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Book 2


The Virtue of Discipline   (Heb 12:1 - 2)

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The teaching on the virtue of discipline falls into two parts

(12:1, 2) The motive to endurance in suffering 
(12:3 - 13) The measure and end of suffering

Christians in one sense had entered on the inheritance of the promises for which the fathers had waited
(Heb. 11:39);   but the full enjoyment of possession was still delayed.  
In such a case the example of the earlier heroes of faith was of prevailing power.

With less encouragement than the Hebrew Christians enjoyed the earlier heroes had conquered.  
They had looked to a Christ imaged in prophecy:  the Hebrews could look to a Christ Who had  ‘come in the flesh’ (Jesus).

 Thus the writer marks:

(A) The Position
(B) The Preparation
(C) The Effort
(D) The Aim

of Christians looking to One Who had Himself conquered through suffering.

The Position of Christians

The writer regards himself and his fellow Christians as placed in an arena and contending for a great prize.

The image of the amphitheater with the rising rows of spectators seems to suggest the thought of an encircling cloud.
The witnesses of whom the cloud is composed are unquestionably the countless heroes of faith whose deeds have been summarized in Hebrews 11. 
The testimony which they bear can only be the testimony which they bear to God, either by victorious achievements or by courageous sufferings, answering to that which He has wrought for and in them. In both respects, as conquerors and as sufferers, they witness to His power and faithfulness.
And those who regard them cannot but be strengthened by their testimony.

At the same time it is impossible to exclude the thought of the spectators in the amphitheater. 
The passage would not lose in vividness though it would lose in power if spectators were substituted for of witnesses.  These champions of old time occupy the place of spectators,  but they are more than spectators.  They are spectators who interpret to us the meaning of our struggle,  and who bear testimony to the certainty of our success if we strive lawfully  (2 Tim. 2:5).

2 Tim 2:5
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.    NIV

There is no confusion in this fullness of sense.  The word  encompassing  gives the thought of the great company to whom the Christian athlete is made a spectacle  (1 Cor. 4:9  a spectacle we became: see Heb. 10:33  being made a spectacle);  and of witnesses explains what the true nature of this host is,  widely different from the pitiless throng visible to the bodily eye at the heathen games.

Heb 12:1-2
(1)   Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
(2)   Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(1)  Therefore also we so great having encompassing us a cloud of witnesses, weight having laid aside every and the easily-surrounding sin with endurance we should run the lying before us race, (2)   looking away to the of faith leader and completer Jesus: who in view of the lying before him joy endured [the] cross, [the] shame having despised, and at [the] right hand of the throne of God sat down.


Therefore also we
Therefore assuredly let us also,  who are under the New Covenant in the time of our trial…
The writer identifies himself with those whose courage he desires to animate:  Heb. 10:39.

Heb 10:39
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.    NIV

Having encompassing us
Literally  ‘having spread about us.’ 
The competitors feel the crowd towering about and above them.  Believers are conscious of the surrounding host.

A cloud of witnesses
A ‘cloud’ is used in all languages for a dense mass of living beings from the time of Homer downwards. (ref. Priscill. Iii page 63 testimoniorum nube).

Wuest says:
The writer visualizes a great host of people encircling these first century readers, and then speaks of a race (agona,  a Greek athletic term speaking of a contest).  The natural  and correct inference is that he is thinking of the Greek games here,

the spectators in the tiers upon tiers of seats,
speaking of the saints of chapter eleven
the athletes competing in the stadium
speaking of the Christian life as a contest and a race

(Wuest's Word Studies from the  Greek New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

The preparation of Christians

The solemnity of the position of the Christian naturally leads to the consideration of the preparation which he is bound to make for the fulfillment of his arduous duty.  This is twofold.

He must lay aside natural encumbrances  (every weight)
He must lay aside the positive sin by which he is hindered

Weight having laid aside every
(Let us)….lay aside every encumbrance
The word  weight,  which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament or LXX,  is used for

bulk of body, 
for an arrogant bearing,
and for a burdensome load.

These several senses have been applied to the interpretation of the word here.

The competitor in a race seeks by training to reduce all superfluity of flesh, and in the contest lays aside all undue confidence and every encumbrance of dress.

The writer seems to have in his mind the manifold encumbrances of society and business which would be likely to hinder a Christian convert.  The duty of the convert would be to free himself from associations and engagements which,  however innocent in themselves,  hindered the freedom of his action.

1 John 2:15-17
(15)  Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world,  the love of the Father is not in him. (16)  For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man,  the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.  (17)  The world and its desires pass away,  but the man who does the will of God lives forever.     NIV

The easily-surrounding sin
The Christian must put off not encumbrances only, but that which is the source of all failure, sin
This sin is described as easily-surrounding.  The word  easily-surrounding  is not found except in places where it has been derived from this passage.  Three meanings have support either from analogy or from early Greek interpreters.

1. ‘easy to be put off,’
From the sense of stand aloof from 2 Tim. 2:16; Tit. 3:9.   This sense is adopted by Chrysostom in treating of the passage. But the form is decisive against the derivation on which it rests.
2. ‘well-befriended,’
‘popularly supported,’ 
‘admired of many.’
This interpretation is derived from the corresponding sense of ‘unsupported,’ ‘desolate’. The form of the word is favorable to this sense.
3. ‘readily besetting’ There is no exact parallel for such an active sense in compounds but this interpretation has been most generally adopted;  and it is given by Chrysostom as an alternative on the passage, and by other Greek writers.

Westcott says:
Of these interpretations (1) and (2) do not seem to fall in well with the scope of the passage, or with the imagery. It does not seem likely that the writer would choose an epithet for sin which should describe it from the side of its importance. Nor again is the common estimate or regard of sin that with which the Christian is concerned. It is rather the personal relation of sin to the believer in his work that we expect to find noticed.
In this connection the sense of  ‘readily encircling, besetting, entangling’  is singularly appropriate.  Nor is there anything contrary to analogy in such a sense.  The simple verbal word from which the compound is formed,  is used of anything  ‘standing’  (a house, a stone, water):  easily-surrounding would then naturally bear the sense of ‘placed, standing round,’ as enclosing,  confining;  and easily would express the fatal facility with which this fence of evil custom hems us in.

Wuest says:
Not only are the readers to lay aside every general encumbrance which would slacken their speed in the Christian race, but also any particular, specific one.  The words  "easily beset"  are the translation of  euperistatos
meaning "readily, deftly, cleverly," and the verbal form of the rest of the word,  "to place itself around."
It speaks of a sin which readily or easily encircles the Christian  runner, like a long, loose  robe clinging to his limbs.  The sin may be any evil propensity.  Here the context suggests the sin of unbelief which was the thing keeping the unsaved recipients of this letter from putting their faith in Messiah as High Priest.

The effort of Christians

Having marked our position and preparation as Christians, the writer bids us begin and continue the effort to which we are called with patient endurance.

With endurance…race
The thought of this  ‘patient endurance’  is prominent in the context  (12:2 endured,  12:3 has endured,  12:7 if discipline ye endure).

The lying before us race
The image of the race is common in Paul’s writings.

1 Cor 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.    NIV

Gal 2:2
I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders,  for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.    NIV

Phil 2:16
As you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.    NIV

Compare also Phil. 3:12;  2 Tim. 4:7.  See also Acts 13:25; 20:24;  Rom. 9:16.

The  ‘race’  is spoken of by the more general title of  ‘a contest’  in regard to the strain and peril which it involves. And still,  as Chrysostom remarks,  the Apostle chooses the image of athletic effort,  which is least repellent. 
God Himself has set our work and our prize before us. Compare Heb. 6:18

Heb 6:18
God did this so that,  by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie,  we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.    NIV

The aim of Christians


The encouragement to be drawn from earthly witnesses passes into the supreme encouragement which springs from the contemplation of Christ.  Above the ‘cloud of witnesses,’ who encompass us,  is our King,  no Roman Emperor dispensing by his arbitrary will life or death to the stricken combatant,  but One Who has Himself sustained the struggle which we bear. 

He Who is  ‘the captain (author) of our salvation,’  ‘the righteous Judge’ (2 Tim. 4:8),  is also the example and the inspiration of our faith.  He in His humanity endured suffering and shame beyond all others and received compensating Joy and glory.  We therefore may hope

by sharing His sufferings
to share His glory 

(Rom. 8:17 if indeed we suffer together, that also we may be glorified together.).

Looking away to
Looking away from all that distracts on earth into…
Not only at the first moment,  but constantly during the whole struggle.  Contrast 12:1   having laid aside
Christ is always near and in sight.  The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX

In one form or other the hope of the vision of God has been the support of the saints in all ages:  Job. 19:26;  Psalms 17:15.

