THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
Copyright © 2008 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers
The Book of Hebrews is one long exhortation to experienced Christians to press forward in the Lord until they attain to the rest of God. The rest of God is that place where we have ceased our striving and are content to do Godís will in every aspect of our life.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; For anyone who enters Godís rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
It is my opinion that of all the books of the New Testament, the Book of Hebrews surely is of first rank in terms of being a message directed toward us today.
Now, why is this? It is because the Jewish Christians being addressed were experienced Christians. They had been saved, filled with Godís Spirit, and appear to have been knowledgeable of acts of redemption that probably are past our current understanding and experience. In addition, they had cheerfully borne the confiscation of their property and perhaps suffered other forms of persecution.
Yet, the epistle is one of warning. These Christians now were coasting. They were not pressing forward in the manner of the Apostle Paul. Several times the author told them of the spiritual danger they were in.
Of what were they coming short? They were coming short of the "rest of God."
Today the Christian churches have come as far as basic salvation and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In some instances we are familiar with Divine healing, and also with some of the gifts of the Spirit. We are much like the Hebrew Christians in this respect.
But, as also was true of the Hebrew Christians, we have stopped pressing forward. We are saved, filled with the Spirit perhaps, and we think these two steps of redemption compose the totality of the Divine works of grace. It appears most or all of our attention and energy are directed toward expanding horizontallyómore churches and more members, rather than looking toward the upward calling in Christ.
But what about the "rest of God"? What about attaining to the resurrection, which the Apostle Paul had set as his goal? What about the Church without spot or wrinkle?
We have not as yet reached our Canaan. We still are in the wilderness of temptation. The Spirit of God is inviting us forward toward the land of promise.
Is there a specific mark toward which we are to be pressing? Paul said there is such a mark. Paul spoke of knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings.
Paul said also that he has been crucified with Christ, and his life now is Christ.
My point is, there are areas of redemption yet ahead of us. Just as our forerunners persevered in prayer until speaking in tongues was restored to the churches, now we must persevere in prayer and obedience until the fullness toward which Paul and the writer of Hebrews pointed has been restored to the churches.
The warnings against settling back before we arrive at the fullness of the rest of God are stern indeed, in the Book of Hebrews. I have not read one recent commentator who treats these warnings straightforwardly, choosing instead to take refuge in the Greek to prove the passages do not mean what they appear to say. However, I have not read all of the recent commentators, so some of them may be more faithful to the passages and contexts of Hebrews.
We canít change the past, but we certainly can change the future if we will listen to the Holy Spirit and obey the Lord Jesus. There is no doubt in my mind but that Jesus has kept the best wine until now. Some who are alive at this time will be of first rank in the Kingdom of God. The glory of the latter house shall be greater than that of the former.
So letís approach the Book of Hebrews with the understanding that its message is far stricter than the Gospel currently preached in the United States. Let us count ourselves among those who change their behavior rather than the Scriptures.
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Hebrews 1:1)
Religion is man seeking God. The Christian salvation is God seeking man. God actually spoke, taking the initiative, to the Hebrew patriarchs.
When we think of some of the miracles the Hebrews experienced, such as the first Passover, the opening of a way through the Red Sea, the many years in which the daily manna fell to the ground, the holding of the sun in its position so Joshua could wage war, we realize that we Christians have not seen miracles of this power.
My own thought concerning this is that the record of the Old Testament is one vast object lesson worked out in the physical realm so we would understand the abstractions of our spiritual salvation. We can see the two dimensions of the Day of Atonement as we picture the two different ways the Lordís goat, and the scapegoat, were treated.
One significant difference between the Old Testament account and the New has to do with warfare. There is no account in the Old Testament of a demon being cast out of a person. Yet one of the most noticeable characteristics of the ministry of the Lord Jesus was the casting out of demons. The enemy in the Old Testament was the various tribes living in Canaan. The enemy in the New Testament is Satan and his hordes.
The Israelis are the only race chosen by the Lord, and the land of Israel is the only geographical area chosen by the Lord. We Gentiles have been added to what actually is a Jewish salvation. We have no salvation other than that which originally was given to the Jews, and shall return once again to the Jews when the full number of Gentiles have been grafted on the one true Olive Tree, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our land of promise, as Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile by race, consists of all the works of Godís hands, including the earth and its peoples. All things are ours; we belong to Christ; Christ belongs to God.
God spoke to the Hebrew patriarchs. He spoke to Jews and Gentiles on the original Day of Pentecost. God is speaking to us today.
We need to have deeply ingrained in us that God takes the initiative in building the Kingdom of God. We American Christians are of the opinion that it is up to us with our own plans, money, and talents to build the Kingdom of God. Thus we create confusion.
The task of building the Kingdom of God is the responsibility of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our task is to pray and wait until we know what Jesus wants us to do as an individual. Then we are to be totally obedient, not loving our lives to the point of death.
Only Jesus has seen the Fatherís blueprint. Jesus reveals Godís will to us when it is time for us to act, and then He helps us do the will of the Father.
Until there are people who are willing to do what Christ commands, the work of the Kingdom will be at a standstill. I for one want to listen to the Lord and do exactly what He says. How do you feel about this?
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
It is interesting how often the writers of the New Testament refer to the "last days." If the last days occurred two thousand years ago, where are we now on Godís calendar?
It is interesting also that Christ made all things, and yet inherits them. Isnít that surprising? Ordinarily when we make something it belongs to us, we donít inherit it.
I think there is a deep truth here. The Father issued His will and power through the Word, and all things came into being: the heavens, the spiritual creatures, and then the physical world and its inhabitants.
Why would the Word, Christ, then have to inherit them?
Because the Word had to be tested in obedience before the Father would give Him all authority in Heaven and on the earth.
Also, the Word had to redeem us by means of His blood. It was not enough for the Word to be Divine, He had to become a human being and experience what we experience. He had to inherit us in love and fellowship, not just create us and then roar at us from on top of Mount Sinai.
The same is true of us. We may picture ourselves as great emperors ruling the nations with a rod of iron. Not so. If we are to be coheir of the creation with the Lord Jesus Christ, we have to suffer many things. We have to become a servant, a child, or God will not let us touch the peoples He has created. God loves the world; and until the love of God for the world is in us, we will not be able to judge, rule, or guide the nations in any manner.
The Word had to become flesh in order to properly inherit the earth and its people. We, the flesh, have to be changed into the image of the Word if we are to properly inherit the earth and its people.
Jesus Christ, having suffered much, and proven obedient to the Father, has inherited all the works of Godís hands. Before we can be His coheir we also have to suffer much and be proven obedient to the Father. If we suffer we will reign, if we respond to our suffering by obeying God cheerfully.
The Son is the radiance of Godís glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.(Hebrews 1:3)
It appears to me that the current Christian position concerning the Trinity is slanted too much toward the Father and the Son being the same Person. Without in any manner seeking to remove any of the authority and glory of the Son, let me venture that the Father and the Son are not the same Person.
The above verse describes the relationship perfectly:
The Son is the radiance of Godís Glory.
The Son is the exact representation of Godís Being.
The Son is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven.
If you will look carefully you will notice that none of these four statements suggests Christ and God are the same Person. In fact, the opposite is portrayed clearly.
The Son is the radiance of Godís Glory. There is a difference here between the Son and the One of whom the Son is the radiance.
The Son is the exact representation of Godís Being. If one person is the representation of another personís being, than we are speaking of two different people no matter how similar in appearance.
The Son is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven. Obviously the Son cannot be seated at His own right hand.
I myself have no problem with understanding the Godhead. It is enough for me that Jesus is Godís Son, Godís Prophet, Godís King, Godís Servant, Godís Priest who makes intercession on our behalf. Jesus always does the will of God and pleases God by His righteous behavior. Therefore God has given Him authority over all the works of Godís hands.
I have no problem with Jesus being Godís Son. Do you? Obviously a fatherís son is not the same person as his parent!
Jesus Christ sustains all things by His powerful word. We are speaking of holding up the universe with His Word. What kind of power are we speaking of here? Certainly not power we can even imagine. It is power beyond all power we can comprehend.
The Lord Jesus provided purification for sins. There are two dimensions of the atonement, of the purification. We are familiar with the first dimension of the purification, which is the forgiveness of our sins. However it is the second dimension which is the Kingdom of God. This is the actual purifying of our nature so we no longer are urged to sin. There is forgiveness and then there is the purging from us of our sinful nature. The removal of the sinful nature from us was prefigured by the scapegoat, of the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus.
The work of atonement has not been completed in us until we have been forgiven; all that is of Satan has been destroyed out of us; the eternal moral law of God has been written on our mind and heart; and we know the Lord. This is the complete reconciliation of God to man and man to God. There is the Alpha, and then there is the Omega. We are entering the Omega of salvation in the present hour.
Jesus now is seated at the right hand of His Majesty, the Father. If we have been born again, a firstfruits of our personality, our new born-again person, is seated in Christ at the right hand of the Father. Therefore we should keep our minds and affections directed toward Christ and the Father in Heaven, rather than being so occupied with the affairs of the present world that we have no time or strength left to prayówhich so often is the case with American Christians.
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? (Hebrews 1:4,5)
The angels are sons of God only in the sense that they were created by GodĖby the Lord Jesus Christ, in actuality.
The Lord Jesus Christ was not created by the Father. He came forth from the Father in a manner we do not understand. His title, the "Word," gives us the idea that the Father, who is a Spirit, chose to give form to a Person who would be an exact representation of Himself.
But there is another issue here, when we come to the name "Son."
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. (Psalms 2:7)
In the beginning was the Word. The Bible does not say, In the beginning was the Son. It appears at some point the Word became the Son.
God said to the Word, "Today I have become your Father."
What day was this? Perhaps when Christ was born of Mary.
He was called "Son" when He was baptized in water.
And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22)
Notice that God did not say, "He is my Son, whom I love." Rather, God spoke directly to Jesus, for Jesusí information: "You are my Son, whom I love."
No longer the Word, but the Son. Now He is one of us, isnít He?
He was proved to be the Son of God by the power of the resurrection.
Christ is the Firstborn from the dead, meaning He is the First of the new creation, the creation that began with His resurrection.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having been born of the Substance and Nature of God. He is the Son of Man, having been born of Mary. We are sons of man because of our birth from a human being. We also are sons of God, having been born of the Substance and Nature of God.
So we actually are brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ, having been born of the same Father. We are His younger brothers and coheirs with Him.
No angel has ever at any time come forth from the Substance and Nature of God. No angel at any time has ever been born of woman. We who are sons of God have a name greater than any angel.
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all Godís angels worship him." (Hebrews 1:6)
"His Firstborn." What does this tell us? It tells us that there are more sons to come.
The "Only begotten" has become the Firstborn
The angels were created by the Word. I do not know if they, after having been created, worshiped the Word. Some of the angels are mighty lords of vast size and intelligence.
Now that the Word has become the Firstborn, something of extreme significance has occurred. A number of the angels have rebelled, being unwilling to worship the SonĖin fact, Satan requested that the Son worship him.
Other angels stayed true to God. They worship the Son, recognizing that He is their lawful King and Lord.
It is because of the rebellion of the angels against Godís lawful King that the spirit of usurpation abounds in mankind.
In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." (Hebrews 1:7)
The angels are not sons, in the sense of having been born of God. They are winds and they are flames of fire. I wonder sometimes if tornadoes and hurricanes are not actually angels, or messengers. When the Lord Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee He spoke as to a person: "Peace. be still."
The contrast here, of course, is that Jesus has the exalted name of "Son." Perhaps the Jewish readers of the Book of Hebrews needed to know Jesus of Nazareth actually is greater than the angels. Maybe they were into the worship of angels. Paul told us not to worship angels, didnít he?
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)
Christians have speculated whether Jesus is God or not. We must remember that "God" is a title, not a name. Jesus is God, but He is not the Father. The Father has made Jesus God, and so Jesus is to be worshiped. We do not know the Fatherís name. However we do know Jesusí name. The Father and Jesus are both God, in that they are to be worshiped.
It appears to me that the most vicious attacks of Satan have been in the area of righteousness. Satan has been successful in persuading Christian believers that there is no need for them to behave righteously. They already are righteous through their belief in Christ.
What an error this is! It reveals the consummate cunning of Satan.
When we first are saved, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. But after that the plan of redemption creates righteous behavior in us, if we are cooperating with the Spirit of God.
Where there is no righteous behavior there is no Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the doing of Godís will in the earth, not imputed righteousness!
Righteous behavior is the scepter of the Kingdom of God. A scepter of a king is the emblem of his authority. So it is that righteous behavior is the emblem of Christís authority. If Jesus Christ were not righteous in behavior, God would not have given Him all authority in Heaven and upon the earth. God will not work where there is unrighteous behavior. He is a God of righteousness. God exalted Jesus among all the lords of the heavens because Jesus loves righteousness and hates wickedness.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Hebrews 1:9)
"Above your companions" could mean above us who are being made His brothers. But since the context has to do with Christís superiority to the angels, and since Christ is elevated by being anointed with the oil of joy, I lean toward the idea that God is announcing to Heaven the supremacy of His Firstborn and is exalting Him by anointing Him with joy that the angels do not possess. The Lord Jesus said His joy is to be in us and our joy is to be full. Thus He shares His joy with us, but not with the angels.
God has exalted Christ and made Him Lord of all because He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. If we would have the fullness of joy, and please the Father, then we must love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Satan has stressed imputed righteousness to the point that numerous Christian believers do not understand the purpose of our salvation is to work in us a love of righteousness and a hatred of wickedness. To grow in Christ is to grow in the ability to recognize both good and evil, and to have the desire and strength to embrace the good fervently and to vehemently denounce and renounce that which is evil.
If after a year as a believer in Christ we still are counting on imputed righteousness to save us and are not growing in righteous conduct, then we are not engaging properly in the process of redemption. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, not to forgive the works of the devil.
His scepter is one of righteous behavior and by this He governs. We also, as He makes us new creations of righteous behavior, will govern the nations with the scepter of righteousness. This is the rod of iron of which the Scriptures speak.
He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. (Hebrews 1:10)
We know all things were created by the Word, that is, by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my belief that Jesus in the beginning acted just as He did while He was here on earth two thousand years ago. He worked as the Father worked, He spoke as the Father spoke. It was the Father in Him doing the works.
I may be incorrect about this, but this is how it appears to me. Now we are to be brought into this place in God where Jesus is. We are heirs of the creation that God made through Christ. We are to do nothing of ourselves but to look to Jesus Christ for everything we think, say, and do. Then it will be the Father in Christ in us living and moving and having His Being.
It would have had to be like that in the beginning, wouldnít it? Certainly the Lord Jesus did not create the earth, the firmament, and all of their creatures apart from the Father! This would make Him a God separate from the Father; and I donít believe this is the case. Jesus is the Word of the Father, the Expression of the Fatherís will, not a separate God..
They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." (Hebrews 1:11,12)
In these words the Father is telling the angels as well as mankind that He has put Christ in charge of everything in the universe. The earth and the firmament will be rolled up like a garment, and then God through Christ will speak a new firmament and a new earth into existence.
Jesus Christ is Godís High Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. Christ is a priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.
To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." (Hebrews 1:13)
Again we see Christ compared to the angels. There certainly must have been many discussions concerning angels at the time the epistle to the Hebrews was written. It must have been true that there were teachers who were maintaining either that Christ was inferior to the angels, or else He Himself was an angel.
Perhaps angels have enemies, I do not know. But God never promised any angel that God would make that angelís enemies a footstool for its feet. Nor did God call up any angel to sit at Godís right hand.
Using passages from the Old Testament the writer of the Book of Hebrews has pointed out what the Father has said concerning the Son. In no manner is any angel, no matter how exalted, on an equal footing with the Son. All the angels without exception are to worship the Son, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, having been made so by the Father.
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
At this point the writer switches from the Heir of salvation to the heirs of salvation. The burden of the writer is that the Hebrews Christians were coming short of their calling in Christ, their inheritance. He begins to express this burden by calling to mind the exalted position of Jesus Christ. Now he is ready to remind his readers of the greatness of their calling and the dangers of neglecting it.
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
In the above verse is found the central idea of Hebrews. These experienced saints were not paying enough attention to the program of salvation. They were coming short of the Glory of God. They still were in the wilderness and had forgotten they were not called to the wilderness but to Canaan.
Drifting away! Lack of attention! This is the danger to Christians in the American culture. We have such an array of opportunities that it is difficult to give the attention to Christ that we should.
The greatest spiritual problem in America probably has to do with money. The pursuit of money, and more money, and more money never ends. It is held in front of the American Christians as a tantalizing goal. Those who have thousands in the bank want more thousands. Those who have millions in the bank want more millions. Those who have billions in the bank want more billions.
People start out to make a living, to earn money to buy food, lodging, clothing, and in general to support themselves and their family. But soon the pursuit of the dollar goes beyond this. The result is, there is no time or strength left to be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. (I Timothy 6:9)
In addition to falling into many foolish and harmful desires, those who are pursuing money may receive Christ and be saved, may receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit; but then the time and energy required to follow Christ as a disciple does not leave room to pursue riches. Therefore the pursuit of riches must be neglected or the pursuit of Christ must be neglected.
Do you remember how the Lord told the rich young ruler that if he wanted eternal life he would have to sell his possessions and follow the Lord? The young man made the wrong choice, didnít he, just as so many are tempted to do today. The Gospel requires careful attention. The church is not a club that you attend on Sunday morning and then go about your other business during the remainder of the week.
For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:2,3)
The "message spoken by angels" probably refers to the Law given to Moses.
It is not unusual for Hebrews 2:3 to be preached to unsaved people. It is not unsaved people who are inattentive and neglectful concerning salvation. The writer of Hebrews is addressing seasoned believers who were becoming absorbed in their own business in the world rather than in the Lord Jesus.
We are encountering at this time the first of the several passages that warn believers of carelessly neglecting their salvation, or even of committing willful sin. The warnings are stern and inform the believers of the anguish they are facing if they do not bring forth the fruit of righteousness in their lives.
This is why I stated at the beginning that the Book of Hebrews is especially important in our day. It must be the spirit of humanism that has crept into Gospel preaching; or perhaps it is our desire to have large buildings and large congregations. Whatever our motive is, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has been grievously perverted.
We have the doctrine of "eternal security," the idea that once we make a profession of faith in Christ we can never be lost. Decidedly against the Scripture.
We have the doctrine of grace, that no matter how we behave, God sees us as righteous. Definitely unscriptural.
We have the doctrine that no believer will hear anything negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Against the Scripture.
We have the doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture," that believers are not to suffer. Unrealistic; not historical; and assuredly not scriptural.
We speak of seeker-friendly churches, meaning an individual can come in off the street and feel right at home. The people do not rise up and prophesy until the thoughts of his heart are manifest and he trembles in fear of God. Why not? Because you do not gain members this wayóor so the thinking goes.
We must be positive and not negative.
This entire assortment of people-pleasing tactics is far removed from the Bible. We have taken this stand because we want to "win people to Christ." We do not win them to Christ, we win them to ourselves. We are not bearing a true witness of God.
The Book of Hebrews is a perfect medicine guaranteed to return the Gospel to its original state. The question is, how many commentators, preachers, and teachers are willing to present the passages as they have been written? I have never heard or read one who did. But then, there are many preachers I have never heard and many commentaries I have never read.
There shall be a period of reckoning some day, and then we shall see whether or not the Book of Hebrews is the inspired Word of God.
We Christians shall not escape if we do not pay careful attention to the Lord Jesus Christ every day of our life.
"This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him." The Hebrew believers had been taught by those who actually had heard the Lord Jesus in Person. How would you like to have been taught by someone who had been taught by Jesus? This is all the more reason why the lukewarmness and coldness of these Hebrew believers was deplorable and warranted severe warnings.
God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4)
The Hebrew Christians had seen the signs, wonders, and various miracles and gifts that the Holy Spirit had distributed in order to prove the validity of the message of salvation. Thus they were more accountable than other people who had not seen or heard the Gospel to this extent. "From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked"!
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. (Hebrews 1:5)
Notice that the author is speaking of the world to come. The emphasis today, at least in America, either is on going to Heaven, or on what we can get out of God and Christ to better our condition in the world. The Lord Jesus always helps us when we call upon Him. But the focus of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is just thatóthe good news that a new world order is coming to the earth.
The Kingdom of God is the doing of Godís will in the earth. The holy city, the new Jerusalem will be located on the earth. When the Lord Jesus appears, He will establish righteousness on the earth. So we are looking for a new world of righteousness. Our hopes and dreams should be focused on the wonderful world of righteousness that is in Heaven, waiting to come to the earth. This is the city that has foundations that Abraham was looking for.
Whenever we try to use the Gospel to enable us to live prosperously on the earth, the Good News loses its true vision. The days ahead in America may be difficult indeed. If our treasures are on the earth, we are going to lose our peace and joy when calamity comes. We may even turn away from the Lord.
But if we are looking, as did Abraham, for the glorious city of righteousness to come to the earth, then we can even suffer martyrdom without being overly concerned. Why should we be in anguish when the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy is at hand? Let us place our treasures in Heaven so when Heaven comes to the earth we will be able to share the joy of the Lord Jesus.
But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:6)
The author is going to show us that man has the highest destiny in God it is possible to have. Salvation is not a matter of forgiving man so after he dies he can go to the spirit realm, his productive life having come to an end. Rather his forgiveness through the blood atonement and his anointing with the Holy Spirit is to authorize and empower man to take his place on the throne that governs all the works of Godís hands.
This is why to stop pressing forward after being saved and filled with the Spirit is so utterly inappropriate. Such acts of redemption are but the merest beginning of manís redemption and destiny. He is in the middle of his wilderness wanderings. By no means has he entered the land of promise, the rest that God has prepared for him.
So it is true today. We have been saved. We have been filled with the Spirit. Now it is time to lay hold on the kingdom to which we have been called.
As was true in the days of the Israelites, the cloud of Glory has lifted from the Tabernacle. The trumpets are soundings. The Ark is in the vanguard leading the way. Judah, praise, is lifting up worship to God and going before the host. This is the day of our visitation.
It is so easy, at least in America, to become weighed down with the cares of life.
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (Luke 21:34)
It is not the gross sins of the flesh that will keep many saints from marching forward with the Lord. It is business as usualóbuying, selling, building, planting, marrying, giving in marriage. As it was in the days of Noah...
What is man? God did not create man to grub in the earth, bowed down with the problems of eking out an existence. Man has been created to sit at Godís right hand; to judge angels; to be the temple of God; to be the brothers of Jesus Christ; to be the Bride of the Lamb; to be the Body of Christ; to be the heirs of all the works of Godís hands. God has provided all this for us, and is very displeased when we focus on the elements of the world, which are passing away with the using, and do not stretch forth zealously toward our upward calling..
You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:7)
We understand Christ temporarily was made a little lower than the angels. This is true of people. We have been made a little lower than the angels, although one day we are to judge the angels, and they are to minister to us.
We have been crowned with glory and honor, but our honor is not seen as yet. God is bringing us through humility in the present world, just as He did the Lord Jesus Christ. We suffer deferral of our desires and all other kinds of tests and temptations so God may know what is in our heart before He puts us on the thrones that govern the universe.
Perhaps the greatest mistake any believer can make is to clutch the present world, making it the center of his concerns. He does not realize he is in one contrived situation after another so God can find out what is in his heart, whether or not he or she is going to be trustworthy when the true world arrives.
The wise Christian will perform his responsibilities conscientiously in the present world, understanding that it is nothing more than a vestibule of his eternal home. The present worldís significance lies in its use as an obstacle course designed to prepare the sons of the King for their eternal roles.
And put everything under his feet. In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. (Hebrews 2:8)
The above verse indeed is remarkable! When the writer says "putting everything under him, he is referring to "man," to the heirs of salvation.
It is well to keep in mind the authorís argument, which is that the calling on Christians is exceedingly vast. For them to stop after having been filled with the Spirit and having experienced miracles is not in keeping with the grandeur of their calling.
There is so much more for us today! We are to press forward in Christ until every idol has been put beneath our feet.
God is testing us. He wants to see if we are willing to press forward in His grace until we overcome the forces arrayed against us. The spirit of the world seeks to keep us in spiritual darkness. The lusts and passions of our flesh and soul can present a formidable obstacle to our desire to rest in Godís will.
No doubt the most difficult problem is our self-will, our desire to pursue life as we see fit. We may be willing to overcome the idols of the world and those of our flesh, soul, and spirit. But our self-will is another matter. It is obvious self cannot overcome self. So the Holy Spirit puts us in various kinds of prisons and sufferings. The purpose is to see if we will serve God patiently even though we are unhappy.
Everything we cling to except the Lord Jesus Christ is an idol. Christ serves God. We serve Christ. All the creation is under our feet as long as Christ is our Head.
As soon as we place our affections on anything except Christ, the Spirit of God moves to give us dominion over that relationship, circumstance, or thing. We are not competent or eligible to govern as one of Godís royal priests until Christ is our Head and all else is under our feet.
A great portion of our Christian discipleship is occupied with the Lord putting our idols under our feet. This process is about as painful as we make it. If we serve the Lord cheerfully, surrendering all He asks for, then our way is reasonably joyful. But if we cling to anything, a relationship, a circumstance, a thing, there may be considerable pain involved as God seeks to deliver us from this darkness.
The sons of God have been created to rule, not to be ruled by the things of the creation.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
The Lord Jesus is the Firstborn from the dead, the first of many sons who are the heirs of the Divine salvation. He had to taste death for all the other sons. He had to shed His blood to make an atonement for our sins.
Now He is exalted to an unimaginable extent. He upholds all things of the creation with the Word of His power. He possess all authority in Heaven and upon the earth. No king who has ruled on the earth has had the smallest particle of the majesty God has given the Lord Jesus Christ. Every knee shall bow. Every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. This is true of the righteous as well as the unrighteous, angels and people.
Christ was brought very low, and then given the ultimate test in the Garden of Gethsemane. Would He surrender even His fellowship with God in order to obey God perfectly? Jesus passed all His tests perfectly and completely. Now He is Lord of all.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
Here is a marvel. The Word of God from the beginning had to be made perfect through suffering. As I said previously, the earth is a testing ground. Apparently some aspects of the work of perfecting character cannot be accomplished in the spirit realm; otherwise Christ would have come down from Heaven already perfect.
But God is bringing many sons to glory. Think of it! If Christ is to be the Author of our salvation, then He must be the first to pass through the Divine fires, the Divine baptisms.
