The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish-Christians who were undergoing persecution for their belief that Jesus was Israel’s long-expected Messiah. They were tempted to turn back from following Jesus and reverting to living under the Mosaic Covenant. As a result, the Hebrews writer continually exhorts the Jewish Christians to persevere. For example, in Hebrews 6:12 we read these words: “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” These kind of exhortations are common throughout the Book of Hebrews.
The basis for this call to perseverance and for the Christian’s hope is that Jesus Christ and the New Covenant are the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants. For example, in Hebrews 1, the writer shows how Jesus is superior to the angels. Angels worshiped Jesus, God’s Son, when He came into the world (Heb. 1:6). Angels are ministering servants (Heb. 1:7) but Jesus is explicitly called God (Heb. 1:8) by the author of Hebrews.
It seems that the Jews were placing too high of an importance on angels. They are important but they should not take precedence over Jesus. It is not them who will rule the world in the age to come but it is Jesus and those humans who have been redeemed in Him (Heb. 2:5-13). In Hebrews 2, the author fully sets forth the humanity of Jesus. He is fully God (Hebrews 1) and fully human. Since death came through a human (Adam), death had to be destroyed through a human (2:14,15; Romans 5:12-21). Jesus has broken the hold of fear that the devil possessed over man through the fear of death. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, he broke the authority of death. He brought immortal life to light and was raised above the devil and above all principalities and powers (Eph. 1:20-23). And Christians have been raised up with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenlies, above all the powers of darkness (Eph. 2:4-7).
The basis of the Christian’s persevering hope is not only the superiority of Jesus over angels, but also his superiority over Moses (Heb. 3:1-19). Furthermore, Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the priestly ministry of Aaron and his descendants (Heb. 5-8). Jesus did not die and stay dead, but He rose from the grave on the third day and lives forever. Therefore, His priesthood goes on forever and He is able to save us to the uttermost (Heb. 7:23-28).
Jesus’ personhood is superior to the Mosaic Covenant priests. In addition, the sanctuary He ministers in is superior. He ministers in a heavenly sanctuary, in God’s very presence, compared to the earthly sanctuary of the Mosaic Covenant (Heb. 8:5;9:1-12). The earthly temple was a copy of the heavenly one (9:24).
Jesus’ sacrifice is superior as well. It was Himself and His own very blood, compared with the blood of animals under the Mosaic Covenant (Hebrews 9:12-14). The blood of animals could cover a person’s sin and make them ceremonially (outwardly) clean, but Christ’s blood takes the guilt of a person’s sin away (Heb. 9:13,14). Christ had to be sacrificed once which once-for-all took away a person’s sin. He didn’t have to offer Himself over and over again, like the priests of the Mosaic Covenant who offered animals over and over again (Heb. 9:25-28). The blood of animals couldn’t take a person’s guilt away like Christ’s blood, shed once and for all time.
The covenant Jesus mediates is superior to the old covenants. His covenant fulfills all the prior covenants and they contain superior or better promises (Heb. 8:6). We have assurance of sin’s guilt removed and we serve a High Priest that will never die. He ministers in heaven itself. And Jesus is both fully God and fully human. He perfectly represents God to us and us to God. He is the perfect mediator.
No wonder that the Hebrews’ author gives us this exhortation in Hebrews 10:19-23: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” This is the Good News of Jesus. Pastor John