Job 19:26
And after my skin has been destroyed, 
yet in my flesh I will see God;    NIV

Psalm 17:15
And I -- in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.   NIV

The of faith…Jesus
Christ in His humanity — Jesus — is  ‘the leader and consummator of faith.’ 
To Him our eyes are to be turned while we look away from every rival attraction. 
From Him we learn Faith. 
The  ‘faith’  of which the Apostle speaks is faith in its absolute type, of which he has traced the action under the Old Covenant.

The particular interpretations,  by which it is referred to the faith of each individual Christian,  as finding its beginning and final development in Christ;  or to the substance of the Christian Creed;  are foreign to the whole scope of the passage,  which is to show that in Jesus Christ Himself we have the perfect example — perfect in realization and in effect — of that faith which we are to imitate trusting in Him.

He too looked through the present and the visible to the future and the unseen.  In His human Nature He exhibited Faith in its highest form,  from first to last,  and placing Himself as it were at the head of the great army of heroes of Faith,  He carried faith,  the source of their strength,  to its most complete perfection and to its loftiest triumph.

This ascription of  ‘faith’ to the Lord is of the highest importance for the realization of His perfect humanity. Compare Heb. 5:8; 2:13; 3:2; John 5:19; 11:41.

Chrysostom  (with the Greek Fathers generally)  limits the word to our faith. 
The Latin Vulgate translation necessarily led the Western Fathers to the same interpretation.

Leader and completer

Leader As  ‘leader’  of Faith,  Christ supported unparalleled sufferings in every stage of human life
Finisher As  ‘finisher,’  ‘consummator,’ He brought Faith to its sovereign power

He brought Faith to its sovereign power.  Christ is ‘leader’ and not ‘beginner’ only.

Who in view of the lying before…having despised
The nature of Christ’s example is indicated.  The joy that was set before Him was accepted as an equivalent  (and more than an equivalent)  for the sufferings which He endured.

The Joy was that of the work of redemption accomplished through self-sacrifice.
The Suffering was that of the cross, a death at once most painful and most humiliating.

For the correspondence between the sufferings and the glory of Christ  compare Heb. 2:9;  Phil. 2:9 (Therefore).

Heb 2:9
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.    NIV

Phil 2:9
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
and gave him the name that is above every name.     NIV

Cross,  which occurs here only in the Epistle,  is used without the article,  (the)  as in Phil. 2:8,  in order to fix attention on the nature of the Death.  Elsewhere  the Cross (Col. 1:20; 2:14 &c.)  expresses the actual fact as well as the specific character of the Passion.

But what men count shame was seen by Christ in another light.  From His position,  raised infinitely above them,  He could disregard their judgment.

And at right hand…sat down
The contrast of tenses is significant.  He enduredand hath sat down
The fact of suffering is wholly past but the issue of it abides for evermore. 
Contrast  sat down  Heb. 8:1

The Measure and the End of Suffering  (Heb 12:3-13)

The example of the triumph of Christ through suffering leads to a further consideration of the work of suffering for the Christian. Suffering is essentially a divine discipline.  See John 16:33.

John 16:33
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.    KJV

Under this aspect the author shows that the contemplation of Christ’s victory through suffering brings sovereign support in affliction. 

Sufferings  as Chastisements   (Heb 12:3 - 6)

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(12:3) Look to Christ  as the example in sufferings
(12:4) The sufferings of the Hebrews were relatively slight 
(12:5,6) All sufferings which come from God are the wise discipline of a Father

So it was  (the thought is implied though not explicitly expressed here)  in some sense which we hardly grasp even in the case of Christ,  the Son (12:7).

At this point the image is changed. 

The thought is no longer of  Effort
but of  Endurance
The thought is no longer of a Struggle Voluntarily Sought
but of the Assault of a Powerful Adversary which Must Be Met
Heb 12:3-6
(3)   For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
(4)   Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
(5)   And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
(6)   For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(3)  For consider well him who so great has endured from sinners against himself gainsaying, that not ye be wearied, in your souls fainting( 4)   Not yet unto blood resisted ye against sin wrestling( 5)   and ye have quite forgotten the exhortation, which to you, as to sons, he addresses: My son, despise not [the] discipline of [the] Lord, nor faint, by him being reproved( 6)   for whom loves [the] Lord he disciplines, and scourges every son whom he receives.


For consider well
For consider Him that hath endured
Be patient,  the writer says,  look to Christ;  for I charge you to consider His sufferings. If the eyes are steadfastly turned to Him  (looking away  12:2)  the believer cannot fail to ponder the vision and to estimate the power of His work in relation to Life.  If the leader bears the brunt of the battle the soldier can follow.

The use of  well  with the Greek imperfect implies the result of the comparison.

The word for  consider well  does not occur elsewhere in the LXX or New Testament.
It is common in classical Greek, and expresses in particular the careful estimate of one object with regard to another.

The use here in respect of a person and not of a thing is remarkable. The writer seems to say:  ' Consider Christ, reckoning up His sufferings point by point, going over them again and again, not the sufferings on the Cross only, but all that led up to it.’

Him who so great has endured…gainsaying
Him that hath endured such gainsaying,  such opposition as showed itself in the infliction of the most cruel shame and death,  in comparison with which your sufferings are insignificant.

Suffering also helps believers to identify with Christ, which is more than suffering for Christ.

Through persecution and tortures,  people have suffered for the sake of Christ and His kingdom (Phil 1:29; 2 Thess 1:5; 2 Tim 3:12). 
To suffer with Christ, however, is another matter.  Paul speaks of the "fellowship of His [Christ's] sufferings" (Phil 3:10). 

Believers share in the suffering of Christ in the sense that through suffering they identify with Christ.  To be a disciple involves suffering like the Master. Christ as Lord and His believers as disciples are bonded even further through the experience of suffering.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers - Electronic Database)

The remarkable reading  from sinners against himself  gives the idea expressed in Numbers 16:38, ‘sinners against their own selves.’ 

Keil & Delitzsch on Num 16:36-40
After the destruction of the sinners,  the Lord commanded that Eleazar should take up the censers  "from between the burning," i.e.,  from the midst of the men that had been burned,  and scatter the fire  (the burning coals in the pans)  far away,  that it might not be used any more.  "For they (the censers) are holy;"  that is to say,  they had become holy through being brought before Jehovah (v. 39);  and therefore,  when the men who brought them were slain,  they fell as banned articles to the Lord (Lev 27:28).  "The censers of these sinners against their souls" (i.e., the men who have forfeited their lives through their sin: cf. Prov 20:2; Hab 2:10),  "let them make into broad plates for a covering to the altar" (of burnt-offering).  Through this application of them they became a sign,  or, according to v. 39,  a memorial to all who drew near to the sanctuary,  which was to remind them continually of this judgment of God,  and warn the congregation of grasping at the priestly prerogatives. 
(from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. - Electronic Database)

That not ye be wearied…fainting
The final failure comes from continuous weakening.  The moral strength is enfeebled little by little. So it may be that those who,  like the Hebrews,  had begun well are unable to sustain the long stress of the conflict.
The supreme example of this "weakening" is Samson (Judges chapter 13 - chapter 16).

Rev 2:4-5   ( Ephesus)
(4)  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.  (5)  Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.    NIV


Not yet…resisted ye
The sufferings of the Hebrews are contrasted with those of Christ. Their struggle had not yet been to death. At the same time it is implied (Not yet) that they must be prepared for a deadly encounter.

Rev 2:10   ( Smyrna)
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you,  the devil will put some of you in prison to test you,  and you will suffer persecution for ten days.  Be faithful,  even to the point of death,  and I will give you the crown of life.    NIV

The statement is in no way opposed to the view that the Epistle was addressed to a Palestinian Church out of which Stephen and James had suffered martyrdom.  The recollection of what these early witnesses had borne would in fact add point to this exhortation to the second generation of the Church.

Against sin wrestling
The conflict of the Hebrews is spoken of as a conflict with sin rather than sinners (v. 3),  in order to emphasize its essential character  (even believers are ‘sinners’) and to include its various forms.  Christians had to contend primarily with open enemies whose assaults seem to be contemplated here in  unto blood.  At the same time there is an inward struggle which cannot be wholly overlooked,  though this did not involve literally  ‘a resistance to blood.’

The personification of sin is natural and common: James 1:15; Rom. 6:12.  Sin is one whether it shows itself within,  in the Christian himself  (v. 1),  or without,  as here,  in his adversaries.

Question How are believers sinners?
Answer Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Romans 14:23
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat,  because he eateth not of faith:  for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.    KJV

James 4:17
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not,  to him it is sin.    KJV
Sin can be not doing what is right as well as doing something wrong.

Romans 6:2
God forbid.  How shall we,  that are dead to sin,  live any longer therein?    KJV

Romans 7:17
Now then it is no more I that do it,  but sin that dwelleth in me.    KJV

Rom 7:22-23
(22)  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
(23)  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.    KJV

1 John 1:8
If we say that we have no sin,  we deceive ourselves,  and the truth is not in us.    KJV

1 John 2:1-2
My little children,  these things write I unto you,  that ye sin not.  And if any man sin,  we have an advocate with the Father,  Jesus Christ the righteous.   

