Jesus is the Only Way to God

About the letter to the Hebrews

The Book of Hebrews is a letter to a group of Christians. We do not know who they were. ‘Hebrews’ is another name for Jews. So, many people think that they were Jews. (That means that they belonged to Israel’s people.) But the man who wrote this letter did not call it ‘Hebrews’. Someone else gave it this name many years later. The letter says a lot about God’s promises to the Jews. It talks about the Jews’ special house for God (chapter 9) and how they worshipped him there. They killed animals to show that they were sorry. They were sorry for the wrong things that they had done.

We do not know where these Christians lived. Some people think that they lived at Rome. That is the capital city of the country that we call Italy. Other people think that they lived at Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. They may have lived somewhere else.

We do know that other people were causing a lot of trouble for these Christians. They still believed Jesus, but they were not strong. So, the writer is trying to make them stronger Christians. He says to them: ‘Do not stop believing Christ, but go on, to believe him more and more strongly.’

He tells them to think about Jesus. He explains clearly who Jesus is. And he explains what Jesus has done for us. Jesus is God’s great and powerful Son. He is much, much greater than the angels. He is much, much greater than Moses and Joshua, who were great leaders of Israel’s people many years ago. He is a much, much greater priest (a special servant of God) than Israel’s priests. They did wrong things sometimes, but Jesus never did anything wrong.

Jesus became a human person, like us. So he understands us completely. He offered himself to God as our sacrifice when he died for us. He was the only sacrifice that could really make us good and clean. He saves us completely. He has opened the way for us to come near to God. We can know God because of Jesus.

We must always continue to remember Jesus. He has gone in front of us, as our leader, and we must follow him. We must look beyond the troubles that we have sometimes during our lives on earth. Jesus had great trouble on our behalf. His Spirit will make us strong to go on living for him here. And after that, we will live with him and we will have no more troubles.

We must also remember all the other people who have believed God. Even before Jesus came to the earth, many people believed God. They often had great troubles, but they still believed. Chapter 11 of Hebrews tells us about some of these people.

We do not know who wrote the Book of Hebrews. Some people think that Paul wrote it. He wrote many of the other letters in the New Testament. (That is the part of the Bible that describes Jesus’ life and work.) Most people agree that the writer wrote this letter about AD 60-70. That was about 30-40 years after Jesus died.

Chapter 1

God has spoken by his Son, Jesus

1 Many years ago, God spoke to our grandfathers (Israel’s people) by the prophets (people who spoke God’s messages). He spoke many times and in many different ways. 2 But in these last times, he has spoken to us by his Son. In the beginning, God made the whole world and everything that there is by his Son. And God has chosen that everything should be his Son’s. 3 The Son shines with the bright light that comes from God. The Son’s nature is a copy of God’s nature. He shows us completely what God is like. The Son’s powerful word causes everything in the world to continue. The Son himself made it possible for us to be clean from everything that we do wrong. After he had done that, he sat down in heaven. He sat at the right side of God, who is the greatest ruler, with all authority.

Verse 3 Jesus sits ‘at the right side of God’. The right side (or right hand) is like a picture of the most important place. This means that Jesus rules with the same power and authority as God himself.

God’s Son is greater than the angels

4 God has caused his Son to be much greater and much better than the angels. God has given him a much greater and much better name than the angels’ names. 5 God never spoke like this to any angel:

            ‘You are my Son.

            Today I have given you the honour that goes with that name.’

            [Psalm 2:7]

Nor did God speak like this to any angel:

            ‘I will be his Father,

            and he will be my Son.’

            [2 Samuel 7:14]

6 But when God brings his first, greatest Son into the world, he says this about him:

            ‘All God’s angels must worship him.’

            [Deuteronomy 32:43] [Psalm 97:7]

7 God speaks about the angels like this:

            ‘God makes his angels like winds.

            He makes his servants like fires that burn.’

            [Psalm 104:4]

8 But God speaks to his Son like this:

            ‘You are God and you will never stop ruling!

            You rule as king.

            And you always do what is right and good.

            9 You love what is right.

            And you hate what is wrong.

            That is why I have chosen you.

            I am your God and I have chosen you.

            I have chosen you to be much greater and much happier

            than those who are with you.’

            [Psalm 45:6-7]

Verse 9 To hate means to not like something strongly or completely. To hate is the opposite of when you love something or someone.

10 God also speaks like this about the Son:

            ‘Lord, you made the earth in the beginning.

            You yourself made the skies also.

            11 The earth and the skies will come to an end,

            but you will continue always.

            They will all become old, just as clothes become old.

            12 You will cause them to roll up,

            like someone rolls up an old coat to put it away.

            You will change them as people change clothes.

            But you will always be the same.

            Your life will never come to an end.’

            [Psalm 102:25-27]

13 God has never spoken like this to any of the angels:

            ‘Sit at my right side

            until I make an end to your enemies.

            I will make them like a place where you rest your feet.’

            [Psalm 110:1]

14 All the angels are spirits who are only God’s servants. He sends them to help all the people that he will save.

Chapter 2

Jesus’ message is greater than the angels’ message

1 So we ought to be very careful. We must continue to remember the true words that we have heard. Then we will not go in the wrong direction, away from God. 2 The message that God spoke by angels was certainly powerful. God punished people when they did not obey his rules. It was right that he punished those people.

3 So we must think even more about how God saved us. He has done great things for us. If we forget those things, we cannot get away from God. He will certainly punish us. The Lord Jesus himself first told everyone that God would save people. And then the people who heard him told us. They showed us that this message was certainly true. 4 God also showed that this message was true. He did all kinds of great and powerful things that surprised people. He also gave people gifts by the Holy Spirit, as he chose.

Verse 2 The Bible says that an angel had spoken God’s rules to Moses on Sinai mountain many years ago. (See Exodus 19 and 20, Acts 7:38, 53 and Galatians 3:19.)

Verse 3 The writer wrote this letter only 30-40 years after Jesus died. The writer, and the Christians that he was writing to, had heard about Jesus from other people. But those other people had met Jesus himself. They had listened to him while he taught them.

Jesus became like us to save us

5 God did not choose angels to rule over the world that will come. And that world is what we are talking about. 6 But God has included in the Bible the words that follow. They are certainly true:

            ‘Men and women do not seem very important, Lord,

            but you think about them.

            They are only human people,

            but they matter to you.

            7 You made them less important than the angels

            for a short time.

            But then you made them great and powerful, like kings.

            8 You caused them to rule completely over everything.’

            [Psalm 8:4-6]

It says that God has caused people to rule over everything. So there is nothing that people do not have authority to rule over. We do not see people rule over everything yet. 9 But we do see Jesus! God made him less important than the angels for a short time. And now God has made him the great and powerful king because he died. God is so very kind, that he sent Jesus to die on behalf of all people.

Verse 9 The writer is saying that the words from Psalm 8 (in verses 6-8) are speaking about Jesus. The writer shows us many words from the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) like this.

10 God made all things for himself and he causes all things to continue. God’s purpose was to bring many people to himself. He wanted them to live with him always as his children. Jesus leads us to God. He saves us from the results of everything that we do wrong. God had to let Jesus have trouble and pain in this world. He caused Jesus to become everything that was necessary to save us. 11 Jesus makes people completely good and clean inside themselves. Both Jesus and all the people that he makes good and clean have the same Father. So, Jesus is not ashamed to call all those people his brothers and sisters. 12 He says this to God about it:

            ‘I will speak loudly about you to my brothers and sisters.

            When all your people meet together,

            I will sing songs to you.

            I will say how great you are.’

            [Psalm 22:22]

13 He also says this:

            ‘I will believe that God will help me.’

            [Isaiah 8:17]

He also says this:

            ‘Here I am, with the children that God has given me.’

            [Isaiah 8:18]

Verse 12-13 Again the writer takes words from the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) to speak about Jesus. They show that Jesus thinks about us as his family. He became human, like us. As a man, Jesus had to believe that God would bring him through great trouble, and death.

14 So Jesus speaks about people as his children. And because we all have human bodies, Jesus himself became human like us. So then he died to destroy the Devil and the Devil’s power over death. 15 We were like slaves all our lives because we were so afraid of death. But Jesus has made us free. 16 It is clear that Jesus did not come to help the angels. He came to help all those people who are Abraham’s family. Those people really believe God, like Abraham believed him.

Verse 14 The Devil is the bad spirit who wants to be God. He is the ruler of bad angels and of everything that is bad. He is the enemy of Christians.

Verse 16 Abraham was the grandfather of Israel and of all Israel’s people. He chose to believe God, even when that was very difficult. So, he is also like the father of everyone else who really believes God. (See Chapter 11:8-12, 17-19 and Genesis 15:1-6.)

