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Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 27

Hebrews

A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 27
Watching Now
Hebrews

II. Hebrews – The Superiority of Christ

A. Introduction to Hebrews

1. What we don't know for sure

a. Author (but not Paul – see 2:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:17)

b. Date (though probably pre-70)

c. Audience (though probably Jewish Christian)

d. Location (though probably Rome, 13;24)

2. What we are told

a. 12:4, 10:32-34 (implying between 49 & 64)

b. 13:22 and genre of sermon

B. Hebrews Themes

1. Prologue (1:1-4)

2. Superior to Angels (1:5-2:18)

3. Superior to Moses (3:1-4:13)

4. Superior to the Priesthood (4:14-7:28)

5. Superior to the Old Covenant (8:1-10:39)

6. Superior to the Old Testament Heroes of the Faith (11:1-12:29)

7. Conclusions (13:1-25)

C. Hebrews Outline

1. Prologue (1:1-4)

2. Superior to Angels (1:5-2:18)

a. In sovereignty (1:5-14): so follow Him closely (2:1-4)

b. In suffering (2:5-13): so we are free from sin (2:14-18)

3. Superior to Moses (3:1-4:13): so don't rebel, but enter God's rest

4. Superior to the Priesthood (4:14-7:28)

a. So accept God's grace (4:14-16)

b. Comparison with Aaron (5:1-10)

c. Key warning against apostasy (5:11-6:20)

d. Comparison with Levi (7:1-28) [Jesus is like Melchizedek]

5. Superior to the Old Covenant (8:1-10:39): so perseverance is crucial

6. Superior to the Old Testament Heroes of the Faith (11:1-12:29): so focus on Jesus

7. Conclusions (13:1-25)

D. Exegetical Highlights of Hebrews 1-5

1. High Christology of 1:1-4

2. Uses of Old Testament in 1:5-14

3. Relationship between humanity and Jesus in 2:5-9

4. Implications for counseling of 2:17-18 and 4:14-16

5. Stages of Sabbath rest in 4:1-11

E. Rest in Hebrews

1. Creation

2. Sabbath

3. Canaan

4. David's day

5. In Christ, now and in the life to come

F. Can a Christian Lose Salvation? (6:4-8)

[Hypothetical View – Not Possible; but if it were…]

[The following views represent a continuum from Calvinist to Arminian]

1. Calvinist

a. Preconversion Jew View: Those yet to make a serious commitment

b. Phenomenological Unbeliever View: In community of believers, but lacks genuine faith

2. Arminian

a. True Believer Under Judgment: Will face discipline but not lose salvation

b. Phenomenological True Believer: Apostasy can cause fallen Christians to lose salvation

[Covenant Community View: Rejection of Israel as a people; has little to do with individual salvation]

G. The Superior Priesthood of Christ (According to Hebrews)

[Levitical Priesthood vs. Jesus' Priesthood]

1. Many in number vs. one

2. Finite vs. eternal

3. Foreshadowed salvation vs. complete salvation

4. Offered by sinners for their own sin vs. offered by 1 without sin, not for himself

5. Repeated vs. once for all

6. Under temporary old covenant vs. under permanent new covenant

7. In earthly sanctuary vs. in heavenly sanctuary

8. Barriers to access to God vs. intimacy with God

9. Blood of bulls and goats vs. his own blood

10. Outward cleansing vs. inward cleansing

11. Conscience still guilty vs. full forgiveness

12. Incomplete sacrifice for incomplete sanctification vs. complete sacrifice for complete sanctification

13. No eternal security vs. ??

H. Jesus as a priest like Melchizedek (Chapter 7)

1. Abraham's descendant was Levi; Melchizedek received Abraham's offering

2. Since Jesus is God, Melchizedek and the tribe of Levi were priests to Jesus.

I. A Duel of Dualisms

1. God vs. Satan

2. Good vs. Evil

3. Moral vs. Cosmological

4. Heaven (reality) vs. Earth (shadow)

5. Eschatological

a. Jewish: This age and the age to come are separate

b. Christian: This age and the age to come overlap (tension of "now" and "not yet")

J. Exegetical Highlights of Hebrews 6-13

1. The significance of 2:3, 3:19, 4:2, 10:39 and 12:25 for the Calvinist-Arminian debate [see also Mathewson and deSilva]

2. 8:8-12 – longest Old Testament quote the New Testament from longest Old Testament prophecy of New Testament (new covenant)

3. 9:27 – crucial for eschatology

4. 10:29 – and the problem of sanctification

5. 11:1 – faith as believing God's promises about the future despite the appearances of the present

6. 11:39-40 – others don't receive all that was promised, so we can!

