We dive into the final chapter of The Book of Hebrews, Chapter Thirteen. As we go through it, we will review previous chapters and discuss how they relate to what the last chapter has to say. Hebrews not only tells us what to do but gives us examples of how to do it. Our decisions have a massive impact on who we become and what happens to us in the long run. Enduring discipline is not fun but it brings forth righteousness.
We finally made it to Hebrews 13, the last chapter in Hebrews. So let me just remind us what the structure of the book is.
We’ve got a better priest, Melchizedek. Melchizedek is a better priest with a better sacrifice and a better covenant. Melchizedek is a priest that has no end of life. He’s a priest perpetually. He has a better sacrifice: not one that has to be offered daily or continually, but a sacrifice that’s offered once for all.
And he has a better covenant. He has a covenant that is better than he covenant of the law. The law was perfect, but it was insufficient; it didn’t really get the job done. It wasn’t the law’s fault that it didn’t get the job done; it was that it was on the wrong place. In the better covenant, the law is written on our hearts.
So we’ve got a better priest with a better sacrifice and a better covenant. And we’re invited to live that priestly life. We’re invited to enter the true temple in the heavens where the veil is the body of Christ; and we’re invited to enter through that veil and receive the sprinkling, not of blood that has to be one continuously, but of the blood of Jesus that cleanses our conscience from dead works so that we can do the works of God.
So we have a better priest with a better sacrifice and a better covenant; and we have a better Son because this is the King-Priest. Jesus is the King-Priest. And we have a better king who’s the Son. God said, “Today I am your father; you’re my son. You’ll be to me a son; I’ll be to you a father.” That granting of royal privilege, that Jesus gained because he lived a life of obedience. He did what the Father asked him to. And as such, he paved the way for a better administration and a better world.
So you’ve got a better king with a better administration and a better world; and his desire is for us to participate with him in that administration because that was actually our original purpose. We saw in Hebrews 2 that man was made to reign the earth in perfect harmony with creation, in perfect harmony with one another, and in perfect harmony with God.
And that’s not what’s happening just now. So we don’t see that.
What we do see is Jesus crowned with glory and honor. That’s what we see.
And we see Jesus as an example and as someone who has paved the way for us, and we’re asked to follow that.
Context and Review
So we see in chapter 12 as we enter towards chapter 13, just to set up the context we see that we’re given this admonition to be a priest like this better priest, to live as kings reigning and serving each other and serving the earth as Jesus did.
And we’re given a bunch of examples of what not to do: mostly Israel wandering in the wilderness.
And we’re given examples of what to do. In Hebrews chapter 11, we’re given these great heroes of faith; and the other main theme of Hebrews is the word mixed with faith. So we’ve got a better priest, a better sacrifice, and a better covenant. A better king with a better administration in a better world, and a word mixed with faith. And we’ve got this example of all these people who lived by faith.
And then we’re given the ultimate example in chapter 12. He says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross—”
And I think, Brandon, didn’t you point out that author and finisher is like the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end? So he’s the writer, and he’s the hero of the story, and he’s the one that is the culmination of the story, the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one we should look at. He’s the ultimate example of who to follow.
And what did he do? He endured the cross despising the shame.
In very short order, to despise means to give no value to. And shame is that which the world uses to enforce culture.
We stand in line at Walmart instead of just walking up and cutting in because you know everyone will shame you if you don’t stand in line. That’s how we enforce culture.
Well, Jesus endured an immense amount of shame, and I’m sure it hurt immensely. But, compared to what he was really after, he didn’t give it much weight.
So he endured the cross despising the shame and he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Why? Why did he sit down at the right hand of the throne of God? Because he is the king. And this reward for his faithfulness is what we are to seek, a reward for faithfulness, a kingly reward. And that goes to those who serve.
Hebrews 12:3. “For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” The example is we’ve got the world crashing in on you and irrespective you say, well, this really is difficult; but I’m going to keep my eye on the goal and finish like Jesus finished.
Then he talks about the importance of enduring discipline, chastening. It’s not fun, but it brings forth righteousness. He tells us that we have to really use vigor and energy to finish a race like this.