God perfects us in obedience by bringing us through suffering. We do not enjoy this aspect of redemption. It is a baptism with fire. The higher the rank in the Kingdom to which we have been called, the hotter the flames.
We are wise if we neither fall behind in Godís program for us as an individual, or attempt to push beyond our calling. Slothfulness brings pain and loss of inheritance. Going beyond Godís will in an effort to be of high rank in the Kingdom of God will bring on us suffering we are not able to endure. It is best to press into Godís will for our life and be content with this. Then we will be completely fulfilled. Then we will pass through fires we can endureóalthough sometimes it seems we are at the limit of our ability to survive spiritually.
If we are called on to endure fiery trials, then we are to rejoice and be exceedingly glad. God has determined to trust us with a place of service in His Kingdom. Our suffering is preparing us for that place, that role. We have been created for this very destiny.
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Hebrews 2:11)
The Lord Jesus makes us holy, by forgiving our sins and also by destroying the sin nature from us. Jesus has been born from God. He is Godís Son. We have been born from the same God. We also are Godís sons. There fore the Lord is not ashamed to call us brothers. In fact, God knew us in advance and has predestined us to be changed into the image of Christ that we might be His brothers.
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Sometimes we quote John 1:12 to show that by making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ we now are Godís sons. The truth is, when we place our faith in Christ we receive the authority to be children of God. But it is those who overcome who finally are Godís sons and inherit all the works of Godís hands.
It is not enough to receive the legal authority to be a child of God. We then must follow the Spirit of God as He leads us through the necessary steps to become a mature son of God. Such maturity does not occur merely on the basis of a profession of belief. As Paul said, God predestined us to be changed into the image of Christ. The process of change is protracted, sometimes painful, and requires our steadfast obedience and cooperation
We have the same Father as the Lord Jesus, and so we are brothers in this sense. But then we have to submit to the Fatherís discipline, just as the Lord Jesus was made perfect as He obediently subjected Himself to the sufferings through which He was brought by the Father.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." (Hebrews 2:12,13)
When we sing praises to God, there is Jesus Christ in our midst singing praises to God.
One time I had a vision of this. We were singing praises at a church meeting. Then I had a vision of the Lord. He was seated and I was looking at His left profile. He was in space, like a giant galaxy. As I watched He began to stand up and lift His hands in worship. He turned toward me, and I knew He was going to keep turning until He was facing the Father. He was worshiping the Father along with us.
The Word came to me: "In the midst of the church I will sing praise to thee."
The Lord Jesus Christ trusts God and worships God. He is delighted when His younger brothers and sisters trust and worship God along with Him.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of deathóthat is, the deviló And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14,15)
The Lord Jesus Christ created humanity, just as He created everything else. Then God invited Him to pray and ask God that He might inherit the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth.
Now here is a strange thing: why would Christ have to pray to inherit that which He had created? The answer is, it is one matter to create people; it is another matter to inherit people. It is one matter to create the earth; it is another matter to inherit the earth.
The Lord could not inherit the earth and its peoples until He first purchased us with His atoning blood. He had to become Human. He had to destroy Satan. He had to deliver us from the fear of death.
What death is it we fear ordinarily? It is not spiritual death but physical death.
Christian thinking has been so polluted with the ideas of Gnosticism that we do not put nearly enough emphasis on our physical bodies and our physical environment. These were created in the beginning by the Lord who pronounced them "very good."
The Gnostic concept that spirit is good and matter is evil has caused us to discard the idea of the coming of a kingdom to govern a physical earth. The Gnostic concept has caused us to discard the idea of a physical resurrection, or people in physical bodies living on a physical earth. Instead our hope is to go to a spirit heaven and live in a spirit body.
The concepts of Gnosticism are being exposed now to the truth of Godís Word. We see now that we are not saved by holding a certain belief system, and our destination is not the spirit world. We are saved as the Virtue of Jesus Christ, after having forgiven us, transforms us while yet in a physical body so we behave righteously.
Those who cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process of moral change will return with the Lord Jesus, take up their physical bodies from the ground, be clothed with a robe of incorruptible resurrection life, and then work alongside the Lord Jesus installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan both occupy the same earth, the same physical bodies. The difference is, the coming of the Kingdom of God drives out Satan and occupies his former dwelling places. The kingdom of the world becomes the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
The earth is still very good. The human body is still very good. Everything God has created is very good. How could it be otherwise?
Satan, having been expelled from the spirit world, has come into our inheritance and has defiled it with his presence. Now the Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, has paid the price of redemption with His blood.
Christ owns the earth and mankind as well. The price of redemption has been paid in full. However, Satan is not willing to surrender that which no longer belongs to him. So Christ is coming to take His purchased possession with force. Christ will govern with the iron scepter of righteousness. All who prove their worth in spiritual conflict with return with Him and help in the task of cleansing the earth of every vestige of Satan. This is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonementóthe Day when the creation is reconciled to God.
Only Jesus Christ has the strength of righteousness sufficient to drive Satan from his stolen dwelling places. He is the great Elder Brother who is making it possible for the rest of us to inherit the works of God along with Himself.
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abrahamís descendants. (Hebrews 2:16)
Again we are comparing angels and people. The worship of angels, or at least a reverence for angels, must have been strong among the Jews of that day. As part of the writerís effort to prove people who merely have been forgiven and filled with the Spirit of God have only scratched the surface of Godís plan for man, he had to make sure they understood the superiority of Christ over the angelsóthat they have been charged with ministering to the heirs of salvation.
It appears to me that the history of the world reveals a spirit of jealousy, of seeking to enslave others, of desiring preeminence, of supplanting, of a willingness to take credit for that which rightfully belongs to another. This spirit possibly may come from angels who are not pleased with the idea of Christ and His fellow human beings replacing angels in the highest places of rulership and judgment. This may be why the Holy Spirit keeps impressing the writer of Hebrews to emphasize that God has turned over all judgment, all rulership, to His Son, Jesus Christ, and to those who choose to be part of Christ.
He who overcomes shall inherit all things, the first Overcomer being the Lord Jesus, followed then by a train of diligent, obedient disciples.
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)
"Made like His brothers in every way." What a statement!
Why made like His brothers in every way? So He would be able to serve as a merciful and faithful High Priest, bringing us before God continually. Also, that He might be able to make an atonement for us by representing us on the cross.
When God invited the Lord to ask for the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth, this is what God had in mindóthat our Creator would have to be made like us in every way, serve as our High Priest, and make an atonement for our sins.
There can be no greater spectacle in all of history than that of Joseph and Mary bringing into the Temple the thundering God of Sinai in the form of a helpless Baby. Can you think of another event as overwhelmingly dramatic as this?
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)
How could we relate to Christ if He had not suffered in the same manner as ourselves? How could He help us if He did not understand our temptations? Here is another reason why our Creator could not inherit us until the all-wise God had brought Christ through the required experiences.
You canít roar at people from the top of Sinai and expect them to love you. And until they love you, you have not inherited them. Dictators force people to do their will. But they do not have the hearts of the people, so in actuality they have gained nothing of value. It is love that is the supreme value, the supreme joy. Only as people love you, and you love them, do you inherit them.
The Father understood this clearly. I do not know if the Son understood at that time the importance of love quite as clearly as He does now. The Son had to be brought through an unutterably horrible experience in order to gain His inheritance. Now He worships the Father and trusts Him, just as we are learning to do.
Jesus said God alone is good. This is irrefutably true. It also is true that God alone is wise.
When God invites us to pray for something, as He invited Jesus, as described in the second Psalm, you can be certain no matter what pain is encountered along the way, if we will pray the prayer that God suggests to us we will gain everything of value.
But if we try to force our own way with God, saying "not Your will but mine be done," we will end up in a dry land, wishing remorsefully that we had trusted in the goodness and love of God.
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. (Hebrews 3:1)
The above verse is important to note. Sometimes there are parts of the Book of Hebrews that preachers direct toward the unsaved, not being willing to admit that God would rebuke Christians for their unfaithfulness, such as:
How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:3)
The above verse is not a warning to the unsaved but to the holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling.
We truly are remiss in our day. We are not permitting the believers, in many instances, to feel the weight of the rebukes in the New Testament. From what I hear around the country, the churches are drying up. And it is no wonder? We are not preaching the Word, but "grace-rapture-Heaven," and then aberrations such as the "prosperity" and "faith" messages.
We need to return to teaching what the New Testament says, rebukes as well as blessings. Until we do, it is useless for God to pour out His Spirit. After the anointing lifts we will be back in the same old unscriptural foolishness.
The Book of Hebrews is a stern rebuke to Christian people who were neglecting to press forward to the fullness of Godís will. We need to accept these rebukes fully and completely, and not water them down by applying them to the unsaved or by saying the people being rebuked in this epistle never were true Christians in the first place.
Today we need to fix our thoughts on Jesus, Godís Apostle and High Priest. We need to hear what He is saying to His churches today: "Those whom I love I rebuke and chasten. So be earnest, and repent."
He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all Godís house. (Hebrews 3:2)
Christ was, is, and always shall be faithful to the Father. If we are to govern with Christ, we must be faithful as He is faithful. As He is, so are we to be in this present world. We are to abide with Him where He is: that is, in the very Center of Godís Holy Person and will.
Faithfulness is an essential component of integrity. Integrity is an unshakeable determination to do what is right regardless of the consequences to ourselves. Faithfulness is not valued in America today as much as it was in time past. Therefore our nation is facing Divine judgment.
God insists on absolute faithfulness in His people. There is to be no breaking of promises or covenants. We are to say what we mean, and stand by our word. If we find this difficult, God will help us if we ask Him.
Jesus Christ went through exceedingly difficult and painful situations as He continued to be faithful to the Father. But today He is at the right hand of God with all power in Heaven and on the earth. So will be the case with us if we do not shrink from doing what Christ is directing us to do.
If we are faithful to God, God will be faithful to us. If we are devious with God, God will be devious with us (Psalms, Eighteen).
Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all Godís house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over Godís house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Hebrews 3:3-6)
It may have been difficult for the Christian Jews to believe that Jesus actually was worthy of greater honor than Moses. The idea is that Moses was a servant in the house of God; but Jesus was the builder of the house, as well as a Son responsible for His Fatherís house, and therefore is worthy of greater honor than Moses.
Now notice especially: "We are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast."
Because we of today love ourselves more than we love God, we have invented doctrines such as "eternal security"; "unconditional love"; salvation whether or not we bear the fruit of the moral image of Christ.
But the passage above says that salvation is conditional, the condition being that we "hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." We are part of the house of God provided we endure to the end. You can see from this how unscriptural the current teaching is.
We are to maintain our courage and our hope to the last day of our life on the earth. Courage is needed because of the threats of the enemy. Hope is needed because we can go for many years, patiently plodding along, without seeing any evidence that we really are accomplishing anything. Hope keeps us going long after our faith begins to diminish.
Numerous people who make a profession of faith in Christ become discouraged and go back into the world. This is not uncommon. According to the Word of God, we are part of the house of God only as long as we keep pressing forward courageously and hopefully.
Todayís newspaper tells of a Muslim man who changed from his religion to faith in Christ. His body was sent back to his family after having been cut into four pieces. This is what we may be up against in the future. Will we be able to stand?
The unscriptural "rapture" will come too late for this man and his family, wonít it?
So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice," (Hebrews 3:7)
Salvation always is "today." There is no salvation yesterday or tomorrow, only today.
You hear people speaking of being saved ten years ago, for example. They may have been saved at some point ten years ago, but that says little or nothing about today.
Yesterdayís manna is not edible. It smells bad. All that matters is whether you are interacting with the Lord Jesus today. Today is the day of salvation. Right now we must be speaking to the Lord; listening to the Lord; obeying the Lord. Only then do we have eternal life.
Our goal is not Heaven. Our goal is to be found in Christ. When the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will be raised. This means thoseóand only thoseówho are living in Jesus will be raised at His coming.
As I have stated on several occasions, we have made a ticket of salvation. We think we purchased our ticket at a specific time and now we have entrance to Heaven. This is not a true perception of salvation.
Salvation, eternal life, is a moment by moment walk with the Lord Jesus. It has little to do with our "Statement of Faith." A statement of faith is nothing more than a theological position. Theological positions do not save people, only a moment by moment walk with the Lord Jesus is salvation and eternal life.
We have millions of American Christians who are "holding their ticket." They come to church on Sunday. They may even work at some task in the church. But they are not living in Jesus. They are not aware of His Presence and will, from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night.
Their minds are on making money, or on the television or some other form of entertainment, or on their hobbies, or on their cars or homes, or on their vacations. It is quite difficult in the United States of America to live in Christ. It is possible; but only the most determined are able to escape the clutches of our culture and live in the Lord Jesus.
God and Satan are immensely practical. They both deal with the "now," understanding the tendency of human beings to live in the past or the future.
Todayóand only todayóis the Day of salvation.
Do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, Where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, "Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways." (Hebrews 3:8-10)
The writer is reminding the Christian Jews of the disobedience and rebellion of the Israelites during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. Why is he bringing these episodes to their attention?
It is because the journey of the Israelites is an illustration of the program of salvation. We do not jump from Egypt to Canaan. There is a long, hot journey filled with all sorts of tests before we attain to the mark set before us.
The Jews tested God by complaining continually about their hardships. The writer is telling us to beware of hardening our hearts in a similar fashion.
Godís response to the Israelites, and to us as well if we grumble and complain, is: "Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways."
We have had so much pap fed to us as being the word of God that we do not realize Godís severity. We have had love, love, love preached to us but not wrath, wrath, wrath. God is love. God also is a consuming fire. When we preach only love and not the consuming fire we are bearing a false witness of God. The blood of the sinners will be on our hands if we do not warn the wicked of the destruction that is coming.
Who could describe the scope of Godís love? Who could describe the scope of Godís wrath? Let us be scriptural when we bear witness of almighty God!
The hearts of Godís people went astray in the days of Stephen, the martyr, and they did not know Godís ways. Are our hearts astray today? Do we really know Godís ways, or just the humanistic, Gnostic lies that term themselves the Christian Gospel?
So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Hebrews 3:11)
Here is the first mention of the mark set forth by the writer of the Book of Hebrews as the goal toward which believers are to press. I donít believe I have ever heard a sermon on the "rest of God." Have you?
In terms of the journey of the Israelites, the "rest" was Canaan, the land of promise. But what is the "rest," the goal, that toward which we are to be pressing?
Our rest is Godís rest and Godís rest is our rest.
The rest of God, which we are to enter, has to do with Godís cessation of work after six days. Everything has been finished through to the new Jerusalem. Our task is to cease from our own works and enter Godís rest.
To enter that place in God where God can find rest in us and we can find rest in God we have to overcome everything that would cause us to think, speak, or act outside of Godís perfect will. We have to overcome our love of the world, the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul, and our self-will and personal ambition.
We have to labor to enter this rest.
We may have placed our faith in the blood atonement; but this does not mean we are living in the center of Godís Person and will. Christian people often show forth in their behavior the sinful nature.
We may have been baptized with the Holy Spirit; but this does not mean we are living in the center of Godís Persons and will. Pentecostal people often show forth in their behavior the sinful nature. Many are self-willed gossips who cause contention within the churches.
This is why the writer of Hebrews is telling the saints, the holy brothers, they have unpacked too quickly. They are not as yet in the land of promise. There is a great deal of ground to cover before God can find rest in them and they can find rest in God.
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)
Is it possible for a holy brother, a saint, to have a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God? Absolutely! Unless such a one repents and turns back to the Lord, he is not part of the house of God. God will chasten him. If he still does not repent, he may become sick, or even die. Or, he may be removed as a branch and thrown into the fire. This is serious business!
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so none of you may be hardened by sinís deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
"Encourage one another daily"! This suggests to me that the Hebrew Christians were in close contact with one another. We of today can be in close contact with one another by telephone. We can choose to encourage one another, or gossip, it is up to us to decide. I would think the larger churches of today would have to provide some sort of means to insure that those who attend do not remain anonymous but are in touch with others who encourage them. The Christian discipleship can become discouraging, and sometimes a word of encouragement from a believer can be critically helpful.
In our assembly we are seeking to obey this command by means of a mentoring program, in which mentors are trained and then assigned to specific people.
"Hardened by sinís deceitfulness." This is the problem with sin. If it were glaringly obvious it would not be nearly as dangerous as it is.
When we are not careful to pray every day, to read our Bible every day, to gather with fervent disciples on a regular basis, sin begins to make inroads on us. We do not realize it. We do not feel any different. But little by little our spiritual strength is eroded.
The first sign that darkness is overcoming our eternal life, of our hardening, is anger against people in the church. As soon as we find ourselves being critical and angry with our fellow Christians we know Satan has found a door in us. We then must ask God to forgive us for growing careless, and return to diligent prayer, Bible reading, and fellowshiping with godly people.
It is our personal cross that protects us against deception. It is when we let down our guard and begin to relax in the world that Satan is able to gain a foothold in our personality.
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14)
As I said, salvation is not a ticket to Heaven. We will maintain our position in Jesus Christ only as long as we continue in our fervent discipleship, holding firmly to the end of our life the joy and confidence we experienced when we first received Christ. Apparently there was a clear danger that the Hebrew saints were wavering and turning back to their business in the world.
As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15)
Right now the Lord Jesus is speaking to His churches in America, and perhaps throughout the world. He is telling us to confess our sins and turn away from them. He desires to enter us in a manner greater than we have known to this point.
We do not know of what is taking place behind closed doors. Witchcraft is on the rise. Young people are worshiping Satan. Some are attempting to be vampires, if you can believe this. The doctrine of freedom of speech, incorporated in the American Constitution, is permitting all sorts of communication that invites participation in the most ungodly, violent, satanic actions imaginable.
We can ignore what the Spirit is saying to the churches in the present hour. We can harden our hearts, claiming that God is required to bring us to Heaven because we have made a profession of belief in the "Statement of :Faith" of our denomination. Meanwhile the tide of evil is rising.
The day of three points and a conclusion from behind the pulpit is past. We must have the most intense worship and interaction in the assembly that are possible to us. We must preach and teach Godís Word instead of the current traditions.
The Lord stands at the door and knocks. We simply must open and dine with Him continually: He dines on our obedience and worship; we on His body and blood.
We absolutely must begin to obey the commandments found in the New Testament, from Matthew through Revelation. Satan has talked us out of keeping the commandments, saying we are saved by grace so there is no need to do what the New Testament commands. We have been deceived grievously. If we are to save ourselves and our loved ones, and perhaps even our nation, we must humble ourselves, pray, seek Godís face, and turn from our wicked ways.
Are we Christians of today going to harden our hearts against the Spirit until destruction comes upon us?
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? (Hebrews 3:16)
The point is, it was the people who were saved out of Egypt who rebelled. It was not the Amorites, the Ammonites, or the Moabites. It was the people who came out Egypt, having escaped destruction by putting the blood of the Passover on their doorposts.
In like manner, it is not the homosexuals, the rapists, the abortionists, who are in danger of hearing and rebelling. It is Godís people. These are the ones who have to take care that they do not neglect their salvation.
And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? (Hebrews 3:17,18)
Having marched out of Egypt so gloriously, the Israelites disobeyed and disbelieved the Lord. The writer of Hebrews is showing that even though we have started with Christ, we will not reach our goal of the fullness of Christ because of our disobedience and unbelief.
We do not accept this idea in the present hour. We believe we are saved by grace and all receive the same reward. Receiving all God has for us is a matter of grace, not of our belief or obedience. Isnít that what we are hearing?
Well, the Book of Hebrews tells us differently. It warns us clearly that after having been saved we can die in the wilderness without ever having pressed through to the inheritance Christ has for us.
In this part of the third chapter, disobedience and unbelief are treated synonymously. This shows us that if we say we believe in Christ, but do not obey Christ, we are deceiving ourselves. True belief always will result in obedience to Christ. If we are not obedient to Christ it is because what we have is nothing more than a mental assent to theological facts. It is not the faith that saves.
So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)
They were saved out of Egypt, but they died before entering the land of promise.
The Apostle Paul is our example. Toward the end of Paulís life he was laying aside everything that he might gain Christ. Think of it. That he might gain Christ!
Paul was pressing forward, pressing forward, pressing forward at all times and in every conceivable manner that he might come to know the power of Christís resurrection and the fellowship of Christís sufferings.
Paulís goal was to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
We have not understood what Paul meant by this because we do not realize, many of us, that there are two resurrections from the dead. There is the first resurrection, which will take place when the Lord returns. Then there will be the general resurrection from the dead, which will take place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
The general resurrection includes all of the people who have ever lived on the earth, with the exception of those who attained to the first resurrection.
The first resurrection is that of the victorious saints. This resurrection must be attained to by following the example of the Apostle Paul. Paul was striving to enter the rest of God, that position in Christ where we are dwelling in the very Center of Godís Person and will. This is where the Lord Jesus always is, and He is in the process of taking us to be with Him where He is.
The third chapter of the Book of Colossians informs us that we now are at the right hand of God in Jesus Christ. Then Colossians states that Christ will return with those whose life He is. How many Christians do you know who are living by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ? These are the saints who will return with the Lord and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
It is my point of view that the promises to the overcomer, of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, are steps to the first resurrection of the dead. The promises begin with access to the Tree of Life and end with our sitting with Christ on His throne as He sits with the Father on the Fatherís throne.
"You have a few names in Sardis," the Lord declared. Only a few of the professing Christians in Sardis have prepared themselves to wear the white robe of the royal priesthood. Of the entire Church in Sardis, only a few of the saints will return with the Lord and help with the setting up of His Kingdom on the earth.
I do not know how many of todayís Christians will return with Christ, be raised from the dead, and then ascend to meet Him in the air. It may be true that there have been many in past time who have qualified. Yet the Lord told us many who are last shall be first; so I am assuming that mighty men and women of faith will be raised up in the day in which we are living.
We ought to know from what Paul said in Philippians that consecration far surpassing what is normal today is required if we are to attain to the first resurrection. Somehow Paulís statements have been ignored. It is not a good idea to ignore the Word of God, is it?
Numerous Israelites who were saved out of Egypt, a strong type of our salvation in Christ, never made it to the land of promise. The writer of the Book of Hebrews is informing us that we will not attain to the fullness that God has for us unless we address ourselves to the task more fervently than often is the case in America.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
If there is one verse that comes the closest to summing up the concern of the writer of Hebrews, the above probably is it.
"The promise of entering His rest still stands." This means the Land of Promise the "rest" of God prior to the Christian Era, is a symbol of a spiritual reality. There remains a rest for the Lordís elect; but the geographical area of Canaan is not it. There is a goal, a mark set before the Christian. If we do not keep on pressing forward in Christ we shall fall short of it.
For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:2)
If I am understanding correctly what is written here, it sounds as though the writer is referring to Godís Word to the Israelites as "the gospel." I am in agreement with this. The philosophy of Dispensationalism, which to my mind is totally unscriptural and destructive in its impact, has cut off from us Godís work with the Israelites. Personally I see the Scriptures as one seamless robe of Christ. The new covenant was promised by the Hebrew Prophets and is made only with the House of Israel. In order to partake of the salvation available under the new covenant we have to become part of the House of Israel through the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is only one elect of God, one royal priesthood, one chosen people. The royal priesthood began with the Jews, and the same priesthood has been extended to Gentiles whom the Lord has called. The priesthood shall return to the Jews as soon as the full number of Gentiles have been added to the one Olive Tree.
The New Testament flows out of the Old and is an integral part of the Old. In fact, there only is one Bible. From Genesis through Revelation it is one Bible written by one Holy Spirit of God.
So yesóthe Gospel of the Kingdom of God was preached to the Jews, although in a physical setting. The same Gospel coming from the same Holy Spirit is being preached to us, although in a spiritual setting.
Some of the Israelites of that day did not combine Godís Word with faith, and so it was of no value to them. The same is true of us if we do not combine Godís Word with faith. By "us" I do not mean the unsaved but the holy brothers, the saints.
Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, ĎThey shall never enter my rest.í" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3)
The foundation of the rest of God is the fact that God, at the time of the creation, finished His work. The elect were chosen; the world was designed; history was planned through to the coming down of the holy city through the new sky. All was completed in Godís vision; His Word began the work; and God rested.
All that God asks of any individual is to enter Godís rest.
Now, why donít we all just enter the rest of God and be done with it? It is because of the enemies that are resisting us at every turn.
One enemy is the Antichrist spirit that is in the world. This spirit does not want us resting in Godís plan for us. The spirit of the world wants us to spend our days seeking to acquire money and material possessions. The Antichrist spirit wants to put our spiritual eyes and set us to work grinding at the worldís mill, just as the Philistines put out Samsonís eyes and set him to work grinding in the prison.
The lusts and passions of our body, soul, and spirit insist that we serve them, not God. They would not have us rest in Godís will but to seek constantly to satisfy our appetites and desires. Whoever would enter Godís rest must overcome these passions.
Our greatest enemy is our self-will. It is difficult for us to just "let go and let God." We are bent on accomplishing some purpose that we have in mind.
In the American culture, ambition is admired. But God does not always admire our desire to achieve our objectives. In order to abide in His rest we have to let go of our personal ambitions and rest in Godís will for our life.
God may have us achieve some outstanding work, but He is not impressed by our fame. God cares about faithfulness and rewards faithfulness. If we are to enter Godís rest we must be content in small things and great things. None of them matter in any case, except as Godís will is done.
So the moment we decide to rest in Godís Person and will these three enemies confront us: the spirit of the world; our sinful nature; and our desire to act according to our own will. Believe me, for many of us, considerable prayer and experience are required if we are to make a success of entering Godís rest and maintaining our position there.
We can see readily that our faith worked out in our obedience is the key to attaining to the goal that God has set before us. We overcome those forces that stand against us by a steadfast faith in God, who has called us out of the world that we might fulfill all His purposes in Jesus Christ.
For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. (Hebrews 4:4-6)
Genesis declares that on the seventh day God rested from all his work. Then in the ninety-fifth Psalm, God said ďthey shall never enter my rest. ď referring to Canaan. Because the Israelites, to whom the Gospel originally was preached, were not permitted to enter Godís rest, there remains therefore a rest that is yet to be entered.
They were disobedient and did not believe. So the writer of Hebrews is telling his readers that the rest still is available, but we must press forward in faith and obedience.
Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Hebrews 4:7)
When God said the above, setting a certain day, many years after the time of Joshua, it becomes clear that God has in mind a rest that is not the rest of Canaan.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; (Hebrews 4:8,9)
But precisely what is this rest toward which the writer is pointing? Why are we hearing more about it today?