7. 12:1-3 – and the stadium metaphor

8. 12:4-13 – fathers and discipline

9. 13:17 – submission to church leaders


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Transcript
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

     

  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.

     

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.

 

Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
nt512-27
Hebrews (Part 1)
Lesson Transcript

 

This is the 27th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 

 

Antonius sat alone in a deteriorating second story apartment located in the slum on the slope of the Esquiline Hill in Rome. As rain pelted the age worn wall outside, a plate of bread and vegetables and cup of sour wine rested on the make-shift table. The room had turned dark with the coming of the storm and Antonius lit a small oil lamp against the gloom. With that light, hungry roaches materialized, scampering to the dark safety of cracks in the wall. In the apartment next door, a baby cried and the infant’s father screamed obscenities at the infant’s mother. An urgent conversation arose and then faded as an unseen pair of business partners walked down the stairs. Somewhere in the muddy street below, a unit of Roman soldiers marched past, driven under sharp orders from its commander. Antonius sat alone thinking; his employer, a rough burly fellow named Brutus, once again turned from the task of pricing fruits and vegetables to ridicule this young Christian. The verbal jabs had become as annoying as the gnats darting to and fro in the shop’s pungent air. Brutus being obnoxious and cruel, Antonius cringed against the man’s emotional blows, wishing he could strike back out of his hurt and embarrassment. Each time, he turned the other cheek; he received a slap in kind. Yet, he bit his lip and nursed his hurts and pride and again he ask the Lord’s forgiveness for his thoughts. 

 

Persecution of the church in Rome had yet to result in martyrdom. Since the expulsion of Jews under the Emperor Claudius, Christians had continued to be harassed to various degrees by both Jews and pagans. Upon the expulsion, some had suffered imprisonment, beatings and seizer of their properties. That was almost fifteen years ago now; Antonius had not been part of the Christian church at that time but had heard about the conflict. In fact, his own grandfather, ruler of the synagogue of the Augustans’s had been one of the most out-spoken opponents of the Christians. At seventeen, when Antonius had converted to Christianity, the old man almost died declaring Antonius dead in a shouting match that ended in tears and a tattered relationship. In recent months, abuse of the church had escalated with the amused approval of the Emperor himself, and now, emotional fatigue was taking its toll. Footsteps in the hall, a scream in the night, meaningless events that nevertheless set Antonius heart racing. He had been told about the cost of following the Messiah, but somehow the experiences were different than he expected. In the beginning, he thought his joy would never be broken; that he would always feel the presence of God. He had been taught that the Lord, the righteous judge would vindicate his New Covenant people. Didn’t the scriptures speaking of the Messiah and say that God had put all things in subjection under his feet? The church had taken a great beating lately and numbers of the various house groups had become discouraged and were questioning whether or not Christ was really in control. In their hearts, they wondered if God had closed his ears against their cries for relief. Some in their disillusionment doubted and left the church altogether, so writes George Guthrie, author of the NIV application and commentary series volume on the Epistle to the Hebrews. 

 

On the first page of Guthrie’s introduction, the characters are fictitious but the events reflect historical fiction, reflecting circumstances as accurately as we can reconstruct the composition of the letter to the Hebrews. 

 

We have already looked at one non-Pauline epistle, the Epistle of James. We now come to our second, when in many respects there are even fewer things that we know for sure about the letter then that of James. But just as with James, there were fewer things that we knew in many of the Epistles of Paul. On our first PowerPoint slide, we see four of the main items that we don’t know for sure. This is the one and only letter of all the epistles that makes no claim for authorship even in the text of the letter itself. All of the others had a name that appeared in the opening verse or verses. In fact the letter to the Hebrews doesn’t even begin like a letter; it begins with a lofty theological prologue, more like we find in the Gospel of John though but not as lengthy. It does end like an epistle with greetings and names, to and from which the letter is sent but, again, no name of the author. Very late medieval manuscripts occasionally did append the name of Paul at the end of the epistles as a kind of a subscript and certain additions of the King James Version of the Bible have followed this, but there is not significant possibility that these reflect what the original manuscripts contained. Nevertheless there was a tradition within the early church that did see Paul as the author of Hebrews; however, there were also a number of other suggestions made. See the accompanying textbook for details; a statement written in 200 AD that said that only God knew for sure who the author was. 

