“Therefore, brethren, since we have boldness to enter the Holiest of All through the blood of Jesus by the new and living way He has opened for us through the veil of His flesh, and since we have a High Priest who rules over God’s household, let us now approach Him with a sincere heart and in unwavering faith, having our guilty hearts cleansed from sin and our bodies purified with water. Let us steadfastly hold on to our hope, for we can trust His promises. With attentive care let us watch over others, motivating them to practice brotherly love and good deeds. We must not forsake meeting together, as some habitually do, but rather encourage one another more and more as the day of His return approaches.” (paraphrased)
The author has carefully contrasted Jewish priests with our Great High Priest and has proven Him to be the superior Mediator (1:1-8:6). He has extensively compared the Hebrew repetitive sacrifices with Christ’s singular sacrifice (8:7-10:18). This passage (10:19-25) is the central exhortation of the epistle, proving that Jesus has provided Believers unrestricted access to God.
Like the book of Romans, the book of Hebrews is divided into two parts by the topics of doctrine (Rom. 1-8) and duty (Rom. 9-16). Pragmatic action should follow teaching, for both are essential to the formulation of Christian character. The practical portion of Hebrews begins with this pivotal passage and continues to its conclusion (13:25).
The next three verses concern our attitude toward God and our relationship with Him. We are told what we should appreciate and what we should appropriate. Three privileges are now ours to enjoy:
<> The confidence to approach God – through Jesus’ blood (v.19)
<> The Father’s willingness to commune with us – provided through Jesus sacrifice (v. 20)
<> The close friendship with our Great High Priest – who mediates for every Believer (v. 21)
Christians are called “brethren” because Jews and Gentiles are part of the same family (3:1; 3:12; 13:22). “Boldness” is parreesian and means the privilege to fellowship with God, rather than presuming one deserves this honor. Paul assures the Ephesians they have “boldness and access with confidence” by their faith in Christ (Eph. 3:12). The writer transitions his readers from the era of limited access to God to the present era when former prohibitions no longer exist. This verse is intended to bring to mind the high priest’s entrance into the innermost sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. As evidenced earlier, “the holiest” is a typological reference to heaven (9:24). Believers may go directly to God in prayer by virtue of the efficacy of His blood sacrifice.
Familiarity with the Father through Christ is termed a “new sacrificial way,” for it is continuously effectual in power and vitality. “New” (prosphaton) means “recently slain.” It is also “living” because its power means eternal life for Believers. “Way” is hodos –a path. This new road leads to life, as compared to the old path which led to death. Jesus is “the way, the truth and life” (Jn. 14:6). As Christ’s love for His Church is perpetual, so our love for Jesus should never diminish. When the book of Hebrews was written, the Levitical system was ready to vanish away (Heb. 8:13). But two millennia after Jesus’ death, His sacrifice is as “new” and effectual today as it was then.
“Consecrated” (egkainizo) refers to Jesus’ sanction of His “freshly-sacrificed way.” This verse is an unmistakable reference to the torn veil in the temple at the moment of Jesus’ death (Mk. 15:37-38). His flesh is pictured as an entrance rather than a barrier. “I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (Jn. 10:9). The author views the innermost veil as emblematic of Jesus’ life. Only by faith in the blood of Christ can one gain access to the Father.
As the veil was the only “gate” or entrance into the Holiest of All, so Jesus’ death is the only gateway to heaven. When His flesh was torn open, the veil in the temple was torn open. Jehovah is thus revealed to the human race through the death of His Son. When the way into the Holiest of All was exposed, the way to heaven was exposed. The inner veil represented a barrier to God, but the sacrifice of His Son removed it forever.
The word “high” (megan) is translated “great, distinguished, exalted and mighty.” Our Great Priest saves Believers in every dispensation. Christ supervises “the house of God”, which has previously been identified as God’s family (3:6). When Paul writes to the Galatians, he refers to Believers as “the household of faith” (6:10). We remain members of His family as we “hold fast our confident hope firmly to the end.”
In these next three verses, the author exhorts his readers by using the familiar triad of faith, hope, and love. This same trio of virtues is seen in Peter’s letters (I Pet. 1:21-22). It is also found in Pauline literature: “Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (I Thess. 5:8). “Faith, hope, and love now abide” (I Cor. 13:13). This triple exhortation pictures our conduct concerning the Lord, the world, and the Church. Privileges should make us aware of responsibilities. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to:
<> Draw near to God with a true heart of faith (v .22).
<> Hold steadfast our testimony in hope (v .23).
<> Promote good works among Believers in love (v. 24).
Unhindered approach to God is now possible by Christ’s effectual sacrifice. Assured of admission, we can approach the throne of God with perfect confidence (4:16). A heart of sincere faith is necessary in order to enter into God’s throne room, for only the pure in heart will see Him (Mt. 5:8). “True” (alethinos) means genuine, honest, and without ulterior motive or insincerity. We are urged to pursue a life of integrity and faith – free from the apprehension Levitical priests experienced when they approached the Holiest of All. “Wavering” is aklines and means “to lean.” As the writer has indicated, some Jews were in danger of leaning back toward Judaism.
