clear that he is speaking of belief in the finished work of Messiah. The promise of entering God’s rest is open to His people Today. Any who believe in what Jesus has accomplished enter into God’s rest because Today is still available for them to enter. And yet, the promise of entering God’s rest is not confined to individuals calling on Christ. It is also a promise which is intended for Israel as a people group. Unless one believes that the church has replaced Israel, a teaching which is contrary to the entire tenor of Scripture, it must be that Israel as a collective whole will enter into His rest at some point.

Life application: Jesus saves. There is no salvation apart from Him. Individually, when we call on Christ, we will be saved. At that time, we enter into God’s rest. However, it is Jesus who also will save Israel collectively. As a people, they have definite and sure promises which pertain to them. On some day, called Today, they will call on Him and be saved.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful assurance that You are with us at all times. For those who have come to You through Christ, there is no place we can go, no trial which is too great, and no pain which is too grievous that we can say, “Where have You gone, O God.” Rather, we can confidently say, “Thank You for being here with me at this time.” Help us to remember this, and to never feel that we have been abandoned by You. Amen.

...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.”
Hebrews 4:7

The author continues his logical presentation of the sequence of events leading up to the rest which is promised to Israel. Again, it must be remembered that there is individual rest, and there is a rest provided to the collective body. The individual rest is the assurance granted to a person when believing in the finished work of Christ (verse 4:3), but Israel has still been promised rest as well. He now continues with that thought with the words, “again He designates a certain day.”

The rest was promised, but the psalmist shows that Israel failed to attain it. That is seen in the words of Psalm 95:11 –

So I swore in My wrath,

They shall not enter My rest.’”

However, before having said that, and while speaking to Israel directly, the psalmist says, “Today, if you will hear His voice.” A new day is being designated. In essence, “Listen all of you, your fathers disobeyed and I did not allow them the promised rest. However, Today is a new chance! Heed the voice of the Lord, for the rest is yet ahead!”

This promise of a new “certain day” came through the hand of David. As it says, “saying in David.” If you will take a moment and go back to the 95th Psalm, you will see that no author is named. And yet, the author here in Hebrews, based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament, says that it was David. Before going on, make a pen and ink note in your Bible above the psalm saying, “David is the inspired author according to Hebrews 4:7.”

Understanding this is at the time of David, many hundreds of years after Israel’s entrance into Canaan (a bit more than 400 years from that time, and about 3000 years since the creation after which God is said to have rested), our author then says, “after such a long time, as it has been said.” He will now cite the psalm which came so much later than the Exodus, showing that the promise of rest still remains. It was not laid hold of by Israel in the past, and the promise has not been revoked by the Lord. Though Israel failed, God remains faithful. This is then seen with the words being cited from Psalm 95:7, 8 –

Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”

David could not say this concerning an issue which did not exist. If the promise to Israel was revoked, he could not have spoken of Today in relation to the past, yet unfulfilled, promise. But he does. “The promise was not attained, however, Today it is still open! Pay heed! Hear the voice of the Lord! The rest is yet ahead! Today is not yet over!” If Israel fails to heed, they too will again not enter into His rest. When they do, they will finally attain that which has so long been kept from them.

Life application: Let us logically look at the issue of rest for Israel. 1) What is the promised rest offered to them? It is rest resulting from having faith in Jesus as their Messiah. 2) Did Israel receive Him as such? No. Individually, many Jews did, but as a nation, they did not. They were dispersed and punished for rejecting Him. 3) Does the promise still stand? Yes, it must because the author of Hebrews says, “Today.” It is a day which any can come to Christ individually, and so the church has taken it as such for 2000 years. However, the promise is to Israel in the psalms, the promise is repeated to the Hebrews in the book of Hebrews, and the placement of Hebrews after the Gentile-led church-age epistles indicates that it is still open to them collectively at some future point, included in the word, “Today.” When you pray, be sure to pray for Israel. Pray that they will call on the Lord and enter His rest while it is still Today.

Lord God, there is a story of love, hope, grace, mercy; and of wrath, punishment, exile, and restoration all tied up in one group of people, Israel. Throughout their history, they have wandered away from You, breaking the covenant and rejecting Your word. And yet, You have been faithful to keep Your side of things, maintaining them and preparing them for a glory which lies yet ahead. In Your faithfulness to them, we can be assured of the same for each of us. What comfort we can take in this! Thank You, our ever-faithful Lord. Amen.

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. Hebrews 4:8

The author speaks now of Joshua son of Nun who succeeded Moses, and who led Israel across the Jordan and into Canaan. There was a rest promised to Israel which was not attained, despite their having entered the Promised Land. Scripture does speak of entering Canaan as a type of rest several times. The Lord promised rest to Moses in Exodus 33:14. Moses spoke of the prospects of rest in Deuteronomy 3:20 and 12:9 as well. And then in Joshua 23:1 it says –

Now it came to pass, a long time after the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua was old, advanced in age.”

However, this cannot be the state of rest spoken of in the psalm. Rather, it was merely a lesser type of rest. There was a more full and blessed rest which was still anticipated – the “rest” of God. This is evident because the author has spoken of it in exactly those terms already, and now he says, “For if Joshua had given them rest.” The implication is that through Joshua’s leadership, the promised rest had not been attained. Entering and possessing the land of Canaan is not all that encompasses the thought of “God’s rest.” Because of this, the verse continues with, “then He.”

The “He” here is speaking of the Lord. The author is referring to the words of the psalm again which said, “Today.” If the full and complete promise of rest had been attained at the time of Joshua, the psalmist would have no basis for saying, “Today,” and then saying of those in the past that “They shall not enter My rest.” That they did not enter into the Lord’s rest is verified by the author with the words, “then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.”

The point then is that what is anticipated in the promise of rest is yet future to the time of the psalmist, and it is even open and available concerning the time of the writing of Hebrews. This will be verified in the coming verse.

As a final note, some translations say, “Jesus” instead of “Joshua” in both this verse and in Acts 7:45. The names are the same in the Greek. This is true in both the Old Testament Greek, and here in the New Testament. The context of both passages clearly speaks of Joshua the son of Nun. It is true that Joshua is a type of Christ to come, but type and substance are not the same. The older translations which say “Jesus” in these two verses leave the reader with a false idea about what is being relayed. In the New Testament, when Jesus is referred to in relation to the work of the Lord in the Old Testament, the term “Lord” or “Christ” is used.

Life application: There is rest, and then there is rest. A person can build a house, put up walls around his property, and call it “rest from his enemies” as is stated of Israel at the time of Joshua. And yet, that person may not believe in Jesus at all. If so, then he has not entered into God’s promised rest, even though he has “rest” in a lesser sense. We can only truly say that we have attained God’s rest through the full, final, and finished work of Jesus Christ. It is through Him that we enter into God’s rest.

How marvelous and how wonderful it is to share in Your goodness, O God. This is true for all people who can enjoy those things which delight our five senses. You have given us so much in this way. But those things are temporary and perishing. The true goodness we now have is what comes through a personal relationship with You because of Jesus. In Him, we can enjoy You and share in You in a completely new and glorious way. May those who have never received this gift reach out and do so today! What a blessed taste of future glory we have, even now, because of Jesus! Amen.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. Hebrews 4:9

The same word translated in verse 4:6 as “remains” is used again here. There it said, “Since it therefore remains that some must enter it.” This was speaking of God’s rest. Now the author clearly and concisely states what he has so methodically been building up to by saying, “There remains therefore.” The author, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says unambiguously that the day, called Today, still allows for obtaining what was once denied, which is “a rest for the people of God.” Further, as Charles Ellicott says, “It is tacitly assumed that no subsequent fulfillment has altered the relation of the promise.”

As noted in the comments of verse 4:6, what this means is “that which was available in past times still remains available.” Because it is promised, and because the promise was not laid hold of, the promise remains unappropriated. And though unappropriated, it is also not retracted. What is not noticeable in the English, but which blazes forth in the Greek, is that the word for “rest” is not the same as has been used thus far. The word is sabbatismos, a Sabbatism. It is an emphatic verbal noun which occurs only this once in all of the Bible. It is a derivation of the word sabbaton, or Sabbath day. Thus, it signifies (as some translations more appropriately translate it) a keeping of “Sabbath-rest.”

This then takes the thought all the way back to Genesis 2:2 where God is said to have “rested” on the seventh day. The word is shabath, the verb from which the idea expressed in the noun Sabbath is derived. God rested, implying He had a rest. It is this rest that has remained unappropriated but not retracted. But to whom is this directed? It is a Sabbatism “for the people of God.” The question then is, “who is this referring to?” Many Christian scholars say that it is a type of heaven for the church, or the “true Israel.”

However, it has already been seen that those who believe have entered their rest. It is a place of rest which is granted by faith in Christ. No distinction can be made between Jew and Gentile. It simply says that those who believe have entered. And yet, there is the unappropriated offer of entering into God’s rest for the people of God. This term is notably used in the New Testament, with certain exception when speaking of the Gentile-led church, to speak of Israel.

Thus, it is not a “spiritual Israel” that has replaced the people of Israel, but actually the people known as Israel. Speaking of the literal people of Israel, Paul uses the term “His people” in Romans 11:1 & 2. The author of Hebrews, speaking of the “house of Israel and the house of Judah,” uses the term in Hebrews 8:10. He also calls Israel “the people of God” in Hebrews 11:25. Peter informs his Jewish audience that they “once were not a people but are now the people of God.”

The implication is that they were rejected by God, but then after that rejection, they are once again called as His people. Even Paul, in Galatians 6:16, speaks of the “Israel of God.” That does not refer to Gentiles who have replaced Israel, but rather those Israelites who have come to Christ in contradistinction to those Jews who have not. And finally, the audience of the book of Hebrews is the Hebrew people. The overwhelming evidence then points to the subject of this verse now as the Jewish people. It is they who are being referred to.

The rest which remains for them, that of the true rest found in Christ Jesus, remains open to them. With this understanding, this does not negate that Gentiles are included in this. Anyone who believes in Christ Jesus’ finished work is granted this rest. But the context is that the “people of God” being referred to are the people of Israel. It is they who were with Joshua (verse 4:8), and it is they to whom the psalmist wrote the words of the 95th Psalm.

Life application: The rest of God which has been from the foundation of the world is a rest which can be entered into by trusting in the completed work of Jesus Christ. It is He, and only He, who makes this possible. One cannot earn heaven by taking a weekly Sabbath, nor can one earn heaven by refraining from eating certain meats. One is not granted heaven because he is circumcised. The only way one can enter into this blessed state is to trust that Christ did all of these things already. He has merited for us what we could never do. Trust in the Lord, and enter into His rest.

Glorious God, why do we always attempt to merit Your favor through external rites? “Keep the Sabbath.” “Don’t eat that type of food.” “Cut your flesh to stand approved.” None of those things can bring us a step closer to You because we are already infected with sin. Only Jesus, born without sin, and who fulfilled the law on our behalf, can make us right with You. May we rest in Him alone, never trusting in our own deeds as a means of attaining that which You offer through grace. Amen.

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Hebrews 4:10

The words of this verse are set against the words of verse 4:9. There it said, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” It was established in that commentary that the “people of God,” in the appropriate context, is specifically speaking of the Jewish people. There remains a “Sabbatism” for them.

To ensure that this is understood, the author now says, “For he who has entered His rest.” The verb translated as “entered” is in the aorist tense. Therefore, it “marks the completeness of the appropriation – once and for all” (Vincent’s Word Studies). This is then tied into verse 4:3 where it said, “we who have believed.” It is in the same tense. Those who have believed then enters God’s (His) rest. If someone enters His rest (as it is clearly stated in verse 4:3 that “we who have believed do enter that rest”), as those who have believed in Jesus have, then he “has himself also ceased from his works.”

The translation here is lacking. It should say, “has himself also rested from his works.” The entire passage has been speaking about the state of rest. It is true that resting implies ceasing from labor, but ceasing from labor may not necessarily mean resting. A person may be doing one thing and then pick up and do another. But when one rests, they stop doing all things. Thus, maintaining the consistency of translation here explains the state of having entered the “Sabbatism” of the previous verse.

When a person believes in Christ Jesus, they enter into God’s rest. In entering God’s rest, they rest from their own works. Well, what works are being referred to? Commentaries generally assume that it is speaking of the toils and labors leading to the aches and pains of this life. This fails to explain the true meaning of a Sabbath observance by Israel. The purpose of the Sabbath was to be a sign to them (Exodus 31:17) that they were, in fact, God’s people. He did the work in redeeming them, and He did the work in sanctifying them. They rested from their weekly labors as a sign of this. They “did” Sabbath, because they “could” Sabbath. The unending labor could be ceased because God still provided for them, even on the Sabbath (hence, a double portion of manna was given on the sixth day, etc).

Before explaining what “works” are being referred to, it should be noted that John Gill states that “he” at the beginning of the verse is speaking not of “whoever,” but of Jesus. “For He (Jesus) who has entered His (God’s) rest.” That is possible based on the context. If that is so, it is speaking of the labor of works under the law, completing God’s works which were “finished from the foundation of the world” (see verse 4:3). As noted then, Christ simply completed what was ordained from the foundation of the world. Bringing to man the ability to enter God’s rest through His completed work.

Understanding this, we can assume that “he” in this verse is either “Jesus” or “whoever.” Though important in proper analysis, it is not important in application. The reason is that even if Jesus is being referred to and not “whoever,” it doesn’t change the outcome. If it is Jesus, He has rested from His works designated by God. If it is us, we have rested because of Jesus’ works. Again, verse 4:3 says that “we who have believed (meaning in Jesus’ completed works) do enter that rest.”

We are, from the moment of belief, positionally “in Christ.” Thus, the “works” being referred to are works of pleasing God in order to be saved, and which allow man to enter into God’s promised rest. In other words, the works are either Christ’s works or “faith in Christ’s works.” As you can see, the outcome is the same. We have no works pleasing to God apart from Christ, but we are fully pleasing to God, and accepted by Him, through Christ’s works. We are “in Christ,” and have rested from our works, because He has rested from His.

This is then further explained by the final words of the verse, “as God did from His.” God created in six days, and He rested on the seventh. As the scholar Bengel says, “Labour precedes rest; ... The work and rest of GOD are that archetype to which we ought to be conformed.” This is true with whatever labor and rest are being spoken of. It is true of God’s creation leading to rest, it is true of Israel’s Sabbath where they worked and then rested, and it is true with us who put our trust in Christ who has labored, and who then rested.

There is the type and then there is the Archetype. As always, pictures in the Old are merely given to point to the realities of Christ in the New. God rested after His labors, Christ rested after His, and we rest after ours (of which Christ accomplished for us). Hence, “we who have believed do enter that rest.” It is done!

The contrast of this verse is what is certain. The “people of God” of verse 4:9 is speaking of Israel collectively. They have not yet entered into God’s rest. That will only occur when they, as a people, trust in the work of the Lord Jesus. Individually, they can enter God’s rest even now, but as a people, that time is yet ahead.

Life application: Yes, it is actually important who “he” is being referred to in this verse. For the sake of giving an answer, I would say that it is “whoever.” This is based on the contents of verse 3 which are followed by the words of Psalm 95. Those same words are reexplained here in verse 10, and which were preceded by another quote from Psalm 95. However, if John Gill is correct, and it is speaking of Jesus, the outcome of the thought does not change. The person who trusts in Jesus’ completed work enters God’s rest, just as Jesus did after the completion of His work.

Lord God, Your word is big, it is often complicated, and it can overwhelm us when we try to understand its complexities. And yet, the overall message is simple, concise, and unchanging – You sent Jesus to do what we cannot do. When we trust in His completed work, we are saved, we remain saved, and we are given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of that salvation. Help us not to muddy the waters which show that we are saved by grace through faith, and there is nothing we need to do to add to that. Amen.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11

The author has shown that the promised rest of God is yet future for the Hebrew people. In verse 4:9, he has stated that there is a Sabbath-rest which is yet available for the people of God. It has been shown that the context of “people of God” is referring to Israel collectively. Individuals of both Jew and Gentile enter into “that rest” by belief (verse 4:3), but there is a time of rest for Israel as a people which is yet ahead. With this understanding, he says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.”

The word “diligent” is from a Greek word signifying eagerness or zeal. HELPS Word Studies says it is “acting fervently (speedy commitment) to accomplish all that God assigns through faith (‘His inbirthed persuasion’).” Many commentaries grab onto this and explain that this means that we must be diligent as individuals to work in order to attain rest (meaning heaven). Albert Barnes, bizarrely says, “Heaven is never obtained but by diligence; and no one enters there who does not earnestly desire it, and who does not make a sincere effort to reach it.” That statement is so far from Ephesians 2:8, 9 that it is incredible to even contemplate.

The author has clearly stated that we enter our rest through belief. Nothing he says after that will contradict that one statement, and so this cannot be speaking of us “working” in order to be saved. Rather, we believe, and we enter into God’s rest. Period. On this verse, John Gill rightly says of salvation –

...salvation is not by works; eternal life is a free gift; good works do not go before to prepare heaven for the saints, but follow after: nor is the saints' entrance into it a precarious thing; God has promised it, and provided it for his people; Christ is in the possession of it, and is preparing it for them; and the Spirit of God is working them up for the self same thing, and Christ will give them an abundant entrance into it.”

John Gill then says that this verse is not speaking of God’s rest, but the “Gospel rest … which believers now enter into, and is at this present time for them.” Though he was right about salvation, he is incorrect about this. The author has been speaking of the rest promised by God. There is nothing to suggest that he has departed from that. And so what is the author of Hebrews saying now? The answer is that he first speaks of the whole, saying “us.” He then moves to the singular in the second clause with the words, “lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”

The author is asking his audience to watch out for one another. It is exactly what he said to them already in verses 3:12, 13. The people are to be diligent in laboring to enter the rest. They are the people of God, and they have not yet entered that rest. It is incumbent on them to warn one another against failing to believe. It took a bad report by ten of the twelve spies to poison the minds of the entire congregation against entering Canaan. The author is warning against such an attitude again.

As this was written to the first century Jews, it is evident that they once again failed to attain what they had hoped for. However, due to its placement in the Bible after Paul’s epistles and, more importantly, because of God’s unfailing promises, it is evident that the promised rest for Israel is still open to them even now. It will come, and Israel will attain what it has thus far been unable to apprehend.

Life application: It cannot be that a verse in the Bible will contradict another verse. If we are told that someone is saved by grace through faith, it cannot be that another verse will mean that we must labor in order to be saved. Therefore, there must be another meaning to the words than what is at first presumed to be said. For this verse, John Gill understood and gave a second option. However, his option removed itself from the immediate context of what was being presented. And so a third option must exist which accepts both a non-contradictory stand concerning salvation, and which retains the proper context. This is how we are to evaluate Scripture. We are to always maintain context, and we are to ensure that truths which are presented elsewhere are not to be violated in our analysis of what we are studying.

Heavenly Father, Your word says that we are saved by grace through faith and that works are not a part of the process. May we never deviate from this clear, concise, and obvious truth. Our justification is by faith alone. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we stand approved before You. What could we add to what He has done? Nothing. So let us not go there! Amen.

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. Hebrews 4:12

The verse now begins with “For.” Actually, in the Greek, it says, “Living (is), for, the word of God...” Thus it stresses the thought of “living.” But the word “for” is used to build upon a previous thought. That takes the reader all the way up to verse 4:2 which said, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them.” At that time, it was explained that the word “gospel” should read, “good news.” Further, “the word which they heard” literally reads “the word of the message.” That was referring to the word of God which promised rest.

After that came the intervening verses which explained God’s rest in great detail, including quotes from Psalm 95. This context explains the word “For.” The “word of the message,” meaning the word of God, was preached to those before, and it made its judgment. The same word of God still speaks to the Hebrew audience, awaiting a response.

The term, “the word of God,” here was thought by the church fathers to be speaking of the Person of Jesus. This is not the author’s intent. Outside of John’s writings, the term is not used in relation to Jesus, nor is it hinted at in the book of Hebrews. Rather, it is speaking of the word of God, meaning His utterances – in whatever manner they come. They may come through prophets, or through Scripture. His word also came through Jesus as He spoke out the word of God. It is this word of God which the author now says is “living and powerful.” As noted, the word “living” is in the emphatic position.

It is not a dead word, but one with vibrancy. It is not a weak word, but one which has power to produce an outcome. As Vincent’s Word Studies notes, “The message of God which promises the rest and urges to seek it, is no dead, formal precept, but is instinct with living energy.” Just as a living body accomplishes actions, so the word is capable of the same. There is power which comes forth from an animate being, and that is true with the word of God. There is almost a personification of the word in the author’s mind.

He next says it is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” The word “two-edged” is distomos. It signifies “two mouthed.” The symbolism here comes directly from the Old Testament where “the edge of the sword” is literally, “the mouth of the sword.” It is a devouring instrument, consuming that which it comes in contact with. Being a mouth, it is then likened to a drinker of blood. Being two-mouthed, it is a consumer of blood. No matter which side is presented, its effect remains the same. And so, the sword is used to describe destruction throughout the Old Testament, and even into the New. Jesus uses the terminology of the sword to describe the fate of the Hebrew people in Luke 21:24 –

And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

The passage in Luke uses the same imagery, the “mouth of the sword.” Why would this come upon the Jewish people? Because He knew they would reject the word of God. Thus, this living and active, devouring instrument would actively consume them. So effective is it that it is capable of “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.”

The Greek word used here for “piercing” is unique in Scripture. It means “coming through.” thus, it wholly penetrates even to the division of soul and spirit. This is not intended to mean that the “soul and spirit” are divided one from another. The word “division” does not refer to the point of division, but the act which occurs. The word is only used elsewhere in Hebrews 2:4. There it speaks of the “gifts” or “distributions” of the Spirit. The spirit is One, without division, but there are many gifts. Understanding this, and to confirm it as well, the author then says, “and of joints and marrow.”

Joints and marrow don’t have contact with one another where it can be said that they can be so divided. Thus, this is an explanation of “soul and spirit.” It is not a point of division, but the act. Similarly, “joints and marrow” are likewise to be taken figuratively, not as actual joints of a person, or the marrow of the bone. Again, Vincent’s Word Studies explains the terminology –

The form of expression is poetical, and signifies that the word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being as a sword cuts through the joints and marrow of the body. The separation is not of one part from another, but operates in each department of the spiritual nature.”

Soul and spirit” are joined in the words as an example of that which is inmost spiritually. “Joints and marrow” are joined in the words as an example of that which is inmost physically. Thus, though there are two groupings, they are four individual things – “division of soul, of spirit, of joints, of marrow.” The word of God pierces everything about the individual, and nothing is hidden from its all-consuming, devouring mouth. This is so much so that it is even “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

The word “discerner” is also unique in Scripture. It is an adjective which also implies division. It means “able to judge,” or “critical.” It separates things through an evaluation process. Thus, it separates thoughts of the heart. Those things which the heart ponders and deliberates upon are known and separated by the word of God, sorting them out for judgment. It also separates the intents of the heart. These are the things which have been settled out, such as opinions and attitudes. A person may be a conservative or a liberal. They have settled out their opinions, and that is where they stand on the issues. The word of God will look at these things and evaluate them.

As a real-life example, a person may be either against abortion or for it. The word of God discerns the matter and judges it. It separates the two (or any middle ground such as “in certain cases”) and it makes the determination as to which is acceptable and which is not.

The entire tenor of the words of this verse are geared towards the attitude of the people concerning God’s rest. The word of the message (verse 4:2) is given. The people will be evaluated based on the word of God. Will they be diligent to enter that rest? This is the question, and the word of God will sort out the truth of that matter from the very fiber of their being.

Life application: There is no part of us that is not known to God. There is no thought that we have, no opinion that we are settled upon, and no attitude that we display which is not able to be evaluated, completely and entirely, by the word of God. We are open and exposed in our lives and actions as if we stand naked before Him. Let us not attempt to cover our faults, failings, and faithlessness with fig leaves. But rather, let us adorn ourselves with the covering of Christ. Nothing else will suffice when we come before God for our evaluation.

Lord God, Your word shows that there is no part of us which is not exposed before You. Your word stands as a discerner of every thought, motivation, and settled opinion which we possess. We are as naked before You as our first parents were when they were created. Should we attempt to cover ourselves with the leaves of fig trees? Rather, shouldn’t we be found covered by the righteousness of Christ? Only in His perfection can we stand before You cleansed and pure. May we be wise and discerning about what judgment before You means. And may we choose the good covering of Christ in preparation for that day. Amen.

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. Hebrews 4:13

The previous verse explained that the word of God possesses the ability to completely open up the very essence of a person. That is now complemented with the notion that no person can hide from that scrutiny. The logic is that if this verse was not added, someone might say, “Well, the word of God may be able to get to the very heart of the matter in man, but I will simply hide myself from that word.” However, the author now shows the impossibility of that by saying, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight.”

Nowhere someone travels, no abyss that they climb down into, and no place of the deepest darkness can keep a person hidden from the eyes of God. This is seen, for example, in Psalm 139 –

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.Psalm 139:11, 12

Job 34:22 speaks of this as well. Man, wherever he is, and no matter how secretly he thinks he is conducting his affairs, is completely surrounded by the all-seeing presence of God. Understanding this, it is still the word of God of the previous verse which is the subject, but it is God’s presence, which is everywhere, which then touches all men through His word. This is then again evidenced by the words, “but all things.” He is referring to man and the deeds of man. Everything that makes up the individual, and which cannot be hidden from His sight, is “naked and open to the eyes of Him.”

