Our trip over the Bible now approaches the opposing pecks on the book of Hebrews. This magnificent book is full of wonder, mystery, revelation, and of course faith. We want to take full advantage of this amazing scriptural scenery, so be sure to get a good view as we come to the book of Hebrews.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Tonight, we are at 30,000 feet, so we are looking at the book of Hebrews from 30,000 feet. We are covering the book of Hebrews in less than an hour. So we will be moving very, very quickly. Now this letter is in a very different form from the other letters. Let me explain.
It doesn't have a normal introduction, like, Paul usually has a salutation or James or Peter or John, tell you who it's from and who it's to. It doesn't have a normal ending, a typical ending is not found here. In fact, the book of Hebrews is much less, like, a letter and much more like an essay or a sermon or a treatise, where themes are laid out very logically to draw the reader to a conclusion. So let's deal with the question, who wrote the book of Hebrews?
If you said the Paul the Apostle you will be in good company because that's, sort of, the default position for a long time, people like to say it's Paul the Apostle. For no other reason, honestly, then Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament. He was a Hebrews, he knew Hebraic tradition and Levitical law, so it must have been Paul. That's a possibility, but again, we don't know. Paul typically, would in his letter say, Paul the Apostle or Paul and Silas or Paul and Barnabas or Paul in Timothy too. He would almost always sign his letters at the end, at least he would sign his name if not the last few words. There is none of that here. There is no identification whatsoever.
Also, whenever Paul would quote from the Old Testament in his letters, he would choose the Hebrew Old Testament to quote from. Whoever the author of this book was, chose to quote from the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew like Paul often did. And the way this book is written is very polished, very concise and very rhythmic. It is unlike the style of many of Paul's writings, something else.
According to a couple of verses in chapter 2, around verse 3 and 4, the author of this book includes himself in the group that received the gospel secondhand from those who heard it firsthand and brought it to them. It was confirmed by those who heard it, says this author. That's very different from Paul the Apostle. Paul made a very strong point of saying, "I received it not by man or from men but I received the gospel by the revelation of Jesus Christ." In other words, baby I got it firsthand! I heard it from Jesus Himself and we know the story on the Damascus Road. He had a direct communication with Christ.
So there are these differences, whoever wrote this book knew Timothy. That we know, because in the very last chapter, chapter 13, verse 23, there is the mention of Timothy coming to wherever this person was when he wrote it. So a lot of people have guessed. And here are the best guesses in church history. Barnabas tops the list as a guest by a lot of people from the early church, Silas, Luke, Philip, some say Aquila, some say his wife Priscilla. So as you can see, nobody knows.
Now if I were to venture a guess, and this is only a guess because again we don't what? We don't know. So this is only my guess. I might guess that it was Apollos, because Apollos was a Jewish Christian understood Judaism in depth, was very polished, very highly educated and the scripture says he was an eloquent man. He was mighty in the scriptures and he spoke and he taught accurately the things of Jesus Christ.
So if I were to just guess, I would lean more toward Apollos and Apollos also knew Timothy and if he could be expecting him to come, but again we don't know. So I would like to look at it this way. The book of Hebrews opens with the real author, his name is given in the very first word, which is what? God, ultimately God is the author of the books of the Bible. He is the one who inspired the author and I'll just leave it with that.
Now who was this author, whoever it was, writing to? Well we can guess that he was writing the Hebrew Christians, because the book is saturated with Levitical law and sacrifices. There is no mention of Gentiles or non-Jewish in it. So it's to people who had understood the priesthood, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the sacrifices, the old covenant. So that's why most think it is written to Hebrew believers and perhaps even Hebrew unbelievers.
Believers, those who had come from their Judaism to embrace Jesus Christ, Yeshua as their Messiah, but also perhaps among them, some unbelieving Jews who were very attracted to the message of the gospel, very attracted to the idea that Jesus maybe the fulfillment of Messianic scripture. But though they were attracted by the message intellectually, they had not personally surrendered to it. Thus they were very interested seekers, unbelievers, but not believers. So it could be a combination of both.
This group, we don't know exactly where they were, some think Jerusalem, some think Rome, some think Galilee, we just don't know who wrote it or exactly where the group was who received it. One thing we do know, whoever they were wherever they were, they were facing persecution; persecution, because they believed in Jesus Christ. And because of that persecution they are now tempted to not embrace Jesus Christ, to shed and to cast away any identification with Christ at all and simply embrace the ritualistic system that they were so familiar with.
What's the theme of this sermon, this treatise, this letter, if you will? Well, the theme of it would be this, that Jesus Christ is the perfect and full expression of God and is better than anyone or anything else. I want to state that upfront. Jesus Christ is the full and final expression of God and is better than anyone or anything else. And therefore, that which was restricted before is not restricted any longer.
