As we begin a study of the Letter to the Hebrews our goal is to make a very complex book of the Bible more understandable. This is the introduction and chapter 1.
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Okay, then in this meeting we’re going to begin a study in the Letter to the Hebrews, and I think you’ll find it to be a most fascinating study. It’s not for the faint hearted, nor is it for the Biblically inept, but we will try to make it clear and understandable because it is meant to be understood.
The Book of Hebrews is not signed and so there’s no clear indication as to who wrote it. There are some obvious candidates. It wasn’t until about 200 A.D. that anybody even worried about that. So, for the first two-hundred years or so of the book’s existence, most people didn’t think too much about it. The first official record of somebody taking a guess as to who wrote the book was about 200 A.D. and the first person to whom the book was attributed is Barnabas, who was Paul’s friend and missionary companion. So, he was the first one who was thought to have written it.
From about 400 A.D. until about 1600 A.D. Paul was thought to be the author. And, in fact, if you’ve got some really old copies of Bibles, this book will be called, The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews. And so, for twelve or fourteen-hundred years it was thought that he was the author. And then when Martin Luther came along, he suggested that it more likely was Apollos who was, as you know, from Corinth. And Paul and Barnabas and all those people knew him in Corinth. Probably his attachment to the book was due largely to the fact that Martin Luther was a famous person at the time, and he mentioned Apollos, and so it kind of stuck. If any normal person had done that—or any ordinary person, I should say—it might not have been so lasting.
I have a hard time seeing the book being written by anyone but Paul. But I will try and take that bias out of anything I say about the book, and I will try to refer to the author as the “writer to the Hebrews” because that’s what officially the person is. And I always come back to the view that if the Holy Spirit had wanted us to know who wrote it, He would have had the guy sign his name to it. But He didn’t and so He wanted the author to remain anonymous and so, that’s good enough for me. We can go along with that and say, “Okay. The author is anonymous.” And so, for our purposes here, we’ll just call this The Epistle to the Hebrews.
More important than who wrote it is, who it was written to, and why it was written. And it was written, of course, to the earliest Christians who were pretty much from Jewish backgrounds. You know, the Church didn’t start their outreach to the Gentile communities until twenty or thirty-years after the Crucifixion. In the early 50’s are the first written documents of any sort that are addressed to Gentiles; Galatians and Thessalonians and Corinthians were all written in the 50’s. Some feel like Romans also in that time frame. But the Book of Hebrews could have been written as early as 35 and of course, no later than 70. It’s not dated, but they put it in that time frame because of the fact that there’s no mention in the book about the temple being destroyed which took place in 70 A.D. And so, if that had happened, it would certainly have been referenced in this book, and in fact, the references that are made to the temple are all made in the present tense, as if it were still standing. So that argues for a time frame of very early writing.
Now, like I say, what that means is that most of the people in what we call the Church were Jewish. And, as a matter of fact, a good percentage of them were priests. Especially of the Pharisaical tradition who had caught on quickly after the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection to the fact that Jesus really was and had been the Messiah after all. So, many of the early Church members were Pharisees. Almost all were Jews, but many were of the Pharisaical tradition because, you see, the other leading party at the time were the Sadducees and they didn’t have a literal understanding of the Scriptures. They didn’t accept the prophecies as being inspired by God and so, when Jesus fulfilled prophecies out of their Scriptures, they weren’t impressed because they didn’t accept those books. The only books the Sadducees accepted were the first five books, the Books of Moses—as they’re called. And they gave not much credence to the rest and that’s why so many of them didn’t see in the Lord’s life, the fulfillment of prophecy because they weren’t familiar with the prophetic books because they didn’t believe in them.
A lot of the Church is that way now aren’t they, today? They don’t believe in the prophecies and they don’t accept the fact that they are to be taken literally so if the Lord comes back in the near future, they’ll be caught by surprise just like the Sadducees of the first century.
