Better Than The Work of Levitical Priests (Part 3)

The work of Jesus is superior to the work done by Levitical priests.  This is set forth in three chapters (Hebrews 8-10).  In this writing, we will consider Hebrews chapter ten.

1.  Shadow v. Very Image

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year” (Hebrews 10:1-3). 

Two words are contrasted: (1) The law (of Moses) is described as a “shadow” of the good things to come.  Vine’s says of the word “shadow” (skia): “a shadow caused by the interception of light… of the image or outline cast by an object.”  “The good things to come” refers to Christ’s ministry as High Priest (the New Covenant System), and what would be accomplished through Him (cf. Hebrews 2:5-ff; 9:11-ff).  (2) The very image is Christ and His New Covenant ministry.  Vine’s says of the word “image” (eikon): “Hebrews 10:1, negatively of the Law… i.e. not the essential and substantial form… the contrast has been likened to the difference between a statue and the shadow cast by it.” 

The annual sacrifices never ceased according to the law (cf. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16; Leviticus 23:27,29; Numbers 29:7,11).  There was no once for all sacrifice.  Tom Wacaster comments, “Ere the blood was poured out on the ground the Jew would know that this innocent animal would not be the last” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).  They were reminded year by year that man had a sin problem that never seemed to go away.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin” (Hebrews 10:4). 

God required animal sacrifices.  They were a condition for forgiveness under the Law of Moses.  However, the writer states that animal sacrifices were not the basis for forgiveness.  The basis in His plan was Christ.  Kevin Rhodes comments, “These sacrifices fulfilled their purpose but only as they fit into God’s overall purpose.  Standing alone, they could never have provided for the cleansing of sin’ therefore, they offered forgiveness that was prospective, looking toward the time in which someone could offer a sacrifice that they fulfilled what they themselves could do” (ed. Devin Dean, Studies in Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series). 

2.  God’s Will

Previously saying, ‘sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in their (which are offered according to the law)” (Hebrews 10:8). 

This is a quotation from Psalm 40:6.  It is a Messianic Psalm.  Adam Clarke comments on the Psalm, “It is remarkable that all the offerings and sacrifices which were considered to be of cleansing nature, offered under the law, are here enumerated by the psalmist and the apostle to show that none of them, nor all of them could take away sin” (Vol. 3, p. 350). 

Then He said, ‘Behold I have come to do Your will O God.’  He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10).

Verse nine continues quoting the same Psalm.  This time Psalm 40:7-8.  Jesus came to do the will of the Father (cf. Matthew 26:39; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).  In doing the will of the Father two things are stated as being accomplished: (1) The covenant was changed.  The first covenant (the Law of Moses) was taken away (cf. Colossians 2:14).  The second covenant (the New Covenant) was established (cf. Hebrews 9:15-22).  (2) Christians had been sanctified (cf. Hebrews 2:11; 9:13-14; 10:10; 10:14; 10:28-29; 13:10-12; John 17:17; Ephesians 5:25-26).  His offering is once for all (cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 9:24-26; 10:11-12). 

3.  Daily v. Once

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins.  But this Man after He offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).

Like the annual sacrifices, mentioned earlier (Hebrews 10:1-4), the daily sacrifices (Hebrews 10:11) never ceased.  Christ sacrifice was superior to any sacrifices under the…  Old Covenant.  It was (is) once for all.  

4.  Invitation

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus… through the veil, that is, His flesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkling from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

We have access into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19 cf. 4:16).  It is through Christ that this is possible (cf. John 14:6).

Those who draw near are to: (1) Have a sincere faith.  Notice: “With a true heart in full assurance of faith.”  (2) Have their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.  “Sprinkling” in the book of Hebrews refers to the sprinkling of blood (cf. Hebrews 9:13-14; 9:19-22; 11:28; 12:24).  The blood of Christ must be applied.  (3) Have their bodies washed.  This refers to baptism (cf. Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26).  Why is it referred to as pure water?  Here are two suggestions.  Some think it is so called because of the water’s purifying effect.  Others have suggested it means unmixed.  The waters of purification under the law was mixed with the ashes of animals (Numbers 19:1-22). 

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than the Work of Levitical Priests (Part 2)

The work of Jesus is superior to the work done by Levitical priests.  This is set forth in three chapters (Hebrews 8-10).  In this writing, we will consider Hebrews chapter nine.

1.  Earthly Sanctuary

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary” (Hebrews 9:1). 

The first covenant had ordinances of divine service.  The people were not left to themselves to decide how to worship and serve God.  There were ordinances. 

The first covenant provided ordinances for an earthly sanctuary, or tabernacle, and how things were to be done in it (Exodus 25:8-9, ff).  This tabernacle was prepared (Hebrews 9:2 cf. Exodus 26:40; Exodus 40:16-38).

2.  Earthly Service

Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.  But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance” (Hebrews 9:6-7).      

There were two parts of the Tabernacle (and also later the Temple).  (1) The first part was known as the Holy Place (Exodus 26:33b-35).  There was daily and weekly work to be done in this place.  There were: lamps to be kept burning (Exodus 27:20-21; 30:8; Leviticus 24:1-4); Incense to be burned (Exodus 30:1-8); Showbread to be set out (Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-9); and daily sacrifices to be made (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8); (2) The second part was known as the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:33b-35).  This place represented the dwelling place of God [Consider: (a) Exodus 25:22 cf. 26:34; (b) Exodus 25:22 cf. 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Isaiah 37:16; (c) Leviticus 4:5-6; 4:16-18; 16:2 cf. 16:12-13, etc.] There was only one day anyone was allowed to enter this place (Leviticus 16:2 cf. 16:27-28; Numbers 29:7-11).  This was The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).  There was only one who was allowed to enter on this day, and he was the high priest (Leviticus 16:3, 17, 32) [Note: It seems that he entered more than once on this day (a) Leviticus 16:12-13; (b) Leviticus 16:14; (c) Leviticus 16:15].

the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing” (Hebrews 9:8).

