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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 12: The Transcendent Christ
“On many occasions and in many ways in past times Yahweh had spoken to the fathers by the prophets. At the end of these days He speaks to us by a Son...” Writing this, Paul had opened this epistle to the Hebrews in a very poetic fashion, and we are not sure that our translation has given the overall poetic quality of the entire epistle sufficient merit. Then with this statement, throughout his epistle Paul had focused on the prophecies concerning that Son in the just-as-poetic Psalms, employing the words of David which concerned both a priesthood and a relationship between God and man that were not a part of the active religious paradigm at the time of David himself.
Doing this, Paul had demonstrated the fact that as he wrote these words, the time for the Levitical priesthood had come to pass, as the children of God have a new priesthood in Yahshua Christ, and that these things were indeed prophesied of by David. And as we had also seen in Paul’s explanation of the prophets, this new priesthood is actually an old priesthood, and therefore it transcends the Levitical priesthood which was destined to be both temporal and temporary from its very foundation. David prophesied of a coming Son who would rule forever under the auspices of an ancient priesthood that was superior even to Abraham, and connected that priesthood to the promise of a new covenant which is therefore superior to the Old Covenant maintained by the Levitical priesthood. Here Paul has finished his exposition of these things in the Psalms, employing also the prophecy of a new covenant found in the writings of Jeremiah, and now he is about to offer his final conclusion.
But before we discuss Paul’s conclusion, perhaps it is fitting to discuss some aspects of the overall Biblical paradigm of the relationship between God and the Adamic man, which Paul has also alluded to in chapter 4 of this epistle. We have discussed some of this in our previous presentations here, especially as we described the significance of the cherubim in Scripture, but it is fitting to do so again at this specific point because of its relevancy to Paul’s conclusion.
There is much debate in Christianity concerning the existence of the spirit after death, the nature of man in the grave in relation to the promises of resurrection, the concepts of heaven and hell and the implications which these things have on what we may believe as Christians. As we shall see here in the words of Paul of Tarsus, those who are in Christ should not have such concerns, but rather, they should be confident in the gift of eternal life – if indeed they are among the children of God in the first place.
But in our opinion, much of the confusion surrounding these things stems from a single issue: that men fail to recognize that the New Covenant paradigm of life and death is very much different than the Old Covenant paradigm. We will discuss that briefly here, and illustrate the points which Paul touches on in this very epistle.
In the Garden of Eden, the Adamic man had communion with God. This is illustrated in a parable in Genesis 3:8, where Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day”, and foolishly thought that they could hide themselves. When their sin was discovered, a greater chain of events was precipitated, and in their punishment “23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
This is a digression, however we shall mention that we have previously explained that the cherubim were placed on the east of the Garden because, allegorically speaking, that is where the sun rises. It is not a coincidence, that the English words for sun, as the light of the world, and son as the male born of man, are practically the same. An illustration of such wordplay in English, but not in Greek, is found in Matthew 5:45, where we read “that you may be sons of your Father who is in the heavens, because His sun rises upon evil and good.” Another is found in Malachi chapter 4 where the Word of Yahweh says: “2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Yahshua Christ, the light of the world, represents both the Sun and the Son of righteousness. ancient pagan kings from many Adamic nations believed themselves to be the sun on earth, which we see in the reference to the king of Babylon as Lucifer, or light-bearer, in Isaiah chapter 14. So in Revelation chapter 22 Christ proclaims that “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”
As we have also explained, the cherubim were placed in the temple of Solomon and upon the ark of the covenant to represent the true way to life, which is a keeping of the commandments of God. Ostensibly, Abraham was chosen so that God could ultimately keep his initial promise to the race of Adam, found in that same passage of Genesis where it says that “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”. The cherubim are an allegory, to show man the way of life – and to ensure that man would find it, the path was guarded by God.
