WARNING PASSAGES IN HEBREWS / NEGLECTING THE SO GREAT SALVATION
PASTOR B. HERRELL
[It is always reassuring and challenging to read writings by those, who are fearless in their presentation and application to Christians of responsibility truths found throughout the Scriptures: they keep a sharp point and edge on the Sword - the word of God - which the vast majority of Bible teachers today have frequently attempt to make blunt. - Ed.]
One of the major themes throughout The Scriptures is the coming of our Lord and His Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 9: 6, 7, 11; Jeremiah 23: 5, 6; Ezekiel 37: 15-28; Daniel 2: 44; 7: 9-27; Zechariah 14: 9).
In view of the coming kingdom, the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to remain faithful to their Lord so that they do not forfeit their inheritance. This inheritance includes sharing in the first resurrection, being joint-heirs with Christ, serving as priests to God and being citizens of the new Jerusalem.
Because of the potential for his readers to miss out in their inheritance in the coming kingdom, the author includes five warning passages in his letter. These passages are written to remind the believers of the rewards for faithfulness and the severe consequences for turning away from Christ. In this five-part series, we will be examining each of these warning passages (Hebrews 2: 1-4; 3: 7-13; 6: 4-12; 10: 26-39; 12: 25-29). As we shall see, these warnings are just as pertinent for all Christians.
Hebrews 2: 1-4 is the first of the five warning passages and reads:
"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message* spoken by angels was binding and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." * (* All Scripture quotes from the N.I.V.)
The author of Hebrews includes himself in this warning by using the pronoun "we" three times in the first verse. Since the author is a Christian, this warning is clearly addressed to Christians, as are the other warning passages.
The use of the word "therefore" links this warning passage with the preceding chapter. When we understand the content of chapter one, we will understand exactly what this "great salvation" is, which they have the potential of missing.
Throughout chapter one of Hebrews, the author discusses the superiority of Jesus Christ, God's appointed Son and Heir of all things (1: 2, 4, 5). While Christ has always been deity, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it was in His humanity as the descendant of David that Jesus provided purification for sins. It was also as the descendant of David that He received the title of "Son" in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. In this covenant, God promised King David that he would have a descendant whose kingdom God would establish forever, and that God would be His Father. This descendant would be God's Son (and Heir).
I Chronicles 17: 11-14
"When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his Kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established for ever."
The fact that Jesus the Messiah is the Davidic King and Heir is stated throughout Chapter one by the author as he quotes from six Messianic Psalms (2: 7; 104: 4; 45: 6, 7; 102: 25-27; 110: 1; 8: 4, 6) and the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7: 14; 1Chronicles 17: 13). These quotations from the Psalms state that Jesus is the Son of David and God's chosen Heir. He is going to defeat His enemies when He returns to set up His Kingdom and rule over the earth. The initial fulfilment of the Davidic Covenant occurred with our Lord's resurrection at which time He received from God the Father the full rights of sonship (Matthew 28: 18; Acts 13: 32-34; Romans 1: 1-4) and was seated on the Davidic throne¹ at the right hand of God (Acts 2: 29-36; Philippians 2: 9-11; Hebrews 12: 2; Revelation 2: 26, 27; 3: 21). In Jewish thinking, the King of Israel was God's vice-regent on the earth. Therefore, to be seated at the right hand of God was synonymous ² with being seated on the Davidic Throne. This becomes evident when examining two passages concerning the coronation of King Solomon.
"So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David and his rule was firmly established." (1Kings 2: 12).
"So Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king in place of his father David. He prospered and all Israel obeyed him."
These Messianic Psalms guarantee final fulfilment when our Lord returns and sets up His Kingdom on the earth. Everyone who remains faithful to the Lord will be joint-heirs with Christ in the Kingdom of God. The author of Hebrews does not want his readers to be excluded from the Messainic Kingdom. Becoming companions with Christ and ruling with Him in the Kingdom of God is the "great salvation" in verse three, which they cannot afford to ignore.
