Soteriology 44, Hebrews 2:1-4
January 15, 2017
Father, we’re grateful for today and another opportunity to look into Your truth and go over some passages that are very perplexing to people. I just pray that Your Spirit would be here illuminating us, helping us understand these things so we can better live for you, better serve you, better defend and explain truth. We ask that You’ll do this work, we lift this up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.
As you know we spent a lot of time our last three sessions on the book of Hebrews, chapter 6. And what I’d like to do and I don’t think I can do it all in this session, we’ll just continue on where we left off next week, is I don’t want to just leave you with Hebrews 6 and how to understand it, I want to leave you with how to understand the five major warning passages in Hebrews, because the book of Hebrews doesn’t just have one warning passage. I went through, I think what was the hardest one but it’s got four others. And now that you sort of understand the book of Hebrews and what’s going on there I think understanding the other warning passages will be easier.
But just to real quickly orient you to the book of Hebrews, the nation of Israel by the time the book of Hebrews was written is under the discipline of God. It’s going to be meted out a few years into the future in the events of A.D. 70 where Rome will come and destroy the city and the sanctuary. And ever since the nation of Israel in the first century rejected Christ, based on their own covenant, they were put under a curse. The curse is discipline from God. And you see the terms of discipline spelled out in Deuteronomy 28:15-68, and this is why when the church is born on the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter, a Jew, stands up and speaks to fellow Jews and says in Acts 2:40, “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!”’ So what perverse generation are we talking about? We’re talking about first century Israel.
So what Peter is calling people to do as the church is born is come out of that corrupt nation that is under the disciplinary hand of God because of their unbelief and identify with this new man called the church. And of course the way you’re saved (as we all know) is by faith alone in Christ alone. But then when you look at Acts 2:41 there’s a sign of that salvation and it says, “So then, those who had received his word were” what? “were baptized…” So baptism is really an outward symbol of an inward reality; that’s what it is. Baptism, as you know, doesn’t save you but once they were publicly baptized they were identifying with the new church and in the process publicly saying that first century Israel was wrong in rejecting Christ.
So a few decades pass and the book of Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians, and it says in Hebrews 3:1, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;” when he makes that statement “our confession” I think he’s talking about water baptism because water baptism is what publicly identified you as somebody that was at the center with what the nation of Israel had done. In other words, when you got water baptized as a Jewish Christian… and you have to understand that the whole church is Jewish up until Acts 10, finally a Gentile gets saved, a guy named Cornelius, and the Gentiles really don’t start to outnumber the Jews in the church until Paul’s first missionary journey beginning in Acts 13.
So when you as a Jewish Christian trusted in Christ and were water baptized you were sending a message to the nation of Israel that you had it wrong and the new church, which has just started, has it right. So what do you think the unbelieving Jews did? Did they just sit there and let these new converts do whatever they wanted? No, they put on a relentless wave of persecution, getting them to come back to Judaism. And by the time the book of Hebrews is written you are now on your second generation of Jewish Christians. How do I know that? Because if you look at Hebrews 2:3 it describes a chain. It says in the middle of the verse, “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.”
So notice first of all “the Lord,” secondly “those who heard Him,” those would be the who? The apostles, the original apostles. So the Lord to the apostles and then the message traveled “to us” see that, that’s a generation after the apostles. And verse 4 indicates that as the message traveled from the apostles to the second generation it was confirmed through signs and wonders. [Hebrews 4:2, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”]
So you put this together and you’re dealing with the second generation. And that’s one of the reasons people date this book in the 60’s. And you know the first generation of dissenters, the apostolic generation, most of whom went to their deaths for the cause of Christ, was much stronger than the second generation. And this is the problem with second generation Christians and it’s also the problem with the second generation that gets hold of a Christian institution, which is largely what’s happening in our own seminaries today, they forget the price that was paid to get that seminary or that school off the ground. And it’s like that with inheritors of a business, they don’t understand the sweat and the sacrifice that went into starting the business so they don’t have the same mindset as the first generation.
