Hebrews 12:28-29, Isaiah 66:15-16, Matthew 6:10, 33-34

Our Future is in Jesus’ Hands!

The world and all its accouterments, along with religious rituals, regulations and observances will be destroyed. They avail nothing with regard to eternity! Jesus offers the only foundation that will endure the final destruction of all things. That destruction will come “by fire.” Isaiah 66:15-16 makes that clear, “For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment…” But Jesus’ Kingdom is unshakable! So the author of Hebrews wraps up his comments in chapter 12 with verses 28-29 saying “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is an eternal one. We need not fear the destruction of all things in heaven and on earth because we’ve become part of an eternal kingdom through our faith in the eternal King Himself, Jesus! We are not afraid of God’s coming judgment, as a matter of fact we often pray for it to come. Jesus taught us to pray that way. We say, “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (See Matthew 6:10).

Our worship of God is acceptable when it’s done in faith. It is “by faith” that all the saints mentioned in chapter 11 worshiped God. They heard a word from God, and they believed it and were commended for that faith. But in our day, as the writer began the book of Hebrews, “God speaks to us through His Son.” Through our faith in Jesus we have an unshakable Kingdom, an eternal life, and the guarantee of paradise! If it’s Jesus’ Kingdom we care about, we need not worry about the future. The wrath of God, the fiery judgment, won’t touch us because Jesus took God’s judgment for our sins on Himself. We have nothing to worry about and Jesus explained this principle to us in Matthew 6:33-34. He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” The righteousness we must seek is not our own. We’ll find ourselves bankrupt when we do. It’s His Righteousness we must have and he attributes that to all those who come to Him in faith. Jesus says to you and I who believe, “don’t worry about tomorrow! I’ve got that under control!”

Hebrews 12:27, Revelation 6:14, Zephaniah 1:18, Haggai 2:4-5

Jesus’ Kingdom is unshakable!

When God shakes the heavens and the earth and the seas, the material world will be “dust in the wind.” Kansas had it wrong. They sang, “Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away and all your money won’t another minute buy.” They’re right in the fact that “all your money won’t another minute buy,” but they are wrong in thinking that the earth and sky will remain forever.  Revelation 6:14 teaches us that “The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” No wealth will prolong a life beyond that allowed by God as Zephaniah 1:18 says, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.”

The second coming of  Christ to judge and to rule has already been mentioned in Hebrews chapter 1 verses 10-12. It says, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed.  But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” The visible world will not last forever. But Christ and His kingdom will last forever. This is a truth that is not only earth shaking, but it shakes the heavens as well. God spoke from Sinai and he shook the earth. He speaks to us today through His Son, Jesus, as we read in the first chapter of Hebrews but there is a time coming when Christ will return and speak to us again. The author of Hebrews explains this to us in Hebrews 12:27. He writes, “This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”

Do we respond to these warnings in fear or do we respond to these warnings in faith? The writer quoted the coming destruction of heaven and earth from Haggai 2:6 but did not mention the two verses that preceded that warning. In those verses Haggai addresses those of faith and says in verses 4-5, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” The covenant God made with Israel will be fulfilled but how much more will the unconditional covenant God made with us through the blood of His son be certain of fulfillment for us as well. Allen quotes A. Thiselton who said, “Those who seek their security in ‘created things’ will share in the dissolution of the created order in the final shakeup, while God’s pilgrim people who accept hardships in full trust in God as their security will be vindicated; theirs will be a ‘kingdom that cannot be shaken.’ ”[1]

[1] David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 596.

Hebrews 12:26, Isaiah 57:20-21, Haggai 2:6

Jesus & Rest!

As we navigate our way down the rapids of life, we will either rest beside the calm waters or be dashed against the rocks by death or its prospect on our way. When the Lord is my Shepherd, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Death can’t hurt me or my loved ones who are “in Christ.” But there is no peace for those who fail to heed the voice of God from heaven. Isaiah 57:20-21 says, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” Those who rejected God’s word from Sinai that came through angels to Moses, did not enter God’s rest in the promised land. All of that generation over 40 years old, except two, passed away in the wilderness. At Sinai, the children of Israel “begged” not have to listen to God thunder from the mountain. The word in Hebrews 12:25 for “refused” is the same word used for begging not to have to hear God speak from Sinai.

