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Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 28

Hebrews (Part 2)

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.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 28
Watching Now
Hebrews (Part 2)

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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  • 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
nt512-28
Hebrews (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

 

This is the 28th 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. 

  

The most central and perhaps controversial message of all is Hebrews 6:4-8. It’s impossible, the writer claims that those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift to have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age and have fallen away to be brought back to repentance. To their lost, they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. The land drinks the rain falling on it and it produces a crop useful to those, to whom it is farmed, receives the blessings of God, but land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and endanger of being cursed and in the end it will be burned. 

 

The next PowerPoint slide presents in schematic fashion what George Guthrie very clearly lays out in more conventional pose, six main approaches throughout the history of the church to understanding this passage. Four of them fall on a spectrum from Calvinism to Armenianism. Calvin and Armenian being the two reformation era writers whose lives follows each other, roughly, back to back in the 15th & 16th  century who took opposite perspectives on a number of key doctrines. These included the question of the security of the believer, also known as the perseverance of the saints or more popularly, can a Christian lose their salvation or forfeit it through apostasy might be a more accurate way of explaining it. At one of the spectrum are two views that are very similar to each other and which can arguably be derived from passages in Calvin’s aluminous writings. Both seem to describe the Christian experience as being seen associated with people of the Christian house churches in Rome who perhaps have participated in many ways and close associates, partners sharing because they have been close associates and partners with true believers whom the Spirit lives. But, though they have been enlightened and have a measure of knowledge though they have tasted experiences related to Christianity, they’ve never truly made a serious commitment for themselves. Or rather than those who are perhaps on the verge of making a serious commitment, though they would tell anyone who ask that they hadn’t yet. It’s an analogical view, those who phenomenologically, outwardly to all appearances, perhaps even by virtue of their own claims pretend to be believers but at root, they lack genuine faith. 

 

Another Calvinistic view but not one Calvin himself ever supported is that, these are in fact two believers as the verbs: enlightened, tasted, and shared easily suggest; but the threat is not a loss of salvation, just a loss of reward in heaven and much like the passage 1st Corinthians 3 that we discussed earlier getting into heaven, as it were, just by the skin of their teeth, seeing the works of this life burn up on judgement day. The trouble there is the language of being worthless and danger of being cursed and then in the end to be burned in verse 8, seems too harsh for anyone who does, however, barely made it to heaven. There are many who view that both outwardly and in reality these were true believers but that a believer not through some unforgivable sin nor through some accidental oversight but by the repeated conscience straight forward absolute renunciation of Jesus and everything to do with him. A decision which is consistently held to until that person’s death without any claim, sign, effort or desire for repentance is a choice that God by allowing people free will, will honor. And that a person can truly be a Christian at one point and not at a later point. 

 

Two other approaches that don’t fit neatly onto the spectrum have been the hypothetical view associated with Luther and held by a variety of other people throughout church history. The first being that this is an impossible, hypothetically; anyone could act along the lines of what the Armenians understand the passage to describe and they would be loss but in fact no one can. But then it is hard not to see the author of Hebrews as being deceptive or manipulative by warning, indeed, frightening or scaring people into behaving a certain way with a threat they don’t know but God knows, cannot come to pass. Perhaps the least commonly held view is that this warning passage is not about an individual’s destiny but a given churches destiny, whether it will last in this life or not. But again, it is hard to see the warnings about cruses and burning referring to anything other than hell in which individuals as individuals are judged and consigned, not churches as groups. But like many other topics that we have surveyed, whether the entire range of the gifts of the Spirit are still in existence today, eschatological debates on the nature of the millennium and the timing of the rapture etc. It’s my conviction, it’s our conviction at Denver Seminary that while Christians need to study the issues and desire for themselves which perspective seems strongest to them and how best to understand texts like the one in Hebrews. The evidence is ambiguous enough that we should never divide fellowship over the topic. We should never accuse people who hold different views than ours of being mature Christians or sub-Christian or not Christian at all. While we will say a little more about the topic after going further into the Book of Hebrews; for now we encourage students to read widely on both sides, including the footnotes and resources that are cited in the accompanying textbook and decide for themselves which perspective makes a more compelling case in their minds. 

