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; you can read more about Melchizedek in Chapter 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 refers to 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 teachers’ 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 seven 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 seven 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 it was only Mr. Armstrong 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 seven months before his death. God was giving him insight into the Laodicean era when 95 percent of the Church would rebel 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 epistle is for the Laodicean era. Most of God’s people have turned away from God, and they don’t understand their calling to be teachers, nor do they want to! They let their human nature lead them, and they want to be 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 worldneedsteachers 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 hope in your life. Get a grip on it. There is no reason for us to go 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 so deeply 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 awayfrom 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 verySpirit 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 time period. 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” (verse 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 faithfulthe 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, the faith flowing from the Spirit of God.
Yes, Paul ended up being martyred by the evil maniac Nero. But he was happy to submit to 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 by Paul.