And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s Come follow Me Insights.
This week, the first half of Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews.
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you feel giddy, you’re so excited with anticipation. That’s how we feel getting ready to jump into this epistle to the Hebrews. It is loaded. It is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. Let me just… Let me begin with a 30,000-foot overview of what the Epistle to the Hebrews is. You’re ready? That’s it. The greater than sign. That’s it. The entire book, what it’s showing is that Jesus Christ is greater than or superior to everything that the recipients of this letter hold near and dear to their hearts, the Hebrews. We don’t know where these people are living specifically. We don’t know exactly when this epistle was written. We don’t even know who specifically wrote it. It says the Epistle of Paul, the Apostle. But you’ll notice it’s one of the longer epistles of all of them contained in the New Testament, and yet it comes after Philemen, which is the shortest Romans being the longest of Paul’s epistles, which tells us that even when the Bible was put together, there was some uncertainty as to, Is this really Paul? Because it doesn’t have some of the fingerprints of Paul, like his introduction at the beginning.
Paul, an apostle, unto you, he doesn’t give his name ever, the author. However, there have been so many theories out there that maybe Luke wrote it, maybe Apollo wrote it, maybe Barnabas or one of his other missionary companions. The reality is the teachings in this epistle, you could probably summarize this book as the summary of all of Paul’s teachings in one book. Instead of these specific putting out fires in Galatia or Corinthians or Thessalonica or any of the different areas that Paul wrote to. This is more of a general epistle pushing back against Judaismizers and everything that they hold so sacred from the Old Testament and from the old law of Moses. This book is showing the supremacy and the Majesty of Jesus Christ as being greater than all of those things.
It turns out the first four verses give that as a very clear thesis statement. Then it turns out the chapters are broken up, identifying really amazing things from the Old Testament. You have angels. Jesus is better than them or superior. You have Moses and Mount Sinai. Jesus is superior. You have priests and Melchizedek. Jesus is superior. You have the whole sacrificial system that was meant to point people to Jesus Christ. He is superior. As you read through these chapters, you’re looking for all the really amazing things. We should not denigrate them from the Old Testament, but ultimately, we will see that Jesus Christ surpasses them all. The opening thesis statement, these first four verses, gives that quite clearly.
That’s right. Now, as we dive in, we’re going to be reading, as we always do in English. The amazing thing here is, and I’m not a Greek expert, Taylor, you know a lot better Greek than I do, but talking to people, my colleagues who are Greek experts, they say, hands down among the 27 books of the New Testament, the epistle to the Hebrews contains the most polished and most poetic and most beautifully-formed Greek of any of the other 26 books in the New Testament. It is just beautifully written, including verse 1. If you look at this example on the screen from greekebible. Com of Hebrews 1:1, you’ll notice that there are a whole series of words that start with the letter Pi or English P, which isn’t an overly used letter in Greek. So whoever’s doing the actual writing, taking the ideas, whether they come from Paul or whether they come from a committee of people, or whether some person on their own taking all of those other writings and creating this book on their own, we don’t know. But whoever it is, they are a master of the Greek language. Using alliteration, look at how many words in verse 1 start with the letter Pi.
That’s highly unusual. They’ve taken time to craft this in a way that will really stick and grab the attention of the audience in the first century.
What’s amazing about this, I remember when I started getting into grad school studying the scriptures professionally, I was really shocked to discover that the words that I loved for their spiritual value actually were some of the most beautiful pieces of literature that have ever been produced across humanity. Tyler has pointed out that one example. It’s like when we build temples. What happens in temples is crucially important for our progress on the path of salvation. But it turns out that you could do those ordinances just about anywhere that we might call secret. We just take the time to make the buildings that encapsulate those ordinances extremely beautiful. You might apply that metaphor here that we have these incredible, beautiful, saving truths that have been encapsulated in a beautiful literary temple structure.
