Showing posts with the label Hebrews

Shadows and Substance

The eighth chapter of  Hebrews  highlights the incomparable benefits believers receive under the New Covenant inaugurated by the death of Jesus. If the fulfillment of the promises arrived in him, especially in his Death and Resurrection, returning to the incomplete revelations of the past means embracing the glimpses and “ shadows ” of the “ coming good things ” rather than the substance provided by the Son of God.

Priest Forever

The Letter to the Hebrews is built on a series of comparisons that demonstrate the superiority of the word that God has “ spoken in ” His “ Son ” over every past revelation “ spoken in the prophets .” The former prophetic “ words ” were true but partial and preparatory. But now, “ upon the last of these days ,” God has unveiled His definitive “ word ” in one who is a “ Son .” That “ word ” is complete and superior to all others since Jesus alone “ achieved the purification of sins ” that is so vital to His people.

The Purification of Sins

A key point of the  Letter to Hebrews  is the victory of the Son on behalf of his people and his exaltation to the “ right hand ” of God as their High Priest as a consequence. He secured what none of his predecessors could. Through his sacrificial death, he “ achieved the purification of sins ,” then he “ sat down ” in the “ true and greater Tabernacle ” in God’s very presence where he now intercedes for his saints.

God has Spoken!

The  Letter to the Hebrews  encourages believers not to abandon Jesus when difficult times come by emphasizing the superiority of what God has done in His “Son.” The Word “ spoken ” in Jesus is superior to the earlier revelations provided “ to the fathers in the prophets .” The Letter compares the Levitical system with its incomplete provisions and repeated sacrifices to the “ better ” priesthood and “ once for all ” sacrifice of the “ Son ,” Jesus Christ.

Change of Law

Since this “ Word spoken in a son ” is complete and definitive, it is “ better than ” the partial revelations of the past “ spoken in the prophets .” Unlike his predecessors, the Son, “ having achieved the purification of sins ,” sat down at God’s right hand where he remains to this day mediating for his people as their faithful High Priest. Logically, this means that the previous “ words ” by the prophets and the ministries of the Levitical priests proved insufficient to remove the stain of sin from the covenant community.

His Penetrating Word

After urging believers to enter God’s “ rest ,”  Hebrews  provides an eloquent description of the powerful Word of God and returns to the subject of the priesthood “ after the order of Melchizedek .” Believers must strive to enter His “ rest ” while the opportunity remains - “ TODAY, hearken to His voice .” In contrast, Ancient Israel refused to believe the words of God and suffered the consequences. In the final analysis, no one will escape from His penetrating Word.

Enter His Rest

The Letter continues with its analogy to Israel’s rebellion in the wilderness, thereby summoning believers not to make the same error of unbelief and fail to enter God’s “ rest .” In the desert, Yahweh decreed that the generation of Israelites that fled from Egypt would not enter the Promised Land. And so, disciples of Jesus who fail to “ hold fast the beginning of their confidence firm unto the end ” will face a similar fate. They will not inherit the promises of God.

Harden Not Your Hearts

After expounding on the “ household of God ” and demonstrating the superiority of the Son  over Moses ,  Hebrews  continues with a lesson drawn from the history of Israel. During its sojourn in the wilderness, the Israelites complained bitterly against the “ servant of God ,” for leading them to a place with insufficient water supplies. Consequently, God decreed that the generation of Israelites freed from Egyptian bondage would not enter the Promised Land.

His Priestly Qualifications

The priesthood of Jesus is a key subject in the  Letter to the Hebrews . He became the “ merciful and faithful High Priest ” who now intercedes for “ his brethren ” from the presence of God. This subject was anticipated in the Letter’s opening paragraph, including the uniqueness of his priesthood, when the Author declared that he “ achieved the purification of sins ,” and then afterward, he “ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High .”

Hold Fast to the Word

The first literary section of  Hebrews  concludes with an exhortation and ominous warning. Any disciple of Jesus who fails to heed the far “ better word ” that God is now speaking in His Son will suffer an even “ sorer punishment ” than the rebellious Israelites received when they disobeyed the Mosaic Law. The  Torah  was delivered to Moses by angels. Nevertheless, it was God’s word, and therefore, lawbreakers were punished severely.

Do Not Drift Away

The first chapter of  Hebrews  emphasizes the supremacy of the High Priest who now sits at the “ right hand of the Majesty on High .” In the chapter’s second half, the eternal sovereignty of God is described (“ Your throne, O God, is to times everlasting ”), then the qualifications of the Son for the priesthood are stated (“ You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness ”). This leads to the exhortation at the beginning of Chapter 2.

Then He Sat Down

Foundational to the  Letter to the Hebrews  is the appointment of Jesus as our High Priest, and this was due especially to his obedience “ unto death ” whereby he achieved the “ purification of sins .” In his sufferings, he was “ perfected ,” and in his resurrection, God vindicated his sacrifice by seating him at the “ right hand of the Majesty on High ,” where he now sits enthroned interceding on our behalf. The stress is not on his position as the Royal Son, as true as that is, but on his priestly status and ministry for his people.

His Distinguished Name

The Son achieved the “ Purification of Sins ,” thereby qualifying to “ sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on High .” As the appointed High Priest “ after the order of Melchizedek ,” he now intercedes for his people in the very presence of God. Moreover, he inherited a “ more distinguished name ” than even the angels, namely, “ Son .” In its first chapter, the Letter to the Hebrews demonstrates that this “ Son ” and High Priest is superior to even creatures as glorious as the angels of God.

Son Surpasses Moses

The  Letter to the Hebrews  next demonstrates the superiority of the  sonly word  by comparing it to Moses, Israel’s Great Lawgiver. Implicit in its argument is the priority of the “ word spoken in the Son ” over even the Mosaic legislation, and at this point in the Letter, the comparison is most appropriate. Moses certainly did mediate God’s law to Israel and was the greatest of the prophets. Nevertheless, the “ Son ” surpasses even him in status and glory.

Merciful and Faithful Priest

Having established his priestly qualifications,  Hebrews  presents Jesus as the High Priest who intercedes faithfully and sympathetically for his people. He participated fully in the nature and sufferings common to all men, therefore, his priestly intercession for his “ brethren ” is characterized by compassion for them. The “ Son ” experienced the same death that is common to all men, and in doing so, he qualified for the priesthood “ after the order of Melchizedek ” even though he was not a member of the Tribe of Levi. What set him apart from other men was his sinlessness.

These Last Days

God has spoken His decisive and superior “ word ” in His son, and He did so “ upon the last of these days .” This refers to the end of the period epitomized by the Levitical code with its priesthood and repeated animal sacrifices, a system of worship centered in the Tabernacle and the later Jerusalem Temple. With the appointment of Jesus as the High Priest “ after the order of Melchizedek ,” a new and final era of salvation commenced.