The book of Hebrews has been called the 5th gospel. There are four gospels, which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These describe the Christ’s ministry on earth. The book of Hebrews is called the 5th gospel, because it describes the ministry of Christ in heaven.
The book of Hebrews is vitally linked to the Old Testament. In fact, you will never be able to understand fully the five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, until you read the book of Hebrews.
The book of Hebrews becomes the Holy Spirit’s commentary of the five Old Testament books. As far as the author of the book is concerned, many scholars have varied opinions, but my opinion is that Paul may well have written the book. I get my hint from Hebrews 13 vs 23: “Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly. Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints and those from Italy greet you. Grace be with you all, Amen.”
The recipients of this letter will seem, as we read, Jewish believers. If you take a moment and turn to Hebrews 5 vs 12, you will see that these people had been believers for a long time.
That infers that these people had been saved relatively for a period of a long time. Therefore, they ought to have been teachers and have known scriptures. The date of the letter of Hebrews is approximately AD 66. When you read this letter, it’s obvious that the temple was still in operation (Herod’s temple). The temple was destroyed in AD 70 and so this letter is written prior to the destruction of the temple. There are several passages that speak of the actual sacrifices still being offered, even after Christ’s ascension.
The Apostle Paul had a number of purposes or reasons for writing this letter. The obvious one was to offer encouragement to the believers who were very discouraged. When you walk your way through this epistle, you will find that these Christians were facing great persecution.
They were being persecuted from two points of view.
l By their Jewish brothers in the flesh for leaving Hebrew religion.
l By the Gentiles as well — for this letter was written during the reign of Nero when he made an all-out effort to destroy the entire Christian church.
Note that these Christians were deeply persecuted, mocked by people whom they lived amongst. And their possessions were literally taken from them, their homes burned. This letter was written to encourage them.
l Part of the persecution also came from being belittled. Let’s take a moment and think about these Christians.
These Jewish Christians prior to that had been accustomed to going to the most beautiful temple:
l Built of pure gold.
l Their priests dressed in the most beautiful gowns.
l In their temple all kinds of instruments were played.
l Incense and sacrifices were offered.
It was all very impressive until they became Christians. Read Hebrews 9 vs 1, 5-12 something about their impressive earthly sanctuary.
The temple was very impressive, now they were meeting in houses and caves, in secret, hiding from persecution. Their preachers now were no longer those impressive priests with beautiful garments, their preachers now were probably converted fishermen, uneducated and unmannered, but full of Holy Ghost power. They had no impressive altars, no ceremonies, no veil, no ark and no Mercy seat, but Jesus himself was in their midst.
And the people who belittled them said look what you left, look what you have got now. (It’s a shame). Similar to orthodox churches versus
pentecostal/charismatic churches. The former have beautiful cathedrals, the latter meet in rented halls. (But the big difference is that the latter possess powerful revelation of God). So these brethren needed encouragement and some of them were tempted to go back to what they had before. (Judaism and sacrifices of goats and bulls).
And this letter is written to say what you have now, though unimpressive in the natural, is so superior to what you had then, don’t go back.
The writer tells them in Hebrews 12 vs 24: “To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
The writer is saying the blood that enacted this new covenant is not the blood of bulls or goats, but the blood of Jesus and it speaketh.
— Not spoken
— Not will speak
But speaketh now — better things than the blood of Abel.
The letter was also written to correct and exhort. This book in encouraging these believers, deals with the superiority of the person of Christ. (Christ is superior to all the hardships you are facing). Don’t be discouraged. To the Jewish people who were tempted to go back to Judaism, the writer of this letter had to prove that Jesus was superior to anything they had before.
Six areas of Christ’s superiority: superior to prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and Old Covenant (Old Testament).
So today, those who are tempted to go back to n’angas or mapostori, idolising men of God, (water churches), Christ is superior to all that, stay with Him.
Superior to prophets
He points out that Christ was superior to the prophets. To Jews, the prophets were all important. The word of the prophets to the Jews was as good as the word of God. Prophets were revered in Israel. Talking to Jesus one time, the Jews said, you say this, but the prophets said this… In the eyes of the Jews, the prophets held the position of supreme importance. However, the writer says Christ is superior to all prophets.
Clearly, Christ is superior to all. But the writer endeavours to point out that Jesus is far superior to the prophets. So don’t despair if you have never been given a prophetic word — Christ you have is greater than prophets.
Stop idolising prophets, fix your eyes on Jesus.
Superior to angels
Secondly, the writer teaches us that Christ is superior to the angels.
When the writer talks of angels in chapter 1 vs 4, the writer again proves that this Christ was far superior to angels.
“Having become so much better than angels, He has by inheritance obtained more excellent name .”
l Colin Nyathi is a senior pastor and founder of Harvest House International Churches