The Book of Hebrews: What Jesus Christ Is Doing Today
Chapter 1: Hebrews Is Mainly for Our Day
The Apostle Paul wrote 14 books in the New Testament, and in my view, Hebrews is his masterpiece.
The book of Hebrews has one of the most powerful messages in the Bible. It is a dramatically profound epistle. It tells you explicitly what the living Jesus Christ is doing right now! This is a mystery to most people, but it need not be. You will see proof of this throughout this booklet.
It also shows what potential you have—not just to be born into the Family of God, but the potential you have right now through using the power of God in your life.
The message of Hebrews is especially critical for us to understand today because it is intended primarily for us in the end time in the days just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 10:25, the Apostle Paul wrote this instruction: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Which day is Paul talking about? He is obviously talking about the Second Coming.
When you see that day approaching, you must become more urgent about your spiritual life. The people Paul was addressing were not seeing it. Some were even forsaking God’s commanded assemblies—the Church’s Sabbath services! What can we learn from this?
In verse 37, Paul explicitly pointed to the Second Coming: “For yet a little while, and he that shall come [Jesus Christ] will come, and will not tarry.”
Paul was clearly writing about the period leading into the Second Coming. He thought Christ’s return was imminent at his time. As we will see, there was a terrible time coming just a few years from when he was writing. But the book of Hebrews is primarily for the last era of God’s Church—what Revelation 3:14-22 calls the Laodicean era, the time we are in right now. Many verses in this epistle support this view.
This makes Hebrews considerably more important to us! It narrows down the focus and reveals the urgency in some of this book’s specific warnings. Though Paul thought the message was for his day, the God who inspired it understood exactly its real end-time focus!
The Time Frame
This is a serious and urgent message! Just look at the time frame. We believe Paul wrote this epistle between a.d. 65 and 67—say a.d. 66. The Judean congregations of God’s Church fled to Pella in a.d. 69, just three years later. The Roman armies had already made two forays into Judah, and it seems obvious that God stopped them because His Work wasn’t finished; it was not yet time for His Church to go to a place of safety. Finally, in a.d. 70, the Romans laid siege to and destroyed Jerusalem, razing the temple and starving the people into submission. Reading the history of that holocaust can make you sick, it is so full of horror! And that is only a type of what is coming upon modern-day Israel very soon!
This is not an easy message for people to receive, especially when they are in rebellion against God.
It appears that god’s very elect had about three years after this warning before they went to Pella for protection. This could indicate just how close God’s people are to fleeing to a place of safety! (Revelation 12:14). We ought to consider this seriously. While these dates are not precise, one thing is sure: Paul was writing for a time leading into the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
The theme of Hebrews is what Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, is doing right now. Understanding that it is primarily focused on this era makes the book far more meaningful to us. The book of Hebrews has some specific warnings for God’s Church in the lukewarm Laodicean era. We need to use this instruction to prepare for the wonderful future God will give us if we are loyal to Him.
God obviously knew that His Hebrews message was mainly for this end time, so God inspired other verses in this book to support this end-time focus. Let’s examine some of those verses.
‘At the End It Shall Speak’
Hebrews is the only epistle Paul wrote specifically to Jewish converts in Judea. The time he wrote it was very difficult for them. In a.d. 66, many in Judea rose up in rebellion against the Roman Empire. That could have been a good year for God to start warning the Jews through the book of Hebrews that there would be a terrifying end to their rebellion against God.
Within a short time, Emperor Nero beheaded Paul, and then Nero himself died in a.d. 68. In a.d. 69, the Roman armies were again beginning to sweep through the region, and on Pentecost of that year, according to Josephus, the people of God in Judea heard a voice that said: “Let us remove hence! Let us remove hence!” From all we can determine, that is when those who were obedient to God fled to Pella.
In a.d. 70, Titus conquered Jerusalem. This event is described in detail by Josephus. The siege of the city was barbaric. Many died of starvation. Before the siege was over, cannibalism was rife within the city. Once inside the city, Titus oversaw the slaughter of many people. He burned the temple to the ground. He laid the city waste. In all, some 600,000 people were butchered. Many thousands were sold into slavery.
That is only a small type of what is coming quickly upon America, the British peoples (including Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and the Jewish state! (the end-time nations of Israel; request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy for proof).
In spite of God’s horrendous warnings, these nations are reveling in their sins. We live in the time when “the transgressors are come to the full” (Daniel 8:23).
In Hebrews 10:37-38, Paul wrote: “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” This is quoted from Habakkuk 2:3-4.
What is the passage in Habakkuk 2 about? Verse 3 begins, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie ….” Paul knew he was talking about the end time when Christ would return. Circumstances will be very similar to what the Jews were facing in Jerusalem: the Roman Empire, about to destroy them! “[T]hough it [the vision] tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith” (verses 3-4).
The book of Habakkuk has been specifically revealed to us by God as being about the rebellious Laodicean era, and Paul quoted from it in Hebrews.
Read Habakkuk 1:6-11. It prophesies of the Holy Roman Empire attacking and destroying three nations of Israel. Their warriors are swifter than leopards and fiercer than wolves! They commit violence like this world has never seen! Anciently, the Jews did not escape the Roman legions, and neither will our people escape. God is going to bring this punishment on them because of their unparalleled evil.
That attack comes right on the heels of the court case of the Philadelphia Church of God, prophesied in verses 1-5. (This is explained in my free booklet Habakkuk.) In that legal battle, we gained the copyrights to several works by Herbert W. Armstrong. We use that literature to warn people about the Holy Roman Empire and a lot more. So these two elements of this prophecy are tied together.
“At the end it shall speak,” Habakkuk says. That vision is speaking to you right now!
Now is the time to turn from our evil ways and obey God!
Amid epic world events, God’s Church plays such a key role. That is amazing, but it comes as no surprise when you understand who our High Priest is as Paul explains throughout the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:15-16 contain another reference of special concern in the Laodicean era: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Anciently, Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). What he did was a type of what happened spiritually to nearly 50 percent of God’s people in the Laodicean era.
You can read about this in the prophecy of Malachi. Esau, or Edom, is used as a symbol for the half of the Laodiceans who lose their eternal lives. God says, “And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste …” (Malachi 1:3). In verse 4, God says He will destroy anything they try to build and calls them “[t]he people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.” You can also see in the prophecy of Obadiah where God says of Esau: “thou shalt be cut off for ever” (Obadiah 10). These are the unrepentant Laodiceans who are going to lose their eternal lives!
Is it just coincidence that Paul mentions Esau in the book of Hebrews? That is not to say that Paul fully understood this; the real Author of Hebrews is God. Examples like this are coded messages God is sending to us. This is mainly for us today!
God is a loving Father who is losing 144,000 of His own sons and daughters! (Read Chapter 3 of my book Malachi’s Message to understand.) This is deadly serious business!
Look at the grave warning Paul gives in Hebrews 10. After verse 25, where he warns that we must assemble together and exhort one another as we see Christ’s return approaching, he continues: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (verse 26). There seems to be a big leap between these two verses. But it makes perfect sense if you understand the Laodicean context. This warning is about eternal life and eternal death!
What will happen to those Spirit-begotten, lukewarm saints who don’t repent? “[A] certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (verses 27-29). God has done so much to save His people—and so many of them have flippantly tossed that aside! These verses show how deeply God is affected by our sins!
God says, “Vengeance belongeth unto me …. The Lord shall judge his people”! (verse 30). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (verse 31).
Hebrews 11:5 has another example that applies directly to us: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” This verse has an important tie to our Work today.
Enoch is mentioned in the book of Jude. It is a prophecy revealed only to the Philadelphia Church of God. (You can learn all about it by requesting your free copy of my Jude booklet.) Jude 14 speaks of Enoch prophesying about Christ coming “with ten thousands of his saints.” As that booklet explains, this is talking about God’s saints in the place of safety. These 10,000 return with Jesus Christ to rule the Earth. Deuteronomy 33:1-2 also discuss this special group of saints.
In a.d. 69, God’s people had to flee to Pella or they would have been slaughtered like animals! That was just a type of the far worse suffering about to happen in this end time. God warns us repeatedly that there will be torment unparalleled in the history of man!
Only 5 percent of God’s own people will escape that suffering in this end time!
“But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts” (verses 17-18). The word time comes from the Greek chronos, which means a succession of measurements of moments. That is like a highly accurate clock or a watch, and time is running out! The Bible has many warnings about this! Now we are measuring moments in “the last hour” (1 John 2:18; Revised Standard Version).
Jude 23 says that God’s faithful people are pulling people out of the fire—some out of the fire of the Tribulation, others out of the lake of fire! This would certainly include the Laodiceans, whom we are trying to reach. Zechariah 3 portrays a Joshua who is “a brand plucked out of the fire,” and he is a type of all the Laodiceans. There really is going to be a tribulation fire and a lake of fire. Anybody who understands this deadly warning should be deeply sobered!
Jude 23 also states, “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Some people ignore God’s scriptural commands to cut off contact with those who have turned their back on God (e.g. Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 John 10-11). But God says we ought to hate even the garments they wear! God is going to spew them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16), and then they have to be snatched out of the fire!
Remember, God is “him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). We have a great High Priest, described in the book of Hebrews, who can keep us from falling! If you know your human nature, you know you are subject to falling. But our living High Priest can prevent that; all we have to do is submit ourselves to Him. What a God of love we serve!
Hebrews 7 talks about Melchizedek, King of Salem, to whom Abraham paid tithes. This, of course, is the same God who became Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (For proof, request our reprint article “Who Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?”)
In this context, Paul emphasizes Levi, father of the Levites. “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham” (Hebrews 7:5). In the middle of talking about giving tithes and offerings, and the law that pertains to that, Paul mentions Levi.
Who are the real “sons of Levi” today, spiritually speaking? Anciently, Levi had God’s law and government. Which people have the law and government of God today? God’s faithful Philadelphian ministers are the ones who hold to the government and the law that the Father, the Head of the Family, gave us. We are sons of Levi spiritually.
Malachi is a book primarily for this end time, the last era of God’s Church. (Request my free book Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today for ample proof.)
The prophecy in Malachi 2 refers to Levi, a spiritual role fulfilled by Mr. Armstrong in modern times. “And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity [lawlessness] was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity” (verses 4-6). Levi is gone today, but we still look to him for the truth God gave him.
“For the priest’s lips should keep [or guard] knowledge …” (verse 7). The ministers’ job is to guard that knowledge from God. If you have been given this knowledge, you must guard it! These sons of Levi must guard this truth, or Satan will take it away. “[A]nd they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (verse 7).
After Mr. Armstrong died, some of God’s ministers openly said they were experimenting with a new form of government. Apparently they believe you can choose the government that works for you—just like the world does! One of them said his church had a collegial government. That means authority equally distributed among each of a number of colleagues. That is nothing like God’s government! Yet these men still claimed to hold fast to what Mr. Armstrong taught. But by admitting they had a different government, in essence they were failing to guard God’s law. Spiritually they were no longer the sons of Levi. Consequently, God could not use them to do His Work.
