Hebrews

Hebrews 11:20-22 The Promise Continues And A Resurrection Hope.

As noted in the previous passage, the promise to Abraham would pass down through the children of promise-Isaac then Jacob, then Moses (Cf. 11:10; Gen. 26:24; 28:13; Ex. 3:6, 15; 4:5; Jn. 14:2; Rev. 21:2). Isaac affirmed covenantal continuity when he “blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (v. 20). In particular, “Jacob would possess a fruitful land, and have dominion over nations, including the descendants of Esau (Gen, 27:27-29)” (NGSB p. 1952). The full account of this event can be found at Genesis 27:26-40. Then Jacob furthered this covenantal continuity and promise, when just prior to his death he “blessed each of the sons of Joseph,” worshipping the LORD to his last days (v. 21 Cf. Gen. 48). Our author also does not bypass Joseph, since he ordered that his bones should leave with God’s people, as a witness of his belief in the victory over the grave with a resurrection hope-just as with Enoch and Abraham and Isaac (v. 22 Cf. Gen. 50:24-25; Ex. 13:19).

Hebrews

Hebrews 11:8-19 The Covenant Of Grace Through Abraham.

Our author carries on with the flow of salvation history, revolving around the old administrations of the one covenant of grace. This is the witness section of this Covenant Renewal document, and also is where he begins his lawsuit against those who rejected the Messiah, by showing that the forefathers bear witness to the very same faith being renewed here in the Son, so that these witnesses testify against those who rejected this message. His focus is on the need for blood sacrifice from a perfect offering, a system that was operative from the moment the LORD sacrificed animals to clothe Adam and Eve, pointing to the sacrifice of the Son, whose blood covers us. Enoch was one who demonstrated in his departure, that there has always been this promise of victory over death. If he had not followed the pattern laid down from the beginning, including the LORD being pleased with Abel and his sacrifice, he would not have escaped death, because Moses and our author make clear that this was what pleased Enoch’s forefather.

Now our author moves on to Abraham, as the next example of one who obeyed God’s word, that as a man of faith he ventured forward to obtain the inheritance promised him (v. 8 Cf. Gen. 12:1-4). In an act of faith he lived in the promised land for a time, even though the gaining of that land as a whole would come later. Furthermore this same promise would be passed on to his son of promise (v. 9 Cf. 6:17; Gen. 12:8; 13:3, 8; 18:1, 9). This was not a delay or discouragement to Abraham, because his ultimate hope was to rest with God forever (v. 10 Cf. 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 21:10). Sarah also had like faith, receiving strength “to conceive seed…because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (v. 11 Cf. 10:23; Gen 17:19; 18:11-14; 21:1-2; Lk. 1:36). It was the fact that they were old, and the LORD helping them with the conception of a son, that it showed that this child was one of promise. Therefore, it is not a stretch to say that all who have like faith will also be and have children of promise (v. 12 Cf. Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 32:12; Rom. 4:19).

The apostates who rejected the Son and are the subjects of the lawsuit in this letter, were wanderers, that is, they wandered aimlessly in the desert when they would not in faith move forward to the promised land. However, those who believed the promise, went forward in faith to lay hold of it. The former leaned on their own wisdom and wandered aimlessly in a journey that would end in judgment, whereas the latter were on a mission, being blessed of the LORD as they stepped forward in faith. The latter were not aimless wanderers, rather they had a goal and purpose in mind, and this defined their status as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (v. 13). These were seeking a homeland, a new heavens and new earth (v. 14). There was no thought on their part of moving backward, which is what the apostates were in fact doing (v. 15 Cf. Gen. 11:31). God is therefore not ashamed to be called their God, for this fulfilled the core of the covenant-dwelling in His presence. A heavenly country and city await all of like faith (v. 16).

This promise to Abraham would pass down through the children of promise-Isaac then Jacob, then Moses (Cf. 11:10; Gen. 26:24; 28:13; Ex. 3:6, 15; 4:5; Jn. 14:2; Rev. 21:2). Many want to see this only in the light of going to an abode in heaven. However, our author began this letter by indicating that he was writing of that world which was to come, which very specifically refers to the inhabited earth-oikoumenein (2:5). Furthermore, John in Revelation wrote that this “New Jerusalem,” would be “coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2). Again, Abraham was tested as to whether he in fact believed in the core of the covenant of grace, that the LORD would provide the sacrifice, even to be willing to offer up his own son, who was regarded as a promised seed (vv. 17-18 Cf. Gen. 22:1-14; Rom. 9:7; Js. 2:21). Again, as in the case of Enoch, Abraham believed that the LORD had ultimately promised victory over death-the consequence of sin, and so he obeyed (v. 19 Cf. Rom. 4:13-22).