Access to God was restricted in the old covenant, you couldn't just rush into God's presence and say it to the priest, excuse me Mr. Priest of the Tabernacle, move aside, I want to go right now into the Holy of Holies and have a little talk with God, lightning from heaven, you get struck dead. Not going to happen, you have to go through rituals, sacrifices, courts and only certain people from a certain family and only a certain individual once a year could go into that place with the shedding of blood.
Now, the new covenant, because Jesus is the full and final expression of God the Father better than anyone or anything else, and because of what He has done and because it's so full and complete, we have unfettered, unrestricted access to God, that's the theme of this book. Let's outline it, very simple, two slices, you could cut this book into two slices. Chapters 1 through 10 are doctrinal, chapter 11, 12, and 13 is practical. So chapter 1 through 10, doctrinal instruction, and the last three chapters, practical exhortation.
Now this author is fixated, obsessed with Jesus Christ being superior and I am glad He is because he is right. He is superior and he will say He is superior then many other things that as believers in Christ we have a superior approach because Jesus Himself is superior. So our faith is superior because we have a better messenger than the angels. We have a better moderator than Moses, we have a better mediator than the priest, we have a better ministry then the Old Testament, we have a better method than the sacrifices, we have a better monument than the Tabernacle on the Temple. And then he applies into the last few chapters, he said, not only is Christ better Christianity is thus better and he applies it practically.
So let's go through parts of chapter 1 and parts of the whole book looking at now the first section, chapters 1 through 10, doctrinal instruction, Christ is superior. Chapters 1 and 2, it tells us that He is a better messenger, better than the angels, Verse 1 "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom also He made the worlds."
Notice that the book opens with the acknowledgment that God speaks, God communicates, and He has done it with a lot of different ways during a lot of different times. Back in Genesis, God spoke directly to Adam and Eve. Then God spoke through angels because there were no prophets yet. Then we get into the book of Exodus and we find out that God spoke through an anointed man named Moses.
Then through Leviticus and Numbers God spoke through priests, they were the mediators. Sometimes you wanted to know the will of God, you go to a priest, and he had these, forgive me for the analogy, but they were like "Holy Dice" called the Urim and the Thummim. They were colored stones and he would roll them, and by the sovereign hand of God, God allowed His will to be discovered and thus God spoke through that method. And then we already read about 17 prophets that are mentioned in the Bible that God spoke through, prophetic voices. Some of them were a little strange in their methodology.
Ezekiel, God told him to stage a little fake war to besiege Jerusalem and so he set up a little fake city and had like army men and they would -- all the things boys like to do, he did. He had to lie on a side for days and lie on his other side for days. Then it was Jeremiah who took a pot and smashed it and got peoples' attention and when they said what's that all about? He said that's what's God going to do to you. So very, very interesting ways God spoke through angels and through Moses and through priests and through prophets.
Now, what this author is saying is God's ultimate revelation is through Jesus Christ. In other words, all that God ever wants to say can be said in Christ. Anything we ever need to know about God can be found in Jesus Christ and the author will go through this book and say He is better than angels, Moses, priesthood under Aaron, prophets, better than all of them.
Verse 4, "Having become so much better than the angels, He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son"? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him."" He is better than the angels.
Now angels were prominent in Judaism. In fact all the way back in the Bible, where do Cherubim first appear in the Bible? Anybody know? The garden, I heard somebody say the garden. There were two angels, Cherubim stationed outside the garden with flaming swords, lest Adam and Eve try to go back in and eat of the tree of life and live forever in their sin. That's where they first appeared. But then in the tabernacle they appear again, they are woven into the cloth and the linen veil of the tabernacle. They are placed two of them atop the ark of the covenant.
The law was given through the mediator ship of angelic beings as well as the direct voice of God, the Bible tells us. And then there is Isaiah in chapter 6, who had a vision not of Cherubim but of another angelic type Seraphim crying "Holy, holy, holy." So angels were prominent and this author knew that some groups might try to equate Jesus with an angel or say He's not as important as an angel. I want to give you an example.
How many of you have ever heard of the Essenes, raise your hand? Okay, hands down, this would be a better question. How many of you have ever heard of the Dead Sea scrolls, raise your hands? Okay, good. The Dead Sea scrolls were written by a group called the Essenes and they lived down by the Dead Sea. They were very strict, rigorous group of Jewish people isolated from society couple thousand years ago.
They said, that Michael the Archangel will have at least the same amount of authority or greater authority than the Messiah. And so there was this belief going around. So the author of Hebrews says let me tell you something, Jesus is far better than any angel because all the angels of God are commanded to worship Him.
