We start to see a new structure develop within Hebrews that brings the book into fuller life. We talked about the first three better statements in the last episode and in this episode we explore the next three betters: Better son, under a better administration, within a better world. The whole book of Hebrews is pointing us toward maturity, a better way of living, and a true perspective that binds it all together. We are called to a holistic view of salvation spanning from rebirth all the way to a restored creation.
I want to start the day with a little story: We went to Alaska with our family, and I took our 82-year-old father-in-law along, and we went to the Kenai Peninsula where our daughter-in-law grew up. And there’s this peninsula, I guess the Cook inlet is about 40 miles wide, or something like that. And just on the other side of the inlet is the Aleutian mountain chain, which is a big string of volcanoes, some of them quite tall. It’s just a really spectacular rise. Most of the time you can’t see them, but the day we got there, they were actually quite visible. And it was a lot of oohing and aahing.
So we got to the place we were going to stay there, and decided we would go down to a little look out. We took our father-in-law with us. We got out. And by this time, it had gotten to be kind of hazy. You could still see the outline of the volcanoes fine, but it was a bit hazy. So we were all kind of talking about how amazing it was and our father-in-law was looking and looking, and finally he said, “What the bleep we looking at?!” Old military man.
And that’s the way, a lot of times, I think Hebrews is. We stood and explained to him, you know, see the peak there? And finally, oh, yeah, I see it.
Now you’ve been in that situation before where someone’s trying to show you something or trying to explain something to you, and you just can’t quite get it to focus, and all of the sudden it comes into focus. And I feel like that’s kind of the way Hebrews is. Once you get it, you can see the whole thing. And until you do, it’s just a little bit fuzzy.
I think we’re now to the point where I can give you a proposed outline of the book. If you’ve been having trouble focusing, maybe this will help.
Structure of Hebrews
I’m going to propose a structure that makes it come together. And it’s six “betters,” a word, and a response to the word.
Last week we went over three of the “betters”: better priest, with a better sacrifice, under a better covenant. Because the whole point of this book, remember, is I want to move you on to maturity.
You’ve gotten hard of hearing. You lost your possessions and were glad. That’s great. You ministered to me in my chains. That’s great. You love the brethren. That’s great.
But you’ve gotten hard of hearing. And you’re starting to neglect the salvation that Jesus has provided.
And that salvation in the book of Hebrews is this holistic view of salvation that goes from rebirth all the way to a restored creation. And the way you move on to maturity is understand this man who’s God, this God who’s man.
And this God who’s man has two functions as Melchizedek did: He’s a higher order of priest, and he’s king of righteousness. That’s what his name means.
And we started Hebrews, remember, with Jesus as this elevated position, of what? Today you are a Son. I have begotten you. And we talked about how son is this elevated position of authority.
So the other three “betters,” I’m going to propose, is a better son or a better king, under a better administration, with a better world.
And I think that’s basically Hebrews: A better priest, with a better sacrifice, under a better covenant. A better king, with a better administration, with a better world.
What does that have to do with us? Well, we have a word and the word, if it’s mixed with faith, actually places us into the experience of all six of those “betters.”
So last week we looked at Hebrews 10:19. Let’s just look at it again. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus—” Now who gets to enter the Holy of Holies under the old covenant? The high priest.
How often does the high priest get to go in? Once a year.
But now, here we are going in ourselves.
Verse 20. “—by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh—” So you’ve got this better high priest who made the better sacrifice of himself. And because of that sacrifice, we can go into that Holy of Holies, when? Anytime. Because Jesus is a priest perpetually.
Verse 21. “—and having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith—” What is better about the new covenant? What’s the main distinguishing point of the new covenant, the better covenant? He wrote it on our hearts.
So we have this better sacrifice: Jesus. This better priest who is continually serving, not in the tabernacle made with hands but in the tabernacle in Heaven; and we can go there any time to have our hearts sprinkled and cleansed.
Verse 22. “—having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
And the purpose of the cleansed heart is so that we can have our hearts prepared to do service to God.
Now consider, if we are going into the Holy of Holies, what does that make us? A high priest. We are now participating, not as the high priest, but in the high priestly function. And the result is our own hearts are sprinkled and cleansed.
Now just think about it for a minute. What is a priest? We had another word that described it in Hebrews. He is the mediator of the new covenant. A priest is a mediator. A priest stands between two entities. A priest stands on behalf of.
