How Hebrews Helps Us Understand the Bible

When we read the Book of Hebrews, the entire narrative of Scripture starts to fall into place.

How Hebrews Helps Us Understand the Bible

This week in our daily devotional, we're looking at the Book of Hebrews. In this latest podcast conversation with David Hartkopf, we discuss how this book helps us understand creation. Next week, I'm having Hebrews scholar Gareth Cockerill on to answer any questions those in our audience might have about this book.

So what is Hebrews all about and why should it matter to Monday Christians?

Aside from the obvious hint in the book’s name, the numerous references to the Levitical priesthood and Jewish sacrifices and no address to Gentiles indicate this book was written to a community of Hebrews. Both believers and unbelievers would likely read the words of this letter. As for the exact location of those receiving this letter, the recipients could have been in various places. This includes Palestine, Italy, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece. Also, it is apparent they were suffering (12:4–11) and may have been facing another round of persecution that would require them to give their lives (11:35–38).

Hebrews 1:1-2 says,

1 “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.”

The opening verse of this book reflects the miraculous reality of the existence of the Old Testament. Over the course of possibly 1,800 years (from Job to Nehemiah), 39 books were composed by dozens of different authors who wrote under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit. These writings included visions, parables, and symbols, written in both prose and poetry. And through them all, we see the consistent theme of God redeeming his people who fall into sin.

Initially, God spoke freely to the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. But when humanity sinned, connection with God was broken. Following that time, God would only speak specifically to different people like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. As we’ll soon discover in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, God instituted a priesthood structure for his chosen people. Up until the time of Jesus’ arrival, the High Priest of the Israelite people would enter behind a massive veil into what was called the Holy of Hollies. There, as is demonstrated with Zechariah, the uncle of Jesus, God would often send an angel to speak to the chosen person. This was extraordinary and was only experienced by a select few individuals in that day.

But when Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two. This symbolized more than a physical tearing of a cloth. It was a bold declaration that even the most common of people could now enter into the presence of God and commune with him. Before, people had to go to the physical high priest to hear a message from God. But now, Jesus has become the perfect High Priest, and the most common of people can enter into his presence.

When the unknown author of Hebrews says, “in these last days,” it should be noted that the Jews of that time understood the “last days” to refer to the time when the Messiah would come. This makes this verse so powerful. The author is telling this small house group of Jewish people the earth-shattering news that the hopes of the Jewish nation were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Not only that, but Jesus is the “heir of all things.” By this, everything in this world will come under the control of Christ. Christ is our creator (Col. 1:16), and everything in this world—time, space, and matter—came into existence by his hand.

Yes, God used to speak to humanity in a different way, but now that Christ has come, everything has changed. Commentator Gareth Cockerill writes, “All earlier revelation has looked forward to what God has now revealed!”[1]

Without understanding this, it’s tough to grasp the full weight of God’s Word as written in the First Testament.

Gareth Cockerill writes, “The book of Hebrews was written to a house church of people from a Jewish background who were facing pressure to identify with the larger Jewish community by participating in various ritual observances.”[2]

As you’ll see in the remaining chapters of Hebrews, the author systematically shows how Jesus is not only the fulfillment of all that was said in the First Testament but that he is a better option. Because of Jesus, we have proximity to God. In John 16:7, Jesus taught his disciples that he would send a “Counselor” when he left this earth. And this Counselor was the Holy Spirit.

As Scripture tells us, the Holy Spirit:

  • Reveals the Father
  • Empowers us to be like Jesus
  • Indwells us with his Spirit
  • Strengthens our spirits to overcome sin
  • Enables us to talk to God
  • Equips us to serve others with love in unity
  • Assures us of God’s work in our lives

Today, every believer has direct access to God because of what Christ has done. You don’t have to go through your pastor, priest, or spiritual advisor. You can communicate directly with the creator of this universe. Life begins to fall into place only as you understand the power of this reality.

This is why we're looking at Hebrews, and I hope you'll join us on our journey!

*Unless you specify otherwise, comments and questions you ask may be featured in upcoming podcast episodes.

[1] Cockerill, Gareth L.. Hebrews: A Commentary for Bible Students (Wesleyan Bible Study Commentary) . Wesleyan Publishing House. Kindle Edition. Location 770.

[2] Cockerill, Gareth L.. Hebrews: A Commentary for Bible Students (Wesleyan Bible Study Commentary) . Wesleyan Publishing House. Kindle Edition. Location 419.