We must continue to fight sin every day
We must continue to serve God with a pure heart
We must continue to believe that the Blood of Jesus will cleanse from all sin

and future


And ye have quite forgotten the exhortation
And have ye forgotten the exhortation
It is doubtful whether the sentence is to be taken interrogatively or affirmatively  (and ye have forgotten). 
The former interpretation gives the most forcible sense.  The question pleads against the forgetfulness which it implies;  and still it is in form less severe than a statement.

The idea of exhortation goes beyond any single rendering.  The divine word,  to which appeal is made,  is at once an encouragement and a consolation.  

Sufferings are tempered by the providence of God,
and they are a sign of sonship.

Which…he addresses
That discourseth with you as sons
The utterance of Scripture is treated as the voice of God conversing with men. 
Through the written word the Wisdom of God addresses us.


And scourges
Heb 12:5 - [And ye have forgotten]  Or,  have ye forgotten the exhortation
This quotation is made from Prov 3:11-12,  and shows that the address there,  which at first sight appears to be from Solomon to his son,  or from some fatherly man to a person in affliction,  is properly from God himself to any person in persecution, affliction, or distress.

[Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,]   Mee oligoorei paideias Kuriou
Do not neglect the correction of the Lord. 
That man neglects correction,  and profits not by it,  who does not see the hand of God in it;
Or, in other words,

does not fear the rod and him who hath appointed it,  and,  consequently,  
does not humble himself under the mighty hand of God,  
deplore his sin,  
deprecate divine judgment,  
and pray for mercy.

(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

Prov 3:11-12
(11)  My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
(12)  For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.    KJV

( 11)  The school of Yahweh, my son, despise thou not, 
Nor loathe thou His correction;
( 12)  For Yahweh correcteth him whom He loveth,
And that as a father his son whom he loveth.     (Interlinear Bible, Electronic Database, Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

The contrast here follows:

As God should not be forgotten in days of prosperity,
so one should not suffer himself to be estranged from God by days of adversity.
Chastisement is the Discipline of Sons   (Heb 12:7 - 8)

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Heb 12:7-8
(7)   If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
(8)   But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(7)  If discipline ye endure, as with sons with you is dealing God; for who is [the] son whom disciplines not [the] Father( 8)  But if without ye are discipline, of which partakers have become all, then bastards ye are and not sons.


If discipline ye endure
The clause may be either imperative or indicative.  The absence of a connecting particle in the next clause favors the latter view.  It is for chastening ye endure: it is as with sons God dealeth with you
The divine purpose is unquestionable,  but at the same time the efficacy of the discipline depends on the spirit with which it is received.  Patient endurance alone converts suffering into a beneficent lesson.

Job 5:17-21
(17)  Behold, happy is the man whom Eloah correcteth; 
So despise not the chastening of the Almighty
(18)  For He woundeth, and He also bindeth up;
He bruiseth, and His hands make whole
(19)  In six troubles He will rescue thee,
And in seven no evil shall touch thee.
(20)  In famine He will redeem thee from death,
And in war from the stroke of the sword.
(21)  When the tongue scourgeth, thou shalt be hidden;
And thou shalt not fear destruction when it cometh.             (Keil & Delitzsch)

The speech of Eliphaz now becomes persuasive as it turns towards the conclusion.  Since God humbles him who exalts himself,  and since He humbles in order to exalt,  it is a happy thing when He corrects (howkiyach) us by afflictive dispensations;  and His chastisement (muwcaar) is to be received not with a turbulent spirit,  but resignedly,  yea joyously:  the same thought as Prov 3:11-13; 
(from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

The word  discipline  is used differently in this verse and the next.

Discipline in verse 7 is regarded as the End
Discipline in verse 8 is regarded as the Means

As with sons with you is dealing
The very fact that you suffer is,  if you rightly regard it,  an assurance of your sonship. You can recognize in it the dealing of a Father. The clause is independent. The title of privilege (with sons) is naturally used: compare Heb. 2:10. 

It is worth observing again in this connection that the absolute title of  Father  is not given to God in the Epistle, except in the quotation found in Hebrews 1:5.  It is found in all the other groups of Books in the New Testament.

Heb 1:5
For to which of the angels did God ever say, 
"You are my Son; 
today I have become your Father"? 
Or again, 
"I will be his Father, 
and he will be my Son"?     NIV

For who is son whom disciplines not
The words can be rendered either

For who is a son whom his father
For what son is there whom

The latter construction is more simple and expresses more distinctly the thought of suffering on the part of sons.

Revelation 3:19  - as many as I love I rebuke and discipline.


But if without ye are discipline…all
The order of the words throws the emphasis on  without.
All true sons,  all who have ever realized this relation,  have been made partakers in chastening.  The reference is apparently to divine sonship and not to human.

The use of the compound perfect form partakers have become  (compare Heb. 3:14)  shows that the chastisement was personally accepted and permanent in its effects,  and not simply a transitory paid. 
Compare Heb. 12:11 ( having been exercised );  Heb. 4:15 (but has been tempted;  Matthew 5:10 have been persecuted).

Then bastards ye are
Then are ye bastards  who stand in no recognized position towards their father as heirs to his name and fortune:
for their character he has no anxiety as for that of sons:  they are without the range of his discipline.

Characteristics of Earthly and Heavenly Discipline   (Heb 12:9 - 11)

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The thought of filial discipline on earth,  which has been already introduced (12:8),  is followed out in some detail in order to illustrate the obligations and issues of the discipline of God. 

(12:9) The discipline of God answers to greater claims
(12:10) It is directed by higher wisdom to a nobler end 
(12:11) While all discipline alike is painful to bear we are taught by experience to look to its issue
Heb 12:9-11
(9)   Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
(10)  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
(11)  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(9)  Moreover the flesh of our fathers we have had [as] those who discipline [us], and we respected [them]; not much rather shall we be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and shall live( 10)  For they indeed for a few days according to that which seemed good to them disciplined; but he for profit, for [us] to partake of his holiness( 11)  Any (lit. every) but discipline for the present seems not [matter] of joy to be, but of grief; but afterwards fruit peaceable to those by it having been exercised renders of righteousness.


Moreover…we respected
Furthermore we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them regard….

This particle moreover has been taken as an interrogative: ‘Is it so then that we had…,’  according to common classical Greek use,  
but in this case the following sentence would naturally begin with and (and not much rather).
It is better therefore to regard it as introducing a second argument:  further,  yet again.

In 12:8 the Apostle has shown the universality of filial discipline.
He now shows in what spirit it should be borne, drawing his conclusion from natural experiences. 

The flesh of our fathers…to the Father of spirits
The fathers of our earthly,  corporeal,  being are contrasted with the Father of spirits,  the Author not only of our spiritual being but of all spiritual beings.

Their limited relation to us  (flesh of our)  is contrasted with His universal power. 
By our spirit (v. 23) we have connection with Him and with a higher order.  We owe to Him therefore a more absolute subjection than to those from whom we derive the transitory limitations of our nature.  
The language is perhaps based upon Numbers 16:22, 27:16 (LXX).

Numbers 16:22
At this they fell on their faces and said,  O God,  the God of the spirits,  even of all flesh!  If one man hath sinned,  is the wrath of the Lord against the whole congregation?    LXX

Numbers 27:16
Let the Lord,  the God of the spirits,  and of all flesh,  look out a man to be set over this congregation,  who shall go out before them,  and come in before them.     LXX

Compare Revelation 22:6  ‘Lord God of the holy prophets.’

Not much rather…and shall live
The form of this clause is different from that of the clause to which it corresponds.  The writer brings forward the overwhelming superiority of the obligation  (not much rather).

The careful regard  (we respected)  due to an earthly parent
Is contrasted with the complete submission due to God (shall we be in subjection).

Such absolute subjection is crowned by the highest blessing (and shall live). 
True life comes from complete self-surrender.

As the One Son fulfilled His Father’s will and lives through Him,
So the many sons live through His life in obedience to Him:

This life is given on the part of God, but it has to be realized by the individual: 1 John 5:16.

1 John 5:16
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death,  he should pray and God will give him life.  I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death.  There is a sin that leads to death.  I am not saying that he should pray about that.    NIV

The phrase  the Father of spirits  is quite general,  the Father of spirits embodied,  disembodied,  unembodied.  The context,  which regards disobedience as possible,  seems to exclude the idea that  of spirits  means only the spirits in conscious,  willing,  fellowship with God.

The Father  corresponds with:

The Breath of Life
In this he stands in immediate connection with God
In the narrower sense,  as an Integral Element in Man’s Nature
In this he is bound to the line of ancestors who determine the conditions of his earthly life


Much difficulty and confusion have attached to the interpretation of this verse,  growing out of:

(a) The relations of the several clauses
(b) The meaning of  "for a few days,"  and how much is covered by it

The difficulties have been aggravated by the determination of commentators to treat the verse by itself,  and entirely overlooking relations to the preceding verse.

