Christ the Perfect Promise-Keeper, Hebrews 4:1-16

Why would anyone want to fall short of God’s Rest? (Heb 4:1-2) “let us be wary lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Heb 4:1; cf. 3:12-13, The word spoken to ancient Hebrews was just as active & living, as the word spoken by Christ. So why would anyone miss the promise of God’s rest? The Israelites had “good news” preached to them:  a promised land of freedom, atonement of sins, abundant produce, ready-made cities and freedom of worship in a governing Theocracy! But this good news “did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (4:2).The “good news” in this context is used in the same way Peter used it in reference to Noah, 1st Peter 4:6. He offers glory and splendor we could never achieve on our own.  Yet without faith, these huge & gracious offers fall into unbelieving hearts. We christians must constantly self- examine ourselves for signs of waning faith or indifference. 

Entering God’s Rest (Heb 4:3-5) is related  to the creation week in which “God rested on the seventh day from all His works” (Heb 4:4; Gen. 2:2).  This rest was established at the beginning and is a state wherein God, Himself, entered. He desires to share His Rest with his creation, which has been given holy hearts. This Rest is not the Sabbath being Saturday, although that weekly respite was modeled after creation (Ex 20:8-12), and it was not the entrance into Canaan, as will be shown in 4:8.  The disobedient Jews did not merely miss Canaan by their idolatry rooted in unbelief, they missed heaven, for the Rest God offers is intimate glorious fellowship with Him in eternity. In order for any of us to enter God’s Rest, we must have a living faith in becoming a Citizen of Heaven (Christian) and keep believing to stay faithful unto death.

The offer of rest is ongoing, it “REMAINS”, even during the days of Joshua leading the people into Canaan,and for several hundred years later “He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today …’” (Heb 4:7).  That is, the Rest offered by God was still available as David wrote Psalm 95:7-11. Also, the Hebrew writer says it is still available as he writes, and for us it remains available, till Jesus comes again. The author considers the word “today” from Psalm 95:7 crucial, for he mentions it in four verses (Heb 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7).  God offers Christians today a heavenly, eternal relief from the mental, physical and emotional burdens which accompany earthly life. This Rest is not cessation from activity, even as God has not ceased His activity following the sixth creation day, but rather the absence of stress that earthly endeavors always have (4:10). Still standing in force, is the warning, “Do not harden your hearts …” (4:7).  Human history is strewn with the bones of men and women who were offered heavenly rest along with capable leadership and divine assistance but who “did not enter because of disobedience” (4:6).   

“lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).  None of us can honestly believe these passages and then deny human responsibility for our own salvation. The writer has urged his readers to “give the most careful attention” (2:1), “hold fast” (3:6), “beware” (3:12), “warn one another” (3:13), “fear” (4:1) and “be diligent” (4:11).  However, salvation is not entirely dependent upon our own resources in each individual. The author now turns to the assistance of God’s word available to each of us. Since he has stressed the heart as the seat of obstinacy and unbelief, the author shows the virtues of the word in accurately assessing and exposing the heart.  The word of God is “living and powerful”; the Scriptures are not outdated words on dusty scrolls but vibrant, relevant and unassailable truths which always keep their vitality. God’s word pierces the very thoughts, intentions and ambitions of every person. No one can escape its discerning power; no part of the soul can be hidden from its double sharpened edge (4:13).  Respect for this truth can lead each of us to embrace the surgical benefits of such an instrument: God’s word is capable of removing from our heart the diseased tumors of sin and unbelief. Living words come from what kind of God (Hebrews 3:12)? A LIVING God that urges us to enter His Kingdom, Luke 16:16. The Kingdom of his Beloved Son, Colossians 1:12-13.

The last part of this passage brings a transition to the subject of the high priesthood of Jesus.  Not only do we have the benefit of the living word but a High Priest “who has passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14).  He serves in the very place of the offered Rest: “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). Further, He can “sympathize with our weaknesses” having shared our fleshly nature.  In the author’s mind, this all adds up to one thing: Boldness before the throne of God.  This confidence is available in our darkest hours – “In time of need” (4:16).  But sadly, we tend to shy away from God in situations of shame or discouragement.  This must be overcome by trusting God’s great love in providing redemption and desiring reconciliation.  God never discourages people from returning to Him after sin. The throne of God is a throne of what? What will we find from God in times of need? Have you found that help? Matthew 7:7-11. Then let people know!