It’s beautiful. Now let’s jump in and watch how many words. Taylor already gave you a sneak peek of certain words that are going to get plugged into this blank. Jesus Christ is greater than blank. Let’s start in verse 1, God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets. You’ll notice God would give his message to your fathers. Again, the audience is the Hebrews. These are not Gentile Christians. These are Jewish Christians. People who love the law of Moses, who love the Old Testament, these are the Hebrews. In times past, God spak unto the fathers by the prophets. You’ve got a Hebrew Bible, an Old Testament Bible in our Old Testament that is filled with prophets, these spokespersons for God. And notice he says, But God in these last days hath spoken to us by His son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Connecting us back to John 1:1–5. Let’s start our list here. The Son is greater than all of your prophets. It doesn’t matter who your favorite prophet or prophets were. Jesus Christ, the son of God, is greater than all of them, including their favorites, Moses and Elijah and Elisha and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
And the list goes on. Look at verse 3, Who being the brightness of his glory, we’re speaking of Jesus Christ, the son who is in the brightness of God, the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, looked just like him, the express image and upholding all things by the word of his power. When he had by himself purged our sins, completed his infinite atonement, he sat down on the right-hand of the Majesty on high. The son, sent by God, completes all this and then returns and sits down on the right-hand of Majesty on high. Interesting side note here. In some of our earliest editions of the Bible, the New Testament, we have three really old versions of these books called Codicees or a Code X. One of them, the Codex Vaticanus, has a little marginal note written next to Hebrews 1:3, and it’s fascinating. You’ve got the text written in the Greek. And by the way, the Greek Bibles, all of those early Codices are written in capital Greek letters, all slammed together with no spacing, no punctuation. You get to the end of a line, then you just pick up in the next line with the next letter, and you just keep going.
No spaces. That’s how they’re all written. Well, out in the margin, in smaller text, you can Google this image, the Codex Vaticanus marginal note. It says in the Greek, fool and knave. Leave the old reading alone. Don’t change it. That’s a peculiar marginal note for some copious to put in the margin of Hebrews 1:3, particularly in referring to those attributes of God the Father, that the son would come down and complete that atonement, and then finish that and go and sit down on the right-hand of Majesty. That’s a verse that is very prone to be reworked, rewritten for an editor or a copier 100 years down the road, 200, 300 years down the road to say, I don’t like this. I’m going to change the wording here to match my doctrine or my theology a little better. It’s fascinating to me that the fact that a manuscript copier, sometime in the early years of the existence of the Bible, would write that marginal note implies that that copier or that manuscript writer has watched other people or other scripts get changed, especially with reference to the Godhead in other settings. And he’s saying, fool and knave, leave this verse alone.
Don’t change it. That’s fascinating. Tied into what Nephi saw regarding the coming forth of the Bible. Now, you’ll notice verse 4, Christ was made so much better than the angels. Now we can add angels to our list of things over here on the right, that Christ is so much better than the angels. But then there’s a plot twist. This book takes you a direction you probably didn’t see coming, As he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. He’s much better than all these angels that you’ve told stories about.
The Jews had a long list of angels that they were super interested in knowing more about and wanting their influence in their lives.
Then he gives this comparison in verse 5, For unto which of the angels said he at any time thou art my son? This day have I begotten thee. Again, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I love that wording there. Whoever’s writing this epistle or whichever group of people is putting this together, they’re calling up this covenantal language of, I will be your God, you will be my people, or I will be your parent, I will be your father, you’ll be my son or my daughter. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of one who makes and keeps covenants with God, and now he’s asking us to make covenants with him. He won’t break it. It’s a beautiful connection.
What’s also really powerful here is that this epistle begins very similarly to how the Gospel of Mark begins, focusing on Jesus’s identity as the son of God, which means the chosen king. Now, when we hear the phrase son of God, we often think about the literal sense, which is true. But in the ancient world, in the Biblical times, the phrase son of God was just another way of saying the legitimate king. If you look at Mark 1, how does that gospel begin? At the baptism of Jesus Christ, he comes up out of the water and he hears this phrase, Thou art my beloved son in whom I’m well-pleased. Hebrews and Mark are both trying to help us see that the King of heaven has his son who will inherit all things, making him greater than anything that we could put on the board.
He carries this idea through the, What did this son do? He came down from heaven and everything that was made, everything that was created was done through that son, which we’ve tied into the beginnings of Mark, we’re tying into the beginnings of John. You can see how this whole epistle, once again, if you only had one book outside of the Gospels to read to make sense of how does this message now move forward among the Jewish group who’s joining the church. In my mind, there’s nothing more all-inclusive than this epistle to the Hebrews to show all these different doctrines. Why? Because it’s glorifying Christ. It’s putting him at the center of every chapter. There’s an invitation to these Hebrews, wherever they may be living, whatever time period they’re in, to not abandon Jesus Christ and to not let go of their covenant with him, knowing that many of them are probably going to face severe persecution for embracing this Christian religion, this Christian faith.
For additional perspective, we love the words of Paul. We have now read all of his epistles. Imagine the Book of Hebrews being what Paul… This is my imagination here. Imagine this is what he would have taught people verbally when he was with them. When he’s now not with them, and we had all those other epistles where he’s trying to correct and fix contention and disorder, it’s lovely that we now have what may have been a common sermon from Paul about how people can understand Jesus Christ. Things that we don’t typically get in other Pauline writings because he’s trying to address specific issues in different wards around the Mediterranean basin who’ve already received this message.