For a few days  - pros oligas heemeras
This clause is directly related to  "be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live,"  and points a contrast. 

On the one hand,  subjection to the Father of spirits, the source of all life, has an eternal significance. Subjection to his fatherly discipline means, not only the everlasting life of the future, but includes present life,  developed even while the discipline is in progress.
On the other hand, the discipline of the human father is brief in duration, and its significance is confined to the present life.

After their own pleasure  -  kata to dokoun autois
Better, "as seemed good to them." 
The autois has a slightly emphatic force,  as contrasted with a higher intelligence.  
The human parents were short-sighted,  fallible,  sometimes moved by passion rather than by sound judgment,  and,  therefore,  often mistaken in their disciplinary methods. What seemed good to them was not always best for us.  No such possibility of error attaches to the Father of spirits.

But he for our profit  -  ho de epi to sumferon
The contrast is with what is implied in  "as seemed good to them."  The human parent may not have dealt with us to our profit. 
Sumferein means  "to bring together: to collect or contribute in order to help:"  hence,  "to help or be profitable."
Often impersonally, sumferei  "it is expedient,"  as Matt 5:29; 18:6; John 11:50. 
The neuter participle, as here, "advantage, profit,"  1 Cor 12:7; 2 Cor 12:1. 
There is a backward reference to live,  Heb 12:9,  the result of subjection to the Father of spirits;  and this is expanded and defined in the final clause, namely.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

That we might be partakers of his holiness  -  eis to metalabein tees hagioteetos autou
Literally,  "unto the partaking of his holiness." 
Eis  marks the final purpose of chastening.  Holiness is life.  Shall we not be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
For,  in contrast with the temporary,  faithful chastening of the human parent,  his chastening results in holiness and eternal life.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

The discipline of the human father is regulated  ‘according to his pleasure.’

Even when his purpose is best, the human father may fail as to the method, and his purpose may be selfish. 
But with God,  for His part,  purpose and accomplishment are identical; and His aim is the advantage of His children.

The spiritual son then may be sure both as to the will and as to the wisdom of his Father.

Again the discipline of the earthly father is directed characteristically to the circumstances of a transitory life ( for a few days  ‘with a view to a few days,’  ‘for a few days,’  in the final sense of ‘for’):  that of the heavenly Father has in view the participation of His son in His own eternal nature (compare 2 Peter 1:4, ‘after His likeness.’)

2 Peter 1:4
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises,  so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.     NIV

The chastisement of our earthly parents lasted only a short time; 
that of our heavenly Father will also be but a short time, if we submit
and as our parents ceased to correct when we learned obedience; 
so will our heavenly Father when the end for which he sent the chastisement is accomplished.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

The illustration leads into a contrast.  Earthly fathers exercise their fatherly prerogative only for a short time and for immediate ends,  but God has both holy lives and eternal ends in view.
Neither in the earthly sphere nor in the heavenly sphere is chastening appreciated at the time,  but the final results more than warrant the discipline.  In the heavenly or spiritual realm it yields peaceable fruit,  even that of righteousness.  Adversity and chastening,  then,  are a form of training.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)


Any but discipline…of grief
Yet the fruit of discipline is not gained at once.  All chastening,  the divine no less than the human,  seemeth,  for the present, to be not joyous but grievous. 
It might have been supposed that divine discipline would be free from sorrow.  But this also is first brought under the general law and then considered in itself.

The objection that chastening is grievous is anticipated.  It only 'seems'  so to those being chastened,  whose judgments are confused by present pain.  Its ultimate fruit amply compensates for temporary pain.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

but afterwards fruit peaceable
Yet, afterward it yieldeth, as its proper return  (renders,  compare Revelation 22:2),   peaceable fruit  to them that have been exercised thereby,  even the fruit of righteousness.

The conflict of discipline issues in that perfect peace which answers to the fulfillment of law. It suggests that there is a claim in response to which something is given. Compare Acts 4:33.

Acts 4:33
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.    NIV

The word  of righteousness  stands impressively at the end  (James 2:1  of glory),  explaining and summing up what has been said generally: peaceful fruit — even the fruit of righteousness — that is, consisting in righteousness. Compare James 3:18; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 9:15;10:20. 

Peace and righteousness both in different ways correspond to the issue of perfect discipline,  through which all action becomes the expression of obedience to the divine will.  Compare Isaiah 32:17.

Isa 32:17
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.     NIV

The word "exercised" is the translation of  gumnazo  which was used of Greek athletes exercising in connection with their athletic games.  It means also "to exercise in  any way, either the body or the mind."  Here it refers to the spiritual exercise  which the recipients went through as a result of the persecutions which in the last analysis were the chastening hand of God.  That spiritual exercise consisted of the struggles of the soul, the battle between the determination to go back to the temple sacrifices and thus escape the persecutions, or to go on to faith in the High Priest of the New Testament in spite of them.
(Wuest's Word Studies from the  Greek New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Practical Conclusion In Their Trial   (Heb 12:12 - 13)

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Heb 12:12-13
(12)  Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
(13)  And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(12)  Wherefore the hanging down hands and the enfeebled knees lift up(13)   and paths straight make for your feet, lest that which [is] lame be turned aside; but that it may be healed rather.


Since discipline is necessary,  painful,  and salutary,  provide,  as you can,  that it may be effectual. 
Strengthen where it is possible those who are called to endure it;  and remove from their way stumbling-blocks which can be removed.

The Apostle urges those who were themselves in danger to help others in like peril. 
Such efforts are the surest support of the tempted.

The figurative language which he borrows from various parts of the Old Testament suggests the manifold strengthening of powers

for conflict (‘hands’)
for progress (‘knees’)

Because chastening is thus necessary,  and serves for wholesome discipline,  and issues in holiness.

Lift up  -  anorthoosate
Found in  Luke 13:13;  Acts 15:16  (citation).  Occasionally in the Septuagint. 
It signifies  "to set up, make, erect." 
It was also used:

"to establish"
a throne (2 Sam 7:13,16)
a house (2 Sam 7:26; 1 Chron 17:24)
"to raise up one who is down"
(Ps 145:9; Sir. 11:12)
"to build anew"
( Acts 15:16)
"to straighten;  to set"
By medical writers of dislocated parts of the body   (Luke 13:13)

The hands which hang down  - tas pareimenas cheiras
Render it:  "the slackened or weakened hands."  Compare Isa 35:3; Sir. 25:23; 2 Sam 4:1. 
The verb  pariemi  (only here and Luke 11:42)  originally means  "to let pass, disregard, neglect;" 
thence  "to relax, loosen."   Also "slothful"  ( Clem. Rom. "Ad Corinth." xxxiv,)  (compare Heb 5:11).

And the feeble knees  -  kai ta paralelumena gonata
For  "feeble"  render  "palsied."  
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

The apostle refers to Isa 35:3.  The words are an address to persons almost worn out with sickness and fatigue,  whose hands hang down,  whose knees shake,  and who are totally discouraged.  These are exhorted to exert themselves,  and take courage,  with the assurance that they shall infallibly conquer if they persevere.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

Isa 35:3, 4
(3) Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way; 
(4)  say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution 
he will come to save you."     NIV


And paths
The phrase is taken from Proverbs 4:26   ( make plain (straight) the path of thy foot). 
The words may be rendered  ‘make straight paths for your feet,’ i.e. for the feet of the whole society to tread in;  or  ‘with your feet,’  as giving a good example to others. 
But the context favors the first rendering.  The thought seems to be that of a road prepared to walk in without windings or stumbling-blocks:  Matthew 3:3.

Prov 4:26
Make level paths for your feet 
and take only ways that are firm.    NIV

Matt 3:3
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: 
"A voice of one calling in the desert, 
`Prepare the way for the Lord, 
make straight paths for him.'"     NIV

Lest that which is lame
That the limb which is lame be not put out of joint
The Apostle describes the crippled member in the Church,  who is unable to stand or walk firmly on his way. 
Compare 1 Kings 18:21.  The ‘halting’  of the Hebrews  ‘between two opinions’  is the characteristic type of their weakness.

1 Kings 18:21
Elijah went before the people and said,  "How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."    NIV

The word  be turned aside  is elsewhere found in the Greek Scriptures in the sense of  ‘being turned out of the way’;  and it is commonly so interpreted here.

The exhortation is to the born-again Jews who had left the temple, to live such consistent saintly lives, and to cling so tenaciously to their new-found faith, that the unsaved Jews who had also left the temple and had outwardly embraced the New Testament truth, would be encouraged to go on to faith in Messiah as High Priest, instead of returning to the abrogated sacrifices of the Levitical system.   The literal picture of all this is given by Vincent in the words, "Make the paths smooth and even, so that the lame limb be not dislocated by stones or pitfalls.
(Wuest's Word Studies from the  Greek New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Heb 12:12 - as translated by Wuest:
And be making smooth paths for your feet, in order that that  which is limping may not be wrenched out of joint, but rather that it be healed.

