The Epistle to the Hebrews has been called “The Epistle of the Opened Heavens.”
Believers are journeying through a desert world but the glory shines from heaven above and brightens the pathway and cheers the heart as we travel on to the glory land.
We are going to travel through the book together, and as we do, we will notice that the heavens are opened to us, and “we see Jesus” crowned with glory and honor, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He is there for us, our Great High Priest.
It is good for us to look up and see Him there, and have our gaze fixed on Him; for thus our hearts are weaned from this world. We follow where He has gone before and “His strength is ours on the road” as we pass through this weary scene to where He is in the glory.
The word “Hebrew” means “one who goes,” that is a pilgrim. Abraham was the first Hebrew (see Gen. 14:13) and the father of the faithful. It was a word from heaven that made him a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth. The God of glory appeared to him. If we have heard the voice of God calling us and if we have followed the heavenly call and vision, we too are Hebrews. We are those who “go on.” That phrase is one of the keynotes to our Epistle—“Let us go on.”
What powerful, mighty voice so near
Calls me from earth apart—
Reaches with tones so still, so clear,
From the unseen world, my heart?
That is why this letter begins with God speaking to us. He is calling us apart from earth. He would have us view the glory of the unseen world. He would have us walk in separation unto Himself and with Himself.
That is why the human author is out of sight although Peter suggests that Paul wrote a letter to his Jewish brethren. Hebrews is the book of the sanctuary, and in the sanctuary God’s voice is heard. With unshod feet we enter and listen. The book of the sanctuary in the Old Testament—Leviticus—begins as does our Epistle with the voice of God: “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Lev. 1:1).
God who at sundry tunes, in olden days
Spoke through prophetic lips, made known His ways,
In the Incarnate Son, to whom all knees must bow
Spoke to make known Himself, is speaking now.
The simple fact that God does speak to us is amazing. Why should He condescend to do so? But He does speak and the heart rejoices in hearing His voice. To some the speech of God is simply the accepted fact of a creed and has become commonplace. To others it is the most wonderful of all facts, for God has told out all His heart in His speech. He speaks directly to us. He speaks fully, revealing all His counsel. He speaks finally, there is no need for further speech once He has spoken. His words are words of love, words of salvation, words of Lordship, and words of hope.
God spoke in times past. Even Adam heard His voice in the garden, but He could not say all He wanted to say in the old days. God was giving the various letters of the alphabet then, but now we have the entire alphabet in His Son. He is Alpha and Omega, the sum total of all that God has to say to us. The narrow river of God’s revelation running through the ages has widened into a majestic ocean.
After Christ, God has no more to say. One has said, “A climax is reached. If the diapason of God’s creation closed on man, the diapason of His revelation closes on a Man, the Head of a new and regenerated race, Christ Jesus.”
Some years ago a young man lay on the operating table in a hospital. A skilled surgeon stood near. A group of students stood round about. Presently, bending over the patient, the surgeon said, “My friend, if you wish to say anything you now have the opportunity; but I must warn you that your words will be the last words you will ever utter. Thinkwell, therefore, what you wish to say.”
The young man, apparently lost in thought, waited. A deep solemnity settled over the faces of the onlookers. What words would he choose for such an occasion? Some time passed; then the lips parted, and at the sound of his voice tears came to the eyes of those present; “Thank God, Jesus Christ.” Those were his last words.
God’s last words to man are summed up in Jesus Christ. Long He paused before He gave them utterance. Four hundred years of silence elapsed between the last of the prophets and the Son. Then came those wonderful three and a half years of glory, the great heart throb, the solemn climax of the revelation of God to man. After them God could say nothing more. All His wisdom, all His power, all the depths of His fathomless love had been exhausted.
1. THE AUTHOR. Anonymous in contrast to the other epistles. Traditionally Paul’s. Internal evidence—author associated with Timothy (Heb. 13:23). External evidence—Paul wrote a letter to the Hebrews (2 Peter 3:15).
2. THE DATE. Written before the destruction of Jerusalem, thus before A.D. 70. See chapter 10:11; 8:4; cf. 9:8.
3. THE THEME. The priesthood of Christ at the right hand of God, and the superiority of Christianity over Judaism.
4. THE ARGUMENT. Christ is superior to all that pertained to the old dispensation. Angels give place to the Son; Moses, the servant of the house, gives place to Christ who is the Builder; Joshua the ancient captain who led Israel into Canaan, gives place to Christ the Captain of salvation who is now conducting the children to glory; Aaron, the earthly and dying priest, gives place to the true Melchisedek who lives and serves in the heavenly temple forever. The old covenant gives place to the new which Jesus administers; and at the same time the old carnal or earthly ordinances give place to the spiritual and efficacious ministrations of the heavenly Priest. Finally, the blood of the victims gives place to the blood of Christ, offered through the eternal Spirit.
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“A photograph is the shadow of a mansion but a legatee would not be satisfied with a photograph. He would go on to take possession of the mansion of which the photo was the shadow. The Hebrew Christians were inclined to be satisfied with the photo, the shadow.”
In chapters 1-7 we Consider Christ. In chapters 8-10 we find ourselves Accepted in Him. In chapters 11-13 we are Rejected with Him.
In Romans we have a court scene. The law speaks, but the Judge justifies on the ground of redemption. The keyword is Justification. We are cleared.
In Hebrews we enter the Holy Place. The law is hid beneath the mercy seat. The keyword is Sanctification. We are holy.