The word “naked” is exactly translated. The idea takes the reader back to Genesis 2 & 3 where Adam and Eve were naked before the Lord. First, they were naked and unashamed, but then after their disobedience, they were naked and ashamed. Their state of exposure didn’t change in a physical sense, but it did change in a moral sense. Nothing has changed since then. We can cover ourselves with layer upon layer of garments, but we are just as naked before the Lord as Adam and Eve were before they sewed together fig leaves in an attempt to hide their shame.

The word “open” is trachélizó. It is found only here in the Bible. It signifies “to seize by the throat or neck, i.e. To expose the gullet of a victim for killing (generally, to lay bare) – opened” (Strong’s Concordance). One can see where the word trachea comes from in our modern languages. The idea is that one is most vulnerable when the neck is exposed. When a sacrificial animal is slain, its neck is exposed and the animal is slain. Likewise, a person may survive a wound in many parts of the body, but when the neck is cut, the lights go out. All men are as sheep going to the slaughter because of their always evident sin before the Lord.

As noted, the symbolism is directly tied to that of verse 12 which speaks of the word of God as a two-edged sword. It will devour all with the exception of those who are in Christ. As He is the Lamb slain for those He died for, then the penalty is paid. The devouring instrument will return to its sheath, and the soul and spirit shall be spared the work of the sword. For all others, what has been found wanting shall be exposed and it shall receive its fair and just due.

The author is using the most graphic example of the Hebrew society, and that which all would have been painfully aware of as they traveled to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices at the altar. What was given in type and shadow in those innocent sacrificial animals will either be accepted as having been accomplished in Christ, or it will be realized in them as God wields His sword of judgment.

Life application: The wages of sin is death. If sin is found in man as his judgment, that death, which already really and truly exists, shall be rewarded with eternity in the Lake of Fire. For those who are in Christ, the penalty is paid, the covering has been provided, and the sword shall not find a victim any longer.

Lord God, the sacrifices of Israel are a strong reminder to us of what we deserve. The animal was presented on fallen man’s behalf, the innocent neck was laid bare, and the knife received its victim. That is what all men deserve because of sin – both inherited and committed. But Christ has taken our place. Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! Thank You that we have this option. Thank You for the covering which has been provided. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank You, O God. Amen.

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. Hebrews 4:14

The author now returns to the symbolism of the high priestly duties of the Lord, continuing the contrast between Him and the high priest of the Old Covenant, meaning the Aaronic priesthood. This thought was left off at Hebrews 3:1, but it was more fully explained in verses 2:17, 18 –

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. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

The reason for returning to the idea of the high priestly duties now is because of what has just been said in verses 4:12, 13. Man is completely open and exposed before God, to whom we must give an account. Because of this, and because we are utterly without hope in this state, we need to have someone mediate for us. This is the role of the High Priest, Jesus. And so he begins the verse with, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest.”

Aaron was a fallen man, chosen from among his brethren to minister as high priest. His priesthood was fallible, and it was fraught with failings even from the very beginning. However, everything about Christ Jesus (and thus His priesthood) is superior to that of what was seen in Aaron. In His humanity, He was born sinless, He lived without sin, and He died and was resurrected in that state. In this, He was exalted to sit at God’s right hand, as noted in Chapter 1. And more, He is also the divine Son of God, as was noted several times in the preceding chapters. It is He “who has passed through the heavens.”

The symbolism takes us back to the duties of the high priest of Israel. He performed sacrifices at the brazen altar. From there, and depending on the type of sacrifice, he took the blood of some of those sacrifices into the Holy Place, or even into the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. In the case of the latter, He passed through the outer door, through the Holy Place, through the veil, and into the Most Holy Place. This all pictured what Christ would do, passing through the heavens, and even to the very throne of God. As God has rested from the labors of creation, Christ goes to that place of rest for us, thus providing us that rest (verse 4:3). Other duties of Christ as our great High Priest will be explained in the chapters ahead. For now, it is simply a statement that what occurred in the past was only a type, or shadow, of that which Christ literally fulfills for His people. Unlike Aaron, a son of Levi, it is instead “Jesus the Son of God.”

First the name – JESUS – means “Salvation.” It is that name which is above every other name (Philippians 2:9), and which carries the meaning of what He has accomplished for His people.

Next the title – THE SON OF GOD – signifies His divine nature. And so we see the uniting of His humanity and divinity in this verse. It thus shows that He can effectively mediate on behalf of humanity, even before the divine throne. It is He who is the bridge between the finite and the infinite. The gap, which was otherwise impossible to bridge, is spanned in Christ Jesus. His Person, position, and duties are not only better than those of Aaron, they are infinitely better. And because of this, while speaking to his Hebrew audience, the author says, “let us hold fast our confession.”

They have the perfect Mediator: He is the divine Son of God. He has shared in their humanity. He suffered and was tempted, and is, therefore, able to aid those who are tempted. He has built His own house in the New Covenant. He is the propitiation for the sins of God’s people. By faith in His work, one enters God’s rest. And so on.

With all of this superiority, the author of Hebrews is showing that a return to the Old Covenant system is utterly pointless. It would be going from the greater to the lesser. Holding fast to the confession made in Christ is the only logical and proper choice to make. The case in this will continue to be presented, including the ramifications for failing to heed.

Life application: There are all kinds of views about the work of Christ, about the scope of that work, about the need to continue on with the Old Covenant system while also participating in the New Covenant system, and even about simply returning to the Old Covenant system. These varying views are all suggested by people in the world today. However, there is only one choice which is compatible with the words of the book of Hebrews. The author has established his baseline, and he will continue to build on that in the chapters to come. We are to come to Christ, be in Christ, and remain in Christ. We are to enter the New Covenant, and we are to remain in the New Covenant. Nothing else will do. Keep away from anyone who suggests that we are to hold to the Old Covenant in part or in whole.

Lord God, Christ Jesus initiated a New Covenant in His blood. Everything about the Old only anticipated the New. Nothing of the Old can save, and not participating in the Old cannot keep a person from being saved. Only Jesus can save, and only Jesus can keep on saving. Why would we return to a covenant that had no power to save? Help us to get our doctrine right, to call on Jesus, and to be saved – once and for all time – through His perfect work. To Your glory we pray. Amen.

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. Hebrews 4:15

The verse now continues to explain the nature of Christ Jesus. In verse 4:11, the author implored his audience to be diligent to enter God’s rest “lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” This means they were to possess faith that God would lead them through. He then spoke of how God is able to know every failing of man because He can discern all things. Immediately, he then noted that Jesus is our High Priest, that He has “passed through the heavens,” and that we are to hold fast our confession in him.

Understanding this train of thought, he now explains why this is possible for the reader to accomplish. It is because (For) “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.”

The author is tying our weaknesses in with those who had fallen into the disobedience just mentioned in verse 11. They were weak, they failed to believe, and they failed to enter God’s rest. But we have something more than they had. They had a fallible high priest who also disbelieved. They had a priesthood and a system that could never make them perfect. The law, though good, could never achieve bringing the people to their promised rest. Through it, man could never enter God’s rest. That is, except for there being One who could fulfill that law, and who could then establish a New Covenant based on the fulfillment of the Old. In so establishing it, he would become its High Priest in the process. This is Jesus.

And not only is He the High Priest of this New Covenant, He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.” The word is sumpatheó, and it is only found here and in Hebrews 10:34. In it, one can see where the word “sympathize” is derived from. As Vincent’s Word Studies says, “This is more than knowledge of human infirmity. It is feeling it by reason of a common experience with (σύν) men.”

Christ experienced everything we experienced. He was under the same law as Israel, He saw the limitations of the Levites and priests, He knew the burden of meeting the numerous laws contained within the Law of Moses, etc. He further knew the trials associated with hunger, weariness, and so on. The physical limitations of a man tend to weaken his spiritual and moral resolve. Because He experienced these things, He is able to minister as a High Priest with a sense of perfect empathy to those on whose behalf He ministers.

The importance of this is evident. Those in the wilderness had a fallen priest ministering on their behalf, and that ministry was between them and God. They had no idea about God’s ability to empathize with them. They were bound by their physical limitations, He is not. It led to a feeling of being somewhat disconnected from Him. However, such cannot be said of Christ. He physically came and lived under that same law. The record of His life shows His sufferings, His physical limitations, the temptations He faced, and so on. Like Aaron, in Him is an example of the ability to empathize. But in Him is something greater. This is first because He “was in all points tempted as we are.” This thought takes us back to verse 2:18, which said –

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

There is no part of the human experience that we face that He did not face in some comparable measure. And so like Aaron, we have a high priest with this capacity. But between Aaron and God there was a disconnect. Aaron’s priestly duties were limited because of his fallen nature. Such is not the case with Christ. This is evidenced in the final words of the verse. He was tempted as we are, “yet without sin.”

This same idea is noted in 1 Peter 2:22, but even more, it was prophesied in the Old Testament, such as in Isaiah 53. The author will also note this about Christ again in Chapter 7 of Hebrews. Christ Jesus never sinned, and so in His work, He fulfilled the Law of Moses. Because of this, in His death, He brought the Law of Moses to its end for those who trust in Him. In Him, the law is annulled (7:18), obsolete (8:13), and taken away (10:9). Now, through His establishment of a New Covenant, we have a high priest that is not only like Aaron, He far exceeds Aaron.

Aaron could only go into the Most Holy Place once a year, and never without a blood sacrifice for his own sin. Christ Jesus went through the heavens and to the very throne of God with His own blood, not for atonement of His sins, but for atonement of the sins of His people. He was and is pure, undefiled, perfect, and fully able to sympathize with our own shortcomings. Because of this we can, in fact, be diligent to remain faithful to our God – not in our own strength, but in the strength of Christ. The blessing and benefit of this will be seen in our next verse.

Life application: When you face your own doubts about your ability to come to God, look to Christ Jesus. He has gone to His Father before you, and He carries you with Him when He goes. For those who trust in Christ, for those who are “in” Christ, there is no need to worry if God has accepted you. He has. We have an infinite source of grace and mercy available to us because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, if we were still under the Law of Moses, our mediator would be a fallen, fallible man who possessed only limited access to You. We could never be sure of whether You truly sympathized with us or not. But in Christ, we have a New Covenant, established on better promises, and which is mediated by the perfect and undefiled Son of God. We have full and complete access to You because of our perfect High Priest. Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord who goes before us. Amen!

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

This is a well-loved, and often-cited, verse. It gives courage to the believer, and it is one which holds great importance for the one who is facing trials and difficulties. Countless well-intended and flowery comments have been made concerning it, applying it to the individual believer in their times of great need.

Having said that, proper context needs to be maintained in order to understand what is being conveyed. First, the context of the entire discourse has hinged on the idea of entering God’s rest. In verse 1 of the chapter, it said, “since a promise remains of entering His rest.” At that time, it was noted, “This is the key idea of the argument, and it is that upon which the whole discussion turns. There was the promise of rest, it was not believed by the people, and yet now the promise of rest still remains for God’s people. The truth of the matter still stands; it is yet ahead in God’s redemptive plans.”

Nothing has changed in this. With this understanding, we can now grasp what the author is saying. He begins with, “Let us.” The “us,” based on the context, refers to the Hebrew people who are offered the promise of entering into God’s rest. The chapter opens and closes with the same context. The author implores them to “therefore come.” They have an offer which is available to them, and they are being told to go forward and appropriate that offer while it is still called Today. They are to come and they are to come “boldly.” The Greek of the word signifies, “confidence (bold resolve), leaving a witness that something deserves to be remembered (taken seriously).” (HELPS Word Studies).

This is the attitude that they are to employ. They are to have faith, and they are to use that faith in an open manner, exercising it plainly. This then is in contrast to those in the wilderness who did not enter because of disobedience. The people are to see Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises, and they are to accept that premise and appropriate it. With this understanding, the author next says that they are to come boldly “to the throne of grace.”

The words are tied into the previous verses which spoke of the “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens.” Thus, the symbolism is that of the Old Testament where the high priest would go forth on the Day of Atonement and seek a covering for the sins of the people, finding mercy from there at the throne of grace – meaning the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. That pictured the true place of propitiation, meaning Christ’s shed blood. From the Cross of Calvary, to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, Christ's body was conducted. From there in His state of physical death, He accomplished the true, full, and final satisfaction of the sin-debt for Adam’s seed. To understand the symbolism of this from Exodus, please refer to this sermon:

Thus, Christ is both the High Priest and the One who is there at the Throne of Grace, offering Himself to those who come. With this understanding, the author then says of coming to the throne of grace, “that we may obtain mercy.” Of these words, Charles Ellicott says, “The real meaning is, receive compassion (Hebrews 2:17) in our weakness and trials. The thought of obtaining mercy for guilt is not in these words.” This is incorrect. He rightly cites Hebrews 2:17, but that says, “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.”

Two things are going on here. The first is the compassionate work of the High Priest (who is Jesus). The second is the merciful forgiveness of sin at the throne of grace (which is Jesus). Mercy is not receiving what is deserved. The author is imploring his audience to come boldly, because of our compassionate High Priest’s access to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy at that same throne of grace. This receiving of mercy is then tied into the next words, “and find grace to help.” Grace is receiving what is not deserved. The person deserves condemnation and does not receive it. The person does not deserve this mercy but obtains it. This is what is being conveyed now. The receiving of mercy, and the finding of grace to help, is then tied into the final words of the verse and the chapter, “in time of need.”

The word translated as “time of need” is found only here and in Mark 6:21. It signifies a suitable time, a strategic time, or even a time of a holiday or festival. The idea is that of the Day of Atonement. That was fulfilled, in its entirety, by the Lord Jesus in His work. That idea is that the offer is still open Today to the Hebrew people. Until they appropriate it, they are not accepted by God, even though they are called the people of God. The seasonable time is the time of Christ’s atonement. That time is open to any and all who come individually, and it is open to the people of Israel collectively as well. There is one, and only one, fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, but there is the availability of the efficacy of its effect while Today remains. In appropriating that work, those who so do will enter into God’s rest.

With this understanding, we can now consider the idea of this verse being applied to individual believers. Though this is not the context of the verse, we can now question, “If we have come to the throne of grace in our time of need (meaning our need for atonement of our sins), and that was granted by God because of Christ, do we still have that same access now?” The answer is, “Yes.” In Christ, the veil is rent, we have passed through to the Most Holy Place with Christ, and we are forever granted that access because of Him as our High Priest. And so, despite this verse speaking of the context described above, it can still be happily applied in the general sense which has been commonly applied to it. We will not damage the intent of the words using it in this way, as long as we understand the main context first and how it allows the secondary meaning.

Life application: Taking verses out of context, especially Old Testament verses which are spoken to Israel as a people, is not appropriate unless the truth can realistically be applied to us as individuals today. Care must be taken to always consider context first. From that, any secondary meaning can only be drawn if the main context allows it.

Lord God, help us to always keep our application of verses from Your word in their appropriate context. If we fail to do this, we can misappropriate claims to which we have no right. That will only lead to a false sense of reality within our churches and within our personal lives. May we have soundness in what we accept, apply only that which is appropriate, and so bring honor to You through this process. To Your glory alone may we live out our lives in Christ. Amen.

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Hebrews 5:1

The author begins Chapter 5 with “For” to ensure we consider the context of what has been said. In verses 5:14-16, the reader has been reminded of Christ’s suitability to mediate for us before God. He will now continue explaining why this is so. Understanding this, he says, “For every high priest taken from among men.” More rightly, it should say, “...being taken from among men.” The stress is on “men,” not on the “taking.” The fact that the high priest shares in the commonality of humanity is what is being stressed. The entire premise of the priesthood is that it can only be efficiently conducted if done so by a man. In this common bond of humanity, he “is appointed.”

The Greek word means to “put in charge.” It is what gives standing to him in order to exercise in a particular capacity. Aaron, for example, was appointed by the Lord. This selection is found in Exodus 28:1. And not only was he selected, but it was a selection which then established his house after him. It was designated to go from Aaron to one of his sons for the duration of the Mosaic covenant as is then seen in Exodus 29:9. Further, when a challenge was made to that priesthood, its validity was confirmed again by the Lord in Numbers 16 and 17. The authority of the priesthood was Aaron’s, but it was “for men.”

In other words, he was appointed to his duties, not just for himself, nor for Israel as a whole, but for the people of Israel in both an individual and a collective manner. As the human mediator, he was selected to mediate for men. It was he who bore the responsibility for the priesthood, and who was to symbolically take the sins upon himself and purge them through himself in the conduct of his duties. This is seen, for example, in the eating of the sin-offering by the priests, such as in Leviticus 6:26 and elsewhere. When a sin was committed by a high priest, that was handled differently. But for the men, he as a man was appointed “in things pertaining to God.”

Here the importance of the commonality of being a man is seen. God is perfect and cannot look upon sin. Therefore, in order for God to accept the people, the sin must be removed. But the mediator could not be other than a man. For example, it could not be an angel. The angel is in a different category and is unable to properly relate to the experiences, faults, and sins of the people. Further, it could not be an animal, as if the people could say, “This goat will mediate between us and God.” The goat can be offered for atonement (in type and picture of Christ only – see Hebrews 7:4), but it cannot perform the functions required of the priesthood. And the mediator could not be a stone or wood idol that the people petitioned to mediate between them and God. As obvious as that seems, it happens still in the world today. An idol of stone or wood (or whatever) is incapable of anything. There must be an acceptable priest to mediate the covenant in all things pertaining to God, and that priest must be a man. God has expectations, and only a man can understand those expectations – both from God and for man. This is so “that he may offer.”

The term “offer” is used in a technical sense. It literally means, “to bear toward.” In the Old Testament, it would correspond to the Hebrew word qarab when it is used in a similar sense. Both words can be used in a regular way, such as bringing a person to another person, but in relation to the priestly duties, it bears a technical sense. It is with this idea that the priests then offer, “both gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

The law would not allow the people to bring these near to God on their own. Instead, they had to come through a mediator. The people, though considered as a holy nation, were not properly set apart or ordained as “holy” in the sense of priestly duties. Therefore, only one who was so set apart could then offer these offerings. As it says, “for sins.” Sin is the problem, and thus it necessitated a system which could effectively show the people this. In reality, the offerings of Aaron and his sons were ineffectual. They did nothing but withhold God’s wrath from the people temporarily. This is noted in Hebrews 7:4 (also referenced above). The rites and rituals of the priesthood, in every single detail, only looked forward to the full, final, and finished work of Jesus Christ. This will continue to become more evident with each verse and chapter which lies ahead.

Life application: The author has clearly shown in this verse that only a man can mediate on behalf of man. However, no man with sin can truly mediate in a way which will remove the sins forever. And all men have sin. Thus, there was a need for God to intervene. Only the God/Man could do this. This verse demonstrates the heretical nature of the teachings of cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. The JWs claim Jesus is an angel. This is not possible according to this verse. The Mormons claim Jesus was a man who became a god. But man came from Adam and Adam was created by the Lord who is the One and only God. Mormonism is logically a failed system because it is based on an impossible regress. There is, and there can be, only one God. Understanding the content of Hebrews, which is more clearly understood by knowing the Old Testament, leads us to a clear picture of who Jesus is, and the importance of calling on Him properly – as the God/Man.

Heavenly Father, the logic displayed in the pages of the Bible is truly remarkable. Everything keeps pointing forward to the coming Christ. And upon His arrival, everything looks back on what He has accomplished, or forward to His coming again. No matter where we are in this magnificent book, we find Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of everything it says. Thank You for the giving of Jesus who makes all things new! Amen.

He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Hebrews 5:2

As noted in verse 5:1, every high priest is taken from among men. The stress of that thought was on the bond of humanity. We can see here the reason why this is so necessary. It is so that “he can have compassion.” The word used is a unique compound word, metriopatheó. Helps word studies defines it as –

...(from metrios, ‘mediating,’ derived from metri, "an instrument for measuring" and páthos, ‘feeling’) – properly, to feel appropriately, i.e. with divinely-measured intensity (‘God-controlled moderation’).”

The high priest was not a stoic who was without feeling toward those he mediated for, nor was he overbearing in accusation, finding fault in every misstep made by them. Instead, because he shares in their humanity, he was to empathize with the people without being too tolerant of their faults that they should be wholly overlooked, nor should he be too severe that he finds a reason to have them ejected from the congregation for even the slightest mistakes. The high priest possesses feelings appropriate to the situation with a “God-controlled moderation” which is directed toward “those who are ignorant and going astray.”

The word “ignorant” is not necessarily speaking of one who is stupid. Rather, it is someone who simply doesn’t know about or recognize his wrongdoing. It may be from a lack of intelligence, or it may be from a lack of information. A distinction between intentional and unintentional sins is made in Numbers 15:22-29. The word now translated as “ignorant” would fall under the “unintentional” category there. The term “going astray” is the same one used in Hebrews 3:10, planaó. It is where the word “planet” comes from, because planets, unlike stars, seem to wander through the heavenly realm. It would then signify a person caught in sin by roaming into error, or by being misled.

In such cases, the high priest is able to see their wandering and have a moderated sense of their failing because “he himself is also subject to weakness.” The word here for “subject to” gives the idea of being hung or surrounded by. Thus, it is something that encompasses. The high priest is, like those he ministers for, encompassed by weakness. And that is exactly the word used to describe what Jesus did for the people in Matthew 8 where the words of Isaiah 53 are cited –

When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
He Himself took our infirmities
And bore 
our sicknesses.’” Matthew 8:16, 17

As can be seen, verses 5:1 & 2, which began with the word “For,” are given to explain what was stated as Chapter 4 closed out. As it said in verse 4:15, “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.” The notable difference is that the high priest of Israel was encompassed with his own weakness, whereas Christ carried the infirmaries of the people for them. The difference between the two will lead us to the thought of the coming verses concerning the weakness of the high priest of the Old Covenant.

We are being shown the compassion of God towards fallen sinners in the Person of Jesus Christ. Because He shared in our human limitations, He is able to effectively mediate as one who can empathize with our failings.

Life application: Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord God, it sure is wonderful that Jesus came into humanity. In this, He took on our infirmities and He bore our sicknesses. As a Man, He can fully empathize with our failings and faults, and He can then effectively mediate between You and us. We have a High Priest who is able to use the proper measure when we go astray, knowing personally who we are and what limitations we possess. Thank You for this wonderfully comforting knowledge. Amen.

Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. Hebrews 5:3

The words, “Because of this,” are given to explain the words of the previous verse, which said when speaking of the high priest, “since he himself is also subject to weakness.” The high priest was not a sinless person. He was born into humanity from a human father, and thus he received his first father’s original sin. Further, he was subject to weakness, meaning he incurred guilt through committed sin as well. This made him able to be compassionate towards those who went astray, but it also meant that he required his own offering for sin just “as for the people.”

The book of Leviticus details the many sacrifices required under the Mosaic law, including offerings for sin. In the ordination of Aaron and his sons, and which would be required for any new priest after them, there was the necessity to offer a sin-offering. This is noted in Leviticus 8:2. The process of making this offering is then detailed later in the same chapter. The sin offering was required each day of the ordination process, and then when they were fully ordained, only then could the priests offer for the sins of the people, as is noted in Leviticus 9:7 & 9:15.

This is explained with the words, “so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.” The very fact that the priests had to offer for their own sins, including the high priest himself, shows us the fallible nature of the Aaronic priesthood. They were tainted with sin, and they needed to have a substitute die in place of their failings before they could sacrifice for others.

And more, this didn’t just occur one time and then purify them forever from the need for a sacrifice for sin. Rather, each year on the Day of Atonement the high priest had to sacrifice a sin-offering for himself before he could offer one for the people. This was a clear indication that his ordination did not reckon him as sinless at all. Examples such as these show the fallible nature of the priesthood of Aaron.

But the most poignant example of all is found actually occurring on the final day of the priestly ordination of Aaron and his sons. On that day, after they had accomplished the sacrifice for their own sins, they sacrificed for the sins of the people. The priests were to then eat that sin-offering, thus symbolically taking the sins of the people upon themselves and purging them. However, two of the sons of Aaron died on that day, even after the sacrifices were complete. Later, Moses came and found that Aaron and his two remaining sons had not eaten the sin-offering, but had burnt it up. The following analysis of those verses from Leviticus 10 shows the absolute inability of the Aaronic priesthood to actually accomplish the purification of sin for themselves and for the people –

18 See! Its blood was not brought inside the holy place; indeed you should have eaten it in a holy place, as I commanded.”

Two different things are intended with the word “holy” in this verse. The first is speaking of the blood being brought into the holy place within the tent of meeting. This did not happen with this sacrifice, and therefore the meat was to be eaten, not burned up. The place where it was to be eaten is in a holy place, meaning within the sanctuary, but not within the holy place of the tent of meeting.

19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Look, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, and such things have befallen me!

Almost all scholars tie Aaron’s words in with his grief, and the grief of his sons, as being the reason for not eating the sin offering of the people, something prescribed by the law. However, this is not the case. Aaron will ask a conditional question based on what he has just noted to Moses, which is that the sons had offered their sin offering, and they had offered their burnt offering before the Lord. And further, they had done it before Nadab and Abihu had died. The offerings were on behalf of all the sons, not just the two living ones. And yet, two of them still died in sin on that day!

How could they eat the sin offering of someone else when they had not attained to the state of holiness which kept them from dying in their own sin? It is a giant mark upon the Aaronic priesthood, coming on the last day of the ordination process, which shows its completely fallible nature. It couldn’t even perfect its priests. As this is so, how could it be expected to perfect those who came to the Lord through those priests? Indeed, something much greater was needed for that to come about.

19 (continues) If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?”

The answer to his question is obvious, “No.” If the sin offering and the burnt offerings, which were intended to take care of the sins of the priests before they tended to the sins of the congregation, were tainted by what occurred, thus meaning the priests were also tainted, then how could they take on the sin of the people in order to purify them? Aaron’s logic is impeccable, and it shows us how vastly inferior this priesthood is to that of Christ – infinitely so.