17 For this reason, Jesus became completely like us, because we are his brothers and sisters. He became our kind, chief priest, who understands us. He always obeys God and he serves God on our behalf. Jesus died so that God could forgive us. God needs to forgive us for everything that we do wrong. So Jesus has brought us near to God. 18 The Devil (God’s enemy) tried to make Jesus himself do wrong things. But Jesus did not do anything wrong because he never stopped obeying God. So now, he can help us not to do wrong things.

Chapter 3

Jesus is greater than Moses

1 You Christians are like my brothers and sisters because you are God’s people too. God wants all of us to be with him in heaven. You must think seriously about Jesus. We Christians say that we believe Jesus. And God has sent him to be our chief priest. 2 Jesus did everything that God sent him to do, just like Moses. Moses obeyed God while he worked among all God’s people many years ago. 3 But someone who has built a house is much more important than the house itself. And it is like that with Jesus. Jesus has done much greater things than Moses did. 4 Some person built every house, but God has built all things. 5 Moses obeyed everything that God told him. He was a servant to all God’s people. He was like a servant in God’s house. He spoke about the things that God would say in future times. 6 But Christ obeyed God because he is his Son. He is the master of God’s house and we belong to his house. We are God’s people if we continue to believe Jesus. So we must be brave. We must go on being sure about what we hope for, until the end.

A place where God’s people can rest

7 God’s Spirit, who is completely good, speaks to us like this:

            ‘You must listen when you hear God speak today.

8 Do not refuse to listen to him.

            Do not be like Israel’s people many years ago, when they refused God.

            They refused to believe him, in that dry, sandy place.

            9 There your grandfathers tried to make God do what they wanted.

            For 40 years, they saw the great things that God did for them.

But they refused to believe him.

They refused to wait for him.

            10 So that is why God was angry with all those people.

            “They always want to do what is wrong”, he said.

            “They refuse to obey me.

            11 I am very angry with them.

            So, I promise this and it will not change:

            I prepared a place for them to rest.

            But they will never arrive at the place that I prepared for them.” ’

            [Psalm 95:7-11]

Verse 7-11 Many years before, Moses led Israel’s people away from Egypt, where they had been slaves. God wanted to bring the people to their own country, where they could make new homes. He wanted them to rest there. He wanted them to be happy. But they had to walk a long way through a dry, sandy place to get there. The people were often angry with God. Many times, they would neither believe God nor obey him. (See, for example, Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 14:1-35.) So God did not let those people go into the country that he had promised them. He waited 40 years, until all of them were dead. Only their children arrived in the new country.

12 So be careful, you Christians, who are like my brothers and sisters. Be careful that none of you refuses to believe God. If anyone is really bad deep inside themselves, they will turn away. They will go away from God, who is alive. 13 So help each other every day to go on believing. Do that each day, because the word ‘today’ means ‘now’ for us. Then none of you will want to refuse God because of wrong things. We can tell ourselves that wrong things are not very bad. But if we do wrong things, we are fools. 14 When we became Christians, we believed strongly. We must go on being sure about Christ like that until the end. Then we will share in everything that is his. 15 We have seen what the Bible says:

            ‘You must listen when you hear God speak today.

            Do not refuse to listen to him.

            Do not be like Israel’s people many years ago, when they refused to obey God.’

            [Psalm 95:7-8]

16 This speaks about all the people that Moses led away from Egypt. They heard God speak. But they refused to listen to him. 17 God was angry with those people for 40 years. They did what was wrong. So they died in that dry, sandy place. 18 God also spoke this serious promise:

            ‘I prepared a place for them to rest.

            But they will never arrive at the place that I prepared for them.’

            [Psalm 95:11]

He was speaking about those people who refused to obey him. 19 So we can see this. They could not go there because they refused to believe God.

Chapter 4

We can go in to rest if we believe

1 God promised his people a place where they could rest. And that promise is still true for us. So we should be very careful. We want all of you to arrive there. We do not want any of you to fail. 2 Certainly, we have heard the good news, just like the people with Moses heard it. But they failed to believe what they heard. So the message did not help them. 3 We who believe that message will arrive in that place. And then we will rest with God. It is as God said:

            ‘I am very angry with them.

            So, I promise this and it will not change:

            I prepared a place for them to rest.

            But they will never arrive at the place which I prepared for them.’

            [Psalm 95:11]

God said that. But he had finished his work when he made the world. 4 In the Bible God has spoken about the seventh day.

            ‘God rested from all his work on the seventh day’, the Bible says.

            [Genesis 2:2]

5 As we saw before, God also said later:

            ‘I prepared a place for them to rest.

            But they will never arrive at the place which I prepared for them.’

            [Psalm 95:11]

6 Those people who heard the good news first, refused to obey God. So they did not go to rest with him. But God’s promise is still true for other people. Other people can go and rest with him. 7 So God chose another special time and he called it ‘today’. He spoke by David a long time after Moses. As we have already seen, he said:

            ‘You must listen when you hear God speak today.

            Do not refuse to listen to him.’

            [Psalm 95:7-8]

8 Joshua did not bring the people to the place where they could rest. So God had to speak again later. He had to speak about another day. 9 There is still a place ready for God’s people, where they can rest completely. They will rest like God rested on the seventh day. 10 God rested after he had finished his work. And it is the same for everyone who goes to rest with God. They will rest after they have finished their own work.

Verse 8 After Moses died, Joshua led Israel’s people. (See Joshua 1:1-2.) He led them into the country that God had promised their parents. Israel’s people lived there, in their own country, for several hundred years. But that country was only like a picture of what God wants to give us. He was not really talking about a place on earth where we could rest. He wants us to rest with him always, after our lives on earth. Also, he wants us to rest inside ourselves, even during our lives here on earth. He wants us to be without trouble inside ourselves. We can rest like this if we really believe God.

11 So we must do everything possible to receive that rest with God. Nobody should copy the example of those people who refused to obey God. Then none of us will fail to go in. 12 Every word that God speaks is alive and powerful. His word is sharper than any long knife that has two sharp edges. Just as that knife can cut deep, God’s word goes very deep into us. His word can even cut between our human nature and our spirits. It is like a sharp knife that can cut between our bones, or even through our bones. God’s word shows what we are really thinking. It shows what we really want. 13 There is nothing in the whole world that can hide from God. He can see everything completely and clearly. And we will have to explain to him everything that we have done during our lives.

Jesus is our great chief priest

14 We have a great chief priest, who has gone into heaven. He is Jesus, God’s Son. We have said that we believe him. So we must continue to believe him strongly. 15 We have a chief priest who understands us. He knows how weak we are. The Devil tried to make him do all kinds of wrong things. So, Jesus understands all the wrong things that we might do. But he never did anything wrong himself. 16 So, when the Devil tries to make us do wrong things, we can ask God to help us. We can come bravely to God, who is our King. He will be very kind and very good to us. He will give us everything that we need.

Verse 16 Jesus died on behalf of us and now he is with God in heaven. So, we can come to God and we can pray to him. We do not need to be afraid, because Jesus is there. We can ask God to help us. And we can be sure that he will help us very much.

Verses 15-16 The Devil is the bad spirit who wants to be God. He is the ruler of bad angels and of everything that is bad. He is the enemy of Christians.

Chapter 5

1 God has chosen each chief priest from among Israel’s people. That priest’s work is to serve God on behalf of all the other people. The chief priest offers gifts and sacrifices to God. The people give those gifts and sacrifices to him because they have done wrong things. 2 That priest himself may often make mistakes, because he is human. So, he can understand other people who make mistakes. He can be kind to people who do silly things. 3 The chief priest offers sacrifices to God for everything that people do wrong. But he must give sacrifices to God for himself too, because he can do wrong things also.

4 Nobody decides to be a chief priest by himself. God must choose him, just as God chose Aaron.

Verse 4 Aaron lived many years before this time and he was the first chief priest for Israel’s people. He was Moses’ brother. (See Exodus 28:1-4 and 1 Chronicles 23:13.)

5 It is the same with Christ. He did not choose himself to do this important work. He did not choose to be a chief priest. God chose him. God said to him:

            ‘You are my Son.

            Today I have given you the honour that goes with that name.’

            [Psalm 2:7]

6 And in another place in the Bible God says this:

            ‘You will always be a priest,

            just like Melchizedek.’

            [Psalm 110:4]

Verse 6 Melchizedek was a priest and a king who met Abraham many years ago. (See Genesis 14:18-20.) Chapter 7 of Hebrews explains more about Melchizedek.

7 When Jesus lived on earth as a man, he prayed loudly to God. He cried very much while he asked God to help him. He prayed strongly to God, who could save him from death. Jesus served and obeyed God. So God heard what Jesus said to him.