By the way, just as another side note on the Paul point, if you’re Paul and you’re trying to convince Judaismizers of the supremacy of Christ and you want to persuade people and move the needle, per se, you probably don’t want to introduce yourself. You probably want to get somebody who’s really good with the Greek so that people can’t tell it’s you giving the message because Paul isn’t the most popular. He would not have won the congeniality competitions among the Judisers. They don’t exactly love Paul. It’s this idea of finding the best possible way for this message to be received and interpreted appropriately and applied. That could be another reason why he’s not introducing himself. Now, you go to chapter two. Here’s the plot twist that we promised you earlier. It comes here starting in verse 7. Thou, meaning God, madeest him, meaning Christ, a little lower than the angels. Now, that’s not what you would have expected, because Christ is superior to the angels. But God made him a little lower than the angels. Thou crowneth to him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of thy hands. It’s fascinating that Christ, who was greater than the angels, is made a little lower than them.
We would call that doctrine the doctrine of condescence. He gives up all of that godly capacity and those abilities to become like us, who are a little lower than the angels. Now he’s become one of us, which now brings us to verse 9, But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man, for it became him for whom are all things and by whom are all things in bringing many sons onto glory to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. That doctrine is fascinating, and it’s going to come up later on in the epistle as well. Something about suffering that leads to power, that leads to glory, that leads to wisdom, that leads to capacity that you don’t get in any other way. Some of you have lived life with intense pain, be it emotional or mental or physical or spiritual or relational. There is a lot of suffering that goes on. It’s this concept that when we go through those sufferings, the real question is, am I just going through them or am I growing through them?
We’ve talked about that before. Christ shows the perfect example of becoming, he’s made the captain of our salvation perfect through his sufferings. That’s a fascinating connection, doctrineally.
It is one of the hard doctrines is that we all signed up to suffer, to be challenged, to be tested, so that we can grow into him. For anybody who has ever overcome anything, you know what we’re talking about, of the pain and suffering of dealing with the challenge and the joy that comes from being saved or overcoming the challenge and being upgraded and improved through the power of Jesus Christ that you have greater strength. The only way to become like God is to go step by step, grace by grace, overcoming challenges through his power.
Love that. Now look at verse 14. For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself, likewise, took part of the same, meaning flesh and blood, that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death. That is the devil. You can add to the list that Christ is greater than death and hell and the devil. These used to be all-powerful. They used to be the end-all-be-all for many people back in antiquity. Christ came and submitted to both and then burst the bands of both death and hell from within. He’s greater than them. Now, look at verse 15, And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetimes subject to bondage. And then it says, verse 18, For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is also able to sucker them that are tempted. He’s greater than all temptation that the devil can throw at you or him or all of us combined. He’s greater than that.
This doesn’t show up specifically in here, but I want to also add this one. He is greater than all suffering. It’s interesting, the word suffer, the word like a fairy, you might get on a fairy to go from place to place. And suffering means to be carried underneath like you’re drowning. We’ve talked about this before. And the word sucker, means to run a course. He’s always running underneath us no matter how much suffering we are experiencing, no matter how far down we are pulled under or carried under, he is always running underneath us. He is greater than even all of our suffering.
Now we go to chapter 3, which is loaded with additional comparisons here, where for holy brother and partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. But then this epistle points out that whoever built the house has more honor than the house. Nobody walks into a building and says.
This building, whether it be a temple or a house or a commercial building, nobody walks in and says.
This is amazing. I wonder how this house built itself. I wonder how this temple constructed itself. Nobody does that because everybody realizes that the builder is greater than that which got built. This doesn’t apply just to structures. It applies to testimonies. It applies to conversion. It applies to people. He’s comparing Moses as great as you, Hebrews, think Moses is, as much as you love him, the reality is Moses was built up by the master builder, by Christ, Jehovah of the Old Testament. He built him up. So don’t give the glory to the house. Give the glory to the builder. And if Moses were standing here, I don’t think Moses would say, Oh, no, time out. I want the glory. Look at all these amazing things I did. I don’t think there’s a prophet in the history of the Old Testament or the history of the Book of Women or the history of our church who would say, No, I did all of these things. I think every single one of them recognized the instrumentality of their life in the hands of the Master Builder. Anything that got accomplished, anything good that happened, I don’t think they’re going to be patting themselves on back.
I think they’re going to be giving God the glory because Jesus taught us how to do that appropriately.
