Today is the first day of this new class – General Epistles and Revelation. Dr. Loken started out by telling us that the class should really be called the “General Epistles” ’cause Revelation is actually a “general epistle” too. It was clearly written to at least 7 churches which makes it pretty general.
We started out talking about Hebrews. The author is unknown, but most likely it was Paul or Barnabas. Much of the book is completely different than any of Paul’s other writings, but the greatest argument against him as the author comes in Heb 2:3 where the author says he learned the gospel from “those who heard Him.” Since Paul continually said that he had acquired the gospel directly from Jesus himself, it would be highly unlikely that he would have written this verse.
Dr. Loken explained that Hebrews was written to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. They were poor. Paul had even taken up offerings for them. They were poor because everything revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. All the commerce, social structures, everything. When someone became a Christian, they were immediately kicked out of the synagogue. They also typically lost their jobs, friends, family, and all support. When they confessed their faith, they understood that they were choosing persecution and struggle. This is why they were so good at sharing all their possessions, and living out their Christianity together. They “needed” the body in ways that our culture doesn’t understand. The easiest way for them to relieve the pressures of this kind of life was to go back to Judaism and the sacrificial system.
The book of Hebrews is a combination of dangling a carrot in front of them and then whipping them. Chapters 1, 3, & 5 are the carrots which talk about how Christ is so much better than Judaism. Chapters 2, 4, 6, 10, & 12 are more like the whip behind them saying you guys are going to receive the curse which was upon you head as a Jew if you go back to Judaism. The author of Hebrews continually encourages them to “hold fast” to their confession. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-27 with this understanding, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
This is not a verse about going to church, but one about staying together in the midst of persecution and encouraging one another. It also clearly talks about how these Jewish believers cannot just go back to the sacrificial system – cause it’s not a valid system anymore.
Hebrews 6:4-6 – For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
There are many interpretations for these verses, but here’s mine – These guys are clearly believers – “enlightened,” “tasted the heavenly gift,” “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They have to be Jewish believers ’cause the only guys who could crucify Jesus “again” are the guys who did it the first time. Basically the author is telling these Jewish believers (who are tempted to go back to Judaism for their own prosperity, comfort) that it would take Jesus going to the cross a second time to save them if they went back to Judaism now. Since that’s not gonna happen, they better remain true to their faith in Christ.
This probably sounds a bit like a ramble, but these are just some of the ideas we talked about tonight. I hope it’s not worthless reading, but I must admit that it probably isn’t my best writing. I don’t exactly have all my thoughts together very clearly yet either.