Hebrews Lesson 6 March 24, 2005
NKJ Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Open your Bibles to Hebrews 1:1. We may be in these first four verses for a number of weeks because they are jam packed with crucial foundational references – references that most people don't fully understand. Each phrase and each clause is loaded with doctrinal significance and doctrinal impact much of which is developed in the rest of this epistle. So we will take some time laying the foundation, going through this clause-by-clause. We are beginning with the key clause. These four verses represent one sentence in the original Greek. The main idea is that God has spoken. God is mentioned in the first verse. He is the subject of the verb spoken that you have in the second verse. The subject of these verses is God. The main verb is spoken. The main thrust of these four verses is that God has spoken to us by means of His Son. Everything else in these four verses expands on that idea. The main idea is that He has spoken to us in these last days by means of His Son.
Before he makes that statement, the writer reminds us that God spoke previously. What he will develop in the first chapter is that the previous revelation was not complete. It was a partial revelation. It was not a complete revelation. It is not as full as the revelation that comes with finality in the person of the Son.
Corrected Translation: After God spoke in various fragments and in a variety of forms in time past to the fathers by means of the prophets,
In a nutshell he is talking about Old Testament revelation. He talks about the fact that God revealed Himself and that revelation was fragmentary and that it involved a variety of forms. It was by means of the prophets.
We saw in Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 that there were two tests outlined in those two chapters to indicate how you could evaluate a claim to God speaking. Many people say that God spoke through them. Mohammed said that God spoke through him. Joseph Smith says God spoke to him. All kinds of folks who have come along in history make the claim that God has spoken through them. Just because they make that claim even if it is backed up by miracles, signs, wonders and some fulfilled prophecy; God warns the Jews that the first test is doctrinal consistency. What they say must be consistent with what is already revealed. In that passage God says that someone may come along with dreams or miracles. The issue isn't that there were miracles. There may be miracles. But it is not the miracles. It is the message. If the message doesn't fit with what was previously revealed, then he is a false prophet.
In Deuteronomy 18 the issue is prophecy. If the claim to speak prophecy isn't fulfilled 100 percent, then the person is to be executed. Those are the two tests. What it tells us on the bottom line is that the statement "God says this" is a serious, serious statement that carries a weight of obligation on the person that the statement of God is addressed to. This is not something where you wake up and read Proverbs and say, "God spoke to me." When God speaks in the Old Testament it is a weighty thing. It is an important thing.
We traced God speaking through Genesis 1. We saw the statement that God said, "Let there be light." It is a verbal statement. It was not something that God thought. He said it out loud. When you come to Hebrews 11:2, it is not the Greek word logos that we find in other places. It is the synonym reima. It is not just the word in abstract. It is the spoken word. The worlds were framed by the spoken word of God in Hebrews 11:2. He speaks in a manner that can be recorded. It can be objectified. We have looked at a number of passages where God spoke. That is not to say that God never spoke in a private way. We saw one example of that with the older prophet in I Kings 13. The principle was that whenever God does anything in private, He always validates it through some form of confirmatory miracle or fulfillment of the prophecy as we have in that particular situation. The revelation of God is not like the revelation of other gods and other religions. It can be validated. It can be verified. It can be authenticated. It has objective criterion. So you apply that. All through the Old Testament you had the ongoing operation of prophets.
If you look at Hebrews 1:1, we have Old Testament revelation. Verse two then talks about New Testament revelation. Starting in verse three and into verse four, the focus shifts from God speaking to the qualifications of the Son through whom He speaks. That is the shift. Then that is developed in verse 5 down through the end of the chapter. This establishes the criterion and bona fides of the Son of God and why He is the One through whom God spoke. It is stated with such emphasis that it carries with it the implicit idea of finality. This isn't an overt statement so you can't say that Hebrews 1 proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that New Testament revelation was going to cease. But, it is implicit in the argument. This argument doesn't make sense if God is going to continue reveal Himself in special revelation down through the Church Age.
General revelation is the non-verbal, non-spoken, non-specific revelation of God, usually through His creation.
