Based on Solomon’s Porch Sunday Sermon Series
Hebrews Part 3
We’ve noted so far the historical context of the Letter to the Hebrews. Through several key passages the author lets us know that the folks receiving the letter are struggling a bit (2:1, 10:23, 4:1), and that some of the early Hebrews believers had gone back (6:4-6, 10:24). We also noted that since Timothy is mentioned at the end of the letter and he is not yet bishop at Ephesus, and also the Temple was still standing the letter was written before 67 AD. Since Paul or someone within Paul’s camp is the likely author and we are aware of Paul’s life and ministry through 62 AD because of the Book of Acts, we can be fairly certain the Letter to the Hebrews was written within that window. Most likely Hebrews was written just after 64 AD. Chapter 10 references to their faithfulness in an earlier persecution (likely the one Paul began in Acts 7 with the death of Stephen) and their need for endurance during the time of the receiving of the letter leads to a likely writing of the letter to coincide with the wide spread persecution of Christians that began under after 64 AD, being the year Nero burned half of Rome and blamed it on Christians there.
We’ve also tried to get behind the literary context. The author seems to be answering several key questions that have likely been asked by those Hebrews that have apostatized and returned to Judaism mentioned in Hebrews 6. These may have even been the key questions that led to the apostasy of some of the early Hebrew believers. How would one hold Jesus in contempt? First by questioning His authority as a messenger and suggesting He was not a trustworthy agent since He did not receive messages in the same way as Abraham, Moses, and the other “fathers”, which was through angels. (chapter 1 and 2) Second by questioning His ability to offer a sacrifice for sins since He was not of the tribe of Levi. (Chapters 4-7) Third, by casting doubt on the New Covenant because of a lack of an oath and an inaugural ceremony intimated in the Old Covenant literature. (chapters 7-9) I realize there are the testimonies in the Gospels, but at the time of the writing of the Letter to the Hebrews there would not have been a New Testament Canon, therefore most proof text would have need to have been established through the current authoritative Canon of the Old Testament then in use.
Now let’s we move on and take a closer look at the language used in the first few verses
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
First let’s look at the significance of the term “fathers” and “Son”. We need to note that the original promise of a Savior to come through the Hebrew people begins with them the same place it does with us all, at the Fall of Man in Genesis 3 where God promises to give Adam and Eve an “offspring” or a son to crush to the serpents head. The trail of redemption leads us on to Abraham where he is promised that his “offspring” (singular, a son, see Galatians 3) will inherit the land and bless all the families of the earth. Continuing on we find God building and establishing David’s house forever in the hands of one of his son’s in 2 Samuel 7. So the reason for the opening phase about God speaking to the “fathers” in various different times in various different ways becomes clear when one considers the message that was being delivered to them. The message was, “you are going to have a son”. Which gives us the real import behind the phrase, “in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son”.
Jesus as the culminating answer to all the promises demonstrates the wisdom of the Incarnation of God into humanity. God sends the “heir” of heaven as the answer to His promise to make the offspring of Abraham the “heir” of the earth or world.
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
How does this demonstrate the wisdom of the Incarnation? Listen to Hebrews 1 closely
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things
By sending His own Son, Jesus, to bring reconciliation between God and man, blessing all the families of the earth, Jesus becomes “heir” of the world through Abraham. Already being the “heir” of Heaven as the Son of God, Jesus successfully re-establishes the reign of God both in Heaven and on earth. Jesus as the son of Adam, son of Abraham, son of David, the Son of God becomes “heir of all things”. So that when Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, Philippi, and Colosse’, this is what he says regarding the wisdom of God in the incarnation of the Son of God.
Considering the over all plan of redemption,
“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
In regards to the over arching authority of the Son
“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”
And when he considers the reconciliation that was wrought by Christ he would write,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the beauty, wisdom, and richness found in the Redemption that comes to us by faith in the Son of God. Truly all the promises are yes and amen in Him.