Hebrews Lesson 4 March 10, 2005
NKJ Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!
We are getting into one of the most significant and well-crafted sentences in all of the New Testament. Hebrews is made up of five basic sections like a 5-point sermon. It was probably an oral Bible class with 5 major points that was cleaned up later and sent out as an epistle. Each point has a doctrinal section followed by an exhortation and challenge or warning. The basic themes are woven in a masterful way into the opening sentence of Hebrews which is contained in the first four verses that you have in your English Bible. The thrust of the first four verses is that the God who has spoken. That carries a powerful implication that we will see. If He has spoken, then we have a tremendous responsibility to listen and respond. It implies there are serious consequences if we don't. That is why there are these warning passages in the five sections of this book.
NKJ Hebrews 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
As you can tell that is a loaded sentence. The passage touches on about 20 different doctrines in one sentence. We should remember that the focus is that God has spoken. It is said in such a way that the grammar implies finality to the revelation of God. It is imbedded in the grammar as we will see. It is a fascinating sentence to read in the Greek. There are six p's found in the alliteration. The writer is an orator. He is masterful in catching the attention of his audience.
Let's do some analysis and exegesis before we get into the implications of the doctrine. The key idea in the first verse revolves around the verb to speak. It seems in the King James that the emphasis is on God as the subject of the verb "spoke". However you do not have a finite verb in the first verse. We have a participial phrase that is dependent on the main verb found in the second verse. God has spoken in these last days by means of His Son. That is the main clause. The subject is God. The verb is "has spoken". That God has spoken is what the writer emphasizes here. Everything else is secondary in the mind of the writer. That is an important thing to note because we should emphasize what the writer emphasizes. When all is said and done and we have gone through all the doctrines, the thrust is that God has spoken.
The first key word we have to look at in the Greek is the verb to speak. The aorist active participle of the verb laleo means to speak. The aorist tense of a participle means that the action of the participle precedes the action of the main verb. This is an adverbial participle. An adverbial participle can have various shades of meaning. Here it is a circumstantial participle of time. It should be translated "after God spoke." The action in verse 1 precedes the action of His speaking in verse 2.
Two adverbs follow that fit together in a harmonious way are polumeros and polutropos. They indicate the complexity of divine revelation in the Old Testament. The first word is an adverb of manner and can be translated in many ways, in many parts, fragments. The best idea is fragments. The idea is that revelation given in the Old Testament was partial. It is not complete. It is fragmentary. It is given a little here and a little there. The whole picture was not revealed even when the Old Testament was complete. That is why you must have the New Testament, to complete the whole picture. With the closing of the New Testament, God's revelatory work is concluded.
The second adverb used is also an adverb of manner. It could imply the different geographical locations where revelation took place in the Old Testament. Daniel lived in Persia. You had revelation in the Promised Land, in Babylon, and in Egypt. So you have different geographical locations as the basis of divine revelation. But the main idea is to emphasize the various methods of disclosure. God used a variety of means. He spoke face to face with Moses and many others. He used dreams and visions. There are other forms that God used to communicate revelation in the Old Testament.
In times past is the adverb of time palai means formerly or of old time. It describes something completed in the past. Here the idea is that the ancient teaching was completed. That is definitely true. The Old Testament was concluded with God's last revelation to the prophet Malachi about 440 BC. The Old Testament canon was closed. God was silent. He did not communicate again until He sent His angel to announce the pregnancy of Mary and to announce that John the Baptist's mother Elizabeth was pregnant. That was the next time. God was silent about 440 years. No revelation of any kind took place. There was a completion of that revelation. His purpose was to communicate certain information to His people. Once that task is accomplished, then God ceases that revelatory operation.
Next is the phrase en plus the instrumental dative of prophetes. The instrumental dative of means indicates the means by which revelation was accomplished. It was through the prophets. That was the instrument that God used to communicate His truth. He communicated it to the fathers. That would be the Jewish fathers. There is an emphasis on a Jewish background.
Corrected Translation: After God spoke long ago in various fragments and in a variety of forms to the fathers by means of the prophets
He has spoken is the first verb in verse 2. It is an aorist active indicative of laleo indicating that this is the main verb. That is the main idea – He has spoken to us by means of His Son. If we compare verse one and verse two, we see the main idea brought out. The emphasis is on the verbal communication from God as indicated by the verb laleo. As soon as we get into this we realize that we have to understand a few things about how God has spoken. What is the criterion for understanding and evaluating God's speech? How do you validate that God has spoken and not just someone's opinion or self-justification or just off their medication? How do we know that it is the Word of God?
