HEBREWS STUDY PART 2: THE SUPERIORITY AND PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST

HEBREWS PART 2

THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST (1:1-2)

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (1:1-2)

For us to know anything about God, He must tell us. The natural man cannot escape into the supernatural. That is why the natural man can only understand the things of God, when He comes to us.

The purpose was of the Old Testament was to prepare for the coming of Christ, whether by prophecy or principle or commandment or law or whatever. The Old Testament is not a collection of the wisdom of ancient men but is the voice of God and He spoke “in many portions and in many ways.” Sometimes it was in a vision, sometimes by a parable, sometimes through a type or a symbol. He even spoke through men and angels.

Although the Old Testament is important and authoritative, but it is fragmentary and remained incomplete until the New Testament was finished. The Old Testament was delivered over the course of some 1500 years by some forty-plus writers. It began to build and grow, truth upon truth. This is called progressive revelation. It progressed from promise in the Old Testament to fulfilment in the New Testament. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17)

Hebrews 11 speaks about many of the great saints of the Old Testament. “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (v. 39). It is however important to note that the Old Testament was not in any way erroneous.

A prophet is one who speaks to men for God; a priest is one who speaks to God for men. The priest takes man’s problems to God; the prophet takes God’s message to men, but both were commissioned by God. No human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit. “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:21). “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

God’s full, perfect revelation awaited the coming of His Son. The entire New Testament is centered around Christ. God then became a man Himself. “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The phrase “in these last days” probably is a messianic reference. Whenever a Jew saw or heard these words, he or she immediately had messianic thoughts, because the scriptural promise was that in the last days their Messiah would come (Jer. 33:14-16; Mic. 5:1-4; Zech. 9:9, 16). The Old Testament had been given in pieces. To Noah was revealed the quarter of the world from which Messiah would come. To Micah, the town where He would be born. To Daniel, the time of His birth. To Malachi, the forerunner who would come before Him. To Jonah, His resurrection was typified.

Sadly, His own people rejected Him so the fulfilment of all the promises of the last days has yet to be fully realized. In the first verse and a half of Hebrews, the Holy Spirit establishes the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ over all the Old Testament.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS (1:4-14)

This is a difficult passage to understand. Throughout the book we have comparisons between the New covenant and the Old Covenant and between Jesus Christ and everyone else, to show that Jesus is superior in every way. In the first three verses Jesus is shown as superior to everything and everyone. After unfolding all of the human “everyones” Christ is superior to, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus Christ is also superior to angels.

Hebrews 2:9 tells us that when Jesus became a man He was “made for a little while lower than the angels.” Angels are specially created spirit beings, made by God before He made man, and of a higher order than fallen man. There are 108 direct references to angels in the Old Testament and 165 in the New Testament.

WHAT ANGELS ARE AND DO

Whatever heavenly form angels have, they are capable of appearing in human and many other forms. They are highly intelligent, have emotions and can speak to humans. Paul says, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you” (Gal. 1:8).

Scripture nowhere indicates that they die or can be annihilated. A third of them fell (Rev. 12:4), but they still exist as demonic spirit beings. We are told in Ephesians 6:10, 12 to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. . . . For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. . . .” but against angels—fallen angels.

In his vision of the Ancient of Days, Daniel saw “thousands upon thousands” attending Him and “myriads upon myriads” standing before Him (Dan. 7:10). In his vision from Patmos, John also speaks of a vast heavenly multitude that included angels. “And the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11).

Angels are highly organized and are divided into ranks, and among the special classes of angels are cherubim, seraphim, and those described simply as living creatures. Some angels have names: Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer. Michael is the head of the armies of heaven and Gabriel is called “the mighty one.” Lucifer is the name Satan had before he fell.

They minister to God’s redeemed by watching over the church—assisting God in answering prayer, delivering from danger, giving encouragement, and protecting children. They also minister to the unsaved, by announcing and inflicting judgment.