The Necessity of Peace and Purity   (Heb 12:14 - 17)

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The special exhortations which arose directly from circumstances of trial and discipline lead on to directions of a general character.  

The duty of mutual help  (12:13)  naturally suggests -
The consideration of the power of mutual influence  (12:14-18)
And this gives occasion to a solemn warning as to the irremediable consequences of faithlessness  (12:17)
Heb 12:14-17
(14)  Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
(15)  Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
(16)  Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
(17)  For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(14)  Peace pursue with all, and sanctification, which apart from no one shall see the Lord( 15)  looking diligently lest any lack the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness up springing should trouble [you], and by this be defiled many( 16)  lest [there be] any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for meal one sold birthright his( 17)  ye know for that also afterwards wishing to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for of repentance place he found not, although with tears having earnestly sought it.


Peace pursue…and sanctification
Psalms 34:14;  1 Peter 3:2;  Romans 12:18. 
The writer extends his view to the wider relations of life;  and the two commands which he gives express the aim and the necessary limitation of the Christian’s relationship with ‘the world.’  The Christian seeks peace with all alike,  but he seeks holiness also,  and this cannot be sacrificed for peace.

Ps 1:1-2
(1) Blessed is the man 
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked 
or stand in the way of sinners 
or sit in the seat of mockers. 
(2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.     NIV

The parallel with Romans 12:18 suggests that all must not be limited in any way. 
On the other hand the next verse takes account only of members of the Christian society.  But the thought of sanctification supplies a natural transition from a wider to a narrower view.  
The graces of purity and peacemaking are the subjects of two successive beatitudes: Matthew 5:8,9.

Rom 12:18
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.     NIV

Mat. 5:8,9
(8) Blessed are the pure in heart, 
for they will see God. 
(9) Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they will be called sons of God.      NIV

The word sanctification is peculiar to Biblical and Ecclesiastical Greek. 
It occurs rarely in the LXX.  On the idea see Heb. 9:13.  
Perhaps it may be most simply described as the preparation for the presence of God
Without it no man shall see the Lord - Christ -,  for whose return in glory believers wait.: Heb. 9:28.


Sanctification (Greek. hagiasmos,  "separation, a setting apart"). 

The Hebrew term qodesh,  rendered  "sanctify,"  has a corresponding meaning.  The dominant idea of sanctification,  therefore,  is

Separation from the Secular and Sinful and 
Setting apart for a Sacred Purpose.

As the holiness of God means His separation from all evil, so sanctification,  in the various Scripture applications of the term,  has a kindred lofty significance.

In the Old Testament economy,  things,  places,  and times,  as well as persons,  were sanctified, i.e., consecrated to holy purposes  (see Gen 2:3; Ex 13:2; 40:10-13; etc.). 
Connected with this were the Mosaic rites of purification  (see, e.g., Num 6:11; Lev 22:16,32; Heb 9:13).  
These rites,  however,  when applied to persons

Were efficacious only in a ceremonial and legal sense and 
did not extend to the purifying of the moral and spiritual nature. 

They were symbolical and thus were

Intended not only to remind the Jew of the necessity of spiritual cleansing
But also of the gracious purpose of God to actually accomplish the work.

So David prayed not only, "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean," 
but also, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Ps 51:7-10).

Although in the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament,  

Men are called upon to sanctify themselves  -  to consecrate themselves truly to God

(see Ex 19:22; Lev 11:44; 20:7-8; 1 Peter 3:15).

The thought everywhere prevails that

Inward cleansing is the work of God

(From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

12:15, 16

The conditions of social involvement imposed upon Christians and the obligation of constant watchfulness lest the unchristian element should communicate its evil to the Church.

(12:15) lest any lack the grace of God
(12:15) lest any root of bitterness up springing should trouble you
(12:16) lest there be any fornicator or profane person


Looking diligently lest any lack
The word  looking diligently  expresses the careful regard of those who occupy a position of responsibility  (as a physician,  or a superintendent).  Each Christian shares this responsibility.

In  lack the grace of God  the idea seems to be that of 

falling behind,
not keeping pace with the movement of divine grace

which meets and stirs the progress of the Christian (see Heb. 5:11). 
The present participle describes a continuous state and not a single defection.

The construction  lack the grace marks a  ‘falling back’  from that with which some connection exists,  implying a moral separation.

Lest any root of bitterness…should trouble
The image is taken from Deuteronomy 29:17,18. 
The original connection points to the perils of allurements to serve strange gods.

Deut 29:17-18
(17) You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold.  (18)  Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.

The  ‘root’  is personal and not doctrinal:  a pernicious man and not a pernicious opinion.  Compare Acts 8:23.

Acts 8:23
For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.    NIV

The phrase  ‘root of bitterness’  (as distinguished from ‘bitter root’)  expresses

the Product
not simply the Quality of the Root itself

The clause  up springing  adds a vivid touch to the picture. 
The Seed, the Root,  lies hidden and reveals its power slowly  (Luke 8:6,8).

Luke 8:6-8
(6)  Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  (7)  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.  (8)  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.    NIV

Be defiled many
The many be defiled.  The poisonous influence spreads corruption through the society.

Acts 5:5
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.    NIV

Acts 5:11
Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.    NIV

God was not about to let this poisonous influence spread in the Church,  He stopped it quickly. 

Romans 14:10
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.    KJV


Lest any fornicator or profane person, as Esau
A question has been raised whether both fornicator and profane person are connected with Esau, or the latter only. The second view seems unquestionably to be right. Esau is presented in Scripture as the type of a 'profane’ man, but he does not appear as fornicator either literally or metaphorically. 
The later Jewish traditions can hardly have a place here. And, yet again, the words of explanation which follow justify the epithet  profane person,  but they do not extend further. They imply therefore that  fornicator  does not refer to Esau.

The obstacles to holiness are gathered up under two heads, 

those which centre in the man himself,  and
those which concern his view of the divine gifts.

A man may fail by personal impurity: 
he may fail also by disregard of the blessings of God. 

Esau is a characteristic example of the latter form of sin, as one who by birth occupied a position of prerogative which he recklessly sacrificed for an immediate and sensuous pleasure. 
The Hebrews might also barter their blessings as firstborn in the Church for the present outward consolations of the material Temple service.  Peace with Judaism might be bought at the price of Christian holiness.


Holiness   (Hebrew: qodesh;   Greek:  hagiosune;  in both cases "separation," or "setting apart,"  holy,  from Saxon, "halig," "whole," "sound"). 

Holiness is a general term used to indicate sanctity or

separation from all that is sinful,  
separation from all that is impure,
separation from all that is morally imperfect

In other words, it is moral wholeness.  

The term is used with reference to persons, places, and things.
(From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

The use of  profane person  in the New Testament is limited: 1 Tim. 1:9; 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16; 
compare Matthew 12:5; Acts 24:6.

The word describes a character which 

recognizes nothing as higher on earth
for whom there is nothing sacred
no divine reverence for the unseen.

Esau appears in Scripture as the embodiment of this character.  For one mess of meat,  not only for a transitory and material price,  but that the smallest,  he sold his own birthright.

The language of the original narrative (Gen. 25:32) is singularly expressive of the thoughtlessness of Esau.

Gen. 25:32
And Esau said,  Lo!  I am going to die, what then are these rights of primogeniture to me?’      LXX

For the double portion of the firstborn see Deut. 21:17  (1 Chron. 5:1).

Deut 21:17
He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.     NIV

1 Chron 5:1
The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel  (he was the firstborn,  but when he defiled his father's marriage bed,  his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel;  so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright.    NIV

On Deut 21:15-17:
first-born.  The inheritance of the first-born consisted in  "a mouth of two"  (i.e., a mouthful, portion, share of two) of all that was by him,  all that he possessed.  Consequently the first-born inherited twice as much as nay of the other sons. 
(from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)


The neglect of privileges and responsibilities brings irreparable consequences

Ye know for…he was rejected
For ye know that even afterward, when he wished to inherit the blessing, he was rejected.
The form  ye know,  is very rare in the New Testament (Eph. 5:5;  James 1:9)

The consequences of Esau’s act reached farther than he had cared to look (even afterward).  In spite of his impulsive disregard of divine things he retained still some sense of God’s promise, and sought to secure what had naturally belonged to him.

Thus his profane irreverence was seen in a new form.

He paid no heed to his own act, 
but wished to occupy the position which he had voluntarily abandoned.
He had sold the right of the first-born,
yet, as if that were a trivial thing, he claimed to inherit the blessing which belonged to it.

The use of  to inherit  emphasizes his sin.  He asserted the prerogative of birth,  a gift of God,  when he had himself recklessly surrendered it.