Think about the extension. Moses was the builder of the tabernacle. Eventually, the temple was built. But God, through Jesus Christ, built the world. Again, as much as we put emphasis on the ancient tabernacle and the sacrificial system, or even the ancient temples or temples today, Jesus is still greater or superior than all of those things.
Let’s take it one step further, verse 5 and 6, But Moses verily was faithfulful in all his house as a servant for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after, but Christ as a son over his own house. So which is greater? A servant or a son in a kingdom, in a castle, in that a setting? No question the son is going to have more power and authority ultimately than the servant. And so he goes on to say, Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith to this day, if you will hear his voice, ‘harden not your hearts, ‘ as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness. Most of you hearing that today in the 21st century, that phrase, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness, you’re like, Whoa, I have no idea what you just said. But ancient Hebrews would have known exactly what was being written because you see, there were all these series of stories that took place in the exodus out of Egypt where the children of Israel kept provoking the Lord. They kept doing things to say, No, we don’t want to be your people.
We don’t want you to be our God. We don’t want to talk to you. They kept provoking, kept provoking, kept provoking. Then comes that fateful day when they come into Kadesh, Barneyah, down in the southern part, leading into the Holy Land. They camp there and send in 12 spies to spy out the land. Those men come back, one from each tribe, and 10 of them say, Yeah, it is a land that flows with milk and honey. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. But we’re not able to take it because there are so many people that are like grasshoppers on the land, and there are giants, and we’re going to be overpowered by them. We can’t take it. Then Joshua and Caleb stepped forward and said, We’ve got the Lord God of Israel on our side. Let’s go. The people picked up stones to kill Joshua and Caleb, and Moses then told them, Drop the rocks. We’re going to go back out into that wilderness, and we’re going to spend the next 39 and a half years wandering to let everybody who’s 20 years old and older die before you get to have your younger generation come in.
You have provoked the Lord too many times. Now, with that understanding, look at verse 8 again. Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness. Don’t do what those people in the Book of numbers did that you’re all very familiar with that story. Don’t say getting into the promised land or getting into heaven or attaining salvation or overcoming these struggles of mortality. It’s too hard. There are too many giants on the land, and there are so many people it’s like grasshoppers, they’re going to consume us. We can’t overcome. Here’s the writer to the Hebrews, Paul and these people who are maybe involved in this saying basically, Don’t make the same mistake. You have the Lord God of Israel on your side, and He is greater than all of the opposition to your moving forward on the covenant path, to your being able to keep those promises and stay loyal within that covenant with God. Look at verse 11. So I swear in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest.
Yeah, this is the conclusion there. If you guys really do not want the free gift of the promised land, fine, you will get exactly what you demanded. I will keep you out and I will let the next generation that has full access to my promises to Abraham, I will let them in and see if they are willing to accept this free gift. By extension now, what we are being told is the gift is still there. We all can enter the promised land. Are we willing to receive it? Or are we going to be complaining all along the way and make such a fuss that God says, All right, sounds like you’re going to be happy you’re out in the wilderness. I will let you stay where you want to be.
Agency is a real thing, and he respects it. Look at the contrast now in verse 12. Take heat, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief. Those 10 spies who gave the evil report in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily while it is called today lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, for we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end, endure to the end. It’s for them. It’s this call to remember. Don’t you remember the amazing things that God did for those people? Bringing them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, those 10 plagues, bringing them through the Red Sea on dry ground, destroying the armies of the Pharaoh. Can’t you see the living God and his capacity? And he’s pleading for these recipients of this letter to grasp onto that. In the context for our purposes here, he set up this greater-than-inequality to say, heaven is greater than the promised land that you’ve spent so much time studying about in the Old Testament and living in that land in the New Testament time periods.
He’s saying that is the ultimate promised land. That was just a place holding a pattern or metaphor for the real promised land, which is heaven. You can’t enter into there without incredible amounts of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in God and his great plan for his children. You notice that he says, verse 15 and 16, While it is said today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, for some, when they had heard, did provoke, how be it not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
Isn’t that sad? Some actually heard the voice of God and still were willing to provoke him and say, Yeah, I actually am not interested in being in relationship with you. I would rather be back in the metaphorical land of apostasy in Egypt.
Now we come full circle back to the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to trust him, have faith in the Lord. Look at verse 18 and 19. And to whom swear he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not. They lacked faith. And because they lacked faith, they wouldn’t do certain things. So, verse 19, we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Joseph Smith and Sidney Regnan taught at the School of Prophets, faith is the great governing principle of all action. You can’t do anything unless you first believe. If you don’t believe that God is going to save you, you’re not going to move forward on that covenant path.
