Study of Hebrews
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Hebrews 1:1-3 – Christ, God’s Final Word

The Greek of Hebrews is very unlike Paul.  Therefore scholars say that linguistically it could not have been Paul who wrote the book.  So many people have been considered as the authors of Hebrews.  Besides Paul there is Timothy, Barnabas, some say it is Luke, some say Silas, some say Peter, some say Apollos and even some say it is Priscilla.  If it is Priscilla it is the only book written by a woman in the New Testament.

I will give you my opinion, I feel that Paul wrote it, but he did not write it in Greek.  He wrote it either in Aramaic or Hebrew because He was writing for the Jews.  It was translated possibly by Luke and we have lost the Hebrew manuscript and all we have is the Greek text.  By the way, Ellen White took the position that it is Paul who wrote the book.  No matter what position you take we must all agree that this is the inspired word of God.  That’s what counts.

The second thing I would like to say about the book concerns its destination.  To whom was it written? Even the title of the book tells us very clearly that it was written to the Jewish Christians.  Now there was quite a community of Jewish Christians in Rome and there was quite a community of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.  Many feel, and I think they are right, that it was primarily to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, but I’m sure that it included the Jewish Christians in general.

The next thing is the date and I think this is important.  We do not have the exact date but it was approximately between 64 A.D.  and 67 A.D. Now why is that date important? What took place in 70 A.D.? Jerusalem was destroyed, including the temple.  Remember that the temple to the Jews was everything.  It symbolized to the Jews the presence of God.  The destruction of the temple meant that God had departed from them.  If you have read Daniel nine you will know that Daniel’s prayer concerned the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem.  That meant that God’s favour was back on them.

If you go today to Jerusalem a portion of the wall is still existing. Do you know what they call it? The Wailing Wall.  Why? They cry that the temple may be rebuilt.  Now something else has been built over the rubble of the destroyed temple.  It is the Dome of the Rock, which is a Muslim mosque. For them to rebuild the temple on the original site of the temple of Jerusalem they would have to destroy the Dome of the Rock.  If they did that all hell would break loose.  The Arabs would never take that sitting down.  They think that rock upon which the Mosque is built is where Ishmael was offered by Abraham and the Jews and the Bible says that it was there that he offered Isaac.

So we have Abraham the father of the Jews as well as the father of the Arabs.  I think Abraham will shed many tears when he discovers in the kingdom what havoc he caused by not sticking to faith in God’s promise.

God, I believe, was preparing the Jews for the crisis.  Three to five years before the destruction of Jerusalem the book of Hebrews was written. The purpose of the book was to turn their eyes from the temple and the rituals to Christ.  We don’t know how soon but we are going to face a similar crisis.  And I believe that the book of Hebrews can be of tremendous meaning to us.  It will help us to turn our eyes from social security, from welfare, from the plastic card that can buy anything in America....

When we first came here it was in the middle of winter and my wife was freezing.  I was in the immigration office and she walked out; when she came back she was wearing boots.  She had no money and I knew that.  I said, “Where did you get that?”

“From the shop,” she replied.

“How much did you pay?”

“Nothing,” she said.  “I showed them this plastic card that you gave me.” It was a [department store] plastic card.

I said, “That was for emergencies.”

She said, “This was an emergency!”

I said, “Okay.”

If you look through the book of Hebrews, the theme therefore is that Jesus is the fulfilment of all that God had promised in the Old Testament. He is the reality.  Therefore, the key word in the book of Hebrews is, “better.” Christ is the “better” revelation as given in the first four verses of chapter one.  Christ is the “better” hope in chapter seven verse nineteen.  He is the “better” priesthood in chapter seven.  We will cover all of this in detail.  He is the “better” covenant and promise in chapter eight verse six.  He is the “better” sacrifice in chapter nine verse twenty-three.  He is the “better” possession in chapter ten verse thirty-four.  And He is the “better” resurrection in chapter eleven verse thirty-five.  So you see Christ is presented here as the “better” of all the types that were promised in the Old Testament. Christ is the anchor of the soul it says in chapter six, because He is “the better”

