If Paul is writing to backslidden Christians, all he has to do is to refer them to his other books he has written to the churches, where there is more than enough correction for sins and sin. Take your pick – in the Corinthian church there’s lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting, murmuring and factions within the church. If their sin was drifting away from their love of Jesus, we have the epistle to the Ephesians. If they were going back to weak and beggarly elements, there is the book to the Galatians. If they needed a refresher on imputed righteousness, they had the book of Romans. If they were being beset with gnostic knowledge, they had the book of Colossians. Liars, evil beasts, slow bellies, heresies, sound doctrine? There’s the book of Titus. Fearful of persecution? Encouragement about being caught up to meet the Lord in the air? There’s 1&2 Thessalonians. All these books were written before his epistle to the Hebrews.

Before Christ went to the cross, the Hebrews to which Paul writes, believed Christ was continuously fulfilling the law on their behalf, and they were more than happy attending the temple for animal blood sacrifices to cover their sins. All this was with Christ’s endorsement. Yes, they believed that Christ was their Messiah and that he would eventually establish some sort of earthly kingdom. As to the how, when, where or why, they weren’t quite sure.

But after 30 years, it is now late in the 60’s, around 65-68AD, when Paul writes to them, things hadn’t much changed. In fact, persecution from the Romans was on the increase as Emperor Nero was burning the Christians. They were feeling mightily insecure and unsafe, because although they themselves weren’t Christians, they had a lot of sympathy for them. They liked Paul and the other Christians as they were friendly, nice and welcoming. 

They were starting to question whether Christ was the Messiah at all, and have serious doubts as to his promises. Their hearts began to grow cold to the idea of Christ. In fact, they were becoming like the many who walked away when Jesus was alive on earth        (John 6:66).

They were thinking about going back under Moses, where at least there was security with the animal sacrifices for sin. But they were being warned by Paul that this type of on-going and daily blood atoning for sin had finished. They now had to trust on the shed blood of Christ for eternal security. Should they fully retreat back to trying to fulfil the law themselves and atone for their sins with animal blood, or should they take the ‘big leap of faith’ and become Christians as Paul urges them to do. They were afraid! To become a Christian and be burned at the stake. THIS IS THE THEME OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS.

There are THREE groups mentioned in the book of Hebrews:

God is light (1John 1:5) and when God came to Abraham, the first Hebrew, and his descendants the Hebrews, they were ENLIGHTENED (Heb 6:4). The Hebrews first brought the light of God into a dark world, and every time Aaron lit the lamps in the temple (Exodus 30:8) he was demonstrating this.

When Christ appears on earth as the Messiah, he is the actual physical brightness of God’s glory (Heb 1:3), and is the light of the world (John 19). Like a ‘human spiritual light bulb’, Christ was the illumination (the illuminator or the one who lights up) to the world, such that, “the people which sat in darkness saw a great light...” (Matt 4:16). The disciples of the Messiah were ILLUMINATED (Heb 10:32), being told “Ye are the light of the world” and “…let your light so shine before men…” (Matt5:14,16)

In Hebrews, Paul urges these illuminated Messianic disciples to take another step forward and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and become CHRISTIANS. Like being on 3rd base in a baseball game, Paul urges these unsaved believers in the Messiah to run home into Jesus Christ the Saviour.

Harley Hitchcock

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