HEBREWS STUDY PART 10: MORE ON FAITH

FAITH THAT DEFEATS DEATH (11:20-22)

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.” (11:20-22)

Matthew Henry said, “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian’s life, yet it is especially so when we come to die. Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord so as to honor Him, by patience, hope and joy so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of His ways.”

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15). The three patriarchs mentioned in Hebrews 11:20-22 illustrate the power of faith in facing death. What makes the dying faith of these three men so significant is that, like Abraham, they died without seeing the fulfilment of God’s promises. They passed them on to their children by faith. They had not seen the land possessed, the nation established, or the world blessed, but they saw the promises, and that was enough. They knew by faith that God would fulfil the promises because they knew He was a covenant-keeping God and a God of truth.

A Christian who fears death has a serious weakness in his faith, for to die in Christ is simply to be ushered into the Lord’s presence. “For to me, to live is Christ,” Paul says, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). For those who believe, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).

MOSES: THE DECISIONS OF FAITH (11:23-29)

Life is made up of decisions, of which many are difficult. You can note the maturity of a Christian by the decisions he makes. Right choices are made on the basis of right faith. Everything in a believer’s life is an opportunity to glorify God. The first man to choose was Adam. He made the wrong choice and started the tragic chain of wrong choices that has plagued his descendants ever since.

Speaking to Israel in the wilderness, God said, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deut. 30:19). Moses lived most of his life before the covenant of Mt. Sinai, with its system of commandments and rituals. But both before and after Sinai he lived by faith, not by works. Because Moses received the covenant from God at Sinai, the Jews always associated him with God’s law.

The life of Moses illustrates both positive and negative decisions of faith, the things it accepts and the things it rejects.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” (11:23)

Pharaoh gave an edict that all male babies were to be drowned in the Nile. His parents first hid him for three months, and then put him in a waterproofed basket and placed him in the Nile near the place where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. He was found by the princess and taken to be raised as her own child. Moses’ sister, Miriam, was watching and persuaded the princess to get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the infant. Miriam, of course, got her mother, who was then able to raise her own son almost as if he had been at home.

His parents were not afraid of the king’s edict. “Moses . . . was lovely in the sight of God” (Acts 7:20). Not only Moses’ parents, but also God Himself, had a special affection for this child. They were somehow aware of God’s special concern, for by faith in God they hid him and opposed Pharaoh’s order. It was for God’s sake, as well as for Moses’ and their own sakes, that the baby was protected.

Moses’ parents were willing to risk their own lives to follow God’s way. Their decision was clear: save the child, whatever the consequences. It took considerable faith to put Moses in the basket and to trust Pharaoh’s daughter. Yet they willingly let him go, entrusting him to God. He needs our obedience, not our help, not our counsel. He makes the plans; we walk in them by faith.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” (11:24)

For forty years Moses had been a prince of Egypt. He could enjoy everything Egypt had to offer. But his training in Egypt never blunted his knowledge of the hope of Israel and of the promises of God. By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

We learn from Stephen that Moses knew he had a mission to perform for God and for his people. “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). He renounced the world’s power, honor, and prestige for the sake of God, and knew that for so doing he would gain immeasurably more than he would lose, for he was looking to the reward (v. 26). Moses gladly joined with God’s chosen people, though they were slaves, rather than take advantage of the prestige and privileges of Egypt and be unfaithful to God.

“Choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” (11:25)

Moses knew God was calling him to give his life for his people. He had a choice. He could have obeyed or disobeyed. He made a conscious choice to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.

“Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (11:26)

Moses had all the things the world holds dear. Considering involves careful thought, not quick decision. Moses thought through his decision, weighing the pros and cons. He weighed what Egypt had to offer against what God offered.

In the eyes of the world no reproach (being ridiculed and persecuted) would be worth sacrificing riches for. Yet Moses believed that the worst he could endure for Christ would be more valuable than the best of the world. It is interesting that the writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses’ considering the reproach of Christ, since he lived nearly 1500 years before Christ. Moses suffered reproach for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, because he identified with Messiah’s people, Israel, and purpose long before Christ came to earth. Moses would have agreed with what Peter wrote: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). Moses rejected the treasures of Egypt and took his stand with God’s Anointed.

