New Messengers

Jesus said that He is the One that the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms described (Luke 24:44).

As evidence, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews meticulously connected the critical passages in those Scriptures to Him and His accomplishments.

Below is a brief (and somewhat terse) outline of that letter. As you read it, keep in mind that its purpose is to lead the Jews (the caretakers of those Scriptures and ministers of the gospel) to faith in Jesus –their Messiah.

The Old Covenant Is Done

Chapter one says that God testified (citing passages from the Psalms and the Prophets) that Jesus is His Son –He is the Creator –He is over the angels –He was born a man –He is the Savior –He is the Judge –and He is the supreme, eternal King over all.

Chapter two continues by warning that chosen people (who predicted His coming) to realize and accept their ministry’s completion. The fulfillment of prophesied signs, wonders, miracles and spiritual gifts were God’s proof that His Son was the Messiah they had been waiting for. He lived among them to experience earthly life –then He died and rose again to resume ruling His kingdom. He sanctifies and gives eternal life to those who trust in Him.

Chapter three clearly states the life-and-death decision facing each and every person. Moses –through the Law’s sacrificial system– repeatedly showed the Israelites that they were under a death sentence and needed new life. It can only be obtained through faith by dying in the desert of self-sufficiency and then being born-again. Denying that fact is what God called sin, rebellion, unbelief . . . of them He said “They shall not enter My rest” (from Hebrews 3:11).

Chapter four reiterates the necessity to put their faith in Jesus and enter God’s rest. It goes on to introduce Him as the final, ultimate High Priest who has endured life’s troubles so that everyone can trust Him to sympathize with their human weaknesses. It was His life and subsequent death that has qualified everyone “to approach the throne of grace and receive mercy and grace in time of need” (from Hebrews 4:16).

Chapter five explains that a high priest must have been selected by God and live among the people that he represented so that he could deal gently with them. He prayed for them and presented their sacrifices according to the priesthood’s law. God declared that His Son was the ultimate High Priest and the ultimate sacrifice –He was sufficient for everyone’s salvation.

Chapter six urges them to unconditionally accept Jesus as their Messiah. Under the Old Covenant that people was waiting for the One who would die and be raised. If they repented by putting their faith in Jesus –and then returned to the Old Law (which is searching for someone who hasn’t come yet)– they’d be stuck because God won’t send another Son to be sacrificed and resurrected.

Repenting is changing your source of salvation –from trying to be good under a system of justice –to trusting God for His mercy and grace which is freely given through His Son.

The New Covenant Is Here

Chapter seven compares and contrasts the two priesthoods and the covenants that established them. God said (in Psalm 110) that Jesus’ Priesthood began first (it was through Melchizedek who was the first “priest of God”) –and unlike Aaron’s, His is eternal. Further, Aaron’s priesthood relied on mankind’s abilities and tenacity to be fair and just –so it was weak, but Jesus’ relies on Himself and His sacrifice to grant mercy and grace. “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law” and Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:12, 22).

First for the Jews

Chapter eight (verses 7 through 13) identifies a New Covenant between God and the houses of Israel and Judah to establish them as messengers of the fulfilled gospel. They are no longer to use the Law to teach everyone that the Messiah is coming –He came and the whole world knows who Jesus is (from Hebrews 8:11). Now their role is to teach others about Him by demonstrating behaviors that are consistent with faith in the Savior who came.

Hebrews 8:10 provides the sequence: God said “I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts.” First, He directs a change in their behaviors (within their minds) and then, over time, their beliefs (in their hearts) will reflect that change. This ministry is what James, Peter, John, Jude and the author of Hebrews wrote about in their letters.

Their New Covenant repeats some of the Old’s wording but adds an essential difference ‘For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.’ When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Hebrews 8:13).

The difference –sin not being remembered– is the result of their Messiah’s death on the cross . . . and it made the Old “obsolete and ready to disappear.”

Chapter nine recounts the Law being given to the Israelites. The whole Law (not just the Ten Commandments) was read so that the people would know what they were chosen to do. Then blood from animal sacrifices was sprinkled on that Law, the people and everything used in the tabernacle. That was to bind their whole ministry together for presenting the gospel through a living drama.

Then the chapter states that all of what Moses did was only an earthly copy of what Jesus would really do –saying that “every will  [ i.e., ‘last will and testament’ ]  only goes into effect at the death of the one who makes it . . . And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (from Hebrews 9:16-22).

And for the Non-Jews

Chapter ten (verses 15 through 18) states the New Covenant between God and non-Jewish believers to establish us as messengers of the fulfilled gospel. (There’s no reference to Jewish history or His previous work with us as a people.) Our role is to teach others about Jesus through the effects of a changed inner-being –the Holy Spirit living within.

Hebrews 10:16 provides the subtly reversed sequence. Here God says, “I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them.” First, He gives us a new set of beliefs (within our hearts) –and then, over time, our behaviors (with our minds) will follow.

This is the ministry that Paul wrote about in his letters –it’s especially noticeable in Romans. There he talks about believing with the heart and then confessing with the mouth (chapter 10) and he describes the renewing of the mind based on what we believe (chapter 12). Throughout that letter he reveals his greatest desire was that his Jewish people be saved –even if it takes making them jealous with the faith that Gentiles have (that’s in chapter 11).

This Hebrews ten passage begins with “the Holy Spirit also testifies to us” . . . acknowledging that those Jewish believers knew that God instituted another covenant (this one with us). It’s what Peter confirmed in 2 Peter 3:14-16 where he spoke about Paul’s ministry.

Both of these New Covenants declare that there are no “sins and lawless deeds” to somehow pay for under a system of justice with its list of offenses and punishments. All those debts have been forgiven.

No doubt I’ve given a disproportionate explanation for these few verses considering that we’re not the addressees of the letter. It’s to show how we fit into the overall plan –and “not think more highly of ourselves than we ought” (from Romans 12).

Beware of Unbelief

There’s another passage in Hebrews chapter ten that tells what God does keep track of: It’s not trusting His Son to have died to fulfill everything written . . . and not believing the Holy Spirit who continues to testify about Him.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)

Those words, “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth,” are specifically targeting the Jews who have trusted the Law of Moses to lead them. They are named in the title of this letter –it’s the Letter to the Hebrews and it’s centered on specific events in their history. Keep in mind that their ministry was to be actors through the Law to tell the world about God’s Promise of eternal life in His kingdom by following Jesus. The ultimate insult is for those ministers to deny His fulfillment of that ministry.

This passage echos God’s resolute warning in chapter three where He tied together sin, rebellion and unbelief. There He retold the story of their forefathers when they refused to enter His Promise. He said about them “They shall not enter My rest.” This time, besides saying where deniers won’t go, He threatens where they might go.