NKJ Psalm 19:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
We learn certain things about God by looking at the affects of what He has done. That is non-verbal revelation. You can't base doctrine on general revelation. You have to have special revelation. Special revelation is verbal and specific. It is based on the very words of God.
The mentality that is out there in the Pentecostal movement is that the words get in the way of people worshipping God. They think that people spend too much time worrying about the words. But, we don't know anything about the Lord without the words. People want to get together and hug each other and sing a few songs that make them feel good. They think that to go forward you must reject any deep theological study. They think that it will just lead to division. That is the mentality that is out there. That is that words get in the way of worshipping the Lord. That is just the opposite of what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches us that we have to understand the words. The Bible is not inspired in terms of images or ideas or concepts. Ideas and concepts can shift with the words. When you change the word "red" to "crimson", you change the image in a person's mind. Words are important because they communicate ideas. God inspired the words through the Holy Spirit.
What we see in the first few verses of Hebrews is picked up again. The author moves to establish why the words of the Son are superior to anything else. That implies a finality because after the Son there can't be anything that equals that. Look at Hebrews 2.
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
This is the application of the first chapter. Hebrews is a five-point sermon. Each point has a doctrinal development and exposition followed by an exhortation or challenge to application. The challenge to the first point is given in verses 1-4.
"Therefore" indicates a conclusion. That He has spoken is the main idea of the first chapter. This is serious. You just can't take it for granted because you have doctrine everyday. This is the most significant thing in all of history. No one else has had the kind of teaching that is available today. Yet, because it is so available we tend to take it for granted. The idea of getting a tape later because something else has come up is trivializing the Word of God. This is the most significant thing in the world. God has spoken. Jesus asked Peter why he was still hanging around. Everyone else was gone. Peter answered, "Because You have the words of eternal life." Nothing else matters in life except understanding doctrine. When it is all said and done, you can't take the toys with you. You are left with the doctrine in your soul. So the writer of Hebrews says that we should be diligent.
If the issue is that if the message of the angels which was a fragmentary, lesser revelation carried with it weighty consequences of retribution for disobedience and blessing for obedience; then what do you think about the New Testament revelation that comes by a superior source, the Son? If God wallops the Jews as seriously as He did and they had an inferior, limited, partial revelation; then how much more will He wallop us in the Church Age if we neglect this message? That is verse three. How will we escape punishment if we neglect so great a salvation? Everybody takes this verse out of context. They think it talks about phase one justification salvation – the great message that we have salvation from the penalty of sin by faith alone in Christ alone. But, that is not how the writer uses the word sozo. He talks about the whole package especially its ultimate realization in phase three when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord in front of the Judgment Seat of Christ ready to receive our rewards and our evaluation for what we have done to prepare us for service in the kingdom.
See how these four verses fit the first four verses of chapter one.
The remarkable thing is that in three and half years of ministry on the earth, Christ didn't write a thing. Who wrote it? The apostles. The delegation of the writing responsibility was given to the apostles. That is the point in the next verse. It validated their authority. It was specifically a criterion for apostolic ministry.
What we see is that God gives a fragmentary revelation in the Old Testament that carries with it certain consequences. These consequences are intensified because now it comes through the Son. But the Son doesn't record it. He delegates it to a specific group of people called apostles. They are the foundation of the New Testament. What is implicit in the statement is that when they are off the scene, there is no more special revelation. When they are off the scene, there is no more of God speaking as He did in the Old Testament and New Testament in terms of special revelation. You can say that God spoke to you through His word. That is valid. He speaks only through His word today. The more technical term for this is the illumination of the Holy Spirit as we have seen.
The focal point has been to look at the dynamics of revelation in the Old Testament. As you go through the Old Testament, you see that revelation was verifiable and objective. You could validate it. But it ended at a particular point in time. There is a purpose to revelation. God doesn't reveal Himself to satisfy our curiosity. God only reveals Himself at His volition not at man's volition. If you lived in Old Testament times, you could go out in the wilderness and fast and pray; but God would reveal Himself when He wants to reveal Himself because of His purposes in the unfolding, progressive disclosure of Himself in the Old Testament. When that body of knowledge was complete, God was silent. He was silent for 400 years. Malachi was the last revelation given in the Old Testament. It sets a precedent. God doesn't have to speak all the time. It reaches a point when the body of knowledge is complete and He is silent.