Okay, so what we’ve got is a book written to believers of a Jewish background. And it became the bridge, if you will, between Judaism and Christianity. And of course, a bridge goes both ways. They saw it as the bridge to Christianity; we see it as the bridge to Judaism, looking back and going the other direction. And so, if you were asking, “Well if it was written in the early part of the first century and it was written to Jewish believers, why are we worried about that? Why is that book important to us?” Because for us it’s a bridge from Christianity into Judaism and it helps us understand a lot of the things that we’ve been told in Christianity.
Because you see, this is not two books (one for them and the other for us) this is one book; it just has two sections. It has an Old Testament section and a New Testament section. But the entire book is meant to be taken as a whole. We’re not supposed to split it up and put this part off and send this part over there and just take the parts that we think are applicable to us. The whole book is applicable to us. We should think of it as a single book with 66 chapters that were penned over several thousand years by forty or so different authors, but all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and all designed to give us one message from start to finish.
Now of course, if you only read the last half of the book you miss a lot because a lot of the stage is set, a lot of the scenes are developed in the early parts of the book. And so, if you read only the last part of the book, you know what happened, but you don’t know a lot about why it happened or why it happened the way it did. So, when you start adding Old Testament understanding to your New Testament background, it enriches your understanding of the whole thing. Your faith grows because you start to understand why certain things are the way they are—not just what they are, but why they are. And of course, that’s always the more important part.
All right. So, we’ve got a book here that was written by an anonymous author; it was written to the early Church; written by a person with a wealth of understanding of the Jewish traditions and written to people who themselves had that kind of experience. And the purpose of the book, of course, was to demonstrate that Jesus is the central figure of our belief. Whether we come from a Jewish background or from a Gentile background, Jesus is the central figure. He’s the focus of our belief. And it is His life that we always need to have in view whenever we do these kinds of studies, whenever we look at these things.
All right. So, in the Book of Hebrews we’re going to find the author stressing to these Jewish believers that the old ways are no longer acceptable. That the New Covenant has come, and the Old Covenant is no longer an acceptable approach to God.
Now, I want you to understand something here that confuses some people, so we’ll get this—we’ll try to get this covered right away.
About 500 years (a little less than that, before the Lord came) the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel and told him that the Lord was giving the Jewish people 490 years to wrap up their relationship and make everything right and ready for the Kingdom. And they were to make sure that at the end of that period, the Earth was ready for the Kingdom which was coming. Four-hundred and eighty-three years of that 490-year period passed and then the Messiah showed up in Israel. And on the day that we know as Palm Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem and allowed Himself to be called the King—the only time in His whole ministry that He ever did. Every time before that, anybody ever guessed at or said anything about that, He would tell them not to say anything about that anymore, don’t talk like that. A couple of times they tried to take Him by force and start a movement to make Him King. But He always disappeared from out of their midst. So, He would not permit that to happen.
But on one day, that day that we know as Palm Sunday, when He rode into town on a donkey and people started singing the Psalm that was reserved for the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem, and the Pharisees told Jesus to tell His disciples to keep them quiet because, in their view that was not proper for them to be saying that because they were singing the Psalm that was reserved for the Messiah, and they didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. And so, they told Jesus, “Rebuke Your disciples!” In other words, “Shut them up! They shouldn’t be doing this!”
The Lord’s response on that day, unlike any other day—on that day, the Lord’s response was, “I tell you, if we could keep them quiet, the very stones would cry out.” Because you see, this was the day appointed in history for Him to arrive in Jerusalem as Israel’s Messiah.
When they came over the hill from the Mount of Olives, and down across the Garden of Gethsemane and across the Kidron Valley and up into the temple area, Jesus wept over the city. And He said to them, “If you had only known what would bring you peace! But now it’s hidden from your eyes. And the day will come when they will attack this city and they won’t leave one stone standing on another. They’ll tear it down so completely that there won’t be one stone of these buildings standing upon one another.” And He said, “That will happen because you did not recognize the Day of God’s coming to you.” He held them accountable to know that that was the day. And when they didn’t, He told them, “Now, you’re going to be blinded about all this. You won’t be able to understand this, and your enemies are going to come and destroy all this.” And, of course that all happened just the way He said it would.