The Adamic man is the pinnacle of the Creation of God, as it is described in Genesis chapter 1. The Garden of Eden describes the rest of God, which is the communion which man had with God after God had concluded His creation. This is the true purpose of the Sabbath. As Paul describes in Hebrews chapter 4, the Israelites under Joshua were offered the opportunity of entering into that rest if they would keep the laws and commands of Yahweh their God, and they failed. Yet Paul informs his readers that they have one last opportunity to enter into that rest in another Joshua, this time in Yahshua Christ. In the rest of God in the garden, man was eternal, and so it is with Christ. Thus Paul writes in Romans chapter 5: “14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come…. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ…. 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
So Paul also said in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” But in that chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul is speaking of the resurrection to a physical life, which is only possible through the Adamic spirit, and where there is no Adamic spirit, there is no resurrection as Paul also explains in that chapter that the spirit comes into being through the seed. Again, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, speaking of Yahweh, “6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” With that we may see that for the Adamic man, eternal life is part of the creation of God. So it says in the Wisdom of Solomon, that “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity”, where it may be evident that Christ being the Tree of Life, the original purpose of God for Adamic man is restored in Christ in spite of the sins of man. In the end, God cannot fail.
So it is evident, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, that the spirit must live after the death of the body, or resurrection may not be possible. In fact, in Hebrews 9:27 Paul said “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”, so the spirit must live after the body or such a judgment would not be possible. Paul alludes to that once again in Timothy 5:24 where he says: “Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.”
Therefore we find in chapter 3 of the first epistle of Peter that “17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” Then Peter clarified his intended meaning in chapter 4 of that epistle where he wrote “5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick [those who still alive in the flesh] and the dead [those who have passed from the flesh]. 6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
Therefore when Christ warned His disciples of death and judgment, he warned them that it is better to pass into life maimed, having only one eye or one hand, than to suffer the fiery trials resulting from sin in this life. This warning is recorded in Matthew chapter 5: “29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Here the word for hell is not Hades, but γέεννα (gehenna), a reference to the fires of the ancient pagans in the Valley of Hinnom, who sacrificed their children to their idols. The word γέεννα is a Hellenization of the Hebrew phrase for “land of Hinnom”. It represents the punishments of this world that result from sin, as Jude in his epistle exhorts Christians to pity their brethren, by “pulling them out of the fire” with the Gospel of Christ. The analogy is this: if one’s hand or eye would cause one to sin, it is better to pass into life – as Christian Israel has an assurance of eternal life – with one hand or eye than to suffer the consequences of a sinful life in the flesh. It is unfortunate that the concepts of Hades and γέεννα were confused by the translators of the King James Version, as the confusion has led to many false impressions concerning the Gospel.
Whether we want to believe that Hades, or in Hebrew, Sheol, which has always been popularly perceived as the underworld abode of the spirits of the dead, is real or not is immaterial. The fact is that men, who die once but who are then judged, are assured life in the spirit in Christ. So we would make one assertion, that Hades, or Sheol, are an allegory which represents that alienation of man from God before the cross of Christ, and that alienation no longer exists in Christ. Therefore Paul had written here in Hebrews chapter 10 in reference to the sacrifice of Christ: “12 But this one sacrifice having been offered in perpetuity for errors, has sat down at the right hand of Yahweh, 13 hereafter awaiting until His enemies are placed as a footstool for His feet. 14 With one offering He has perfected for perpetuity those being sanctified.”
Now, as a result of that perpetual sanctification, Paul concludes here in verse 19 of our chapter that:
19 Therefore brethren, having liberty into the entrance of the holy places in the blood of Yahshua 20 by a new and living way through the veil which He has consecrated for us, that is [or, metaphorically, “that is to say”], of His flesh,
The ancient high priests had access to the presence of God once each year through the veil of the temple which separated the inner sanctuary, or “Holy of Holies” where the ark and the mercy seat were kept, in order to make sacrifices for the propitiation of sin. So Paul is saying that in Christ all men, meaning Adamic men, now have access to God through the one sacrifice of Christ, for which Paul makes an allegory of His flesh. The flesh being used as an allegorical veil separating man and God, man now has access to God both apart from and beyond his fleshly being.
In John chapter 14, Christ indirectly professed that He was indeed the same with the Holy Spirit. He had already declared that He was the same with God, where He stated in John chapter 10 that “I and my Father are one” and then in chapter 14 that “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father”. So a little further on in John chapter 14 Christ explains that: “15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Then in the very next statement, in reference to that promised Comforter, He says: “18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” In the original Greek of that passage, the word comfortless is from a Greek word which actually means fatherless. So we see that Christ is the father coming to His people, but the translators obviously also understood that Christ had meant that He was the Comforter promised to come thereafter. Our point is this: that here Christ had professed that His person would be manifest in the Holy Spirit, apart from His physical body. This is the transcendent Christ, and the Christian promise is in the expectation of this same transcendence for the entire Adamic race, for which reason Christians should not be too emotionally attached to this temporary life. Rather, they are exhorted to exhaust this life on behalf of their brethren.
