The evidence from the early church fathers indicates the apostle Paul wrote this letter. For convenience, I shall assume this in my comments. Perhaps someone close to Paul soon translated it into Greek substituting Old Testaments quotations from the Septuagint (rather than translating them) and making other slight modifications.
God spoke to the human race through the Old Testament prophets and we are blessed their prophecies got written down.
Paul uses the term "fathers" to refer to those of Old Testament times, to those who came before and taught truth. We might object to calling our local priest by this title, especially if he doesn't seem to grasp the essence of the Christian faith, but we should certainly be willing to call the founders, teachers, and defenders of the Christian faith by this term — the church fathers.
(Hebrews 1:2) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
(Hebrews 1:3) Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
We should wonder why it's emphasized so strongly that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, after all, as second person of the Trinity he is God also and has always been so. The only sensible explanation is that he deified human nature.
(Hebrews 1:4) Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
(Hebrews 1:10) And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
(Hebrews 1:11) They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
This extended passage comparing Christ with the angels indicates some sort of wrong views of both. Perhaps a Jewish idea that angels created the world, maybe this as a precursor to gnosticism. The book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrews, not the Gentiles, so it likely addresses Jewish perspectives. Some Jewish groups had adopted wild ideas not found in the Old Testament.
(Hebrews 1:14) Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
(Hebrews 2:1) Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
(Hebrews 2:2) For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast [unchanging], and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward [punishment];
(Hebrews 2:3) How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
This verse seems to say the writer was taught by the apostles, and therefore, Paul was not the writer. But if it was translated into Greek soon after Paul wrote it by someone close to Paul, they might have modified verses such as this one not realizing the confusion this would later cause. But note the verse says only that the gospel message was confirmed by the apostles, and Paul did meet with them to ensure he was teaching it correctly.
(Hebrews 2:4) God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
(Hebrews 2:5) For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
(Hebrews 2:8) Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
(Hebrews 2:9) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
(Hebrews 2:10) For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain [author] of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
(Hebrews 2:11) For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
(Hebrews 2:14) Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
It is remarkable to learn that Satan has the power of death over us. This implies that he has incredible power over the created realm in which we reside; perhaps even that he had some sort of creative power which made it such a bad world in the first place.
Christians typically assume that Satan is just like us in that he merely resides in this world as we do and is confined by this world as we are. They don't consider that he actually participated in creating the world in its present condition (using the power God granted to him).
(Hebrews 2:15) And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Our fear of death drives us in this life. Even when we are not consciously thinking about death, our soul (which resides in the spiritual realm) is fully aware of it at all times. Our soul is pummelled and buffeted by the wicked spirits residing along with us in Satan's kingdom of darkness. We are so weak. I am reminded of small children who are so fragile but yet are treated so badly by other children — no wonder they cry. I'm surprised anyone survives childhood unscathed (maybe no one does).
This verse states we are in bondage because of our fear of death. This implies that if we had no fear of death, we would not be in bondage.
(Hebrews 2:16) For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
(Hebrews 2:17) Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
(Hebrews 2:18) For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
(Hebrews 3:1) Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Christ functions in every role: king, high priest, prophet, apostle.
(Hebrews 3:2) Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
(Hebrews 3:3) For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
(Hebrews 3:4) For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
(Hebrews 3:5) And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
(Hebrews 3:6) But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
(Hebrews 3:7) Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
(Hebrews 3:8) Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
(Hebrews 3:9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
The young nation of Israel seemingly got off to such a good start, until hardships appeared. All during the 40 years wandering in the desert they daily witnessed God's miraculous work; the manna and other things.
(Hebrews 3:10) Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
(Hebrews 3:11) So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
(Hebrews 3:12) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
(Hebrews 3:13) But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
(Hebrews 3:14) For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
(Hebrews 3:15) While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
(Hebrews 3:16) For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
(Hebrews 3:17) But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
(Hebrews 3:18) And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
The phrase "enter into rest" (and its variations) refers to those who receive a promise from God which must be appropriated by faith. After a time of trial in which they exercise faith in God's promise and in God, at the end of it all, there is rest. It is significant that those who died in the wilderness seemed at first to have faith because they left Egypt, full of hope. But when hardships came, they soon lost sight of the glorious vision.
(Hebrews 3:19) So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
(Hebrews 4:1) Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
As Christians, we are given glorious promises which we must appropriate by faith. For the Israelites, the rest referred to was entering into the promised land, into Canaan; for Christians it is entering into the new heavens and new earth.
People often use these passages as an example of typology, that the entering into the promised land is a type of entering into the new heavens and new earth. I don't find this kind of distinction to be particularly useful and it has it dangers. For example, I have heard people claim that these Israelites who died in the desert were not redeemed since dying in the desert is a type of dying in your sins. This is absurd! The rest they were promised consisted simply of having their own nation in the promised land, that is all. There is simply no connection between them living long enough to possess the promised land and their ultimate eternal redemption. This story illustrates an aspect of how God works and has its ultimate fulfillment in eternal redemption.
If people merely used Old Testament stories to illustrate how God operates, I would not object. But they often link together the meaning of the stories for us today with the fate of those ancient actors in these stories. Some even go so far as saying that no one at all in the Old Testament is redeemed because all they had was the law which only brings death.
(Hebrews 4:2) For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
(Hebrews 4:3) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
(Hebrews 4:4) For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
(Hebrews 4:5) And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
(Hebrews 4:6) Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
They must do the work of entering. They must obey this command. Therefore, obedience is necessary for salvation.
(Hebrews 4:7) Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
(Hebrews 4:8) For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
(Hebrews 4:9) There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
(Hebrews 4:10) For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
(Hebrews 4:11) Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
(Hebrews 4:12) For the word of God is quick [living], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Several common errors in interpreting this verse...
The word of God is living. This is because it resides in the spiritual realm, and everything in the spiritual realm is living. Just as living beings can act upon other living beings and upon the physical world, so also the word of God has power.
