The book of Hebrews stands alone among the New Testament epistles in its style and approach. It is also the only New Testament book whose authorship remains a mystery.
Hebrews is written primarily to those who converted from Judaism to Christianity, many of whom are returning to Judaism to escape persecution from other Jews [Hebrews]. The writer of Hebrews exhorts them to "go on to perfection" (6:1). His appeal is based on the superiority of Jesus Christ over the Judaic system.
This book builds a case for the superiority of Christ through a cumulative argument in which Christ is presented as "better" in every aspect:
- Christ is better than the angels, for even they worship Him.
- Christ is better than Moses, for He created him.
- He is better than the priesthood established through Moses for Aaron and his descendants, for Christ's sacrifice was once for all time, never to be repeated again.
- He is better than the Law, for He mediates a better and lasting covenant.
- The epistle casts Jesus as both exalted Son and High Priest.
In other words, there is more to be gained in Christ than to be lost in Judaism!
The main theme of Hebrews is summed up in the word "better", describing the superiority of Christ in His Person and work (1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24). Christ offers a better revelation, a better position, a better priesthood, a better covenant, a better sacrifice, and better power. Thus, it can be said that the writer purposely develops this theme to encourage the readers from giving up the substance for the mere shadow [everything under the old covenant sacrificial system was to point the way to the Hebrew Messiah, the Christ].
In addition to his positive presentation of the supremacy of Christ, the writer includes five solemn warnings about the peril of turning away from Christ (see 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:20; 10:19-39; 12:25-29).
AUTHOR: Unknown [The King James Version of the Bible uses the title "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews". However, there is no early manuscript evidence to support that. Also, there is no greeting from Paul at the beginning or at the end as exists in all of his other epistles. What we do know about the author is that he is well-known to the readers, but we don't even know for sure when this letter was written or who the original intended audience was.]
TO WHOM: Jewish [Hebrew] believers
PURPOSE: To present Jesus Christ as superior over all other religious systems, including Judaism through whom the Messiah was to come.
4:14-16 "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
8:6 "But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises."
12:1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
LIFE AND MINISTRY PRINCIPLE: Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant established on better promises.
MAIN CHARACTERS: The author, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Melchizedek. (See also the list of names in chapter 11.)
Part One: The Superiority of Christ's Person over the Angels and Moses: 1:1-4:13
I. The Superiority of Christ over the prophets: 1:1-4
A. God's revelation by the __________ to the fathers: 1:1
B. God's revelation by His _______________: 1:2-4
1. God now has spoken through _______________: 1:2
2. Authority over all things has been given to the Son:_______________
3. Christ's redemptive work is finished:_______________
II. The Superiority of Christ over the Angels: 1:4-2:18
A. __________ is superior because of His deity: 1:4-14
1. By _______________ 1:4
2. By _______________ 1:5
B. Christ's superiority to angels is evident in the Old _______________ 1:5-14
C. First warning passage: The danger of __________: 2:1-4
2. Old Exhortation example: 2:2
D. Christ's superiority to __________ is not contradicted by His humanity, but in fact, is because of His humanity: 2:5-18
1. Angels are not subjected to the _______________ to come: 2:5
2. All things are in _______________ to the Son: 2:6-8
E. Suffering was necessary to complete His identification with _______________: 2:9-13
1. Suffering to death was necessary to _______________ the works of Satan: 2:14
2. Suffering was necessary to deliver all who would _______________: 2:15-16
3. Suffering was necessary to qualify Jesus to be our merciful High __________: 2:17-18
III. The Superiority of Christ over Moses: 3:1-4:13
A. A comparison between Christ and _______________: 3:1-6
1. Both Christ and Moses were faithful to God: __________
2. Christ is the __________ of the house. Moses was a part of the house: 3:3-4
3. Christ is the Son over the house. Moses was a _______________ in the house: 3:5-6
B. Second warning passage: The danger of _______________: 3:7-4:13
2. Israel's __________ experience: 3:8-11
3. Warning against _______________: 3:12-19
4. Warning against missing God's __________: 4:1-13
Part Two: The Superiority of Christ's Work over the Priesthood of Aaron: 4:14-10:18
I. Christ's Priesthood is Superior: 4:14-7:28
A. Christ is superior in His position as our great __________________________: 4:14-16
B. Christ is __________ in His qualifications: 5:1-10
1. The priesthood of _______________: 5:1-4
2. The priesthood of _______________: 5:5-10
C. Third warning passage: The danger of not _______________ 5:11-6:20
