Who were the Hebrews?
The Hebrews to whom this letter was written were Christians of Jewish background. There is no reference to non-Jewish Christians in this letter. They knew the Scriptures very well, including all the ceremonies of Mosaic worship. But they did not put them into practice. They especially knew the Psalms, which are quoted many times in this letter. Chapter one alone contains references to 6 Psalms! They also knew the Greek language and would have appreciated the excellent Greek that the author used.
They had experienced suffering for the sake of the Gospel. (Hebrews 10:32-35; 12:4) Most importantly, they were in danger of turning away from the Living God. They were not new converts. Hebrews 5:12 says that “by this time you should be teachers.”
The author (unknown) is urging them not to leave Jesus Christ, who alone is their salvation. He emphasizes the truth that Jesus Christ is superior to all that they have learned about the culture of the Mosaic Law. While you are studying this letter, think of Jesus Christ as Superior to all religions, to all religious leaders, to all that the world has to offer. He is Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord of all nations. There is no salvation apart from Him.
“As it is, He (Jesus) has been given a ministry as far superior as is the covenant of which he is the mediator, which is founded on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6 NJB)
“Only in Him (Jesus) is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved!” (Acts 4:12 NJB)
Prologue of Hebrews—Hebrews 1:1-4
God spoke “long ago.” He spoke at various times and in many ways, by the prophets. “Prophets” refers to all the writers of the Old Testament, not just the prophetic books. Some examples:
- Moses – in the burning bush
- Elijah – through a still, small voice
- Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and other prophets – visions and prophetic words
- David – while he was hiding in a cave
God has spoken “. . . in these last days.” The “last days” is the period between the First coming of Christ and the Second coming of Christ. The “end time,” or “last days,” began when Jesus came into the world; we now live in the last days, and they will be consummated sometime in the future; nobody knows when.
God’s final, authoritative word to the whole world is JESUS CHRIST. Jesus is God’s ultimate communication, the Source of God’s ultimate relationship with all people.
Andrew Murray says that the great truth that God wants all humankind to know is that Jesus Christ is the only source of salvation, and knowledge of the Son of God is the strength of the believer. (Note: Andrew Murray wrote many small books, and any book of his that you read will strengthen you and lead you into a deeper knowledge of God.)
If you want to understand the message of Hebrews, spend some time reading Hebrews 1:2-4. Think about what this teaches us about Jesus. If you have a cross reference Bible, read some related verses in other places of the Bible. Above all, spend a little time meditating on these 3 verses.
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the ONLY Son of God; His origin is same as His Father’s: He existed before the creation of the world and is eternal. (We become sons and daughters of God only through God’s only Son.)
- He is the Heir of all things, including the world to come. He owns the world. He owns you!
- He created the world together with His Father and the Holy Spirit.
- He is the radiance of God’s glory. Glory here means “all that God is, all of His attributes.”
- He is the exact imprint of God’s nature. [The Greek language used here is “engraved, as on a coin.] This is why Jesus later said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Paul tells us that “all the fullness of God dwells in Him (Jesus).” (Colossians 2:9)
- He upholds all things—the entire universe—by the Word of His power. This does not mean only Jesus’ powerful word, but rather that Jesus’ Word flows from His power; so when Jesus speaks, His words always produce His desired effect. Colossians 1:17 tells us, “in Him all things hold together!” Be comforted! At such a time as this, when the whole world is trembling, Jesus, by the Word of His power, is holding everything together! He is holding you in the palm of His hand! Focus on Jesus, not the situation or your problems.
- He made purification of sins! This is the central message of Hebrews. Once for all, for all humankind, He died on the cross and rose again. He reconciled us with God by forgiving our sins and gave us eternal life by rising again! No further sacrifices of any kind need to be given to God, only the offering of our bodies as a living (not dead) sacrifice to God as our greatest act of spiritual worship! Jesus satisfied God’s holiness, removed our sins, and restored our relationship with God.
- After doing all this, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. Jesus’ Father told Him to “sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Hebrews 1:13)
What is Jesus doing now, seated at the right hand of His Father?
He is ruling over all the world.
He is waiting for the end of history, when the marriage banquet of the Lamb and all His followers will take place to celebrate His eternal rule.
He is interceding for all who will come to the Father through Him. (Hebrews 7:25)
Question: How do we understand all these remarkable things? We are just now reading the first 4 verses of the book! This is my suggestion: Read these verses over and over and take time to contemplate, and meditate on what they say. You might ask God, as you read each remarkable statement about Jesus, if He has something He would like to say to you personally through these words.
Don’t worry if it seems too much for you to digest. There is a secret here: These are some of the themes that run throughout the whole book of Hebrews. You will detect them as we continue to study together, and the remainder of the whole book will make their meaning clear to you. Remember to relax and enjoy the new knowledge God is giving to you.
Elisabeth Eliott, whose husband was martyred, along with other missionaries, by the Auca Indians of eastern Ecuador in 1956, and who later became a spiritual mentor to so many people, knew well about suffering and danger, and especially about the uncertainty of the world around her. Her words give us strength as we also face worldwide danger and uncertainty:
“The only thing that keeps me stable and settled
in these days of uncertainty
is the absolute dependability of the Word of God.”
The Word of God gives us all we need to know about God, our salvation, and how to live in this world. It is an anchor to our souls for daily living.
Read through this closing passage of chapter one. The writer is comparing Jesus with angels.
There is no evidence that the Hebrews worshiped angels, but apparently they thought too highly of angels. This was because they did not fully understand who Jesus is. When people do not understand God, or turn away from Him, they still continue searching for supernatural help. We can see this in today’s anti-Christian culture. The strongest atheist will seek some kind of psychic help through New Age, or through the false exaltation of angels. This may have been the case of the Hebrew Christians who turned away from Jesus Christ.
We have a two-fold problem: Either deny angels’ existence, “just never think about them,” or exalt them through false worship of angels.
We can do neither. Today we need to learn more about the angels’ role in leading us to God, to salvation, or in protecting God’s people from dangers. Angels are very important to God; they even ministered to Jesus in His temptations and in His last hours on earth. And they are important to us.
As you read through this passage take note of what you can learn about Jesus – about His relationship with His Father, about how the Father exalted Jesus. Then notice how the write compares Jesus with angels.
Next week we will study more about the role of angels in our Christian life. But before you leave chapter one, just notice 3 duties of angels.
1:6—worshipers of God
1:7—messengers and ministers of God
1:13—servants of those receiving salvation.
Take a moment to relax and breathe deeply; ask God to speak to you about what He has said in Hebrews chapter one. Be sure to respond to Him. When you do this, you are actually meditating. One way to look at meditation is to have a conversational relationship with God.
He always wants to talk with you. His Holy Spirit, the Author of the Bible, wants to explain things to you. (1 John 2:27)