God’s reward is always greater than the world’s. Moses surely saw the reward of a blessed life, but the emphasis is best seen as being on the eternal reward. That is the attitude every Christian should have about Christ. We should be willing to forsake and hazard all we have for the sake of God’s will, knowing with Moses and with Paul that our “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17; cf. Rom. 8:18).

“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” (11:27)

The first time he left Egypt, Moses was fleeing from the pharaoh, who wanted to kill him for slaying the Egyptian slavemaster (Ex. 2:15). The second time he left Egypt, another pharaoh wanted to keep Moses from taking the children of Israel with him. Moses was doubtlessly tempted to fear the wrath of the king when he left Egypt, but he did not. He knew he had an invisible but powerful means of support, as seeing Him who is unseen. He continued to say what God wanted him to say and do what God wanted him to do. He knew that, no matter what happened, whatever he had to face, he would be held up and strengthened and rewarded. He chose to focus his sights on God rather than on a monarch in Egypt.

Fear is a great pressure, and all of us are tempted at times to bend when standing for the Lord requires us to say or do something that is unpopular or dangerous. But true faith does not fold under the world’s pressure. When we are afraid of the world, when we are afraid of what people will say or do, we are exposing ourselves to God’s displeasure and discipline for lack of faith.

“By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn might not touch them.” (11:28)

True faith accepts the Lord’s provision as well as His plan. The tenth and last plague that God sent on the Egyptians was the death of all firstborn (Ex. 11:5). To protect the Israelites from this plague the Passover was instituted, in which a lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of their houses (12:7). Obviously, the blood itself had no power but sprinkling it as God had commanded was an act of faith and obedience and the blood was symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice by which He conquered death for all who believe in Him. The people of Israel, including Moses, did not understand the full significance of the ceremony, but they knew it was part of God’s plan. Faith always accepts God’s provision, no matter how strange and pointless it may seem to human understanding.

“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.” (11:29)

Faith also accepts God’s promise. When Moses and his people got to the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his army were not far behind. From all they could see they were trapped; there was no escape. At first the people lost heart. Moses then told them, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; . . . The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent” (Ex. 14: 13-14). For a while at least they trusted God, and by faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land. They believed Moses’ promise from God and started walking across the seabed as soon as the waters were parted.

The people had no guarantee except God’s word that He would not change His mind or forget them. For the faithful, God’s word is always enough. The test of faith is trusting God when all we have are His promises. When the waters are piled high all around us and problems and dangers are about to overwhelm us, this is when faith is tested, and when the Lord takes special pleasure in showing us His faithfulness, His love, and His power. When we have nothing but His promise to rely on, His help is the nearest and His presence the dearest to those who believe. When we truly believe God, we will know that in everything He has our best interest at heart, and we will always decide for Him.

THE COURAGE OF FAITH (11:30-40)

Faith is unconditional confidence in what God says, strictly on the basis that He has said it. The faith illustrated in Hebrews 11 is that which takes the bare word of God and acts on it, risking all. Looking for signs and wonders and explanations that we can understand or glory in is not faith. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

For a Jew to become a Christian in the first century was nearly always costly. It often cost him his friends, family, synagogue privileges, job, social status, and community respect. Sadly, some were trying to take the voyage of the New Covenant while keeping their boats securely tied to the dock of the Old. Such reluctant Jews are being shown in this chapter that God’s faithful followers in the Old Testament were not like them. Faith is proved when it faces disaster, trial, persecution, and ridicule—and still stands unwavering. Faith is the source of courage. Certainly, Moses demonstrated this courage in facing Pharaoh.

Faith it conquers in struggle, continues in suffering, and counts on salvation. The only effective weapon we have in struggle is faith.

JOSHUA AND THE ISRAELITES AT JERICHO

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days.” (11:30)

Forty years had passed since Israel had crossed the Red Sea by faith (v. 29).  Nothing in that forty years was worth mentioning in a chapter on faith. Also, when they arrived, the real obstacle was not Canaan but unbelief. But as Israel came to Jericho, she showed faith again.