1. Rebuke for spiritual _______________ 5:11-14
2. Encouragement toward spiritual _______________ 6:1-3
3. _______________ against the consequences of rejecting and turning against your spiritual beliefs [apostasy]: 6:4-8
4. Reminder of the certainty of God's _______________ 6:9-20
D. Christ is _______________ in His priestly order (the order of Melchizedek): 7:1-28
1. Description of _______________ 7:1-3
2. Superiority of _______________ 7:4-10
3. Imperfection of the Levitical (Aaronic)_______________: 7:11-13
4. The __________ priesthood: 7:14-17
5. Priesthood under the Law: 7:18-21
6. Priesthood under the new _______________ 7:22-27
7. Summary: The Son has been made _______________ forever: 7:28
II. The Superiority of Christ's Covenant: 8:1-13
A. Introduction: 8:1-6
1. Summary of previous _______________ 8:1-2
2. Ministry of the __________ priest: 8:3-5
3. A more _______________ ministry: 8:6
B. The __________ covenants: 8:7-13
1. The first ["old"]_______________: 8:7-8
2. The _______________ (new) covenant: 8:8-12
3. Contrast between the new and the old _______________ 8:13
C. Operation of the old _______________'s sanctuary and sacrifice: 9:1-10
1. The old covenant's _______________ [the tabernacle/tent of meeting]: 9:1-5
2. The old covenant's ministry of the __________ priest: 9:6-10
D. Operation of the new _______________ 9:11-10:18
1. General description:_______________ _____
2. Contrasts between the old and the __________: 10:1-18
Part Three: The Superiority of the Christian's Walk of Faith: 10:19-13:25
I. Superior Resources for Faith: 10:19-11:40
A. Draw near in _______________: 10:19-22
1. With boldness (confidence, not arrogance):_____________________
2. Through our High Priest, the new and _______________ way: 10:20, 21
3. With a true heart and full assurance of _______________: 10:22
4. With hearts free from an evil _______________ 10:22
5. With our bodies washed with pure water:_______________
B. Hold fast the ____________________ of faith: 10:23
C. Encourage one another in the _______________ 10:24-25
1. Provoke/Stir up to love and to good _______________: 10:24
2. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together:_______________
3. Exhort/Encourage one another:_______________
D. Fourth warning passage: Continuing to sin or drawing back after receiving the _______________ of the truth: 10:26-37
1. The _______________ 10:26-27
2. The Old Testament _______________ 10:28
3. The present _______________ 10:29-31
4. Remember _______________ experiences: 10:32-34
5. Do not throw away your _______________ 10:35
6. Be _______________ 10:36-37
II. Live by ___________: 10:38-11:40
A. The command to live by faith:_______________
1. The definition of _______________: 11:1
2. The function of _______________: 11:2-3
3. Examples of _______________: 11:4-40
III. Endure Suffering and Chastening: 12:1-29
A. Examples of suffering:_______________
1. A multitude of those gone before us [witnesses]:_______________
2. Jesus endured to _______________: 12:2-4
B. Endure _______________'s chastening: 12:5-11
1. God __________ those whom He chastens: 12:5-7
2. Only those who are not __________ are not chastened: 12:8
3. The example of __________ fathers: 12:9-10
4. Results of chastening:_______________
C. The believer's response to _______________ 12:12-17
1. Lift up the __________ which hang down and strengthen the weak _______________: 12:12
2. Make straight paths for your _______________: 12:13
3. Let those suffering be _______________: 12:14
4. Strive for __________ and holiness with everyone: 12:14
5. Let no one fail of obtaining the _______________ of God: 12:15
6. Don't let a "__________ of bitterness" trouble or defile you: 12:15
7. Guard against _______________ and profane persons: 12:16-17
D. Fifth warning passage: The danger of _______________ God: 12:18-29
1. The position of Israel at _______________ 12:18-21
2. The position of believers at _______________: 12:22-24
3. The consequent response of _______________ 12:25-29
IV. Exhortation to __________: 13:1-17
A. Social duties: 13:1-6
1._______________: Let brotherly love continue: 13:1
3. Remember those who are in _______________ and those suffering: 13:3
4. Let marriage be honorable and the marriage bed _______________ 13:4
5. Do not speak covetously, but be __________ with what you have: 13:5
6. God is always with us to help us:_______________
B. Religious duties: 13:7-17
1. Imitate the faith of our _______________ 13:7
2. Hold to the true gospel of _______________: 13:8-12
3. Bear the reproach of the _______________: 13:13
4. Seek the city which is to come:_______________
5. Continually offer the sacrifice of _______________: 13:15
6. Do good and __________ what you have: 13:16
7. Obey leaders and __________ to them: 13:17
V. Conclusion: 13:18-25
A. A request for _______________: 13:18-19
B. A prayer for the _______________ s: 13:20-21
C. Bear the words of _______________ 13:22
D. Timothy's proposed _______________: 13:23
E. Closing greetings:_______________
Hebrews is sometimes called the "fifth Gospel". Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John focus on the work of Jesus during His earthly ministry, His death, and resurrection. Hebrews describes His present work in Heaven.