You might recall the nation Israel was called to have a priestly function. Who was the nation of Israel supposed to mediate for? The world. All the other nations. God put Israel, basically, at the cross of Main Street and the interstate. The two major silk trade routes went right through Israel. As a matter of fact, the most fought-over ground in all of the ancient world was Megiddo. We know it as Armageddon.
And Megiddo was like the perfect tollbooth. Everybody wanted to own the tollbooth of the two highways that come right through there, close together, because that was where the traffic was. And God put that nation there so that everybody could come by and see this is what you should live like. It’s the priestly function.
And when we go in to the Holy of Holies in Heaven to have our hearts cleansed from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with the water of righteousness so that we are now prepared to do good works, what priestly function are we going to serve? Who are we going to be serving as a priest to? The World.
If you’ll abide in me, you’ll produce fruit and the world will see that and say, “Well, that’s God.” That will glorify Me. Glorify means someone sees the essence of someone else.
Well when we serve this function of serving with a clean heart, people are seeing God, and we’re doing a priestly function.
So we’ve got this Melchizedek high priest, a better priest, with a better sacrifice, under a better covenant. And we can participate in that when we have our hearts with this law written on it cleansed so we can have it live from the inside out by entering this Holy of Holies; and then we go serve one another, and serve others, and we’re doing a priestly function.
This is maturity. Remember in verse 5 he said, I don’t want to talk about baptism and repentance from dead works, and eternal judgment, and stuff like that—although he does talk about those things. But he talks about those things, not in the sense of we’re just trying to escape from it. He talks about these things in—this transcendent life that he wants us to live under this high priest and king, Melchizedek, Jesus.
And he’s a better king with a better administration, and he wants a better world.
Now we covered this some in the first part of the book; and we’re about to revisit in a real major way. A better king, with a better administration, with a better world.
Let’s just go back to chapter 2 real quick and just review. It’s been a while since we’ve been through this.
2:5. “For he has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.’” This is Psalm 8.
So you’ve got the angels that are higher than us, so who would you expect God to put in charge? The angels. That would make the most sense, wouldn’t it?
But now he’s put us in charge. That’s what he designed us for was to rule the world. And the tone of Psalm 8 is it’s unbelievable what you’re doing! It’s incredible! You made this amazing world, and then you put these babies over it! These infants! These newcomers! It’s incredible what you’ve done!
But then in perhaps the greatest understatement in all the Scripture, he says, “For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.” That’s a dramatic understatement, wouldn’t you say? The world is not working the way it’s supposed to work!
Do you see mankind working in perfect harmony to bring peace and prosperity to all? Do you see mankind working together in perfect submission to God to bless one another and to create complete harmony with all creation? That’s not really what we see.
We see strife. We see wanton shooting of missiles. We see genocide. That’s not the way the world is supposed to be.
But here’s what we do see, 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels—” He became a man. “—for the suffering of death—” which is the better sacrifice, “—crowned with glory and honor—” He has been elevated to that spot. “—that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
And then Hebrews goes on to make this amazing invitation that he wants us to ascend to that same place with him.
Verse 10. “It was fitting for him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory—” He’s already gone to glory. What glory are we talking about? Reigning over the earth.
And he wants to have many sons to do it with him. “—to make the captain of their salvation perfect” This is this teleiosi. He wants to bring us all with him. I will declare your name to my brethren. He’s not ashamed to call us brethren, fellow partakers, teammates. He wants us to be teammates with him in his administration.
But that is something we can throw away. It’s a reward to be an inheritor. What we’re about to get to is don’t be an evil person like Esau was who sold his inheritance for a bowl of stew. Don’t let your appetites throw aside participating in this better administration, in a better world.
Better King, Better Administration, Better World.
Now. Let’s talk about better king, better administration, better world. Today if we enter this Holy of Holies, have our hearts cleansed from an evil conscience to do good works, are we going to make the world a better place? We are. We’re going to make our family a better place. We’re going to make our workplace a better place, because we’re doing life the way God’s asked us to do it.
Through the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor is going to be actually happening for us because we’re following Jesus.
And we are not only preparing to be part of this administration when all of these functions, all of these “betters” become experientially fulfilled in totality. But we’re going to actually become his administration in his kingdom which is not yet of this world.