 

As we continue on in the segment of Hebrews on Christ, the Superior Priesthood and before we deal with that enigmatic figure of Melchizedek in just a little more detail. The next chart summarizes in reading Hebrews straight through, we would discover a litany of ways which Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. Priests were many in number, to take care of sins; Jesus could do it as only one individual. The former priesthood involved a finite period of forgiveness, to finite sacrifices offered by finite human beings, hence Jesus’ priesthood was eternal by one who lived eternally and offered an eternal sacrifice. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant foreshadowed future salvation, Jesus’ sacrifice brought that complete salvation. Levitical priests were themselves sinners and therefore their sacrifices had to be offered for their own sins as well as for others. But Jesus’ sacrifice was not for himself because it was offered by one who was without sin. For those same reasons the Old Testament sacrifices repeated, Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all. The Old Covenant was temporary but the New Covenant would be permanent. The sacrifices under the Laws of Moses were offered in the earthly temple in Jerusalem, Christ’s was offered in the heavenly sanctuary. The old sacrifices were mediated by increasing barriers limiting more and more greatly to who had access to the increasing holy places and segments of the temple. Christ’s sacrifice identify with all people who identify with him, they have direct access to God himself and perfect intimacy with God. The Old Testament sacrifices were offered by the blood of goats and bulls but could not ever fully atone for human sins because they were not offered by humans, but Christ’s was through his own blood. Outward cleansing gave way to full inward cleansing, consciences remaining guilty, not because they didn’t feel that their previous sins had been atoned for but because they knew they would commit future sins which would require future sacrifices in order to receive further forgiveness, now gives way to the potential for an utterly clean conscience because Jesus’ sacrifice forgives all our past, present and future sins fully. To summarize most of that: an incomplete sacrifice for incomplete sanctification at any point in a person’s life gives way to complete sacrifice for complete sanctification, even though our subsequent sins made destroy our fellowship with God, no further offerings or sacrifices need to be made but merely repentance and turning to Christ. 

 

With that striking barrage of parallels between the imperfect and the incomplete and the perfect and the complete; is it likely that the lack of eternal security inherent in the old sacrificial system would not also given way to the full security of the believer? This writer finds that a strongly heuristic factor for believing in the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance of the saints but I leave it as a question mark for students’ further reflection. The other part of Jesus’ priesthood is this comparison with Melchizedek to which we have alluded some already, but unpacking the gist of chapter 7 may be helped by understanding schematically that Abraham by tithing his spoils of war to Melchizedek acknowledged the spiritual role of Melchizedek as superior to him. But the Levitical priesthood from the tribe of Levi, one of Abraham’s great grandson’s and one of the twelve sons of Jacob, one of the two sons of Isaac; Abraham as the great grandfather of the Levi, therefore is humanly speaking on the same level of the same bloodline, the same qualifications. Levi is collectively present in Abraham’s seed, so to speak. But if Jesus can be shown in some way to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, then the dotted line shows the conclusion from the previous prominences that must follow the Levitical priesthood, no greater than Abraham must be subordinate to Jesus who is on the level of Melchizedek, if not, even higher than Melchizedek. 

 

But how to make this equation; Psalm 110:1 had already done it for the author in verse 4 as the one in verse 1 who says, thy Lord says to my Lord, I will make your enemies your footstool as said in verse 4 to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. But who is that second Lord besides the Lord Yahweh, to whom David, the author of Psalm 110, according to the superscript can call my Lord. Unless a messianic king higher than the fully and exclusively human King David and all of his nearly human offspring’s and somehow one therefore divine himself. Does that mean that Melchizedek was in some way a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ? Not necessarily, in fact, perhaps not even likely because Hebrews chapter 7 says that Christ is made like the priesthood that is after the order of Melchizedek. Or more explicitly in the words of verse 3, without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning or end of days or beginning of days and end of life, resembling the Son of God, made like the Son of God. Why not just say, being the Son of God or made as the Son of God. The language suggests that the two are not equivalent but there is a significant parallel enabling both to be declared priests forever in a way that could never have been said in the Levitical priesthood.

 

But how could Melchizedek be a priest forever if he was not a pre-incarnate Christ? How could he be without a father or mother? For that matter, Jesus wasn’t without a human mother. And Jesus had two genealogies, one in Mathew and one in Luke. The language can mean, without any record, a father or mother or genealogy or put more mosaic, Melchizedek’s priesthood was not derived from his ancestral credentials or passed on to any other heir. In that sense, he remains a priest forever and so does Jesus. 