The word “tabernacle”  is being used to represent the whole of the Mosaic system (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).  The common Jew did not have access into the Most Holy Place under the Mosaic system.

However, now it is different.  We can now enter into God’s presence by the blood of Jesus, and through the veil of His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20). 

It was symbolic for the present time… until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:9-10).

The Tabernacle and priestly work associated with it were symbolic (parabole, a parable).  They were “the copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5 cf. 10:1; Colossians 2:16-17).  Here are a few examples: The sacrifice of animals was a type of the sacrifice of Jesus (cf. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19-20).  The Most Holy Place is a type of heaven (cf. Hebrews 4:14; 6:19-20; 9:11-12, 24).  The Holy place is a type of the church on earth (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5). 

The gifts and sacrifices offered under the Mosaic system did not bring perfection (Hebrews 9:9 cf. 6:1; 7:11; 7:19; 10:1-2).  There was no once for all sacrifice for sin.

There were many fleshly ordinances under the Mosaic system.  There were clean and unclean foods, sacrificial foods and drink offerings, and various washings (Hebrews 9:10 cf. 13:9).  These things were until the time of reformation. Vincent comments, “’The time of reformation’ is the Christian age, when God made his people a better covenant” (Marvin R. Vincent, Vincent’s Studies, studylight.org). Robertson comments, “Definite statement of the temporary nature of the Levitical system already stated in Hebrews 7:10-17; Hebrews 8:13; and argued clearly by Paul in Galatians 3:15-22… Christianity itself is the great reformation” (A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures, studylight.org).

3.  Heavenly Sanctuary

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11).

The words “not made with hands” is a phrase which appears several times in the Bible (e.g. Daniel 2:34; 2:45; 8:25; Colossians 2:11-12).  This means that this tabernacle was not built by men’s hands (cf. Hebrews 8:2; 9:11-12; 9:23-24; Acts 7:48; 17:24). 

4.  Heavenly Service

Not with the blood of goat and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

Christ has offered a superior sacrifice.  It was (is) a once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:12).  It does not need to be repeated year after year (Hebrews 9:25-28).

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, not to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24). 

Tom Wacaster comments, “Being of the tribe of Judah, not Levi, our Lord never once entered into that earthly tabernacle.  But He has entered into that heavenly tabernacle into the very presence of God” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).  He entered into heaven itself, not into the earthly symbolic representation of heaven.

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than The Work of Levitical Priests (Part 1)

The work of Jesus is superior to the work done by Levitical Priests.  This is set forth in three chapters (Hebrews 8-10).  In this writing, we will consider Hebrews chapter eight.

1.  Two Tabernacles

We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1).

We have a High Priest.  The reference is to Jesus (cf. Hebrews 4:14; 5:5-6).  He is described as “such” a High Priest.  The meaning is that He is the Perfect High Priest (cf. Hebrews 7:25-26).   He is seated on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.  He is on the right hand of the Father (cf. Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).  He is near to the source of grace (Hebrews 8:1 cf. 4:16), interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25). 

a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (Hebrews 8:2).

Two tabernacles are in view.  (1) The tabernacle in which the Levitical priests served was erected by man (Hebrews 8:2 cf. Exodus 40), and made with hands (Hebrews 9:11, 24 cf. Exodus 31, 36-39).  (2) The Tabernacle in which Jesus serves was not erected by man (Hebrews 8:2), or make with hands (Hebrews 9:11, 24).  It was erected by the Lord (Hebrews 8:2).  This is the “true” tabernacle {“True” is used here of superior or substantial [e.g. true light (John 6:31-35); true vine (John 15:1); true holy place (Hebrews 9:24)] Wayne Jackson says “The ‘true’ is that which the symbolic copy represented” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary)}.

What is the true tabernacle?  The tabernacle of old had two compartments.  (a) The Most Holy Place represented Heaven or God’s dwelling place (Hebrews 9:7 cf. 9:11-12).  Jesus does not serve in an earthly tent which represents heaven.  He serves in heaven.  (b) The Holy Place appears to represent the church.  The items found in the Holy Place are identified with the church.  The offering of incense is connected with the prayers of the saints (Exodus 30:6-9 cf. Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).  The seven lamps are connected with the light given off by the church (Exodus 25:31-40; 27:20-21 cf. Revelation 1:12, 20).  The showbread many have inferred to be connected with the Lord’s Supper (Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-9 cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26).  We are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). 

The things pertaining to the tabernacle erected by man were but “the copy and shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5; 9:9, 23, 24; 10:1).  Wayne Jackson comments, “Why would one wish to cling to the copy and reject the heavenly reality?  Yet that was what the Judaizers were doing” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary).

2.  Two offerings

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices.  Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer” (Hebrews 8:3 cf. 5:1). 

One of the most basic functions of high priest is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God for the sins of the people (cf. Hebrews 5:1).  [Robert Milligan comments, “The word ‘gifts’ (dora) and sacrifices’ (thusias) are sometimes used interchangeably, as in Genesis 4:3-5.  But when contracted… the former is used of bloodless offerings, and the latter for such as required the life of the victim” (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews)].  (1) Levitical priests offered gifts and sacrifices for sins (cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:9; 10:1-4; 10:11).  (2) Our High Priest also had something to offer (Hebrews 8:3).  It was an offering which did not need to be repeated.  It was a once for all sacrifice, unlike the Levitical offerings (cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 23-28; 10:11-12).  