 

Today’s scholars, conservative and liberal alike are virtually unanimous but not quite that whoever the author was, it wasn’t Paul, particularly for two text based reasons as well as others. We see in Hebrews 2:3, the author writes, ‘how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation and this salvation that was first announced by the Lord was confirmed to us’, presumably meaning the author and whoever were his companions at that moment by those who heard him. This is quite different from Paul who repeatedly stressed that the confirmation of his Gospel, the core theological details, the persuasive convincing power that turned him from non-Christian to Christian Judaism and allowed him to stand fast and firm, even when other apostles contradicted his perspective, was his experience with Christ by direct revelation in the vision from heaven on the Damascus Road. Here, the writer to the Hebrews, equally clearly is saying that he learned the details of the Gospel second hand from those had a first-hand experience of the resurrected Christ. A second textual based reason comes not in Hebrews but in 2nd Thessalonians chapter 3:17, ‘I write this with my own hand which is a distinguishing mark in all my letters.’ Some have taken this to mean that Paul takes pen in hand to write the final closing verses in all of his letters. There are some, where there are textual reasons for suspecting that he may have done this though there are no other epistles that stated as explicitly as 2nd Thessalonians does. More to the point, however, it would appear that what is consistent throughout all of the other letters of the Pauline Epistles is that Paul does include his own name. 

 

During the time of Martin Luther, Apollos was a suggestion for a variety of reasons but there is no evidence for that predating Luther. We still do best to say, we don’t know who the writer is, but all of the suggestions, ancient and modern, even though not Paul, were associates of Paul so the apostolicity of this letter remains as secure as it does for example, the books of Mark or Luke, which were likewise not written by apostles but close friends of them during the Apostolic Era. Neither do we know the date of this letter, suggestions seems to cluster around pre and post 70 AD ranging in particular, based on how to explain the lack of significant references to the Temple and quite a bit of interest in the Tabernacle in the Epistle to the Hebrews that porta temple that predated the construction by Solomon, the glorious permanent building that was the most holy building in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish worship. Does that point to a post AD 70 date when the temple was no longer standing so it need not be referred to? Or does it point to the corruption of the existing temple in the years immediately before AD 70, leaving the author to speak of ancient history and the less corrupted Tabernacle? Neither argument is ultimately conclusive though we will see from what we are told that different kinds of evidence probably suggests but by no means conclusively a pre-seventy date. 

 

Neither, are we sure of the audience; here the most direct textually based evidence at the end of Hebrews, we read in 13:24, ‘those from Italy send you their greetings’. Does that suggest that the writer is in Italy with other Christians from Italy? Greeting people from someplace else in the Empire, perhaps Jerusalem where there are sporadic early church traditions that the letter was either written from or written to or is it perhaps more likely that this language would be used if the author and his companions were outside of Rome and therefore outside of Italy and sending greetings back to a community like Rome with perhaps a handful of other Italians with him. On either setting, we likely however have a Jewish Christian audience, not only because of the title that became affixed to the letter but because of the cluster of Old Testament quotations and allusions and the entire theme of the book, demonstrating the superiority of Jesus over virtually all things Jewish. And as we will see in a moment, perhaps a little more evidence for the audience as being in Rome and the author also being there. 

 

What are we told then? Chapter 12:4 reads, ‘in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.’ This is an odd expression, if you stop to think about it, there aren’t very many personal sins that we would struggle against. A pathological murderer, I suppose could be said to shed blood by means of his sins and someone who was regularly thinking of committing murder but never quite doing it, might fall into this category. There aren’t very many other ways or a temptation to sin by an individual person. On the other hand, if the sin that the congregation Hebrews is addressing was struggling against was the sin of others, such as the sin of those who would persecute them, perhaps even to the point of martyrdom and then verse 4 makes a lot of sense as saying against your struggle against your persecutors and oppressors, if you have not yet reached the point of anyone of you being martyrs, precisely the way George Guthrie took it in the little introduction that we read. That this church has experienced persecution is confirmed in chapter 10:32-34 which reads, ‘remember those earlier days after you had received the light when you endured in a great conflict, full of suffering. Sometimes you were publically exposed to insults and persecution. At other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew yourselves had better and lasting possessions.’ 