We’ve mentioned before the possibility that the name layman might come from two Hebrew words, la-amon. Amon means faith or trust or belief. La in Semitic languages means not. It means not believing, not faithfulful. What happened to them? Those who chose to be nonbelievers did not get the promised land. They didn’t get all the blessings God had to offer. Even in this name, there’s this invitation to remind ourselves we should avoid this unbelief. We should not be like those in verse 18 that believed not. One of the reasons we have the scriptures is to preserve stories of the consequences of what happens to people when they choose to stay committed to God in a trusting, covenantal relationship versus those who choose not to stay in a trusting, covenantal relationship, to be non-trustworthy, non-faithful, non-loyal.
Isn’t that amazing? Knowing that in the Hebrew context for the Lamanites, isn’t it fascinating that for generations that group didn’t believe? Yet God’s covenants, they’re still part of the House of Israel, they still have access to Abraham’s covenant at any time. Isn’t it beautiful that they’re in Helman? You get this large group of Lamanites who did choose to believe, who did choose to go against the tradition and the unbelief of their fathers and their ancestors and to turn to God? And how quickly and completely the Lord embraced them in that covenant. Samuel being one of that large group of Lamanites who their righteousness exceeded the Nephites at that point. Their belief far exceeded the Nephites at that point. That gives hope that even if you’ve struggled in the past with unbelief or loved ones have struggled with unbelief, don’t give up hope. Don’t give up faith in the Lord. Endure to the end. Stick with Christ. That’s really the message of the epistle of the Hebrews is stay with Christ.
Even Christ is superior to unbelief. That his eternal promise to always allow us to come into his embrace, if we choose, there’s nothing that anybody can do to stop God from offering that loving embrace. You can walk away for a while. You can tell the people to walk away. It doesn’t mean that he has somehow stopped offering his loving arms of mercy. As soon as people say, Actually, I’m done being out in the wilderness. I want to be in that loving embrace, they are immediately welcomed in. That is the promise of the gospel.
That’s powerful. Now we go to chapter 4, and the list continues to grow. Verse 1, Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest. Any of you should seem to come short of it. You’ve got this rest, this promise land that’s given to you. For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them, but the word preached did not prophet them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. The promise is given, but you can receive all kinds of promises, and if you don’t believe in them, then you’re not going to act in such a way to access them. That’s what he’s warning against. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest, all of the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, and God did rest the seventh day from all his works. Here’s this notion of he’s comparing the Old Testament rest or the Old Testament Sabbath observants, and there’s something that is greater than even that to enter into that rest of the Sabbath day.
By the way, there are so many Old Testament references here. If you have the time, actually, I’d encourage you to take the time to pause when you’re reading and go look up some of these references and read them in context. You’ll just see the richness that is packed into this epistle of the Hebrews, and you’ll see these powerful connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament to make this case really clear.
Paul and others, whoever is responsible for this book, they knew the Old Testament extremely well, and they’re using examples and words and phrases and snippets and snatches from the Old Testament peppered throughout this entire epistle. Notice, verse 9 and 10, There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that has entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from His. That’s something that the Old Testament law of Moses would teach very clearly, and they all get this. But look at verse 11, Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Did you catch that? Let us work really hard. Let us labor to be able to enter into that rest. Work so hard like God did for six days to be able to enter into that day of rest. He’s talking to us saying, You have to work at this to enter into the rest that God has provided for us that we look forward to with a promise and we have faith in Him that He’s actually going to give us rest from our worldly cares, from our struggles and the tests of mortality.
But it means we’re going to have to work really hard in the process of getting there. Have you ever gone on a relaxing vacation that was just rejuvenating? It was fantastic. Your family or you as an individual or as a couple, whatever it was, you were able to just unwind and spend some quiet, restful time. Well, the question I have for you is, did you just up and decide one day, let’s go on this vacation, and you did no work to prepare for it? Now, I guess that’s possible, but for most of us, especially when you go on a family vacation, there are untold amounts of work that need to go into the preparing for, planning for, reserving, paying for, packing for, taking care of all of the house and the yard and any pets. There’s incredible amounts of work that go into the process of striving to enter into rest. Now stop and think about that in a Saturday-day perspective. How much work do we put entering into the Sabbath Day rest? So that when the Sabbath day does come, it isn’t a day that is heried or that is filled with anxiety and rushing here and there and everywhere, but it’s a day where we can truly set aside our worldly cares, our work, and we can enter into that rest.