Hebrews

Hebrews 11:1-3 The Beginning Of The ‘Invocation Of Witnesses’.

The ‘Invocation Of Witnesses’ is the fifth section of the Covenant Renewal document that is this letter. It is the invocation of witnesses which becomes the basis or starting point of the lawsuit contained in this letter, as it begins with a ‘Call To Witnesses To Hear And Testify’. This section also begins with the promise which is the core of the Covenant Renewal document, namely that “the just shall live by faith” (10:38a). It is a faith which shows itself also in those who do His will as evidence of this faith, based on the finished work of Christ, and Christ’s ongoing sanctifying work in and through His people, God’s house (v. 1). The heroes of faith that our author will go on to enumerate, were those who could be trusted as witness bearers, for they “obtained a good testimony” (v. 2).

These heroes of the faith lived in those previous ages which the Son created, and they lived in such a way that they served Him who created them and redeemed them, with a redemption that found its ultimate fulfillment in the finished work of the Son (v. 3 Cf. 1:2). Our author wrote in the last days of the old covenant administration, and the witnesses that he calls on here, are those who were the apostates thought they were in harmony with. However, our author seeks to show that these witnesses were testifying against their rebellion. Those who have been justified by faith, also through faith give substance of the things they hope for (Cf. Rom. 8:24). The flow of salvation history, especially as we see it in the various covenantal administrations, shows that what they hoped for did come to pass.

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:32-39 “The just live by faith.”

Some have argued that the presence of this idea of being “enlightened” or “illuminated” with respect to both apostates (6:4), and our author’s audience here (v. 32), suggest that these apostates were genuine Christians who were in danger of losing their salvation. However, as has been demonstrated to this point, the apostates were those who refused to accept the testimony that the Son was the Messiah hoped for, who came in fulfillment of the word. What sets the audience apart is, among other things, was that they had persevered under “a great struggle with sufferings” (v. 32). Again, we must remember the context as one of old covenant lawsuit and new covenant renewal, and in those early days a great deal of the church’s suffering came from the apostate Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism, who were leading the persecution of Christians, as in the case of Christ’s death itself.

On the other hand, our author’s audience had endured, despite being made a “spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations” (v. 33a). They also “became companions of those who were so treated” (v. 33b). In what for some sounds reminiscent of Paul, our author commends them for helping him while he was “in chains,” but Paul was certainly not the only one to suffer in this way for the faith (v. 34a Cf. I Cor. 4:9; Phil. 1:7; II Tim. 1:16). Even his audience had suffered the “plundering” of their goods (v. 34b). They were able to endure this also, knowing that they had “a better and an enduring possession…in heaven” (v. 34c Cf. Mt. 5:12; 6:20). It is confidence in the promise of the word which enables one, by God’s mercy and grace, to endure. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (v. 36 Cf. Lk. 21:19; Col. 3:24).

The central promise is not specifically heaven. Not everyone will go to heaven, but only those who have the hope of eternal life. That hope rests on a more fundamental promise, which our author highlights here with his quote from Habakkuk. “The just shall live by faith” (v. 38; Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). The time had arrived when this vision found fulfillment in the one who would make this complete (v. 37; Hab. 2:3). Again, the acceptance of this message was what set our author and his audience apart from the apostates. This is why, next to a return to the word, that this was so central to the protestant reformation. Our author includes himself with his audience as those who do not “draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (v. 29 Cf. Acts 16:31). Endurance in living according to God’s will, is a sign and evidence of true saving faith (Cf. II Pet. 2:20).

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:28-31 Curses And Blessings.

Our author will again move to the third person, directing his attention to the subjects of the lawsuit, here in the fourth section-Curses And Blessings. The centre of this section is a just vengeance of God. All have rejected Moses law, and without mercy will suffer a just judgment. The law itself prescribed the invocation of witnesses, and the Holy Trinity alone executes this judgment, but there are more witnesses than they, including our own consciences (v. 28 Cf. Dt. 17:2-7; 19:15). “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (v. 29)?

These were all the blessings which accrue to the sons of God included in the new covenant renewal. However, on the rejection of this message, the apostates are going to suffer this indictment. This ultimate vengeance comes from the Lord, and this lawsuit is confirmation that He will repay (v. 30). This comes from Moses’ Song of Witness (Cf. Dt. 32:35-36). It is in this context that he concludes the fourth section of the lawsuit with these words, which again serve as a warning to all. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (v. 31). As Jesus Himself said: “But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him” (Lk. 12:5)!

