The Book of Hebrews #1 chapter 1:1-2
The Book of Hebrews
An Introduction to Hebrews
Hebrews 1:1-2
 
The book of Hebrews will be our study for the next several weeks.  The theme of the book is the Preeminence of Jesus Christ.  Tonight I want to look at the first three verses and give you an introduction to the book.  But before we look at those verses, I want to give you a few thoughts as a foundation for what we're going to study.
 
I think it is interesting that we don’t know who the human author of the book is.  Some say it was Apollos, some say Peter, some say Paul; there are a lot of suggestions and the truth is, nobody knows.  However, beyond the human authorship, we know that it was written by the Holy Spirit to a suffering, persecuted group of Jews somewhere outside of Israel.
 
We don’t know the exact location of these Hebrews.  We do know that wherever they were, they had been evangelized fairly early after Christ had lived and died and risen again. And by the time the letter to the Hebrews is written, there already exists a little local congregation of believers.
 
And the indication is there were no Gentiles in the church.  If there were, there were no relational problems between the Gentiles and Jews.  At least it isn’t mentioned in the letter. 
 
So here is this little group of persecuted, suffering, isolated group of primarily Jewish believers.  Now unlike Jerusalem Jews or Galilee Jews, they had never met Jesus. Everything they knew about him they got secondhand. They really didn't even have any New Testament writings as such, for it hadn't been put together.
 
So whatever they knew, they knew directly from the mouths of whoever had led them to the Lord.  So now God sees to it that there are going to receive some hands on, in your possessions direct instruction from one of His servants. 
 
And the letter they receive just focuses on Jesus and His pre-eminence over any and everything else that might look to through the lens of Judaism. 
 
Now there is one other thing I want to underline in your mind or else you will misunderstand or misinterpret the book, and a lot of people do, especially regarding chapter 6. 
 
It is critical that we understand there are three primary groups of people addressed in the content of the book.  And if you don’t keep those three separate and distinct, it becomes very confusing. 
 
The whole thing is not exclusively written to Christians or the lost because if it is, we have some monstrous problems in the content of the letter. 
So we have to keep in mind that it is written to a combination and they divide very neatly and clearly into three categories. 
 
First, there were Hebrew Christians. This was a legitimate congregation of true believers in Jesus Christ. They had come out of Judaism. They had been founded and raised in it. They were born again. They had received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They had become followers of Jesus Christ and naturally the result of that was a tremendous hostility from their own people. Ostracized from their family, persecuted and suffering, they are treated as though they never lived. 
 
And unfortunately, even though they had been Christians long enough to expect that kind of treatment, they didn’t.  They should have been mature, they weren't. They had no confidence. And they were in danger of going back into the patterns of Judaism.
 
So the Holy Spirit directs this letter to them to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ.  They didn’t need to go back to all the bondage of the Old Covenant. 
 
The second group was Hebrew non-Christians who are intellectually convinced of the reality of Jesus, but not committed to it in real life.  Do you know someone like that?  People who know the truth and have all the answers and go through the motions, but they are not really of the faith. 
 
There was a group of those in this church and in the letter, they are encouraged by the Holy Spirit to go all the way to saving faith and the encouragement will often come in the form of a warning.  
 
The third group is Hebrew non-Christians who weren't convinced Jesus was the Messiah.  And I guess we could just identify that group as the nation of Israel in general. 
 
And the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave them without a word.  Not only does He speak to the Christians and strengthen their faith, and those who are close but not there yet to encourage them to go all the way, He also speaks to those who haven't believed at all to provide them with enough information to see that Jesus is who He claimed to be.
 
So there are these three groups addressed by the writing, and the key to interpreting Hebrews is to understand to which group he is speaking. And if we don't understand that then we mess everything up because we confuse the issue.  It’s rather easy to see how misunderstood the message becomes if we are reading what is said to a lost person and applying it to a Christian, or vice-versa.
 
We must understand to whom the author speaks. So all the way through as we study the book of Hebrews we will be relating each text to particular groups.
 
Now I will tell you, the primary writing and the flow of the book is to believers. But periodically there are warnings to these unbelieving groups. And in a masterful, in a way that could only be done by a divine mind, the Holy Spirit pulls these three groups together and meets everyone of their particular needs and their particular questions and the particular issue in the very same letter.
 
In the book of Hebrews there is confidence and assurance to the Christian. In the book of Hebrews there is warning to the intellectually convinced that He must receive Christ or his knowledge will send him to hell.  And finally there is a convincing presentation to the unbelieving Jew who is not intellectually convinced that he should believe in Jesus Christ.
 
And to every group the primary focus is Jesus Christ, and in particular, the superiority or the preeminence of Christ. He is better than anything they've got. That He is better than anything that is. He's better than the Old Testament persons. He's better than the Old Testament institutions. He's better than the Old Testament rituals. He's better than the Old Testament sacrifices. He's better than everything.
 
In fact, if you were to outline the book, it begins with the superiority of Christ to everyone and everything. And that's a summary of the whole book found in the first three verses.
 