God gave His spiritual law and government to one man in this end time: Herbert W. Armstrong. He was a type of Levi. Anciently, Levi kept only the letter of God’s law, and physical Israel did not have God’s Holy Spirit. But we do, and our job is to keep and guard the revelation God gave to Mr. Armstrong! This knowledge of the law and the government is foundational! If we lose this, everything goes! The Laodiceans give us plenty of proof of that. They are a divided mess, and they brought it on themselves.
God commands us to seek the law at Levi’s “mouth.” That is expressed very specifically. Mr. Armstrong was God’s “messenger,” who was given God’s law and the government to implement it.
It is easy to prove where God’s law and government are today. This is the only place where you will find God’s Work. It is the only place where you will find God’s message proclaimed to this world.
God condemns the Laodiceans: “But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 8). Rebellious ministers caused many to stumble. That is what happens when you become lukewarm—or worse—toward God’s law.
Levi is a crucial end-time personality. Paul’s reference to Levi in Hebrews is no coincidence either. It is more evidence that this epistle is mainly for this era right now.
Shaking Earth and Heaven
In Hebrews 12, Paul quotes another end-time prophecy that establishes the time frame of this epistle.
In the middle of a passage referring to God giving His law from Mount Sinai, Paul writes: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (verse 25). God held even physical Israel accountable for refusing Him. He certainly will hold His Spirit-begotten people accountable! God’s message is from heaven, but 95 percent of God’s people have turned their backs on it.
“Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (verse 26). This references Haggai 2:6, another scripture God has given revelation about that is specifically for our day!
Remember, Haggai 2:6 is not about the physical shaking of nations during the Tribulation—it is about the profound message that precedes that time: “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while [rsv: Once again, in a little while], and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.” This shaking was also done before—in this case, by God through Mr. Armstrong. This is talking about a spiritual shaking. (I prove this in my free booklet Haggai: God Has Begun to Shake the Nations.) It is about the sixth and seventh eras of God’s Church.
Yet again, in the book of Hebrews, Paul references an end-time prophecy that God has revealed to His Church very recently. But it isn’t really Paul—it is God! God knew what we needed in this end time, perhaps far more than what Paul needed in the time leading up to a.d. 70! This is revelation Mr. Armstrong never understood because it is for the Laodicean era. The Bible is a book of coded messages.
The word heavens means universe. How would the universe be shaken spiritually? The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible says heavens can refer to the realm of the sun, moon and stars, or the whole creation (as in Genesis 1:1). But it can also refer to “the dwelling place of God” and “the universe,” including where God dwells. The great God is deeply concerned about what happened to His rebellious Family! That shakes the universe and the Earth! That causes God the Father and Jesus Christ the most intense pain! They don’t want to see their beloved Family plunged into a nuclear tribulation or the lake of fire.
That shakes the universe and the Earth! This is a message that also shakes Satan and the demons. They are in a rage right now because they know their time is short, and this message enrages them that much more. Their destructive activities wrecked much of the universe, and God had to cast them out! The righteous angels rejoiced, but it meant woe unto those on Earth (Revelation 12:9, 12). Now the demons’ destructive activities are shaking the Earth!
God loves us intensely. Think on Christ’s sacrifice and on all that He and the Father have done and are doing to make it possible for us to be in their Family. The more you understand that, the more it shakes you, realizing how important it is for you to get this right! The Father and Son, along with the righteous angels, are ministering to us, doing everything they can to help us complete this Work, to build the very character of God in our lives, and to enter into God’s Family forever!
This shakes the Earth and the universe!
In Haggai 2:7, God says He “will fill this house with glory.” This is referring to the auditorium we built during this Laodicean era! The message from Jerusalem above is emanating from this particular building on Earth! In the midst of all these events unfolding spiritually and physically, God talks about this very house! God puts this Church in the spotlight in many prophecies.
The Haggai 2:6-7 reference in Hebrews is yet another signal that this epistle is an end-time book.
Paul had an eternal focus—and an intense urgency, an end-time urgency to finish God’s Work. Paul thought he was living in the last days, the time we are living in now. But that period in the first century was only a type of what we are experiencing today.
In that day, Paul was quite upset with God’s people. This epistle contained strong correction for them. Paul reminded them of their calling to be teachers for God. Why did they have to be reminded? Because they themselves were still having to learn the basics! They were losing the truth they had been given. They weren’t ready to teach—they weren’t preparing for their God-ordained roles. Despite the urgency of the time, God’s people were not growing. In fact, they were retrogressing, going backward spiritually.
What would you do if you were Paul? What kind of message would you deliver to God’s people who were failing to grow and even losing some of what they had?
This question is extremely relevant to our day! We are living through a time when 95 percent of God’s people have turned their backs on God. Thousands of people—members of God’s Family—have fallen spiritually all around us!
We are here to be teachers to this world. How could the Laodiceans turn away from God when so much destruction is coming to the nations of Israel today? How could they walk away considering everything He has promised them? God is blessing His faithful people in miraculous ways. With such wonderful promises and miracles happening, what makes people turn away? The Apostle Paul exposes the reason clearly. (I talk about this in detail in Chapter 4 of this booklet.)
The a.d. 70 holocaust was devastating for Jerusalem. But the soon-to-come destruction of the nations of Israel will be far worse. God saw that the modern-day nations of Israel would be terribly divided. Jesus Christ said a house, or nation, divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). Britain is suffering the strains of Brexit. America is being ripped apart by corrupt politics. Yet most of God’s own people—who have a responsibility to warn the world about where these troubles are leading—refuse to see what is happening and are rebelling against God!
Paul faced a similar situation in the first century when he wrote this epistle. You would think he would jump to correct and rebuke the people strongly! He did correct them eventually—but he didn’t begin with correction.
Paul began the book of Hebrews by expounding on a magnificent vision!
The rebellious Laodiceans today are losing or have lost the greatest hope in the Bible.
Paul dealt with the same problem in the first century. Today, the Laodiceans have forsaken God and His most majestic vision. Before they will receive strong correction, these rebels must understand what they are about to lose.
We know that 50 percent of them will never return to God. However, 50 percent of them will repent (Matthew 25:1-12). Sadly most of these rebels won’t repent until they have been plunged into the Great Tribulation.
The message we proclaim today will play a critical part in their repentance.
If we fail to warn them, we will be guilty of their blood! (Ezekiel 33:8).
If we do warn them, God will protect us from the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.
The first two chapters of Hebrews radiate with inspiration. Your imagination can be expanded as never before! This is what we will study in Chapter 2 of this booklet.
Chapter 2: The God Family Vision of Hebrews
The most inspiring part of Hebrews is its first two chapters. Hebrews 1 and 2 comprise probably one of the top introductions in the Bible. They describe a wonderfully moving vision of Christ and the God Family, and you need to study them.
There is a good reason why God inspired this vision, considering this book is mainly for the Laodicean era. God is revealing that a lot of His Family members have lost this vision! They do not see! They no longer understand God’s master plan and their place within it. God loves them and wants to restore this vision to them.
Notice how Paul begins: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). God the Father is speaking to us through His Son. The Moffatt translation shows that Jesus Christ was appointed “heir of the universe.” God the Father speaks to His loyal remnant through the inheritor of the entire universe. He is speaking to His Family!
Paul is talking about the Father and Son. He didn’t start the way the Apostle John did, who wrote about the Word and God (John 1:1). Paul talks about family—Father and Son! That is a vision in itself! God is a Family. This is about the good news of the Kingdom of God, which is the Family of God. This is the message of the Bible from the beginning to the end.
The word “Son” in Hebrews 1:2 holds extraordinary vision! Paul explains this vision throughout this chapter.
As we will see, Paul goes on to show that we have the same potential: God is going to bring “many sons unto glory,” and Christ considers us brothers (Hebrews 2:10-11). This is the most amazing vision in the Bible! Those in God’s true Church today are co-heirs with Jesus Christ. God wants to add as many members and co-heirs to His Family as He can. He wants to add you and me!
Paul wrote about this because he wanted the members to get back into their minds the vision they had lost!
Declaring the Father
As John 1:1 reveals, God and the Word had dwelled together in perfect unity for all eternity. The Word perfectly submitted to God. Time itself did not exist yet. Then the two of them created the angels, the universe and the Earth. Later, after the archangel Lucifer and the third of the angels under him rebelled, God and the Word created human beings.
Then the Word came to Earth as Jesus Christ—and at that point, He became the Son of God. This faithful Son had changed from the perfect, spirit body of a God Being into dust. And in that form, He continued to demonstrate His subjection and His loyalty to the Father. He didn’t rebel as the angels had. Christ remained completely sinless and perfect for His entire physical life.
Christ came to Earth to declare His Father (John 1:18). To this day, He is still turning human beings to the Father. Everything He teaches centers around that purpose. What loyalty—and what a contrast to this world of betrayal! He is a Son, and He is thrilled to be a Son! There is no hint of competition between Him and the Father. That is rare—God-rare.
In the book of Hebrews, Jesus Christ shows us how to honor the Father. The trouble with God’s people today is they do not honor the Father (Malachi 1:6). Why? That is what Paul is addressing: They have lost the Family vision!
Paul wrote that Christ said, “I will declare thy [God the Father’s] name unto my brethren …” (Hebrews 2:12). This is what a loving Son does. You and I need to do the same. Will you declare God’s name to this world? That is what this Work is doing. It is why we have been called ahead of the rest of humanity. We need to show this dark world that there is hope—hope that only the Father can give!
Closely study how Paul describes Christ in Hebrews 1:3: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his [God the Father’s] person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The Moffatt says Christ was “stamped with God’s own character.” He told his disciples, “[H]e that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). He and the Father are exactly the same in mind and spirit. Such unity and cooperation can only be found in the God Family.
If you read Hebrews 1:3 a thousand times, you will continue to get the message more deeply in your mind. It is that profound! There is nothing shallow about being sons of God. God is re-creating Himself. That is the greatest thing God can do—it is the pinnacle of His creative ability.
“[H]e had by himself purged our sins.” Christ didn’t have to be sacrificed to carry out His plan for the angels. Once angels choose to be either good or evil, their character is set. They will not change. They cannot die—they are immortal. With humans, however, the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Without Christ’s sacrifice, physical death would be the permanent end for all of us. However, we can also change—and turn away from our sin.
God and Christ have proved their love for all humanity by risking eternal separation. If Christ had sinned even once—even by dwelling on a wrong thought—in 33½ years on Earth, His death would have paid for His sins only. He would have died forever, ineligible for resurrection. Aside from the angels, God the Father would have been alone in the universe as the only God Being with no ability to expand His Family.
Christ proved His dedication to this cause: He came to Earth and was savagely beaten and brutalized. He didn’t even look like a man! (Isaiah 52:14). And He did that for you. He lived a sinless life—for you. He allowed Himself to be crucified for you. You need to make this personal.
When Christ was resurrected from the dead, He “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He received glory far beyond anything any angel has ever received (Hebrews 1:4). When He was transformed back into a Spirit Being, Christ became God’s firstborn Son. The God Family goal took a major step toward fulfillment. That Family consists of the Father, the Son, and soon, innumerable sons! God wants to give us the same glory He gave Christ! Humans have the opportunity to undergo the same miraculous process to become literal spirit-born sons of God!
Paul recognized how John skipped the angelic “Plan A” in his Gospel account, and he used that to teach a lesson to the Jewish Church members. The third of the angels who rebelled proved that God needed another plan. Paul tried to help the members see the magnitude of what God was offering them.
