The Apostle’s Creed: I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: The forgiveness of sins: The resurrection of the body: And the life everlasting. Amen.
When we read Hebrews we quickly discover the basic Christian beliefs about Jesus’ identity: prophet, priest, and king (1.1-4). We are to comprehend his Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and his ultimate Return. This is why we must pay more attention to the understanding the Scriptures. Hebrews helps us to integrate our beliefs about Jesus in our everyday life choices.
When Jesus sat down in heavenly places, he put humanity in charge of everything under his control. Jesus doesn’t leave anything out of our control, but died that we might rule justly upon this earth. Jesus has been crowned King of Glory because of his death and suffering (2.9). Suffering is a key ingredient in Jesus’ glorification (2.10). Jesus leads many to glory in the same way whom he is not ashamed to call them sons and daughters – children of God (2.11). Jesus has shared in our humanity – flesh and blood – in order to destroy death (the devil) by dying himself (2.14). Jesus died to become the final sacrifice in order to wipe away every sin for all people (2.17). Because of Jesus’ life experiences, he can identify with our temptations (2.18).
We too have become partners in Jesus’ heavenly calling (3.1). Have you heard the heavenly calling (3.7-19) to partner with Jesus? Moses partnered with God as a servant over the work of law keeping or what we call the Old Covenant. Jesus partnered with God as a Son. We too have the opportunity to live into that partnership with God as children of the New Covenant. The essential ingredient in our spiritual journey is remaining faithful and not becoming stubborn. We are called to enter into a Sabbath Rest (4.1-16). The Sabbath Rest is the condition of the heart to remain close to God at all times hearing his voice ever speaking into our hearts and ears of our spirit. In fact we have the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us to maintain that communication link between us and God.
Jesus is the called out One. He has been named the final High Priest who offered himself as the better sacrifice. Jesus was not in the regular order of priest as his lineage was not a Levite but he himself was from the line of Judah. Jesus did not promote himself to his rank and title to become the final High Priest nor did the people, but God the Father appointed as such (5.5). Jesus fulfilled his work as intercessor – one who offered prayers and requests with loud groans and tears (5.7). Jesus was heard by God the Father because of his devotion (5.7). Jesus learned obedience in suffering (5.8). After he was made perfect, he became the source for Eternal Salvation (5.9). Then he was appointed as the great high priest for everyone in accordance to the order of Melchizedek (5.10). These are the basic beliefs that the author insists on the believers knowing (5.11-14). This is where you and I must press on to perfection!
We are required to apply this knowledge of Jesus to our everyday lives. We are to integrate these basic core beliefs (doctrines) into our ethical thinking in order to act morally. These core beliefs are to help us embrace the reality of the supernatural world beyond our senses where Heaven is only one component of that reality.
The author of Hebrews urges us onward beyond the basic core beliefs (6.1). The basic instructions begin by turning away from dead works (repentance from sin), having faith in God (Trinity), ritual washing with water (baptism symbol for the forgiveness of sins), laying on of hands (blessing and healing), resurrection of the dead (Heaven), and eternal judgment (hell) (6.2). It is impossible for someone who has been filled up with the Holy Spirit – who hear God’s voice on these matters but choose not to believe – to ever be restored to right relationship with God. These are matters of the Spirit that cannot be revoked by human choice.
Every moment we spend upon this earth we spend making choices. We have free will to choose right from wrong daily. As we grow up in our faith we discover how to make better choices – discerning right from wrong. A key ingredient in our faith is the ability to hear God. God speaks to us and when we are attentive to his voice, God guides our moment by moment decisions. When we have times of struggle and we cannot discern the voice of God, we rely on Scripture to guide our decisions.
The question for us today is do we yearn to hear God’s voice in personal relationship? Or have our hearts grown cold toward listening to God? Our relationship with God cannot be sustained if it is only a religion whereby we mentally ascent to some vague sense of values. It takes a great deal of personal humility to surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and minds. Pride and stubbornness often get in the way of relationship to God through Jesus.
According to the author of Hebrews, the non-negotiables in Christianity heritage begins with Jesus as the faithful and merciful high priest. The imagery here is of the high priest on the Day of Atonement passing through the veil and entering the Holy of Holies of God’s presence to offer the final sacrifice – a blood offering (9.3). Jesus was the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world according to John the Baptist. When we think about worship, the author of Hebrews reminds us that this is only a shadow of what happens in the heavenly places (8.1-2).
First, God required the people to regularly sacrifice a perfect animal for their sins. The blood of the animal restored their relationship with God. Jesus is now our perfect and final sacrifice. Second, the animal was present to the priest and examined prior to the sacrifice being acceptable. We too are called to present ourselves to God for examination. We are to be living sacrifices acceptable to God.
Third, priest would wash themselves to purify themselves prior to entering. Jesus was washed with the cleansing waters of the Jordon prior to his ministry upon this earth. We too must cleanse our selves with the blood of the Lamb, and receive a water baptism as a sign of the grace we have received.
Fourth, the pillars represent the strength of the Temple. We too are called to be pillars in God’s Temple through faithful submission in our trials, and pillars in our communities.
Fifth, the Holy of Holies was set apart for the righteous and only the priest were allowed into this space (9.7). But today we too have the opportunity to go straight into the Holies of Places and speak to God directly (9.15).
Sixth, in the Tabernacle/Temple behold the lamp stands and table with the showbread (9.2). Now Jesus is the Light of the World and the Bread of Life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we too become light in this dark world. We share in the Bread of Life when we partake of the elements of communion.
Seventh, the prayers of the people were offered on the Golden Altar of Incense. Jesus offered prayers upon this earth, and now our prayers are a sweet aroma to God (5.7).
Eighth, the veil between the inner court and the holy of holies was separated with a veil. When Jesus died, the veil tore between heaven and earth making a way for people to communion with God personally. Ninth, the mercy seat represented the throne of God Almighty. We now can come before God and ask for mercy. Tenth, cheribum were sent to guard the way between heaven and earth with a flaming sword (9.5). But now the way to the tree of eternal life has been opened once more. The doorway to heaven is ajar ready to receive all those who believe. Eleventh, the Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments, the manna, and Aaron’s staff (9.4). The way has now been made for us to have the Law written upon our hearts and the miracles are ours to behold in Jesus (10.16-18).
Twelfth, there were created storerooms or treasuries in the Tabernacle/Temple devoted to God (2 Chronicles 31.11, Nehemiah 10-13, Malachi 3.10). Jesus urges us to not lay up treasures upon this earth but treasures in heaven (Mt. 6.19-21).
When we look at the Tabernacle/Temple of the Jewish tradition, we can begin to grasp how Jesus fulfilled not only the office of High Priest but every component of worship. Every detail in Scripture is essential to our understanding of our faith heritage. May God bless you with greater understanding of the importance of every detail of His Word. Join me on this journey of living every day in light of the God’s sacred text!