Chapter 38. The final post on the Hebrews series. Telos.
Outside the gate lies danger. Locked out in the darkness leaves one exposed. Not being able to access your home, because the gate won’t open, people were forced to camp outside the city wall in ancient times with the wild animals and the potential thieves and robbers. This was dangerous.
Outside the gate might be likened to what we’ve seen in some of our cities with rioting and looting largely happening in the darkness, outside the walls of homes and businesses. If you’ve watch these events live in the wee hours, you know how dangerous it is to be left stranded outside the gate.
Outside the gate is also happening to many who are now being evicted, due to the financial impact of the lockdown when COVID19 first arrived in our homeland. This pandemic with its job loss has cast many outside the gate.
Outside the gate, trapped either inside an ICU while suffering, or outside of it, unable to get to your loved one, you may have been impacted, as have been more than 7,916,118 Americans who have contracted COVID-19 and more than 216,858 precious people who have died.
Outside the gate also entails societal structures that may have left you without friends, without access to the medical care you need, without any type of understanding from others about your mental illness or your chronic disease or your difficult marriage. These are lonely situations.
Jesus understands your pain and loneliness outside the gate.Jesus understands your pain and loneliness outside the gate, without any understanding from others about your mental illness, your chronic disease, or your difficult marriage. These are lonely situations. Click To Tweet
“We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:10-11 ESV).
The Day of Atonement is used as an illustration in Hebrews 13, for our Messiah is descended from David, of the tribe of Judah. He is not a Levite. And yet, not only is Messiah Jesus qualified to be our Great High Priest, but he was also qualified to be the sacrifice given once and for all, for before time began the Creator of the universe determined that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22b ESV).
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8 ESV). His desire and his purpose and his orchestration of history to redeem us and to bring us inside the gate have existed for eternity."Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8 ESV). His desire and his purpose and his orchestration of history to redeem us and to bring us inside the gate have existed for eternity. Click To Tweet
In a world filled with turmoil and change, this means everything. Eternity extends forever and ever in both directions without end, for God existed from before our measure of time and will exist ever afterward. God the Son has been the same and will be the same forever and ever.
Israel wandered in the wilderness outside the gate for forty years. They had a tent of meeting that they packed up and carried with them. Each year, they mourned their sins on the Day of Atonement. Typically, the tabernacle priests ate from the offerings burned on the altar, but they could not eat the offering on the Day of Atonement, for it was burned outside the camp.
“…The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire” (Leviticus 16:27 ESV).
“Bearing iniquity” for sin and guilt was the reason and the goal for the offering, and yet, this was a picture of the coming sacrifice Jesus would make once and for all, leaving no further need for any offerings to be made.
The heart of the worshiper has always been laid bare before the eyes of the Lord. Both in Old Testament times and now, a sacrifice may be made, but a heart may be hard. The ritual has been completed, or the prayer has been said, but we are hard-hearted and recalcitrant.
God is always ready to forgive, but our hearts are often unyielding. We must allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts. We must yield.God is always ready to forgive, but our hearts are often unyielding. We must allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts. We must yield. #GodLovesUs #Forgiveness Click To Tweet
Jesus put an end to the sacrificial system by offering himself as the final and perfect sacrifice for sin. There is no need for another offering. He did this in such a way that his Jewish brethren would recognize it. All of the first believers in Messiah Jesus were Jewish. From Jerusalem, they eventually scattered throughout the ancient world, returning home after the most important Passover of all and taking the Gospel with them.
“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:12-14 ESV).
Outside the gates of Jerusalem in the garbage dump of Gehenna, Jesus was crucified. Flies, buzzards, ravens, filth, stench of previous deaths, nails, whips, dislocated bones — this he endured outside the camp to make clean the people. To sanctify means to render pure in a moral sense, to purify. We go to him, outside the camp, to identify as his people, to bear reproach as he did. The recipients of this letter were right in the middle of it.
The author previously stated, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:13-15 ESV).
Given what we have in Christ, which can never be taken away and will bless and fulfill us for all eternity, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15 ESV).
The recipients of this letter were living outside the gate, like Jesus, facing a time of great danger. The author here reminds and urges them to go to the Savior who died outside the camp as our eternal sacrifice, just as the sin sacrifice was made in the outside the gate in Old Testament times.
