Hebrews is such a great book and can be as challenging and inspirational to study as Romans and Galatians. It is uncertain who the author is, but it is assumed that Paul wrote it – about AD 67-69. The book’s primary aim is to show the Jewish converts of Christianity that the Levitical priesthood which was so important to them, and their culture, and their temple – was all but a shadow of the Messiah – Jesus Christ. For this reason, understanding the content of the book of Hebrews goes a long way in seeing how far Mormonism is off in their doctrinal claims of priesthood restoration
Here we go! Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at sundry (various) times and in divers manners (different ways) spake in time past unto the fathers (our ancestors) by the prophets.” What different ways did God speak to prophets in the past? He spoke to Moses through the burning bush. He spoke to Job from a whirlwind. He spoke to Joseph in dreams. He spoke to Joshua through an angel. He spoke to Samuel as a voice in the night. He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. He spoke to Daniel in a vision. None of these men knew each other, yet what God revealed to them perfectly meshed, together in the narrative of the Old and New Testaments. While God has spoken to the prophets in the past, Verse 2 “Hath in THESE last days spoken unto us by his Son (Jesus), whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he (Jesus) made the worlds.” HOW has God “spoken to us by His Son?” Jesus revealed the invisible person of God – through being perfect in his mortal body. Through the prophets during the preceding 1500 years, God revealed fragmentary revelations of Himself. But when Jesus came, He was the complete and full revelation of God. Verse 3 “Who (Jesus) being the brightness of his (God’s) glory, and the express image of his (God’s) person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins (paid for our sins), sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Mormonism interprets that to mean God also is in a body of flesh and – that Jesus is an exact physical replica of His Father on high. First of all the Greek word for “express image” is “charkter” – the character of His person. In this sense, the word relates to characteristics not of physical form. God is love – Jesus is love in physical form, etc. Jesus said in John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the image of the “invisible God.”
Getting back – remember Hebrews is trying to build a case that Christ Jesus is better than all they have had in the past. Verse 3 finishes by saying – Jesus “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He was sitting because His work – THE work – was done. See, the singular high priest working in the temple never sat, because the work and ordinances and rituals were never done. Here the writer points out that Jesus is our ONLY high priest who completed all the work once and for all – and that Jesus sits down because His work is finished. I want to point out that the phrase “right hand of God” is a Hebraism that describes a place of power and position. Being on “the right hand” means the person or being is in a position of power and honor. Mormonism teaches that, if God the Father did not have a physical body of flesh and bones, then how could Jesus Christ have possibly sat down at “the right hand” of the Father? If the Father has a right hand, then He must have a body of flesh of bones? Once again, the Mormons are reading an idea into the text that is not there. In the Jewish mind, the right hand referred to the place of honor. It is simply a metaphorical expression affirming that Christ was in a position of authority.
In Hebrews Chapter 2, the writer continues to bear witness to the Jews as to who Christ is – and that He is better than prophets and angels. He again uses many Old Testament references to Christ with which the Jews would be familiar.
Now, one of Paul’s major objectives in writing this letter to the Hebrews – the Jewish converts to the Church – was to convince them to accept Christ fully and to discontinue living the Law of Moses. Many Jews considered Moses to be the most important prophet of all. Here Paul shows that Moses was indeed a significant prophet, but that he was Christ’s servant. (read twice) 3:1 “Wherefore, holy brethren (holy in the sense that they are set apart unto God), partakers of the heavenly calling (not a priesthood, like Mormons believe – but referring to being called Sons and Daughters now after receiving salvation in Christ), consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (confession), Christ Jesus (who is the center of our faith).” The Jews were blessed through Moses to have their own priesthood – the Levitical Priesthood – especially their own high priest – who performed the rites and rituals in the temple. Here in Chapter 3, Paul is showing that as Jews – who have come to receive Christ as their savior and redeemer – they had not lost anything – but that Jesus was and is, in fact, better than all the former system combined. Like prophets of old, what use do we have for continued apostles – like the LDS church has – since the 12 apostles Jesus called fulfilled their purpose – and then Jesus being the ultimate “Apostle” who authored and finished our faith? Religions who seek to re-establish “prophets like unto Moses,” or Apostles “like unto the original 12,” or High Priests “like the ones who would enter the Holy of Holies once a year,” are blasphemous – in the face of the finished work of Christ.
Verses 2-3 “Who (speaking of Moses) was faithful to him (God) that appointed him (Jesus), as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man (Jesus) was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.” In other words, Moses was only a part of God’s household of faith, whereas Jesus was the creator of that household, and therefore is greater than Moses and equal to God. Verses 4-6 “For every house is builded by some man (like the prophet Moses); but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant (of God), for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after (through Jesus at a later time); But Christ as a son over his own house (His own kingdom here on earth and in heaven); whose house are we (who make up the body of believers), if we hold fast (if we are faithful to) the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.”