The Best Law-giver; Christ. Hebrews 3:1-19

One of the greatest attributes of Christ is that Jesus makes his disciples “holy” and treats us like brothers & sisters, v1. (brothers & sisters) 2nd Corinthians 6:18. He is the only one who can make us holy. Moses needed people’s obedience to the law in applying animal’s blood, before anyone or anything was considered holy in obedience to the old law. Moses was highly revered among the Jews for obvious reasons.  So the delicate comparison does not quote Moses’ faults; but rather, he acknowledges that “Moses was faithful in all His house” (Heb 3:2). Like Moses, it is affirmed that Jesus was sent with heavenly authority; for example, “the Apostle … of our confession” (3:1). Jesus also fulfills Aaron’s role: He is the “High Priest of our confession.” (4:14) We should “consider” Jesus in these roles, to think very carefully about their implications. It was in the context of God talking to Aaron & Miriam that He proclaimed Moses faithful to relate the law,  Numbers 12:7.  

 Jesus Has More Glory Than Moses (Heb 3:3-6) While Moses was a faithful servant, he was a servant nonetheless.  Moses inherited a nation to lead, Jesus built His nation/house: He is “a Son over His own house” (Heb 3:6) “I will build My church …” – Mt 16:18). Moses was faithful over an unfaithful people, his readers must not become like unfaithful Israel.  Christians remain the house of God only “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (3:6). This warning clearly makes salvation conditional upon each believer maintaining his/her own faith.

 Since Jesus built His house, and “He who built all things is God,” then Jesus is in a very real sense, God. What should the builder of the house receive? The greatest praise & glory!

 Heb 3:7-11 is a passage which is very similar to 1st Corinthians 10:1-11 where Paul reminisces about the glorious exodus of Israel from Egypt under Moses illustrious leadership.  In spite of such a grand beginning, “with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Cor 10:5). The recipients of Hebrews are in danger of the same awful ending. Never forget who was responsible for the words in Ps 95:7-11.

 A most grave warning is introduced with the word “beware” followed by two “lests”, because of the hardening of their hearts,  (Heb 3:12-15). A very good antidote to apostasy is “exhort one another daily” (3:13a). It doesn’t take a high I.Q. to encourage someone, it just takes time, 1st Thessalonians 5:11 & 2nd Thessalonians 2:16-17. We should do it and pray that God helps us and works through our efforts of encouragement. The author picks up on the word “today” from the quotation of Psalms in 3:7 and makes fresh application:  “… while it is called ‘Today’ …”. That is, the words of the Holy Spirit in reference to Israel’s unbelief are always applicable to us today. The coming of grace through Jesus Christ has not made apostasy impossible; God’s grace does not safeguard the believer against willful rebellion. These words are absolutely pointless if a true believer cannot depart from God.  The author says one can defect and become unfaithful. Many today say such is impossible. Which shall we believe?

  It is important to differentiate between sin and apostasy.  The NT affirms that all men and women of faith will occasionally sin through weakness, but apostasy is the settled choice to abandon God altogether.  It is this ultimate departure that is not only possible but likely if these Christians continue on their present course. It is obvious how our disobedience, if left unchecked and neglected, can subtly become unbelief to the point of being lost, when once we had been saved, Heb. 3:16-19. This letter was written to Christians, not the children of Christians. We must take personal responsibility for learning and living this message.

Christ The Perfect Savior, Hebrews 2:1-18

Now that the authority of Christ has been established over the angels, the Hebrew writer warns us not to drift away from this message delivered by Him. In fact, we must give the most careful attention to Christ’s words due to His superiority.  If that which was spoken by the angels (Old Testament Law, Dt. 33:2 & Ac. 7:53) proved steadfast by God then “how much more” should we revere that which was spoken by Christ? There is absolutely no hope for our salvation if we neglect the teachings of God’s Son.  These teachings were confirmed by those who heard and witnessed them, relaying them on to the writer of this letter we are reading. God’s affirmation of these teachings was confirmed by the use of miracles.