 

The only event that we know of in the first century from any historical sources, Christian or otherwise that closely matches the description of these verses is the expulsion of the Jews from Rome, including the confiscation of many properties under Emperor Claudius in AD 49. If that is what this passage is referring to, then, 12:4 would suggest that we must be at a time prior to the point in the year 64 under the Emperor Nero when Christians began to be martyred for their faith. And perhaps the reason for 12:4 saying you haven’t yet resisted to the point of shedding blood is because circumstance were growing worse and it looked like such an event could actually happen. In which case, we may be able to date the letter reasonably precisely to about 63 or 64 AD, itself. 

 

The other verse most relevant to the kinds of issues typical discussed in the introduction to Biblical books is 13:22, which reads, ‘brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation; for in fact, I have written to you quite briefly.’ The only other place in the New Testament where this exact Greek expression rendered word of exhortation appears is in Acts 13 when Paul and company enter the synagogue in Presidion Antioch and they are invited to speak on any word of exhortation they had to bring. And what Paul does is preach a sermon. Many scholars therefore interpret Hebrews as being a kind of sermon in written form sent by mail; because the author was too far from the audience to whom he was preaching to give it directly by word of mouth. That would account for the fact that about the only feature that makes this ‘epistle resemble a letter,’ is the ending. The letter body doesn’t alternate between one large block of theological information and smaller but equally discrete block of ethical exhortation. But in fact, it goes back and forth between the two throughout the book, precisely the way good preaches, ancient and modern, have often done. 

 

If we then go back through the outline and unpack it in more detail, we can see how each of the theological sections explain in a way how Christ is superior to a significant person or element or ritual of the Jewish tradition and this is followed by a warning passage containing strong admonitions not to commit apostasy. Sometimes there is a single section, sometimes there are multiple sections, but overall, Hebrews is characterized by five particularly prominent warning passages. This leaves us with a more detailed outline after the prologue in reference to the section of Christ’s Superiority to Angels. Chapters 1:5-2:18 can first be subdivided into the section in which Jesus demonstrates his superiority to angels in terms of his sovereignty. The results of this section is provided in chapter 2:1-4 with the injunction to follow him closely or more specifically, to pay more careful attention to this message, to Christ; since the message spoken to angels that is the law was solidly binding in and of itself in its own age. But it would not be surprising to a Hebrew audience to hear affirmation that the Messiah was superior to angels in sovereignty, but what is striking is the second part of this segment in 2:5-13 which the Messiah is likewise a superior in suffering. Here is where that aspect of the Old Testament suffering servant tradition was largely lost on pre-Christian Judaism thus creating the surprise when New Testament authors confirmed it. Then after the theological affirmation, comes the so-what section, but this time instead of a warning passage, we simply have the theological consequences in chapter 2:14-18, namely that because of Christ atoning Cross work, we have been set free from sin.

 

Unpacking the next major segment of the outline, ‘Christ’s Superiority to Moses’ in 3:1-4:13 leads to a quite different relative proportion between the theological and ethical segments; a comparatively short section of the first six verses of chapter 3 describes Jesus superiority to Moses just as the builder of a house is superior to the house built. Then all of the rest of chapter 3 along with the first thirteen verses of chapter 4 constitute the next major warning passage of Hebrews. In a simply contrast, some don’t rebel as the Israelites did in the wilderness, but unlike them do persevere in faithfulness and therefore enter God’s rest. This time that rest is depicted as resting in Christ with all of the eschatological blessings yet to come rather than merely the rest from one’s physical enemies in safety and security in the promise land as was blessing offered to the Israelites of old. 