He was rejected
He was rejected by his father who confirmed the blessing which he had unknowingly given to Jacob. 
Isaac spoke what was indeed the judgment of God  (Gen. 27:33,37).

Gen 27:33
Isaac trembled violently and said, "Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him--and indeed he will be blessed!"     NIV

Gen 27:37
Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?"     NIV

Malachi 1:3
But Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.    NIV

For of repentance place he found not
For he found no place of repentance
Westcott says:
The clause is to be taken parenthetically: Esau was rejected — his claim to the blessing was disallowed — for he found no place of repentance — though he sought the blessing earnestly with tears. 
The rendering ‘he (Esau) found in Isaac no place for change of mind, though he sought it (the change of mind) earnestly — that is,  he found his father firmly resolved to maintain what he had said — is equally against the language and the argument.

Adam Clark syas:
Repentance  -  metanoia is not to be taken in a theological sense,  as implying contrition for sin,  but merely change of mind or purpose;  nor does the word refer here to Esau at all,  but to his father,  whom Esau could not,  with all his tears and entreaties,  persuade to reverse what he had done. 
I have blessed him, said he, yea, and he must be blessed;  I cannot reverse it now.  Nothing spoken here by the apostle,  nor in the history in Genesis to which he refers,  concerns the eternal state of either of the two brothers. The use made of the transaction by the apostle is of great importance:  Take heed lest, by apostatizing from the Gospel, ye forfeit all right and title to the heavenly birthright, and never again be able to retrieve it; because they who reject the Gospel reject the only means of salvation.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

Wycliffe says:
Esau serves as the example of the hopelessness of such a condition.  By his own choice he became a profane person,  or lover of the earthly and sensual,  so that he lost both birthright and spiritual sensitivity.  This latter condition,  particularly,  is the antithesis of the standard held up in verse 14.  Esau exchanged peace and holiness for immediate and earthly pleasures.
When Esau attempted to change his condition,  he found it impossible to do so.  Whether the blessing of God or repentance was the object of his tears,  it was too late.  Esau was guilty of willful sin,  from the consequences of which he found no deliverance.  This is the lesson to the Hebrews who were contemplating an act of willful sin in the form of apostasy back to Mosaic tradition.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)

Wuest says:
There are two words translated "repent"

metameleomai Regret or remorse for one's actions because of the evil consequences entailed.
It is used of Judas (Matt 27:3).
metanoeo A change of mind consisting of a reversal of moral purpose.
Used here in Heb 2:17.

While Esau could bring himself to the place where he was  filled with remorse because  of his action, yet he couldn't get himself to repent of it in the sense that he was sorry for it because it was wrong.  
Again is seen a warning to the Hebrew recipients of this letter.  If they renounced their professed faith in Messiah as High Priest and returned to the temple sacrifices, it would be impossible to renew them again to repentance.
(Wuest's Word Studies from the  Greek New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

The Character and Obligations of the New Covenant   (Heb 12:18 - 29)

Previous Section

This section forms a solemn close to the main argument of the Epistle.  It offers a striking picture of the characteristics of the two Covenants summed up in the words  'terror'  and  'grace';  and at the same time,  in harmony with the whole current of thought:

It emphasizes the truth that Greater Privileges bring Greater Responsibility. 

The section falls into two parts:

(12:18-24) The contrast of the position of Christians with that of the Israelites at the giving of the Law
(12:25-29) The duties of Christians which flow from their position

In the first section the writer describes:

(12:18-21) The scene at Sinai;
(12:22-24) The position of Christians
Heb 12:18-24
(18)  For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
(19)  And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
(20)  (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
(21)  And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
(22)  But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
(23)  To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
(24)  And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(18)  For not ye have come to being touched [the] mount and having been kindled with fire,  and to obscurity,  and to darkness,  and to tempest(19)  and trumpet's to sound,  and to voice of words;  which [voice] they that heard excused themselves [asking] not to be addressed to them [the] word(20)  (for they could not bear that [which] was commanded:  And if a beast should touch the mountain,  it shall be stoned, or with a dart shot through(21)  and, so fearful was the spectacle [that] Moses said,  greatly afraid I am and trembling:)  (22)  but ye have come to Sion mount; and [the] city of God [the] living,  Jerusalem heavenly;  and to myriad's of angels(23)  [the] universal gathering;  and to [the] assembly of [the] firstborn [ones] in [the] heavens registered;  and to [the] judge God of all;  and to [the] spirits of [the] just [who] have been perfected(24)  and of a covenant fresh mediator to Jesus;  and to [the] blood of sprinkling,  better things speaking than Abel.

Ex 19:10-13
(10)  And the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow.  Have them wash their clothes  (11) and be ready by the third day,  because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.  (12)  Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them,  `Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it.  Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.  (13)   He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows;  not a hand is to be laid on him.  Whether man or animal,  he shall not be permitted to live .' Only when the ram's horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain."     NIV

Ex 19:16-19
(16)  On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,  with a thick cloud over the mountain,  and a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled.  (17)  Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God,  and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  (18)  Mount Sinai was covered with smoke,  because the LORD descended on it in fire.  The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace,  the whole mountain trembled violently,  (19)  and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder.  Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.     NIV

Rev 21:1-4
(1)  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,  for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,  and there was no longer any sea.  (2)  I saw the Holy City,  the new Jerusalem,  coming down out of heaven from God,  prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  (3)  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,  "Now the dwelling of God is with men,  and he will live with them.  They will be his people,  and God himself will be with them and be their God.  (4)  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,  for the old order of things has passed away."    NIV

Keil & Delitzsch on Ex 19:10-15:
God then commanded Moses to prepare the people for His appearing or speaking to them:

(1) By their sanctification,
through the washing of the body and clothes (see Gen 35:2)

and abstinence from conjugal intercourse (v. 15)

on account of the defilement connected therewith (Lev 15:18)
(2) By setting bounds round the people, 
that they might not ascend or touch the mountain.

The hedging or bounding  (higbiyl) of the people is spoken of in Ex 19:23  as setting bounds about the mountain, and consisted therefore in the erection of a barrier round the mountain,  which was to prevent the people form ascending or touching it.  Any one who touched it (qaatseehuw -  "its end," i.e.,  the outermost or lowest part of the mountain)  was to be put to death,  whether man or beast.  "No hand shall touch him"  (the individual who passed the barrier and touched the mountain). Not till  "the drawing out of the trumpet blast," or, "only when it sounded long,"  could they ascend the mountain  (v. 13).
No one was to ascend the mountain on pain of death,  or even to touch its outermost edge;  but when the horn was blown with a long blast,  and the signal to approach was given thereby,  then they might ascend it  (see v. 21) - of course not 600,000 men,  which would have been physically impossible, but the people in the persons of their representatives the elders. 
(from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

The description is designed to bring out the awfulness of the whole revelation which attended the making of the Old Covenant.  Step by step the writer advances

(12:18-20) From the physical terrors by which it was accompanied 
(12:21) To the confession of the Lawgiver himself 

who alone of all prophets was allowed to speak to God face to face.


The peril of disregarding the Christian privileges,  which have been indicated in the last section,  is proportioned to their greatness.

Therefore the Apostle says,  'Endure,  advance,  aim at the highest purity,  cherish the loftiest view of divine things,  for ye are not come to a vision of outward awfulness,  but ye are come to mount Zion.  You stand in view of heavenly glories immeasurably nobler than the terrors of Sinai.  If then the people who were admitted to that revelation were charged to make every external preparation (Exodus 19:14),  much more must you prepare yourselves spiritually.'

For not ye have come to being touched mount and having been kindled with fire
For ye are not come to a material (palpable) and kindled fire
The position once taken (Deut. 4:11) is presented as still retained. In this respect Christians were differently circumstanced from those who heard the Law at Sinai.

The Jews were forbidden to draw near
Christians shrank back when they were invited to approach.

The scene of the old legislation is described simply as  'a palpable and kindled fire and blackness…' 
The earthly,  local,  associations of the divine epiphany fall wholly into the background. 
That which the writer describes is the form of the revelation, 

material signs of the nature of God (12:29).

Thus every element is one which outwardly moves fear; and in this connection the mention of Sinai itself may well be omitted.  

The mountain is lost in the fire and smoke.
It becomes a manifestation of terrible majesty,  a symbol of the Divine Presence.

And to obscurity
The several features of the awful manifestation are taken from Deuteronomy 4:11;  5:22;  Exodus 19:16. 
The  'blackness'  'thick darkness'  was that into which Moses entered  'where God was' (Exodus 20:21).