So the second generation is usually weaker than the first and this is what you have going on in Jewish Christianity. And the audience is really thinking about going back into Judaism; I mean, what’s the harm to just slip into a few feast days and temple rituals to get all this persecution from these unbelieving Jews off my back. And at the very bottom of the screen, I don’t have time to look at every verse, you can look those up on your own, it’s very clear that the temple was still standing at this point. [Hebrews 8:4, 13; 9:6; 10:1-2; 13:10] So the temple wouldn’t be destroyed for another seven or eight years, and so this temptation to return to the temple was very much a reality.
So that is the background of the book of Hebrews. The author of the book of Hebrews, whoever he was, writes an encouragement and a motivation for the Hebrew Christian audience not to lapse backwards into Judaism. And what he does is he skillfully explains that what they already have in Jesus is superior and higher than anything they could ever experience in Judaism. So Judaism was just a shadow pointing towards the coming reality. The reality is here in Jesus; you have the highest form of revelation already so don’t slip back into Judaism.
And the author of the book of Hebrews writes this message: The superiority of the full revelation of Christ in comparison to Old Testament Judaism is shown through demonstrating that Christ is higher or superior to every major vestige of Judaism. So he’s not saying Judaism is bad; what he uses is the word better, the better revelation has come.
The author of Hebrews, whoever he was, was a master logician or philosopher. That’s why a lot of people are persuaded that maybe Apollos, you know, the very erudite debater that we read about in the book of Acts, could have been the writer. Other people say it was Paul, other people say it was Barnabas. We don’t really know who it was but whoever he was knew the Old Testament cold and he knew how to argue his case.
So what he does in verses 1-3 of chapter 1 is he says look at Christ’s attributes, look at how high He is. And then you get to chapter 1 verse 4 all the way through the end of chapter 2 and he says Jesus is higher than the angels. Now what you have to understand is in Judaism angels are a big deal because the revelation of God was handed down to people through angels. Remember Daniel received the prophecy of the seventy weeks through the angel Gabriel. You remember that according to the book of Galatians the Law of God was mediated from Mount Sinai through angels. So angels were messengers and what the author is saying is Jesus is higher than the angels, meaning that Jesus is higher than any Old Testament form of revelation.
And then if that weren’t enough, beginning in chapter 3, verse 1, through almost the end of chapter 4 he says Jesus is higher than Moses. And you have to understand that to the Jewish mind that has been under the Law of God for 1500 years the Law was everything. The Law told you what to eat, it even told you if your animal ran across the yard and wrecked the neighbor’s fence how that was supposed to be handled. I mean, the Law governed every single dimension of your life. And of course, we know the Law came through Moses. So when the writer says Jesus is higher than Moses he’s saying Jesus is higher than any form of revelation in the Law that you could ever find.
And if that weren’t enough, beginning in chapter 4, verse 14 through chapter 10 verse 18 he says Jesus is higher than Aaron. Now who did the priesthood come to Israel through? Through the high priest Aaron. So if he can show that Jesus is higher than Aaron he can show that Jesus is higher than the whole Old Testament sacrificial system that they had known for one thousand five hundred years.
And the reason that Jesus is higher than Aaron is because Jesus is orchestrating today a priesthood not after the order of Aaron but after the order or Melchizedek and this is why Jesus was not born from the tribe of Levi; the priests all came from Levi, right? That’s where we get the word Leviticus from, Levi. Jesus was born through which tribe? Judah. So obviously Christ’s priesthood is a lot higher than Aaron’s priesthood.
Then you get to chapter 10 verse 18 and it says, “Therefore” and whenever we see the word “therefore” in the Bible we ask what is the word therefore what? There for? And that changes us out of doctrine into application so the rest of the book of Hebrews is basically application.
So if you’re into logic, if you’re into major premise/minor premise/conclusion, the book of Hebrews is for you because that’s what it is; it’s an erudite piece of logic starting with a simple premise and proceeding to a conclusion that they already have the highest form of revelation in Christ. So going back to the Old Testament system is not going to help them, even though they’re being persecuted to do so.