Are there things that we could do better, perhaps on Saturday? Saturday is a special day. It’s a day we get ready for Sunday, that old primary song. What are things we could do so that once the Sabbath comes, it is truly a delight, a day of rest for us that we can sit there at the table of the Lord and enjoy the sacrament and have it be a rejuvenating, regenerating an experience rather than sitting there all panicked because we’ve got other worldly cares that we haven’t set aside. We haven’t done the proper work to be able to fully enter into that rest. It’s just something to consider.
Building on this, I think about some Book of Mormon leaders. We have King Benjamin who labors. He pours out his life working for the people to enter into divine rest. His son, we also have Maziah, who does the same thing. You have Alma in the Book of Mormon, or in his book where he can’t rest. He needs to go out and preach so that he can have eventually divine rest. The opposite of that, smack dab in the middle of Benjamin and Mazarah who work hard so that people can experience divine rest, is you have King Noah. What does he do? He gluts himself on the labor and work of other people. It’s an interesting example of what leaders shouldn’t be doing. The role of a leader is to work hard on behalf of other people. Noah did the opposite. He had people working hard so that he could rest. Guess what Noah’s name means in Hebrew? Rest. He’s this lazy king who’s glutting himself on the labor of others. And so Jesus has already done all the work for us. He’s now asked us to join him in the effort. If we are ever put in any position of responsibility, it is not so we can rest from our labors, but it gives us an opportunity to labor a bit more on behalf of other people in the great work of God to bring people into the divine rest.
All these themes show up here in the Pistor to the Hebrews.
Now that brings us to another item we can throw over on this list, the high priest. Now, that word or those two words are significant to a Hebrew audience. Why? Because it’s the high priest who is the only person who gets to go into the symbolic, metaphorical presence of God in the Holy of Holies, passing through the veil one time every year. It’s on Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement. Only the high priest gets to do that. Look at verse 14, Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the son of God. Let us hold fast our profession. He’s saying, Look, you’re a high priest down in Jerusalem, he’s going into the symbolic presence of God in the Holy of Holies, in the temple. But our high priest, our great high priest, he passed through the rill veil and went into heaven into the literal presence of God. Nothing symbolic or metaphorical about that. Our high priest, Jesus Christ, is greater than your high priest, Hebrews. He’s setting up the inequality yet again. For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin.
Our high priest was tempted on every front, but he never once gave in.
Then this powerful conclusion.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
That’s so different than, say, the ancient Jewish high priests. The ancient Jewish high priests did not create a pathway for all Jewish people to go into the symbolic presence of God. It was simply one man once a year representing everybody. For Jesus, everybody is now allowed in. This is one of the best summaries of that, to move boldly to seek after mercy and grace. I love that strong invitation.
It’s powerful. We’ll pick that up again next week in the second half of Hebrews, where it gets developed even further. This idea, the temple and tabernacle motive of passing through the veil into the presence of God. We’ll hit that really hard in chapter 10. Look at chapter 5 now. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He’s making these gifts and offerings as a sacrifice for sin, but those are symbolic. Those are metaphors. The high priest and all of the sacrifices that he makes, or any of the priests for that matter in the temple, they’re not nearly on the level of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice as our great high priest. So once again, showing the supremacy of what the savior offers compared to what they’re holding on to. Now, verse 4, No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. No man becomes the high priest because he wakes up one morning and says, I’m feeling like I am a high priest, and somehow anoints himself or lays hands on himself or appoints himself to this role as the high priest who has to be a literal descendant of Aaron, preferably father to son in its pedigree.
Notice verse 5, So also Christ glorified not himself to be made in high priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my son. Today have I begotten thee. Jesus didn’t take it upon himself. God gave it to him, just like the savior gave it to Aaron in the Old Testament and his sons after him. As he said, saith also in another place thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
This one’s interesting because who do the Jews like to say is their father? Abraham. Who did Abraham pay tithes to? To Melchizedek, this great high priest. With a double lesson, we’re getting in this epistle that Jesus is greater even than Abraham because Abraham paid to Melchizedek. Melchizedek obviously was greater than Abraham, and Jesus is now better than both of them.
Yeah, so you would add Abraham to our list over here. We would add Melchizedek, and I’m going to use the Hebrew, not the Greek spelling that we have here, Melchizedek. Melchizedek had a priesthood, and Christ is after the order of Melchizedek, not after the order of Aaron and the high priests that come from Aaron. Jesus isn’t in that line. He gets his priesthood the same way Melchizedek got his straight from God as well, and it’s a higher priesthood than the one that you’re using in your sacrifices in the temple. Look at verse 7, Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death and was heard in that he feared. That’s a description of Melchizedek, the King of Salem. We know so little about him from the Bible. The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 107 and a few other sections refer to him and give us a little more detail about him. But he’s the King of Salem or the King of peace. Who’s the ultimate King of peace? The Prince of peace. The King who comes to Salem or Jerusalem.