The time and place of the origin of the letter are not clear, but we can draw some reasonable conclusions from various points in the text:
- The recipients were believers (3:1).
- They had come to faith through the testimony of eyewitnesses of Christ (2:3).
- They were not novices (5:12).
- They had successfully endured hardships for their stand for the Gospel (10:32-34).
- Unfortunately, they had become "dull of hearing" (5:11) and were in danger of drifting away (2:1 and 3:12).
- This made them more susceptible to renewed persecutions that were coming (12:4-12).
While there is disagreement over the specific danger about which the writer cautions them, the classic position is that the readers were on the verge of lapsing into Judaism to avoid persecution. The repeated emphasis on the superiority of Christianity over Judaism would have been pointless if the readers were about to return to some pagan belief system. Thus, it seems rather obvious that this letter was for Hebrew converts.
As for the date of its writing, we can reasonably estimate a date before A.D. 70:
- In A.D. 95, Clement of Rome quoted from the letter, so we know it was written before that time.
- Hebrews fails to mention the ending of the Old Testament sacrificial system, which ended when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, so we know it was written before A.D. 70.
- Timothy, who died around A.D. 80, was still alive during the time of this writing (13:23).
- Persecution was mounting (12:26, 27).
Despite numerous publications on this epistle, scholarly discussion has failed to yield a definitive agreement on the issues of authorship, time, or place. Thus, most agree that conclusions on these questions, including the one concerning authorship, should be avoided in favor of all there is to be learned from the epistle itself.
The writer sets forth Christ as our eternal High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Christ identified with mankind in His incarnation and offered no less a sacrifice than Himself on our behalf.
Hebrews presents Christ as the divine human Prophet, Priest, and King. His deity (1:1-3, 8) and humanity (2:9, 14, 17-18) are asserted with equal force. The writer of Hebrews uses more than 20 titles to describe Christ's attributes and accomplishments (i.e., Heir of all things, Apostle and High Priest, Mediator, Author and Perfecter of faith, etc.).
He is superior to all who went before and He offers the supreme sacrifice and covenant!
We've already mentioned the key word "better". Study Hebrews' use of these additional key words: "perfect", "eternal", "forever", "partakers", "Heaven", "priest", and "high priest".
Hebrews provides the most extended record of conversations between the Father and the Son. (See 1:5-13; 2:12-13; 10:5-9)
From Hebrews chapters 7-10, write the purpose(s) of the Old Testament tabernacle.
From Hebrews chapter 11, write some of the examples of great faith in the Bible.
From Hebrews 4:12, write the descriptions of the Word of God.
Study the following verses which prove the superiority of the Messiah [Jesus] to the angels, and write them in the blanks provided:
- Psalm 2:7
- Psalm 104:4
- Psalm 45:7-8
- Psalm 102:26-28
- Psalm 110:1
Study Hebrews 4:14-7:28. Contrast [write comparisons, differences] the priesthoods of Jesus and Aaron.
Study the two covenants described in Hebrews 8:1-10:18. Make a list of contrasts between the old covenant and the new covenant.
There are five warning passages included in the outline used in this epistle. Study these warning sections, and list the subject and content of each.
From Hebrews 12:18-26, list the contrasts between Israel's position at Mt. Sinai and the believer's position at Mt. Zion.
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