3.  Two Covenants

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was founded on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

Two covenants are in view.  (1) Moses dedicated the first covenant with the blood of animals (Hebrews 9:18-22 cf. Exodus 24:1-7; 29:19-21).  (2) Jesus is “the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death” (Hebrews 9:15).  He dedicated this covenant with His own blood (cf. Matthew 26:28).  This covenant was prophesied (Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:15-18 cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).  It is a better covenant.  Under it sins would be remembered no more (Hebrews 8:12 cf. 10:1-4; 10:17, 18).  It was founded on better promises.  While the first covenant focused on a land promise and an earthly rest, this covenant focuses on a rest to come and eternal life (cf. Hebrews 3:16-4:11; 9:15).  Tim Ayers writes, “The promises of the Old Covenant were primarily physical and earthly in nature, although it did include spiritual promises as well… The promises of the New Covenant are better because they are pre-eminently spiritual in nature” (ed. Devin W. Dean, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series, Studies in Hebrews).  Moreover, many promises are only possible because of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9:6-8; 10:19-20; 11:35-40).

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Levitical/Aaronic Priesthood (Part 4)

Jesus’ priesthood is more comparable to that of Melchizedek’s than it is to the priesthood of the Levites.  This point is developed in three chapters (Hebrews 5:5-6, 10-11; 6:19-20; 7:1-28).  In this writing, we will continue to consider Hebrews chapter seven.

1.  Another Priest

And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest” (Hebrews 7:15).

“It is yet far more evident” (Hebrews 7:15 cf. 7:14).  The scriptures foretold of one who would come in the likeness of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).

“There arises another priest” (Hebrews 7:15).  The word “another” is heteros, “another of a different kind.”

Who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16).

The Levitical priests, serving under the Law of Moses, became priests by fleshly commandment.  Kevin Berry comments, “Their appointment was made, not on account of any superior excellence on their part, but solely on the ground of carnal descent.  The Law of Moses prescribed the conditions” (ed. Devin W. Dean, Studies in Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series). 

However, Jesus was made a priest in a much more dramatic way.  He was made a priest according to the power of an endless life (cf. Hebrews 7:16).  He arose from the dead to die no more (cf. Hebrews 7:23-25). 

For He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 7:17 cf. Psalm 110:4). The word “forever” indicates that Jesus’ position as High Priest was to be an enduring one.  It is according to the power of an endless life (cf. Hebrews 7:16).

[Note: The word “forever” does not necessarily, literally mean “forever”; that is eternal.  It can mean “age-lasting” (cf. Exodus 40:15; Numbers 25:10-13).  Jesus would personally serve as intercessor through the Christian dispensation.  This intercessory role may not be needed in the future heavenly existence (cf. Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:24-25)].   

And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priest without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: ‘The LORD has sworn and will not relent ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Mechizedek’), by so much more Jesus has been become surety of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:20-22). 

This was never said of the Levitical priesthood.  However, it was said of Jesus’ priesthood (Hebrews 7:21 cf. Psalm 110:4).  Jesus’ priesthood would not change or be replaced. 

Jesus’ priesthood implies a change in the law (Hebrews 7:11-14).  This change was needed to bring us to perfection (Hebrews 7:11, 19).  We have a better covenant, with better promises, and a better hope (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 7:19).  Jesus Himself is the surety of these things (cf. Romans 1:4). 

2.  Power of New Priesthood

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who came to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25).

Levitical priests died.  Aaron was replaced by Eleazar, and Eleazer by Phinehas (Numbers 20:21-29; Joshua 24:33 cf. Judges 20:27-28).  There were 81 High Priests who had served by 70 A.D. (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 268). 

Kings also came and went.  Judah had a few good kings.  Most were bad.  Progress that good kings had made was sometimes halted or reversed by the next in line (cf. Psalm 146:3-4; Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). 

However Jesus’ work will not be interrupted by physical death.  Therefore, He is able to save to the uttermost.  J.E. Wright comments, “Salvation to the uttermost does not mean a temporary or partial forgiveness, but absolute pardon forever” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).  He will see this work to its ultimate completion. 

3.  Character

For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless (innocent – NASB, ESV), undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).

Five things are said of Him: (1) He is holy.  He is perfect in His devotion to God.  He is without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15).  (2) He is harmless.  Some take this to be nearly synonymous with the previous point.  Some versions translate the original word “innocent.”  Others take this to mean that He is harmless toward us.  He is without malice or ill will (cf. Hebrews 7:25).  The original word is akakos.  It means “without evil (or harm).”  Either interpretation is possible.  However, since this word is sandwiched between “holy” and “undefiled,” the first position seems more likely.  (3) He is undefiled.  He is pure, free from contamination (cf. Hebrews 13:4; James 1:27;  1 Peter 1:4).  He is without spot or blemish (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19).  (4) He is separate from sinners.  Some take this to be nearly synonymous with the previous three points.  Other take this to be nearly synonymous with the last point, which comes next.  That is He is in heaven (cf. Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).  (5) He is higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:26 e cf. 4:14).  He ascended far above all the heavens (Ephesians 4:10).  He is positioned “far above all principality and power and might and dominion” (Ephesians 1:20-21).

4.  Different

Who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:27).

The sacrificial work of the Levitical priests under the law of Moses never ended.  It was a daily recurring task (Exodus 29:38-46; Numbers 28:1-10; Hebrews 7:27; 10:11-12).

Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10).  It needs not to be repeated. 

Further, Jesus did not need to make sacrifice for Himself, as the priests of old.  He was (is) without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever” (Hebrews 7:28).

This is a summary of what has been said.  The Levitical priests and Jesus are being contrasted. 

The Levitical priests had weakness.  What is the weakness in context?  Some believe that it is spiritual weakness.  They sinned, as others did (cf. Hebrews 7:26-27).  Others believe that it is physical weakness or limitation.  They died (Hebrews 7:23).  This position seems more likely to me.  “Weakness” is placed in contrast with “perfected forever.”  “Forever” in context is contrasted with “death” (Hebrews 7:23-24).  The word “perfected” refers to Jesus being made qualified to be a merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:10 cf. 2:17-18; 4:15-16; 5:8-9).