Verse 7 In this verse the writer remembers when Jesus prayed in the garden. Jesus knew that he would die soon. He was very sad. He asked his Father to make him strong. And God did what Jesus asked. (See Luke 22:41-44.)

8 Jesus is God’s Son. But he still learned what it is like to obey God. He learned because he had trouble and pain. 9 And as a result, Jesus is the only person who can save us. He saves us for all time from the results of what we do wrong. He saves all those people who obey him. 10 God has called Jesus the same kind of chief priest as Melchizedek.

We must be careful that we do not go away from Christ

11 We have a lot more to say to you about these things. But we can only explain things to you with difficulty because you understand so slowly. 12 After all this time, you ought to be teachers, but you are not teachers. Instead, you need someone to teach you the first lessons about God’s message again. You have become like babies, who need milk instead of proper food. 13 Anyone who has to drink milk is still a baby. That person does not know what is right. They do not know when they are doing something wrong. 14 But people who have grown up properly eat proper food. As a result of practice, they have taught themselves. They have taught themselves to know the difference between what is right and wrong.

Chapter 6

1 So we must go on from the first lessons that we learned about Christ. We must learn more as Christians. Then we will understand everything that we should understand. We should not need to learn again about those first things. We already know that the beginning was important. We turned away from doing wrong things then. Those wrong things lead to death, but we believed God. 2 We have already learned about special ways to make things clean. We know that Christians put their hands on other Christians. They do that when they pray for them. We know that dead people will live again. And we have learned that God will decide about every person then. He will decide what is fair for them for all time. 3 So we must go on learning as Christians, if God helps us.

Verse 2 God gave Israel’s people many special rules to make themselves and other things clean. (See, for example, Numbers 19:1-10.) ‘Special ways to make things clean’ can also mean Christian baptism. Baptism is when they put someone into water. (Or they may put water on someone.) This shows that, as a Christian, God has made that person clean and new.

The Bible tells us that Christians often put their hands on somebody. Then they prayed for them. It was often when God chose that person for special work. (See, for example, Acts 9:17 and 13:3.) Israel’s people also put their hands on people or animals at certain times. (See, for example, Numbers 27:18, 23 and Leviticus 16:20-22.)

We must not turn away from Jesus

4 People who choose to turn away from Christ cannot come back to him. That is impossible. They once came into God’s light. So they know what is true. They have really begun to know the good things that come from heaven. They have received the Holy Spirit. 5 They have learned how good God’s message is. They have seen that the future world is very powerful. 6 But after all that, they turn against God! So it is impossible for them to come back to Christ again. Nobody can really help them to turn to Christ again. They are just like the people who fixed Jesus to a big cross. It is like they are killing the Son of God again themselves. They are ashamed of Christ in front of everyone.

7 Think about a field where God sends rain often. That ground can cause the plants in it to grow well for the farmer. Then the farmer can use those plants. 8 But a field where only weeds like thorns and thistles grow (plants with many sharp, hard points) is worth nothing. There is a danger that God will call that ground very bad. The farmer will burn that field.

9 We love you, good friends, and we are still sure about you. We speak like this, but we believe better things about you. God has saved you. And we are sure that you will continue with him. You will go on doing everything that Christians should do. 10 God is always right and fair. He will not forget how much you love him. He will remember how you helped his people. And you are still helping them. 11 But we want each one of you to continue to the end. You must show that you really want to go on. Then you will be sure about what you hope for at the end. 12 We do not want you to become lazy. You must copy the example of those people who continue believing God. They go on being very patient. And so, they receive what God has promised.

God’s serious promise

13 For example, God spoke a promise to Abraham many years ago. And because there was nobody greater than God himself, God used his own name. His name caused the promise to be very serious. God would certainly do what he had said. 14 ‘I will certainly be good to you’, God said. ‘And I will give you many children and many, many grandchildren’, God promised [Genesis 22:17] . 15 Abraham waited patiently for a long time. And then he received what God had promised.

Verses 13-15 Abraham and his wife wanted a son. But they could not have a child, and they were becoming too old. Then God promised to give Abraham a son, and many grandchildren. (See, for example, Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 15:4.) And Abraham believed what God said.

16 When a person promises something very seriously, he uses the name of someone or something greater than himself. This shows that he will certainly obey his promise. Then nobody can argue about it. 17 God wanted to show even more certainly that he would never change his purpose. He wanted his people to know this clearly. They would certainly receive what he had promised. So, God spoke his promise and he used his own name. This showed that his promise would certainly happen. 18 These two facts cannot change. God can never say something that is not true. And these two facts cause us to feel strong and sure. We are like people who have run to God. We have run to God so that he can keep us safe. So, we must continue to hope strongly for what God has promised us.

19 We can be completely sure about what we hope for. God is like something really strong that does not move. When we hope, we fix our lives in God. We fix our lives like an anchor stops a boat moving away. The anchor holds that boat safely in the same place. When we hope, we reach behind the special curtain in God’s house in heaven. We reach into the Most Holy Room. 20 Jesus has already gone in there. He has gone before us, on our behalf. He has become our chief priest for always and he is a priest just like Melchizedek.

Verse 19 Every boat has an anchor, which is a heavy metal weight. The anchor is on the end of a strong line that the sailors fix to the boat. They throw the anchor into the water to stop the boat. The anchor fastens into the ground under the water. Then the boat is safe, because it cannot move. We can be like that boat when we really believe Jesus. We can be completely sure about what God has promised us. God has promised us great things because of Jesus.

Verses 19-20 God told Israel’s people to build a special house where they could worship him. Behind a curtain in that house there was a Most Holy Room, where God himself came. Only the chief priest could go into that room, on one special day each year. (See Leviticus 16:2 and Hebrews 9:7.) But that special house was like a picture of what is really true in heaven. Jesus is our chief priest. When he died, God tore that curtain into two pieces. (See Matthew 27:51.) This showed that Jesus had opened the way to heaven for us. Jesus lets us come to God. (See also Hebrews chapters 8 and 9.)

Chapter 7

Melchizedek, the king and priest

1 This Melchizedek was the King of Salem. And he was a priest of God himself, who is greater than everything. Melchizedek met Abraham when Abraham was returning from a fight. Abraham’s men had just beaten 4 kings with their armies. And Melchizedek asked God to be good to Abraham. 2 Also, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth part of everything that he had won in the fight. The name ‘Melchizedek’ means ‘King of everything that is right’. And his other name, ‘King of Salem’, means ‘King of everything that is without trouble or war’. 3 Nobody wrote down that Melchizedek had a father or a mother. Nobody wrote down that he had any grandfathers. Nobody wrote about the beginning of his life and nobody wrote about the end. Melchizedek is like the Son of God. He continues to be a priest always.

Verses 1-3 Genesis 14:18-20 describes the time when Melchizedek met Abraham.

Verse 2 A tenth part is one part out of every 10 parts.

4 Now think about how great this man, Melchizedek, was! Even Abraham, the grandfather of all Israel’s people, gave gifts to Melchizedek. Abraham gave him a tenth part of everything that he had won in the fight. 5 Men from Levi’s family group who become priests must take a tenth part from all their own people. The priests receive a tenth part of what the other people of Israel have. God’s rules say that. But those priests and the other people are like brothers, because they all come from Abraham’s family. 6 Melchizedek did not come from Levi’s family. But he received a tenth part of what Abraham had. Abraham had received God’s promises. But Melchizedek asked God to be good to Abraham.

7 It is always the more important person who asks God to be good to a less important person. Everybody knows that this is true. 8 Israel’s priests receive a tenth part of what their people have. But those priests die. Melchizedek received a tenth part from Abraham, but Melchizedek will always be alive. The Bible tells us that. 9 So, by the priests in his family, Levi gets the tenth part from the people. But we could say that, by Abraham, Levi also paid a tenth part to Melchizedek. 10 This is because Levi was Abraham’s grandson. Levi was not yet born when Melchizedek met Abraham.

Verses 5-10 All the men from Levi’s family had to serve God in his house. But only those men from Levi’s grandson Aaron’s family could become priests. (See Numbers 1:50 and Exodus 28:1.) All Israel’s people had to give a tenth part of what they had to the men from Levi’s family. Then all the other men in Levi’s family gave a tenth part of this to the priests. (See Numbers 18:21-32.)

11 The priests from Levi’s family were a necessary part of the rules that God gave to Israel’s people. But those priests could not make the people completely right with God. So the people needed a different kind of priest to come. They needed a priest like Melchizedek, not someone else from Aaron’s family. 12 And when there is a change in the kind of priest, there must also be a change in the rules. 13 The Bible speaks about our Lord as a priest (Psalm 110:4). But he belonged to a different family group from Levi’s. Nobody else from our Lord’s family group ever worked as a priest. 14 It is completely clear that our Lord came from Judah’s family. Moses said nothing about men from Judah’s family group being priests.