Jesus fights against error and false teaching with the two-edged sword. In my view, symbols have a literal existence in the spiritual realm. Thus, in Revelation 5 we see Jesus as a sacrificial lamb having been slain, and so he is. In John 6 Jesus claims to be the bread of life which we are to literally consume; this occurs during the Eucharist. God's word penetrates every aspect of our being, both soul and body. God's word knows our thoughts and intents. God's word is God himself in a form that interacts with his created cosmos, spiritual and physical.
In that culture probably everyone knew how to prepare meat so the phrase "joints and marrow" referred to inside the animal in the physical realm.
Swords can be sharp or dull. Sharp swords and knives are effective, as is the word of God. These are different kinds of sharpness: swords and knives cut physical objects; the word of God penetrates into the inmost depths of our soul in the spiritual realm.
(Hebrews 4:13) Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
(Hebrews 4:14) Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
(Hebrews 4:15) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
(Hebrews 4:16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
This high priest has a throne — he is both king and priest after the order of Melchizedek, who Paul will refer to shortly. In coming to Jesus to receive his grace of redemption, we must think of him as a ruler who has the power to grant such things. And we must humbly ask him to grant it; those arrogant Christians who think God owes them their salvation are in big trouble.
(Hebrews 5:1) For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
The role of high priest in the Old Testament nation of Israel was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of their sins. Note that this is not the role of the pope; and the Catholic Church doesn't teach this about the pope and never has.
(Hebrews 5:2) Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
(Hebrews 5:3) And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
(Hebrews 5:4) And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
(Hebrews 5:5) So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
Note that the second person of the Trinity is eternally in the state of being begotten; of being called to perform tasks. He was never born in the way a person is born, at some past date of our lives. But just as I will forever by my father's son, so also, the second person of the Trinity is eternally the Son of the Father. Their relationship did not begin on a certain day as did mine which started due the birth event. There was no birth event in the Trinity, just the eternal condition of having been born.
The significance of this is that Jesus understands how we feel in being someone's son since he is also. And he always looks to the Father with that respect and admiration of a son. The relationship of the persons of the Trinity are not generic, undefined relationships; rather, they have real tangible significance.
In a like manner, Jesus forever will love his mother, Mary, as only a son can. She will forever be to him the "mother of God", not because she is deity (she isn't) but because he is.
(Hebrews 5:7) Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
(Hebrews 5:8) Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
(Hebrews 5:9) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
(Hebrews 5:10) Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec [Melchizedek].
(Hebrews 5:11) Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered [explain], seeing ye are dull of hearing.
Paul has many things to say about Jesus but thinks his listeners are so dull-witted that it is hard for him to explain it all. Or perhaps they are merely disinterested in the topic. I wonder if it is worth trying to teach someone who doesn't want to learn? This does not bode well for the future of Christianity if the average Christian was so unable to learn the truths of the faith. Perhaps this is part of the reason that the bishops very early started exerting such strong control and emphasizing the rites and rituals instead of each Christian having a Holy Spirit-enlivened faith life?
(Hebrews 5:12) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Paul is apparently speaking with people who could potentially be teachers, perhaps not to the average Christian at-large but, rather, to well-to-do entrepreneurial types of people. He chides them severely for not rising to their potential after, presumably, a long time of hearing preaching from apostles.
(Hebrews 5:13) For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
(Hebrews 5:14) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
(Hebrews 6:1) Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us go on unto perfection [maturity]; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Paul has been chiding them because they should be teachers, but are still babes in Christ; he wants to move on to more advanced topics. He expects Christians to become mature in their faith. A mature faith builds on the foundational teachings which he lists.
(Hebrews 6:2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
More elementary teachings...
So here is Paul's answer to the question: "what must I do to be saved?" You must repent of your sin and look to God in faith. You must be baptized because your sins are remitted then. You must hope in a yet-future resurrection of the dead at which time you will receive the final reward of the new heavens and new earth — if you are judged worthy.
(Hebrews 6:3) And this will we do, if God permit.
If these dull-witted potential teachers of the faith can master the elementary essentials of the faith, Paul will someday teach them more advanced topics. I can't imagine what these topics might be. Perhaps devotional practices, or Church governance, or counseling techniques; perhaps living with a true sense of joy and peace, of serving others.
(Hebrews 6:4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
This verse says it is impossible, not improbable or unlikely, implying those in this category who fall away from the faith will never return to it. Does this allow for some who might have a deathbed conversion?
If they choose to not perfect their life of faith to its full potential, here is why — it's impossible for someone who refuses to do so, who chooses to remain a babe. They've heard the elementary teachings time and time again.
(Hebrews 6:5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
(Hebrews 6:6) If [since] they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
The will can't be turned once it sets course on a direction. Perhaps it's stated as impossible because the writer has never seen any contrary examples. Usually when a Christian apostasies, it is permanent.
They become bored by it due to disinterest. The message fails to excite them long term. Their interest fades and they go through the motions, perhaps abandoning the faith altogether. In rejecting the gospel they again crucify Jesus in that, rather than receiving the benefits of it in faith, they participate in it as did the people who shouted, "crucify him". Some of those were once disciples but they lost interest and ended up shouting.
(Hebrews 6:7) For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet [suitable] for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
You can only receive blessings from God if you allow it to penetrate your thirsty soul.
(Hebrews 6:8) But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
(Hebrews 6:9) But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Works are necessary for salvation.
(Hebrews 6:10) For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
(Hebrews 6:11) And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Four words we wouldn't expect to see together: hope, assurance, diligence, end. We are to focus our hope on the end state, on the new heavens and new earth, not on some condition during this life. Certainly we wish to have assurance that we will end up there, but we cannot have this assurance without diligence. Anyone who is not living out the virtues or who is committing mortal sin should be worried.
(Hebrews 6:12) That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
(Hebrews 6:13) For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
(Hebrews 6:14) Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
(Hebrews 6:15) And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
(Hebrews 6:16) For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
(Hebrews 6:17) Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
(Hebrews 6:18) That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
(Hebrews 6:19) Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Paul uses the image of the cities of refuge in which a person who had accidentally committed a crime could flee to for refuge and they could hang onto the horns of the altar for safety. No one was to harm them until there was a proper trial. Christ and his sacrificial work on our behalf is to be our refuge and we are to cling to him for safety from the eternal judgment of sin.
