Survey of the Book of HebrewsAuthor: The book of Hebrews is located next to the Pauline epistles in the Bible, so many people automatically assume that Paul is the author. However, it is not clear who the author of Hebrews is. The book is lacking the customary greeting that the letters of Paul have. Some attribute the book to Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Philip, or Aquila and Priscilla. Regardless of who the human author is, Hebrews is God-breathed inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).
Date of Writing: Approximately AD 65. This is based on the fact that Timothy was alive during the writing of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:23) and that the Old Testament sacrificial system was still in place. That sacrificial system ended in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. In AD 95, there are records of Clement, the early church father, quoting from Hebrews.
Purpose: This book was written for Hebrews—possibly by a fellow Hebrew. The early Jewish believers were facing a lot of persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Because of this, many of them were slipping back into their former practices of Judaism as a way out of being persecuted. This letter to the Hebrews exhorts them to persist through the persecution and stay the course of their faith in Jesus Christ by the grace of God.
Hebrews 1:1–2: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."
Hebrews 2:3: "How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? …"
Hebrews 4:12–13: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
Hebrews 4:14–16: "Since then 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 is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 10:12–14: " But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."
Hebrews 10:23–25: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Hebrews 11:6: "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
Hebrews 12:1–2: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
Brief Summary: The focus of the book of Hebrews is on the superiority of Christ to all others and in all areas, from His character and personage to His works. It explains how the Old Testament rites and rituals were symbolic gestures to the coming Messiah, a mere shadow of what was to come through Christ. All religious rites and rituals fall short when looking to the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. So, Hebrews was written to reveal the superiority of Christ and how He is better than the religion practices and traditions the Jews had known before.
There are three specific groups of people addressed at different points throughout Hebrews, and it is important to pay attention to who is being spoken to at each of them. The groups are: 1) those who believed in Christ already, 2) those who did not believe yet, but were familiar with Christ and the facts about His life. These people had intellectual knowledge, but were undecided as far as their own personal decisions to follow Christ were concerned; and 3) unbelievers who were interested in Christ but in the end chose to reject Him.
Connections: As mentioned, the book of Hebrews looks back to the Old Testament, specifically, the Levitical priesthood. The sacrificial system of the Old Testament required continual sacrifices and a large annual atonement for sins, which was offered by a priest, for the forgiveness of sins. Only the high priest could enter into the most holy place where God's presence symbolically dwelled, and he could only do so one day per year (the Day of Atonement).
The Mosaic law, complete with the sacrificial system of the temple, is commonly referred to as being the old covenant. With Jesus came the new covenant. Hebrews 9:15 says, "Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant." Jesus' sacrifice of Himself was a once-for-all offering (Hebrews 10:10). His resurrection proved that. Those who have trusted in Jesus "have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19–22). Jesus provided full atonement for sins and direct access to God for all who believe.
Practical Application: The book of Hebrews provides an abundance of encouragement, wisdom, and warnings to mind as we walk along in our journey with God. Hebrews 11 is full of personal stories of heroes of the faith from the Old Testament who persevered through great trials and still walked with God. They are encouraging reminders to modern believers that God is always faithful, and no matter the difficulty of our circumstances, we can be confident in Him. We have all these examples of faithful saints to look to for confident assurance that what God did to help them, He will also do for us.
Hebrews also provides us with five specific dangers to our faith that we must always be vigilant to look out for: neglect (Hebrews 2:1–4), unbelief (Hebrews 3:7—4:13), spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11—6:20), lack of endurance (Hebrews 10:26–39), and refusing God who is speaking to us (Hebrews 12:25–29).
Hebrews is a rich epistle filled with encouragement, Christian doctrine, and wise warnings; all of these things are focused on helping us to walk with Christ without fear. It reminds us about the coming Kingdom. Things will be shaken, but the coming kingdom of God cannot be shaken: "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28–29). Perhaps most importantly, the book of Hebrews shows us just how incredible our Lord Jesus Christ is and just how amazing is His gift of salvation. He is "the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).
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