 

Chapters 8-10 contrast the Old and New Covenant and do so with what commentators regularly speak of as dualistic language. Not the moral dualism, so well-known from an era of international popularity of six films in the Star Wars series of good and evil equally balanced, God and Satan or the good and bad side of the force or however you want to imagine it, locked in mortal combat; equal but opposing forces with the outcome uncertain. That is not a concept that either the Old or the New Testament ever enshrines, for Satan is always nothing more than a created being subordinate to God and dependent upon God’s permissive will for what he is allowed to do. There are some similarities in Hebrews 8-10, to what has been called cosmological dualism, particularly well-known from Plato’s famous allegory of the caves; that all seemingly earthly reality is but a shallow of the true reality which is in heaven. In chapter 10 and first part of verse 1 is one of the clearest places where we see echoes of that language. The law is only a shallow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves; the Old and New Covenants are like earthly temporary shallows of heavenly eternal realities. But even in that verse, not to mention the more dominant theme of these chapters is what we should turn eschatological or perhaps a temporal dualism for it is the law being contracted with the good things that are coming, past and future. What in Hebrew thought was simply the point in which the Messiah as the Davidic king would arrive in this age would give way to the age to come; the age of prophecy, the age of fulfillment, the arrival of King and Messiah represented in the next PowerPoint slide by the star of David being the dividing point between the ages. Christianity preserved this division but makes it more complex as Paul and the Gospel writers have already done in the Canonical sequence of the New Testament by describing an overlap of the ages such that Christ’s first coming depicted on the same but bottom half of the PowerPoint with the Cross, inaugurates the new age but not all promises of the old age are fulfilled until the second coming of Christ on the clouds of heaven at which point then will the old age give way entirely to nothing but the new age. And nothing in Hebrews suggest anything to contradict this or suggest that the author in any way believes fundamentally in any other form of dualism or any other form eschatology. 

 

Our final slide accompanying this lecture, selects a last flurry of exegetical highlights from those chapters not covered in the first such slide, namely Hebrew 6-13. The first bulleted point, again, fleshed out in more detail in our accompanying notes but suggests that already in the chapters we’ve looked at and continuing on into those that we haven’t. There are several texts in the warning passages of Hebrews, that perhaps 3 and 4 are more of a view like that of Calvin himself, of how to explain those who appear to have believed and utterly renounced all faith in Christ and never desire to repent from that in any way. Some of the texts are clearer than others; 2:3 talks about, ‘how shall we escape if we ignore such great a salvation?’ And that verb ignore seems more appropriate for never having truly embraced something but not paying adequate attention to it when it is offered to a person. But the word can also be translated ‘reject’, which can be taken in the same identical way but perhaps need not be quite as clearly. Chapter 3:19 seems somewhat more straight forward, speaking of the Israelites who were destroyed in the wilderness. We see that they were not able to answer because of their unbelief, apistia or lack of faith, which seems very strongly to hint that what Hebrews is afraid that some in his audience will be shown not have faith and not be able to enter. 

 

4:3 is perhaps more clear as now Hebrews makes that jump to the application of his community. In verse 2, we read, ‘for we also had the good News proclaimed to us’, not every last detail of the Gospel but the message of salvation by faith which both covenants share. Just as they did but the message they heard was of no value to them because they didn’t share the faith of those who obeyed or some manuscripts say, ‘for those who heard it, did not combine it with faith.’ And again on either of those renderings, it seems more natural that Hebrews was saying that there was never any true initial faith to begin with. Just as verse 3 continues without any manuscript variance, to contrast, ‘we, who have believed,’ enter that rest. The implications here are that the others never did or so it seems. In 10:39, Hebrews declares, ‘but we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who believed and are saved.’ This verse may help shed light on the language in Hebrews 6 about not being able to bring back to repentance those who commit other apostasies. At first glance, that would seem to confirm the argument for the Armenian perspective, that they had once repented and been forgiven and now will be brought back to that point again. But the language could also suggest being brought to the point of repentance, to the threshold, to the situation where they realize that was the step they had to take to cross over to full fledge Christianity. If the contrast in 10:39 is between those who believe and are saved and the opposite, then the natural way of understanding those who shrink back and are destroyed are those who have not believed, though they know what the Gospel is in full understanding and with every opportunity to take the step of faith, but they shrink back.