Now one of the great highlights of my travel was to go to the Sistine Chapel and look up and see it was mentioned on it, Michelangelo, who painted that great room, looking up at this scene of heaven that he created, Michelangelo. One thing I noticed is that, it's not that easy to pick out God, because He's obscured by all these angelic depictions, and Judaism at this time was doing the same thing, obscuring the superior one by all sorts of other beings that they were giving credence to.
So chapter 2, verse 1, "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Stay tethered to the truth, stay tethered to Christ, don't be like a ship that goes adrift and gets shipwrecked. "For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him."
So, in the doctrinal instruction, number one, we have a better messenger, better than angels. Second, chapters 3 and 4, we have a better moderator, better than Moses. Moses was the moderator of the law of the old covenant. He was the dude, he was the guy. And all the children of Israel said, Moses, we don't want to go up and hear from God or see God, you go, because they saw lightning and thunder and they thought, let God kill him not us. So Moses, you go bro, and you go hear whatever God tells us and we will listen to it.
So he was the moderator of the covenant. He is the great lawgiver. Exodus 33 says, it's very interesting, "The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." And there was a book I picked it up, by Michael Shapiro called 'The Jewish 100' and it's the 100 most influential Jewish people of all history. Number one on the list in this book, Moses; number two on his list, Jesus.
Okay, the author of Hebrews goes excuse me, I disagree with that book, Jesus Christ is superior to Moses. Verse 1 "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. 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."
What's he saying? He's saying Moses was part of the house. Moses was part of the household of faith or the people of God. He was one of the people. He wasn't any holier than anybody else, he was any sinless being or he was special and anointed and chosen by God but he was also flawed and he failed. He was part of the household of faith, but Jesus Christ is the architect, the builder of that household of faith since all Old Testament scripture according to Christ somehow pointed to him.
Well, after Moses, chapter 4, Joshua succeeded him and Joshua was the guy, right, that made it into the Promised Land. Remember, Moses didn't get to go, he blew it, he stayed, he died on Mount Nebo. So Joshua, which is an English word for Yeshua or Jesus, the Old Testament Joshua, led the children of Israel across the Jordan River, but an entire generation died in the wilderness and did not get to enter into that Land of Promise, Canaan, the Land of Rest.
So chapter 4, verse 8; "For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." So we have a better messenger than the angels, we have a better moderator than Moses, and number three, we have a better mediator than Aaron and his boys or the priesthood of the Old Testament.
Chapter 4, verse 14, "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. 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. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
How many of you ever need God's mercy? All of us do and we need a lot, right? And don't you love this verse? It didn't say come with fear and trembling like Dorothy and her gang with the Wizard of Oz, come boldly to the throne of grace because of the High Priest in His work.
Okay, a priest is a mediator, a priest was the go-between, a daysman. He would, in effect, touch people and touch God. He would stand and represent the people to God and represent God to the people. He was the mediator. Sin blocked immediate entrance, sin didn't allow people to rush into the very Holy of Holies and hang with God, couldn't do it, couldn't do it. He had to go through rituals, courts, sacrifices, altars and trust a mediator, because you couldn't go any further, that mediator would go all the way in on your behalf.
The problem is, according to rest of chapter 4 and into chapter 5 is the priest himself wasn't perfect. He was a sinner himself. He had to offer a sacrifice for himself and then offer it for the people. Whereas Jesus Christ is better, far superior, sinless and perfect, as throughout chapter 5 and parts of chapter 6.
Now look at chapter 7, verse 11, "Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe..."
What tribe was Jesus from? Tribe of Judah, just keep that in mind for a minute, "from which no man has officiated at the altar. For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning the priesthood."
What was the tribe Moses spoke about concerning the priesthood? Tribe of Levi. "And yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.""
Now do you remember, go back in your mind a little bit, go back to our first couple studies in this Bible, Bible From 30,000 Feet. There were five kings that Moses had to fight with his 318-trained servants. Five kings headed up by a guy name Chedorlaomer. Chedorlaomer, the dude with a long hard name to pronounce and four of his buddies fought Abraham and Abraham won. After Abraham won, this guy name Melchizedek, he was called the King of Salem, which is the old name for Jerusalem, but Salem means peace.
So just think of it, this guy named the king of peace whose name itself Melchizedek, melek tsedeq, "King of Righteousness". So Mr. King of Righteousness, the king of peace comes with bread and wine, very interesting, and meets Abraham. Abraham does something very interesting. Abraham pays a tenth of what he has earned, what he has, and gives it to Melchizedek. Whenever a tithe was given, it was an active submission and saying that you are greater in office than I am. And the point the author of Hebrews will make without having to read it all is that there was Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, children of Israel and Levi, the tribe, all of that inside Abraham's body, genetically speaking, that eventually they would be born.