Jesus is a different kind of priest, like Melchizedek

15 What we have said becomes even clearer now. Another kind of priest has appeared, who is like Melchizedek. 16 Jesus did not become a priest because of rules about which family he came from. He became a priest because of his powerful life. Nothing can ever destroy that life. 17 The Bible speaks about him as a priest:

            ‘You will always be a priest,

            just like Melchizedek’, the Bible says.

            [Psalm 110:4]

18 So the old rules have come to an end now. They could not really do anything good, so they were not really worth anything. 19 God’s rules that he gave to Moses could not make anything completely right. But God has brought us something better to hope for. And because we hope for it, we can come near to God.

20 Also, God promised very seriously when he made Jesus a priest. He did not promise anything when other men became priests. 21 But Jesus received God’s very serious promise because God spoke to him like this:

            ‘The Lord has promised seriously,

            and he will not change his mind.

            You will always be a priest.’

            [Psalm 110:4]

22 So this means that Jesus shows us a much better agreement from God. God has promised us much better things than the old rules could give us. And Jesus makes us completely sure that we will receive these things.

23 There were many of those other priests, because each one died. Then they could not continue to work as priests. 24 But Jesus will always be alive, so he will never stop being a priest. 25 Jesus always lives to pray to God on our behalf. So, he can completely save everyone who comes to him. He will lead them to God.

26 Jesus is the kind of chief priest that we really need. He always obeys God. He has never done anything wrong. He is completely good and clean. He is separate from everyone who does wrong things. God has raised him to the most important place in heaven. 27 Jesus is not like any other chief priest. They need to offer sacrifices to God every day. First they offer sacrifices for the things that they themselves have done wrong. Then they offer sacrifices on behalf of the other people, for all the wrong things that the people have done. But Jesus offered one sacrifice for all time. He gave himself. 28 Moses’ rules make men chief priests. And because those men are human, they can do wrong things. But God’s very serious promise came after the rules that God gave to Moses. God promised his Son that he would be a chief priest always. And his Son has become everything that God wants him to be, completely and for always.

Chapter 8

Jesus is our chief priest who makes a better agreement from God possible

1 The most important thing that we are saying is this. We do have this kind of chief priest. He has sat down at the right side of where God sits as king in heaven. God is the greatest ruler, with all authority. 2 Our chief priest works in the Most Holy Room that is inside the true special tent. That tent is in heaven. The Lord himself made that special tent. No man built it.

3 It is the duty of every chief priest to offer gifts and sacrifices to God. So our chief priest must also have something to offer. 4 If he was living on earth, then he would not be a priest. There are already priests here who offer gifts to God. They obey the rules that God gave to Moses. 5 But the place where these priests work is only like a copy and a shadow of things in heaven. Many years ago, Moses was ready to make a special tent for God. So God spoke to him: ‘Be careful to make everything just like the plan’, God told him. ‘I showed you the plan on the mountain’, God said.

Verse 5 Many years ago, God met with Moses on a mountain called Sinai. God told Moses to make a special tent and many other things. (See Exodus 24:15-18; 25:40; 26:30.)

6 But now God has given Jesus much greater work as a priest. His work is greater than the work that those priests do on earth. Jesus has made it possible for God to agree a new and much better thing with his people. It is much better because it began with much better promises. 7 If there had been nothing wrong with that first agreement, then nobody would have needed a second agreement. 8 But God did find something wrong with it. So he spoke like this to the people:

            ‘A new time is coming, the Lord says.

            A time is coming when I will agree a new thing

            with Israel’s people and with Judah’s people.

            9 It will not be like the things

            that I agreed with their grandfathers.

            I led their grandfathers out of the country called Egypt.

            I led them like someone who takes another person’s hand.

            But they did not continue to obey

            the things that I had agreed with them.

            So I turned away from them, the Lord says.

            10 I will tell you what I will agree with Israel’s people.

            It will happen in the days that will come, the Lord says.

            I will put my rules into their minds.

            I will write my rules deep inside them.

            I will be their God

            and they will be my people.

            11 None of them will ever have to teach their brothers how to know me.

            None of them will need to say to anyone else, “You should know the Lord.”

            Everyone will know me, even the least important people.

            And the most important people will know me too.

            12 They have done wrong things,

            but I will forgive them.

            I will not continue to remember

            what they have done wrong, the Lord says.’

            [Jeremiah 31:31-34]

13 God speaks about a ‘new’ thing that he will agree with his people. So he has caused the things that he agreed with his people a long time ago to become old. And nobody can go on using something that has become too old. It will soon come to an end.

Verses 6-13 The old agreement that God made with his people included many rules. If the people obeyed all those rules, then their lives would be happy. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 5:32-33 and 8:1.) But the people could not obey all the rules. Those rules could not really make them right with God. The rules could not make them become new people. The rules could not make them really love God. So they needed a better agreement, that could really make them different. Jesus has made that new agreement possible for us. We can be really right with God and we can know him because of Jesus.

Verse 8 Judah was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. (Jacob is another name for Israel.) At the time when Jeremiah spoke these words from God, Judah’s people were separate from the other people of Israel.

Chapter 9

The old agreement and God’s special tent on earth

1 The first agreement included rules about how people should worship God. It also included a special place for people to worship God on this earth. 2 Israel’s people made a special tent for God. The first room in that special tent was called the Holy Room. The lampstand (where a light burned for God) was in this room. The special table where they offered bread to God was there too.

3 Behind the second curtain, there was a very special room called the Most Holy Room. 4 The special gold table where they burned incense was inside that room. And the special agreement box that had gold all over it was there too. This box contained the gold pot that had special food from God in it. The box also contained Aaron’s stick that grew leaves. And it contained the two flat stones on which God had written the agreement. 5 The gold shapes of two special angels stood on the top of the agreement box. These special angels showed that God was present there. Under the angels’ shadow, on top of the box, was a gold lid. That lid was the place where God forgave the people. But we cannot explain everything about these things now.

Verses 1-3 Exodus 26 and 27:9-19 describe the special tent that God told Moses to make. Exodus 25:31-39 and 25:23-30 describe the gold lampstand and the special table for bread.

Verses 4-5 Exodus 30:1-10 describes the gold table where they burned incense. (Incense is material that makes a nice smell when it burns.) Exodus 25:10-22 describes the special agreement box.

Verse 4 Exodus 16:14-31 describes how God supplied this special food for Israel’s people. Exodus 16:32-34 describes how Aaron put some of this food in a pot to keep it. Numbers 17:1-11 describes how Aaron’s stick grew leaves, flowers and fruit. This showed that God had chosen Moses and Aaron to be the leaders of Israel’s people.

6 When they had prepared these things like this, the priests went into the first room every day. They went in there to do their duties. 7 But only the chief priest could go into the second room. He had to go in there alone, but he went in only once every year. He had to take blood from an animal, which he gave to God. He offered the blood because he was sorry. He was sorry for his own mistakes. And he was sorry for the mistakes that all the people had made.

Verse 7 Leviticus chapter 16 describes how the chief priest went into the Most Holy Room once a year.

8 God’s Spirit, who is completely good, was showing something clearly by these things. He was showing that the Most Holy Room was not yet open to everyone. The first room in the special tent was still there while they worshipped God by these things. 9 This is like a picture that means something for us today. It shows us about the gifts and sacrifices that people brought to God. Those gifts and sacrifices could never make the person who worshipped God completely right with him. They could not make people stop thinking that they had done wrong things. 10 The old rules that God gave were only about foods and drinks and how to wash in special ways. Those rules were only about people’s bodies. People had to use those rules only until the time when God would make things new and better.

Christ and the new agreement

11 But now Christ has appeared. He is the chief priest of the good things that have come. He works in a greater and much better tent. No man made that tent because it does not belong to this world. 12 Christ went into its Most Holy Room once, for all time. He did not offer the blood of goats and young cows when he went in there. He offered his own blood after he died. He made us free from everything that we do wrong. He has made us free always. 13 The people were not clean enough to worship God. The old rules said that the priest must make their bodies clean again. He must use the blood of goats and male cows. He must cause that blood to drop like rain on them. He must also burn a young cow and he must use the ashes on the people. And then those people’s bodies became clean again.

Verse 13 Numbers 19:1-22 describes how the ashes of a young, red cow could make people clean for God.

14 But Christ’s blood will do much, much more than this! God’s Spirit, who lives always, made it possible for Christ to offer himself to God. Christ was a completely good sacrifice, without anything wrong. He offered his own blood to make us completely clean inside ourselves. The wrong things that we have done lead to death. But he will cause us to stop thinking about the wrong things that we have done. So then we can work for the God who is alive. 15 So Christ brings a new agreement from God. Christ’s death made people free from the wrong things that they had done during the time of the first agreement. So now, the people that God chooses can receive from him. They can receive the good things that he has promised for always.

