The book of Hebrews is the third longest letter in the New Testament. Only the books of Romans and 1 Corinthians are longer than the letter to the Hebrews. Its thirteen chapters are filled with rich truths that believers everywhere need to understand.
We are not certain who wrote the book of Hebrews. This is unusual, for we are sure who wrote the Gospel of Matthew and who wrote the book of Romans. We are certain that Luke wrote the book of Acts. We know who wrote 26 of the New Testament Books. Also, in the Old Testament there are several books whose authorship is unknown. For example, we do not know for sure who wrote the books of Kings and Chronicles.
Many believe the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews. In fact, in the King James Version, the title of the letter is given as follows: "THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS." And yet, in all of Pauls other letters, he gives his name at the very beginning (see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; etc.), but in the letter to the Hebrews, no name is given. This makes it difficult to know for sure that Paul was the author. Others have thought that Barnabas or Apollos or Silas may have written this book. Perhaps the safest thing to say is what Origen said in the third century (about 200 years after the book of Hebrews was written): "who it was that really wrote the Epistle (to the Hebrews), God only knows."
There are some things that we do know about the human writer. He was someone who knew T_______________ very well (Hebrews 13:23). He was probably a Jew and one who knew the Old Testament Scriptures very well. He had also spent some time in prison ("bonds"Hebrew 10:34). Of course, all of these things would fit the Apostle Paul, though they could fit someone else as well.
Usually the name of the writer or author is given at the very beginning of the letter. The very first word tells you who the author is. For example, who wrote the book of 1 Timothy? What is the first word in 1 Timothy 1:1? _____________ Who wrote the book of James (James 1:1)? ____________ Who wrote the book of 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:1)? ______________ What is the first word in Judes short letter? __________ Who wrote the book of Hebrews? What is the first word of this letter? ________ God hath spoken! God is the author of this book! Even though we may not know who the human writer was, we know that the book of Hebrews is Gods Word.
As we read the book of Hebrews, our attention is not on the human writer, but on that which is written! Even the human writer, when quoting from the Old Testament Scriptures, always emphasized that God was the Author. He pointed to God rather than to the human author. See Hebrews 3:7; 9:8; 10:15 where the writer reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the true Author of the Bible.
For an excellent discussion of the authorship of the book of Hebrews, see
E. Schuyler English's Introduction in his book The
Epistle to the Hebrews.
This letter was sent to the "Hebrews." This means that the people who received this letter were Jews (probably living in Italy). But not only were they Jews, they were Jewish people who had accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah and as their Saviour. For the most part they were true believers in Christ (Hebrews 3:1), though as in any church group there were some who merely professed Christ but who did not actually possess Christ.
Is it possible for a person to say that he is a Christian, but not really be a Christian? See the following verses:
1 John 2:4
1 John 2:9
1 John 4:20
These Jewish Christians were going through some very difficult times. They were suffering through great affliction and persecution (Heb. 10:32-33). Some of them had lost many of their earthly possessions (Heb. 10:34). They were discovering that the Christian life is not always a bed of roses (this was the same truth that the Thessalonians had to learnsee Chapter 8).
Because of these difficulties and trials, some of these Jewish people were wavering in their faith. Some were even in danger of turning away from Christ and from Christianity and going back to the religion of Judaism.
The Lord once told a parable about a sower. Some seed fell among rocky soil (see Luke 8:6). According to Luke 8:13, the seed which fell on rocky soil represented people who have heard Gods Word and believe it for a time, but in time of temptation (testing and difficulty), what do they do? F__________ A___________ According to Jesus, the problem with such people as that they had no R_________ (Luke 8:13).
Think of two trees. One has small and shallow roots; the other has massive, deep roots that go way down into the earth. When the hurricane comes along, which tree is going to be able to remain standing? Which tree is going to fall?
The book of Hebrews was written so that these Jewish Christians might get their roots to go deep down into the Lord Jesus Christ! The writer does everything he can to get these people to be rooted and built up in Christ Jesus! The letter to the Hebrews was sent to strengthen their wavering faith, so that they would be able to survive the greatest hurricanes that the world, the flesh or the devil might ever send!
History tells us that in the year 70 A.D. the Roman army came and destroyed the Jewish temple in the city of Jerusalem. Since then the Jews have never had a temple.
The book of Hebrews must have been written before this great destruction took place, because in Hebrews 10:11 we learn that the temple was still standing, the Jewish priests were still ministering, and animals were still being sacrificed. None of this would have been true after 70 A.D. So the letter must have been sent between 64 and 68 A.D., prior to the fall of Jerusalem.
As already mentioned, this book was written to Jewish people, and the Jews were very familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures (the 39 books of the Old Testament). It is difficult to understand the book of Hebrews unless you have an understanding of the Old Testament, especially the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy).
For example, in the book of Hebrews we read about priests, the wilderness wanderings, the Sabbath rest, Melchisedec, the tribes of Judah and Levi, the law of Moses, the tabernacle, the table of shewbread, the veil, the mercy seat, the most holy place, the sacrificial animals, the ashes of an heifer, Esau selling his birthright, etc. The Jewish people were familiar with all of these things, just as you are probably very familiar with Christs birth in Bethlehem, the shepherds and the wise men! But if a person is not familiar with the Old Testament, he will not understand many of the things he reads about in this book.
Consider also Hebrews chapter 11. Does an understanding of the Old Testament help a
person with this chapter?
Some of these Jewish people were in danger of turning from Christ and going back to the religion of Judaism (back to animal sacrifices, back to the law of Moses, back to human priests, etc.). The book of Hebrews shows how foolish this would be. This book shows how superior Christ is and thus how superior Christianity is. Only a fool would turn away from something better in order to grab onto something that is worse!