The Israelites rejected God’s message from Sinai even though God shook the earth. They suffered the consequences. They all died in the wilderness and never experienced the rest God intended for them as they dwelt in the land. The message now that comes from heaven is even more important because it shakes, not only the earth, but the heavens as well. Hebrews 12:26 says, “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’” This might very well be a reference to Haggai 2:6 where that promise is found. It says, “Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.”

God has a stable future for believers. The realization of that future allows us to rest even amidst the trials and struggle and pains of life, even death! We know God’s Word, spoken to us through Jesus, is unalterable. We have a promise sealed in His blood. If that’s not our focus, if we’re not “looking to Jesus” and His deliverance, we’re in danger of missing out on the rest God intends for us to experience as we dwell in the land. I like what Fruchtenbaum says, “…he is not dealing with loss of salvation; he is dealing with temporal, physical punishment in this life. He is dealing with physical death. Those living under the Law did not escape temporal punishment for disobedience to the Law; therefore, how can one turn away from the New Covenant and hope to escape temporal punishment?”[1] The “temporal punishment” to me can’t be death itself because everyone dies. The writer has already said that in chapter 10. Now he wants us to understand that death has been conquered by Jesus. By faith we can rest easy in this life knowing our eternal destiny has been secured. Turning from Christ to religion destroys that rest! Only Christ offers true rest for our souls.

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 185.

Hebrews 12:25, Luke 9:35

Jesus is the only Exit!

Jesus’ blood speaks to us a better message than the blood of Abel that speaks to us from the earth. Abel’s blood speaks a word of judgment and vengeance and it speaks from the physical earth where it was shed. Jesus’ blood speaks to us from heaven and it brings the message of a new covenant of forgiveness. If we fail to pay attention to Jesus’ message of forgiveness, we’re back in the sphere of the law and we’ve all failed under the law so there is no chance of escape from the fearful judgment of God. If we fail to avail ourselves, pay heed to, and respond in faith to the new covenant promise of forgiveness through faith in Christ which comes to us, not from the earth but from heaven, we’re back to Mount Sinai with nothing but God’s wrath and judgment on our sin. This is what the writer is saying in Hebrews 12:25. It reads, “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.”

There is only one imperative in this verse: “see that you do not refuse him who is speaking.” At the beginning of this letter the author of Hebrews made it clear that God spoke to us in various ways in the past. But in these days he speaks to us through His Son, Jesus. Several times he has urged us to give careful attention to the message of Jesus. He told us to keep our eyes on him as we walk the trails through all the trials of life. In chapter three he even insisted that we “pay careful attention” to him. This is all reminiscent of the mount of transfiguration where Peter was speaking about building tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah when God interrupted him from the cloud and said in Luke 9:35, “This is my chosen one, listen to Him!” This was a voice from heaven! Jesus too speaks to us from heaven.

The book of Hebrews has given us good reason to give Jesus all our attention. Going back to the beginning of the book we learn that we should listen to Jesus because, as Lea points out, “…the penalties for neglecting Jesus are too severe.” vs. 1–4) “The idea of drifting away compared the audience to a boat sailing past warning signs to meet destruction and ruin on a rocky shore or in a raging rapid. The Hebrews needed to do something. They were listless while their situation demanded positive action. ‘Pay attention to your plight,’ said our writer, ‘lest you carelessly fall into ruin.’”[1] Neglecting or ignoring the heavenly proclamation of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus is much worse than ignoring or neglecting the message mediated by angels to Moses on Sinai. Abel’s blood speaks out from earth for justice. Jesus blood cries out from heaven for forgiveness! If we reject God’s forgiveness, we only have justice left. Since God, in His great love for us, provided a way of escape through faith in Jesus. Jesus is our only exit as we plummet down the road to destruction.

[1] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 24.

Hebrews 12:18-24, Deuteronomy 9:19, 1 John 4:18-19

The Matchless Grace of Jesus!