Jericho was the first obstacle in Canaan. The walls of Jericho were massive structures, designed to protect it from the strongest enemy attack, and its soldiers were well-trained and well-armed. All the Israelites had to do was march around the city once a day for six days, with seven priests in front carrying rams’ horns before the ark. The seventh day they were to march around seven times, with the priests blowing their horns. When the priests finally made one loud blast, all the people were to shout, and then “the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Josh. 6:3-5). The people obeyed in faith, and the walls fell as predicted. Psychologically they demanded a great amount of courage. The Israelites believed Joshua’s report from the Lord, and they immediately began to prepare for the marching (Joshua 6:8).

They could however take absolutely no credit for themselves. All God wanted from them was faith, and this they gave, for by faith the walls of Jericho fell down. In the fall of Jericho we see the faith that risks. The people of Israel were willing to do everything and to risk everything, because they believed God. If we trust the Lord and demonstrate our trust by courageously continuing to do what the Lord has called us to do, in God’s time the obstacle will fall.

RAHAB

“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (11:31)

Rahab was an unlikely candidate for the faithfuls’ hall of fame. For one thing, she was a prostitute. For another, she was a Gentile, and a Canaanite at that. She was, in fact, an Amorite, a race that God had long before marked for destruction (Gen, 15:16). Yet that is how God’s grace works. His mercy is open to all who will receive it, and His grace has always been wider than Israel, even in Old Testament times.

She found herself in the midst of her fellow inhabitants of Jericho, who were disobedient and unbelieving. They had wanted to kill the Israelite spies, but Rahab had welcomed the spies in peace. She welcomed God’s people. She believed, and confessed, “The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11).

She staked her life on the fact that God had said He would save and protect His people, Israel, and she wanted to be on His side. She had faith’s courage. For her faith, she and her family were spared. She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of David, and she thereby came to be an ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).

OTHERS

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (11:32-34)

They were all rulers of one kind or another but none of the men is praised for his office. All are praised for what they accomplished by faith.

Gideon defeated the Midianites and the Amalekites. With 300 men, while they were “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (Judg. 7:12). Only a fool would have attempted such a courageous approach to battle apart from God’s direction and power.

Barak is unknown in Scripture outside the brief account in Judges 4-5 and the mention of his name in Hebrews 12:32. According to the Lord’s instruction, Deborah asked Barak to assemble an Israelite force of only 10,000 men, to fight against the Canaanites who were powerfully armed. Barak was told in advance that the glory of victory would not be his, but God’s. Not only did the Lord fight the battle for His people, but he allowed a woman to kill Sisera, the great commander of king Jabin, so that Barak would have even less cause for claiming credit for himself (Judg. 4:9). Barak was not concerned about Sisera’s power, because he had God’s power. By such courageous faith he conquered kingdoms.

Samson is not most remembered for his faith, but for his physical strength and personal gullibility. He never doubted that God was the source of his power, of which his hair was only a symbol. Samson was a judge of Israel and was given the special task of opposing the Philistines, who then ruled over Israel. It was the Spirit that strengthened him in his amazing one-man battles (Judg. 13:25; 14:19; 15:14; 16:28).  He faced the Philistines not in the courage of physical prowess but in the courage of faith. We are inclined to judge Samson by his weaknesses. But God commends him for his faith.

Jephthah preceded Samson as judge of Israel, and his responsibility was to subdue the Ammonites, one of Israel’s many enemies. Despite his foolish vow (Judg. 11:30-31), Jephthah’s trust was in the Lord, and his power was from the Lord (vv. 29, 32). Even people of faith make mistakes, and God still honoured Jephthah for his faith.

David’s trust in the Lord began when he was a boy, tending sheep, killing lions and bears, and taking on Goliath with a slingshot. He faced Goliath in utter confidence that the Lord would give him power to defeat this giant. God called him “a man after My heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). He pleased God because of the courage of his faith to trust Him and do His will.

Samuel‘s great foes were idolatry and immorality. He had to stand up in the middle of a polluted society and fearlessly speak God’s truth. His severest opponents frequently were his own people. It often takes more courage to stand up against our friends than against our enemies. He continued faithful to God throughout his life. In the courage of faith, he ruled and prophesied.

CONTINUING IN SUFFERING

“Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” (11:35-38)

Elijah brought back to life the child of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-23), and his successor, Elisha, did the same for a Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37). These mothers and these prophets believed God for resurrection, and He performed it.