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed … lest we drift away” (Heb 2:1).  The book of Hebrews stands as a clear rebuttal to the Calvinistic heresy of “once saved, always saved.”  The entire letter is an effort to drag weak brethren back from the brink of apostasy. Not once does the writer suggest that their salvation was a sham or pretense.  In fact, he will expressly affirm their fellowship with God (Heb 6:4-6). If people were not predisposed to believe in eternal security, it would never occur to them when reading passages such as Heb 2:1-4.   The readers are offhandedly reminded of the abundant confirmation which had accompanied the gospel. If they drifted away, they could not blame it on a vague or garbled message from God.God was “mindful” of man, cared for him, made him a little lower than the angels, crowned him with glory and honor, and gave him dominion over this world (Psalm 8:3-8).  In other words, God exalted man and gave him dominion over this world. But “now we do not yet see all things put under him”.  Because of man’s rebellion, he lost this exaltation and dominion.  These are now restricted by his sin. But now “we see Jesus”, who became flesh (lower than the angels), who suffered and died for man, become the complete fulfillment of Psalm 8:4-6. Therefore Jesus was crowned with glory and honor.  Jesus suffered and died so that by God’s grace He could pay the penalty of death required by all sinners (Rom 6:23). Jesus did not exempt Himself from impulses that lead to sin.  Had He done so, men would have had little confidence in approaching Him with their own weaknesses. God demonstrates both wisdom and love in providing a Savior who draws men to Him by shared nature and experience. It is God’s plan, “fitting for Him”, to make “the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings”.  In other words, the sufferings of Christ made His qualifications to bring men “to glory” complete (“perfect”).  Christ is not ashamed to call them brethren now that they have been brought “to glory,” they are now a part of God’s family (Mt. 12:49) they “are all of one”. Christ willingly took on the same nature of man, suffered as a man, and died as a man.  But Christ conquered death therefore destroying him (the devil) who had the power of death. Christ destroyed Satan’s power of death over man and we are no longer in bondage to death, (Heb. 2:15) and the souls of people in Christ do not suffer the consequences of their sin! (1st Cor. 15:55-56) So Jesus is now introduced as their new High Priest.  In order for Christ to be a merciful and faithful High Priest, he had to endure the same sufferings of man so that He could sympathize with man. As the High Priest offered atonement for the sins of humanity, Christ offered himself as our atonement for sin.

Hebrews 1:4-14

When Christ inherited a better name, he was truly better than any angel, v4. His name holds power which no angel employs. This was accomplished, proven and  established by ascending to the Throne of Grace and sitting at the right hand of His Father. Revelation 5:6-9 records the Lamb (Christ) as worthy to open the seal and exercise all power in heaven and on earth! 

The question, asked in verse 5, is there to remind us that the level of intimacy between Christ and God is far superior to any level of fellowship God has with any angel. Even the mere arrival of Christ, before he did any work, was enough to prompt angels to worship Him, as commanded by the Father. Angels are viewed as prominent heavenly beings who served as messengers from God, v7 & 14. Since the readers of this letter knew these qualities of angels, the Hebrew writer begins his discussion of Christ’s authority over these heavenly beings in this section. 

The word “firstborn” is very important for us to understand,v6. Both Luke & Paul used it in reference to Jesus, first by Mary, Lk. 2:7, in a physical sense, but also by Paul in a spiritual sense over all creation, Col. 1:15. This spiritual sense is how the Hebrew writer uses it in the context of an eternal creator over the whole of our physical creation. His sonship is unique and superior over all creation throughout the universe.

Angels are ministering spirits to God, but Christ’s position is different because of the Righteous Scepter of His Kingdom and the Anointment of Rejoicing, v9. This Scepter is in the mind of the Hebrew writer, with an origin in Judah, see Genesis 49:8-10. The anointing of joy is reminiscent of Isaiah’s passage revealing the oil of gladness, Isaiah 61:1-3, from within the Messiah/Christ.