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:26-27 Sentence And Warning Section Begins.

Now our author presses his warning further to his audience, just prior to again shift to the third person and discussing the fourth part of the lawsuit (10:28-31). Here our author is still speaking his warning using ‘we’, thus including himself. Therefore there is a place for warning to true believer’s, even an apostle speaking to himself. Yet, as he will state again at the end of this section, (after the fourth section of the lawsuit), “we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (v. 39). The lawsuit is against those who have sinned “wilfully,” after they had “received the knowledge of the truth” (v. 26a).

The truth is that this letter includes the last of the covenant lawsuits to be issued, because the covenant has been renewed through the Son in the new. There is no hope if one rejects the Son because, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (v. 26b). This is what it means to be “cut off” (6:6 Cf. Nu. 15:30; II Pet. 2:20). These ought to have a “fearful expectation of judgment,” but many do not, but it does serve as a warning to the faithful to avoid that course (v. 27a). It is a “fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (v. 27b). Essentially, those who reject the Son, reject the propitiation that He is, for the breaking of the covenantal bond (Zeph. 1:18).

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:19-25 Holding Fast The Confession.

Anytime we see a ‘Therefore,’ we need to ask what the ‘therefore’ is there for. It is a turning point for our author as he concludes this Stipulations section of this covenant renewal document. Since the Son, as High Priest-King, has offered the once for all sacrifice of Himself, and declared as Prophet that His work was finished (Jn. 19:30), we now “have boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (v. 19). One must understand the amazing change wrought here by the Son. The Holiest of All was only entered once a year by the High Priest with the blood of a temporary sacrifice, both for himself, his house, and the people, and it was not certain whether he would come out alive or not (5:3; 10:4 Cf. Lev. 9:7; 16:15-19). The mercy seat is where atonement was made. Mercy has always been the fountain of grace, but the sacrifice of the Son alone is our propitiation, appeasing the just wrath of God (2:7 Cf. Eph. 1:7). “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which enters the Presence behind the veil” (6:19).

The veil was the one separating us from God’s Presence, the veil of blue, scarlet, and purple, symbolizing His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King, that which was torn in two from top to bottom (9:3, 7, 12 Cf. Mt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38 Cf. Ex. 26:31-33). Our author calls this veil “His flesh” (v. 20). He once for all “offered up Himself” (7:27 Cf. Zech. 3:9). This brought to an end the last days of the old covenant administrations of grace, as well as sealing up “vision and prophecy” (Dan. 9:24-27). The canon closed by the time the destruction of the temple and its sacrificial system were completed, even as Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, King foretold (Mt. 24:2; Mk. 13:2; Lk. 21:6). The Son “consecrated for us…a new and living way” (v. 20). Our author also returns to his theme of the son building God’s house that will last forever (v. 21 Cf. 3:1-14). Again, he used a hortatory subjunctive, saying “Let us,” including himself in this exhortation. We can draw near because the Son consecrated the way for us (Cf. Eph. 2:18; 3:12).

We have this “full assurance of faith,” because our hearts have been “sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (v. 22 Cf. 7:19; 10:1). He also added the following: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (v. 23). In the previous passage on the house he also urged holding fast. “In another Hebrews passage mentioning “the house of God” (v. 21; cf. 3:1-14), there is a similar exhortation to be “steadfast” (3:14), and a similar assurance that Christ “is faithful” (cf. 3:5, 6)” (NGSB p. 1949). Furthermore, in this vein of exhortations he stated, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (v. 24 Cf. I Cor. 1:9; 10:13). His exhortation was to strengthen the basics of “the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Apparently some had abandoned these basics and were not meeting with the people of God. Such gatherings are necessary because we need to continually exhort “one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (v. 25 Cf. Rom. 13:11). Paul also said that, “The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5b). It is not necessary that we automatically assume that this is the second coming. “Paul may also be speaking of Christ’s abiding presence with those united to Him (1:1)” (NGSB p. 1881). It is quite possible that this Day, could be the very end he had in view-the close of the last days of the old covenant administrations with the destruction of the temple, which the Lord had predicted. “The believers had been severely persecuted (vv. 32-34). Assembling with other believers is an important part of Christian life” (NGSB p. 1949).

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:11-18 Christ Reigns.