As it is recorded in John chapter 8, Yahshua Christ had said to His adversaries that “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” and again “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” Then later, speaking to His disciples, as it is recorded in John chapter 13 He said “33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.” When inquired of this by Peter, Christ then qualified His statement, where we read: “36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.”
So we may conclude that the enemies of Christ die in sin, ostensibly because they are sin, while the people of God follow Christ after death. This is evident with the announcement of Christ to the thief who recognized Him on the cross, where it was inevitable that they were both about to die, and Christ had said to him – as it is recorded in Luke chapter 23: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Despite all contention, the King James translation of that passage is accurate. So the apostle John had written in chapter 14 of the Revelation, “13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” This promise of rest is the same period of rest which the children of Israel were offered with Joshua on earth, the rest of God described by Paul in Hebrews chapter 4, the allegorical rest which finally comes to the people of God through Christ, where Paul had declared in Hebrews chapter 4 that “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”
This is the lesson of the Old Covenant, that man cannot save himself by his own hands. So the children of Israel were destined to fail to enter into the rest offered by Yahweh if they remained obedient. This was a thousand-year-long lesson, but even Paul had called it a parable, earlier in this epistle to the Hebrews.
So as Christ has “sat at the right hand of God” in heaven, as Paul has so often cited here from the Psalms, likewise also Christians dying pass into life in that same manner. Paul had written in Romans chapter 6 that: “11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul also explained to the Philippians that he would rather live on earth, remaining in the flesh so that he could continue to assist them, in spite of the fact that he himself would be better off dead, whereby he would be with God. This he said in Philippians chapter 1 where he wrote [again from the King James Version]: “21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Paul wrote similarly in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 where he said: “6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
As a digression, it is often evident in Scripture and prophecy, that God speaks to man in terms that men understand in their own cultural context. The book of Jonah is a perfect example, where the account elucidates a use of symbols which would have been familiar to the pagan Assyrians. Their worship of Semiramis (or Derceto, or Atargatis) includes a legend concerning doves and fish. Jonah, a Hebrew word which means dove, had come to the Assyrians out of a fish. Once this is understood, the story of Jonah is given a much greater depth of meaning.
Likewise, the belief in the continued life of man after death in an underworld abode of the dead is found amongst the myths of practically all of the earliest branches of our Adamic race. The Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians all had tales of an Underworld, and even fancied the ability of men to visit with the dead. So Greeks such as Homer portrayed Odysseus visiting and communicating with the dead in Hades, and Euripides wrote a tale of Alcestis, where she was rescued from Hades by Heracles. The spirit of Achilles was said to have later appeared to the heroes of Troy. Certain of the Greeks were imagined to have escaped such a fate in Hades, and instead were imagined to have communed with the gods at Olympus or in the Isles of the Blest, much in the manner of an Enoch or an Elijah. The pagan Germanic tribes had similar myths of an afterlife in Niflheim, the abode of darkness, or perhaps in Valhalla, the hall of the slain. While we do not accept the literal value of the ancient pagan tales, they all reflect older and common religious beliefs which correlate with the truths of our Scriptures.
So we should understand these early pagan myths to be corruptions of the truths represented in our Scriptures. But the pagans of the Mesopotamian Underworld, or of Hades or Niflheim were ignorant of the ultimate hope of our race in Christ even if their poetry contains occasional Messianic allusions. Therefore outsiders to our Christian understanding who are hostile to it in effect deny all of the oldest myths of our race even if their only intent is to deny Christianity. The Christian creed is certainly not alien to the White race. There is either a better promise in our Creation, or our creation has no purpose, since we have certainly have never learned from the mistakes of our fathers.