The Hebrew writer does not diminish the importance and role of angels, from this declaration of them serving anyone who is to inherit salvation, 1:13, to the last chapter 13:2, commanding us to never neglect hospitality to strangers, the importance and role of angels is maintained throughout these last days we live in.  The Old Testament is quoted in this chapter at least 5 times. The significance is in the fact that God’s old law is being used to confirm this new message brought to us by His Spirit of Christ and not any angel. The result is comfort, joy & hope, see Romans 16:25-27 (Romans 15:4 & 16:25-27) with emphasis on v27, “Through Jesus Christ”. The comparison in verse 13 between Christ and the angels is about victory over sin, death and Satan himself. God the Father will work through Jesus and no one else, in order to totally defeat all our enemies throughout time as we know it. Angels do represent Christ in the revelation, but it is Christ who actually wins the victory over sin in our life. Is He living and working in our hearts? Or are we depending on a guardian angel to keep us safe?

“Hebrews” – Jesus Christ is The Best!

The character of our Lord Jesus Christ is publically made known in this unique book. He is…

…Better than Angels — 1-2

…Better than Moses — 3-4

…Better than Aaron — 5-7

…Mediator of a Better Covenant — 8

…Minister of a Better Tabernacle — 9-10

…A Better Example — 11-12

…A Better Shepherd — 13

There are at least 5 warnings in the letter.

  1. Warning against drifting (2:1-4) Since Christ is better than the angels, we better seek His salvation.
  2. Warning against unbelief (3:12-4:13) Since Christ’s house is better than Moses’, we had better not find ourselves left outside because of unbelief.
  3. Warning against falling away (5:12-6:8)  Since Christ is a better high priest, we had better not fall away from His righteous example & protection.
  4. Warning against willfully sinning (10:26-31) Since Christ has brought a better sacrifice, we had better not despise it.
  5. Warning against defying the work of God (12:14-29) Since Christ has taught us how to resist sin, we had better follow His teaching, thereby cooperating with his work.

The book is a unique jewel in a collection of jewels. The strongest assurance of the presence of Christ is found in this book (13:5). It contains a powerful view of the Word of God. God’s Word is living, powerful and discerning (4:12), good (6:5), & a refuge (6:17-18).

Date & Penmanship; Most theology scholars agree that during the 2nd century an early church writer named Tertullian seemed to agree with the idea of Barnabas being used by God to write Hebrews, but there is no definitive proof or correlation with other writers, so no one really knows specifically who God used to pen this masterpiece!  Most scholars date it around 60AD just before the Temple is destroyed but some of the grammar leads us to believe it might have been later, after the Temple was destroyed. Hebrews 9:5 is probably the best reason for dating it later. This much is certain, tradition is wrong concerning the Apostle Paul writing Hebrews because Hebrews 2:3-4 is written by someone who was a second generation Christian, that is certainly not Paul. This is actually written to all of Spiritual Israel with a Jewish background, Romans 9:6 & 27.

1:1-3, The Hebrew writer takes us back to the creation of the world, back before the Patriarchs Adam, Noah & Abraham. During the creation, God spoke through the same word, which became flesh in Jesus, Gen. 1:1-26 & John 1:14. In Jesus Christ we have a new beginning in revealing a new covenant, as God gives this faith into the heart of anyone who chooses to trust and obey His Son Jesus, wherein a new creation is begun. Now we have the one true and best delivery in hearing, discerning and growing in God’s will. The mind of Christ. This powerful word sustains the universe and gives all matter the ability to exist, Colossians 1:17. This word will judge us all in the last day, John 12:48-49. Let’s be ready!

Wind, Fire & Languages

ACTS 1:21 – 2:21 (Scripture Reading/Text)

The Reason & Result: The prophet Joel 2:28-32 proclaims that God will give an escape to people and a remnant on Zion in Jerusalem. It is there, that he will pour out His Spirit. Why? Because God desires to deliver all people willing to trust & obey Him, showing their faith in that over 3000 people were baptized on this one miraculous event, Acts 2:41.

The Power Source: The Spirit of God, (Joel speaks of) is also called the Spirit of Christ, Romans 8:9. Factually, we can not belong to God, unless we have the Spirit of Christ, according to Paul. Colossians 1:27. The Spirit of Christ would testify through the Apostles, the very word of God, to everyone that would listen. Enacting miraculous interpretation in the ears of everyone who listened.

The Miracle Workers: For this ministry and apostleship (Acts 1:25-26), who is the BIble talking about? 