Many of the afflictions mentioned in Hebrews 11:35-38 were however long-term, or even lifetime. God gave power through faith to see some of His people through these problems, rather than letting them to escape these problems. He will give them victory, too, but it may only be spiritual—the only kind of victory He guarantees. Where there is need for more courage there is need for more faith.

When it is suffered because of God’s Word and standing for Him, God’s people will take torture, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection. In faith, they are willing to accept the worst the world has to offer, which is death, because of trust in the best God has to offer, namely resurrection.

The many kinds of suffering mentioned in these verses give a summary of the many and varied kinds of affliction God’s people face and are often called to endure for Him. They courageously and uncompromisingly suffered for the Lord because of their faith. Physical deliverance or not, they would not forsake their trust in God.

The world is not worthy of having such people in its midst, just as these people did not deserve the sufferings they received. For its inflicting the suffering, the world will be judged and punished; for their enduring the suffering the faithful saints will be resurrected and rewarded. They knew with Paul that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18), and they looked forward with Peter to “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).

God does not promise His saints deliverance from all suffering. To the contrary, Jesus told us to take up our crosses and to follow Him (Mark 8:34), and that “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Both Paul (Phil. 3:10) and Peter (1 Pet. 4:13) advise us to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ’s sake.

COUNTING ON SALVATION

“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (11:39-40)

True faith has the courage to count on salvation and to live in hope. They had abiding confidence that one day God would do the necessary thing to redeem them and reward them. What happened to them before that time was not consequential. They did not receive what was promised but they had gained approval through their faith. Their faith was not in some immediate fulfilment, but in the ultimate fulfilment of the promises.

The ultimate promise was of a redeemer, the Messiah, and of His covenant that would bring righteousness before God. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11). All these, from Enoch through the prophets, had that courageous faith which counts, without reservation, on final salvation.

Many of them never received the land but they knew that God had provided something better for us, that is for those under the New Covenant, which is why apart from us they should not be made perfect. Until Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was accomplished, no salvation was complete, no matter how great the faith a believer may have had. Their salvation was based on what Christ would do; ours is based on what Christ has done. Their faith looked forward to promise; ours looks back to historical fact. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

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

HEBREWS STUDY PART 4: MELCHIZEDEK – A TYPE OF CHRIST

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

MELCHIZEDEK—A TYPE OF CHRIST (7:1-10)

In biblical study, a type refers to an Old Testament person, practice, or ceremony that has a counterpart, an antitype, in the New Testament. Melchizedek is also a type of Christ. As mentioned earlier, the Bible gives very little historical information about Melchizedek. All that we know is located in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 5-7. The most detailed information is in Hebrews 7:1-3.

Although Melchizedek is in no way the equal of Christ, his unique priesthood, and even his name, typify Jesus Christ and His work in a number of significant ways. Hebrews chapter 7 concerns the most important part of Judaism, namely the priesthood. No sacrifices could be made except by the priest and no forgiveness of sins could be had apart from the sacrifices. Obedience to the law was exceedingly important, but the offering of sacrifices was even more important. And the priesthood was essential for offering them. Consequently, the priesthood was exalted in Judaism.

The law God gave Israel was holy and good, but because the Israelites, as all men, were sinful by nature, they could not keep the law perfectly. When they broke the law, fellowship with God was also broken. The only way of restoring fellowship was to remove the sin that was committed, and the only way to do that was through a blood sacrifice. When a person repented and made a proper offering through the priest, his sacrifice was meant to show the genuineness of his penitence by obedience to God’s requirement. God accepted that faithful act and granted forgiveness.

UNDERSTANDING MELCHIZEDEK IS FOR THE MATURE

There is much conjecture about Melchizedek. Some insist he is an angel who took human form for a while during the time of Abraham. But the priesthood was a human, not angelic, function (Heb. 5:1). Others suggest that He is actually, not just typically, Jesus Christ Himself, who took a preincarnate form during Abraham’s time. But Melchizedek is described as made like the Son of God (7:3), not as being the Son of God. The most logic is probably to consider that Melchizedek was a historical human being, whose priestly ministry typifies that of Christ, a man whom God designed to use as a picture of Jesus Christ. But we cannot be sure of the details of his identity. Those remain among the secret things that belong only to the Lord.