“For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” (Hebrews 1:5). God never said these things to an angel—but He said them to Christ. And the astounding truth is, He is saying them to His begotten people today!
Here Paul quotes Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. In the second reference, God is talking about Solomon, a human being, who was a type of Christ! “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son”! God never said any such thing to an angel. Angels do not marry. They don’t have sex or reproduce (Matthew 22:30). Each angel was individually designed and created. The angels don’t experience anything like physical family. They are called “sons of God” only by virtue of having been created by God. However, they are not sons in the familial sense of the word. They were not spiritually begotten by God, later to be born as full-fledged God Family members. But you are! If you are in God’s one true Church, you are spiritually in the womb. And God is doing all He can to make sure you are born into His Family!
When the third of the angels who were charged with placing the finishing touches on Earth decided instead to rebel, and they wrecked the Earth, God knew He could only trust Himself to rule the universe. The angelic “Plan A” had failed, so God decided to use a more perfect plan: “Plan B.” He said, I have to re-create myself, or we will never be able to have anybody rule the universe. The whole universe is out there for us! That is our potential.
Being begotten by God through God’s Holy Spirit is where all our hope lies. Even if the Holy Spirit is not yet in you, but is working with you before baptism, you are on your way to being born into the very Family of God. If that sounds like heresy, you need to read God’s inspired Word more closely. The vision in Hebrews 1 and 2 is powerful! Some have even called it blasphemy—but it is the very Word of God!
You are being called to rule the universe because God knows that the angels—impressive as they are—could never fully be trusted to do that. The angelic plan failed, which is why God created mankind.
If you yield yourself to God today, you will rule over those brilliant, majestic beings. He never called the angels sons of God, but He calls you sons over and over and over.
Why does Paul compare the angels to the sons of God? He wanted the Jews to understand the unfathomable brilliance of the angels. He must have asked them, Do you realize—you puny, flesh-and-blood human beings—what your future is? God’s purpose for you is so much greater than that of the angels!
Look at the angel who delivered the little book. “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth” (Revelation 10:1-2). Well, we are the people of the little book! The angels have faces that shine like the sun. They truly are spectacularly brilliant spirit beings. Yet their splendor is nothing compared to the Family of God! If we will just stay loyal to God, we will rule alongside Christ from universe headquarters in Jerusalem over all the Earth and all the universe for all eternity! Our potential is to become brilliant beyond belief!
What is it worth to be a son of God—and not just a son of God, but one of the few who obeys God and does His Work before Christ’s return? That is the only way to receive a headquarters reward as part of the Bride of Christ.
By creating the God Family, the Father and the Son are re-creating themselves in human beings. Physical family is a type of the God Family. Physical birth is a God-plane event! We will be born spiritually into the Family of God, which is also the Kingdom of God. We will then be brighter than the blindingly bright angels.
Why does mankind have marriage, sex and family, but angels don’t? Because they are not being created into sons of God. They were never given that potential. The fact that you have the opportunity to get married and have a family proves that you have a potential far greater than the angels have.
How does He achieve that creation of all creations? Through marriage and family. These beautiful gifts from God are only given to those who have universe-ruling potential!
You must really love God’s plan and understand what it is all about. You have to understand why marriage and family and love it. It is a God-plane relationship! Physical marriage is a type of our marriage to Jesus Christ. We should be acting like Christ and His wife now. We must be building His character and taking on the very mind of Christ. If we don’t, then how can we possibly rule with Him as His Bride for all eternity?
Notice how Paul concludes Hebrews 1: “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (verses 13-14). God never said to the angels, “Sit on my right hand.” They will never share His throne—but we will! “Them who shall be heirs of salvation” is you and me! We are going to sit on the right hand of God, ruling for eternity with Jesus Christ. Those mighty, brilliant, luminous angels minister to us, the “heirs of salvation.”
What a calling God is offering us!
Today, sadly, 95 percent of God’s people lack this vision! During his 1985 Pentecost message, Mr. Armstrong warned the Laodiceans that they didn’t “get it.” They didn’t understand their calling. Even if you think it is firmly in your mind and feel confident in your understanding, you had better be careful. We must always be growing and deepening that understanding. We must not let this slip away as most of God’s people have. God will not allow anyone to drift into this wonderful future. This is a drop-dead vision we must hold tightly.
Give Earnest Heed
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1). Paul was now easing in to correct the brethren. He was about to give them some hard chastisement. Why? Because he loved them.
Some people probably thought Paul was being extreme or that he was misinformed. He wasn’t! Everything happened exactly as he said it would. But it did not come from Paul. It came from our High Priest, who speaks through men like Paul.
Mr. Armstrong faced the same backlash. Some said he was too extreme. They thought they were spiritual and righteous. But they were not! They weren’t even close to being ready to teach the world.
After Mr. Armstrong died, ministers began telling many lies about him. I came into the Church in 1961 after listening to Mr. Armstrong for years. Nothing those men were saying about him was true. Many of those men got people to follow them, but those people didn’t know their Bibles or obey God. You must not believe a man, apart from God. Only follow men as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). You must know your Bible and prove who is following Christ. Let the scriptures guide you, and you will never go wrong. Then you can discern whom God is using. But if you cast that aside and follow mere men instead, you will have trouble.
Look at the world today. It is just as the Prophet Isaiah said: Nations are sick and faint of heart (Isaiah 1:5). This world needs teachers! It needs people who, as Paul wrote, give earnest heed to God’s truth.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3). Paul deeply valued instruction from those who were personally trained by Jesus Christ in the flesh. There were people in Paul’s day who heard Jesus speak firsthand. Their accounts confirmed what Paul was saying. Paul said, Don’t believe me; look at the proof of those who were with the Son of God!
“God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy [Spirit], according to his own will?” (verse 4). We must live by the power of the Holy Spirit, and then everything falls into place. Often in God’s Work we step out in faith, and God works miracles!
You will have trials and tests, but God says you can rejoice in those because they help you recognize and overcome your faults. We all must be continuously overcoming and destroying our human nature. That requires the power of God. God provides us all the power we need to succeed. Christ is personally being directed by God the Father to ensure you make it into His Family. That is where the Father’s focus is and where Christ’s focus is.
Rule All Things
Paul repeatedly reminds us here that we are to rule Earth and the universe. God plans to put the whole world in subjection under the firstfruits—those individuals chosen before the Second Coming (Hebrews 2:5, 8). You must make this personal. The world’s leaders today are inept. When Christ returns, a spiritual nation will be born in a day—through a resurrection. This nation will have proved that it will follow Jesus Christ.
Paul again quotes King David: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (verse 6). This is a stunning question to ponder: why God would be so concerned about human beings and would focus so much attention on a little group of firstfruits. But that is just the beginning!
Man is so special to God! “Thou [God] madest him [man] a little [while] lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. …” (verses 7-8).
Think seriously about what these verses are saying! First, Jesus Christ has qualified to rule all things. He is not yet in charge of Earth; in fact, right now Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). Christ has not yet begun to rescue the universe from its current state of waste and decay; He is waiting for us to be born spiritually! (Romans 8:19-23). But, as Hebrews 2:8 says, God has awarded Him all things. In a short time, Christ will take His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
But that is not all: God is also offering all things to human beings! God is going to put the whole universe in subjection to man once He has re-created Himself in mankind! And to those who do His Work and declare the Family of God before the Second Coming, God gives special honor and glory! If you are loyal to Him and His Work today, you will be at headquarters forever.
The Jewish members of God’s Church during Paul’s day basically shrugged at the thought of their purpose and potential. The Laodiceans today say, “So what?” When you stray from your High Priest, Jesus Christ, your glorious future just doesn’t seem important anymore.
How do you explain 95 percent of God’s people turning away from this truth today? Hebrews gives us the answer. It is aimed at the Laodicean era. If you lose this vision, then you will neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Those who reject this calling will have to suffer the Tribulation. Amid that terrible suffering, 50 percent of them will repent. In the a.d. 70 holocaust, conditions grew so desperate that cannibalism was rampant! The Laodiceans will suffer even worse circumstances if they don’t turn back to God now. We love them and want to help them in any way we can. But we cannot help them if they will not allow it.
Paul was trying to help the Hebrews realize what they were giving up! He wanted to make this vision clear to Church members who had lost it. In this end time, the situation within God’s Church is even worse! Just look at what happened to the Worldwide Church of God after Herbert W. Armstrong died!
Always remember that Christ is preparing you to rule all things. This has not yet happened with man. “… But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little [while] lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour …” (verses 8-9). Christ has already been crowned with glory and honor. He knows how to attain that spectacular victory—and He wants you to receive glory and honor as well! With a vision like this in your mind, you will be prepared to teach the world.
What a dynamic message! God is teaching us about His Family. Why would Paul and others who were martyred stand up to emperors like Nero, suffering hardships and losing their lives? Paul truly believed what he was teaching! He had the mind-stretching God Family vision.
Many Sons to Glory
Hebrews 2:10 gives us one of the most towering truths in this whole book: “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory ….” Christ is God’s Son, and God is working right now to bring many sons unto the glory of the God Family!
Many would balk at a statement like Paul’s. Yet it is in their Bible—the inspired Word of God! God is going to bring many, many sons to glory—all those who yield to Him. This is not just about being born; it is about receiving eternal glory! That should excite you more than anything—by far!
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one”—that is referring to God the Father and those whom He calls—“for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (verse 11). The Father is the origin. He begets sons and then turns them over to Christ. Christ then leads the Church, working with His people so they can share His throne to rule the world!
Christ considers us brothers and coheirs to His Family. Jesus Christ is our Brother. He is a Son of God, and so are you. What a majestic honor! He created us with a spectacular future. Could God give us anything greater? He gives you more love than you could ever imagine.
Christ was “made like unto his brethren” (verse 17)—His brothers, talking about us! What love God has for mankind! He sent His Son to Earth to suffer and die for us (verses 9, 14-18). Christ endured everything that foolish, deceived men did to Him in order to open up salvation to us. What wonderful, fathomless love! What commitment God has toward us.
Back to verse 10: “[T]o make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Christ is the Captain! He is leading us! A general in an army would usually be more in the background—but a captain is out there leading His men in battle!
That word could also be translated Author or Pioneer. Jesus Christ is the Pioneer of our salvation. Just as He was crowned with glory and honor, so will we be as the Bride of Christ! We must follow His example to be born spiritually and obtain eternal life as He did.
When my great-granddaughter was first learning to walk, she would fall, walk, fall, walk—it was a cycle of training. But every time she stumbled, she would get right back up and move forward. That is what God wants us to do. If we fall, He wants us to get up like a little child and go on. You are certain to finish this race if you keep moving forward.
Nothing will stop you if you stay with Christ. He needs a helpmeet, a wife to help Him. A husband and wife need each other. Children need unified parents who love each other, love their children, and love God.
‘I Sing Praise Unto You’
“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:12-13). We should be declaring God’s name all the time—mostly by our example. That is what Jesus Christ did when He came to Earth and spent time with His brothers. Paul also endured some tough trials—but he also saw his glorious future. That caused him to sing God’s praises!