The sin of man could never be taken away by the blood of bulls and goats – case in point is the death of Nadab and Abihu. Add into that the future death of Aaron, and then the death of Moses who performed the installation of Aaron, and you have a completely failed system. However, the system itself is not the failure, it is the people within the system. And within the people is the true failure, sin. Contemplating David’s words of the 51st Psalm shows to us the seed of failure contained within the Law of Moses –

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5

David shows us that sin is, in fact, inherited. This was the case with Aaron and his sons, and the Law of Moses could not make them sinless. Only in the coming of Christ could this come about.

Life application: The analysis of the verses of Leviticus provided in this commentary is an abbreviated form of the sermon, Absolute Zero, given by Charlie Garrett of The Superior Word. To understand the entire context of what is presented in those verses, please take the time to watch this video of the sermon –

Lord God Almighty, we learn from the Bible that the Law of Moses could never adequately deal with the sin problem in man. Only in the coming of Christ could our sin nature be properly dealt with. Thank You for the surpassing greatness of the New Covenant which comes through the shed blood of Christ. Thank You for Jesus our Lord! Amen.

And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. Hebrews 5:4

This statement is tied to verse 5:1, which says, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed...” After saying that, the state of such an appointed priest was noted. The author now returns to the fact that the high priest is, in fact, appointed by saying, “And no man takes this honor to himself.” In these words, he is speaking of a legitimate high priest in the line of Aaron and for the role of mediation of the Mosaic law.

Aaron was specifically chosen, and the priesthood was given to him and to his line after him. Only those who met this qualification could rightly stand in this capacity. Further, Aaron and his sons, after selection, went through a lengthy and precise ordination process which then made them suitable to minister in this way. The honor wasn’t taken upon themselves, and the ordination process wasn’t invented by them. Instead, it was all by God’s choosing and by His instruction. Nothing concerning mediation between Himself and the people was left up to man. It was solely a work of God. This is then confirmed by the words, “but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

It is not of man who wills, but of God who chooses and appoints. There were usurpers to the priestly duties who are recorded in the Bible. For example, when the ten northern tribes broke away from Judah, the king of Israel appointed his own priests to minister at his own high places. This is recorded in 1 Kings 13:33, 34 –

After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. 34 And this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth.”

Examples such as this, and examples of disobedient priests even from the line of Aaron (as recorded in both testaments), show us that something more precise was needed, The false priesthood of Israel, and the fallible nature of the Aaronic priesthood even in Judah, were incapable of bringing about perfection of the people. But to be restored to God, perfection is necessary. As the priesthood of Aaron was deficient in this manner, so is the law which brought about Aaron’s priesthood. This does not mean that the law which was given was not good, but rather it was sin in man which made it impossible to bring about that which was necessary to wholly restore man to God. A new calling would be necessary. That calling would be of a perfect Man, through a new covenant, and with an everlasting priesthood.

Life application: If the priesthood ministered by Aaron could not bring about perfection, and as it is superseded by the priesthood of Jesus, why would anyone go back to the law (of which Aaron ministered) in order to attempt to be pleasing to God? It shows either the height of stupidity to reject the greater priesthood, or it shows the utterly arrogant nature of the individual to want to work towards a rest which has already been granted by God through faith in Christ. The implication is that such a person believes that what Jesus did wasn’t good enough and that they can do a better job than Him. Don’t show yourself either stupid or arrogant. Instead, show that you are wise in Christ, and totally reliant on Him alone!

Lord God, only through the finished work of Christ can we enter into Your rest. When He shed His blood, He cried out, “It is finished!” Everything needed to restore us to You came about through what He has done. And so why would we ever revert back to a law which could never bring us to perfection? In Him, we are justified. In Him, we are sanctified. In Him we are glorified. Help us to not assume we can do it better than He did. Thank You for the finished work of Christ, and for the rest which is made available through it. Amen!

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.” Hebrews 5:5

There is a definite article before “Christ” in this verse which is unfortunately left untranslated by most versions. However, the author is making a specific connection to the priesthood of Aaron by comparing it with the priesthood of Christ Jesus. It properly says, “So also the Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest.”

The word “Christ” in Greek is the exact same in meaning as “Messiah” in Hebrew. Both mean “anointed one.” In the books of Leviticus and Numbers, the term “the anointed priest,” or “the priest who was anointed,” is used several times when speaking of the high priest. Just as Aaron was selected by God to be the anointed priest, “So also the Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest.” The comparison is made. Both of those who were so anointed did not choose themselves. Rather, both were chosen by God. This, however, does not mean that Jesus isn’t God. Instead, it is speaking of His humanity which has been the subject of the author’s words, especially since verse 4:15.

Jesus, as a human, was selected by God for this mediatorial role which would confirm Him as “the Christ,” and who would also “Himself become High Priest.” The author then confirms this by showing that Jesus was the subject of the 2nd Psalm by saying, “but it was He who said to Him.” The “He” is speaking of the Lord (Yehovah); the “Him” is speaking of Jesus, who is the incarnation of Yehovah. This is first seen in Psalm 2:2 –

The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying...”

The Lord (Yehovah in Hebrew) is mentioned along with “His anointed.” The words “His anointed” are from the Hebrew word mashiakh, or “messiah.” As noted already, the term “messiah” in Hebrew means “Christ” in Greek. The author is showing that the One who fills this role was chosen by God. However, the next verse (5:6) will show that this same One is also Yehovah, the Lord. Both are Yehovah. To set that up so that there can be no mistake about it when he gets to that verse, he finishes his thought of this verse by quoting Psalm 2:7, just as he did in Hebrews 1:5 –

You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.”

This emphasis and highlight in using these same words, both in verse 1:5 and now here, is that verse 1:5 is in relation to the Christ being the anointed King. For example, in verse 1:8 it speaks of the throne and scepter of Jesus (showing kingly authority), the Son of God. Just as Jesus is the Anointed King referenced in Psalm 2:6, and which was then confirmed by those same words in verse 2:7, so He is the anointed Priest. The proclamation which says, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You,” had been used to confirm in the Christ both the office of King and High Priest. That the One to fill both of these roles is also Yehovah, and thus God, will be seen in the words of the next verse.

However, even without the words of the next verse, the deity of this One has already been made evident several times in Hebrews so far. We should have no doubts in our theology of the deity of Christ Jesus. When we worship Him, we are worshiping God.

Life application: The author is using words, carefully selected from the Old Testament, to build His case in the superiority of the New Covenant faith in Jesus over the Old Covenant system. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than Aaron. He is greater than the angels. And so on. As the Old anticipated rest for the people of God, and as the Old pointed to faith in Christ Jesus, then the author is directing them to come to Christ, enter into His rest, and enjoy harmonious union with God, through Him, for all time. It is error to deny the deity of Christ, and it is error to fall back on the Law of Moses in hopes of being reconciled to God. There is only one way for this reconciliation to come about, and that is by coming through Jesus, the God/Man who is the anointed King and the anointed High Priest.

Lord God, the Bible makes such a definitive case for the deity of Christ that there is absolutely no excuse for us to deny this most important tenet. If we fail to acknowledge Him in this capacity, we fail to honor You for having come in this capacity. We cannot say that we will follow You, worship You, and adore You without giving that same honor to Jesus. Help us to rightly honor You by honoring the Son. Amen.

As He also says in another place:
are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek”; Hebrews 5:6

The words of this verse are based on the introductory words of the previous verse. There it said, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him.” The “He” there is referring to God. After that, the author cited Psalm 2:7. Now, to continue to confirm that Jesus was selected by God to be High Priest of the New Covenant, he again goes to Scripture by saying, “As He also says in another place.”

He has done this to confirm that it is God who has selected Christ, and the evidence is already recorded in the word of God. This time, it is in Psalm 110:4. How can we know these words are speaking of Jesus? First, he has already used this same Psalm to show that it is fulfilled in Jesus. This was seen in verse 1:13. He will continue to confirm it in this chapter. Further, He will again refer to the words of this psalm, in detail, in Chapter 7. It is obvious, based on the abundant evidence that he has provided and will continue to provide, that this is speaking of Christ Jesus.

As a reminder that this psalm was always considered as messianic in nature, the opening of the psalm says, “The Lord said to my Lord.” In this, the first use of “Lord” is the divine name, Yehovah. In the second, it is the word Adonai. It is a term used when speaking about or to Yehovah, rather than pronouncing His divine name. Both uses are speaking of Yehovah. David is, therefore, making a statement about the Lord appointing Himself to a particular position. In this case, it is the appointment of Jesus the Messiah (who is Yehovah God) to the role of High Priest of a new covenant. This is evident from the words cited by the author which state, “You are a priest forever.”

Here it doesn’t say “high priest.” Though He is called this elsewhere in Hebrews, it is not used here in order to make the comparison to Melchizedek, who was never called “high priest.” Christ Jesus would be a priest, executing priestly functions, on behalf of the people and for Yehovah Elohim, or the Lord God. And this priestly role would be “forever.” This is an explicit note of superiority of Christ over Aaron. Aaron was told he would have an everlasting priesthood (meaning during the duration of the Old Covenant), but that priesthood was not in him personally. Rather, it was through him and then his sons after him. In contrast to that, Christ’s ministry would be through Him personally and forever. Therefore, His priesthood is superior to that of Aaron. This will be evaluated and explained in detail in Chapter 7.

The verse then finishes with “According to the order of Melchizedek.” The author now presents Melchizedek’s priesthood as a priesthood comparable to that of Christ Jesus in that it is “forever.” Whether this is literally true or not, or how he can substantiate this, is not the author’s concern yet. That will not come until Chapter 7. He simply makes the statement that it is so. As David recorded it under inspiration from God, it must be a valid premise, and so our author simply states it as an axiom. Melchizedek’s priesthood is forever, and the priesthood of Christ is according to the order of Melchizedek. Therefore, the priesthood of Christ Jesus is forever.

The author could leave the statement here and go no further and have a case for the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over that of Aaron, but he won’t. He will explain the matter in complete detail as he continues. For now, he is simply introducing Melchizedek in order to show that Jesus’ priesthood is worthy of full attention and that it will fully satisfy the mediatorial role of those who come to Him.

Life application: As Jesus’ priesthood is superior to that of Aaron, and as Aaron ministered under the Mosaic Covenant, then what would be the purpose of going back to a priesthood that had continuously failed to bring priest and people to a state of perfection? The sins of the people continued, and year by year they needed a covering for new sins which entered into their lives. The people died, and a new generation sprang up with the same problems. Life could never come about through adherence to this system. Only in Christ Jesus could it be made possible. And yet, there are innumerable people today who are asking their audiences to turn again to Moses and this failed system. Don’t be lulled into this heretical teaching. Come to Christ – the Mediator of a better covenant. (Note: As always “failed system” when referring to the Mosaic Covenant is not because the law itself was a failure, but because sin in man causes it to fail. Fallen man can never be perfected by this system.)

Lord God, we are granted a marvelous opportunity to be freed from the yoke of the Law of Moses by coming to Christ. In Him, we are granted Your grace, and our sins are not counted against us any longer. How precious is the blood of Christ that purifies us once and forever! Let us come to the cross, receive cleansing, and be forever forgiven for our wrongs! Thank You, O God, for Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

...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, Hebrews 5:7

The verse begins with “who.” This is speaking of Jesus, not Melchizedek. Though not in the original, some translations insert the name here to ensure clarity. The words now are explanatory of verse 5:2 which spoke of the ability of the high priest to have compassion on those he ministers for. Further, the words are given in preparation for verse 5:8 to show that He “learned” through what is now stated. In essence, it was Jesus “who...learned obedience.” Everything between the words is building up that thought. Understanding this, it next says that it is He who, “in the days of His flesh,” meaning the time of His incarnation.

Christ was born into humanity and He lived out a human existence. The term “flesh” is speaking of this physical aspect of Christ Jesus as a Man. This does not mean that Christ is no longer united to a material body, as if “the days of His flesh are over and He only has a spiritual nature now.” Rather, He is still fully Man, but not in a body like ours. He has an eternal, glorified body. “In the days of His flesh” is speaking of the human nature that we possess, and that He assumed in the incarnation. This is stated to show that He can empathize with us, just as any high priest is able to do.

Next, the author tells us, “when He had offered up prayers and supplications.” The two words are close in meaning, but they cover a full range of what is lifted up. Prayer (deésis in Greek) is a strong, even emotional, petition which arises out of a deep-seated need. It is something personal based on a perceived lack that needs to be filled. Supplication (hiketéria in Greek) signifies an olive branch. Thus, it is a type of petition looking for reconciliation and relief. The olive branch is a symbol of seeking peace that we still speak of to this day. This is the only use of the word in the Bible. Christ Jesus is said to have offered these up, meaning to God, “with vehement cries and tears.”

The “vehement cries” does not speak of mourning and tears as if He were downcast. Rather, it is an outcry which arises when one suffers intensely. Examples of this are found in the gospels where it says that Jesus “cried out with a loud voice” in Matthew 27:45, and where He “prayed more earnestly” in Luke 22:44. The “tears” of Christ are specifically noted in Luke 19:41 where He wept over Jerusalem, and where He wept at Lazarus’ tomb. These two examples showed that He, in fact, wept. However, they are probably not what is being referred to here which is speaking of His tears in relation to what lay ahead for Him in regards to His own suffering. When He prayed in Gethsemane, “His sweat became like great drops of blood.” It is hard to imagine that tears were not a part of this moment, even if Luke doesn’t include it in his description. These and other such examples showed the immense depth of emotion and heartfelt petition in His time of deepest need. And these were directed “to Him who was able to save Him from death.”

This is speaking of God the Father, and it can possibly mean one of two things. First, God the Father was able to save Christ from going to death. This is noted in Luke 22:42, for example, where Jesus petitioned, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” It is also possible that it is referring to Christ being saved from out of death. Jesus noted to His disciples that He would be crucified and that He would rise again. But just as He petitioned to be saved from going to death, once it was obvious that this would not come about, His heartfelt utterances to the Father may have been redirected to His being saved out of the state of death. This would be in line with prophecies in the psalms and also in Jonah which reveal this, such as Jonah 2:6 when Jonah prayed from the fish’s belly. In both cases, in going to death, and in being brought out of death, Jesus “was heard because of His godly fear.”

Again, this was actually prophesied in the psalms and in Jonah. In Jonah 2:2 we read –

Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.”

The prophecies were fulfilled in Christ who possessed a godly fear, and who conveyed that in His prayers and supplications to His Father. All of this was not without purpose, but was to fulfill the requirements of becoming a high priest who might “have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray” (5:2).

Life application: The work of Jesus, when taken in its proper light, is more than astonishing. He, who is fully God, was willing to step out of the eternal realm and unite with humanity, taking on all of its pains, sufferings, and trials in order to redeem us; but also in order to become a High Priest who can empathize with our own shortcomings, failings, and weaknesses. Though He never was found in fault, He can empathize with us in our faults. He knows what we are going through and He is not only not unsympathetic to it, but He is minutely aware of it and caring about it. When you petition the Father through Christ Jesus, you are going through One who understands your needs and wants perfectly.

Lord God, because Jesus came in the flesh, He is completely able to empathize with us and to sympathize with our desires, wants, needs, pains, trials, and sufferings. There is nothing unknown to You, and there is nothing He has not – in one way or another – endured with us. Together, we have the perfect match up to respond to us in the perfect way. You know what we need, and You are able to assist us in our times of need. How great are the things You have done for us. Such love! Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

...though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8

The words of this verse are a part of a single thought presented by the author. Taken together, they read –

...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.”

This verse, then, continues to explain the thought presented in verses 5:1, 2. Jesus was “taken from among men” (5:1), as was seen in the words “in the days of His flesh.” He can also “have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness” (5:2). This is because “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” With that greater understanding and explanation of those previous verses, we can then correctly evaluate the author’s words. First, he says, “though He was a Son.”

The verb is in the present tense, and so it more correctly says, “Though being a Son.” Jesus didn’t stop being a Son at some point. He was, is, and will always be a Son. Despite this, despite being God’s Son (as indicated in verse 5:5), He was appointed to be a Man, and He was willing to use that manhood to experience everything that man experiences. He did not exempt Himself from those things common to men, but He took them all upon Himself. In this, He could then suffer and learn how to be obedient in His suffering. Here, the author makes this a definite point by placing an article before the word “obedience.” As Young’s literally translates the words –

through being a Son, did learn by the things which he suffered -- the obedience.”

The thought of Christ learning obedience through His suffering encompasses every aspect of His life, but it finds its fullest sense at the end of His life. Before that came, He learned the obedience of subjecting Himself to His human parents. He learned to physically live under the law which He had given to Israel, having subjected Himself to the same terms and conditions that had established them as a people under the Lord, all the way back at the giving of the law at Sinai. He also learned to be obedient to the authorities placed over Him, both in Israel and in the jurisdiction of the Roman Empire. In these and other things, He experientially learned obedience. However, the ultimate point of all of those things was that He would carry this experiential knowledge with Him even to the obedience of death. As it says in Philippians 2:8 –

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

This is “the obedience” that is being referred to in its ultimate sense. In these words from Philippians, Paul uses the adjective form of the noun now used in this verse in Hebrews. Christ Jesus became obedient unto death. As a result, He learned what is truly “the obedience.” Everything that He had lived out in His life was a preparatory step leading to taking that obedient life and offering it up to God as a sacrifice of atonement for the people of God. Thus, in His learning, He can be a merciful, compassionate High Priest. The results and benefits of this are to be explained in the coming verses.

Life application: We are the sum of our experiences. What will we do with that body of experience? What is the most effective use of everything that makes us who we are? The answer, if desiring to please God, is to follow the example of Christ Jesus. He offered Himself, completely and wholly to God the Father, even to death on the cross. Are we willing to be found in the same state of obedience? Are we even willing to give our lives for the sake of Christ if called to do so? Let us contemplate what the Lord has done, and be willing to follow Him down whatever path God sets before us.

Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus lived a life of complete obedience, subjecting Himself to the authority of His human parents, to the authority of the Law of Moses, to the authority of the leaders of Israel, and even to the authority of the Roman Empire under which He lived. And in that obedience, He demonstrated the ultimate obedience in giving His life for the sins of Your people. Grant us the same willingness to use our lives in an obedient manner, going where You direct, even to death itself if need be, in order to lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” Hebrews 5:10

This verse completes the thought of the previous two verses. The words, “called of God,” signify being “addressed.” The Greek word, from which they are translated, is a unique compound word signifying “towards” and “to speak in an assembly.” In other words, “to be called by name.” Thus, Jesus is “addressed by God as High Priest.” What has happened here is that the quote of the psalm from verse 5:6 is being restated by adding the word “High” to “Priest.” Putting the verses side by side will show this –

You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek”;

…called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”

The importance of the Melchizedek connection isn’t explained by the author here and it really doesn’t come until Chapter 7. Instead, the author will spend the rest of Chapter 5, and all of Chapter 6, addressing the surety of the hope which believers possess because of the work accomplished by Jesus, who is here designated as High Priest. The entire section may, at first, seem like an odd diversion away from this thought, but it isn’t. Instead, he will demonstrate the immutability of God’s promises which hinge on the fact that Christ Jesus is a suitable, competent, and eternal High Priest. In verse 6:20, Melchizedek will be reintroduced and, starting in verse 7:1, the significance of his office will then begin to be explained.

By having introduced Melchizedek here though, the author brings to mind the eternality of his priesthood as stated in the Psalms. The importance of this eternal priesthood is to assure the wary believer that if the priesthood is eternal, then so is the salvation – the two go hand in hand. Remember who is being addressed in the original letter – first century Jews who were considering going back to the temple rituals.

These rituals contained continual sacrifices of animals performed by priests who would grow old and die. Even the temple itself was a temporary structure requiring maintenance and which had, at the time of this letter, already been destroyed once. The only thing eternal about the temple rituals was the Object of the worship and petition – God. However, everything else was temporary and identified with a temporary covering. In other words, sacrifices were ongoing and the Day of Atonement came around each year. If it was an eternal atonement, it would have been a one-time event.

This is the importance of Jesus’ priesthood being an eternal priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek. When chapter 7 arrives, it will become much clearer. Until then, it needs to be understood that salvation – because of Jesus’ learning, obedience, and suffering – is eternal.

Life application: Everything about Jesus’ work is sufficient for all time. He lived one life under the law to fulfill the law. The law is fulfilled in Him forever. He died on the cross of Calvary as a one-time, final, and fully-sufficient atoning sacrifice for all people. He is appointed High Priest once and forever to minister for the people and to God. And so on. Nothing is deficient in the work of Christ. In Him, we have an absolute assurance that everything needed to keep us secure before God has been realized.

One time for all eternity Christ came and suffered on our behalf.

His life in exchange for ours – what an awesome trade!

Now we have comfort from His rod and His staff.

And in this life our salvation is eternally made.

Glory to You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord. Hallelujah, and Amen!

...of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:11

The author continues with the thought of the previous verse. Taken together, they read –

...called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”

Understanding this, he begins the verse with, “of whom.” This translation leaves an unnecessary ambiguity in it. Who is “whom” referring to? Is it Jesus or Melchizedek? Rather, it should rightly be translated as, “of which.” He is not speaking specifically about either Jesus or Melchizedek, but about Jesus’ position and duties as High Priest in comparison to those of Melchizedek. As it says, “according to the order of Melchizedek.” It is of this matter that he then says, “we have much to say.”

He is speaking of himself, but he uses the plural “we” as a way of signifying that there is much to be said and much to be absorbed by his hearers. The word “we” is used in a manner inclusive of them, as if a dialogue between the author and the hearer is expected. However, he then says, “and hard to explain.” The word used is found only here in Scripture and it is rightly translated as “explain.” It is a compound word signifying, “difficult to interpret.” What he has to say about Melchizedek is not a light theological matter, but it is something that even his Hebrew audience will find complicated. This is because its complexity transcends the standard thoughts that had been gleaned about Melchizedek and how they point to Christ Jesus.

In other words, the passage concerning Melchizedek in Genesis is only three verses long, and it is seemingly placed there without any theological reason. Instead, it seems to be a short historical record only. However, David then shows that this is not the case in Psalm 110 (which the author of Hebrews has cited in verse 5:6 and 5:10). David referred to “the order of Melchizedek.” However, he didn’t explain what that meant. He simply made the reference and moved on.

The author of Hebrews now says that what David was referring to implied a concept which is quite complicated, and it will require careful explanation. However, there is a problem. The careful explanation of the deeper theology involved in the statement about Melchizedek will be difficult to explain to his audience because, as he says, “you have become dull of hearing.”

Here he introduces a word which will only be used one more time, in verse 6:12. It signifies “blunt,” “dull,” “lazy,” “spiritually sluggish,” etc. His audience should be able to grasp the more complicated doctrines of the faith, but they instead wallowed in shallow theology and were not ready for being introduced to concepts which required study and contemplation. For this reason, he will now divert away from the subject of Melchizedek, only reintroducing him in verse 6:20.

Life application: What importance is complicated theology to you? Are you content with simply knowing the basics of the faith? When you go to work, are you interested in only knowing the basics of your job, or do you seek out knowing everything associated with what you do? What about your favorite hobby or passion? Suppose you enjoy sports? Do you want to know more than just the basics, or are you content to just sit and watch the events of the game happen, without really knowing why they are happening? The level of interest in everything we do shows us how important each thing is to us. If your knowledge of theology is minimal, it is probably because you consider the subject less important than other things. And yet, it is the most important subject that we could ever touch upon. But sound theology is also hard work. Are you willing to put forth the effort and grow in your understanding of the things of God? With every new understanding of this matter, you show God that knowing Him is important to you.

O God! How absolutely amazing is the story of Jesus! When we contemplate what You have done on our behalf through Him, how can we do anything but praise Your glory? We’re free from sin, death, and condemnation through Him. And even more, we’re called Your sons and His brothers. How unworthy we are of this highest honor. Praise be to You. Amen.

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. Hebrews 5:12

The verse begins with “For” in order to build upon the previous words which said, “...since you have become dull of hearing.” Due to their lethargy in paying heed to the things of God, they had failed to mature. And so as a rebuke of their shoddiness in attending to their theological knowledge, he says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers...” In other words, “Because of the amount of time you have been around, you should be so familiar with the matters we have been discussing that you yourselves should have a deep enough understanding of them that you should be teaching them.” But instead, he continues, “you need someone to teach you again the first principles.”

Actually, the word, “Again,” is in the emphatic position. And so it should be connected to “you need,” not “to teach you.” Therefore, it should read, “You need, again, someone to teach you the first principles.” He is stressing the absolute dull nature of their spiritual walk. Not only were they not teachers, but they were so lacking in paying heed to the things of God, that once again they needed to be taught the very basics (first principles).

Just what these “first principles” are is debated. Some look at them as being explained in verse 6:1, speaking of the “elementary principles of Christ.” Others, however, see them as the basics of the Old Testament Scriptures which point to Christ. As his discussion so far has been of how the Old points to the New, the latter is likely the case. The same Greek term, stoicheion, is used by Paul when speaking of the Old Testament rudiments in Galatians 4:3 & 4:9, and in Colossians 2:8 & 2:20. In all of these cases, Paul shows the lesser nature of these elements (first principles) in relation to the surpassing knowledge of the work of Christ. In Galatians 4:9, he even calls them “weak and beggarly.” It is a term similar to what the author will call the Law of Moses in Hebrews 7:18.

As we can see, so far and in particular, he has been speaking of the duties of the high priest of Israel and then those of Jesus being on a different order, that of Melchizedek. And so surely he is referring to these “first principles” as the body of Old Testament writing. This is more certain because they are fully termed by the author, “the first principles of the oracles of God.”