JEWISH VIEWS OF ANGELS

The Book of Hebrews also addresses common Jewish misconceptions. They believe that angels were the instruments of bringing His word to men and of working out His will in the universe. Many believed that angels acted as God did nothing without consulting them—that, for example, the “Us” in “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26) refers to this angelic council.

They believed two hundred angels controlled the movements of the stars and that one very special angel, the calendar angel, controlled the never-ending succession of days, months, and years. Others controlled the weather while some others were wardens of hell and torturers of the damned. There were even recording angels who wrote down every word man spoke. There was an angel of death and, on the other hand, a guardian angel for every nation and even every child.

This, above all else, exalted the angels in the minds of the children of Israel. They believed that angels were the mediators of their covenant with God, that angels continually ministered God’s blessings to them. “you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” (Acts 7:53) ““Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.” (Gal. 3:19)

Some even worshipped angels. “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels”(Col. 2:18). To the Hebrews, Christ therefore had to be shown as been better than the bearers and mediators of the Old Covenant—namely, the angels. Seven Old Testament passages were used by the writer of Hebrews to establish this truth.

Jesus was better than the angels in five ways—in His title, His worship, His nature, His existence, and His destiny.

GREATER BECAUSE OF HIS TITLE

“Having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Thou are My Son, today I have begotten Thee”? And again, “I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me”?” (1:4-5)

In biblical times God often chose specific names that related to the character or some other aspect of a person’s life. Christ has a better He has a better title, a more excellent name. “To what angel had God ever said, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee?” Son is an incarnational title of Christ.

It is only an analogy to say that God is Father and Jesus is Son—God’s way of helping us understand the essential relationship between the first and second Persons of the Trinity. The Bible nowhere speaks of the eternal sonship of Christ. When His eternity is spoken of in Hebrews 1:8, God says to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Only when talking about His incarnation, is He called “Son,” otherwise he is referred to as God. This is important to understand as some wrongly believe that Christ is less than God and that He is only a son.

The quotation in verse 5 from 2 Samuel 7:14 (“I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me”) emphasizes the future—since the words quoted were originally written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth.

There are two basic events in relation to which Jesus Christ is Son—His virgin birth and His resurrection. His sonship came to full bloom in His resurrection. “Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 1:3-4) It is His human title, and we should never get trapped in the heretical idea that Jesus Christ is eternally subservient to God.

GREATER BECAUSE HE IS WORSHIPED

“And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” (1:6)

The latter part comes from the Jewish Scripture, in Psalm 97:7. This made it easier for them to buy into what they were taught. This Son who became a man is higher than angels and they had to worship Him. He is the very God that the angels had always worshiped.

“And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Here, “firstborn” (prötotokos) has nothing to do with time but rather refers to position. It is not a description but a title, meaning “the chief one.” The concept was associated with firstborn because the oldest son usually was heir to the father’s entire estate. It is a right-to-rule word, an authority word.

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18). Of all those who have been resurrected, He is by far the greatest.

Note the words “again” and “world” in the text. This can only refer to the Second Coming. In Revelation 5:11-12 we see the worshipping of the angels in heaven, before the seals are broken by Jesus before His Second Coming. “And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” They will finally see Him come as King of kings and Lord of lords.

GREATER BECAUSE OF SUPERIOR HIS NATURE

“And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.” (1:7)

Since Christ created the angels (Col. 1:16), He is obviously superior to them. Not only were they created by Him, but they are His possession, His angels. They are His created servants, His ministers, His winds and flame of fire.

THE FATHER’S CLAIM OF JESUS’ DEITY

“But of the Son He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever”. (1:8a)

Jesus is God eternal! God the Father acknowledges God the Son. This verse gives the clearest, most powerful, and irrefutable proof of the deity of Christ in the Bible—from the Father Himself. Jesus also said of Himself, “said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) Paul also Paul declares, “. . . looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). Throughout the New Testament the claim is unequivocal: Jesus Christ is God.