I probably will keep repeating myself concerning the definition of the "rest of God." It is nothing more than abiding in Christ. Thatís all. No big mystery. Whoever is content to remain in Christ, overcoming his sins as the Holy Spirit points them out, is dwelling in the rest of God.
There is a rest that is the way, and then the rest that is the goal.
The rest that is the way is, as I said, abiding in Christ and overcoming our sins as the Holy Spirit points them out. The rest that is the goal is our eternal position in Christ in God. All of our enemies have been put beneath our feet by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been filled with the fullness of God for eternity. We are living by the Life of Jesus Christ, our spirit, soul, and body filled with eternal, incorruptible resurrection life. This is the rest that is the goal. The rest that is the way brings us finally and eternally to the rest that is the goal.
We are hearing more about the rest of God today because we are at that place on Godís timetable when the Lord is ready to bring us into the spiritual land of promise, into the place of Godís rest and our rest in God.
All that has gone before in the history of the world has taken place in order to bring Godís Church, His elect, to the place where God can dwell in them and they in God. I suspect there have been individuals in time past who have pressed through to the fullness of God. But now God is calling a larger group of people to inherit the Kingdom.
Because it is time to move past the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Pentecost to the spiritual fulfillment of the celebration of Tabernacles, verses are being opened up to us that had not been emphasized previously. A good example is the discussion in Hebrews of the rest of God. We have not been aware of it until the present hour, in many instances.
As we see the moral depravity increasing in the world, including the worship of Satan, we understand if we are to stand in victory in Christ we need more than basic forgiveness and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. We need a fullness of God we have not experienced before. And God, knowing that sin would increase in the last days, has prepared a greater portion of Himself to be given to us as the need arises.
Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world, meaning that Christ, the Truth, is in us enabling us to overcome the lies of Antichrist. When we are serving God with our whole heart, our snake will always be able to swallow the snakes of the enemy. The Truth that is in us will overcome the great lie that the world spirit is.
Abiding contentedly in Christ, in the center of Godís Person and will, is the Sabbath-rest God has provided for us. The seventh-day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments is the forerunner of the eternal rest in which we dwell in God and do not perform our own work at any time, not just one day of the seven
For anyone who enters Godís rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10)
In six days, whether literal or symbolic, God created all things through to the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ. Everything has been finished, including our individual role in the Kingdom of God. Since this is a fact, our life should not consist of our efforts to create our own life but to find out what God has planned for us. Does this make sense to you?
As long as we are striving to fulfill our own plans we are misdirecting our energy. Everything has been finished in six days. Since none of us knows anything at all, actually, including what will bring us lasting joy, we ought to try to find out what God wants of us. Where do we fit in His plan? What does He want us to do?
To give up trying to direct our own life and to look to Jesus Christ each moment of each day is to enter the rest of God.
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)
When we do not place Godís will in first place in our life we are disobedient children. We are guilty of not believing Godís will and way are the path we should follow. The writer is warning us that we will fall from our position in God if we follow the example of the Jews in the wilderness, and walk in disobedience and unbelief.
We have to make every effort to enter that rest of abiding in Christ because of the powers of darkness that seek night and day to prevent us from resting in the will and love of God.
The enemy always is saying we canít do Godís will because it is too hard; or, no one is doing it; or, it doesnít really matter if we find Godís will because we are saved by grace; or, our life will be miserable if we do Godís will. Satan lost his position in Heaven around the throne of God because of his disobedience and unbelief. He desires that you and I also will disobey God and lose our inheritance.
Because there are many forces seeking to prevent our resting in Godís will, we have to make every effort. We have to be totally diligent at every minute of every day. A few days of neglecting prayer and Bible reading can make it possible for Satan to deceive us in some manner, the result being that we no longer are doing Godís will.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
As I attempt to understand the train of thought of the writer of Hebrews, I do not see how the above verse is related to the general thought of failing to press forward to complete victory in God. It seems as though he has let that topic go for now and is reminding his readers of the fact that God sees and knows everything and His Word penetrates our innermost being. God knows they are becoming careless.
There is one thought, however, that links the above verse to the discussion concerning the rest of God. It is that in order to enter the rest, the Word of God must penetrate every particle of our personality in order to root out and destroy every enemy, every area of darkness, every idol or motive that would attempt to divert us from our perfect rest in Godís will.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from Godís sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)
Perhaps the author had gained the impression that these Jewish believers thought God did not know or did not care what they were doing. Careless Christians and wicked people hope God does not know what they are doing; that somehow everything will remain hidden or be overlooked. People whose hearts are not right with God do not enjoy keeping in remembrance the idea that God knows all about them and someday they are going to have to give an account for the things they have done.
Perhaps this is why the "grace" teaching is so popular among American Christians. "Hopefully we will hear nothing negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ."
Those who emphasize the foolish hypothesis of evolution do so in the hope there is no God to whom they will have to give account.
But those who love God run to Him at all times that He may examine all they are doing and pass judgment on it. God will search them and test them to see if there is any wickedness in them. They love Godís fiery Presence. Do you? I know I do. The more God knows about what I am doing the better I like it. May the sword of His Word ever judge the thoughts and attitudes of my heart!
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Hebrews 4:14)
How much greater than Aaron is the Lord Jesus Christ, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, without beginning of days or end of lifeóa priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. He is the One who is representing us before the Father. Because of this we ought never to be discouraged but press forward in confidence until we have attained to that to which God has called us.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areóyet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Our great High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses because He has experienced the same temptations that we have. Yet being of the Divine Nature, not having inherited the sinful nature of the adamic lineage, being filled with the Holy Spirit, He was able to live in this world for thirty-three years without having sinned one time.
Because Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly, and then paid the penalty as though He had broken the Law of Moses, He is able to transfer His righteousness to us so it is as though we ourselves had kept the Law of Moses perfectly. Therefore we can proceed, without guilt, to follow the Holy Spirit as the Spirit enables us to put to death the actions of our sinful nature.
We are not forgiven so we can go to Heaven, as is taught today. We are forgiven so we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He removes the sinful nature from us. This is what we must come to understand today.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
It is taught today that we cannot keep the commandments set forth in the New Testament. They are there for the sole purpose of showing us we canít possibly keep them and therefore must be saved by grace.
This concept is totally destructive of Godís purposes under the new covenant.
It is true that the natural man in his own strength cannot keep the commands given us by Christ and His Apostles. But we have been born again. We have the Holy Spirit of God. We are being nourished by the body and blood of Christ. We can confess our sins and know God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Besides all this, we can go past the heavenly veil and approach God that we may receive mercy and grace. Then we indeed are able to keep all we have been commanded. Meanwhile Christ is faithfully making intercession for us.
We now are in the twenty-first century. For two thousand years the Christian churches, no doubt with numerous exceptions, have labored under the delusion that the Gospel of Jesus Christ primarily is one of forgiveness. Man is doomed to sin and there is nothing God can do about it except forgive him repeatedly.
"Lord forgive us for what we should not have done, and for not doing what we should have done." This is about as far as we have gotten in two thousand years.
Well, we are in a new day, the day of the victorious saint. We know now, from passages that always have been in the New Testament, that God has given us a new covenant so we can actually do what He has commanded.
Perhaps the time has come. Perhaps the great High Priest is rising to His feet, as I saw one time in vision. Perhaps the hour has arrived for the Father to make Christís enemies His footstool.
Whether or not this is the case, I do know there is power in Jesus Christ to enable us to overcome every sin. We do not become sinless overnight. We are not speaking of some unscriptural experience that removes our sinful nature root and branch. If there is such an experience I do not know of it. Do you?
Rather I am speaking of our daily walk with Jesus Christ. As we seek His face constantly He reveals the sinful thoughts and intents of our heart. As He does we confess, denounce, and renounce them. Then we pray that God will strengthen us so we never, never, never behave in this manner again.
This procedure is effective. Try it and you will see. Little by little the graveclothes will be removed from you. It is an eternal judgment against Satan.
You can see at once that this procedure is totally different from the idea that we are unable to do what God has commanded and therefore must be saved by grace (repeatedly forgiven).
As I said, I am not certain Christ actually has risen to His feet and God has begun to fulfill His promise that He would put all the enemies of Christ under His feet. But I do know the above procedure certainly works and is scriptural.
Why Christians in time past have not adopted and practiced what is presented so clearly in Godís Word I do not know. But I do know the Holy Spirit is emphasizing that we are to confess our sins and look to God for help in being totally delivered from them.
I think we mistakenly view our sinful nature as some bottomless well of corruption in our personality that never could be removed. This is not the case. Our sinful nature is a finite collection of bondages that can be removed one at a time until we are free.
At the present time in America we are immersed in a sea of demonic influences. Filthy thoughts pass through our minds all the time. These thoughts are not sin. Sin occurs when we actually do something of which we are ashamed.
There is no sinful bondageónot oneóthat the Lord Jesus Christ cannot break. He has the authority and the power. But we have to ask, ask, ask, ask as our discipleship progresses. This is all God requiresóthat we keep on asking; keep on seeking.
The point is, victory will come. It is not an open-ended, never-get-there kind of striving. Rather it is one definite victory after another. And there is an end in sight.
I feel certain many Christians will take advantage of what the Spirit is offering today. Perhaps others will be so involved in the American way of life they will not take the time to pursue the life of victory.
But I will say one thing: the rewards we normally associate with being a Christian will go only to those who live in victory over sin. If the number of victorious saints should prove to be only a small fraction of the believers, it makes no difference. Those who overcome sin through Christ will be raised when He appears. Those who chose not to be so diligent will not be raised when the Lord appears. This is because the purpose for the appearing of the Lord is to install His Kingdom on the earth.
Those who were too busy, or too disobedient, or too unbelieving, to gain victory through Jesus Christ, would be of no help in installing Christís Kingdom on the earth; just as they are of no help today but only weaken the hands of the "men of war."
The Veil has been rent. The way to the very heart of God is open to whoever will take the trouble to pray. What more can God do to help us gain victory over sin that He has not already done?
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)
The purpose of a priest is to represent people before God. How wonderful it is that our High Priest is the Son of God, the One who purchased us with His own blood. He always is interceding for us in the Presence of God, while Satan is accusing us.
He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 5:2,3)
Priests who are mere humans are sinners themselves. During the Day of Atonement, before an atonement could be made for the people, the priest had to offer a bull to make an atonement for his own sins. He had to do this every year because of his own sinful nature.
No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. (Hebrews 5:4)
I think there is a valuable thought here for us. In Romans we read, concerning the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit, that we should regard ourselves soberly in terms of the degree of faith God has given us. It seems to me we are not always wise when we challenge people to "do great things for God." We are inviting presumption.
The gifts and ministries are not "up for grabs," as we say. It is absolutely true that the Apostle Paul told us to covet earnestly the best gifts. This we must and should do. But coveting a gift is one matter. Proceeding to go forth as though we had the gift or ministry is another matter.
The Holy Spirit is the one who assigns gifts and ministries according to His own will. Our first task is to present our body a living sacrifice until we have proved the will of God for our own life. Every member of the Body of Christ is given a gift or ministry by the Spirit of God. It is up to us to find out what it is and to use it. Otherwise we will be guilty of burying our talent.
Presumption has no place among Godís ministers. Under the Law of Moses, no individual could decide to be a priest or a Levite. These offices depended on the family into which he was born. God was very strict concerning the privileges the priests had and the privileges the Levites had.
So it is today. We cannot assume we have a particular gift or ministry. It is up to the Holy Spirit to assign to us our function in the Body of Christ. Every member of the Body has a role, and he or she is required to seek God until he or she begins to serve in that role.
When I was first saved I was in the Marine Corps. We used to meet every night, while stationed in Japan, and the men would take turns giving the message.
When my turn came, I would maintain that no one should preach unless he was called. I do not know where I got this idea as a young Christian.
One night I entered the Japanese wooden barracks before anyone else came to the meeting. As I was praying the Presence of the Lord came into the room. His Presence became increasingly powerful. I said, "Do you want me to preach?"
No voice answered. But there was an overwhelming sense that this was what the visitation was all about.
That night, when everyone came in, I said, "The Lord just called me to preach." The leader of the group said, "It is your turn tomorrow night."
The following night I preached for the first time in my life. As I remember, the text was from First John. That was fifty-nine years ago.
I know the Lord has called me to preach and teach the Bible. This is my role, and I know it. May God help me to be faithful in it as long as I am alive.
All of my ministry has been rooted in prayer. I know the reason I am a pastor today is that I continued to pray, even though the Lord led me into public education for quite a few years. When the time came for me to enter full-time ministry, I had been praying every day and both Audrey and I knew the Lord was speaking.
We left everything and entered full-time ministry twenty-seven years ago, and God has provided all our needs.
All we are required to do is be faithful and obedient, and keep on praying.
The same is true for you. If there is a ministry on your heart, pray and keep on praying. Donít ever stop. Sooner or later you will find yourself ministering in a role that will fulfill your expectations. Donít assume anything and donít try to do something you are not sure of. Wait until you hear from God, because the priesthood, so to speak, is by Divine calling.
So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." (Hebrews 5:5)
First of all, let us point out that the Father and the Son are two different People. Current teaching leans far too heavily, from my point of view, in the direction that the Father and the Son are one Person in two different manifestations or forms. If that were the case, Hebrews 5:5 would make absolutely no sense.
The Father is the Father and the Son is the Son. "God said to Him." God does not talk to Himself? God does not say to Himself, "You are My Son."
It may be at this point that the Word becomes the Son.
But what day is "today"?
We could point to three chronological occurrences when Jesus was termed "the Son": when He was born of Mary; when He was baptized by John; and by His resurrection from the dead, according to Paul in Romans.
However, it is likely that the date is not important. Time seems to lose its significance in the spirit world. Jesus said two thousand years ago that He would return quickly!
Perhaps the Father was speaking of Jesus being born of Mary. What an awesome happening! The eternal Word was born of a human being. The Word became flesh.
Changing from the Word to Godís Son is terrifically significant, I think. For one thing, we also can become sons; but we canít become a Word in the sense that Christ was the Word. The Word becoming Godís Son brings us closer to Jesus, which I think is what God desired.
God chose Christ to be His Son. God also is choosing us to be His sons. We did not choose Him, He chose us.
And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:6)
We know little or nothing about Melchizedek, except that he was without beginning of days or end of life, and was a priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. He was so highly placed that Abraham paid tithes to him. Melchizedek is "King of Righteousness" and "King of Peace."
Some have said Melchizedek was an appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. But this does not set well with me. Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. How could Christ be a priest after the order of Himself?
So Melchizedek remains a mystery, suggesting that there may be races who are neither angels nor humans. But it seems clear to me that the Lord Jesus is Lord over all the creatures of God; and if we live as a victorious saint, we will sit on the throne with Jesus Christ just as He sits with the Father on the Fatherís throne.
During the days of Jesusí life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7)
Again we see the difference between Jesus and the Father. They are not the same Person. The Father would not offer up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to Himself!
I believe the translation "reverent submission" may not be strong enough. It does not seem to fit "loud cries and tears." Also, the death Christ was facing appeared to be eternal separation from the Father. We are speaking of an agony of groaning, of drops of blood.
This kind of extreme soul-wrenching is more than one would experience from mere reverence. I would think it would be a submission of obedienceóan obedience springing from a total union and relationship with the Consuming Fire of Israel; a mixture of love, fear, faith, and a tormenting understanding of the consequences of disobedience and also the consequences of not having His prayer answered.
We would not agonize to this extent over disobeying someone we did nothing more than revere!
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8)
The passage above is one of the astounding statements that appear in the Bible.
How could the Word, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ learn anything on the earth?
Well, the inerrant Word is telling us that Jesus Christ learned obedience.
He learned obedience to the Father. He learned obedience from what He suffered.
Apparently it is not possible to be perfected in obedience while in the spirit realm. I am not certain why this is the case. It may be because while we are on earth in a physical body we cannot see the Father, and all we have to go on is His Word. When you add suffering to this circumstance, especially suffering of the intensity of that which the Son of God was required to undergo, then you have a situation in which every motive of the heart can be examined. Perhaps no such situation can be found in the spirit realm.
If Jesus Christ had to learn obedience by suffering, what must be true of us?
And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9)
Jesus Christ now is perfect, having been through much suffering during His stay on the earth. He now is the Source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.
"Eternal salvation" refers to our being moved through the process of redemption. Redemption begins when we are bound in the person and will of Satan. Redemption is complete when we are free in the Person and will of the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.
But in order to progress through the process of redemption we have to obey Christ. This is where we are coming short today. We have been taught that our acknowledgment of the facts concerning Christ is what saves us, what brings us righteousness. This is not so. It is our obedience that saves us and bring us righteousness.
Our first act of obedience is to believe that God has sent Christ and that Christ has made an atonement for us through the shedding of His blood.
Our second act of obedience is to turn away from the world and be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Our third act of obedience is to look to the Holy Spirit for every action of our life, confessing and turning away from sin as the Holy Spirit leads us.
Today we are taught that mere belief is enough. This is not true, unless belief causes us to follow the Spirit of God at all times.
It is an eternal salvation if we are obedient. If we stop with a mere acknowledgment of the facts concerning Christ, His virgin birth, the blood atonement He made, His physical resurrection, His return to earth in the future, we have not pressed forward in the work of redemption. We have remained in "Egypt," and there we shall die.
And was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:10)
The writer of Hebrews knew things about Melchizedek that he never told us. He felt his readers were not mature enough in Christ to understand him. This is too bad, because there no doubt was information that would have been helpful and of interest to us.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of Godís word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (Hebrews 5:11-12)
The condition of these Christian Jews was so typical of today. People will attend church for forty years and learn little if anything.
Having been in education for a number of years I am interested why it is that people can sit in church for such a long time and remain babies in understanding and experience. I believe there are many reasons for this.
One reason is that they do not view themselves as disciples. They attend church to fulfill their moral responsibility, not to learn anything, or to change morally.
Another reason people do not grow in understanding and in the moral image of Christ is that they are taught traditions instead of the Word of God. You cannot teach people grace, Heaven, rapture, grace, Heaven, rapture, grace, Heaven, rapture, Sunday after Sunday and expect them to grow or learn anything. This is not nourishing food.
A third reason why people can be Christians for many years and not grow in understanding or moral stature is the unscriptural emphasis on evangelism. The gifts and ministries of the Spirit of God were assigned to the Body of Christ in order to bring the believers to the stature of the fullness of Christ. When the message in every service is designed to "save a sinner" in case one attends, you can be certain the believers are not going to grow in Christ.
No doubt there are other reasons why the believers remain immature; but the three I have listed are prevalent in our day.
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)
"The teaching about righteousness." The baby is not given steak to eat. The immature believer is not able to receive the teaching about righteousness.
The teaching about righteousness begins with the righteousness assigned to us because of the blood atonement and the faultless Person of Jesus Christ.
The teaching about righteousness proceeds to the practice of confessing, denouncing, and renouncing the acts of our sinful nature.
The teaching about righteousness proceeds to the understanding that we are going to be clothed, in the Day of Resurrection, with our behavior while on earth.
What we need today in the Christian churches is the teaching about righteousness. It may be true that everyone in the world understands what righteous behavior is, except the Christians. Our minds have been so cluttered with the overemphasis on imputed righteousness that we suppose anyone who attempts to live righteously is a legalist, a Phariseeóan evil person who imagines he can add to the perfect righteousness of Christ.
We simply do not understand the way the new covenant operates!
"But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Do you understand this statement? If so, you probably are one of a small minority of todayís American Christians.
Solid food: solid food is the teaching about righteousness.
The mature: believers who understand and practice the teaching about righteousness.
Have trained themselves: they understand they cannot just wait to have their sinful nature removed. They are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the task of training themselves.
To distinguish good from evil: they now are able to distinguish between good and evil, between righteousness and wickedness, and have gained the willingness and strength to embrace the good and denounce and renounce the evil.
The above is what it means to grow in Christ. It is to partake on a regular basis of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is the eternal moral law of God. As we feed on this tree, the Tree of Life becomes accessible to us.
Until we grow in the ability to recognize good and evil, and embrace the good and reject the evil, we are a spiritual baby. We will not be raised from the dead when the Lord appears because we are of no use to Him for the work of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, Instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 6:1-3)
It is interesting to note what the writer of the Book of Hebrews refers to as "elementary teachings about Christ." When he stresses going on to "maturity," we might assume he is referring to the "rest of God" he had mentioned earlier.
The elementary teachings about Christ:
Repentance from acts that lead to death. My thought here is that the writer is referring to the turning away from the things of the world that we do when we first receive Christ. Remember, the Apostle Paul exhorted his listeners in many areas to "prove their repentance by their deeds." As described in the Book of Acts, repentance played a major role in the early preaching of the Gospel.
Faith in God. Faith in God requires that we turn away from our own wisdom and strength and place our hand in the Hand of God. We permit God to order our life in all that we think, say, and do. This is the meaning of "The just shall live by faith."
Instruction about baptisms. There are three baptisms: baptism with water; the baptism with the Holy Spirit; and the baptism with fire.
Baptism with water means we have assigned our first personality to the cross with Jesus Christ and have risen with Him to walk in newness of life.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit means we have been placed in the Body of Christ as a member of the anointed One, the Servant of the Lord.
Baptism with fire occurs as God brings us through fiery trials in order to expose and destroy out of us every aspect of our sinful nature.
The laying on of hands. Hand are laid on the believers to impart the Holy Spirit; to set apart people for ministry; and to heal the sick.
The resurrection of the dead. The doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the believers is not being emphasized today to the extent its actual importance in the Divine redemption warrants. The so-called "rapture" is being preached in place of the actual climax of redemption, which is the resurrection unto eternal life in the body.
The resurrection unto eternal life must be attained to, as the Apostle Paul pointed out, by counting all else of our life as garbage, making the gaining of the fullness of Christ our highest priority.
To my way of thinking, one of the most needed of all the understandings being given to the churches in our day is that concerning the relationship between our behavior today and what will happen to us in the Day of Resurrection.
We go through our Christian life blindly, supposing when we die we will go to Heaven to live forever. This is not true. Heaven is a station along the way until the Day of Resurrection comes. When the Day of Resurrection arrives, God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. So our rest in Heaven will be interrupted when the Lord is ready to return to earth. I imagine we all know this but just have not thought much about it.
After our rest in Heaven our physical body will be raised from the dead. It is at that point that we will receive what we have done, the kind of life we lived as a Christian.
The teaching that no one who makes a profession of Christ need be concerned about the Day of Resurrection is far, far from the truth. That Day may very well determine our state of being for eternity.
If we have lived the life of victory over sin, our resurrected flesh and bones will be clothed with heavenly glory. Then we shall receive unimaginable rewards.
Those whom God has determined to save as by fire will not be destroyed, but neither will they receive an inheritance. They shall enter the new heaven and earth reign of Christ as a child, perhaps, having nothing to show for their life on the earth.
Those whom Christ will not accept shall be removed from His Presence, there to go into the outer darkness, or the Lake of Fire, or to some other place of torment.
Our goal is not to go to Heaven, it is to have a better resurrection.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so they might gain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)
Have you ever heard someone preach or teach about the Apostle Paul laying all else aside that he might attain to the resurrection from the dead? Have you ever heard anyone preach or teach that how we are living now will have a direct affect on our state of being in the Day of Resurrection?
You havenít? Then you can see how badly we need this doctrine restored. And think! The writer of the Book of Hebrews views the doctrine of the resurrection as an "elementary teaching."
Eternal judgment. We are just now entering into the doctrine of eternal judgment. As we confess our sin, denouncing it, turning away from it, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to purify us from all unrighteousness. This is an eternal judgment on Satan. The understanding is that once this area of darkness has been removed from us, we never will behave in this manner again. Satan is sent into the darkness. We are set free from the chains of sin and enter more fully into the Light of Godís Presence in Jesus Christ.
The above are the "elementary teachings about Christ." It makes us wonder, doesnít it? If these Jewish believers were this advanced, why is the Book of Hebrews a warning about not moving forward to maturity? I think we must get busy and press forward with all the strength we have if we are to catch up to these believers and then move past them to maturity, to the rest of God. How do you feel about this?
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, Who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, (Hebrews 6:4,5)
Look at the background of these believers:
They have been enlightened.
They have tasted the heavenly gift.
They have shared in the Holy Spirit.
They have tasted the goodness of the Word of God.
They have tasted the powers of the coming age.
Scholars, in their haste to prove once we profess Christ we have nothing to worry about, claim these believers were mere professors. They never actually were Christians.
If these people were not genuine Christians, how then do we define a genuine Christian?
I would think the five criteria mentioned above would define a genuine Christian.
I would say a mere professor would not ever have been enlightened; would not ever have tasted the heavenly gift; would not ever have shared in the Holy Spirit; would not ever have tasted the goodness of the Word of God; would not ever have tasted the power of the coming age.
How do you feel about this?
Yet a popular Evangelical edition , in its footnotes to Hebrews 6:2, says these people were mere professors of religion; they were not true Christians.
I donít really know what to say about this. Have we become so liberal in our thinking that we will permit an edition in our bookstores with footnotes that are so obviously incorrect?
Have we become so influenced by humanism that anyone who makes the barest profession of Christ must be protected from any hint that he is not eternally saved and on his way to Heaven?
What is behind this "You shall not surely die" emphasis in our midst? Is it because we have made large numbers of churches and worshipers the criteria of success in the ministry?
Why are we so afraid to be stern when the Scriptures are stern?
By every measure we could apply, the original readers of the Book of Hebrews were seasoned, genuine Christians. The writer is warning them that the Jews who left Egypt died in the wilderness because of their disobedience and unbelief. Since the writer is comparing the believers whom he is addressing to the Jews who left Egypt, then he is not writing to mere professors of religion who had no real depth of faith in Christ.
I think it is time someone wrote competent footnotes to Hebrews 6:4-8. If they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:6-8)
Two things might be said about the above passage.
First, we are not speaking of some new Christian who starts off in Christ and then backslides; saying, that the moment he turns aside he or she is doomed. There would not be many of us left if that was the case.
The believers being addressed had made substantial progress in Christ. To have gone that far, and then to have turned their back on the Lord, would be, as it says, to crucify Christ again and subject Him to public disgrace.
Second, we are not speaking of someone being cut off instantly. The comparison to the crop that land brings forth shows there is a process here. Thorns and thistles do not come forth overnight.
Also, notice that first the land is shown to be worthless; then that it is in danger of being cursedónot that it is cursed suddenly but that it is in danger of being cursed; finally the crop will be burned. The Lord Jesus said exactly the same thing, when He told of the branch that did not bear the fruit of His image. It would be cut from the Vine, and then thrown into the fire.