Verse 12. “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet—”
And then in verse 18, he gives us this wonderful contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. And he says, “For you have not come to the mountain which may be touched—” Mount Sinai. You’ve come to Mount Zion.
So, Mount Sinai is the little pile of rocks on earth, and Mount Zion is this city in heaven.
It was scary enough for the people to come to Mount Sinai and get the word, the law, the covenant. See God. Hear his words. As a matter of fact, when they heard his words at Mount Sinai, they said, “Please stop talking. We don’t want to die. Just tell Moses, and he’ll tell us.”
So they got the word. They got the law.
But, no, he says in verse 22: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven—” The people he wants us to be. The firstborn. The inheritors.
“—to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect—” Teleiosi. It’s that word we’ve seen all through here, the word that telescope comes from, the word that’s finish, the completion. The ones that made it. These are the ones up on the stage, the place of honor.
12:24. “—to Jesus the Mediator—” the priest “—of the new covenant—” the one written in our heart “—and to the blood of the sprinkling—” the better sacrifice, better than even Abel.
Verse 25. “See that you do not refuse him who speaks—” This is the word mixed with faith, one of the themes of the book.
We’ve got the word. Jesus speaks the word. We hear the word. It’s a very bad idea not to heed the word. “—For if they did not escape who refused him who spoke on earth—” Mount Sinai, the law was given, the law was broken, the people suffered the consequences.
“—much more shall we not escape if we turn away from him who speaks from heaven—” See, he’s not speaking on earth with a pile of rocks anymore. He’s speaking from the heavenly Jerusalem. We don’t have a tabernacle that’s made out of these pretty claws and stuff that’s in the middle of our little camp anymore; we’ve got the true tabernacle in heaven where Jesus is mediating as a priest. He’s invited us to come in and serve a high priestly function and go into the Holy of Holies. And he’s speaking from heaven.
12:26 “—whose voice then shook the earth—” when he spoke from Mount Sinai. Shook the earth. “—but now he has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’”
12:27 “Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is consuming fire.”
You think he wants us to pay attention here? You kind of get the scene? Our God is a consuming fire.
Well, look with me, if you would, to Revelation 21:1. “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away—” The place we’re in now, the heaven and earth we’re in now is not going to be around forever. It’s heading away.
Look at 2 Peter 3:5. “For this they willfully forget: that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.”
God spoke the world into existence. And by his word the world was destroyed in the flood.
2 Peter 3:7, “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
So this word that we’re supposed to listen to, this word made the world. The word destroyed the world in the time of Noah. And that same word is preserving the world from destruction now. But that same word is going to completely destroy this earth and these heavens and replace it with a brand new one. That’s where we’re going to live forever, in the new earth.
The culmination of human history is when Heaven comes to earth and God dwells with us on earth.
Hebrews 12:27 “That the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken—”
So which part of our outline does that refer to? A better administration and a better world. That’s what we’re receiving.
And if we overcome, if we endure, if we listen, if we follow the same way Jesus lived and live a life of obedience until the end, then we get this reward of inheriting the kingdom. If we don’t, we don’t.
So we’d be in the new earth because new birth is a gift. It’s a gift that God just gives. But this being an inheritor is a reward that’s given to those who endure.
And the whole book of Hebrews is about living that life so we don’t lose out on that which matters for all of eternity. What matters for all of eternity is who we become as people and the connections that we have with others and with God. And what God has offered here is this unbelievable opportunity to share in reigning in this kingdom with God. But it comes through serving God.
And what fear should we have? Well, we should fear that we don’t take advantage of this.
Hard of Hearing
Let’s look back at Hebrews 2. We saw this in the set up of the book. “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we’ve heard, lest we drift away.” This is the theme of the book.
The children of Israel heard, but they didn’t listen, and they didn’t get the inheritance. God still took care of them. They were still his children. They got manna in the wilderness, and their clothes didn’t wear out. But they didn’t get to go into the Promised Land.