LOVER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions.” (1:8-9)

From His eternal throne, He rules for eternity as God and King with an eternal scepter of righteousness. Displayed in everything Jesus did was His love for righteousness and He hated sin just as surely as He loved righteousness. By our attitudes toward righteousness and toward sin, we can also tell how close we are to being conformed to Christ.

As this chapter relates to the superiority above angels, the “campions” refer to angels rather than men.

In his sermon in Cornelius’ house, Peter tells of God’s anointing of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 10:38). God had anointed Him and ordained Him. Psalm 2:2 andother places in the Old Testament anticipate this anointing. Messiah is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “Anointed One.”

GREATER BECAUSE OF HIS SUPERIOR EXISTENCE

Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment. And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end. (1:10-12)

This is a quotation from Psalm 102. Jesus was without beginning. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). Jesus will one day discard the heavens and the earth. During the tribulation, the whole world will fall apart. The creation will be changed, but not the Creator. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Angels were subjected to decay, as their fall proves.

GREATER BECAUSE OF SUPERIOR DESTINY

But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (1:13-14)

This is a quotation from Psalm 110:1. No angel has ever been promised a place at God’s right hand. Jesus Christ, in God’s plan, is destined to be the ruler of the universe and everything that inhabits it, while the angels’ destiny is to serve forever those who are heirs of salvation.. “Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. . . . And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:24-25, 28). He is subordinate to the Father, but only in the relationship of Son.

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST (1:2-3)

“In these last days {God} has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (1:2-3)

Christ became Son of Man that we might become sons of God. The age of kingdom fulfilment began when Jesus came the first time, and it will not finally be completed until we enter into the eternal heavens.

God fully expressed Himself in His Son. Christ is the end of all things (Heir), the beginning of all things (Creator), and the middle of all things (Sustainer and Purifier).

In just half of verse 2 and in verse 3 is a sevenfold presentation of the excellencies of Jesus Christ.

1 HIS HEIRSHIP

If Jesus is the Son of God, then He is the heir of all that God possesses. Everything comes under the final control of Jesus Christ. God’s destined kingdom will in the last days be given finally and eternally to Jesus Christ. “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).

Paul explains that all things not only were created by Christ but for Him (Col. 1:16) and that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). In Revelation 5, God is pictured sitting on a throne, with a scroll in His hand. “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals” (v. 1). The scroll is the title deed to the earth and all that is in it. Chapter 6 of Revelation begins the description of the Tribulation, the first step in Christ’s taking back the earth, which is rightfully His.

Finally, “the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever’ ” (11:15). Because we have trusted in Him, we are to be “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). When we enter into His eternal kingdom we will jointly possess all that He possesses. We will not be joint Christs or joint Lords, but we will be joint heirs.

Although they can share in Christ’s heritance, many still reject Him. Due to Israel’s rejection, the promise made to them has been taken away and given to a new “nation”, the church. Israel was therefore set aside until the time of her restoration.

2 HIS CREATORSHIP

Through Christ, God made the world. ““All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). Ability to create belongs to God alone and the fact that Jesus creates indicates that He is God. The word “world” used here is aiönas, which does not mean the material world but “the ages,” as it is often translated. Jesus Christ is responsible not only for the physical earth, but also for creating time, space, energy, and matter.

3 HIS RADIANCE

No one can see God but Jesus Christ is the glorious light of God shining into the hearts of men. “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Into this dark world God sent His glorious Light. Without the Son of God, there is only darkness. Sadly, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

4 HIS BEING / NATURE

Christ not only was God manifest; He was God in substance. He is the perfect, personal imprint of God in time and space. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col. 1:15) “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

5 HIS ADMINISTRATION / SUSTENANCE

The key to the creation story in Genesis is in two words, “God said.” God spoke and it happened. Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. Until He one day inherent all things, He holds them all together in the meantime. Christ, the preeminent Power, maintains it all. If He, as an example, suspended the law of gravity only for a brief moment, we would all perish, in unimaginable ways. Nothing in the universe happens by accident.

When your life belongs to Jesus Christ, He holds it and sustains it and one day will take it into God’s very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is in chaos.