Jesus is different.  He is without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  He is holy, harmless, undefiled (Hebrews 7:27).  Moreover, He always lives to make intercession (Hebrews 7:25).  He is the perfect High Priest (Hebrews 2:10, 17-18; 4:14-16; 5:8-9; 7:28). 

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Levitical/Aaronic Priesthood (Part 3)

Jesus’ priesthood is more comparable to that of Melchizedek’s than it is to the priesthood which existed under the law of Moses.  It was prophesied that He would be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4 cf. Hebrews 5:6, 10; 7:17, 21).

In this writing, we will consider Hebrews chapter seven.  Chapter seven continues the reasoning from Melchizedek which started in chapter five.  This flow of reasoning was interrupted for a warning (Hebrews 5:11-6:20; Tom Wacaster lists five sections of warning in this book (2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11-6:20; 10:26-31; 12:25-29, Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews). 

1.  Character

Melchizedek, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God… first being translated ‘King of righteousness,’ and then also King of Salem, meaning ‘King of Peace’” (Hebrews 7:1-2).

Melchizedek is being used as a type of Christ.  (1) The name “Melchizedek” means “King of righteousness.”  Jesus is described as righteous (e.g. 1 John 2:1).  He reigns in righteousness (e.g. Isaiah 32:1; 42:1-4 cf. Matthew 12:15-21; Isaiah 62:1-2).  He will judge, righteously (e.g. Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 19:11).  (2) Salem is another name for Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 76:2).  It means “peace.”  Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). 

2.  Predecessor and Successor

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but make like the Son of God, remains a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3).    The Bible is silent when it comes to certain things about Melchizedek.  It does not speak of a predecessor or a successor to him. It does not speak of his beginning of life, nor his end (cf. Aaron, Numbers 20:22-29). So far as the Biblical record is concerned, he continues as priest.  This silence makes him a better type of Christ, than Aaron. 

The words are difficult to modern readers.  Here is what some commentators have said.  1. Robert Milligan, “The Greeks and Romans were wont to apply the epithets ‘without father’ (apater) and ‘without mother’ (ametor),  (1) to their gods; (2) to orphans; and (3) to persons of unknown or obscure parentage.  Thus, for instance, Livy says of Servius Tullius that ‘he was born of no father’ (Lib. iv. 3).  So also, the Jews were accustomed to use the terms of  persons, the names of whose parents were not given in the Holy Scriptures or in their genealogies.  Philo, for example, speaking of Sarah, the wife of Abraham says, ‘She is said not to have had a mother, having received the inheritance of relationship from her father only” (De Ebriet section 14): meaning that her mother’s name is not found in the sacred record” (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews).  2. Adam Clarke, “This sort of phraseology was not uncommon when the genealogy of a person was unknown or obscure; so Seneca in his 108th epistle, speaking of some Roman kings says… ‘of the mother of Servius Tullius there are doubts; and Ancus Marcus is said to have no father.’  This only signifies that the parents were either unknown or obscure.  Titus Livius speaking of Servius says he was born of a slave named Cornicularia… of no father” (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary).  3.  Wayne Jackson quoting from A.H. Sayce, “Several of Tell el-Amarna tablets are letters written to the Pharaoh by Ebed-tob… the King of Uru-Salim… He tells the Pharaoh that he was not like the other Egyptian governors in Palestine, ‘nor had he received his crown by inheritance from his father or mother; it had been conferred on him by ‘the Mighty King’” (Wayne Jackson, Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology, p. 25).  Wayne Jackson concludes, “He was ‘without genealogy’ not literally, but with reference to his kingly-priestly functions.  His priesthood was not determined by a physical genealogy nor was his office limited by a set number of years… rather it is described as ‘without beginning or end’ i.e., it had no ‘term limit’” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary). 

3.  Blessing and Tithes

New beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Hebrews 7:7).

Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek (Genesis 14:19-20).  The type of blessing under consideration is from the greater.  Isaac blessed Jacob (Genesis 27:30).  Jesus blessed the apostles (Luke 24:50-51).    

Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him” (Hebrews 7:9-10).

Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20).  This means that Abraham recognized the legitimacy of Melchizedek’s role as priest.  The lesson to be gleaned is that God can set up a priesthood separate from the tribe of Levi.

Moreover, when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, it is as if the Levites did as well.  They descended through Abraham, and there is nothing in their nature to distinguish them from Abraham (as Jesus could be). 

4.  Perfection

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood… what further need was there that another should rise according to the order of Melchizedek and not according to the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11).

There must be a reason for the priesthood of Jesus.  Why did the LORD foretell of one who would come according to the order of Melchizedek? (Psalm 110).  [It is worth pointing out that “another” in Hebrews 7:11 is heteron meaning “another of a different kind”]. 

The implied reason is that perfection was not offered through the Levitical priesthood.  The term “perfection” refers to “the full consummation of God’s benevolent design and purposes in reference to the redemption of mankind” (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews).  It has to do with man being able to draw near to God, as God had planned (Hebrews 7:11).  The word “perfect” or “perfection” is significant in this book (Hebrews 6:1; 7:11; 7:19; 9:9; 10:1-2). 

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Phrase Study, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Levitical/Aaronic Priesthood (Part 2)

Christ is a better priest than ever existed under the law of Moses.  His office is better (Hebrews 4:14-7:28).  His work is better (Hebrews 8:1-10:31).

Let’s continue the comparison of office.  This time, we will consider Hebrews chapter five.

1.  Similarity

And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4).

There had been usurpers in Israelite history.  The list includes: Korah (Numbers 16-17); Saul (1 Samuel 13); Jeroboam’s priests (1 Kings 12:31); and Uzzah (2 Chronicles 26:16-ff).  None of these were accepted by God as priest.