These great people of faith, Abraham, he saw afar off, and he believed because he said I’m not a citizen of this world, but there’s something better for me. And that’s the example we should live.
Hebrews 2:1 “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proves steadfast—” This old covenant. This Old Testament law.
“—and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward—” which is if you disobey me then you’re not going to inherit the blessings.
2:3 “—how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation—” A deliverance.
And then he goes on to tell us the part of the salvation he has particularly in mind is the world is broken, and he wants to put it back together. The word mixed with faith.
Our God is a consuming fire—going back to the introduction to chapter 13 here. “Our God is a consuming fire.”
What does the term consuming fire bring to mind to you? Destructive. Forest fire. You’ve seen a forest fire raging. What can stop a forest fire? They don’t really even try to put those things out. They just try to get out in front of it and remove the fuel so it will burn itself out. Nothing stops a raging, consuming fire.
Maybe the sun. The sun is a consuming fire.
If you just think about a fire in a fireplace, if you put wood in a fire, what that consuming fire does is it converts the wood into sort of its base elements. What you have left is ash, carbon, and into the air goes the carbon dioxide and the water that made up this wood, this cellulite fiber. A consuming fire. Let’s just look at a couple of places this phrase is bought into Hebrews, which you’ll remember these are all Jews that know the Bible here.
Let’s just look at Deuteronomy 4:24. “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” This is the second giving of the law before they go into the promised land. So this is instructions to the faithful people that are about to go in and do what God’s asked them to do. He’s giving them a warning.
4:25 “When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land—” that you’re about to go in and possess, “—and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything and do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess: you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed.”
And, of course, we know this is exactly what happens because God is a consuming fire. He judges that which is standing in the way of this restoration of perfect harmony and perfect relationship that he made the world to be.
He gives the covenant to the people to live this way. When they don’t, they’re not doing their function and he eliminates it.
Look at Deuteronomy 9:1. “Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim—” The giants. “—whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the descendents of Anak?’ Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is he who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly—”
God is a consuming fire. He causes things to happen that create destruction and eliminate that which is not according to his plan.
So, what we should do is serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Why? There’s a new kingdom coming. And our station in that kingdom is completely dependent on what we do now.
Our happiness in this world is dependent on what we do now. Our effect in this world is dependent on what we do now. It’s all dependent on obedience.
So what do we do? I hope you get the point that the motivative factor to do this list of things has just culminated.
What do I do?
Now, for me, when I first came to understand the book of Hebrews, my knees knocked. I did not realize what a big deal this life is and how much impact my decisions had on who I become as a person and what happens to me for the long haul.
For the first thing I wanted to do is say, “OK, so what do I do?” And that’s what chapter 13 is about. Here are some practical lists of things to do.
It starts in an interesting way. “Let brotherly love continue.” I counted a list of approximately 14 different things he’s going to tell us here. And the first one is “Let brotherly love continue.”
Now what do you think this is agape love or phileo love? Agape love like the perfect love that you give in a transactional manner, irrespective of whether you get any relational benefit from the other person. You just know it’s the right thing to do. God will reward you, so you act this way anyway.
Or do you think this is going to be the affection love? There’s a relational component here where I’m giving love, and I expect something in return, relationally, from this other person.
Which would you expect it to be?
I would expect it to be agape. But it’s not. This is brotherly love. Philadelphia, phileodelphi, friends, affection, brotherly love.
And I think what he’s saying here—he’s been talking to this Hebrew church all through this book. And I think the admonition here is, “Get connected. Get ingrained with your team.” This is a team sport, this whole endeavor here. Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.
What did Jesus do? He built a team. Look to these great heroes of the faith in chapter 11. They’re your witnesses. They’re part of your team. Get your relationship with your team right.
This is who you’re going to be serving in the next kingdom with. You’re faithful to the end. Part of the reason’s going to be that we locked arms together, and we made it together. And ultimately what we’re going to do is share an administration as a team to make the earth a wonderful place to live.
I think arguably the reason why the world is going to be so amazing, this new earth, is going to be because God has some people who can rule it in a way that makes it perfect. That’s what he’s trying to prepare us to do.