In the new earth, the culmination of what we know of as human history is when Heaven comes to earth. We do go to Heaven for a little time. But we come back to this earth, a new earth, and Heaven comes to earth, and God comes and dwells on the earth. To me that’s the happiest thought I can think of.
And the question is: What are we going to be prepared to do? But that’s not the only question. The question is also: What do we do now?
What do we do now?
So we have a better priest, with a better sacrifice, under a better covenant, one that’s written in our hearts. He wants us to go into that Holy of Holies continuously and be cleansed. Why? So we can do good works and love one another. And when we do that, we’re actually walking where the captain of our salvation has already walked. And we are becoming a king in this life, a king by serving.
He showed this to his disciples. His disciples had one over-riding consideration. What was it? Who’s number one? Who’s going to sit at your right hand? They even got their mother to come and lobby for them!
“My mom has something to ask you, Jesus.” And what was the reaction of the other disciples when they saw the mother come and ask?
I just have to believe that Jesus was rolling his eyes the whole time. “Really? That’s what you really care about?”
But, you know what? He never told them to stop seeking greatness. Never. What did he tell them? You call me teacher, and that’s appropriate. What I’m going to do is wash your feet. You won’t understand this for a little while. I am great, and I’m showing you how I want you to be great.
When Jesus was ready to ascend, they said, “Is it now you’re going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They’re probably thinking, am I finally going to get my spot in the new administration in the better world?
And he said: Not for me to say. But here’s what you do: You go and wait to get powerful. Do you think they liked to hear that? That’s what they wanted was power. They got a different kind than they were expecting. But they got it.
And what did they do with it? They changed the world. The world is a different place today because those guys went out to the whole earth. And they did the job that Jesus gave them to do: a better king, with a better administration, and they made a better world.
That’s what he wants us to do! This is Hebrews. How does he want us to do that? What’s the agency for this to happen? Well, the agency is the word mixed with faith.
I looked it up here, and I’m sure these are ballpark numbers. I looked up word, words, speaks, and oath when it’s in the context of God speaking in Hebrews. There are only 13 chapters in Hebrews. Twenty one instances. God is speaking.
I went through counted roughly how many quotes from the Old Testament there are: Something on the order of magnitude of 40 different quotes from the Old Testament: God is speaking.
We’re going to see here just shortly, he’s going to say this: When God spoke in times past, a mountain rumbled, and people said, “Stop! Don’t talk to us anymore! We’re afraid we’re going to die.”
The next time he speaks, the whole universe is going to blow up. Is that who you want to ignore. Really?
We saw it in chapter 3 and 4. The people who died in the wilderness. Why did they die in the wilderness? Was it because they didn’t know? It was because they heard, and they didn’t mix it with faith, so it didn’t do them any good. He actually called it the gospel, didn’t he?
The word faith or believe shows up 35 times in Hebrews. See that you do not refuse him who speaks. It’s over and over again.
So, what we have, I think, legitimately—and I think there are many other ways you could structure this book. You know, it’s written by an infinite person so there’s probably a whole lot more here than what I’m saying. But, if you think of a cord, a rope, with eight strands, and you’ve got six “betters,” the word and faith on our part, you have a pretty good idea how this book works.
Last week I was talking to Cindy and she says, “It just kind of says the same thing over and over again, doesn’t it?”
Yeah, actually, that’s a good way to look at it. It says the same thing over and over again.
Why do you think he says the same thing over and over again? It’s pretty important. We’re hard of hearing; that’s the problem. At least that’s my problem. I need a lot of repetition.
Have you found in your child rearing experience that once is enough to tell your kids something? It’s like, oh yeah, I remember that. You have to repeat a lot, don’t you?
Well, he’s trying to get us to grow up here, and he’s repeating the same thing over and over: better priest, better sacrifice, better covenant—one written on your heart. A better tabernacle, for all that, and one that’s in Heaven. He wants you to go there all the time. Better king, with a better administration, to make a better world.
This is your inheritance. This is what you were made to be. This is how you can be completely fulfilled as a person. Don’t throw it away!
And, by the way, as you do it in this life, you’re changing the world now. And you do it by listening to the word of God and mixing it with faith, which means you do what God wants you to do.
It’s an incredibly powerful book. And, I think, hopefully, it’s coming into focus.