What happens in the New Testament? Then God spoke through His Son. New revelation began at the point where Gabriel appeared to Mary and to Joseph, in the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist as the herald of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. So you have new revelation, but this is the revelation that comes through the Son who is the ultimate revelation of God the Father and who God is.
NKJ John 1:18No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
The inscripturation of that revelation is given through the apostles. They are the foundation of the church.
How do we know that revelation has ceased? This is a big question. It is crucial. How do we know it stopped? How do we know that there aren't apostles today? How do we know that there aren't prophets today? How do we know that revelatory responsibility didn't continued down through the ages? What gives us the right to say that the canon is closed? Why isn't it just open? Many people today run around and claim that God is speaking to them and that these gifts did not cease. Some say that the gift of apostleship did not cease.
Peter Wagner was the head of the missions department at Fuller Seminary. When Fuller was founded it was solid theologically. They threw out the doctrine of inerrancy in the mid-sixties. Peter Wagner came on board. When you throw out inerrancy, eventually theology starts getting fluid because the Bible may not be fully the Word of God. Or, there may be more. By the late 1980's he got involved in the Signs and Wonders movement or the vineyard movement. They had a class at Fuller Seminary on signs and wonders. They were trying to learn how to do miracles. They were trying to give sight to the blind and raise people from the dead. It was on the fringe of the charismatic movement at the time. It gave birth to some other sub-movements such as the Kansas City Prophets. It gets wilder and wilder and wilder.
Then in the early 90's a group called the Toronto Blessing developed. This goes beyond the second blessing. They would laugh in the Spirit. They would run around the church until they fell down. They would cackle like hyenas and bark like dogs. This came out of the vineyard movement. It goes on and on and on. You feel like there is demonic activity everywhere.
This is where we are in evangelical Christianity today. Peter Wagner now claims to be an apostle. There is a resurrected apostleship today. He has a group of charismatic pastors around the country who are part of the Council for the New Apostle. So we are going to get new revelation.
So how do we know that revelation has ceased? You will be asked this question. They will ask you how you know that God is not speaking anymore. Take people back to Deuteronomy 13 and show them that God lets this happen to test them to see if they are going to love the Lord their God or follow this stuff and that they are failing the test. They won't like it. Take them gently through these passages. How did you evaluate the evidence? Is there any objective evidence that they are 100% true? You go through the criterion. You have to figure out how to present a case. The issue is that God has revealed how He will function and operate in different dispensations. He reveals Himself in different ways at different times.
How do you demonstrate that revelation has ceased? You go to I Corinthians 13. In context, chapter 12 talks about the spiritual gifts. It lists them out. Apostles are first. Prophets are second. Then it goes down through the list. It has revelatory gifts and service gifts. It has miraculous and service gifts. The Corinthians were all distorted on the importance and significance of the spiritual gifts. They elevated tongues. It had to do with their background in ecstatic utterance coming out of the pagan religions and the worship of Apollo. Speaking in ecstatic gibberish was the standard modus operandi for many of the mystery religions. That was the pagan frame of reference that the Corinthians brought to tongues. They did not understand that when God said they would speak in languages, it was not ecstatic utterances. It was real languages. When you get to chapter 13, Paul has been arguing that the real priority is not what spiritual gift you have. It is having unconditional love for one another in the body of Christ. And so he defines love in the first 7 verses. And then he is going to emphasize the priority of love over the spiritual gifts.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:8Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
Now what we see in verse 8 are two points. First of all, there is a contrast between the permanence of love and the impermanence of the revelatory gifts of prophecy and knowledge. The gift of tongues is secondary in this passage. The focus is on prophecy and knowledge. You have to catch this. The issue is that love is permanent but these gifts are temporary. That is the point. But, how temporary are they?