So he says, in the body, in the DNA, in the loins as the Bible says of Abraham, Levi, who weren't born yet, paid tithe to Melchizedek. One priesthood acknowledging that another is greater, that's one of the points that he makes here.
Now, it's an obscure incident, but, and he quotes it here. According to Psalms 110 a principle is laid out and quoted here. In the principle according to Psalms 110, concerning the Messiah, who would come "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Okay, Jesus is from what tribe? Judah, the law does not stipulate anything about Judah only Levi.
So according to the author, Jesus from the tribe of Judah is from the tribe outside of the parameters of the law and how that priesthood is to be governed, a proof, according to this author, that the old covenant with Levi as the mediator is done away with and a new covenant under the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest for anyone who comes to Him, the great High Priest between us and God.
So we have a better messenger than the angels, a better moderator than Moses, a better mediator than Aaron and his boys and in chapter 8 we have a better ministry, a better ministry. Better than the ministry of the Old Testament, better than the ministry of the law is the ministry of grace.
Let's look at a few verses, chapter 8, verse 6. "But now He [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." He likes that word, he uses it a lot. Verse 7, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second, Because finding fault with them." Notice them not it, the fault isn't in the covenant, the fault is in the people who didn't keep the covenant, the lawbreakers who failed the covenant.
"Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.""
Today we are under the new covenant. This author wants you to know something. The new covenant didn't begin with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the new covenant began in the mind of God from the beginning. It was even predicted in the old covenant and he quotes Jeremiah 31. That very famous passage where God says, I am going to do away with the Old Testament, do away with the old covenant and make a new one.
Now, look at it this way. The old covenant tried to control our conduct, don't do this, don't do that, don't do that other thing, do this instead and do that, tries to control our conduct. The new covenant changes our character. It's not outward, it's inward. There's a heart change, where you are born again something happens that gives you the enabling to do what you couldn't do under the law. I don't know how many musicians we have out there but how many musicians can read sheet music? Really? There's a lot of you, we need you, come and sign up for our music ministry.
Okay so, I will tell you my story. I like to play music as well and I took a college music class. I was kicked out of it, and I was kicked out because I like to play by ear, I am really good at hearing something, emulating it, kind of, doing my own thing and playing it. And so everybody in class was learning how to read by sheet music except for me. And so the teacher had a quiz one night would go from piano to piano and everybody would play their score reading it and I was playing it not reading anything on the score at all, just hearing it.
Teacher stopped and could tell, she said, you are not reading that, are you? I said, no ma'am. She goes, you are playing by ear, aren't you? I said, yes I am. And she says, if you continue to do that you can't be in my class, you have to learn to read by the score, and I know that you are gifted of reading by ear and you could do great with improvisation, but you've got to learn to read the sheet music.
Well, that was sort of like the old covenant. Under the law you were limited to sheet music, the new covenant enables you to play by ear, you hear it. You hear the melody, you don't have to just see it and play what you see. You can hear it, God put a song in your heart, you hear the melody and there is a freedom there.
See, Romans chapter 3 puts it this way. "By the law is the knowledge of sin, [not the forgiveness of sin]. For the law came by Moses [John chapter 1], but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." The new covenant brings forgiveness, the law, the old covenant brought only the knowledge of sin. So we have a better messenger, a better moderator, a better mediator, a better ministry, chapter 9, we have a better monument, a better monument. We have something a whole lot better than a temple in Jerusalem and a tabernacle in the wilderness.
Now something else I didn't say, whoever wrote this book and to whomever this book was written, neither of which we really know, we do know it was written before 70 AD because there are references to the temple stranding and the priesthood being active. And all of that ended in 70 AD when Titus destroyed Jerusalem. So this was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple.
Verse 1, "Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lamp stand and the table and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the veil, part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All."
Verse 11, "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. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all." If you would like to write in your Bible, you know, you don't have to, but if you like to do it and you are okay with it, circle "Once for 'All'."
I grew up with an interesting idea called the continual sacrifice. Sacrifice has to be made continually, continually, continually, we have to keep going, always have the reenactment of the sacrifice, the sacrifice, to ensure atonement. Christ's atonement was once for all, a single work finished, never to be repeated and I wouldn't insult God by trying to repeat what He finished.
So, what verse was I in, I got on my soapbox, 12. "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption."
Go down to verse 23, "Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in heaven [now please get this language, the tabernacle was a model or a copy of heaven] the copies of the things in heaven should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us."