In the comparison of verse 1 and 2, we see the writer emphasizing the unity between the New Testament and the Old Testament. It is the same God that revealed the Old Testament that has revealed the New Testament through His Son. He is building a unity.
We note also that God used a fragmentary method to communicate and various forms in Israel's history. It was like hearing a clock bong. That is what it was like. They kept hearing those bongs in each era. As each century went by they learned a little bit more about God's plan and purposes. They learned more about the Messiah and things came into focus. It was a fragmentary revelation. It was incremental. It was progressive and increasing amount of revelation. Moses knew more than Abraham knew. Abraham knew more than Noah knew. Noah knew more than Adam knew because there was a progressing and increasing amount of revelation.
In light of this phrase "God has spoken" we should recognize that in many pagan religions this is a profound statement. The gods of India do not speak. But the God of the Bible speaks. It is one of the most controversial things to unbelievers. Pagans hate that God has spoken. What is imbedded is the very idea that God has communicated. If He communicated, then it must by its very nature be absolute truth. If He has communicated, it holds us accountable for what He has communicated. It is highly offensive and the pagan mind wants to suppress that truth in unrighteousness. He holds it down, covers it up, and reshapes it in unrighteousness. Modern man hates the concept that God has spoken.
A second thing to observe is that in places where the pagan gods have spoken, the way they speak is through mysticism. It is completely in contrast to the way the God of the Bible spoke historically. Pagan gods communicate in private. It is non-verifiable. There is no truthfulness to it. It may be right on occasion but it doesn't meet the same standards that the Scripture does. There is a radical difference in the way God speaks and the way pagan gods communicate. Just think about it. There is a radical categorical difference between the God of the Bible who is the Creator of the heavens and earth and stands outside and apart from creation because He is the Creator and the other gods of all the other religions who are the creations of man. They are inside the circle of creation. What we have in creation is a bounded universe. God exists outside creation. Man generates his own gods that are part of the universe. That is why we have the gods of lust, war, and love. They are inside the circle of creation. They are not totally distinct. The gods did not communicate the same way. What you have is a god that is just a super man. He is of the same substance that we are. This characterized all paganism. There is a radical difference. If we don't understand that, then when we diminish the significance of God's speaking in the Old Testament and New Testament. We water it down.
Doctrine of Divine Revelation
- The word revelation is derived from the Greek word apokolupsis. It means unveiling or disclosure of something. He discloses to the mind of man the information that God wants him to have. It signifies God's revelation of Himself. Man may be able to acquire it. Revelation is a function of God. Man does not generate revelation. It is at God's discretion not man's discretion.
- We must distinguish revelation from other functions.
1) One function is inspiration. It is the process whereby God oversaw the process of inscripturation or the recording of the Word and it's preservation throughout the years. It is not the same thing as revelation.
2) Illumination is the process whereby God the Holy Spirit enables us to understand what has been revealed in the Scripture. He does not speak to you as He did to the prophets. I John 2:27, Luke 24:32-5, I Cor 2:9-10
3) Another category is leading. God the Holy Spirit leads us through verbal and non-verbal events directly (Scripture) and indirectly (illumination, the council of others, the teaching of the pastor, or circumstances).
- There are two categories of divine revelation
- General revelation refers to non-verbal or non-specific revelation. In Ps 19:1 we are told that the heavens speak to us non-verbally. We can see the magnificent design of a flower. It tells us something about the character of God. Proverbs talks about studying the ants. You could come to some false conclusions studying ants. The female ant dominates. If you apply that you would be way off. The Bible tells us how to interpret general revelation. The Bible says to look at how the ant works. Not to see how it functions socially. It limits that. Special revelation defines and helps us understand general revelation. Adam and Eve could not have derived from general revelation that they would fall by eating of the tree. That had to be communicated through special revelation. That is the relationship between the two. There are no prohibitions in general revelation. General revelation is interpreted through special revelation. General revelation tells us about God, His power, His planning, His abilities, and information about man and nature. Sometimes this is called natural revelation. Due to sin, general revelation is continuously suppressed by the unbeliever. Ps 19:1-6, Rom 1:18-21, Matt 5:45
- Special revelation is recorded and preserved in the canon of Scripture. There is also non-recorded special revelation. God talked to Enoch in Genesis in special revelation but it is not recorded for posterity. It is also about God, man and nature. What distinguishes the two is that general revelation comes out of nature but, special revelation comes from God's Word. God speaks. God speaks and communicates information. It is generally more important than general revelation. Special revelation is necessary to properly understand and utilize general revelation. That is why data from science and historical studies must always be under the authority of special revelation. He sets up the boundaries. John 1:18, 6:36, 14:10, II Tim 3:16-17(key verse), II P 1:21
- Special revelation is progressive in nature. He gives information to man incrementally. He did not dump it on man all at one time. Peter knew some things Paul did not know. Yet Peter said that some of the things of Paul were hard to understand. Other information was given to John.