The term, “oracles,” is used in Acts 7:38, Romans 3:2, and 1 Peter 4:11. In the first two instances, it is referring only to the body of Old Testament Scriptures, inclusive of the law, the writings, and the prophets. In 1 Peter 4:11, Peter uses the term as a comparison to the utterances of God, but he most fully is referring to the body of Scripture known as the Old Testament, along with any prophetic revelation since then. When the author comes to the elementary principles of Christ in verse 6:1, he will be using the term in how those things are established in Christ as the fulfillment of these Old Testament oracles. This then seems the likely interpretation based on the next words of this verse, and how they tie into the final two verses of the chapter.

Understanding this, the author continues his rebuke of his audience with the words, “and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” The words, “and you have come,” shows a change in the audience. They were in one state and progressing well in it, and then they moved to another state and are now reduced to a lower level; there is a degeneracy in their theology. The obvious explanation is that they had been progressing in applying, to their lives, the knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures and how they pointed to Christ. However, the believing Hebrews had suddenly gone off course and started to look at the Old Testament Scriptures again as a means to an end in and of themselves. It is thus representative of Paul’s words to the Galatians, rebuking them for going back from sound theological development in Christ and turning again to the Old Testament by adhering to the Law of Moses. This is confirmed in the term, “you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

Milk is for babies, not adults. One must develop from one to the other. Once developed, it would make no sense to fall back to the lesser category. It is reflective of Paul’s words to the Corinthians –

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The author is equating the first principles of the oracles of God, meaning the truths of the Old Testament in how they point to Christ, to mere milk. He is then showing that the deeper theology which is found in Christ is the true solid food which those who are mature will dine on. However, as noted above, they had regressed in their theology by once again applying Old Testament theology to their lives. They had gone from faith alone in Christ to adherence to law. The coming two verses will more fully reveal this.

Life application: The book of Hebrews, like the letters of Paul, warns against devolving in one’s theology from the supremacy of trusting in the finished work of Christ to instead going back to adherence to the Old Testament. Unfortunately, this same problem, warned against over 2000 years ago, has greatly increased in the world again today. Those who follow the Hebrew Roots Movement are doing exactly what is warned against in Hebrews. The author will continue to explain this, in great detail, in the chapters ahead.

Lord God! How blessed are we to have the full revelation of Your plan of redemption in the pages of Scripture. We have what the ancients longed for. In the coming of Jesus, the first principles of theology found in the Old Testament are fulfilled. Now, we can move onto solid food by understanding what He has done. May we pursue the beauty of the finished work of Christ all our days! And to You, we shall give all of our praise. Amen.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Hebrews 5:13

In the previous verse, the author said to his audience that “you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Building on that now, he says, “For everyone who partakes only of milk...” He said that they needed milk and not solid food, and now he says that there is a consequence of partaking only in milk. As noted in the content of verse 5:12, the “milk” being referred to is instruction on how the law only points to Christ. There were, for example, feast days, sabbaths, and the like. Each was a shadow, but the substance is found in Christ. Indeed, all of the Old Testament Scriptures merely pointed to Christ as Jesus said in John 5:39, 40 –

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

What the audience of Hebrews was doing was falling back on the Law of Moses in observing the things required there (such as feast days, temple rites, or whatever) instead of simply trusting in Jesus’ fulfillment of these things. This does not mean they were not true believers, saved by Christ, but that they had reverted to the milk of the Old Testament instead of the meat of the New. The author says of this that such a one who does this “is unskilled in the word of righteousness.”

The “word of righteousness” is that of Scripture interpreted through faith. It is a reliance on Christ as the fulfillment of those types and shadows. One who fails to rely on Christ as the fulfillment of them will be unskilled in handling Scripture properly. Paul states this in Romans 1:17 –

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

And again, Paul speaks of this in Romans 9, showing that the Gentiles had progressed to the meat while the Jews had gone back to the milk –

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.”

It is this very same concept which the author of Hebrews is now explaining to his Hebrew audience. Instead of being adult in their theology and dining on the meat found in Christ’s fulfilled work, they had become babes once again. As he says of any such person, “for he is a babe.” Instead of seeing Christ as the Lamb, they went to the temple to sacrifice a lamb. Instead of seeing Christ as the Atonement for sins, they observed the Day of Atonement according to the law, which only pointed to Him. On and on, they had stopped maturing in Christ through faith, and they had gone back to a lesser form of food, mere milk, found in the law.

Life application: What part of the Law of Moses are you secretly holding to? Are you living solely by faith in Christ and giving to your church out of a grateful heart, or are you trying to merit God’s favor by giving tithes to your church according to the law? Are you living out your rest in Christ, or are you observing a Sabbath according to the law? The list of the law’s requirements is long and burdensome. Holding to the fulfillment of them, as is found in Christ, is a light and easy yoke. The choice is yours. Are you a babe in need of milk, or are you ready for a diet of meat and potatoes?

Lord God – let us not squander the time You have given us, even from the moment we first believed in Jesus. Instead, prompt our hearts onward to an increase in the knowledge of who You are and how You have worked in human history to restore us to You through our Lord Jesus Christ. May You be the one who is glorified as we eagerly pursue You! Amen.

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. Hebrews 5:14

The word “But” is given as a contrast to what was said in the previous verse –

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”

As noted, “the word of righteousness” is that of Scripture interpreted through faith in Christ. It is a reliance on Christ as the fulfillment of those types and shadows found in the Old Testament Scriptures. Those who are unskilled in such things partake of only milk. In other words, they are not living by faith, but are rather relying on those types and shadows as their means of walking properly before the Lord. Unfortunately, one cannot walk properly before the Lord while trying to fulfill that which is already annulled in Christ through His accomplishment of those things.

The author now contrasts such immaturity of partaking only of milk by saying, “solid food belongs to those who are of full age.” The Greek word, translated as “full age,” is teleios. It signifies “perfect,” but in the sense of having attained the proper age. They have “consummated,” as having gone through the necessary stages to reach the end goal of something.

As noted, “solid food” is being equated to “the word of righteousness,” meaning interpreting the word in light of faith in Christ’s work, and all it implies, of the previous verse. Those who are mature will put away things which they can see and actively do in an external way. Instead, they will demonstrate faith in what they have not seen, and they will do it in an internal way. By faith in Christ, we move from being children to being full sons with all the rights and privileges of sonship. Paul explains this, in great detail, in Galatians 3 and 4. In Galatians 4:1-5 he says –

Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

There is a maturity in coming to Christ which did not exist in previous times. Those under the law, which only anticipated Christ, are equated to children who are kept by a tutor. The same general analogy is seen here in the contrast between milk and solid food. As he says, “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.”

The “good and evil” here is not speaking of that which is morally good or evil, but that which is related to doctrine. Is it sound or is it unsound? Is it wholesome or is it corrupt? It is what Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:14 –

...that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”

As is the case there in Ephesians, the author of Hebrews now is speaking of maturity. The audience is implored to have their senses excited to maturity through a habitual study of God’s word. In so doing, it will be seen that Christ is the fulfillment of what was anticipated, and that He is the end of those things for righteousness for everyone who believes in Him.

The dietary restrictions, for example, are a part of the law. Those still affected by such restrictions are considered “weak” by Paul in Romans 14. Again, it is a state of immaturity which is equated to “milk” here. To understand that the dietary restrictions no longer apply in Christ is to move to “solid food,” which is equated to maturity. The same theme runs constantly through Paul’s epistles using different metaphors. The author of Hebrews is asking his Hebrew audience to grow up, study the word, trust in Christ alone for their spiritual walk, and to put away the weak and beggarly elements (Galatians 4:9) of the law.

Life application: The same theme is used again and again (and again!) in the New Testament epistles in order to wake up those who have come to Christ. Stop relying on yourself! Stop relying on deeds of the law! Trust in Christ, rest in Christ, and exalt God because of the magnificent and perfectly accomplished work of Jesus Christ. This attitude is what is pleasing to God.

O glorious God! Help me to move to spiritual maturity by constantly thinking on, and training myself in, your word so that I may be able to distinguish good from evil, especially in regards to doctrine. By doing so, may my life be a living sacrifice to You and to Your glory. I pray this in the awesome name of Jesus my Lord. Amen!

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, Hebrews 6:1

The word, “Therefore,” begins Chapter 6, asking the reader to consider what was just presented. In verses 5:12, 13 concerning “the first principles of the oracles of God,” he noted that his audience ought to be teachers by now, and yet, they remained “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” They had so far devolved in their thinking that they had abandoned the concept of salvation by grace through faith. They had shunned the truth that this had replaced works of the law, and they had fallen back on observances which only shadowed the coming work of Christ. Now he implores them to get back on the right page and to move ahead in Christ. And so he next says, “leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ.”

The Greek says, “the word of the beginning.” It is not the same word used in verse 5:12, translated as “first principles.” What he is doing is saying that the “first principles” of 5:12 were the replacement of the law with that of a New Covenant built on faith-based righteousness. The law was a mere shadow pointing to Christ. Contained within this New Covenant are teachings that came right at the beginning which anyone should immediately learn concerning this new faith. He calls these “the word of the beginning.” With this understanding, he then goes on to name what this involves by first stating, “let us go on to perfection.” The word signifies “completeness,” as if arriving at the end of a thing. It includes the idea of either moral or mental attainment of a thing.

What he is doing is preparing his reader for understanding the end goal of doctrine concerning faith-based righteousness in Christ. Now, in order to accomplish this, he names the basic doctrines within that system. These are the early truths of the faith, which should come along with faith (which is that upon which all else rests). But he will only name them, not go through any explanation of them. Because they come along with early faith, they are almost a part of it. Anyone who has believed should know them. When he says, “not laying again the foundation,” he is speaking of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.

The thought then is that, in verse 5:12, he mentioned the “first principles” of the oracles of God. These are those principles which speak of the understanding of the righteousness which comes by faith in Christ. When that is understood and accepted, there are certain doctrines associated with that foundational faith. These will now be listed, but not explained. What would be the point? Now that he has reintroduced to them the purpose of the “first principles of the oracles of God,” they should also remember these other doctrines which follow immediately along with that faith.

And so he says first, “of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” This is the sum of the “first principles of the oracles of God” mentioned in 5:12. The “dead works” are works of the law which can never save. The “faith toward God” is the understanding that if works cannot save, then faith in Christ to come (and who has, indeed, come) is how righteousness is attained.

Again, the clause, “of the repentance from dead works and faith toward God,” is not a part of the list found in the next verse. Rather, it is the sum thought of the “first principles of the oracles of God.” Along with that faith then come the rudimentary doctrines which any should know and understand.

Life application: Verse 6:1 is a bit confusing, and scholars tend to mix “the first principles of the oracles of God” of verse 5:12 with the “elementary principles of Christ” together as if they are speaking of the same thing. Once it is understood that they are different things, the author’s intent clears up. In the end, the important thing is to understand that a person is not saved – in any way, shape, or form – by works of the law. They are saved by grace through faith. That is the foundation. From there we begin to grow (hopefully) in doctrine until we come to the consummation of knowledge concerning the magnitude of what God has done for us in the Person and work of Christ.

Lord Jesus – Your word implores us to move on from basic teachings to those things which are deeper and which lead us to a fuller understanding of You, Your plan for us, and the glory displayed in this plan. Give us wisdom to use our time rightly so that we will have our priorities properly laid out in order to achieve this goal. Thank You for Your guidance in this petition. Amen.

...of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:2

From the idea of the foundation, which is repentance from dead work and faith toward God of the previous verse, the author now moves into that “of the doctrine of baptisms.” Here the regular verb, “baptize,” is not used. Instead, it is a plural noun, “baptisms.” It is found in this plural form elsewhere, but only in Mark 7:4 & 7:8 and also in Hebrews 9:10. The noun form in the singular is found in Colossians 2:12. Because of the rarity of the word, and its use in the plural, it is highly debated what is being referred to. However, understanding the audience, and the surrounding context, makes it clear.

First, the audience is the Hebrew people. Secondly, the context is a post-resurrection scenario. This is evident from the previous verse which refers to faith towards God, meaning in the completed work of Christ. It is also evident from the contents of this verse which speaks of the resurrection. It would make no sense for the author to speak of such things before and after mentioning baptisms, and then speak of something which was solely referring to Jewish traditions during the time of the law.

Therefore, the “doctrine of baptisms” may still be referring to baptisms which the Hebrews had encountered under the law – rituals for purification known as the mikveh, and the washing of items, hands, and the like – all of which are no longer applicable. It may further be referring to the baptisms which were mentioned in the gospels – that of John’s baptism of repentance, and Christ’s baptism by fire. And thirdly, it could include referring to the baptism of water as a symbol of what Christ has done, and which includes the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the “doctrine of baptisms,” is an all-inclusive statement about what applies and what does not.

Those washings under the old no longer apply. They were external rites which only looked to the purification found in Christ. The baptism of John was one of repentance, and which was to lead to Christ as well, preparing the people for His work (see Acts 1:5, 11:16; & 19:4). Then, there is the baptism of the Holy Spirit (the “fire” that John spoke of) which comes upon faith in Christ. And finally, there is the baptism of water as an outward profession of the faith professed in Christ (Matthew 28:19).

This then would be the “doctrine of baptisms.” It is an instruction which comes at an early stage of one’s Christian walk, and it is 1) to show the contrast between the Old and the New Covenant symbolism, 2) to explain what occurs in the believer concerning the Holy Spirit; and 3) to show the command of the Lord for those who have so received the Holy Spirit to make the outward profession through water baptism. It is then in line with the command of the Lord to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Those two ordinances were given for those who are a part of the body, and they are commemorative, not salvific, in nature.

After this, the author mentions the doctrine “of laying on of hands.” There are three different uses for the laying on of hands as this Hebrew audience would understand it. First is for healing. That is noted in Acts 9:17 & 28:8. The next is the ordaining of someone to a particular office, such as in 1 Timothy 4:14. The third is that of for imparting gifts of the Spirit, such as in Acts 8 & 19. There were laying on of hands for various reasons in the Old Covenant, and this Hebrew audience had been instructed on what the difference between the Old and the New now was. It should be noted that the laying on of hands was (and is) not a guarantee of either healing or the imparting of gifts. There are instances where associates of the apostles were not healed. Further, gifts are given in accord with the wisdom of God, not on any claim by man. Therefore, these layings on of hands are as much a petition for God’s attention as they are for the imparting that may occur.

The author then moves to the doctrine “of the resurrection from the dead.” Different sects of Jews under the old system believed differently about the resurrection. For example, the Sadducees said there was no resurrection. In order to ensure that those in Christ knew what it meant to be “in Christ,” the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead would have been carefully laid out. What would happen to those saints before the coming of Christ? What would happen to those who died in Christ, or those who did not accept Christ? What would happen to those who were alive when Christ returned? Each of these was something that would have been explained to this audience right at the beginning. They are basic tenets of doctrine, and each was answered concerning the resurrection in relation to Christ Jesus.

Within the same general framework of the resurrection from the dead would have been the final area of doctrine, that “of eternal judgment.” Those under the Old Covenant had ideas about judgment which stemmed from the writings of the prophets. For example, Daniel 12:2 speaks of the resurrection and of judgment. Such examples were incomplete in what they taught because there was no understanding of Christ’s coming, followed by His ascension, and then a second coming. Further, there is still the issue of the millennial kingdom which had not yet come in. All of these things had to be explained to understand the timeline of what would occur, and how the various categories of people would fit into God’s judgment on humanity.

But more specifically concerning the word “eternal,” Vincent’s Word Studies says, “...eternal certainly cannot here signify everlasting. It expresses rather a judgment which shall transcend all temporal judgments; which shall be conducted on principles different from those of earthly tribunals, and the decisions of which shall be according to the standards of the economy of a world beyond time.” This appears both logical and correct. The doctrine of future judgment is a core tenet of what the young believer was instructed on, as well as the understanding that it is a judgment which is based on God’s eternal standards.

Life application: The doctrines mentioned in this verse are basic doctrines which each young believer should be aware of and feel secure in. Though there are debates about the nuances of these doctrines, there should be an understanding that the practices in the New Covenant are not always the same as those under the Old. To reapply Old Testament practices to our time, after Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Covenant, can only lead to unsound ideas about these core doctrines.

Lord, help us to follow Your word alone and not the “traditions of men” when teaching and receiving instruction. And help us to keep our doctrine in proper context, not mixing Old and New Covenants, which can only diminish the glory of what Christ has done for us. May our doctrine be pure so that at Your coming we will be found acceptable in what our lips have uttered. To Your glory alone O God! Amen!

And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:3

After naming the basic doctrines closely associated with “the foundation” noted in verse 6:1, the author now says, “And this we will do.” Here he is referring to 1) “leaving the discussion of elementary principles of Christ,” and 2) going “on to perfection.” These combined thoughts are found in verse 6:1. It is the author’s hope that his note has spurred on in his audience the reminder that Christ has come, that they are no longer bound to the “dead works of the law,” and that they are to demonstrate “faith toward God” as related to the finished work of Jesus. In this, it should be enough of a reminder to them about the elementary principles which are listed in verse 6:2. With this reminder, they should then be able to assimilate the higher principles related to Christ’s work. But, the author then adds in a caveat by saying, “if God permits.”

This is a recurring theme. In Acts 18:21, 1 Corinthians 16:7, and James 4:15, the same type of idea is brought forth. In this case, it is not a note that God would be unwilling for the audience to so progress, but that they are dependent on Him for it to occur. God has a plan which is set in motion and that plan will take precedence over all else. He will never work contrary to that set plan, even when it involves things that we think are reasonably proper along the way. The truth of this will be seen in the coming verses and how what is said there has been played out in the history of the Jewish people.

Life application: The author is writing to the Hebrews, and he is in anticipation of teaching them deeper truths concerning the Person and work of Christ Jesus. And yet, despite writing on such an obviously necessary thing, he includes the words, “if God permits.” There may be a reason why this type of information is not properly assimilated and accepted by his audience. If he is this willing to include God’s purposes in his statement in this manner, how much more should we be willing to include God in all of our anticipated moves in life? There shouldn’t be a time that we say, “I’ve got this, and it will come out as I intend.” Rather, we should rely on the Lord’s hand in being with us through the entire process, petitioning Him to effect His will first and foremost.

Lord God, help us to remember to always include You in our plans. In doing so, what we do is surely going to be according to Your will. May our every step each day be pleasing to You! In all things, may You be the one glorified through the lives we lead! Amen.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,  Hebrews 6:4

To understand what is stated here, the context must be considered. The letter is written to Hebrew Christians, not to the Gentile-led church. The letters of Paul which are prescriptive for the dispensation of grace are found from Romans to Philemon. Secondly, the temple was standing at the time of the letter to the Hebrews as can be determined from other verses within the letter. Thirdly, the layout of the Bible reveals that by placing Hebrews where it is, it is actually specifically directed to the Hebrews of the end-times, after the church age. The letters of Hebrews, James, and Peter all come after Paul’s letters, and are all specifically directed to end times Jews. The study is long, but when seen laid out, it does become clear. With this understanding, the words of this verse are not directed to the Gentile-led church age, nor to individual salvation. Paul’s letters clearly and definitively show that one cannot lose their salvation. As nothing in Scripture contradicts another passage, then the context must be understood to show what is being relayed. With this knowledge at hand, the words can then be properly evaluated.

For it is impossible.” The words themselves call to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” However, some things are, in fact, impossible with God. He cannot violate one of His own attributes. He is righteous and He cannot, therefore, commit unrighteousness. Such is the case with all of His attributes. What Jesus was referring to were things which are not logically or morally impossible for God. Such is the case with spiritual matters like salvation. Man cannot save himself through his own merits, but man can be saved through the merits of Christ.

“…for those.” The words are not in the singular, but are rather in the plural, “those.” This will continue throughout the next three verses. It is speaking about a collective whole.

“…who were once enlightened.” This is a metaphor which is used in Hebrews 10:32 where it is again in the plural. There it applies in a general manner to all who are addressed. Here it is speaking of a certain group who have been enlightened. From this, the words will explain what that enlightenment means.

“…and having tasted.” To “taste” something in Scripture is to experience or understand that thing. In Hebrews 2:9, Jesus “tasted” death for everyone. He experienced death, but it was also something that was, at least in the case of believers, something that could be tasted vicariously. Some will never taste death because He died on our behalf (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

“…the heavenly gift.” There is a parallelism with the words here, and the words of chapter 2. In verse 3, it speaks of salvation (tasted); and in verse 4, it speaks of gifts of the Holy Spirit (the heavenly gift). The heavenly gifts, those of the Holy Spirit, are the proof of salvation. These were imparted to the Jews of Acts 2. In verse 2:38, Peter, while speaking to the Jews of Israel (not the Gentile-led church) promised that they would likewise receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus. This is something that occurred differently (in order and in requirement) in Acts 8 with the Samaritans, and in Acts 10 with the Gentiles in Caesarea. The author of Hebrews is writing to this same group of people, the Hebrews, to instruct them in how to properly understand what reception of this gift then means to them as a collective group.

“…and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They (the collective whole, but not necessarily every one of them) tasted of the gifts of the Spirit because they had partaken of the Holy Spirit. Those who so tasted can only mean true believers. When we partake of something, we participate in that thing. The Holy Spirit is the Gift, and the Gift itself is what bears the heavenly quality.

This is the state of things so far in the first of these three rather complicated verses. “Those who have tasted the heavenly gift” are those who have understood the message which they heard – whether they collectively accepted it or not. They have, in their mind, all the knowledge sufficient to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ. Theirs is no longer a problem with comprehending the message, but the collective heart hasn’t been touched – something which must occur.

Those “who have shared in the Holy Spirit” are those who have seen the effective power of God displayed in the lives of the converted among them. They may have personally witnessed the miracles and power of Jesus and/or the apostles, or they may have seen the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in the conversion of another – they “have shared in” this experience. This does not necessarily mean that all of those in this collective have received the Holy Spirit personally.

Life application: When reading the Bible, it is good to pay attention to the context. Who is being addressed? Under what circumstances are the words being written? Are the words speaking about individuals or a group of people? Does the verse stand alone, or is it a part of a greater whole? Keeping things in context is a great way of keeping you from forming a pretext. Stop, think, read commentaries by sound theologians, and ask the Lord to direct you as you consider what is being said.

Heavenly Father, how wonderful it is to have shared in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By faith in Christ, and what He has done, we are granted Him as the guarantee of our redemption. In You, a guarantee is more than just words. It is an absolute assurance that will never be walked back on. Thank You for the surety we possess, even when we fall short in our walk toward glory. Amen.

...and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, Hebrews 6:5

The author now continues his same line of thought which began in verse 6:4. He begins with “…and have tasted the good word of God.” Again, to taste is to experience. The good word of God is the gospel message of Jesus, the Messiah of the Hebrews (who are the recipients of this epistle), and all of the sound doctrine which pertains to this word. It is an acceptance of the truth of Jesus the Messiah as Scripture testifies to.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The language here speaks of the Hebrew people having tasted this good word of God. First, while the temple was still standing, the Jews had this taste and yet, as a people, they were adamantly remaining under the sacrificial system of temple worship. In the first century, these people had both the Old Testament and any word which was then in circulation – either orally or written – which confirmed Jesus’ ministry and spoke of how the Old was fulfilled in the New. By hearing and understanding this word, they could taste and understand its goodness. Adding in the demonstrable proofs of the apostles which testified to the fulfillment of their Scriptures in Jesus, they had surely tasted the good word of God.

Similarly, in the future, another temple will be built. When that comes, will the nation wholly return to the temple worship, or will they hear the voice of the two witnesses and of the 144,000 who are chosen to direct them to their long-missed Messiah?

“…and the powers of the age to come.” The wording here is different than in Hebrews 2:5, though some translations make them the same in the English by saying “the world to come.” Hebrews 2:5 speaks of the inhabited world; here it is speaking of a cycle of time, and thus an age. In the end, they both look forward to the same thing: a taste of which was given to the Hebrews at Pentecost, and which will also be the case after the rapture of the church, and during and after the tribulation period. There will be notable gifts of the Spirit then as there was at the beginning.

Charles Ellicott states, they “were as truly anticipations of a future age of glory as was the ‘heavenly gift’ an anticipation of the ‘heavenly fatherland.’” These Hebrews had experienced these “powers of the age to come.” These powers most especially indicate the promised time when Jesus will return to rule the nations and “He will rule them with an iron scepter…” (Revelation 2:27).

The Jewish people had seen or heard of this power demonstrated in the resurrection – the very proof that Jesus is God. These points would have been made known to those who received this letter – that Jesus both fulfilled the role of Messiah and would return again in that capacity at some point in the future. To have an understanding of these wonderful tenets and then to reject them for an inferior system would not only make no sense, but it would also show a complete lack of faith in God’s provision which was provided in the Person and work of Jesus.

Life application: What proofs would make you believe the good news of Jesus Christ? Paul says in 1 Corinthians that “Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” The Jews were given many signs., and the Bible is filled with wisdom for anyone who is willing to search it out. However, of all of the documented signs, and of all of the wisdom found there, the reader is still left with one tenet which cannot be done without. That tenet is faith. The reader, or hearer, of the Bible must come to God in faith. Have you simply trusted the word of God and, by faith, received Jesus? This is what God would ask of you. Have faith, believe, and be saved!

Glorious God Almighty, it is remarkable that Jesus claims to be the only way to be reconciled to You. But what is even more incredible is that You have allowed any way at all to be reconciled to You. How marvelous is Your gift of Jesus Christ our Lord. Praise be to You in the highest, O God, for our Lord Jesus. Amen.