(Hebrews 6:20) Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec [Melchizedek].
The whole point of this extended discussion of Melchizedek is to show that the Old Testament teaches the Messiah is a high priest even though not descended from the Levites.
(Hebrews 7:1) For this Melchisedec [Melchizedek], king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
(Hebrews 7:2) To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
(Hebrews 7:3) Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
(Hebrews 7:4) Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
(Hebrews 7:5) And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
(Hebrews 7:6) But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
(Hebrews 7:7) And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
(Hebrews 7:8) And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
(Hebrews 7:9) And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
(Hebrews 7:10) For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec [Melchizedek] met him.
(Hebrews 7:11) If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec [Melchizedek], and not be called after the order of Aaron?
(Hebrews 7:12) For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
They spend a lot of time talking about law and ritual and the priesthood, as does the Catholic Church. I once thought this kind of argument was valid: if Old Testament Israel had such and such characteristics then so should the Church, being phase two of Israel. The problem with this line of reasoning is that these long-winded discussions by the apostles about the nature of Israel are all for the purpose of showing characteristics of Jesus and who he is, not explaining the nature of the Church. An example of the absurdity is in claiming that Catholic priests through the sacrament of Holy Orders act in the person of Christ when confecting the Eucharist.
(Hebrews 7:13) For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
(Hebrews 7:14) For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
(Hebrews 7:15) And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec [Melchizedek] there ariseth another priest,
(Hebrews 7:16) Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
(Hebrews 7:18) For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
(Hebrews 7:19) For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
(Hebrews 7:20) And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
(Hebrews 7:21) (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec [Melchizedek]:)
(Hebrews 7:22) By so much was Jesus made a surety [guarantee] of a better testament [covenant].
(Hebrews 7:23) And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered [allowed] to continue by reason of death:
(Hebrews 7:24) But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
(Hebrews 7:25) Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
(Hebrews 7:26) For such an high priest became [was suitable to] us, who is holy, harmless [blameless], undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than [exalted above] the heavens;
(Hebrews 7:27) Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
(Hebrews 7:28) For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
(Hebrews 8:1) Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
We should wonder why it's emphasized so strongly that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, after all, as second person of the Trinity he is God also and has always been so. The only sensible explanation is that he deified human nature.
(Hebrews 8:2) A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
(Hebrews 8:3) For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
(Hebrews 8:4) For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
(Hebrews 8:5) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
(Hebrews 8:6) But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
(Hebrews 8:7) For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
The Old Testament covenant was flawed. Why would Christians wish to emulate its characteristics such as laws, rules, rites, priests, priestly authority? This is an example of needing to refer to the teachings and practice of the apostolic church. We should certainly emulate them since the apostles are the authority.
(Hebrews 8:8) For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
The phrase "for finding fault with them" explains why God wished to create a New Covenant. The Old Covenant did not have the power to make people truly righteous; in fact, it was never intended to do this. It provided the context for righteous living for those living under the Old Covenant and it pointed the way to the New Covenant. Many who sincerely attempted to please God through faith in his Old Covenant were redeemed. The Old Covenant did not require perfection, but provided for repentance, confession, and God's forgiveness.
The New Covenant has these same ingredients. When we sin, we must repent, then come to God pleading for his forgiveness. Because of the false doctrine of once-saved-always-saved, many Christians think they can sin with impunity and it does not put their salvation at risk. But God judges us based on our works; the Bible is very clear about this point.
(Hebrews 8:9) Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
(Hebrews 8:10) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
Even in the new covenant we are to follow God's law. Christians often claim to be free from law, but this is not so. The difference now is that we don't have an external institution of laws commanding us what to do and enforcing our behavior (someone please inform the Catholic Church of this), rather, the laws are written in our heart and in our mind. We are to learn the laws and obey them through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The new covenant is a covenant with the house of Israel, and this is the Church. Gentiles who join the Church are grafted-in to the body of this house of Israel.
The Church is to be a people, a nation.
(Hebrews 8:11) And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
(Hebrews 8:12) For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
(Hebrews 8:13) In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth [grows] old is ready to vanish away.
(Hebrews 9:1) Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
This is a surprising verse if you notice carefully; it's the opposite of what we would expect, of what we are usually taught. Just as the new covenant has ordinances, so also the first covenant had ordinances too. We look to the Old Testament not to see what to discard in Christianity but, rather, to understand the meaning of our rules and laws, those written on our minds and hearts.
Notice carefully the reference to the worldly sanctuary; meaning the holy place within the tabernacle first, later the temple. Only priests could enter to perform their divine service.
(Hebrews 9:2) For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
The first sanctuary was the holy place within the tabernacle first, later the temple. Only priests could enter. The phrase "first tabernacle" and the word "sanctuary" refer to the same thing.
(Hebrews 9:3) And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
(Hebrews 9:4) Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
The Holy of Holies was said to contain the altar of incense even though it was actually within the holy place (the sanctuary). Probably because prayers were offered to God via the incense with the censer in order to make the high priest holy so he could enter the Holy of Holies and to bless God. For those of you who don't know what a censer is, it's a container of burning incense, having a lid with holes, and some long chains to hold it with. By swinging it from the chains the incense is sort of aimed at a holy object you want to bless or honor. It's a very sacred occasion.
(Hebrews 9:5) And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Within the Holy of Holies was ark of the covenant. The cover of the ark was called the mercy seat with cherubims attached. The presence of God, the Shekinah Glory, rested on this seat. The writer doesn't want to go off on a tangent and so abandons the topic of the mercy seat and Shekinah Glory.
(Hebrews 9:6) Now when these things were thus ordained [prepared], the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
The phrase "first tabernacle" refers to the holy place within the tabernacle first, later the temple. The subject matter jumps back to the holy place, to the first tabernacle and the service of the priests involving the candlestick and the table with its the shewbread.
(Hebrews 9:7) But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
(Hebrews 9:8) The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
Such an awkward sentence. The idea is that, as long as there were priests in the holy place performing their appointed service multiple times a day, no one except the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies. In other words, before Christ, access to the Shekinah Glory could only be provided when the temple worship at the worldly temple was being performed. Christians no longer need to involve themselves in these kinds of rites and rituals. Strange that the Catholic Church tries to mimic it all.