Okay, go back in your "way back' machine, remember that cartoon, 'Mr. Peabody'? He said Sherman, set the "way back" machine for whatever. So set the "way back" machine, now we are living in Mount Sinai area and we are part of the children of Israel and we see a big tabernacle. This is what it looks like as we approach; 75 feet wide, a white curtain fence, 75 feet wide, about 7 feet tall, a 150 feet deep and that's the outer court. If we could peer into the gate we would see an altar, brass altar where sacrifices were made and a laver or a washing area for the priest. Then we would see a tent structure that was 15 feet wide by 45 feet deep, covered with different skins and erected like a tent. Inside that tent were two places, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place was 15 feet wide, 30 feet deep and the Holy of Holies was a 15-foot cube, where the ark of the covenant resided.
All of these chambers and all of these implements and articles of furniture, they meant something different. But it's also a model of heaven, according to the writer of Hebrews, a model of heaven, so that when you step into the tabernacle, you are getting a really scale down, earthy, a low-budget, even though it cost a lot, view of heaven, in comparison.
I have been in models, scale models of the tabernacle, and if you come to Israel with us, I will try to arrange a showing because they have one erected down in the wilderness area, the desert still and you can take a tour of it. But you walk through it and it's interesting to think, this is sort of a model of heaven and if you would say a model of heaven, I won't try to explain all that, but go read Revelation 4 and 5 and I think you would be able to pick up on some of the articles there.
Here is what I want you to know though. Did you know and you do know if you have been with us in 'The Bible From 30,000 Feet'. Did you know that there is more space in the scripture devoted to the tabernacle than any other single item or issue? Isn't that interesting? Here is some perspective. Two chapters of the whole Bible are devoted to creation, 50 chapters of the Bible are devoted to the tabernacle, its furnishings, its workings and its ministry.
Okay, there is one door to the tabernacle, one door. You can only come one way and there is one way to God, right? Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. Jesus also said I am the door. There is only one way to enter the presence of God in the Old Testament. There is only one way to heaven. The door was from the east, that's where the tribe of Judah was. You had to come through the tribe of Judah and the insignia, the Lion of the tribe of Judah to enter the place of fellowship with God.
Then there is that big fence that I told you about, 150 by 75, and here is the deal. It's really plain looking from the outside. It's a white cloth fence. In fact, the tabernacle from the outside looked ugly or I would say, looked plain, didn't look special at all, but you get inside, and it's costly and especially the Holy of Holies, it's wood covered with gold. So you have gold everywhere and gold implements, very, very telling.
Isaiah 53 says of Jesus Christ, "He has no form nor comeliness, no beauty is in Him that we should desire Him" But His blood is precious and He is the King of Kings, very, very, costly. Then there was the menorah, as you walk into the Holy Place on the left-hand side, the only light in the tabernacle, one light source, the only light. Jesus said, "I am the light." On the right-hand side, was a table with bread on it, showbread. Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life."
All the "I ams" of Jesus can fit into the tabernacle. Then there was a veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and you couldn't go in it and if you were a priest, you couldn't go in it, and if you were a High Priest, you couldn't go in it except once a year with blood and on that very trepidatious approach, very scared.
I hope I did this right, I hope my heart is clean, I hope I made all the right sacrifices because I'm toast otherwise. I will be the ex-priest if I don't watch it. So what happened when Jesus died? Matthew 27, "The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." The access that was restricted in the old, symbolically was shown in the temple and now people could come directly to God through Jesus Christ.
Here is the point of the author. Tabernacle, just a monument, temple, just a monument. We have a better monument, it's the real deal. It's heaven. Jesus, our High Priest when into heaven and could offer His blood as the atonement, His blood, perfect, sinless, not like an animal, so you've got to keep doing everyday and every year. That's gone now. One final act.
So we have a better messenger, better moderator, a better mediator, better ministry, better monument. Chapter 10, we have a better method, better method. Aren't you glad you don't have to bring an animal sacrifice tonight? Can you imagine to come on church on Sunday and bring the animal, we will collect it outside, take it to the altar, can't come in, as we bleed that thing and sacrifice that thing.
Okay, chapter 10, verse 11, "And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins." So what were the priests doing? A lot, they are always busy. Priests never sat down, they are always on their feet seeing what they could do, working, working, working. Contrast that to verse 12, "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God."
You know why He sat down? Because there is no more to do. It's finished, it's over. You sit down because you are not going to do it again and again and again and again and again and have a continual sacrifice. It's once in for all, the sitting down symbolize the finished work and that the old method of sacrifices was never finished, this one is, better method. "From that time, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For about one offering, He has perfected forever, those who are being sanctified."
What was one of the last things Jesus said on the Cross? "It is finished, it is finished" and you know because you have been around here for a while, there is one word in Greek, Tetelestai, Tetelestai, Telios or Telos means complete or mature, perfect or finished. Tetelestai, it is finished, get this. Servants would use that word when their master gave them a command and they finished the work the master gave them to do. They would walk up and say master, tetelestai, it's finished, I did what you called me to do.
