What is in Hebrews?
Hebrews is the 58rd book in the Bible and the 19th book in the New Testament.

Right at the beginning, the supremacy of Christ is made known through a collection of biblical sayings showing that Christ is higher than the angels. Knowing this, Christians know that the salvation Jesus offered is real, and those who neglect its reality do so to their peril. Christ is superior to Moses, and the writer warns Christians not to fall away from God, as the Israelites in the Old Testament were apt to do. Those who do fall away will not enter God’s sabbath rest.

The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus a high priest, able to understand our temptations as He was tempted himself, but did not sin like we do. A high priest acts on behalf of men towards God. Jesus did not exalt himself as a high priest, but was appointed as such by God. The writer warns against apostasy – it is impossible for someone who has tasted the glory of God and then have fallen away to be restored to repentance, since they are sinning against what they know to be the truth. God’s unchanging character guarantees his promises to be true.

Jesus is compared – first by God himself elsewhere in the Bible, and then by the writer of Hebrews – to Melchizedek, an Old Testament priest seen as a foreshadowing of Christ in the sense that Melchizedek has no birth, death, or parentage recorded in scripture. In that way, Melchizedek is a eternal priest. Christ, of course, is supreme to Melchizedek, as Melchizedek was just a man, and Christ is the true eternal high priest. Jesus is a high priest of a covenant superior to the one Melchizedek oversaw as well, as Jesus’s covenant ensures that the law is written in our minds and hearts, that we will know the Lord without exception. In the old covenant, the high priest regularly entered into every Holy Place to perform ritual duties. Jesus, however, entered once for all when He died and eternally redeemed us. There no longer has to be any physical offering for sin, as Christ can forgive all.

Since Christ has enabled us to enter the holy places, we should draw near to Him, knowing that He is faithful. We should also keep to our Christian faith, as those who keep on willfully sinning after becoming Christians do not have a high value of Jesus. They will have to answer to God concerning what they have done. Faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen’. By faith, many of the major figures in the Old Testament (Abel, by offering an acceptable sacrifice to God, Noah, in constructing the ark, Abraham, by following God’s call, Moses, by leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and many others) saw glimpses of something greater to come, which was Jesus, the ‘founder and perfecter of our faith’. We should not grow weary while running our life’s race, but continue to struggle against sin as a child of the Lord. Living a life in Christ is pleasing to God.

Who wrote it?
The author of Hebrews is anonymous, and furthermore, there are no widely accepted guesses as to who it is.

Who was it written to?
The audience is never clearly stated. The letter does imply, though, that the intended audience was Christians.

When was it written?
Hebrews mentions Timothy in Hebrews 13:23. Through the letter alone, it is not clear if the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. had happened yet. Yet, many scholars assume a date before 70 A.D.

Why was it written?
The book of Hebrews is strong in encouragement. It exhorts Christians to hold fast to what they believe, as the promises are indisputable. It also tells us how the second covenant (that of Jesus) is superior to the first covenant (that of the Mosaic law) in many ways.

How does Hebrews apply to me?
Hebrews does a good job of connecting the dots between the Old and New Testaments. The ‘By Faith’ discourse in Hebrews 11 lists well-known Old Testament figures and how they followed God’s call. They were faithful and received promises of something greater. While they did not fully understand what that something greater was in their lifetimes, they knew they were playing a part in it and considered it their joy to follow where God led them. They experienced God working in their own lives as well through deliverance and miracles, among other things. All this builds up to the New Testament, where we clearly see Jesus, coming forth from the Israelite people and fulfilling the old covenant, replacing it with a new superior covenant.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project video on Hebrews

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Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0