(Hebrews 9:9) Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
The high priest had to perform the prescribed rituals each year before entering the Holy of Holies. The implication is that once was not enough; he knew that the people and himself were still unclean and would require doing this procedure again the following year. This is what is meant in referring to the conscience of the high priest.
(Hebrews 9:10) Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers [diverse] washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Only with the reformation, the new order, instituted by Christ would all this change and the rituals would no longer be needed. Strange that the Catholic Church tries to mimic it all.
(Hebrews 9:11) But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
There is a third tabernacle, even better than the Holy of Holies. The first tabernacle was the holy place; the second was the Holy of Holies; both of these were in the tabernacle first, later the temple. Notice the two uses of the term tabernacle: (1) the structure made by Moses, (2) the two rooms in this tabernacle and later in the temple, each of these rooms called a tabernacle.
The Catholic Church refers to the box they keep the consecrated host in as the tabernacle. Technically this is an incorrect usage of the term. This third tabernacle in not made with hands.
(Hebrews 9:12) Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
The holy place, the third tabernacle, is in heaven.
Those of the Old Covenant were made ceremonially clean through animal sacrifice. This was a way of making the person feel they had paid God for the consequences of their transgressions, to restore their broken fellowship with God. They knew sin damaged their relationship with God and needed a way to restore it.
(Hebrews 9:14) How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Christ used the same means of redeeming human nature, of deifying it. He took on a human body and suffered the same indignities as us, including death. Since we should live our lives feeling free from the guilt caused when we sin, we look to Christ's provision of redemption. To Paul, as a Jew, the death of Christ was especially significant, as a one-time final sacrifice to supercede all those animal sacrifices.
(Hebrews 9:15) And for this cause [reason] he is the mediator of the new testament [covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption [ransom] of the transgressions that were under the first testament [covenant], they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
(Hebrews 9:16) For where a testament [will] is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
If you have a will about what to do with your stuff when you die; it is triggered by your death, not before.
(Hebrews 9:17) For a testament [will] is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
(Hebrews 9:18) Whereupon neither the first testament [covenant] was dedicated without blood.
This is an invalid argument, in my opinion; it is based merely on the same word used for both since they are both contracts or covenants. A will is nothing like the Mosaic covenant. Finding similarities is pointless.
(Hebrews 9:19) For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
(Hebrews 9:20) Saying, This is the blood of the testament [covenant] which God hath enjoined unto you.
(Hebrews 9:21) Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
Just as sprinkling the blood of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament cleanses the worshippers, so also, sprinkling the blood of Jesus on believers cleanses us of our sin and puts us in right standing with God.
(Hebrews 9:22) And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
(Hebrews 9:23) It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Jesus purified the spiritual realm. Thus, he constrained the influence of the wicked spirit beings who seek to destroy us. Jesus invaded their territory and provided a way for us humans who are tangled up in it all via original sin to escape.
(Hebrews 9:24) For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
(Hebrews 9:25) Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
(Hebrews 9:26) For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The time of Christ's first coming is called the end of the world. Most people think the end times are yet-future from our current day, but the apostles considered the end times to have been a present reality at the time of Christ.
(Hebrews 9:27) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
(Hebrews 9:28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
I wonder if this second time Jesus appears refers to this time of judgment at each person's death? This makes more sense than assuming it refers to Christ's second coming at the end of this current world order, just before the general resurrection.
(Hebrews 10:1) For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
Many Christians interpret this to mean that no one in Old Testament days was redeemed. But even the worshippers of Old Testament days needed faith, that's why the prophets scolded them announcing that God hates their sacrifices, because they had incorrectly started seeking salvation by works only.
Many Christians also interpret this verse to mean we are not to become perfect, in fact, that we can't become perfect. Certainly our works don't make us perfect, which Paul admits. But Jesus and the apostles exhort us to perfection.
(Hebrews 10:2) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
(Hebrews 10:3) But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
(Hebrews 10:4) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
For those faithful Jews of Old Testament times, their animal sacrifices were effective and the animals did not die in vain. These sacrifices prepared the worshippers for receiving Christ's preaching of salvation when he went into "hell" after his crucifixion. Those who had devoutly performed the prescribed rituals would willingly receive him.
The next few verses (5–9) are quotes from Jesus not found in the gospels. They are loosely based on Psalms 40:6-8.
I think what is going on here is Paul frames Christ's teaching on the subject as if it were a quote from Psalm 40. This fails miserably because it misrepresents him, preparing the way for the wrong-headed view that Old Testament sacrifices didn't do anything at all. The Septuagint version of this being different than the Hebrew gets tangled up in this as well.
(Hebrews 10:6) In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure [not approved].
These are the words of Jesus. He did away with the Old Testament sacrificial system by giving himself as a sacrifice for sins.
These are the words of Jesus quoting from a Psalm of David.
(Hebrews 10:8) Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
(Hebrews 10:10) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:11) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
(Hebrews 10:12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
We should wonder why it's emphasized so strongly that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, after all, as second person of the Trinity he is God also and has always been so. The only sensible explanation is that he deified human nature.
(Hebrews 10:13) From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
(Hebrews 10:14) For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
(Hebrews 10:15) Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
(Hebrews 10:16) This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
(Hebrews 10:17) And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
(Hebrews 10:18) Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
(Hebrews 10:19) Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
(Hebrews 10:20) By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
(Hebrews 10:21) And having an high priest over the house of God;
(Hebrews 10:22) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
(Hebrews 10:23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
(Hebrews 10:24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
(Hebrews 10:25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
I have serious questions about this. What were Christians in the early church to do if their bishop was an Arian (as most were) or some other kind of heretic? No one seems to talk about this issue or provide any guidance at all. They admit there are heretics and condemn them in the harshest of terms, and they even counsel Christians to avoid them. But how were these early Christians to even know if their bishop was a heretic or not? And what about later in church history, when bishops seemed to have no concern whatsoever for the Christians under their charge? And I have the same problem today: the Catholic Church has clear errors of teaching, the Episcopalians seem to care more about LGBT and feminist causes than in proclaiming the gospel, the Lutherans seem to think that Luther's rantings and ravings qualify as a statement of faith, most fundamentalist evangelical Protestants have many false doctrines, and etc. etc. Which church would Paul wish me to attend? (I attend church weekly, mass.)