Remember what Jesus said when He was 12 years old and at the temple, probably there for His Bar Mitzvah at the time. I must be about my father's business. Now on the cross, as a servant to his master, it's finished. I have done what you have called me to do. Also, priest would use that term or the equivalent of that term. They were speaking to a Greek person who would bring a sacrifice and they would go through the lamb and make sure that it was without spot, without blemish, right? They had to make sure it had no defect and if it was no defect, it could be said tetelestai. It's blemishless.
Peter makes the point that Jesus Christ died for us and He was a lamb without spot and blemish, He was perfect, perfect sacrifice, tetelestai. Artists would use the term tetelestai when they were painting or sculpting, they would step back from their work and when it was all finished, all completed, the picture is completed, they go tetelestai, it's done.
Jesus Christ is like that artist. The Old Testament didn't give you a full picture. The tabernacle didn't give you a full picture, temple, not a full picture, prophets, not a full picture. They all spoke of someone that was going to fulfill the picture. And so now, Christ comes and He puts all of the finishing touches on it. You can say, now the picture is completed, it's tetelestai, it's finished.
Also, merchants would use the term Tetelestai. If in a transaction, you paid off your bill, whatever you are buying, whatever it costs, you have a debt. When you pay off the debt, you are given a little notice that said tetelestai, paid in full. You and I have a debt, don't we? All mankind has a debt, don't we? All have sin and fall short the glory of God, right? And it's a debt we can never pay. So Jesus comes and can say Tetelestai, Father, it's paid in full. They couldn't pay it, I just did, Tetelestai, paid in full, better method.
Now that's the doctrinal instruction, chapters 1 through 10, in brief. The last three chapters, which we'll brush through very quickly is the practical exhortation. Chapters 1-10, Christ is superior, chapters 11 through 13, Christianity is superior and not only do we have better messenger and better moderator and better mediator and better ministry and better monument and better all that stuff, we have also a better manner, a better manner. This is what I want to say about that.
The life of faith is so superior to the life under the law because faith produces what the law could never produce and that is the behavior that God requires. That's the behavior of faith and the principle of faith has a long heritage according to chapter 11, goes way back in before the law ever existed.
So here is what the author does here. He sums or he summons a cloud of witnesses. People who have lived by faith, some before the law, some during the law, but they all lived by the principle of just trusting in God and believing in God and so they are summoned as examples.
Now don't you like examples? Or, put it this way, aren't you encouraged when you are wondering if you are going to make it in some area and you have somebody who has already done that and they have already made it first and they come to you and then go, you can do this because I did it. You can do this because I did it and I finished it, I made it. It encourages, then it motivates us and so that's what Hebrews 11 is all about. It's the 'Hall of Faith', or the 'Hall of Fame of Faith' or some call it the 'Honor Roll' of the Old Testament, whatever you want to call it; reading this chapter will give you a faith lift, honestly.
Verse 1, [I live for those baby] [laughter], "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain."
Verse 5, [another example], "By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death."
Verse 7, "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark."
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out."
Verse 11, "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive."
Verse 39, [I am going to sum it all up], "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be completed or perfected apart from us."
Is faith impractical? Lot of people accuse Christians of living impractically, old faith, it's such an impractical way to live. I am a man of empirical evidence and as an empiricist, I don't put my -- or sink to that kind of a level where I've put my faith in God and all this stuff and you know, here is the truth Baby Ruth. Every person I have ever met, even the ardent atheist lives by faith everyday.
You wouldn't walk in this building tonight, even if you are an unbeliever, unless you had faith. You have faith that there is an architect and an engineer and a builder, who provided a structure that will not collapse on your head, you believe that. It's just you walk in, you have no problem believing that, it's faith. And if you didn't believe that, you would be hiding under your chair and sit under till the whole service. But then again you would have to have faith in the builder of the chair that, that chair is able to protect you from the building that would fall.
You wouldn't drive your car unless you believe that the people on the assembly line and the people who engineered it, that the brakes work, the accelerator works, everything works. You drive 65 miles an hour by faith. Some of you drive 90 miles an hour, you must have more faith. [laughter] We all live by faith.
But Biblical faith is far more than positive confession or intellectual accession. Biblical faith, according to the writer of Hebrews is based on evidence and is placed in the character of God. It's based on evidence and placed in the character of God. We can't say anymore than that for time.
Verse 1 of chapter 12, [after give me the list and here's the punch line], "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [these people who have run the race before us] let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." In other words, this faith is very practical.
"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." So looking unto Jesus, not looking unto angels, not looking unto Moses, not looking unto Aaron, not looking unto Aaron's sons, not looking unto prophets, not looking to the old covenant, just Jesus, look to Him.
