By Nicole McLeod
Please open your bibles to Hebrews. This timely and inspiring letter has been described as a Grand portrait of Christ, with the OT as its background. And for us here today it is a vitally important message, so we may once again set our focus upon the glorious greatness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ God’s own Son.
Heb. 1:1-3 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”
The letter opens with this most important declaration:God has spoken …. And in theselast days He has spoken to us by His Son, who is the pure revelation and expression of God’s love and mercy. He is worthy of of our sincere devotion commitment and trust.
Heb. 2:1 …Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard”
Heb. 12:25 “… See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.”
God has spoken, in a person and language we can understand. I believe all of us here have responded to Him with faith…. and our faith will be rewarded, as it is written: Heb. 11:6… “for he who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
We come today to this letter, like the Greeks who came to Phillip, saying, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” (John 12:21)… may we truly meet Him afresh as we read this beautiful unfolding of the glory of the person and work of Jesus, the Son of God, our living High Priest, exalted and enthroned.
Introduction: Author: As you can see, Hebrews begins with no mention of the name of its human author, but of God. Though the author remains unknown, we do know important things about him. He was thoroughly knowledgeable of the Jewish religious system and Torah. He and his readers knew each other well. “He was a superb writer and an inspired thinker. His use of the Greek language is considered the most eloquent and elegant of all the NT. Hebrews is considered a masterpiece. The language is sophisticated, but the declaration is simple/clear. This is God’s supremely great son. Hear Him!
Date Written Hebrews was written in the first century before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. (The impending destruction of the Temple may have been one of the reasons that God had this writer show them how they needed not only to accept Christ as supreme, but to come forward out of Judaism.)
Written To: A congregation of Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, Hebrew Christians living in the Roman world, undergoing severe persecution and pressure to turn back to Judaism. They were in danger of slipping back – of compromising under religious pressure. But Jesus had come to establish a new covenant, the new testament. The letter shows them that faith in Christ is not an abandonment of their Jewish hopes, rather a fulfillment of the faith and life it promised. The writer exhorts all believers to hold onto our faith, not to retrogress, to patiently endure circumstances and press onto maturity…
The main point of the book to them and to us: Through an excellent series of contrasts between the good things of Old Testament, Judaism (which hinged on the law) and the better things of New Testament, Christianity (which focuses on God’s grace and Christ’s willing and acceptable sacrifice) we see how Jesus has brought a better hope, a better covenant based on better promises.. The word “better” is used 13 times in this letter.
Heb 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying (the point of this letter in other words) i s this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man…
Jesus is superior to the OT prophets, and to the angels, (3:1-6) to Moses, (5:1-10) to Aaron in His High Priestly qualifications as He comes from the order of Melchizedek, (7:1-18). (8:1-13) Christ is the priest of a superior covenant, (9:1-10,18) Christ’s heavenly sanctuary and sacrifice are superior in that they are perfect. He is the perfect the perfect Savior, He is our living Intercessor, Mediator, and the perfect High Priest enthroned in Heaven.
The purpose of the letter: is written to confirm Christians in every age in their faith …and encourage our full commitment to Christ. He reminds us that God lovingly understands our weaknesses, so He encourages us to come boldly to His Throne for grace in our time of need.
A word about the warnings:
Hebrews is a book of exhortation - in Heb. 13:22, “ bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” This word exhortation means encouragement.
Some people avoid Hebrews because of these warnings, but I pray we will let the Holy Spirit use them to help us. They exhort us to stay close to Jesus, and to pay closer attention to God’s word, to believe it and trust it, to obey it – live and stand on it. These verses are hard, and yet they help us see the spiritual consequences that can result if we neglect God’s word to us. The writer encourages us not to neglect the Word (2:1-4), not to harden our heart to the word of God, (3:7-19), not to become deaf to the Word – or tune it out (5:11-14) or to defy the Word (10:26-39) or even disobey the Word deliberately (12:14-19). Yes, God warns us, He sees our hearts, and deals lovingly with His people, even when they will not listen and obey, but it pays to have a sensitive, responsive, obedient heart to God’s voice!
It helps to remember the purpose of this epistle is to establish believers in the faith and be strengthened by grace - not to frighten the flock.
This important warning for example is so helpful today…
Heb. 13:9 “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace”. Yes, we truly want our hearts to be strengthened by grace and we don’t want to get lost in doctrinal controversies – arguments or follow strange rabbit trails.
In our remaining time, let’s look at Jesus in these opening verses - full of important references which will unfold later in greater detail in this letter.
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
God, at various times - portions. The OT (made up of 39 different books) was written over the course of 1800 years by various writers reflecting different historic times, locations, cultures and situations.