However, legitimate priests were appointed by God.  Aaron was appointed to this office (Exodus 28-29; 39-40; Leviticus 8; Numbers 16:5; 17:5; 18:1-ff), as were those who followed in this office (Numbers 20:23-ff; 25:10-ff).

So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest” (Hebrews 5:5).

It is affirmed that Jesus was appointed to this role by God.  The writer references the prophetic word as evidence (v. 5 cf. Psalm 2:7; v. 6 cf. Psalm 110:4). 

2.  Difference

“…but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’” (Hebrews 5:5 cf. Psalm 2:7).

This passage has been quoted earlier in this book (Hebrews 1:5).  The reference has to do with Jesus’ coronation as King (Psalm 2:6-12), following His resurrection and ascension (Acts 13:33 cf. Daniel 7:13-14).  He did not usurp this role.  He was appointed to this role by God.

But, what does this have to do with Him being High Priest?  Let’s read on to the next verse. 

As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:6 cf. Psalm 110:4).

This Psalm is quoted or referenced in several other places in this book (Hebrews 1:13; 5:10; 6:20; 7:17; 7:21; 10:12-13).  It concerns Jesus’ role as both King and Priest (Psalm 110; see also Zechariah 6:12-13).  He occupies both roles (Hebrews 5:5-6), as did Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1).

No Levitical priest ever did so.  The priests were from the tribe of Levi (Hebrews 7:11-14; Exodus 28:1-4 cf. 4:14 cf. 2:1-10).  The kings, descending from David, were from the tribe of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:1-16 cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-17; book of 2 Chronicles; Matthew 1:1-17).  The Old Testament lists 41 kings of Israel and Judah (3 under united kingdom; 19 under Israel, northern kingdom; 19 under Judah, southern kingdom).  Not one served as priest with God’s approval.  Robert Milligan suggests that there were 81 High Priests who had served before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 268).  Not one served as king with God’s approval.  He did not entrust both positions to one person.

However, Jesus is different.  He functions as both King and Priest.  God entrusted both positions to Jesus.

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Levitical / Aaronic Priesthood (Part 1)

Christ is a better priest than ever existed under the law of Moses.  His office is better (Hebrews 4:14-7:28).  His work is better (Hebrews 8:1-10:31). 

Let’s consider the comparison of office, as set forth in Hebrews Chapter four and five.

1.  Great High Priest

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). 

Jesus was referred to as High Priest in Hebrews 3:1.  The writer now returns to this point, and expands on it. 

This High Priest is said to have passed through the heavens.  He is not currently on earth (Hebrews 8:13).  He is seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1 cf. 1:3; 1:13; 10:12; 12:2).

He is described as, not only High Priest, but also, “the Son of God.”  He is the Messiah (cf. Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Matthew 26:26; Luke 23:35; cf. Matthew 27:39-43; Acts 9:20 cf. 9:22).  He is King (Hebrews 1:5 cf. Psalm 2:6-12; 2 Samuel 7:14). 

The writer exhorts, “let us hold fast.”  This exhortation is made more than once (Hebrews 3:6; 3:14; 4:14; 10:23).  The recipients of this epistle had confessed their belief in Jesus (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 10:23).  They needed to hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14).

2.  Sympathy

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). 

Jesus is not now on earth, but He knows what it is like to live life on earth as a man.  He faced the same temptations that we do (Hebrews 4:15 cf. e.g. Matthew 4:1-11).  He experienced the same physical needs and limitations that we do (Matthew 4:2; John 4:6-7; Mark 4:38; Luke 23:26; John 19:28).  He experienced sorrow and grief, as we do (Isaiah 53:3).  He even tasted death, as men do (Hebrews 2:9).

3.  Mercy and Grace

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“Therefore” means that these words flow from the previous thought.  The previous thought is that Jesus is a great and sympathetic High Priest (cf. Hebrews 4:14-15).

Christians are encouraged to “boldly” approach God through Jesus, their High Priest. The throne of grace is the throne of the Majesty (Hebrews 4:16 cf. 8:1).  The word “boldly” (parrhesia) is from pas=all and rhesia=speak, lit. all speak.  The original word is translated in a variety of ways in the NKJV: openly (e.g. Mark 8:32; John 7:13); plainly (e.g. John 10:24; 11:14); freely (Acts 2:29); boldly (e.g. Ephesians 6:19; Hebrews 4:16); boldness (e.g. Acts 4:13; 10:19); confidence (e.g. Acts 28:31; Hebrews 3:6; 10:35).  The original word appears four times in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:6; 4:16; 10:19; 10:35).  The original word is defined to mean “outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech that conceals nothing and passes over nothing… openness to the public… courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness esp. in the presence of persons of high rank” (BAGD).

It seems that Jesus’ ability and willingness to intercede has much to do with His ability to sympathize with man.  Here, it says “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are… Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:14-15).  Earlier, it said, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest… for in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).  These two passages are very closely related in thought.

4.  Similarities

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness” (Hebrews 5:1-2).

There are similarities which may be inferred from these words.  (1) The high priests, under the Law of Moses, were taken from among men (Hebrews 5:1 cf. Exodus 40:13-15; Leviticus 21:10).  Jesus shared in flesh and blood (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18).  (2) The high priests were appointed for men (Hebrews 5:1 cf. Leviticus 9:7).  Jesus makes intercession for men (Hebrews 7:25).  (3) The high priests were to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 5:1; 8:3). [Robert Milligan comments, “The words ‘gifts’ (dora) and ‘sacrifices’ (thusias) are sometimes used interchangeably, as in Gen. 4:3-5. But when contrasted, as they are in this case, and also in 8:3; 9:9, the former is used of bloodless offerings, and the latter for such as required the life of the victim” (A Commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews). Tom Wacaster comments, “The ‘gifts’ refer to the bloodless offerings, while the ‘sacrifices’ speak of the multitudinous blood sacrifices” (Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews)]  Jesus likewise offered sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 8:3; 9:11-12; 9:24-26; 10:12, 14).  (4) The high priests could have compassion on the people because they had the same weaknesses as the people (Hebrews 5:2).  Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, since He was tempted in all points as we are (Hebrews 4:15). 

