How can I get to heaven?
An EasyEnglish Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Letter to the Hebrews
The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
About the letter to the Hebrews
Shape of the letter to the Hebrews
Notes to explain the letter to the Hebrews
1 Who wrote this book?
2 Who were the first readers of this book?
3 Where did the writer send the book?
4 When did the author write the book?
5 Why did the author write the book?
6 What sort of book has the author written?
The author of this book does not tell us his name. There is nothing in the book to say who wrote it. For centuries the church thought that the author was the *apostle Paul. But Paul always begins his letters with his name. The way that the author uses *Greek words is unlike the way Paul uses them. There have been many suggestions, but nobody knows who wrote this book. All that we know is that *Timothy was a friend of both the writer and the readers (13:23).
The first readers were probably Christian *Jews. The author did not write for all *Jews. He wrote to a group, whom he knew well, that had become Christian. The book shows that they were not strong in their *belief. They were in danger of going back to their old religion. The writer argues from the Old Testament to keep them trusting in Jesus.
From early times the church believed that the readers lived in *Jerusalem. The title, the letter to the Hebrews, could show that they were *Jews in *Israel who spoke *Hebrew. Many *Jews who did not live in *Israel spoke *Greek. Another *suggestion is that the readers lived in *Rome. There is in fact so little evidence in the book itself that we have to say that we do not know where the readers were living.
A bishop of *Rome named *Clement knew this letter and used it in his own writing. He wrote in about AD 96. The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote his letter before then. From what is in the book we could argue that the *Jews were still carrying on the *temple ceremonies in *Jerusalem. We know that the *Romans destroyed the *temple in AD 70. If the date of writing was later, the author would have noted that event. So the date of the letter was probably before AD 70. (The ceremonies that he speaks about did not take place in fact from the *temple. They refer to the special tent that was in use before the *Jews built the *temple).
These Christian *Jews had to make a choice. They could not continue in *Judaism and be Christians. They must decide which way to go. It was either to go back to being *Jews or to go on to be Christians. It seems that their nation had now turned against Christians. They could not now go to the *temple as the *Jews would not let them. The writer tries to show his readers that the right choice was to continue to trust in Jesus. That was much better than all the ceremonies of their former religion, which Jesus had replaced.
The way the author has written the book is not like any other book in the New Testament. We call it a letter, but it does not start like one. It does finish like a letter, but the author does not give us his name. The writer knows the readers and is eager to see them again (13:19, 23). He thinks well of them (6:9), but they should by now have been able to teach (5:12). He knows all about their past and their needs.
The way he writes is almost like a speech or a lesson. He cares about his friends and wants to advise them in the choices they have to make.
The greatness of the Son 1:1-3
Jesus is superior to *angels in his person 1:4-14
Jesus is superior to *angels in his message 2:1-4
Jesus is superior to *angels as a *human being 2:5-18
Jesus is superior to Moses 3:1-6
Warning to obey 3:7-4:2
Warning not to miss God’s promised rest 4:3-13
Jesus is superior to Aaron 4:14-5:14
Jesus is superior in promises 6:1-20
Jesus is superior to Melchizedek 7:1-28
A new and better agreement 8:1-13
A new way to praise God 9:1-28
A new *sacrifice and way to life 10:1-39
The way of trust and hope 11:1-40
The right way to live 12:1-29
The way of love and doing what God wants 13:1-25
Verse 1 From the start of this letter, the writer shows that God is real and active. God often spoke to the Hebrews in the past. He spoke to them in different ways. God gave them dreams, sent *angels to bring his words and used events to teach his people. He gave them his laws and taught them by the *prophets. He spoke through all kinds of men and women. For example, God called Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3). Elijah the *prophet, who ran away from an angry queen, heard God in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12). Isaiah heard God’s voice when he saw him sitting high above all as king (Isaiah 6:1-8). God did not speak all the time and he did not show what he was really like at any one time. He chose certain men and women to show them something of himself to pass on to us. God spoke to these people a long time ago and what he showed to them is in the Old Testament. The last book in the Old Testament dates from about 400 years before Christ.
Verse 2 The phrase ‘in the last days’ often meant the time of the *Messiah. The writer uses it here to show that the *Messiah has come. The Hebrews were always expecting this person to come. He will bring a new age to them. He will be their king and he will overcome all their enemies. The Hebrews did not understand the real nature of the *Messiah. He is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The time had come for Jesus to do his work on earth. In the past God told people something about himself. But now he has spoken in Jesus. He shows us what God is really like. God’s Son Jesus became a *human being to show God to us. Jesus is just like God and so we can know God. What God had shown in the past prepared the way for Jesus and what he would say and do.
The writer gives 7 facts to show how great God’s Son Jesus is:
1. God appointed his Son to own everything.
2. God created all that there is in space and time by his Son.
3. The Son shines with God’s light.
4. The Son shows us what God is like. When we come to know Jesus, then we also come to know God. Jesus said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:19), and ‘I and my Father are one’ (John 10:30). God is the Father.
5. The Son Jesus maintains all things (Colossians 1:17). Having made the worlds and all things, Jesus Christ is still in control of them. His word of power maintains all things in their proper place. He has control of time and directs the future. He will cause all things to complete his plan. He made all things and he owns all things in heaven and on earth.
6. The Son Jesus gave his life to make us clean from all *sin. All men and women have done wrong. There is not one person who is right in God's sight (Romans 3:23). God is so holy that nothing that is wrong can live with him. This means that no person can live with God. Jesus the Son of God came and was a perfect *human being. At the same time he was God in a human body. Jesus had two purposes in coming into this world as a *human being. The first was to show us what God is like. The second was to take away all our *sins (that is, all wrong doing in our lives). He took away all our *sins and accepted the punishment for them by dying on the cross. Jesus proved that he has done this by coming back to life from the dead. Now, if we believe in him, he will make us clean from all wrong. In that way Jesus makes us fit to live with God.
7. Jesus the Son is now at God’s right hand. After Jesus had made the way for us to be clean from *sin, he went back to heaven. He sat down at the right hand of God. The right hand is a picture of the place of greatest honour. Now Jesus is the ruler over all of *creation.
Jesus the Son of God 1:4-5
Verse 4 To the Hebrews *angels were very important. *Angels are powerful agents of God. It was by them that God spoke of himself in the old times. The Hebrews believe that the law from God came by *angels. When Jesus came into this world, he became for a little time lower than the *angels. As a *human being, Jesus was the Son of God. God gave his name great honour when he raised him from the dead. In this, Jesus is superior to the *angels. They have never become sons of God. They could not show us God as Jesus has done. They could not take our *sins away and make us clean as Jesus did. God gave Jesus a better name than he has given to *angels. Jesus alone was the Son of God.
Verse 5 The readers of this letter know that Jesus is the *Messiah. He is the person whom they were expecting to come. So the author shows that Jesus is superior to *angels by using 7 verses from the Old Testament. God did not call any *angel his son. In Psalm 2, God tells the *Messiah, ‘You are my son’. He adds, ‘Today I have given you the honour that belongs to someone with that name’. Some people think that the word ‘today’ in this verse means ‘before God made the worlds’. That would show that Jesus was always the Son of God. Some people understand it to be the day when John baptised Jesus. This shows that Jesus as a man was the Son of God. He was already God's Son before he came into this world as a *human being. Some people believe it to be the day when God raised him from the dead. In the letter to the Romans (1:4), it says that by raising him from the dead the Holy Spirit called him the Son of God. The clear teaching of the Bible is that Jesus is and always has been the Son of God.
Then there is another text from the Old Testament which says, ‘I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me.’ God spoke these words about king David's son Solomon (1 Chronicles 17:13-14). To the Hebrews, Solomon was a picture of the special king who was coming one day. This special king would be from the family of David. He would always be king. So the Hebrews took these words to mean that God will be the Father of the *Messiah. Jesus came as the *Messiah and God is his Father. God never said that he would be the Father of an *angel. As Jesus is the Son of God, he is superior to the *angels.
Jesus is superior to *angels 1:6-9
Verse 6 The meaning of this verse depends on the use of the word ‘again’. In the *Greek language that the author used, there is a close connection between ‘again’ and ‘he brings’. This gives two possible meanings for ‘again’.
· The time when Jesus will come again to the earth. Then he will set up his government in the world.
· The time when God made Jesus king after he brought him back alive from the dead.
Jesus is God’s *firstborn because he is God’s only Son and because he was first to come alive again from the dead. When God brings his *firstborn into the world, he tells all his *angels to honour and praise Jesus. This shows that Jesus is as much superior to the *angels as God is.
Verses 7-8 God then speaks about the *angels. He says that he created his *angels to be like winds and flames. They are quick and powerful to do what God sends them to do. But God did not create Jesus. When the Father is speaking about his Son Jesus, he calls him God. He says that his *throne is forever. God is saying that Jesus is the same as he is.
Jesus will rule his *kingdom in ways that are always right and good.
Verse 9 Jesus loves what is right. He hates all that is evil. In his life on the earth he always did what was right. He taught what was right. He told of the punishment that is coming on all that is evil. That is why God chose him and made him to be *Lord over all. God has given him great joy and made him glad.
Jesus is the same forever 1:10-12
Verses 10-12. The author now uses another part of the Old Testament (Psalm 102:25-27). The writer of the Psalm was speaking to God. The writer to the Hebrews uses those verses as speaking of Jesus, because he is God. There are here 3 statements about Jesus the Son of God.
The Son of God makes all things. He made the heavens and the earth.
He is the ruler of all things. He will cause things to change. One day he will bring them to an end.
He will remain the same. He will never be any different from what he is now. All else will change, but Jesus Christ will always be the same.
Jesus sits at God’s side 1:13-14
Verse 13 God the Father has said to God the Son, ‘Sit at my right hand’. He goes on to say, ‘while I make all your enemies a place to rest your feet’ (Psalm 110:1). God did not say these things to any *angel. *Angels stand before God as his servants. Jesus now sits with God, and so is much greater than the *angels. This means that Jesus is equal with God. He always was equal with God before he came to earth. Now as a *human being he again sits in his place next to God. That is the most powerful place that there is. Jesus still has lots of enemies, but with God he will overcome them all. In the old days the soldier who won a battle put his feet on the neck of the defeated king (Joshua 10:24). This is the picture of the enemies as a place to rest his feet. Jesus will be the master of all.
Verse 14 What is the role of *angels? *Angels do not rule. Their task is to serve. They are servants of God. God also sends them to help the people who trust in Jesus. *Believers are those who accept *salvation. They will one day live in heaven with God.
Verse 1 The Son of God is so much greater than the *angels. We must therefore be very careful to listen to what he says. We must take in his message and obey it. God’s words are much more important for us than anything that *angels or men say. If we do not accept the pardon that God offers, we shall be in real danger. We have to continue to trust in him for our life, both now and for the future. There was a danger that these Hebrews could wander away from what is true. There was the risk that they might go back to their old ways and so avoid the trouble that the *Jews caused them. We also must be careful that we do not lose what we have in Jesus.
Verse 2 The words spoken by *angels are not like the words spoken by the Son of God. God sent his word by the *angels in the past. The Hebrews said that the law of God came by *angels. People had to obey God’s law. If they did not do so, God would punish them. The law included both blessing for right acts and punishment for wrong acts (see Deuteronomy 30:19). The good news that God will forgive wrong acts came by Jesus Christ.
Verse 3 The law that the *angels gave was very important. But the message that the Lord Jesus brought is much more important. There is no escape for any who do not accept the claims of Jesus Christ. God in Jesus has made for us the only way to heaven. If we do not accept that offer, there is no hope for us. The *angels did not show us this way to heaven. Jesus first taught it and in his death made it possible. Jesus is so much better than the *angels. So what he says is better than what they say. His promises are for a life that will never end.
The people who first heard Jesus told the good news to others. In their turn they passed it on. Now we have the chance to accept it. We have the Bible to show us the truth. We have the *witness of people who have found it to be true. This good news is that Jesus has accepted the punishment for all our *sins. We must come to Jesus and turn from our wrong. He will take away our *sins and give us new life. If we do not turn to him, we shall not have the new life. God will punish all who do not accept Jesus for all the wrong that they have done.
Verse 4 When the first *believers told other people the good news, God himself showed them that it was true. They spoke of what Jesus had done and God proved that it was true. He did this by special signs, wonderful acts and *miracles. He also gave to them gifts of the Holy Spirit. They used these gifts as God directed them. All of these things showed, to those who heard, that the message was from God (see Acts 2:22). No mere *human being could act like this.
Verse 5 God has not given authority to *angels over the world to come. As we have already seen (1:14), *angels are to serve and not to rule.
Verses 6-8 God's purpose for the world to come is that *humans, and not *angels, should rule it. The Old Testament clearly teaches this in Psalm 8:4-7. These verses show us both how small and how great *humans are. They are very small compared to the things that God has made and which surround us. They are great because God has a special purpose for them. This purpose is that *human beings should have authority over the world to come. God always has them in mind and he cares for them. They are special to God among all that God has made.
God made *humans to be a little lower than the *angels. *Angels are *spirits with great authority and power. We, who are *human, cannot compare ourselves with them. But God has a greater plan in mind for *human beings. The writer uses the words from Psalm 8:4-7 as a prophecy. They tell us what God will bring about. But the writer sees the words as first referring to Jesus.
When God first made a man, he gave him power over all the birds, animals and fishes (Genesis 1:28). The first man, Adam, failed to rule as God intended, because he did wrong. God had to punish the man and so *human beings lost the right to rule. God has not taken back the first promise and *human beings will one day be able to rule. All things are to be under the feet of *human beings, that is, under their authority. This shows how great a role God has for *humanity. As yet we do not see all things put under them. We are not good enough to take that place.
Verse 9 God's promise for *humanity is not yet complete. But we see Jesus, the Son of God who became a *human being. He came to earth and lived as a man, and so became a little lower than the *angels, just like us. He came to die for us. When he had done this, God raised him from the dead and gave him a royal crown of great honour and power. In Jesus, God has begun to carry out his promise that *human beings should rule. It is because of God’s great love that Jesus died for all of us.
Verse 10 God made all things. He made all things for himself. In other parts of the Bible it says that Jesus made all things and all things are for his pleasure. There is no problem here. God the Father and God the Son are both God. Together they made the heavens and the earth. It is only in Jesus that all things find their purpose. In order to make us clean from *sin there had to be a *sacrifice. It was right that Jesus should come to earth and become one of us. He was then able to suffer on behalf of us all. He died a terrible death on the cross of wood. This death was not for any *sins that he himself had done, for he was perfect. That is, he was all that God intended him to be. When he died, he accepted all our *sins. Because of this he can give to us a new life. He is able to bring many sons and daughters to be with God in heaven. We become God’s sons and daughters when we trust in Jesus and in his work for us. By his death for us, Jesus was able to make us clean from *sin. Now we can go to be with God.
