Lesson for May 23, 2014
The Book of Hebrews
By way of introduction, one of the big questions has to do with the human author of the book of Hebrews. There are about five different views on who is the human author of Hebrews. The first view is that Luke wrote Hebrews. The reason for this is that the Greek of the book of Hebrews is very polished. It is interesting that this epistle which has the most information by way of Jewish background should also be written in the purest form of Greek. However there is way too much Jewish background in this epistle for it to be written by Luke, a Gentile. The second view is that early church leader, Clement of Rome wrote it, but there is too much Jewish background for Clement who was also a Gentile. The third view held by some of the early church fathers was that Barnabas was the human author. Barnabas was a Levite with a good Jewish background and is considered by many scholars to be the leading contender. A fourth view held by Martin Luther was that Apollos wrote Hebrews. As a Jew from Alexandria and well-versed in the Old Testament he would be a contender. The fifth view was that Paul wrote it. The argument against Paul as the author is that it is not like him to omit his name from the epistle and the style of Hebrews is too smooth, too literary a Greek for Paul. Paul only wrote in an elliptical style and a very rough style. They say that Paul would have quoted the Old Testament from the Hebrew text and whoever wrote Hebrews did not quote Old Testament passages from the Hebrew text, but quoted from the Greek Septuagint translation of Scripture. They also say that there are Pauline ideas here but not Pauline vocabulary. However, Paul wrote most of his letters to Gentiles which could explain the difference in style since Hebrews is written to primarily Jews. Timothy is mentioned by the author as his companion, and as we know Timothy was a traveling companion to Paul. The conclusion is that the writer is anonymous and was deliberately obscured by God the Holy Spirit.
The epistle was written in 67 AD, three years before the fall of Jerusalem and the administration of the fifth cycle of discipline on the Jewish nation of Israel. This was the last warning of the coming of the fifth cycle of discipline to the Jews. The first warning came from the Lord Jesus Christ when he prophesied of it in Luke 21:20-24. Christ had been warning believing Jews to get out of Jerusalem, to stay away from Jerusalem, during the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy. He said in Luke 21:17, “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake, but there shall not a hair of your head perish.”
This epistle was addressed to Jewish believers living in Jerusalem three years before the administration of the fifth cycle of discipline in 70 A.D. The Jews had exactly three years to build an edification complex in the soul and get out of Jerusalem before the Romans got there.
The Purpose of the Epistle
- To warn believers regarding reversionism and to aid them in recovery or development of an edification complex of the soul, by providing the necessary Bible doctrine to aid them in the process. At that time in history it was imperative that they recover or development an edification complex because if you did not do it in a time of crisis you may forfeit your life as well and often the administration of the sin unto death is concurrent with the administration of national judgment which was coming on the nation of Israel.
- To deliver believers in Jerusalem from the catastrophe of the fifth cycle of discipline.
- To clarify the issues of the Angelic Conflict. The believers in Jerusalem were going to see a great deal of conflict but they would be in a double conflict — a conflict with the Romans, but greater than that was a great spiritual warfare. (Believers are engaged in a spiritual warfare from the time they are saved. Even in time of peace you are in warfare).
- To lead believers to maturity through the erection of the edification complex. The priesthood of the believer was supplied to every Christian at the point of salvation to hasten their movement toward spiritual maturity. They should not delay or be distracted along the way; they must become mature believers quickly. This would involve the specific fields of doctrine taught in this epistle.
- To reveal the glory of the Person of Jesus Christ and stimulate occupation with Christ.
- To orient the believer to the grace principles of the Universal Priesthood of the Believer. The Universal Priesthood of the Believer is the springboard from which grace orientation stems. God has found a way to work for believers, especially during the Church Age. This is the intensified stage of the Angelic Conflict and God has found a way to work for all believers by providing His divine power system.
- To distinguish between the Jewish dispensation and the Church Age, and the reality of the Priesthood of the Believer in the Church Age. (This function of the priesthood is not possible until a believer becomes a dispensationalist and recognizes the difference between the Church Age and the Age of Israel).
- To relate the Priesthood of the Believer to the Christian Way of Life.
Old Testament Priesthood versus New Testament Priesthood
- Israel’s priests were not all believers because the priesthood was based on physical birth not spiritual regeneration. Old Testament priesthoods were based on the head of every family before the nation of Israel was formed and after its formation the priesthood was based on being a member of the tribe of Levi.
- The priesthood of the Church Age is the only priesthood based on faith in Christ.
- No high priest in Israel ever functioned in a resurrection body as does our High Priest—the Lord Jesus Christ. Only the Royal Family of God has a High Priest in a resurrection body.
- Jesus Christ was never a high priest to Israel. He is only a high priest to the Church. Therefore, your spiritual life is unique. Our Lord was not even qualified to be a high priest in Israel because He was from the tribe of Judah.
- Our priesthood is composed of every member of the body of Christ. You are a member of the highest priesthood that will ever exist, including the millennial reign of Christ.
- The Faith-Rest Drill gave reality to the Old Testament believers related to their extensive ritual. The doctrines were real because they saw them being portrayed in the ritual.
- The humanity of Jesus Christ, as the better hope, executed the better spiritual life of the Church Age. The better hope of Hebrews 7:15 in the dispensation of the hypostatic union became the precedence for the unique spiritual life of the Church Age. The better spiritual life was tested and proved in prototype. The better hope begins when a Church Age believer enters the door of hope on God’s agenda. We have the unique heritage of all human history. We have a better hope, a better priesthood, and a better spiritual life.