 

And then finally, in 12:25, the text reads, ‘see to it that you do not refuse him who speaks, if they do not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth. How much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?’ In context, it’s still talking about approaching Mount Sinai at the time of Moses receiving the law when the Israelites rebelled by erecting the golden calf. Again, if the analogy is those who we have already read about, did not truly believe in Old Testament times, then those who refuse him who speaks in New Testament times are presumably those who have not ever truly embraced the Gospel. David Mathewson has unpacked this later theme of the various Old Testament parallels and his opinion swings the balance in this direction. David DaSilva also in a recent journal article like Mathewson’s but also in an entire commentary on Hebrews has stressed how much like James though only occasionally like Paul, Hebrews views salvation from the global perspective as something where the entire process from start to finish describe a birds eye view as it were and thus it is truly the only as Ben Withernton, a thorough going Armenian likes to say in a number of his writings that we are eternally secure when we are secure in eternity. But only because, it is only in eternity when anyone, including ourselves will have an absolutely perfect and untainted understanding of who and where we are. We will see when we get to the Epistles of John in 1st John 5:13, which say very forcefully that while we are continuing in belief, we can have assurance, securely and strongly. 

 

The next bulleted point, not just a way to win a hand out of Bible Trivia, though the question might appear in one; what is the longest uninterrupted quotation from Old Testament in the New Testament? What is the longest Old Testament prophecy said to have been fulfilled in the New Testament?  The answer is Jeramiah 31:31-34. (‘Indeed, a time is coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,’ says the Lord. ‘But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,’ says the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.’) This makes it very clear those elements of both continuity and discontinuity with the old. It’s called a New Covenant (Hebrews 8:8) so it is clearly a second and different one. Verse 9, not like the Mosaic Covenant, but in verse 10, it involves the same laws, now internalized implanted fully in people’s minds and written on their hearts and yet we know from the remainder of Hebrews that the author doesn’t think that Christians need to bring sacrificial animals to any holy place and slaughter them so that it involves the same laws but only once they are understood as how they do or don’t apply in light of the Christ event. Verse 11 claims that they will no longer teach their neighbors and say to one another to know the Lord because they will all know me, that it is the people with whom this covenant is established. And yet of course, teaching goes on in the Christian church but not in the sense that it did when full forgiveness was never securable and therefore people’s identity was truly in danger depending on whether they remain faithful to the Law and sacrificial system. Thus in verse 13 in some of the strongest language of obsolescence of the Old Covenant, we dare not forget the points of continuity as well as the points of discontinuity.

 

Chapter 9, a central crucial verse appears in verse 27, ‘And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him, he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation.’ Verse 27 by itself, even without finishing the sentence, strongly suggests that there is not a second opportunity for salvation after this life is complete. And the remainder of verse 28 seems to close the argument that when Christ returns, it will not be this time for forgiving sins but to bring salvation for those who are waiting for him and by implication, judgement on those who are not. An important key text against all systems of thought, including some throughout history that have claimed to be Christian that give people a chance to hear the message of salvation after death. In 10:29 next only to Hebrews 6:4-6 would seem to once again throw the weight of the debate back into the direction of Armenianism on the question of eternal security. It reads, ‘how much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace?’ If we recall from what we learned from Paul who consistently used the term ‘sanctification’ for believers and specifically their growth in grace and yet even Paul in 1st Corinthians 7:14, if we didn’t discuss in our lecture but do in our accompanying textbook, can use the language of sanctification in a way that is not salvific to speak of those who are set apart by association with at least one Christian parent in a family, though a spouse or children may not be believers themselves. Set apart for the spin off blessings of holiness associated by that believing parent, but clearly not saved by simply being the spouse or child of one Christian parent. The root meaning of sanctification is simply, ‘set apart.’ And it’s interesting that the very preceding use of the sanctification word group in Hebrews comes back in chapter 9:13 where it says that the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonial unclear, sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean; explicitly referring only to outward appearances and not necessarily the inward realities. Is it perhaps not likely then in light of all the other texts that we have looked at that is what 10:29 is referring to as well. 

 

The heroes of the faith chapter in Hebrews 11 is worthy of detail and scrutiny but time prevents us from all but a couple of brief comments. 11:1 is a little misleading and varying additions of the NIV, faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, which probably is an impossibility for finite humans. And not the most literal translation either, which in fact is rendered by the King James that, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen’; though in modern English, it’s hard to understand how the word substance is being used there. My paraphrase, hopefully a little easier to understand, faith is about believing in God’s promises about the future, not necessarily apart from all doubt. Remember the man in Mark 9 who confessed his belief, enough belief that Jesus healed his son as his request, but at the same time, cried out, ‘help my unbelief.’ But basic faith has to do with believing God’s promises for the future despite the appearances of the present, and that’s what all of the character’s in Hebrews 11 exemplify. Some who receive magnificent but still partial fulfillment of God’s prophecies and promises to them, while others who receive very little and then climatically the chapter ends with those still in this life have the worst experiences of all, beginning in the middle of verse 35; those who were tortured. In 26, those who faced floggings, chained and imprisonment and in 37, stoned and put to death by the sword and persecuted and mistreated, etc.  