Verse 11 Jesus makes us holy when we trust in him. He brings us into the family of God and makes us his sons and daughters. All who trust in Jesus receive a new birth from the *Spirit. In this way they have the same Father as Jesus and the same life. Jesus is so great, yet he is happy to call the weakest Christian brother or sister. He is the *firstborn of many brothers and sisters. He is the *firstborn from the dead and all who trust in him will also rise from the dead.
Verse 12 Jesus calls us his brothers and sisters. In the Old Testament the *Messiah says that he will tell the name of God to his brothers and sisters (Psalm 22:22). To the Hebrews the ‘name’ meant more than just a name. It meant the whole person. Jesus is the *Messiah and he showed men and women the nature of God. As a *human among *humans Jesus praised God. He praised God with them in the *temple of the *Jews in *Jerusalem and their other holy buildings. Now as we praise God, Jesus in *spirit is there with us. He promised that when two or three of those who follow him meet together, he too will be there (Matthew 18:20).
Verse 13 Jesus was God. But while he was living on earth as a man, he had to put his trust in God. During his life on earth he had to depend on God. In this he was the same as we are, for we need God's help. Jesus was one of us. Again he shows that we belong to the same family. He says, ‘Here am I, and the children whom God has given to me’ (Isaiah 8:18). He is speaking of the men and women who followed him. We are among them, if we put our trust in him.
Verses 14-15 We have human bodies from our birth. For Jesus to help us he had to be the same as us. He had to take a human body and blood to be a real *human being. Because we are *human, we have all done what is wrong. The punishment for our *sins is death, both of the body and of the *spirit. For Jesus to help us, he had to take our *sins upon himself as a real *human. Yet he himself lived without doing any *sin. So by his death he was able to accept our punishment. He did this on the cross. In his death for us he overcame the devil, who had the power of death. The death Jesus speaks about is more than the death of our body. It is the death of our *spirit as well. This means a future without God to which all who do wrong would go. For those who accept Christ, the death of the body is not the end. It is the way to a new life that never will die. This is life for the *spirit in a new body forever with God.
People have always lived with a fear of death. It is the one sure event that comes to us all. Apart from what the Bible has to say about it, no one knows what will come after death. Most people have no hope about the future, and they are afraid of what they do not know. In Jesus Christ there is the promise of a much better life. People who put their trust in Jesus need no longer fear death.
Verse 16 Jesus became a *human being so that he could take us by the hand and lead us to God. He did not become an *angel. He did not come to earth to help *angels. He came to this world to save the children of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of the *Jews and their nation came from him. He was also a man of real trust in God. The children of Abraham are all those who are *Jews by birth. The Bible also calls all who believe in the one true God the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9). God rescues the men and women who trust in Jesus.
Verse 17 Jesus came to save men and women, not *angels. Therefore he had to become like one of us and not like an *angel. He had to be a *human being so that he could stand before God as our chief priest. He takes the *sacrifice for our *sins to God. That *sacrifice was his own blood, that is, his life that he gave for us on the cross. He asks God to forgive his brothers and sisters. God accepts the *sacrifice of Jesus to pay for all our *sins. God forgives all who put their trust in Jesus and in what he has done for them. Jesus loves us and we can trust him to be our priest towards God. At the same time, Jesus pleases God because he has done all that God asked of him.
He had to be like his brothers and sisters in all things. This means that he had to live life as a real man. He had to face the same problems that we do. The devil tested him and he suffered in life as we do, but much more than we have to suffer. He was still different from us in some things. He was different in his birth. His mother had not had sex with a man. His Father was God and not a man. He was different in his life, because he did not do any wrong at all. He was different in his death, for he did not need to die for himself because he was without *sin. He chose to die and gave himself up to the men who wanted to kill him. He died for all the *sins that we have done.
Verse 18 The suffering that Jesus had makes him able to help any who are in need. When the devil or the things of this life test us, we can look to Jesus. He will give us the strength to do what is right. If we fail to do what is right, he understands. When we turn to him and confess that we have failed, he is able to make us right with God again.
Verse 1 In chapters 1 and 2 we saw how Jesus is greater than the *prophets and the *angels. This is because of his own greatness and because of what he has done for us. So now we are to think about him both as the *apostle and as our chief priest. To the Hebrews, Moses was the first *apostle and Aaron was the first chief priest.
The word ‘*apostle’ means someone whom God sends. An *apostle comes to people as the agent of God. So God sent Moses to the Hebrews when they were slaves in the land of *Egypt. He came to set them free and to lead them out of that country. To do this he had to go to the king of *Egypt and persuade him to let them go. At first, the king refused. But after God had done many powerful works, he sent them out. God sent Jesus to lead people out from the rule of the devil and to bring them to God. Jesus came to us to show us what God is like. He overcame the devil and set us free from his power.
The chief priest was a man who went to God as the agent of the people. He had to make sacrifices for all their *sins. Then he asked God to forgive them. Aaron was the man whom God made the first chief priest. He had to make the sacrifices for his own *sins as well as for the *sins of the Hebrews. Once every year he took the blood of an animal into the most holy place, and then God forgave the people their *sins. Jesus is the one who is our chief priest. He made a *sacrifice of himself for all our *sins. He did not need a *sacrifice for himself, because he was without *sin. Because Jesus took his own blood to God, God forgives us our *sins. (The word blood here is instead of the word *sacrifice).
Verse 2 An agent must be true to the one who appoints him. God sent Moses to be over his house, that is, as leader of the Hebrews. He led the Hebrews out of the land of *Egypt and for the 40 years that they lived in the desert. Moses did all that God asked him to do, although he did fail at times. The writer says that Moses was true to God. He was a great man and the Hebrews gave him great respect.
God also sent Jesus to be his agent on earth. He always did what God asked of him. He always spoke the words that God gave him to speak. He completed the task that he came to do. He was perfect in all his life and he never failed.
Verse 3 Both Moses and Jesus deserve all the honour that we can give to them. But much more honour is due to Jesus than to Moses. Moses was true to God as a servant in the house of God. Jesus built that house and is the owner of it. The builder and owner has more honour than the house itself. That house is the people of God. The servant, who in this picture is part of the house, must be less than the builder. Moses was a great man among the people of God. Jesus is so much greater because the people of God are his house.
Verse 4 Jesus became a real man for the work he had to do. He was always God and even when he became a *human being he was still God. Jesus said, ‘I and my Father are one’ (John 10:30). That is why there is here no difference between God and Jesus. Each house has a builder and God is building this one. Verse 3 tells us that Jesus is the builder of this house. God is the author and maker of all things. He does this by Jesus Christ his Son. So Jesus is the maker of all things.
Verse 5 Moses was a good servant in the house of God. The word servant does not mean that he had to do only small tasks. He had an important part to play in the story of the Hebrews. He was the agent of God to bring them out of *Egypt. He received the law from God and gave it to them. He was like a father to them in the desert. God sent him to be the *apostle of the Hebrews. His task was not just for his own days but it was to speak about the future. His life was to point to the work of an *apostle who was to come. The Hebrews looked for a man like Moses to come and lead them. That man is the *Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.
Verse 6 We now have the final proof that Jesus the Christ is greater than Moses. He is the Son who is over his own house. He must have more honour than Moses, who was only a servant in that house. Jesus as the agent of God brings to us far more than Moses could bring. We are part of his house, when we come to Jesus accepting all that he has done for us. We can have joy and confidence as we look to the future. We must hold on to this *belief and not let it go. We can be certain that God will do all that he has promised.
Verses 7-9 Moses was true to God and trusted in him. Most of the people who came out of *Egypt with him failed to trust in God. They did not listen to what God said to them. They did not obey what God told them through Moses. As a result, God did not take them to the *promised land. Instead he led them in the desert for 40 years. Although they saw God’s great works, they still refused to obey him. They strained God’s patience. The Holy Spirit now says to us, ‘Do not be like them’. When God speaks, we are to listen to what he says and to obey him. In those days God spoke by Moses. Today God speaks by one who is greater than the *prophets or the *angels or Moses. The Word of God to us is Jesus and he demands that we put our trust in him and obey him. The Hebrews in the desert let their hearts become hard as they turned from God. (The word ‘heart’ in the Bible often means how we think or feel.) It would be easy for us to do the same, but the Holy Spirit warns us not to do so.
Verses 10-11 The Hebrews did not trust God. They turned away from him in their hearts and minds. They refused to do what he wanted them to do. They did not know God's ways because they would not listen. For these reasons God was angry with them. God was so angry that he declared that they would never know his rest. So it was that all the adults who came out of *Egypt died in the desert (Deuteronomy 2:14). Only a couple of them, Caleb and Joshua, did go on trusting in God. They entered the *promised land.
The rest of God points to a future of peace and plenty. It is a place where God will bless and keep his people forever. It is the *promised land, where the *Messiah is king. It is the place that will be home to all who trust in Jesus. (Verses 7-11 are from Psalm 95:7-11)
Verse 12 The writer warns us to take care that we do not turn away from God. It is possible for Christians to go back to their old ways and to forget God. We must make sure that we do not do that. To God that would be the action of an evil heart that does not trust in God. To go back from following Jesus would be to fight against the God who is alive and active. All who do turn back will one day have to stand before him and face his judgement.
Verse 13 We need to help each other to be strong in our *belief in Jesus. Each one of us needs the strength that comes by sharing our lives with others who trust God. We should at all times encourage each other to be true to God. There is much in this world that would lead us away from God. There are many things that speak lies into our hearts and could make us forget that we belong to God. With the help and teaching that we can bring to each other we can be strong in our *belief. Without this help it is easier for the devil to cause us to fall away from our God.
Verse 14 When persons first trust in Jesus, they have a real confidence in what he has done. The new *believer is sure that he has a new life in Jesus. This life is sharing in the very life of Jesus. But to start the Christian life is not enough. We must go on in this life and grow in Jesus until he takes us to be with himself. We do not dare to turn away from our confidence in him.
Verse 15 In the desert the Hebrews had made their hearts hard. They turned away from God. As a result God did not let them go into the *promised land. This is a warning for us. In our day when we hear the word of God we should obey it. We must not be like them and refuse to listen to God.
Verse 16 In verses 16 to 18 the writer asks 3 things and gives 3 answers. These are about the people who turned away from God. Who were the people who heard God's voice and yet would not obey him? It was the men and women whom Moses led out of *Egypt. They had seen all the wonderful works that God had done to make the king set them free. God gave them food and drink and all that they needed. In the desert he led them and kept them safe. Yet they would not accept God as their ruler.
Verse 17 Who was it that made God angry for the 40 years in the desert? It was those people who did not trust him. They all died in the desert because of their *sins. God is always angry about *sin, but he will forgive all who *repent of their *sin. He can do this because Jesus has accepted our punishment by dying for us on the cross.
Verse 18 Who did God say could never come in and rest with him? It was those people who would not obey him. God had done so much for them, yet they still went their own way. They refused to do what God wanted them to do.
Verse 19 They would not accept God as their leader. They did what they knew to be wrong. They would not obey God, but did what they wanted to do. They did not put their trust in God. They could not enter the land of blessing that God would have given to them. They are a warning for us. We must put our trust in God and do what he wants us to do. As we believe in Jesus, we can be sure that God will bring us to his *promised land. If we do not trust and obey him, we too shall not be able to go in.
Verse 1 God has promised a place of rest that will last forever. This place is open to all who walk in God's way. The *promised land of the Hebrews is to us a picture of that place of rest. The adults who came out of *Egypt failed to go in because they did not trust God. The promise of rest forever with God still stands and is for us. We must take care not to miss our chance to enter that place of rest. We must make sure that we are in the way that leads there. When we die, God will judge us and, if we are not walking in his way, it will then be too late.
Verse 2 The Hebrews heard the good news of the promises of God. We also have heard the good news as they did. They were slaves in *Egypt, but God set them free. God did many powerful works to make the king let them go. God then promised to lead them as a nation to a new land. To receive the promises of God they had to put their trust in him. They failed to do this, for they did not accept the word of God. It was for this reason that they died in the desert and did not go into the new land.
We have heard the good news that Jesus has come to save us. He has taken our *sins away in his own body. He has died for us, so that we might live to God. We shall also fail, if we do not trust in Jesus. The way to God's rest is in Jesus and is for all who follow him.
The Hebrews failed because they did not trust God and obey what he said. We shall not fail, if we hear the good news of Jesus and accept it.
Verses 3-5 The *Jews believed that they were the people of God. Because they were the children of Abraham by birth, they were sure that they would go to heaven. They were wrong, because to enter God’s place of rest, people must obey him. When we know and accept Jesus Christ, we become the people of God. God has said that the people who did not have *belief in him would never enter his rest (Psalm 95:11). Nobody can go in without *belief in what God has said. God has spoken to us in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the only way to life with God.
God rested after he had made the earth and the sky (Genesis 2:2). So the place of rest that we speak of has been ready since then. It remains open for us to enter and to be at home with God.
Verse 6 God has made this place of rest to be the home for *human beings. There is nothing that can stop God from keeping his promises. They can be for us, but only if we take hold of them in *belief. The people to whom God made the promises at first did not obey him. They heard the good news, but they failed to go in. It is God's plan that some people will enter. So the promises are now for us to accept.
Verse 7 Because the people who first received God’s promise failed, God has fixed another day. That day is today, and we can now trust God and enter his place of rest. So David warns us all (Psalm 95:7-8). He said that when you hear God's voice today, do not let your hearts become hard. We need to hear and obey the call of God or we too shall not rest with God.
Verse 8 Joshua, who came after Moses could not lead the people to this place of rest. He did lead them into the land that God had promised them. That land was not the place of God’s rest, but it was a picture of it. If it had been that place, God would not have fixed another day. The name ‘Joshua’ in *Hebrew is the same as ‘Jesus’ in *Greek. The ‘Jesus’ (Joshua) of the Old Testament could not lead them into rest with God, but Jesus Christ can lead us there.
Verse 9 There is still this place of rest for the people of God. The word ‘rest’ can have more than one meaning. Here it has a special meaning. God had told the Hebrews to keep one day each week as a holiday. On this day they were to do no work. It was a day for praising God. It was a day for them to spend time with God. This 1 day in 7 was the *Sabbath day. Here the writer speaks of the rest like the *Sabbath. It will be a time when there is rest from all work. It will be a time when the people of God will enjoy him.
Verse 10 When God had made the earth and sky, he rested from his work. When a person enters God's place of rest, he stops doing his own work. There men and women live with God and enjoy each other.
Verse 11 We must be eager to enter this place of rest. We must make sure that we get there by coming to know God in Jesus. We must be careful that we do not fail like the people in the desert. They did not trust God.