Now verse 1 and verse 2 is a picture of a race. In fact, it's a picture of a runner who would strip down to the bare essentials and run a race. Do you ever see an athlete run a race in army boots and a helmet and overcoat and a backpack, not if they want to win, you go all the way down, take off the running pants, down to the little shorts and little cool jersey and the Nike, you are all set. But you don't want to let anything hinder your progress. There is an old saying, "If you want to travel far, travel light." Get rid of anything that would hinder you from reaching the goal.
I heard a story years ago of some Olympic runner, who was touted to be the fastest human being on earth, he was from another country, came to the United States for preliminaries, track preliminaries. And when he ran the preliminaries, he didn't even qualify for the prelims, because he was overweight. You see, he was one time the fastest human on earth and overtime, I guess, he had eaten more and trained less, but he didn't even qualify for the prelims. There was a hindrance.
So what's the message to us? Get rid of things that hinder you, that keep you from reaching the goal. What things could hinder us? Here is a few habits. Anybody got habits that God is trying to deal with? I got some. God says you need to get rid of those habits. We need to work on that. You need to strip yourself off that could be a relationship that you have, could be a pursuit that you are involved with, could be a distraction. You know what Paul said to the Corinthians? All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient, that is, all things don't help me reach my goal. It actually drag me down.
Wilbur Chapman said this, and you say, who is Wilbur Chapman? He is an old dead guy. No, actually Wilbur Chapman was a great man of God, in fact, I have a signature of his to someone else that, I won't get into it. He is an old dead guy, he is in heaven. He said, "My life is governed by this rule, anything that dims my vision of Christ or takes away my taste for Bible study or cramps my prayer life or makes Christian work difficult is wrong for me and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it." Good advice and good practical application. Get rid of it, strip it away, run the race, go for it. Look at those people of faith, they ran the race, they made it. Live the life of faith, run the race of faith, go all the way to the end, finish well, this author would say.
Verse 3, "For consider Him, [Jesus], Him, who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls."
Verse 7, "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons."
Verse 12, "Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees."
What's the author doing to these people? Well, he knows they are facing persecution. He knows that they are tempted to go back to the rituals that they felt so safe and secure in and to trust in those things once again. And so he wants to tell them, bad things happen to God's people because bad things happened to God. Jesus Himself endured hostility.
So if they happen to God, then I guess they are going to happen to God's people, we are not exempt and He wants them to be encouraged to say number one, it's temporary. It's temporary, it won't last forever and even if it lasts till the day you die, you are going to be living somewhere else forever and ever and ever. It's a whole lot better than this, so don't get your sights here.
Number 2, it's purifying. It will hone you. God will use it like a father would use spanking or chastening for a child. God will make you a better person because of it. So just like gold is purified by fire, Christians are purified by fiery trials, and that's the encouragement he wants to give them.
I want you to remember something child of God because some of you are in the furnace tonight. You are feeling the heat of the trial. If you are in the furnace tonight, know that God has His eye on the thermostat and his hand on the controls. He knows how much you can take. He goes, I am already past that. I am already past what I can take. You are here, you are alive. God knows what you can take and He has His eye on the thermostat. He is watching the temperature, has His hand on the controls. He does not want crispy Christians [laughter]. He knows when to turn down the heat.
Now let's go to chapter 13, verse 20, and 21 and we will close the book. It's one of the most beautiful benedictions in all the scripture. "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant [I love this wording] make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
Sort of, sums up, does it not, the whole book of Hebrews, right there. Sums it all up. First covenant, old covenant, the law covenant, temporary, fading away, passed away. The new covenant, eternal, just like Jesus.
So we have access, we have access, we have unrestricted access because Jesus Christ is the full and final complete expression of God better than anyone or anything else, so we have unfettered, unrestricted access, we can come boldly. God has included you in that. Your great High Priest has included you in that, included me in that, that's our heritage.
There is a great old story that I read. I think it happened during World War II. A few friends were fighting a war together on European soil, one of their buddies died. They wanted to bury him in a churchyard nearby and they took the man to the churchyard to give him a decent burial and mourn his death. The only problem was that it was a Catholic cemetery and their friend was a Protestant.
They went to the priest and say, could you bury our friend? He said, well, is he Catholic? They said no, he is not, he is Protestant. I am sorry, he cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery, and they were really despondent. The priest said, you can, however bury him outside the fence because that's technically not the cemetery. They weren't that excited about keeping him outside of the cemetery. They wanted him included where the dead are honored, but they did. They dug a hole. They put their friend in it. They fellowshipped a little bit together. They went away that night saddened.
