introduction to hebrews (3)

C. Looming doom:

As we approach this most valuable document in reference to the gospel of the Son of God, a national catastrophe was soon to face the Jews in the near future. We must understand that the prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of national Israel was approaching at the time the Hebrew letter was written (Mt 24).

Rome had determined to deal with the “Jewish problem” by subjugating the Jews, even to the point of destroying Jerusalem. And such they eventually did in A.D. 70. But in the few years leading up to this finality in A.D. 70, any Jew who was living in the region of Palestine was greatly intimidated to join the ranks of the Jewish resistance against Rome.

Jewish Christians who were addressed in this letter had been Christians for many years. At the time the letter was written, however, something was bearing on their emotions to the point that they were intimidated to forsake the gospel in order to return to the religion of Judaism. We do not know all the particulars concerning what was causing their imminent apostasy, but one point is certainly clear. There was great social intimidation that moved them to forsake the gospel of Jesus Christ and return to a system of religion that promoted self-sanctification through an earthly priesthood and the blood of animals.

The recipients of the letter were returning to a system of religion from which they had turned many years before in their obedience to the gospel. The political, social and religious environment in which they lived was evidently so strong that they were willing to sacrifice the love of God through Jesus for the cold formalism of Jewish religion. Therefore, we must never underestimate the appeal that self-righteous legal religion has on the souls of men.

At the time of writing, the gospel that was preached to the Jews was in the balance. If the readers’ apostasy to Judaism prevailed among the Jewish Christians who were addressed by the Hebrew document, then Christianity would have been greatly attacked at the very roots of its origins. And if this apostasy prevailed, then many in the world of the Gentiles would consider Christianity to be just another sect of Judaism, a sect that was finally brought back under the control of the religious establishment in Jerusalem.

If the Jewish Christians to whom the Hebrew writer addressed this gospel apologetic accomplished their journey back to Judaism, then the entire Christian Gentile world would question their base in the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jesus as the Messiah and final King of Israel. If He were not the Messiah of Israel, then their faith was vain; they too were yet in their sins. As the Jews, they too would have been subjected to wait again for the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Redeemer.

If all the Messianic prophecies were not fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, then the Jews had to wait for another Messiah. For such the majority of Jews throughout the world have waited since the Hebrew document was first penned. In some way, the Hebrew writer did not accomplish his goal in the letter, for most Jews in the first century did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. Nor do they today accept Him as the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecies concerning His present kingship and priesthood. Their rejection of Him then and now reveals their rejection of the gospel.

[Next in series: February 7]

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