The author gently reminds them of the truth to hang onto when facing death in the Colosseum or on a forgotten cross outside some small village. This Letter to the Hebrews captures the intimate love and gentle kindness of Jesus with great feeling, for the readers need it desperately, and the Holy Spirit is kind, inspiring what he knows will be needed.
“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end. . . Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Hebrews 1:8-13 ESV).
Each chapter contains even more details about our Lord and Savior, all of these brought together in this one letter written to encourage believers running for their lives outside the gate, attempting to avoid the tortures and imprisonments of the emperor Nero, hoping to live, but trusting in God.
“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV)."How shall we escape if we neglect such a salvation? It was declared by the Lord, and attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit"(Heb2:3-4). Click To Tweet
Jesus, God in the flesh, came into this world cognizant that he came to die for the sins of mankind. His lifetime involved giving himself away, day by day sacrificing sleep and privacy, night by night meeting in prayer with the Father to discuss what he would do next and where he would go. All along, being the eternal God, he embraced the goal toward which he aimed.
“Now in putting everything in subject to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the power of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Hebrews 2:8b-11 ESV).
Detail after detail of the intimate realities and eternal decisions of the Trinity pertaining to how exactly God the Son would present himself among us are revealed in the Letter to the Hebrews. Drawing upon the Old Testament verses that foretold his coming, the authors wrote in the common language of their day, Koine Greek, street Greek, the vernacular of the people, so that all could understand and find comfort in the Savior.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18 ESV).
And aren’t we all tempted, as we live our lives outside the gate?
One day, the eternal city will open wide its gates for us to enter, whether by death or by the Lord’s return. Come, Lord Jesus! But, for now, since we’re out here in the darkness with rioting, pandemic, and senseless killings, we desperately need the social justice and reformation that only Jesus can bring.
Jesus lives in the midst of our mess.We're out here in the darkness with rioting, pandemic, and senseless killings, we desperately need the #socialjustice and reformation that only Jesus can bring. Jesus lives in the midst of our mess. Click To Tweet
Messiah Jesus arrived to live his human life during a tumultuous time when the Jewish nation was ruled and occupied by Roman masters. They were constantly at risk of death or harassment. He came during a time of trouble, and he continues to remain near us during every coup, every global crisis, every war, every pandemic, and every personal hardship.
Jesus knows what it is to live and to die outside the gate.Jesus came during a time of trouble, and he continues to remain near us during every coup, global crisis, war, pandemic, and personal hardship. Jesus knows what it is to live and to die outside the gate. Click To Tweet
Because we have such a Savior, because he knows what we experience and he has experienced the same, because of his great and eternal love for us…
“Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses . . . Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…'” (Hebrews 3:1-3, 5-7 ESV).
If you hear God’s quiet urging in your heart, don’t harden yourself. Listen.
“…While the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it…Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:1, 7b ESV).
There is nothing that prevents us from coming in, for the gate is wide open. We need not stand outside the gate, alone and broken. We can come on in.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV).
For thousands of years God was setting the stage, preparing the people to recognize his Son. God made it plain, so that no one would miss it. And yet, we often miss seeing his hand extended to us, offering to help us to enter through the narrow gate that brings us into his family and kingdom.God made it plain, so that no one would miss it. And yet, we often miss seeing his hand extended to us, offering to help us to enter through the narrow gate that brings us into his family and kingdom. Click To Tweet
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10 ESV).
By living, suffering, dying, and rising, the Savior proved his perfection. He gained salvation for all who believe. Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant, holding his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. He always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7). He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven interceding for us now (Hebrews 8, Romans 8). Through Jesus Christ, God the Son, the Father established a new covenant.
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more’…Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 8:23; 9:28 ESV).
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offers and sin offerings you take no pleasure. ‘Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book. . .” And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:4-6, 10 ESV).
Because of what Jesus Messiah did by offering his own body, we can accept his offer of mercy and forgiveness, entering into a lifetime relationship of love and trust with him. And then, one day, we will see him face to face, enjoying an eternity of blessing in his presence. Jesus is everything.
“It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b ESV). This is the message of this letter, a message of the grace of God, a message of life everlasting. This letter’s final words of praise and worship of our Savior say:
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV).
Peace be with you as you ponder on all that Messiah Jesus has done for us while we live and suffer outside the gate. He brings us inside the gate to the eternal city where the gates never close. There, we will dwell with him forever and ever.
“Grace be with all of you” (Hebrews 13:25 ESV).