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick (or, living), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” While the word of God is confirming and nourishing to those who believe, it is a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ. Some of the Hebrews were merely going through the motions of belonging to Christ. God’s word would expose their shallow beliefs and even their false intentions.
4:14 “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (confession, testimony).” Paul is now trying to convey to the Jewish Christian reader that Jesus is a far better high priest than what was provided to the Jews through the Levitical priesthood. This was a hereditary priesthood from the family of Aaron. And, while all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests. Paul calls Jesus a “great high priest” because He was over all the priests of the former Old Testament age. If the Jews had a high priest who once a year entered into the material temple holy of holies bearing the animal blood which was shed for the sins of the people – how much better is the Christian “great high priest” who entered permanently into a heavenly holy of Holies not made with hands – bearing His own precious blood on our behalf.
Paul now uses a double-negative to make a positive point, 4:15 “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched (who can’t relate to our mortal weakness) with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Christ was perfect).” What a beautiful fact – that our High Priest doesn’t just understand the human condition – but was “in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.” Like Paul had said in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” What a perfect Mediator He is – of compassion, and love, and sacrifice, and purity – there on our behalf.
Paul concludes by saying, Verse 16 “Let us therefore come boldly (with confidence, with sold-out faith) unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy (through Christ’s atonement), and find grace to help in time of need.” What God is going to want to know from our Great High Priest is: Did she or he believe on my Son? Did he or she justify their belief on Him by and through their love for others? The fruit of love proves we have believed. Never depending on our own merits or performance, but that a complete holy sacrifice has been offered on our behalf and we accepted it. Mercy for our failures and grace as forgiveness will continue to support us in our time of need.
In Hebrews 5:1-4, the writer of Hebrews is setting forth the qualifications for being a Levitical priest. No man can of his own accord set himself up as a high priest. Verse 4 “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Aaron, the first of Israel’s high priests, occupied his office by divine appointment. The terms “priest” and “high priest” used in the Gospels and in Acts, is referring to the Old Testament Jewish application. Hebrews is the only place where it refers to the High Priest in the New Covenant. Why? Because the final Sacrifice had been made – completed by Christ, our Great High Priest once and for all. Not even Jesus’s Chosen Twelve are ever called priests. From this alone we can see the ridiculousness of Catholic’s calling men priests, and of the LDS calling 17-year old boys, priests – and grown men, high priests. It’s mockery!
Verse 5 “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.” In other words, if Aaron was called by God and met the qualifications set forth to be the high priest, how much more was God’s perfect, only begotten Son? Appealing to an Old Testament passage to prove the qualifications of Jesus as High Priest, Verse 6 “As he (speaking of the Messiah) saith also in another place (Psalms 110:1-4), Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” So, who is this Melchizedek? Nowhere in Scripture is Melchizedek linked with the actual title of high priest. It just says in Genesis 14:18 “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” But notice a characteristic that Psalms 110 assigns to Christ, who would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek: “Thou art a priest FOR EVER after the order of Melchizedek.” We will learn more about that in Chapter 7 of Hebrews. But the meaning is that – this priesthood of the Messiah would not be changed or handed on to others. In other words, where the high priestly duties of Aaron were laid down at the death of each high priest and then was transferred to another qualified individual – there would NEVER be a transfer of this priesthood. It was to remain unchangeably the same because it would be in the possession of an unchangeable being. To suggest that this priesthood of Melchizedek is transferable from one to another – like Aaron’s was – is to suggest that Jesus too has passed from His place of eternal immanence. Then when the writer says that the Messiah would be “after the order,” all he is saying is that the Messiah would be of the same rank or station as Melchizedek. Both were Kings. None of the kings of the Jews were ever priests; neither were any of the priests ever a King. But in Melchizedek, these two offices were united – and this is also obviously true of Jesus – He was both a priest and king.
We ask ourselves, how does Christ, our Great High Priest understand our plight? How deeply does He – being human – sympathize with our condition? Chapter 5:7-8 “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications (in Gethsemane) with strong crying and tears unto him (His Father) that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared (facing the scourging and crucifixion). Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” His obedience as the Son of God was necessary to fulfill all righteousness and prove to be the perfect sacrifice for us sinners.
Verse 9 “And being made perfect, he became the author (provider) of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” He was made perfect by dying and being resurrected in glorious immortality and given all power in heaven and earth. The last part of that verse says, “unto all them that obey him.” What does this mean? The commandment that Jesus told his disciples to obey was summed up in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Hebrews 5:10 “Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedec.” Here the writer brings up Melchizedek again. Then in Verse 11 all the way through the rest of Chapter 5 and the entirety of Chapter 6, the writer addresses in a long parenthetical reference to these Jewish members – their failure to grow in grace and knowledge. And then he picks up the topic of Melchizedek again in Chapter 7. So, we will end here for now.
And, this concludes our study of Hebrews Chapters 1 through 6. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.
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Until next time, God Bless!