Ex 20:21
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.    NIV

Keil & Delitzsch on Ex 20:22-23
Say unto the children of Israel,  Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
The General Form of Divine Worship in Israel .- As Jehovah had spoken to the Israelites from heaven,  they were not to make gods of earthly materials, such as silver and gold,  by the side of Him,  but simply to construct an altar of earth or unhewn stones without steps,  for the offering up of His sacrifices at the place where He would reveal Himself.  
"From heaven"  Jehovah came down upon Sinai enveloped in the darkness of a cloud;  and thereby He made known to the people that His nature was heavenly,  and could not be imitated in any earthly material. 
"Ye shall not make with Me,"  " place by the side of,  or on a par with Me,"  "gods of silver and gold,"- 
that is to say,  idols primarily intended to represent the nature of God,  and therefore meant as symbols of Jehovah,  but which became false gods from the very fact that they were intended as representations of the purely spiritual God.
(from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)


And trumpet's to sound
The  'sound of a trumpet'  is mentioned in Exodus 19:16; 20:18.  Compare Matthew 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16. 
The  'voice of words'  is mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:12.

Matt 24:31
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,  and they will gather his elect from the four winds,  from one end of the heavens to the other.    NIV

1 Thess 4:16
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,  with a loud command,  with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God,  and the dead in Christ will rise first.    NIV

Which they that heard
Even that which was most intelligible, most human, the articulate voice, inspired the hearers with overwhelming dread:  which voice they that heard entreated that no word more should be spoken to them,  that is by God Himself,  but only through Moses   (Exodus 20:19).

Keil & Delitzsch on Ex 20:18-19
(cf. Deut 5:19-33). The terrible phenomena,  amidst which the Lord displayed His majesty,  made the intended impression upon the people who were stationed by the mountain below,  so that they desired that God would not speak to them any more,  and entreated Moses through their elders to act as mediator between them,  promising at the same time that they would hear him (cf. Ex 19:9,16-19).
"They trembled and stood afar off:"  not daring to come nearer to the mountain,  or to ascend it.
"And they said," viz., the heads of the tribes and elders: see Deut 5:20,   where the words of the people are more fully given.  "Lest we die:" cf. Deut 5:21-23. 
Though they had discovered that God speaks with man,  and yet man lives;  they felt so much that they were , powerless,  frail,  and alienated by sin from the holy God,  that they were afraid lest they should be consumed by this great fire,  if they listened any longer to the voice of God.
(from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)


For they could not
For they could not bear that which was enjoined - Exodus 19:12. 
The most impressive part of the whole command is taken to convey its effect:  If even a beast


The fear which was felt by the people was felt also by the Moses himself.
And -- so fearful was the appearance -- Moses said…
The variety and living fullness of the vision represented to Moses is expressed by the form the spectacle. 
The word  spectacle  occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.  Compare (Matthew 14:26 An apparition).

Greatly afraid I am
Similar words were used by Moses in connection with the worshipping of the golden calf  ( Deut. 9:19)


The position of Christians

The view which the Apostle gives of the position is marvelously full. The clauses are grouped in pairs.

According to this arrangement the development of thought may be presented in the following form:

(12:22,23a) The Christian Revelation seen in its fulfillment: from the divine side 
The scene
The Foundation
The persons
The Structure
(12:23b, 24) The Christian Revelation seen in its efficacy: from the human side
The judgment:    earthly life over
The Judge
Those who have been perfected
The gift of grace:   earthly life still lasting
The Covenant
The Atonement

There is, it will be noticed,  a complete absence of articles.  The thoughts are presented in their most abstract form.

But ye have come to
Ye are not brought face to face with any repetition of the terrors of Sinai:

But ye are even now still standing in a heavenly presence -
Not material - 
But spiritual,

Not manifested in elemental powers -

But in living hosts,

Not finding expression in threatening commands -

But in means of reconciliation,

Not inspiring fear -

But hope.

Yet, it is implied, that the awfulness of the position is not less but greater than that of the Israelites.

In one sense the heavenly Jerusalem is already reached:  in another sense it is still sought for: Heb. 13:14.

Sion mount…heavenly
Over against  'the material and kindled fire'  of Sinai is set the mountain and city of God,  His palace and the home of His people,  shown by images in the earthly Zion and Jerusalem.  In this heavenly,  archetypal,  spiritual mountain and city,  God is seen to dwell with His own.  He is not revealed in one passing vision of terrible Majesty as at the giving of the Law,  but in His proper  'dwelling-place.'

Zion is distinctively the  'acropolis,'  the seat of God's throne,  and Jerusalem the city. 
Sometimes Zion alone is spoken of as the place where God exercises sovereignty and from which He sends deliverance.  Psalms 2:6;  Isaiah 18:7.
Sometimes Zion and Jerusalem are joined together:  Mic. 4:1;  Joel 2:32;  Amos. 1:2.

In the spiritual reality Mount Zion represents the strong divine foundation of the new Order
While the City of the Living God represents the social structure in which the Order is embodied. 

God -- Who is a Living God (Heb. 3:12 note) -- does not dwell alone,  but surrounded by His people. 
His Majesty and His Love are equally represented in the New Jerusalem.

For the idea of the Heavenly Jerusalem,  compare Revelation 21:2,10. 
This is  'the city which hath the foundations' (11:10),  for which Abraham looked;  and for which we still seek (Heb. 13:14).   It is like  'the good things'  of the Gospel,  in different aspects future and present.

Rev 21:2
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.    NIV

Rev 21:10
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.    NIV

And to myriad's…and to assembly
The description of the scene of the Divine Kingdom to which Christians are come is followed by a description of the representative persons who are included in it,  with whom believers are brought into fellowship.  These are angels and men,  no longer separated,  as at Sinai,  by signs of great terror,  but united in one vast assembly.

Rev. 7:13-17
(13)  Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-who are they, and where did they come from?" 
(14)  I answered, "Sir, you know." 
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  (15)  Therefore, 
"they are before the throne of God 
and serve him day and night in his temple; 
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 
(16)  Never again will they hunger; 
never again will they thirst. 
The sun will not beat upon them, 
nor any scorching heat. 
(17)   For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; 
he will lead them to springs of living water. 
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."     NIV

The phrase  to myriad's of angels  is probably used with direct reference to the ministration of the angels at the giving of the Law  (Deuteronomy 33:2),  and in the manifestations of the Lord for judgment (Daniel 7:10; Judge 14). Such associations give force to the addition universal gathering.  These countless hosts are not now messengers of awe,  as then,  but of rejoicing.  At the consummation of Creation, as at the Creation itself  (Job. 38:7),  'they shout for joy.'

Deut 33:1-2
(1)  This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death.  (2)  He said:
"The LORD came from Sinai 
and dawned over them from Seir;
he shone forth from Mount Paran.
He came with myriad's of holy ones 
from the south, from his mountain slopes.    NIV

Daniel 7:10
A river of fire was flowing, 
coming out from before him. 
Thousands upon thousands attended him; 
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. 
The court was seated, 
and the books were opened.    NIV

Jude 14
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men:  "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones    NIV


To assembly….in heavens
The second constituent body in the divine commonwealth is the  'church of the firstborn.'  
This represents the earthly element  (humanity)  as the former the heavenly element (angels). 
Men are described as a  'church,'  a  'congregation,'  gathered for the enjoyment of special rights,  even as the angels are assembled for a great festival;  and they are spoken of as  'firstborn,'  enjoying the privileges not only of sons but of firstborn sons.

Rev 19:10
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."    NIV

Job 1:6
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.    KJV

The word  to assembly  occurs again in the Epistle in  Heb. 2:12.
The thought in each case is that of the people of God assembled to exercise their privileges and to enjoy their rights.
It is worthy of notice that while the word occurs only in two places in the Gospels (Matthew 16:18; 18:17),  it is used in Matt 16:18 in the sense of the universal church and in Matt 18:17 of a special church. 
Both senses are found in the Acts (e.g. Acts 9:31; 8:1)  and in the Epistles of Paul  (Eph. 1:22;  Col. 4:16). 

of firstborn
In the divine order not one son only,  but many enjoy the rights of  primogeniture,  the kingdom and the priesthood (Revelation 1:6). 

The term  'firstborn'  here appears to describe a common privilege and is not used in relation to the circumstances of earth,  as of the dead compared with the living.  Christian believers in Christ,  alike living and dead,  are united in the Body of Christ. 
In that Body we have fellowship with a society of  'eldest sons'  of God,  who share the highest glory of the divine order.  Thus the idea of the Communion of Saints gains distinctness. The word suggests still another thought.

The 'firstborn'  in Israel were the representatives of the consecrated nation. 

We may then be justified in regarding these,  the firstborn in the Christian Church, the firstborn of humanity,  as preparing the way,  in Him Who is  'the First-born  (Heb. 1:6),  for many brethren.
Through them Creation enters on the beginning of its consummation 
(compare Revelation 1:5; Col. 1:15; Rom. 8:29).

These  'firstborn'  are described as enrolled in heaven. 
The same image of the enrolment of citizens on the register of the city,  as possessed of the full privileges of the position,  is found in the Old Testament:  Exodus 32:32;  Isaiah 4:3;  Dan. 12:1. 
Compare Luke 10:20;  Rev. 13:8.