But my point here today is that it was only 483 years into that 490 year period when that happened. And yet, it did happen and because it did, the clock stopped. There are seven years of that time that have never been fulfilled. The remaining seven years of that 490 year commitment have never been fulfilled. And they have come to be known in Biblical circles as the final seven years; it’s called the 70th week of Daniel because it was given to him as “weeks” of years. So, seven years is one week, basically. And so, it’s become known as Daniel’s 70th week and it hasn’t happened yet. But the Bible says that it’s going to happen and so we know that it is going to happen.
Now, here’s the part that is sometimes confusing to people: When that happens, Israel will pick up their relationship with God right where it left off, two thousand years ago. They’ll build a temple in Jerusalem. And they’ll begin worshiping Him again just like they did back then, sacrificing a lamb every morning and another lamb every night. Sacrificing other animals on other holy days. They’ll go back to what’s called the Levitical worship system. That’s the worship system that the writer to the Hebrews is going to tell them is no longer valid. And this is what’s confusing.
We learn from our New Testament experience that that Old Testament system of worship is not valid. We think it has been made forever obsolete by the cross. And it turns out that that’s not the case. What the cross did was, not to cancel that final seven years—what the cross did was to interrupt it. And so, that 490 year period still stands; 483 years of it are passed. There are still seven years that have to be fulfilled of that, and for the last two thousand years that clock has been stopped because of the Church. But the clock wasn’t stopped forever. It was only stopped while the Church is still here.
As soon as Israel recognizes God again, and comes back to their covenant relationship with God, the clock will start again, there will be a temple in Israel, there will be Old Testament worship just the way it used to be—as if the Church had never happened.
So from that we learn that the Church is merely a pause in that 490 year period. It didn’t take the place of Israel. It didn’t mean that Israel had no more meaning or had no more reason for existence. The Church Age has merely interrupted that period. It’s a hard thing for us to understand, because we’re going to read in the book of Hebrews how the fact that the blood of animals and sacrificing and things like that is no longer going to work for them. And yet, as soon as the clock starts again on that prophesy, it will again have meaning for them and they will again require a temple. And this is the only reason that they will require a temple, so that they can have that system of worship back. And they’ll pick up with God right where they left off two thousand years ago.
Now, this is critical to us, and the writer to the Hebrews is going to make that clear and we’re going to see some of that in our session tonight if I ever stop introducing and start studying. [laughing] But we’re going to see tonight that the Church Age has been nothing more than a two thousand year interruption in God’s plan for Israel.
Now, that tells us two things. One thing it tells us is, the interruption is going to end. And the other thing it tells us is, when it does, the Church can’t be here anymore!
This, my friends, is the most important reason (theological reason) that the Bible teaches a pre-Tribulation Rapture, because Israel and the Church cannot co-exist on Earth together during that last seven years. We are theologically incompatible. Because, as you’ll see in this Letter to the Hebrews, the way God requires worship in the New Covenant is incompatible with the way He required it in the Old. As soon as the time of the Church ends and Israel is reawakened to their relationship with God, the Church will have to depart. There cannot be a Church on Earth during that last seven years no matter what anybody says. It cannot be. It is theologically impossible. It’s a contradiction, and God is not like that.
And so, as we’re going through this Book of Hebrews, I want you to understand that what we are talking about are the rules for this pause. We are not talking about, “It used to be that way, but it will never be that way again. Now it’s always going to be this way.” We’re not talking about that. What we’re actually talking about is, “It used to be that way but now, it’s going to be this way. But wait! One day it will be that way again!”
And you know when you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense because otherwise there would be no need for a temple in that last seven years! And yet, the Bible clearly states there is one. The only purpose for a temple is to celebrate Old Covenant worship.