They decided to get up the next morning before going back to the battlefront and just say goodbye to the priest and thank him anyway and visit the grave one last time of their friend and they couldn't find the grave. They looked, they looked, they looked, they went around the whole fence and finally, they found the priest and they said we have looked everywhere for the grave of our friend, it's not to be found. Can you give us an explanation? The priest said, well, after what happened yesterday, I couldn't sleep all night, so I moved the fence to include your friend.
God has moved the fence. We were outside the fence. We couldn't get in, there is no access. God said, I've got a plan. My son can come and do what nobody else can do and include anybody, anywhere at any time, who has lived by the principle of faith in his finished work, the great High Priest, they will be in the fence.
Heavenly Father, thank You that we are included. We're included, we're included because we are dealing with a system that is by far better because Jesus Christ is by far the best. He is the only Son from the Father. He is the only way to heaven. He is the only hope for salvation and trusting in a religious system or rituals will not take a single person to heaven, it never has.
The only religion ever established by You Father, we understand, was Judaism, the only religion You ever established. And that system of sacrifices and tabernacle and temple is done away with, it's fulfilled in our Messiah, Yeshua, the Great High Priest, the perfect sacrifice, the ultimate mediator and moderator and messenger of the Father.
Lord, I just pray for anybody here tonight, who may have been trusting in their religious background, their religious system, their upbringing, their ritual of baptism or conformation or anything that happened to them other than just simply trusting authentically and personally in Christ. I pray Lord that tonight, they would leave the old and come into the new, leave the inferior and go to the Superior, Jesus Christ Himself.
As your head is bowed, I want you to think about what you trust in, what you live for, what you know to be true and ask yourself tonight, are you fully satisfied that if you were to die, and by last estimates, you will, and I will at some point. When that happens, are you certain you would be in God's presence? Are you certain that you would be in heaven forever? If you have any doubts at all because if you are trusting in anyone except Jesus Christ, you should have lots of doubts. You might trust yourself, your good works, your parents, the upbringing, the religion, but do you trust in Jesus? If not, do you want to? Are you willing to turn to Him, surrender to Him?
As our heads our bowed and we are praying, if you want to do that or maybe you want to come back to Him because you have been tempted like these Hebrews to cast Jesus aside and just go through trusting themselves again, maybe you want to come back to Him. If so, as we are praying, as our heads are bowed, would you raise your hand high in the air? I will acknowledge your hand and I will pray for you as we close this service.
You are saying, pray for me, I am going to give my life to Jesus, right in the front row, God bless you, and to my left, right here on this side, a few rows back. Anyone else? A few rows back from that, two of more of you and in the back, toward the back row on the left, toward the back in the middle, right in the middle, toward the back. Anybody else? Raise your hand up.
You think, yep, I need this, I am going to do it, tonight I am going to surrender. Anybody else, anybody in the balcony? Raise your hand up. We are in the family room. God bless you in the family, a couple of you.
Thank You Father, thank You for Your work. We pray for every person with a hand raised, the heart crying out to know You personally. Bless them and grant them Your salvation as they come by faith.
In Jesus' name, Amen! Would you stand with me, as we close this service tonight? If you'd raised your hand, I'm going to ask you to do something else. Just like you were to come boldly before the throne of God, I want you to boldly walk down the aisle and stand right up here and let me lead you in a prayer to receive Jesus as your Savior. People do this every week, you're not the first but this is the first time for you perhaps where you're going to find peace in your heart. So come join us and come right up front right now as we sing this song. Just stand right up in the front. If you're in the family room, if you're in the middle of an aisle, if you're on the side come right up front. [Clapping -- music playing]
Real quickly anybody else, there's more that want to come. Family room, it doesn't matter find the nearest door and come through or if you're in the middle of an aisle and you raised your hand. Just say excuse me to the person next to you; you'll watch that row go [parting of the hands]. Anyone else? [Clapping -- music playing]
Okay now, I'm going to lead those of you who have come forward; I'm going to lead you in prayer and I'm going to ask you to pray what I pray out loud after me. I'm going to ask you to mean it from your heart, I'm going to ask you to say it directly to God, mean every word you say to Him because this is now you giving the rest of your life over to Him and in exchange He is going to give you everlasting life. That's how it works, it's a great exchange. You give Him your old life, you're giving Him the rest of your life, He's going to give you eternal spiritual life. You're going to walk with Him the rest of this life and you're going to live with Him forever in heaven. It's the best deal going, so pray, pray with me; I'm going to pray and you pray out loud after me, okay. [Clapping]
Lord, I give you my life; I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I place my trust in Jesus Christ who died for me and rose from the dead. I turn from my sin, I turn to you, to follow you as my Savior and my Master. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name. Amen. Amen. [Clapping] Yes, congratulations! [Clapping] Congratulations!