Esau chose the physical world over the spiritual world. He preferred what he could touch and taste and enjoy in his body at the present rather than what had been promised in a future spiritual realm. Choosing to live in the moment always leads to deep regret and many tears. Further, it leads to a fear of God and the reality of a divine judgment that no one living for the pleasures of the flesh can stand up to. But the writer of Hebrews wants his readers to understand that in Jesus we have a new position with God. Even though we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard, we’ve found grace and forgiveness in Christ. In Hebrews 12:18-21, he encourages us to remember that we’ve not come to a mountain of Judgement. He writes, “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, if even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned. Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’”

The epistle had already mentioned what a fearful thing it is for sinners to fall into the hands of a living God. The picture of God given at Sinai is the picture of the God who caught his children worshipping the golden calves after he had delivered them from Egypt. In Deuteronomy 9:19, Moses expressed his fear of God’s judgment. He said, “For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you.” Yes, even Moses was fearful of God executing his full wrath on sinners and the people drawing near to Mount Sinai were sinners just as Esau was. He had turned from the promises of God and reverted to the pursuit of things physical. This is the case of all of us! But we now live under grace not law.

We have not come to Mount Sinai to face God’s judgment. We’ve come to Mount Zion to receive God’s forgiveness and mercy. Hebrews 12:22-24 goes on: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” In Christ we are accepted by God. His love casts out fear. John tells us about this in his first epistle. 1 John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

Hebrews 12:17

Learning From History!

Looking out for each other is important because there are consequences in life that certain sin brings. There are choices we might make that can never be reversed. This was the case with Esau. He was presented as sexually impure, given to lusts of the flesh. Hughes described him, “Esau was completely earthbound. All his thoughts were on what he could touch, taste, and suck. Instant gratification was his rule of thumb. He was void of spiritual values. Godless! Esau was like a living beer commercial—bearded, steroid-macho, with two things on his mind: sexual pleasure and physical pleasure – food, drink, sports and sleep. ‘Hey, you only go around once. You’ve got to get it while you can.’ He was the prototype of modern godlessness…”[1] This kind of lifestyle robs a person of the more important things in life as well as peace with God. It leads to regret and tears.

When Esau grew up and came to his senses it was too late for him. The author of Hebrews says of Esau in 12:17, “For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” The pursuit of the pleasures of this world will eventually leave you empty. The spiritual blessing he disregarded completely in his youth was something that Esau later wanted but was unable to have. He had cast it aside and nothing could give it back to him. The pursuit of the “gusto” of physical things destroyed his sensitivity to spiritual things. Carter observes, “The sinful nature, if allowed to remain and assert itself, will deaden and ultimately destroy the spiritual sensibilities and leave man incapable of sensing, responding to, or knowing God…”[2]

It appears that the writer of Hebrews is presenting the historical story of Esau to his readers hoping that they will hear it and take it to heart. He wants them to learn from Esau’s bad example. Unfortunately, the old saying “the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history” is often the case for many. The “fool” as described in Proverbs falls into the same sinful traps repeatedly. The smart man falls once and learns from his failures. The wise man, on the other hand, watches others fall into the trap and avoids it himself.  The writer of Hebrews wants his readers, both the original ones and us, to be like the wise man. The writer is urging us as Brooks says, “Do not be like Esau, do not slight the favours of the gospel, do not prefer the temporal to the eternal or the material to the spiritual, do not choose the things of the body over the things of the soul, do not turn away from ‘the truth of Christ’.” [3]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 2, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 184.

[2] Charles W. Carter, “The Epistle to the Hebrews ,” in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 6, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 165.

[3] Richard Brooks, The Name High over All: A Commentary on Hebrews, Welwyn Commentary Series (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP, 2016), 405.

Hebrews 12:16, Genesis 25:29

Looking Out For Each Other!