So we are not to take the heartless position that the instant someone turns from Christ he never can return. But neither are we to try to slip around what is plainly stated and say it could never happen to a Christian. It can happen, and it shall happen if we repeatedly ignore the warnings of the Spirit.
The contemporary practice of attempting to take the heart out of these comments is nothing more than the old "You shall not surely die." And we know where that comes from.
It assuredly is time for a reformation of Christian thinking!
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your caseóthings that accompany salvation. (Hebrews 6:9)
What are the things that accompany salvation?
In the context of the Book of Hebrews, it would be an unrelenting pressing forward in Christ until we attain to the fullness of the inheritance.
It would be change into the moral image of Christ, including the development of the fruit of the Spirit.
It would be untroubled rest in the Center of Godís Person and will.
It would be a willingness to share the sufferings of Christ.
It would be life lived in Christ in the Spirit of God.
It would be living by the body and blood of Christ.
It would be the destruction of the sinful nature.
It would be complete preparation for the resurrection unto life.
It would be being filled with the fullness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10)
The writer is encouraging them and speaking kindly to them. He has more warnings for them, but he has stopped momentarily in order to acknowledge the good they have done.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. (Hebrews 6:11)
Be diligent to show that you love God by helping His people. You must be diligent to the very end in order to make your hope sure. This reminds us of the Apostle Peter exhorting us to make our calling and election sure. Also of the Lord Jesus informing us that it is the person who endures to the end who is saved.
This is salvation by works, pure and simple. There certainly is a place for this in the New Testament. Under the new covenant there is a place for faith and a place for works. These must be kept in balance if we are to make a success of our salvation.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12)
These being addressed were in danger of becoming lazy. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Neglectful! Lazy! This is the problem addressed in the Book of Hebrews.
We are to imitate Job, Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Paul, Johnóall who had to exercise faith and patience in order to inherit the blessing of God.
Faith and patience! These are the great engines of the work of redemption. How often our faith is challenged! How often our patience is tested! Yet we keep on pressing forward, pressing forward, pressing forward.
Having been a Christian for many years I have had an opportunity to observe believers in Christ. Some of them quit after a year or two. Some go just so far and then are hindered by a personality flaw. And then there are a few who just keep plodding forward. Some make a great show at first but donít last.
It is not the brightest or the most talented who endure to the end. It is those who do not quit. When they stumble they get up again and continue to fight on. God has put something in their personality that will not take no for an answer. These are the people who shall inherit what has been promised.
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, Saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. (Hebrews 6:13-15)
We can tell, from what the writer is saying, that his readers were exhibiting signs of boredom and impatience with the pace of their salvation. Oswald Chambers instructed us that boredom is one of the major problems that we face.
Receiving Christ is like marriage in a way. We may commence with great enthusiasm. But after five or ten years go by, we may not be as enthusiastic. It is at this point that character takes over. We made a promise when we felt a certain way. Now we feel differently. How we feel does not change anything. We made a promise, remember? A person of integrity does what he has promised, unless there are extenuating circumstances on which God places His approval.
How many men have left their wives and children? How many wives have left their husbands for another man? There are millions of such in America. In most cases, as far as I know, there is no basis for the broken vow other than the fact that one or the other of the partners was not "happy."
We may term our problem "irreconcilable differences." The truth usually is lack of integrity; lack of character; lack of faithfulness; lack of honor.
The man leaves his wife and his boys feel abandoned. His boys may become drunks or commit suicide. Does he care? Not as much as he cares for his own "happiness."
He is without integrity. He is not worthy of the Kingdom of God. He is facing an angry Christ when he dies, if not before!
The same thing is true about professing faith in Christ. We make a vow to God We had better keep it. To say we are going to serve Christ, and then to decide not to, is inexcusable. We are not fit for the Kingdom of God. There is no honor inside of us, just a pitiful little self-will that must always be pleased.
God made a promise to Abraham. Twenty-five years later Isaac was born. A few years after that, God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham trudged up the mountain to do Godís will. This is faithfulness. This is honor. This is integrity. This is true faith in God. This man is worthy of the Kingdom of God.
Yet he had not experienced the blood atonement.
He was not born again as we are.
He did not have the Holy Spirit as we do.
He did not have a Bible as we do.
All Abraham had was faithfulness, honor, integrity, patience, character, faith. These attributes go far with Godóa whole lot farther than making a profession of faith in Christ and then living as any other worldling. Such "believers" sometimes become angry with God because they are offended in some manner. This is the mess that all to often passes for the Christian religion in the United States of America.
Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. (Hebrews 6:16,17)
Now the writer is pointing out to the Jewish Christians that they can trust Godís promise. He is not going to change. Evidently they were tired of waiting for the Kingdom of God to appear and were becoming discouraged.
It is clear to me, from some of the things Paul said, that he believed Jesus would appear in His Kingdom while Paul was still living.
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (II Thessalonians 1:6,7)
It may have been commonly believed among the early Christian that Christ would return during their lifetime. But as the years went by and there was no sign of the Lord, they became weary in well doing.
This can happen to us, canít it? We start off believing God is going to use us in some exciting manner. And then thirty years goes by and we do not see much happening. It is easy to grow lazy and bored, isnít it? But the Book of Hebrews warns us that God does not accept laziness or boredom. We gain the inheritance only if we press forward to the end.
God did this so, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. (Hebrews 6:18)
God made a promise to the heirs of salvation and then confirmed that promise with an oath. It is impossible for God to lie about the promise He has made. So we are to take hold of Godís promise and Godís oath and not become impatient, discouraged, lazy, unbelieving, or disobedient. No matter how dark it seems, Godís promise never will be broken. Godís faithfulness was all Christ had to cling to in Gethsemane. Godís faithfulness will not fail us just as it did not fail Christ when He descended into Hell.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, (Hebrews 6:19)
Our hope in Jesus Christ anchors our soul inside the Most Holy Place in Heaven. In no manner can any power in the heavens, on the earth, or in the dark places under the earthís surface, remove that anchor. It remains sure and steady in the Presence of God Himself.
Where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20)
Christ has gone through the Veil and is representing us in the very Presence of the Father. Aaron could enter the Most Holy Place on earth once each year on the Day of Atonement. But the Lord Jesus Christ, who remains forever inside the Most Holy Place in Heaven, always lives to make intercession for us.
He is our High Priest forever on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.
This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." (Hebrews 7:1,2)
The kings who were defeated were Kedorlaomer, Tidal, Amraphel, and Arioch. Abraham was so wealthy he had his own private army.
We know virtually nothing about Melchizedek, except that he was the priest of God. Abraham, in thanksgiving for his victory and the rescue of Lot, gave to God through Godís priest a tenth of the spoils. As far as I know, this is the first mention in the Bible of the practice of tithing, of giving to God a tenth of our income.
Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. (Hebrews 7:3)
Apparently Melchizedek still is serving God as a priest; but where and for whom we do not know. If Melchizedek was Christ in the Old Testament, as some claim, why didnít the writer of Hebrews say this? Also, the writer says Melchizedek is "like the Son of God," not he is the Son of God. I do not like the practice of adding ideas to the Bible when we do not understand what is written. How do you feel about this?
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! (Hebrews 7:4)
It is obvious Melchizedek is a personage of considerable importance. Abraham is the beginning of the Christian Church. Jesus Christ is the Seed of Abraham. We also are the Seed of Abraham because we belong to Christ.
Yet at this time Abraham gave a tenth of the plunder to Melchizedek, in this manner honoring God and Melchizedek.
Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the peopleóthat is, their brothersóeven though their brothers are descended from Abraham. (Hebrews 7:5)
The Levites were descended from Abraham through Jacob. The rest of the Israelites also were descended from Abraham through Jacob. Yet, the rest of the Israelites had to pay the tenth of their income to the Levites even though they all were descended from Abraham.
God has the authority to set aside some people as being holier than others. This is difficult for us who are accustomed to democratic procedures. We would demand that the Levites be required in some manner to earn the privilege of representing God.
The whole idea that God chose the land and people of Israel to be closer to Himself than other territories and nations is repugnant to democratic thinking. The idea that God brings certain people to Christ that Christ may give them eternal life is contrary to democratic thinking. In fact, even Christians, who have been so affected by the current emphasis on evangelism that they believe they are supposed to go forth and save the world, might have a difficult time believing God chooses whom He will to be members of the royal priesthood.
As I have stated many times, current Christian thinking has been heavily influenced by Gnosticism and humanism. I might add to these influences democratic thinking. God does not think in Gnostic, humanistic, or democratic terms. God is an absolute Monarch who does as He will with His creatures. He is the Potter who molds pots and bowls according to His own desires.
God is love and He is absolutely righteous. We are arrogant and know nothing at all. This is especially true of us Americans. We need to settle it in our mind that God is to be obeyed whether we do or do not understand His ways. Calvary answers every question about Godís righteousness and mercy! Let God be true and every man a liar.
This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. (Hebrews 7:6,7)
At that time and under these circumstances, Melchizedek was shown to be greater than Abraham, in that he received the tenth from Abraham and blessed Abraham. Melchizedek must have been, and still may be, a very important personage in Godís universe.
Some reputable Christians have had glimpses of what may be considered to be intelligent worlds other than our own. Whether or not such worlds exist, Melchizedek is a priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. In any case, he must be one of the creatures created by the Word in the beginning.
In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. (Hebrews 7:8)
In one instance the tenth is collected by Levi and his descendants. In the other instance the tenth is collected by the priest who has neither beginning of life nor end of days.
One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, Because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. (Hebrews 7:9,10)
This is an interesting thought, isnít it? Levi had not as yet been born, he was in the body of Abraham, so to speak. So when Abraham paid the tenth to Melchizedek it was the same as Levi paying the tenth to Melchizedek. This action makes Melchizedek a greater priest than Levi, hence greater than the Levitical priesthood and the Law of Moses.
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to comeóone in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11)
Remember, the principal theme of the Book of Hebrews is the warning to the believers to not stop pressing forward toward perfection, toward the rest of God.
Now we have come to a secondary theme: the proof there has been a change of covenant. There is a new priestly order, as shown by the fact that Jesus Christ is a priest after the order or Melchizedek and not after the order of Aaron. Also, as shown by Levi, while in the body of Abraham, paying the tenth to Melchizedek. The order of Melchizedek is on a higher level than that of the Aaronic priesthood.
For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. (Hebrews 7:12-14)
The idea of there being a change of the Law of Moses is epochal in importance.
At the time the Book of Hebrews was written, the Law of Moses was reverenced by the Jews. A change in the Law was unthinkable!
We Gentiles do not always interpret the Apostle Paul correctly because his epistles were written in part to show that the Law of Moses (the "works" of the Law) no longer are the path to righteousness. We think of "works" in terms of godly behavior, thus perverting what Paul was teaching. Paul emphasized that we no longer are obligated to obey the statutes of the Law of Moses; not that we no longer are obligated to practice righteous behavior.
Now the writer of Hebrews, in agreement with Paul, is showing his readers that there has been a change in the Law, in Godís way of assigning righteousness to us. The Agent of this change is Christ Jesus, Godís Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek and not that of Aaron. The change is underscored further by the fact that the Lord Jesus descended from Judah and not from Levi.
And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 7:15-17)
A change in the priesthood means a change in the Law of Moses. The writer is laying the groundwork for his teaching concerning the new covenant.
To the present hour it appears the Christian people are not certain concerning the transition from Moses to Christ. Some seek to obey the Sabbath commandment by going to church on Sunday. Others observe the feast days.
The majority of the Christians have the impression that we are under no law but are "saved by grace." Thus enormous confusion reigns.
God has not brought us from a more demanding law to a less demanding law. Rather, God has brought us from marriage to the Law of Moses to marriage to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Marriage to the Lord Jesus is infinitely more demanding than marriage to the Law of Moses. For example, the Law of Moses commands that we turn aside from our own pursuits and seek to do the Lordís pleasure on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.
Marriage to the Lord Jesus demands that we turn aside from our own pursuits and seek to do the Lordís pleasure twenty-four hours of every day of the year. This is the eternal Sabbath, the Sabbath in which the Lord Jesus lives.
The Jews being addressed could receive the atonement, be baptized with the Holy Spirit, keep the Law of Moses, and go on with their life. This was true of the members of the first Christian church, as described in the Book of Acts.
The writer of Hebrews is telling them that this is not sufficient. First, receiving the atonement and being baptized with the Holy Spirit marks the very beginning of the plan of redemption. The blood and the Spirit are the tools we must have if we are to work out our own salvation. Also, keeping the commandments of the Law of Moses is not acceptable as a substitute for turning aside from the sinful nature and following the Holy Spirit.
Second, there is a goal they must pursue. The goal is called "the rest of God." It is the place where each believer has found Godís plan for his or her life established from the beginning of the world. The believer has overcome every enemy that has come against him. He or she is living in the eternal Sabbath rest.
Change has come to Israel, because Jesus Christ is a Priest after the order of Melchizedek and not after the order of Aaron.
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (For the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18,19)
I think we of today need to realize that the Law of Moses has been set aside because it was weak and useless. We are not under the Ten Commandments nor are we to observe any of the feast days; unless we desire to in some Christian form, realizing that the observance is not required of us.
Why was the Law weak and useless? Why is the new covenant a better hope? Because the Law could not and did not produce the righteous behavior God always looks for. The problem is, the Law has no power to destroy our sinful nature.
Here is a fact of which many Christian churches appear to be unaware. The difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant is not that the new covenant offers a better forgiveness; the difference is, the new covenant furnishes us with the authority (the blood of the cross) and the power (the Holy Spirit) to enable us to break the chains of the sinful nature.
The old covenant cannot take away sin. The new covenant can take away sin forever. This is why the new covenant is superior.
The purpose of the Law of Moses is to bring us to Christ where our sinful nature can be overcome. The new covenant is infinitely superior to the old for this reason.
And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, But he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ĎYou are a priest forever.í" Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. (Hebrews 7:20-22)
We have Levi paying the tenth to Melchizedek. We have Christ ordained in the order of Melchizedek. And now we have Godís oath. The writer has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the Anointed One who is to come, although not of the tribe of Levi, is Godís choice to be the guarantee of a new and better covenant. Christ is Godís High Priest for eternity.
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)
Now we have another superiority. Since the Lord Jesus is a priest forever, unlike the priests of the Aaronic order, He can save us completely. This means He is able to keep on interceding for us until we are wholly in His moral image and wholly at rest in Godís will.
The Lord Jesus is the Author and the Finisher; the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End; the First and the Last. We may not think too much about the fact that Christ finishes what He begins in our life, until we go through a severe crisis. Then the assurance that Christ will bring us through safely is our sure anchor in the storm.
Such a high priest meets our needóone who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)
Religious leaders of all persuasions are imperfect, as we know. A recent magazine article stated that Navy chaplains have a misconduct rate "more than 20 times higher than that of other naval officers." The offences of the chaplains over the last decade include "adultery, homosexual assault, child molestation, and downloading pornography on Navy computers." (World, July 26, 2003)
We understand there are numerous Christian leaders who are people of integrity and morally pure. But they have their faults just as we all do.
But the Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, is holy, blameless, pure, separate from sinners, and "exalted above the heavens. Our Judge is also our lawyer. He prevents our being condemned before He has a chance to work with us and correct us.
Through the Lord Jesus Christ, God has made every possible provision to deliver us from Satan and bring us to Himself.
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:27)
The High Priest of the order of Aaron had to offer a young bull for his sins and a ram for a burnt offering, on the Day of Atonement. When the High Priest (Anointed Priest) sinned during the year, he brought guilt on the people, the Bible states. He then had to offer a young bull for his sins.
But the Lord Jesus Christ never sinned. He never brought guilt on the people of God by His sins. Rather, He was sacrificed for their sins, thus making an eternal atonement for them. He will never have to be sacrificed again!
The atonement we receive is effective for eternity. It does not have to be renewed each year. The concept is that after having received Christ we never again will sin knowingly and willfully.
When we sin we confess our sin and turn away from it. The atonement remains in force.
However, if we turn away from Christ and begin to sin knowingly and willfully, the atonement does not remain in force. There is no provision under the old covenant or the new covenant for willful, premeditated sin.
So the atonement made for us is eternal, unless we turn back into sin. If we turn back into sin, after having known the Lord, our outlook is grim indeed! We can gain forgiveness, in most instances, if we return quickly and truly repent. God is merciful. But we may suffer the consequences of our backsliding for many years.
For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:28)
We understand therefore, that our Anointed Priest has been made perfect through sufferings, and has been tempted just as we have been, although without sin. He knows our frailties. He always is interceding for us and assisting us in other ways. Since He has been made a Priest for eternity He can bring us all the way from the person and will of Satan to the Person and will of Godóa perfect, complete redemption in every respect.
The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, And who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. (Hebrews 8:1,2)
God gave Moses the design for the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The Tabernacle is made up of three main elements. There is the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. There were seven furnishings included in the Tabernacle compound: the Lid of Atonement, the Ark of the Covenant, the Altar of Incense, the Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, the Laver, and the Altar of Burnt Offering.
It seems likely that the Tabernacle of the Congregation with its furnishings reflects a similar arrangement in Heaven.
There is a "true tabernacle set up by the Lord," which evidently is in Heaven.
Our great Anointed Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, serves as Priest in the heavenly tabernacle, just as Aaron and his descendants served in the earthly Tabernacle, ministering at the Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, and the Altar of Incense.
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. (Hebrews 8:3)
Christ indeed had something to offer to the Father. First, He lived a blameless life. Second, He agreed to take upon Himself the sins of the world.
Third, He offered His own blood to make an atonement for the sin of the world.
Today He is praising God along with the Church, and also making intercession for the saints.
If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.(Hebrews 8:4)
Here is an interesting thought. The writer is referring to the Jewish priests who at this time were serving in the Temple as well as the synagogues. The point is, if Jesus of Nazareth, of the tribe of Judah, were still on the earth He would not be qualified to be a priest. Jesusí priesthood is in Heaven, not on the earth.
They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." (Hebrews 8:5)
I find it interesting to realize that when we study the Tabernacle of the Congregation we can get a picture in our mind of what is taking place in Heaven.
It seems to me that everyone who uses the Bible description to make a model of the Tabernacle, or to draw a sketch of it, comes up with a somewhat different portrayal. This is true especially of the Laver. The directions in the Bible are not sufficient. Moses was shown the pattern when he was with God on the mountain.
So it is with the New Testament. Some have gone into detail about how the churches should operate; how missionary work should be pursued according to the New Testament. The truth is, the description in the New Testament is helpful but not complete. We as an individual have to hear from God if we are going to be able to work with Christ as He builds His Church.
The reason there are so many denominations is that the builders are working according to their own understanding rather than hearing from the Lord, in many instances.
But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)
The ministry Jesus has received operates in Heaven in the Presence of the Father. Thus it is infinitely superior to the ministry of the descendants of Aaron on the earth.
Likewise, the new covenant, of which the Lord Jesus is the Mediator, is infinitely superior to the Law of Moses. It is founded on better promises in that God has sworn an oath concerning the Priesthood of Christ.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. (Hebrews 8:7,8)
It is prophesied in Jeremiah and Ezekiel that God would make a new covenant with Israel.
We need to understand at the outset that the new covenant, the Christian covenant, cannot be made with a Gentile, only with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. We Gentiles have no place in Godís salvation except as we become part of the one Seed of Abraham through the Lord Jesus Christ. There is only one Olive Tree that God accepts, and we must be grafted onto it.
Our main consideration here gets at the root of the massive error in Christian thinkingóand it indeed is a massive error!
We are presenting the new covenant as superior because it forgives our sins even though we do not proceed to live righteously. (How could we ever have been so deceived?)
What was the problem with the Law of Moses? The Law of Moses is a perfect covenant. But God found fault with the people.
What fault did God find with the people? The fault was, they were not understanding what God intended. They strove over minute aspects of the Law while their heart was far from God. We can see this misunderstanding in the fact that they kept the smallest points of the Law and then murdered their Christ.
In other words, the Israelites under the Law of Moses did not live in true righteousness, true holiness, and true obedience to God. They kept the Law sometimes but did not mix faith with it.
Therefore God found fault with them, so He issued a better covenant.
If the problem with the first covenant was that the people did not understand God or His ways and did not walk in righteousness, what, in your opinion, would a better covenant accomplish?
We say today it is a better covenant because it forgives our sins more completely, and we donít have to make an effort to keep Godís commandments found in the New Testament. (As far as I can tell, all the moral commandments of the Old Testament are brought forward in the New Testament, and in some cases are expanded.)
Now stop and think. If the first covenant was replaced because the people did not live righteously, what would God expect of a superior covenant?
The only sensible answer is: God would expect a superior covenant to succeed where the first covenant failed. God would expect the new covenant to produce the true righteousness, the true holiness, and the true obedience God desires.
Does this make sense to you?
The claim the new covenant is superior because God now overlooks our behavior reflects spiritual blindness. How could any intelligent person believe that the new covenant is better because now Godís people can sin and it doesnít matter because they are "saved by grace"?
I think if an unsaved person were told that the Israelites did not please God by their behavior, and so God issued a better covenant, they would assume the better covenant was one in which the Israelites pleased God by their behavior. This would be a normal, logical response.
I believe further if an unsaved person were told it is a better covenant because now the behavior of the Israelites was overlooked, that they were forgiven no matter what they did, the unsaved person would understand people might be pleased with such a covenant but it hardly met Godís expectations.
There is no question in my mind but that we have been grievously deceived. The result is a morally confused set of believers who are not certain what if any role their behavior plays in their salvation.
Today the Episcopal denomination gave its approval to the installation of a homosexual bishop in one of the New England states. Since homosexual behavior is sternly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments, we draw the conclusion that what the Bible states is not as important to the Episcopal denomination as are social desires and values. Thus these Christian believers are not bearing a true witness of God. There is evidence that at this moment not all Episcopalians are in agreement with the decision to endorse a homosexual ministry.
Whenever Christians do not reveal in themselves the righteous Character of God, they are not bearing a true witness of Jesus Christ. Because of our interpretation of the new covenant as the means of being acceptable to God apart from righteous behavior, we have destroyed the Christian witness. I believe this is the work of the master deceiver.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. (Hebrews 8:9)
Why will the new covenant be different from the old? Because the forefathers did not remain faithful to Godís covenant. In what manner were the forefathers not faithful to Godís covenant? They did all the things that God told them not to do, and did not do what God told them to do. The covenant between God and Israel specified that the Israelites would behave in a certain manner, as described in the Ten Commandments for example, and God then would bless them with material blessings. This was the covenant.
But the forefathers did not keep their part of the covenant, and so God turned away from them.
Now God has given us a new covenant that is not like the old covenant. In what way is it different? Is it different because now God is not overly concerned about our behavior and just wants us to believe in Christ; or is it different because now God has given us additional grace so we can behave according to His eternal moral law?
It is not both. It either is a covenant of eternal forgiveness only; or it is a covenant of moral transformation and then eternal forgiveness.
According to several passages in the writings of the Apostles, plus the Words of the Lord Jesus Himself, the new covenant is one of moral transformation and eternal forgiveness, not of the eternal forgiveness of untransformed people.
Now letís see how the writer of the Book of Hebrews defines the new covenant:
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ĎKnow the Lord,í because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:10-12)
It seems to me there are three parts of the new covenant:
The knowledge of the Lord.
The first and most important part is moral transformation. This is why the new covenant is better than the old covenant. God has said He will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts. The eternal moral laws of God are put in our minds so we will understand them, and written in our hearts so we will love them and want to do them.
How does God put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts? He does this along two dimensions. First, He feeds us with the flesh and blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Second, He destroys our sinful nature.
These two dimensions are sovereign actions of God, but they require our cooperation.
The growth of Christ in us, as we feed on His body and blood, enables us to overcome the deeds of our sinful nature. The overcoming of the deeds of our sinful nature qualifies us to receive more of the flesh and blood of Christ.
Our part of the covenant is to follow the Holy Spirit as He transforms our behavior. Godís part is to furnish the grace necessary for our transformation, and then to give to us the fullness of eternal life plus all that He is making new in Christ.
It really is very simple. We pray each day, read our Bible, seek the mind of the Lord each moment, gather with fervent believers when possible, give, serve, and otherwise live as a disciple. It is especially important that the moment we become aware of sin in our life we confess it as sin and turn away from it. The Lord will help us do this.
As we are faithful in obeying the Lord He feeds us continually with His body and blood, causing the Substance and Nature of Jesus Christ to increase in us. Meanwhile the chains of sin continue to fall off.
The end result is the putting of the eternal moral laws of God in our mind and the writing of them on our hearts. This goal of the new covenant is achieved only as we steadfastly obey what is written in the New Testament, seeking Godís wisdom and strength each day so we can do what Christ and His Apostles have commanded.
The process of continually interacting with Christ in this manner causes us to know the Lord, His Person, His ways, His will, and His eternal purpose in Christ. There is no church building in the new Jerusalem because all who are part of the holy city have direct access to God. The entire city is the church, so to speak, to which the saved peoples of the nations can come and be healed.
Eternal forgiveness of our wickedness, putting all our sins behind Godís back, is the necessary foundation of the work of moral transformation and of coming to know the Lord. Without the atonement made on the cross, neither transformation nor Divine fellowship would be possible.
The eternal forgiveness has already been provided. But rememberóforgiveness is not the goal nor an end in itself. We have made it so because we love ourselves more than we love God. But it is not a better covenant because we have been forgiven; it is a better covenant because we now behave in a manner pleasing to God. We behave righteously. We love mercy. We walk humbly with God. This is the end product of the new covenant.
By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)
The Law of Moses is as a household slave who brings the young man of the house to the school of Christ. To the present hour, it seems, numerous Christian people are not certain concerning the transition from the Law of Moses to the grace of the new covenant.
The truth is, no part of the Law of Moses is binding on us, unless we have not placed our old nature on the cross with Christ. If we still are living according to our sinful nature, are not following the Holy Spirit at all times, we still are under the Law no matter how much we talk about "accepting Christ."
Why are we under the Law of Moses? Because the only manner in which we can be freed from the Law is by dying in Christ. It is our death on the cross that frees us from the Law, not our profession of belief in Christ.
If we are violating the moral precepts of the Ten Commandments we are sinning against God. We are bringing ourselves under Divine judgment.
If we are following the Holy Spirit each day, overcoming the appetites and lusts of our sinful nature, the blood of Christ keeps us from being under Divine judgment, even though we may be breaking Godís moral laws without realizing it.
But if we are not following the Holy Spirit each day, if we are not overcoming the appetites and lusts of our sinful nature, then the blood of Christ does not keep us from being under Divine judgment, and the Word from Sinai condemns us.