Verse 12 The word of God is anything that God says. Jesus is also the Word of God. It is by Jesus that God has spoken to us. Jesus is God shown to us in a human body. Here the word of God is what God speaks and teaches. We have this word of God written down in the Bible. It is normal for God to speak to us through the Bible. His words are alive and full of power. God’s word goes right into our inner life. It is like a sharp sword that cuts on both edges. In a fight a sword cuts into the body. It can cut between bones. The word of God is like that with our minds and *spirits. It makes plain all the hidden parts of our lives, whether good or bad. Our lives are completely open to God and he knows all that there is to know about us. There can be no secrets hidden from God.
Verse 13 God sees and knows all about every living thing. He sees and knows all that there is to know about every man and woman. To him each life is like an open book. We cannot hide anything from God. One day we must stand before him and give an account of our lives. He will judge us by what we have done and by what we accept about Jesus his Son. It will be a terrible thing to stand before God for the people who do not know Jesus.
Our confidence 4:14-16
Verse 14 We have a great chief priest. He has gone on our behalf to the place where God lives. The *Jews spoke of many heavens, perhaps 3 or 7. Jesus has gone above all the heavens to the top place. The chief priest of the *Jews was only a man. He stood before God in the *temple on earth. Jesus as our chief priest is more than a man. He is the Son of God. He is always there with God himself. As we have such a chief priest, we must go on trusting in him. We can be sure that he will not fail us.
Verse 15 When Jesus came to earth, he became a real human. He lived as a man in all the experiences of life, the same as any person. He did not do any wrong, but he took all our *sins to himself. He died a terrible death of real and extreme pain. Now he shares with us all that we feel in our bodies and in our minds. He knows how weak we are, and when we suffer, he suffers with us.
Verse 16 Here is a chief priest whom we can trust. He took our *sins away when he died on the cross. He is now with God and is the agent for all who trust in him. So we do not need to have a chief priest on earth to go to God for us. We can be bold to approach God himself, because of the work of Jesus. We can always look to him for help when we need it. In his love he will be kind to us, for he knows how weak we are. He will pardon all our *sins and make us clean again. He will give us the strength that we need to help us in difficult times.
Rules for the chief priest 5:1-4
Verse 1 In the old times the chief priest had to be from the family of Aaron. He was just a man like us, but he had a special place in the Hebrew’s religion. He was to be God’s agent on behalf of men and women. Once a year he went into the most holy part of the *temple to meet with God on behalf of the people. He wore special clothes and followed the special rules that God gave to Aaron in the desert. He had to offer special gifts and sacrifices to God. Then God would pardon the people for what they had done wrong in the past year.
Verses 2-3 The chief priest was a man just like other men. As a *human, he too was weak and had to confess his own *sins as well as the *sins of others. So he would know how people felt and what their needs were. There had to be a balance in his attitude to them. He could be gentle both to the ones who knew little and to the ones who had done wrong. He could not just neglect *sin or act as if it did not matter. Wrong is always bad to God and must be so to the priest. The chief priest on earth was one with his people and as weak as they were. Like them he could not live a perfect life before God. He was just as likely to do wrong as any person. This was why he had to make a *sacrifice for himself first. He had to get his own pardon from God and then he could go to God for the people.
Verse 4 To be the chief priest was a great honour. It was also a great responsibility. No man had the right to take the job for himself. God chose and appointed Aaron as the first chief priest (Exodus 40:12). From then on, the chief priest for the *Jews had to be from the family of Aaron.
Jesus the new chief priest 5:5-11
Verses 5-6 Jesus could not make himself the new chief priest. Only God could appoint the chief priest. If Jesus had tried to make himself the chief priest, he could not have been the agent between us and God. In fact God did appoint Jesus to be the new chief priest. First, he tells us that Jesus, as a *human, is his Son (Psalm 2:7). Jesus in his birth as a *human came from God his Father. Then God says to him, ‘You are a priest forever’ (Psalm 110:4). Jesus is not a priest of the type of Aaron, for he did not come from that family. There was a priest of God who lived before the time of Aaron who had blessed Abraham. This man was Melchizedek. We shall look at him again in chapter 7. He was a greater priest than Aaron, as we shall see in that chapter. God made Jesus a priest after the type of Melchizedek to be the chief priest for all time.
Verse 7 Although Jesus was the Son of God and the priest of God, he did not have an easy life here on earth. His life was much more difficult than ours. To be a priest for us he had to suffer all the problems of *human life. This helps him to have sympathy with all who suffer. In all his life Jesus talked with God his Father in prayer. When he came to the garden of *Gethsemane, he was in pain in his *spirit. He fell to the ground and cried out to God with loud cries and tears. He knew that he had to die. It was God's plan that Jesus should suffer for all of our *sins. This was why he was in such pain in his mind and *spirit. Yet he said to God, I will do what you want me to do. God was able to save him from death, but Jesus agreed to die. Jesus our chief priest died as the *sacrifice for us.
God heard him when he prayed because he trusted in God. The meaning of this verse is not clear. It seems that Jesus was asking that he might not die. Yet he had to die. What was the answer that God gave? Jesus knew that he had to die on behalf of men and women, and that he came for that purpose. God gave him strength in the garden so that he could go to the cross and die. To hang on a cross was the most awful and painful way to die. Jesus felt all alone when he hung there. Even God left him there on the cross (Matthew 27:46). Yet in three days God brought him back from death to life.
Verse 8 *Human discipline always includes having to suffer. Jesus was the Son of God. Yet he had to learn, as a *human, what it meant to obey God completely, in every situation. It is not that there ever was a time when Jesus failed to obey God. He was always one with God, so the need to obey did not happen until he came to the earth. To do what God wanted, Jesus had to suffer. In doing it, he knew what it was to obey his Father by his own choice. He chose to suffer and to die, because that is what God asked him to do.
Verse 9 The Son of God has always been perfect. He obeyed God and this has made him fit to be the chief priest for all who obey him. By his death he has made a complete and full *sacrifice on our behalf. When God raised him from the dead, Jesus became the source of new life. Jesus gives people this new life, when they put their trust in him. This is the life of the world to come. It begins in us now and will go on forever.
Verse 10 The writer has shown how Jesus was able to be the chief priest. He became a man and so could know all about *human life. He was the Son of God and so could make the perfect *sacrifice on our behalf. The chief priest for the *Jews had to come from the family of Aaron. Jesus was not of that family, but he is the chief priest of all who trust in him. He is the chief priest because God appointed him. God called him to be a chief priest after the type of Melchizedek. This is greater than the chief priests of Aaron’s family.
Verse 11 The writer could say a lot more about the fact that Jesus is now the chief priest. He could tell them more about the priest Melchizedek and how Jesus was like him. He did not do so because he found it hard to explain it to them in simple enough words. The problem was that they were too slow to learn.
Weak and strong Christians 5:12-14
Verse 12-13 The readers had been Christians for some time and should by now have been able to teach others. They were not yet able to teach, because they had not grown strong as Christians. As we grow strong through the word of God, we should be able to teach other people. If we do not grow and learn, we shall need to learn the first lessons again. If we do not go ahead in our *belief, we shall go back. We cannot stand still.
The readers trusted in Christ, but they had still not grasped the elementary *teachings of the word of God. They were like babies, who cannot eat meat yet, but need milk. The writer could not give them any more teaching, because they were not ready for it. They had not advanced, but were still like babies in their *belief. They could take in only the most simple teaching. All who are like this are beginners in the word of God and his ways.
Verse 14 The mature Christian is like a person who can eat solid food. This means that he can understand the things of the *spirit. He studies the word of God and prays. He learns how to see in each situation what is good and what is bad and what God wants him to do. As he does this, he grows strong in his *belief. This is not just the use of the mind. It is the use of both the mind and the *spirit. Then he does what is right and not what is evil. In this way he learns to grow in the Christian life.
Grow as Christians *faith 6:1-3
Verses 1-2 The readers had learned some basic truths about the Christian life, but had not progressed further. These basic truths include:
· turning from wrong actions that lead to death, and to *belief in God that leads to life
· Jewish rules about washing ceremonies
· the special use of hands to bless and to heal
· God raising the dead
· the final judgement to come.
Jesus died to take all our *sins upon himself. The first step to take to become a Christian is to admit to God that we have *sinned. We must be really sorry for this and turn from it. As we turn from our *sin, we must put our trust in God. It is by giving our *sins and ourselves to God that he gives us new life in Jesus.
The *Jews had many special rules about how to use water to make something clean. Christians use water in *baptism, as a sign that the blood of Jesus has washed their *sins away. *Baptism is a picture of the *believer going down into death and then rising to a new life. Both *Jews and Christians use their hands to bless. Laying hands on someone is a means that God will use to give the Holy Spirit or to heal.
God’s raising people from the dead and the judgement to come are about the future. Those who trust in Jesus will live again after death. They will then be with Jesus forever. Those who do not trust God will also live again (John 5:28-29). Then they too will have to come before God. God will be their judge and they will have to pay for their own *sins.
The writer says that we must go on beyond these basic truths. We must build on the base of the new birth. We must grow as Christians and become mature in our *belief.
Verse 3 The aim of the writer is for his readers to go on from these first lessons. He wants to teach them more truth, so that they will become strong Christians. So the writer will go on from these first lessons if God permits it, that is, if God will help him.
No second chance 6:4-8
Verses 4-6 Here is a warning to us that we Christians must not turn away from the truth about Jesus that we have come to know.
There are some people who once said that they were Christians, but now have turned against Christ. They saw the true light of the good news of Jesus. They tasted the goodness of God. They knew something of the work of the Holy Spirit. They heard and knew the truth of the word of God. They had some impression of the coming age when we shall see the power of God. They once knew all this. But now they deny it. Now they cannot expect God to forgive them again. By turning away from Jesus, they have cut themselves off from life with God. Their action puts Jesus to public shame. It is as if they are killing him again. They will not find any way back to God.
Many people understand this part of the Bible to show that a *believer can turn from Christ. He can lose his life in Jesus. If this were to happen, he would be in a worse state than before. He would not be able to *repent and come to Christ again.
To understand the Bible, we need to look at all that it teaches. A true *believer is a changed person. He has a new life in Jesus. That new life will be forever with Jesus. That life can never die or be destroyed. The true Christian is, therefore, safe in Jesus. He is not able to fall from *belief. It is not possible for him to go back to what he was before. So these verses are not talking about a true *believer.
It may be that many *Jews had come to see the truth in Jesus. But when they saw the trouble that came to Christians because of their *faith, they turned back to their old ways.
The message for us is that we must always trust in Jesus. We must go on to know God better. We must not turn back but continue to follow him.
Verses 7-8 The writer gives an example to show the fate of the person who turns back from Christ. The ground often has the good rain fall upon it. If it grows good crops for the farmer, God blesses it. If it only grows weeds, it is *useless. People will burn the weeds. We who trust in Jesus must show our *faith by the way that we live. As God blesses us, we should become what he wants us to be. If we do not receive the blessing of God, we shall not be what he wants us to be. If we grow as God wants, he will bless us. If we are not what he desires, God will judge us.
Go on in the *faith 6:9-12
Verse 9 The writer has just warned his readers in strict words. But he does not want to leave them in despair and doubt. He calls them his ‘dear friends’ to show that he cares for them. He tells them that he is sure that they will grow as strong Christians. They will go on to receive the many good things that come with their knowledge of Christ. He does not tell us what these things are. But we know that they must be good gifts, because they come from God.
Verse 10 He is sure about them because of who God is. God is right and true. He will not forget what they have done. Their *belief in God was the cause of their actions. Because they really did trust in God, they showed it by a change in their lives. They helped other people because they loved God. They were still doing these good works to help the servants of God. This should be true of us today. If we love God, we shall love his people, and help them in whatever way we can.
Verse 11 The desire of the writer is that his Christian readers will be eager to live for God to the end of their lives. In this way they will make more sure the hope that they have in Christ. Hope is a certain future with God. As we go on with Jesus, we get more confident of it. What we hope for will happen one day. After we leave this earth, we shall live and be happy with God forever.
Verse 12 It is easier to rest than to go on. So he writes that they should not be lazy. They should copy the men and women who have proved their *belief. These Christians may have suffered much for their *belief in Jesus. But they have held on to the promises of God. They will receive in full all that God has promised.
God’s promise is sure 6:13-20
Verse 13 Abraham is the best example of trust and hope in God. God called him to leave his home and go to a far country. From then on Abraham went where God led him. God counted him as right, for he trusted and obeyed his word. This is why God made promises to him. To show that the promises were certain, God added a *vow in his own name. He used his own name for there is no greater name. The use of a *vow shows that the promises were for a future time. So Abraham had to live and wait in hope and trust.
Verse 14 Abraham trusted God that his promise of a son was true. Although Abraham and his wife were really too old to have children, God still gave them a son. God promised that from this son there would come a great nation. (That nation was *Israel.) God told Abraham of his plans for their future. One of these plans is that they will do good for all the nations of the earth. It is from that nation that the Christ (Jesus) has come to save the world. When Jesus comes back again, he will make the nation of *Israel great. They will lead the world for good.
Verse 15 Abraham had to wait and trust God to do what he had said. The birth of his son Isaac came 25 years after God had made the promise to him. It was 60 years later before the birth of his grandson Jacob. It was this part of the promise that he did see. He died before Jacob and his children went down to live in the land of *Egypt. When they left *Egypt, 400 years later, they became the nation of *Israel. Abraham had died without seeing God do all that he promised. He now lives with God and looks for God to complete what he has said he would do.
Verse 16 When people want to show that they really mean what they say, they use a *vow. They call on the name of a more important person to be a *witness that what they say, they will do. This person may be their king or their god, but someone greater than they are. The *vow is then like a law for all the persons there. They will punish any person who breaks his *vow.
Verse 17 God himself did not need to make a *vow. He will always do what he says, because he is true. That is his character. Yet he made a *vow on this occasion, so that Abraham could have no doubt that God would do it. The purpose of God does not change. He will do what he plans to do. That is what the *vow said. The *vow was not just for Abraham. It was to the heirs of promise. They are the people who follow him both by birth and by *belief. All who believe in Jesus, God counts as sons of Abraham. We who trust in God are the heirs of the promises of God.
Verse 18 God has given us two things that cannot change. They are his promise and his *vow. Once God had spoken in this way, there was no way that he could change his mind. It is not possible for God to tell a lie. All who turn to God can trust the hope that God’s promise gives for the future. This hope will keep us from any despair in this life.
