Scholars disagree over the authorship of this epistle; one of the reasons that Paul is rejected is because of the opening paragraph. There is none of the usual greetings as found in the other epistles. However, Paul is still the most likely writer. His staunch religious background would certainly qualify him to bring this message to his fellow Jews. He seems to have written to everyone else, so why not them?
This is a letter, written to Jews who had begun to believe in Jesus and walked the Christian path for a while but eventually because of hardship and persecution returned to their former religion of Judaism.
Though the writer is in question, this study supposes that the Apostle Paul wrote it. Whoever did write it certainly had a profound knowledge of the Old Covenant (the Law) and the Jewish religion, as well as inspired understanding of the New Covenant (grace) Christianity.
It serves as a reminder to us today of two things;
1. The danger of neglecting our faith and slipping back to our former life style.
2. The true nature of the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish; it saves us from the folly of thinking that the Christian life is an earthly religion;
The earthly religion of the Jews, though God given, was never intended as a “real” thing. It was only a copy of the real thing. The real thing is spiritual, invisible, and exists on this earth by faith, in Christ Jesus. Who for the time being is also invisible to our fleshly eye; “We know not Christ after the flesh”
Under the old religion, one thing was expected, that was faith.(chap 11.)
However, Paul makes it very clear that the Israelites failed and perished in the wilderness because of their unbelief.
The book contains many severe warnings and many exhortations; Warnings against unbelief and exhortations to hold fast in faith.
The kingdom of God consists of those who have put their faith firmly in Christ and what He did on the cross, and consequently enter into rest. They cease trying to do anything to obtain or enhance their salvation. They accept it as a gift of grace. It is unearned and undeserved. In contrast the Old Covenant, under the Law, was a list of rules and any salvation obtainable under the law, came by obeying all of them, all of the time. Consequently it failed to give salvation or life, and instead all the Law ever brought to man was condemnation. Paul encourages the Hebrews to cease from their “dead works of conscience”, and rest in what Jesus has done on the cross, and is doing now in heaven, for their salvation. Prior knowledge of the Gospel as set out in Romans ch 1-8, Exodus and Leviticus would prove a major asset in getting the most from this Epistle.
THE BOOK OF HEBREWS IS ABOUT SALVATION;
The experience of those who believe the gospel is called Salvation; Romans affirms that Salvation comes by Faith alone and Hebrews confirms that Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews presents Salvation in three terms; Having been saved; Being saved; Will be saved: 1. Having been saved; One act was done. The debt has been paid. 2. Being saved; Jesus lives in heaven interceding for us every day 3. Will be saved: Those who keep believing through tribulation have their faith turned to endurance. Those who endure to the end shall be saved.
Paul shows how prophecy foretold that God’s purposes would be fulfilled, not in an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly, not in a temporal kingdom but in an eternal, not in the visible but in the invisible, entered, obtained, and grasped by faith. Those who maintain their faith in the invisible and untouchable, during the time of faith testing, will obtain an everlasting inheritance. Hebrews is a book of exhortations and warnings to people who were refusing to commit their salvation totally to the work of Christ, the great High Priest. The Hebrews had begun to put their faith in Christ but mainly through persecution from their former religious associates, they had returned to their old Jewish religion, to the laws of Moses, to sacrifices of animals, to priests from the line of Levi and Aaron, and to a sanctuary, or holy place, built by mere men. The writer seeks to make the message clear that all the Jewish religion became redundant and superfluous when Jesus came.
So how do you tell the most fanatical religious people in the world that their 3000 year old religion has lost its validity? The Answer is threefold; 1. Gradually - Chapters two, three, four and six, all begin with the word “Therefore”. He is gradually reasoning with them. 2. Graciously; - There is constant use of the exhortation ‘‘Let us’’. He identifies with them that they may go on together. 3. But very, very firmly; - The phrase ‘‘take heed’’ strikes a severe warning.