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A chapter by chapter examination of the Book of Hebrews; this book examines the ways in which God has moved towards a better covenant with man. The historical background of the Book of Hebrews as well as contextual discussions add insight and relevance to Hebrews.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Having established that Jesus Christ was our kinsman redeemer, the author of the book of Hebrews delves further into the implication of being servants or sons.
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. 2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all his house.
Now the focus here is not our calling, even though it does talk about partakers of the heavenly calling, but the focus really is upon the One who called us. And we see in verse 2 that Christ is compared to Moses. Christ is obviously greater, and this was established already in the first two chapters. Whereas in the past, God spoke through the prophets and through angels, now in these days He has spoken to us by one greater—His Son. Secondly, He pictures this as a house, as we read in verses 3 and 4,
3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
In a sense, Moses’ house was the house of Israel, but Christ’s house is greater, because as the incarnation of Yahweh, He is the one who actually built Moses’ house.
5 Now Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house, whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
Moses represents the faithful servant in contrast to Christ, who was the faithful Son. So here we have the servant and son relationship, which extends to us as well. Moses, representing the Old Covenant, is a faithful servant. He had a great calling. But Christ representing the New Covenant, is the faithful Son with a greater calling. The important thing to note is verse 6, where he says, “Whose house are we, IF . . .” So being a part of God’s house is conditional. “If we hold fast our confidence,” if we endure “unto the end,” then we are part of God’s house.
In other words, it is not simply a question of being “saved,” or justified by faith, which is one’s Passover experience. The author here is saying that to be part of God’s house, one must continue on the journey from Egypt all the way to the Promised Land. One must go beyond Passover into Pentecost and finally into the Feast of Tabernacles.
This is really the first of many references about enduring to the end, which have been taken by some theologians and scholars of the past as an indication that people can lose their salvation. In other words, they say, “If you don’t endure to the end, you are not saved.” These theologians, I believe, have misunderstood these passages. They have made it a matter of salvation, because they do not understand the difference between a servant and a Son. Both a servant and a son are believers in Christ. They are both a part of God’s household in some way. But in God’s household, there are both servants and sons. Not every believer is a son. Some believers are just servants.
This is illustrated by the fact that Israel under Moses was a servant nation. The people were supposed to be like Moses—the faithful servant. Moses was the head of this Servant Class, being the administrator of the Old Covenant. But under the New Covenant, we are under a new Head, Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, not merely a servant. We who are of His household, as distinct from Moses, can come into Sonship.
Yet just because we have been justified by faith, does not suddenly bring us into real Sonship. Sonship is a secondary step that takes us beyond servanthood. This relates to the two works of Christ, which was explained fully in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming. In that study, the two doves and two goats in the law represent the two comings of Christ. They are seen in the distinct callings of Judah and Joseph. Jesus came the first time as the Suffering Servant of the tribe of Judah, whose calling included the death and resurrection of the “lion” (Gen. 49:9). Christ is to come the second time as Joseph, the Ruling Son, whose robe was dipped in blood (Gen. 37:31; Rev. 19:13).
While Judah held the Dominion Mandate (Gen. 49:10), Joseph held the Fruitfulness Mandate known as Sonship, for we read in Gen. 49:22,
22 Joseph is a fruitful bough [Heb. ben, “SON”], a fruit-ful bough by a spring; its branches run over a wall.
When someone becomes a believer in Jesus Christ, the One born in Bethlehem of Judah, and when one accepts His work on the cross, which He accomplished to fulfill the calling given to Judah, such a believer identifies with Jesus Christ in His role as the Suffering Servant. It is the beginning of His Christian walk. Like the Israelites of old, such a person has left Egypt (the world) by the power of the blood of the Lamb. A believer becomes God’s servant through the feast of Passover when he is justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb.
However, this is not the end of the journey, nor is it the height of any man’s personal relationship with God. The believer then must pass through the Red Sea of water baptism and must receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mount Sinai) in order to walk in the light of Pentecost. The purpose of Pentecost is to write the law in our hearts and thereby learn obedience as faithful servants.
Servants are sons-in-training. The purpose of the law is to train God’s servants for Sonship. It is a time of learning to hear His voice and to respond in obedience. It is a time of discipline, by which we are conformed into His image, and by which we put on the mind of Christ. This is true Pentecost. The feast itself involved offering to God two loaves of bread baked with leaven. The true Pentecostal is that leavened bread, and the leaven (sin, corruption) is killed by the baptism of fire as it is baked.