Why hasn’t there been a temple during the Age of the Church? The Jews are dispersed, but we are the temple. And so, as long as we’re here, we are the temple. When we leave, they will need a temple. Their religion requires a temple. So, this talk you hear about a temple in Israel is exciting for two reasons. One reason it’s exciting is because it means there’s a movement of Jewish people back toward God. The other reason is, it means we have to leave. You see? And so, one of the things you’ll know before we get finished here, if you’re not already convinced of this now, you will know that, as long as we’re here, Israel cannot come back into a covenant relationship with God.
In order for that to happen, we have to be gone. And this is what Paul meant in Romans 11:25 when he said, “Israel’s been blinded in part until the full number of Gentiles have come in.” And after that happens, Israel’s blinders will come off, so to speak, and they’ll begin to realize and understand that they still have a covenant relationship with God.
When you know this, you understand why in Matthew 24, the disciples asked Him, “What will be the signs of Your coming and the end of the age?” Because they are coming from a standpoint that, “Wait a minute! There’s only seven years left, Lord! What do You mean, You’re going to tear all this down? How is this going to happen? What will be the signs, then, of Your coming? Because, the prophecy in Daniel said 490 years and 483 have passed. There’s only seven years left. It’s taken forty years, Lord to build this temple. And now You’re saying it’s all going to be torn down—we’ve got to start over? How can that be?”
That’s what their question was to the Lord in Matthew 24, and that’s what gave rise to the Olivet Discourse and that’s why it has nothing to do with the Church—and it has everything to do with Israel. You’ll understand that this battle of Ezekiel 38 has to happen because it’s the battle that reawakens Israel to God. His supernatural victory in that battle is what opens their eyes.
Ezekiel 39:22 tells us that the Lord is saying, “On that day,” when He supernaturally wins this battle, “On that day they will know that I am their God.” And after that, He says, “I’ll bring all of them back and I won’t leave anybody behind.” Ezekiel 39:22.
And so, the battle of Ezekiel 38 has to happen at the beginning of that 70th week, because that’s what awakens Israel to the Lord. That means, the Church has to be gone by then. So, you see this whole plan is coming down to a crossroads, isn’t it? The days of the Church are numbered because Israel is reawakening to the Lord. And the more that seems to be happening, the shorter our time is. And so, this is why all this stuff fascinates us.
All right. So, why don’t we take a look here at the book of Hebrews as long as we’re all here for the evening. And, if I have forgotten anything that I wanted to tell you before we started you can thank the Lord for that. If He thinks it’s important, I’m sure He’ll remind me.So, let’s begin. Hebrews 1:1:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
He didn’t just create the Heavens and the Earth; He made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God’s 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. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Now, you might be confused by that last sentence. But in Hebrew, the word that we translate “angel” actually comes from a Greek word. In Hebrew, it’s B’nai ha Elohim and it means sons of God. That was what they called the angels—sons of God.
And so, when he says, “He is as much superior to the angels as His name is to theirs,” you understand that He is called the Son of God. Which is a far superior title to the one sons of God. And the writer is going to spend the next few verses explaining that to you. But we’ve gone pretty fast through some pretty important theology here, so we’ve got to back up, because there are seven things that we’ve learned here about Jesus that we have to make sure we really understand.
So, let’s start again:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
So, who is the prophet of the last days? The Son is.
That sentence means that God’s communication with His people has forever changed. All further communication from the time of the Lord forward has to conform to what Jesus has told us. And you know what that means? There can’t be any new revelation. Because if it doesn’t conform to the words of Jesus, if it’s different from what Jesus told us, then it’s not valid.
Now there can be detail that comes forth, but there can’t be changes in the way Jesus has communicated God’s plan to us. This phrase you sometimes hear, “God’s doing a new thing”—no He’s not! He’s doing the same things He’s always done. If there’s something you can’t confirm in the Bible, and you question it and you get the answer, “God’s doing a new thing. You won’t find it in here.” You know that’s not true. Because He’s saying that in these last days, He spoke to us through His Son and He hasn’t said a word to us since.
Now, He’s appointed His Son heir of all things. Now, you know what that means, Jesus is going to inherit everything. Keep that in mind, we’re going to come back to that in a little while.
And then it says:
and through whom also he made the universe.
