The Book of Hebrews

The book of Hebrews is unique among New Testament (NT) books in the way it interacts with the Old Testament (OT). All NT books interact with the OT in some way. The NT is the fulfillment of the promises of Messiah and salvation from the OT. But no NT book interacts as much with the OT as does the book of Hebrews. Hebrews explains the purposes and limitations of the Mosaic covenant law revealed in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Mosaic law provided the shadows and types that pointed to Jesus and the salvation he brought. They were not the reality, but a limited expression of the reality.

The book of Hebrews is a letter written primarily to Jews who had professed faith in Jesus as Christ, but because of persecution were in danger of turning away from him. The book was written to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant promises and prophecies, and that the new covenant through Jesus is therefore better. Because Jesus is superior to angels, Moses, the priesthood of Aaron and the animal sacrifices, the writer of Hebrews gives five warnings not to turn from Jesus as Christ and go back to the old covenant: (1) Do not neglect this great salvation (2:1-4); (2) Do not fail to enter the rest of God through Jesus (3:7-4:13); (3) Do not fall away from the faith by a shallow understanding of Christ and his work (5:11-6:12); (4) Do no turn away from Jesus as a sacrifice for your sins (10:19-39); (5) Do not refuse God speaking to you through Jesus (12:18-29). Within these passages the writer of Hebrews not only warns his readers, but he encourages them to continue strong in the faith of Jesus Christ. He uses the exhortation, “let us” fourteen times in the letter (4:1, 11, 14, 16; 6:1; 10:22, 23, 24; 12:1 (twice); 12:28 (twice); 13:13, 15).

The writer of the book of Hebrews makes his case that the new covenant through Jesus is superior to the old covenant by demonstrating his point five ways: (1) Jesus is superior to angels (ch. 1-2); (2) Jesus is superior to Moses (ch. 3-4); (3) Jesus’ high priesthood is superior to Aaron’s (ch. 5-7); (4) New covenant sacrifice of Jesus for sin is superior to old covenant sacrifices (ch. 8-10); (5) Live by faith: New covenant fulfills the old covenant (ch.11-13).

The message of the book of Hebrews for us today is that Jesus is the only way of salvation. No religious system, ideology, philosophy or way of life will be sufficient to bring us to heaven. God’s love and grace has provided all we need for salvation in Jesus. Before Jesus came God gave prophecies, promises and pictures of Jesus and his work of redemption in the OT. God now calls us to enter a relationship with him through faith in Jesus and live by that faith every day in spite of the hardships and persecutions life may bring. God’s plan of salvation will be fulfilled and we can part of it.

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