Now if that weren’t enough, and this is where the whole debate of eternal security comes in, the author interrupts his train of thought five times; there are five parenthetical breaks where it’s almost like something comes over him and he stops what he’s saying and gives to the audience a very severe warning. And then when the warning is over he gets right back on the rabbit trail and completes his thought and this happens five times in the book of Hebrews. You have the warning against drifting, warning against disobedience, now the third one we’ve already spent some time with, the warning against immaturity; then in chapter 10 you have the warning against despising and then finally you have the warning against denying the truth. So drifting, disobedience, immaturity, I couldn’t find a “d” for immaturity, sorry, I guess I’m not Baptist enough, Baptist you’ve got to have everything kind of rhyming like that, right? And I love Baptists so don’t get mad at me if you’re a Baptist. By the way, the first church I pastored was an American Baptist Church, that’s in the interest of full disclosure there, but you know, you make a joke, people start sending you letters, what do you have against Baptists? Nothing, I love Baptists, I’m just saying I’m not as good as they are with homiletical devices. All right, let’s get off that.
Drifting, disobedience, immaturity, despising, denying, see that? So the view that I’ve tried to sell you on (if I could put it that way) is the loss of blessings view. The paradigm of the book is which event? Kadesh-barnea, and that’s where they got to the southern border of Israel and they looked into the land and what did they see in the land? Giants! So the author is reaching back into their history to something that they knew and he’s saying just as that generation forfeited a blessing if you second generation Hebrew Christians capitulate to persecution and go back into the institutions of Judaism you’re going to forfeit a blessing. He’s not saying you’re going to hell (as I’ve tried to explain), what he’s saying is there’s a blessing that flows from your justification that you will be permanently deprived of. And I’ve tried to make the case that that blessing that they’re going to be deprived of is growth because you cannot grow the way you’re supposed to do “in Christ” if you cut yourself off from New Testament revelation.
And this is the kind of a problem that I’m seeing in Christendom today is people are becoming very interested in the feasts, the rituals of Judaism, and at first glance I’m sort of in favor of that because it helps… the Old Testament the better you understand it helps explain the New Testament. The problem that I’m seeing is that in some of these groups they leave people in the Old Testament. I’ve actually quizzed people, just in private conversation that are involved in some of these types of groups, and they can tell you all kinds of information about Old Testament feasts and it’s all wonderful to know all that but it’s almost like you get into New Testament, you get into the teachings of Paul and there’s like massive knowledge gaps. Well, the reality of the situation is you cannot mature in Christ with knowledge gaps of New Testament revelation. And this is what the author is afraid of with this audience, they’re going to go back into this system, they’re still Christians, they’re still saved but they’re shutting themselves off from the diet that they need to grow correctly. It’s like omitting key food groups if you will, you know, in your physical diet, you can’t mature correctly. And that’s what the author is afraid of.
So the author’s points throughout this book are (A) the Exodus generation was saved but forfeited a blessing; (B) the same is going on with the Hebrews, they’re saved but if they slip back into Judaism they’re going to forfeit a blessing, just like the Kadesh-barnea generation forfeited a blessing. So do you all kind of see the background of the book here. And he’s trying to prevent this from happening to them by persuading them that they already have the full revelation of Christ. And (B), through these warning passages if you do go back into Judaism there’s going to be a penalty; a penalty gets assessed at some point.
And the big debate is well, what is the penalty, is it they’re going to go to hell? Calvinism, they never had salvation. Arminianism, they lost salvation. No, neither of those views is right; they’re going to forfeit a blessing they could have had flowing from their justification, which is growth in Christ.
So with that in mind, take a look, if you could, at Hebrews 2:1-4 and I just want to show you briefly how all five warning passages function the same way. They’re all saying basically the same thing that the big warning passage that we spent some time studying in Hebrews 6 is saying. So notice if you will Hebrews 2:1-4, this is warning passage number 1. By the way, what’s he been talking about at the end of chapter 1? Verse 13, he’s been talking about angels because he’s showing that Jesus is higher than the angels. [Hebrews 10:13, “But to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET ‘?]