In Genesis we have only three verses about Melchizedek. Some thousand years later David makes a briefer mention of him in Psalm 110:4, declaring for the first time that the Messiah’s priesthood would be like Melchizedek’s. After another thousand years, the writer of Hebrews tells us even more of Melchizedek’s significance. He reveals things about Melchizedek that even Melchizedek, or his contemporary, Abraham, did not know—and of which David had only a glimpse.

Hebrews 7:1-10 first presents, then proves, the superiorities of Melchizedek’s priesthood over that of the Levitical-Aaronic.

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually.” (7:1-3)

Verses 1-2 are essentially a summary of the Genesis 14 account. They remind us that Melchizedek was the king of Salem (an ancient name for Jerusalem), that he was a priest of the Most High God, that he blessed Abraham after the patriarch had defeated the oppressive King Chedorlaomer and his three allies, and that Abraham, in turn, offered Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils. The writer also points out that the literal meaning of Melchizedek’s title is king of peace (‘Salem” is from the same Hebrew root as shalom, “peace”).

Melchizedek’s priesthood was superior to the Levitical in every way, but five specific ones are given in Hebrews 7:1-3.

MELCHIZEDEK’S PRIESTHOOD WAS UNIVERSAL, NOT NATIONAL

The Israelites were Jehovah’s people and the Levites were Jehovah’s priests. The Levitical priests could minister only to Israel and only for Jehovah. Melchizedek, however, was priest of the Most High God. The Most High God is over both Jew and Gentile, and is first mentioned in Scripture in relation to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18). Jesus is not just the Messiah of Israel, but of the world. His priesthood is universal, just as Melchizedek’s.

This was an extremely important truth for Jews who had come to Christ, as well as those who were considering putting their trust in Christ. To them, there was no other priesthood established by the true God but the Levitical, which was restricted to Israel.

MELCHIZEDEK’S PRIESTHOOD WAS ROYAL

Four times in two verses (7:1-2) he is referred to as a king. Rulership of any sort was totally foreign to the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek’s universal priesthood and his royal office beautifully typify Jesus’ saviorhood and lordship, as perfect Priest and perfect King.

Speaking of the Messiah, Zechariah writes, “Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices” (Zech. 6:13). In his psalm that mentions Melchizedek, David also looks forward to the Messiah who will be both Priest and King (110:1, 4).

Because Salem was an ancient name for Jerusalem, Melchizedek ruled over God’s special city. We are not told when God first considered Jerusalem to be His holy city, but He had a faithful king who was a faithful priest there even in the time of Abraham —many centuries before Israel’s priests ministered there or Israel’s kings ruled there.

No truth of Scripture is more definite than that God chose the Jews as His special people, His very unique and cherished people. But Scripture is equally clear that Israel continually misunderstood and presumed upon her unique relation to God. They, for example, recognized Him as absolute Creator of heaven and earth and as sovereign over His world. But they had a very difficult time understanding Him as Redeemer of the world. As Creator and Sustainer, He was the world’s; but as Savior and Lord, He was theirs alone. (Jonah’s reluctance to preach to Gentiles illustrates this.)

MELCHIZEDEK’S PRIESTHOOD WAS RIGHTEOUS AND PEACEFUL

There was no permanent righteousness or peace related to Aaron’s priesthood. Melchizedek, however, was king both of righteousness and of peace. His very name means “king of righteousness.”

The purpose of the Aaronic priesthood was to obtain righteousness for the people. The sacrifices were made to restore the people to a right relationship to God. But they never succeeded, in any deep and lasting way and were never meant to remove sin. They symbolized the sacrifice that makes men righteous—and thereby brings men peace—but they themselves could not make men righteous or give men peace. As a temporary ritual they accomplished their God-ordained purpose. But they could not bring men to God. They were never meant to.

Melchizedek, though king of righteousness and of peace, could not make men righteous or give them peace either. His priesthood was a better type of Christ’s than was the Levitical, but it was still a type. Once reconciled to God through Christ, we will never be counted as sinful again, but always as righteous and that gives us peace. Christ is the true King of Righteousness.

MELCHIZEDEK’S PRIESTHOOD WAS PERSONAL, NOT HEREDITARY

If you descended from Aaron, you could serve; if you did not, you could not. Consequently, the priests often were more concerned about their pedigrees than their holiness. That Melchizedek is said to have been without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life does not mean that he came from nowhere. It simply means that in the Old Testament record nothing is said of his parents or origin.