God worked through Jesus in the creation. Turn a couple of books back to Colossians, if you will, and you’ll hear Paul’s way of describing this. Colossians 1:15. Speaking of Jesus He said:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created:
By Jesus, all things were created.
things in heaven
Now, you think of these things as we go along here and see if he’s leaving anything out.
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Did he leave anything out? I don’t think so. He’s got things in Heaven, things on Earth. He’s got things that are visible and things that are invisible, and then he’s got thrones and powers and rulers and authorities. These are ranks of the angelic realm. Who’s included in that, by the way? Satan.
Satan was created by Jesus, for Jesus. Understand that? By Him, for Him. There’s no battle going on between Jesus and Satan where the outcome is in doubt. Whatever is going on is serving the Lord’s purpose. And when it ends there won’t be any doubt as to who the victor is.
See, I told you this is not for the faint of heart. These are things that may challenge some of your thinking and may challenge something that you’ve been told. I hope that if it does that you will go to the source and get it straightened out because, in this world there’s lots of things that men have said that have taken on the status of doctrine. But they’re not. They’re just things that men have said. One of those things we’re going to tackle here right off the bat is whether Jesus is God or isn’t He. And there’ll be no doubt in your minds—if you take what the Bible says seriously—there’ll be no doubt in your minds who He is.
Let’s get to that right now. The third thing that Jesus is:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
See, God’s invisible—He’s a spirit. We can’t see spirits. When God wanted to become visible so that He could be seen by mankind, He made Himself into Jesus.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,
Jesus is what God looks like when you can see Him. Understand that? As the brilliance of the sun is impossible to separate from the sun itself, so the Son of God’s radiance is impossible to separate from the Father. They are one. They are one and the same; they are one. They don’t just agree with each other; they are the same.
The fifth thing we’re going to see is that it’s the Lord Jesus that sustains all things. He holds everything together. I’ve got a five-year-old boy and he’s beginning to understand that the Earth spins on its axis. He’s beginning to understand that. So, he looks out the window today on the way to the airport and he said, “Hey Dad! The Earth’s not spinning!”
I said, “How do you know that?” He says, “Look! Everything’s standing right where it is!”
I said, “Well, everything’s going the same speed.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but the Earth’s circumference is 25,000 miles. It turns once every day. There’s twenty-four hours in a day. So, we’re spinning at the rate of a little over one thousand miles per hour and we don’t notice this because we’re programmed to tolerate that. When our car goes down the road at sixty miles an hour, we’re really spinning 1,060 for that bit of time because we’re going faster than the world is, and we’re making progress. But all we’re aware of is the sixty. We don’t think about the one thousand because that’s constant to us. Now, don’t you know how much trouble I had explaining that to a five-year-old! [laughing] Who shouldn’t be worried by the Earth’s spinning yet, anyway! But he’s picked that up and so he’s curious about that.
And so, he said, “Well, how does this work?” And I said, “Well, there’s this big sun in the middle, and there’s these planets around it and we’re all spinning and we’re all spinning at different rates of speed and the Earth happens to be spinning at a thousand miles an hour while its travelling 365 days around this orbit and we’re all hanging here in the middle of space. [laughs] And if it ever stops spinning we would fall! And we would not ever stop falling! Because there’s nothing down there below us!”
And he says, “Who holds that all together?”
Well, Hebrews 1:3—Jesus is! He’s holding it all together. And not just for us but for the whole universe. You remember on the TV shows when they used to have these guys and they’d put plates up on sticks and spin them and they’d see how many plates they’d get spinning without any falling down, and some would fall down and break and everybody would laugh and they’d put another one up. That’s Jesus, on a universal scale. He’s holding everything together. He holds us together. If He ever stopped doing that, if He ever stopped doing that, everything would fly apart. It’s His power that’s holding everything together. That’s what He’s doing, among other things.