When is this soon approaching day? The only sensible answer is, at each person's death when they meet Christ and are judged. There may also be a reference here to the destruction of the temple which would occur in 70 A.D.
Most churches I have attended do not provide for opportunities to exhort one another; it is simply not part of their culture. Allowing others to exhort you would require developing a certain level of trust and intimacy. This is supposed to be one of the purposes of going to church, but once you expose your flaws and sins publicly it becomes part or the community gossip disguised as prayer and intercession. How many times I hear about someone, for God to get them back on the straight and narrow — then I finally meet them and wonder; are you a rapist? or a murderer? or drug addict? Do I want you in my home doing remodeling? And should I keep my daughter or children away from you? I consider this kind of "spiritual gossip" to be a serious mortal sin, putting people's salvation at risk.
(Hebrews 10:26) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
(Hebrews 10:27) But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
(Hebrews 10:28) He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
(Hebrews 10:29) Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
(Hebrews 10:31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(Hebrews 10:32) But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
After becoming Christians they endured persecution.
(Hebrews 10:33) Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
(Hebrews 10:34) For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods [confiscation of your property], knowing in [for] yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance [possessions].
The people of the day owned property but there is no mention of those without property. This implies the audience is the well-to-do.
People in the new heavens and new earth will own property. Currently this exists in the spiritual realm as dreams, promises, and ideas. These will become manifest as physical realities in the new heavens and new earth.
These future material blessings currently reside in heaven. Verses such as these are used to support the notion that our eternal destiny is heaven but there is not one Bible verse actually saying this.
(Hebrews 10:35) Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
(Hebrews 10:36) For ye have need of patience [endurance], that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
This verse refers to good works as an ingredient of salvation. Of course, we are not saved by works only, but require faith. Works of faith have two aspects: (1) we do things in God's will, deeds of virtue, holy deeds, and (2) we do them in faith, trusting in God's love and promises.
(Hebrews 10:37) For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry [delay].
God will come in a little while for each of his faithful, at their death. It is absurd to interpret verses mentioning imminency as referring to events that would not occur for thousands of years, and have still not occurred.
(Hebrews 10:39) But we are not of them who draw back unto perditdion; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
(Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith is not a substance, not a physical attribute of the universe. Rather, when we exercise faith, it is as if the future thing we believe for has already occurred — but in the future, awaiting time's incessant march. We don't see it fulfilled yet except in our soul, with our eyes of faith.
(Hebrews 11:2) For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Most of these examples of faith in the Hebrews 11 hall of faith are very mysterious, not matching the standard Christian notion of faith. It seems God's idea of saving faith is different than that of fundamentalist evangelical Protestantism.
(Hebrews 11:3) Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Notice that the word of God is the creative power of the universe. The Bible contains the words of God; it is not itself the word of God except that it was inspired by the word of God. People proclaim the word of God which includes God's gospel message as well as the enlivening energy of the Holy Spirit.
(Hebrews 11:4) By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
Abel's faith consisted of obeying God in the proper manner of offering sacrifice to God. In doing this, he became righteous. Thus, we have faith in doing works pleasing to God out of obedience to God. We are not saved by faith only. In the case of Abel, there is no mention of his faith except in terms of his works.
Abel still speaks to us today even though he died long ago. Does he speak merely through the memory of his deeds, written down as they were in scripture? In my view, this explanation is inadequate. I think he is a Saint in the tradition of Catholic Saints and we can pray to him and interact with him. In reflecting on his life of faith, our soul interacts with his soul in the spiritual realm and we become enlivened and refreshed by his influence.
(Hebrews 11:5) By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Enoch did not die; this through the power of faith. But note that Enoch never himself chose to be translated in this manner and did not thereby use the power of his faith to obtain this benefit.
Here's what happened: God wished for Enoch to not die and was able to do it because of Enoch's faith empowering him to live a righteous and holy life pleasing to God. God was therefore justified in translating him; if Enoch were not righteous and holy, God could not have done this.
Notice that the faith mentioned here is the same as saving faith since all that is required for salvation is living a life that pleases God. But faith does not result in our being translated as Enoch was — he was not granted this benefit by his faith.
Enoch was not the only person translated in this way; this also happened to Mary, the mother of Jesus. In my view, neither of them have resurrected bodies yet; when they were translated into heaven (into the spiritual realm) their bodies just disappeared. Later, at the general resurrection, their bodies will reappear in resurrected form. Something similar happened with Jesus at his ascension — his body was hidden behind a cloud and disappeared from the physical realm.
(Hebrews 11:6) But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
This is a key verse. In order to be saved, a person must believe that God exists, and that God interacts with each of us based on whether or not we seek him; and whether we seek him based on what pleases him (rather than on what we might think he would like if he were like us).
Notice it is also true that, without works, it is impossible to please God. Why would God be pleased with someone who claimed to have repented from their sins but who still commits moral sins habitually? Faith without works is dead faith.
(Hebrews 11:7) By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
God warned Noah about the coming of the flood; this warning was very scary. Noah had no choice but trust God would save him and his family in the ark he built. He likely was tempted to skip building it; doing so consumed his life.
Noah condemned the world on behalf of God, allowing God to judge evil and yet continue the line of righteous humans. Ultimately Jesus the Messiah was born from the line of Noah. Jesus graced the world in 2 ways with the righteousness which is by faith: (1) Jesus is this righteousness which we receive in faith, and (2) we can become righteous by receiving in faith his grace.
This is not the usual fundamentalist evangelical Protestant view of saving faith. God commanded Noah to build an ark, to do a work, and in doing it Noah exercised his saving faith.
(Hebrews 11:8) By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
I wonder how many people today would be considered great people of faith by relocating to another part of the country? Abraham's relocation was of God, called by God. The faith part of Abraham's relocation was in leaving Haran, not in leaving Ur with his father Terah.