16 Before a person dies, he may make an agreement about all his own things. That agreement says who will get his things after his death. But nobody can get anything until that person has certainly died. 17 An agreement like that only means something after the death of the person who made it. It has no power while that person is still alive. 18 That is why even the first agreement with God needed blood from a death. The agreement could not work without that blood.

19 Moses read God’s rules aloud to all Israel’s people. He told them every rule that God had given them. Then Moses killed some young cows and goats. He took some of their blood and he mixed it with water. He used sheep’s hair that people had made red. He used also some small branches of a plant called hyssop. He used the sheep’s hair and the hyssop to throw the blood. He caused the blood to drop like rain. He caused some of the blood to drop on to the book of God’s rules. And he caused some to drop on to all the people. 20 And Moses spoke to them. ‘This is the blood of the agreement that God has told you to obey’, he said. 21 In the same way, Moses put some of the blood on God’s special tent. He also caused blood to drop on to all the things that the priests used in their work there. 22 God’s rules say that blood is necessary to make almost everything clean. And God will not forgive people unless a death gives the blood.

Verses 18-20 Exodus 24:3-8 describes the events that these verses are talking about.

Christ’s death is a better sacrifice

23 So animals’ blood was necessary to make those things clean and right. They were copies of the true and proper things that are in heaven. But the proper things in heaven need better sacrifices than that to make them clean and right. 24 Christ did not go into a Most Holy Room that people had made on earth. A place like that is only a copy of the place in heaven. He went into heaven itself. And now he is present with God and he speaks to God on our behalf.

25 The chief priest here on earth goes into the Most Holy Room year after year. He takes an animal’s blood to offer there each time, not his own blood. But Christ did not go into heaven to offer himself to God again and again. 26 He did not need to die again and again since the world began. Instead, he has appeared once, for all time. He has come now, when the world is near its end. He came to remove completely all the wrong things that we do. He died as a sacrifice for us. 27 God has chosen that every person must die once. After death, God will decide what is fair for that person. 28 So Christ also died and he offered himself once. He did this to take away wrong things for many people. And Christ will return to earth a second time, but not to take away wrong things. He will come to save those people who are waiting for him.

Chapter 10

1 Moses’ rules are only like a shadow of the good things that will come. The rules do not show what those good things are really like. The rules say that the priest must continue to offer the same sacrifices for the people, year after year. The people bring their sacrifices when they come to worship God. So, people will never be completely good and clean because of those rules. 2 If the rules could do that, the priests would have stopped offering sacrifices. The people would have become completely good and clean once, for all time. They would have become clean like that when they came to worship God the first time. So they would not still think that they had done wrong things. 3 But those sacrifices cause people to remember, year after year, the wrong things that they have done. 4 It is impossible for the blood of male cows and of goats to take away wrong things. 5 So, when Christ came into the world, he spoke to God like this:

            ‘You do not want gifts and sacrifices of animals,

            but you have prepared a body for me.

            6 The whole animals that they burn

            do not make you happy.

            The sacrifices for what people have done wrong

            do not make you happy.

            7 Then I spoke again: “Here I am, God.

            I have come to do what you want.

            That is what the book of your rules says about me.” ‘

            [Psalm 40:6-8]

8 So Christ had said first: ‘You do not want gifts and sacrifices of animals. You do not want the whole animals that they burn. You do not want sacrifices for what people have done wrong. These things do not make you happy.’ But Moses’ rules said that these sacrifices were necessary. 9 Then Christ spoke again: ‘Here I am. I have come to do what you want’, he said. So God takes away the old sacrifices and he puts Christ’s sacrifice in their place. 10 God wants to make us completely good and clean. And he has done that because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Christ offered his own body once, for all time, when he died.

11 Every day, the priests stand and they do their work. They offer the same sacrifices to God again and again. But those sacrifices can never take away the wrong things that people have done. 12 This priest, Jesus Christ, offered one sacrifice for wrong things, for all time. Then he sat down at God’s right side. 13 Since that time, he waits for God to make an end to his enemies. God will make Christ’s enemies like a place for him to rest his feet. 14 As a result of one sacrifice, Christ has made his people completely right with God always. God is making those people completely separate from everything that is bad.

15 God’s Spirit, who is completely good, also shows us about these things. He shows us that these things are true. He says this first:

            16 ‘This is what I will agree with them

            after that time, the Lord says.

            I will put my rules deep inside them.

            I will write my rules on their minds.’

            [Jeremiah 31:33]

17 Then he continues to speak:

            ‘I will not continue to remember

            the wrong things and the bad things

            that they have done.’

            [Jeremiah 31:34]

18 So when God has forgiven these wrong things, no more sacrifices are necessary.

Christ made it possible that we can come near to God

19 So then, Christian friends, we are completely free to go into the Most Holy Room. We can be sure that we can go in there, because of Jesus’ death. 20 Jesus has opened a new way to God for us. This way leads us through the curtain to God, where we will be alive. Jesus opened this way when he gave his own body. 21 And we have a great priest who is the master of God’s house. 22 So when we come near to God, we must believe him completely. We must want only to obey him. He has made us clean deep inside ourselves so that we are free. We are free to stop thinking about the wrong things that we have done. We are really clean. It is like he has washed our bodies with clean water.

Verses 19-20 Again, the writer is using God’s special tent as a picture of what is really true in heaven. Jesus died instead of us, because of everything that we do wrong. God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice. So now, we do not need to be afraid when we come to God. We can come near to him and we can talk to him. He will not punish us. We are like people who can come into the Most Holy Room in the special tent. God is present there.

Verse 22 God has made us completely clean, inside and outside. At a Christian baptism, they put a person completely under water (or they put water on the person). Baptism is like a picture of the fact that God has made us clean. So the writer may be thinking about baptism at the end of this verse.

23 We say that we believe God’s promises. And we must continue to be completely sure about what we hope for. God always does what he has promised. We can be sure because we know that. 24 We should think about how we can be kind to each other. Then other people will want to be kind too. They will really want to do good things, like us. 25 Some people have stopped going regularly to our Christian meetings, but we must not stop going there. Then we can help each other to be strong Christians. You should do this more and more, because the Lord’s great day is coming. You know that the Lord will return soon.

We must not refuse to obey Christ

26 We have learned what is really true. We have believed it. So now, we must not decide to continue doing wrong things. There is no other sacrifice that will take away those wrong things. 27 There is only punishment that will make us very, very afraid. We must wait for God to decide about us. But the punishment would be the very hot fire that destroys people. That fire destroys everyone who refuses to obey God. 28 Anyone who refused to obey Moses’ rules had to die. Two or three other people may have seen that person do something wrong. They had to say that the person certainly did something wrong. Then Israel’s people had to kill that person. They could not be kind to a person like that.

Verse 28 Israel’s people could not punish someone unless that person had certainly not obeyed God’s rules. At least two other people had to show that he had not obeyed. (See Deuteronomy 17:6 and Numbers 35:30.)

29 So think about a person who refuses the Son of God. How much worse that person’s punishment will be! He is like someone who has walked on God’s Son. That person has made Christ’s blood and God’s agreement seem like something dirty. But it was Christ’s death that made that person clean and right with God. That person has said very bad words against God’s Spirit, who is so very kind. 30 We know God. And God said this: ‘I will punish people for what they have done wrong. I will give them what they ought to have.’ [Deuteronomy 32:35] He also said this: ‘The Lord will decide what is fair for his people.’ [Deuteronomy 32:36] 31 So anyone who refuses God should be very, very afraid. God, who is alive, will certainly punish that person.

32 Remember what happened to you in those early days when you first learned about Christ. Then you had a difficult fight against many troubles. But you continued to be strong. 33 Sometimes people made you ashamed in front of many other people. They said bad words to you and they did bad things to you. And at other times, you chose to stay with other Christians who were receiving this kind of trouble. 34 You felt the trouble together with those who were in prison. When people took your own things away, you were still happy. You knew that you yourselves had something better. You had better things that will be yours always.

Verse 34 People who were enemies of these Christians had taken away the Christians’ own things. But nobody can take away what God has given to Christians. God had forgiven these Christians because of Jesus’ sacrifice. And he had given them new lives, with a new purpose. They knew that they would always live with God.

35 So do not stop being sure about what you believe as Christians. If you continue to be brave, you will receive great things. 36 You need to be patient and strong. Then you can do what God wants. As a result, you will receive what God has promised. 37 God promises this in the Bible:

            ‘In a very short time,

            the person who is coming will come.

            He will not be late, the Lord said.

            38 The person that I have accepted will live.

            Those people will live because they believe me.

            But if any of them turn back,

            I will not be happy with them.’