According to Hebrews 10:1, the things written in the law (such as the animal sacrifices, the tabernacle, etc.) were merely a shadow of things to come. Which is superior, the shadow or the substance (the real thing)? Would you rather have the shadow of an ice cream cone or a real ice cream cone? Would you rather have the shadow of a $5.00 bill or the real thing? The book of Hebrews teaches us that Christ is the real thing, and all of these Old Testament things were only pictures and shadows which pointed to the Christ who should come.
The following chart helps us to see how superior Christ is:
THE OLD TESTAMENT AND
|Animal sacrifices that could
away sin (Heb.10:4)
|The once for all sacrifice of
that put away sin forever
|Human priests, the
sons of Aaron,
who were sinful, frail and imperfect
(Heb. 7:23, 27,28)
|The perfect Priest, after the order of Melchisedec, who is sinless, perfect and lives forever (Heb. 7:15,16,24,25)|
|The Old Covenant (Heb. 8:9)||The New Covenant (Heb. 8:8,10,12; 10:16-17)|
|Shadow (Heb. 10:1)||Substancethe real thing!|
|Earthly Tabernacle made with
|Heavenly Tabernacle made without hands (Heb. 8:2)|
A key word is found in the book of Hebrews which shows the superiority of Christianity. It is the word "BETTER"! What God has done in Christ is far BETTER! Please MATCH:
|1) _____ better promises||A. Heb. 1:4|
|2) _____ better resurrection||B. Heb. 7:7|
|3) _____ better hope||C. Heb. 7:19|
|4) _____ better sacrifices||D. Heb. 7:22|
|5) _____ better country||E. Heb. 8:6|
|6) _____ better testament||F. Heb. 8:6|
|7) _____ better covenant||G. Heb. 9:23|
|8) _____ Christ is better than angels||H. Heb. 10:34|
|9) _____ Abraham (the lesser) is blessed by the better (Melchisedec)||I. Heb. 11:16|
|10) ____ better substance (possessions)||J. Heb. 11:35|
This book was written to get people to the living God. Christ is presented as the great High Priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:15; 6:20; 8:1; 9:11, 24) who died, rose again, passed into the heavens and lives forever so that He might bring us to God. These Hebrew Christians are told to GO ON and GROW UP and get their roots deeper and deeper into Christ.
As you read through the book of Hebrews you will find two messages repeated again and again:
1) You will find ENCOURAGEMENTS given to these Jewish people so that they might draw near and come to God;
2) You will find WARNINGS given to these same people so that they might not depart from the living God.
Consider the following:
Hebrews 2:3--WARNING--Dont N_____________ Gods
so great salvation.
One of the greatest encouragements in the book of Hebrews is the great FAITH chapter
(Hebrews chapter 11). These verses would have been especially meaningful to Jewish
people as they were reminded of the faith of their fathers. They knew their Old Testament
Bible very well and thus they were very familiar with the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah,
Abraham, Sarah, and all the others mentioned in this chapter. If these men and women could
trust God under very difficult circumstances, then so can we today! Sometimes Hebrews 11
is called the "HALL OF FAITH" (just as we have the Baseball or Basketball
"HALL OF FAME" dedicated to the memory of the great athletes of the past).
Hebrews 11 is dedicated to the memory of the great believers of the past.
Faith in Christ is not something that we do for two or three months (on a trial basis) and then decide if we should continue! When a person is saved, he is saying, "I am going to trust the Lord Jesus Christ now, tomorrow and forever!" There is a well known song that reminds us of this: "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!"
Some of the Jewish people who read the book of Hebrews were in danger of turning back. Their roots were not deep and they were wavering in their faith. They were going through great difficulties and they were wondering if they should continue to trust Christ. This book was sent to them to warn them not to turn back and to encourage them to hang on to Christ (by faith) and never let Him go!
Have you ever known someone who seemed to be a believer, attended church, showed an interest in the Bible and spiritual things, prayed, etc., but later seemed to change? This same person stopped attending church, seemed to lose interest in the things of God and started living, acting and thinking like the world. What happened?
How can we tell if a person is a true member of Christs church? In Hebrews 3:6, the Bible says that we are Christ's house if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the ______. If a person does not continue unto the end, then this shows us that this person was never really a true part of Christs house or Christs body.
Heres an illustration. Often when a building is erected, a scaffold structure is also erected to give the workmen a platform to stand upon.
Is the scaffold is part of the true building? How can a person tell which structures really belong to the true building? This is very easy: just wait and let some time pass and see which parts of the building REMAIN! It will not be long before the scaffold will FALL AWAY from the building or be taken away from the building and you will not see it again! The scaffold was never a part of the true building. It was only a TEMPORARY ATTACHMENT.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. Some people are temporary
attachments to the
church. Time is needed to see if they will really continue! John speaks of these
temporary attachments in 1 John 2:19--"They went out from us, but they were not
of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have
_________________________ with us; but they went out, that they might be made
manifest that they were not all of us." The Lord Jesus
spoke of the same thing in Luke 8:13. They believed, but was their faith lasting or only
temporary? ________________________. See also Colossians 1:23 and John 8:31. The book of
Hebrews is a great encouragement to continue on in the faith, developing roots that go so
deep into Christ that no one will ever be able to move us off of that solid foundation! We
need to continue to the very end (Heb. 3:6; 3:14; 10:39).
Is the true believer safe and secure in Christ forever? Some people think the book of Hebrews teaches that a saved person can be lost. They misunderstand some of the warning passages that we have been learning about. However, the book of Hebrews presents the safety and security of believers in a very strong way. Find the verses that go with each of the following statements:
Based on the above passages, is the true child of God safe and secure in Christ forever? _______ For a more detailed study, see our study on Eternal Security.
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