The second point that we need to observe here is that prophecy and knowledge are both said to be abolished. The Greek word is katargeo. It is used with both of these gifts. Prophecy is going to be abolished. Knowledge is going to be abolished. Sandwiched in between is the statement that tongues will cease. It is a different verb and it is in a different voice in the Greek. It stands out.
Love never fails. The Greek verb is pipto and it means that it is not going to falter. It is permanent. The Greek verb for cease is pauo in the future middle indicative. What is significant is the change of voice. There is no reason to change the voice. By changing the voice and verb, the author says that whatever happens with tongues will precede whatever happens with prophecy and knowledge. So by the time they pass off the scene, you know that tongues has already passed off the scene. That is what is implicit here. The gift of tongues is not our point tonight. It is revelation. Prophecy and knowledge will go away. The two things in verse 8 are permanence of love verses the impermanence of these two gifts. They will be abolished.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.;
What are we talking about in this verse? We are talking about the spiritual gift of prophecy and the spiritual gift of knowledge. We said that they would be abolished. Now we learn something about their characteristic. They are in part. The Greek is ek merous. They are partial or fragmentary. It means that Paul didn't know everything that there was to know about New Testament Church Age revelation. He only knew part of it. He had part of the picture. Peter had another part of the picture. John had another part of the picture. Jude had another part. James had another part. But all were needed in the body of Christ to give the complete and sufficient revelation of the New Testament. Those who had the spiritual gift of knowledge didn't see the whole picture. They only had a piece of the puzzle. The same thing it true with those who prophesy.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away
The verse adds something new. What is in part? We have ek merous again. The partial is knowledge and prophesy. Was tongues said to be partial? No. We are talking about knowledge and prophecy. We have katargeo again. The Greek ties these concepts together. It is all connected.
What is the perfect? Something called "the perfect" will stop them. The Greek word is teleios. So the perfect replaces the partial – knowledge and prophecy. At that point they are abolished. That is what karargeo means. So when the perfect comes, the partial is abolished. That is the question. When does the perfect come? Has it come already or is it in the future? There are a couple of views.
Let's review where we are. First of all there is significance in the shift of verbs and voice in verse 8 from katargeo to pauo. Secondly, we have to understand the meaning of the perfect teleios in verse 10. That is what ends the partial. What is the perfect? Then there is a temporal shift in verses 12 and 13 from "now" to "then". We have to pay attention to that. Fourth, we have to understand the next two verses because they are illustrative. Those are the interpretive keys to the passage.
There are 7 interpretations of "the perfect". There are really two categories.
- The idea that the perfect means completion.
- The idea that perfect means perfection in the sense of flawlessness.
Technically what this means is quantitative. You have a small quantity that is incomplete. It will be completed. It is imperfect and will become perfect.
There are two views in the first group that are taught. They really connect together.
- Completed canon view. That is the view I hold. When the canon is completed, the revelatory gifts end. It makes sense because whatever completes the revelatory gifts must also be revelatory. It must be the same kind of thing.
- The matured church. This is because of vs. 12.
What makes the church mature is the completed canon. It moves from immaturity in the apostolic age because it has an incomplete canon. So they really connect together. They are different sides of the same coin.
The perfection group thinks that it refers to a flawless condition. It boils down to being face to face with the Lord whether you are talking about death, the rapture, or the Second Coming. They don't nail the timing down. The idea is that it happens when you are no longer in the mortal body.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
This is the basic illustrative overview. The point is that there is a transition between childhood and adulthood. When you are a child you act like a child. Certain things are characteristic of being a child that are no longer present in the life of an adult. You put away the childish things. That is all that Paul is saying here. There is a transition. Once you become mature you put away things that are characteristic of childhood. That is the analogy that he is using. Revelation was necessary in the infancy of the church because they didn't have a complete canon. Once the cannon was complete, they don't need to have those gifts continue.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
He uses the Greek word arti for now. In the next verse a different Greek word is used for now. The "now" in the next verse is a different Greek word, nuni. What is the difference? There is a lot of similarity and overlap between the two synonyms. But when they are used in the same context, arti means the immediate now. Nuni is used in a broader, general sense. It is now in the pre-canon period verses now in the Church Age. It distinguishes an immediate right now today from now in this age.