- Revelation is progressive. There is a time when it is all finished. I Cor13:8-13 clearly indicates this.
- Special revelation is verbal and specific and precise. It is not just ideas or concepts. Every word is important. This is called prepositional revelation. He reveals with words, sentences, and statements. Ex 19:6 It is the words that are important. Deut 29:1, 31:24, Gal 1:11-12, Deut 13:1
- God gives us tests to validate truth. There are Old Testaments tests for revelation.
NKJ Deuteronomy 13:1 "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,
2 "and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' -- which you have not known -- 'and let us serve them,'
3 "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 "You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
What is important is the message. Is it consistent with the rest of the Word?
God allows the test to see if you will follow His word. It is a test of the doctrine in your soul. It is a test to know if you love the Lord with all of your heart and soul and mind.
Deut 18: 20-22 is the second great test.
NKJ Deuteronomy 18:20 'But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'
This is legislation. This is what God put in the Mosaic Law. If they were not always right 100%, then they were to be put to death. Why? Because they are claiming to utter words from God and to represent God. If they say something that is false, then it could mislead others in their spiritual life. That is how important God sees this. That God spoke indicates a high level of authority.
NKJ Deuteronomy 18:21 "And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' -- 22 "when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
7. The illustration is in I Kings 13. Let me set the stage here. The situation takes place after the death of Solomon. The kingdom was first united under Saul. Then, he was succeeded by David. David was succeeded by his son Solomon. Solomon was succeeded by his young son Rehoboam. Rehoboam was a fool. Because of Solomon's disobedience and sin, God told Solomon that he would take the kingdom away from him. So that he would be faithful to the Davidic covenant, two tribes of Judah and Benjamin would be faithful to the house of David in the south. Then there was another kingdom in the north of the 10 tribes. There was a tax revolt. Rehoboam increased already egregious taxes on all the Jews. So the ten tribes said they would not put up with that and he would not be their king any more. They appointed Jeroboam I as their king. Jeroboam recognizes that he must unify the kingdom and that would not happen if he was sending everyone south to Jerusalem. So he does four things. He establishes two new centers for worship that compete with the temple in Jerusalem. One is in Bethel in the south. The other is up north in Dan. The second thing he did was to establish these golden calves as idols. He substitutes a false god. Third, he establishes a new priest caste and gets rid of the Levite priests and takes priests from the other nations. He redid the spiritual calendar of Israel. He is brilliant in the way he restructures everything. He is a master in understanding what had to take place. But God would not let that happen and sends a prophet to him. He goes from Judah to Bethel.
NKJ 1 Kings 13:1 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 2 Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, "O altar, altar! Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you.' "
Jeroboam acts like a priest. He imitates David. The prophet comes to him and makes a prophetic announcement to him. This is precise communication from God. It involves a child-king named Josiah. He will be from the house of David. He will sacrifice priests on the high places and burn men's bones. This event takes place around 931 BC. This is fulfilled 300 years later in II Kings 23:15, 20.
NKJ 2 Kings 23:15 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image.
20 He executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men's bones on them; and he returned to Jerusalem.
Here we see the precise fulfillment. But how did the people know that this would be fulfilled later? Because God gave them an immediate sign found in verse 3.
NKJ 1 Kings 13:3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, "This is the sign which the LORD has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out." 4 So it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, who cried out against the altar in Bethel, that he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, "Arrest him!" Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself. 5 The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.
This confirms the prophecy. The king wants his hand restored. Imagine how scared he was at that point.
6 Then the king answered and said to the man of God, "Please entreat the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me." So the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king's hand was restored to him, and became as before.
7 Then the king said to the man of God, "Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward."
8 But the man of God said to the king, "If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place.
9 "For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.' "
10 So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel
God told him to go straight home. So he does that. Now we go to scene two.
11 Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king.