Why should the gospel writers list the apostles by name? Matthew 10:2-4, Mk. 6:12-16 & Lk. 6:12-16

THE SOUND OF RUSHING WIND The forceful change upon all authorities by God, which will affect all creation. It was the Spirit of God in creation that “hovered and/or moved” over the face of the deep and separated the waters from the land, forming order from chaos in the beginning, Gen. 1:1-10. It was a strong wind that God used to separate the Red Sea allowing Hebrews to escape one oppressive government and begin a journey for a theocracy to live and work in Canaan to become Israel. Wind represents the change God makes in the earth. Jesus talked about the wind as the Spirit, (John 3:8), as well as his own breath, creating sanctification in the Holy Spirit, John 20:22. 

FIRE  Isaiah writes that “the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning, (Isaiah 4:4) When John the immersionist came, he said of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”, Luke 3:16. Which could be a reference to what happened to the Apostles on Pentecost. For centuries and in many different cultures it was well known that fire was used to purge dross from metals. There is the obvious sense of creating purity from fire. Which would be in the minds of every believer listening to the words spoken by the Apostles, as they were “pricked” in their hearts by God’s pure word. However there were unbelievers which simply ignored the wind, fire & message, claiming they were drunk. Obviously, it seems like the tongues of fire act like amplifiers and interpreters simultaneously.

LANGUAGES  The most notable fact of this miracle is that foreign languages were uttered by uneducated men, speaking to foreigners in their own language. The Greek word for language in Acts 2:6 is διάλεκτος anglicized as, “diálektos”, it is never translated as babel or noise, but always language or tongue, an intelligible sound recognized by clear speech forming words understood, not needing interpretation. However what was coming out of the Apostles mouths was “γλῶσσα” in verse 4, anglicized as ‘glossa’. This word means “tongues”, as in a body organ. The same word is used in verse 3 for the fire that appeared above each Apostle, so it would look like a literal tongue from their mouth but as if it was in flames! Glossa can also mean a sound, but when it’s used in reference to flames and words, the context demands a language understood by the audience, not a babbling noise needing interpretation, because there is no mention of a need for interpretation. That is the whole point of the miracle! It was as if the Apostles opened their mouths and foreign words were coming out, then straight through the flaming tongues and into the ears of thousands of foreigners, understanding them clearly.

The Audience

How many different countries are listed in 2:8-11 ? This would almost instantly result in planting brand new churches of Christ in all the countries mentioned!

His Resurrection

The earliest recording of the resurrection of Christ is attached to an appearance that can be understood as a miracle. Mark writes, “he appeared in another form to two of them, as they walked and went into the country” (Mk. 16:1-12) This appearance is immediately after the two Marys and Salome are told by the angel to go tell the disciples that “He is Risen”, Matthew 28:8-9 His body is not recorded in the gospels as being in another form until after the resurrection. The very idea of changing the form of a body is surely connected to the idea of having an incorruptible and immortal body, as Paul describes in 1st Corinthians 15:42-54. 

The reason Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead”, Col.1:18 & Rev. 1:5, is because no one raised him up, He was God with us. So when the Scriptures proclaim the “Father raised” him, Romans 6:4 & Galatians 1:1, we understand that it was the self-same power of the Father in His Glory that raised him. Afterall, it was prophetically proclaimed by Isaiah that he would be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, in Isaiah 9:6. How can anyone be both the Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace simultaneously? The resurrection of Christ proves that only he could. This position is best understood as Jesus is the only person in Scripture described as having the Spirit of God without measure, John 3:34. So it was impossible that the grave (power of death) could hold him by himself. He abolished it, 2nd TImothy 1:10.                      

BENEFITS OF HIS RESURRECTION

  1. The resurrection is evidence that Christianity is true: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor 15:17). Over 500 eye-witnesses could testify.
  2. The resurrection proves the believer will overcome death: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is  your sting? O Hades, where is  your victory?” (1 Cor 15:54-55). 
  3. The resurrection helps you grieve differently: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). 
  4. The resurrection guarantees you eternal life: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). 
  5. The resurrection guarantees that you will have a glorious new body: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil 3:20-21). 
  6. The resurrection means Jesus intercedes for you: “Who is  he who condemns? It is  Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom 8:34). 
  7. The resurrection motivates us to put away sin and obey Christ in baptism: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4)