Then all of a sudden, for whatever reason the Spirit’s prompting, he quits talking about angels, he interjects a severe warning against drifting, and then once he finishes that, after verse 4 what does he start talking about again, verse 5? Angels, he just kind of picks up where he left off, so digressions. This happens five times.
So notice this, the first warning passage, Hebrews 2:1-4, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not” what? “drift away from it.  For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,  how will we escape if we” what? “neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,  God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His” what? “His own will.” Now you see the word “we” there; it’s mentioned in verse 1, it’s mentioned in verse 3. What does that mean? It means the author is identifying with the spiritual state of the audience which would mean the audience is saved or unsaved? Saved, very clearly! You see the word “neglect,” verse 3? “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.” How can you neglect a salvation that you don’t already possess. It’ s like someone saying you’re neglecting your wife, well that must mean I’m married, right? I can’t neglect my wife unless I have a wife to neglect.
So what the author is doing, can I give you a fancy Latin word? He’s engaging in what is called an a fortiori argument, an a fortiori argument is an argument from the lesser to the greater. In other words, if the lesser is true then the greater must be true. And the author uses a fortiori reasoning all the way through the book of Hebrews and his point is this: if drifting from the old covenant Judaism was punishable… and by the way, when the Jews drifted away from the covenant God gave them did God discipline them? Of course, the whole Old Testament is filled with that history. And this is written to a Jewish audience and so they remember the scattering by the Assyrians of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. They remember what we’re studying on Sunday morning, the events of the book of Daniel and Ezekiel, where the Jews went into captivity, the southern kingdom in 586 B.C.
So they all knew that God disciplines for drifting. So that’s your minor premise. If drifting away from old covenant Judaism was punishable, how much more… see the lesser to the greater, how much more will God not punish, or perhaps a better word is discipline, for moving away from what? The full revelation of Christ. In other words, if God disciplined His own people for moving away from a lesser revelation, do you think, you Hebrew Christians, that God is going to do anything less if you drift way from a completed revelation in Jesus Christ?
Now it doesn’t say hell here, does it? So what’s the punishment? Well, the nation of Israel went into discipline in the Old Testament; did they ever stop being God’s special people? They never did. So in the same way if the Hebrew Christians move away from the full revelation of Christ and go back into the institutions of Judaism and act like the New Testament never happened, which is what they’re being tempted to do. Does not the end of the book, Hebrews 12:5-11 say whom the Lord loves the Lord what? Chastens; they’re going to go through the same type of chastening as well. [Hebrews 12:5-11, “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
‘MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;  FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”]
In fact, it might even be more severe because they had, not a partial revelation, they had the full revelation. And this is especially true since the message had been confirmed as it travelled from the Lord to the apostles, to the second generation through confirmatory what? Signs and wonders that are described in verse 4. They not only had the full revelation of the New Testament, they had the signs and wonders, whatever those were, that confirmed it. And I don’t want to get too far into the signs and wonders debate but the reality of the situation is miracles in the Bible will cluster around five time periods. They cluster around time periods when God is doing something totally new. For example, in the time of Moses you’ll see rampant miracles because God is raising up something, a brand new revelation called the Law. If you go to the stories of Elijah and Elisha you’ll see rampant miracles clustered around that time period because God is doing something new, he’s raising up the office of the prophet to rebuke wayward kings; that’s a brand new office.
You get into the New Testament and you’ll see rampant signs or wonders around the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ because Jesus is offering what to national Israel, on a silver platter? The kingdom. Then as you get into early Acts you’ll see rampant signs and wonders because God is raising up a new man called the church. And in fact, Paul, who raised people from the dead, (that’s quite a miracle, isn’t it) Eutychus… Paul preached a little long one time and Eutychus fell asleep, he fell off a second story building, out of the window sill, hit the ground and died; Paul went down there and raised him from the dead, which is very gracious of Paul, he could have been mad that the guy wasn’t paying attention to his sermon. But he actually raised this guy from the dead in Troas. Now you get to the end of Paul’s life and you go to 2 Timothy 4:20, this is the last thing Paul said or wrote, A.D. 67, just prior to his death, he says, “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left” what? “sick at Miletus.” This is the guy that raised Eutychus from the dead saying well, regarding Erastus I just left him sick.