Verses 19-20 Hope is to us like the *anchor is to a boat. An *anchor holds the boat steady and at rest. It goes down in the water to the seabed. There it is firm and will not move. Our hope holds us firm. With hope we can have a quiet heart, even when there are troubles round about us. It reaches to the holy place where God is. It goes into the place where Jesus has gone as our chief priest. He went there for us. He is there as our agent before God. Because Jesus has gone to be with God, we know that we also shall go there one day. When Jesus went to God for us he became a chief priest like Melchizedek, as we saw in chapter 5:6.
Verse 1 Melchizedek was the king of *Salem. *Salem was probably a short form of ‘*Jerusalem’.
He was not only a king, but also a priest of the most high God. In those days it was not unusual for a king to be a priest. For the *Jews, a king could not be a priest. The Bible speaks of their *Messiah, who was to come. He would be both a king and a priest.
Genesis chapter 14 tells how 5 kings came and attacked the kings of the land. They seized many of the people and their goods. Among them was Lot, who was a nephew of Abraham. So Abraham went after them and fought the 5 kings. He overcame them and brought back all the people and the goods. Then Melchizedek, priest of the most high God, met him and brought out bread and wine. He blessed Abraham in the name of God most high.
Verse 2 Abraham gave him a tenth part of all the goods that he had taken in the fight. The name ‘Melchizedek’ means ‘king of what is right’ and ‘*Salem’ means ‘peace’. So this man was the king of right and peace. In this he is a picture of the *Messiah (that is, of the Christ) for whom the *Jews were waiting.
Verse 3 The Bible does not tell us anything about the family of Melchizedek. There is no mention of his father or his mother. It was as if he had no parents. The *Jews took this to mean that he had no beginning. There is no record of his death. They took this to mean that he did not die. Here is a person who to them was a priest before time began. He will be a priest without end. He was like the Son of God who was in the beginning and ever will be. The priests of the *Jews had to be of the family of Levi. The family records had to mention their parents, their births and their deaths. Of course, they could not continue as priests when they died. But Melchizedek was a priest of a different kind that lasts for all time. Jesus is a priest like this. He was not of the family of Levi. He is the Son of God and he lives forever.
Verse 4 In the next 7 verses the writer shows that as a priest Melchizedek is greater than Aaron. Aaron was of the family of Levi and he was the first chief priest of *Israel. There are 4 things that show that Melchizedek is greater than Aaron:
· He accepted a tenth part of all that Abraham had taken from the kings (verses 4-5)
· He blessed Abraham (verses 6-7)
· He was a priest forever. Aaron could only be a priest while he was alive (verse 8)
· He must be greater than Levi, who came from the family of Abraham, much later (verses 9-10)
It was the custom to give the gods the best part of the things taken in war. It was a way of giving thanks for their help in battle. The leader would give these gifts to the priest of his god. The priest who received the gift would be more important than the one who gave it. So here, Abraham gave the best part to Melchizedek as the priest of the most high God. Melchizedek accepted the gifts and this shows that he was more important than Abraham.
Verse 5 Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons and God changed his name to *Israel. His 12 sons became the heads of the 12 *tribes of *Israel. Levi was one of these sons. Later, from the *tribe of Levi God chose the sons of Aaron to be the priests. By the law of Moses the people of *Israel had to give a tenth part of all that they had to God. It was these sons of Levi who collected the tenth parts, although it was from their own people who formed the 12 *tribes.
Verses 6-7 Melchizedek did not come from the family of Levi. Yet he received the tenth part from Abraham and blessed him.
Abraham was a great man. God had called him and led him. God had promised to make him great. His family were to own the whole of the land that God had shown him. They were to be a blessing to all the people on earth. This shows how great Abraham was. But it is true that the one who blesses is greater than the one whom he blesses. Melchizedek blessed Abraham in the name of the most high God. So he must have been greater than even Abraham.
Verse 8 Aaron and the priests who came after him were only men. They lived and died. While they were alive, they took the tenth part from the people. There is no record of the birth or death of Melchizedek. The *Jews took this to mean that he was still a priest, and still alive. In this way, the writer shows that Melchizedek is greater than Aaron.
Verses 9-10 It was from the sons of Levi that the priests came. Levi was a son of Jacob. Jacob was a son of Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham. So Levi came from Abraham. When Abraham gave Melchizedek the tenth part, Levi had not been born. The idea is that Levi was still in his parents, and that they were still in their parents. In this way one can say that the priests in the family of Levi already paid the tenth part through Abraham. This again shows that Melchizedek is greater than Levi. And because Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek, he too is greater than the priests of the *Jews.
King and priest 7:11-14
Verse 11 God gave the people the law by Moses and made Aaron the first chief priest. The purpose of the priests was to link men and women to God. To do this the priests had to offer sacrifices to God on the people’s behalf. No person is perfect and without *sin in the sight of God, and this includes the priests of Levi’s family. They were not good enough, because of their *sins. But God said that there would be a new kind of priest, one like Melchizedek. There would have been no need for a different type of priest if the priests of Levi’s family had been perfect.
Verse 12 It was the law of Moses that set up the priests of Levi’s family. So a different kind of priest required a change in the law of Moses about *sacrifice.
Verse 13 Under the old law, all priests had to come from the family of Levi. Aaron came from this family. Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob, who became the heads of the 12 *tribes of *Israel. No priest came from any of the other sons. The old law did not allow it. Jesus came from the family of *Judah and not from the family of Levi.
Verse 14 There is no doubt that the *Messiah was to come from *Judah (Micah 5:2). The *prophets also said that he was to come from the family of David (Isaiah 16:5). He is king David's greater son. The *Jews knew this. They knew that *Messiah would be both king and priest. Yet Moses never said that a priest would come from the family of *Judah.
Christ is greater, for he is alive forever 7:15-19
Verses 15-16 Jesus has come as a priest after the type of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a king and a priest. He was not a priest by the law that came by Moses. He was a priest before God gave the law to Moses. This is also true about Jesus, for he was God before the law came. The *Jews did not know where Melchizedek came from and had no record of his death. So they saw a life which had no beginning and no end. Jesus was with God in the beginning and he will have no end. He is the priest who has made the perfect *sacrifice. He lives forever as the priest before God on our behalf.
Verse 17 It is God who made Jesus the new chief priest. God said to Jesus, ‘You are a priest forever after the type of Melchizedek’ (Psalm 110:4). In this he makes Jesus greater than the law of Moses which set up the priests of Levi. Those priests were *human and so had to die one day. Jesus lives forever. He is the only one who can always be our agent to God.
Verses 18-19 The law that God gave to Moses was good. By that law the priests of Levi came to God on behalf of the people. But that law was also weak, because people could not do all that the law said. No matter how hard people tried to keep the law, they failed because they *sinned. But now, because Jesus is our priest, God will accept us. This is better than the old law. There is no need now for the sacrifices that the priests of the family of Levi offered. By what God has done through Jesus, we can be sure of life with him both now and forever. We have to trust in Jesus and follow him. Jesus is now our chief priest and he is far better than priests of the old law. He has come and he has made the one perfect *sacrifice for us. He accepts all our *sins by dying on our behalf. As God accepts what Jesus has done, he makes us clean from all *sin.
Christ is greater because of the promise of God 7:20-22
Verses 20-21 When the sons of Aaron became priests, it could only be while they lived. But the word that God spoke about Jesus made him a priest forever (Psalm 110:4). When God makes a *vow, it means that he will never change what he has vowed. He said that Jesus is a priest forever and so we know that this is true.
Verse 22 The old law of Moses appointed sacrifices, but these could not make people clean from *sin. Priests who offered these sacrifices were like other men because in the end they too had to die. But Jesus offered the *sacrifice of himself on our behalf, and that has effect for all time. He is the priest who lives forever. God accepts his *sacrifice for us. He is the agent of God to bring us his blessing. He is our agent to God to bring us to him. Jesus can make us ready and clean to live with God forever. In this he is greater than the old law of Moses and all other priests.
Christ is greater because he is a priest forever 7:23-25
Verses 23-24 Under the old law of Moses there were many priests. They all died in the end, for they were only men like us. They could not be priests after they had died. There had to be new priests to take their place. With Jesus all has changed. He is alive and will never die again. He is our one and only priest. We have no need of other priests. There will be no more priests, for Jesus will always be alive. God has made him to be the one priest for all time and for all people.
Verse 25 Jesus is the one priest who will be with God forever. He has made the one *sacrifice that is perfect and God accepts that *sacrifice for all time. He alone has the power to make us whole. By it Jesus makes us clean and takes away all our *sins. It is Jesus who can make us right with God. It is only by Jesus that we can come to God. As he lives with God, he is the agent of all who believe in him. God accepts all who trust in Jesus, because of what he has done for us.
Christ is greater for he has offered a better *sacrifice 7:26-28
Verse 26 Jesus is the chief priest who satisfies all our needs. He is the perfect priest for us. He is much more than a *human, for he is also God. He is not distant from us. He has lived on earth as a *human being. He knows all the problems that we have. He knows how we feel. In all his life here he did no *sin. He lived a perfect life with his God. He died to take away all that was wrong in us. As our chief priest, he always lives as our agent with God. He has taken his place with God as the king of heaven.
Verse 27 For the old law there had to be sacrifices made every day for the *sins of the people. In addition the chief priest went once a year into the most holy place to offer sacrifices. The chief priest first had to offer a *sacrifice for his own *sins. Then he offered a *sacrifice for the *sins of the men and women. Jesus did not need to offer any *sacrifice on his own behalf, because he had no *sin. He offered the *sacrifice of himself for the *sins of us all. What he did is the complete answer for all our *sins. We have no need now for any *sacrifice other than the one which he offered.
Verse 28 The law of Moses made men chief priests. These men were weak, as are all men. We all do wrong and we all die. The law came from God, but it had to work with weak men and women and so could never satisfy their need. In contrast, God by his word made Jesus the chief priest. Jesus is not weak as we are. He did no wrong and he came back from the dead. He continues to live a perfect life and will never die. He is able to make us clean from all *sin, so that we can be with God.
The work of Christ is greater than that of the old priests 8:1-7
Verse 1 What we are saying is this. We have a chief priest who is so great that he sat down at God’s right hand. The right hand of God is the place of highest honour in heaven. For Jesus to sit down there shows that he has finished the work that he came here to do. By dying on our behalf, Jesus has made it possible for us to go to be with God.
Verse 2 In the time of Moses the *Israelites had a special tent in the desert. They made this tent to the plan that God gave them. In it there was the holy place, which was the special place of *worship. God did not allow anyone to go into this holy place except the chief priest. That special tent was a model of the true holy place in heaven which God has made. It is here that Jesus, as our chief priest, now works for our benefit. The *sacrifice that Jesus offered for us was complete when he died. So he does not need to offer any other *sacrifice for our *sin. He can speak to God on our behalf and offer him our prayers.
Verse 3 The duty of the chief priest was to offer gifts and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. God made Jesus the chief priest. So he also needs to have something to offer to God for us. The chief priests had to bring gifts and sacrifices to God all the time. Jesus did it only once and for all time, when he gave himself. The priests of the old agreement always stood, for their work was not complete. Jesus, having died once for *sins, sat down to show that he had finished this part of his work.
Verse 4 If Jesus were still on earth, he would not be a priest at all. There were already priests under the old agreement from the family of Aaron. Jesus did not even come from that family.
Verse 5 The special tent was only a model or copy. Moses made the special tent and all the things in it, as God told him (Exodus 25:40; 26:30). This special tent was to teach the people about the true place of *worship in heaven. It is in this place in heaven where Jesus is our chief priest.
Verse 6 The better place in heaven where Jesus now works shows that he is greater than those priests. He has made a better agreement with God on our behalf. That agreement includes better promises than the old agreement. The writer will mention those promises in verses 8-12.
Verse 7 The old agreement that God gave to Moses included the rules by which the people should live. The agreement was good, for it came from God, and all its rules were right. The fault with it was that nobody was able to do all that it said. Nobody could keep the agreement. That is why there was the need for another agreement. The new one had to provide a way for men and women to get right with God.
The new agreement replaces the old one 8:8-13
Verse 8 From verse 8 to the end of verse 12 the author copies words from Jeremiah 31:31-34. He uses these words to show that the old agreement is no longer in operation. The new agreement, that Jesus brought, has taken its place. It was not that there was a fault with the old agreement. The fault was with people, because nobody could obey the agreement.
Most agreements are between two persons or groups. They both agree to do all that it requires of them. The new agreement is not like that. No mere *human can make an agreement with God. Here it says, ‘I will make a new agreement’. This means that God himself will arrange the new agreement. He will also make a way for it to achieve its purpose. The old agreement was with the peoples of *Israel and *Judah, and the new agreement will be for them. It will not only be for them, but for all who trust in Jesus.
Verse 9 The people of *Israel were once slaves in *Egypt. God in his love and kindness to them rescued them from that country. He was like a father who leads his children by the hand to a place of safety. It was then that he made the old agreement with them. They failed to do what they had agreed to do. They kept turning away from God. In the end God turned away from them.
Verse 10 From the failures of the past, Jeremiah looks to the future. There had been a split in the nation of *Israel. Of the original 12 *tribes, 10 had become the new nation of *Israel. The other two *tribes formed the nation of *Judah. By the time of Jeremiah, *Israel did not exist any more. They had been so bad that God had scattered them among the nations. *Judah was as bad and God was about to scatter them too. Jeremiah saw a time when God will bring *Israel and *Judah back to their own land. God will make a new agreement with them.
God wrote the laws of the old agreement on stones. He will write the new rules on the minds and hearts of men and women. People did not have the power to carry out the old agreement. But now God will give them power to obey the new rules. That power is the *Spirit of God, who will live in the hearts of his people. Then they will not turn away from God. God will accept them as his own people.
Verse 11 All who enter into the new agreement will know God. They will be able to speak directly with God. There will be no need for anyone to teach them to know the *Lord. God himself will teach them.
Verse 12 The key to the new agreement is the fact that God will forgive *sin. It is not that God will just forget our *sins. He puts them right out of his mind for always. This is because Jesus has paid the cost of all our *sins. As we trust in Jesus, he makes us free from our *sins. As we come to God in Jesus, he accepts what Jesus has done and forgives us completely.
Verse 13 In saying that the agreement is new, God makes the earlier agreement old. The new replaces the old and the old is at an end. The old agreement has no effect, for it is of no use now that the new one has come.
The old holy place 9:1-10
Verse 1 To show how much better the new agreement is, the author writes first about the old agreement. The old agreement included the rules about *worship, that is, how to praise and honour God. This was to take place in a special holy place. Its use was only for here on earth, not in heaven.
