CHRIST IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
The New Testament book of Hebrews draws many striking contrasts between Moses and Christ, the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ, the old covenant/testament and the new covenant/testament, the Jewish tabernacle/temple (physical structures) and the church (a spiritual house), and Judaism and Christianity. Key words and phrases used throughout this book are: “better,” “greater,” “more than,” “more excellent,” “greater and more perfect,” and similar terms of comparison. In every instance, the purpose is to show the superiority of Christ and Christianity to Moses and Judaism.
For example, Christ is “better than the angels” (through whom the law of Moses was mediated, Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2), and He has “obtained a more excellent name than they (the angels)” (1:4). Christ has “more glory than Moses” (3:3). God determined “to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of His counsel” (6:17). By means of the gospel there was the bringing in of “a better hope” (7:19). Christ is the “surety of a better covenant” (7:22), “has obtained a more excellent ministry,” and “is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (8:6). Christ is High Priest in “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands” (9:11). Compared to the blood of bulls and goats (offered under the old testament), the blood of Christ shall “much more . . . purge [our] conscience from dead works” (9:13-14). Christians are the beneficiaries of “better sacrifices” (9:23). They “have a better and an enduring possession in heaven” (10:34). They look forward to “a better, that is, a heavenly country” (11:16), and anticipate “a better resurrection” (11:35). Through the gospel and the church, God “provided something better for us” (11:40).
The book was written to Hebrews/Jews who had become Christians but apparently were living in circumstances in which they were being sorely tempted to apostatize from Christ and revert to their former religious practices under the law of Moses. The force of this “word of exhortation” (13:22) is that if they should abandon Christ to return to Moses and forsake the new covenant for the old covenant, they would, in every respect, be abandoning the superior for the inferior! Thus, they are urged to “give the more earnest heed to the thing things [they] have heard (the great salvation made possible by Christ), lest [they] let them slip” (2:1), to “take heed . . . lest there be in any of [them] an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (3:12), and to be “not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (10:39). As the late Dr. Walter Martin said (somewhat with tongue-in-cheek): “[T]he Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews”! In other words, the Hebrew religion (Judaism) and the old covenant/testament was a thing of the past!
All of the above explains why we have an Old Testament and a New Testament in our Bibles. The Old Testament governed the Hebrews/ Jews under the law of Moses. The New Testament governs Christians under the gospel of Christ. God no longer speaks to man through Moses and the prophets, but through Christ and the apostles (Hebrews 1:1-2; Acts 2:42). Christ fulfilled the law, the prophets, and the psalms (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44). While the Old Testament has great value for God’s people today (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11; et al), we do not go to it to learn the specifics of how to be saved from sin, how to worship God, or how to live the Christian life. This is one of the most basic truths of all Scripture, yet one that many people have never grasped.
In the grand book of Hebrews, Christ is held up in all of His radiant splendor and saving power. It is interesting, enlightening, and encouraging to see the many ways Christ is portrayed in this divine document. Consider the following.
- He (not Moses and the Old Testament prophets) is the One through whom God now speaks to all mankind (1:1-2).
- He is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” (2:17-18; discussion greatly expanded in Chapters 7 through 10).
- He is “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (3:1-2).
- He is God’s Son “over His own house” (3:5-6).
- He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (5:9).
- He is our “forerunner” into heaven (6:19-20).
- He is the “surety (guarantee) of a better covenant” (7:22).
- He is the One “who ever lives to make intercession for us” (7:25).
- He is “the Mediator of a better covenant,” “the new covenant” (8:6; 9:15).
- He is the One who put away sin once for all “by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:24-28).
- He is “the author and finisher of our faith,” and the One to whom we should constantly be looking (12:1-2).
- He is the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (13:20-21).
December 20, 2016