            [Habakkuk 2:3-4]

39 But we are not among those people who turn back. If we were, God would destroy us. But we are people who believe God. And so, God will save us.

Verse 37 These words from Habakkuk mean that Jesus will come back to earth soon.

Verse 38 Here the writer of Hebrews has put the last part of Habakkuk 2:4 first. He is showing the Christians that they must go on believing God. That is very important for all of us.

Chapter 11

We must believe God

1 If we believe God, we can be completely sure about things. We will be sure about the things that we hope for. We will be sure about things that we cannot see. 2 People who lived many years ago believed God. And so, God said good things about those people. 3 Because we believe God, we understand about the world. We understand that God made the whole world. He spoke and it happened. He made all the things that we can see. He made them from things that we cannot see.

4 Abel believed God. So he offered a better sacrifice to God than Cain offered. And because of that, God said that Abel was a good man. God said that he was happy with Abel’s gifts. Abel is dead. But because he believed God, we can still learn from his example. So it is like Abel is speaking to us still.

5 Enoch believed God, so he did not die. Instead, God took him away. And nobody could find him, because God had taken him away. Before God took him away, Enoch had made God happy. The Bible tells us that. 6 Unless we believe God, it is impossible for us to make God happy. Anyone who comes to God must believe him. That person must believe that God is really there. And they must believe that God is good to people. God gives good things to everyone who really wants to find him.

7 Noah believed God, and so he obeyed God. God told Noah about bad things that would happen. Nobody could yet see those events, but Noah believed God. So, Noah was careful to obey what God told him. He built a large boat to save his family. As a result, Noah showed that everyone else in the world was wrong. And Noah became one of those people that God accepted. They are right with God because they believe him.

Verse 4 See Genesis 4:3-7.

Verse 5 See Genesis 5:24.

Verse 7 See Genesis 6:9-22.

8 After this, Abraham believed God, so he obeyed God. God told him to leave his home. God wanted him to go to another country. Abraham did not know where he was going. But God promised to give that other country to Abraham. He obeyed God and he started travelling. 9 Abraham believed God, so he went to live in that foreign country. He lived in the country that God had promised to him. He lived there in tents, like a stranger. Isaac and Jacob lived there in tents too. God had made the same promise to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. 10 Abraham was waiting to live in the city that will always be there. He was completely sure that he would live in God’s city. God made the plans for that city, and God built it.

Verses 8-9 See Genesis 12:1-5; 18:1; 23:4; 26:3 and 35:12. Isaac was Abraham’s son. Jacob was Isaac’s son.

Verse 10 Abraham really believed God. So he knew that his home was really in heaven with God. The Bible tells us about God’s city. (See, for example, Psalms 48 and 122; Isaiah 14:32; 33:20 and Revelation 21:10-22:5.)

11 Both Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were too old to have children. But they believed God’s promise to Abraham about a child. God would always do what he had promised. They believed that. And so, God made it possible for even Sarah herself to have a baby. 12 Abraham was so old that he was almost like a dead man. But from this one man there came many, many grandchildren. After some years, there were so many of his people that nobody could count them. There were as many of Abraham’s family as the stars in the sky. There were as many as the bits of sand on the sea’s shore.

Verse 11 See Genesis 17:15-19; 18:10-14 and 21:1-3. Sarah was Abraham’s wife.

Verse 12 See Genesis 15:5; 22:17 and Romans 4:18-22.

13 All these people continued to believe God until they died. But they did not receive all the things that God had promised to them. They understood that those things would come after a long time. They were like people who saw those things far away. All these people agreed that they were only strangers and travellers on the earth. 14 And people who say things like that are certainly looking for a country of their own. They are looking for a country where they will be at home. 15 None of these people continued to think about the country that they had left. If they had thought about it, they might have had the chance to return there. 16 Instead, they were wanting very much to go to a better country, in heaven. And for this reason, God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.

17 God wanted to see whether Abraham really believed him. So God told Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. And because Abraham did believe God, he obeyed. God had promised many grandchildren to Abraham. But Abraham was still ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18 ‘It is through Isaac that your grandchildren will come’, God had said to Abraham [Genesis 21:12] . 19 But Abraham was sure that God could cause Isaac to become alive again. So Isaac would live again, even after he had died. And we could say that it was like that for Abraham. It was like he did receive Isaac back from death.

Verses 17-19 See Genesis 22:1-14.

20 Isaac believed God, so he promised good things to Jacob and Esau. He told them that God would be good to them in their future lives.

21 Jacob believed God. So he told Joseph’s sons that God would be good to each of them. He did that when he was dying. He worshipped God while he used his stick to hold himself up.

22 Joseph believed God. So, when he was going to die, he spoke about all Israel’s people. He spoke about the time when the people would leave Egypt. And he told them what to do with his bones.

Verse 20 Jacob and Esau were Isaac’s sons. See Genesis 27:25-29, 38-39.

Verse 21 Joseph was one of Jacob’s sons. See Genesis chapter 48.

Verse 22 See Genesis 50:22-26.

23 Moses’ parents believed God. So, when Moses was born, they hid him for three months. They saw that he was a very special child. So they did not obey the king, but they were not afraid.

Verse 23 The king of Egypt had said that all Israel’s baby boys must die. See Exodus 1:22-2:2.

24 Moses believed God. So, when he became a man, he refused to be called the son of the king’s daughter. 25 Moses chose to be with God’s people. Egypt’s people were doing bad things to them, but Moses still chose to be with them. He chose not to do what was wrong. Wrong things only make people happy for a short time. 26 Moses could have been very rich in Egypt. But instead, he let people do bad things to him. He let them make him ashamed because he believed about Christ. He thought that it was worth more than a lot of money. He thought only about what God would give him at a future time. 27 Moses believed God, so he left Egypt. The king was angry about that, but Moses was not afraid of him. Nobody can really see God. But Moses continued strongly with his purpose, like someone who could see God.

Verses 24-26 See Exodus 2:3-12.

Verse 26 Jesus Christ did not come to live on earth until many years after Moses had died. But he has always been alive in heaven with God. So, the writer means that Moses chose to obey God. He obeyed God even when it caused him a lot of trouble. He did that because he was waiting for Christ to come.

Verse 27 Moses left Egypt when he led Israel’s people away from that country. (See Exodus 12:29-42.)

28 Moses believed God, so he prepared the first Passover. And he told Israel’s people to put blood from the sacrifice round their doors. Then the angel who destroyed people came. He saw the blood and so he did not kill the oldest sons in the families of Israel’s people.

29 Israel’s people believed God, so they went through the Red Sea. They walked through just as they would cross dry land. But when the people from Egypt tried to cross that sea, they drowned.

Verse 28 The Passover was an important day for the Jews (Israel’s people). They ate a special meal on this day every year. They did this to remember that God had brought them out from the country called Egypt. They had been slaves in Egypt, and God made them free. Exodus 12 explains about the Passover.

Verse 29 See Exodus 14:15-29.

30 Israel’s people believed God, so they marched round Jericho city for 7 days. Then the city’s walls fell down.

31 Some men from Israel had come to that city earlier. They wanted to discover how strong the people were. Rahab was friendly to those men and she gave help to them. She was a woman who had sold herself to men for sex. But then she believed God, so she did not die with all the other people in her city. Those other people did not believe God.

Verse 30 See Joshua 6:1-20.

Verse 31 See Joshua 2:1-21 and 6:22-25.

32 I could say a lot more, but there is not enough time. I could tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets (people who spoke God’s messages). 33 Because they believed God, some of them won wars against other countries. They did what is right and fair. And they received good things that God had promised. Some of them caused big wild cats called lions to shut their mouths. 34 Some of them put out fires that were burning very strongly. Some of them got away from people who wanted to kill them with long knives. After they had been weak, they became strong. They became very strong to fight wars. They beat foreign armies and they caused those armies to run away.

Verse 32 The writer gives the names of 6 men who were leaders of Israel’s people. See, for example:

·           Judges 6:11-8:32 (Gideon)

·           Judges 4:6-24 (Barak)

·           Judges 13:2-16:31 (Samson)

·           Judges 11:1-12:7 (Jephthah)

·           1 Samuel 16:13; 17:12-51 and 2 Samuel 5:1-5 (David)

·           1 Samuel 3:19-21 and 7:3-17 (Samuel)

Verse 33 Samson and David both killed lions (big wild cats). (See Judges 14:5-6 and 1 Samuel 17:34-37.) But Daniel is the best example of someone who ‘caused lions to shut their mouths’. (See Daniel 6:22.)

Verse 34 The king of Babylon put Daniel’s three friends into a very hot fire because they would not worship him. But because they believed God, they did not die. (See Daniel 3.)