- Christ became a priest not on the basis of physical requirement but on the basis of His affinity with both God and man. Leviticus 21:17-20 teaches that no man of the tribe of Levi could function as a priest if they had physical defects. No one was disqualified for being an unbeliever. Matthew 27:12,41; Mark 14:1, 55; Luke 22:2; John 19:15 shows that the Chief Priest at the time of Christ was trying to kill Jesus, therefore, probably an unbeliever. No Church Age believer is disqualified for having a physical defect. The reason for this was that there must be nothing that distracted the Jews when they were watching the ritual, and physical defects are distracting. Therefore there were three categories of Levitical priests who could officiate at the altar: the believer-priest, the unbeliever-priest, and the carnal believer-priest.
- The Levitical priesthood was authorized under the Mosaic Law, Exodus 6:18, 20; 28:1. The universal priesthood of the believer is based on believing in Jesus Christ. For us to function under our High Priest we must have perfect righteousness, because our priesthood can never be nullified or rescinded.
- The Church has one High Priest—the resurrected humanity of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God the Father. The royal priesthood of the Church Age with one High Priest forever is better than the Levitical priesthood based on many high priests and physical birth. Our High Priest is in the real Holy of Holies on our behalf. He is the only High Priest Who serves in a resurrection body. Our Lord will function as the only High Priest on earth during His millennial reign after His Second Coming.
- Doctrinal Significance
- Ritual without reality is meaningless.
- In the case of Israel, the unbeliever priest or unbelievers in the congregation of Israel who witness the ritual could not possibly profit from it doctrinally. The Jews could never profit from the rituals representing the Mosaic Law unless they could relate the ritual to the doctrines. Many Jews considered the rituals as “good luck” charms. For believers negative to doctrine the ritual was also meaningless.
- The new priesthood of the Church means a new spiritual life for believers that never existed before in history. We have a greater spiritual life, a unique spiritual life. The royal priesthood of the Church Age believer with one High Priest is better than the Levitical priesthood, which was based on many high priests and physical birth. The royal priesthood of the Church Age serves under one eternal High Priest. Therefore, every royal priest of the Church Age has eternal life through faith in the High Priest Jesus Christ. The spiritual life must match the priesthood. The spiritual life is only as good as its priesthood, and we have the greatest priesthood in history. Only the royal priesthood is not stopped by death. We continue to be priests forever in our resurrection body under our High Priest.
- Our High Priest gave us a spiritual life which is infinitely greater than anything found in the Old Testament. Our High Priest is unique. Jesus Christ is the only High Priest Who is perfect humanity and eternal God in one Person forever. He is the only High Priest Who was ever sinless. He is the first High Priest ever filled with the Holy Spirit. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our spiritual life, Hebrews 12:2. He is the only High Priest Who offered Himself as a unique and efficacious sacrifice. He is the only High Priest Who offers eternal salvation.
- A better priesthood is based on virtue and values of perfect integrity. We have a better priesthood because we have a better spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the highest form of virtue and values that has ever existed or will exist in human history. Therefore, our spiritual life under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine circulating in the stream of consciousness is different from the spiritual life in the Old Testament. And, our priesthood has greater escrow blessings for time and eternity.
- As a priest, sanctification has integrated you into a new covenant with God. You are confirmed as a priest by positional sanctification at the moment of salvation by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Post-salvation experiential sanctification occurs by the unique spiritual life of human history. Ultimate sanctification is the extension of our universal, royal priesthood into the eternal state. There are three agents of this sanctification: God the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; God the Son, Hebrews 10:10; 1 Corinthians 1:2,30; Bible doctrine, John 17:17.
There are five warning passages in the book of Hebrews:
1. Chapter 2:1-4 – Disregarding Salvation
These Jewish believers were disregarding their salvation by rejecting the spiritual life God had provided for them and they would not escape divine discipline. Their eternal salvation was secure in Christ, but their neglect of Bible doctrine and the Christian life lead them to misery and discontentment. The warning was to hurry and build an edification complex before the impending danger of destruction was upon them.
2. Chapter 3:7-4:13 – Disbelieving that God is All-Sufficient
Israel, in the past had failed to enter into the rest (relaxed mental attitude) that God had offered them by means of the Faith-Rest Technique (application of Bible doctrine). They had believed God, temporarily, to bring them out of bondage in Egypt, but did not believe in God to bring them into Canaan (the Promised Land). The warning to these believing Jews was not to follow the pattern of their forefathers.
3. Chapter 5:11-6:20 – Disregarding the Office of our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ
Many of these Jewish believers were attempting to straddle-the-fence between Judaism and Christianity. While acknowledging their faith in Christ, these believers were struggling to move away from their Jewish heritage and embrace grace. The warning was the fact that the possibility existed that they could fall into a serious state of reversionism and never recover their spiritual lives.
4. Chapter 10:26-39 – Despising the Holy Spirit
The explanation of the purpose and types of the Temple and the Holy of Holies as a representation of Christ was clearly shown to these believers so that they would understand that all of their Jewish worship in the past was a type of Christ. The warning was to leave the Law of Moses in the past were it belonged and allow the Holy Spirit to control and guide your life. The writer demonstrated the fallacy of remaining under the Law of Moses as the means of having a spiritual life. Failure to recognize the true spiritual life in Christ, executed by the power of God the Holy Spirit, meant a believer in effect despised Him (if not in word, certainly in deed).
5. Chapter 12:15-29 – Disobedience to the Mandates of God
These believers had been believers for a long period of time and should have been able to teach others the Christian Way of Life. They should also have understood and appreciated the discipline of the Lord knowing that is for their benefit. The Old Testament was filled with illustrations of the importance of divine discipline in keeping the believer on track spiritually. The warning is not to despise the discipline from God, but to learn from it and make the necessary corrections to your spiritual life, so as to glorify God.