God didn't reveal Abraham's final destination when he called him to relocate. He didn't have to worry about finding a job as he journeyed; he took his herds with him.
(Hebrews 11:9) By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles [tents] with [as did] Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
(Hebrews 11:10) For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Abraham was looking for a future city he would inhabit after he died. This means he expected to be resurrected into the new heavens and new earth. The city is the new Jerusalem, a literal city in the new heavens and new earth.
(Hebrews 11:11) Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
Notice Sarah received strength to have another child in her old age through faith. I suppose she cooperated with God by attempting to have another child; she had likely long before given up on this hope.
(Hebrews 11:12) Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
A funny line, an old person referred to with "as good as dead".
(Hebrews 11:13) These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
We should be surprised in the mention of none of these having received the promises, after all, Abraham and Sarah had that child, Noah built that ark and was saved by it, Enoch was taken into heaven instead of dying physically. The true goal of faith is yet-future for everyone, the new heavens and new earth.
We are strangers and pilgrims in this current world because it is contaminated by sin. We will only truly be finally home once sin and death are destroyed.
(Hebrews 11:14) For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
It is human nature to desire a safe home to live in where we can grow our food and be safe from enemies. This will only finally occur in the new heavens and new earth. This kind of desire is good; the Buddhists are wrong — only sinful desire and concupiscence are bad.
(Hebrews 11:15) And truly, if they had been mindful [thinking] of that country from whence [where] they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
This verse makes no sense. I suppose it means they could have returned to the place they came from, Ur or Egypt or wherever, if they were longing to do so. But many of those mentioned actually couldn't do this; perhaps only Abraham and Moses could.
(Hebrews 11:16) But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
A heavenly city and heavenly country. This country is better because the command to relocate there was from God himself. The heavenly city is in the new heavens and earth. The phrase "heavenly city" is not a figure of speech referring to heaven or such but, rather, refers to a literal city Abraham will literally inhabit in the new heavens and new earth.
(Hebrews 11:17) By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
The standard teaching is: Abraham exercised faith in offering up Isaac as a human sacrifice at God's command. But God does not command or endorse animal sacrifice or human sacrifice; it's all man-made involving pain, suffering, and death. God asked Abraham to demonstrate his faith that his son Isaac was to be the one through whom God's covenant would operate. Abraham devised this way to demonstrate his faith.
This is what the 144,000 will do in the temple in the new heavens and new earth. They will bring animals to the temple as offerings and there will be some sort of Eucharistic substitutionary sacrifice as Jesus appears on the altar as a lamb that was slain.
(Hebrews 11:18) Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
(Hebrews 11:19) Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure [type].
A verse used to support the notion of Typology. But Isaac didn't literally rise from the dead like Jesus did after his crucifixion; rather, he was actually not sacrificed at all. I don't understand how not doing something is a type of doing something.
Abraham knew God could and would bring Isaac back to life after he was sacrificed. A grisly idea. This whole scene is macabre [gruesome horror of death and decay].
(Hebrews 11:20) By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
We might wonder how these blessings of Isaac were acts of faith? Certainly Isaac knew his blessings were prophetic having a future fulfillment. I imagine a man of God would not want to claim of future events unless these were revealed by God.
We might wonder why the writer of Hebrews choose this event in the life of Isaac to highlight? Based on the fundamentalist evangelical Protestant view of faith, we should prefer a mention about Isaac's love of God or such.
(Hebrews 11:21) By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
We might wonder why the writer of Hebrews choose this event in the life of Jacob to highlight? Based on the fundamentalist evangelical Protestant view of faith, we should prefer a mention about Isaac's love of God or such.
(Hebrews 11:22) By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
We might wonder why the writer of Hebrews choose this event in the life of Joseph to highlight? Based on the fundamentalist evangelical Protestant view of faith, we should prefer a mention about Isaac's love of God or such.
(Hebrews 11:23) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.
This verse speaks of the faith of Moses' parents. This faith of theirs was saving faith, faith leading to redemption.
Their saving faith consisted of (1) rebelling against unjust rulers who commanded that young children be handed over for execution, and (2) planning and executing the risky scheme to save their baby by putting him in a small boat on the river to float into Pharaoh's daughter's court. There was plenty that could have gone wrong with this scheme.
I suspect Moses' parents were of a privileged class living just upstream from Pharaoh's daughter.
I wonder if Pharaoh's daughter was not too happy with Pharaoh's command to kill their babies? Perhaps she raised Moses to subconsciously rebel against Pharaoh since she was secretly a traitor?
I wonder whether they had to explain to the authorities where their newborn baby was? Their faith consisted in: (1) risking the wrath of the authorities for not turning over their child, and (2) hoping God would miraculously orchestrate the salvation of their baby; that it would survive the trip on the river and have a good future.
I should note that neither of these things are considered by many Christians as qualifying for consideration as saving faith, rather, relying on these for salvation would be considered as salvation by works. But based on this passage from the book of Hebrews we see: (1) that view of faith is wrong, and (2) that view of the role of works in salvation is wrong. Shame on them for failing to interpret the Bible properly preferring, instead, to use the heretical doctrine of Sola Fide to color (warp) their interpretation.
(Hebrews 11:24) By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
(Hebrews 11:25) Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
(Hebrews 11:26) Esteeming [regarding] the reproach [for the sake] of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
This verse makes it sound like Moses knew of the Messiah. Where did he learn of this? If he learned about it from the Israelites who influenced his life, his parents and others, this implies they knew about this topic, but this is unlikely. If Moses had a vision from God about the Messiah we should expect him to mention it again and again, but he doesn't.
Moses was motivated to abandon his high position in Egypt to rescue his own people by his desire to receive eternal rewards. This should be the goal of all of us, the spend eternity in the presence of the Lord in the new heavens and new earth.
I suppose it is proper to refer to God by referring to Christ since he is the second person of the Trinity. But I doubt if Moses had this concept in mind. I think the writer of Hebrews is adding this, a form of revisionism making it sound like Moses knew more than he did.
