Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Jesus Agenda Continues in Hebrews

The book of Hebrews shows us how the work of Christ in his earthly ministry continues both in the heavenlies and on earth as Jesus continues to be our leader, Apostle, and high priest.

The Constant Choice in Hebrews

The first readers of Hebrews faced a choice on every page of this letter. Would they embrace and remain loyal to the long-awaited New Covenant of Messiah Jesus? Or would they try to return to the Old Covenant as understood by Second-Temple Judaism?

The person and work of Jesus continually prove to be superior to anything that came before. Therefore, the choice was between the stem and the flower, the promise and the fulfillment, the shadow and the substance. The old sacrificial system was ineffective and becoming obsolete—about to pass from history forever! The final and all-encompassing sacrifice of Jesus now canceled-out and replaced the old order.

The long-awaited and eschatological Messianic Kingdom has come, as evidenced by the following phrases and remarks:

  • God is speaking to us “... in these last days ...” (1:2)
  • “... the world to come ...” has been subjected to Jesus. (2:5)
  • “But we see Jesus ... now crowned with glory and honor.” (2:9
  • “... we are his house ...” (3:6) cf. Acts 15:13-19 NLT
  • We have entered (or can enter) God's Sabbath-rest ... today. (4:3-7)
  • Some have “tasted the powers of ... the coming age.” (6:5)
  • Jewish ritual and ceremonial matters are now obsolete, having applied only until the time of “the new order.” (9:10)
  • Jesus is now mediating the promised New Covenant. (9:15)
  • Jesus “has appeared once for all at the end of the ages/culmination of the ages.” (9:26)
  • Yet we increasingly “see the Day approaching.” (10:25)
We have now come to:

  • Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem
  • thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly
  • the assembly/church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven
  • God, the Judge of all
  • the spirits of the righteous made perfect (past tense)
  • Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant
  • the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (12:22-24)
  • “We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (12:28)
  • Yet, “we are looking for the city that is to come.” (13:14)

The constant question to the Hebrews is simply this: Will you enter into this current reality or will you “fall away” by attempting to go back to the old order?

To “go back” has the same effect as to return to sin without a means of atonement, or to “shrink back” (10:38-39). Those who do so forfeit the protection of the Messiah and his Kingdom because they seek shelter in a system that is no longer there and was never meant to perfect them or protect them, anyway!