Speaking of this better promise, Paul continues to describe Christ:
21 and a great priest over the household of Yahweh, 22 we should approach with a true heart, in certainty of faith having purified the hearts from a wicked conscience, and having washed the body in pure water
So as Christians have “liberty into the entrance of the holy places”, they also have Christ as a “great priest over the household of Yahweh”. This household is the same house of Israel promised the new covenant in Christ, as Paul described it from the prophet Jeremiah in Hebrews chapter 8. Likewise Paul had written to the reconciled Ephesians, who were Israelites of the ancient dispersions, saying to them “So therefore you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God”, and he further explained in 1 Timothy chapter 3 that “the house of God... is the church of the living God”. In Galatians chapter 6 Paul again mentioned this same household, calling it the “household of the faith”, and that too must be a reference to the scattered children of Israel who are redeemed in Christ, as Paul had told them that the law was their schoolmaster and that Christ came to redeem those who were under the law. Throughout Scripture, only the children of Israel fall into this context, and anyone else is never included. These words expressing the concept of family, house and household do not lose their original meaning from Hebrew to Greek to English. As Yahweh said to the children of Israel in Amos, “you only have I known of all the families of the earth”, all other families are excluded.
Here Paul once again makes a reference to the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ, and then he makes an allusion to baptism. However the baptism of which Paul speaks is an allegory, since no amount of water can cleanse the consciences of men. And in fact, such a belief in water baptism was also a pagan concept. The following few paragraphs are from one of our earliest essays at Christogenea, titled Baptism, In What?:
While there are many examples of “baptism” – ritual cleansing in water – in Greek literature, here I will cite one. In a play, Eumenides, by the fifth-century B.C. Greek poet Aeschylus, his character Orestes says at lines 448-452: “It is the law that he who is defiled by shedding blood shall be debarred all speech until the blood of a suckling victim shall have besprinkled him by the ministrations of one empowered to purify from murder. Long since, at other houses, have I been thus purified both by victims and flowing streams.” (Loeb Library edition of Aeschylus). Here we see that the Greeks believed that one may be cleansed of sin either by baptism (“flowing streams”) or by the blood of sacrifice (compare Heb. 9:13).
The ancient Assyrians and the ancient Egyptians also practiced ritual cleansing, or baptism. The following passages are from Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, J. Pritchard, editor, 1969:
Page 437, from an Akkadian inscription entitled “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”, which dates before 700 B.C., there is an exclamation that reads: “In the Gate of the Purifying Waters I was sprinkled with purifying waters”, which certainly describes a ritual. The exclamation is accompanied by others describing sacrifices and libations and incense-offerings in supplication to gods.
Page 495, from an Egyptian papyrus believed to date to the 12th dynasty, the time of Abraham, from a list of good and bad activities: “plunging into the river – good: it means cleansing from all evils”.
If we as Christians continue to think that we may be cleansed of our sins by water, then we remain like the pagan Greeks, Assyrians and Egyptians. But as it is recorded in John chapter 15, Yahshua Christ had told His disciples that “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” The water is not the cleansing, but rather the water is only an allegory, and the acceptance of the Gospel of Christ leads to that cleansing which Yahweh had promised of the children of Israel, for instance where He said in Jeremiah chapter 33: “7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.”
So just as the pagan nations understood that there was life after death, they had no hope of eternal life in Christ but only understood eternal misery in Hades. And just as the pagan nations thought that they could be cleansed of sin with water, they had no concept of the true cleansing of sin in an acceptance of the Word of God. The water itself does not remove sin any more than the blood of goats and calves, as Paul had explained earlier in this epistle. Here Paul continues with an assurance:
23 we should hold fast the profession of the [א has “our”] expectation without wavering; for He making the promise is trustworthy.
The expectation of which Paul speaks here is that which he had mentioned a few verses earlier where he said to his readers that they have “liberty into the entrance of the holy places in the blood of Yahshua, by a new and living way through the veil”. So we must ask, what holy places would they have access to? Christ did not enter into the inner sanctum of the stone temple, like the Levitical high priests had done. The temple in Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, according to the prophecy of Daniel, the words of Christ Himself, and Paul understood this as well, which is evident from his previous epistle to the Romans (16:20). Therefore by writing this, Paul could not have meant to refer to any earthly “holy places”.
Rather, where Paul said in Hebrews chapter 9 that Christ “by His own blood, entered once for all into the holy places, procuring eternal redemption”, we see that the holy places to which he referred must represent the realm, or plane, of the spirit – which lies beyond the death of the body as it also did for Christ. That is the “holy places” because it is also the abode of Yahweh our God. As we shall see in the opening verses of chapter 11, Paul in his epistles had often written of an unseen realm and the invisible aspects of the creation of God. We should not be so vain as to imagine that what we can see with our fleshly eyes in this world is all that there is in God’s creation.