6 HIS SACRIFICE

Jesus went to the cross, died our deserved death for us, and thereby took the penalty for our sin on Himself. If we will accept His death and believe that He died for us, He will free us from the penalty of sin and purify us from the stain of sin.

Jesus “does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) He not only was the Priest, but also the Sacrifice.

“And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? … but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Heb. 9:12-14, 26b)

Yet again, there are people who reject Him! Hebrews 10:26 warns, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” The cross was a stumbling block to Jews.

7 HIS EXALTATION

“[He] is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22). His sacrificial work was done. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). He sat down to intercede for us. “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34).

JESUS GREATER THAN MOSES (3:1-6)

THE GREATNESS OF MOSES

To understand this passage, it is important to understand what Jews of that day thought about Moses. He was esteemed by the Jews far above any other Jew who ever lived. Almost everything of importance connected with God is, in the Jew’s mind, connected with Moses. God spoke to the prophets in visions, but to Moses spoke face to face. “The skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him” (Ex. 34:29).

He was the one who led Israel out of Egypt. To them Moses and the law were synonymous. Moses not only brought the Ten Commandments, but he also wrote the entire Pentateuch, and gave the plans for the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.

JESUS’ SUPERIOR OFFICE: AS APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. (Heb. 3:1)

This particular passage is written to Christians, holy Jewish brothers in Christ. They ought to concentrate on their heavenly existence, not the earthly and consider Him in all they do. He is the supreme Apostle, the Sent-One from God, and the perfect High Priest.

The fact that Jesus is both Apostle and High Priest is the first way in which He is superior to Moses. In a sense Moses was God’s apostle, His sent-one to bring His people the law and the covenant, but he was never a priest. Even as an apostle, Jesus brought a better covenant, and was Himself the sacrifice that made the better covenant effective.

JESUS’ SUPERIOR WORKS: AS BUILDER

“He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” (3:2-4)

Moses was faithful. “My servant Moses … is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth” (Num. 12:7-8). Just as Moses was faithful to the One who appointed him, so was Jesus—only much more so. Several times Moses faltered, but Jesus always did the Father’s will.

TRUSTWORTHY IN HIS HOUSE

House is from the Greek oikos, meaning “household,” and refers to people, not a building or dwelling. Old Testament believers were God’s “household.” Moses was a trustworthy steward in that Israeli household, as he managed it for the Owner. Christ was also faithful in His house, the church. “And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:4-5). Just as believers under the Old Testament are called the house of Moses, believers under the New Testament are called the house of Christ.

“For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” (3:3-4)

Moses was only a member of the household which Jesus built. As God, Jesus created both Israel and the church. Human witnesses are but the instruments He uses but He is the Builder.

JESUS’ SUPERIOR PERSON: AS SON

“Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (3:5-6)

Moses is by person a servant, while Jesus is by person a Son. “And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever” (John 8:35). Servants come and go; sons are sons for life.

TO ACCEPT MOSES IS TO ACCEPT JESUS

Judaism did not understand then, and does not understand now, that Moses was faithful primarily as a testimony to things which were yet to come in Christ. It was the shadow of the perfect substance that was to come; and if you reject the substance, the shadow is worthless. “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me” (John 5:46).

(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHER)

HEBREWS STUDY PART 1: AN INTRODUTION

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

THE STUDY

In this study, we will focus on a broader understanding of the book of Hebrews. Although we will, as far as possible, address the various passages in the same chronological order as they appear in the Bible, we are mainly dividing the book into various themes.

The only external source used is John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary on the book of Hebrews. Although the Commentary book contains more that 500 pages, the total pages of our study material will be approximately 80 pages long and each individual part will be about 10 pages long.

To ensure that you do not miss out on any part of the study, you can subscribe to the HEAVENLY REMNANT blog, by clicking on the “FOLLOW” button. You will then receive an email notification, every time a new part of the study is published.