We have to be like Christ and Paul, and sing God’s praises. We need to see and fully comprehend this future. We need to be filled with God’s joy and decide to not be anything other than that. If we do, then we will sing praises to God. Yes, God allows trials. But we should rejoice even in our fiery trials because they help us turn to God. Our trials are given in love. If we trust God and not men, then no matter what challenges we face, we will be declaring His name and working fervently for Him.
We are entering difficult, perilous times just before the Second Coming. World powers in Asia, Europe and the Middle East are rising up. We are staring destruction in the face—much like the Jews of the first century were. Christ warned in Matthew 24 that if He didn’t return, every person on Earth would be obliterated! God is warning us!
But as perilous as the near future is, this is not a gloomy message if you focus on the vision of Hebrews 1 and 2. It is filled with good news. Understanding the future is going to cause the world to know God!
These introductory chapters of Hebrews contain tremendous hope. God jumps right into this mind-staggering vision because He knows that the Laodiceans have lost it. That is why they are Laodicean, or lukewarm!
Who else besides God’s Church recognizes the all-encompassing truth about the Father and Son, and the God Family? God is a Family! God is love. We cannot express with words how much God loves us. It is a love this world does not understand. But God will make sure they understand.
Most of mankind will not know God in this age. Human beings are deceived from childhood on up (Revelation 12:9). But God has a plan to solve this problem. After suffering the Great Tribulation—the worst suffering ever on Earth—people will begin to see that they must submit to God. They will get to know God by going through that intense trial. When they are humbled and see the need to submit to God, then God will teach them, and they will truly get to know Him.
Those who never knew God will be resurrected and have the chance to know God. Every person who has ever lived will be resurrected. If God didn’t give mankind that chance, most people would not have an opportunity to be in that Family. But Jesus Christ died for the whole world! The Father gave His only begotten Son so that we all might be saved.
A new civilization is about to be introduced to the world, and it has begun in God’s Church today! God has given us so much truth and revelation and hope. We must grab hold of it and pour ourselves into finishing this Work. Isn’t the God Family vision something so inspiring that you just want to share it with the world? God wants us to fill our minds with this message and to master the opportunities He gives us!
Chapter 3: Our Faithful High Priest
Hebrews is such an important book because mankind looks upon their Savior as being dead, or maybe they picture Him as just a newborn baby. Few people think much about the reality that the almighty Jesus Christ is alive. What is Christ doing today? What is He doing right now? This is a mystery to most people. But Hebrews answers this vital question.
Remember what the Apostle Paul was trying to accomplish with this epistle. He was dealing with a slumbering Church, and he had the unenviable task of trying to awaken them and put them firmly back on the path toward God’s Kingdom. To do so, he had to jolt them with hard correction. Yet the first four chapters of Hebrews do not contain correction!
Imagine if someone you deeply respect wrote you a long letter to try to help you with some of your problems, but didn’t even address those problems until he had written many pages of encouragement and inspiration. Wouldn’t you feel loved? This is exactly how Paul wrote to the Hebrews!
And one of the wonderful truths he wrote about was Jesus Christ’s role as our “faithful high priest.”
A Merciful and Faithful High Priest
Paul described how Christ became a human being in order to deliver us from bondage and death. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
People in this world are not free. They are in bondage to Satan, death and human nature. They are enslaved by addictions. They need direction. They need God guiding them. And tragically, so many people who were delivered from that bondage are returning to it! God’s own people are going back to the worst kind of captivity, like a dog returning to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11).
Christ became flesh and blood and fought to remain perfect. He became a man and sweat blood, crying out to God because He didn’t want to sin! One sin and He could not be our Savior. Our only chance at salvation was for His blood to pay for our sins. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
Because Christ became a man and was tempted as we are, He can now help us when we are tempted (verse 18). He knows what carnal nature is like. And He knows how to save you.
When you have problems, Christ deals with you individually. If you bog down or get into trouble, He is right there with you. This is a family! No parent just forgets his or her child when the child is suffering—a parent jumps to save that child. God the Father put Christ into this priestly role, and He is right here helping you. Only you can stop that! If you are doing your part, there is no way He is going to lose you! You cannot fail: Christ will see to it personally. He will never let you fall.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him …” (Hebrews 3:1-2). So much of Hebrews is about “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” It is about what Jesus Christ is doing right now for His people.
Most of Christianity pictures Jesus Christ as a dead Savior. But Christ is alive! He has power, and He is working right now, doing everything He can to bring God’s begotten sons into the God Family, or the Kingdom of God. Today, Christ is using His very elect to warn and teach the gospel to this world as a witness (Revelation 10:11; Matthew 24:14). Experience has taught us that if your heart is not in God’s Work, you don’t grow spiritually. As you read this, sons are being prepared to help God bring all human beings who have ever lived into His Family if they fervently desire it!
In Hebrews 3 and 4, Paul brings up another subject extremely relevant during this Laodicean era: the Sabbath. A great many of the Laodiceans have turned their back completely on God’s Sabbath!
Paul is discussing how Jesus Christ, our High Priest, is leading His people today. He compares Christ with Moses leading ancient Israel, and warns that we must not make the same mistakes the Israelites did. He describes how the Israelites tempted God in the wilderness. He quotes God as saying, “So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest”—speaking of the Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 3:11).
The Israelites were faithless and unbelieving. They trusted their senses rather than trusting God—a grievous sin (verses 12-13). “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (verses 18-19). God simply wants us to believe Him. He gets upset when we do not.
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). We need to fear God. That is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, and a fountain of life; it leads to riches and honor! (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 14:27; 22:4). Every year, God’s people attend the Feast of Tabernacles, a seven-day period picturing the “rest” of the Millennium. At the Feast, we live the World Tomorrow way of life. The theme of the Feast is to learn to fear God (e.g. Deuteronomy 14:23). This does not mean we go around trembling—instead we rejoice! If we fear God, we don’t have to fear anything else. God will always take care of us.
In Hebrews 4:1, “rest” is explicitly talking about the Kingdom of God. But then Paul links it with the rest that God commands each week on the seventh-day Sabbath when “God did rest the seventh day from all his works” (verse 4). “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (verse 9). “Rest” in this verse is from the Greek sabbatismos; it means the keeping of the Sabbath.
We must keep God’s Sabbath! The Laodiceans had this wonderful truth and then let it go. That is extremely dangerous! It is better to have never been called than to be converted and then walk away!
The Sabbath is a key to overcoming and spiritual conversion. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (verse 11). Physically, the Sabbath is a rest day each week—but God wants us to labor spiritually on that day. This is not natural: We must dig into our Bibles and labor to learn the wonderful truths God has to teach us. We must get to know Him, grasp this vision and His plan for mankind, and learn how to rule the world! Our Sabbath observance helps determine whether or not we become teachers for God.
Do you keep the Sabbath holy? The Sabbath is a gift! It points you back to God re-creating the Earth (Exodus 20:8-11). But it also has a vision of the future since it typifies the Millennium, the seventh thousand-year “day” of God’s plan when Satan’s 6,000 years of rule will be replaced by God’s rule on Earth (Revelation 20:4). Labor to get this vision into your mind. Make it personal. Spend more time on the Sabbath thinking and praying about it, and ask God to help you. You will never give up spiritually if you maintain a strong Sabbath-day vision!
The Word of God
At this point in his epistle, Paul directs his focus back to more inspiring truth about Jesus Christ and His role in our lives.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The Bible is alive! It is Jesus Christ in print. You can build the very faith of your Savior by just learning all you can about the Bible.
This Word reveals your true thoughts and intents. We must face the truth: We are ruled by human nature. Jeremiah 17:9 says our mind is desperately wicked. We need to see that our “old man,” the person we are before baptism, is impure and evil. The Bible exposes what is going on in our mind. It reveals where we are evil so we can change. We must live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4).
Read Hebrews 4:12 over and over—it is a wonderful truth about the Bible. It will help you bring that old man down and build the inner man day by day.
A Great High Priest
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched [or sympathize] with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15). Paul points back to his theme: Jesus Christ and what He is doing today.
Do you think Christ isn’t touched when He sees your weaknesses? That He isn’t moved by your fervent prayers for help? Effectual fervent prayer avails much! (James 5:16). When you cry out to Christ, He is moved to help you. You have the sympathy of your High Priest.
He has been on this Earth and experienced the pulls of the flesh. He was tempted in all points. He had to face the problems you face and a lot more while He was on Earth. He had to fight against the pulls of human flesh. He cried out to God to help Him resist sin, which would have cost Him His eternal life—and ours.
Your High Priest can sympathize with the battles you face. He understands how difficult they can be! Christ will get you through any challenge, past any obstacle. He is bringing many sons into glory, working with your individual trials as directed by our Father.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Our prayers ascend to God’s throne room, and God carefully collects them. He wants you talking to Him! God wants you to pray boldly!
To come boldly before the throne of God, we must battle our human nature all the time. We are burdened by so many unnecessary fears. God says He will eradicate our fears. We don’t have anything or anyone to fear but God Himself. Get rid of inferiority complexes and vain insecurities. We have a wonderful, loving High Priest who wants to help us in every way He can. If we are letting Him guide us, help us, love us and direct us, we will get through to God. Our prayers will be answered! We’ll talk more about boldness in prayer at the end of this chapter.
“God’s salvation is not something you collect only after you die. It is a practical, commonsense, useful salvation that starts in your everyday life right here and now!” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote. “What needless pains some have been suffering. What needless fears and worries you may have been carrying around. What wonderful times—what happiness you may have cheated yourself out of, just because you have not realized and taken advantage of the very present and all-powerful help of your living Savior!” (Good News, March 1985).
The end of Hebrews 4 is the heart and core of the entire book!
This is foundational biblical truth. Christ now works full-time on the behalf of human beings. Having this great High Priest in our lives should make us bold! We are His Family—His royalty. God created us, He called us, He loves us, and He wants to give every one of us sonship. He wants to give you everything!
That is the love God has. Without Him, you are going to fall. But if you bring this High Priest, who wants to help you in every way, into your life, you cannot lose! It is impossible! That is a promise from God!
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Christ lives to intercede for you! He pleads and makes requests to God regarding you!
Remember, those of us called out of the world before Christ’s return will become His Bride. As a physical husband should love his wife and do everything possible to protect and provide for her, Christ our Husband takes care of His wife.
Any loving husband would step in and intercede, or intervene, for his wife when she gets into trouble. This is exactly what Christ does for His Church, His Bride, as our Intercessor.
Christ intercedes for you and for me. This is personal!
Our Husband comforts us, which is how it should be in any physical marriage. You can get on your knees and pray fervently and effectively, then get up and go about your day full of hope. That is the power of prayer. It is possible to change our thoughts and beliefs away from negativity and darkness and toward positivity and light.
Christ’s relationship with His people today is part of God’s plan to convert all mankind into His spirit-born sons. Those few who serve God today will sit next to Christ on David’s throne forever. We are the sons of Zadok, loyal no matter what—even as 95 percent of our brothers and sisters have abandoned God (see Ezekiel 44:15). God wants to hold this special 5 percent close to Him for all eternity. We will dwell with Him at universe headquarters in new Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12). God has made you a promise! Your life might be hard sometimes—but the reward is so much greater than your trials that there is no comparison! (Romans 8:18).