But more importantly to us at the present time is Paul’s admonition as to what Christians should do because of the trustworthy expectation which they should confidently possess:
24 And we should consider one another, in regard to stimulation of love and of good deeds, 25 not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as is a habit with some, but encouraging, and by so much more as you see the day approaching.
Of course, this is one of the most important aspects of the Gospel teaching, and it was also taught by the other apostles in their epistles. As Christ had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 13: “34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So neither should Christians forsake fellowship with one another, and the example is plainly found in the relationships which Christ and His disciples had among themselves, which is evident in the gospels and epistles. Some of our more traditionally-minded brethren would use this clause to insist that we must go to “church” regularly, as the denominational Christians may insist. But many people who go to the denominational churches with regularity have no real fellowship at all, and the gathering of ourselves together far exceeds the otherwise well-intended weekly assembly.
In his first epistle to the Corinthians, in chapter 11 where he was speaking of their assemblies, Paul had told the Corinthians that “20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.” Then he asked them “have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?” Then a little further on he said “26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” And a little further on from there he said “33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.” Where Paul then says “34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home”, he speaks in regard to those who cannot wait, but not in regard to those who are needy. Since Paul had told his readers to eat and drink in their houses if anyone had to do without, then where Paul said “26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come”, he was speaking of the bread and wine that Christians eat and drink in their houses every day at every meal, and not just at the occasional or weekly gathering. Communion is what Christians share with their brethren during the course of each day, and as often as they eat and drink they should do so in this manner.
Paul explains some of the purposes of the formal gatherings in chapter 14 of that same epistle, but it is fully evident that Christians should gather at other times as well. For instance, in Acts chapter 20 we read: “7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them...” In Paul’s time, the first day of the week was the day after the Sabbath. This does not describe the formal gathering, but the disciples lived as a communal family wherever they happened to be, as Christians should still do today whenever they have the opportunity. Another mention of such a gathering is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 16, where Paul wrote: “2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him...” The Greeks had no word for week, and the word used was a reference to the Sabbath cycle, the word for Sabbath in the plural. The first day of the Sabbath cycle was the day after the Sabbath, the Sabbath itself being on the seventh day.
While it is not feasible for true Christians to do so on a large scale today, the best example of Christian communion is given in the opening chapters of the Book of Acts, for instance in Acts chapter 2 where we read “44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Then again in Acts chapter 4, “32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” These are not examples of Communism, but of true Christian community, where so long as men are working towards the same objectives for the Body of Christ, then they should share whatever they have with one another in order to achieve those objectives. And as Paul also indicates here, this becomes all the more important as Christians “see the day approaching.”
Paul then admonishes men from sin, on which account it is evident that the commandments of the law still stand:
26 For our doing wrong voluntarily after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no longer for wrongdoing does a sacrifice remain, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and of fervent fire destined to devour the opposition.
To do wrong voluntarily is to sin purposely. Once obtaining the knowledge of the truth, if a man sins purposely he exhibits himself to be of the opposition, since as Christ Himself had said, the tree is known by its fruit. Being of the opposition, which means that one is not truly of the children of God, one’s destiny is in the Lake of Fire, and not with God. Later in this epistle, Paul himself will divide men into two categories: sons and bastards.
However men may certainly sin out of weakness, out of an involuntary submission to the flesh. Therefore the apostle John had written in chapter 2 of his first epistle that “1... these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins...” Those who are not in Christ, those who are not of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” for whom He came, have no propitiation. Paul likewise, in relation to such involuntary sin, writing in Romans chapter 7 had said in part: “14 Indeed we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, being ruined by sin. 15 For that which I perpetrate, I do not recognize; I do not practice that which I wish, rather I do that which I hate. 16 But if I do that which I do not wish, I concede to the law that it is virtuous. 17 Now then, no longer is it I perpetrating it, but the sin dwelling within me. 18 Therefore I know that good does not dwell in me, that is to say, in my flesh: indeed to be willing is present with me, but for me to achieve virtue, no. 19 I do not wish that I practice good; but that I do not wish evil, this I practice. 20 But if that which I do not wish, this I do, no longer is it I perpetrating it, but the sin dwelling in me. 21 I find then the law which wishes me to practice virtue, because evil is present with me. 22 Indeed I rejoice in the law of Yahweh in accordance with the inward man [the spirit dwelling in man]: 23 but I see another law in my members battling against the law of my mind, and leading me captive to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 I am a miserable man! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I am thankful to Yahweh through Yahshua Christ our Prince. So then I myself with the mind indeed serve the law of Yahweh, but in the flesh the law of sin.” So here Paul makes a distinction, that when we sin because we are overcome by the desires of the flesh, we should repent and disown the sin, acknowledging that the law of God is good. But if we continue to sin voluntarily, or willfully as the King James Version has it here, we may expect to share in the fate of the enemies of Christ.