So what is happening, I believe, is you have a gradual waning away or petering out of apostolic signs and wonders as the apostolic age is coming to an end. And today everybody is into a signs and wonders movement, if you get into certain charismatic or Pentecostal circles they talk over and over again about a signs and wonders movement that’s on the horizon. And that has always bothered me because according to the Bible what’s the next signs and wonders movement coming from? The antichrist, who will display miracles through counterfeit signs and wonders.
So we’ve had four eras where God has worked miracles to authenticate something new and the next signs and wonders movement is on the horizon. And these Hebrews, what did they have? They had not just the full revelation of Christ, they had it confirmed to them as it transferred from the apostles to them through signs and wonders. Now the warning here is don’t drift away from this because God will not send you to hell but discipline you just like He disciplined His chosen people.
Before I leave the signs and wonders thing let me just make one other qualifying statement. People say well do you believe that God can do signs and wonders today and my answer to that is yes; if I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t pray for people to get well. But here’s the difference—today when God does a sign or wonder if He chooses to He does not do it indirectly through a person, like an apostle, He does it directly from God to man. See that? So the signs and the wonders coming through the works of the apostles were basically what I would consider temporary occurrences and those passed away with the end of the apostolic age. But when you talk like this people kind of get nervous and they think you’re against God doing any sign or wonder today and I think the difference is God does them today with less regularity in my opinion. And when He does it He does it directly Himself rather than indirectly, through someone that’s a so-called apostle.
So we have a lot of people today that are calling themselves apostles. In my classes at CBS one of the things I do is I give the students a chance to introduce themselves right at the beginning of a class and I’m kind of sneaky because as they introduce themselves I can figure out where they’re at on the theological map and a lot of them will introduce themselves as prophet so and so, prophetess so and so, I’m an apostle, these kind of things and these ideas are very big in the Pentecostal church, particularly as you get into African-American communities these ideas are very, very popular and big. It’s sometimes how people build status for themselves, you know, you call yourself an apostle so people have to submit to your authority, this kind of thing.
Well, the fact of the matter is the early church laid down the qualifications for an apostle in Acts 1, when they were substituting or picking a replacement for Judas and they picked Matthias and the qualifications are laid down, you have to have been with the ministry of Christ as an eyewitness from the very beginning. So the only people that are apostles in the technical way I’m describing it here are those that were on the ground floor, if you will, with the ministry of Christ. And so you’ll notice that your Bible was either written by one of the twelve original eyewitnesses or in the case of people like Mark or Luke or Paul it was written by people who had a close association with one of the original twelve. So that’s the test for canonicity we call apostolicity, which means that there are no new books of the Bible being written today because the apostolic generation is gone.
There are no apostles today so when people call themselves an apostle and they want that title I usually say man, you really look good for your age, I mean certainly you have some diet and exercise tips for me because you ought to be about 2,000 years old by now and you look like a 20 year old or 30 year old. So I kind of say that tongue in cheek but… anyway, that’s kind of an excurses into the signs and wonders. We can take some questions on that at the end as I’m sure some of you might have some questions on that but I didn’t even plan on going into that, I just want people to understand that as the message traveled from the apostles to the second generation God confirmed it through signs and wonders which is the pattern of God in the sense that He gives confirmatory signs and wonders when He’s doing something totally new or brand new in terms of new revelation. And if the Jewish drifting away from Old Testament revelation brought discipline from God how much more will He discipline you Hebrews if you drift away? So this is a passage about divine discipline, it’s not a passage about loss of salvation.
And let me, if I can, squeeze in one more warning passage and let’s go over to chapter 3, verse 7; this is a warning against what? Disobedience. And you’ll notice beginning in Hebrews 3:6 it says, “but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—” now what he’s doing here is he’s showing that Jesus is no longer higher than the angels but now He’s higher than who? Moses, verse 5, you’ll see Moses’ name mentioned. [Hebrews 3:5, “Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later.”]