This is why the writer of Hebrews says it is aging and will soon disappear. It has not vanished entirely because many of Godís elect are still living in the sinful nature, and so the Law is still operating to this extent.
Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. (Hebrews 9:1,2)
The Tabernacle compound reveals the design of the Kingdom of God, as it eventually shall be structured.
There was the Courtyard, portraying the nations of saved people, who are the inheritance of Christ and the coheirs. Located in the Courtyard were the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering and the bronze laver.
There was the Tabernacle itself made with the finely twisted linen; the tent of goat hair over that; and covering the tent the ram skin dyed red; and the outer covering fashioned from hides of sea cows.
The Tabernacle portrays the Church, Godís elect the new Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was divided into two parts, just as there is a firstfruits of the Church, and then the remainder of the Church. The first part was the Most Holy Place. The second part was the Holy Place.
The verse above shows the furnishings in the Holy Place as the Lampstand and the Table of Showbread. Actually there were three furnishings in the Holy Place: the Table of Showbread, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense. Some scholars believe that after the Ark of the Covenant was lost, the Altar of Incense was moved into the Most Holy Place so the room would not be empty.
Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, Which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaronís staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. (Hebrews 9:3-5)
The first curtain was the door to the Holy Place. The second curtain was the ornate Veil.
In the Most Holy Place was the Ark of the Covenant with the solid-gold atonement cover on top. Inside the Ark were the jar of manna; Aaronís staff that budded; and the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments.
The bronze Altar of Burnt Offering in the Courtyard represents the atonement for sin made on the cross of Calvary.
The bronze Laver, also in the Courtyard, portrays repentance and water baptism.
The Table of Showbread inside the Holy Place speaks of the born-again experience, the forming of Christ in us.
The solid-gold Lampstand inside the Holy Place represents ChristóHead and Body.
The Altar of Incense tells us of our need to bow in worship, saying "Not my will but Yours be done."
The Ark of the Covenant portrays the Christian character formed in the image of Christ.
Inside the Ark was the jar of manna, portraying the Christian character that lives by the body and blood of Christ.
Inside the Ark was Aaronís staff telling us that the Christian character has been chosen to be a member of the royal priesthood, and now lives by the power of an indestructible life.
Inside the Ark were the stone tablets on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments. These speak of the eternal moral law of God put in the mind and written on the heart of the Christian character.
The lid of atonement overshadowed by the two Cherubim of Glory covered the top of the Ark of the Covenant. Here we see the fullness of the Divine Glory abiding eternally on ChristóHead and Body.
Thus the Tabernacle standing up represents the fullness of the Head and Body of Christ.
The fullness of the Divine Glory abides eternally on Christ, the Anointed Deliverer.
His mouth always is saying, "Not My will but Yours be done." This is the Altar of Incense.
In His right hand is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
In His left hand is His body and blood, the Divine Substance.
His loins are the Laver, speaking of cleansing by the Word of God; of fruitfulness and dominion.
The bronze Altar portrays His feet of judgment, the power and authority of the cross that commands obedience to God throughout the earth.
This is Christ, the Anointed Deliverer, crowned with the fullness of the Divine Glory, standing on the foundation of the atoning blood of Calvary.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. (Hebrews 9:6)
The interior of the Most Holy Place, a cube, 1,000 cubic cubits in volume, was lighted by the Glory of God Himself
The interior of the :Holy of Holies was lighted by the lampstand at night. Probably during the day the curtain that formed the door was tied back enough to let light in but not enough for the Levites or the people to see the holy furnishings. The Holy Place was the domain of Aaron and His descendants.
The priests had to trim the wicks of the Lampstand and replenish the oil in the cups of the Lampstand. He had to burn incense on the Altar of Incense in the morning and in the evening.
"Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come." (Exodus 30:7,8)
Also, when the morning and evening lambs were offered out in the Courtyard at the Altar of Burnt Offering, wine was poured out next to the Table of Showbread.
The lamb was slain in the courtyard and the wine, representing His blood was poured out in the Holy Place. So it was that the Lamb of God was crucified in the sight of people, but His blood was offered in the Holy Place of the sanctuary in Heaven.
But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Hebrews 9:7)
This was the great Day of Atonement, the one time of the year when the High Priest of Israel could enter past the Veil. He sprinkled blood upon and before the Lid of Atonement.
Two goats were involved in the atonement that was made for the people. The blood of the Lordís goat was sprinkled upon and before the Lid of Atonement. This offering removed the guilt of the people.
The other goat, the scapegoat, was led away into the wilderness. This is a portrayal of the removal of the sin nature from us. Sin must be forgiven and removed if we are to be fully reconciled to God.
The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the seventh month (the first month of the civil year). It came after the feast of Pentecost, telling us that the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement will be experienced after we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
If we believers are to be reconciled to God, we must make a practice of confessing our sins and turning away from them. If we will do this, God will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The forgiveness occurs the moment we confess our sins. Purifying us from all unrighteousness is a process that operates as we denounce and renounce sin that the Holy Spirit has pointed out to us. As we do our part God begins the entire destruction and removal of our sin nature.
The new covenant is not a better covenant because it does a better job of forgiving our sins than was the case with the blood of animals. The new covenant is a better covenant because it not only forgives us but also gives us complete victory over our sinful nature.
Notice that the blood of animals made an atonement for the "sins the people had committed in ignorance." This is true also of the new covenant. The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ makes an atonement for the sins we commit in ignorance. There is no provision made in either the old covenant or the new covenant for sins that are committed knowingly and willfully.
The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. (Hebrews 9:8)
The idea here seems to be that since the High Priest had to keep entering the Most Holy Place every year, it is evident that both he and the people were going to keep on sinning. No entry into the heavenly Most Holy Place in Heaven was possible while the earthly Most Holy Place was still standing. For if there had actually been an entrance into the heavenly Most Holy Place, there would have been no need to repeat the Day of Atonement each year. Sin would have been taken care of permanently.
This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. (Hebrews 9:9)
Since the priest and the people knew they would be repeating the Day of Atonement every year, they understood they were going to keep on sinning. If they were not going to keep on sinning, why would they keep repeating the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement? Thus their conscience remained defiled by the fact that they knew they would continue to sin.
I think the implication is clear. The writer is preparing them for the idea that under the old covenant no provision was made for the removal of the sin nature. The people were bound hopelessly in sin. But under the new covenant we are not bound hopelessly in sin. Christ died for our sins once. Now it is up to us to follow Him into full victory over sin.
They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washingsóexternal regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:10)
What a contrast there is between a priesthood that deals with food, drink, and various ceremonial washings, and the heavenly Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ that provides the flesh and blood of the Son of God; the Holy Spirit; the gifts and ministries of the Spirit; and a new birth such that we become partakers of the Divine Nature. The new covenant is infinitely better than the old!
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. (Hebrews 9 11)
"The good things that are already here" probably is referring to the Lordís death on the cross and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; or perhaps to the earthly ministry of Christ. Other translations seem to lean toward "good things that have come"; or "good things to come."
The point appears to be that the appearing of Christ, His miracles, His atoning death, His bodily resurrection, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit are good things that have come, and Jesus Christ is Godís High Priest and ministers these, as compared with the Aaronic priests who dealt with "food, and drink and various ceremonial washings."
Compare Hebrews 10:1: "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming."
Christ entered the heavenly tabernacle, the one God made. The heavenly tabernacle is not part of the earthly Tabernacle of the Congregation. This is another manner in which the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus is greater than that of Aaron. Aaron and his descendants ministered on the earth, using earthly materials. The Lord Jesus ministers in Heaven, using heavenly materials.
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
Jesus Christ entered the Most Holy Place in Heaven. This Aaron and his descendants could never do.
When the Lord Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you," He was not speaking of going to Heaven, nor was He suggesting that He went to the Father so we could live in a mansion in Heaven. Rather, He was referring to His entering the Most Holy Place with the blood of atonement, so we one day could be with Him where He always isóin the center of Godís Person and will.
Notice that the redemption Christ obtained is eternal. The new covenant assumes that a believer will never sin deliberately. The idea is that he or she will go through the process of redemption until the sinful nature has been destroyed and removed. Meanwhile the blood of atonement is appeasing Godís sense of His eternal moral law being transgressed because of our ignorant sinning.
However, as Hebrews points out, if we as a Christian choose to disobey God and willfully behave in a sinful manner, there is no further atonement. There will be no Day of Atonement next year to take care of our sin. We then are facing Divine judgment.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13,14)
Under the Law of Moses, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer were sprinkled on an Israelite so he once again would be holy in Godís sight.
The Son of God offered Himself through the Spirit of God as an unblemished sacrifice. His blood cleanses our conscience. When we confess our sins and turn away from them, God has promised to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness. Our conscience then is clean and pure.
But under the Law of Moses, we knew we were not completely clean and pure because the Day of Atonement would be celebrated again and again, signifying that we would be continuing to sin. Because of this our conscience always would be defiled. We always would know we were sinners in the sight of God.
You know, this is the way Christians live. They have been taught that while we are in this world we are doomed to keep on sinning. So they have invented a "state of grace" by means of which God is prevented from seeing their sinful behavior. They think this is the new covenant.
It is not the new covenant! The new covenant forgives us as an eternal redemption. Then the Holy Spirit working through the blood of Godís Lamb goes to work to destroy and remove the sinful nature from us. Our conscience remains completely clear, because we know we have been forgiven and we know God is in the process of purifying us from all unrighteousnessóthat is, destroying and removing the sinful nature. This is why the new covenant is superior to the Law of Moses.
Having a clear conscience, we now are able to serve the living God.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritanceónow that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)
The eternal inheritance includes:
A character changed into the moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perfect, untroubled rest in the center of Godís Person and will.
Life lived in the fullness of eternal, incorruptible, resurrection life.
Being filled with all the fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A body like that of the Lord Jesus.
Possession of the saved peoples of the nations of the earth.
Possession of the farthest reaches of the earth.
Eternal fellowship with the Son of God as a member of His Body; as a member of His Bride; as His brother.
"He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." This is a critical statement.
We understand Christ is our ransom payment, our redemption payment. This much is clear.
"Sins committed under the first covenant." This also is clear is when we recognize that sin is the breaking of the Lawóin particular, the Ten Commandments. Being Gentiles we are not always clear as how to define sin. Sin is the breaking of the Law.
The Lord Jesus Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly and completely. Then He paid the penalty of spiritual death (momentarily) as though He had not kept the Law of Moses perfectly and completely.
Therefore He is able to transfer to us His righteousness, the righteousness of the One who kept the Law perfectly. We now are as righteous as though we ourselves had kept the Law of Moses perfectly.
However, as the Apostle Paul tells us, this transferred righteousness is not given to us only because we have made a profession of faith in Christ and been baptized in water, but because we are not obeying the sinful nature but the Spirit of God.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
Simple and clear thus far.
The problem lies with the expression above: "To set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
If I am correct, for most of Church history, including today, the majority opinion is that the words "set them free" means forgive them. If we sin, as defined by the Law of Moses, it does not matter. Christ has set us free, meaning He has forgiven us.
In one sense this is true. When we count that we have died with Christ on the cross, God takes us at our word. As far as God is concerned, we have died.
The Law of Moses has no authority over a dead person. On the basis of our death we have been released from the authority of the Law of Moses. In this sense we have been "set free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
But we may have forgotten the Word says, "It is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment."
If God and we count ourselves as dead, thus releasing us from our obligation to the commandments of the Law of Moses, then the Spirit of God will begin to judge our behavior. We will be revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
It is absolutely true that we have been eternally redeemed, as far as the guilt of sin is concerned. This is the Lordís goat, of the Day of Atonement.
Now we are dealing with the second goat of the Day of Atonement, the scapegoat. God does all the work with the first goat, with our forgiveness. But dealing with the scapegoat, so to speak, requires diligent cooperation on our part.
If there were only one goat, we would say that "to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant" meant to take away the guilt of our sins.
But there was a second goat!
When we are dealing with the second goat, the removal of our sins (not the removing of the guilt but the removing of the sin itself), the Holy Spirit points out to us the sin we are committing. Then we are obligated to confess that sin clearly to the Lord and to turn away from it with all the strength God give us. Our confession and determination to turn away from the sin (sincere repentance) breaks the hold the sin has over us. It puts the sin to death, taking the life out of it. God forgives us and purifies us.
If the new covenant merely forgave our sins it would not be superior to the old covenant. Under the old covenant the atoning blood of the animal caused God to forgive our sin, according to statements made in the Book of Leviticus.
The superiority of the new covenant resides in the fact that there now is authority (through the blood of the cross) and wisdom and power (through the Spirit of God) to destroy our sinful nature. We actually enter the Kingdom of God, the doing of Godís will in the earth, by confessing our sins, by turning away from them, and by continuing to live in the Spirit of God.
We have been forgiven and set free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, Because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. (Hebrews 9:16,17)
Somehow the writer is combining the concept of a will and the concept of a covenant made with blood.
Ultimately the One who made a will and then died is the Lord Jesus.
The writer may be pointing out the strength of a will when the testator dies, emphasizing that the covenant God has made through the blood of Christ is as strong as this. His point is, it is the shedding of blood that validates a covenant, a contract and makes it unbreakable..
This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." (Hebrews 9:18-20)
The Israelites were to keep the Divine covenant by obeying all the statutes of the Law of Moses. Godís part of the covenant was to bless and protect them.
Then blood was sprinkled on the scroll of the Law and on the people. This is like the death of a testator in that it signifies the legal strength of the covenant, the contract.
In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:21,22)
Now it appears the writer has departed somewhat from the idea of the strength of the covenant to the thought of cleansing and forgiveness. The scroll of the Law, the people, the Tabernacle itself and its furnishings, were sprinkled with the blood of calves. Cleansing and forgiveness can only come through death, he is maintaining. The death of calves solemnized the covenant between God and the Israelites, pointing toward the eternal atonementóthe atonement made on the cross. The Testator died and the covenant was established for eternity.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:23)
Sin began in Heaven. Satan apparently was one of two guardian cherubs who protected the Throne of the Father. We can understand from this how important Satan was.
Satanís "I will, I will, I will" violated the sanctuary in Heaven. Jesus went to prepare a place for us so we could be with Him in the Father. This was not possible until the blood of the slain Lamb was sprinkled on the unclean areas of Heaven, and an atonement was made for us who are destined to be part of Godís House, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The earthly Tabernacle and its furnishings had to be purified by the sprinkling of the blood of animals. The heavenly Tabernacle had to be purified by the sprinkling of the blood of Godís Lamb.
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in Godís presence. (Hebrews 9:24)
Aaron and His descendants served as priests in the earthly Tabernacle of the Congregation. But Christ serves as the great High Priest in the sanctuary in Heaven, appearing in the very Presence of the Father. Can you get a feeling for the ability of the Lord Jesus to make intercession for us? All we have to do is to bear our cross after Him each day. He does the rest.
Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who diedómore than that, who was raised to lifeóis at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 9:34)
The problem today is, the Christians have been taught that they can just believe and no further effort is necessary. Christ does not intercede for such, as far as I know, because they are not doing what He said. The idea of "unconditional love," that Christ loves us and intercedes for us even though we are not serving Him, is certainly against the tenor of the New Testament writings.
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:25,26)
"But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself." What a word this is! It goes to the heart of the new covenant, telling why it is superior.
"To do away with sin." Again let me point out, here is the great misunderstanding.
Does this mean to do away with the guilt of sin, or does it mean to do away with the sin itself.
Let us say a Christian tells lies. Many Christians do. Many preachers do.
Does "do away with sin" mean the Christian is not held guilty for lying, or does it mean the lie is removed from his or her personality?
Is lying done away with or is the guilt done away with?
The Bible teaches that all liars will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Let us say a Christian tells lies. Will he or she be thrown into the Lake of Fire?
If not, why not?
Let us say God forgives the lying but does not remove the lying from the Christianís personality. Is he still a liar or not?
Do you think lying is permitted in the new Jerusalem? If the person has been forgiven all of his lying, but he still tells lies, would he or she be welcome in the new Jerusalem?
I am saying, the statement "He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself" means to do away with the sin itself, not only with the guilt; and that this is why the new covenant is superior.
"Seventy Ďsevensí are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy." (Daniel 9:24)
"To put an end to sin." Does this mean to put an end to guilt or to put an end to sin?
If Hebrews by saying "to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself," and Daniel by saying "put an end to sin" is speaking, not of doing away with guilt but doing away with the sin itself, then our preaching today is not scriptural. We are preaching the new covenant as though it presents a superior forgiveness, not an actual removal of sin.
But how is sin removed from us? As we confess the sin and turn away from it, asking Godís help.
But what if we do not do this? Are we saved anyway? The Apostle Paul states plainly that if we continue to obey our sinful nature we will die spiritually.
Christ did not come to save us in our sins but from our sin. He came to destroy, not forgive, the works of the devil.
If He came only to forgive our sins He would have had to enter Heaven again and again, the way the sons of Aaron did. He would have had to be crucified repeatedly. "Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world."
Christ appeared once and for all to do away with sin. This He shall do, and it is up to us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so we may experience this aspect of redemption.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27,28)
I stated previously that when a person counts himself crucified with Christ he is freed from the obligations of the Law of Moses. God also counts him dead and now he faces judgment on the deeds on his sinful nature. It is not a judgment to condemnation but a judgment that reveals his sins with a view to destroying them from his personality.
Notice the parallels:
A man is destined to die once is in parallel with:
"Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people."
After that to face judgment is in parallel with:
"He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him."
An atonement was made for the guilt of our sins when Christ died on the cross two thousand years ago. He need not be crucified again.
When Christ appears the second time it will not be for the purpose of bearing the guilt of sin. That has been accomplished once and for all time.
The issue now is the presence of the sins itselfónot the guilt of the sin, but the sin itself which manifests itself in our behavior. This is why it is a time of judgment.
The price has been paid for the removal of guilt, and the price has been paid for the removal of the sin.
It is my point of view that "He will appear a second time" is not referring to the worldwide coming of Christ, at which time "every eye shall see Him." Rather, He is coming to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. In other words, He is going to appear to the Christians. This personal appearing of the Lord is discussed in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
Now, why is Christ going to appear to Christians? He will appear in order to bring salvation by judging and removing their sin..
"But I thought Christians have been saved."
Christians have been saved from the guilt of sin but they have not been saved from the sin itself. The Kingdom of God consists of people who have been saved from guilt and also saved from sin.
The New Testament mentions the Day of Redemption to which we have been sealed. The Day of Redemption is that time when Christ comes to set us free from sin. Our freedom has been paid for on the cross. Now it is time to reveal what Christ has purchased.
We have been given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, a deposit on our inheritance. Those who are Godís possession shall be redeemedóset free from sinówhen the time comes.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Godís possessionóto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
We have not been fully saved until we have been saved from sin.
I believe the Day of Redemption has begun. I think God has begun to put Christís enemies under His feet, just as He promised to do.
Naturally, God has begun with His own elect before He expands the redemption to include the peoples of the nations who have believed in Christ and been baptized.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are comingónot the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Hebrews 10:1)
The Law of Moses, with its accompanying sacrifices, was issued by the God of Heaven and, from my own point of view, was superior to every other religion in the history of mankind.
But for all this, the Law and its accompanying animal sacrifices were but a mere shadow of the good things God has for us.
I think the writer is implying that the new covenant can make us perfect, which would mean, free from sin. He implies this by saying the old covenant, having to be repeated each year, could not make the worshipers perfect.
If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:2-4)
If the sacrifices of the old covenant could have made the worshipers perfect (free from the presence of sin) they would have been offered only once. The worshipers would have been cleansed for all time.
"The expression "would no longer have felt guilty for their sins." This could be a strong argument for the current thinking that the Lord removes only the sense of guilt, not the sinful behavior itself.
Letís think about this for a moment. The end result of this sort of reasoning is people who continue to sin but are not conscious of it. I imagine this was the case with Adam and Eve and their nakedness.
We have to ask ourselves, "Is the Kingdom of God one in which people sin and are oblivious to their sinning, or is the Kingdom of God one in which people do not sin?"
What is your opinion?
Well, if the Gospel is one of forgiveness alone, then the New Testament should bear this out. Does the New Testament say it doesnít matter whether or not we sin because our sins have all been forgiven perpetually; or does the New Testament warn us that if we as a Christian continue to sin there are deadly consequences?
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Is the writer saying if we have a clear conscience with no sense of guilt, our behavior does not matter?
We conclude, therefore, that the Lord is interested in removing not only the sense of guilt but also the sinful behavior itself. Does this seem reasonable to you?
"It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." We must conclude that while salvation begins with the removal of the guilt of our sins, it is validated and expressed fully when the sin itself is removed. The price has been paid. Now the Lord has come for His purchased possession.
As far as the worshipers under the Law continuing to feel guilty, they knew the particular sin they had committed was forgiven when they made the required sacrifice. They realized also that they were still going to sin and further sacrifices would have to be made. Their conscience never was completely clear.
He shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31)
He knew he was forgiven when his offering was made. He also knew he had a sin nature and was going to sin again.
We, on the other hand, know our sins have been eternally forgiven, and now God is removing that which urges us to sin, our sinful nature. The destruction and removal of our sinful nature is a central feature of the new covenant.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ĎHere I amóit is written about me in the scrollóI have come to do your will, O God.í" (Hebrews 10:5-7)
The will of God was that Christ should offer His body as a sin offering. God was not pleased or satisfied with the animal sacrifices. The writer still is pointing out to the Jews the superiority of the new covenant; hence the superiority of the Priesthood of Christ; hence our need to press completely through to the rest of God.
First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)
The writer is pointing out that even though the Lord had instituted the requirements of the Law of Moses, He was not pleased with them. The coming of the chosen Lamb of God sets aside the sacrifices of the Law of Moses.
Christ came to do the will of God. Because He was experiencing such suffering He asked to be relieved of His very mission. But He persevered in faith. That will of God, through the sacrifice of the body of Christ, has given us an eternal holiness.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (Hebrews 10:11)
Since the Book of Leviticus, when instituting the sin offerings, repeatedly announced that the person who sins unintentionally and then makes the required sacrifice will be forgiven, we conclude that when the writer of the Book of Hebrews says those same sacrifices can never take away sins, he must be referring to the sins themselves and not to just the guilt of the sins. For it is clear from the Scripture that under the Law, when the required sacrifice was made, the worshiper was forgiven
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12-14)
Since His crucifixion the Lord Jesus has been sitting at the right hand of God and waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool. Where are His enemies, the lust, murder, and covetous that destroy mankind? They are in the people of the world, but also in His Church. God has promised to make these the footstool of Christ.
Can you see that at this point we are not speaking of guilt but of the spirits of sin that inhabit our sin nature?
By the one sacrifice Christ has made us perfect. Our sins have been forgiven. Now we are being made holy as we confess our sins and turn away from them.
The promise was made long ago by the Father that He would put Christís enemies beneath His feet. If my understanding is correct, this program has begun; and this is why it is so plain to us that we are not to continue in sin but are to confess our sins and turn away from them. This simple, biblical procedure seems to not always have been clear in time past, and so the Gospel was presented primarily as Godís willingness to forgive our sins. These has not been a balanced emphasis on forgiveness and moral deliverance.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." Then he adds:"Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.(Hebrews 10:15-18)
The first aspect of the new covenant is that of God putting His laws in our hearts and writing them on our minds. This writing takes place, as I said previously, as we cooperate with the Spirit in putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature, and as we live in Christ each day so the Divine Nature is formed in us.
The second aspect of the new covenant is that of God remembering no longer our sins and lawless acts. Since we have been completely and eternally forgiven, there is no need for a further sacrifice to be made for our sins.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, (Hebrews 10:19,20)
We see here that the flesh of Christ serves as the Veil of the Tabernacle. We now can enter before the Lid of Atonement and make our requests known. We do not have to wait for the Day of Atonement so the High Priest can go behind the Veil and make an atonement for us.
We Gentiles have no idea of what it means to be able to come confidently before the Atonement Cover and pray. Only an Israelite who lived under the Law of Moses would be fully able to appreciate the privilege that is ours, a privilege made possible by the crucifixion of Christ on the cross.
The wound in the side of Christ might be thought of as an opening in the Veil, permitting us to enter the Most Holy Place.
And since we have a great priest over the house of God, Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.(Hebrews 10:21,22)
Notice how the writer emphasizes the cleansing of the conscience. Perhaps he is expressing the same concern Paul did in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans. Paul told how the Law succeeded in keeping him in a state of guilt.
"Bodies washed with pure water" may merely be in contrast to the heart sprinkled with blood; or it may refer to water baptism; or just be an appeal to the cleanliness of the body emphasized by the Law.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
The idea of holding unswervingly to the hope began in Chapter Two with the warning about not neglecting our salvation. The concept was continued in Chapter Three with the discussion about the Israelites not pressing on toward the promise. I would say from the emphasis about holding fast, that these Hebrews believers were growing less fervent than had been true of them previously.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
We also had this thought previously in the exhortation to encourage one another daily, because of the deceitfulness of sin.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotheróand all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
Neglecting to meet on a regular basis is one of the sure signs that a believer is growing cold. People say they can worship God at the beach, or in the woods, or at home. This is not true. Nature is dead, being under a curse. God has ordained that we meet on a regular basis.
The Spirit of God has assigned gifts and ministries to the members of the Body of Christ. These are designed to bring us all to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Nothing on the beach is going to bring us to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Nothing out in the woods is going to bring us to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Nothing at home is going to bring us to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
As a pastor I have noticed that as soon as people begin to miss the church services they start to find fault with the people of the church. Satan takes advantage of them and whispers accusations in their ear.
If we can find a fervent church, and attend regularly, we will grow in the Lord. All sorts of things take place in the spirit realm when Christians meet together; not the least of which is the entering of the Presence of the Lord into the midst.
Sometimes we are entering deception. When we attend church, it may happen that a saint receives a burden for us and we are delivered.
As I said, one of the surest indications of a growing coldness is a slacking off on church attendance. Missing church services is an invitation to spiritual problems.
It can be difficult to find a fervent church in America. The traditions, such as the pre-tribulation "rapture" are deadly. The huge churches sometimes do not have the family feeling that some of us enjoy in a church. It is not always easy to find an assembly where something other than grace-rapture-Heaven-God wants you to be rich is preached. Also churches get off on some extreme doctrine to which all the members are obligated to conform.
Another debilitating force is the current emphasis on church building and an increase in attendance. As one pastor said to me, "I wish they would leave me alone. I just want to love and minister to the people God sends me."