Herein lies the problem in the Church, which does not like to be baked in the baptism of fire. It is too painful, too difficult. We would rather be presented to God without being baked. We want the good things of God but are less willing to submit to the disciplines inherent in Pentecost—which are revealed in Israel’s example under Moses. Hebrews 2, then, tells us that we can be of Christ’s household of SONS, if we are willing to endure to the end, going all the way to the Promised Land. If not, we remain in the household of Moses as a servant class. This issue does not determine who is a believer or an unbeliever. It determines who is a servant or a son in the Tabernacles Age to come. Those who qualify as sons are the overcomers, who “will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). These will inherit the first resurrection, while the rest of the believers, as Jesus said in Luke 12:46, will receive their reward “with the unbelievers” at the Great White Throne.
And so the author of Hebrews sets before us an admonition to move out of Moses’ household into that of Jesus Christ. It is a call not only to go beyond the Old Covenant into the New, but also a call to go beyond Pentecost into Tabernacles, or from servanthood to Sonship. Rev. 21:7 says,
7 He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.
In the rest of Hebrews 3 (and all of the fourth chapter as well) we are given the example of Israel in the wilderness and how most of them refused to hear His voice and learn the lessons of Pentecost (Sinai). As a result, most of them were denied entry into the Promised Land, showing allegorically how most of the Church refuses to hear His voice, submit to the divine law, and strive to attain to Sonship through the lessons of the Feast of Tabernacles.
In other words, Israel did not inherit Sonship, because even though they had the faith to leave Egypt, they did not endure to the end. They refused to hear His voice at Sinai (Ex. 20:18-21). They refused to have the law written on their heart by means of the voice of God. So as an alternative, God gave them the law on external tablets of stone. To internalize the law, they would have to await the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
Because they did not have the faith to experience Pentecost in Exodus 20, the fulfillment of Pentecost would have to wait for 1,480 years. Furthermore, in refusing to hear God, the Israelites had no chance of learning the lessons of Pentecost that would have built their faith to enter the Promised Land. So when the 12 spies gave their report, they did not have the faith that they needed (Numbers 14:1).
The author of Hebrews applies this same lesson to the Church in the first century, and by extension to all of us to the present time. What happened to “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) has set the pattern for the church under Pentecost in the past 2,000 years as well. We are no different. Many refuse Pentecost altogether, and even many who claim to be Pentecostal know little about hearing His voice or having the law written on their hearts.
In fact, the Laodicean Church today has become so full of the Prosperity message that they reject any suggestion that the baptism of fire might be necessary to deal with their leavened hearts. Mega-churches think they are rich and yet are poor by God’s standards (Rev. 3:18). They think they have eyes to see, but yet are in need of eye salve. The ministers dress in expensive suits or robes, and do not know that in the sight of God, they are naked. And so the Word of the Lord to David about Israel’s condition is applicable to in the New Testament Church as well, for we read in Heb. 3:7-11,
7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you will hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. 10 Therefore, I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways;’ 11 As I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’.”
Entering God’s rest is the equivalent of entering the Promised Land. It is God’s rest, because if they had entered when they first had opportunity, they would have entered at the time of the 50th Jubilee from Adam. There are three “rests” in the Bible, represented by the three Sabbaths: the Sabbath day, the Sabbath year, and the year of Jubilee. The third is God’s rest. If Israel had entered the Promised Land in that Jubilee year, they would have entered God’s rest. But instead, God made them spend 40 years in the wilderness, and so when they finally did enter the land, it was no longer in a Jubilee year. Thus, they did not enter God’s rest. Instead, their calendar reflected alternate Sabbath years and Jubilees which did not align with God’s Creation Jubilee calendar.
All of this was a great allegory, of course. There are many lessons to be learned in this. The quotation above is from Psalm 95:7-11, where David refers to the fact that Israel had refused to hear God’s voice in Exodus 20:18-21. The book of Hebrews quotes from this in order to give us warning, for the problem was not limited to the Israelites under Moses. The Pentecostal Age has been characterized by the same unwillingness to hear His voice or to have His law written on the heart of the Church.
Hence, in the same manner, God will not allow many in the Church to enter into His rest. In other words, not all believers will inherit the first resurrection. Not all will move out of servanthood into Sonship. Most will have to await the Great White Throne, where they will be given rewards appropriate to each, along with whatever temporary judgments are decreed (Luke 12:47, 48; 1 Cor. 3:15).