35 God caused some of these people who had died to become alive again. And the women in their families received them back. Other people refused to turn against God so that they could go free. So, their enemies did bad things to hurt them, which caused them to die. But these people were sure that they would have a better life after death. They were sure that they would live again with God.

36 Enemies said that these people were fools. The enemies said bad things to them and hit them with sticks. The enemies tied people with metal lines and put them in prison. 37 Enemies threw stones at them to kill them. They even cut them into two pieces to kill them. Enemies also killed some of them with long knives. Some of these people had to wear only the skins of sheep and goats while they walked about. They were very, very poor and they had a lot of trouble. Other people did very bad things to those who believed God. 38 These people who believed God were too good for this world. Some of them had to walk about in dry places where nobody lived. Some had to walk only in the mountains. Some had to live in holes in the rocks and in holes in the ground.

39 God said good things about all these people because they believed him. But they still did not receive everything that he had promised. 40 God had prepared something better for all of us. So, he did not make those people completely as he wanted them to be, without us.

Verses 35-39 Many people who believed God had very difficult lives. But they continued to believe, and God made them strong. The writer wants his readers to remember these people’s example. He wants them to be strong, even when trouble comes.

Verses 39-40 All the people that the writer has described in Chapter 11 lived on earth before Jesus. So they could not completely understand God’s purpose during their lives on earth. But we live after the time when Jesus lived on earth. His death lets God forgive us, if we believe him. So, the ‘something better’ that God had prepared for his people was our new life because of Christ.

Chapter 12

We must continue to follow Jesus

1 So then we ourselves know about all these people who believed God. They are our examples. They are like a very big crowd all round us. They show us how we can live for God. We must be like people who run in a race. We want to run fast in the race. So, we must throw away everything that would stop us. We want to live for God. So, we must refuse wrong things that stop us. Those wrong things can so easily hold us strongly. But we must continue to be brave and strong while we run the race. God has chosen the way that is in front of us.

Verse 1 A race is when people all run at the same time on a certain path. Their purpose is to reach the place where the race finishes. That is the most important thing. Our lives as Christians on earth are like a race. The writer does not mean that Christians should want to be first. They should not be trying to see who is the ‘fastest’ (the best Christian). It does not matter whether they are the first to finish. But it is very important that each of us finishes the race. We must never stop obeying God. Then, when we have left this earth, we will always be with him.

2 We must always think about Jesus, like people who go on looking at him always. He is the example of someone who believes God completely. He leads us and he will cause us to believe completely. Jesus died on a cross that people had made from wood. He had a lot of pain and people were very ashamed of him. But he refused to think about that before he died. He knew that God had chosen the way for him. He knew that God had chosen to make him very, very happy later. And now he sits in the most important place next to where God sits as king. 3 Think carefully about Jesus. Bad people did such very bad things against him, but he continued to be brave and strong. Think about him, and then you will not become tired and weak as Christians.

We are really God’s children

4 You are in the fight against everything that is wrong. But you have not yet had to continue fighting until someone killed you. 5 You have forgotten that someone wrote words to God’s children. These words can make you brave and strong:

            ‘My son, think seriously when the Lord punishes you.

            He will sometimes show you that you are wrong.

            You must not become sad and weak.

            when he tells you that you are wrong.

            6 Because the Lord does that to everyone that he loves.

            He punishes everyone that he receives as a son.’

            [Proverbs 3:11-12]

7 You must be patient and strong when life is difficult. Receive the trouble as punishment from God, who is your Father. God is teaching you as his children. There has never been any son whose father did not punish him. 8 God teaches all his children not to do wrong things. So if he does not punish you, then you are not really his children. Then you are like children who do not really belong to him. 9 Also, we have all had human fathers who punished us. And we thought that it was important to obey them. So it is much more important that we obey the Father of our spirits. If we obey him then we will live.

10 Our human fathers punished us for a short time, as they thought best. But God punishes us because that really is the best thing for us. Then we can become like him. We can become completely separate from everything that is bad. 11 No punishment makes us happy at the time when we receive it. It makes us sad then. But later we know that the punishment has taught us good things. It has made our lives more like God wants us to be. Then we are without trouble deep inside ourselves because we are right with God.

12 You have become tired as Christians, like people with hands that hang down. You are like people with weak knees. Lift up your hands and make your knees strong again! 13 Live for God, like people who walk on a straight, flat path. So then, people with weak legs, who cannot walk well, will not get worse. Their legs will not become unable to walk. But instead they will become well and strong.

Verses 12-13 The writer is thinking again about Christians as people who are in a race. (See verse 1.) He is telling his readers to believe God. He is telling them to become strong Christians again.

Verse 13 If the stronger Christians really live for God, then weaker Christians will copy their example. And then the weak Christians will become strong too.

We must not refuse to do what God says

14 Do everything that you can to live without trouble or quarrels between you and anyone else. Also, do everything that you can to live a completely good life for God. Nobody will see the Lord unless their life is good like that. 15 Be careful that nobody among you turns away from God. Nobody should refuse to receive from God, who is so very kind. Be careful that nobody becomes angry against God. A person like that can cause trouble among you, because they are like poison to other people’s lives. A person like that can lead many other people away from God.

16 Be careful that nobody among you has sex with someone other than their wife or their husband. And watch that nobody is careless about God’s rules, like Esau. He gave away everything that he would have received as his father’s first son. He gave it all away so that he could get only one meal. 17 And later, as you know, he still wanted to receive those good things from his father. He wanted his father to ask God for good things for him. But that was impossible. Esau cried when he asked his father for those good things. But he could find no way to change things. Esau could not change what he had done.

Verses 16-17 Esau was Isaac’s first son. The oldest son in a family was very important. He received the biggest part of his father’s land and money when his father died. Also, the father asked God to give special, good things to that son. (See Genesis 25:29-34 and 27:30-41.)

The two mountains

18 You have not come to a place that you can touch, like the Sinai mountain. That mountain burned with fire. But where the people stood, it was very dark. It was so dark that it was black. There was a very strong wind and a storm. 19 There was the sound of a trumpet and a powerful voice that spoke to them. When the people heard that voice, they were very afraid. So they asked strongly that the voice would not speak to them any more. 20 They remembered what God had already told them. So they were very afraid. ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, you must kill it with stones’, God had said [Exodus 19:12-13] . 21 Even Moses was very afraid. ‘I am so afraid that my body cannot stop moving’, Moses said [Deuteronomy 9:19] .

Verses 18-21 Israel’s people came near to Sinai mountain. That was where Moses received God’s rules for the people. (See Exodus 19:10-25; Deuteronomy 4:11-12; 5:22-26.)

Verse 19 A trumpet is a metal pipe with a wide end. People hold the other end in their mouths and they use it to make music.

22 But you have come to Zion mountain and to the city of God, who is alive. You have come to the Jerusalem city that is in heaven. You have come to a place where there are thousands and thousands of happy angels all together. 23 All God’s people, who are like his first and most important sons, meet here. God has written their names here in heaven, because they belong here. You have come to where God is. He will decide what is fair for all people. You have come to where people’s spirits are. These are the spirits of all those people that God has made right. God has made those people be as he wants them to be. 24 You have come to Jesus, who brought the new agreement from God to his people. Remember also the blood that Jesus lost. He bled when he chose to die. That was how he made us clean. Jesus’ blood shows us about better things than Abel’s blood.

Verses 22-23 Zion mountain is part of Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel’s people on this earth. The Bible often uses the name Zion to mean Jerusalem. But Christians belong to God’s city in heaven. They belong with all of God’s people, who will live with God always. God’s people include everyone who believed God in earlier times. Those people are dead now, and their spirits are with God. We are not dead yet. But it is like our spirits are already there too, with them.

Verse 24 Jesus chose to die. But Abel died when his brother killed him. Abel’s brother, Cain, killed Abel, and Abel’s blood came out on to the ground. (See Genesis 4:8-10.) So, Abel’s blood only shows us about bad things. It shows us that God had to punish Cain. But Jesus died for us so that God does not have to punish us any more.

25 So be careful. Always be ready to listen when God speaks. God spoke to Israel’s people by his servant on this earth. He told them that they must obey God. But they refused to obey, so God had to punish them. They could not get away. Now God speaks to us from heaven. So if we turn away from him, God will have to punish us. We will even more certainly not get away from him. 26 At that time many years ago, God’s voice caused the earth to move. But now he has promised this: ‘Once again I will cause the earth to move. But this time I will also cause heaven to move’, he said [Haggai 2:6] . 27 These words, ‘once again’, show us that God will take away some things. Everything that he causes to move will finish. That means all the things that he has made. So then, everything that he does not move will continue to be there.

28 But we receive a place where we will rule with God. And nobody can ever move that place, so we should thank God. We should worship God in a way that makes him happy. We should worship him because he is so great and so powerful. 29 Our God is like a fire that can destroy everything.

