According to many scholars, the book of Hebrews was written to a group of second-generation Jewish Christians who were facing growing persecution. No one knows for sure who the author was. He was most likely a Jewish Christian who wrote just before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans in AD 70.
At that time, the Jews were exempted from rituals involving emperor worship, but not the Christians, who faced severe persecution if they refused to participate. Many Jewish Christians were tempted to return to Judaism to avoid persecution, but the writer urges them to stay true to Christ. He does this by showing them why Christ is ″better″ (the word occurs 13 times)1 than angels, Moses and his law, the old priesthood, and the animal sacrifices in the old sanctuary. The author uses many Old Testament quotations to argue his point; most of these are attributed directly to God without mention of human intermediaries.2 To trust and follow Christ is not to follow an entirely new religion, but to recognise that He is the fulfilment of all that was promised by the old covenant. It would therefore be foolish to leave the redemptive reality of Christ and return to what is merely the representative shadow of the old religion.
Imagine an aged parent still clinging to the tattered photograph of her long-lost son even after he finally returns home. Wouldn't it be strange if she was unable to differentiate the profound difference between the old photograph and the living person? Such is the writer's argument to show that Jesus is the perfect Lawgiver and sympathetic High Priest who shed His blood on the cross to save us. Far from drifting away from Christ, we should draw near to Him and hold on to Him with faith, faithfulness, and perseverance even amid persecution, for we have a great salvation only in Him who is the eternal anchor for our souls.
1F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 9. 2W. H. Griffith Thomas, Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 27.
The Structure of Hebrews
The Supremacy of Christ
Christ the Perfect High Priest
The New and Better Covenant of Christ
The Great Heritage of Faith
Faithful Christian Living
Christ the Great Shepherd
Key Verse We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. -Hebrews 3:14
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