Nevertheless, it is advisable to find an assembling that we can accept, and attend regularly.
Now comes one of the sternest warnings to be found in the New Testament. Blessed is that preacher or teacher who will acknowledge that it is the Word of God and that it is directed toward Christian believers.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, But only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26,27)
There is no provision under the law of Moses for deliberate sin. The sin-offerings were limited to those who sinned ignorantly or unintentionally.
There is no provision under the new covenant for deliberate sin. The blood of Christ avails for those who are walking in the Light of Godís Presence.
On one occasion a "Christian" young lady told me she was going to go out with a young man and do sinful things. She said there was no problem with this, because tomorrow she would ask the Lord to forgive her, and He would.
I wonder how many Christian people believe they can knowingly sin and then ask forgiveness and Christ will forgive them. Isnít this horrible?
Such people understand neither God, nor Christ, nor the Bible.
If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORDís commands, he is guilty. (Leviticus 4:27)
He can offer the correct sacrifice and he will be forgiven.
ĎBut anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORDís word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him. (Numbers 15:30,31)
There is no sacrifice for willful sin under any covenant of God. Once we make up our mind to sin, and sin deliberately, we come under Divine judgment.
Let us take cigarette smoking, for example. Perhaps we have smoked for years and did not realize we were sinning against God. God will forgive us when we are made aware of our sin, but we may reap the consequences for the rest of our life.
When we become aware smoking cigarettes is sin, a defiling of the temple of the Holy Spirit, and confess our sin and stop smoking, we are forgiving totally and completely and God sets about to deliver us totally from this habit.
However, we may die from lung cancer. We were completely forgiven, but God permitted us to reap what we had sown.
The way the Bible is taught today invites people to sin willfully, believing "unconditional love" will cover their transgressions. You will not find this contemporary, American idea in the Bible. It is nothing more than the humanism that has invaded our theology.
We are greatly deceived in America, and I am not certain we will ever recover as a nation. The Christian churches are not bearing a true witness because of unscriptural teaching, and so our government has no moral light to guide it. Too often our government is influenced by the polls, which in turn are influenced by Hollywood and liberal philosophies. We may think of the entertainment that proceeds from Hollywood as one massive flood of moral filth flooding the nations of the earth.
I suppose some will say, "The writer meant if we have heard the message of salvation and refuse it and keep sinning, no sacrifice is left for us." But this would mean the writer had jumped from speaking to believers about assembling on a regular basis, was now addressing the unsaved, and then returns again to the elect saying "The Lord will judge his people."
I do know when people do not love the truth, God sends a strong delusion on them.
If we as a Christian know better, and yet continue to sin, what can we expect?
Raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
When a believer, realizing what he is doing, not being driven by satanic bondages, sins willfully and defiantly, he makes himself the enemy of God.
If a believer is driven into sin by seemingly uncontrollable urges, he is obligated, after the storm of passion has passed, to confess the sin to God and tell God he desperately wants deliverance. In this instance, God will forgive him and guide him to the place of deliverance.
However, if he continues to act out his bondages, and still keeps asking for help, God will destroy his flesh that his spirit may be saved in the Day of Christ.
But, as I said, if he behaves presumptuously, as was true to the young lady I mentioned earlier, who deliberately entered a situation she knew would result in sin, he is in danger of being viewed as an enemy of God. His future will not be pleasant.
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31)
I wonder if I am able to convey the severity of the passage above. It is so totally contradictory to the spirit of the Christian churches of our day that I am not certain I can present the full weight of the warning.
"Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses." The writer of Hebrews is asking us to consider the gravity of what he is announcing. We of today would claim the Law of Moses was far stricter than what we are dealing with under the new covenant, because Christ came with a message of love and mercy. But not so the writer of the Book of Hebrews. He is telling us that the demands are stricter now.
"How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?"
"How much more severely." More severely than what? More severely than being stoned to death. Punished more severely than death by stoning.
"Trampled the Son of God under foot." How has the Christian done this? By neglecting to press on in Christ. By drifting back into the ways of the world.
"Treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him." How has the Christian done this? By neglecting his salvation. By not gathering together with the saints, as many believers do today.
"Who has insulted the Spirit of grace." How has the Christian done this? By not taking up his cross and following the Lord Jesus each day. By yielding to the demands of his sinful nature.
The irony is that we view grace as a substitute for living a righteous, holy life. But here the writer of Hebrews maintains that when we do not pursue the Lord with a perfect heart we insult the Spirit of grace.
This reveals how far we have drifted from the new covenant, from the actual Divine salvation.
How much severely than death by stoning will the lukewarm American Christian be treated, and his compromising preachers along with him?
"It is mine to avenge; I will repay. Who will repay? Who will avenge? The Lord.
Whom will the Lord repay? On whom will the Lord be avenged? On the Christian who does not press through to complete victory in Christ (which might include most of todayís Christians).
"This cannot be! These warnings must be being addressed to the unsaved!"
"The Lord will judge his people." The Lord will judge His Church before He judges the ignorant people of the world. Jerusalem always receives double for her sins.
"It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Who is going to experience a dreadful thing when he or she falls into the hands of the living God?
The Christian who is lukewarm. He or she shall be vomited from the Lordís mouth.
The above are the words of Scripture, inspired by the Spirit of God. By todayís standards they do not appear to be within the scope of our comprehension. This is because we are far off the mark.
I do not know how God is going to straighten out the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. However, it is my conviction that over the next few years the preaching will come back into line with the Word of God. Impossible as it may seem in the present hour, this return to the truth of the Gospel will take place before the return of Christ to the world.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:32-34)
The Jewish believer being addressed had been saved, filled with the Spirit, and, as we notice above, had suffered persecution. They were more advanced in the things of Christ than we American Christians are. Yet they were being threatened with a punishment worse than stoning if they did not pursue Christ more fervently.
They had stood their ground "in a great contest in the face of suffering."
They had been publicly exposed to insult and persecution."
They had stood alongside those who were being exposed to persecution."
They had sympathized with those in prison."
They had accepted joyfully the confiscation of their property."
They had stood true like this because they knew their reward was in safekeeping with Jesus Christ in Heaven. If they lost everything on earth, they had better and lasting possessions stored away in a safe place.
Yet, they are being threatened with falling into the hands of the living God because now they were not pressing forward in Christ with all diligence. If this doesnít cause us to take stock of our discipleship, then nothing will.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. (Hebrews 10:35)
"Throw away your confidence." This appears to be the primary theme of the Book of Hebrews. Keep your confidence in Christ strong. Donít become involved in the things of the world. Donít return to preoccupation with houses and lands. It was because of these that the people of Noahís day, and of Sodom, were caught unprepared.
The righteous inherit the Kingdom of God through much patience and suffering, through many tribulations. The rewards that shall be given to them at the return of Jesus Christ will be far beyond our imagination in the present hour.
You need to persevere so when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36)
The American way is to demand that what we desire be given to us immediately. This is why the so-called "faith" message, although contrary to the Scriptures, gained the ground it did.
But this is not the Lordís way. The Lord gives us a promise. Many years may elapse before the promise is fulfilled. The saints are fashioned into the image of Christ during the period between the giving of the promise and the fulfilling of the promise. This is why patience and perseverance are so important in the Kingdom of God.
For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. (Hebrews 10:37)
"A very little while"! Two thousand years is not, by our standards, a very little while. It must be true that time as we know it is not the same in the spirit realm. What is of importance in the spirit world is relationships and Godís laws. Apparently time and space lose their boundaries and controls.
From some of the statements in the New Testament, I gather that the writers believed the Lord would return in their own lifetime.
When something in the spirit realm seems real to us, we expect to see it take place in the near future. But the burden of the Spirit is timeless. Today we feel that the Lord is coming very soon. The return of Christ probably is a hundred years away, because of the events that must take place beforehand, according to the Bible.
But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." (Hebrews 10:38)
The expression "the righteous live by faith" is a quotation from the Book of Habakkuk. It appears three times in the New Testament.
Because of the influence of Gnosticism, I suppose, we have come to believe "the righteous live by faith" means if we hold certain theological beliefs in our mind, never doubting them, we will be saved (go to Heaven, as we define "being saved").
But when we see the words "shrinks back," we know the writer is repeating his primary theme. He is speaking of not pressing through to the rest of God.
Every human being who is physically and mentally sound chooses, at every moment, how to live. We choose either to live by looking to Jesus for everything we do, or we choose to trust our own wisdom, experience, talents, and strength.
To live by faith is to live by looking to Jesus in all that we do.
To not live by faith is to live by our own resources.
The righteous live by looking to Jesus in all that we do. The wicked live by their own resources. God is not in all their thoughts.
God is not impressed with our self-righteousness, only with our relationship to Himself.
So we see that the current understanding of "the just shall live by faith," which is that the righteous maintain their doctrinal position, is incorrect. The just shall live by faith is speaking of how the righteous live, not of what they believe in their head.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39)
Would you believe that a firmly established Christian, as these Jewish believers undoubtedly were, could shrink back and be destroyed? In our day we would find this difficult to believe, because we perceive being saved as a ticket we buy at some point in time. There is no shrinking or not shrinking involved, unless we mean abandoning Christ altogether and renouncing our statement of belief.
But the word "ignore," "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?", and the exhortation concerning the importance of attending services, may suggest the writer is addressing believers who were not necessarily totally abandoning and renouncing their faith, but through carelessness were drifting back into worldliness and sin.
"Shrinking back" reminds us that our discipleship is a fight, a pressing forward against enemies who would prevent our resting in Godís will.
Therefore we would suppose the penalty for such lack of courage and zeal would be a partial loss of inheritance, not destruction!
However, if you will remember, the Lord stated that the lukewarm believers would be vomited from His mouth.
If we would be scriptural we must acknowledge that if someone who professes Christ starts off with enthusiasm and dedication, and then through the passage of time begins to slacken the intensity of his prayer and Bible reading, he is in serious trouble. As the Lord said: "Whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."
We do not preach a message this harsh today, and so we are found to be false teachers and preachers. Under the cloak of "love" we are not sounding the alarm. Our listeners will die in their sins and their blood shall be required at our hands.
The following chapter, Chapter Eleven, is a definition of "the righteous shall live by faith." We may notice that this chapter has nothing whatever to do with doctrinal belief. It is a record of obedience to Godís will.
So when the writer says "who believe and are saved" he does not mean who are saved by their belief in theological facts but by a belief that results in an unswerving pressing toward the markóuntroubled rest in the center of Godís Person and will.
Notice that salvation is regarded as a mark that is attained to, after a life of pressing forward in Christ. It reminds us of Jesus saying, ďHe who endures to the end shall be saved.Ē
Salvation is past, present, and future. There was a point at which we placed our faith in Jesus Christ. Right now we are working out that salvation. In the future we will be saved and brought over to the new heaven and earth reign of Christ. For this reason it is not wise to look back in time at a point when we were "saved." It would be truer to the Scriptures to remark that at that previous point we began to walk on the path that leads to eternal life.
We must never shrink back but always face each day as a new opportunity to abide in Christ. Remember what happened to Lotís wife when she looked back! Yesterdayís manna is not palatable or nourishing. Today is the only day of salvation!
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
I like the word "hope." When we hope we are persuaded God is a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently.
The fundamental question mankind has, is, "Is God really good? Can He be trusted to bring me to joy?"
In the beginning, Satan implied to Eve that God was not good. He was not intent on bringing her to joy. God did not want her to be wise.
Every human being must make this decision: "Can I trust that God is going to bring me to joy, or must I take matters into my own hands?
Because we canít see God, we must decide on the basis of our innermost conception of God. If we conceive of the invisible God as being good, then we are going to trust Him with our life and obey Him implicitly. But if we have any doubt that God is good, that He will not bring us to joy but to grief, then we are not going to trust Him with our life.
Therefore faith is our assessment of the Character of the invisible God. We are convinced He is good and will fulfill all our desires if we serve Him, or we are not convinced He is good and we had better trust in what we can see.
This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 11:2)
When we think of Noah, Abraham, Daniel, we can see that they trusted in the goodness of God. The example of Abraham is especially challenging to us. Abraham truly believed in the goodness of Godóthat God rewards those who trust Him and obey Him implicitly regardless of the situation into which God brings them.
By faith we understand the universe was formed at Godís command, so what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
We did not see God form the universe; we could not see His invisible forces at work; but we believe that God did make all things.
One person looks at the sky, the earth, and earthís peoples, and says, "Surely there is a God. All I see did not come into being through random accidents and incidents." Thus he or she worships the invisible God.
Another person looks at the sky, the earth, and earthís people, and says, "There is no God. I want to be free to do as I please and not have to worry about having to answer to a God about breaking His laws."
Thus we have the righteous and the wicked.
But why will one person look at the universe and confirm his faith in a God who is to be trusted, and another person look at the same universe and scoff at the idea of there being a God who will call him to account some day?
Sometimes when I read the Book of Psalms it appears the righteous are one class of people and the wicked are another class of people. I know the Lord Jesus spoke of the planting of God and the planting of Satan.
I have shied away from this thought because I know an individual can be wicked and then turn to Christ. But there may be more to the idea of the Potter making one vessel to honor and another to dishonor than we realize. But it remains true that anyone who wants to can start living righteously in the fear of God, and God will honor him. His wickedness will not be remembered, according to the Book of Ezekiel.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)
I have heard it taught that Abel offered fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock, and therefore his offering was more acceptable than that of the farmer, Cain, who offered from his crops.
I donít believe this was the basis of Godís acceptance and rejection. In the first place, these were not sin offerings but thank offerings. Cain offered what he had and Abel offered what he had.
I think God looked on their hearts. I think He saw that Cainís heart was not right toward God. This was demonstrated later by the jealous rage that resulted in murder.
If Cainís heart had been right with God he would have accepted the rebuke and asked the Lord what he could do to meet Godís approval. Instead the rebuke resulted in anger and envy.
It is easy to come to church and worship with the saints, and yet be harboring envy and murder in our heart. Believers do this all the time. There is a great need for Godís people today to humble themselves and confess the anger, bitterness, and grudges they are concealing. Those who do not humble themselves, confess their sin, and permit God to put His love in them toward their brothers and sisters, will end up on the spiritual scrapheap. These spirits of darkness will not be permitted in the churches any longer. That day is past. God is ready to put the enemies of Christ under His feet.
Abelís sacrifice was better than that of Cain because Abel loved God. He had faith in God. Because of this, his testimony endures to the present hour. So it is with all who bear a true witness of Godóthey are stars that shine forever.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)
If there is a more remarkable, a more inspiring account in the Bible than the story of Enoch, I do not know of it. How I would love to pass into Godís Presence as Enoch did, without having to spend my last days in a nursing home listening to a nurse saying, "Now be a good boy, Mr. Thompson, and eat all your Jello."
Enoch lived by faith. He is an example of "the righteous shall live by faith." Enoch walked with God. God was in all his thoughts. He disappeared one day. My guess is that God comforted Enochís family and assured them that Dad was happy and at home with God.
But think! Enoch knew nothing about the cross, about the blood atonement, about the Holy Spirit. He just loved God and wanted to be with God. God granted Enochís request. This is true faith, an example to all of us.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
"Must believe that He exists." "Must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."
Today we feel that if someone believes there is a God, he has done something wonderful. He hasnít done anything at all except to assure those around him he is not a fool.
Of course we must believe God exists, although even Satan is positive God exists. It is the next part that divides the righteous from the wicked: "Must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."
The battle is joined right at this point. Will God or will He not reward those who earnestly seek Him? This single question determines the course of our life.
If we believe God will reward those who earnestly seek Him, then we are going to spend our days seeking the Lord.
If we do not believe God will reward those who earnestly seek Him, then we are not going to spend our days seeking the Lord. It is as simple and straightforward as this.
Oh, we might be a "Christian" and attend church. But this does not mean we are earnestly seeking the Lord. After the 11:00 service we may spend the remainder of Sunday and the rest of the days of the week pleasing our flesh. We are not automatically a Christian because we attend church regularly; although I pointed out previously that attending church services on a regular basis is essential to the Christian life. We are not a true Christian until we are earnestly seeking Him.
And we are not going to wrench ourselves away from our daily life and earnestly seek the Lord until we are fully persuaded we shall be rewarded for our effort.
God works in terms of rewards. When the disciples asked Jesus what they would get for leaving everything and following Him, Christ did not demur. He did not say "Oh, you should follow Me because it is the right thing to do." Rather, He said," You will sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel."
God understands well how the prospect of rewards and pleasure influences us. He understands also how the threat of eternal fire influences us. So God tells us our future will be bright indeed if we serve Him, and grim indeed if we do not.
Faith is our confidence that serving God will eventually bring us to joy, even though we may go through much suffering to attain to the reward.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
On one sunny day, God told Noah there was going to be a flood. There was no evidence at that time of rain, much less a flood. God told Noah to build an ark. Noah set out to build an ark and worked on it for many years, apparently. It is probable that his three sons helped him.
The Ark was 450 feet long. A football field is only 300 feet long, so you can picture what the Ark looked like. Can you imagine how the neighbors reacted when they saw this huge ship being built in Noahís back yard; the comments they made?
Noah was a righteous man, living among wicked people. When God warned Noah about the flood that was to come, Noah was moved by holy fear. Holy fear is a form of faith. Noah built the Ark by faith in God when as yet there was no rain. It is this sort of faith that brings righteousness.
The great lie today is that mental assent to theological facts (our version of "faith") brings righteousness. This is not Bible faith. Noah demonstrated true Bible faith by his behavior. By his example he condemned those who saw what he was doing and did not prepare themselves. They went on with their marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting, reaping, building, until the flood came and carried them away.
God has warned us that the return of Jesus Christ will be as the days of Noah. If we do not respond with holy fear and prepare ourselves and our household, we are guilty of unbelief even though we make a profession of faith in Christ.
True faith always results in some kind of behavior. Even the godly Abraham did not spend his entire life just believing God. Abraham obeyed God continually and demonstrated his faith by his obedience.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)
Paul used Abraham as our example of salvation by faith alone. The truth is, it was only the one instance, when God spoke to Abraham about his seed being as the stars in number, that the required response was only belief in the promise. The other accounts of Abrahamís life had to do with active behavior.
There can be no true faith apart from obedience!
Sometimes God calls us to go somewhere or do something we do not understand. This does not happen often. But when it does, we have to prayerfully and carefully move in the indicated direction. We do not always understand God, but we trust God.
Abraham left that which was familiar, not realizing the awesome consequences of his obedience. May we also demonstrate our faith by our faithfulness and obedience to God. Our actions also may have awesome consequences.
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:9,10)
Abraham sojourned in what is now the land of Israel. Isnít it remarkable that this area of land is still in dispute! The reasoning today is that this is a political struggle in which the Palestinians are seeking a state and more land to live in. This is not why there always is conflict in this territory. It is because Satan knows that one day Christ will govern from the city of Jerusalem, and he wishes to prevent this if he can. If we could see in the spirit realm we would see the hordes of demons who are stationed in the area bounded by the Euphrates River and the Mediterranean Sea.
How Abraham was able to know about the city with foundations, the new Jerusalem, we do not know. But he knew about the holy city. This fabulously wealthy man continued to live in tents, waiting for God to bring him to the city which he must have seen in vision.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past ageóand Sarah herself was barrenówas enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. (Hebrews 11:11)
Twenty-five years elapsed from the time the promise was made until Isaac was born. The promise was fulfilled because Abraham had faith that God is faithful. Faith in the faithfulness of God. Faith is our assessment of Godís Character.
Abraham had received a mighty touch from God. After Sarah died, Abraham had more children by another wife.
God may promise us something we greatly desire. We shall receive the fulfillment if we maintain our faith in Godís faithfulness and are patient. We are not able to comprehend Godís abilities. His promise to us may be staggering. Nevertheless, it shall come to pass to the last detailóeven though the fulfillment requires an act that sets aside natural laws.
And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:12)
Godís promise to Abraham was fulfilled in his physical descendants. But what God had promised extends far, far beyond the physical people and land of Israel. For every member of Christ is the Seed God promised Abraham. Think of it!óa fulfillment Abraham could not have imagined.
While we are seeking God, let us listen carefully to Him. Let us also ask for whatever is on our heart. Do not be afraid to go past the bounds of probability or possibility when you are inquiring of the Lord. He can do anything He desires. But you have to ask.
Long before the personal computer had been developed I asked the Lord if I could preach the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever people breathe the air. I was teaching the fifth grade in a public elementary-school at the time. The subsequent development of the personal computer, the Internet, and technology still on the drawing board is making it possible to reach every individual in the world.
Nothing is impossible to the Lord.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
"The just shall live by faith" is a verse from the Old Testament. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, were living by faith when they died. What does this mean? It means the focus of their life was on the Lord.
"The just shall live by faith" is quoted three times in the New Testament. It is one of the foundational statements of the Protestant Reformation. But in our day it is not used to speak of a life focused on the Lord. Rather the idea is that people are righteous and will go to Heaven on the basis of holding fast to sound doctrine.
"The just shall live by faith" is speaking of a person who lives in obedience to the Lord. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah lived godly lives. God said about Noah that he was the only righteous man of his time.
Today we use the just shall live by faith to mean belief in Jesus Christ is the Divine alternative to righteous behavior. We are saved by faith rather than by works. We can live righteously or not, according to our own will. But how we live does not affect our righteousness in Godís sight or our salvation.
The idea of God counting people righteous who are living unrighteously is not found in either Testament. We have derived this thought from Paulís attempt to steer Jews away from the works of the Law so they would look to Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life.
But we do not teach, ordinarily, a daily looking to Christ but to our unwavering subscription to our denominational "Statement of Faith."
Too often Christians are seen to be silly people who are seeking how to use Jesus to make more money, to eat all they want without becoming overweight, or to otherwise improve their lot in life. But the Bible is not about making money or changing the effects of overeating. It is about sin and righteous behavior. The confusion today results from the teaching that the just shall live by faith means we are saved by a belief system rather than by making an effort to live righteously.
From Abel to the latest person to receive Jesus Christ, the only way of pleasing God is by faith. Worshipers under the Law of Moses were not found guiltless by a routine sacrifice of animals unless the animals were offered in faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
So it is not at all true that the difference between the two covenants, the Law of Moses and the new covenant, is that people under the Law were saved by obeying what was written and we are saved by faith, interpreted to mean we do not have to obey what is written in the New Testament.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, were still living by faith when they died. They were pursuing the Lord. Somehow they knew about Godís future plans for His people. They did not receive the fulfillment of these promises. They saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
In like manner we are saved by hopeóhope the Lord Jesus will return from Heaven and establish His Kingdom on the earth.
Those of ancient times admitted they were aliens and stranger on the earth. So must we Christians. The Gospel is a hope for the future, not a plan for helping American believers live a fun-filled life in the present hour.
We understand, therefore, that the difference between the two covenants is not that one is a covenant of works and the other is a covenant of faith. All of Godís covenants operate through faith. The difference is that the demands for our personal moral transformation are much greater under the new covenant, and the Divine grace given to us to accomplish such moral transformation is much greater than the grace given under the Law of Moses.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. (Hebrews 11:14)
Say what things? Say that they are aliens and strangers on the earth. Their hope reveals that they are looking for a country of their own.
We Christians need to adopt this attitudeóthat we are aliens and strangers on the earth. We too are looking forward to the coming to earth of the new Jerusalem. As the Lord said, we are not of this world. Our world is coming in the future. It will be a country of our own, and those who today are destroying the earth will no longer be present.
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better countryóa heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:15,16)
"Remember Lotís wife." "No man putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God."
The idea that we are not at home in the present world but are hoping for a better, a more righteous, more holy world in which all the people obey God, should be central in Christian thinking.
I do not see this attitude, this longing for a better world, in current Christian thinking. I think it has become fashionable to attempt to fit Christ into the current American culture. It really would be healthy, I think, if our nation were to suffer. Suffering would help us long for Godís new world of righteousness instead of trying to make ourselves more comfortable in the present world.
Once we set out on our Christian discipleship, with our eyes on the heavenly city, we are never to look back. If we do, God will be disappointed in us. God will be ashamed to be called our God if we choose the present world over the wonderful new world He has for us.
The newspaper every day is filled with accounts of people being brutalized by some individual who places his own satisfaction above the welfare of other individuals. We see this in families, in encounters of rape and murder, in child molestation, in fraud in the giant corporations as well as in the government.
If we want to live in such a world, the Lord may allow us to. But if we reject the idea that this is what God wants, and look forward to a city in which there is no rape, no child molestation, no domestic violence, no fraud, no self-seeking on the part of the leadership, then God is not ashamed to be called our God. He has prepared a city for such as we.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, Even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your seed will be reckoned." (Hebrews 11:17,18)
It appears to me that this test of faith and obedience ranks second only to that of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Every person whom God has chosen to be of high rank in His Kingdom will be tested severely. God has to be certain we place obedience to Him above all other considerations. Until this is true, we cannot rule with the Lord Jesus Christ.
One interesting point is that God had told Abraham that His descendants would come through Isaac. By killing Isaac, Abraham was destroying the possibility that he would have descendants who would be his heirs and carry on his name.
This is a lesson to us. No matter what God gives us, whether as a part of our physical life on earth or as part of our ministry, the moment God asks us to give it up we are to do so. We are to grasp absolutely nothing we have been given. "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:19)
I doubt if Abraham knew of anyone whom God had raised from the dead. Yet Abraham reasoned that if God had said his descendants would come through Isaac, and he succeeded in slaying Isaac, then God would raise Isaac from the dead and return him to Abraham.
It seems there was no limit to Abrahamís faith. Abraham did not imagine that God had changed His mind. Isaac was born by a miracle, so Abraham believed he would be raised from the dead by a miracle. God give us faith!
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20)
The Spirit of God that rested on Isaac was involved when Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. Isaac had faith in the Spirit that was in him. We know this because after Isaac blessed Jacob he had no blessing left for Esau. If Isaac was not speaking by the Spirit, as soon as he found out he had been deceived he would have withdrawn the blessing and given it to Esau.
But Isaac could not do this. Once Isaac had spoken by the Spirit of God, the blessing was established; the birthright was established in Jacob; and Esau was left relatively destitute.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Josephís sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21)
Again, when we read the blessing administered to Ephraim and Manassah, with the greater inheritance given to Ephraim although Manassah was the firstborn, we see that Jacob was moved by faith in the Spirit of God who was in him.