...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. Hebrews 6:6

This verse concludes the lengthy thought that began in verse 6:4. The author now begins with, “if they fall away.” There is no “if” in the Greek. This insert is based on a presupposition that the entire thought is hypothetical, but one which could not be expected to occur in reality. The words say, “and (then, or having) fallen away.” The verb is in the aorist tense. However, though “if” is not included in the thought, it is still, in a sense, a hypothetical postulation.

From verse 6:4 until this point, the author has not said that such a thing has occurred, but he is proposing that it could and then stating what the results would be. In this case, and understanding that, at a specific time, there was a falling away in this proposal being submitted. Despite having tasted and participated in what was offered through the Holy Spirit (through gift and word – the word of God comes through the Holy Spirit as well, just as 2 Peter 1:21 notes), they fell away. However, though the wording is not hypothetical in the sense that there is no “if,” Albert Barnes insightfully notes –

The word rendered ‘fall away’ means properly ‘to fall near by anyone;’ ‘to fall in with or meet;’ and thus to fall aside from, to swerve or deviate from; and here means undoubtedly to ‘apostatize from,’ and implies an entire renunciation of Christianity, or a going back to a state of Judaism, paganism, or sin. The Greek word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is material to remark here that the apostle does not say that any true Christian ever had fallen away. He makes a statement of what would occur on the supposition that such a thing should happen – but a statement may be made of what would occur on the supposition that a certain thing should take place, and yet it be morally certain that the event never would happen. It would be easy to suppose what would happen if the ocean should overflow a continent, or if the sun should cease to rise, and still there be entire certainty that such an event never would occur.”

And so, if this were speaking of an individual, it does not necessarily indicate that the person had somehow lost his salvation. However, as noted in 6:4, the entire set of verses is referred to in the plural. This is not speaking of individuals, but of the collective group; the Hebrew people. It is a warning that in the rejection of the Lord, after they had tasted the heavenly gift, and after they had tasted the good word of God, they would be considered as having fallen away. It is the same collective type of thought which occurred earlier in Hebrews where the people failed to believe, and they collectively did not enter into God’s rest.

If it were to occur that this group of people fell away, it would be impossible “to renew them again to repentance.” The “repentance” speaks of turning the mind of the people once again to what they had already turned their minds to. Many in the collective had believed, but eventually, the people as a whole turned from this belief in (or about) Christ. They had been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, etc. To be renewed, in fact, implies that they had once been endowed with this tasting of Christ; some were followers of the Messiah. The verb here for renew is now in the active voice. What this is telling us is that it is impossible for men. However, as seen from Jesus’ words of Matthew 19:26, what is impossible with men is not impossible for God. There can be no contradiction in Scripture, and so this must be considered. Nothing that a man does to renew this group will be possible. But the truth is that nothing any person does can bring a person to salvation in the first place. Apart from God’s specific revelation of Himself, salvation is not possible. God has brought man to salvation through Christ. A man cannot save himself. The same is true with this verse here concerning Israel. As Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

He merely puts his own hypothetical case, and says that, in the nature of such a case, the ordinary considerations and means which are applied to induce men to embrace the gospel no longer appeal to the subjects supposed. He contemplates nothing beyond such agencies, and asserts that these are powerless because the man has brought himself into a condition where they can no longer exert any power. Whether God will ever reclaim by ways of his own is a point which is not even touched. Destruction of the faculty of spiritual discernment is the natural outcome of deliberate and persistent sin, and the instrument of its punishment.”

It should be noted that Scripture never shuts the door on forgiveness to anyone who repents, nor does it shut the door on Israel as a collective (see Romans 9-11). Therefore, when such a falling away occurs, as long as the condition lasts, a renewal is impossible. The words in no way mean that such a renewal is impossible, but that it cannot occur while the person (or the group) is living under an old economy which has found its fulfillment in Christ (through the New Covenant). As Cambridge notes, “There can, he implies, be no second ‘Second Birth.’ The sternness of the passage is in exact accordance with Hebrews 10:26-29 (comp. 2 Peter 2:20-21); but ‘the impossibility lies merely within the limits of the hypothesis itself.’”

“…since they crucify again.” The Greek, as is translated by the Berean Study Bible, more closely reads, “and then having fallen away-- to restore them again to repentance, crucifying in themselves the Son of God and subjecting Him to open shame.” It does not say, “again,” twice. Rather, it is only used once in relation to “repentance.” As far as the word, “crucify,” the verb is a present participle; and thus the Berean Study Bible is correct in saying “crucifying.” It has the intent of “crucifying as they are doing.” It does not imply an absolute apostasy, but one which is continuous. The tense of the verbs went from past to present. Such is the case with Israel today. They are “crucifying” the Lord through their rejection of Him.

The temple was standing; a future temple will stand. To observe temple rites, and then to come to Jesus who is the fulfillment of all of those types and shadows; and then to return to the same temple rites which only prefigured Him, would be to reject what God has done in Christ. He died for the sins of the world. Therefore, the cross of Christ is no longer available to them because it no longer has the meaning they once assigned to it.

The author then continues with, “…for themselves.” This is a reflexive pronoun, dative, third person, plural. The term should read, “in themselves,” or, “to themselves.” As Cambridge notes, “This is what is called ‘the dative of disadvantage’ – ‘to their own destruction.’” There is no human remedy for sin forgiveness, and the temple rites which looked forward to Christ are, in fact, a human remedy to this person. Only God can forgive, and that through Christ, who is “… the Son of God.” To take this course of action would then lead to the final words of the verses, “…and put Him to open shame.” What is the purpose of Christ’s cross if one retreats to what the cross only looked forward to? It is a shameful act which would, in turn, bring discredit upon the Lord who voluntarily took on the very sin which the temple rites could not expiate. This is what Israel did. After tasting His goodness, they shunned Him and returned fully to temple worship. To this day, they are looking to re-establish that temple worship once again.

What is seen here is a merely theoretical possibility within the teaching of the church – both of individual salvation, and of the salvation of God’s people, Israel, collectively. It is not speaking of God’s omnipotence which saved and sealed a person in the first place, and who redeemed Israel and promised that He would never forsake them. God does not make mistakes. It is a lesson of warning. As Cambridge states –

In the face of sin—above all of deliberate wretchlessness—we must remember that ‘God is not mocked’ (Galatians 6:7), and that our human remedies are then exhausted. On the other hand to close the gate of repentance against any contrite sinner is to contradict all the Gospels and all the Epistles alike, as well as the Law and the Prophets.”

In other words, there is no finality revealed in these three verses. Everything in Scripture testifies to the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ which is by grace through faith. The author’s warning is that for one to assume that going back to the temple rites will make that person holy (or more holy), or bring them nearer to God, is completely contradictory to the work of Christ itself. Further, the words of the author in verse 9 actually presuppose that this is, in fact, a hypothetical situation which is being spoken of, and thus it is a doctrinal treatise for the church to read and learn from, and for the nation of Israel, as a whole, to do the same. Until they, as a collective whole, come to Christ, they can find no way of being restored to God. Those things of the Old merely looked forward to the New.

Life application: Hebrews 6:4-6 are speaking first and foremost about Israel collectively. It is a statement that they cannot be saved by going to God through temple rites and services. The point of Daniel 9:24-27 (and all prophecy concerning this issue – even from the mouth of the Lord Jesus) is that Israel would try to do this and fail; but in the end, they will realize who Jesus is, they will call out to Him, and they will find collective salvation at that time. And you… have you believed in Jesus but let your heart go astray since then? Return to the Lord, knowing that He will receive you because He has already received you.

O Lord, may those around us who have heard about the glory of Your cross never attempt to replace it with something inferior. Rather, instill in them the knowledge that Calvary is all-sufficient for the atonement of every sin ever committed and that nothing else will do. Amen.

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; Hebrews 6:7

The author now adds in a thought to complement what he said in verses 6:4-6 by beginning with, “For.” From there he says, “the earth which drinks in the rain.” The word “land” instead of “earth” carries the idea more fully. It is probably Deuteronomy 11 that the author was thinking of when he said this –

“…but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, 12 a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.”

What the author is doing here is using an agricultural term to make a spiritual application. This is something that occurs at other times in the Bible. He is equating people who hear the word with the land which “drinks in” the rain. When it hasn’t rained in a long time, the ground gets hard and dry. It forms such a crust that heavy rains wash over it as if it is concrete. However, a little bit will be absorbed. As the rains continue to come, the land will drink in the water, just as someone who hears the word of God will drink it in, absorbing it and making it useful. This is why he says, “that often comes upon it.”

The more the word is heard, the more it will be accepted into the mind of the hearer, just as the rains are more accepted as the grounds become slowly saturated with the waters. If a few Jews receive the water, they cannot be fully productive. As the word continues to come, more and more will receive it until they, as a people, are productive in the way that is being spoken of here. As with the previous verses, the author is speaking to the collective group of people. And so here we see a contrast to the words of verse 6:4 concerning those who were “once” enlightened. The waters may have come once, but they washed away, never sinking into the land and allowing it to become productive. This is what the author is warning against. Israel has received the water once in Christ’s coming, but will they allow the water of the gospel, His New Covenant, to sink in?

Understanding his thoughts concerning this, he next says, “and bears herbs.” The word is unique in the Bible, botané. One can see where our term “botany” come from. It signifies any vegetation which rises out of the earth, including grass, grains, fodder, and the like. It is this vegetation, which springs forth from the well-watered soil, that is “useful for those by whom it is cultivated.” These words show that, in the reception of the abundant rain, there is nothing lacking on the part of those who work the land. Everything is provided by God.

The author is asking the people to consider his words. They are the land. They are being equated to the land in the same type of manner as Jesus did in Matthew 13:4-23. If they will allow the word to come upon them, they will be brought to a state where it will sink into them and make them productive. In them will be a harvest. In the same manner as the productive land, it will be they who receives “blessing from God.”

Again, the terminology goes back to the Old Testament. God promised to bless the land for the sake of the people in Deuteronomy 7:13 (and elsewhere) when they were right with Him. He is again asking, through the author of Hebrews, that they be right with Him, receive His word, and become useful and productive in His New Covenant. Paul uses this same idea in 1 Corinthians concerning those in the church –

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9

As the Gentiles are “God’s field,” so the author here is now asking the Hebrew people, who are also “God’s field,” to receive His word and become useful again. There is a great danger in not doing so, and which will be explained in the words to come.

Life application: It is those who hear the word, apply it to their lives, and bear fruit for the kingdom that will receive “the blessing of God.” If you go to church, read daily devotionals, or feel “religious” in some sense, and yet have never accepted God’s word as authoritative in your life, you will be unable to produce a crop which is useful. All of our actions in life are meant to bring glory to God. It is only by living in this manner that you can expect to receive His blessings. Think on this and apply the teachings of Scripture, that you receive, to your life.

Lord God, may we gratefully receive the life-giving waters you provide. We ask that they produce a rich and abundant crop in our lives, a crop which will be useful to You and which will bring the honor and glory to You that You alone are due. This we pray in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen!

...but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:8

This verse is set as a contrast to what was said in the previous verse. That said, “Land that drinks in the rain…”

The rain was likened to the word of God. Although not evident in some translations, which incorrectly show a distinction between the land in the two clauses, the land in this clause drinks in the same rain as in the first clause. This is evident by the words, “but if it.” The subject “land” hasn’t changed. Despite this, the soil is bad – whether rocky, full of clay, full of sand, etc. – it simply doesn’t absorb it. And so it is with people who hear the same word and yet the yield is completely different. This group hears the word and simply rejects it. Like the good land which receives the rain, this land is also explained in the same general manner by Jesus in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:4-23. In this case, the land bears “thorns and briers.”

The terminology goes all the way back to Genesis 3. There we read in the curse upon Adam, “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:18). This land has received the same rain as the previous land. It has received the same care of cultivation as well. And yet it only produces that which came from the curse, thorns and briers. The result of the curse, which came upon man at the very beginning for his disobedience, is produced in the unproductive land and thus it is “rejected and near to being cursed.”

What more can be done to such an unproductive piece of land? To spend time on it would be futile. To invest more money and resources on it would be a waste. The result would be a piece of land which is not only unproductive concerning a good harvest, but which would actually be counter-productive by sending forth a bad harvest. There would be just one remedy: Its “end is to be burned.” The symbolism of the burned land is found in the words used by Moses in Deuteronomy 29 –

The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.” Deuteronomy 29:23

The context of this verse from Deuteronomy is the curse of the Lord upon Israel. This is explicit before the verse, and it is repeated again after it with these words –

Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. 28 And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 29:27, 28

Understanding this, it is the same audience that Moses was speaking to in Deuteronomy that the author of Hebrews is again speaking to, meaning the Hebrew people. Though any such example is given for the Gentile-led church to learn from, it is the Hebrew people who are the subject of the matter. The people are being warned that they have been given abundant rain, and they have been carefully cultivated, but what they produce will result in what happens to them?

Unfortunately, they produced (as a collective whole) thorns and briers. Because of this, the curses of the covenant did fall on them. They were scattered and destroyed for two thousand years. However, the words of the covenant also promise restoration at some point. That time has begun. The prophets foretold of the time when they would again be in the land and they would be given the chance to produce a proper harvest. This is why Hebrews is placed after the Gentile-led church age epistles. Though written to the first-century Jews, God knew that they would produce a bad harvest, and be cursed. However, after the church is taken out at the rapture, things will change. The tribulation period will refine them, and they will come out at the end of it by calling on Jesus and acknowledging His New Covenant.

Life application: Though this is addressed to the Hebrew people as a collective whole, those in the Gentile-led church age can learn the same lesson concerning individual salvation. For those who receive the word and produce a good harvest, they will receive their just reward. For those who reject it, a great Day of Judgment is coming. It says in Revelation 20:15, “If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Make the right choice today, while you still can. Drink in the water, cultivate your soil properly, and receive blessing from God.

Thank you Jesus that you have given us the chance to bear fruit for You. What we deserve is destruction, but you graciously took our sin and nailed it to the cross, if we will only believe. Help us to make that choice and then to glorify you through changed lives throughout all our days. Amen.

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. Hebrews 6:9

The word, “But,” is given to contrast the unhappy end of things mentioned in verse 6:8. There he spoke of the land which bears thorns and briers as being rejected, near to being cursed, and whose end is to be burned. As explained, that was speaking of those who hear the word but are not productive in it. As was seen, it has been speaking about the Hebrew people and their fate as they apply or reject the word of God. He will explain the contrast that he expects in his audience, but first, he begins with “beloved.”

In saying beloved, he is speaking now of those who are believers in Christ. He understands that they have professed faith in Him, and the fate of the nation may be one end, but the fate of those who have found faith in Christ may be different. Even if the whole nation walks away and is destroyed, for those in Christ, he says, “we are confident of better things.” In the Greek, there is an article before “better things.” It says, “the better things.” This is then referring to what was said in verse 7 about the land which drinks in water and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, and which receives a blessing. As he says, “the better things concerning you.”

They have come to Christ, and he knows that their end is one of blessing. This is so certain that he continues, “yes, things that accompany salvation.” He is writing to a Hebrew audience, he has addressed them as “beloved,” and he understands that they have faith in the Messiah. Again, the fate of Israel may be that of a curse, and indeed it turned out to be so. However, for those who received the word and applied it to their lives in faith concerning Messiah, the better things which accompany salvation are their happy lot. The things they do, in Christ, are considered acceptable works because of Christ. Thus, those things “accompany salvation.” To show that he understands this, and that he wants them to see the difference between the two, he finishes with, “though we speak in this manner.”

He has told of a scary fate that may lay ahead for the collective whole, but for those who have come to Jesus in faith, his words about the curse and destruction do not apply. In Jesus, there is the surety of salvation.

The words here are not at all speaking of these people turning away in apostasy and losing their salvation. Rather, they are showing a distinction between two categories of people, within the greater body of Israel, who have chosen (or who will choose) one of two different paths. For those who choose the good path, there is assurance. These very verses, which people confuse with a possible loss of salvation, when looked at properly actually speak of the impossibility of it. By simply hearing the word which tells of Jesus, and then in accepting it, salvation is granted. Paul couldn’t be any clearer on this issue –

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14

Isn’t it wonderful to know that our salvation, after coming to Christ, isn’t up to us! When one hears the word of truth and believes (that’s it!) he is marked with a seal – the promised Holy Spirit. After that, salvation is no longer up to the individual maintaining a perfect testimony. If it were, every single person – EVER – would be lost again. We all fall, we all sin, and we all fail our Lord. O! But He is ever faithful to keep us from ourselves. Hallelujah and Amen!

Life application: Each individual must decide what they will do with Christ. There may be a congregation that comes together which has heard the word and completely misused it, not coming to Christ in their hearts. But even within such a group, there may be some that choose another path. This then would be similar to what is said in Revelation 3:4, where the congregation at Sardis is said to have some who were worthy, and who would walk with Christ in white – meaning they were saved. Be sure to come to Christ. No matter what church or denomination you belong to, don’t follow the crowd if the crowd is heading in the wrong direction.

Glory to God in the highest for His ever-faithful and ever-strong hand of salvation! Lord, we look to You in awe for Your ability to keep us, even from ourselves. Thank You Lord Jesus for the work You accomplished and for the eternal security You provide! Again, glory to God in the highest! Amen.

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. Hebrews 6:10

The author now turns onto the works-highway for the next three verses. But, it is a “works of faith after salvation,” not a “works for salvation” that he will speak of. His thoughts are in line with all of Scripture which speak of salvation as being by grace through faith. As Paul said –

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9

With this understanding, he begins with, “For.” This is based on the words of verse 9 which spoke of those things “which accompany salvation.” Their deeds, done in Christ, are deeds which are acceptable to God, and for which they will receive their just reward. As he says, “for God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love.” Some manuscripts leave out the word “labor.” Regardless as to whether it belongs there or not, the labor cannot be that of looking “for salvation,” but rather that which is considered acceptable “in salvation.” As noted in the previous verse, the author’s words clearly speak of those who are saved believers in Christ.

They have produced fruit in their salvation, and God will remember what they have done. One of God’s attributes is that He is just. In His justice, He will not fail to remember what His people have done as deeds of righteousness while in Christ and for the sake of God’s glory. These things are as a “work and a labor of love” worthy of God’s attention because of the love they have, as the author says, “shown toward His name.”

The verb for “have shown” is one which indicates “proof which demonstrates something which is undeniable” (HELPS Word Studies). It is a verb which always occurs in the middle voice in the Greek, and thus it underlines the “high level of personal interest shown by the one making something very evident” (HELPS Word Studies). The work so spoken of here is “toward His name.” In other words, it is undeniable that these are saved believers who have demonstrated faith by displaying works which glorify God. As no works are acceptable before God without the covering of Christ, these are saved believers who are working out their salvation through demonstrations of it.

The author then finishes with, “in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Their labors involved a careful attention to the needs of the other believers. The types of ministering are not named, but they could be helping financially, hiding believers during times of persecution, feeding them as they passed through on journeys, or whatever other way their needs were evident. These believers who are being addressed extended their faith to helping the other saints and to the glory of God.

Life application: There is no thing that we can do to earn God’s favor leading to salvation except to receive Jesus’ work which was accomplished by Him on our behalf. This is because we are, by nature, unholy. Nothing unclean can enter God’s presence. By receiving Christ, we are covered by His blood and are declared righteous in the presence of God. This is in no way intended to mean that we should sit idly by and not accomplish righteous works for His glory. We were bought at a high price – the price of the cross – and therefore should naturally desire to glorify God by helping his people.

What works are acceptable then? Other than a few instances in the New Testament, nothing specific is given, but we can be inventive in our desire to bring glory to God. Ultimately, any deed which will lead sinners to repentance should be considered first. To feed the hungry without introducing the gospel is pointless. The “social gospel” is no gospel at all. When venturing out to do good deeds, the glory of Jesus needs to be included or nothing of lasting value has been accomplished.

Help us, O Lord, to accomplish those deeds which will lead others to know You and to see Your glory. Let our actions never be for our own glory or to exalt a particular ministry. Rather, may our hearts and souls be filled with longing to lead others to the salvation provided by the cross of Jesus. Amen.

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, Hebrews 6:11

The author just spoke of his audience’s “labor of love,” which was that they had “ministered to the saints.” He now says, “And we desire that each of you show the same diligence.” It is obvious that he was speaking in general terms in the previous verse. There was a labor of love that was evidenced in the people he is writing to, but that did not necessarily extend to all of the people in the congregation. He is now imploring each to add in his own labors so that all would be a part of this labor of love. He then adds in, “to the full assurance of hope until the end.”

The Greek word translated as “full assurance” is used by Paul in Colossians 2:2 concerning a full assurance of understanding. It was then used in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 when speaking of the full assurance of the gospel which was presented by Paul and those with him. It is now used in this verse in Hebrews concerning hope, and it will be used one more time in Hebrews 10:22 concerning faith. It signified “entire confidence.” He is admonishing these people to be diligent in their good words so that they won’t lose their confidence, not that confidence will be lost in them by the Lord. If someone becomes a sluggard in his attitude toward the Lord, it will inevitably make them question their own assurance of hope.

He is not in any way implying that good works are necessary to continue in salvation. Rather he’s stating that if someone fails to show diligence to the end, it is a failing of their walk with the Lord. One who has a failing walk with the Lord is not excluded from His grace, only from rewards for his conduct. Further, and this is usually not the case, it may reflect that the person wasn’t saved in the first place. A large problem among believers is that some people link doing good works with proof of salvation. This leads to high-handedness, and an often arrogant attitude towards people who never do good things for others, or some type of work to promote the goals of the church.

Despite this, it’s simply not possible to tell if a person is or isn’t saved based on some dubious standard of good deeds. The entire book of 1 Corinthians is written to a group of people who were immature believers, caught up in bad living, etc. There’s very little to reflect the notion that these people were saved based on their “works,” and yet Paul never questions their salvation – even a person who was engaged in gross immorality. Rather, he firmly held that if these people made a profession of faith and believed in their hearts the gospel message, they were saved. He remained unwavering in this stand and we should have the same attitude.

Life application: To go around questioning the salvation of others shows rather immature behavior in a person. It is God, not us, who judges the hearts and minds of our fellow humans. Instead of attempting to do this then, we need to show diligence in our own works, and attempt by doing so to induce others to accomplish them as well. In the end, though, the necessary task we must accomplish is trusting in Christ and His great deeds. Everything else pales in comparison to that and it is this trust and faith which is the greatest thing we can ever participate in on a personal level. It is this, and this alone, which leads to salvation. Having a diligence in our works after salvation will add a confidence to our walk that otherwise may be lacking.

Lord, let us never be ashamed of the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus’ work. Help us to turn from any works-based system which is nothing more than what all false religions have to offer. Instead, the work of Christ alone is what restores us to You. Thank You for this wonderful gift. In Jesus’ name we pray! Amen.

...that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12

The “same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” which was stated in the preceding verse is now explained by saying, “that you do not become sluggish.” To become sluggish implies a change from one state to another. In this case, it is going from diligence to sluggishness. This word was introduced in verse 5:11 as “dull” as in “dull in hearing.” This is now its last use in the Bible. It signifies being lackadaisical, lazy, and so on. The author is imploring his Hebrew audience to not allow this type of attitude to prevail, but rather to remain diligent. He then explains the rest of the words from 5:11, and which contrast being sluggish in this verse by saying, “but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Some older translations say that they are to be “followers” of those examples. This misses the force of the thought. One can follow without imitating. Rather, we are to emulate them. Further, the Greek of the verb for “inherit” is in the present tense. It should say, “are inheriting.” There is no doubt about their state. They are in the process of inheriting the promises, and the author asks his readers to imitate them as they conduct their lives in Christ with the same diligence. In this, they will remain confident of the hope they possess. They too are inheriting the promises, but to become sluggish in their attitude will cause them to lose the confidence they should possess in this. When one lacks confidence, they become ineffective in the matters in which their confidence is lacking.

Some of those who are referred to in this verse will be explicitly named in Chapter 11, the “Hall of Fame” of the faith. It is those who persevere in faith and good works that will receive the greater blessing on that day. All who have come to saving faith in the Lord’s promises (as are realized in Messiah), the redeemed of the ages, will be there. However, there will certainly be different rewards and many losses based on what we do in this life. But one should never feel that his contribution is insignificant compared to great scholars, evangelists, or theologians. Hebrews 11 will show that whatever is worthy of reward is that which is done in faith. One can be a great Bible scholar, but possess little faith in the Bible. Another can be a janitor with little theological training, and yet he can possess complete faith in what the Bible proclaims. Which of the two is on the more sure footing?

Life application: Although there is surely a ranking within the gifts which God portions out to His people, it doesn’t necessarily mean the reward for exercising a lesser gift will be less than that of exercising a greater gift. If a person who has a greater gift doesn’t exercise it, by faith, to his utmost, can he expect greater rewards than someone who cheerfully and humbly exercises his lesser gift in total faith? Each person is given a gift and the ability to exercise it, in faith, to the glory of Christ Jesus. Let us ever strive to do so to the utmost of our ability!

Thank you O God, for the gifts that You have given to us in our Christian walk. Help us to be aware of them, exercise them to our utmost, and to do this in a manner which brings glory to You and not to us. May we never look down on, or in envy of, others as they pursue the exercise of their gifts. Glory to You for how You have dealt with us! Amen.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, Hebrews 6:13

The author will now spend several verses explaining the surety of God’s promises to His people. The word, “For,” is based first on the thought of verse 6:9 which spoke of the surety of the author concerning the “better things” which “accompany salvation” in his audience. It is then secondly based on the completion of that thought which is found in verse 6:12 concerning those who “inherit the promises.” Thus, what will be presented from this verse until the end of the chapter are words confirming that God is trustworthy in accomplishing those things which have been promised. With this understanding, he says, “For when God made a promise to Abraham.”

