Bible scholars believe that the book of Hebrews in our Bible was probably written around AD 60-65. It was written to Christians, most likely Jewish Christians, who were being persecuted by their Jewish friends for following Christ. Some were leaving Christianity and going back into Judaism to avoid more persecution. And others were beginning to doubt their newfound faith in Christ. The book of Hebrews most likely was written to encourage these Jewish Christians – and all Christians - not to give up on Christ or drift away from God’s Word.
These Jewish Christians had grown up under the Old Testament laws God had given Israel, with laws for their priests to sacrifice animals to cover sins. But now Jesus had come and died on the cross making the ultimate sacrifice for sin and fulfilling the law. The Old Testament prophets had prophesied to the Jewish people that God would send them a Messiah or a Savior. And the Jewish people expected that their promised Messiah would come someday. But, when Jesus finally did come, many Jewish religious leaders did not recognize Him as their Messiah.
The book of Hebrews assures these Jewish Christians that Christ is a better Priest than their priests of old who came from Aaron. (Hebrews 5:1-6:20) They were reminded that Christ has a superior priesthood. (Hebrews 7-10) That Jesus is not only our King-Priest, but He is also our Sacrifice for sins as well. They no longer needed animal sacrifices. Jesus had been sacrificed once and for all for sin. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away our sin.” (John 1:29) And, Jesus has become our merciful High Priest as well. (Hebrews 2:16-18)
The Jewish people knew that they were God’s chosen people. That God had given them the Law through Moses. But now the writer of Hebrews is reminding the Jewish Christians that Christ is a fulfillment of Moses’ Law. (Hebrews 3:1-4:16) That the Son is superior to His servant, Moses. (Hebrews 3:1-7) Jesus, while He was on earth, said that He had not come to abolish the Law that Moses gave, but He had come to fulfill the Law. (Matthew 5:17-18) And Scripture says: “Christ is the culmination of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)
Thousands of years ago God made a Covenant or a promise to Abraham and His children - the Jewish people. He promised them that He would take care of them and give them their Promised Land – the land of Israel for their own. And God promised that He would protect them and bless them. And their part of the Covenant was to obey God’s laws and trust God. The Jewish people found that many times they couldn’t keep their promise to God to obey His laws. They continually failed and rebelled and sometimes worshipped other gods. They needed help – they needed their Messiah and Savior – Jesus- in order to be right before God. Their part was to believe in Christ and He would give them His righteousness.
In the book of Hebrews, a New Covenant is revealed – a better covenant through Christ has been given to all of us (not just Israel) by God. (Hebrews 8) The New Covenant has many wonderful spiritual promises. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, now we have passed from the Age of Law to the Age of Grace. And the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is for Jews and Gentiles – for anyone who believes.
We are not under all of the Old Testament Jewish laws. Christ promises us His Holy Spirit to live inside us and change us from within. To make us new. Christ removes our sins and covers us with His righteousness. We Christians also inherit a “Promised Land” which is not of this world but is the kingdom of God
The book of Hebrews is all about how our New Covenant in Christ is better. And the book of Hebrews is all about who Christ is! Christ has brought a superior revelation. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Christ is the Creator, Controller and Sustainer and is God’s Heir to all things. He is the eternal Sovereign Lord. (Hebrews 1:7-12) Christ has defeated the devil. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Christ leads us into God’s promised rest. (Hebrews 4:1-16) He is worshipped by angels. (Hebrews 1:6) And Christ is God’s King-Priest. (Hebrews 1:13) We can boldly enter heaven because of Christ’s blood. (Hebrews 10:19)
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is magnificent! It is known as the famous “faith chapter”. Hebrews 11 is a roll call of men and women down through history who had faith in God and believed His promises. It is a chapter about faith in action. This eleventh chapter starts out with the definition of faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the belief that God is absolutely trustworthy and that His promises are completely true. We can ask Him for anything that is in His will and He will give it to us, if we believe His promise. (Matthew 7:7) We don’t have faith in “faith” but faith in God.
Chapter eleven of Hebrews takes us on a thrilling journey back through history to let us see illustrations of how faith has been put into action by men and women like ourselves. Abel and Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah are mentioned. Abel trusted God and was obedient to offer the sacrifice that God asked for. Noah believed God and built an arc. Abraham obeyed God when he was called to go to a land where he didn’t know the way. (verse 6) Sarah gave birth to Isaac in extreme old age because she reckoned that God was “faithful who had promised” (verse 11) Each of these people had an active faith in God.
Hebrews 1:6 goes on to say: “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11 goes on to say “all of these, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, “died in faith without having received the complete realization of the promise of God. With eyes of faith, they saw from afar the distant promise of God’s redemption and greeted it. Remaining essentially strangers and exiles on the earth.” (verse 13)
More men and women’ names who believed God and His promises are mentioned in this eleventh chapter about faith. It continues: “Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured” (verse 35) “Still others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword: they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted …wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (verses 36-38) “Of these it is clear that the world was not worthy.” (verse 38)
This great faith chapter ends with these words: “And all of these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised yet, since God had planned something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (verses 39-40) God did great things for and through all the people who had faith in Him so long ago, even though they got their real reward after death. And God has done and will do great things for and through us today if we believe that “God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 1:6)