The blessing on the true Seed of Abraham is the Holy Spirit.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14)
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. (Hebrews 11:22)
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." (Genesis 50:24,25)
Evidently the Spirit of God had shown Joseph that God was going to bring the Israelites up from Egypt to the land of Israel. Remember, at the time Joseph said this the Israelites were not laboring under the cruelty that occurred after the death of Joseph. So it was not obvious they would have to leave the land where they had been treated well.
By faith Mosesí parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the kingís edict. (Hebrews 11:23)
It seems to me that the faith shown by the parents of Moses at this point was not so much a prophetic faith, a faith intertwined with the Spirit of God, but a resoluteness of character; a determination to do what is right in spite of danger.
So often in life we have to apply courage when we are facing a situation in which to do the right thing can result in harm. Perhaps courage is a form of faith and fear is a form of unbelief.
Pessimism and a negative approach to life sometimes are related to unbelief in the goodness and faithfulness of God. When we do what we know to be the right thing, regardless of the consequences, I think we are showing faith in Godís goodness and watchful care over us.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaohís daughter. (Hebrews 11:24)
Moses took a stand. We who are called to be saints need to take a stand. We are not of the world but Christ has called us out from the world to belong to Him in a special way.
The term "Christian" today indicates membership in a religion. There are good people who are Christians and bad people who are Christians. So we are not saying too much in America when we claim to be a Christian.
Being a saint, however, is a holy calling. Once we are called to be a saint we have no other calling in life. We may work at one vocation or another, but our profession or vocation is not our calling. It is our way of supporting those who depend on us.
To be called out from the world to be a saint of God is the highest calling there is. It requires every bit of wisdom, strength, and character we have to fulfill the calling as a saint. We have been set apart to worship God and do His will. If we make anything else the focus of our life we are coming short of what we have been called to be.
He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (Hebrews 11:25)
Moses was raised in palatial splendor as a grandson of Pharaoh. Egypt at the time was one of the dominant countries of the world. Everything we can imagine in the way of luxury was available to Moses.
In our church I tell the young people from time to time that being a Christian sometimes means they will not be able to enjoy all the things of the world that other young people have access to. It costs something to be a Christian.
Dedicated Christian parents have to say no to their children, when they are invited by the children of worldly parents to engage in activities that are not godly. This can be quite difficult for American Christian parents who want their children to "have everything." American parents, whether or not they are Christians, tend to worship their children.
Paul tells us to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. This world is not our home. We are just passing through. God makes sure that we have what we need. But we are not at home here, and so we cannot just relax and join with the world in its pursuits and entertainments.
If God is merciful, the worldly parent with the worldly child will experience the fires of Divine judgment in order that both the parent and the child will not be drawn away from Christ.
Sometimes Christian parents are heard to say, "I want my child to have the best." This is a selfish statement, isnít it? How about the children in poorer countries? Shouldnít they also have the "best." By best, in America, is meant every material pleasure.
If we want our children to have the best we will remember how Moses had Godís best. Godís best required that Moses leave the pleasures of Pharaohís palace and journey through a hot, blistering desert, listening to the grumbling of millions of unbelieving people.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:26)
Christians have always been tolerated in America and sometimes admired. But it is not so today. There are faint outlines of coming persecution. If hard times come to America, especially in the form of terrorism, and Americans begin to hurt, they are going to look for a scapegoat. The scapegoat may turn out to be Christian people, as long as they support Israel.
When a nation, such as America, has had every comfort and luxury, and then these are denied, many people will react like tyrannical children who are not getting everything they desire. They are going to hoard money and food, and murder people whom they believe are responsible for their lack of comfort. Somehow the Christians may be blamed and have to go underground.
But we must remember we never are to deny Christ. Even if it means the loss of our job, or our possessions, or our children, or our life, we never, never, never are to deny Christ.
Moses felt to be disgraced for Christ was worth more than all the treasures of Egypt. "He was looking ahead to his reward," the Scripture says. It reminds us of Abraham looking for the city that has foundation. What reward? No doubt Mosesí reward was the Lord Himself, fellowship with the Lord.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the kingís anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)
Again we see faith displayed as courage.
Moses saw the invisible Lord and thus was able to persevere. David had set the Lord before him at all times and was not shaken.
"Looking always to Jesus." One of the great principles of discipleship is that of keeping our eyes on the Lord. We can walk on water, when the Lord invites us to, as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
One of Satanís devices is to confront us with such abominations, or injustices, or perversity, that we will take our eyes off the Lord. This is what he wants. Satan wants us to fret about evil.
There is monstrous evil taking place in many countries of the world. We read about the inhuman actions of those in positions of leadership. Instead of taking care of those entrusted to them, the leaders advance themselves while their charges are left in abject misery. It seems to be happening more each day.
One of our main tasks in the days to come will be to refuse to fret, no matter what depths of evil we see taking place. We absolutely must keep our eyes on the Lord no matter what happens. If we watch the Lord, He will bring us safely through every calamity.
I read in the paper today of a woman in Mexico whose daughter was murdered. When she went to the authorities because her daughter did not come home on time, they told her not to worry because her daughter was out dancing somewhere and would come home. The responsible authorities took no action. Later the daughter was found dead in a ditch where her body had been thrown.
For some reason I felt personally upset about this. I went to the Lord. He assured me, as He always does, that all of those involved in this tragedy would give an account of their actions before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only then did I feel at peace.
Instead of railing about how terrible the world is getting I went to the Lord. Soon I had peace and was able to put this abomination out of my mind.
We are going to have to keep our eyes on Jesus in these days, and not take them off the Lord no matter what is happening around us. We can persevere through every situation if we will do this.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (Hebrews 11:28)
God told Moses all the details concerning the first Passover observance. Moses obeyed by faith. He already had seen many miracles so he knew what God said, God would do.
We have to obey God by faith. When He tells us to put our faith in the blood atonement made on Calvary, we have to do what God has said.
Faith always is demonstrated by our obedience. Sometimes Christians say that they believe in Christ; but then they do not do what Christ has commanded. Such do not really believe in Christ Himself. If they did, they would do what He and His Apostles have commanded.
They donít believe in Christ Himself. They may believe in what they have heard about Christ, that He was born of a virgin and is the Son of God. But the demons know this and they are not saved.
Salvation is not a matter of believing the truth about Jesus Christ. Salvation comes to us as we put our faith in the living Jesus, keeping our eyes on Him, and obeying all He tells us to do in His Word and personally. If we do not do this, we do not have a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)
The parting of the Red Sea was a major miracle. We have not seen miracles of this magnitude throughout Christian history, but there may have been many of which I am unaware.
Jesus said the works that He had done we would do because He was going to return to the Father. It is my point of view that we shall see miracles of this magnitude before too long. Certainly the miracles performed by the two witnesses of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation would be in this category.
But these outstanding miracles will not take place in church at 11:00 AM while we are sitting comfortably in our pews.. They will occur during times of danger and trouble, just as in the case of the Israelites who were fleeing for their lives.
We are going to need faith for miracles to survive in America of the future; and God will give us such faith if we ask Him.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30)
The walls were high and thick and the soldiers of Jericho were protected from the arrows and spears of the Israelites.
Marching around the walls with the priests blowing trumpets was not a reasonable battle tactic. But the Israelites obeyed God, and God fought for them. God removed the defenses of the enemy.
God is calling us today to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to every nation as a witness. The coming of the Kingdom of God to the Christian people, and finally to the world, will result in the removal of all sin from mankind.
We need faith that God indeed can do what He said. He stated, in the Book of Daniel, that He is going to make an end of sin. This means the angelic lords who have been driven from Godís Presence and now are ruling the earth from the lower heavens are going to be removed from their positions of power and influence.
God commanded us in Deuteronomy to utterly destroy these kings and all of their followers
But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7:23,24)
We are to do as Joshua and the people did. We are not to scheme how we are going to bring in the Kingdom of God. We are going to listen to the Lord and do exactly what He tells us to do, whether it seems foolish or not.
Joshua and the other leaders could have plotted how to take the city of Jericho. Instead they just followed the Lordís directions. This is what we are to do in the days to come. Our watchword is to be: "Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit." We are to ignore the numerous plans of well-intentioned people and do exactly what Jesus says. Then we will be able to defeat the enemy no matter how strongly entrenched.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)
Rahab was not killed with those who were disobedient. The inhabitants of Jericho had heard, perhaps from the traders of the caravans, of the crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of Sihon and Og. It may be that the inhabitants of Jericho were given a chance to surrender but were unbelieving or disobedient.
Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof And said to them, "I know the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyoneís courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:8-11)
Rahab was not an Israelite. She had heard of the things the God of the Hebrews had done. Faith rose up in her. She took a chance on being killed in order to protect the spies sent out by Joshua. The other inhabitants of Jericho knew of Godís works just as well as Rahab did. But when Rahab heard, she believed. Her faith in the God of the Hebrews saved her from death.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, Quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreatedó The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38)
Gideon had little confidence in himself. After his fleeces, and the conversation he overheard, he had faith enough to do what God commanded. He won a battle when his army was greatly outnumbered.
God showed at that time that He did not want to work with a great army of Israelites, for they would be persuaded they had prevailed by their own means. When 300 men were able to vanquish the huge force of the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples, God was glorified.
Barak also was not sure of himself, but Deborah helped him. It seems to me that both Gideon and Barak are examples of what you might call "reluctant warriors." God took the initiative with Gideon and Barak, and they obeyed and won great victories. But it was Godís idea and not theirs for them to attack a superior enemy.
In the case of both Gideon and Barak, it really was the Lord who routed the enemy.
We must understand in our day that we do not have to develop a plan and set forth to "do great things for God." The need in our day is for people who are listening to the Lord, and then go forth prayerfully and carefully to do exactly what the Lord is commanding. Jesus knows what He wants. It is up to us to listen carefully before we charge out in our own zeal.
Personally I think the day is past for "great men of God." I believe we need people of moderate attainments who obey the great God. How do you feel about this?
Judge Samson was an example of a man chosen by the Lord to deliver Israel but whose life was not holy. Samson showed his faith at the end when he prayed for strength to bring down the temple of Dagon. He could have done great good for Israel with his extraordinary gift of strength, but he chose to follow the appetites of his flesh.
The Lord helped Jephthah defeat the Ammonites. Jephthah made a terrible vow, and honored it when God answered his prayer. I have heard preachers say that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a burnt offering, he just didnít give her in marriage to anyone.
God did not ask Jephthah to make such a dangerous vow, but God did not prevent him from doing what he vowed. Neither did God comment on what he did to his daughter. We in America are so soft we cannot even picture a hero of faith sacrificing his daughter as a burnt offering. Such an action is beyond the scope of our imagination. (Yet, crimes occur every day in the world that are far more gruesome than this! Our sophistication is the thinnest of veneers.)
Jephthah became so anxious to be a hero (remember he had been cast out previously) that he made a rash, foolish vow. This is why we must get rid of our idolsóof everything we desire intensely, other than the Lord. If we do not, our fierce clutching of our idol will lead us to say or do something that one day will cause us agony.
It may be true that trouble will come to our nationóenough trouble for us to get back to the fundamentals of life; enough trouble for us to understand the severity of God and of life itself.
Jephthah lived only six years after this. I have no doubt he died of a broken heart. She was his only child.
Jephthah lived only six years after this. I have no doubt he died of a broken heart. She was his only child.
David was a man after Godís own heart. God was in all Davidís thoughts.
David committed adultery and murder. When David repented, God forgave him to such an extent that David died in honor and his Psalms have blessed the faithful to the present day.
I think David portrayed the kind of faith that God esteems. Everything David did was wrought in God. David looked to God in war, and also in the governing of Israel. David spoke to God continually, and God spoke to David. David set God before Him at all times so he would not be shaken.
We can tell from reading the Psalms that David had numerous enemiesóperhaps some of them were within Davidís palace. David sought refuge in God.
David was moved prophetically when he established the Ark of the Covenant in Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem, while the remainder of the Tabernacle remained at the high place in Gibeon. Also when he purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and built an altar there, the site of the future Temple.
David is one of the clearest examples of true faith to be found in the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews is telling the believing Jews to consider how David served God throughout his entire life. He did not start out in faith and then turn back to the ways of the flesh, as did his son, Solomon.
Samuel is another example of someone called of God, who then served the Lord all the days of his life.
The Hebrew Prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel stood with God against their nation. By faith Isaiah spoke of Christ, and also rebuked the sinners in Israel. By faith Jeremiah told his people to surrender to the Babylonians. By faith Ezekiel, a priest as well as a prophet, warned the Israelites that destruction would come upon them because of their sins.
The heroes of faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouth of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, escaped the edge of the sword, received strength in their weakness, became powerful in battle, routed foreign armies, received back their dead, were tortured and refused to be released, faced jeers and flogging, were chained and put in prison, were stoned, were sawed in two (tradition says this was Isaiah), were put to death by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
The world was not worthy of them.
They lived as they did in order to gain a better resurrection.
The point is, faith turns aside from the present world and gazes at the future.
The Jewish believers needed to be reminded of this, because they were returning to business as usual in the world.
We American Christians also need to be reminded that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a hope for a better future, not a means of making ourselves comfortable in the present world. We need to realize that if we desire a "better resurrection" we cannot spend our days seeking luxury and pleasure at the present time.
Those who have gone before us, from the time of Abel, have left bloody footprints in the snow. We need to prepare ourselves to serve God, to endure hardship as good soldiers of Christ, no matter what the future holds.
Let us think for a moment. Remember, Chapter Eleven was preceded by the Reformation slogan: "The just shall live by faith." Chapter Eleven is a lengthy definition of this slogan.
Now compare this definition, including the suffering of the righteous, with the way "the just shall live by faith" is applied today. Today we are saying this slogan means we are to do nothing but believe in Jesus. Obviously our understanding of the Reformation slogan, and the Bible definition of the slogan, have little in common.
It is time now for another reformation of Christian thinking.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39,40)
Again we come to the idea that the patriarchs had a vision of the Kingdom of God. They realized something good was ahead. Yet they did not receive what had been promised.
We need to give careful thought to this. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, the Prophets, undoubtedly are in Heaven today. Would you agree with that? We know Abraham is in Heaven because the rich man saw him there with Lazarus.
But none of these saints have received what had been promised.
What does this tell us? It tells us that residence in Heaven is not what had been promised. The goal of the righteous is not residence in Heaven.
God has planned something better for us. So there is something better than residence in Heaven, apparently.
The saints of old cannot be made perfect apart from us. So the writer of the Book of Hebrews is maintaining his thesis that our goal is perfection (let us go on to perfection), which he also terms "His rest."
I would say that our primary goal is to be conformed to the moral image of Jesus Christ and to enter untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. Our goal is rest in the Person and will of God. The Kingdom of God, our inheritance with Christ, all flow from our primary goal.
We see then that our goal is not a place but a state of being. The saints of old did not have access to that goal because the Fatherís House, the Lord Jesus Christ, had not been crucified and resurrected.
But they died in faith.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
The verse above no doubt is referring to the saints mentioned in the preceding chapter. Is the writer speaking poetically when he says we are surrounded by them, or is he being literal?
My belief is that he is being literal. I believe that saints named in the preceding chapter, and numerous others, are surrounding us so they can learn from us and be made perfect together with us.
We profit from their lives and now they are profiting from our lives. Do you remember how Moses and Elijah spoke with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration and discussed His coming departure (death) at Jerusalem?
In view of the fact that we are being observed we must throw off the sin that hinders us and run with patience the race marked out for us.
I suppose this would be an effective argument to use with these Jewish believersóthe idea that Moses and other patriarchs were watching them. This should make them turn back to the pursuit of eternal life.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
If there is a secret of the Christian discipleship it is that of fixing our eyes on Jesus. As long as we do that we move ahead successfully.
The idea that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith needs some examination. I think we view salvation as a kind of open-ended, never-get-there waiting to die and go to Heaven. We have been saved, so the next stop is Heaven. We have been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, so the next stop is Heaven. We ought to try to do good but nobodyís perfect.
This is not the case. Our redemption has a specific beginning, a specific process, and a specific conclusion. The Jewish believers did not realize this. They had become spiritually lethargic. They were not pressing toward the mark.
Our salvation has not been fully accomplished until we are at rest in the Father through Christ. This means there never is a point during our lifetime when we are to cease pressing forward toward the rest of God. There is a goal, a mark, and we are not to come short of it.
Jesus Christ was able to endure the cross, scorning the shame, because there was joy set before Him. He realized He was going to inherit the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. We ourselves will not be able to endure our cross unless we fix our eyes on the joy set before us. That joy is not eternal residence in Heaven but the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. We are coheirs with Christ.
If we are not looking forward to returning with the Lord and inheriting the nations, then we need to ask God to show us the desirability of this inheritance. When He does we will understand clearly that the nations and the earth are what we want, not a mansion in the spirit world.
Christ has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God in Heaven. We already are there in Him and with Him, according to Paul. Our task is that of maintaining our position there, because many forces seek to pull us down from our high place in God. In these days, only the most determined will be able to keep their crown. The temptations are going to triple in intensity and number.
If you do not have joy set before you at this time, ask God to place joy before you. He will do this, because He understands that you will lose heart if you do not have something joyful to look forward to.
Faith is defined as holding fast to the hope God is a rewarder of those who continue to seek Him earnestly and diligently until the promise is fulfilled.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3)
It appears the Jewish believers were being opposed by sinful men and were growing weary and losing heart. The writer is telling them to think about what Christ endured, and then to renew their determination to fight forward.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4)
We have to fight against sin continually.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:11,12)
Can you feel the spirit of the above passage, the sense of vigor and determination?
"Flee from all this (the pursuit of riches)."
"Pursue righteousness godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness."
"Fight the good fight of faith."
"Take hold of eternal life."
We have to struggle against sin. We have to flee from worldliness. We have to pursue righteousness. We have to fight to keep going with the Lord. We have to lay hold on eternal life, because eternal death is seeking preeminence in our personality.
Sometimes our preaching today is anemic, compared with the teaching of the New Testament.
The Jewish believers who were being addressed apparently had not as yet been attacked physically, although Christians soon would be.
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lordís discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." (Hebrews 12:5,6)
We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation. We experience fiery trials. As many as Jesus loves He rebukes and chastens. Israel always receives double for her sins.
God will judge His people before He will judge the world. If we are to make a success of our Christian discipleship we need to keep in mind that God will discipline and rebuke us.
God has forgiven our sins because of the blood atonement made on the cross. We have been forgiven, but we still have a sinful nature. So the dealings of God have to do with His approach to our sinful nature. If the Lord Jesus Christ had to learn obedience through the things He suffered, what will be true of us?
So we are not to be amazed at the fiery tests we shall experience. Their purpose is to save us by burning the sin and self-will out of us. We do not lose heart, realizing that every person God accepts as a son He punishes. This is Godís love in action, and we are to endure patiently.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (Hebrews 12:7,8)
When we are in a difficult situation, even if it remains unchanged for many months or years, we are to accept this suffering as discipline. God is determined to make us a son.
As the years go by, and our most intense desires and hopes are deferred, we can see the growth in ourselves. We become more aware of other people and their problems. We gain in humility. Also the Lord draws closer to us. Our change into the image of Christ takes a while, because so much of our personality has to be torn down and rebuilt. The process is not pleasant, but the end product is worth it.
We are being changed from an adamic soul into a life-giving spirit. We remain human, but it is a new kind of humanity. Our adamic soul is like an animal in many ways. The animal nature is not eternal. It must be destroyed from our personality so we are living in the Life of God. Believe me, such total change of what we are does not happen overnight.
Eventually, although God leaves us in the world for a season, we no longer are of the world. We do not think or react as do worldly people. God may allow us to remain in the world while we are being of benefit to His Kingdom; but when our tour of duty has been concluded, we will be received into our true home. Going to our true home is something to look forward to.
This world is not a pleasant place to be for anyone. This especially is true of the individual who is living in the Life of Jesus Christ.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! (Hebrews 12:9)
Believers are not always pleased when they are called on to suffer. Sometimes they become angry with God. On other occasions they try to reason why they should be suffering. Or they may become discouraged and turn back into the world, supposing God no longer answers their prayer.
It may be true, at least in America, that we do not prepare the new Christian properly. We may have given him the impression that now he is a Christian he will live a better life, have more success in his work, his children will all be obedient and respectful, he will always have enough money and remain healthy. How will a person who has been taught that this is what happens when we believe in Christ react to the painful realities of lifeóbecause becoming a Christian does not shield us from the problems unsaved people have? It just gives us a better way of coping with them.
There is no trial a Christian experiences that is not common to all people, and God will make a way to go through the experience successfully.
We read in the preceding chapter of the kind of suffering Godís elect have endured in the past. It is still the same now. The teaching of the pre-tribulation "rapture" is unscriptural. Godís people have always experienced tribulation, and shall continue to do so until the Kingdom of God comes to the earth. As long as we are in the world we shall suffer tribulation. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus we must learn to endure hardship. We cannot avoid pain and deferred gratification without disobeying the Lord.
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)
Suffering changes us. We stop sinning. We become more aware of the feelings of other people. We become more like God. We grow in holiness of personality.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
As many as the Lord loves He rebukes and chastens. Chastening is not pleasant. Sometimes it is quite painful. But if we will hold steady in the Lord we will notice an increase of righteousness and peace in us. This makes all the suffering worthwhile.
The Bible promises us that if we will cease fretting and delight ourselves in the Lord, He shall give us the desires of our heart. We may carry our cross for many years, not receiving what we so fervently desire; being forced to remain in a situation we do not enjoy. But Godís Word cannot be changed. If we will remain in the prison in which Satan has placed us, with Godís permission, we will receive the crown of righteousness and life. We will enter the fullness of joy when we enter His Presence.
And who knowsóthere may be some answers along the way if we remain faithful!
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (Hebrews 12:12,13)
How do we strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees? We ask God to help us. Then we assert ourselves, reminding ourselves of the faithfulness of the Lord. He is a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently. We refuse to live in fear.
Sometimes it seems our home is filled with gloom, with foreboding. When that happens I pray to the Lord and command the spirit of dread and gloom to leave the house. Soon the peace of our home returns. It was an attack of the enemy to see if I would accept fear.
I refuse to accept fear. When we act out of fear we soon begin to make mistakes.
We are to behave joyously and confidently as sons of the greatest of all Kings. When weaker believers see our confidence in the Lord they are strengthened. Believers who are trying to live in Christ and in the world at the same time do not set a good example for the young Christians. The newer Christians see the older saints, who are half in the world and half in Christ, occupying themselves with entertainment and the pursuit of money. Such halfhearted believers weaken all of us, especially the younger Christians.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
We have to make an effort to live in peace with all men. We have to pray and read the Bible every day, refreshing ourselves in the Lord. Then when someone provokes or irritates us, we have enough spiritual strength to overcome the provocation and act with strength and dignity
There have been in time past what we call "holiness movements." The Nazarene denomination, for example, was one of these. Early Pentecost also was characterized by holiness of appearance and behavior.
There has been a reaction against the earlier emphases of holiness, particularly in the area of dress. We probably have gone too far in this, such that there are believers who watch X-rated programs. Such behavior does not please the Lord, nor does immodest apparel.
However, the emphasis today, of the Holy Spirit, appears to be on the holiness of the heart: unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, lust, lying, stealing are areas of thought and action that must be cleansed from the believer.
It remains true that "without holiness no one will see the Lord." As the writer states, we must make an effort to be holy. This passage alone proves that the current doctrine that we are saved by belief in Jesus apart from any change of behavior is not scriptural. It is a deduction made from a few verses. There are numerous passages that conflict with the idea that our behavior is not a critical aspect of our salvation.
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
I like the attitude of the above verse. Donít you? "See to it"! In other words, get busy and do something about this.
From what we hear today we need do nothing except believe. Jesus is going to do it all for us, or, has already done it all for us. Not so! "See to it"!
It is so easy for people to miss the grace of God, especially in America. There are so many alluring distractions of entertainment, opportunity to make money, technological discovery, and so forth that the time and strength needed to pray and read the Bible often take second place in our pursuits. We need to keep being reminded of who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. This is the pastorís job, but the writer of Hebrews tells us to exhort one another each day lest we die in the wilderness, so to speak.
Bitter roots are like weeds. Grass and crops have to be watered and taken care of, but not weeds. They spring up without any help being given to them. Bitterness can spring up overnight and defile many believers if we are not careful and patient. Every root of bitterness must be addressed immediately, although sometimes the Lord tells us to pray rather than act. There are some matters so sensitive that only the Lord can deal with them successfully.
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. (Hebrews 12:16,17)
Sexual immorality is an enormous problem in the United States, affecting the young and the old. I suppose all we can do is pray, preach, teach, and, in extreme cases, exercise church discipline. I remind the church frequently, particularly the young people, that sexual lust is one of our major enemies, and it absolutely must be overcome through prayer if we are to succeed as a victorious Christian.
Esau is a graphic example to all of us. He was the firstborn of Isaac, and so the fullness of his fatherís blessing was his by inheritance.
Esau was shortsighted. One day when he was very hungry he sold his birthright to Jacob for some bread and lentil stew. But when the time came for his fatherís blessing, it was Jacob who received the inheritance. Then Esau realized what he had lost. But it was too late. The blessing of his father was forever lost.
We are not accustomed, in America, for something being forever lostóparticularly if it once belonged to us. Even though we may have given our word, we are ready to sue to get back what we think is ours. We are not familiar, many of us, with this type of finality.
"I know I said, but this is different." "I know I made marriage vows, but now I am unhappy." "I know is what I promised, but I have changed my mind." "I know I gave my child up for adoption and she has new parents that love her; but I want her back." This is the lack of integrity we demonstrate, and sometimes the courts go along with us.
Esau lost his blessing. That was the end of it. There was no way Isaac could change his mind, because the blessing was inspired by the Spirit of God.
So it is today. Numerous believers are trading their birthright as a son of God because there is something they want desperately. They are not seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Their birthright does not seem to be important at this time. They are shortsighted.
When they die, or when the Lord returns, they are going to be in agony. They will realize what they have sold for a few moments of pleasure in the world. They are trusting that Godís love for them is unconditional and they will not suffer appreciable loss. Perhaps they will have a smaller mansion than they would have had otherwise.
But when they see the great gates begin to close, and inside are Jesus, the saints, the children playing, and they see the beauty of the new world and hear the heavenly music, while they are on the outside with people like themselves, screaming and cursing and blaming one another, then they will have some idea of the finality of Godís Word. They will cry out to God to forgive them, but no one will answer.
What an agony that would be we scarcely can imagine, not knowing what the future holds for us, only that we are not permitted to come into the Presence of God. But there shall be many American Christians who will experience such torment if God in His mercy does not grant us an outpouring of His Spirit in the near futureóan outpouring that will bring repentance and a turning away from the world and from some of the prevailing unscriptural traditions.