Besides being our Intercessor, Christ is also our Advocate when we sin (1 John 2:1). Christ knows how difficult it is to endure as a human being. He advocates and pleads our case to God. God the Father needs Christ’s perspective on the human experience so He can be perfectly just in His dealings with us.
Always remember the love God has for you. When you sin, God doesn’t quit on you. He wants to cover your sins and remove them as far as east is from west (Psalm 103:12)—but you must first repent.
Before Paul was called by God, he was killing Christians. But then he was humbled to the point that he didn’t even consider himself worthy to be a Church member. If God can forgive Paul and use him powerfully to do the Work, He can do the same with you.
Old Covenant—New Covenant
Throughout the book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul writes about several parallels and contrasts between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. For example, he compares Moses, the mediator of the Old, with Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New (Hebrews 3:1-6). He compares the ancient Levitical priesthood with the priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:1-10). He contrasts the Old Testament sacrifices with the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 7:26-28). He speaks about how the ancient tabernacle pointed to God’s heavenly throne room (Hebrews 8:5).
There is a lot we can learn from the Old Covenant, which foreshadowed the New. But the New Covenant is “a better covenant, which was established upon better promises,” administered by “a more excellent ministry”—Jesus Christ (verse 6).
“Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (verses 9-10).
Think seriously about this! Are God’s laws done away? The basis of the New Covenant is God putting those laws into our minds and writing them on our hearts!
“And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (verse 11). How will everyone get to know God? By His putting His law of love in their minds and writing them in their hearts.
God wants to instill His law of love in human minds, but this process goes against our carnal nature (Romans 8:7). Because of Satan’s persuasive influence, humans are naturally hostile against God. We think we are freer when we eliminate law! How has that philosophy worked out for the nations? In truth, there can be no freedom without law.
We need to undergo a total change of mind. God is going to convert people’s thinking and give them the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). This will change everything! That change must be happening within God’s people today.
The Ark of the Covenant
In Hebrews 9, Paul gives more detail about the ancient tabernacle: “Then verily the first covenant [the Old Covenant] had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all”—the holy of holies (verses 1-3).
Paul is writing about all of this because, with the New Covenant, it is all elevated to a spiritual level.
Within the holy of holies sat “the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant [the Ten Commandments]; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly” (verses 4-5).
The ark of the covenant symbolized God’s throne. It was covered in gold. On top sat the mercy seat, the lid of the ark, where God sits. God’s mercy and love emanate and flow from that throne. Above the ark, two cherubim’s wings cover—an exact picture of what is in the third heaven today.
Within the ark, Paul mentions three things: the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna. These items all have profound meaning for God’s New Testament saints.
The Ten Commandments are the foundation of God’s truth. They too are right there in the ark, within the holy of holies—the same law that God’s Church teaches and that came from the third heaven from God the Father Himself. This is the law that will govern the World Tomorrow. God’s people are learning this law today. We really are teaching the same law that God administers in the holy of holies!
“Aaron’s rod that budded” was a symbol of God choosing a man to be over the ministry. It represents God’s government. Numbers 17 shows how God caused this dead stick to bud and bear fruit miraculously to show whom He was working through. It was put in the ark, inside the holy of holies, to show that this government emanates from the holiest place in the universe! That is true for the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This government produces many inspiring buds, blossoms and fruits within the Church, and in our families and individual lives, as we administer it and live under it. Of course, we are not perfect like God, but nevertheless, we have God’s government on this Earth.
If you have those two elements—the law and the government—then you will have spiritual manna, the third item within the ark. Just as God fed His people anciently with bread from heaven, He feeds His faithful people spiritual manna today (John 6:49-51).
Hebrews 9:7 describes how, anciently, the holy of holies could only be entered once a year—by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. That is because “the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (verse 8). Anciently, on Atonement, the priest would scatter the blood of bulls and goats all over parts of the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:11, 14-19). That was only symbolic—the blood of animals will not give us any kind of salvation.
However, the blood of Christ, who created all of us, will! It can pay the penalty for our sins. What a precious gift! What was all that blood of bulls and goats worth except to point to the blood of Jesus Christ, which we must have to cover our sins. That is the horrific price that must be paid for every sin.
And that blood opened access for us to that holiest of all places. We can go straight into the holy of holies and pray to God the Father any hour of any day.
But that blood only reconciles us to God. We are saved by Jesus Christ’s life (Romans 5:10)—by Him serving as our High Priest and Him living in us!
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14). What a marvelous High Priest we have!
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to give the firstfruits access to the holy of holies right now. Again, what a tremendous demonstration of the love that He and God the Father have for us—love beyond what we can grasp.
God wants you to be bold when entering His throne room in prayer. Cry out to Him. God isn’t kidding—pray boldly! Don’t just sit back and wait for God to help you; go get help. Let God know all about your thoughts, concerns, worries, cares, hopes and dreams. Ask Him for the things you need and the things you want. Hold Him to His promises in His Word. Take action through fervent prayer to change your life. He will fill you with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5)—with hope, faith and holy, righteous character.
Paul showed the Hebrews—and us today—how to avoid the big mistake of limiting God and Christ. They want us to be bold the way they are!
Here are three reasons to be bold:
1) That you may enter the holy of holies where God the Father dwells. As baptized, converted Christians, our citizenship is not on Earth but in heaven (Philippians 3:20). That is why we do not vote in local or national elections: We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ and for a spiritual nation (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are citizens of new Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says; the Bible says we are God’s very elect, because we stay loyal to God and the throne of David.
We need boldness to operate in this scary world. Noah spent a century faithfully building an ark for God even though there were no physical signs that a worldwide flood would ever come. By displaying the faith of Christ, Noah condemned the world for mocking him (Hebrews 11:7). By doing God’s Work today, we also condemn the whole world. Sure, the Philadelphia Church of God is a small loyal remnant, but God commands us not to despise the day of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10).
2) Because Christ can now live in you. You want to be able to say, like Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). With Christ in you, you can have the very faith that sustained Christ throughout His physical life. With this kind of faith, you can impact the whole world. You could stand alone against a massive army and, in terms of power, still be in the majority!
This was the case when the Prophet Elisha boldly confronted the Syrians (2 Kings 6). Physically, the situation seemed dire. But God’s army of fiery, invisible angels had the Syrian army surrounded! (verse 17).
3) Because Christ now intercedes for us. He is a living Savior. He actively works as the middleman between the Father and us, repackaging our prayers to be more presentable to God. God and Christ have discussions about you. Your Father and your future Husband want to know everything about you. They are working to know exactly how to help you.
If you tried to explain this astounding truth to those in the world, they would laugh at you! It is impossible to explain this to a mind not opened by God. No one can come to God unless the Father calls him (John 6:44). Because you are reading this message, you are either called by God already, or else God is probably working to call you. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). We must come boldly before the throne of God to be chosen. We must let Christ lead us to proclaim God’s message to this world, or God will not choose us today!
Chapter 4: Called to Be Teachers
In Hebrews 5, the Apostle Paul is in the middle of his discussion about Christ’s high priesthood, and he brings in the fact that He was “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (verse 6).
Mr. Armstrong said Melchizedek was one of the great mysteries in the Bible. We need to learn about this, and I think Mr. Armstrong would have taught so much more about it if only the people had been spiritually mature enough to receive it—just as Paul would have (verse 11).
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (verse 7). This is talking about the second death. Christ sweated blood before His crucifixion—but this doesn’t only apply to that instance. He had to pray with crying and tears repeatedly because had He sinned one time, He would have died forever! He offered up strong crying and tears so we would not have to die forever! Christ fought the battle! He really wanted this Family, and desired with all His heart to please His Father!
Paul then interrupts this thought by saying, “Of whom [Melchizedek] we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” (verse 11).
Here, at last, Paul begins to deliver the strong correction that God’s people needed. He had far more he wanted to teach, but the people “just didn’t get it”!
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (verse 12). The people to whom Paul was writing were called to be teachers, yet they couldn’t even be taught about their High Priest because they were not learning the basics.
Remember, Hebrews is mainly for the Laodicean era. Paul’s language here has a ring of familiarity to anyone who has been in God’s Church for some time.
You Ought to Be Teachers
In his Pentecost sermon in 1985, just months before he died, Herbert W. Armstrong showed that he was dealing with exactly the same problem Paul did. His language was very much like Paul’s!
He said, “God cannot start the Kingdom of God until He first trains teachers. And He has called you and me to become those teachers! That’s why we’re the firstfruits! We are called to become teachers!” Mr. Armstrong often said that God’s Church is a teacher’s college.
Mr. Armstrong was exasperated that he couldn’t get the people to understand this basic truth: that the only reason God called us out of season was to be teachers. And to drive that lesson home, he turned to Hebrews 5.
He paraphrased verse 12: “[T]he Apostle Paul says to them, ‘You ought now to be able to be teachers, and you have to be taught just the kindergarten truth about the Kingdom of God. You haven’t learned! You should have been better students.’”
“You were called to become a student,” Mr. Armstrong continued. “You were called to learn how to save others when God’s Kingdom comes, when Jesus is sitting on the throne of this Earth! Brethren, you don’t get it!”
This was what Mr. Armstrong was saying just six months before he died! “You don’t get it!” Do you get it? This warning is for God’s faithful Philadelphians as well as for the Laodiceans. Do we really get this? We were called to learn how to be teachers and rulers. That is the whole reason we are called out of season: to help our Husband teach the world.
“I’ve heard ministers speaking as if they never heard of that!” he continued. “I’ve said to some of them, ‘I don’t think our people understand that.’ And they say, ‘Oh yes they do, Mr. Armstrong.’ Oh no you don’t, brethren. You just don’t understand that! … We are called to learn how, in the resurrection, we can be rulers and teachers.” That’s why we are called out of season. That’s why we are firstfruits. We will help our Husband rule and teach the world!
Mr. Armstrong asked: “Has my teaching been in vain, brethren? Sometimes I wonder. I get terribly discouraged. I don’t think you get it.”
I was sitting in that audience. I remember thinking, Is that possible? How could God’s own Church members not get it? But look at what happened. Mr. Armstrong died six months later. And almost immediately, the Church began turning against what he taught. How do you explain that?
What Paul wrote in Hebrews is almost identical to what Mr. Armstrong said. “[Y]e are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye … are become such as have need of milk …” (Hebrews 5:11-12). This was Mr. Armstrong’s plea to members of the Worldwide Church of God: They were dull of hearing! Paul was upset because the people of his day weren’t ready to teach. He had to correct God’s people, and God knew we would have a far worse problem in this end time.
Paul loved the people he was correcting. Mr. Armstrong loved the Church. It was his whole life; he gave everything to it. They thought he was too harsh—they thought only Mr. Armstrong was speaking to them. But it was really their High Priest in the throne room of God who was speaking to them, and they couldn’t recognize it!
Was Mr. Armstrong wrong or right? His message was prophesied in Hebrews 5! This book is specifically for the time we are living in—the last Church era.
Herbert W. Armstrong did not know that Hebrews 5 was his very own corrective message in prophecy! Why? Because this message is for the Laodicean era today.
The heart of Mr. Armstrong’s corrective message was given just six months before his death. God was giving him insight into the Laodicean era when 95 percent of his Church rebelled against God. It began when he died. He knew that God’s Church was dangerously close to the Laodicean era.