That’s Jesus Christ. Verse 8, Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. Did you catch it? There it is again. We talked about that back in the opening chapters. That there’s something about suffering that teaches us obedience, that purges our soul, that purifies us, that somehow makes us better. Verse 9, And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Notice obedience in verse 8 and obey him in verse 9. There’s a lot more going on in this epistle than just confess Christ, love the Lord, and you’re good. That’s all you need to do. There’s a lot more happening here with this turning to the Lord in great obedience.
It’s important sometimes in the church we have this disease called perfectionism where we feel like it is our job to perfect ourselves. Then once we’re done, then we’ll say to Jesus, Tada, I’m like you. Can I now be entered into your presence? Being made perfect or complete or whole or oriented towards a larger purpose. This word perfect is actually a very significant word that has lots of expansive meanings far beyond just not having sin anymore in our lives. It’s about achieving our greatest potential, which is only possible when we’re in that covenant of relationship with God.
Which now brings us to our last chapter for today, chapter 6, Therefore. The therefore, it’s this connecting word between what we just got through talking about with this chapter 5, this suffering and this obedience and these sacrifices that we’re making. Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ let us go on unto perfection. Joseph Smith changed that verse with a really critical word, because if you’re not careful, you’ll read this and feel like, Oh, well, when we grow up in the Gospel, then we can leave the principles of the Doctrine of Christ, and we can grow up and move on unto perfection. We can look beyond the mark. There have been many an individual and many a group in the history of our church who have gotten caught up in this seeking for perfection and looking to this idea of I’ve got to be better than good now, and I’ve got to have these higher visions myself, and I’ve got to grow up. I don’t need the little elements that we talk about in gospel doctrine or in primary anymore because those were milk, and I want the strong meat, which is referred to back in chapter 5, verse 13 and 14, the word that Joseph Smith added to verse 1 was the word not.
He would read, Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Let us go on to perfection. This is an inspired change because what this epistle is really saying is we’re now moving on to the next stage of the argument. We’re not leaving them behind permanently because we don’t care about them, but we have laid a foundation. We’re now building upon it. If we could go back and say to the author, If you used the word, we’re going to now build upon the doctrine of Christ, it would have made even more sense. But that is really what’s intended here. Joseph Smith’s inspired update helps us to make sense that we are not walking away from the doctrine of Christ.
One possible way to read this verse, combined with the two verses that came right before it, connected with the therefore, remembering that the chapter breaks and the verse breaks, those are all very late editions. It used to all just be one long run-on sentence with no punctuation and no spaces for that matter. Keep that in mind as you then look at verse 1 through this lens potentially, therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ. That could refer back to the milk. You teach those first principles and ordinances first, the milk of the gospel. Let us go on unto perfection or verse 14, the strong meat. Those doctrines that are maybe a little harder to grasp when you’re in primary or maybe even in seminary to some degree or another, but you continue to grow. The second half of verse 1 says, Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. Those first principles, they’re laying at the foundation. Verse 2, Of the doctrine of baptisms and of the laying on of hands and of resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment. Those are more principles and ordinances of the Gospel.
Then verse 3, And this will we do if God permit, for it is impossible for those who are once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come if they shall fall away to renew them again under repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the son of God afresh and put him to an open shame. This would be wording and phrases that Joseph Smith used and repeated when asked questions about sons of Prodigion and outer darkness. He would refer to Hebrews 6 and use some of this language that these were people who knowingly are crucifying unto themselves the Son of God afresh. Is there any wonder why so many prophets and apostles have told us that sons of Prodigion and those in outer darkness, the number will not be large because you have to be so obviously high and partakers of the heavenly gift and then to turn against him. That it’s just not happening to that degree in our day and age.
I don’t think that the ancient prophets were intending to spook anybody, but they were just describing it. There are a few individuals out there who, knowing better, have turned to ultimate hate and anger of ultimate rejection of Jesus Christ, truly wanting to crucify them again. I think most people who just want to have better lives, that’s not how they feel.
Now we come to this final column of chapter 6. Let’s pick up in verse 12, That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham because he could swear by no greater, he swear by himself. You’ll see that in the Book of Mormon. As the Lord live us or by the throne of God, and there’s nothing more sure than God’s reality. This epistle is even pointing that out that God had nothing bigger to swear by other than himself.