Verse 6, ”but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house– whose house we are,” look at this, “if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” See the “if” there? What’s the writer worried about? Maybe they’re not going to hold fast to new revelation, so he opens the possibility maybe they will, maybe they won’t. So that contingency interrupts his train of thought and he gives this extended warning against disobedience in chapter 3, verse 17 through chapter 4 verse 13 and once he’s finished with that he gets right back on the bunny trail and completes his logical thought process. So let me kind of show you this warning passage. Verse 6, “if” assumes the possibility that they would not.
Now notice verses 7-11, where God says He was angry with that generation. [Hebrews 3:7-11, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,  DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,  WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS.  THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’;  AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’”] It’s a citation from Psalm 95, God says I was angry with that generation and what generation is He talking about there? The Kadesh-barnea generation. So Psalm 95 goes back, it’s an allusion backwards to Numbers 13 and 14 and the debacle that took place there.
And then after he explains that debacle, verses 12-19, he starts to explain the temporal blessings that they will miss out on if they depart from the full revelation of Christ. Verse 12 you’ll experience a departure from God, it doesn’t mean they went to hell, it means they’re going to fall out of fellowship with God. [Hebrews 3:12, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.”]
Verses 13-16 you’ll start to develop a hard and insensitive heart. [13, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,  while it is said, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.’  For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?  And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.”]
And one of the things to understand as a Christian, the first time you disobey God you feel so bad about it, but the second time you disobey God and it’s the same sin you don’t feel quite as bad about it, and the third time you disobey God, you maybe feel a little less bad about it, and this is the deceitfulness of sin. It has a tendency to callous us, making us less and less sensitive to the things of God. I remember when I first got saved and I sinned, I just felt so badly about it, and as years pass and you commit the same sin again, and again and again and again you’ll notice that you don’t feel quite as convicted.
And this is the danger of moving into sin as you start to develop this very callous heart, an insensitive heart; you’ll see that in the believer, that’s what it’s talking about, verses 13-16. And it might even translate into overt rebellion one day, verse 17, which translates into a loss of blessings, verses 18-19. What blessings am I talking about? Fellowship, rewards at the Bema Seat, full authority in the millennial kingdom, that Christ wants to give to us. You miss out on maturity, every second you’re in sin is a moment you can’t mature the way God wants you do. It’s like when David sinned with Bathsheba he tried to cover his sin, I think it went on for about a year; it was a lost year. It was a lost year in terms of his walk with the Lord and that’s what unconfessed sin does, it damages our walk with the Lord, it damages our fellowship with Him. Yeah, we’re still going to heaven but look at the price tag that we’re not counting on. And God can and will into the life of the sinning believer come in with divine discipline, just like He did with the Hebrews of old, Hebrews 12:5-11.
[Hebrews 12:5-11, “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;  FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”]
Now the audience at this point is saying but we’re so persecuted, I mean, if we maintain obedience and stick with the full revelation of God we’re just going to do nothing but experience persecution from these unbelieving Jews. And this is why the author, beginning in chapter 4, introduces the concept of rest. Chapter 4, verses 1-2 he starts to explain the concept of rest; in verses 3-5 he starts to explain the pattern of rest, and even quotes creation, how God worked on days 1 through 6 of creation; what did He do on day 7? He rested, he quotes there the book of Exodus chapter 20:8-11 to that effect. And then you drop down to verses 6-10 and he starts explaining that this rest was available to David.
[Hebrews 4:1-5, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.  For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.  For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,’ although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.  For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”;  and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.”
Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”
Hebrews 5:6-10, “Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,  He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.’  For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.  So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”]
Now he’s just skipped 400 years; this rest was available to the Joshua generation, the Joshua generation didn’t have to do what they did in terms of disobedience if they had tapped into divine rest. David didn’t have to do what he did with murder and adultery, first adultery then murder, if he had tapped into the reality of divine rest.