The point in Hebrews is that Melchizedek’s parentage and origin are irrelevant to his priesthood. Whereas to the Aaronic priesthood genealogy was everything, to the Melchizedek priesthood it was nothing. Jesus Christ was chosen as a priest because of His personal worth, His quality. He was chosen because of who He was, not because of where He came from genealogically. Like Melchizedek’s, Jesus’ qualifications were personal, not hereditary.

MELCHIZEDEK’S PRIESTHOOD IS ETERNAL, NOT TEMPORARY

Individually, a priest served only from the time he was 25 until he was 50. Collectively, the priesthood was also temporary. It began in the wilderness, when the covenant with Moses was made and the law was given. It ended when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70.

Melchizedek, however, abides a priest perpetually. It is not that he lived forever, but that the order of priesthood in which he ministered was forever. The fact that we have no biblical or other record of the beginning or end of Melchizedek’s personal priesthood simply symbolizes the eternality of his priestly order. It is a type of Christ’s truly eternal priesthood. Christ, “because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25).

Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek. His priesthood is universal, royal, righteous and peaceful, personal, and eternal.

MELCHIZEDEK’S SUPERIORITIES PROVED

“Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” (7:4-10)

In these verses we are given three reasons, or proofs, as to how and why Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to the Levitical.

1 ABRAHAM GAVE A TITHE TO MELCHIZEDEK

Abraham, father of the Jewish people, gave tithes (a tenth) of his war spoils—his choicest spoils— to Melchizedek. Abraham simply recognized Melchizedek as a deserving and faithful priest of God Most High. Abraham was under no obligation, no law or commandment, to give Melchizedek anything. He gave freely to the Lord, through His servant Melchizedek.

The Levites, as the priestly tribe, received no inheritance of land, as did all the other tribes. They were to be supported by a tithe from their brother Israelites. The point of Hebrews 7:4-10 is that because Abraham, their common and supreme ancestor, had paid tithes to Melchizedek, even the Levites, “in advance,” so to speak, also paid tithes to Melchizedek.

2 MELCHIZEDEK BLESSED ABRAHAM

Just as Abraham knew he should tithe to Melchizedek, Melchizedek knew he should bless Abraham. In so doing, without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. Melchizedek was superior, and therefore he could bless Abraham.

3 MELCHIZEDEK’S PRIESTHOOD IS ETERNAL

“And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.” (7:8)

The writer again points up the permanence of Melchizedek’s priesthood. The Jews paid tithes to priests who all died. Abraham paid tithes to a priest who, in type, lives on. Since no death is recorded of Melchizedek, his priesthood typically is eternal. In this his priesthood is clearly superior to that of Aaron.

Jesus Christ, of course, is the reality, the true Priest who is eternal, of whom Melchizedek is but a picture. Jesus Christ is a priest, the only Priest, who is alive forevermore. He is the only Priest of the only priesthood that can bring God to men and men to God. This was a great word of assurance to those Jews who had come to Jesus Christ.

JESUS, THE SUPERIOR PRIEST (7:11-28)

THE PERFECTION OF THE NEW PRIESTHOOD

“Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?” (7:11)

God’s ultimate desire for men is for them to come to Him. The design of God for Christianity is for them to come into His presence, in His heavenly Holy of Holies and to fellowship with Him, with nothing between.

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).

That is something Judaism was limited in enabling men to do. The design of Hebrews 7:11-19 is to show this truth. The point is to encourage the wavering Jews to break with the old system and come to Jesus Christ. All their lives they had assumed that the Levitical system was instituted by God, and that it was perfect.

The Old Testament, in fact, anticipated (as in Ps. 110:4) that another priesthood was coming. If the Aaronic priesthood had been perfect, another would have been unnecessary. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, . . . But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)

Hebrews 7:11 speaks of perfection not coming through the Levitical priesthood. In Hebrews perfection first of all means access to God, not the spiritual maturity of Christians. A person is perfected when, by Christ’s sacrifice, he is given full access to God in Christ. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). The New Covenant gives greater understanding of full forgiveness, freedom from guilt, and a peaceful conscience.