Verse 2 As God had told Moses, they set up a large special tent. This special tent had two parts. The outer part of the special tent was the holy place. The inner part was the most holy place. In the outer part, the holy place, were a special oil lamp and a special table. Skilled workmen made the special lamp to the exact plan that God gave to Moses (Exodus 25:31-40). On the table was the holy bread. There were 12 loaves of this bread. Every Saturday, Aaron had to replace them with fresh loaves of bread. After the death of Aaron, the chief priest of the time would do this. The priests, but nobody else, ate the old loaves when they took them off the table. They had to eat the loaves in the holy place, for this bread was holy to the *Lord.
Verse 3 Through a second curtain was the most holy place. This was the very special place where the chief priest met with God. Only the chief priest could go in there and only once a year. The curtain was there so that nobody else could approach God.
Verse 4 By the curtain, near the special box of the agreement, was an *altar of gold (Exodus 30:1-6). On it the priests burned *incense every day.
The special box of the agreement was a large box made of wood, with gold all over it (Exodus 25:10-22). In this special box of the agreement were three things.
There was the gold jar of the bread from heaven (Exodus 16). When the people went through the desert God fed them. He sent bread each morning for them to collect and eat. God told them to put some of it into this jar. It was there to remind them of how God cared for them.
The stick of Aaron that came into flower was there (Numbers 17). There had been trouble in the camp of *Israel. Some people did not accept that Moses and Aaron were the right leaders for them. So God told them to put a stick for each *tribe in the special tent. The next day, the stick of Aaron had flowers and fruit on it. The other sticks were just dead sticks. So God showed them that he had chosen Moses and Aaron. God told them to put this stick into the special box of agreement to remind the people how God had led them.
Also in the special box of the agreement were the stones on which God had written the 10 laws. He had given these to Moses on the mountain top (Deuteronomy 5). These 10 laws were the rules that the people had to obey.
Verse 5 There was a figure of a *cherub on each end of the lid of the special box of the agreement. The *cherubs were special *angels who were to show that God was there in all his honour. God told Moses to make the figures of gold. They faced each other across the lid of the box. Their wings spread over the box. The lid itself was of pure gold. This was the place where the chief priest had to put the blood of the *sacrifice for *sin. Each year when he did this, God said that he would forgive the *sins of the priest and people.
It was not the writer’s purpose to explain what all these things meant. He wanted to show how much better the real things in heaven are than these.
Verse 6 The priests had to go into the outer part of the special tent every day. They prepared the lamps in the morning and lit them in the evening. They had to say prayers to God at fixed times in the morning and in the evening. At these times the priests burned *incense on the *altar of gold. Each week they had to change the bread.
Verse 7 The chief priest went into the most holy place once a year. When it says once a year, it means on one day of the year. He had to go in more than once on that day. The priest was in danger of the anger of God, when he went into the most holy place. There had to be the right sacrifices made to God to make it safe for him. He had to make a *sacrifice for his own *sins on the *altar. Then he went in with some of the blood and put it on the lid of the special box of the agreement. Then God forgave his *sins. Then the chief priest made a *sacrifice for the *sins of the people. He went in again with some of that blood and put it on the gold lid of the special box. Then he asked God to forgive the people as well.
Verse 8 The Holy Spirit used the special tent to teach us an important truth. It was that there was no way that the people could go directly to God. Only the priests could go into the holy place. Even they could not go beyond that. The chief priest alone could go to God in the most holy place. He could only go there on one day of the year (Leviticus 16).
While that form of *worship was in use there, the *Spirit did not tell about the direct way to God.
Verse 9 The ‘present time’ could mean the time when the special tent was in use. In those days the direct way to God was not yet open. It could mean the time when the author was writing. The direct way to God was now open in Jesus. In the old special tent the priests offered gifts and sacrifices to God. The problem was that these had no power to change a person’s heart and mind. These could not clean the conscience from *sin and so make the people right with God.
Verse 10 There were strict laws about food and drink. The *Jews had a lot of rules about washing and for much of their daily lives. These were all to do with the outside of a person and had no effect on the inside of a person. These old laws applied until the time of the new agreement came. The new agreement put an end to the old laws and replaced them with a better way.
The blood of Christ 9:11-14
Verse 11 The writer does not tell us what the good things are that have come. It must be the sum of all that Jesus has won for us by his death and *resurrection. He is now our chief priest of the new agreement. The place where he is, as our agent, is much better than the old tent. That was only a copy of the true place of *worship. This is where Jesus has gone. This is the holiest place of all, where he meets with God on our behalf.
Verse 12 By the blood, the priests went into the most holy place in the special tent. Jesus did not need the blood of animals. Those priests had to offer a *sacrifice for their own *sins. Jesus was perfect, and so he had no need for such a *sacrifice. He has gone, on our behalf into the true and holiest place of all. There had to be a *sacrifice for our *sins. Jesus died once for the *sins of all people and his blood, that is, his death, is sufficient for all time. The text seems to say that Jesus took his blood into that place. It means rather that he went in because of the value of the blood that he gave on our behalf. With his death Jesus paid the price to set us free from *sin. Now in him we can be right with God and can go and live forever with him.
Verse 13 The blood of goats and young cows and their ashes had the effect of cleaning a person on the outside. This could not take away a person’s *sin, for that is on the inside. Nor could it make a person right with God. It is only the blood of Jesus that can make the conscience clean. It is only the blood of Christ that can remove the *sin.
Verse 14 Jesus was both *human and God. He was perfect and had no *sin in him. How much more effect must the blood of Jesus have than the blood of animals! There are three reasons why his blood is so special:
· It was by the *Spirit that he offered himself. Several times the *prophet Isaiah spoke about the servant of the *Lord who was coming one day. (This refers to the *Messiah, that is, Jesus Christ. ‘Christ’ means *Messiah.) On the first occasion, God says, ‘I have put my *Spirit upon him’ (Isaiah 42:1). This means that all that Jesus would do would be with God’s power. This includes his final great act of dying to take away our *sins.
· Jesus freely offered himself, for he agreed to do so. He was ready to be a *sacrifice for the *sins of us all. He gave himself for us.
· He was perfect and had no *sin, yet he offered himself to God. He was the one perfect *sacrifice that could pay for the *sin of all of us. He is the one *sacrifice that would please God.
So Jesus is able to make our consciences clean through his blood, and so to make us right with God.
Christ brings us into the new agreement 9:15-22
Verse 15 Because Jesus can make us clean from *sin, he is the one who brings us into the new agreement with God. His blood was the price that he paid to make us free from *sin. The sacrifices of old were to show the death of Jesus that was to come one day. This *sacrifice of Jesus was there for those who lived under the old agreement. It is there as well for us who live under the new agreement. The way to heaven is the same for all whom God calls. All who trust in Jesus will have a place in heaven. That place will always be there and so will they.
Verses 16-17 Most types of agreement are where two persons agree and both have rights and responsibilities. There is also an agreement made by one person. This is when a person says what should happen to his property when he dies. While this person is still alive, the agreement has no value. It comes into effect only when the person who made it is has died. Those who would benefit from the agreement have to show that its maker is dead. Then they can take the possessions left to them in the agreement.
Verse 18 God made both the old and the new agreements. In the old agreement, God told the people what they had to do. He promised life to them, if they kept all his laws. But even this first agreement had no worth without the blood of a *sacrifice.
Verses 19-21 When Moses received the first agreement he did two things. First, he read aloud to the people all God’s laws that they were to obey. He made sure that they understood what God was asking them to do. He told them of the good that would come to them, if they obeyed God’s laws. He told them of the punishment that would follow, if they did not obey God’s laws.
Then he took the blood of young cows and goats. Using red wool and *hyssop, he put some of the blood, with water, on the book of God’s law. He put some of it on the people as well. This was to wash all things and make them clean at the start of the agreement. As he did this, he told the people that they must do all that God demands.
Moses took some blood and put it on the special tent. He also put some on all the things that the priests would use in *worship (Exodus 24:4-8).
Verse 22 When the writer says that blood cleans almost all things, there were some things which did not need blood. Fire could make some metal objects clean. Those who were too poor to bring even a small bird as a *sacrifice could bring flour (Leviticus 5:11-13). To make a person clean from *sin there had to be blood. For those who were too poor to *sacrifice an animal, there was still the blood of sacrifices that the priests used on behalf of all the people. There had to be a *sacrifice of blood for God to forgive *sin. Where there is no blood, God will not forgive *sin.
The perfect *sacrifice 9:23-28
Verse 23 The special tent and all that was in it were copies of the real things in heaven. They had to be clean. To make them clean, there had to be the blood put on each object. But the blood of goats and young cows could not clean what is in heaven. They need much better sacrifices than the blood of animals.
Verse 24 The work of Jesus was not in the special tent that people had made on earth. That special tent was only a copy of the real thing in heaven. Jesus made his one perfect *sacrifice here on earth. He then went home to heaven. He went home to his Father, on behalf of his people. Now he always stands before God to pray for those who trust in him.
Verses 25-26 The chief priest had to go into the most holy place each year. He had to go in with blood. This was not his own blood, but the blood of animals. Jesus gave his own blood and not the blood of animals. If the blood that the chief priest offered could have taken away *sin, he would not have needed to go into the most holy place every year. In contrast, the blood of Jesus did take away *sin once and for all. So he does not need to make that *sacrifice again. He made it once for all time and then he went into heaven. If the blood of Jesus had not been enough for all time, he would have had to die many times. As it is, he came to earth once as a *human. He died one death for us and rose to life again. He has paid the price for all *sins and forever.
Verse 27 All of us must die one day. The death of the body is not the end. After death we must all give an account of our lives before God. He will judge us and decide our future.
Verse 28 It was the same for Jesus. He came to this earth as a *human being and died. But his death was different from ours, because he did not have to die, for he was perfect. He died as the *sacrifice for *sin. God put on Jesus all of our *sins, and Jesus accepted the punishment for them all. He does not wait for the judgement of God. When he rose from the dead that was proof that he had satisfied God. It proved that his death had dealt with our *sins. Jesus will come back again one day. He will not have to do anything more about *sin, for he has already done that. He will come for those who trust him and are waiting for him. Then their *salvation will be complete and they will go to be with the *Lord, for always.
The law was a shadow of things to come 10:1-4
Verse 1 The ‘law’ here means the whole of the old religion of the *Jews. That was no more than a shadow of the real religion that was to come. This is not to say that the old religion was of no value. In all its parts it pointed to what was to come. By it the people could understand that God was holy. It told them that people could not come to a holy God with their *sins. There were sacrifices offered for *sins, but these could not take them away. They could not make people clean in the sight of God. People still could not come directly to God by means of the *sacrifice of animals.
Verse 2 If a sacrificing of animals could have removed *sins, no other *sacrifice would have been necessary. The fact also that there were so many sacrifices shows that they were not sufficient. They could not remove *sins or free the conscience from guilty feelings.
Verses 3-4 Sacrifices during the year were a constant reminder to people of their *sins. The Bible often tell us to ‘remember’. The word means more than ‘call to mind’. It also means to take some action as a result. Sacrifices were to remind people not only to ask God to forgive their *sins. They also reminded people to *repent, that is, to turn away from *sins and to turn back to God. But the blood of goats or young cows could never do these things. Animals are different from *humans. Only the blood of a person would be sufficient. That person must have no *sin of his own. That is why Jesus came to die for us. He is the only person who has ever lived without *sin.
The only *sacrifice for *sins 10:5-18
Verses 5-7 The old law of Moses was not able to deal with the problem of *sin. So Jesus came to be the answer to that problem. The writer shows Jesus speaking to God, in the words of Psalm 40:6-8.
The Psalm says that God did not want sacrifices and gifts. Burnt animals and gifts for *sin did not please him. We need to understand what this means. It was God who gave the law of Moses to his people. Sacrifices and gifts were a part of that law. What God wanted was hearts that obeyed him. The first command is that we should love God (Deuteronomy 6:5). He was looking for those who would obey the law, because they loved him. He did not want acts of religion, without a change of heart and mind.
God made a body for Jesus to live in on earth. To take away our *sins there had to be the *sacrifice of the body of a person. No animal was suitable for this purpose. The body, which means the whole person, had to be perfect. Jesus was that perfect person and he died for our *sins.
The old law with its gifts and sacrifices had failed to please God. It could not do what he wanted. Jesus came to do the work of God. That work was to pay the price for *sin, so that God could forgive us.
Verses 8-9 God did not want the offering of gifts and sacrifices of the law. It is true that they were part of the old agreement. But they did not please him. God made a new agreement. By it, Jesus came to be the one perfect *sacrifice that would please God. When Jesus died, God put an end to the old law of sacrifices. He replaced the old agreement (the law of Moses) with the new agreement (trust in Jesus).
Verse 10 Jesus came to carry out God’s new plan to make us holy. When Jesus died, he had done all that God required. That one death is enough for all people and for all time. Jesus will never have to die again.
Verses 11-12 The writer compares the work of Jesus with that of the priests. They had to stand doing their duty day after day. Each day they offered more sacrifices for *sins. None of these could meet the real need of the people. They could never take away their *sins. Jesus made the one perfect and complete *sacrifice that did take away all *sin. There is no need for him to repeat it. It is good for all time and for all *sins. The priests could never satisfy God with the sacrifices that they offered. But Jesus has done all that God asked him to do. His work done, Jesus sat down in the place of the highest honour, at the right hand of God.
Verse 13 In Psalm 110:1 God says to Christ, ‘Sit at my right hand. Sit there until I make your enemies a place to rest your feet’. From the time that he rose from the dead, Jesus has been waiting for God to do this. He has overcome all his enemies, but we do not yet see them put under him. The *apostle Paul says the same (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
Verse 14 Again, the writer makes it clear that Jesus died once for all time and for all *sin. It is most important that we know and believe that this is true. All who trust in Jesus, God will make holy. Jesus makes them perfect, that is, all that God intended them to be in his plan. Jesus has done all that God said was necessary.
Verses 15-17 The Holy Spirit is a *witness to the truth of this as well. In the words of Jeremiah 31, from verse 33, he talks of the new agreement. God will put his laws in the hearts and minds of his people. That is, God will give his people the power to obey him. He will remember their *sins no more. It is as if they do not have any *sins. This is because Jesus has taken from them all that was not right. This is the new agreement which Jesus has made for us.
Verse 18 Where God has forgiven *sins, there is no need for any more sacrifices for them. What Christ has done is complete and final. Now Jesus has made this new agreement , the old one has no value.
The way to meet God 10:19-25
Verse 19 The most holy place here means the place where God will meet with us. In the old agreement the people could not approach God themselves. They had to come to the priests. The priests could then go into the special tent on their behalf. Now those who trust in Jesus can meet with God in a direct manner. They can do this with confidence and without fear. They can do so only because of the work of Jesus. He has made the way open for men and women to come to God themselves. He achieved this when he died for our *sins.