And in various ways - including visions, symbols, parables, poetry, prose, in varied styles – yet it was always God revealing what He wanted His people to know.
spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, God spoke the Old Testament, and the bridge of truth was connected by the prophets: God → spoke - in various portions and ways by the prophets → the fathers. It is important to remember the OT represents a revealed religion, Moses did not invent it. God spoke it and what He said was arcuately reported by the prophets and recorded in the books of the OT. So we can fully trust the OT as God spoke it, and we can fully trust the NT for the message was delivered by God the Son who came personally to give it to us. In this way in the NT, God bridged the gap between Himself and humanity.
Has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son. “last days” refers to the “age of the Messiah” a rather long period. The Jews understood the “Last days” to be the time when Messiah would come. So – really, since Jesus came, it has been “the last days”. “ In these last days” we understand that the persons and institutions of the Old Testament point to the person and work of Jesus Christ, in whom we find redemption.”
He has spoken to us . God’s will is that we would listen to Him and apply what we hear to our lives. More than ever we need to spend time in His Word and in prayer to help us think biblically and stand firm in our faith. We need today more than ever to be careful what we hear, who we hear, how we hear and what we do with what we hear.
Heb.1:2-3 gives us a sevenfold description of the glorious Son... These verses are so important as Christianity is Christ - and everything hinges on the important truths of who He is…
..whom He has appointed 1. heir of all things, 2. through whom also He made the worlds; 3. who being the brightness of His glory and 4. the express image of His person, and 5. upholding all things by the word of His power, when 6. He had by Himself purged our sins, 7. sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
a. God has appointed Him Heir of all things: God has willed everything to the Son. Those who trust in Christ as called co-heirs with him (Ro 8:17)
b. through whom also He made the worlds: The ancient Greek word means “eons”, the entire universe and everything that makes it function - time, space, energy and matter.
c. being the brightness of His glory. The ancient Greek word for radiance is the brightness that shines from a source of light. Literally “Shining forth an outshining of resplendent light – not a reflection. Jesus Christ shines forth to the world the very character, attributes and essence of God. This term is only used here.
d. and the express image of His person: In classical Greek this phrase was used of an engraving tool or stamp often used in minting coins – so the word implies the exact impression and representation of the nature and essence of God in time and space. Jesus exactly represents God to us. (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15)
John14:8-9 “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
e. upholding all things by the word of His power. The idea behind the word upholds is maintaining, of actively sustaining. In His earthly ministry Jesus constantly demonstrated the power of His word. He could heal, forgive, cast out demons, calm nature’s fury all at His word. His word is so powerful that it upholds and sustains all things.
f. He had by Himself purged our sins In His great love He, by Himself, did what no one else could do it for us, and we could not do it for ourselves – make purification for sinners, and purge the guilt and shame of our sins by His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross.
1 John 4: 10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins . The Atoning sacrifice is that which turns aside God’s wrath taking away our sin. God gave His only son to die in our place in order to satisfy his justice and turn His wrath away from us. Jesus made the perfect once-for-all sacrifice and then he took his seat to reign forever " at the right hand of God” (H. 10:12)
g. sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, This is a position of honor, of glory, and sitting down speaks of the finished work, a COMPLETE SALVATION. Right before Jesus took his last breath on the cross, he proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The work that the Father had sent him to accomplish was complete—namely, his perfect sacrifice for our sin was finished (Heb. 1:3; 9:11–12, 25–28).
Rev. 1:5 “Grace to you and peace (to you) from Him…who loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood”
May these verses help you see afresh the reality of Christ’s greatness, majesty, holiness, wisdom and love. And may this cultivate within us the adoration and admiration of which He is worthy.
I will leave you with this closing thought….
In Mark 9 , Jesus took Peter James and John and led them up – on a high mountain – apart – by themselves – and He, Jesus was transfigured before them. Even his clothes became shining, exceedingly white like snow – then Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Him, and a cloud came and overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying “ This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him.”
May the Lord Jesus, lead each one of us – in our study of Hebrews - to see Him as He truly is, Bright with the glory and the power of the heavenly life He holds out for us and desires to impart to us day by day. May it be like this for us as we study this letter as a church family with Pastor George on Wednesday nights, and here with the ladies on Tuesday mornings together. May we know Jesus on the throne of heaven and the throne of our hearts, Enthroned, Indwelling, and EXALTED.
Let’s ask for the Lord’s blessing and may He bring to light all He wants to teach us, and may we note things to put into action in the future….
Pray…In Jesus name. Amen.
I want to thank you all who over the years have prayed for my dad. He has moved into His eternal home in glory Monday 9/7/20 – 3 months after his 95 th birthday which we all celebrated together as a family at his home in Woodside. We are saddened by this loss, and comforted by the Lord and hope to extend that comfort as we go to spend some time with our extended family this weekend.