This is the prime admonition of Hebrews 3. We read then in verse 12 and 13,
12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another, day after day, as long as it is called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
In other words, it is quite possible that a Christian believer might follow the same example of unbelief as the Israelites did under Moses. This does not mean that they will lose their salvation, any more than those Israelites lost their salvation under Moses. They were all believers. They were all justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb. All those Israelites had been justified by faith (Passover). The problem was that they refused the secondary experience of Pentecost, whereby their faith would have grown to the level where they would be able to experience Tabernacles.
So it is with the Church today. Unfortunately, some Arminian theologians have argued that Christians can lose their salvation. They base their view on these verses and others like these, especially in the book of Hebrews. They do not understand that “enduring to the end” is a reference to Israel reaching the Promised Land. They think the story of Israel is a story about people losing their salvation, when in fact it is about losing the position of Sonship. One can lose Sonship without losing their position as servants. And ultimately, it is only a temporary loss in the thousand-year age to come. They will certainly attain their reward at the Great White Throne, though it may be accompanied by a certain level of “fire,” as Paul calls it (1 Cor. 3:15).
The New Testament uses the Greek term huiothesia, which the King James Version translates as “adoption of sons.” Huios means “sons,” and thesia means “placement or establishment.” So huiothesia means “the (legal) placement of sons.” It is a reference to the father’s legal ceremony where he gives his son power of attorney over the estate. He can then sign his name to documents and it is recognized as legally binding. But such authority is not given to immature sons. It was given only when the Father had confidence in the character of his son and knew that the son could be fully trusted. In essence, the Father knew that the son would do only what the Father would do. Thus, the son was an extension of the Father’s will.
John 8:34-36 says,
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 And the slave does not remain in the house forever [for The Age, the Messianic Age]; the son does remain forever. 36 If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Here Jesus shows the difference between the servant and the son. This is really based upon the law in the first six verses of Exodus 21, where the law says that Hebrew servants were to work for six years, and be set free at the start of the seventh year. The law then says that if the servant does not want to be set free—if he prefers the master’s inheritance to his own—he may return and become a perpetual servant. In such a case he would have his ear lobe bored to the door with an awl. This signified that his ear was opened.
The symbolism of this act was to show that the servant loved his master and was in full agreement with the laws of the household. In returning, he showed that the laws of the master were now in his heart. As an involuntary servant, the man was forced to obey, but as a voluntary servant, the man wanted to obey. The difference is that the first kind of servant obeys because he must, while the second obeys because he is in agreement with the law of the master.
The “door” prophesied in Exodus 21:6 to which the servant’s ear is attached, is Christ Himself. Jesus said in John 10:9, “I am the door.” When the servant’s ear was attached to the door, it signified that he was hearing the words of Jesus Christ Himself.
This law shows the intent of God in this matter of servanthood. Pentecost is a time that proves which of God’s servants are obedient because they must, and which ones actually have the law written on their hearts. It shows which servants obey out of fear and which ones obey out of love.
Opening the ear signifies that the voluntary servant, who returns out of love for his master, has truly “heard” the Master’s voice and is “obedient” out of agreement and love, rather than by force and fear. The Hebrew word shema has a double meaning. It means to hear and to obey. Any man who claims to hear but refuses to obey has not really heard at all. (Jesus spoke a parable to illustrate this in Matt. 21:28-31.)
David probably explains this principle best in Psalm 40,
6 Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come;” In the scroll of the book it is written of me, 8 “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.”
Jesus is pictured prophetically as the Suffering Servant whose ears have been opened. In other words, He has returned to the Father (“Behold, I come”), not because of obligation, but because “I delight to do Thy will, O my God.” And what is the reason for that delight? Because “Thy Law is within my heart.”
So also it is with us. God seeks a people who are in agreement with Him, not merely those who obey Him out of fear. The Old Covenant commands obedience out of fear, while the New Covenant seeks agreement. When the law is written on the heart, one obeys because it is in one’s nature to do these things. There is no more conflict between the flesh and the spirit.
Such perpetual servants are actually Sons, for ordinary servants do not remain in the master’s house beyond six years (i.e., prophetically 6,000 years). A perpetual servant, however, remains in the master’s house—even as a Son remains. So the law of servants prophesies of the Sons of God and the process by which servants become Sons.