The author mentions Abraham, of whom he will mention ten times in the epistle. The final two times (verses 11:8 and 11:17) are those which speak of the faith of Abraham. He was given promises, and he looked forward to the fulfillment of them, despite the difficulty of being able to see how what was said to him could be of benefit to him in any immediate sense. In other words, Abraham had to simply trust what the Lord was saying was best, and to act upon that word in faith. But Abraham understood that God is God, and the author, knowing that Abraham possessed that firm knowledge, next says, “because He could swear by no one greater.”

Because God is God, there is none before Him, and there is none greater than Him. He is the Source of all other things. Therefore, unlike man who swears upon something greater than himself in order to confirm an oath, God cannot do this. Instead, “He swore by Himself.”

As God created time, space, and matter, everything about Him simply is. There is no change in God of any kind – such as growth or progression. He is before all things and all things are held together by Him. He is of infinite worth and His word is. In other words, His word is truth in the ultimate sense. At one point in the stream of human history, God chose to speak to one man a promise of blessing that would be to all peoples through his seed. This became known as the Abrahamic covenant.

Like other covenants God has made, they simply are. When the promise is made, it can never change and never be added to or subtracted from. Some of the other covenants which are noted in redemptive history are the Edenic (Eden) Covenant; the Adamic (to Adam) Covenant; the Noahic (to Noah) Covenant; the Mosaic (to Moses) Covenant; the Land (particular to the land and people Israel) Covenant; the Davidic (to David) Covenant; and the New Covenant (which came through Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary).

These often came with conditions – such as obedience on the part of the recipient – but some came unconditionally. However, no matter whether conditional or unconditional, when God speaks, He will fulfill His part of the bargain. It is man who can, and often does, fail to meet his part of the agreement. In the case of the Abrahamic covenant, no conditions were made for man’s obedience. God swore a promise that was unbreakable –

I swear by myself, declares the LORD… Genesis 22:16

The author uses this promise to establish an understanding of God’s nature and to complete the thought which is coming in the rest of the chapter. Though this passage is citing words from Genesis 22, it is built upon the relationship of promise which began in Genesis 12:3, and which was then expanded on in Genesis 15. The interactions between God and Abraham are given to demonstrate the surety of God’s word to His people.

Life application: People often debate the doctrine of eternal salvation, as if it is either an incorrect doctrine, or that there are various situations which will negate it, even if it is “kind of” true. Such discussions fail to consider the nature of God. In understanding that God’s word stands, and that it cannot be voided, the issue resolves itself. If God says that salvation is by grace through faith, and that it is procured by faith in Jesus (Romans 10:9, 10), and that, when that faith is exercised, the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee (Ephesians 1:13, 14), it then becomes impossible that the salvation which is granted could be then be lost. Those who teach that one can lose their salvation do so because they do not understand the nature of God. They believe in a vacillating God who changes His mind, and who makes decisions which are arbitrary and conditional. This is not the God of the Bible. If you struggle with this doctrine, you need to consider God, not your own (or others’) failings. In doing so, you need no longer struggle with it. God has spoken the word of salvation. It is based on faith, and it is eternal.

One thing we can do, even in our weakness, O God, is to trust that your promises are true. Your very nature assures us and reassures us that every word spoken by You will come to fruition. For this, we thank You and praise You, O King of the ages. Amen.

...saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” Hebrews 6:14

The words of this verse are quoted from Genesis 22 –

By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Genesis 22:16, 17

There is one noticeable change in the quote, however, from “your descendants” to “you,” but this is a way of highlighting Abraham’s place in the blessing. By multiplying his descendants, he himself is essentially multiplied as well. The concept of such an idea will be more fully revealed in Chapter 7 when dealing with a tenth of the spoils being given to Melchizedek by Abraham. The author will demonstrate that the tithes given to the Levites in Israel many years later are actually paid “through Abraham” to Melchizedek. In that example, the greatness of Melchizedek is highlighted. Here it is Abraham’s greatness which is highlighted, but because Melchizedek is the one who blesses Abraham, and because “the lesser is blessed by the better” (7:7), we are being shown a logical progression of thought which shows the absolute superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Aaronic priesthood. Christ’s priesthood is “according to the order of Melchizedek” (5:6 & 7:17). The author has not departed from that thought at all, but is carefully making a case that it must be so.

For His own sovereign reasons, God chose Abraham. He knew he was the exact person in that particular place and time who would best suit His plan to 1) preserve the godly line which led to the Messiah, Jesus, and 2) to establish a people that would not only bring in the Messiah, but also who would fulfill His purposes in history in other ways, including Christ’s return to them in the future to reign among them.

It is Abraham who became the father of the Jewish people, but from him descend others who are now a part of the Islamic countries which are found around Israel as well. It was through Isaac that the blessing was reckoned, but Ishmael was also blessed (Genesis 17:10) and became the father of 12 tribes, just as Isaac – through Jacob – became the father of the 12 sons of Israel. In a greater sense though, Abraham has become the father of all the faithful who have been adopted as sons through Jesus (Galatians 4:5 & Ephesians 1:5). It is, therefore, through Jesus that the promise of “many descendants” is truly fulfilled. All nations on earth are blessed through Abraham because of Him. In essence, like all things, the blessing comes from God and is fulfilled by God through Jesus. As it says elsewhere –

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:36

Life application: God initiates all good things, they proceed through Him, and they are for Him. All things are a part of His glorious plan, and in the end, all people will glorify Him for what He has done in human history. In the coming days, great battles and sorrows will come to the sons of Abraham who are sons through the flesh only, and not through the acceptance of Jesus. This time of trouble will result in a world of great distress, but Jesus will return to rule and to weed out all unrighteousness. Until this time of trouble comes though, it is the duty of all Christians to lead the natural sons of Abraham to an understanding of his greatest Son, Jesus. Let us not waiver in our duty.

Lord God, You promised to bless Abraham and give him “many descendants” but no one could have imagined the world full of people – both through the flesh and through adoption – who would become his sons. Just as we have been adopted into the family of faith, help us to teach the natural sons of Abraham about his greatest Son, our Lord Jesus. Amen.

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:15

The words here must be looked at in the greater picture of what the Bible is revealing. The reason why is because in Hebrews 11:13 we read –

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

The author had been speaking of Abraham receiving an inheritance, something that did not occur during his lifetime. Instead, he remained a pilgrim and a sojourner. The “promise” being referred to here in 6:15 is, Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” Abraham and his wife Sarah went many long years without bearing children.

In Genesis 12, at the age of 75, God promised him that He would bless him and make his name great. At God’s word, Abraham set out for the land of Canaan in order to accept what God had promised. In Genesis 15, which was some time later, God appeared again to Abraham and reminded him of the promise. In fact, God cut a covenant with him in a manner which signified the absolute surety of the promise. This is recorded in Genesis 15:9-21. In Genesis 17, God instituted the covenant of circumcision with Abraham and his entire household. This occurred as he was closing in on the age of 100 and his wife was nearing 90. In Genesis 21, the son of promise – Isaac – was born to Abraham at 100. This child came at an age that childbirth was unthinkable; but God was ever-faithful to Abraham and, as this verse says, “after he had patiently endured,” the son came.

This son, Isaac, was to be the one through whom “many descendants” would come. However, in the next chapter – Chapter 22 – God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his own son as an offering of devotion to God. How could the promise of a multiplication of descendants come through Isaac if he was to be sacrificed? The author of Hebrews explains Abraham’s thought processes later, but one thing was sure – Abraham never failed to accept God at His word and he was ever-patient in waiting on the promise. Because of his faithfulness, Abraham is used to this very day as the model of faith.

For now, it is to be understood that Abraham did, in fact, obtain the promise through Isaac. The promise of a son, from his own body and through that of his wife Sarah, was realized in him. From this, Abraham knew that many descendants would follow because Isaac was the pledge guaranteeing it would be so. Further, the hope of Messiah was realized in Isaac as well. Jesus said as much in John 8:56 –

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

In the birth of Isaac, Abraham surely saw the coming of Messiah and he rejoiced. The promise made at the fall of man would come about. It would come through him, and it would be through the son of promise, Issac. It is in this that “he obtained the promise,” meaning the surety of a multiplication of descendants. The word translated as “obtained” simply means “obtain by ‘lighting upon’ (falling in line with), happening upon; attain to, because at the right point to ‘suitably obtain.’” In other words, the author is stating that Isaac’s birth was the lighting upon what would eventually be fully realized. Further, whether he understood it or not, this vast number would include both physical descendants and those who are adopted into the faith he possessed through their own act of faith (see Galatians 3:29).

Life application: The author is instructing his audience on what was said in verse 6:12 concerning “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” He is showing that Abraham had to wait about 25 years for this aspect of his life (the birth of Isaac) to come about, but wait patiently he did. If your life seems to be at a standstill, remember Abraham who waited such a long time for the promise. God is not slow in keeping his promises. Nor is He inattentive in His care for His people. We simply need to accept His timing and His perfect wisdom in all things.

O God, be with us and remind us of Your faithfulness as we wait upon You. We’re bound by time and therefore it’s so hard for us to be patient, but this is what Father Abraham was commended for. Help us to receive that same commendation. We can do it with Your gentle reminders that You are there. Thank You, and to Your glory and in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:15

The words here must be looked at in the greater picture of what the Bible is revealing. The reason why is because in Hebrews 11:13 we read –

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

The author had been speaking of Abraham receiving an inheritance, something that did not occur during his lifetime. Instead, he remained a pilgrim and a sojourner. The “promise” being referred to here in 6:15 is, Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” Abraham and his wife Sarah went many long years without bearing children.

In Genesis 12, at the age of 75, God promised him that He would bless him and make his name great. At God’s word, Abraham set out for the land of Canaan in order to accept what God had promised. In Genesis 15, which was some time later, God appeared again to Abraham and reminded him of the promise. In fact, God cut a covenant with him in a manner which signified the absolute surety of the promise. This is recorded in Genesis 15:9-21. In Genesis 17, God instituted the covenant of circumcision with Abraham and his entire household. This occurred as he was closing in on the age of 100 and his wife was nearing 90. In Genesis 21, the son of promise – Isaac – was born to Abraham at 100. This child came at an age that childbirth was unthinkable; but God was ever-faithful to Abraham and, as this verse says, “after he had patiently endured,” the son came.

This son, Isaac, was to be the one through whom “many descendants” would come. However, in the next chapter – Chapter 22 – God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his own son as an offering of devotion to God. How could the promise of a multiplication of descendants come through Isaac if he was to be sacrificed? The author of Hebrews explains Abraham’s thought processes later, but one thing was sure – Abraham never failed to accept God at His word and he was ever-patient in waiting on the promise. Because of his faithfulness, Abraham is used to this very day as the model of faith.

For now, it is to be understood that Abraham did, in fact, obtain the promise through Isaac. The promise of a son, from his own body and through that of his wife Sarah, was realized in him. From this, Abraham knew that many descendants would follow because Isaac was the pledge guaranteeing it would be so. Further, the hope of Messiah was realized in Isaac as well. Jesus said as much in John 8:56 –

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

In the birth of Isaac, Abraham surely saw the coming of Messiah and he rejoiced. The promise made at the fall of man would come about. It would come through him, and it would be through the son of promise, Issac. It is in this that “he obtained the promise,” meaning the surety of a multiplication of descendants. The word translated as “obtained” simply means “obtain by ‘lighting upon’ (falling in line with), happening upon; attain to, because at the right point to ‘suitably obtain.’” In other words, the author is stating that Isaac’s birth was the lighting upon what would eventually be fully realized. Further, whether he understood it or not, this vast number would include both physical descendants and those who are adopted into the faith he possessed through their own act of faith (see Galatians 3:29).

Life application: The author is instructing his audience on what was said in verse 6:12 concerning “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” He is showing that Abraham had to wait about 25 years for this aspect of his life (the birth of Isaac) to come about, but wait patiently he did. If your life seems to be at a standstill, remember Abraham who waited such a long time for the promise. God is not slow in keeping his promises. Nor is He inattentive in His care for His people. We simply need to accept His timing and His perfect wisdom in all things.

O God, be with us and remind us of Your faithfulness as we wait upon You. We’re bound by time and therefore it’s so hard for us to be patient, but this is what Father Abraham was commended for. Help us to receive that same commendation. We can do it with Your gentle reminders that You are there. Thank You, and to Your glory and in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Hebrews 6:16

The word “oath” has an article before it – “the oath.” Further, the word “confirmation” is tied in with “end,” not “oath.” Thus, it more correctly reads, “the oath is the end for confirmation of all controversy.”

With this understanding, the verse can be evaluated properly. Here, the author is showing that the oath made by God, which is recorded in verse 6:14, is an absolute and unconditional thing. First, he shows how things work among men by saying, “For men indeed swear by the greater.” It is an obvious truth which he brings up. It is something universal to humanity.

Everyone follows this precept. When someone wants to confirm their word, they will make an oath and then swear by something greater than themselves in order to make the oath binding. A citizen of Rome would swear by Caesar. A Hindu may swear by Krishna. A person who was known to have loved his mother may swear by his mother’s grave. Someone may swear by their bank account. Whatever it is that is the guarantee for the vow, it is always something of great value to the one swearing and it is a confirmation of their word. Whatever they perceive is the greatest thing to them, that is what their oath is based on.

The idea is that if the word spoken is untrue, then they are binding themselves under that thing – Caesar, Krishna, their dead mother’s honor and memory, or the loss of their treasured money. From that precept, “the oath is the end.” Once the oath is made, there is nothing more which can be added to it which will make it any more sure in the ears of the hearer. The Greek word “end” is found three other times in the New Testament, always in the plural and always speaking of the “ends of the earth [or world].” It is the extremity or conclusion. Here, it is in the singular and it means that there is nothing beyond it; the matter is settled. As the author says, “for confirmation of all controversy.”

When there is a question concerning a matter, the oath is given, and any controversy in the matter is, from that point forward, upheld as established and without later addition or change. With this understanding, the author will next explain the absolutely sure nature of what God said when He spoke out His promise to Abraham.

Life application: It is not wrong for Christians to make vows. This is actually implied in Hebrews 6:16. However, it is important for us to first realize that we are not to make vows based on any part of creation. Here are Jesus’ words on the matter – “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37). The Christian is to be taken at his word. If people don’t see a person of integrity, they will expect an oath, but Jesus says it is not to be this way. Instead, we are to be wholly trustworthy in our dealings, even without our vows. Having said that, to vow on anything less than the name of the Lord is a form of idolatry. To swear on anything in creation is to then elevate that to one’s supposedly highest value, thus diminishing the name of the Lord. For this reason, the Bible offers this directive – “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name” (Deuteronomy 6:13). This is not a contradiction of Jesus’ words. Rather, when an oath is required by another then that oath is to be made in the name of the Lord only. Nothing less is acceptable because nothing else is eternal and unchanging.

Oh God, help us to be right and upstanding Christians who are so faithful to You that others will accept our words by a simple “Yes” or “No.” If it is necessary because of a legal matter to make an oath, remind us that we are only to do so in Your name. When we place a hand upon the Bible, remind us of the importance of the matter that we are testifying to. Amen.

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, Hebrews 6:17

The author has just spoken of the fact that, in making an oath, all dispute over a matter is ended. Nothing more can be added to that oath which would make any substantial change in the minds of the one hearing the oath. They simply need to accept what is said and go on from there. And that is an oath among mere men. Now the author applies this indisputable truth to God – “Thus God.” In other words, “If this is surely the case among men, how much more sure is it with God.” From there, he says, “determining to show more abundantly.”

What God does should be sufficient, in and of itself, to confirm that it is the work or word of God. However, there may be a reason why God acts in a manner beyond his initial word or work. In such a case, He will take further action in order to show – even more abundantly – that what He communicates is certain. In this case, it is “to the heirs of promise.” Actually, the Greek places an article before “promise.” It says, “to the heirs of the promise.”

The promise of Messiah was made in Genesis 3:15. There are to be heirs of this promise, or there would be no need for a promise. As Abraham already had Ishmael before Isaac, and because Isaac was to be the son of the promise (of the intended messianic blessings), God had chosen at a certain time to “show more abundantly” to these heirs “the immutability of His counsel.”

God speaks and He is to be taken at His word. However, just as men may doubt the oath made by another man (even though they have accepted that man’s word as settled because it came from him through an oath), man may also doubt God when He speaks. (Hold on – before you deny this, remember that this is a constant and chronic failing of people in the church today. We incessantly doubt the surety of God’s word. We doubt if we are really saved; we doubt if there will really be a rapture; we doubt that God hears our prayers; etc.) And so, in order to not only speak out a word and expect it to be believed, God adds to His initial promise (of Genesis 3:15) in order to show even more abundantly that His counsel is immutable.

Immutable means “unable to change.” In the case of God, He simply is. There is no learning in God, there is no development of any kind, and in fact, there is not even any potential for it. For example, our prayers don’t change God’s mind. Rather, He knew our prayers before we prayed them. Does this mean we don’t need to pray? On the contrary, if we withhold our prayers, God knew beforehand that no prayer would be offered and thus no response will be forthcoming. From our perspective then, prayers have an effect.

Likewise, the plans and purposes for the redemption of man were known, in their fullness, to God before the creation of the world. Abraham was selected before he ever existed for the covenant particular to him. Nothing could change that. However, from Abraham’s perspective, God’s oath confirmed His words to him. This oath then showed Abraham (and those who follow him who are of the promise) “more abundantly” the immutability of His word. And how did God do this? He “confirmed it by an oath.” That is what the author referred to in verses 6:13, 14 where he said –

He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’”

When man makes an oath, regardless if it is true or not, all dispute is ended. When God, who cannot lie, makes an oath, the surety of its accomplishment is fully grounded in who He is. The oath merely confirms His word more abundantly. This is not for His benefit, but for the benefit of His doubting creatures.

As a point of theology, the word “confirmed” here is found only this one time in the Bible. It signifies “to mediate.” As Charles Ellicott explains, “thus confirms His word, at once the Promiser and the Mediator: God the Promiser (if we may so speak) makes appeal to God the Hearer and Witness of the oath.”

The author of Hebrews is introducing this fact now in order to look forward to another promise that God will make, and which will be explained in Chapter 7. What we have in this promise to Abraham from Genesis is the first example of such a sworn oath by God in the Bible. But another will be discussed (Hebrews 7:14) which points directly to the work of Messiah, who is God. Though this passage seems to be a diversion from the thought about Melchizedek in relation to the High Priesthood of Jesus, it is an integral part of that thought. The author is using the promise to Abraham now in order to show the immutability of His word concerning Christ’s priesthood.

Life application: The oath to Abraham was an added bonus to what was already decided by God in Genesis 3:15. Take all of this in the context of your own personal situation now. God has spoken. His word is recorded for us in the pages of the Bible and what He has said simply is. There is every assurance that the Bible is the word of God and, therefore, we can completely rest in its promises for us. And so, just as God credited righteousness to Abraham for simply hearing and believing, we can have the exact same blessing from God by simply hearing His word and trusting it.

Yes, Lord God! Thank you for the simplicity of the gospel. Thank You that we don’t need to rely on some dubious and unknowable amount of good deeds in order to be saved, but that we are simply pleasing to You by accepting what You have already done in and through Jesus. What an immense and awesome bargain! Amen.

...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. Hebrews 6:18

The author now says, “that by two immutable things.” This refers to what he said in the previous verse with the thought that God confirmed his words by an oath. The two things then are 1) His spoken word, and 2) His oath. Both are immutable (unchanging). He then confirms this with, “in which it is impossible for God to lie.” As noted previously, He is before all things. Because this is so, He is not bound by the constraints of time. Everything about Him simply is. Therefore, when God speaks, it is always absolute truth because His nature is absolutely truthful.

Thus, when God speaks, it is impossible that what He says is incorrect, misleading, or simply a lie. Further, for God to give an oath in connection with His word, it is intended to “end all dispute” (6:16). As noted before, this oath was not given for His benefit, but for ours. To first encourage Abraham, and then in turn to encourage us, God not only spoke, but spoke on oath of that which He said would come to pass. It is we who cannot fully grasp God’s immutability, and so we doubt. In order to remove all doubt, God will, at times, make an oath. In this, His word is confirmed in us. As the author says, “we might have strong consolation.”

The word is paraklésis, and it signifies, “a call (urging), done by someone ‘close beside,’ i.e. a personal exhortation that delivers the ‘evidence that stands up in God's court’” (HELPS Word Studies). Thus, it is an encouragement for us to receive not only His word, but His oath in confirmation of His word. Though this should be unnecessary, we are weak in our faith because of our limitations, such as time (patience), life (stresses and challenges), etc. And so God will meet us on our level in such instances, assuring us that we are properly taken care of in our moments of failing. This encouragement is, as the author next says, for those “who have fled for refuge.”

Here we have Old Testament symbolism. The one who had killed another person by accident could flee to a city of refuge and be kept safe from the avenger of blood. This would last as long as the high priest of Israel lived. Upon his death, the avenger of blood could no longer legally come against that person to avenge the death of their relative. This is found in Numbers 35. Trusting in the word of God is such a refuge where full assurance of protection is found. The absolute surety of that is found in the word and in the oath. We can rest in our place of refuge because God has spoken, and because He has confirmed His word through the oath. Such a place is given for those who seek this refuge in order “to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

These words take the reader first back to verse 6:9 which said, “we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation.” The saving message of Jesus is the place of refuge, and in reception of that word one can “lay hold of the hope set before us.” Remember again that the words of the epistle are directed to the Hebrew people. The author has been speaking of them collectively. Though as a people they crucified Christ and are thus deserving the punishment of the Avenger of blood, they also have in Christ the death of the High Priest, which is, in Him, safety from the Avenger of blood. This will be more fully revealed in the next verse. The words of this clause secondly refer back to verse 6:11 which then says, “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” Each in the collective of Israel who has come to this place of refuge should persevere, and encourage others to do so, through the words of Scripture – God’s word and His oath.

Life application: When you are facing life’s battles, where do you go for refuge? A bottle, a sexual relationship, television…? None of these things will satisfy and all will fall short of the true encouragement we need. The encouragement which greatly encourages is that which is found in the pages of the Bible. This is because, as God’s word, it reflects His very nature, the nature which is eternal and unchanging. The promises He has made are recorded there. Many of them have been fulfilled, proving that those which are yet promised will turn out exactly as they say. In other words, we have absolute assurance of ultimate victory over sin, death, and Satan. When the Bible says Jesus will descend and call us to Himself in the twinkling of an eye, it will happen. If you are hesitant about your future, or if you are facing a future of pain or sadness, look beyond those things to the promises of the Bible – promises which will surely come to pass because of the absolute truthfulness of God.

Lord, despite the troubles of today, we can read the final pages of the book of Revelation and stand in joyous hope of a time when all wrongs will be righted, all pains will be gone, and all joy will fill our very souls. Thank you for these wonderful promises! Thank you and Amen.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, Hebrews 6:19

In the previous verse, it spoke of the ability to flee “for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” That was based on the Old Testament idea of a city of refuge where one could flee to in order to be protected by the avenger of blood. Such a person was kept safe as long as he stayed within the confines of the city. Upon the death of the high priest, he could no longer be pursued by the avenger of blood, and he was free to return to his home without fear. The symbolism of this verse continues with Old Testament symbolism, and it will also continue this train of thought into verse 20. For now, it says, “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul.”

The “hope” referred to here is what anchors us firmly to the unknown future, meaning what lies ahead for the soul. The rope, then, is the sure and unchanging word of God – where every word is life and a guarantee because of His complete truthfulness. The author poetically describes our hope as an “anchor for the soul.” An anchor is what holds a ship fast to the stability of earth, even in a raging sea. The rope (which is implied in having a boat and an anchor) is the only thing which keeps the two joined, and yet if it’s strong enough, the boat remains safely moored. As it says, “sure and steadfast.”

And so it is with our lives in Christ. The rope is that connection between the two. It is the word of God, which is connected to the anchor, which is held fast by the immutable promises of God which it contains. Even in life’s trials and storms, our hope is joined to the word which testifies of God’s promises through Jesus. This hope is said to enter “the Presence behind the veil.” This is referring back to the temple described in the Old Testament. The “Presence” is the dwelling of the Lord in the “Holy of holies” where no person was ever allowed to enter, except the high priest and then only once a year. He also never entered without blood lest he die in his sin for not providing atonement for himself.

These things were a shadow of the work of Jesus who entered into the true temple in heaven, passing behind the curtain, and presenting His own perfect and sinless blood to secure our eternal salvation. This will be fully explained later in Hebrews. Thus we have the various items, each symbolizing something else –

The ship: human soul.

The anchor is what grounds us in this life and in anticipation of the next life: the hope.

The rope: The word of God – His promises, His oaths, and the surety that they are sufficient to maintain connection between our soul and our hope.

The veil: death. However, it is expressly stated as the body of Christ in Hebrews 10:20. Thus, more specifically, it means His death of which we partake in receiving Him.

Behind the veil: The heavenly world to come where God and man will dwell together.

For those who are in Christ, we are covered by His blood, which has been presented, and we can have the absolute confidence now – even as an anchor holds a ship firmly in the raging seas – that we too shall pass through the veil unharmed as we enter into God’s presence.

Life application: For those who are in Christ, we should stand assured that Jesus has accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. We need to do nothing but accept His work by faith. Because of His magnificence, how absolutely sure is our anchor. If you are in one of life’s storms right now and unsure about how it will turn out, don’t fret or be dismayed. Rather trust – simply trust – that all will be safe and calm when the storm is over. The faith you placed in Christ at your time of salvation, no matter how weak now, is strong enough to hold you to the anchor of your salvation.