Verse 20 In the old special tent the way into the most holy place was through a curtain. Jesus has opened a new way to God. His body, like the curtain, is the way to God. It is for us a living way, for Jesus is alive. When Jesus died, the curtain in the *temple split from the top to the bottom. This was to show that the direct way to God was now open. We can only come to God when we come by the *Lord Jesus. As he said, ‘Nobody comes to the Father but by me’ (John 14:6). There is no other way to God. All who would come to God must put their trust in Jesus and let him take away their *sins. Then and only then can they approach God.
Verse 21 It was the responsibility of the chief priest to go to God on behalf of the people. In Jesus we have the great chief priest. He is over the house of God. That means he owns and rules the people of God. He does not just go in for us. He himself will take us to God.
Verse 22 We can now come to God. The way in is by Jesus, for he is like the curtain in the special tent. We have to come with sincere hearts. The heart here means the real person as we are on the inside. We have to be right with God and be pure as we come to him. This can only be true of us as we put our trust in Jesus and in what he has done for us. We must know that Jesus has washed us clean from all our *sins. The washing of the body with pure water on the outside is to be the sign that we are clean on the inside.
Verse 23 God has made promises to us and he will not fail to do all that he has said. We can trust in God as we look to the future. He has promised in Jesus to give us the life that never dies. We have this hope and we must hold on to it and not let it slip. We often use the word ‘hope’ of something that may or may not happen. We say, ‘I hope so’. But in the Bible the word ‘hope’ is a strong word. Our Christian hope is for something that has not yet happened. But it will happen and we are sure that it will.
Verse 24 While we take care for ourselves, we should think of other Christians. We should do all that we can to help them to grow strong in their *belief (Romans 15:7). We should encourage them to love and to do good works.
Verse 25 Some Christians had stopped coming together with the rest. This was not good for them. It is hard for us to be strong on our own without the help and support of other Christians. When we come to Jesus, we should join the church and meet with other Christians. We need to help each other in our Christian *belief and in how we live as Christians. We should encourage each other all the more as the day approaches when Jesus comes back again (see verse 37).
A warning to those who will not believe 10:26-31
Verses 26-27 There are people who once accepted what God had done for them in Jesus. They knew that it was true. But now they have decided to turn away from Jesus. They no longer accept what he did for them by his death. For them, there is no more a *sacrifice for *sin. They have refused the one way that God has given to us. They still have their *sins. God will judge all *sin. Those who have put their trust in Jesus know that he has taken away their *sins. *Sin makes God angry. His terrible anger should make us afraid, for it is awful. It is like a fierce fire that will destroy all his enemies. Those who have known the truth, but now refuse it, are his enemies.
Verses 28-29 To fail to do what the law of Moses said was serious. Not to obey that law was the same as denying God. The one who did this had to pay the price for it. He or she had to die. It was so serious a matter that there had to be proof that they were guilty. One *witness was not enough. There had to be two or three (Deuteronomy 17:6). It is much more serious to deny Jesus and what he has done. The punishment for that must be much worse. It must be more severe for Jesus is so much greater than Moses. It must be more severe because the new agreement is so much better than the old one.
If someone turns away from Jesus on purpose, they are guilty of three things:
· It is as if they walk upon the Son of God. It is to deny Jesus who is the same as God.
· It is to count as nothing the blood of Jesus. The death of Jesus is the foundation of the new agreement. This then is to show no respect for the love of God.
· It is to insult the Holy Spirit of God.
Verses 30-31 We know who God is and what he will do. He is the living God who knows all about us. It is he who said, ‘I am the one who will punish people, I will pay them back for what they have done’. Again he said, ‘The *Lord will judge his people’ (Deuteronomy 32:35-36). It will be terrible for a person who is guilty, when he or she has to face God. There can be no escape for us, if we do not obey him. We know what he has told us to do. He has told us to put our trust the *Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).
Choose the right way 10:32-39
Verse 32 The writer is sure that his readers would not go back from their *belief in Jesus. He asks them to remember the early days, when they had first come to Christ. The truth of God was to them like a light. It shone into their hearts and minds and changed them. Then they had to suffer a lot because they were Christians. It was a struggle between them and those who fought against them. They were strong in their *faith and did not fail.
Verses 33-34 At times they had to suffer insults, shame and evil things done to them. They helped other Christians when they suffered the same things. Some people were in prison for their *faith. There they needed the help and the pity that other Christians were able to give them. They had their possessions taken from them. But nobody could take away their inner joy. That joy was in the fact that they knew Jesus and that he was always with them. In Jesus they had the promise of things to come that were so much better than any possessions. The things of Jesus and of heaven are real possessions that will last forever. Nobody can ever take those away from Christians.
Verse 35 The readers must not throw away their trust in Jesus. God will give them a great reward, if they continue to live and work for him. They could lose so much, if they do not continue with Jesus.
Verse 36 The new life we can have in Jesus is not something that we can ever earn. It is the free gift of God to all who trust in Jesus. Our part is to maintain our *faith, even when life is hard. We must always try to do what God wants. Then we shall receive what God has promised.
Verses 37-38 These two verses use words from Isaiah 26:20 and Habakkuk 2:3-4. They tell us that Jesus is coming back soon and he will not delay his coming. We must be strong in our trust because we are sure that he will return. When he comes back, that will end our struggles in this life and bring in his promised blessing of life with God.
The men and women whom God accepts as right with him, will live by trusting in Jesus. We can never earn life with God by anything that we do. God gives us that life because of what Jesus has done on our behalf. It is by trust in him that we can receive that life. When we trust in Jesus, God makes us right with himself. As we came to Jesus in the first place by trust, so we must continue to live by trusting in him. Those who turn back from their *belief cannot please God (see verses 29-30). All Christians must want to please God, when they remember how much he has done for them.
Verse 39 The writer now makes clear that those who really trust Jesus, do not turn back. People who turn back from Jesus will have to face the judgement of God. All who maintain a bold trust in Jesus will be safe from that judgement. They will gain God’s promised life.
The meaning of *faith (trust in God) 11:1-3
Verses 1-3 In chapter 10 the writer urged his readers to continuous trust in God. Now in chapter 11, he encourages us with many examples of men and women in the Old Testament who trusted God.
The life of *faith, that is, a life of trust in God at all times, is what pleases him. Our trust in God is very important. For example, that is how we know that he made the world and everything in it. He spoke a word of command. In Genesis 1:3, God said, ‘Let there be light’. And it was so. He made to exist what did not exist before. We can know these facts, because God tells us. We have to trust that what he says is true.
The *faith of men before the flood 11:4-7
Verse 4 The writer tells us of some of those who in the past have trusted God. Cain and Abel were sons of Adam (Genesis 4:3-7). They each brought a *sacrifice to God. God accepted Abel’s *sacrifice, but not because of what he offered. It was because God saw that Abel had *faith. Cain’s *sacrifice did not please God. This was not because of what he offered. It was because Cain’s heart was not right with God. Cain had to overcome this *sin first (Genesis 4:7). Then God would have accepted his *sacrifice also. Cain was angry and jealous. So he killed Abel (1 John 3:12). God did not forget Abel’s innocent death. It was not unlike the death of Jesus (see 12:24).
Verse 5 Enoch was a very good man. His *faith was so strong that we read that he walked with God (Genesis 5:24). He lived so close to God that he pleased God. Because of his *faith, God took him straight to heaven. Although the people looked for him, they could not find him. God had taken him straight to heaven and he did not die.
Verse 6 It is not possible to please God, if we do not trust him. Our trust in him must be sure about two things. We must be certain that God exists, and that he will reward those who look for him.
Verse 7 In the days of Noah the people had turned from God. He saw that Noah was the only one who, like Enoch, walked close to God and did what was right (Genesis 6:9). By his life of *faith, Noah pleased God. God decided to destroy all the wicked people by a great flood. He warned Noah about his plans and told him to build an *ark (a large boat) (Genesis 5:13-14). While he was building the *ark, Noah warned the people about the flood that God would send. They laughed at him, and nobody believed him. It had never happened before! Only Noah and his family were safe in the *ark when the flood came. The wicked people drowned. Noah trusted God, and so was right with God. Therefore Noah would receive the good things that God has promised to those who trust him.
The *faith of Abraham and Sarah 11:8-19
Verse 8 We now look at Abraham, who is the great example of *faith. God called him to leave the country where he lived (Genesis 12:1). He had to leave his friends and neighbours and most of his family. God did not then tell Abraham where he was to go. He just said, ‘Go to the land that I shall show you’. So Abraham set off, because he knew that he could trust God. We like to know where we are going and we like to choose the way. Abraham obeyed God’s command, although he did not yet know where he was to go. He knew it was right to trust God and to obey him. To leave the life that we know and go into the unknown future, because God calls us to do so, this is *faith.
Verse 9 When Abraham arrived in the land that God had promised to him, he lived there as a foreigner. He had no rights or possessions in that land. Later he did buy a small piece of land in which to bury those who died. He had no house to live in, but with his family he lived in tents. His son Isaac and Isaac's son Jacob also had no permanent place in the land. But God gave them the same promises.
Verse 10 Abraham was content to live as a foreigner in the land. He knew that one day God would do all that he said that he would do. Abraham looked forward, beyond his death, to his true home in heaven. He would no longer be a stranger, but he would belong there. By *faith he saw a city which God planned and built. God has made the foundations of it, so we know that they will never fail. It will not be like living in tents, but will be a permanent home for the people of God.
Verses 11-12 When God told Abraham that he would have a son (Genesis 15:1-5), both he and his wife Sarah were really too old. At first, Sarah laughed at the idea (Genesis 18:9-15). But Abraham trusted God to do what he promised. Sarah received strength for the birth. Isaac was born. And God promised that Isaac would be the first of a very large family. They would be like the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea - too many to count.
Verse 13 God made similar promises to all the people that the writer has mentioned. But they did not receive what he promised in this life. Yet they were still content to trust God. They realised that earth was not their true home. They lived like strangers and foreigners here.
Verses 14-15 The kind of people who say that they are strangers here are looking for a country of their own. They could have been at home here, but they knew that God’s promised home for them was far better. Abraham and his family could have gone back to the country where they came from. But God had called them to leave it. To return would be to refuse to do what God wanted. God calls all his people to leave behind their old lives and go on to live for God and the life to come.
Verse 16 No, people like Abraham, who trust God completely, want to go to the much better place that God has made ready for them in heaven. God has built the city that Abraham looked for (v 10). God is not ashamed to be the God of people like these. He honours their *faith and accepts them as his own. God calls us to have the same *faith and to live as they did. He gives to us the chance to join him in that city.
Verses 17-18 Now comes the greatest test of Abraham’s *faith. God told him to offer his son Isaac as a *sacrifice to him. Isaac was his only son by Sarah his wife. (Abraham did have another son by Hagar, who was Sarah's maid: see Genesis 16). Isaac was the only son of the promise. It was through Isaac that God said that his promises would come. So Abraham had a real problem. If he were to kill Isaac, would not the promises fail? If he did not do what God asked, would the promises still be there for his people? Abraham had to trust God that somehow God would find a way to keep his promises.
Verse 19 Abraham decided to do what God told him to do and *sacrifice Isaac. He took him and tied him on an *altar. He had fire ready. He lifted his knife. Then God told him to stop. So Isaac did not die (Genesis 22). Abraham had been ready to obey God and to kill Isaac, so now it was like receiving him back from the dead. Jesus, the only Son of God, did die and he did come back to life from death. All the promises of God to us are in his Son Jesus. We shall receive those promises, if we trust God completely, as Abraham did.
Other examples of *faith 11:20-38
Verse 20 Because he believed what God had promised, Isaac blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau. He told them about the good things God had planned. It was in Jacob that the promises of God were to come. Just as Abraham had done, so Isaac looked for the future beyond this life.
Verse 21 When he was dying, Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph. It was the custom to give the best blessing to the older son. But, because he believed what God had shown him, he gave the greater blessing to Ephraim, who was younger than Manasseh.
Verse 22 Joseph, a son of Jacob, trusted in the promise that God gave to Abraham. When he was at the end of his life, he spoke of the *exodus. He knew that the land of *Egypt was not to be the home of the people of *Israel. God had promised them the land of *Canaan. Joseph believed the promise of God and looked to the time when God would lead them back to that land. He told his family that when they went there they were to take his bones with them. He wanted them to bury him in the *promised land (Genesis 50:24-25).
Verse 23 Many years after Joseph died, there was a new king in *Egypt. He was afraid that there were so many Hebrews, they might take over the country (Exodus 1). So he made them slaves. Then he gave orders to kill all the *Hebrew baby boys at birth. The parents of Moses saw that he was an unusual child. They trusted in God and were not afraid of the king. So they hid Moses for three months. When they could no longer hide him, they put him in a basket. They put the basket among the plants by the river. The daughter of the king found him there. She took him home and brought him up as her own son.
Verses 24-25 When Moses grew up, he refused to be the son of the daughter of the king. This was not a quick decision of a youth. He was now a man of about 40 years old. He knew that he was a *Hebrew by birth. He trusted in God. So he decided to leave all that he had, or could have had, as a royal prince. He chose to go back to his own people. They were poor slaves who had to suffer much. He chose to suffer with them, rather than have a comfortable life without God. A life without God would have been *sin.
Verse 26 God made Moses aware that one day the Christ would come. Many would not accept him. Those who did would share in the shame that Christ suffered. Moses knew that to be one of the people of God was worth far more than all the riches of *Egypt. Riches may last for this life, but are of no value for the life to come. With Christ there are rewards in a new life after death. Moses trusted in God and desired those rewards more than to have riches now.
Verse 27 Moses left *Egypt twice. The first time was after he had killed an *Egyptian. He was afraid that the king would hear about it (Exodus 2:11-15). So he went to live in the land of *Midian. He was there for 40 years (Acts 7:30). Then God told him to go back to *Egypt, and bring God’s people out of *Egypt (Exodus 3). He was no longer afraid of the king.
For a long time the king refused to let the Hebrews go (Exodus, chapters 7-11). Through all those difficult days Moses was strong. It was as if he could see God, whom nobody can see. He was so strong because he trusted in God. It was as if he walked with God. The Bible says that God talked with Moses face to face, as a person speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11).
Verse 28 By *faith Moses obeyed God when he led the *Jews to have the first *Passover. This was a special meal that God told them to eat. They had to kill a lamb for the meal for each family. They had to put some of its blood on the door-posts and over the doors of their houses. The *angel of death went through the land of *Egypt. He killed the first son in each house. But when he saw the blood round the doors of a Hebrew’s house, he ‘passed over’ that house and did not kill the first son there. That is why they called the event the ‘*Passover’. Ever since that time the *Jews have eaten the *Passover meal each year. They remember that God rescued them from being slaves and brought them out of *Egypt (Exodus 12).