So the big debate here is what is the rest? And a lot of people will say well, the rest is salvation. That couldn’t be true because the audience of the book already had salvation. This must be talking about something above and beyond salvation. My dear professor, Dr. Stanley Toussaint said that the rest is the millennial kingdom. Well, that never really made a lot of sense to me either because the millennial kingdom has already been offered to Israel in the ministry of Christ, rejected and what? postponed.
The rest here cannot be the millennial kingdom. The rest here cannot be salvation because they already had salvation. So then the question becomes what’s the rest? The rest starts getting described in verses 14-16 which is the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. [Hebrews 4:14-16, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”]
Jesus Christ, at the Father’s right hand, wants to give the believer rest. Verses 11-13 he exhorts them to enter that rest. [Hebrews 4:11-13, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.  For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”]
And it’s in those verses that you get your great statement about God’s Word, verse 12, “For the word of God is” what? “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Why does he give us a Bibliology, a doctrine of the Scripture here? His point is simply this: you’re accountable for the Word that you do have. God expects you to take that Word and obey it. That’s why He held the Exodus generation accountable, because they had the specific Word of God to go and occupy Canaan, which they didn’t do. So God held them accountable to the Word that they had. And the audience now is beginning to understand true divine , that they have the full revelation of Christ so you’re accountable to that revelation now that you know it. And beyond that, what you’re starting to learn is you do not have to succumb to persecution and lapse back into Judaism, and forfeit divine blessings because rest is available for the Christian. Now what is the source of that rest? It is the priesthood of Jesus after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus has three offices: prophet, priest, king. Prophet is what he was like in His First Coming; King is what He is like in His what? Second coming. Watch this very carefully, priesthood is what He is like what? Now.
Now if you go around and you talk to different Christians what you’ll discover is they know a ton about the First Coming of Christ. They know a ton about the Second Coming of Christ. But what they do not understand, and I don’t know the reason for this and I’ve even read quotes from Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his day this was a problem as well, your average Christian knows almost nothing about the present priesthood of Christ. And yet it’s the present priesthood of Christ, of all of the offices of Christ, that has the most power to help you right now as a Christian, as you go through struggles. The theologians, Dr. Chafer had a technical word for this, he called it Christ’s present session.
And I hope you don’t think that Jesus in heaven right now is just doing nothing; He is doing a ton of stuff, not the least of which is building the church, giving the church spiritual gifts, and one of the things that He is doing is He is functioning as high priest, not after the order of Aaron, which is just an earthly priesthood, but after the order of Melchizedek. And one of the things He will do for you is in the midst of your storm He will give you rest in the midst of your storm. That’s the rest; it’s not salvation, it’s not the millennial kingdom, it’s what the believer has access to presently.
So he begins to develop this beginning in verse 14. He says, “Therefore we” what? “have a great high priest.” He doesn’t say you had a high priest or you’re going to get a high priest, he basically says you’ve got one right now, “who has passed through the” what? “the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Which was their what? Their baptism. You get baptized as a Hebrew Christian, the unbelieving Jews are persecuting you, come back into the institutions of Judaism; over decades you could see how this would wear on the audience. If you go back into Judaism you’re cutting yourself off from blessings that God has for you.
So instead of succumbing to the will of man, instead of succumbing to fatigue why don’t you just go right on into your high priest, Jesus Christ, who by the way never takes a day off, who can’t wait to hear your prayer and who can’t wait to give you encouragement and strength right now, where you’re at right now so you don’t have to fall backwards and forfeit what God has for you.
And by the way you Jews, you had a high regard for Aaron who just served on the earth, but where is Jesus? He’s passed through the heavens. He’s a higher priest than Aaron because He’s not on the earth, He’s in heaven. Now can this priest really sympathize with us? I mean, He’s up in heaven, his life is easy, how can He possibly understand what I’m going through. I’m glad you asked, verse 15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in” some things… sorry, it doesn’t say that, “all things as we are, yet without sin.”