Writing those things in Romans chapter 7, Paul was speaking of lust, and for this same reason the apostle John warns later in the same chapter of his epistle: “15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” The apostle James, in the first chapter of his single epistle, also writes of the sin which is caused by such lust: “13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
This should put the context of Paul’s warnings concerning sin here in perspective: that willful sin emanates from the lustful hearts of men, and here Paul puts such sin into the context of that consideration which Christians should have towards “one another, in regard to stimulation of love and of good deeds.” Examining the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew chapter 25, the sheep are judged to be righteous for what things they had done for other sheep, as the King says “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” However the goats are condemned for what things they had not done for the sheep, as the King says to them “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” It does not really matter how the goats treat the goats. It only matters that the goats cannot recognize the will of God and treat the sheep accordingly. So the sheep have an admonition in Leviticus chapter 19, to “love thy neighbour as thyself”, one’s neighbour being one’s fellow sheep. Continuing to speak in reference to sin, Paul recalls punishment under the law:
28 One who sets aside a law of Moses, without compassion [D inserts “and tears”] by two or three witnesses is put to death.
Paul can only be referring to the capital offenses under the law, as he is citing Deuteronomy chapter 17 where it says “6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” So the law, being unmerciful, Paul compares such punishment to that which those who despise Christ may also expect:
29 How much more severe a punishment do you suppose he who has trampled upon the Son of Yahweh would be accounted worthy?
For our translation of this passage we found it much more natural to separate verse 29 into three shorter questions, dividing the verse at the conjunctions which Paul’s Greek provides, rather than write it as a single long question, as the Nestle-Aland text and the King James Version have it, which most all of the other versions follow.
Here Paul is once again warning these Hebrews not to reject Christ. As he had said in Hebrews chapter 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.”
Many have rejected Christ in ignorance, as the Scripture informs us that Satan has been loosed from the pit so that he may deceive the entire world (Revelation 12:9, 20:8). However to be acquainted with the truth of the Gospel and to reject that is a certain sign of one’s pending destruction. Paul’s questions continue:
And who regarded as common the blood of the covenant in which he was sanctified [A wants “in which he was sanctified”]? And who insulted the Spirit of that favor?
And this for us helps to define blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The King James Version and others have unholy thing rather than common. The Greek word κοινός, according to Liddell & Scott, is “common, shared in common, opposed to ἴδιος [or private]… common to all the people... public, general...” The edition of Strong’s Concordance found at the Bible Hub website, and also included with the Bibleworks software, defines κοινός as “(a) common, shared, (b) Hebraistic use: profane; dirty, unclean, unwashed.” The Hebraistic use is the Old Testament use of the equivalent Hebrew word, or this word κοινός as it is found in the Septuagint. Regarding something as common in this sense refers to something which is defiled because it was treated profanely, or for the common use of something which was intended for holy use. [We have discussed the differences between something common, which can be sanctified, and something which the law considers unclean, which can never be cleansed, in Part 1 of our presentation of Acts chapter 10.]
The blood of the covenant sanctifies the children of Israel according to the Word of God, that He would, as Paul has also informed us here in Hebrews chapter 8, citing Jeremiah chapter 31, “make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah...” and “this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel... I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” As we had written in part while discussing verse 10 of this chapter, in our last presentation, “Sanctification is a separation of something so that it may be devoted to the purposes of God. If anyone is sanctified in the will of God, as it is said in the 40th Psalm that Christ came to do His will, then the only people who can possibly be sanctified in Christ are those same old covenant children of Israel who were promised such sanctification by the will of God expressed in the Old Testament.” There Paul had explained that those being sanctified under the second covenant had also been unfaithful and had transgressed the first covenant.