O God, an anchor for our soul is the hope we possess in Christ Jesus. It is Your word which binds the two together until the day when our hope becomes sight. Forever we shall praise You for keeping us safe in the raging seas which surround us until the day we pass through the veil and enter into Your presence. Praises belong to You, O God. Great things You have done for us! Amen.

...where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:20

The translation of the KJV, followed here by the NKJV, does not convey the sense of the Greek. Note the difference:

Lacking: ...where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus.

Correct: ...where, as forerunner, Jesus entered for us.

Vincent’s Word Studies explains the change: “The Levitical high priest did not enter the sanctuary as a forerunner, but only as the people's representative. He entered a place into which none might follow him; in the people's stead, and not as their pioneer. The peculiarity of the new economy is that Christ as high priest goes nowhere where his people cannot follow him. He introduces man into full fellowship with God. ... Comp. Hebrews 10:19.”

With this slight, but important change noted, the verse can be more properly explained. In the previous verse, it was explained that the hope of the believer is as an anchor for the soul. The hope is in the truth that God cannot lie. Thus, when God speaks out the words concerning the promise which is found in Christ, the “hope” is actually – and in its fullest sense – Jesus. It is what He has done on our behalf, and the surety of what that means, which is our hope. And it is He, as forerunner, who entered the Presence behind the veil. In going there to present His blood before God, He has opened the way for all who trust in Him to follow. This is the purpose of the words found in all three synoptic gospels concerning the rending of the veil. In Mark, it says –

Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38

The veil, which only the high priest of Israel, and only once a year, could go behind, was torn from top to bottom. The immense size of this veil, and it being torn from top to bottom, was a sign from God that access is restored, completely and wholly, for any who come through Christ. This is then more fully explained in Hebrews 10 –

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh...” Hebrews 10:19, 20

Because Jesus, as forerunner entered behind the veil, we too now may follow Him – through the veil (meaning through His body). With the understanding of this astonishing truth, the author then continues with the words, “having become High Priest forever.” Unlike the high priests of the Old Covenant who performed their duties, died, and whose priesthood was thus transferred to another high priest, Jesus has an eternal priesthood. It is one which will never end. As His priesthood is eternal, then He possesses the ability to mediate for us forever as well. In these words is another hint at eternal salvation. This will be fully explained in Chapter 7, most especially in verse 7:25. For now, the focus is simply on the eternal nature of Jesus’ priesthood which is, as the author says, “according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Once again, the enigmatic Melchizedek is introduced into the narrative. This is the third time he has been mentioned, and bringing him up here serves as a lead-in to Chapter 7. As we have noted in a couple of verses in Chapter 6 though, the author never left his intended subject matter. Everything he has said in Chapter 6 has been to support what will be more fully revealed in Chapter 7. He has built an astonishingly precise case for the surety of God’s promises, and the more wonderful nature of their fulfillment, as found in the New Covenant.

As noted, the previous verse said that our hope is an anchor that “enters the Presence behind the veil.” Further, it was noted that Jesus is actually that Anchor, because He is our hope. Further, it is Jesus who entered this Presence when He passed behind the veil. And more, as noted above, in chapter 10, the author says that the veil is His body. In all things, Jesus is the center of focus – He is our hope, therefore He is our anchor. He went behind the veil, and the veil is His body. It is His blood that obtained access into the sanctuary, and yet He is the sanctuary. In all things, Christ is the focus. He is the entire point of our faith and He is the object of it.

We read that, because of His work, he has “become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” However, He is not only the High Priest who offers the sacrifice, but He is also the sacrifice. His blood eternally secures believers and His priesthood is an eternal one. Both the humanity and the deity of Jesus is shouted out in every concept. Everything concerning the temple points to Him, and yet the temple is there to exalt God.

Life application: If the deity of Christ isn’t resonating in your mind by the continuous stream of shadows, figures, types, and fulfillments the author is presenting, then you are missing the very foundational point of what is being related to us. There is simply no excuse in heaven or on earth for rejecting the tenet that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. It is such a vital tenet that if you reject it, there can be no salvation for your soul; eternal condemnation waits. Be absolutely sure of what you believe and why! When we are asked to confess Jesus as Lord in Romans 10:9, 10, Paul is signifying that “Lord” means “Yehovah” of the Old Testament. Have faith in Jesus who is God incarnate… and be saved.

O God, despite not fully understanding the incarnation or the Trinity, these are tenets which your word clearly proclaims. Help me in my inability to fully grasp these things and help my foundation to be sure, both in Your word and in the deity of Christ Jesus which Your word proclaims. And it is in His perfect name I pray. Amen.

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, Hebrews 7:1

Melchizedek was reintroduced into the narrative in the last verse of Chapter 6 (the previous verse), but as we saw from the content of Chapter 6, he never really left the author’s mind. Everything stated there was to lead the audience to a better understanding of the role of Christ, and how Melchizedek actually prefigured Him, His roles, and His position. Here, the author begins with “For.” That is based on the words that Jesus has “become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Those words are derived from David’s statement about him in Psalm 110:4. Now, he will begin to explain his logic concerning that statement. But first, he will explain several points about him from the information provided in Genesis 14. Here is everything that is provided about Melchizedek from Genesis 14 –

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:

Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’

And he gave him a tithe of all.” Genesis 14:18-20

The obvious question is, “If this is all that is recorded about Melchizedek, then where did David come up with the words of Psalm 110:4 which say –

The Lord has sworn

And will not relent,

You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.’”

The author will explain this as he progresses, but first, he provides the known background information, beginning with, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God.” The words here begin a sentence which will continue through verse 3. The first and most striking point about what is noted here is that Melchizedek is both a king and a priest. This was something not seen under the Old Covenant. In fact, it was strictly forbidden for a king to perform any priestly functions. The offices were kept wholly separate and distinct. At one time, King Uzziah attempted to perform a priestly function with disastrous results. That is recorded in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.

However, the Old Covenant looked forward to a time when the two offices would meet in one person. That is seen in Zechariah 6:9-15, but which is highlighted by the statement that “the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (6:13) when speaking of a “priest on His throne.” As this was forbidden under the Old Covenant, it shows that this coming King/Priest would not rule and mediate under the Old Covenant. Rather, a New Covenant would be established. Melchizedek is said to be first, “king of Salem.” The name Salem is said to be the place of Melchizedek’s kingship. That is known to be a shortened form of Jerusalem. This is explicitly stated in Psalm 76 –

In Judah God is known;
His name is great in Israel.
In Salem also is His tabernacle,
And His dwelling place in Zion.” Psalm 76:1, 2

He is also said to be “priest of the Most High God.” This was the first specific reference to being a priest in the Old Testament. Being a priest of “Most High God” is an obvious reference to the One true God. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood, a valid priesthood before God, actually precedes that of the Aaronic priesthood just as Abraham’s faith-based righteousness preceded the giving of the law (see Galatians 3, particularly verses 15-18). This does not yet explain David’s conclusion that the coming Christ’s priestly ministry would be according to the same order as that of Melchizedek, which is an eternal priesthood, but it does show us that the priesthood of Melchizedek, and that of Christ, are both separate and distinct from that of the priesthood of Aaron, which was under the Law of Moses.

The author next continues to refer to the Genesis narrative with, “who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings.” Abraham has just gone through a great struggle against forces who had captured His relative Lot. He pursued after them and defeated them, retrieving Lot and all that had been taken as plunder. It was after this great battle that Melchizedek met with Abraham “and blessed him.”

The importance of these final three words will be explained in the verses ahead. For now, only the background information is provided. As a side note, there are countless – and seemingly endless – commentaries on who this Melchizedek was. Some state he was Shem, the son of Noah, while others claim he was this person or that. Those commentaries are both pointless and a waste of time. The Bible does not comment on them, nor are they of any concern for the student of the Bible. They are unnecessary diversions from the simplicity of what is recorded in Scripture, and they thus detract from the marvelous logic which is drawn out from the few words recorded about him. Sticking to the Bible, and what is drawn out by David and the author of Hebrews, is what is important concerning this otherwise enigmatic figure.

Life application: There are all kinds of things which are added to the pool of knowledge concerning the Bible. There are historical commentaries such as those of Flavius Josephus. There are false writings such as the Book of Enoch. There are the analyses of Jewish and Christian theologians which date back millennia. One must be careful to use extra-biblical information only when it complements what the Bible says. Even then, commentators need to be sure to explain that what they are stating is not actually a part of the Bible. Mixing in extra-biblical commentaries as if they are on the same level of authority as Scripture will inevitably lead to unsound theology.

Lord, help us to see our value as you see it. If You were willing to come and unite with human flesh in order to restore us to the Father, then certainly we have great value in Your sight. However, we often don’t feel this way about ourselves, so help us in our insecurities and failings to know that because of Christ, we are accepted in Your eyes. To Your glory we pray this. Amen. whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” Hebrews 7:2

The words, “to whom,” are speaking of Melchizedek of the previous verse. It is he who blessed Abraham, and it was to him who “also Abraham gave a tenth part of all.” This is simply recorded history being repeated by the author of Hebrews. At this point, he is not explaining the reason these things were recorded, but that this is what the Genesis account says. Next, he moves to an explanation of who Melchizedek is, based on his name and where he ruled, and so he says, “first being translated ‘king of righteousness.’”

When a person’s name is given in Scripture, the general rule is that the meaning of the name bears importance on the surrounding text as it relates to the coming Messiah or His work. This holds true with Melchizedek. His name comes from two Hebrew words, melekh which means “king,” and tsedaqah, meaning “righteousness.” Thus, his name means “king of righteousness.” God used him and his name to show us a picture of the coming Christ. Isaiah 32:1 speaks of the coming Christ in this manner –

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
And princes will rule with justice.”

And again, Jeremiah prophesied of Him as well –

In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this 
is His name by which He will be called:


These and other prophecies of the coming Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus, whom Melchizedek was given in Genesis as both a type and picture. Next, the author says, “and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace.’” As revealed in the previous verse, Melchizedek was the king of Salem, an early name for Jerusalem, and a name which was poetically remembered in the psalms. Salem is the Greek transliteration of Shalem, and that comes from the Hebrew word shalem, meaning “peace.” Thus, as a title, Melchizedek is the “king of peace.” Isaiah prophesied of this as well. In Isaiah 9:6,7, we read –

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah calls the coming Messiah “Prince of Peace,” not “king of peace.” However, the description of this coming One provides the full meaning. The words, “Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,” show that He is also the “King of peace.” He will rule from Shalem, or Jerusalem, He will do so in righteousness, and He will provide peace in His rule. Isaiah again provides the clarity –

The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:17

These are but a few of many references to how Melchizedek prefigures the coming Christ in his name and in his title. Therefore, the importance of what transpires between Abraham and Melchizedek is of great significance to believers in all dispensations. Some scholars actually believe that the appearance of Melchizedek is a Christophany, or an appearance of the eternal Christ, in the Old Testament. Others disagree and state that He was merely a type of Christ to come. Either way, it is certain that at least he prefigures the work of the coming Christ.

As a point of doctrine, the author has introduced the fact that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils. Some interpret this record of Abraham’s tithing, using the doctrine of “the law of first mention,” in order to justify mandating tithes within a New Testament church. The reason for this is because sound New Testament teachers and preachers understand that the Law of Moses is fulfilled and set aside in Christ. That includes the issue of tithing. They cannot use the law to justify tithing, but they do not want to give up getting a full ten percent of their flock’s money. And so they fall back on this passage from Genesis to justify the doctrine of tithing based on this “law of first mention.”

First, no such law is to be found, explicitly or implicitly, in Scripture; there is no such law. Secondly, if there was such a law, it would include all such first mentions, not just tithing. To this day, people would be required to marry the surviving spouse of a dead brother in order to raise up a child in his name. They would be required to set up a pillar in acknowledgment of a vow. They would need to offer burnt offerings (these predate the law). They would be required to bow in the presence of a superior. Circumcision would be required for all males (circumcision predates the law). There would need to be a party given at the weaning of a child. The list could go on and on (and on!) as to what would be required based on this supposed law. It is a false teaching.

Life application: The account of Abraham and Melchizedek is a descriptive passage. It prescribes nothing for us today. The reason it was mentioned in Genesis at all is being explained by the author of Hebrews now. There is no mandate which can be derived from it for justifying tithing. If you are taught this by a preacher or teacher, you should probably consider not listening to that person again. He is attempting to justify the unjustifiable in order to profit off of his flock. The New Testament, particularly the letters of Paul, is where our church-age doctrine is to be derived from.

How wonderfully exciting is Your word O God! The treasures it contains are simply astonishing in how they point, time and again, to the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. Thank you for the joy of allowing us to peer into history and see His glory hinted at in the people who came before Him. Amen.

...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. Hebrews 7:3

The author continues to relate information which can be gleaned about Melchizedek from the account found in Genesis 14. However, the information he passes on now is not what was stated, but what was left unstated. He begins with three family-related matters by saying, “without father, without mother, without genealogy.”

In this, he is not literally claiming that Melchizedek had no parents or other genealogy. Instead, he is making the point that the author of Genesis (God through Moses) specifically left these points out in order to establish a connection to Jesus in this regard. In Genesis, there are numerous genealogical listings. Adam was created, but after him, the successive generations of the people who are recorded are listed by their individual families, showing where they came from, and to what people groups they eventually became a part of. However, nothing is recorded about Melchizedek in this regard. There is no listing of it despite the meticulous care provided for other peoples’ family listings.

Even if a person was seen only once, it might say, “John Doe was a Canaanite.” That alone would tell us that his father descended from Canaan, who in turn descended from Ham, who in turn descended from Noah. Thus, the genealogical record is implied in the statement. But such is not the case with Melchizedek.

Next, we are told that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Again, fanciful ideas of a supernatural being are made up about Melchizedek because of this statement. And yet, the only point the author is making is that there is no recorded birth record, nor is there any recorded death regarding Melchizedek. For example, Abraham’s birth is recorded in Genesis 11:26 –

Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.”

His death is then recorded in Genesis 25:7, 8 –

This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.”

This is a common occurrence in the Bible. Therefore, the exclusion of such information is as telling as its inclusion. God purposefully left this information out in order to establish a connection between Melchizedek and Jesus. The author demonstrates that, in contrast to others who are recorded, Melchizedek is “made like the Son of God.” Notice that he calls Jesus the Son of God, indicating Christ’s eternality. Jesus has a human genealogy which is carefully recorded for us in Matthew and in Luke. However, being the Son of God, he is also “from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).

With this understanding, we can now see the author’s logic taking shape. First, it is the words, “without genealogy,” upon which the author’s careful attention explains the first two points – “without father, without mother.” Secondly, it is the eternality of the record of Melchizedek – “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” – which explains the words, “but made like the Son of God.” And finally, the two thoughts then meld into the final words of the verse which says that “he remains a priest continually.”

The word for “continually” is diénekés. It signifies to “bear all the way across in an unbroken (non-stop) fashion; to persist all the way, to the (intended) end” (HELPS Word Studies). In other words, it means “forever.” It is this information that the Hebrew audience would need to be told. Once explained, the pieces would begin to fit together. Under the Old Covenant, Aaron was the first high priest. Only a descendant of Aaron could minister as a priest before the Lord, and so a meticulous genealogical record was kept. After the first exile, the priests were gathered together in order to minister once again in Jerusalem, but this is recorded in Ezra concerning some of those people –

These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. 63 And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.” Ezra 2:62, 63

These men were excluded until a decision could be rendered by the Lord concerning their genealogy. But what is also true is that these men would die, and someone would step in from the sons of Aaron to continue to minister, one generation after another. However, David said in the Psalms –

The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.’” Psalm 110:4

Melchizedek was neither from Aaron, nor was there any birth or death record given for him. David, under inspiration of the Spirit, prophesied that One would come who would fit this pattern. There is no need for a genealogy which reaches back to Aaron for this One to minister as a priest. And there is no time after He became a priest that His duties would end. Instead, He “remains a priest continually.” It is Jesus who is referred to, and it is then another of the numerous proofs found thus far in Hebrews which establishes His deity.

David was intimating that the Messiah to come would be God (by using the term Adonai (Lord, when speaking of Yehovah)) in Psalm 110:1. He is, therefore, eternal as is confirmed in verse 4 of the psalm. The author will continue to explain these things concerning Melchizedek in the verses ahead.

Life application: As always, the deity of Jesus Christ is on full display in the book of Hebrews. If you know someone who is in a cult which denies this, are you willing to take the time to show him or her the logical and indisputable connections that the author of Hebrews is making to prove this point? Further, what if someone challenges you on this precept? Will you remember where to go to find the answer to shut them up concerning their heresy. These are matters of the greatest weight and importance. Salvation of the human soul depends on our calling on Jesus through the truth of the gospel, and there is but one gospel. Be ready at all times to defend your stand on the truth of Christ, and be willing to do so when you are given opportunity to do so as well.

O God! How absolutely glorious to know that you have chosen real figures in history to point us to the eternal truths about Jesus our Lord! The words recorded in the Bible demonstrate Your marvelous wisdom in ways we can’t fully comprehend or imagine. Thank You, O Lord, for opening our eyes to the beauty of Your glorious word. Amen.

Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. Hebrews 7:4

The author now begins to explain the level of greatness of Melchizedek, something he will do for the next seven verses. The reason for this is because he will then show how the greatness of Melchizedek’s priesthood exceeded that of Aaron’s. From there, and because of the parallel between Melchizedek and Jesus, he will make the obvious conclusion that the priesthood of Jesus exceeds that of Aaron. To begin this, he relies on what has been stated so far in verses 1 through 3 and says, “Now consider how great this man was.” It should rather say, “Now consider how great this man is.” The reason is because of what it said in the previous verse, that he “ the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” It is a state which continues.

From there, he now returns to the thought of verse 7:2 for explanation by saying, “to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.” In 7:2, he repeated the information given in Genesis 14 which stated this fact. Here, he calls Abraham, “the patriarch.” It is a term meaning, “first father.” He is the “head” or “founder” of a family, and is thus considered the greatest of that family. In the Bible, this title is given to him, the 12 sons of Israel, and to David. We can infer it also applies to Isaac and Jacob. The term comes from pater meaning father and arche meaning first or greater.

The use of the word patriarch here is purposeful. If Abraham was the greatest of the family of the Hebrews, and if he can be shown to be in a lesser position than Melchizedek, then it will imply a surpassing greatness in Melchizedek. If that can be established, then Jesus – who is the One being set in comparison to Melchizedek – will then be shown to also be in surpassing greatness to the patriarch Abraham – even though He descends from him in His humanity.

It is for this reason that the author now brings in tithing. It was a concept understood by every person in Israel. The specific guidelines, as were practiced by the people, are explained fully in Deuteronomy 14:22-29, with many other references scattered throughout the Books of Moses and elsewhere.

The people were to set aside one-tenth of everything they accumulated each year. For the first two years, they were to enjoy that tenth themselves in the Lord’s presence – eating, drinking, and rejoicing in His provision. Of the third year, it says –

At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Deuteronomy 14:28, 29.

This tithe was then further divided (as is mentioned in Leviticus 27) and a 10th of that was given to the priests who ministered at the temple. This was the sacred portion for the Lord’s service and the best of all that was gathered.

Life application: Tithes and all offerings of the Old Testament were, like praise, from the lesser to the greater. The common people tithed to the Levites and the Levites to the priests – in ascending order. In the verses ahead, we will see a most fascinating reason why the author proclaims the greatness of Melchizedek. Yes, Abraham gave a tenth to him, but this signifies something even more interesting. How willing are you to be patient and slowly learn the word of God? Too often, people hear about a concept, such as tithing, and they run with it as a precept for the church. However, the law is a completely different dispensation than the church age. Is it appropriate to mandate this Old Testament precept? The only way to know is to learn the word first, and then apply its precepts in context. Be sure not to run ahead of sound doctrine, but keep things in their intended context!

Yes Lord! What a fun thing to look into the words of the Old Testament and then see how they point to the Person and work of Jesus. In understanding these types and patterns, we can more fully understand the surpassing greatness of the work of the Lord. Thank You that redemptive history is so carefully recorded for us to know – with all certainty – that we are following the proper path in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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; Hebrews 7:5

As is recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the author now explains that even though the tribe of Levi descended from Abraham, just as all the other tribes of Israel (their brethren), they were to receive a tenth of the produce of the land. As stated in the analysis of the previous verse, this tenth was mandated in each third year. But even in the other two years when the tithe was eaten by the one tithing, the people were told, “You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.” Deuteronomy 14:27.

If the Levite’s portion during the third year of tithing wasn’t enough to sustain him for the full three years, he would suffer. So, even during the other two years, the people were instructed to tend to the needs of the Levites. This is because their job was to minister to the people, assist in matters of the law, etc. Because of this, they wouldn’t have been able to conduct the normal pattern of business, such as tending to land and fields, that the rest of the people would have had time for.

Understanding this, there is still the matter of the priesthood. It is this which the author is specifically addressing. The people of Israel worked and earned. Every third year, a tithe of that was to be given away, in its entirety. This was to be stored up and given to the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24). However, there was more to be done with it. The tribe of Levi was divided into his three sons – Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. From Kohath, the line of Aaron was chosen as the priestly line (Exodus 28:1). After the tithe was collected by the sons of Levi, a tenth of that was then to be taken and given to this priestly line (Numbers 18:25-32). In fact, it was to be the best portion as noted in Numbers 18:30.

This then explains the words, “And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood.” It is specifically speaking of the sons of Levi through Aaron, but indirectly from all of the sons of Levi, and then further from all of the children of Israel. It is this particular line who “have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law.” The priestly line of Aaron alone received tithes from the people without paying a tithe themselves. The line of tithing ended in them. However, it is to be understood that this is a precept of the law. Therefore, it is the law alone which then elevates the line of Aaron above the other Levites and thus above the other people of Israel. This is why the author says that it is by the law that the commandment is given concerning the tithes provided to Aaron’s line “that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham.”

In other words, other than by this precept, the priests would be on the same level as all the others in Israel who issue from Abraham. There was no right in them which inherently allowed them to exact tithes upon their brethren. Again, the right they possessed came apart from any personal merit. However, Abraham is said to have paid tithes to Melchizedek apart from the law. This shows an obvious inherent right in Melchizedek which the priests of Aaron did not possess. No law mandated this, and yet it happened. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth because Melchizedek possessed an inherent right to it. The importance of this will continue to be explained by the author in the verses ahead.

Life application: There is an important application here for us. Tithing is not a New Testament standard, but rather “let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper…” 1 Corinthians 16:2. We set our offerings aside to pay for the salary of our pastors and missionaries, and also to keep the church functioning properly. There’s obviously a lot of money in some Christian circles, such as televangelists, and sometimes pastors have it far better than their congregants. However, many pastors – particularly in small churches – eke out a living and are totally dependent on the goodness of the people they minister to. They have set their hearts, minds, and lives on Jesus, and they should be taken care of by those they tend to. So don’t forget them when you give, and also don’t forget them during the week with your prayers and assistance if they need it.

Lord, you’ve been so good to give us caring scholars, missionaries, pastors, preachers, and teachers of Your word. Help us to remember them in the giving of our offerings – both of money and of the abilities we have – that can benefit them. Their service is so much appreciated. Help us to remember to let them know it from time to time as well. Amen.

...but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Hebrews 7:6

The words, “but he” are speaking of Melchizedek. In order to show his greatness, he is being contrasted with Abraham – a figure known in history as the man of great faith, the father of the Hebrew nation, and the example of patience and perseverance in the face of testing. Despite holding such high esteem among the faithful of Israel, the author says that Melchizedek – who in the previous verse received a tenth of the spoils – isn’t descended from Levi. As he says, “but he whose genealogy is not derived from them.”

The Greek word is genealogeó. It is used only this once in Scripture, and it is the basis for our modern word “genealogy.” Israel was to pay tithes to the Levites, and the Levites, in turn, gave a tithe to the priests. This was a mandate of the law, not an inherent right. And yet, Melchizedek “received tithes from Abraham.” There was no law mandating this, and yet Abraham felt it was appropriate to offer a tenth of the spoils of battle in this way. And this, despite the fact that Melchizedek was not of the Levitical order to whom the law mandated that Israel’s tithes be given.

But what is being said here? It, on the surface, appears to be placing the horse in front of the cart… Levi descended from Abraham, not the other way around. However, we’ll see the impeccable logic of what the author is intending in the verses ahead.

However, in addition to giving a tenth of the spoils, it was Abraham, not Melchizedek, who received the promises from God. Despite this, it was Melchizedek who blessed Abraham. As it says, Melchizedek “blessed him who had the promises.” This was recorded in verse 7:1 when the author stated the facts previously recorded in the Genesis account.

On the surface, this may seem appropriate – after all, Abraham was the one with the promise of blessing from God. However, the author will use the same type of impeccable logic concerning the blessing from Melchizedek in the verses ahead. What we think is backwards or unrealistic is actually something which contains truths which are inescapable when presented from God’s perspective.

Not to get too far ahead, but what is happening in this verse is that in accepting the tithes from Abraham, he was accepting the greater position which was accorded to him by Abraham. In turn, he then blessed Abraham. In accepting the blessing, Abraham was acknowledging he was in a lesser position to Melchizedek. But, as we have seen, Abraham had the promise of God, establishing him as a great man indeed. In fact, he is considered as the father of faith to this day. However, the exchange here demonstrates that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham.

