In These Last Days: The Message of Hebrews
The Message of Hebrews
Lesson #2 for January 8, 2022
A Jewish document written a few decades after Hebrews, around a.d. 100, contains a prayer: “All this I have spoken before you, O Lord, because you have said that it was for us that you created this world. . . . And now, O Lord, behold, these nations, which are reputed as nothing, domineer over us and devour us. But we your people, whom you have called your first-born, only begotten, zealous for you, and most dear, have been given into their hands.”—James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983), p. 536.—[as quoted in Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sabbath, January 1].‡§
Philippians 2:10-11: 10And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will fall on their knees,
11and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.—American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Philippians 2:10-11). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡ [That will include Satan himself falling on his knees! God will not bring the great controversy to an end until every single being in the universe has acknowledged that God has done everything He could do to save as many people as possible.]‡
Hebrews 1:5-14: 5For God never said to any of his angels:
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
Nor did God say about any angel,
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son.” [ContrastRomans 1:20-28.]
6But when God was about to send his firstborn Son into the world, he said:
“All God’s angels must worship him.”
7But about the angels God said,
“God makes his angels winds,
and his servants flames of fire.”
8About the Son, however, God said:
“Your kingdom, O God, will last for ever and ever!
You rule over your people with justice.
9You love what is right and hate what is wrong.
That is why God, your God, has chosen you
and has given you the joy of an honour far greater
than he gave to your companions.”
10He also said:
“You, Lord, in the beginning created the earth,
and with your own hands you made the heavens.
11They will disappear, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like clothes.
12You will fold them up like a coat,
and they will be changed like clothes.
But you are always the same,
and your life never ends.”
13God never said to any of his angels:
“Sit here on my right
until I put your enemies as a footstool under your feet.”
14What are the angels, then? They are spirits who serve God and are sent by him to help those who are to receive salvation.—Good News Bible.*†‡
(3) God placed His Son in the seat of power over the universe. (Hebrews 1:13-14)
Strictly speaking, however, the writer of the book of Hebrews appears to be anonymous. Speculation has given rise to at least 13 possible authorial candidates, such as Luke, Barnabas, Jude, Stephen, Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos, or even Mary, the mother of Jesus. What we safely can infer about the authorship from the epistle itself are four facts:
First, the author must have been well educated. Hebrews has, by far, the best Greek of the New Testament. [It is very much like the Greek used by Luke in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts.]
Second, the author was acquainted with Jewish methods of interpreting Scripture, such as gezerah shavah (argument by analogy), and other such techniques.
Third, the author is steeped in the Jewish Scriptures. Hebrews has the most extensive use of Old Testament quotes.
Fourth, the author knew Timothy (Heb. 13:23). All of these facts speak in favor of, rather than against, Pauline authorship. Certainly, the author chose to remain anonymous for undisclosed reasons. His anonymity may even suggest that his message is more important than his identity. At the same time, we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge that Ellen G. White attests to Pauline authorship of the book of Hebrews. Moving forward in faith in that divine disclosure, we shall refer throughout the lessons with confidence to the author as Paul.—Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 26.†‡§ [Since Paul and Luke worked together and traveled together for years, is it possible that with Paul’s poor eyesight, the two of them worked together to produce Hebrews?]‡
Romans 8:3: What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like sinful human nature, to do away with sin.—Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 9:26: For then he would have had to suffer many times ever since the creation of the world. Instead, now when all ages of time are nearing the end, he has appeared once and for all, to remove sin through the sacrifice of himself.—Good News Bible.*† [There are two very different ways of explaining how that happened!]‡
Psalm 110:4: The LORD made a solemn promise and will not take it back:
“You will be a priest for ever
in the priestly order of Melchizedek.”—Good News Bible.*
Hebrews 5:5-6: 5 In the same way, Christ did not take upon himself the honour of being a high priest. Instead, God said to him:
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
6 He also said in another place,
“You will be a priest for ever, [sic]
in the priestly order of Melchizedek.”—Good News Bible.*†‡
1 Peter 2:9: But you are the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light.—Good News Bible.*
This role implies incredible privileges. Priests could approach God in the sanctuary. Today, we can approach God through prayer with confidence (Heb. 4:14-16; Heb. 10:19-23). There are, as well, important responsibilities. We must collaborate with God in His work of saving the world. He wants us to teach and explain God’s laws and precepts to others. He also wants us to offer sacrifices of praise and good works, which are pleasing to Him. What a privilege and what a responsibility!—Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Wednesday, January 5.†§
John 16:25-27: 25 “I [Jesus] have used figures of speech to tell you these things. But the time will come when I will not use figures of speech, but will speak to you plainly about the Father. 26When that day comes, you will ask him in my name; and I do not say [Notice that word not which so many ignore.] that I will ask him on your behalf, 27for the Father himself loves you. He loves you because you love me and have believed that I came from God.”—Good News Bible.*†‡
Hebrews 4:14-16: 14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.—Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 10:19-23: 19We have, then, my brothers and sisters, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.—Good News Bible.*
Genesis 2:16-17: 16 “You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, 17except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.”—Good News Bible.*†
Romans 6:23: For sin pays its wage—death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.—Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 8:8-12: 8But God finds fault with his people when he says:
“The days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will draw up a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
9It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors
on the day I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt.