Verse 27 At some future time, God will destroy this earth and this sky that he has made. After that, he has promised to make a new earth and a new sky. (See Isaiah 65:17; 66:22 and Revelation 21:1.) All the things that we can see must come to an end. But the things that we cannot see are much, much more important. They will never come to an end. They include the place that God has prepared for us.

Chapter 13

How we can live for God

1 Continue to love each other like brothers and sisters. 2 Always remember to be kind to strangers. Remember to let them stay in your homes. In this way, some people have received angels as visitors. But those people did not know that their visitors were angels. 3 Remember those people who are in prison. Think about what that would be like for you. Think like someone who is there with those people in prison. Remember those who have troubles because of other people. Other people are doing bad things to them. Trouble like that could also happen to you. Think about what that would be like for you yourselves.

Verse 2 The Bible tells us about some people who received angels as visitors. (See, for example, Genesis 18:1-21; 19:1-3.)

Verse 3 The writer is talking about Christians who had troubles. At that time, life was difficult for Christians. Many of them were in prison, and people were doing bad things to many other Christians.

4 When people have married each other, everyone should remember that. Everyone should remember that it is a very good and important thing. Husbands and wives must not have sex with anyone else. Nobody should have sex with someone who is not their own wife or their own husband. God will punish everyone who does not obey those rules.

5 Do not want lots of money. Do not live like that. Be happy with the things that you have. Be happy, because God has promised to be with you.

            ‘I will never leave you;

            I will never let you be completely alone’, he said.

            [Deuteronomy 31:6]

6 So we can bravely say this:

            ‘The Lord comes to help me,

            so I will not be afraid.

            I will not be afraid of anything that people can do to me.’

            [Psalm 118:6]

7 Remember your leaders, who taught God’s message to you. Continue to think about the result of how they lived. They really believed God; so copy their example. 8 Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday. And he will be the same always.

9 Some people teach all kinds of strange things. Do not let them lead you the wrong way. God is very kind to us, so he will make us strong deep inside ourselves. It is good if we let him do that. Rules about what foods we eat do not make us strong like that. Those rules have never done anything good for the people who obey them.

Verse 9 Some people were teaching that Christians should obey certain rules about food. We do not really know which rules the writer was talking about. But the important thing is that food can only do good things for our bodies. Food cannot help our spirits, because only God can help us like that. Only God can make us really strong inside ourselves.

10 Israel’s priests worked for God in his special tent, and they ate there. But we have a sacrifice that they have no authority to eat from. 11 The chief priest brings the blood from the animal sacrifice into the Most Holy Room. He offers that blood to God because Israel’s people have done many wrong things. But they burn those animals’ bodies outside the place where the people live. 12 For this reason Jesus also died outside the city’s gate. And God saw the blood that he lost. Jesus died there as a sacrifice. He died there so that he could make people completely good and clean for God. 13 So we must go to him. We must be ready to go outside the place where everybody else lives. We must be ready for people to be ashamed of us, as they were ashamed of him. 14 Here on earth we do not have a home in a city that will always be there. But we are waiting for God’s city that will come.

Verses 10-12 Israel’s priests could eat some of the meat from animals that people brought as certain sacrifices. (See, for example, Leviticus 6:26, 29 and 7:6-7.) This showed that they shared in what the sacrifice was for. But on a certain day each year, they offered a very special sacrifice, for all the people. They killed animals and the chief priest took the animals’ blood into the Most Holy Room. The priests could not eat any of the meat from those animals. Nobody could eat it. They had to burn the animals’ bodies. (See Leviticus 6:30 and 16:27.)

That special sacrifice was like a picture of how Jesus would give himself as a sacrifice for us. And now Jesus has died for us. So now nobody needs the sacrifices that belonged to the old agreement between God and his people. Nobody needs those priests who worked for God during the old agreement. They have no authority to share in the sacrifice that is ours now. When we eat food, it makes our bodies strong. When we really believe Jesus, his Spirit makes us strong. So we could say this: we ‘eat’ Jesus when we believe him. When we believe him, we share in his sacrifice for us.

Verse 12 They killed Jesus outside Jerusalem city (see John 19:20). Israel’s people thought that a place ‘outside the city’s gate’ was a dirty place. It was a place for someone that they refused to accept. It was a place where people were ashamed to go.

15 So we should always continue to thank God. We should say how great and how good he is. That is our sacrifice to him, because Jesus helps us. Then we will always be offering this gift to him while we speak his name. 16 Remember to be kind to other people. And remember to share what you have with other people. God is very happy with sacrifices like that.

17 Obey your leaders. Do what they tell you. They continue to watch over your lives on God’s behalf. And they will have to explain to God how they have done that work. So, if you obey them, they will be happy with their work. Do not make them sad, because that would not help you.

18 Pray for us. We are completely sure that we have done nothing wrong. We always want to do only what is right. 19 I want you very much to pray that I may come back to you soon.

20 God can take away all difficulties and he can cause you to be without trouble inside yourselves. God caused our Lord Jesus to become alive again. He did not stay among the dead people. When Jesus died, the new agreement began. And it will continue always. Jesus is like a shepherd (someone who watches over his sheep). He is our great shepherd, and we are his sheep. 21 I pray that God will make you completely ready to serve him. He will give you every good thing that you need for that work. And then you can do everything that he wants. I pray that Jesus Christ will do these good things in us on God’s behalf. Then we will make God happy. Everyone should say how great God is for all time and always. This is true.

22 Christian friends, I ask very much that you listen patiently to my message. I have written this to help you so that you can be brave and strong. And this letter is not very long. 23 I want you to know about Timothy, who is like a brother to us. They have let him go out of prison, so that he is free now. If he arrives soon, I will travel with him to meet you.

24 Say ‘hello’ on my behalf to your leaders and to all God’s people. The Christians from the country called Italy say ‘hello’ to you too. 25 I pray that God will be very kind to all of you.

Verse 24 We do not know whether the writer was in Italy with the ‘Christians from Italy’. When he wrote this letter, they could all have been together, somewhere outside Italy. Or the writer may have been with Christians in Italy and then he went to another place.

Word List

AD 50 means the year that was 50 years after Jesus came, and so on.
when two or more people (or God and people) agree about certain things.
a heavy metal weight that is on the end of a strong line; they throw the anchor into the water to stop a boat from moving.
spirit being (a being is a person or animal that is alive). Good angels come from God’s home above the earth. They are God’s servants and they bring messages from God to people.
most important.
God’s enemy.
when God (or another person) chooses to forget the wrong things that we do.
the place above the earth where God and Jesus Christ live.
completely good and separate from everything that is bad, like God.
when people see someone as great and good.
material that makes a nice smell when it burns.
the group of people that God chose. Israel was Jacob’s other name. Israel is also the name of all the people from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel is also the name of the land that God gave to the people of Israel.
a special light burned for God in the lampstand. They made the lampstand from metal.
master. Another name for God. It means that he is greater than everyone else.
New Testament
the second part of the Bible. Writers wrote it after the life of Jesus.
Israel’s people ate a special meal on this day every year. They did this to remember that God had brought them out from the country called Egypt.
a person that God chooses to be his special servant. Other priests serve false gods.
to hurt someone, or to cause trouble for them, because they have done wrong things.
the trouble or bad things that a person receives because they have done wrong things.
when people all run at the same time on a certain path.
a gift to God to ask him to forgive wrong things that we have done. Or it may be a gift to thank him for something. God told Israel’s people to offer animals to him as sacrifices. These showed that they were sorry. They were sorry that they had done wrong things. Jesus gave himself to die as a sacrifice on our behalf. We can say ‘thank-you’ to God, and we can say how great he is. We can also be kind to other people. Those are the ‘sacrifices’ that we give to God now, as Christians.
to work for someone and obey them.
to receive (or give) part of something; or to receive something with other people.
a being (person) that is always alive, even without a body. There are good spirits, like God’s Spirit and his angels. And there are bad spirits, like the Devil (God’s enemy) and his angels. A person’s spirit is the part of them that will always be alive. It will be alive even after their body is dead. Our spirit is the part of us that receives God’s Spirit.
a house that people have made out of cloth or animals’ skins. They put the cloth or the skins over long pieces of wood to hold them up. People can move a tent-house to different places.
a metal pipe with a wide end. People hold the other end in their mouths and they use it to make music.
when someone speaks to us, we say that we hear their voice.
to love and thank someone (God) more than anyone else.

Book List

A. Marshall ~ The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament

W. L. Lane ~ Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 47: Hebrews

P. Ellingworth & E. A. Nida ~ A Translator’s Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews

F. F. Bruce ~ New London Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews

Various Bible versions


© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2003

This version published June 2003

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.