 

Why? Why would God grant some of his people so little? Why defer prophecy until later? Why not fulfill all prophecy now to end the Old Testament age? Why not adopt that Jewish scheme of the old age, simply giving fully away to the new age rather than the period of overlap that is frustratingly joyful and bitter for most all of us. And the astonishing answer is in verses 39-40, these were all commented for their faith but yet none of them received all that had been promised. Why? God had planned something better for us. As only together with us that they would be made perfect. Had he brought the full fulfillment, all of the Old Testament promises at once, we would be living in the new heavens and the new earth. Well, his people would be because you and I would have never been born. We would never have had a chance to live. And others would have been born would never have had a longer enough chance to repent and become part of God’s people. This should say something about what we should be about in this life. 

 

12:1-3 introduces us to that beautiful metaphor or so most readers take it: ’therefore, since we are surrounded by such cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hindered and the sin that is so easily entangled. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us.’ And Hebrews may well have the ancient Olympic Games or their less competitive equivalent in mind where spectators in the stadium cheered on the competitors in the race. But the term is used for witnesses here, is the word regularly used throughout the New Testament from which eventually the English word martyr was arrived. Namely those who gave testimony, who testified to her faith, even in the context of Hebrews, it might mean putting their lives in danger for the faith. That’s the most important role that the heroes of faith in chapter 11 play. Whether or not they are up there seeing us, hearing us, cheering us on from heaven as we look to them and read their stories. It is the way they remain faithful in life and in word to God, despite the horrible suffering that sometimes meant. 

 

It should greatly encourage us to persevere and yet as we mentioned already, the only perfectly trustworthy model on whom our gage should ultimately be fixed. And thus the perfect witness, testifier is Jesus, the author and protector of our faith, who for the joy set before him, life beyond death, resurrection life, endured the Cross scorning its shame and then was exalted right back to the right hand of the throne of God. Considering that one endured such opposition from sinners. This is interesting language, perhaps confirming one verse later, the struggle against sin in verse 4 that we talked about at the beginning of this lecture. There is indeed the sin of others, opponents, those sinners. Consider Jesus so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Consider another good chunk of text in the middle of chapter 12 introduces the metaphor of discipline. Just as parents and particularly though not exclusively in Biblical times, fathers exercised discipline on their children, not always for the right motives, not always in good ways but in best case scenarios following the image of God and planted in them, whether they recognized it or not, modeling somewhat the way after God disciplines. This is for the children’s own benefit though they don’t recognize it at the time. So too God, our heavenly father; another reason for suffering and another theological datum to enter into our databases as it were when we wrestle with the question as we did so much in 2nd Corinthians of why suffering and how to respond to it. 

 

And then finally in 13:17, have confidence in your leaders and admit to their authority because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so their work will be a joy and not a burden for that would be of no benefit to you as with all the other submission passages that we have looked at in the Pauline Epistles. It’s always potentially overruled when human authorities conflict with God’s laws and tragically church leaders at times disobey God’s direct commands and tell others to do so. It’s our responsibility to resist and disobey, but short of that as counter cultural as it is today in any walk of life, the theme of submission returns again. So that leaders can do whatever they want? No, they will give an account and if they abuse your submission, they will be judged severely. To those much is given, much will be required. Even when leaders, trying their best, make mistakes and don’t fully understand situations can be helped so much by people who are by nature in most instances cooperative and helpful and eager to participate and back their leaders and what a burden it is for those to constantly seem to want to challenge and rebel and go their own way and not be team players and complain, nag, make plays for power, etc. So hopefully fewer people will be like that with you. Yet another marvelous epistle and despite it authorship and the uncertainties surrounding it. It’s fairly easy to see why the church eventually accepted it, eagerly as canonical, as inspired. It seems not to get the attention as many other New Testament books, perhaps not even much as the general epistles, not doubt because it is at times a difficult book because of the intricacies of Old Testament text and practices that are assumed that Christian people today often do not understand. It probably requires the teacher or preacher to do more homework and do more teaching before he or she does preaching, to do more background with original meaning before moving to contemporary significance. But it is well worth the effort.