One Book...Rightly Divided
By Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
(Section III of III)
By Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
(Section III of III)
The Message of Hebrews
Obviously, a book that contains their name would interest the Hebrews the most. The book of Hebrews begins by referring to “the fathers” and “the prophets” (of the nation of Israel). When reading the book of Hebrews, a person living in the present Church Age should initially liken it to reading mail that is not directly addressed to him. You can certainly learn from reading someone else’s mail, but you should not attempt to treat the message it contains as though it were all expressly intended for you.
Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...
One might wonder why the message of Hebrews is addressed to the nation of Israel when the previous thirteen epistles emphasize the Gentiles (and the Church). Shortly after the cross, the nation of Israel was cast away (Romans 11:15) and broken off (Romans 11:17) because of unbelief. The Gentiles were grafted in, thus ending God’s dealings almost exclusively with and through the Jews. After the Church Age following the Rapture, the Hebrews (Jews) will be God’s tool to once again bring His message to the world.
The Jews did not accept their Messiah at His first coming. Soon after the Rapture of the Church, God will again be dealing with and through the Hebrew (Deuteronomy 15:12) nation of Israel (thus the assumption for God’s titling the first of future New Testament prophecy books “Hebrews” and calling out the 144,000 Hebrews to preach during the Tribulation).Today, God has chosen to use the Gentile nations rather than Israel, expressing His command and guidance to the Gentiles primarily through the Apostle Paul’s books that contain his name as the first word.
Many people including Bible publishers believe that Paul authored the book of Hebrews because of the mentioning of bonds (Hebrews 10:34), Timothy (Hebrews 13:23) being in the body (Hebrews 13:3) and Italy (Hebrews 13:24). But the evidence against Pauline authorship of Hebrews is demonstrably stronger. For instance, the statement about being in the body appears to be a reference to a physical body rather than a reference to the Body of Christ. See Hebrews 13:11 reference to the “bodies of those beasts” and the physical body referenced in Hebrews 10:5.
The book of Hebrews is distinctively unique from the other New Testament books. Attempting to equate the distinctive features of Hebrews with those epistles which are unquestionably authored by the Apostle Paul is an exercise in futility. Paul points to his salutation (the opening of each of his letters) as a characteristic or token of every one of his epistles, something not found in the book of Hebrews.
II Thessalonians 3:17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
The thirteen epistles which are indisputably attributed to Paul each contain his peculiar salutation in the very first verse. However, Hebrews does not have Paul’s customary salutation (or greeting) of his name as the first word of this epistle. Consider the five following additional points which support Hebrews authorship by someone other than Paul.
1. Paul claims supernatural revelation (Ephesians 3:3), whilethe writer of Hebrews emphasizes how his message was confirmed to him by others.
Hebrews 2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Paul wrote in Galatians that the gospel that he preached was “not after man…For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul goes on to point out that he did not immediately go up to Jerusalem after his conversion to meet with the other apostles. Instead he writes that he “conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). When he finally did meet with the other apostles in Jerusalem he boldly proclaims that “in conference (they) added nothing to me” (Galatians 2:6). This hardly sounds like the writer of Hebrews whose message was confirmed by him.
2. When Paul describes the last days, he refers to it a future time (II Timothy 3:1—”in the last days…” certain things will transpire). The writer of Hebrews seems to have been given visions of the future much like John in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
The Apostle John wrote Revelation as an eyewitness of the events. The writer of Hebrews seems also to have been spiritually present in “these” last days as he penned his epistle.
Hebrews 1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3. The writer of Hebrews says that he is speaking about the world to come. “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak (Hebrews 2:5). This phrase refers to the Millennium (the 1,000-year reign of Christ) as can be seen from the following verses:
Matthew 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Mark 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Luke 18:30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
4. The references to “the world to come” are not the only direct correlation to the Gospel books. Matthew chapter 24 is one of the most obvious prophecies concerning Israel and the Great Tribulation. The context refers to the Gospel of the Kingdom, the abomination of desolation, Judaea fleeing into the mountains, and the Sabbath day, and culminates in the Great Tribulation.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Another of the distinct characteristics of the Tribulation is the need to endure to the end. Getting weary in well doing will have unimaginable consequences during that future time. There is no hope for those that take the Mark of the Beast, thus failing to endure to the end (of the Tribulation).
Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
The believers in the Tribulation will face intense persecution—unlike any during any other period in the history of the world. Matthew says that it will be a requirement for them to endure to the end. At no time can they become weary or impatient and take the Mark of the Beast. This doctrine sounds very similar to that found in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Here, the writer of Hebrews offers no hope of renewal. This hardly sounds like the Apostle Paul who wrote that no matter how great the offense, grace is greater than all of our sin.
Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
5. Another interesting observation is the emphasis in Hebrews placed on entering into the Lord’s millennial rest as found at the end of chapter 3 and the majority of chapter 4.
Hebrews 4:1 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....4 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....11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
The reader should study the entire context of these two chapters. The writer of Hebrews is warning the reader not to come short of entering into his rest. The rest is clearly associated with the seventh day of creation. Combining this truth with II Peter 3:8 (one day is with the Lord as a thousand years), the context clearly appears to be the seventh millennium.
Also take note that the first verse in Hebrews Chapter 4 encourages the reader to fear his relationship with God; whereas, the Church Age saint is never told to fear in this same context. In fact, he is told that his adoption means that he has not “received the spirit of bondage again to fear” (Romans 8:15). Paul also tells Timothy that Christians have been given the spirit of power, love and sound mind and not the “spirit of fear” (II Timothy 1:7).
One must rightly divide the scriptures or be forever confused. To further drive home the point, take note that the Apostle Paul never refers to the “rest,” nor does he refer to Israel’s entering into the Kingdom promised FROM the foundation of the world.
Hebrews 4:3 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: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Israel’s promise is in the earth (the land promise) “from the foundation” of the world. The Church’s blessings are said to be “before the foundation” of the world.
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
The examples abound. Some preachers would correctly point out that Hebrews refers to the Church in chapters 2 and 12. For this reason, they assume that this proves that the entire book applies directly to the Church Age. However, neither of these usages refers to Church in the sense of the Body of Christ, removed from the earth at the Rapture. Instead, both of these Hebrews references refer to the congregation of the seed of Jacob and Israel.
Hebrews 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
This verse from Hebrews is an Old Testament quotation found originally in Psalm chapter 22. The direct parallel of Hebrews 2:12 is found in Psalm 22:22. The context of the quotation is briefly provided in verses Psalm 22:23, 27 and 28.
Psalm 22:23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel…27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.
The context is indisputably the Millennium—when the ends of the world shall…turn unto the LORD: and all the nations shall worship before the LORD. This is the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ on the earth—verse 28 says that the kingdom is the LORD’s (Revelation 11:15). This kingdom will be in place when Jesus rules as King of kings in the Millennium (Revelation 19:16). The second reference in Hebrews to church is found in chapter 12. Its context is also Israel when one compares scripture with scripture.
Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
The LORD tells Moses to tell Pharaoh that Israel is the LORD’s firstborn. It is complete spiritually infidelity to make the church of the firstborn refer to the Body of Christ.
Exodus 4:22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
To claim that Hebrews contains Church Age doctrine simply because of these references to “church” would be as wise as stating that the whole Old Testament applies directly to the Church Age because of the reference to the church in the wilderness under Moses.
Acts 7:37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
We need more systematic theology rather than arbitrary misapplication of scripture. Applying these particular passages to the Church Age is analogous to reading another person’s mail. Applying these verses to the Body of Christ rather than the group to whom the mail was primarily intended (the Hebrews) is spiritual infidelity.