New Messengers

Jesus said that He is the One that Moses, the Prophets and the Psalmists wrote about (from 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 (even today) is to lead the Jews (the caretakers of those Scriptures) to faith in Jesus (their Messiah).

The Old Covenant Is Finished

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 that 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 recalls God leading the people out of Egypt, through the sea and up to the Promised Land. (In their ministry of earthly pictures, those represent leaving Death’s dominion, being reconciled to God and being told to enter His kingdom.) They heard the good reports, yet with the exception of Joshua, Caleb and the priesthood, the people took a vote and decided to not enter. That decision to override Him 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. The Old Covenant was for their ancestors who had been waiting for the One who would die and be raised. If the people of this generation 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 will not send another Son to be sacrificed and resurrected.

Repenting is changing your source of eternal life, from trying to be good through justice (determining righteousness and unrighteousness), to trusting God for His mercy and grace which are 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 (referring to Psalm 110) that Jesus’ Priesthood began first (it was through Melchizedek, he was the first one called a “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” (from Hebrews 7:12, 22).

For the Jews

Chapter eight identifies a New Covenant between God and the houses of Israel and Judah. It reunites them as Israel and establishes them as messengers of the fulfilled Old Covenant. They are to quit teaching everyone that the Messiah is coming, Jesus came and the whole world knows it. (That’s in Hebrews 8:10-13.)

Verse ten provides the sequence: God said “I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts.” Putting is synonymous with giving, or delivering. It’s done all at once, whereas writing is personal and takes time.

Under their Old Covenant (through the Law of Moses), they taught about Jesus by demonstrating that everyone needed a perfect sacrifice to remain alive. Under their New Covenant’s law, they teach that Jesus was that sacrifice so now people are to live accordingly—with proper behaviors (they will know in their minds what to do and say). Over time, their core beliefs will reflect that changed character (as it’s written on their hearts). This ministry is what James, Peter, John, Jude and the author of Hebrews wrote about in their letters.

This covenant repeats some of the Old’s wording but adds an essential difference. It’s the crux of their new law: ‘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” (from Hebrews 8:12-13).

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, or delivered, to the Israelites. The whole Law (not just the Ten Commandments) was read aloud 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 a living drama where life came from blood.

Then the chapter states that all of what Moses did was purely an earthly copy of what Jesus would really do when He was given, or delivered to them, saying that “every will 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 states the New Covenant between God and non-Jewish believers to establish us as messengers. (It’s in Hebrews 10:15-18 and it doesn’t refer to Jewish history or His previous agreement 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.

Like their message, ours says: “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Then, boldly departing from the Old, it says: “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin” (from Hebrews 10:17-18).

Verse 16 provides the subtly reversed sequence. It’s where God said, “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 (His Spirit working within the heart), and then, over time, our behaviors and understanding will follow as He renews the mind. This is the ministry that Paul wrote about in his letters.

This Hebrews passage begins with “the Holy Spirit also testifies to us”—acknowledging that those New Testament Jews trusted 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 through a judicial system with its list of offenses and punishments. All those debts were forgiven (it’s also in Colossians 2:14-15).

No doubt I have 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

After stating that the New Covenant messengers are to tell everyone that God doesn’t keep track of people’s sins because Jesus’ death totally paid for them, there is another passage here in chapter ten that tells what God does keep track of: It’s refusing to trust His Son to have died to fulfill everything that was written in the Old Covenant’s Law—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)

The phrase “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth” is specifically targeting the Jews. They had trusted the Law of Moses to lead them; they are named in the title of this letter; 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 messengers to deny His fulfillment of that ministry.

This passage reverberates with 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 overrode God’s direction to enter His Promise. He said about them “They shall not enter My rest.” This time, besides saying what those deniers won’t enter, He threatens with what they deserve: a consuming fury of fire.