(Hebrews 11:27) By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
(Hebrews 11:28) Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
(Hebrews 11:29) By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
(Hebrews 11:30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
Whose faith caused this? Joshua's? The whole army, the one who would subsequently perform genocide on everyone in the city including women and children?
(Hebrews 11:31) By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Rahab avoided the genocide of Jericho by making a deal with the spies, by asking for safety. Her faith in the God of Israel motivated her but her actions were required to finish the job. Thus, both faith and works are required for salvation contrary to the claims of fundamentalist evangelical Protestants.
(Hebrews 11:32) And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
The writer seems to have run out of steam and merely begins dropping names. Thus, we don't learn of specifically what it is these others did that demonstrated their faith: Gideon, Barak (it's odd that Deborah isn't mentioned), David, Samuel.
We can find various people in Old Testament history matching the details of the examples given below.
(Hebrews 11:33) Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
(Hebrews 11:34) Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
(Hebrews 11:35) Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
Elijah brought a boy back to life. This act of faith is mentioned pertaining to examples of saving faith. This is not the kind of thing mentioned by fundamentalist evangelical Protestants when discussing salvation. It seems God's idea of saving faith is different than theirs.
This verse uses the word "resurrection" twice, but not all translations indicate this. Thus, we see that this term has multiple meanings; only one referring to the final bodily resurrection at Christ's second coming.
(Hebrews 11:36) And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
(Hebrews 11:37) They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
The Old Testament does not mention anyone being sawn in two; this comes from a source outside the Bible. Thus, the Bible is not all that is needed; other sources such as the early church fathers can be used as sources for truth (as long as these sources are true).
(Hebrews 11:38) (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
(Hebrews 11:39) And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
(Hebrews 11:40) God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
All will be resurrected at the same time, in a time yet future.
(Hebrews 12:1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Running the race and winning involves two aspects...
The heroes of the faith of chapter 11 all had one thing in common: they were holy and righteous. In reflecting on their example, we should live holy lives, pleasing to God. But we should note: all these were persecuted and sometimes martyred for their faith. The author eases into the topic of enduring persecution in verse 2, then in verse 14 returns back to the topic of living holy, righteous lives, giving some practical examples of what to do or not do.
(Hebrews 12:2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher [perfecter] of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
As we lay aside our sin and run the race, we are to continue to look to Jesus. Jesus is the author of our faith, in other words, our faith is in him and in his work for us. Jesus is the finisher of our faith, meaning that he finishes it and perfects it; we can be assured he will keep us from start to finish.
Just as a parent considers it a joy to raise children even though there is hardship, so also, in his love for us, Jesus considered it a joy to die on the cross so we could have redemption. He loves us and wants us to be with him.
Shame is not a good thing — there will be no shame in the new heavens and new earth just as there was no shame in the garden of Eden until sin entered. Jesus endured this as well; he endured being hated and spat upon by those he loves.
After the ascension, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father. This means he is one with the Father, deity, since no mere created creature can sit down as an equal with God. Jesus is now seated on the throne, meaning, he is ruling now in his kingdom. This means the kingdom exists now, in the church age. Ruling over the powers of darkness, Jesus is able to snatch people from spiritual death and usher them into light.
(Hebrews 12:3) For consider him that endured such contradiction [opposition, hostility] of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
(Hebrews 12:4) Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
The writer compares the hostility against Jesus with that against Christians. Those hearing this letter read to them during church service were still alive, not martyred. There had been a few martyrs already but there was coming soon a long age of martyrdom.
Some (most?) interpret verses 4 to 11 in a way that is clearly incorrect. They abruptly interrupt the flow meaning at verse 4 without explaining why this should be so. In doing so, they come to a contradiction no one seems to notice. I shall explain...
Verses 1 to 3 of chapter 12 clearly refer to Jesus enduring hardship, difficulty, and ultimately death at the hands of sinners. But in verse 4 the focus allegedly abruptly shifts to Christians who endure hardship in their struggle with their own personal sin; presumably the hardships are from God as a form of discipline and correction to help Christians conquer their sin.
The side-effect of this line of reasoning is that, once a person has committed their lives to not sinning, their hardships should cease. But it doesn't seem the author has this in mind at all; the hardships will continue until death, and some will even be martyred just as some or the heroes of faith in chapter 11 were.
We must, therefore, reject this entire interpretation.
A better interpretation is that the sin and sinners referred to in verses 3 and 4 (and no where else in the reminder of chapter 12) is external to the Christian, just as it was external to Jesus — he did not cause his hardship by his own sin, obviously. Just so, faithful and loyal Christians do not cause the hardship they endure when persecuted and even martyred for the faith. This interpretation fits better with chapter 11 in which some heroes of the faith were persecuted and martyred for the faith.
Therefore, the chastening from the Lord referred to starting in verse 5 is to prove our faith, not to punish us for our sins.
(Hebrews 12:5) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
A new theme is added into the mix: chastening of the Lord. From these verses in Psalms we see that this chastening in not due to the person's sin but, rather, to persecution from the wicked: Psalm 94:12 Psalm 118:18 Psalm 119:75
When Christians are persecuted for their faith they should consider it an honor to serve God in this manner. Those who become angry with God for allowing these trials may find themselves abandoning the faith altogether; God demands our complete loyalty to him.
We simply can't explain why some have an easy life of faith and others must endure the most extreme of hardships.
(Hebrews 12:6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Persecution and martyrdom is a way God expresses his love for us; in standing firm in our faith in times of extreme trial we are, in effect, worshipping the God we cling to. In expressing our loyalty to him even in times of hardship, we honor him, we express our love for him. When a human father expresses love for his son by disciplining him for being childish, immature, and inexperienced in the ways of the world, a bond between the two is formed. This process may seem unpleasant at the time.
The key to these verses is properly understanding the meaning: that we are bonded to God when we express our faith in times of persecution, not that God punishes Christians for their sin because he loves them.
(Hebrews 12:7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Everyone assumes this metaphor of a father discipling his son is to be taken as meaning that God disciplines us and teaches us just as a father disciplines and teaches his son. Certainly God does this, but this is not what the author is saying! A bit of analysis is in order...