If you read the book of Hebrews you will not find it to be a theological book.  It is not a book that explains the rituals and the types of the Old Testament.  The main purpose is to present Christ as the total answer to every human need.  That’s the purpose of the book.  Jesus Christ is the answer to every human need.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still the only answer to every human need.  Therefore Hebrews is the clearest and most systematic presentation of Christ—His person, His earthly ministry, His heavenly mission and ministry.  In Hebrews, type and antitype are compared and contrasted.

Hebrews is the finest book if you want to study about the person of Jesus Christ.  You may say, “What of the gospels?” Well, the gospels are an historical account of the acts of Christ.  But in terms of the person, His earthly mission, and in terms of our redemption, His heavenly ministry, the book of Hebrews is the best book.  That is why we need to study the book of Hebrews because we need to know Jesus Christ.

There were two problems the Jewish Christians were facing.  Both of the problems can be related to our situation:

  1. The Jewish Christians were getting a bit discouraged because they were told that Christ was coming soon to establish the kingdom. And now thirty, thirty-five years later, He had not yet come.  We have been preaching for over one hundred years that Christ is coming and a lot of our young people are saying, “Where is His coming you have been promising us?” And so, many of the Jewish Christians were discouraged.  They were reverting back to Judaism.  That’s why Paul is trying to convince them.  “Please don’t go back, because you are taking a backward step.”

  2. The Jewish Christians were facing a lot of persecution. This was mainly from their fellow Jews because, of course, these Jews said, “You’re a traitor to the synagogue, you have left the truth” (i.e., Judaism).  We have a similar problem today in the Middle East.  When we baptize muslims in the Middle East we have to do that secretly, because our own fellow Christian Adventists will not accept that a muslim can be converted.  So that if a muslim becomes an Adventist Christian he is persecuted as a traitor not only by his former muslim brethren but by our own people. We were lucky if we can baptize three muslims in a year.  We were extra lucky if we could keep them for one year.  There is coming a time here in America when our own relatives and friends and people will persecute us. We need to have an anchor when that happens.  To go one step further, when a home breaks up, the ones that suffer most are the children.  They are pulled between two people.  Their security is gone and they need an anchor. Jesus said, “I will never forsake you.”

Going back to the Jewish Christians, we need to see the pressure they were under when the book of Hebrews was written.  They were going through what we would call today backsliding.  They were stopping church attendance. They were discouraged.  And that is why in the book of Hebrews you will read, “Please don’t forsake the assembling of the saints or the brethren.”

Let us now turn to Hebrews chapter one.  I am not going to rush through this book.  I know that in America we are always rushing.  Rush [downtown], rush back, rush here and there but I will not do it when I go to the Word of God.  The Bible is hidden treasure and you will not find the treasure unless you spend some time digging.  And that’s what we’re going to do here, we’re going to dig.

Let’s notice how the book of Hebrews begins.  We will read the first three verses.  We will be using the King James Version but will also refer to other translations.

God who at sundry (different) times and in divers (different) manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who, being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

I want you to look at two phrases in verses one and two.  The first one is “time past” and the second one is “last days.” These two phrases are used to divide the history of this world into two periods.  The “time past” is the Old Testament period.  God in time past spoke to our fathers or our ancestors through prophets.  You will discover that during this time all that God was doing was giving them the promise of a Messiah through the prophets.

So when you read the words “last days,” you must not project Adventist understanding of “last days.” What do we mean by “last days”? The words “last days” here refers to the New Testament period, in contrast to the Old Testament period, which is the reality.