“For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” (7:12)

Christianity comes from Judaism but not merely enhanced Judaism; it replaces Judaism. Aaron’s priesthood now has no validity at all. But because the Aaronic priesthood and the Mosaic law were so closely tied to one another, a changed (replaced) priesthood also meant a changed law.

In the broadest sense, law refers to the whole Old Testament, the Old Covenant. God’s moral law, however, in the Ten Commandments, is part of His very nature, and therefore cannot possibly change. The New Testament in fact, demands a greater judgment on disobedience (Acts 17:30-31).

But the ceremonial law, the Aaronic system of sacrifices, has been set aside. Some believing Jews insisted on maintaining their own Jewish practices and made them mandatory for everyone who wanted to become a Christian. These people were called Judaizers, and they were a plague to the early church for many years.

“For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.” (7:13-14)

Jesus did not come from Levi, which was the only priestly tribe, but from Judah, which had nothing to do with priestly service at the altar.

“And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of Him, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (7:15-17)

In Christ we do not have another priest just like those who ministered in the Tabernacle and the Temple. He is of a completely different kind and order. Under the Old Covenant there were many priests but under the New there is but one Priest.

The word arises probably signifies the virgin birth. As God, Jesus raised Himself up by giving birth to Himself, so to speak. No Aaronic priest could make such a claim. All other priests besides Jesus “arose” by virtue of their mothers and fathers, not of themselves. Second, arising by Himself implies that this other Priest had no priestly ancestry, no priestly heritage.

There was not a single moral or spiritual qualification that the Old Testament priests had to meet, as long as they were descendants of Aaron. Like Melchizedek’s priesthood, however, Jesus’ Priesthood was based on who He was. It had everything to do with the power of an indestructible life. He became, and He continues, a priest by eternal power—a power that can do what no priest, not even Aaron could ever do. Jesus Christ takes us into the presence of God and He anchors us there eternally.

“For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (7:18-19)

God has set aside the old and imperfect and has replaced it with the new and perfect.

GUARANTEE OF A BETTER COVENANT

“And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever’ ”); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” (7:20-22)

Neither when the old priesthood was first established nor when any priest or group of priests were consecrated had God made an oath— or any sort of promise, conditional or unconditional—that this priesthood would be eternal. But with Christ He swore an eternal priesthood, as David had written in Psalm 110:4, to which the writer here refers for the fourth time in the letter (see also 5:6; 6:20; 7:17). David added, and will not change His mind. God made an eternal decision about the new eternal priesthood. Therefore, Jesus is made a guarantee of a better covenant. He guarantees to pay all the debts that our sins have incurred, or ever will incur, against us.

“And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently.” (7:23-24)

The Levitical priests had what might be called the ultimate disqualification for permanent ministry: death. None of them could serve indefinitely. Each died and had to be succeeded in order for the priesthood to continue.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Jesus is the superior High Priest because He needs no successor. His priesthood is permanent, eternal. It also means unchangeable.

“Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (7:25)

Like John 3:16, this verse contains the whole essence of the gospel. Salvation is the main theme of the entire Bible. The power of salvation is Christ’s ability—He is able. He is the only One who has the power of salvation (Acts 4:12).

The nature of salvation is bringing men near to God. By delivering from sin, it qualifies believers to come to God. Deliverance from sin has all three of the major tenses—past, present, and future. In the past tense, we have been freed from sin’s guilt. In the present tense, we are freed from sin’s power.

The objects of Christ’s eternal salvation are those who draw near to God through Him. “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). He is able to save all, but not all will be saved, because not all will believe.

He always lives to make intercession for us. We can no more keep ourselves saved than we can save ourselves in the first place. Jesus has power to save us and the power to keep us. Constantly and eternally, He intercedes for us before His Father. Through Jesus Christ, we are able to “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). In His Son we are now blameless in the Father’s sight.

“For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer 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. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.” (7:26-28)

All the Levitical priests were sinful, and they had to offer sacrifices for themselves before they could offer them for the people. Not so our present High Priest. He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. It was fitting, necessary, that He be such a person.

For 33 years Jesus Christ was in the world, mingling continually with sinners and being tempted continually by Satan. Yet He never contracted the least taint of sin, or defilement. Therefore, He does not need to offer sacrifices for Himself, like those high priests.

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

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)