 

The third major comparison in the Hebrew’s outline is the longest so we shouldn’t be surprised to see it subdivided into the most complex set of subsections. Christ’s Superiority to the Priesthood, begins in 4:14 with the basic injunction to accept God’s grace on the basis of that superior priesthood. The writer then introduces the first of two major comparisons with the literal Jewish Priesthood, those who were descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses and going back further, descendants of Levi, the son of Jacob and father/ancestor of that tribe of the twelve tribes associated with the twelve sons of Jacob which did not inherit land but which produced a linage of priests and temple ministering. The major comparisons in 5:1-10 and 7:1-28 brackets the third and central warning passage in Hebrews 5:11-6:20. This chapter is filled with exegetical conundrum to which we will return but warning against the eternal dangers against apostasy in a stronger language as anywhere in Scripture. Although the contrast is not hard and fast, there does appear to be more reference to the human priesthood with reference to its Levitical heritage in chapter 7 than in chapter 5 because here is where Hebrews introduces the comparison between Jesus and priesthood of Melchizedek. We will return and unpack this theme like all the others being surveyed here.

 

The fourth major contrasts spanning chapters 8-10 of Hebrews is Christ’s Superiority to the Old Covenant. The later part of chapter 10 brings us to the fourth warning passage where once again, perseverance is curial. The final comparison between Jesus and Old Testament figures is with the so-called heroes of the faith in chapters 11-12 which leads the bulk of chapter 12 to the 5th and final warning passage, an injunction to focus exclusively on Jesus, however great previous human models of faith may have been. Chapter 13 rounds out the book with a more miscellaneous section of largely exhortation material more akin to the kind of exhortation conclusions to the body of a letter that we come accustomed to in the Epistles of Paul. 

 

We now go back through Hebrews, a third time; this time in more detailed, commenting on selected verses and important interpretative issues in route. We begin with chapter 1:1-4, the so-called prologue, noting here the remarkable high Christology comparable to that which we saw in Colossians 1 or Philippians 2, comparable even to that found in the Gospel of John in his prologue. We read, for example, in verse 3 of Hebrews 1 that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Thus the comparison between the partial past revelation of the prophets to the final revelation in Christ is fully worthy of the emphasis put on it because of the full deity of Jesus. As verses 5-14 of chapter 1 unpack the first subsection comparing Christ to the angels and demonstrating his superiority and sovereignty, we come across a chain-link of all Old Testament quotations. What is striking here, are the variety of approaches to Old Testament fulfillment that are seen. In some cases, we have a text for which we have evidence that pre-Christian Judaism did indeed interpret it in a messianic fashion, particularly in the two texts cited in Hebrews 1:5-2:7 and 2nd Samuel 7:14. In other instances, we have a text that we can understand when read in their larger context, why they would be taken as messianic even though we don’t have evidence for such interpretation in pre-Christian Judaism. We find examples of this in Hebrews 1:8 with its reference to Psalm 45:6-7 where God, himself, apparently addresses one, to whom he says, ‘your throne, oh God, will last forever and forever.’ In other cases, it would appear that we have pure typology as text which originally referred to God the Father, but in his creative or redemptive activities now are reinterpreted of speaking of Christ because the first Christians came to conclusion that Jesus, as the Messiah, was vice regent and key participant in helping God, indeed as part of the Godhead in those creative and redemptive activities. Such is the lengthy quote in Hebrews 1:10-12 and Psalm 102:25-27. 

 

As we turn to chapter 2; we’ve already commented briefly on the first warning passages; so we proceed to 2:5-9 where the superiority of Jesus to angels is now unpacked in respect to his suffering. Here is a section that pays close attention, particularly in light of some recent debates over inclusive language translations for humanity. The writer to the Hebrews in 2:6-8 quotes Psalm 8 which was not and should not be taken as a direct messianic prophecy of any kind. It is rather a Psalm that marvels how puny frail mortal man was the object of lavish love, created in God’s image, even though hierarchically in the universe, made a little lower than the angels. It’s fully appropriate in a text like this to translate man and the synonymous expression, ‘Son of Man,’ which doesn’t have any overtones of an exalted being in Psalm 8 in inclusive language such as moral humanity. Thus Hebrews 2:6-8 in the NIV reads, ‘there’s a place where someone has testified where you are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings, that you care for them. You made them a little lower than the angels; you’ve crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.’ Then the writer to the Hebrews comments on the significance of this reference to the creation of humanity and its creation in God’s image with its charge to have dominion over the rest of creation, all as outlined in Genesis. The writer to the Hebrews continues, ‘in putting everything under them that is the first human beings and derivatively their descendants, God left nothing that is subject to them. Yet at present, we do not see everything in subject to them.’ Here is the illusion to the fall, the sin of Adam and Eve and its consequences for the entire cosmos that humanity doesn’t exist with the entire universe in rightful subjection to it. 