The writer continues His use of the imagery of blood sprinkling and ceremonial cleansing (9:18-22). Ritual ablutions were performed as priests were consecrated (Ex. 40:12). They were required to wash their hands and feet every time they entered the Tabernacle (Ex. 30:19-20). In a spiritual sense, the Corinthians were “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11). Paul wrote to Titus concerning “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (3:5). We are mandated to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (I Cor. 7:1).
All the ablutions of the Levitical system were emblematic of purification. Because the writer is contrasting the old and new dispensations, some insist this must be a reference to water baptism. However, nothing conclusively proves this is the case. While it is true that the outward application of baptismal water does serve as the visible sign of the inward cleansing from sin, the analogy here refers to the spiritual cleanliness of the individual who desires to come to God.
Although people tend to view one another superficially, the Lord looks on the heart (I Sam. 16:7). God wants His laws and statutes written there (Heb. 8:10). The concept of “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” is synonymous with “a conscience purged from dead works” (9:14). The writer has previous explained that Levitical blood sprinkling was ineffective regarding eradication of guilt (9:9). The combined concepts of sprinkled hearts and washed bodies symbolize the entire process of redemption and sanctification.
“Hold fast” or “hold down” (katecho) means to continue to clutch something so firmly there is no danger of losing one’s grasp. The term implies the exertion of great determination and constant vigilance so that we are not in a quandary between two opinions (I Kgs. 18:21). No one should relax their hold on their personal testimony of faith in Christ. Jesus demanded the adamant loyalty of His followers when He said, “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Lk.11:23). We must not vacillate like the Hebrews, who actually contemplated returning to Egypt and bondage (Num.11:5).
“Profession” is (homologia). The word means “to agree or confess something to another.” The word “faith” here is elpidos and is translated “hope.” Hope is a defining theme of the New Testament and is continually emphasized throughout this epistle. Our hope in Christ results from His faithfulness to Believers. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19).
The word “consider” (katanoomen) means “to carefully weigh a matter”. The writer has encouraged his readers to meditate upon Christ Jesus (3:1). Now we are urged to “consider each other.” We should have an attentive awareness and perpetual concern for the welfare of others. A right relationship with God prompts us to have a right relationship with everyone.
The term “provoke” (paroxusmos) means “to stimulate, encourage, arouse, or call to action.” Although paroxusmos usually carries a negative connotation (Acts 15:39), here is it used in a positive sense. Through the good example of the Macedonians, Paul sought to incite the Corinthians to grow spiritually (II Cor. 8:7). We are to stir up the gifts God has given us (II Tim. 1:6). Every Believer should proactively encourage others through a lifestyle of loving concern and edification. The world will know we are disciples of Jesus if we have love for each other (Jn. 13:35).
The writer encourages Christians to attend church regularly. Jesus taught us, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). “Forsaking” (egkataleipo) bespeaks neglect, abandonment, or leaving something behind. From the word “assembling” (episunagoge) the word “synagogue” is derived. It is used only here and in II Thessalonians, where it is applied to the gathering together of Believers in anticipation of Christ’s return (2:1). This is an appropriate choice of words in view of the “approaching day” referred to at the end of this verse. We are better prepared for His arrival as we come together for worship and mutual edification. However, this verse also implies those who avoid assembling for worship and exhortation are at fault. Reasons for neglecting church can include apathy, fear of persecution, unbelief, doctrinal differences, guilt due to unconfessed sin, and spiritual pride.
“Exhorting” (parakletos) means “to ask, plead, or beseech”. The writer gives a specific reason we must exercise ever-increasing vigilance over others: a certain “day” or event is eminent. This suggests a period of distress or judgment. When this epistle was written, the persecution of Believers was definitely increasing. It is logical they should meet together all the more frequently, for it was a time in which many would be tempted to apostatize. “The day” could refer to the impending destruction of Jerusalem, for this epistle was written only a few years prior to this horrific event. There were probably indications this day was fast approaching. The writer’s words came home to his readers after the events of A.D. 70, but few could have imagined such total devastation of their city and temple.
The exhortation to gather for worship and fellowship is based on the anticipation of Christ’s return (I Thess. 5:2-4 & II Pet. 3:10). That the early church expected Jesus to come back soon is evident by such phrases as “the day of Christ is at hand” (II Thess. 2:2). Each successive generation of Believers are encouraged to live in hopeful expectation of the Rapture of the Church. If this great day was expected then, how much closer to this event are we today?
QUESTIONS: CHRIST’S PERFECT SACRIFICE
1. Like the book of Romans, the book of Hebrews also has a doctrinal section followed by a practical section. True or False?
2. In verse 19, “boldness” means we should feel free to approach God presumptuously. True or False?
3. In verse 20, “consecrated” means “a freshly-sacrificed” way. True or False?
4. The “trio” referred to in verses 22-24 are:
A. salvation, goodness and cleanliness
B. the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
C. faith, benevolence and kindness
D. faith, hope and love
E. none of the above
5. According to II Corinthians 7:1, what are we to cleanse ourselves from?
6. According to I Samuel 16:7, when God examines someone, where does He look?
7. When the Jews began to yearn of Egypt, what foods did they crave? (Numbers 11:5)
8. Discuss the merits of worshiping with others in your Church Family (v. 25).
9. What is your level of preparedness for Jesus’ arrival.