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; To a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, Because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear. (Hebrews 12:18-21)
The writer is pointing out the terror of the Law of Moses. He is telling his readers that God has given them a much better covenant, and God expects the Christian believers to appreciate what they have received. The idea is if those under a lesser covenant did not escape punishment, what will be true if someone under the greater covenant does not follow through to all God has planned for him. We are back to "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?"
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (Hebrews 12:22)
We have not come to Mount Sinai but to Mount Zion. We have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. We have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.
Notice the verbs indicate we already are there.
One time, after forgiving an elder, my eyes were opened briefly. I saw that I had come to Mount Zion already. I could not see clearly, but I received the impression that I was surrounded by a number of people, or angels, I donít know which.
We are there now, and Paul agrees with this. How much greater is Zion than Sinai. How much greater are the promises! How much greater is the Presence of God! How fortunate we are that we are not coming to a dreadful mountain burning with fire, shrouded in darkness, gloom and storm. Zion, the city of God, the chosen mountain, the place of the Ark of the Covenant.
To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
"The spirits of righteous men made perfect." The Lord Jesus told us to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. I think there is a general feeling among Christians that we can never be perfect; or that when we die and go to Heaven we will be perfect automatically.
There is no scriptural basis for the idea that we are made perfect by dying or by going to Heaven. However, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to proceed past the elements of the Gospel and move ahead to perfection. I notice the more modern translations prefer "maturity" to "perfection."
We seem to have an instinctive aversion to the idea of perfection. I had a teacher at the University of Rochester said she never gave Aís because no one is perfect.
While teaching elementary children, when it came to conduct, I often wrote "perfect." No doubt I could have made an effort and found something wrong. But as far as I was concerned, the childís conduct was perfect and that was the end of it.
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (II Corinthians 13:11)
"Aim for perfection"!
I think the problem is what we mean by "perfect," or "perfection." I donít believe God and we mean the same thing by the term "perfect." "The spirits of righteous men made perfect."
God said to Abraham: "Walk before me and be blameless." The older translations say "perfect." I guess the modern translators draw the line at someone being perfect, but permit them to be blameless. I am not certain there is a difference.
We can find fault with Abraham for selling his wife. Do you know, God never commented on that. However God indeed commented on Abraham offering Isaac, and blessed him mightily for this.
Christ commanded us to be perfect. Some translations agree with this. So we see that Christ and the Father demand perfection. But I would venture that we easily could find fault with the people the Father regards as perfect, just as other teachers could have found fault with children whom I classified as perfect.
I think it may be true that we can be perfect at any given time. If today we have done all that God has required, we are perfect as far as God is concerned. We have not been perfected as yet, but at the time we are perfect.
Growth is a factor. There are perfect children. There are perfect adults. There are perfect elderly people. It is a matter of time, place, and expectations isnít it.
I donít know if God can be made more perfect, but the Bible says Christ was made perfect by the things He suffered. So He grew in that sense.
No doubt a thousand years from now we shall be more perfect than we are now, A billion years from then we shall be even more perfect.
Perfect is an absolute term. There is no such thing as more perfect. Yet, when we are considering growth, we must confess that as someone grows the standard of perfection changes.
The spirits of righteous men made perfect. So we see that salvation is not a change in where we are but what we are. We already have come to Mount Zion, and now we are being made perfect through various sufferings, just as Christ was made perfect through sufferings.
God wants people in His Presence who are perfect in His sight. He will make them perfect if they are willing and obedient.
To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)
Perhaps Abelís blood cried out for vengeance. The Bible doesnít say, as far as I know. The sprinkled blood of the Lord Jesus says: "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
I wonder how the Jews felt when they realized they had killed their Christ; that by crucifying Him they had caused an atonement for sin to be made. It seems to me it would have spurred them on to serve the Lord diligently.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? (Hebrews 12:25)
Again the warning that if transgressions under the Law of Moses were treated so severely, what will be the case with those who have received Christ and then have begun to turn back into the world? Moses spoke on the earth. Christ came from Heaven to warn men.
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." (Hebrews 12:26)
When the Lord spoke from Mount Sinai, the earth shook violently.
Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, (Exodus 19:18)
This awesome display of majesty was the background for the giving of the moral law, the Ten Commandments.
But now God has said He will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land." (Haggai 2:6)
The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shakenóthat is, created thingsóso that what cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27)
What cannot be shaken? The Kingdom of God. The writer is telling his readers that their willingness to leave the things of Christ and go back into the world is not wise. All the elements of the world, the created things, shall be shaken and removed. Only that which is of the Lord Jesus will remain after the shaking.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, For our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28,29)
Be thankful, and worship God with reverence and awe because we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Be thankful, and worship God with reverence and awe, because our God is a consuming fire.
I have wondered sometimes if the Fire who is God is not the same fire whether in the form of the tongues of fire that came down on the Day of Pentecost; the fire of Hell; or the Lake of Fire. The Bible says that out of the mouth of God comes breath like a stream of burning sulfur.
Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze. (Isaiah 30:33)
I do not state this as a fact, but what if it is all one fire? What if the difference is not in the fire but in us?
Notice the following, a favorite passage of mine:
The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating eviló (Isaiah 33:14,15)
Righteous people can dwell with the Consuming Fire. Unrighteous people cannot. The same holy fire that is such a blessing to the righteous is torment to the wicked.
You know, it just dawned on me more clearly than ever. John the Baptist spoke of the baptism with fire. We have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Now the Christian churches need to be baptized with fire. It is the fire that will accomplish what must be accomplished if we are to return with the Lord and establish the unshakeable Kingdom of God on the earth.
The Lord Jesus is calling us today to be with Him where He is. He is in the very center of the Person and will of God. We are to be there with Him; this is His desire.
But that means we will be in the very center of the Consuming Fire.
If there is cowardice in us it must be consumed, or we will be in torment.
If there is unbelief in us, it must be gotten out of us or we will not be at rest in the Consuming Fire of Israel.
If there is vileness in us, it must be driven from us in these days, or we will not be at rest in the Fire who is God.
If there is murder in us, it must be destroyed out of us or we will be in agony as we draw near to the Fire.
If there is immorality in us, we must gain victory over it today or we will be destroyed in the Day of the Lord.
If there is a spirit of sorcery in us, it must be identified and cast out today. Sorcery shall never stand in the Presence of God.
If there is idolatry in us, it must be dealt with now. All idols shall come crashing down as the one true God appears.
Godís holy Fire is to a lie as a roaring inferno is to tissue paper.
All these behaviors shall be shaken and removed in the Day of the Lord, and the time of preparation is now.
All sin must be taken care of today. In the Day of the Lord, that which can be consumed by the Fire of God shall be consumed. We must be baptized with fire today so all that cannot stand the burning will be destroyed. In this sense, all of us are saved by fire.
Some shall be saved by fire, the Bible says. But their works, not having been wrought in Christ shall be burned away. They shall have no reward, no inheritance.
I suppose they will be saved because of the prayers of a godly relative, as was true of Lot who was saved because he was Abrahamís nephew.
The lukewarm, worldly believers of our day sometimes take comfort in the fact that they will be saved by fire. I would not recommend this, it is too risky. What if the Lord finds their behavior so unworthy of the Kingdom that He decides they are not worth saving?
In any case, we do not know how long that fire will burn or how intense the flames may be. It is possible that the painful cleansing may require years of misery if not agony. How long would it take to burn the self-love out of a believer whose whole life has been focused on himself; who has caused much suffering to his loved ones?
You may say, "There are no such Christians." You are mistaken in this.
I believe it is Proverbs that says, "Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle, you will not remove his folly from him." Likewise, it will take a hot fire over a period of time before a believer who is self-focused, having mastered the art of deceiving people, will be pure of heart and ready to join the ranks of decent folk..
Keep on loving each other as brothers. (Hebrews 13:1)
One of the first signs of spiritual coldness is a willingness to criticize fellow Christians. I have noticed that when people begin to miss services it is not long before they become critical and bitter.
We know Satan is the accuser of the brothers. When believers begin to lose their fervency, become occupied with the things of the world, neglect prayer and reading their Bible, Satan seizes this opportunity to point out the flaws in their fellow believers. Their attitude toward the church services grows cold.
Apparently this is what was taking place among the Jewish believers. The writer of the Book of Hebrews warns them of how God regards the Christian who is not bearing the fruit of Christ-likeness. This warning needs to be sounded in the churches in America of our day, for the attractions of the world are numerous and strong. Also, the false teaching of unconditional grace, and the pre-tribulation "rapture," weaken the resolve of believers to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)
We have to be careful of this in America, because in many instances people who have been kind to strangers have been rewarded by being robbed and shot. Therefore we must be hospitable, and yet very prayerful when dealing with people we do not know.
I wonder how many angels walk among us. I wonder how many of these angels are people-angels, that is, they are former human beings sent to help us. The term "angel" means "messenger."
After Jesus was raised from the dead, many of the deceased saints arose and appeared to people in Jerusalem. That must have been an exciting time!
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3)
It is possible the writer is referring to believers who have been put in prison or mistreated.
We have a jail ministry in our church. It seems often people who are imprisoned having time on their hands to think about their life, are ready to be taught the Bible. Sometimes strong Christians emerge from these places of confinement.
It is not unusual to find people in jail who have been church members; some come from Christian families, or even from a home where the father is a pastor.
The jail workers from our church preach that which we believer. It is not a message of grace only, but of righteous behavior. Some prisoners see the need for this and embrace what is being taught. Their eyes are opened.
Jail workers from other churches preach just the opposite. They emphasize there is nothing the individual is to do except believe in Jesus Christ. Now he or she is ready to go to Heaven.
The two messages are almost totally opposed.
Which do you believe would be the most practical emphasis to someone in prison for breaking the law: that he needs only to believe in Jesus, no change in his behavior is necessary in order to go to Heaven; or, he needs to believe in Jesus, and learn from Jesus to behave in a lawful manner so he may enter the Kingdom of God?
You might respond by saying, "A man in jail for breaking the law should be taught to believe in Jesus, and to learn from Jesus how to keep the law." He is in jail because he did not behave righteously, regardless of his religious beliefs.
If this is the better teaching to an individual in jail, why not preach it to all Americans? If they believed and obeyed they would not be sent to prison in the first place!
An officer who walked the catwalks in the county jail told me it is not unusual to look into a cell and see a prisoner reading his Bible. Perhaps he is looking for advice on how to live in society, not how to go to Heaven.
There are two primary Christian messages in America today: one insists righteous behavior is the only valid proof of salvation; the other discounts the importance of righteous behavior. Which is the more scriptural do you think?
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)
Sexual lust, lust for money, lust for entertainment, lust for violence, and lust for food, alcohol, and drugs are the principal gods of America. These demons parade across the television screens seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. They slowly but surely are pulling our country down to Hell.
Sexual lust, including perversions of all forms, are found in people from elementary school through to the nursing homes. It is as though the demons of lust outnumber the human population. There are signs of lust everywhere, including billboards, television and other media, and the Internet. The expansion of pornography on the Internet is incredible! We are a sick country, and various venereal diseases abound.
We have legalized homosexual behavior as though it is a new form of social activity practiced by liberated people. It is not. Homosexual behavior is an ancient sin, condemned by both the Old and New Testaments.
The end will be, as it has been throughout history for sexually immoral nations, some form of destruction. Whether by hurricanes, earthquakes, or some other natural phenomena, or by terrorism or war, our country is going to suffer Divine judgment. The blood of slain fetuses is crying from the ground. The courts are removing Christian influence wherever possible. It wonít be long!
"God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
"Keep your lives free from the love of money." What an exhortation to American Christians!
Money is one of the major gods of America. Even the believers worship money without realizing it.
A while back we had a movement among Charismatic believers that stressed the accumulation of money as a sign of Godís blessing. The Apostle Paul warned us about equating money with godliness.
And constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think godliness is a means to financial gain. (I Timothy 6:5)
How many are teaching today that if we pursue the Lord we will become rich; that godliness is a means to financial gain?
The reason people, including Christians, seek to store up more money than they need is in case God does not exist or will not help them when they have problems.
The only false god Jesus mentioned, a competitor of the true God, is money.
God has said He will never leave or forsake us. Money will not help us in the day of trouble. An accident, a fatal illness, can wipe out our family in a short time. Doctors can do just so much. But the Lord can insure our health and our safety.
Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul warned us about the dangers involved in getting rich. The Bible speaks of Balaam, Gehazi, of the rich young ruler, Judas, of Ananias and Sapphira.
John the Baptist exhorted the soldiers to be content with their wages. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to be content with what we have. The American culture stresses the desirability of possessing much money to such an extent it is difficult to conform to the Bible instruction about seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are advised constantly to seek first the acquiring of money.
Each one of us who is serious about living the victorious life in Jesus Christ must pray that God will deliver him or her from this Antichrist idol, from the worship of money.
So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6)
The fear of man brings a snare, the Bible says. Whenever we act out of fear we make mistakes.
Again the Bible asks: "Who is he who will harm you if you are a follower of that which is good?" I have stood on this verse many times.
We have Godís mighty angels with us. They are stronger than any other power on the earth. They ascend and descend on Jacobís ladder, meaning their point of origin is the earth. They are spirits who minister to the heirs of salvation.
But let us say someone tortures us. There are testimonies that Christ is with us in the flames.
Let us say someone kills us. What have they accomplished other than to usher us through "gates of splendor"?
If we live we are the Lordís. If we die we are the Lordís. There is nothing any man or group of men can do to change that.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)
A godly leader who has walked with the Lord for many years is a tremendous example to the newer Christians. They hear from his mouth words of wisdom. They see, as they watch how he lives, the righteous, holy ways of the Lord.
The leader should have much to say that is invaluable to those who are starting out on the journey of faith. But much, much more than this is the illustration of his life, his humility, his willingness to confess his faults and fight onward, his concern for the Lord and for those around him. He is a confirmation that each one of us can serve Christ successfully if we will apply ourselves.
If he can endure to the end, so can we. If he can serve as a good family member, so can we. If he can resist the delicious attractions of the American culture, so can we.
He is our assurance that God is able to keep us throughout our discipleship and bring us home in the fullness of victory over sin.
God is going to move on the younger generation in an outstanding manner. I am persuaded of this. My generation of American Christians has not done a very good job in many instances. We have not always been cross-carrying disciples.
If I am correct, if God is going to use the generation coming up, then we who are older must set the best possible example so they will not be deceived by the wiles of Satan.
I am hoping by setting down what I think the Lord has shown me, the younger people who read my words will be able to escape the destructive traditions that have destroyed the moral fiber of so many believers. Godís wants righteous behavior and total consecration on the part of His elect. God will not accept anything less than this.
By overemphasizing mere belief about Jesus instead of the good fight of faith, current traditions have dismantled Godís intention. Christian character is built as we struggle against the evil in the world, just as muscles are built by pushing against resistance. By stressing that Jesus has done it all, and our part is just to believe, we have successfully set aside Godís purpose in allowing us to be surrounded with evil.
The only reason God permits the wickedness in the world to continue is that His future rulers might develop a militant righteousness that will prevail against temptation. Such character could not be formed in Paradise where no fight is necessary. Now we have found a way around the struggleójust believe. No overcoming is necessary. In due time God will remove our morally flabby character to Heaven where we can recline on a couch in our mansionówe hope!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
I am not certain why, but there always seems to be an effort to show that Jesus Christ changes. It is true that He who was the Word of God has now become the Son of God. And the Son of God has become Son of Man! But this is a change in relationships, isnít it? It is not a change in what Christ is as a Person.
The concept of Dispensationalism is that Christ is different today than He was when He gave the Law of Sinai. We imagine Christ was harsh then but loving now. This is not true. The same Christ who ordained the flood in Noahís time will visit the earth with similar wrath at His appearing. This is why He reminded us of Noahís time and of Sodom and Gomorrah when He cautioned us to not become involved in the cares of the world.
Christ demanded righteousness then and He demands righteousness now. The difference is, our sins have been forgiven by the atonement made on the cross, and He has given us additional grace so we can overcome sin. But He Himself has not changed. He is the Word of God made flesh.
Another idea is that what Christ did in the first century He will not do now. He healed the sick then but He will not heal the sick now. He worked miracles then but He will not work miracles now.
The truth is, Christ has never changed from the time He created the spirit realm, and the physical realm, and all the creatures therein. He remains the same, and we can establish our life on this Rock.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. (Hebrews 13:9,10)
The writer wants the Jewish believers to hold steady in the faith and not be moved by any new doctrines. He is urging them to remember their leaders who presented Christ to them, and not to be moved by novelties.
Apparently they were being urged by other Jews to partake of foods used in observances held in the Temple.
There are many Christians in America who are embracing aspects of Judaism. This is not surprising in that Christian teaching in America is so shallow in the area of righteousness. People want something substantial for their souls.
Many Christians observe the feasts of the Lord, particularly the Passover. We often celebrate the Passover in our church, but it is a Christian versionódifferent in many respects from the true Passover celebration.
But we do not celebrate the Passover out of any sense that it is incumbent on us to do so or that it adds to our salvation. We celebrate the Passover in memory of the Last Supper. It is a good opportunity to think about the atonement made on the cross.
What was going on among the Jewish believers of the first century I do not know. But, as the writer says, our altar is in Heaven, and those who minister in the Temple and have not received Christ as their Savior have no right to eat from the heavenly altar.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. (Hebrews 13:11)
The reference here is to the Day of Atonement, The blood of bulls and goats was sprinkled upon and before the Lid of Atonement in the Most Holy Place. The bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp.
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. (Hebrews 13:12,13)
The man assigned to burn the bodies of the animals, whose blood was sprinkled in the Most Holy place, was unclean after he performed his duties.
The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and offal are to be burned up. The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. (Leviticus 16:27,28)
Christ made us holy through His own blood. But in order to do so He Himself had to go to the area of uncleanness and reproach.
The place of burning outside the camp was not a holy or honorable place. It was not like the Most Holy Place or even like the Courtyard of the Tabernacle.
The writer likens the place outside the camp to Calvary where Christ was crucified. It was not a holy or honorable place but an area where criminals were crucified. He exhorts us to go outside the camp, outside the places of honor in the Jewish community, and bear the disgrace with Christ.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
Our traditions do not tells us of a "city that is to come." It points to a heavenly city to which we go after death. We are unscriptural when we point toward eternal residence in Heaven as the goal of salvation.
The city is coming to the earth. The new Jerusalem is coming to the earth. This we know from the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation.
I gain the impression from the New Testament that the thousand-year interval between the coming of Christ and the coming down to earth of the new Jerusalem was not known to the Apostles before John had his revelation. I think they expected the Lord to come in their lifetime and bring the new Jerusalem with Him.
Notice what Peter said:
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (II Peter 3:11-13)
If you look carefully at the above passage you can see that Peter was inviting his readers to look forward to the Day of God. The Day of God will bring a new heaven and a new earth, after the destruction of the physical universe by fire.
We know, from the Book of Revelation, that before the Day of God comes and the physical universe is destroyed, there will a thousand-year Kingdom Age during which Christ and the saints will govern the nations of the earth.
The city that is to come is the new Jerusalem, and it shall come down and be installed on the new earth after the thousand-year Kingdom Age has come to an end.
We will be on the earth during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, ruling with the Lord. After the thousand-year Kingdom Age we will descend through the new sky in the form of the new Jerusalem and rule on the new earth for eternity. So at no time do we make our dwelling place in Heaven, except for the period after we die and before we return with the Lord. The new Jerusalem on the new earth is our enduring city.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praiseóthe fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
We can find many occasions throughout the day and night to praise the Lord. Every time we eat; every day we enjoy health; every day we come home safely; every time a prayer is answered; every time some little detail falls into place. There are numerous occasions each day for us to praise the Lord.
Also, our church worship service should be fervent. I hope the day is past when the believers sit passively in their pews and sing a few familiar hymns from a hymnal, and then listen to a choir or "special music."
We need to rise up, march around the church, hold up the banners, wave the flags, shout to the Lord, become involved in some manner.
I have served as a professional choir director and have composed anthems. But those days are over. It is not a day to entertain the soldiers of the Lord but to build them up in Christ. They may be moved emotionally by musical productions, and they may enjoy them. But I am of the opinion that people are not built up in Christ by musical productions but by the gifts and ministries of the Spirit of God.
I am a bit ahead of my time in saying congregational worship must included fervent participation on the part of the believers. The robed choirs may endure for a season along with the vocal solos. But I think the pressures that will be unleashed in the not to distant future will bring about the type of worship service I am suggesting.
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
It is pleasing to the Lord when we see someone with a need and help them out. The rich man was not put in Hell for any reason other than being selfish, as far as we know. The Law of Moses emphasized generosity toward the poor. The same emphasis can be found in the New Testament.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
I have noticed that God honors authority and rules. Our country was born in rebellion against England. As far as I can see, we Americans have a spirit of rebellion in us. We often despise authority. Perhaps this is why we have fallen so quickly into the idea that there is "no law in the New Testament except the law of love." If the believers actually would read the New Testament they would discover hundreds of commandments that are to be obeyed.
We do not like the idea of being the slave of Jesus Christ. We are willing for Him to be our Savior but not as willing for Him to be our personal Lord. We tend to want to wear our own clothes and eat our own food, so to speak, and just be called by His name to give ourselves some spiritual respectability.
I donít think God ever puts us in a church to correct the leadership. Zealous believers may attempt to correct the doctrine of the pastor of the church. I donít think this is a good idea.
If we do not agree with what is being preached and taught, I think we are wiser if we leave and go to another assembly. Authority in a church is a serious spiritual matter, and the individual who casually challenges it may bring Divine judgment on himself or herself.
We Americans have, as I said, a spirit of independence. We like to vote our rulers in and out and refer to them by nicknames. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. In some ways it is the opposite of a democracy. And while we may feel at ease and treat our salvation casually, we actually are ignorant of the spiritual powers who are using us as pawns. We are wise when we humble ourselves and obey the leadership of our church. Then God will bless and protect us from the devices of Satan.
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so I may be restored to you soon. (Hebrews 13:18,19))
To my way of thinking, this is the only passage of Hebrews that really sounds like the Apostle Paul. We are not certain who wrote Hebrews; but for myself, I donít think it was Paul.
Note the sincerity, gravity, and humility of the writer. we "desire to live honorably in every way." Compare this with the silliness and foolishness that sometimes comes from the pulpits of America. This is godly talk, expressing the good fight of faith. It reveals the importance placed on righteous behavior.
American television evangelists sometimes sound like standup comedians. We are accustomed to their antics and find them entertaining. But I wonder if the coming days of trouble will not put an end to such frothy showmanship.
The writers of the New Testament, particularly the writers of the Epistles, ministered in spite of the danger to their safety. Such danger would certainly produce gravity and sincerity. And this is what people expect of representatives of God.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, Equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20,21)
We need God to equip us with all we need for doing His will. We need for Him to work in us what is pleasing to Himself.
The Bible types reveal that after the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost will come the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. We have been at Pentecost and now we are approaching Tabernacles, so to speak.
Whereas Pentecost speaks of the rain of the Spirit from Heaven, Tabernacles has to do with the creating of the Throne of God in us. It is water from within us rather than water from above.
If I am not mistaken, we can look for a far greater Presence of God in us than we have known previously. The presence of Satan shall increase in the wicked of the earth. The Presence of God also shall increase in His people. It will be the Presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in us that will enable us to be more than conquerors through the darkest hours.
Today the Lord is standing before the personalities of the believers. He is asking for entrance. He wants to dine with us, He on our obedience and worship, and we on His body and blood.
There is a passage in the Book of Revelation that speaks of those who die in the Lord from the time Antichrist is revealed. Their works follow them. I think this means we are to abandon the rulership of our own life to the Lord and let Him govern from within us. We may not be able to work in that darkest of hours, but God will be able. He will work in us what is pleasing to Himself.
Ours is a day when halfway measures will not suffice. We cannot cling to our own life and survive the pressures that are coming. We must let go of our own hopes and ambitions and tell the Lord we are ready to do His will. We must set aside a time and place and specifically tell the Lord from this moment forth we are going to live by His Life and not by our own.
This act of consecration must be specific, determined, and never withdrawn. In other words, the believer must carefully think through what he is declaring. This is an eternal covenant made with God, stating we are giving Him supremacy in our personality for eternity.
Antichristís power will reach into the heavens in the last days. There will be no more opportunity to receive Christ or the Holy Spirit. In that hour the Throne of God will move into the personalities of the remnant. If you want to be a part of the remnant who will be able to serve God in the days of Antichrist, then make your covenant with God now. You may not have the spiritual strength or opportunity to do so in the days to come.
The drums of El Shaddai are beating to the attack. The drums of Hell are responding. You and I do not have the strength to stand when these powers begin to move. We must become part of God, or we automatically will be guided by Satan.
God wants to work in us to will and to do His pleasure. But He will not do so except as we give permission. God will never take away our right to choose. We must come to Christ and give Him our life voluntarily.
Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. I want you to know our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. Greet all your leaders and all Godís people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. Grace be with you all. (Hebrews 13:22-25)
As I see it, the Book of Hebrews is one of the most important books of the Bible. I think it compares favorably with the Book of Romans for the depth of content and the insight of the author.
Hebrews sweeps away the current traditions and replaces them with a godly warning concerning our need to press forward into Christ every day of our life. We are to move past the basic principles of the Gospel and grow in the ability to recognize good and evil, and in the strength and willingness to embrace the good and reject and renounce the evil.
The rest of God is to be our goal. The rest of God is that place where our life is hidden with Christ in God, and Godís will and our will are so blended as to be synonymous. This does not mean we are passive, an empty vessel as some say. Nothing of the kind. Our will remains clear and decisive. But we have chosen, after much experience with the Lord, to do His will. We have learned that Godís will, in addition to being the only legitimate will in the universe, always leads to love, peace, and joy. Our will as often as not brings us into confusion and trouble.
We found that the new covenant is superior to the Law of Moses, not because it offers a better of longer lasting forgiveness but because it attacks and destroys the sinful nature. The forgiveness will hold as long as we are living according to the Holy Spirit and not according to the sinful nature.
These Jewish believers had made a good start. They had had solid teaching from people who were taught by those who themselves had been with Jesus. Now the long periods of time without anything happening were boring and they were losing interest. The things of the world were creeping back into their lives.
We of today have been saved and filled with the Spirit. Now it is time to press forward to know Christ in the greater way that is available today. We must be filled with God so we will be able to stand, and help others to stand, in the days ahead.