If it ever takes Him a few minutes to answer one of your prayers, maybe it’s because He’s concentrating on spinning one of the planets right now and He has to get that going first. Just joking, of course. [laughing]
The sixth thing we’ll see here is that He provided purification for sin. The actual verse, it says:
After he had provided purification for sins,
That word, had—if you look that up in the original language, it denotes a single act. In other words, had, by Himself, provided purification for sins. In other words, nobody helped Him do that. Nobody is helping Him do that. He did that by Himself and it’s done. And how do we know it’s done? Because the next thing it says is that, He sat down. What are you saying when you sit down? It’s done! The work’s done, I can sit down now.
Do you know that in the temple there were no chairs? There were no chairs in the temple. There was not a single chair in the temple. Why? Because the work was never done! Somebody should say, “Well, why weren’t the priests all women, because their work’s never done!” [laughing]
You see, the work was never done, so there were no chairs because they didn’t get to sit down. When they got tired, they brought another batch in and the other batch took up the work and the first batch went and rested.
The work was never done. When Jesus, by Himself—all by Himself—provided the purification from sin, He sat down because the work was done. Now, if you’re still doing some of that work and you think you’re finishing the job that He didn’t finish—read this again. The work is done. And when the work is done, we sit down.
And so, these are the seven things I wanted you to see in these first few verses.
- He’s appointed heir of all things
- He’s the one who made the universe
- He’s the radiance of God’s glory and
- the exact representation of His being
- He sustains all things
- He provided purification for sins and,
- He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty
Those things are critical to us. And that, verse 4 says, is how He became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
He was given the position and the title Son of God. He was given that. And why? Because, when God wants to make Himself visible, He looks like Jesus and He calls Himself the Son of God.
Verse 5 now:
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
He never said that to any of the angels, but He said it to Jesus in Psalm 2:7.
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
He said that to David in 2 Samuel 7:14.
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
In other words, the angels worship Jesus. You don’t worship an inferior; you worship a superior. Now, you’ll find that one in Deuteronomy 32:43, but you have to read it in the Septuagint version, the Greek translation, for it to say that. I don’t if you know that all the Old Testament quotes that you see in the New Testament were made from the Greek translation of the Bible. And so sometimes our Old Testament here is made from the Hebrew translation. And sometimes they are not exactly the same. So, if you go back and look at Deuteronomy 32:43, in your Bible it probably won’t say, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.” It’ll say something different. But when the seventy scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek, 150 years B.C., Deuteronomy 32:43 came out that way.
In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.
That’s from Psalms 104:4.
Now, look at this next one, verse 8:
But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
Do you see that? When the Father was speaking to the Son, He said:
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
This is the Father calling the Son God. If you ever needed any evidence that Jesus is God—you know, Jesus claimed to be. When He told Philip in John 14:
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
Or, when He told His audience in John 10:30:
I and the Father are one.”
He said He was God.
When the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, he said Jesus was God in verse 1:
“In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
And we saw in Colossians that Paul said that Jesus is God:
The Son is the image of the invisible God,
He said in Colossians 1:15.
So, Jesus said it, John said it, Paul said it, God said it. Is that sufficient? Men dispute it; God said it. Just keep that in mind. Men, some men, dispute it. God said it.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
Above the angels.
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
And now He continues:
He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
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.”
This is Psalm 102:25-27. You see, all the quotes we’re going to get here are out of the Old Testament because we’re talking to Jewish believers here. The New Testament hasn’t been written yet. They’re going to be interested to see what the Old Testament has to say about these things.
To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
That’s Psalm 110:1.
In verse 14, then He said:
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
The angels are ministering spirits sent to us. But God said to Jesus, “Sit here at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool.” You see how He separates.
There were two reasons this writer felt the need to do this. The first reason was he wanted to make sure that his Jewish believers understood that Jesus was not just an angel. The Jews hold angels in very high regard—very high regard. And so, on an average they would think grouping the angels and Jesus together was paying great honor. But this writer says, “No, no. It’s much more than that. He’s way above them. He’s the Creator; He created them.” So, you had that one.
