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 to 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 won’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 backs 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 (see 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 laborspiritually on that day. This is not natural: We must dig into our Bibles and labor to learn the wonderful truths God wants 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’s re-creation of 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 ended 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 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: JesusChrist 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 was 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 livingSavior!” (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 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 in His Family. 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, so 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 His 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 it—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 sprinkle 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 His 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 His 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 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 Jesus Christ unless the Father calls him (John 6:44). Because you are reading this message, you are either called by God already, or 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!