BACKGROUND ON THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

Nobody knows for certain who the author of the book of Hebrews was. There are no references to Gentiles in the book and the congregation being addressed was strictly Jewish. They are being taught about the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Covenant, in contrast to the Old Covenant, under which they had so long lived and worshiped.

The Christian Hebrews must have been Christians for some time before the letter was written, but still had to come to maturity. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (5:12)

Although the primary message is addressed to believers, the key to interpreting any part of Hebrews is to understand that three different groups are being addressed. If we do not understand that, it is easy to confuse issues addressed.

GROUP I: TRUE HEBREW CHRISTIANS

They had come out of Judaism, in which they had been born and raised and were born again. They were treated with great hostility from their own people, though not yet martyrdom (10:32-34; 12:4). They lacked full confidence in the gospel and were tempted to return to many of the Judaistic traditions that previously formed much a part of their lives, although they would not lose their salvation. This letter had the purpose of assuring them that they do not need the old Aaronic-Levitical priesthood and daily sacrifices.

GROUP II: HEBREW NON-CHRISTIANS WHO WERE INTELLECTUALLY CONVINCED

These Hebrews heard about Jesus Christ and were intellectually convinced, but not willing to make a commitment of faith in Him and were not willing to make the sacrifice required. “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” (6:4-6)

They were thus without excuse and without hope, while setting themselves up for God’s judgement. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (10:26) “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (10:29) “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (12:17)

GROUP III: HEBREW NON-CHRISTIANS WHO WERE NOT CONVINCED

These Hebrews did not believe in the gospel of Christ at all. For example, the Spirit is surely not saying to believers, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (9:27).

The overall theme of the Book of Hebrews is the superiority, or the pre-eminence, of Christ. He is superior to the angels, to Moses, to Joshua, to Aaron and his priesthood, and to the Old Covenant and to old sacrifices.

A few things worthy to take note of:

  • The Jews previously never approached God directly. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and that happened once a year during the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
  • God then instituted a system of sacrifices as outward acts of inner repentance and through the Levitical priesthood, sacrifices were made to symbolize atonement for sin. God gave His covenant, which included His law, and thereby offered the people access to Him. This whole system however never removed sin fully and finally.
  • Jesus Christ then came as the Mediator of a better covenant, because His sacrificed once and for all and removes every sin ever committed. He is the Perfect Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.” (10:12)
  • The idea of a new covenant was not easy for Jews to accept. Part of the purpose of the book of Hebrews, therefore, was to confront the born-again Jew with the fact that he could, and should, let go of all his Judaistic traditions. In addition, they experienced intense persecution and were now considered unclean. While in God’s eyes they were the only true Jews (Rom. 2:28-29), they were considered by fellow Jews to be worse than Gentiles.

THE CONTRAST BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND JUDAISM

Throughout the book of Hebrews, there are many comparisons and contrasts between Christianity and Judaism. Understanding this truth is essential to proper interpretation of the epistle.

One of the first rules of sound biblical hermeneutics (interpretation) is to discover the central theme and to render all other interpretations in light of it. The central theme and message of the book of Hebrews is the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old, that is, of Christianity to Judaism. The Holy Spirit is contrasting Judaism and Christianity, the unsaved Jew in Judaism and the redeemed Jew in Christianity. The Old Testament essentially is God’s revelation of pictures and types, which are fulfilled in Christ in the New Testament.

LAYOUT OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

The first eleven chapters of Hebrews do not emphasize specific commands to Christians. There is an obvious lack of practical explanations or exhortations. The section is pure doctrine and is almost entirely directed to Jews who have received the gospel but need to be affirmed in the superiority of the New Covenant.

The exhortations in chapter 12 that apply to Christians are general, encouraging them to run the race of faith with patience and to follow peace and holiness.

The specific practical exhortations for Christians are in chapter 13. The standards of Christian behaviour set forth in Hebrews 13 presuppose two basic realities: that these standards are based on the doctrinal foundation of chapters 1 through 12, and that they apply to Christian believers.

Although the book of Hebrews does not mention any Gentiles, we can all still learn a lot from this rich book.