Verse 29 As the *Jews left *Egypt, they came to the Red Sea. God made a path through the sea for them. They had to go forward trusting in God that they would get to the other side. So they went across the sea on a dry path. When the *Egyptians tried to cross the sea, the water drowned them all (Exodus 14:29-31).
Verse 30 40 years later the *Jews came to the city of *Jericho. They had to attack it and destroy it. God told them to march round it once each day for 6 days. On the seventh day God told them to march round 7 times. They believed God and did what he told them to do. Then on the seventh time on the seventh day, the walls of the city fell down (Joshua 2).
Verse 31 Before the Hebrews attacked *Jericho, they sent men there. They were to look at the city and report back to their leaders. When they came, Rahab took them into her house. She kept them safe while they were there. Then she sent them away by a safe route. She had lived a bad life, but now she helped the men because she had *faith in God. When *Jericho fell, the men saved her life (Joshua 2).
Verse 32 In the history of the *Jews there were a lot of examples of those who lived by *faith. There were too many to include in this letter. The writer mentions the names of 6 of the most famous men along with the *prophets. These are Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel. We do not know the reason for the order of these names. If we put them in pairs the second one of each pair came first. Barak was before Gideon. Jephthah was before Samson. Samuel was before David.
The writer does not tell us about these men here. We can read about them in the Old Testament. Each of them had to overcome such troubles that they could only do so with the help of God. They were able to win because they trusted in God.
Verses 33-34. The list of things done in verses 33 and 34 are not just what those 6 men did. These describe the sort of things that those who trusted in God have done. We can put them into three groups of three each:
· They overcame kings. They were fair rulers. They received what God promised them.
· Those who overcame kings could include those whom we call the Judges (in the book of Judges). They were the leaders of the Hebrews, after they entered the *promised land. For example, Gideon, with only a small number of men, overcame the *Midianites (Judges 6:11-8:32). Barak was able to defeat the *Canaanites (Judges 4:6-5:31). Samson fought with the *Philistines (Judges 13:2-16:31). Jephthah rescued the *Jews from the power of the *Ammonites (Judges 11:1-12:7).
· They shut the mouths of lions so that they could not bite them. The flames could not hurt them. They escaped the sword.
Both Samson (Judges 14:5-6) and David (1 Samuel 17:34-35) killed lions. The best example of this must be Daniel. He was in a cage of lions, but they did not hurt him. He trusted in God and God sent an *angel to shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6). Then there were Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3). They refused to *worship the king’s image, because they trusted in God. The king threw them into the flames, but the fire could not burn them.
God made them strong when they were weak. They were strong as they fought their enemies. They were able to overcome armies that came against them.
Verse 35 Here are some examples where a mother received her child back from the dead. There was a widow who helped the *prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24). When her son died, Elijah cried to the *Lord. God heard him and the child lived again. Another lady lived in *Shunem, a place in *Israel. She had a room built on top of her house for Elisha the *prophet. When her son died, she went to Elisha. God brought her boy back from the dead too (2 Kings 4:18-37).
There have been many who have suffered and died for their *faith. They could have saved themselves by turning from their *belief in God. Yet to them the life to come in heaven with God was much more important than the life here on earth. We too must not turn from our trust in God, no matter what it costs us.
Verse 36 There are many more who suffered, but did not have to die because of their *faith. We Christians should expect that we may have to suffer for Jesus. People may say bad things about us or do bad things to us, because we are Christians. We should accept this and be happy that we can suffer on behalf of Jesus.
Verses 37-38 The writer lists more ways in which those who trusted God had suffered. To other people, they had no worth. The truth is that they were worth far more to God than the whole world, although they were poor. Many had no homes here on earth, but they knew they had a wonderful home in heaven.
The promise of God to those who trust him 11:39-40
Verses 39-40 God gave honour to all of these people, because they trusted him. God did not forget those who served him. They are all now safe with God. They received many good things from God. Yet they did not receive all that God promised while they lived on earth. There is something more which is yet to come for them.
God has planned something better, which will include us. His plan is for all who have ever trusted in him. All who belong to Jesus will have a share in God’s plan. He has not told us what that plan is in detail. But we know that in his plan he will make perfect all of us who know Jesus, together with all these heroes of *faith.
Jesus is our example 12:1-3
Verse 1 There are *witnesses about us like a cloud. *Witnesses can be of two types. There are *witnesses who tell of something that they have seen. Then there are *witnesses who watch what is happening. The writer may mean both. The heroes of *faith in chapter 11 are examples of those who trusted in God. Their example encourages us to trust God in the same way. God did not fail them.
We are like runners in a race. The race is our lives and all of us must run it as a runner competes in a race. He trains himself so that he becomes strong. He makes sure that his weight is not too heavy. While he is running, he does not carry or wear anything that he does not need. He runs to win.
The runner throws off anything that would slow him down. So we must throw off anything that would make our trust in God weaker. These are things that may not be bad in themselves. But they do not make us stronger Christians. Then there are the *sins that we find so easy to do. We must be careful that we do not fail and do them. To live as God wants us to live, we have to be patient and never give up. We have to continue, strong in our trust in God, until our life here on earth comes to an end.
Verse 2 We must always keep looking to Jesus. He shows us what *faith is and our *faith comes from him. He will help us to trust God to lead us along the path that God has planned for us. Jesus’ own path led him to die on a cross. The *Jews considered that death on a cross brought great shame upon the one who died. But Jesus was looking beyond death. He saw the joy that was to come when he went back to his Father in heaven. There he would share his joy with all God’s people.
Verse 3 We are to look to Jesus as our example. He finished the work that he came here to do. He had to suffer and there were many who were against him. We who are Christians may have to suffer because we belong to Jesus. There will be many who are against us, because of our *faith in him. Like Jesus, we must be strong and brave and continue to the end, and so bring him honour.
Discipline from God 12:4-11
Verse 4 Many of those whom we read about in the last chapter, died for their *faith. The readers of this letter had not yet had to risk their lives. Today, in many parts of the world, Christians suffer and some Christians die for their *faith.
Verses 5-7 God does not let us suffer because he is angry with us. He allows these things to work for our good because he loves us. A father who loves his children will teach, correct and punish them. He tries by all these methods to train his children for their benefit. So it is with God who is our Father.
Verse 8 All children have to learn how to live. Their parents have to teach them and train them. For this they will correct them and punish them when they do wrong. If we do not have any discipline from God, then we cannot be his true children. For God is a good father who trains all his children.
Verse 9 We all had *human fathers who in the past have corrected us. At the time we did not like the discipline they gave us. Now we are older we know that it was good for us. So we respect our fathers for what they did. These were men like us. They were training us for this life. But God, like a father, is training us for the life which never ends. So when he disciplines us, we should be happy to accept it. We know that he does it, or allows it, so that we may learn how to live. He knows what is best for us and he wants the best for us.
Verse 10 When we were young our fathers corrected us. They did what they thought was best for us. Although they were not always right, for they were *human, they tried. But God is always right in all that he does. He corrects us to make us holy like he is, and so fit to live with him.
Verse 11 When our fathers punished us for doing wrong, we did not enjoy it. We do not like it when someone corrects us. It hurts us and it makes us sad. Yet when God corrects us and we accept it, the result is always good for us. If we allow God to train us, we shall benefit by it. As we do what that discipline teaches us, our lives will please God. This brings us a quiet heart.
Continue to live as Christians 12:12-17
Verse 12 The writer is again thinking about the Christian life as a race. He is not here talking of actual hands and knees. By tired hands and weak knees he means people who find it too hard to continue the Christian’s race. They are ready to give up their *belief in Jesus. Tired hands can no longer work. Weak knees stop moving forward. He urges his readers to make their hands and knees strong again. They must be brave and strong, like all those people the writer has been talking about. They must not give up when troubles come. They must continue to trust Jesus and live as God wants them to live, even when it is difficult.
Verse 13 The Christian life is like a race along a path. If that path is straight or level, it will be easier to reach the place where we are going. If we do not keep to the straight path, the journey will be longer and harder. If we leave the path, we may not get back on it again. On a rough path or a longer way, the weak will get weaker and will fail. We should make the path as easy as we can for others, so that the weak will be able to keep on it. In the right way there is healing for them. So they will be able to get to the end. How can we help them? We need to be clear in our *belief and in what we teach. We need to walk together and live as God wants us to live.
Verse 14 We live in a world in which there is so much disagreement. Even in the church there are often quarrels. We have a duty to try to live without quarrels. We are to try to be in unity with all people. That means both with those who trust God, as we do, and with those who do not. It may not always be possible, but we are not to be the cause of trouble. The writer tells us to be holy as well. The meaning of the word ‘holy’ has as its base that we belong to God alone. He is to be the Master of all that we do. We should always live as God wants us to live. Only those who are holy will see God. No person can make himself or herself holy. It is God who makes us holy, when we obey him and trust in Jesus.
Verse 15 Christians must care for each other to make sure that none of them fails to know the love of God. We need each other to help us to be true to our *faith. One of the dangers that comes is anger. Anger is like a bitter root. Although a tree can grow from a bitter root, its fruit will be bitter to the taste. We must not let anger grow like that, for it will cause so much trouble. It will spoil the whole church and hurt many people. We must not let anger stay in our hearts or minds.
Verse 16a. There is danger to the church if a member has wrong sex. God has told us that sex is good and right between husband and wife. Sex with another person is wrong.
Verses 16b-17 We should be careful about what God has done for us and has promised to us. Esau was the oldest son of his father Isaac. As the oldest son he would have special rights when his father died. One day when he was hungry, he sold his rights merely for a meal. He gave away his future rights for nothing. He did not think his future was as important as what he happened to want just then. We should not be like him. Our life with God is far more important than the little things of this present life. Esau had given away his rights and he could not get them back. He wanted them, but they now belonged to his brother. He cried and tried so hard, yet he was not really sorry for what he had done (Genesis 25:19-34). He is to be a warning to us. We must value what we have because of our *belief in Jesus more than anything else.
Contrast of *Sinai and *Zion 12:18-25
Verses 18-21 The writer contrasts the giving of the law to the *Jews and the blessing that came by Jesus. God gave the law at Mount *Sinai. Jesus died on Mount *Zion. Verses 18-21 tell of the terror of Mount *Sinai. Verses 22-24 tell of our approach to better things by our *faith.
The *Jews could not come near Mount *Sinai. God would not let them approach it. There was a great darkness and a wild storm. The mountain was burning with fire. There was a loud sound like that of a *trumpet. Then God spoke, and it made them very afraid. So much so that they cried out that he should stop speaking to them. They could not bear to listen to the words of God. The sound of his voice made them afraid. If an animal came near to the mountain, it must die. They had to kill it by throwing stones. If any person were to come near, that person too must die. God told Moses to come up the mountain. What Moses saw there was so awful that he trembled with fear (Exodus 19:10-25; Deuteronomy 4:11-12; 5:22-26).
We Christians do not have such a terrible experience. We, too, come to a mountain. But it is a very different one.
Verse 22 Christians, says the writer, have come to Mount *Zion, the city of God. Mount *Zion is one of the hills on which is the city of *Jerusalem. It was in *Jerusalem that the *Jews praised and worshipped God. It was here that they could meet God, for his special house, the *temple, was there. But we Christians have not come to the Mount *Zion that is on earth. We have not come to the city of *Jerusalem that stands on that Mount *Zion. The writer is painting a picture in words to show that we have come to where God really lives, that is, in heaven. We have come, not to the terror of *Sinai, but to the living God. He has called us to come to him because of what Jesus has done for us. In that city of God in heaven we can join with the vast crowd of *angels that *worship him.
Verse 23 In heaven also is the true church. *Believers in Jesus, both those who are on earth and those who have died, are all part of the church. It is the church of Jesus who was the first person to rise from the dead. God has written in heaven the names of all who have *faith in Jesus. We have come to God as the judge who is over all. There we join all those who have died but who were loyal to Jesus while they lived on earth. God has made them alive again and made them perfect. They live there with God.
Verse 24 The reason why we are able to come to God and live with him is that Jesus is there. The awful terror of *Sinai was because of the old agreement with God. But Jesus has made a new agreement with God for us. By it he has taken away all our *sin by his death on the cross. It is his blood that he gave there that makes the new agreement for us with God. God has accepted that blood for our *sins. So we are fit to live with a holy God. The blood of Abel could not do what the blood of Jesus has done. All Abel’s blood could do was to cry out for God to punish Cain who murdered him.
Verse 25 The writer now contrasts the way that God spoke then with the way that he speaks now. Those who heard God speak at *Sinai wanted him to stop. The voice of God made them afraid. So they agreed that God should speak to Moses and that he should tell them what God said. They promised to obey all the law of God that he gave to them by Moses. They did not keep that promise. They refused to listen when God warned them. In the end God punished them. God speaks to us today, not by Moses but by his Son Jesus. He does not speak to us on earth, but he speaks from heaven. What God says now by Jesus is greater than what he said by Moses. God punished those who did not obey what he said by Moses. How much more will he punish those who do not obey what he says by his Son Jesus! There is only one way that we can escape the punishment of God. We must accept what Jesus has done for us.
When God shakes all things 12:26-29
Verse 26 When God spoke at *Sinai, the whole mountain shook (Exodus 19:18). There was a great fire and darkness. It was awful and those who saw it were very afraid. God promises that one day he will again shake the earth. He will shake not only that mountain, but the whole earth. He will shake not only the whole earth, but the heavens as well.
Verse 27 There is a time coming when God will shake all that exists. God will remove all that shakes in that day. All that God has made, the physical world and the sky, he will shake. God will remove them all. After that, God has promised to make a new heaven and a new earth.
As God shakes all physical things, there are some things that will last for always. These are the things that we cannot see yet, but they are real. These will remain and they will never end. The writer does not tell us what all of these are.
Verses 28-29 One thing that will remain is the place where God is the king. This place will not shake or move and it has no end. God is giving us Christians a home in this place. We cannot earn it by anything that we do. It is a free gift that we receive from God. We accept this great and wonderful gift and say thank you to God for it. Let us give ourselves to God to be his servants. We want to please him in all that we do. We should praise him and respect him.
We should fear and respect God. We need to be careful how we approach God. He is the God who has all power, who made all that is in heaven and on earth. He is the God who will judge all things. He will punish all who fail to obey what he has said. He is like a fire that burns up all the rubbish. We need to be sure that we really are Christians. Only by our trust in Jesus can we come to God. He will accept us because we belong to Jesus. He has paid for all our *sins.
Christian love 13:1-6
Verse 1 All Christians have the same Father in heaven. We are all children of God. As we love God, we are to love his children. So we must love and help each other as brothers and sisters.