The blood of the covenant sanctifying the children of Israel, to consider it common is to attempt to include into it those who are not of Israel. Where Christ came “but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, only the descendants of the ancient children of Israel can be included in the new covenant promised to the house of Israel. To do otherwise is to insult the Spirit of that favor. For this very reason Christ Himself had said, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 7: “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Interestingly, even the notes in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece cross-reference this part of Paul’s passage to Matthew 7:6 where we read “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” However in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland New Testament, the cross-reference was removed.
Yahshua Christ had said, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 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. 33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” Here he makes reference to those same corrupt trees which cannot possibly produce good fruit, whereby He said “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven”. Those who would make common the blood of the covenant seek to defile the blood of Christ, which is the blood of Yahweh God Himself, which is also the blood of Adam, on which account Paul continues and says:
30 For we know the saying: “Vengeance is Mine, I will requite [A and the MT interpolate ‘says the Lord’; the text follows P13, P46, א and D],” and again “Yahweh will judge His people.” 31 A fearful thing it is, to fall into the hands of Yahweh, who lives.
Here Paul cites Deuteronomy 32:35, a passage which directly correlates to the people of the other nations, as we see in a broader citation: “31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. 32 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: 33 Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. 34 Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? 35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” Paul is obviously citing these words in the same context in which they appear in the original passage. He cited them in a different context towards the enemies of the people of Christ in Romans chapter 12.
Then where Paul says “Yahweh shall judge His people,” a statement which also appears in Psalm 135:14, he is citing from a passage just a few verses later, at Deuteronomy 32:36: “36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.” So we see that Yahweh shall judge His people and execute vengeance upon His enemies at the time when all else is hopeless for the people themselves. In the passage which follows He is then depicted as if taunting His enemies: “37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.” When the children of Israel respected foreign gods, and had communion with the aliens they were commanded to stay separate from, they made themselves common. God had commanded that they be holy, which is to be separate from those alien peoples. So here, judging His people, Yahweh asks them where are the gods of the heathen. For that Yahweh takes vengeance on His enemies, and He judges His people.
There is only one narrative in Scripture, which is expressed by many different writers of the oracles of Yahweh in many different ways, but they all refer to elements of the same narrative. There is not one message for aliens and one message for Israelites. Rather, there is a Gospel which is consistent both for Israelites of the ancient dispersions, and Israelites who, as we shall see, were still accounted as Hebrews in Paul’s time. So the vengeance of which Paul speaks is that same vengeance which we see in Obadiah, and it is in the context of the same vengeance upon His enemies which Yahweh had promised to execute in Deuteronomy chapter 32. None of the parties have changed. So we read in Obadiah: “15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. 16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.”
So Paul continues to identify the deliverance promised in the Gospel with the punishment of Israel in the Old Testament:
32 Now remember the former days [א has “your former errors”] in which being enlightened you endured a great struggle of sufferings: 33 on the one hand being made a spectacle [D has “being reproached”] with both reproaches and afflictions, and on the other having become partners of those so returning.
The word ἀναστρέφω does not necessarily signify a physical returning, but rather may just as well mean to refer to a repenting, which is a returning to Yahweh. However here, as Paul also indicates in the passage which follows, he is speaking historically. Therefore, speaking about how these Hebrews were “made a spectacle” he is speaking of the Babylonian deportations of Judah, and where he speaks of those returning, he is ostensibly speaking of those who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra.
34 For you also sympathized with the prisoners and you accepted the seizure of your possessions with joy, knowing to have and awaiting a better possession yourselves.
The Majority Text appends the words for “in the heavens” to the end of this verse, where we would write the last clause to read “knowing to have and yourselves awaiting a better possession in the heavens”; the text follows the 3rd century papyri P13 and P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Claromontanus (D) and Coislinianus (H).
There are other variations in the text of this passage which indicate that the copyists were often ignorant of the context of what they were copying. At the beginning of the verse the 3rd century papyrus P46 has “For you also sympathized with the bonds”, however the Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the Majority Text, and therefore the King James Version, have “For you also sympathized with my bonds”. Our text follows the reading found in the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Claromontanus (D) and Coislinianus (H), which is clearly supported by the context. Paul is clearly not speaking about his own bonds here. But where he says “remember the former days” and “the seizure of your possessions” as his readers are said to have endured great affliction and were made a spectacle of, he is writing of the Babylonian captivity of Judah, when Judah was divorced by Yahweh, suffering the same fate that the kingdom of Israel had suffered at the hands of the Assyrians. So where he says that they “sympathized with the prisoners” he speaks of their brethren who had remained in the captivity. It is clear from the writings of Josephus, who was a young man as Paul was writing his epistles, that the people of Judaea were certainly cognizant of the “upper barbarians”, as Josephus had called the Israelites of the captivity, the innumerable multitude which he described as dwelling beyond the Euphrates. Later on, history refers to them generally as the Germanic peoples, among whom werre the Parthians, Kimmerians and the Scythians.