Let’s backto what? Here, that Jesus Christ, he is the ultimate foundation for all answers, which is the foundation for the words swearing, is to say something in truth.
Which, look at what he was promising. Look what he was swearing in truth, saying, verse 14, Surely, blessing, I will bless thee, and multiplying, I will multiply thee. He’s making you a promise by nothing higher than his own name, because there is nothing higher than that. And he’s saying, I will bless you. And the bottom of verse 14 is, And multiplying, I will multiply thee. And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
Now that’s Abraham, which is important because Abraham paid ties to Mowkhezadik. One of the key reasons for all those stories of Abraham, 13 chapters, 26% of the Book of Genesis is dedicated to Abraham and Sarah and their faithfulness, or rather their trust that God was greater than everything and would fulfill these promises of multiplying. It turns out you are a child of Abraham and Sarah. The promises are all the same and you, we, we can endure and also receive the great prize. The invitation is, are we willing to trust God and to be in that trustworthy relationship of covenants?
Now, those covenants that are being talked about more than ever before in general conference. As we see them coming out of the scripture page, probably with better eyes than ever before as a collective group in the church. So let’s pick it up in verse 16. For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. This covenantal promise, this connection, it should end all strife.
It’s also when we make covenants, we make them in the name of Jesus Christ. Think about sacraments. You do all that in the name of Jesus Christ. There was a beautiful, powerful talk by President Nelson in the morning session, April 2023 general conference. He talked about, as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be peacemakers. When we make promises and oath in the name of Jesus Christ, we’re promising we want to strive to be more like him, and he is the ultimate peacemaker and peace creator and peacekeeper. If you want to see where that oath shows up, great chapters to review is Genesis 12:1–3, Genesis 15, where there’s the cutting of the animals and God symbolized by fire, passes between the animals, confirming the Oath that he will fulfill the promises that were made to Abraham, and also definitely Genesis 17. These are all in the background when we’re reading this epistle. For the hearers originally who heard this, they would have known all this stuff. It’s helpful for us to pause every now and then and say, All right, what were those Old Testament references that I didn’t memorize like the Jews 2,000 years ago?
Look at verse 18, That by two immutable things, this idea of it’s immutable. You can’t take it away. It is sure, steadfast, firm, immovable, two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie. We might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. That’s a lot of fancy words in English to teach a really profound attribute of God. He is a God of truth. He cannot lie. He won’t tell us certain things that we need to do or to believe in, only to have us get up to the judgment bar and have him say, Oh, actually, I changed my mind. You can trust him. His word is greater than all of the rest of the world’s assurance that it can give you combined. It’s immutable.
This is super important. It’s worth underlying, circling, highlighting that in all the discussion of covenants, we talk about our obligation to God. It’s deeply important. This is throughout the scriptures, they’re trying to convey God’s eternal, trustworthy nature as a covenant maker and a covenant keeper. Yes, we make covenants and we should keep covenants, but ultimately the greatest person to ever make and keep covenants is God himself. We can learn from his model. If you ever feel at any moment that you’re feeling some struggle in keeping covenants, just remember that God will always keep his covenant. That’s partly what we’re hearing here, among other things, trust God. He will never lie. He cannot break the covenants that he has made to give you access to salvation if you are willing to choose it with your agency.
Now look at how he finishes that concept. Powerful words here in verse 19 and 20, Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which enters into that within the veil. It’s talking about Jesus Christ being an anchor to our soul. Why? Because he is the one who is able to enter into the veil as our high priest and go into the presence of God. The real veil, not the veil in the temple that is simply a symbol or a metaphor for the real thing, that he has entered into all of that that’s within the veil, the heavenly. Verse 20, Wither the forerunner is for us entered even Jesus made in high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. We’ll pick up the Melchizedek priesthood motive at the beginning of next week’s lesson when we start in chapter 7 to finish off this first lesson in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Once again, the message is Jesus Christ is greater than, and you can fill in the blank with anything you want, He is greater than everything this world has, whether it be secular or spiritual in nature, Christ is the fulfillment, the embodiment of all of the good symbols, and he completely overshadows and overpowers all of the negative and the bad stuff that this world has to throw at us.
Ultimately, Jesus Christ himself is greater than my madness, than my imperfection, than my trials, than my sufferings, than my opposition, than my temptations. You can keep going and filling in that blank with all kinds of things. Christ is greater than they all. We leave that with you in the name of he who is greatest of all, Jesus Christ, Amen. Know that you’re loved.
And spread light and goodness.