In terms of numbers, the Laodicean falling away is the greatest crisis ever in God’s Church. So it is natural that this point of correction would be in Hebrews because this is for the Laodicean era. Most of God’s people have turned away from God, and they don’t understand the concept of teaching, nor do they want to! They let their human nature lead them, and they want to get involved in Satan’s world. They love Satan’s world!
We must recognize what is happening in this world: Satan is growing more and more enraged and powerful, and is coming after us in many ways. We must stay close to our High Priest: That is the only way we overcome Satan! That is why God ties this instruction about our High Priest with the teacher problem. The Laodiceans have lost touch with their High Priest.
They were “not holding the Head” of God’s true Church! (Colossians 2:19). What could be more dangerous than that?
Your Calling as a Teacher
Do you deeply realize why you are called now? Most of God’s members ought to be teachers by now, Paul said. He is talking about teaching the world and then moving out to the universe, ruling with God! This truth should not stoke anyone’s vanity. This is an utterly different kind of leadership from what this world is used to. It is God’s love in action.
God really does expect His people to learn to teach! He expects us to deeply study the Bible, and know it, and master it—to know the very mind of God so we can teach it.
Mr. Armstrong said he and his wife literally fell in love with the Bible, as is evident by their fruits. He always told the ministry to hide behind the Scriptures. God’s ministers shouldn’t be trying to get out in front of God and lead their own way. We are sinful men, “compassed with infirmity” (Hebrews 5:2). We cannot lead properly unless God is leading us!
God reveals His truth to babes, the lowly of the world (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). But we must not remain lowly—we are becoming the most significant people on this planet! Our High Priest is transforming us from the lowly of the world into the very Bride of Christ. Christ is grooming us for marriage to Him. What a process!
How much do you know about the Bible? How much can you teach? You cannot use age as an excuse: If you find your mind slipping, you just have to study that much harder.
It is because God has called us to be teachers that He has given the Philadelphia Church of God two college campuses. What powerful reassurance that this is our eternal future. God’s Church and His people are focused on teaching.
We are finishing God’s Work and must be learning now how to rule the world. We live in a world where people hate each other, they hate family, and they hate God’s creation of mankind! God says that hatred must be stopped. Those who will help Jesus Christ rule the Earth must love everyone!
In Hebrews 6:1, Paul says he gave the brethren what they needed. Now, they just needed to “go on unto perfection”! We must grow in the sound mind that God offers through His Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7). We must come to think more and more like God. We must always keep growing spiritually—moving toward perfection!
Our great High Priest wants to lead us toward that perfection so we can help Him teach the world! This world lacks the leadership that will get people into the Kingdom of God. Surely we can see that this world needs teachers who are skilled in the Word of righteousness! People’s lives are wrecked, and they desperately need God’s truth! Somebody must teach them the Word of God, which comes from Jerusalem above and shakes the universe and the Earth! They are desperate for great leaders! That is why you are called and chosen.
God wants us to get ready to teach the whole world how to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
Replacing Fear with Hope
“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). Paul is talking about a living hope! Lay hold of that! Do everything you can to make sure you have that in your life. Get a grip on it. There is no reason for us going around discouraged and beaten down. God says we need to work, study and pray to lay hold on this wonderful hope. Hope replaces fear. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says “the inward man is renewed day by day.” We must renew that inward man, or our hope will fade.
This is the most wonderful calling anyone will ever receive! Even if you have to die for this Work, you can face that trial like Paul did, who said: Do to me what you will. I have a crown laid up for me, and I am going to rule with Christ. In time, I’m going to teach you how to live. In one instance, Paul was preaching God’s message, and the people stoned him and left him for dead. What did he do? He got up and started teaching this wonderful truth again (Acts 14:19-22). How God will reward a man like that!
Hebrews 6:19 says, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” When Christ died, His blood reconciled us to the Father, who is behind the veil of the holy of holies. After His resurrection, Christ went directly into that holiest place, where His Father is. Several places in Hebrews say that He now intercedes for you behind the veil in the holiest place in the whole universe.
Think about this: You have access to God the Father! If not for Christ’s sacrifice, even those of us involved in God’s Work now would be cut off like the rest of the world. Because Christ has now gone behind the veil, we can communicate directly with God and draw on an endless supply of wisdom and the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Paul says our hope should be “an anchor of the soul.” Like an anchor keeps a boat from drifting out to sea, our hope anchors us to God. How could the apostles be persecuted and martyred without this kind of hope? They didn’t even think about renouncing their faith when persecution came. Giving up was never an option.
1 Corinthians 15:19 says that if you have hope in this life only, you “are of all men most miserable.” If your focus is on career success, riches, fame, material goods or anything else in the physical realm, you will end up miserable. Revelation 3:17 describes 95 percent of God’s people as being “rich, and increased with goods.” They are so consumed with physical things, God will spew them out! (verse 16). Our hope must transcend the physical, or it will disintegrate in the burning fire of the Great Tribulation.
Only faith in God endures. I don’t mean just believing God exists; even Satan does that. I mean believing God enough that you will do everything He says.
‘Whose End Is to Be Burned’
Hebrews 6 offers even more proof that this is prophecy for the Laodicean era. It warns about Spirit-begotten people falling away from God—never to return!
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy [Spirit], And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (verses 4-6).
Do you recognize what incomparably majestic spiritual blessings God’s people receive? We have been enlightened. We have tasted of the heavenly gift, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come! We have partaken of the very Spirit and power of God! Once you have experienced these things, God holds you accountable. Isn’t He justified in doing so? You cannot simply walk away from those glorious gifts without terrifying consequences!
“But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (verse 8). This is a sober warning to God’s people who are not heeding His message. They are about to meet the worst end imaginable!
God says the day is coming “that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1). Prophecy tells us that 50 percent of the Laodiceans will be blotted out forever! What a terrifying warning from God! And it is not only to the Laodiceans; it is a frightful warning to all of us!
Here in Hebrews, Paul is warning, You must get this—or you are going to die forever! He could not be more explicit! Mr. Armstrong taught this truth for years and even told people they were not getting it, and they still didn’t get it! What a shame.
This grave prophetic warning about people being irredeemably lost continues in Hebrews 10. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (verses 26-27). This is referring to the third resurrection, which will consume all who have committed the unpardonable sin (Revelation 20:13-15).
“For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31).
Tens of thousands of God’s people are going to be plunged into the great nuclear Tribulation to bring them to repentance. Yet half of them will not repent and will lose their eternal lives! The intense suffering and eternal death are mind-splitting!
Then comes the dreadful Day of the Lord, which will bring the worst suffering ever on Earth. The good news is that Jesus Christ’s return will conclude that event. He will bring peace and joy to Earth forever.
‘As You See the Day Approaching’
Right in this context in Hebrews 10, Paul rebukes the Hebrews for lacking urgency. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day [of Christ’s Second Coming] approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Remember, Paul believed that Christ would return during his lifetime. Instead, the a.d. 70 holocaust of Jerusalem was only a type of the suffering that will precede Christ’s return in this end time. Still, with just a few years remaining before the Romans invaded, Paul exhorted the brethren to take advantage of every opportunity to assemble as God’s Family for Sabbath services and Bible studies.
In this age of terrifying nuclear proliferation, Paul’s admonition is infinitely more relevant! Nuclear weapons have advanced and proliferated to the point where it is now possible to exterminate all life dozens or even hundreds of times over. Christ said world conditions would deteriorate so badly, humans would exterminate all life from the planet if He didn’t intervene (Matthew 24:21-22). It is your responsibility to know when this event is at the door.
As we see “the day approaching,” we should place higher and higher priority on gathering together with our spiritual brothers and sisters in God’s Church and being instructed by God. We all need to learn so much more, continually growing in His grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). We get to know God by listening to God’s ministers teach. We must also pray, study, meditate and fast regularly. It takes work to maintain an intense hunger for the truth and desire to assemble—but this is how we really grow spiritually.
God holds you accountable for this knowledge. Make every effort to attend every Church event you possibly can. Some Philadelphia Trumpet newsmagazine subscribers have driven multiple hours or flown across national borders to attend my Personal Appearance Campaigns. Going to such lengths would seem crazy to most people. But hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness (Matthew 5:6) is the most wonderful experience you will have in your life!
Mr. Armstrong set one of the best examples in history of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. He constantly preached about looking into the Bible—the mind of Christ in print—with an open mind. He always said, If the Bible says to do something, just do it. He simply believed and trusted in God. This is his undying legacy.
Mr. Armstrong celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles for years without knowing why—except that the Bible commands it. Through obedience, he learned that the Feast teaches observers how to fear God. Without proper fear, we won’t live righteously and reap the blessings. Often, obedience precedes understanding. Mr. Armstrong proved himself to God by obeying His commands without question. Only then did God reveal the meaning of the annual holy days, including the Feast.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). Mr. Armstrong’s powerful fruits still inspire God’s people decades later!
God’s way of life really works! In our congregations and at our school campuses, we teach people how to live in unity and love with each other, no matter their race, class or background. Others can look at our lives and see that what we are doing produces wonderful results. But this is only possible by the power of God, who is love (1 John 4:8).
Without God, we are hopeless. But with God, we can and must be extremely confident! “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward” (Hebrews 10:35). Real confidence comes from trusting God. His people are not negative, complaining or depressed.
No matter how long we must wait to receive God’s promises or to witness the return of Christ, our confidence should never fade. “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (verse 36). Paul implored us to persevere, never, ever giving up.
“For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (verse 37). Christ will return, and this generation will be alive to see it! As I wrote in Chapter 1, this verse is proof that this book is primarily for our day.
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (verses 38-39). We need patience, but God will not tolerate us sitting back passively. There is a life-altering difference between patience and passivity. God wants soldiers who move forward! He has no pleasure in the 95 percent of His people who have drawn back—at a time when they should be out there warning the world of the coming nuclear holocaust!
God commands us not to draw back, but to move forward through every obstacle! He is looking for people who are confident and faithful the way He is! We are His sons, and we should be like our Father! God will protect and strengthen you through any trial. So don’t draw back when you face a challenge. Step out boldly in faith.
So many people live rather scared and off in a corner. God says, That’s not the way I live! That’s not the way I want you to live. He has a plan and a formula to give you great confidence, faith, joy and courage! That is a wonderful way to live: when you don’t fear anything or anyone but God! There is nothing like it!
The great men of the Bible set a magnificent example in this regard. Paul repeatedly faced down life-threatening persecution—and he was so passionate for God that he considered it a bargain to be able to suffer, knowing what a bright future he had!
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). I love the way Paul expresses that. He didn’t say “the Son of God, who loved us and He loves all people.” He said, He loves ME! He realized that if he were the only person who ever attained God’s Family, God still would have considered that sacrifice worth it! Paul recognized the depth of love God and Christ demonstrated, and it made him willing to sacrifice everything to follow God!
Paul thought on Christ’s crucifixion—the fact that He had sacrificed His life for others—and he said, That’s what I’m going to do. I’m crucifying my carnal old man! I’m killing off the many sins I’ve committed that required Christ to pay the death penalty in my stead. I’m willing to do that for God’s Family! Paul turned from a killer of Christians into a martyr for Christ! And he did so by the very same faith by which Christ lived, flowing from the Spirit of God.