There are many verses in this letter, like 11, which affirm that at the time of writing the priests and the temple services were still operating, and our author has also stressed, these sacrifices “can never take away sins” (Cf. Nu. 28:3). On the other hand, the Son, “this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool” (vv. 12-13 Cf. 1:3, 13; Ps. 110; Mt. 22:41-46; Mk. 12:35-37; Lk. 20:41-44; Acts 2:34-36; Eph. 1:22). To be quite blunt, the once for all finished work of the Son is the basis of His messianic reign, which began with His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and this millennial reign will continue till “His enemies are made His footstool.”

To suggest that His reign has not begun, whether that be by premillenialists (both historic and dispensational), or amillenialists, or some postmillenialists who put it off to the distant future, all miss this clear statement. Also, any who miss the nature of this millennial reign, also miss this clear point-it is a reign of the Son as Prophet, Priest, and King. The word is the foundation, and the effective power to transform and see this reign take place, is through the priestly finished work of the Son. However, He is also reigning now as King, and this involves the whole of life, and there is no enemy of His that will not be “made His footstool,” with the last enemy, before His return in judgment, will be death itself (I Cor. 15:20-28).

Through His sacrifice, the Son “has perfected those who are being sanctified” (v. 14). As noted in the previous passage, the Son has purchased both definitive and progressive sanctification for His own. God’s people were perfected at the very moment He ascended to the throne, and that perfection is being worked out by the Son through the progressive sanctification of His people, fulfilling the original creation mandate as God’s image bearers in this world (Gen. 1:26), now through the effective power of the gospel proclaimed in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:19-20). Therefore we are not ashamed of this gospel (Rom. 1:16-17). The Levitical priests stood, because their work was never done, but the Son sits on His throne.

Again, our author repeats the core of the Stipulations section (4:14-10:25), by repeating that in the sacrifice of the Son as our High Priest, he has made the sacrificial system, with its ordinances, obsolete, because in His new covenant sacrifice there is the forgiveness of sins, and with it the rest of the law is written on the very hearts or core of His people (vv. 16-17 Cf. vv. 5-10; Jer. 31:33-34). Where there is thus a complete remission of sins, there is no more requirement for the offerings which simply pointed forward to that which has come. “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1).

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:5-10 God’s Will Kept.

As noted earlier, one of the things our author wanted to demonstrate was that in the finished work of the Son, and the new covenant, God’s people would have His laws written on their hearts. This is made possible because of His once for all sacrifice of Himself. So in fulfilling what those sacrifices and ceremonies pointed to He made them obsolete, but in this finished work He made the keeping of the rest of the law more complete than ever before. This is what he means when he says, “He takes away the first,” (the sacrificial and ceremonial ordinances), “that He may establish the second,” (the more perfect keeping of God’s will in the rest of the law-word of the covenant). For proof our authored turned to Psalm 40:6-8, wherein the intention of the Father and the Son, with the Son’s work, is stated very clearly.

Furthermore, it is because the Son kept the Father’s will perfectly, that He alone was the only sacrifice acceptable to make this all happen. “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (v. 10). This is the central core of this Stipulations section. We should also not lose sight of the fact that our author speaks of sanctification in the past tense. This is Christ’s purchasing definitive sanctification for us the moment His work was finished. Progressive sanctification, therefore, is not properly based on our justification, a declarative act of acceptance, but rather on this definitive sanctification, also purchased by the Son. Furthermore it is Christ who engages in the progressive side as well. “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one” (2:11 Cf. 10:14; 13:12; Eph. 5:26).*

* Justification, Sanctification-Definitive And Progressive, And Entrance To Heaven.

There are a number of reasons why it is right for people to be confused by the current discussions on justification, works, and sanctification, because the terms and concepts are not clearly defined. With the following criticisms it is not my intent to hold court on the orthodoxy of certain writers. However, at the very least there are truths here that are not clearly stated.

First of all, justification. Too often the definition of justification is itself wrong. Justification is not being “right with God” or “a right relationship with God.” Justification is nothing more or less than God declaring a sinner righteous based on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Justification is very precisely this declarative act based on Christ’s imputed righteousness. If we miss this crucial definition or stray from it we are already off course.

Secondly, by contrasting justification with what is required to enter heaven, namely works as some suggest, a false contrast is set up. At the very moment that an elect sinner is declared righteous by the Father, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, this declaration is as final in heaven as it is on earth-period, full stop! By drawing the contrast as some have, they are giving the impression, at the very least, that this declarative act is not good in heaven.

Third, it is absolutely true that true faith will evidence itself in how we live, but this kind of faith is also a gift. When Paul wrote that, “by grace you have been saved through faith,” it is this entire package that is in view, the entire thing, including faith, “is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Faith and its evidences share this in common, they follow regeneration, they do not precede it.