(Hebrews 12:8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Children are disciplined by their parents. A child who is not disciplined is not a true child, but is illegitimate. Presumably, in Paul's day, the fathers of these had abandoned mother and child resulting in no paternal discipline for the child.
(Hebrews 12:9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence [respect]: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
(Hebrews 12:10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
(Hebrews 12:11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
(Hebrews 12:12) Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
(Hebrews 12:13) And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
All this lengthy (and confusing) discussion was for the purpose of encouraging Christians to be strong under persecution, just as the heroes of faith were in chapter 11.
(Hebrews 12:14) Follow [pursue] peace with all men, and holiness [sanctification], without which no man shall see the Lord:
Typical fundamentalist evangelical Protestant teaching is that sanctification has nothing to do with salvation; it is the lifelong process of becoming more holy that begins after justification, after getting saved. But this verse states otherwise. You will not see the Lord unless you are holy. Therefore, works have a role in salvation; we are not saved by faith only.
(Hebrews 12:15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
(Hebrews 12:16) Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
(Hebrews 12:17) For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
(Hebrews 12:18) For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
Paul compares one event in the history of God's covenant nation with various aspects of Christianity. It's a lopsided comparison. By the end of it in verse 24 he seems to have lost his train of thought completely.
(Hebrews 12:19) And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated [begged] that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
(Hebrews 12:20) (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
(Hebrews 12:21) And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
(Hebrews 12:22) But ye are come unto mount Sion [Zion], and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company [10,000] of angels,
I don't recall ever coming to Mt. Zion or the Heavenly Jerusalem when I became a follower of Christ. Some interpret these images figuratively (presumably their memory is no better than mine), but I prefer to interpret the Bible strictly literally. Since the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven is a yet-future event, therefore, the writer is speaking of a yet-future event. Some translations say "you have come" and some "you are come". We have already received it by faith but will only finally experience it in the future, after receiving a resurrected body. We will not be afraid to come directly into God's presence.
The comparison with Christianity begins. It's not Mt. Sinai but Mt. Zion. And with that, the comparison ends. Only the phase is retained: as Chistians "you have come to xyz..." and various aspects of Christianity are mentioned...
(Hebrews 12:23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just [righteous] men made perfect,
More aspects of Christianity, things we come to or enter in to or become part of...
(Hebrews 12:24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
More aspects of Christianity, things we come to or enter in to or become part of...
(Hebrews 12:25) See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
(Hebrews 12:27) And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
(Hebrews 12:28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
(Hebrews 12:29) For our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 13:1) Let brotherly love continue.
(Hebrews 13:2) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
(Hebrews 13:3) Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
(Hebrews 13:4) Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
(Hebrews 13:5) Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
(Hebrews 13:6) So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
(Hebrews 13:7) Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end [purpose, goal] of their conversation [way of life, behavior].
Church leaders are to rule over Christians at large; but they must be qualified. Why should we allow unholy, corrupt, deceivers rule over us? True Church leaders will speak the word of God correctly and infallibly. We are to observe their life to prove them as true to apostolic teaching and as sincere followers of Christ. We are to follow the example of such leaders as these. The rule of Church leaders is limited to the life of faith; those who are heavy-handed and who meddle in the details of people's lives may be more like cult leaders than true servants of the gospel.
(Hebrews 13:8) Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
This verse doesn't specifically that Jesus was also the same from eternity past; only from yesterday. Some might object to limiting the word "yesterday" like this, but look it up in Strong's concordance; it means "yesterday", or "the time just past"; it doesn't mean "from eternity past". Most Bible commentators ignore this.
The context of this passage is Paul's describing Christ's work in taking on human form, sacrificing in the flesh on our behalf, and his resurrection. It seems that since that time, Christ is the same; in other words, he will not shed the human nature he took on in the incarnation. This brings us comfort because we can be certain that his commitment to our salvation it permanent; it will never change because he will never change.
This verse doesn't teach that Christ is deity so much as it assumes it. Paul could have also said that Christ was also deity before the incarnation and that, in taking on human nature he still retained his divine nature; but he did not mention that. His readers already knew this.
(Hebrews 13:9) Be not carried about with divers [diverse] and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
(Hebrews 13:10) We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
Christians have an altar which the priests of the Levitical priesthood are not allowed to eat from. Most fundamentalist evangelical Protestants interpret this figuratively, but I see no reason to do so.
This verse refers to the Levitical priesthood. The priests would eat the animals brought for sacrifice by the people. No one but them was allowed to eat these animals.
Christians also have an altar of sacrifice; the Eucharist. The church believed and practiced the Eucharist from the beginning.
(Hebrews 13:11) For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
(Hebrews 13:12) Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
(Hebrews 13:13) Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
In the Eucharistic sacrificial celebration, we mystically re-enact the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf. We go back in time to Golgotha and share in the events of the crucifixion. We are to remember and empathize with the suffering he endured on our behalf.
(Hebrews 13:14) For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
(Hebrews 13:15) By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
(Hebrews 13:16) But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
(Hebrews 13:17) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Notice the assumption: we are to obey those spiritual leaders who rule over us because they watch over our souls. Those leaders who don't watch over our souls certainly should not be obeyed; the Bible says this as do the early church fathers.
There is to be leadership in the Church. The house church movement often denies this. But what are we to do when these church leaders don't teach Christianity properly? Sadly, neither the Bible nor the early church fathers address this topic; they seem to assume that church leaders are qualified — except for the heretics, of course. The problem is that your bishop just might be a heretic; during the Arian heresy the majority were. Today, there are many teachings in the churches that don't match apostolic teaching at all, in fact, it is hard to find a church at all that qualifies.
No leader can possibly enjoy leading an unruly mob who won't submit. Christians at large are not to treat their leaders so badly. But also, church leaders should not be such poor leaders that it aggravates their flock. Church members deserve better than having disgruntled leaders. Church leaders are judged by God for whether they performed their role in a way pleasing to God.
(Hebrews 13:18) Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
(Hebrews 13:19) But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
(Hebrews 13:20) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
(Hebrews 13:21) Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:22) And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
(Hebrews 13:23) Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.
(Hebrews 13:24) Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
(Hebrews 13:25) Grace be with you all. Amen.
King James Version