Yes, Paul ended up being martyred by the evil maniac Nero. But he was happy to do that for God’s glory. God delivers His people from most trials, but not always: Sometimes He allows those trials to happen. He uses events like that to help people in this world recognize just how evil they are! In the end, it will all help this world to repent and come to know God.
God has no pleasure in those who shrink back. He leads us today to step out boldly as Paul did! We have nothing to fear. Have faith—real faith that produces a confident, positive attitude even in severe trial. God has full joy, and that is what He wants every last member of His Family to have as well. This faith, confidence, positivity and joy can revolutionize your life! We of this last generation before Christ’s return need that faith more than ever. And that is the subject of the next chapter of this masterful epistle of Paul.
Chapter 5: Embrace Your Father’s Correction
Herbert W. Armstrong called Hebrews the most neglected book in the New Testament. Traditional Christianity largely ignores this message for two reasons: Hebrews depicts a living Savior, and it delivers a lot of correction. Carnal humans want a dead Savior so they can do whatever they want and still call themselves Christians. And they naturally hate correction.
Remember, again, the Apostle Paul’s purpose in writing this epistle. He was trying to awaken a group of spiritually lethargic Christians. He was reminding them of their incredible potential. He was showing them just how deeply involved in their lives their High Priest, Jesus Christ, really was.
And all of this, through God’s inspiration, was intended most of all for this end time. Paul’s message is very corrective for God’s people, particularly His lukewarm saints, during this Laodicean era of God’s Church.
Keep this in mind as we go through the final chapters of this epistle. Paul still had some strong correction to give. In fact, he had to remind the Hebrews just how important it is that we embrace God’s correction! They were not accepting it, and it was putting their eternal lives in danger!
But in the same way that Paul started this letter with some of the most inspiring material in the Bible, here again he prefaced that correction with some wonderful encouragement—giving the most luminous examples of spiritual victory in history!
Build Your Faith!
Hebrews 10 crescendos into what is known as the faith chapter. The Laodiceans are having a crisis in faith! In this materialistic age, we all need more faith! Christ even questioned whether, at the time of His Second Coming, He would find faith on Earth (Luke 18:8). So this is a crucial subject for true Christians to understand.
Paul begins with a definition: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Mr. Armstrong explained this beautifully in “What Is Faith?”, a chapter in his booklet The Plain Truth About Healing. “Now notice, faith is the substance—the marginal rendering says ‘assurance’—of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). So faith comes before possession. Once you have received the possession, you no longer hope for it. But even before you receive it, you have it in substance; and that assurance that you shall possess it—is faith.”
“Faith has only to do with God’s Word!” Mr. Armstrong continued. “The one question is, Has God promised it in the Bible? If He has, then probabilities, possibilities, feelings, convictions, impressions, have nothing whatsoever to do with it. God has a thousand ways we know nothing of, of answering and providing whatever He has promised. We don’t need to see how He is going to do it or even when!
“And that’s another thing: He almost never will do it the way we expect. So don’t try to figure out how it is possible for God to do it. You are trusting supernatural power! God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. What He promised He will perform; but He will do it His way and in His time. Leave all that to Him and just trust Him. Rely upon His Word.”
Faith is spiritual power, founded on biblical truth. You must educate your faith.
I urge you to read the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong to learn how God tested his faith through 28 years of poverty and in countless other ways. Every time all hope seemed crushed, God worked miracles to sustain Mr. Armstrong and the Work. God will do the same in your life. This is the way you must learn to live, now and forever. (Just ask us, and we will send you a free copy of this wonderful book.)
“For by it [faith] the elders obtained a good report” (verse 2). The heroes of the Bible would never have chosen to suffer as they did, in many cases even losing their lives, unless they were absolutely sure of God’s promises.
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (verse 3). Look around you at the glorious creation. Admire pictures of the universe captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Even your own mind and body are marvels of creative genius, impossible for humans to replicate. The invisible God has done all this. We cannot understand the incredible human potential until we recognize Him. It is beyond the scope of the five senses.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (verse 6). Do you believe God? It is impossible to please Him if you lack faith! God wants to build in you the same faith that Jesus Christ had on this Earth. That is a lot of faith! And think of all that Christ was able to accomplish by that faith!
Look how God rewards those who diligently seek Him. We are the most blessed people on Earth, with all the rewards God gives us as we seek Him. He wants to fulfill your every desire, as long as it is good for you spiritually. He wants to raise the lowly of this world to the positions of highest honor. He wants to anoint you a world leader! Soon, people will be begging God’s loyal people to lead them (see Zechariah 8:20-23). They will learn through hard experience how incapable they are without God. Man cannot rule over man—but God’s Family can.
The ‘Hall of Faith’
God has memorialized men and women of action in Hebrews 11, the “hall of faith” as it could be called. Paul bombarded the Hebrews with one example after another of real faith, which he wasn’t seeing in the Church members.
These spiritual pillars made profound changes in their lives, and so can you. God will supply you with the faith, hope, love, character and mind of Jesus Christ.
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (verse 4). Are you allowing these biblical examples to speak to you? Are you listening to their message to you?
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (verse 7). Sometimes, obeying God will cause you to stand out. Noah built a massive ark for 100 years. People taunted and jeered him every day, yet it was through Noah that humanity survived! Everybody would have been destroyed—just like they would be in this end time if something doesn’t stop the process. And God will reward Noah tremendously when he is resurrected.
The great patriarch Abraham was also tested by God for years (verses 8-10). God told him to uproot his entire life and move to Canaan without even telling him where he was going—and Abraham just went (Genesis 12:1-4). God promised Abraham a son, but then made him wait 25 years until he was 100 years old before blessing him with Isaac. Hebrews 11:11 talks about how Sarah “judged him faithful who had promised”—she believed God. She really wanted that child, but God made her wait. He doesn’t always give us these blessings when we want them.
Then, God commanded Abraham to take that cherished son and sacrifice him. Imagine that! Isaac could not have been more precious to Abraham. Yet here and in practically every other case, Abraham obeyed without question. Abraham was a type of God the Father sacrificing Jesus Christ. He could see that God would be willing to give up His Son, and he wanted to be just like God. Isaac also understood and obeyed splendidly.
God stopped him just before he sacrificed Isaac, but Abraham was completely committed to following through because he believed God’s promise to multiply his line through this son—meaning that God would have to resurrect him immediately to fulfill the promise! (verses 17-19). That is real faith! This is why Abraham is called the father of the faithful (Romans 4:11). It is an example we must follow. Whatever God tells you, just do it.
Early in his life, Abraham had been as ensconced in the wealth and materialism of society as anyone could have been. But he obeyed God and turned his mind wholly to God! By faith, Abraham understood God’s promise about new Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21). He locked his vision on that city where he will be ruling with God. As a result, he realized he was just a pilgrim on Earth. Abraham vividly saw that magnificent world—a world ruled by spirit beings that is still more than a thousand years away! What a marvelous example of living faith!
“Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul—common, humble, ordinary men themselves—all had that power, the same identical power Jesus had, because they lived and walked close to God and were filled with the Holy Spirit!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “And we seem to lack that power today, not because God denies us that power, but because we are so close to a modern, materialistic world …” (ibid).
It is only through faith that we can have the spiritual power, godly confidence and boldness we need. Yet too much of the time, we are so tapped into this materialistic world. That can destroy our faith! We must guard against that! To build strong faith, we must come out of this world!
Mr. Armstrong continued, “… our minds are so filled with the material interests of this life; our minds and our hearts are so far from God; we are so out of touch with Him, through lack of enough time spent in the study of His Word and lack of enough of the right kind of surrendered, submissive, earnest and heartrending prayer—and, consequently, because we are not filled with the Holy Spirit …!”
Paul rebuked the Hebrews for not relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, it is so much easier to fall into the same trap. The world around us is far more frenetic and distracting due to modern technology, commotion and clamor.
Moses is another fine example of having overcome worldly distractions and given his life over to God. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26). Moses was a Hebrew raised as an Egyptian and destined to become a royal ruler. Yet he forsook the life of luxury to become God’s instrument of destruction upon Egypt and of freedom for the enslaved Hebrews. Can you imagine that? He decided he would rather suffer affliction with God’s people than rule the most powerful nation in the world! He chose temporary persecution and eternal glory over temporary pleasures and eternal death.
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (verse 27). We have to see the invisible God! He must be real to us! We simply will not leave Egypt if God isn’t real! We won’t give up our idols unless we see “him who is invisible.” That is faith!
Paul concludes this chapter with a spectacular catalog of spiritual triumphs wrought by the faith of Christ. “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again …” (verses 32-35). When you walk by faith, you should expect some magnificent miracles!
These individuals had phenomenal faith, and you can see why they will fill such powerful positions in the World Tomorrow.
A Better Resurrection
There are times, however, when God tests us by not immediately delivering us from a grievous trial. This passage continues: “… and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:35-40).
God will absolutely fulfill every last one of His promises, whether healing, deliverance or other victory. But many of those promises, He will not fulfill until the resurrection. This is a truth that many Laodiceans have forgotten. They have grown tired of waiting on God and have lost faith (Matthew 24:48-51; 2 Peter 3:3-4).
Realize what is at stake here. All the spiritual heroes in this chapter qualified for “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35)—the first resurrection. And God’s firstfruits will join them: Both the dead and the living saints will transform into spirit and rise to meet Christ in the air as He returns to end all suffering and establish His perfect world government (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This resurrection is “better” because those who are in it will share the throne of David with Jesus Christ forever!
A thousand years later, the second resurrection will include all those who never knew God during this physical life (Revelation 20:11-12). They will be resurrected back to physical life. They will have the opportunity to learn God’s Word, and finally, should they choose to submit, become spirit-born sons of God.
Then comes the third resurrection. That is the second death, reserved for those who refuse their opportunity to know and become one with God (verses 13-15). God wants to save all humanity, but He will not force anyone to accept and apply His truth. It is to this resurrection that a terrifying number of God’s people are heading today! We want to make sure we are not in that category!
Paul is challenging God’s saints to think seriously about which resurrection they will come up in! This is an eternal-life-and-death question!
Every one of us must strive and strain, and live by the very faith of Christ, and follow these inspiring examples, if we are to be part of that “better resurrection”!
Now look at how Paul uses those examples to transition into more much-needed correction: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Paul again points us back to Jesus Christ, who is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, serving as our High Priest. He succeeded because of “the joy that was set before him.” He ran the course Himself, and we must look to His example. Christ is the Author of our faith because He pioneered the path from mortal flesh to spirit-born Son of God. He is the Finisher because it is only by His Holy Spirit power that we can follow that path.
Again, this is not some dead Christ we are looking to. In traditional Christianity, far too much emphasis is placed on a dead Jesus, or on a helpless baby Jesus. You cannot trust a baby or a dead person! You need a powerful, living Christ!
If you really consider His example, you will take a great deal of correction from that. “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (verses 3-4). Thinking on how hard Christ worked to remain perfect, even while He faced the limitations and struggles of the flesh, should motivate you to do everything you can to purge the sin from your life!
You see how Paul is transitioning to this crucial subject of accepting correction from God our Father. In some ways, this is among the most valuable advice God’s people could receive in this Laodicean era!
The Father Corrects His Sons
Paul began the book of Hebrews by reminding the Laodiceans that they had lost the God Family vision. When he starts talking about correction in Hebrews 12, he immediately returns to this theme and puts it in its beautiful family context.
