Hebrews is founded on the person of Christ in His divine and human natures. (I am not sure whether JND would have used this expression later). Human sympathies are exercised through Christ’s priesthood on high, connecting the saints on earth with heaven. Although the saints are not seen as constituting the body united with Christ, all ancient Judaism is set aside. They are seen as answering to a present heavenly call, laying the ground for the introduction of Israel by the new covenant. With the use of comparisons and analogies, Christianity is contrasted with what had gone before.
In chapter 1 we get the authority of the communicated word as to the divinity of Christ. This is continued in from ch. 3:1 to 4:13, where we have Christ’s authority as Son over His house (in contrast to Moses), and the promise of rest to the people of God. Chapter 2 lays the foundation of future dominion and present priesthood in the human nature of Christ. This is continued from chapter 4:14, the glory of it being expounded in chapter 5 as to the Person and office of Christ. It is impossible to return to the elements of Judaism. If heavenly Christian things are departed from, things cannot be brought back by another power. God encourages the heirs of promise by word and oath, declaring the immutability of His counsel, and strengthens them to look within the veil, Christ having entered as forerunner, a high priest after the order of Melchisedec (chapter 6).
Chapter 7: The Melchisedec priesthood sets aside of the whole system of the law, the priesthood itself being changed from that of dying men to that of the living Son. That priesthood suits us, for such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (v. 26).
In chapter 8, because the High Priest is set on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, offerings are needed. However, before touching on the offerings, we have a change of the covenant on which this ministry is founded, for Christ is the mediator of it. Now, for a better and heavenly tabernacle, we must have better sacrifices.
Chapter 9: In the tabernacle itself there was a difference. The veil was unrent in the Jewish tabernacle; now the veil is rent. The Holy Spirit showed that, as long as that first tabernacle had any place, the way into the holiest could not be open. Note that in ch. 9:16-17, the Greek word διαθήκη (diathéké) has the sense of testament; elsewhere it should be covenant. The blood of Christ purges the conscience, not merely sins, and cleanses the whole scene of the creature’s relationship with God. The next contrast is that He had not to offer Himself often in order to enter into the heavenly tabernacle, otherwise He would have to have suffered often. He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The apostle contrasts the lot of man, subject to death and judgment, with Christ, who once offered Himself to bear the sins of many, and is now coming to those who look for Him for salvation, without any further question of sin
The writer then discusses in chapter 10 the whole bearing of this sacrifice, alleging that a person once cleansed by it has no more conscience of sins; whereas in the repeated sacrifices, there was a continual remembrance of sins. He then unfolds the origin of this sacrifice in God’s preparing Christ a body. He offers Himself to accomplish God’s will. He does so willingly, and now sits for ever at the right hand of God. He does not stand like the old high priests who had to offer repeated sacrifices. By His one offering He has for ever perfected (i.e. made fit) those who are sanctified by it. The Holy Spirit bears divine testimony to this, declaring, ‘Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more’ (ch. 8:12). Thus we have the good will of God, the work of Christ, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit, to give us the divine security of unalterable peace. After that, he exhorts them to enter into the holiest, in the full assurance of faith through the new living way. The veil that had been rent, but then the writer warns them that if they abandoned one sacrifice be there would be no other. They are told to be patient: Christ would soon come. Meanwhile they must live by faith.
To this end, the writer shows, in chapter 11, that all the saints who were highly esteemed amongst them had obtained their good report by faith. He lays down four great principles:
- creation, known by faith,
- sacrifice, offered to obtain righteousness by faith,
- walking with God in the power of life by faith, and
- acting on the prophecy of coming events by faith.
We then get two great aspects of our trust in God: the patient expectancy of faith, and the active energy of faith. All those whose faith is described in detail are persons who lived before Israel went into the land. He then goes through a list of sufferings endured by the saints in faith, showing that the world was not worthy of them. They died, not having received the promises, God having reserved a better thing for us.
Chapters 12 and 13 introduce Christ as the last great Witness. He overcame, and now, having obtained the glory, sits at the right hand of God. He shows them that suffering has the character of parental discipline: they are under grace, not law and terror. In doing this, he gives them the whole millennial result in heaven and earth – that is what they have come to in faith. Everything here will be shaken, but they are to leave the Jewish camp (religion and the world), and go to Jesus, He being the sin-offering. They must be either in heaven where the blood is, or outside the camp, or gate, where the sin-offering was burnt. He closes with a few exhortations.
Hebrews is of the called ‘book of the open heavens’ – Sosthenes
Originally by JND. Lightly edited by Sosthenes, September 2014
– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible for the original