They were not faithful to the covenant I made with them,
and so I paid no attention to them.
10Now, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
in the days to come, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11None of them will have to teach their fellow-citizens
or say to their fellow-citizens,
‘Know the Lord.’
For they will all know me,
from the least to the greatest.
12I will forgive their sins
and will no longer remember their wrongs.”—Good News Bible.*
By appointing Jesus as our High Priest, the Father inaugurated a new covenant that will accomplish what the old covenant could only anticipate. The new covenant delivers what only a perfect, eternal, human-divine Priest can. This High Priest not only explains the law of God but also implants the law in our hearts. This Priest offers a sacrifice that brings forgiveness. This Priest cleanses and transforms us. He transforms our hearts from stone to flesh (Ezek. 36:26). He really creates us anew (2 Cor. 5:17). This Priest blesses us in the most incredible way, by providing us access into the very presence of the Father Himself.—Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, January 6.†§
Ezekiel 36:26: [The Lord said:] “I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart.”—Good News Bible.*†‡
2 Corinthians 5:17: Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.—Good News Bible.*
Hebrews 10:37-39: 37For, as the scripture says:
“Just a little while longer,
and he who is coming will come;
he will not delay.
38My righteous people, however, will believe and live;
but if any of them turns back,
I will not be pleased with him.”
39We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved.—Good News Bible.*
Hebrews 1:1-2: 1God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.—New American Standard Bible: 1995 update.* (1995). (Hebrews 1:1–2). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.†
Paul wants to tell his audience, and us, that God spoke and still speaks. God spoke in different time periods “long ago,” and He speaks “in these last days.” He speaks to different recipients: the “fathers” and “us.” He speaks through different agents: the “prophets” and the “Son.” God speaks “in many ways.”
What are some of His avenues of communication? God speaks face-to-face with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). God speaks to Moses from a burning bush, something we call a theophany, a revelation of God (Exod. 3:2–6); to Balaam through a donkey (Num. 22:28); to the boy Samuel, calling him by name (1 Sam. 3:10); to Elijah in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12); through a vision to Isaiah in the temple (Isa. 6:1–9); and to Hosea through his family circumstances (Hos. 1:2). All these modes of communication have one thing in common: they are incomplete.
The ultimate and climactic utterance of God is “in these last days,” when He speaks through His “Son.” Not only does God speak through the words of Jesus, but God also speaks through Jesus’ actions and character. God’s revelation is progressive. But the progression is not from true to truer, from mature to more mature. Rather, it is a forward and onward movement in His revelation of Himself to humanity. When speaking through the words and actions of Jesus, God Himself is the speaker.—Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 27.†§
(1) Jesus Christ is “appointed heir of all things.” (Hebrews 1:2) If He is the principal Heir, His followers should be coheirs with Him and are “those who are to inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) SeeRevelation 21:7 and1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which clearly state that those who conquer will inherit the kingdom of God while wrongdoers will not.
(2) Christ is superior to the angels because He was the original Creation Agent. All things were created by Him. God created us in the beginning, and He will have the power to re-create us at the second coming.
(3) Christ is “the reflection of God’s glory.” (Hebrews 1:3) The Greek term translated exact imprint refers to character and implies a mark impressed on an object, especially on coins. Both descriptions of Jesus as God’s “reflection” and as the “exact imprint” indicate that Jesus is the full and adequate representation of the Father. What Paul conveyed is like what Jesus said: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9, NRSV*) If we want to know what God is like, we should get acquainted with Jesus.
(4) Christ not only created us but also He continually sustains us. (SeeHebrews 1:3; Acts 17:25,28; Psalm 104: 29.)
(5) Christ managed to do away with sins. He will purify us if we cooperate with Him. (Hebrews 1:3) By studying the life and death of Jesus Christ, we can get a picture of the Perfect Pattern which we are to follow. Making “purification for sins” means more than forgiveness for past sins, it also includes help in preventing us from committing those sins again.
(6) Having accomplished everything which He set out to do in the great controversy through His mission to this earth, He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. This was predicted long before inPsalm 110:1. (CompareHebrews 1:13.)
(7) We see that Christ is much superior to angels. (Hebrews 1:4) InHebrews 1:5-13, Paul noted some ways in which Christ is superior.
In summary, what makes Christ superior to angels? God spoke in many and various ways to the fathers in the past; but in these last days, He speaks through the Son, who became Heir of all things, is the Creator of all things, is the reflection and imprint of God’s very being, sustains all things, made purification for sins, and sat down at the right hand of God. Thus, Christ is exalted above, and superior to, the angels, who are ministering spirits in service to those who inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). Moreover, Christ accepts worship on His throne at the right hand of God. Christ is our King.—Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 28.†§
Hebrews 12:24: You have come to Jesus, who arranged the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that promises much better things than does the blood of Abel.—Good News Bible.*†
©2021, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Brackets and content in brackets are added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. €This source has minor wording differences compared with the first source and may also have punctuation and/or capitalization differences.
Last Modified: December 20, 2021
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