Introduction to Hebrews

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					 Introduction to the
Letter to the Hebrews
          Who Wrote Hebrews?
   Several candidates have been
    suggested: Apollos, Barnabas, Luke,
    Silas, and, of course, Paul.
   Whoever it was, he was:
    –   trusted and well-respected by Jewish
        Christians, for he is able to boldly confront
        them on some important issues;
    –   very familiar with the OT, and cites it
        frequently to support his purposes
        throughout the letter.
    –   evidently a second generation Christian. Heb
        2:3 says “how shall we escape if we neglect
        so great a salvation? After it was at the first
        spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to
        us by those who heard.”
Historical Situation and Purpose of
     the Letter to the Hebrews
 This book was written in the late 60s,
  some 30 years after the birth of the
  Church at Pentecost but before the
  destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
 Jewish Christians, who were considering a
  return to Judaism because of pressure
  from their fellow Jews, were instructed
  and exhorted to progression,
  steadfastness, endurance and maturity by
  looking to Jesus, the Son of God and great
  High Priest, the better way.
   Major Themes of Hebrews
 God   (68 times)
  – The Living God
  – The Creator
  – A Consuming Fire
 Person  and Work of Jesus Christ
 Warnings for rejecting God’s superior
  revelation (see outline)
 The “better”: priest, covenant,
  sanctuary, sacrifice
The Preeminence of the
 Son in His Person and
   Work (1:1-10:18)
   The Theme (1:1-3)
     Three Kinds of Contrasts
 Contrast in method – the earlier revelation
  came to different men, by different
  means, over a long period of time; the
  final revelation is complete in Christ.
 Contrast in time – the earlier revelation
  came long ago; the final revelation has
  come in “the last days.”
 Contrast in agents – the earlier revelation
  came through prophets; the final
  revelation has come through such a one
  as God’s own Son.
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
   His position as heir: “heir of all things”
    – The fact that Christ is the Son of God, indeed
      the only Son of God, leads naturally to His
      being the heir of all things.
    – But unlike heirship as we normally think about
      it, in which the father has to die before the son
      receives the benefits of being an heir, Christ
      has always been the heir of God (Col 1:16).
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
    His agency in forming the ages: “through whom
     also He made the ages”
    –   Not the material universe, but the time and ages
        through which God has worked out His plan and
        continues to work it out today.
    –   As we observe the convulsions that the world has gone
        through throughout its history, and even as we go
        through the trials and tribulations of our own lives,
        Christ is sovereignly working out all things according
        to His plan.
    –   We can see how He has done it as we look back in
        history, particularly what He has recorded for us in
        Scripture (fulfilled prophecy). We know that He is
        faithful to bring the rest to pass.
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
    His equality with the Father: “the
     radiance of His glory”
    –   This is another characteristic of Christ which
        is absolutely timeless; Christ has always
        been the radiance of the glory of God.
    –   He is not just a reflection of the glory of the
        Father, like the moon reflects the light of the
        sun; Christ is a source of glory just as the
        Father is.
    –   Though that glory was veiled while Jesus
        ministered on the earth, Peter and James
        and John got a glimpse of it when Christ was
        transfigured before them.
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
   His divine nature and character: “the
    exact representation of His nature”
    – These words show that though Christ is fully
      equal with the Father, He is also a separate
      person of the Trinity.
    – The Greek word used here for exact
      representation is carakth.r, which means “to
      cut, to scratch, to mark.”
    – Christ conveys an exact representation of the
      Father. He Himself said, "If you have seen
      me, you have seen the Father" and “I and the
      Father are one.”
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
    His role as governor of the material universe:
     “upholds all things by the word of His power”
    –   This is an ongoing sustaining of the universe, one that
        is moving the ages along according to His purpose
        towards the ultimate consummation of all things.
    –   Christ is the one sustains the material creation. And
        He does such a good job of it, we frequently take it for
    –   The Noahic covenant reminds us that this regularity
        will remain as long as the earth remains.
           But the writer of Hebrews speaks of a future day in which
            God will interrupt this regularity (Hebrews 12:26).
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
    His redemptive work: “when He had made
     purification of sins”
    –   Up until now the focus has been on Christ's absolute
        and timeless nature, describing characteristics of Him
        that have always been true of His person from eternity
    –   Now there is a change, because the writer is speaking
        of Christ's work of redemption.
    –   This is the great truth of the incarnation. Christ laid
        aside all the glory He had with the Father, became a
        man, and then bore the penalty of the sins of the
        world in His own body.
           His sacrifice is far superior to that of bulls and goats, and
            that’s why the writer urges His readers not to go back to
            the old system for cleansing of sins. To do so would be
            to turn one’s back on the one who made the perfect
            sacrifice for sin.
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
   His present dignity: “He sat down at the right
    hand of the Majesty on high”
    – Christ's humiliation as an unglorified man was
          Philippians 2 describes first His humiliation in verses 5-8,
           and then His exaltation in verses 9 and 10.
    – This seated position is in sharp contrast to the work of
      the Levitical priests in the OT economy. They could
      never sit down, (there were no chairs in the tabernacle)
      because their work of offering animal sacrifices was
      never finished.
    – The author of Hebrews is going to talk about this later
      as he develops his argument concerning the superiority
      of Christ’s sacrifice (Heb 10:10-14).
    – It is that perfection and completeness of Christ’s
      sacrifice allows Him to sit down because the work is
      finished…and His seat is in the place of honor (Psa
         Seven Features which
    Characterize the Person of Christ
 In its original context this Psalm is
  speaking about the Davidic King in the OT
  and the works that God will do through
  His mediator as he exercises authority
  over Israel and over the nations.
 The NT writers pick this up and apply it to
  Christ as the ultimate Davidic ruler:
    – the one who now sits at the right hand of the
      Father until His enemies are made a footstool
      for His feet;
    – who intercedes for us as the ultimate High
      Priest according to the order of Melchizidek;
    – who will one day return to judge the nations
      and rule them with a rod of iron.
    Next Week:
The Superiority of the Son
        to Angels
     Hebrews 1:4-14