So Paul says that right now we see in a mirror dimly. But then when the canon is complete we will see fact-to-face. Everybody wants to take face to face as being face to face with the Lord. It can't be if you care about Scripture. It is face to face with the Word.
The first half of the verse deals with prophecy. The second half deals with knowledge. Right now I know in part. We see ek merous again. It ties back to knowledge being partial.
When is the "then"? It is when the perfect comes. It will complete something that is incomplete. Knowledge and prophecy are incomplete.
The first thing we have to recognize is what we see in a mirror. You see yourself. This is a reflecting glass.
The next word is enigma. It is used in the LXX to translate a word in Numbers 12:6-8. God speaks to Moses.
NKJ Numbers 12:6 Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house.
8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?
Enigma has to do with the uncertainness of the application or fulfillment of prophetic sayings. What I Corinthians 13 is saying is that at this time we see in a mirror enigmatically. We don't know how all the parts fit together yet. "Then" is when the mirror is complete. It has got to be revelation.
You have two periods in the Church Age. You have a pre-canon apostolic period when revelation is given and the canon is built from AD 33-95. Then you have a post apostolic period in the Church Age from 95 AD on.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
This verse opens it up. People stop there and emote on how great love is. But pay attention. The issue through this whole passage is when does the perfect come? What is the difference between the "now" and the "then"? When do we decide that the "now" is over with and we are now living in the "then" when we are face to face? If you take the qualitative view that it has to do with being face to face with the Lord, then you have to say is that now faith, hope and love are continuing. Knowledge and prophecy continue. In that view knowledge and prophecy continue until the perfect comes – death or the Second Coming. If we are talking about the permanence of love versus the impermanence of knowledge and prophecy, then what you say in their position is that prophecy and knowledge continue all the way to the time Jesus comes back. But so are faith, hope, and love. But then knowledge and prophecy will cease when Jesus comes back because we will be in His presence. In their view faith, hope, and love have to continue beyond that point. This is my point. Faith, hope, and love can't continue beyond the point of the Second Coming. So, there has to be a different dividing point.
II Corinthians 5:7 says that we walk by faith and not sight. But when we are in the presence of the Lord we will walk by sight and not by faith. Faith is limited to this time on earth.
Hebrews 11:3 says that faith is the evidence of things not seen. Once you are dead you will see. You will be face to face with the Lord. So faith can't continue beyond the Second Coming.
The charismatic position is that knowledge and prophecy continue all the way up to the Second Coming. Faith, hope, and love would have to continue beyond that because of the context. The passage is saying that love is permanent. Knowledge and prophecy are impermanent. If after we die and are face-to-face and faith is no longer operational; then we have to recognize that on the basis Romans 8:24, hope isn't operational after we are face to face with the Lord either.
NKJ Romans 8:24For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
Once you see the Lord come, hope ends. Hope is confident expectation about your future destiny. When our future destiny is realized, hope is no longer there. It is realized. So hope and faith end with the Second Coming.
The thing that continues beyond that is love. That means that whatever ends prophecy and knowledge, it must come a long time before death or the rapture or the Second Advent. That means that some event in time must end prophecy and knowledge. The only event that it can be is the completed canon. James 1:23,25 says that the completed canon is perfect.
NKJ James 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
The point is that I Corinthians 13 clearly shows that revelatory gifts ended. This is also based on Eph 2:20. The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. You only lay a foundation once. You don't lay it in every generation. Otherwise it is not a foundation. It was laid in the first century. Once the foundation was laid then there is no ongoing revelation. It is over with.
This is so critical today because people continue to say that there is new revelation.
There is an iceberg of ongoing revelatory charismatic revelation that lies behind popular books today. If you don't know that you may think you can get something good out of them. They lead to the devil's blue print of trying to live your own life.