5.  Difference

Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5:3).

The priest of old sinned.  Aaron did before being appointed high priest (Exodus 32:21-ff).  Aaron did after being appointed high priest (Numbers 12:1-2, 9-11).  The priests made sacrifice for their own sins (e.g. Leviticus 9:7-8; cf. Leviticus 4:2-12).

However, the writer has already said of Jesus that He “was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  He shared in man’s weakness, but did not succumb to sin.  He is our ultimate example (John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21-22; 1 John 3:16, etc.).  He is a better High Priest.

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Joshua

Israel had some great leaders in their past, men such as Moses and Joshua. Moses led them to the edge of the promised land.  Joshua led them into the promised land.

However, Jesus is so much better.  Let’s consider how this point is made in Hebrews chapter four. 

1.  Fear

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). 

The “rest” mentioned refers to a rest to come.  It is introduced without explanation.  Albert Barnes comments, “There can be no doubt that Paul refers here to heaven” (Barnes Notes).

“Therefore” points us back to the previous chapter.  Christians are exhorted to hold fast (3:6).  Moreover, we are reminded that many Israelites did not enter into the rest offered them because of sin, disobedience and unbelief (3:7-19).  Adam Clarke comments, “What the apostle had said before, relative to the rest, might be considered an allegory… Canaan was a type of grand privileges of the Gospel of Christ, and of the glorious eternity to which they lead” (Clarke Commentary). 

Fear is advised.  “Beware” was the earlier warning (3:12).  The writer is cautioning that the Christian life is not to be taken lightly.

The words “seem to come short of it” in no way suggests that one only appears to come short, but does not actually come short.  The original word can mean “be recognized as being something” (BDAG); “be accounted” (Thayer).  The NIV reads, “be found to have fallen short of it.”  It is possible to fall short (cf. (Hebrews 4:11).

2.  Faith

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them, but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).

Good news was preached to them.  However, the message did not profit those, who fell short, because it was not mixed with faith.  Hearing alone will not produce the desired result (cf. Hebrews 11:7, 30; Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22).

 Good news has also been preached to us.  Obedient faith is needed. 

3.  Finished

So I swore in My wrath, ‘they shall not enter My rest’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3 cf. Psalm 95:11).

The point?  God did His part.  He created the land.  It was waiting for them.  However, they did not have the faith, which He required, to enter.  “It was not because Jehovah’s plan was ill-prepared; not at all, His plan was finished when the creation events were concluded on the initial week of earth’s history” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary).

The same is true today.  If we do not enter, it is not because God does not have a land for us to enter.  It will be because we did not supply the faith. 

4.  Good example, Bad example

And God rested on the seventh day from all His works” (Hebrews 4:4 cf. Genesis 2:2).

God completed what He set out to do in creation.  Tom Wacaster suggests, “When the Bible says that God ‘rested’ there is no indication that God was tired, or exhausted, from His labors.  The connotation is that God enjoyed the fruit of His labor” (Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).

They shall not enter My rest” (Hebrews 4:5 cf. Psalm 95:11). 

Many Israelites failed to complete what they set out to do.  They failed to enter the land of promise.  They were not able to enjoy the fruit of the completed work.

5.  Some Enter

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it…” (Hebrews 4:6).  The literal language is, “since therefore it remains for some to enter into it.”

Some Israelites did enter the land of promise (cf. Numbers 14:30-31; Joshua 1-3).  These found rest (Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 3:20 cf. Joshua 21:44; 22:4; 23:1).

Likewise, there remains a rest for God’s people.  Some will enter this rest. 

6.  Another Rest    

Again, He designates a certain day,  saying in David… ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts’” (Hebrews 4:7 cf. Psalm 95:7-8).

David, about five centuries after Moses, warned his generation not to repeat the mistakes of unbelieving Israel in Moses’ day.  Instead, they (and subsequent generations) should “promptly enter God’s rest whenever invited to do so” (Robert Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle of the Hebrews).  David gave this warning by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. Hebrews 3:7-8). 

Joshua did provide rest in the land of promise (cf. Joshua 21:44; 22;4; 23:1).  However, there must be another rest, which Joshua did not provide.  This may be inferred from David’s words.

Then, it is affirmed.  “There remains a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).  It is worth pointing out that the word translated “rest” here is different from that in previous verses.  It is Sabbatismos.  This word only appears here in the New Testament.  The ASV translates it “a Sabbath rest.”  Stan Crowley comments, “What is so distinctive about a ‘Sabbath rest’?  The answer is found in the next verse.  When one enters into the rest now under discussion, there is a complete cessation of work, just as God completely stopped His creative work on the Seventh day” (ed. Devin Dean,  Studies in Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series). 

 A word of clarification.  The KJV reads, “Jesus” instead of “Joshua.”  “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua.”  While the record is in Greek, the context is clear that this is speaking of Joshua, the Old Testament character.

7.  A Rest Like God’s

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did His” (Hebrews 4:10).

God completed what He set out to do in creation.  He ceased from this work.  However, the fruit of His labor continues, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

Let’s finish our work on earth, and enter into a rest like His.  Revelation 14:13 declares, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord… they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”  Charles H. Gabriel penned these words in a song “When all my labor and trials are o’er, And I am safe on that beautiful shore, Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, Will through the ages be glory for Me” (Song: Oh, That Will Be Glory by Charles H. Gabriel).

The land that we seek is better than what Joshua brought them.  The ancestors of Israel, we are told, “desired a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Hebrews 11:16 cf. 11:9-10).