Verse 2 This love should extend to those whom we do not know. When strangers come to us, we should receive them into our homes. We should care for them while they are with us. We should do this because we are Christians and love the *Lord. However, some people have had *angels come to them and they did not know it. For example, *angels came to Abraham (see Genesis 18) and they went on to the house of Lot (Genesis 19).
Verse 3 At that time there were many who were in prison only because they were Christians. The readers of this letter had known this (see 10:32-34). Those in control of the prison did not give food or other help to those in prison. They had to depend on their friends to give them what they needed. In many parts of the world today there are Christians who suffer like this. If we know of Christians in prison, we should show them our love. We should try to understand what they suffer, as if we were there in prison with them. We should share with them in their need and do what we can for them.
Verse 4 Marriage is good and we should respect it. It is a contract for life between a man and a woman. Sex in such a marriage is pure and good. But it is wrong for either of them to have sex with someone else. It is wrong for anyone else to have sex with them. All acts of sex, other than in a marriage, are *sin. God will judge all who have wrong sex with another person.
Verse 5 The desire for wealth can be too strong. It can so easily take control of our lives. We cannot love money and love God. One of them has to take the first place in our lives. The love of money is the cause of much that is wrong in the world. While we do need money, we need God more, and he knows what is good for us. He has promised us that he will never leave us. He loves us and we can depend on him to take care of us. What we have should satisfy us and we should trust God for what we need. We may have to work for it, but if we love God first, money will not control us. (Jesus spoke about this, see Matthew 6:25-34).
Verse 6 The writer uses a verse from the Psalms (118:6). We can be confident in what it says. The *Lord God is our helper. He has done so much for us and he has promised to be with us. With such a helper we cannot fail, if we love and trust him. Then we shall not fear anything. Who can be afraid when they have with them such a powerful God? Love for God takes away all fear of other things. Even if men are against us, they will not be able to do us real damage. Our life is in the care of our God. We know that we live with him and that our life with him will never end. So we can be bold and say, ‘The *Lord is my helper’.
The example of leaders 13:7-8
Verse 7 Christian people had taught these Hebrews about Jesus. They had shown from the Bible that Jesus is the Christ. It was not only by what they said that they taught them. They were also a practical example by the way that they lived. Now it seems that they had died. It may be that they had died because of their *belief in Jesus. We should remember such people and see how they lived. They put their trust in Jesus and obeyed God to the end of their days. We should follow their good example of *faith and live as they did.
Verse 8 *Human leaders come and go, but Jesus is always here. ‘Yesterday’ means the past, and Christ was there even before God made the world. ‘Today’ is the present, and Jesus is alive and here now. ‘Forever’ is the future, and he will always be there. He died once for our *sins, but now he will never die again. He never changes, as he was, he will always be. So we can trust him with total confidence for our lives now and for the future.
Call to *sacrifice 13:9-16
Verse 9 There have always been many who teach strange things that did not come from God. These teachers may be from other religions or from groups that claim to be Christian. They seem to teach that we must do what they say before God will accept us. They say in effect that we must work to be good enough for God. But we Christians know that we cannot please God by what we do. We can only come to God because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He died for our *sins, so that God will accept us. We need to be strong in our *belief in Jesus, for that is what God asks of us. In most of these other religions and groups, there are rules that people have to obey. There are the ceremonies that all must come to. They can only eat certain foods or they have to prepare their food in special ways. The religion of the *Jews had become like that. Doing such things did not help those who did them to come to God. Our trust must not be in what we can do, but in what Jesus has done on our behalf.
Verse 10 To eat at an *altar means to take part in the *sacrifice that the priest has made on it. Those who serve at the *altar in the old agreement cannot take part in the *sacrifice of Jesus. We who are Christians by our trust in Jesus, share what he did when he died on the cross. His *sacrifice was for us and God accepts us in him. Those who depend on what they do at their *altars do not share what Jesus has done.
Verses 11-12 The Hebrews were 40 years in the desert. While there, God gave them the law and the rules for sacrifices. On one day in the year the chief priest brought the blood of animals into the most holy place. They burned the bodies outside of the camp. This was the *sacrifice for *sin in the old agreement. They made these sacrifices each year for the *sins of the *Jews. They were to do this until Jesus came and made the one great *sacrifice. He was both the chief priest and the one great *sacrifice. He died for the *sins of all people. He died just once and it was enough for all people and for all time. As they burned the bodies of the sacrifices away from the camp, so they killed Jesus outside the city (*Jerusalem).
Verse 13 The fact that Jesus died there shows that the people had refused him. He was the Christ, but they would not accept him. They cursed him and killed him, as if he were a criminal. What they did to Jesus then, so people may do the same to those who follow him now. Let us be bold and say that we belong to Jesus. Let us be ready to suffer for him. Let us never deny that we are his, even if we have to die for him.
Verse 14 Nothing in this life lasts forever. We Christians are like strangers here on earth. We are not at home here any more. We are going home to be with our *Lord in heaven. Like Abraham, we look for the city that is to come. That will be the place where we shall live and where we belong.
Verse 15 We do not now have to give blood sacrifices to God. We no longer need the old priests to go to him on our behalf. Jesus is the one and only chief priest and he is always with God. The only *sacrifice that we can bring to God is our praise. We can praise him at all times and not just at the special times of the old sacrifices. The ‘fruit of our lips’ means what we say about God. We praise him when we tell of his greatness, power, might and love. We praise him when we thank him for who he is and for what he has done. We praise him when we give ourselves to him. We praise him through Jesus, for there is no other way to come to him.
Verse 16 While we are praising God, we must not forget the needs of others. It pleases God when we share what we have with those who are in need.
Obey and follow what is right 13:17
Verse 17 God has given us leaders in the church. It is their responsibility to help us to grow as Christians. One day they will have to give an account to God for how well they have done this. We should obey what they teach and follow as they lead. If we do this, their task will be a joy to them. If we do not, it will be hard for us and will make them sad. If we make the task of the leader hard in this way, it will do us no good and the church will suffer. Jesus is for us the leader above all others. We must obey and follow him at all times.
Pray for us 13:18-19
Verses 18-19 The writer urges his readers to pray for him and for those with him. This is not for just one prayer. He asks that they will continue to pray. He wants them to pray especially for God to help him in his situation. He always tries to do what is right. He is sure that he has a good conscience. This means that he does not know of any *sin in his life that he has not asked God to forgive. He really wants to come and see them. But there is some reason why he cannot come yet. He believes that as they pray for him, God can make it possible.
The end of the letter 13:20-25
Verses 20-21 Now, as the writer comes to the end of the letter, he prays for his readers. He prays to the God of the quiet heart. There may be troubles all about us. We may have problems in our lives. Yet in all our difficulties, God can give us that quiet heart. God has made that possible for us in Jesus. He raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is the great leader of the sheep (John 10:1-5). The ‘sheep’ is a picture of his people. By his blood, that is, by his death, Jesus has made the new agreement on our behalf. By that agreement, all who belong to Jesus will receive the life that never dies. God will give them a quiet heart that will last for all time and forever. The writer’s prayer is that God will make them able to do his will while they live here on earth. He prays that God will do all that he wants to do in their lives. God will do this for us through Jesus Christ, as we obey and follow him. All the praise and all the honour belong to Jesus forever.
Verse 22 In this letter there is much advice on how to live as a Christian. It warns us about many things that could lead us to *sin. It asks us to make many decisions and shows us the right answers. The writer wrote his letter to help us. He asks us to accept it and learn from it.
Verse 23 *Timothy was a man who often travelled with the *apostle Paul. He was a leader in the churches. The readers knew that he had been in prison. The writer tells them that *Timothy is now out of prison. He promises that if *Timothy arrives soon, he will bring him to visit them.
Verse 24 The writer sends greetings to his readers, from himself and from ‘our Italian friends’.
Verse 25 This is a final prayer for all his readers.
altar ~ the special table, for burning animals or other gifts offered to God.
amen ~ a word from the *Hebrew language that means we agree, or it is true, or let it be so.
Ammonites ~ a nation who fought against the *Israelites.
ancestors ~ any persons from whom the families of your father or mother come.
anchor ~ a heavy weight on a chain which sailors throw over the side of the boat to hold it steady.
angel ~ a *spirit person made by God to serve him and take his messages. There are *angels who *sinned and now serve the Devil.
apostle ~ one whom God sends; especially one of the 12 that Jesus chose to be his helpers.
ark ~ a large boat such as Noah built.
baptism ~ washing with water as a sign that Jesus has made us clean, and that we want to obey God.
belief ~ what we accept as true ... see *faith.
believers ~ those who know and accept Christ.
boldness/boldly ~ to be brave and without fear; with courage.
Canaan ~ the land that God promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:7).
Canaanites ~ the people who lived in the land of *Canaan and who fought.
cherubs ~ special *angels who were in the most holy place.
Clement of Rome ~ a church leader and writer who lived at the end of the first century.
creation ~ the act of God in making the world and everything there is: everything that God has made.
Egypt ~ a country where the *Israelites were slaves before the *exodus.
Egyptians ~ people who belong to the land of *Egypt.
elders ~ older men, respected men, or leaders in the church.
exodus ~ a word used to refer to the time when God brought the people of *Israel out of *Egypt.
faith ~ to trust someone or something; *belief and trust in God and in Jesus his Son; *belief that the Bible is true.
firstborn ~ a title of Jesus as the first to rise from the dead. Then Christians are referred to as *firstborn ones.
Gethsemane ~ a garden outside *Jerusalem where Jesus prayed before his death.
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the New Testament.
Hebrew ~ a Jewish or Israelite person. The language of the Jewish people.
heir ~ a person who will own the property or position when the present owner dies.
human(s)/humanity ~ human person(s).
human being ~ a human person.
hyssop ~ a small bush used by the *Israelites with the blood of sacrifices.
incense ~ something that gives a sweet smell when it burns; the priest burned it in praising God in the *temple.
Israel ~ God changed the name of Jacob to *Israel (Genesis 35). The sons of Jacob were the beginning of the nation of *Israel. The land that God promised to them is the land of *Israel.
Israelites ~ the people of *Israel.
Italy ~ a country.
Jericho ~ a city that the *Israelites destroyed when they came into the land that God had promised them (Joshua 6).
Jerusalem ~ the capital city of *Israel; the *temple of God was there.
Jews ~ people who were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. It is also a name for the people of *Israel.
Judah ~ one of the 12 sons of Jacob (*Israel). It was from his family that the *Messiah was to come. When the nation of *Israel split, 10 of the 12 *tribes became *Israel and 2 of the 12 *tribes became *Judah.
Judaism ~ the religion of the *Jews.
kingdom ~ the place or territory where a king rules.
Lord ~ a title for God, or Jesus, to show that he is over all.
mediator ~ the agent who makes peace between persons. Jesus is the *mediator between God and *humanity. As *mediator he made the new agreement with God for *humanity.
messengers ~ those who bring messages.
Messiah ~ the special servant of God, the name God chose for Jesus Christ. The person that God sent to save his people from their *sins. God promised the *Jews that *Messiah would come. Jesus is that *Messiah but the *Jews still do not believe it.
Midian ~ a nation that fought against *Israel.
Midianites ~ people of the land of *Midian.
miracles ~ wonderful works that God does by his power; wonderful things that show that a person’s message is from God.
Passover ~ the meal that the *Jews had at the time of the Exodus. Each year they still have this meal to remember the Exodus.
persecution ~ when enemies of God hurt people because they believe in Jesus.
Philistines ~ a nation that fought with the *Israelites.
promised land ~ the land that God promised to give to Abraham and his family.
prophet(s) ~ those who are able to tell to other people what God wants; people who spoke for God a long time ago; persons who speak words from God; they often told of things that would happen in the future.
repent, repentance ~ a change of mind and heart, to turn away from *sin and turn to God.
resurrection ~ rising from the dead; coming alive again.
righteous(ness) ~ being right with God; people that God sees as clean and not his enemies; people who do what is right.
Rome ~ the capital city of the rulers at that time. They were the Romans.
Sabbath ~ the *Sabbath was the seventh day of the week which was special to the *Jews. It was a day on which the people were to rest from work (Exodus 20:8-11).
sacrifice ~ an offering to God, often an animal or bird, by the *Jews to ask God to forgive their *sins. Jesus gave himself to die as a *sacrifice for our *sins.
Salem ~ a city of which Melchizedek was king; short for *Jerusalem.
salvation ~ when God saves us from the result and punishment of our *sin; the rescue from *sin, as God forgives us and gives us new life in Christ.
Sarah ~ the wife of Abraham.
scripture ~ the books of the Bible.
shepherd ~ one who takes care of sheep (sheep are a kind of animal).
Shunem ~ a town in *Israel.
Sinai ~ a mountain where God met with Moses and gave him the law.
sin ~ to sin is to do wrong, bad or evil; not to obey God; sins are the wrong things that we do.
soul ~ the part of a person that we cannot see that is in us during our life and lives after we die; it is our inner life (not the body); it is that part of people that God speaks to through their *spirits.
spirit ~ that part of a person which we cannot see but which can speak to other *spirits or to the *soul; there are other *spirits which can be good or evil.
suggestion ~ something that someone suggests.
teachings ~ lessons.
temple ~ a special building for the *worship of God. The *Jews had one in *Jerusalem for the *worship of the true God.
throne ~ the special chair for the king.
Timothy ~ a friend of the *apostle Paul. He was a leader in the church at that time. There are 2 letters to him, from Paul, in the New Testament
tribe ~ family from one man. *Israel grew from the 12 sons of Jacob. These 12 families formed the 12 *tribes of *Israel.
trumpet ~ an instrument for making music or to sound an alarm.
useless ~ of no use.
vow ~ serious promise made with a proof of intention to keep it. People did this by making the *vow in the name of some great person.
washings ~ the acts of washing in ceremonies.
witness ~ a witness is someone who sees an event and will tell of it. To witness is to tell what you have seen.
worship ~ to give honour to God with praise, thanks and respect.
Zion ~ another name for *Jerusalem, but especially of the New Jerusalem.
W Barclay ~ The Letter to the Hebrews ~ The Daily Study Bible
A B Bruce ~ Hebrews ~ in Dictionary of the Bible, edited by J.Hastings
T Hewitt ~ The Epistle to the Hebrews ~ Tyndale New Testament Commentaries
L Morris ~ The Letter to the Hebrews ~ The Expositor's Bible Commentary
A M Stibbs ~ The Letter to the Hebrews ~ in The New Bible Commentary ~ IVP
W E Vine ~ Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
Bibles ~ NIV, RSV, TEV, AV,
A Marshall ~ The Interlinear Greek New Testament
Soon ~ The Jesus Book
G H Ledyard ~ New Life Study Testament
© 1997-2001, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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