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (verses 5-6).
God is a Father! He loves His sons deeply. He is trying to prepare us for life in His Family. That means He must correct us. We all must receive correction. If you are being corrected by God, then you are a son of God!
Not that God is always correcting us—but we will never qualify to enter His eternal Family, let alone to be Jesus Christ’s Bride, without correction from our Father! If we, as the future Bride of Christ, are not moving past the basics, then we must be corrected—or we will not make it! This is a fundamental truth the Laodiceans have forgotten.
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (verse 7). Who doesn’t receive correction from his physical father? Spiritually, the principle is the same: Either God corrects us, or we will turn away from Him. Correction is the only means to convert you from sinner to sinless. We must embrace it!
Christ was brutally punished—even though He never sinned! Shouldn’t we, as sinners, expect correction?
“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (verse 8). If you continually reject correction, you will lose your Father! That means God will not correct us anymore.
Our greatest curse is when our Father no longer corrects us. Then we are no longer a part of His Family! God ceases to be our Father.
Our greatest blessing is being corrected by our Father! That means we are not spiritual bastards.
The Laodiceans will not allow God to measure them! Like tantrum-throwing children, they tell their Father, You don’t correct ME like that! They are so pleased to escape God’s correction—but they actually haven’t. Their correction will come, and it will be far worse than if they had just listened and obeyed before the Great Tribulation!
Considering how sinful mankind is, doesn’t it make sense that God would have to correct us at times to prepare us to be born into His Family?
God’s correction yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness (verse 11). We must thank God for it!
“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (verses 12-13). Each of us is lame. We are weak and beset by problems. We need correction, or else, spiritually, we grow weary and turn away from God.
But God wants to heal all of that. And He will do so, if we will only let Him correct us! How can Christ save us if we do not accept His correction? How can you start as a terrible, evil, ugly human being and expect to be a God being, perfect in character, without getting some correction?
Don’t make any excuses. Ask God for help! Continually seek that correction, especially when you are struggling. Set big goals like God does. I can tell you from personal experience that God’s way works.
My Life-Changing Correction
When I was in my early 20s, my life was a hopeless mess. God probably lowered me to that frustrated state. I met a man around this time who, despite never attending college, had read some amazing books—books I couldn’t even understand. Inspired by his example, I decided to start taking nighttime classes at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and eventually accumulated over a year’s worth of credits.
Shortly after that, God called me into the Worldwide Church of God. I wanted to continue my education. I dreamed of attending Ambassador College. It was one of the strongest passions I have ever had. I applied and was rejected.
One of my local ministers told me that there were many ways I could serve God and His Work in Missouri, so I focused on that for a year.
Then I went to talk to Dr. Herman Hoeh, who supervised the students at Ambassador College. He asked me a very challenging, somewhat humiliating question: “Why haven’t you done more with your life?”
This was hard correction to take. He could have said, “You have a year of college credits and a good job. Just keep it up, and you’ll be OK.” Instead, he told me the truth! It proved to be wonderful for my growth.
I prayed about that correction. There was no opportunity for advancement at my company, so I couldn’t improve in that area right away. Before long, the company was having problems and laying off some workers. I decided to accept a severance package to part ways with the company. That gave me enough money to start an advertising business. Because Dr. Hoeh made me face reality, I tried to do more with my life. I worked hard to serve both inside and outside the Church. Three years later, I was ordained a deacon.
That business venture fell through. I then got a job in direct-mail advertising. In that position I learned more about advertising than at any time before or since. It was a high-stakes job: If you don’t get results in direct mail, you’re a failure. Eventually, I was fired.
By then, I was married and had a 6-month-old daughter. I heard that Ambassador College was beginning to accept married students. My minister told me to apply and see what would happen. Just five days before the academic year began, college admissions called my minister and explained why they would have to reject me again. My minister interceded for me. A college official relented and told him to send me out to California. Thankfully, I had prepared to move on short notice.
My physical father never taught me much, but he did instill the habit of submission to authority. I had listened closely to Dr. Hoeh’s rebuke. I even felt that God had allowed me to be fired a couple of times so I would have more humility at college. Though the trials were tough, God had made my dream of attending Ambassador College come true.
It turned out that was only the start of much more correction and counsel from many ministers. Off the top of my head I can name five evangelists, three pastors, a preaching elder and a local elder in the wcg who gave me hard correction, and I believe there were more. I am not exaggerating when I say that their correction was a blessing every time! Every one of them had a positive impact on me. Even when correction and direction weren’t given perfectly, they gave me something I needed to work on, along with some humility and other lessons God was teaching me.
I have been in God’s Church for awhile now, and I am truly thankful to God that I know what I know. I hope and pray I will never disappoint God in any way. Many times I have been corrected due to my own stupidity. I still make mistakes I shouldn’t. But my track record of obeying the ministry is pretty solid. God taught me how to submit to His government. Of course, we are to follow the ministers only as they follow Christ. But God’s true and loving ministers are here to help. They want to see you enter the Kingdom of God!
Always remember that you need God’s help. Get it, and you will have an impact! God always keeps His promises—but you have to do your part.
When you have the honor of being corrected by your Father, you are on the path to glory! God is guiding us into His Family. We now have the new throne of David, from which we will rule alongside Jesus Christ forever. (For more information, request my free book The New Throne of David.) Can you comprehend that—the very throne of God? How blessed we are to be the servants of the Almighty God. This reward is worth any amount of correction!
Again Paul reminds us that there are people who are losing their opportunity to be in the Family of God. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15).
Many people in this end time have been defiled by bitterness! Perhaps it is because of a people problem, an offense taken at some kind of slight—maybe even some correction that was given to help a person. We have to know that if God corrects us, it is for our benefit. We must not get bitter. If you fail to accept that correction, it is only a matter of time before your attitude will turn to bitterness. Mr. Armstrong said if you let yourself get bitter, it is harder to kick than an addiction to heroin! It can take people away from God very quickly.
Never let that happen. We have nothing to be bitter about! We have everything to thank and praise God for, considering all that He has given us.
It is right after this Paul talks about Esau, a prophecy about 50 percent of the Laodiceans losing their eternal lives (see Chapter 1).
We live in an age when eternal life is at stake for God’s people! Paul underlines this point by contrasting with ancient Israel. At that time, God was working with the people in a physical way; they could not relate to God on a spiritual level because they lacked God’s Spirit (verses 18-21). But that is not the case with us! “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (verses 22-24).
What an inspiring description of the magnificent opportunities God gives to those who accept His correction! We are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God! Can you see that reality? We are of “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven”! What a calling we have! We are among those faith-filled warriors of Hebrews 11! And we have the spiritual aid and power of “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant”—our living High Priest!
Yes, everything is at stake—but God gives us all the spiritual power we need if only we will avail ourselves of it! Nobody need fail!
The Government of God
Paul then continues talking about accepting God’s correction. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25). Anciently, the Israelites were terrified at God’s voice, and they didn’t want to hear God (Exodus 20:18-19). God is speaking to us in this end time just as surely as He did them. We must not turn away from His voice! Yet that is what the Laodiceans are doing. We must hear Him!
Don’t lose sight of the magnificence of our God and of the Kingdom we serve. Hear God’s voice, and serve Him with the right kind of fear. Not trembling and running away from God—but trembling at His word and running from sin—doing all we can to obey God! “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
The Laodiceans have lost this fear! (Malachi 1:6). And unless they repent, they are going to be burned up in consuming fire! (Malachi 3:2-3; 4:1).
Paul gets even more specific and talks about the importance of submitting to the government within the Church.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7).
If we lack faith, or have lost our faith, then we cannot faithfully follow God’s leaders. Satan will use men to deceive us. This is exactly what has happened to thousands of God’s own Laodicean people!
So let’s understand. God uses a man to lead His Church, and He gives men the rule over His people. But He tells us to follow their faith, not their carnal ideas! God expects us to submit to His human government in faith. But we still cling to Christ—not men. God doesn’t want us to follow human government. If the leaders are not walking by faith, then do not follow them. We are only deceived when we follow government that is not walking by faith. You will never be deceived if you follow the leader as he follows Christ!
The Bible is Jesus Christ in print! We can prove from the Bible who is following Christ.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (verse 8). Christ uses the same government today that He used under Mr. Armstrong. In terms of numbers of members, God probably built His greatest Work in 2,000 years through that man. To say that it was done without God’s government is casting aside all logical reasoning! It is also a rebellious attitude.
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein” (verse 9). We are warned not to be carried away by “strange doctrines.”
We were taught God’s government under Mr. Armstrong. Yet, as we saw in Chapter 1, some Laodicean groups, led by men who had been ministers in the Worldwide Church of God for years, were organized using “collegial government.” That is the strangest, most abominable doctrine of all! God’s government is the head of Christ’s body. If someone wants to cut off the Head of the body, he is terribly rebellious and deceived!
If you lose God’s government doctrine, then many other doctrines will also become strange! How could it be any other way when you lose your Head—Jesus Christ?
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (verse 17). God says we must submit to those men who are accountable for our eternal lives, or the leaders cannot serve you with joy. This is another way of saying follow those who point you to Christ and His government.
If Satan could only destroy one doctrine, which one would it be? Government—every time! That way Satan can destroy God’s Work! And the rest of the doctrines will become tarnished at best.
What wonderfully practical instruction Paul has for this Laodicean era! If only God’s people would humble themselves to accept it!
‘I Will Never Leave You’
So many of God’s people have rebelled against God in this Laodicean era. Many have given up on God. But God has not given up on them, and He will not until they have proved themselves completely unreachable. He is still looking for ways to reach them! What a marvelous, faithful God He is!
God says in Hebrews 13:5, “I will NEVER leave thee, nor forsake thee.” In the Greek, this literally reads, “I will never, no, never leave thee, nor ever forsake thee.” Matthew Henry’s commentary says, “Here are no fewer than five negatives heaped together, to confirm the promise; the true believer shall have the gracious presence of God with him in life, at death, and for ever.” I will never, never, NEVER forsake you! That is the loyalty God has toward His Family.
The book of Hebrews is a message we need during these days just before the Second Coming. Our High Priest is actively working on our behalf. He is in the third heaven, helping us right now to make it into the Family of God. He is our Savior—He is saving us! That is a major part of His Work!
Jesus Christ is making us perfect. Revelation 19:7 says that “his wife hath made herself ready.” When He gets here, the wife will be ready! Of course, that means we are going to be corrected. That is how God makes us ready!
We are running out of time to get ready. Hebrews shows us the urgency of the time. Again, Paul wrote it just a few years before the Romans plunged Jerusalem into a terrifying holocaust. Anyone who didn’t go to a place of safety was slaughtered! That is a picture of what modern-day Israel will experience very soon.
Those who stay loyal to God in this Laodicean age will not have to experience the Tribulation. We will be taken to a place of safety, a place of final preparation before Christ’s return. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).
Keep your mind focused on the future God is preparing for you! God’s faithful saints are about to marry Jesus Christ and then rule beside Him on the throne of David at headquarters in Jerusalem. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12). The very elect will be at headquarters forever, ruling over all the universe, through all eternity! There can be no greater blessing and greater reward than that!