We then see His superiority to angels, to Moses, to Joshua, to Aaron and the priesthood, the old covenant and sacrifices.  
 
In fact, that little synopsis gives you the primary thrust of the book.  To a Jew who depended upon sacrifices by a priest for forgiveness of sin, Hebrews says, all you need is Jesus.  What had been performed over and over and over again for hundreds of years found its ultimate fulfillment in Him.  He’s superior because He is the perfect priest offering the perfect sacrifice of Himself
 
And this is the message of the book of Hebrews to the Jewish people. To the believer he's saying have confidence in it. To the intellectually convinced, receive it. You're right on the borderline.  Don’t miss Jesus when you are so close.  And to the unbeliever he says, “Take a good look at Jesus and see how much better He is than what you have.”
 
So that’s some foundational info to help us along the way before we get into the meat of the text.  And notice the writer doesn't fool around getting to his point. He immediately hits it in the first chapter and the first verse.
 
Verses 1-3
 
Now in a nutshell, we are told that Christ is superior to everyone and everything. And for our study tonight, I want you to see three features here.
 
First of all,
 
1. The Preparation for Christ
 
“by the prophets"
 
Now that gives us an indication of how God wrote the Old Testament. And the Old Testament has its purpose to prepare for the coming of Christ, whether in prophecy or type or principle or commandment or whatever, it was preparation for Christ. And the truth is, no matter how smart we get, if we're ever going to know anything about God, He has to tell us.
 
So what do we find in verse 1?  "God spoke."
 
We would never know God if He didn't speak. It’s as if man lives in a little box of time and space.  All around us is the supernatural, and deep inside we know it’s out there but we know nothing about it. 
 
So we come up with all kinds of ways to explain what’s out there that we know nothing about.  Primarily we call our efforts either science or religion.  And every so often someone will poke a hole in the box and look out trying to figure out what’s out there. 
 
But if it is real science or true religion, without exception what we discover is God.  Anything else is a lie or a fabrication.  Because the only thing we can know is what God tells us.  So we have a great thought when we read, “God spoke”.
 
How did He do it?  First God spoke through the words of the Old Testament. Human men were energized by God to put down exactly what God wanted us to have. 
 
God is not speechless. God is not detached. God is not uninvolved. The true and living God speaks.
 
And we are told that God, at various times and in different ways, spoke in the Old Testament. That means in many different books and in many different manners.
 
We have thirty nine different books in the Old Testament and in them we have every kind of revelation from God.  Sometimes He spoke in a vision or a through a parable. Sometimes it was through a type or symbol.  Sometimes it was in an audible voice.
Some of the Old Testament is history. Some of it is poetry.  Some of it is law. Some of it is prophecy. But it is all God speaking. It came over 1,500 years by 40 plus writers, all in different bits and pieces. Each one with an element of truth and it began to build. It was God speaking.  And as the verse continues, that happened back in the past.  He spoke to our ancestors through prophets. 
 
That is the preparation for Christ.  
 
Secondly we have
 
2. The Presentation of Christ
 
verse 2
 
God who used to speak in many ways, in many forms, to many people has finally spoken in one way through one individual, Jesus Christ.
 
Obviously that is a reference to the message of the New Testament.  The whole New Testament is centered around Christ. The gospels give His story and the Epistles all comment on it and the revelation tells where it’s going. It's all Christ from beginning to end.  So in the Old Testament, we had bits and pieces.  Now we have the whole truth.  We had a partial revelation that was unfolding.  In Jesus we have the full revelation.  That was in “times past”, now we are in the “last days”.   
 
Now there are several ways to interpret that. He could be saying in the last days of revelation. He could be saying that this is the final revelation, as in the last revelation.
 
But better than that, I think He is making a messianic reference here, because the phrase "the last days," to the Jew was very, very familiar. And since He's writing to Jews, we will take it in that context.
 
Whenever the Jews saw the phrase last days, He immediately had messianic thoughts, because the promise was that in the last days Messiah would come. In the latter days Messiah would come. And so He is saying in those promised last days when Messiah came Jesus was that Messiah and He spoke the final revelation of God.
 
God's final revelation was made in one greater than the prophets, Jesus Christ. All the Old Testament came in pieces. To Noah was revealed the quarter of the world from which Messiah would come.
 
To Abraham, the nation of Messiah. To Jacob, the tribe of Messiah. To David and Isaiah, the family of Messiah. To Micah, the town where He born. To Daniel, the time when He'd be born. To Malachi, the forerunner who would come before him. To Jonah, his resurrection was typified and everyone of those pieces and bits come together. But in Jesus Christ, everything was whole in total. And the revelation was full and complete.  God has fully expressed Himself in Christ.
 
I think we'll stop here and next time we'll see verses 2 and 3 where we find the preeminence of Christ.
 
That’s a big subject and I don’t want to hurry so we’ll stop here and pick it up next week. 
 
Let’s pray.
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