Such perpetual servants, who are in full agreement with their master, now have a new type of relationship with their Master. He is not only a servant, but also a friend. He loves his master. And friendship is essentially sonship. The change from servant to son is essentially the same as going from servant to friend. Again in the book of John, we can read in John 15:14 and 15,
14 You are my friends, if ye do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
To be a friend of Christ is conditional upon obedience. It is not the same as justification, which is purely by faith alone. Justification brings a master-servant relationship that is based upon fear, but when this develops into friendship and love, it is evidence that Pentecost has done its work within one’s heart, and such a person is now ready to experience the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a friend-to-friend relationship as well as a Father-Son relationship, for upon maturity, the Son is the friend of the Father, and they can speak face to face without bowing to the ground as a servant might do.
There are religions that have no vision of becoming the Sons of God and, in fact, many think it blasphemous to have such a familiarity with God. Islam, for instance, demands that men bow to God with the faces to the ground five times a day. They conceive of God to be a great King over all, but human beings are too little and unimportant to become the Sons of God. Therefore, they have an Old Covenant religion, where they strive to be good servants of God, and they believe that this is the best that any man can attain.
On another level, Pentecost is often another manifestation of the Old Covenant way of thinking. Israel’s time in the wilderness under Moses was a type of Pentecost. In the New Testament, Pentecost forms the transitional feast from Passover to Tabernacles. In another sense, it is the feast which gives Christians opportunity either to press ahead toward Sonship, or to revert back to Old Covenant ways of thinking. There are both kinds of believers in the Church today. Those who have ears to hear are those who are moving from fear-based Old Covenant servanthood to love-based New Covenant perpetual servanthood that is actually Friendship and Sonship.
There is also a modern movement in the Church called Christian Zionism, based upon Dispensationalism of the 1800’s, which has done more to move Christians back into Old Covenant theology than any other movement in Church history. It is the teaching that the “Age of Grace” is temporary, and that when it is concluded, it will be replaced by the “Age of Law,” in which time Jesus will rule from a rebuilt physical temple in Jerusalem, that priestly descendants of Levi will replace the Order of Melchizedek and resume offering animal sacrifices upon stone altars. Is the blood of bulls and goats to replace the blood of Jesus Christ in the age to come? God forbid!
In effect, it is the view that the “better things” set forth in the book of Hebrews are really not better after all, and the carnal, temporary provisions of the Old Covenant are really the eternal things after all. To me, it makes little sense to re-establish the Order of Levi, because then of necessity it would have to elect a high priest other than Jesus Christ, who is of the Order of Melchizedek. This goes well with Jewish eschatology, but is absolutely contrary to the book of Hebrews.
Such thinking has probably done more to bring Christians back into the Old Covenant than any other teaching. Such a reversion is evidence at least that many Christians intend to remain servants for eternity—specifically, servants to the Jews, who themselves have little or no concept of Sonship as taught in the New Testament.
Because of such teaching, it is imperative that Christians return to an understanding of the book of Hebrews. The book sets forth the “better things” that will not be replaced by Old Covenant types and shadows. I cannot help but think that part of the evidence of being an overcomer is in understanding that these “better things” will never pass away. To revert back to Old Covenant theology is tantamount to Israel wishing to return to Egypt or to remain in the wilderness. Recall that Heb. 3:12 says,
12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.
He is not talking about unbelievers in the sense of non-Christians. He is pointing to Israelites—the church in the wilderness—who fell away in unbelief. They did not lose their Passover justification, but they certainly lost the inheritance of Sonship through the Feast of Tabernacles. The same danger exists among Christians today, for we are no different.
The author of Hebrews exhorts us in verses 13-15,
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; 15 while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
In verse 14 we see that we are made partakers of Christ “if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” It is conditional, but once again, let me say that our justification is not the issue here. At stake is Sonship, not salvation. Salvation requires only an initial moment of justifying faith. But to attain Sonship, one must not only “leave Egypt,” but go to Sinai and on to the Promised Land. Endurance to the end is required to inherit the first resurrection.
In verse 14 the word “beginning” is from the Greek word arche, the first, the primary, or the beginning. It also can refer to a chief ruler. In this sense we are made partakers with Christ if we hold onto the chief ruler (Christ) steadfast to the end.
