This is Part 1 in a 4 part introduction to Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
The Book of Hebrews can be a difficult book to understand in places. Therefore, we want to teach two very important introductory doctrines about Hebrews that might help you understand some of the more difficult passages. It is obvious that there is something very peculiar and special about this epistle, unlike Paul’s thirteen other epistles. The two doctrines are these:
Paul wrote this epistle to Jews – Heb 1:1-2 “spoken unto us.” Hebrews is called “The epistle of Paul the apostle to the Hebrews.” That’s very important to consider. Paul had no reason to single out the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in this epistle to clarify something especially for them in the church age. According to Rom 1:16, he preached the gospel to the Jews first. He always went to the Jews first; but he did not preach a different gospel to them. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles [Gal 2:7-8; Rom 11:13]. He preached the same gospel to both groups.
Paul wrote that in Christ there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles [Gal 3:28] who are in the church of God [1 Cor 10:32]. We who are saved Gentiles have become members of the household of God and are now one new man with saved Jews [Eph 2:12-19]. Peter, at the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15:7-11, stated, “we shall be saved, even as they.” So, there is no need for this epistle to be written as something separate and distinct from the way Paul preached to the Gentiles in his ministry. There is something very unique going on in Hebrews.
Paul wrote to Jews “in these last days” – Heb 1:11-2 – that little clarifying statement “in these last days,” is very important to understanding what’s going on in Hebrews. Paul believed that the return of Jesus was imminent [Titus 2:13].
When you refer back to Rom 9-11, you see something significant in Paul’s ministry to Jews.
- He was especially burdened for Israel [Rom 9:1-5].
- He knew they missed their election because of unbelief in Jesus Christ [Rom 9:7, 9:13, 9:30-33].
- He knew that they were ignorant of God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ [Rom 10:1-4].
- He knew they had been broken off as branches from their olive tree [Rom 11:17-20].
- He knew they were blind, in part, to the truth of the gospel [Rom 11:25].
- Yet he knew that all Israel would be saved after “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” [Rom 11:25-27]. This places the timeframe for the salvation of all Israel at the end of the Tribulation at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, “the Deliverer,” who comes out of Sion.
So, Paul wrote Hebrews to Jews in the Tribulation, “in these last days,” when God starts dealing with Israel as a nation again. In Rev 2-3, notice the references to synagogues, to those who say they are Jews and are not, to those who say they are apostles and are not. Notice the tribes who are marked in Rev 7. Notice the woman of Rev 12 who is Israel. It’s following this time that Israel turns to the Deliverer, their blindness lifts [2 Cor 3:14-16], God fulfills the new covenant of Jer 31:31-34 with Israel, and the natural branches are grafted in to their olive tree again [Rom 11:24].
By the time of the Tribualtion, the rapture will have already taken place and, therefore, the church, the body of Christ is gone. Hence, people won’t be baptized into the body of Christ during the Tribulation; the body is gone. And, thus, saints won’t have the eternal security that we have as members of Christ’s body today. This is very important to remember as you study Hebrews.
Conclusion: we will continue this study in another broadcast where we will deal with the implications of Israel’s future salvation. Suffice it to say that two major introductory doctrines to this epistle are that it is addressed to Jews only and it deals with the last days, which are still out beyond where we are today.