In other words, in the Old Testament God spoke to us in different ways and in different manners through the prophets, giving us the promise through types.  But now in the last days, that is, since the coming of Christ, He no longer speaks through types and symbols but He speaks to us by His own Son.  So the book of Hebrews is saying that Christ is God’s final word to us.  God is not going to add anything more to Jesus Christ.  God’s final word to this human race is Jesus Christ.  The world needs to hear and see Jesus Christ.

Who is Jesus Christ? Number one it says He is His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things.  That means He’s the ruler of all things. Turn to Luke chapter four.  Here we look at a dialogue between Christ and Satan.  This is the temptation in the wilderness.  Luke 4:5,6:

And the devil, taking Him up into a high mountain showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world And the devil said unto Him, all this power [authority] will I give Thee and the glory of them for they are delivered unto me.

Now, in Hebrews I read that Jesus Christ was appointed heir; He received the authority over all things.  Who gave Him that authority? God.  Was the devil right in offering Christ the authority of the kingdom? What did Jesus call Satan? He called him the Prince of this World.  Christ said that.  Paul calls him in Corinthians the “Lord of this world.” So we need to know something here that is important.

When God created this world, for whom did He create it? For man. How do I know? Because Genesis one says, “Let man have dominion [authority].” But when Adam sinned and was taken into captivity by Satan, then Satan took over the authority of the world.  What did Christ come to this world for? He came to redeem us from under Satan’s authority.  Why did He come to redeem us from Satan’s authority? When Satan rules over you, what does he do to you? He is not concerned about you.  He will use you and when he is finished with you he will put you six feet under and keep you there.

Did Satan know that Christ was coming to redeem the world? Yes.  Who sent him here? God.  How could He redeem the world? By paying the price for our sins.  And Satan was offering Him an easy way: “all you have to do is bow down to me and I will give you the world.” Was Satan really being honest? He’s a liar.  Young people, when he promises you the world, don’t you ever believe him.  He’s a liar and the father of lies. Did God buy back the world? Yes.  When? At the cross.  After He rose from the dead, who was the first person to see Him? Mary.  And what did she do? She worshipped Him, but I’ll tell you, the English says, “Don’t touch me.” The Greek says, “Don’t hold onto me.”

She grabbed Him and said, “I am not letting you go.”

And young people, and my dear older folks, don’t you ever let go of Jesus Christ.  But Jesus said to her, “Mary, please don’t hold onto me.  I have not yet gone to my Father.”

Why did He have to go to the Father? Who sent Him here? The Father. And He had to have the approval that His sacrifice was accepted.  When He went up to the Father was His sacrifice accepted? How do we know? Because I read in Matt.  28:18: “All authority is given to Me.” God has given Him all authority to take us sinners to heaven.  “Therefore go into all the world and preach the gospel.” Tell them the good news that they are no longer under Satan.

As far as Christ is concerned, He has redeemed all people.  Never teach the doctrine of “limited atonement,” which is Calvinistic. That is that Christ only died for the elect, those whom God predetermined He would save.  The Bible says “God so loved the WORLD.” But because God is love, He will not force Himself upon anyone.  So we do have an opportunity to reject Him.

Will all mankind accept Christ? No.  There will be only two groups, those who have accepted and those who have rejected.  The Bible puts them in all kinds of categories—sheep and goats, right hand and left hand, the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven.  Please remember that the believers belong to Christ.  Therefore they are no longer truly citizens of this world.  We are citizens of heaven.  Here’s one text: 1 John 5:19. Notice how John divides the world into two categories:

And we know that we (the believers) we are of God and the whole world lies under the control of the evil one.

There is no such thing as a free person.  You are either under the control of God or under the control of Satan.  There are only two forces in this world.  Here is the problem: does Satan want you to accept Christ? Why not? If you do he will lose a citizen of his kingdom.  Misery loves company. He wants you to burn in the fire with him.

I was told a story by an Egyptian when I was working in Egypt.  It’s a Muslim story but applies to us as well.  There was a mason who was working on a building on the third story.  He slipped and fell right down.  Before he hit the ground Satan grabbed him and saved him.  The Arab said to him, “Boy, I was under the impression that you are a bad fellow.  How come you saved me?”

“Because I have something worse for you.”

Sometimes the Devil does that.  He may make life wonderful for you because he has something worse later on.  Let us go to 2 Cor.4:3.  The devil does not want you to accept Jesus Christ.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Now how does the Devil blind the eyes of the mind? By perverting the gospel.  The gospel is unconditional good news.  It is not good advice. Anyone who preaches the gospel as good advice is not preaching the gospel. What do I mean by “good advice”? If I tell Johnny, “If you study hard and get a good grade I’ll give you a bicycle.” Is that good news or is it good advice? It is good news if he follows the good advice, if he studies.  It is conditional good news.  In other words you have to be good first, study hard and get a good grade and then I’ll give you a bicycle.

We have been telling our young people the same thing very often. You have to be good first before Jesus can take you to heaven.  The devil tried this with the Galatians.  “It is not enough to believe Christ, you must do this and that, you must be circumcised, otherwise you will not make it.” Parents, please do not give your children the impression that God loves them only when they are good.  We are losing between fifty and seventy-five percent of our young people.  We need to bring them good news.

The Jews were facing the same thing, they were getting discouraged. Paul is saying, “No, Christ has been made heir of all things.” Then he goes back to Hebrews and goes step by step and he says, “This Christ is the Creator of the universe.  He is the Ruler of the universe. He is the Sustainer of the universe.  He is everything! And God has given Him the authority!”

So when we worship Christ, we are not merely accepting an ordinary man.  He is the express image of the Father.  He is God.  He is not a god (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses would like to teach us) but He is God who became man in order to purge us from our sins and now He is at the right hand of the Father.  Has He been given authority to condemn us? No, to save us! Authority to meet all of our needs.  That’s why when Jesus was in this world He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.  Don’t worry what you shall eat or what you shall drink or wear for the Father knows your needs in all these things.”

We were having a tremendous famine in Ethiopia.  I’m sure you heard about this America.  And I was talking to a Coptic priest who was complaining about the famine.  While we were talking a sparrow came down.  It was strong and fat and well fed.  I said to the priest, “How come that sparrow is not starving? It also is living here in Ethiopia?”

He said, “That’s because God takes care of it.”

“Isn’t God taking care of you?” I asked.

He said, “I don’t know why He isn’t.”

I said, “Oh, you of little faith.” My dear people, Jesus is able to supply all your needs.

One more point before I close.  “God who at Sundry times spake.” God spoke in the past in different ways.  You link God with faith.  Who is the One speaking? God.  Through whom? What does this text say? It says the Old Testament is inspired.  It is the inspired word of God.  So if anyone says that the Old Testament is not inspired, here is a statement.  God is the one who spoke.  Yes, through the prophets.  They are the ones who wrote the Old Testament but who did the speaking? The message of the Old Testament is coming from whom? It is coming from God.  We need both the testaments. The one is promise and the other is fulfilment.  The book of Hebrews is trying to show us how Jesus Christ fulfilled the promises of God.  Which is more important to you, the promise or the reality? If I promised you a million dollars that is wonderful.  But what is better, the promise or when you receive the million dollars?

We are living in the last days.  We are living in the New Testament period where no longer are we depending on what God promised us but the fulfilment in Jesus Christ.  When you have Christ, you will be able to face anything in the world.

The persecution has not come yet.  We have individuals who are going through difficult times but as a Christian church, as a denomination we have not yet known what it means to stand up and be persecuted for Christ. But it is coming.  Before it comes we need to understand Jesus Christ.  That is our main purpose for studying the book of Hebrews and the sanctuary as well.  It is all pointing us to Christ.  He is the reality.  This book is important because it helps us to know Him.  Christ, God’s final Word.

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