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Moses

The book of Hebrews is designed to exalt Christ. The book may be outlined as follows: I. Christ is a better messenger than previous messengers of God (1:1 – 4:13). II. Christ is a better priest than the Levitical priests (4:14-7:28). III. Christ’s priestly work is a better work than the work in the tabernacle/temple of the Mosaic order (8:1-10:31). IV. Christians are exhorted to faithfulness (10:32-13:25).

Christ is a better messenger. He is better than the prophets, who spoke to the Hebrew fathers (1:1-1:4). He is better than the angels (1:1-2:18), who played a role in the giving of the law (2:1-3 cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). He is better than Moses (3:1-3:19). He is better than Joshua (4:1-4:13).

Let us consider the comparison of Jesus with Moses, as set forth in Hebrews chapter three

1. Similarities

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house” (Hebrews 3:1-2).

There are similarities which may be inferred from these words. (1) Jesus is referred to as Apostle. The word “apostle” means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (VIne’s). “One chosen and sent with a special commission as the fully authorized representative of the sender” (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary). Jesus was sent by God into the world for salvation (John 3:17; 4:34; 5:23, etc.). Moses was sent by God to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:9-10). (2) Jesus is referred to as High Priest; this point is developed later in this book (Hebrews 7-10, e.g. Hebrews 7:26-28; 8:1-3; 9:11-12; 10:11-13). Moses seems to have functioned in this role until the appointment of Aaron and his sons (Consider: Exodus 24:5-8; 29:10-14, 15-18, 19-25, 26-28. Aaron and his sons are appointed in Exodus 28-29).

Both are said to have been faithful in their appointed roles. Jesus prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:29). “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Moses was also a faithful steward (cf. Numbers 12:7). Yes, Moses had his shortcomings. However, “the tenor of his years of service was one of faithful trust in God” (Tom Wacaster).

2. More Glory

“For the One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house” (Hebrews 3:3).

What is the house? (1) Some believe that it refers to material creation. However, this does not seem to fit (cf. Hebrews 3:6). (2) Some believe that two houses are in view in this chapter. Israel is thought to be in view in Hebrews 3:3, 5. The church is thought to be in view in Hebrews 3:6. This is based on the words “His Own.” This we will see is a dubious translation. (3) Still others believe that this refers to God’s special people (whether in Old Testament or New Testament).

Let’s notice the comparison. First, let’s consider how Moses is described. Moses was the house (Hebrews 3:3); that is, he was a part of the house. He was a faithful servant in the house (Hebrews 3:5). The house did not belong to him, and he did not build it. Second, let’s consider how Jesus is described. He is the builder (Hebrews 3:3). But how? Moses lived long before Jesus was born into this world. However, remember that the writer has already presented Jesus as the means by which creation occurred (Hebrews 1:1-2 cf. Colossians 1:16; John 1:1-3). His existence did not begin with His conception or birth.

“For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).

The world “for” (gar) connects this verse with the thought in the previous verse. An effect implies an adequate cause. A design implies a designer. “The building of every house implies a chief architect” (Robert Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews).

God is the ultimate reason all things exist. He created the universe and all things therein (Hebrews 11:3 cf. Exodus 20:11). He is the ultimate reason that people exist, and that God’s special people exist.

Is Jesus referred to as “God” in this passage? It is difficult to tell from this verse alone. However, let us remember that He already has been referred to as LORD and Creator in this book (Hebrews 1:10-12 cf. Psalm 102:25-26). Robert Milligan believed that this referred to the entire Godhead. He wrote, “God himself (including the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) was the Supreme Architect” (Robert Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews).

3. Servant In His house vs. Son Over His House

“And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:5-6).

The comparison continues. First, let’s consider how Moses is described. He was a faithful servant (Hebrews 3:5 cf. Numbers 12:7). “His house” refers to God’s house (cf. Numbers 12:7). He served “for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward.” Marvin Vincent comments, “The meaning is that Moses, in his entire ministry, was but a testimony to what was to be spoken in the future by another greater than he. Comp. Deuteronomy 18:15 explained of Christ Acts 3:22-23” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Preston Silcox comments, “That is, he allowed his words and actions to point to thing beyond himself. These ‘things’ were Christ and His house – things far superior to Moses and the Old Testament economy!” (ed. Devin W. Dean, Studies In Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary series). Second, let’s consider how Jesus is described. He is a Son (Hebrews 3:6), heir of all things (cf. Hebrews 1:2). He is over lit. the house of him. Notice the comparison: servant vs. Son, In vs. Over.

Whose house is it in context? Some translations read “his own house” or “His own house,” understanding the house to belong to Jesus (e.g. KJV, NKJV, Douay). Some translations read “his house” or “His house” (e.g. ASV, NASB. The ASV footnotes this, “That is, God’s house”). Some translations read “God’s house” (e.g. NIV, ESV). The literal language is “the house of him.” This same pronoun was used in verse 2 and verse 5. It seems to refer to the house of God (cf. Hebrews 10:21-22).

Jesus is over the church (Ephesians 1:22). The church is the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15).

However, the church belongs to Jesus (Matthew 16:18). He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He is the God-man.

The writer exhorts them (and us) to hold fast (Hebrews 3:6 cf. 3:14, 4:14; 10:23). They were God’s special people, and would continue to be if they would hold fast. Confidence (faith) was needed (Hebrews 3:5 cf. 4:16; 6:11; 10:19; 10:35). Hope was needed (Hebrews 3:6 cf. 6:11; 6:18; 7:19; 10:23). It is interesting to note that the word “hold fast” (Katecho) was used nautically to mean “Make for, head for, steer for” (BAGD); “holding one’s course toward, bearing down for, Acts 27:40” (Vincent’s Word Studies). This may be saying that they needed to keep their course fixed on the confidence and hope they have had (Hebrews 3:6 cf. 10:23).