Now I’ve used this analogy before but when I played basketball I always had two kinds of coaches. I played from 7th grade all the way through my senior year in college. I had coaches that I’d never played; I had other coaches that had played. And coaches have a tendency to scream and yell and tell you to work harder, push yourself, and all this kind of stuff. Now which coach has your respect? The coach that’s been through the training you’ve been through and understands the pain you’re under. What would a guy who’s never played the game or gone through the ritual of athleticism, what would he understand about pain?
So what you have to understand about Christ is He’s the coach that’s played, He’s the coach that lived on this earth and that’s why all these statements are given in the Gospels, that “Jesus wept.” He knows what it’s like to experience grief. He was thirsty, He knows what it’s like to experience deprivation. In His humanity He didn’t even know when He was coming back, Matthew 24:36 says that. [Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”] So He knows what it’s like not to have answers, because we want answers. Well, Jesus didn’t have all the answers either. I’m not talking about in His deity, I’m talking about in His humanity.
Well, you don’t understand, somebody I trusted stabbed me in the back! Well, Jesus knows a little something about that, one of His best friends, Judas, just betrayed Him to the point of death. He understands physical agony. He tells John at the end of his life to look after my mother, He knows what it’s like to have aging parents that need help. You think of the full spectrum of life and Jesus understands all of that. So when you pray to Him you’re not praying to some disinterested being, you’re praying to someone who understands your needs and has gone through the full gamut in ways that we don’t even understand ourselves.
And then verse 16, it says, and I’ll stop with this, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,” isn’t it great that His present priesthood is a gracious priesthood, in other words, He wants to give you what you don’t deserve, which is rest or strength in the midst of your difficulties. “…let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” See, these people were needy. They were needy in the sense that they were thinking about lapsing back into Judaism. They were under persecution.
So the present priesthood of Christ is going to help them in their time of need. By the way, did you notice that it says to boldly into the throne room of God? Did you ever do that under Aaron’s system? No. You see that veil there that separates the Holy place from the Most Holy place. In fact, if you were to go… and that’s where Aaron went one time a year to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat on which day of the year? Yom Kippur, which means day of covering, which is described in which chapter of the Bible? Leviticus 16. Only one guy went behind that veil one time a year and if he messed something up he was what? Killed. That’s why there was a rope tied to the priest’s foot because if he… see the bells at the bottom of his garment? I don’t hear any ringing something must have gone wrong, well I know, I’ll charge in there and pull out his corpse. NO, because then you’ll have two corpses. So according to Jewish tradition they pulled him out through this rope.
Now compare that system, which was as good as they had, to what you have where you can just go boldly into the throne room of God any time you want to. And by the way, what happened to that veil when Jesus died? It ripped top to bottom, Matthew 27:50-51, indicating that we’re in a new priesthood now. [Matthew 27:50-51, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.”]
Do you understand how privileged we are just in the era of time that we live in? And yet we’re too busy to pray. What an insult to God and what God has provided. Prayer and going into His presence should be the top priority of the believer because that’s what’s going to help you when you’re tempted to lapse backward or sin and forfeit all kinds of blessings. And so that is what I think he’s saying in that warning passage; it isn’t talking about going to hell; it’s saying don’t go back into sin. Why? You’re going to forfeit blessings. Well, how do I prevent myself from doing that? You access your present high priest. That’s what he’s saying.
Now from there he says let me tell you about the Melchizedekian priesthood. But we have a problem because Melchizedek is an obscure figure that only shows up once in the Bible, historically. And developing the concept of the Melchizedekian priesthood will require a mature audience because he’s going to resort to typology. This is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” type of preaching here. This is not your typical three points and a poem. This is stuff that requires a mature audience and quite frankly the writer doesn’t really think that the audience is up to the task. And that’s gives him the incentive to go into his third warning, a warning you’re probably familiar with by now because we’ve been going over it, the warning against immaturity.
You see the logical flow of this book? I mean this is a brilliant piece of literature: major point, minor point, major premise, minor premise, conclusion, diversion when it’s appropriate, gets right back into its central point and I don’t know, I’m just overwhelmed at this book. But I’ll stop talking at this point. Any thoughts or questions?