35 Therefore do not cast away your liberty which has great recompense. 36 For you have need of endurance, that doing the will of Yahweh you recover the promise.
The word Greek word κομίζω having a wide array of uses, an alternate reading of “you recover the promise” here may simply be “you receive the promise”, or even “you are provided the promise”. As we have elucidated earlier in this series of presentations, the people of Judah were divorced just as the children of Israel had been divorced. Therefore the Old Covenant promises were lost, even if the earlier promises to Abraham were unconditional. Therefore the promise of restoration to the Kingdom of God could only be found in obedience to the New Covenant in Christ. So here Paul reminds his readers, that the Old Kingdom was lost for the sake of this promise in Christ, that an everlasting kingdom would be gained. Therefore he told them that they “accepted the seizure of [their] possessions with joy, knowing to have and awaiting a better possession [them]selves.”
He continues with an assurance that the restoration would come quickly, however as we see in other Scriptures, quickly is rather relative to God:
37 Yet a very little while, “He who is coming will arrive, and will not delay. 38 But My just will live by faith, and if any draws back, My soul is not pleased with him.”
The 3rd century papyrus P13, the Codex Freerianus (I) and the Majority Text have “But the just will live by faith”; the Codex Claromontanus (D) and this same passage in Habakkuk in the Septuagint have “But the just will live by My faith”; the text follows P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A) and Coislinianus (H).
Here Paul cites the Septuagint version of Habakkuk chapter 2, which was a parable for the evil world of the time of the prophet. It is a promise of the vengeance of Yahweh upon His enemies, and the first few verses of the chapter read: “1 I will stand upon my watch, and mount upon the rock, and watch to see what he will say by me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. 2 And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision, and that plainly on a tablet, that he that reads it may run. 3 For the vision is yet for a time, and it shall shoot forth at the end, and not in vain: though he should tarry, wait for him; for he will surely come, and will not tarry. 4 If he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him: but the just shall live by my faith.”
Then in the next verses of that passage, it seems to be speaking of those who would build empires at the expense of the people of God where it says: “5 But the arrogant man and the scorner, the boastful man, shall not finish anything; who has enlarged his desire as the grave, and like death he is never satisfied, and he will gather to himself all the nations, and will receive to himself all the peoples. 6 Shall not all these take up a parable against him? and a proverb to tell against him? and they shall say, Woe to him that multiplies to himself the possessions which are not his! how long? and who heavily loads his yoke.” So this too seems to speak of those who would “make common the blood of the covenant”, and Paul is recalling the vengeance which shall come upon them.
39 Now we are not of withdrawal for destruction, but of faith for preservation of life.
Paul had used the term “vessels of destruction” in reference to the children of Esau amongst the Judaeans, in Romans chapter 9. It is fully evident in the histories, in the Old Testament prophecies, and in the New Testament that those who rejected Christ were primarily the Edomites who had adopted Judaism over a hundred years before the birth of Christ. An examination of Scripture informs us that there are only two types of people, wheat and tares, sheep and goats, good fish and bad, vessels of mercy and vessels of destruction. Paul assures his readers that they accepting the Gospel of Christ are not these vessels of destruction.
But by saying “we are not of withdrawal for destruction”, Paul is pleading with his readers not to join themselves to the world, so that they may be punished with the world, but rather to join themselves to Christ, in which they would be staying on the course of their ancient ancestors. As the apostle John had told his readers: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” On account of this the apostle writes: “7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” And that concludes the theme which we began in Paul’s message here, that we love our brethren because we already have an assurance of life everlasting. Not that by dong so that we may somehow earn it, but because it is already ours.
As Paul of Tarsus also said in his first epistle to the Corinthians, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” If God cannot transcend His Creation, and the Adamic man along with Him, then there is no point to the Creation. Just a few verses later he said, “let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” It is difficult to improve on those timeless thoughts.