Posted in Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study, Type/Antitype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Than Angels

The word “better” appears 13 times in the book of Hebrews (1:4; 6:9; 7:7; 7:9; 7:22; 8:6; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16; 11:35; 11:40; 12:24).  The original word (Kreitton) is defined to mean “more prominent, higher in rank, preferable, better… more useful, more advantageous, better” (BDAG).

“When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:3-4). 

Jesus certainly existed in a pre-incarnate state.  It was through Him, that God made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1-2 cf. John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16).

Jesus existed in an incarnate state.  He was “made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9 cf. Hebrews 2:17; John 1:1, 14).  He shared in flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). 

However, the passage under consideration (Hebrews 1:4) refers to His state following the resurrection and ascension.  He is now highly exalted.  “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11). 

Let’s consider some contextual ways, from Hebrews chapter one and two, that Jesus is superior to the angels.

1.  Kingship

“For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My son, Today I have begotten you’?” (Hebrews 1:5 cf. Psalm 2:7).

It is true that angels are sometimes referred to as “sons of God” in scripture (e.g. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).  However, this is not the point.

The reference is to the coronation of Jesus as King (Psalm 2:6-12), which followed the resurrection and ascension (Acts 13:33 cf. Daniel 7:13-14).  The phrase “Son of God” had royal connotation for many nations of the Ancient Near East.  It was commonplace for Egyptian, Babylonian, Canaanite, and Roman rulers to be called ‘Son of God’” (Bromling, What Does it Mean to Say Jesus is “Son of God”?, apologeticspress.org).

“And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a son’?” Hebrews 1:5 cf. 2 Samuel 7:14).

The reference is to the kingship of Jesus through David (2 Samuel 7:14a cf. Hebrews 1:5; 2 Samuel 7:12 cf. Acts 2:29-30).  This prophecy was not fulfilled by angels. 

2.  Worship

“But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (Hebrews 1:6 cf. possible reference Psalm 97:7).

Jesus is referred to as “the firstborn.”  The term “firstborn” can be used of superiority of position, or rank (e.g. Psalm 89:27; Vine’s; see Jesus: A Created Being? By B.H.).

What does “again” mean?  (1) Is the first coming of Jesus in view?  Does “again” mean “on another occasion,” or “In another passage” (v. 5b cf. v. 6)?  (2) Is the second coming of Jesus in view? 

Whichever the case, angels are instructed to worship Him.  Mere angels are not to be worshipped (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).  John heard angels saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing!”  (Revelation 5:12).  John also heard every creature saying, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever, and ever!” (Revelation 5:18). 

3.  Comparison

“And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire’” (Hebrews 1:7 cf. Psalm 104:4).

Angels are ministers of God.  Albert Barnes comments, “They obey his will as the winds and lightenings do.  The object of the apostle is to show that the angels serve God in a ministerial capacity – as the winds do.”  They are “sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). 

“But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’” (Hebrews 1:8-9 cf. Psalm 45:6-7).

Jesus is not just a minister (though, He is that – Mark 10:45; Acts 10:38; Philippians 2:4-8; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2).  He reigns.  His reign is forever and ever (Hebrews 1:8 cf. Daniel 7:4; Luke 1:33).  He has been anointed more than His companions (Hebrews 1:9).  Meaning?  He is King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). 

4.  Creation

“And: ‘You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands’” (Hebrews 1:10-12 cf. Psalm 102:25-26).

The word “and” continues the testimony of God the Father of the Son.  Notice the flow of thought (v. 5a, v. 5b, v.6, v. 7-9, v. 10-12, v. 13).

Robert Milligan comments, “It seems to me, our author here applies to the Son language which, in its first intention, had reference to the entire Eloheem – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  The LORD (Jehovah), not angels, laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7). 

Do not miss the fact that Jesus is being called LORD (Jehovah).  This is language used only of the one true God (See also: Isaiah 8:13 cf. 1 Peter 3:15; Isaiah 40:3 cf. Matthew 3:3; Malachi 3:21 cf. Matthew 11:10; Isaiah 45:23-24 cf. Philippians 2:10 -11; Joel 2:32 cf. Romans 10:12-13 ).

Further, consider the language. First, notice the language used to describe the LORD (Hebrews 1:11-12).  Then, notice that similar language is later used in this same book to describe Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8).  This phenomenon is found in other passages as well (e.g. Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 20:12 cf. Revelation 2:23). 

5.  Footstool

“But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I will make Your enemies Your footstool’?” (Hebrews 1:13 cf. Psalm 110:1).

Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).  This is a position of authority (Acts 2:34-36).

One day, His enemies will be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1 cf. Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; Hebrews 1:13; 10:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26).  This is language of subjection or defeat (cf. 1 Kings 5:3; Psalm 47:3; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). 

6.  Subjection

“For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (Hebrews 2:5).

The word “for” connects these words with some previous thought.  The previous thought, in my opinion, is Hebrews 1:13-14.  Hebrews 2:1-4 may be considered a parenthetical warning (Tom Wacaster lists 5 of these parenthetical warnings in Hebrews – 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11-6:20; 10:26-31; 12:25-29, Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).

“The world to come” refers to the current reign of Christ (Hebrews 2:5 cf. 1:13-14).  Tom Wacaster comments that it refers to “the Christian dispensation” (Wacaster).  Robert Milligan comments that this refers to, “the habitable world under the reign and government of the Messiah” (Milligan).  “We see Jesus… crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9).

What does Jesus do for man?  (1) He tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).  This includes you.  This includes me.  (2) He made it possible for the bondage and fear of death to be removed (Hebrews 2:14-15).  “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).  (3) He is a merciful and faithful High Priest, who makes propitiation for the sins of people (Hebrews 2:17).  (4) He aids those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18). 

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). 

Posted in Angels, Hebrews, Jesus, Textual study | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments