|Study of Hebrews|
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
It is possible for us Christians to turn our backs to Christ and lose our salvation altogether. It’s possible. So that’s the reason that we have spent some time looking at this first half of Hebrews chapter six. We need to grow as Christians, especially in our faith. Our faith needs to become stronger and stronger and stronger so that the pull of Satan becomes less and less and less.
In other words, Satan will use all kinds of things. He will use persecution. He will use attractions of this world. He will use material things. He will use friends. He will use relatives. He will use anything to pull you out of Christ. The attraction is greater when you are babes in Christ. So you need to grow up and remember that when you cross the Red Sea in your experience, even though you have said “goodbye” to Satan represented by Pharaoh, he can still shout across the gulf. The further you get away from the Red Sea and the closer you get to Canaan the less you hear him.
In Heb.6:13 onwards, the second half of the sixth chapter Paul goes from warnings to encouragement. He uses Abraham as an example. In this passage he is dealing with an idea that is not practised here in America so I need to explain where he is coming from. Let us first read the passage:
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater he sware by himself, saying, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee, And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 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; Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Let’s go step by step. God comes to Abraham with a promise and to guarantee the promise He makes an oath. When we left Idaho and we were trying to sell our house we made an agreement with a realter who is an Adventist. We had to sign a paper as to how much we wanted and all the legal requirements. That is basically what we do in America. We sign a document; it becomes legal. Well, in the days of Paul and even today, in the Middle East, they do not sign a document very often. They swear by God. If you are a Muslim you will say, “In the name of Allah, I promise I’ll do this.” That oath to them means that they are promising to carry out that agreement. If they don’t the Muslims say that God will send down fire and destroy them.
It is in this context that we have the commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain.” When you take an oath in the name of God you dare not delay to fulfil it. As you go to the courts today and swear on the Bible that you will tell the truth and nothing but the truth, you are not taking the name of God in vain if you do tell the truth.
Paul is saying that God gave a promise to Abraham. What was this promise? Well, Paul quotes only part of the promise in verse fourteen. “Saying, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” But we need to look at the whole promise. When the Jewish Christian read part of the promise he knew the whole promise because they were familiar with the Old Testament. Go to Gen.22:17,18 where the promise is found. Verse seventeen is the same as in Heb. 6:14:
That in blessing I will bless thee and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
This is the promise that God gave to Abraham. It came to Abraham when he was seventy-five years old. God said to Abraham, “I want you to leave this country that you are in and go to Canaan which is the promised land and I will make out of you a great nation.” Now how old was Abraham when the promise first came? Seventy- five. God waited twenty-five years. And during those twenty-five years Abraham’s faith began to waiver. So God made an oath to Abraham. He said, “Abraham, I’m going to make an oath so that you are clear in your mind that when I promise something I will keep it, I will fulfil it.”
The problem is that an oath is always made in the name of someone that is above you. Human beings in the Middle East make an oath in the name of God who is the ruler of the universe. In whose name can God make an oath? There is nobody above Him. So we read in Hebrews six that He made an oath by His own name because there is no greater one that He could sware by.
The oath was that in thy seed I will bless the whole world. Through that one seed the whole human race will be blessed and through this seed you will have many children--as many as the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea. Who was that seed? The initial seed was Isaac but the ultimate seed was Jesus Christ. Turn to Gal. 3:16:
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
God said that in thy seed, which is Christ, I will bless all the nations of the world. That is verses thirteen and fourteen of Hebrews chapter six. Now let’s go to verse fifteen where he is still using Abraham as an example:
And so, after he had patiently endured...
What did he patiently endure? How long did Abraham wait for God to fulfil the promise? It was twenty-five years. Abraham was seventy-five years old when the promise first came. He wasn’t a young fellow. I suppose in those days he was middle-aged. How long did God wait to keep his promise? Twenty-five years. Did Abraham give up his hope in the promise? He did not give up but he tried to help God to hasten the matter. He felt that maybe God needed help. God corrected him for that. God came to him when he was ninety-nine years old which was twenty-five years later. Even though he knew now that his wife had passed the child bearing age God said to him, “Now do you still believe that I can keep my promise?” Did he believe God’s promise at the age of ninety-nine? Yes.
Turn to Romans chapter four. Lets read a passage of which we need to remind ourselves because Paul is saying that Abraham is a type of what we should be. Rom. 4:17 has to do with the same promise that we read:
[As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,] before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Now I want you to take this and apply it to yourself spiritually. You have become a Christian and you are looking at your performance. Do you see success or do you see failure? What do you see? You become discouraged and the devil comes to you and says, “You know God will not take you to heaven because you are a failure.” Now please remember that you will always, even if God were to give you total victory, you will always feel a failure. In fact after probation closes you will be agonizing saying, “Is there any sin I have not confessed?” Because you will feel that you are still a sinner.
That is why you must remember that our ultimate salvation is not based on our success but on God’s promise, God’s promise which he made to Abraham and through Abraham to us. Now from all evidence Abraham could not see how he could have a child. Just like Noah from all scientific evidence could not figure out how it would rain and flood the whole earth. Did he believe God? Yes.
Did Abraham hold unto his faith in God’s promise? Rom. 4:17 says that God gave Abraham a promise even when he was dead, which simply means he was incapable now, humanly speaking of producing a child through Sarah. See verse eighteen of Romans four:
Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations;...
The word “father” here in the Middle-East concept is simply the idea of proto-type. Here is the basis of our faith. We must look to Abraham as our example.
...according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be.
What children will be like Abraham? He is not talking about the physical descendants of Abraham but he is talking about Abraham as a type of every believer who will ultimately be saved. Verse nineteen:
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
He did not look at the outward evidence or the scientific evidence or medical evidence, he staggered not at the promise of God. He did not doubt that God would keep His promise.
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Now what was the promise? The promise was that in Jesus Christ God would save sinners. That was the promise! 1 Tim. 1:16:
This is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, [and then Paul adds] of whom I am chief.
Going back to Rom.4:22 and onward:
And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification.
Did God keep His promise to Abraham? Did God redeem the world through that seed, Jesus Christ? Yes.
Now, before Jesus left for heaven, He made a promise. “I will come again.” Is God slack in keeping that promise? We have been preaching that He is coming for how long? One hundred forty-four years [This series was presented in 1988]. Now turn to 2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise....
Did Abraham sometimes feel that God was slack? Yes. Are there Adventists today, especially our young people who feel that God is slack? Yes. But we need to remind ourselves:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The trouble is that while God is waiting for the ungodly to turn their eyes back to Christ we believers are becoming impatient. Because His coming is delayed in the eyes of human beings the love of many is waxing cold. We need to go back to Hebrews and remind ourselves that God will keep His promise.
I realize that some of you older folks had a dream. In fact I also did when I became an Adventist in 1958, thirty years ago. My dream was to see Jesus come while I was still alive. Now some of you who have one leg in the grave are saying, “I wonder if I’ll make it.” Well, maybe not, but your eternal destiny is guaranteed. All that will happen to you is that you will go to sleep. When you reach seventy years and above you deserve sleeping. You have been here long enough in this sinful world. Don’t be afraid to die. I know that in this country you get ten percent discount for senior citizens but a Christian should not be afraid to die because he is just going to sleep. And God has given you a promise. Will He keep that promise? Yes! Did He mean that He was coming soon to our pioneers? Yes. But why has He delayed His coming? Because He doesn’t want anyone to perish.
There is a prophecy that has to be fulfilled. “This gospel of the kingdom has to go to all the world.” Who is to blame that this gospel has not gone to all the world? It is ourselves, really. We have in a sense delayed His coming. Peter tells us that we can hasten His coming. The problem is that we got too preoccupied with other things.
Lets go back to Hebrews six. Did Abraham, even though he wavered at times, did he hold on to the promise of God? Yes. Did he obtain that promise? The answer is “yes” in verse fifteen. Now verse sixteen:
For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
If I made a promise to you in Paul’s day or even today and you doubt my promise and you say to me, “Are you willing to swear by God that you will keep your promise?” That in the Middle-East means that you will not fail. I say, “Yes, in the name of God I will keep this promise.” Immediately the doubt goes. In America they will probably say something else, “Are you willing to sign a document?” “Are you willing to sign this promissory note so that it’s legal?” “Can you notarize this?” If you say, “Yes,” then you have at least some hope. But even then, I don’t know. You are signing it in terms of legal things. But in Paul’s day you are signing in the name of God. I can run away from the law of America by going to another country and hiding there.
My parents came from Goa, and Goa is a very beautiful part of India. It has beautiful beaches. Several years ago it was filled with young Americans who were escaping what we called the draft. They were mainly kids of very rich families. They wanted to escape so they went to this place and they were living around the beaches and enjoying their money. They were escaping the law. That is for a time. I don’t know whether or not the law caught up with them. But you can’t escape from God. If you make an oath by God’s name and you run to China, you may escape from America but you can’t escape from God. Therefore when you take an oath in God’s name you had better do it if you have that mentality. Paul is saying in verse sixteen:
For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife, wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath.
In other words, God made a promise that He would save the world but in case any human beings should doubt, He made an oath, which means that I will keep my promise. Now God made a promise to the disciples, “I will come again. You believe in God believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions.” The actual Greek says many vacancies. Mansions are no problem for God but vacancies are a problem for us. What’s the use of a mansion if it is occupied? So what the text is saying is, “There are many vacancies.” How many vacancies are there in heaven for the human race? One for each person. That is our position.
Now the Calvinists say, “No.” They say there is one for only each of the elect whom God has predetermined that He will save. But the promise was not to the elect but all men. “God so loved the world.” So please remember there is a vacancy for every human being that is born in this world. The trouble is number one, they don’t know it and number two some people after they know it will not accept it. The second part is their problem. Number one is sometimes our problem. They don’t know it because we haven’t done our job. So we need to witness the gospel. We need to tell them that there is a vacancy there. So there is no sign in heaven saying, “No vacancy.” That may be true of motels here but not in heaven. Now look at verse eighteen:
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.
Now what are the two? Number one is the promise and number two is the oath. By these two things, God’s promise and God’s oath, God will not lie.
We might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.
Who is he talking about? Believers who have fled to Christ “for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:” Now what is the hope? Is it the hope in this world or is it hope in the next world? What is the hope of the believer? Turn to 1 Cor. 15:19:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
What is Paul saying here? What’s the context? The context is the resurrection which we call the blessed hope which is at the second coming of Christ. There were some Christians in Corinth who were saying that there is no resurrection. We will find that in verse twelve:
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
Paul is saying that if there is no resurrection and the only hope the Christian has is in this life, we are of all men most miserable. So our hope is not in this life. We are still living in enemy territory. When is our hope then? What is our hope? The resurrection which takes place at the second coming of Christ. Look at verse twenty-three:
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits;...
Has Christ already risen? Yes. Has Christ already gone to heaven? Yes. Finishing verse twenty-three:
Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.
Now in Heb. 6:20 Paul doesn’t use “firstfruits” but he uses the word “forerunner” which is the same thing. “Whither the forerunner is for us entered.” Where is Christ gone? Heaven. Will we go to heaven? Yes, afterwards. After when? The second coming of Christ. So what Paul is saying here is that the blessed hope of the Christian is at the second coming of Christ.
We may have to suffer in this world. We may have to wait in this world. We may be persecuted in this world but we have a hope! What is the hope? Two things, the promise of God and the oath which He made. Now what should that do to us? Verse nineteen says:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul...
Remember that Paul is writing to people who were living around the Mediterranean as well as the Sea of Galilee. When a storm comes what do you do with your ship? You put an anchor down. What does the anchor do? It prevents the ship from drifting away and being dashed on the rocks and being destroyed. The devil wants you to drift away from Christ. What is the anchor that keeps us in Christ? Is it our performance? No. It is two things: the promise of God and His oath that He made that He would keep that promise. So Paul is saying, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” Will the anchor hold when the storm comes? We have a song about it, “Will your anchor hold”. What is your anchor? Is it your faith in God’s promise and His oath? Continuing in verse nineteen:
And which entereth into that within the veil...
This text has caused problems. Is it the first veil or the second veil? Is it the Holy Place or the Most Holy Place? Paul is not discussing Holy Place or Most Holy Place. He is not discussing the daily or the yearly. He is discussing the fact that through Christ we have entrance into the very presence of God. We must not take a text out of context and discuss our theological problems by it.
Here is another text that uses the same word in the Greek in Acts 16:24. It is the same Greek word that you have in Hebrew for “within the veil.” This has to do with the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. In verse twenty-four it says:
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison [that’s the same Greek word as for “within the veil”].
There was the outer room and the inner room. The outer room had a door that went outside but the inner room had no door or windows. You were inside. There was no escape. So the “inner prison” simply meant the one that was right in the inside where you could not escape. So therefore Paul is referring here to the very presence of God in terms of the Most Holy Place. But He is not discussing the daily or the yearly. Here are some statements from Ellen G. White, where she presents the same idea. Even though the Day of Atonement began in 1844 she says something here that has to do with 31 A.D. in terms of our approach to God. Desire of Ages, page 757:
“The great sacrifice had been made. The way into the holiest is laid open. A new and living way is prepared for all. The mercy seat upon which the glory of God rested in the holiest of all is open to all who accept Christ as the propitiation for sin.”
What Sister White is saying here is, “Those who have accepted Christ have direct access to God.” It has nothing to do with the day of atonement. This simply is using sanctuary terminology. Where did God dwell in the sanctuary? In the Most Holy Place. Did the priest have access to the Most Holy Place every day? No. Only once a year and even then he had to offer a sacrifice for himself and his family. Do we Christians have access to God daily? Can we come boldly with assurance? Are we better than the priest? No. It’s because we have an advocate or a priest who has entered in our behalf.
“Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God.” [Christ’s Object Lessons, page 386.]
Then in volume five of the Bible Commentary, page 1109, she makes this statement:
“A new and living Way, before which there hangs no veil, is offered to all.”
This does not mean that the day of atonement began in 31 A.D. What Paul is saying here is that because God sent His Son, and kept His promise we have access now to God. Turn to Heb.10:19-22:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest [through the inner veil, in the very presence of God] by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, [Sister White is simply quoting from this passage] which he hath consecrated [dedicated] for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh...
Remember that something happened in the flesh of Christ. He condemned sin in the flesh. Whose sins? Our sins. And by condemning sin in the flesh He removed the barrier between a Holy God and a sinful human race. So we have access to God through the blood of Christ for by the blood of Christ He died for all sin, past, present and future. So we can come boldly to the throne of grace. Verse twenty-one:
And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near [near to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Are you still sinners? Yes. But in Christ have you been washed? Yes. Have you been made perfect? Yes. So in Christ you can come boldly. Verse twenty-three, the same thing as in Heb.6:
Let us hold fast [let us keep hold through faith of the promise of God] the profession of our faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised.
Will God keep His promise? Will He come again? Yes. Does it seem that He is not coming again from our human point of view? Yes. The question is the one that Jesus asked in Luke 18:8 “When I come will I find faith in the earth?” That’s the issue. Paul’s concern is that we hold fast. Go now to verse thirty-five of Hebrews ten:
Cast not away therefore your confidence [in God’s promise and in His oath] which hath great recompense of reward. For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.
We go back now to Hebrews six. The promise of God which He gave by an oath is the anchor of our souls. We must not give that up! We must hold on! And we must remember that Christ is not sleeping in heaven. He has gone there for us as our representative, as a priest after the order of Melchisedec. Why? Because human priests died. When priests die what happens to your anchor?
But Christ is a priest forever. He doesn’t go to sleep and His life doesn’t come to an end. He will be our priest until He has fulfilled all His promises. And the promises to us are twofold:
Our part is to hold on by faith to His promises. We must not waiver. Paul is encouraging us to hold unto our faith. Don’t you ever give it up. Hold unto Christ. He is your only hope. As I mentioned before our only hope that we have in this world is not our bank account, not our plastic cards, it is not all the promises that the government has made on social security.
I asked one of the government officials, “Do you think that social security will collapse?”
He said, “No, when it collapses the government will collapse.” He thinks that the government will never collapse. Therefore the social security will never collapse. I have better confidence in the Bible than his promise for I know that God will never collapse. His government is sure. Let’s hold on.
Young people, don’t give up your faith in Christ. It may seem that He has delayed, like Abraham felt, but hold on to Christ until either you die or until He comes.