And then secondly, in that 1st Century, angel worship was becoming popular and there was a component in the Church that believed that God could not become man because God has no sin and man is sinful. And a holy God could not become a sinful man. And therefore, they believed Jesus could not have been God. He must have been an angel. And so, the writer wanted to counteract both of those teachings right off the bat.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
There was tremendous pressure being put on these Jewish believers to come back into Judaism. After all, many of them had been priests in the temple on the day when Jesus was crucified. And they saw the temple veil being torn and they felt the earthquake. But they were important figures in Judaism and there was tremendous pressure on them to come back. And to bring the two together and to not cause this rift between the Jews and what would become the Church.
And so, there was an effort being made to accommodate these beliefs and to say, “Well it’s okay if you still do this even though you believe that.” And the writer’s going to say here now, we must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we heard so we do not drift away.
For since the message spoken through angels was binding,
He’s talking about the Old Covenant, because there was a Jewish tradition that the Old Covenant was put into place through the angels; that Moses was the man who went up to God and received the Law, and he was the one who was in charge of implementing it and everything. But there was a tradition that it was put into place through angels. And what the writer is now saying, if the message spoken by the angels was binding—in other words, if the Law was binding:
and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
There were eyewitnesses to this.
God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Now, in verse 5 he says then:
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”
This comes from Psalm 8 and the Psalmist was writing about man. But here, the writer to the Hebrews applies this to Jesus, and the words he use are fascinating to me because, first of all, when he says, “It’s not to angels that he has subjected the world to come,” he didn’t use the word “cosmos” which is the Greek word normally used for “world.” And he didn’t use the word, “aeon” which is the second-most popular Greek word used for “world.” He didn’t use either one of those. He used a Greek word that is “oikoumene.” It’s the word from which we get “dispensation.” And so, he’s not talking about the universe here. He’s not talking about the ages. He’s talking about the dispensation to come. And, what is the dispensation that comes after this one? It’s the Kingdom.
So, what he’s saying here is that he didn’t subject the next dispensation, the Kingdom Age, to angels. But he said, there is a place where it says:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”
Including the angels! And so, it’s not angels that are going to run the millennium, it’s Jesus.
In verse 7, that word, “You made Him a little lower” the literal translation of that word implies that it’s temporary and it should say, “For a while, You made Him a little lower than the angels and crowned Him with glory and honor and put everything under His feet.”
In other words, Jesus came from being the Creator; He bypassed the angelic ranks and became a man, for a little while. And then, because He was obedient to the mission He was given, He was raised and crowned with glory and honor and everything was put back under His feet. And so, when His little while as a man was over, and He ascended back to the right hand of the Majesty, He went back up past all the angels. You understand that?
He started off as the Creator. He allowed Himself to be demoted, if you will, to becoming a man, which is lower than the angels in the hierarchy. Then, when He went back up, He went back past them again and now, everything is subject to Him.
You should ponder about that because when He did that, He also did something else. When He came down to become a man, He did so for the purpose of saving mankind. When He went back up, He brought us with Him. And not only did He resume His exalted place, but when He did, He placed us there beside Him.
Look at Ephesians 2, I think it is. We’ll start in (verse) 4.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Verse 6 is the one we’re looking for:
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
We were dead in our sins. God stepped down off the throne, took on the form of a man, and came to Earth to live among us. At the appointed time He died for our sins, made us alive again because, as far as we were concerned and as far as anybody knew, we were dead in our sins. We were sinners, hopelessly lost. Our only destiny was to die. God came off the throne, took on the form of man, came to Earth and, in His death, made us alive. That would have been enough, but He didn’t stop there.
When He went back to His throne, He took us with Him. And today, when God steps out of time, and looks at His throne, He sees you there with Jesus. In His sight, that has been accomplished. You are there.
Now, if that doesn’t give you something to think about I don’t know what will! Because, here you are, sitting here on Earth, minding your own business, trying to figure out how to get from here to the next payday, and when God looks at you, He sees you seated on the throne with Jesus in glory. That’s called, having a different perception.
He sees us not the way we are in time, but the way we have become in eternity.