The author now reminds his readers that the "message spoken by angels was binding." This message refers to the Mosaic Law (Acts 7: 53; Galations 3: 19), which is also called the Sinaitic Covenant. This covenant was between the children of Israel and God as their King (1Samuel 8: 4-7; 12: 12). This covenant provided blessings for faithfulness and curses for unfaithfulness to God (Deuteronomy 28). Individuals who rebelled against the Lord received punishment by being cut off from the blessings through capital punishment (Leviticus 20).
Hebrews 2: 3. In view of the fact that there was punishment for those who violated the Law, which was put in effect through angels, the author poses the question: "How shall we escape (punishment) if we ignore such a great salvation?" The answer is obvious : "We shall certainly not escape punishment if this salvation is ignored!" As previously stated, this salvation is the eschatological salvation of the coming Messanic Kingdom with its blessings when the Lord Jesus returns to earth at His second Advent. (cp. vs. 5, see also Isaiah 11-12: 3 and 25: 6-9).
Hebrews 9: 27-28.
"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people: and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."
This salvation was first announced by the Lord (Luke 4: 16: 21).
He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand since Jesus, the Son of David, was present. Even though He was rejected by the nation of Israel as their King, He was made King by God the Father. His resurrection and coronation confirm this fact.
The apostles also testify to the fact that Jesus the Messiah is the King and Heir of all things, and He is going to return to bring the Kingdom salvation to those who remain faithful, but wrath to all who reject Him. (Acts 2: 22-36; 3: 17-23; Romans 2: 6-11; 2 Thessalonians 1: 3-10; James 2: 5; 1Peter 1: 3-9).
Hebrews 2: 4.
"Further conformation of the coming Kingdom is the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit³ after our Lord's enthronement by God the Father. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit included "signs, wonders and various miracles" by the apostles (Acts 2: 43), "and gifts of the Holy Spirit" (1Corinthians 12: 4-7, 11; 1Peter 4: 10, 11). The giving of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual blessing of the Kingdom of God under the New Covenant (Romans 14: 17; 2 Corinthians 3: 1-6) and is the down payment guaranteeing that the rest of the kingdom blessings will come when the Lord returns (2 Corinthians 1: 22; Ephesians 1: 11-14; Thessalonians 1: 3-7). Today we live during the mystery or inaugural phase of the Kingdom. This began with our Lord's First Advent and will reach its completion at the end of this age with the harvest of the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43). In this inaugural phase of the Kingdom, our King is seated in heaven and the righteous serve Him on earth as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5: 20; Colossians 1: 12-14). When our Lord returns at the end of this age, He will set up the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth. He will then rule on the earth with the righteous for one thousand years (Revelation 20: 4-6).
We need to heed this warning so that we are not excluded from the Kingdom of God. We need to live our life by faith which means loving God and walking in His ways so that we may be counted with the righteous (1Corinthians 6: 7-10; Galations 5: 19-21; Ephesians 5: 1-7).
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
Many crowd the Saviour's Kingdom,
Few receive His Cross;
Many seek His consolations,
Few will suffer loss.
For the dear sake of the Master
Counting all but dross.
Many sit at Jesus' table,
Few will fast with Him
When the sorrow-cup of anguish
Trembles to the brim:
Few watch with Him in the garden
Who have sung the hymn.
Many will confess His wisdom,
Few embrace His shame;
Many, while He smiles upon them,
Laud His praise proclaim -
Then if for a while He tries them
They desert His name.
* It should be evident that the 'message' is not eternal salvation.
1. Christ is presently seated on His Father's throne in Heaven: David's throne was on the Earth. Overcoming Christians will be given the right to sit on Christ's throne on earth: but that can only take place during the Millennium: there is a great difference between the two thrones! (Revelation 3: 21).
2. Heaven is not synonymous with the Earth: the general sense is not the same, nor is it identical in meaning. David sat upon an earthly throne as God's representative to rule over His people on Earth: therefore Solomon was (as God's anointed king, sitting on David' throne) a type of Christ, (the Heir of all things) sitting on David's throne, during the Millennium.
3. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, was not the fulfilment of all of Joel's prophecy. There will be another outpouring in the future. - Ed.