The word “confidence,” in the Greek is hupostasis. Hupo means “under or by means of,” and stasis means “standing.” Hupostasis, then, is ones standing, or one’s foundation, the ground on which we stand. What is your standing? In a legal sense, it is your legal standing, the lawful grounds on which your action is being implemented. In other words what paperwork do you have to prove your case? If we stand on a firm foundation, then we can stand with confidence, because we are not on “shaky ground.”
This word is also used of title deeds in the ancient times. If you own property, you have title deeds. That is your legal standing which proves that you own the property. It is the lawful paperwork proving our ownership, and we can make our claim confidently, if anyone challenges our ownership.
So if we hold the chief ruler of our title deeds, or our foundation, then we are following this exhortation. Heb. 11:1 says,
1 Now faith is the assurance [hupostasis] of things hoped for, the conviction [elenchus, “proof”] of things not seen.
Faith is the title deed of things not seen. If you are away from your property and cannot see it, you can still prove ownership of your property by showing the title deed. This is not blind faith that has no basis in fact. In fact, faith is an assurance of knowing what is yours, and that knowledge is backed up by the law. It is only when we have no lawful basis of our claim that we feel compelled to “work up” our faith by emotion or by turning up the volume. These things, however, are usually evidence of a lack of faith.
In Hebrews 1:3 we saw that this word hupostasis speaks of Christ, who is “the imprinted seal on His legal document.”Literally, He is the imprinted seal signifying the validity of God’s title deed. So getting back to Hebrews 3:14, we see that we will inherit Sonship if we hold fast to the Chief Ruler of our title deed. That title deed to the Kingdom is validated and certified by the seal or imprint of Christ. We are to hold this confidence and faith “firm unto the end.”
The author of Hebrews then gives us a prophetic definition of the word “today.”
15 while it is said, “Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
“Today” here is an indefinite period of time. It is the time given to each person to repent, to hear, and to obey. In most cases, “today” refers to a person’s life time when it is still possible to be justified by faith—or, having been justified, to learn obedience. In the case of Israel in the wilderness, “today” was both a single day and a 40-year period. It referred to the day that they heard God’s voice speaking from Mount Sinai—which later became known as Pentecost. But Pentecost is more than a day. It is also an experience, and we are usually given an extended period of time in which to hear/obey God’s voice.
In another context, “today” could refer to the day that the twelve spies gave their report. The people “heard” and obeyed the voice of the evil report, instead of the voice of God coming through Caleb and Joshua. But broadly speaking, the people had opportunity daily to hear the voice of God, either directly or through Moses, Aaron, or others.
“Today” refers to the time before the entry into the Kingdom. It is the time of the wilderness when men were supposed to learn to hear His voice and then respond by obeying. This time of obedience is not a single event, but a time of continuous obedience. For this reason, we are to do this “until the end.” Unfortunately, the example we have of Israel under Moses is only a negative example of what NOT to do.
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
The result of their refusal or inability to hear is that they were unable to enter into the Promised Land at the appointed time.
18 And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief [apistion, “lack of faith”].
As I have said earlier, the problem was not total unbelief, but insufficient faith to enter the Promised Land. They all had the faith to leave Egypt (Passover Faith), but they were supposed to progress “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17), that is, from Passover Faith to Pentecostal Faith, and finally to a Tabernacles level of Faith. Only a few of them actually progressed from faith to faith.
Only Caleb and Joshua qualified as overcomers to enter the Promised Land. The rest died in the wilderness without receiving the promises. When we apply this pattern to the Church of the Pentecostal Age, it indicates that only a few Christians will actually qualify as overcomers who are able to inherit the first resurrection and inherit Life in the Tabernacles Age to come. The rest will remain mortal (i.e., “die in the wilderness”), though Isaiah 65:20 clearly indicates that life spans will be increased during that time, and living conditions on earth will be greatly enhanced.
As I showed in my book, The Purpose of Resurrection, most Christians will be given Life at the general resurrection at the end of the thousand-year Tabernacles Age. The fact that there will be believers raised at that time is made clear in John 5:28 and 29, which speaks of a resurrection in which both believers and unbelievers are raised. This cannot be the first resurrection of Rev. 20:4-6, because that will be a very limited resurrection. The others will continue to learn to hear and to be obedient servants.
The book of Hebrews earnestly exhorts the Church, then, to learn from the mistakes of the Church in the wilderness and to progress from servanthood to Sonship.