 

In Hebrews, verse 9, we do see Jesus who is made a little lower than the angels while now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death so that by the grace of God, he might taste death before everyone. The contrast between verses 8 and 9 is crucial to capture. We do not see everything subjective to humanity, therefore the new human, the second Adam, the one who re-established that Jesus is the one who because of his willingness to die an atoning death on a cross has been placed in a position where all creation can be and one day will be subject to him. 

 

The second half of Hebrews 2, perhaps the most significant verses for additional commentary here are 17 and 18 in which goes along very closely of what we will see in chapter 4:14-16. ‘For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.’ Here, again, critics have complained that since Jesus was male, he was not made like his brothers and sisters in every way. This is obviously true but then there are plenty of ways he wasn’t made like even just his brothers in every way. He didn’t have the identical physical characteristics of every man since every man doesn’t have the identical characteristics and emotions and walk of life. But none of that is the point; he had to be made human in every way, in everything that is essentially human, which would appear to include the ability to be tempted, but not necessarily to be sinful. Adam and Eve were likewise created fully human even before they chose to sin. His temptation led him even to suffer, resisting the temptation to come down off the Cross in his dying moments, led to the greatest suffering of all. His atoning sacrifice therefore enabled him now to help those who were being tempted. Thus if we tie that passage into 4:14-16, we read, ‘therefore, since we have a great high priest who has accented into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess, for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

 

Whether a person is studying to be a professional counselor or a pastoral counselor or simply is a faithful professional lay minister of any kind. One will have numerous opportunities, formally or informally, to counsel people. One of the most precious trues of the Christian faith is to encourage people going through very difficult times, is remind them they are not alone, that others have experienced similar things. Jesus has and he understands and he sympathizes and he empathizes and he can provide help. And one of the key and central to that help is to move people directly into the presence of God and an intimate access of presence that was never possible when the temple reflected gradations of holiness and priests had to function as intermediaries. The final item on the exegetical highlights of Hebrews 1-5 actually begins with transitional material at the end of chapter 3 but then it hits head on in what called the stages of Sabbath rest in chapter 4:1-11. Because of the story in Genesis 1 that finds God resting at the end of his six days of creative activity on what is called the seventh day. 

 

This tradition that became codified in the Mosaic Law of celebrating a Sabbath, resting from work on the seventh day of the week, Saturday in the Hebrew calendar developed and became so important and central that it became one of the ten commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai as described in Exodus 20. Humans were to rest one day in seven in imitation of God’s rest. But the concept of rest was applied again, much more broadly; metaphorically for entrance into Canaan, into the Promised Land where God’s people would rest from their wilderness wonderings and the hardships of desert life and the Egyptian life of slavery, decades earlier, and to the extent that they were more obedient than not to God law. They would experience the land of milk and honey and peace from their enemies and prosperity that God wanted them to enjoy in Canaan which would be renamed the Land of Israel. Yet there is another Psalm attributed to David, this time in Psalms 95:7-8 which contains an interesting appeal today, if you hear his voice, do not hardened your hearts as you and your fore-fathered did in rebellion. Then that is unpacked and the reference in chapter 4:3, which cites the same Psalm a little further along in 95:11. It talks about how God in his anger declared on oath against those rebellious Israelites, ‘they shall never enter my rest.’ As opposed to those who did enter that rest. But if David could still see these promises and commands and warnings as applicable in his day then the complete concept of the kind of rest that God wanted to offer Israel was not complete, that the Sabbath was not complete with the entrance into the Promised Land and its conquest was not even complete in David’s day. It apparently was something at a spiritual level that could be entered in any era and thus the author of Hebrews sees it as a relevant promise/warning to make even in the first century as well. Verse 9 explains, there remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for those who enters God’s rest, also rest from their own work just as God did from his, now referring back to the creation. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews sees life in Christ as yet another further higher form of rest, but a fulfillment of the promise of rest that is not completely fulfilled in any point in this life but only through perseverance to the end as we move into the life to come.