12 And their father said to them, "Which way did he go?" For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah.
13 Then he said to his sons, "Saddle the donkey for me." So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it,
14 and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, "Are you the man of God who came from Judah?" And he said, "I am."
15 Then he said to him, "Come home with me and eat bread."
16 And he said, "I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place.
17 "For I have been told by the word of the LORD, 'You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.' "
18 He said to him, "I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.' " (He was lying to him.)
19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.
20 Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back;
This is the issue. The old false prophet says that an angel spoke to him. The Holy Spirit knows he is lying. This is a test for the young prophet to see if he is faithful to the Word of God alone or if he will be swayed by someone who claims to have a message from the God. The young prophet fails. He goes back to the house. Then the Word does come to the old prophet.
21 and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, "Thus says the LORD: 'Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD, and have not kept the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you,
22 'but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, "Eat no bread and drink no water," your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.' "
23 So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back.
24 When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse.
25 And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
26 Now when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard it, he said, "It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the LORD. Therefore the LORD has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to him."
He will die for his disobedience and went after a false prophet. That is how serious God took it. So God made a profound object lesson for Jehoboam. If the prophet had disobeyed without consequences, then Jehoboam would have thought he may get away with everything. So God makes a profound statement takes the life of the young prophet. He heads south and a lion attacks him and sits there by the body next to the donkey. Is that would a normal lion would do? No. The lion would have dinner on the body and dessert on the donkey. This shows it is a miraculous event from the hand of God to make an object lesson out of this prophet who failed to apply the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18 to this message.
The old prophet goes down and finds the body and brings him back.
27 Then he spoke to his sons, saying, "Saddle the donkey for me." And they saddled it. 28 And he went and found his body thrown on the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the body; the lion had not eaten the body nor torn the donkey. 29 So the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey, and brought it back and he came to the city of the old prophet to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid his body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, a"Alas, my brother!" 31 And it came about after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, "When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; alay my bones beside his bones. 32 a"For the thing shall surely come to pass which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and bagainst all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of cSamaria."
He buried him in his own grave. Why? He understood that this was a true prophet of God who had one failure. The old prophet wanted him to be buried in his grave. In death he wanted blessing by association with him. This pagan idea slipped in. He thought there would be an extra blessing from this genuine prophet. It demonstrates the reality of Deuteronomy 13 and 18. When people say that God has spoken to them, how do you know? That is why we have tests to do this. You couldn't just claim it was a message from God. That is what happened in paganism. Sometimes demons spoke through people.
Chafer wrote about false mysticism in his systematic theology.
"The theory that divine revelation is not limited to the written word of God but that God bestows added truth to souls that are sufficiently quickened by the spirit of God to receive it. This class contends that by self effacement - going out and living in the desert, giving up food and water by devotion to God - individuals may attain to immediate and direct conscious realization of the person and presence of God."
That is the chain of being. If you just find the right formula, you will get that special connection to the god who is just one rung up the ladder.
"False mysticism includes all those systems which teach identity between god and human life. In it are included practically all of the holiness movements of the day - spiritism, Seventh Day Adventism, new thought metaphysics, Christian Scientism, Mormonism and millennial dawnism. The founders and promoters of many of these cults make claims to special revelation from god upon which their system is built."
So how do you know they are right or wrong? You have to see if it stacks up to the doctrine in the Scripture. He contrasts that to what he calls true mysticism – the leading of the Holy Spirit. That is not the same thing. It is poor methodology to use mysticism to the Christian life. The Bible never uses the word in that way.
Leon Wood an Old Testament professor also did a tremendous study on ecstatics and prophecy.
"In ecstatic frenzy the subject seeks to withdraw his mind from conscious participation in the world so that it may be open to the reception of the divine word. To achieve this ecstatic state, poisonous gas may be employed, a rhythmic dance or even narcotics. The desire is to lose all rational contact with the world and so make possible a rapport with the spiritual realm. Already before Israel's conquest of Palestine, Moses calls himself a prophet and states that a prophet like himself would arise after him. He uses the singular in reference to this one as so is correctly taken to mean Christ as the supreme prophet thus to arise. But the context shows that he has reference in a secondary sense also to other prophets that generally should appear later in history. Moses himself was not an ecstatic. Hence, if prophets were to follow Moses were to be like him neither would they be ecstatic."
If Moses wasn't a mystic, no other prophets would be mystics. He did not operate on mystics.
We have begun to crack the door on how God speaks.