Thursday, March 10, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 2

To start at the beginning, click here.

The Messenger

Let's look at the opening of Hebrews again:

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. (Hebrews 1:1-2)

The Old Testament contains the past revelations from God to mankind. It is indeed diverse.

  • Theophanies: by which the Lord appears in human form. For example, Genesis 18 records the coming of 3 men to Abraham's tent. By the end of the chapter, it is made clear that one of them is the Lord.
  • Dreams: Joseph, Pharoah, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, and others had dreams by which God communicated His plans and purposes.
  • Prophets: who were men and women through whom God spoke. Often they spoke in riddles and symbols. Sometimes they demonstrated their message in show-and-tell fashion as when Ezekiel built a model of Jerusalem and waged war against it (Ezekiel 4).
  • Visions: such as seen by Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6).

But when you pick up and read the gospels, you know that you have entered a different world. Jesus comes having seen no visions. He has had no dreams. He does not begin his speech with, "The word of the Lord came to me saying..." Instead, he says things like, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)" He called God His Father. He spoke to the dead and they rose to life. Whereas the prophets pointed away from themselves to God, Jesus pointed to Himself, "“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)"

This is what the writer to the Hebrews tells us. God has sent the real thing: a message that is direct and unfiltered. He has communicated via His Son! We can hear Him and watch Him. The old forms are incomplete at best. The new has come.

And so the writer of Hebrews lays out for us in his first sentence his major driving principle: a new and better way is hear, let's listen to it this time.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews


The Book of Hebrews begins like this:

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. 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, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. (Hebrews 1:1-4)

It is amazing how much information this single sentence contains. Even more amazing, it encapsulates the essential message of the entire book. For Hebrews is about placing Jesus the Messiah in context with the Old Testment prophets, priests, and kings. Thus we see that Jesus:

  • Speaks for God as a Son: Hebrews will elaborate and establish Jesus as one who is superior to Moses. Jesus is a prophet and mediator of a covenant.
  • The Son is God.
  • The Son made purification of sins. Hebrews will elaborate and show us that He as a priest is superior to the Aaronic priesthood.
  • The Son sat down at the right hand of God. Hebrews will identify Jesus as the priest who is also king.

So here is the Jesus of Hebrews: the prophet, priest and king. He walks in all the offices of the Old Testment and is declared to be the ultimate expression of those offices. This begins a study of this book. At the end you will know more about our savior. Let's start with some basics.

  1. Nobody knows who wrote Hebrews. Nobody can stand this fact and speculation abounds. The speculation is most useful as a revealer of the commentators prejudices. Paul is frequently put forward. So is Apollos, Luke, Barnabus, and Clement of Rome. More recently, Priscilla has been put forward as a contender. I personally favor Paul being the author. I imagine that this is the sermon he spoke in the synagogues. I also imagine that he left his name off the document--or the transciber left off the name--because Paul's name was incendiary and would thwart one of the main goals of the book, which is to stem the tide of Jewish exodus away from their Messiah.
  2. Hebrews seems to me to be second generational. That is, it was written to the second wave of belivers. Thus the author has discerned trends and addresses them. Also, the reference to Timothy at the end of the book indicates that he is now independent of Paul.
  3. The author's use of the Old Testament is challenging. This study will explore that usage.
  4. If you have a Jewish friend that begins showing interest in the New Testament. Have him or her start with this book. There is much here that connects with Jewish culture and your friend will feel quite at home--except for having to come face to face with the person and work of Messiah stated in distinctly Jewish terms and concepts.
  5. If Paul is like the owner's manual for a car, Hebrews is the technical manual. Paul talks about salvation through Jesus' death on the cross. Hebrews reveals the technical details of this offering and gives full expression to its implications.
  6. Hebrews affirms what we gentiles must again acknowledge. Their is salvation offered from Jesus the Messiah for the Jew as a Jew. This may seem like a moot point, but it is not given the emergence in the late 1960's of Messianic Judaism. Prior to that, a Jew who "converted" left his Jewish heritage and through in his lot with the gentile church. Today, that same Jew has a choice to find fellowship with fellow Jews in a Messianic Jewish synagogue. The book of Hebrews will help you to understand, accept, and rejoice in this development. For more information, see The Emergence of Messianic Judaism and Its Significance
  7. There are some scriptures in Hebrews that suggest that a saved person can lose their salvation. I will examine these and demonstrate--without twisting--that this is not the case. Rather it will lead us to a high view of salvation and its effects.

I hope that you will enjoy and be challenged by this study.