Life application: It is because of the account set before us, and countless other magnificent accounts which arise, that we study the Bible not just once, but for an entire lifetime. Colleges and seminaries are devoted to the Word of God because it is an inexhaustible resource. We can’t simply ignore it, neglect Bible studies and sermons, and expect to be able to comprehend all that the Bible contains. Instead, we need to read, study, listen to, contemplate, pray over, and cherish the Bible each and every day. If we fail in this regard, we can never grow from milk to solid food.

Heavenly Father, You are great and greatly to be praised. And Your word is an amazingly wonderful source of wonder and delight. It is inexhaustible in what it reveals. Layer upon layer of wisdom is revealed in it as we slowly and meticulously search out its pages. And with each layer comes another interconnected item of wonder. Thank You for Your glorious, precious, and superior word! Amen.

Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Hebrews 7:7

The author here states a simple truth of both the Bible and of life in general. First, he says, “Now beyond all contradiction.” The meaning of the words is that there is absolutely no dispute in the matter which he will present. It is an understood and unquestioned principle recognized by all and at all times. From there, the author completes his thought with, “the lesser is blessed by the better.”

The position or person who is greater (better) bestows a blessing on the lesser. This isn’t the same meaning as when we say “Bless the Lord.” Rather, that is a form of praise from the lesser to the greater. Instead, the author is speaking of a blessing in the sense of something that can be bestowed upon another person.

Think of a graduate from college where the certificate is bestowed by the dean or some other important official. When handed to the graduate, a form of blessing might be given such as, “May the Lord bless the days of your working life abundantly.” If someone is named “Employee of the year” this blessing is granted by someone higher in the company’s ranks, etc. Or, one might think of the blessing of a father upon his children. The father is considered as the superior in that relationship.

Finally, and most directly to the matter at hand, there is the blessing of Aaron (and his line) upon the people of Israel. This was directed by the Lord, and it was – beyond all contradiction – that Aaron was considered the superior of all of Israel in this regard. That is recorded in Numbers 6 –

“‘“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’

27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”’”

As a note of clarification though, this is not speaking of moral superiority or some other related aspect. This is speaking of a position of rank, office, or authority. In the case of Abraham, he would be in a position lower than the “king of Salem” and “priest of the Most High God” in this regard. A difference between Melchizedek and Aaron is seen here. The Lord instructed through the law that Aaron was to bless the people. However, Melchizedek possessed this right apart from the law. Again, as with the receiving of the tithes, we have a confirmation of the greatness of Melchizedek, and the superiority of His office over that of Aaron.

Interestingly, in the account of Isaac meeting Pharaoh in Egypt, it twice says that Isaac blessed Pharaoh. The same word is used in both occasions and can also be interpreted to “greet,” but it appears the author of Genesis was indicating the greatness of Isaac over Pharaoh.

Likewise, Melchizedek is the one who blessed Abraham, not the other way around. In other words, the “lesser” person is Abraham. He, the man who had received the promise from God, was considered lesser than Melchizedek! For those who have been instructed in the greatness of Abraham, including his name being mentioned again and again in Scripture – such as in the genealogies of Jesus – this seems rather incredible. But the author states this is the case in order to draw the obvious and amazing parallel of Melchizedek to the Person of Jesus.

The greatness of Melchizedek in redemptive history, then, is one of extraordinary importance. There is still a large amount of information that the author of Hebrews is going to draw out of this one short meeting between these two great men – a meeting which consists of only three short verses in the Bible. The author of Hebrews, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is providing us with eternal truths about the nature of Jesus’ ministry which are simply astonishing!

Life application: If the author of Hebrews has drawn out (and will continue to draw out) this much theological information from an encounter of only a few verses in the Old Testament, then how much information has God packed into larger passages recorded there? As you read the Bible, ask questions of the text, seeking answers from God who reveals according to His wisdom. Finally, to understand the blessing of Aaron upon the people of Israel, along with doctrine on the Trinity, please feel free to watch this video –

Lord God, it simply can’t be more exciting than to peer into the recesses of our history and see the Light of Christ shining through. His superiority over all of history is glorious, and all we can do is praise the immense wisdom which You have displayed in the pages of Scripture as You have revealed Him to a race of beings in desperate need of His coming! Amen.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Hebrews 7:8

Again the author brings in the eternality of Melchizedek’s priesthood. As previously noted, this doesn’t mean that Melchizedek is an eternal being, but because Scripture provides no information on him concerning his death, he is a pattern of Jesus who possesses an eternal ministry. Now, the author first states, “Here mortal men.” The word “here” is speaking of the present time of the author where the Levitical system was still being practiced in Israel. It is the Levites who collected the tithe from the people of Israel, and who then tithed a portion of that to the priests. These are all termed “mortal men.”

There is a recorded death of Aaron, and there is the record of subsequent generations of Levites and priests who came, served, and died. At the time of the writing of Hebrews, anyone in Israel could go to the temple and see the men there and ask, “How old are you?” None could say, “I am eternal.” All were simply mortal men who served out their term and passed on. The offering to the Levites and priests was because they were set apart for the service of God and the temple; their position was an exalted one, despite the fact that they were mortal and eventually died. But then there is David’s allusion in Psalm 110:4 to the coming Messiah who is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In contrast to those under the law, the author next says, “but there he.”

This is speaking of the account in Genesis which bears the record of Melchizedek. The Bible specifically overlooks any record of his genealogy, birth, death, and so on. Because of this, it is an implicit hint that we are being asked to overlook such things and to consider him as still living. And indeed, the Bible then confirms that viewpoint in the 110th Psalm. Through these two witnesses, the author says of him, “of whom it is witnessed that he lives.”

This is again intended to show the superiority of the priesthood of Melchizedek over that of the line of Aaron. In one, the priest “lives.” In the other, they are “mortal men.” This understanding can now be coupled with the reception of tithes. Aaron’s line received tithes according to an established law, and they did so in a temporary (mortal) capacity. Melchizedek received tithes by inherent right, and he does so in an eternal capacity. Therefore, one who is “according to the order of Melchizedek” has a priesthood which is both before and after the duration of the temporary system of the Law of Moses. As it is both before and after, it was also there during. While the insert of the law was being played out in redemptive history, the priesthood of Melchizedek (according to Scripture) never stopped being in effect.

In this priesthood, Melchizedek collected Abraham’s tenth of the plunder which, in the next two verses, will be analyzed from a most unique perspective. It is one which will show the immense greatness of Melchizedek in the eyes of the author.

Life application: While thinking on what the author is saying, understand that Abraham is mentioned well over 200 times in the Bible while Melchizedek is mentioned just 10. And yet the author intimates that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham! This would have shocked the Jewish people considering their great admiration and esteem for this noted Patriarch. As this is so, and as Melchizedek is simply a type of Christ to come, why would anyone go back to a temporary, ineffective law in order to be justified before God? The ineffective nature of the law is not because the law was faulty, but because we are. Only Jesus, who came without fault, could be justified before the law. And so only by faith in Him can we likewise be justified before God. Think correctly, leave behind the Hebrew Roots false gospel, and come to Christ for your right standing before God.

O Lord, just as the Israelites depended on their genealogy more than a personal relationship with You, so we often do the same. We boast of our family relationships, our notable friends, how much we make, or how much we have. Rather than this, Your word tells us – “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” Help us to boast only in You! Amen.

Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, Hebrews 7:9

The order of words in this verse is the reverse of the Greek. More literally, it says, “...and so to speak, through Abraham even Levi who is receiving tithes, hath paid tithes” (YLT). The words, “and so to speak,” are the author’s way of introducing an argument from Scripture based on something implied in the context of what is being revealed. It is a concept which may, at first, seem unfounded or illogical. And so he introduces the thought this way. However, the logic is impeccable, and it is a tenet which bears heavily on other major doctrines which are found in Scripture.

The author has just stated that “there he receives them,” while speaking of Melchizedek who received the tithes of Abraham. As Scripture witnesses that Melchizedek lives, then logically, “Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham.”

The author makes the case (which Scripture testifies to) that because Levi descended from Abraham, so the tenth that Abraham paid to Melchizedek actually included the sacred portion from Levi who was yet unborn. Abraham (the greater based on being the family head) is the father of Isaac, the father of Jacob, the father of Levi. So when Melchizedek received the tenth from Abraham, Levi is considered in this offering. If the Israelites paid their tenth to the Levites who were set apart to God, then the Levites – through Abraham – paid a tenth to Melchizedek, because Melchizedek still lives. It demonstrates the absolute superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over that of Levi.

As was revealed in verse 7:8, the Levites and priests of the Mosaic Covenant were mortal men. They were born into the priesthood, or into the Levitical service, because the law provided for this. They ministered under this priesthood, and they retired and died under this priesthood. There is nothing of the priesthood which attached to them. Rather, they attached to it. And in fact, if they did not minister properly, there was a penalty of separation from the ministry (see Leviticus 10 in the account of Nadab and Abihu). They simply accomplished the work that they were born into. However, Melchizedek’s priesthood, as seen in Scripture, is based solely on his existence. It is his natural right to minister because the priesthood attaches to him.

As the Messiah’s priesthood is “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110), this means that His priesthood is also superior to that of Levi. The logic is impeccable and proves the superiority of Messiah’s work. Therefore, the New Covenant must be superior to the Old Covenant.

Life application: The author of Hebrews has explained, and continues to explain, the superiority of the Person and work of Jesus Christ over that of those who he compares Christ to. He is superior to the angels, He is superior to Moses, He is superior to Aaron, etc. Further, His work initiated a new and eternal covenant which is superior to that of the Mosaic Covenant. Why is the author revealing those things? It is because in demonstrating this superiority, it reveals that those other things are unable to accomplish anything necessary to restore us to God. If there is one theme that we can draw out of the author’s continued stream of logical points, it is “Come to Jesus.” Nothing else will satisfy because nothing else can satisfy. If you are stuck under the Old Covenant system, you are not God’s friend. Instead, you have become His enemy. Come to Christ and be reconciled to God.

Lord God, there is a place where man can go to be eternally filled and eternally refreshed. There is Bread to fill us, and there is a Fount of unceasing Water to rejuvenate us, and it is found in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing else can fill our ever-hungry souls. In Christ, the temporary has passed away. We shall never hunger or thirst again when we come, by faith, to Him. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

...for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Hebrews 7:10

In the previous verse, the author’s impeccable logic was given concerning why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of Aaron. He completes that thought now, while speaking of Levi, by saying, “for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” Abraham is equated to Levi’s father, as is the common custom in Hebrew genealogies. Levi was in Jacob, Jacob was in Isaac, and Isaac was in Abraham. Thus, Levi “was still in the loins of his father.” In this, what belongs to, or is given away by, the father directly affects the son.

A common example of this is that if a father (Sam Johnson) owns a piece of land, that land will be gifted to the son when it is either gifted to him or when the father dies. However, if the father gives the land to the town for a public park, that land (which would have otherwise belonged to the son) is technically given by the inheriting son to the town. It is as if he had made the grant of land himself through his ancestor Sam. Thus, many generations later, there is the remembrance that this came from the family of Sam Johnson – even to the giving of thanks to the great-grandson who still lives in the town because of his ancestor’s generosity.

Every person who would ever come from Abraham was in Abraham at the moment that Abraham met Melchizedek, and thus their interaction still exists because Melchizedek is a “priest forever.” Those under the law are still giving their tithes, so to speak, to Melchizedek through Abraham. If Melchizedek’s priesthood was said to have ended, this would cease, just as it would cease that Johnson Park would still be given by the descendants if the town were to come to its end. But as long as the town exists and maintains the park, those who descend from Sam are considered as giving to the town.

With this understanding, another technical point must be considered. In verse 7:3, Melchizedek is said to be “made like the Son of God.” The Son of God was not made like Melchizedek. Christ is not subject to Abraham as Levi is. Though His human genealogy descends from Abraham, the fact that Melchizedek is “made like the Son of God” demonstrates that Jesus is prior to Abraham, and that Melchizedek is patterned after the Son of God, not the other way around. However, Jesus’ priesthood, which is based upon His fulfillment of the law and the introduction of a New Covenant, is “according to the order of Melchizedek. It is a priesthood which is not granted by law, but is one which is tied into His nature; it is an inherent right.

What is being relayed here was a critically important point for the Hebrew recipients of this letter who were considering a return to temple sacrifices. Surely Jesus’ priesthood is greater than that of Aaron’s, and a return to the Levitical priesthood would be from the greater to the lesser. A move from Jesus’ covenant to that of Moses, and a move from the priesthood of Jesus to that of Aaron is a move to that which is obsolete and ineffective because that of Moses/Aaron is annulled in Christ (verse 7:18). There can be no salvation for one who fails to come to Christ.

Life application: The same logic used by the author here in verses 7:9, 10 can be used in other areas of theology. Just as Adam is our first father, and we were potentially and seminally in him when he was created, then we are also legally in him as well. This is the reason why all people are born in sin and under God’s wrath. We are, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, “condemned already,” and need to do nothing to be sent to hell. Rather, we need Jesus to be born again and go to heaven. Be sure to understand this… it affects your eternal destiny.

O God! How great is the priesthood of Jesus that His work supersedes that of Aaron! How great is the life of Jesus that His work supersedes that of our father Adam! How great is the Person of Jesus! He is truly our All in all and it is to Him that we must turn. Praise, glory, and honor belong to You alone, O wise and eternal God, for the giving of Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

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? Hebrews 7:11

The author now asks a painfully obvious question. It is a question that every person who is supposedly a follower of Jesus, and yet holds to the Hebrew Roots Movement doctrines, should ask themselves. The question concerns what Paul carefully explains about the Judaizers throughout his writings, but especially in Galatians, and to some extent in Romans. Here, the author begins with, “Therefore.” He is asking his reader to go back over what he has said concerning the greatness of the priesthood of Melchizedek and how Christ’s priesthood is according to that same order.

And so, based on the “Therefore,” he then continues with, “if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood.” The word translated as “perfection” is found only here and in Luke 1:45. It is “a brand of consummation (completion) which focuses on the final stage (fulfillment, end-phase) of the consummation process” (HELPS Word Studies).

The implication he makes, and which is realized throughout Scripture, is that perfection is NOT through the Levitical priesthood. This will be stated explicitly in verse 7:19, but it is obvious, even from the time of the ordination of Aaron and his sons. The death of Nadab and Abihu, recorded in Leviticus 10, demonstrates this without the slightest doubt. The recorded death of Aaron, and the recorded death of all people who lived under this covenant, demonstrates it as well. None are made perfect through the Levitical priesthood. If they were, they would continue to live. This is a guarantee of the law itself as is recorded in Leviticus 18:5 –

You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”

The promise was made, and none continued to live. All died, even after the performance of the necessary sacrifices for sin and atonement. The author then continues with a parenthetical thought which says, “for under it the people received the law.” The Levitical priesthood did not bring about the law. Rather, the law brought about the Levitical priesthood. And even more, David proclaimed that another priesthood was coming which would be “according to the order of Melchizedek.” Why would David proclaim another priesthood if the Law of Moses was sufficient to bring about perfection? He wouldn’t.

And yet further, David himself was instrumental in helping arrange the Levite divisions for service in the temple. Despite his intimate familiarity with the Levitical rites and laws, he saw that through them none could attain perfection. He knew that the high priest himself was descended from Aaron, who was descended from Adam. Each inherited Adam’s sin-nature as was seen in the analysis of the previous verses. Their imperfection and sin nature required them to sacrifice for their own sins before they could sacrifice for the people. With these things being perfectly understood as axioms, the author continues with his question by asking, “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?”

David, looking back to the writings of Moses, and seeing a mere three lines recorded about Melchizedek from the book of Genesis, distinctly saw that the priesthood of Melchizedek was superior to that of Aaron. Under inspiration of the Spirit, he then prophesied concerning the coming Christ that He would come with a priesthood which was not according to Aaron, but according to Melchizedek. The Greek word for “another” implies one of a different kind. It is one which stands in contrast to that which is being spoken of. But what would be the need for such a priesthood if there was already a priesthood in place? Unless there was a defect contained within that first priesthood, there would be no need for another. The question implies a denial in the strongest sense, unless there was an absolute need for what he is proposing. But there was a defect, and thus an absolute need – inherited sin in man. The infection already existed, and the Law of Moses merely highlighted that fact (Romans 3:20). The law could do nothing to change this. And so something else, something better, was needed.

As a side note to this thought, one heresy which arises in Christian theology is a denial of the virgin birth of Christ. A short rebuke to this heresy is that Melchizedek, having no genealogy recorded in Genesis, was a pattern of the Messiah to come. Despite Jesus having a recorded genealogy in His human nature, He has none for His divine nature; He is the eternal Son of God bearing none of Adam’s sin nature. The virgin birth provides the answer for all the theological dilemmas that appeared to be looming when David prophesied of the One to come. To deny the virgin birth is to deny the only tenet which can release us from the bondage of the Law of Moses, a law which highlights, not rectifies, our sin problem.

Life application: The Law of Moses is administered by the Levitical priesthood in regards to violations of the law. The New Covenant does not deal with violations of the Law of Moses for those who are under that law. And so, using circumcision as a benchmark concerning all of the laws found in the Mosaic Law, Paul says in Galatians 5:2-4, “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” To revert to the Law of Moses in order to be pleasing to God sets aside the grace of God in Christ. Trust in Christ alone, be saved by His grace, and continue in that grace without ever reverting to an annulled law which could save none.

We thank you today O Lord for the wonderful blessings You have given us. Help us to appreciate the sun, the rain, the fluffy white clouds, and the beautiful green trees. Above all, help us to appreciate Your word which points us to Jesus… our great High Priest. Praises to You! Amen.

For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. Hebrews 7:12

The word, “For,” is given as an obvious conclusion of what was said in the previous verses concerning the idea of “another priest” arising “according to the order of Melchizedek.” It is an obvious conclusion, and the logic is irrefutable. The author says, “For the priesthood being changed.”

Under the law of Moses, the priesthood is called by the author “the Levitical priesthood.” This is because the priesthood is assigned to the tribe of Levi, but even more specifically, it is assigned to the line of Aaron who descends from Levi. The three main families of Levi (which come from Levi’s three sons) – Gershon, Kohath, and Merari – served the priests under this priesthood. The author now says that there is a change in the priesthood. But the priesthood is given based on the law. The two are permanently and inextricably interconnected, and one cannot exist without the other. Therefore, if the priesthood is changed, “of necessity there is also a change of the law.”

Despite being a rather obvious statement, this verse holds the single most profound truth for the Old Testament sacrificial system. David prophesied that One would come who would be a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” If this is a true prophecy, then it necessarily means that a new covenant must be built around the new priesthood. Moses received the law which centered on the book of Leviticus – the priestly duties specified for worship. Jeremiah also prophesied –

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.” Jeremiah 31:31

This New Covenant is centered on the new priesthood and its new High Priest, who is Jesus. This truth simply cannot be dismissed while holding to the truthfulness of Scripture. Just as a new constitution was established upon America’s break from England which inaugurated her new government, the New Covenant breaks entirely with the Old. As Paul clearly proclaimed –

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Galatians 3:21-25

Paul calls the Law of Moses a “tutor.” In Christ’s coming, and for those who come to Christ, we are no longer under this tutor. Therefore, the Old Covenant, in its entirety, is abolished; nailed to the cross. Those mandates which are in the Old and which are repeated in the New are to be followed, but those which are not, such as the Sabbath requirement, are set aside in Christ. Vincent’s Word Studies rightly says of this –

The fundamental idea of the law was that of a people united with God. Sin, the obstacle to this ideal union, was dealt with through the priesthood. If the law failed to effect complete fellowship with God, the priesthood was shown to be a failure, and must be abolished; and the change of the priesthood involved the abolition of the entire legal system.”

Vincent’s says, “If the law failed.” The Old Testament testifies to the fact that the law, in fact, failed. Even during the times of its failure, prophets came to proclaim a new priesthood and a New Covenant. They came to proclaim a complete break from the Law of Moses. If you can understand this, then in accepting Jesus for what He has done, you have truly entered the gospel of grace granted through Christ’s priesthood. Without understanding this, many who come to Christ leave one foot in the law and put one foot into the New Covenant. But the two are irreconcilable.

Life application: The term, “cognitive dissonance” signifies a state of mind where someone has inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. When someone is told something that conflicts with what they believe, they either ignore the truth of what is said, or they build a framework of incoherent ideas around a system which attempts to justify their previous false beliefs. In other words, they enter into a world of make-believe. An example of this from the real world may be a conspiracy theory. When a person is told (and even shown) that the conspiracy they have believed in is false, they build their own incoherent framework around it in order to justify their previously held, but incorrect, beliefs. Instead of believing the truth, they are mentally determined to believe the lie. This concept, “cognitive dissonance,” is not done away with in Christ. Rather, it is often magnified in spiritual matters.

The author has now said that the law is changed. This means that the law no longer exists for those in Christ. He will expand on this, and he will explicitly state this in several ways throughout the remaining chapters of Hebrews. And yet, for those who have been told they must still adhere to the Law of Moses (whether in part or in whole) – even after accepting Christ – will often build make-believe frameworks of theology in order to justify why this is not true. In other words, they willingly choose to believe the lie. The word of God is written, and it explicitly states that the law is done. Christians are expected to accept this, and to rest in Christ, not in deeds of the law. To fail to do this, is to fail to accept the finished, final, and full work of Jesus Christ.

How blessed we are, O God, to be living in the dispensation of Grace which frees us from the strict and unattainable edicts of the law. It is a law which only Jesus could fulfill. It is His work, and not ours, which restores us to a happy relationship with You! Praise His name! Amen.

For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. Hebrews 7:13

The word “For” again takes us back to review what has been said. The author just stated, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” He is now building on that thought. It is the beginning of an explanation for the statement, and it will continue through verse 19.

He of whom these things are spoken” is referring to Jesus. This is based on the words of verse 11 which said, “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.” In this, “the order of Aaron” is that of the Levitical priesthood because Aaron descends from Levi. However, Jesus is not of Levi. Instead, He descends from Judah. As the author says, He “belongs to another tribe.” The same Greek word for “another” is used here that was used in verse 7:11. It implies one of a different kind. It is one which stands in contrast to that which is being spoken of.

The priests of Israel during the times of temple worship were Levites from the line of Aaron. This was in accordance with the Law of Moses, specifically, the book of Leviticus (plus parts of other books) which detail the tabernacle layout, the priest’s lineage, and the duties of those priests.

However, the Messiah (Jesus) wasn’t from the tribe of Levi. This means there’s a conflict which needs to be resolved. If the Messiah wasn’t from the tribe of Levi, he couldn’t participate in conducting the temple rituals. As the author next says, “from which no man has officiated at the altar.” The law designated Aaron’s line to do this, and all else were forbidden from such duties. As stated in the commentary of verse 12, this necessarily means that a new covenant must be built around the new High Priest and His priesthood. Not only is this the case, but the very temple itself is no longer a sufficient point of worship for the people. A new temple is required for this new Priest. That temple is under construction even now –

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-23

Now, under this new order of priesthood, the people of God are “living stones” in the temple of God and Jesus is our High Priest. Everything about the nature of Christ and His priesthood is on a completely different order than that of Aaron. It is not merely “different than,” but it is “better than” in all ways.

Life application: Are you seeing the majesty of what God is doing in redemptive history! All things of the Old Testament foreshadow something so much greater which is revealed in Christ Jesus! The author is going through painstakingly precise terminology in order to ensure that we don’t miss this fact. The error in returning to the Law of Moses is to go from that which can save to that which cannot. Christ has come, a New Covenant has been brought forth, and a new High Priest is realized for God’s people. Nothing else is effective in bringing humanity back to God. Only through Christ is this possible.

Thank You O God for allowing us to become living stones in Your glorious eternal temple. How precious it is to be considered as a part of Your handiwork. And, may our lives be used to Your glory until we attain our final glorification some splendid day ahead. This we pray to the honor of Jesus our Lord! Amen.

For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. Hebrews 7:14

The author, for the third time in three verses, again begins his thought with the word “For.” He is building a case which is obvious, and which is indisputable. He just stated, “For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe.” He now builds on that with the words, “For it is evident.” The word “evident” is the Greek word prodélos. This is its third and last use in Scripture. It signifies “plain before all men,” and thus “obvious.” The truth of Christ’s genealogy is recorded for all to see. The genealogical records of Israel were meticulously maintained, and a copy of His was carefully restated in both Matthew 1 and in Luke 3.

However, there is more to the word “evident” than this. It was known from many passages in Scripture that the Messiah would come from Judah. As the author says here, “our Lord arose from Judah.” He wasn’t just stating this as something which suddenly came to light in the coming of Christ, and which was then compiled by Matthew and Luke. Rather, he was stating this to Jews who may have never seen these genealogical listings. Even if not, they still had their own Scriptures to testify to this. Jacob’s prophecy of Genesis 49:10 showed this. 2 Samuel 7 reveals this. Isaiah 11:1 speaks of it. Micah 5:2 makes it evident. Further, countless other stories and hints all point to this fact as well in an implicit manner.

Therefore, He wasn’t just “born” into the tribe of Judah, but He “arose” from it. The word is anatelló, and it signifies “completing a process.” There was nothing arbitrary about His being born into Judah, but it is the fulfillment of a process which began in the mind of God, even before creation. In Christ’s birth, the goal had met its consummation. A Priest, but also a King, would come out of Judah. As Melchizedek was a type of this person to come (meaning a king and a priest), and as David confirmed it in Psalm 110, then any king of Judah might feel they qualified to fill this messianic role. And sure enough – after the time of David – a king from the tribe of Judah attempted to offer the sacrifices of the priests. He not only failed, but was punished by God for doing so –

But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.” 2 Chronicles 26:16

Uzziah may have felt he was a suitable candidate for being Messiah. However, the account continues…

So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.’ 19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he