Taking care of one another seems to have been the focus of Hebrews 12:15. We are charged with looking out for one another. Picking up on his exhortation, he adds in Hebrews 12:16 that we are to “see to it…that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” There should be accountability in the church regarding our sexual conduct. There is nothing wrong with sex! It’s God’s creation as He made us male and female. It’s just that the society and the church should restrict those urges and restrain them within the bounds of matrimony. The word for “sexually immoral” is the Greek “pornos” from which we get pornography, but it literally means “fornication.” In general, it refers to sexual behavior outside of marriage. The writer says more about that in Hebrews 13:4. He writes, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

In Esau’s case the desires of the flesh took precedent in his life over the spiritual realities that were presented to him in the form of the blessings he received from his father as mentioned earlier in Chapter 11. According to ancient history and implied in the Genesis account of Esau, he was sexually impure. Hagner observes, “It is also clear that Esau is portrayed in Jewish tradition as guilty of sexual immorality.”[1] Kent Hughes does some great research on this issue. He writes, “Philo of Alexandria in his Questions and Answers on Genesis made this observation regarding Esau: “The hairy one is the unrestrained, lecherous, impure and unholy man.” The Palestinian Targum on Genesis 25:29 describes him as coming home exhausted on the same day he sold Jacob his birthright and saying that on “that day he had committed five transgressions,” one of which was adultery with a betrothed maiden. The indictment from extra-Biblical literature parallels the revelation of Holy Scripture – that Esau was a pornos subject to the whims of his tomcat nature – the archetype of the twentieth-century testosterone man. His essential sensuality made God quite unreal to him – as lust always does.” [2]

It seems to have come down to the fact that Esau had no interest in spiritual truths but lived his life going after all the gusto he could get. Brooks says, “The material took precedence for him over the spiritual. The ‘here and now’ was more important to him than the things to come. With his ‘birthright’ went the inheritance of his ‘blessing’, and he lost them both in a cavalier fashion.”[3] We should be looking out for each other in this regards.

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 223.

[2] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 2, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 182.

[3] Richard Brooks, The Name High over All: A Commentary on Hebrews, Welwyn Commentary Series (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP, 2016), 404.

Hebrews 12:15, Deuteronomy 29:18

A Very Real Coronavirus!

The first part of Chapter 12 addressed the issue of discipline for those whom the Father loves. Discipline is not always consequences we face for bad behavior. It’s often just a father’s way of helping us become better sons and daughters. Hard times and difficult trials can result in good things in our lives if we respond appropriately. We often need to be encouraged toward the right attitude during our times of trial. No one should be left behind in this regard. We must look out for each other and encourage each other onward to love and good deeds. But everyone doesn’t always respond to discipline in the right way. The writer of Hebrews warns us about this in the second half of Hebrews 12:15. He writes, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

As usual, the author of Hebrews is looking back at the old Testament and is pulling out a phrase that many of his Jewish readers may be familiar with.  He quotes from Deuteronomy 29:18 which says, “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit…” On the march from Egypt to the Promised Land the whole company is charged with looking out for each other and encouraging the right response to hardships in the wilderness. There were many in that trek that grumbled about the hardships, mumbled against the leadership and complained about their circumstances. At times these malcontents even attempted to arouse the whole company to turn around and go back to Egypt. I think this is what the writer of Hebrews is concerned about. Many of those who came out of Judaism were being cajoled and enticed to desert Christ and return to the rituals, regulations and religion that they had been redeemed from by Christ.

It’s been readily observed by many commentators that the “root of bitterness” is referring to a person. One commentator asks and answers this question giving all the references that see this phrase as referring to a person. He writes, “QUESTION—To what does the phrase ῥίζα πικρίας ‘root of bitterness’ refer? It refers to a person who introduces evil into the group.”[1] Yep, one person, unable to respond to discipline correctly, will wreak havoc in a group. They become unfit for fellowship with God as well. Greenlee again observes, “The aorist tense suggests finality. It refers to becoming unfit for fellowship with God; it refers to apostasy. The defilement would come from association and imitation.”[2] Discouragement becomes a contagious disease. Carter says, “Discouragement has probably robbed more people of their faith and courage, and consequently their Christian victory, sheared more people of their strength, and beclouded the future outlook of more men than any other known spiritual malady. Discouragement is a disease the germs of which breed rapidly in the unsanctified heart. It is an extremely contagious disease capable of incapacitating for service a whole contingent of God’s army, and thus giving the enemy an easy victory. Discouragement is Satan’s most effective weapon.”[3]

[1] J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of Hebrews, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 517.

[2] J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of Hebrews, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 518.

[3] Charles W. Carter, “The Epistle to the Hebrews ,” in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 6, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 163.

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