Four, in confusing justification with sanctification many also fail to properly define sanctification. It is important to remember that there are two aspects to sanctification-it is both definitive and progressive. It is not uncommon for people to jump from justification to progressive sanctification and worse still, to do so in such a way that it gives the impression that having begun by the Spirit we are to carry on living by our own strength. In reality, progressive sanctification actually flows from definitive sanctification.

There are many passages of scripture which speak of sanctification in the past tense-that is, definitive-it is done. One good example is the epistle to the Hebrews. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). Note it well, our writer, and through him the Holy Spirit, does not say here, “we are being sanctified,” but “we have been sanctified,” and this through the once and for all finished work of Christ alone! Our writer could have said “are being sanctified” because he did so earlier (2:11).

“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). These are his points: First of all, sanctification is as definitive as justification-we have been sanctified through the finished work of Christ alone. Second, sanctification is also progressive-we are being sanctified. Thirdly, even progressive sanctification is the work of God for, “for both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one.” We are being progressively sanctified by God because we have been definitively sanctified by the finished work of Christ alone.

Sanctification is rooted in our union with Christ. People would do well to remember the ordo salutis, or order of salvation. Definitive sanctification is simultaneous with regeneration and effectual calling. No one was clearer on this than Dr. John Murray. Read his ‘Redemption Accomplished And Applied’. If you have not read his definitive work on definitive sanctification, then you should do so-here it is- http://www.the-highway.com/definitive-sanctification_Murray.html

As Murray notes, Paul addressed the Corinthians as those “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1:2), and “sanctified” as definitively as “justified” (6:11). “We are thus compelled to take account of the fact that the language of sanctification is used with reference to some decisive action that occurs at the inception of the Christian life and one that characterizes the people of God in their identity as called effectually by God’s grace. It would be, therefore, a deflection from biblical patterns of language and conception to think of sanctification exclusively in terms of a progressive work.” Murray, (‘Definitive’).

As Paul wrote to the “foolish” Galatians, “Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (3:1-3) Lets be clear, the only works that are acceptable to God are “works of the law,” but they are no more conditions of our sanctification than they are of our justification. Works are but the evidences of true faith.

Works can no more be “conditions” for entrance into heaven than they can be for justification or sanctification-definitive or progressive. Works are evidence of definitive and progressive sanctification. James does not contradict Paul, Paul simply takes us back to first principles, which is exactly where one must begin. This is the point, progressive sanctification is every bit as much the work of the Holy Spirit as is regeneration and effectual calling, and sanctification is as definitively a work of Christ as is justification.

Again, from Murray: “it might be said that by his death and resurrection Christ has procured every saving gift — the death and resurrection are therefore the meritorious and procuring cause of sanctification as well as of justification and in this respect are as directly related to sanctification as to justification.” (‘Definitive’)“The truth is that our death to sin and newness of life are effected in our identification with Christ in his death and resurrection, and no virtue accruing from the death and resurrection of Christ affects any phase of salvation more directly than the breach with sin and newness of life.”

To conclude, justification is a definitive act whereby an elect sinner is declared righteous based solely upon the finished work of Christ imputed. Secondly, sanctification is also a definitive act of Christ, and upon this definitive sanctification we are progressively sanctified by that same Spirit by who we have been regenerated and effectually called. Thirdly, any contrast between justification and with it sanctification, and conditions of entrance into heaven is a false one. Justification and sanctification are as definitive in heaven as they are at conversion. Finally, even progressive sanctification is God working in and through us to apply that which has been definitively secured.

Hebrews

Hebrews 10:1-4 The Old Covenant Administrations Were Not Complete.

A quote from the previous passage bears repeating. Commenting on 9:25, the editors of the NGSB stated the following. “The repetition of sacrifices was evidence that they were not effective to remove guilt (10:2), and it was a recurring reminder of sins (10:3). The author earlier stressed that the Day of Atonement ceremonies took place only once a year (v. 7); here the emphasis is that they are repeated again and again (10:1)” (p. 1947). This is indeed a major point which our author is making in these verses. The law was the shadow of the heavenly as pertained to these sacrifices and ceremonies.

The once for all sacrifice of the Son at the end of the old covenant ages or eras, is the fulfillment. The sinless blood of the Son was offered in the heavenly sanctuary, the very sanctuary the old covenant administration was a mere shadow of (v. 10a). The heavenly is the very image of that which is real and lasting (v. 10b). Enough has been said already in the previous passage as to the temporary nature of both the sacrifices and ceremonies, and the priestly class associated with it, not to dwell further on what is amplified here. The Son alone is perfect, His sacrifice alone was perfect, and being perfect it is also complete.