Do you understand that? Can you get a view of that? As far as He is concerned, you are seated today on the throne with Jesus. That’s His picture of you. That’s what He sees.
Think about it, because I can tell by your look, it’s going to take a while before you get the feeling of what that means.
Back to Hebrews. Let’s see if we can just finish up these couple verses.
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
That’s part of the picture here, so we’ve got to take a couple more verses.
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
He’s following through this thought that Jesus didn’t become an angel to save angels. He became man to save mankind. In doing so, He became our brother. And when we accept what He did, we become His brother. Understand, He’s God, He’s King of the Universe—He’s also your brother. That makes you part of the royal family of God. Do you understand that?
Look at Romans 8:29. We’ll finish up with this one—I mean, we’ll finish up with this thought. Romans 8:29, I’ve got a couple of references here to make sure you go away understanding this.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Okay, got it? Those God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the first among many brothers.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
That phrase means that we might be adopted into the family. It’s a legal term.
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Jesus, he said in the first few verses of Hebrews, is heir of all things, right? You have been adopted into the same family by accepting His death on your behalf. You are, therefore, now also an heir of all things. You are in the family, you are in the inheritance. Both those things are yours today. And we already read that part of that is to be seated at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven, above all powers or authorities or thrones. Above the angelic ranks. The angels are now ministering spirits whose job it is to comfort and assist us.
Do you have any idea how this would have sounded to an Old Testament believer? It was incomprehensible to them. And even for us with two thousand years of New Testament understanding, it’s hard to imagine.
When we see ourselves the way we are today, and then are told by God’s Word to think of ourselves as members of the royal family, seated in the Heavenlies with Jesus, above the angelic ranks, there is a disconnect there, isn’t there, between what we know about ourselves and who and how we are, and what the Bible says God thinks of us. Now, who do you suppose is correct in this? Who’s got the right perception? If God has the right perception, then there must be something faulty in our understanding because all we’ve ever been taught is how low we are, and how short we’ve fallen.
He doesn’t see it that way. Not because He knows we’ve done things that we don’t know we’ve done, but because He knows what we believe.
You see, all of this was imputed to us by faith. We’re the scum of the Earth, but in His great mercy, God has come along, picked us up, adopted us as children and seated us among the royal family of the King of the universe, and said, “Now, that’s what you are.” We still think we’re the scum of the earth. [laughs] We’ve got to catch up to His perception, because it’s important for us that we see ourselves the way God sees us. Not that we become spoiled brats or any of that kind of stuff, you understand. But that we understand the depth of His love for us. Because He did all of that; He picked us up out of the gutter and cleaned us up and put fine clothing on us and a crown on our heads and sat us at the table with the royal family. He did that out of love. Not because we deserved it, not because He owed it to us, not because of any reward we had coming. He did that out of love because He was so grateful to us.
Understand this now: He was so grateful to us for believing in what He sent His Son to do. We didn’t see that happen, you understand. We’re not eyewitnesses to that.We have accepted that as truth, in faith. And that means so much to Him, that He has given us eternity among the royal family of Heaven in exchange.
Now, my friends, I want you to let that be the perception you carry out of here tonight, and I want you to remember that every time something happens to you that you don’t think is right, every time somebody does something to you that’s upsetting or unfair, I just want you to respond by thinking, “Yeah. But I am a child of the King and what you’re doing to me now isn’t going to last. And one fine day, the tables will be turned. And then we’ll see.”
Let’s have a closing prayer. That’s a good place to stop.
Father, we love You and thank You for all this, and we thank You so much for the things You’ve done for us here, and for the explanation that You placed in Your Word that begins to show us why all this happened.
Father, we just pray that You’ll keep these thoughts secure in our hearts. We pray that You will cause us to think about these things every day, and to start thinking of ourselves more as children of the King.
Father, there aren’t any words that we can use to express our gratitude here and there’s nothing we can do to repay You for this except to say thanks and to express our gratitude in the faith that we have in these things coming to pass.
And now Lord, we pray that You would take us from here in peace and in safety until we meet again. In the Name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.