12:23b, 24

From the contemplation of the divine order in its ideal glory the Apostle goes on to describe it in relation to men and the conflicts of life:

When the struggle is over
While the struggle is yet being maintained

Thus the point of sight now becomes human,  and the two great ideas of judgment and redemption come into prominence.  

The Judge is the universal sovereign
Spirits of just men made perfect witness to His mercy

The Mediator is one truly man,  Jesus,  and His blood calls not for vengeance but for pardon.


To judge God of all
To the God of all as Judge
The word  to judge  retains something of its widest meaning  (Acts 13:20). 
The action of the Judge is not to be limited to punishment only. 
The Divine Judgment is the manifestation of right,  the vindication of truth,  an object of desire for believers,  though the light in which it is revealed  (John 3:19)  is fire also  (comp. V. 29). 
Christians  'in Christ'  can draw near to the Judge.

And to spirits of just have been perfected
The judgment -- the revelation of that which is -- has been in part triumphantly accomplished.  We realize the presence of the Judge,  and also of those for whom His work has been fulfilled in righteousness.  These are spoken of as  'spirits,'  for in this passage the thought is no longer, of the complete glory of the divine commonwealth,  but of spiritual relations only;  not of the assembly in its august array,  but of the several members of it in their essential being.

The departed saints are therefore spoken of now as  'spirits,'  not yet  'clothed upon' (2 Cor. 5:4). 
While the work of Christ is as yet uncompleted in humanity,  though  'the righteous'  are spoken of as spirits only, yet they are essentially  'made perfect.'  They have realized the end for which they were created in virtue of the completed work of Christ.  When the Son bore humanity to the throne of God -- the Father -- those who were in fellowship with Him were (in this sense) perfected,  but not till then:  Compare Heb. 11:40. 


And of a covenant fresh mediator to Jesus; and…Abel
For some the struggle of life is over:  by some it has still to be borne.  In these last two clauses the spiritual covenant is shown in relation to those whose work has yet to be completed.

Their assurance lies in the facts that:

He through Whom the covenant is established has perfect sympathy with them as true man
And that the blood through which it was ratified is an energetic power of purifying life

The work of Jesus, the author and prefecture  (v. 2),  is placed in significant connection with that of:

Moses,  the mediator of the first covenant,  the deliverer from Egyptian bondage
Abel the first martyr of faith (Heb. 11:4)

The Covenant is spoken of as fresh in regard of its recent establishment.

The Covenant was in relation to the Hebrews 'new' in time and not only 'new' in substance.  Christians had just entered on the possession of privileges which the elder Church had not enjoyed.

And to blood of sprinkling…speaking
There is a voice to be heard here also as at Sinai (v. 19),  but not terrible like that.

The blood -- 'the life' -- is regarded as still living. 
This thought finds expression in the first record of death (Gen. 4:10),  but the voice  'of the blood of Jesus'  is doubly contrasted with the voice of the blood of Abel.  That,  appealing to God,  called for vengeance,  and making itself heard in the heart of Cain,  brought despair;

but the blood of Christ pleads with God for forgiveness and speaks peace to man.


The duties of Christians which flow from their position

The picture of the position of Christians has been drawn.  Its dangers and glories have been set forth. The last application now follows.

This section consists of two parts. 

(12:25-27) The responsibility of Christians in respect of their position towards a final revelation
(12:28,29) A practical appeal
Heb 12:25-29
(25)  See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
(26)   Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
(27)   And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
(28)   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
(29)   For our God is a consuming fire.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
(25)  Take heed ye refuse not him who speaks. For if they escaped not, him that on the earth [who] refused divinely instructed [them], much more we who him from [the] heavens turn away from(26)   whose voice the earth shook then; but now he has promised, saying, Yet once I shake not only the earth, but also the heaven(27)   But the Yet once, signifies of the [things] shaken the removing, as having been made, that may remain the [things] not shaken(28)   Wherefore a kingdom not to be shaken receiving, may we have grace, by which we may serve well pleasingly God with reverence and fear(29)   For also our God [is] a fire consuming.


The punishment of the Israelites may remind Christians of their responsibility.  They rejected an earthly dispensation.

(12:25) He who speaks to us is 'from heaven'
(12:26) The shaking of the earth then was but a symbol of the shaking of earth and heaven now
(12:27) Which is final,  as introducing an order which cannot be shaken


Take heed ye refuse not him who speaks
See that ye refuse not him that even now is speaking
The warning springs directly from the contemplation of the picture which the Apostle has drawn.
The absence of a connecting particle gives greater force to the appeal:  'you know what lies before us:  see that you do not disregard it.'

The words which follow  (for ifturn away from!)  are really a parenthesis;  so that him who speaks goes closely with whose voice (26).  However the intervening words may be interpreted,  the speaker, through whatever agency,  is God.  He Who 'spake in a Son' (Heb. 1:2) still speaks in Him.

For if…on the…divinely instructed…turn away from
For if they -- the people of the Exodus whose history has just been recalled to us -- escaped not  the consequences of their want of faith when on earth they refused him that dealt with them,  much less shall we escape who are turning away from him that dealeth with us from heaven. 

The long sufferings in the wilderness witnessed to the punishment of that unbelief which made the people rescued from Egypt unfit and unwilling to hold converse with God.  Their sin was not in the request that Moses only should speak to them  (Deut. 5:28),  but in the temper which made the request necessary  (Deut. 5:29).
They qualify the whole clause which follows:  If they escaped not when on earth (having their position on earth) they refused (begged no longer to hear) him that dealt with them
The scene and the conditions of the revelation,  the trial and the failure,  were earthly,  on earth.

The corresponding phrase  from heavens  expresses only the position of the Revealer and not that of those to whom the revelation is given.  Hence it is limited by its place to Him  (him from heavens).

The word  refused  (when they refused)  takes up  excused themselves  in v. 19. 
The object then was not the voice of Moses but the voice of God.  It seems to follow necessarily therefore that the object here must be God and not the minister of God.

Thus the contrast is not between the two mediators Moses and Christ, but between the character of these two revelations which God made,  'on earth'  and  'from heaven.'

For divinely instructed  compare Heb. 8:5  (divinely instructed);  11:7. 
The word appears to be specially chosen to describe the manifold circumstances connected with the giving of the Law.

Much more we who him from heavens turn away from
The writer does not say  'if we turn away from him',  nor yet  'after turning away from'  (turn away from 2 Timothy 1:15).  He looks upon the action as already going on,  and does not shrink from including himself among those who share in it:  'we who are turning away,'  if indeed we persevere in the spirit of unfaithfulness.
The phrase  (him that dealt and dealeth with us from heaven)  is left in an undefined and general form as including the work of the Son on earth and after He was glorified,  through Whom the Father speaks.  His revelation was  'from heaven'  in both cases.

In one sense God  'spake from heaven'  when He gave the Law  (Exodus 20:22;  Deuteronomy 4:36),  but His voice even then was  'of earth.'


But now he has promised
Hagg. 2:6.  But now,  in relation to the Christian order as distinguished from that of Sinai,  He hath promised,  whose voice then shook the earth.

Hag 2:6
This is what the LORD Almighty says:  `In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.    NIV

The former outward  'shaking'  was the symbol of a second  'shaking'  far more extensive and effective. 
Heaven and earth will at last be moved that men may contribute to the fulfillment of the divine purpose.  And the announcement of this final catastrophe of the world,  however awful in itself,  is a  'promise,'  because it is for the triumph of the cause of God that believers look.

Isa 2:19
Men will flee to caves in the rocks 
and to holes in the ground 
from dread of the LORD 
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.    NIV

The prophecy of Haggai 2:6,21 deals with two main subjects:

The superior glory of the second temple
in spite of its apparent poverty
The permanent sovereignty of the house of David
in spite of its apparent weakness

The prophet looks forward from the feeble beginnings of the new spiritual and national life to that final manifestation of the majesty and kingdom of God in which the discipline begun on Sinai is to have an end.  
He naturally recalls

the phenomena which accompanied the giving of the Law;
and foreshadows a correspondence between the circumstances of the first and the last scenes in the divine revelation.

That which was local and preparatory at Sinai is seen in the consummation to be universal.

The quotation is adapted from the LXX

Haggai 2:6
For thus saith the Lord Almighty:  Yet once more,  I will shake the heaven and the earth,  including the sea and dry land,    LXX

Haggai 2:21
Say to Zorobabel, the son of Salathiel, of the tribe of Juda -- say: I will shake the heaven and the earth including the sea and the dry land.    LXX

The LXX gives the main thought.  The character of this  'shaking'  compared with that which foreshadowed it marks it as final.

For  he has promised  compare Romans 4:21;  Gal. 3:19  (to whom He hath given the promise).


But the Yet once
And the word Yet once more
The use of this phrase shows that the second  'shaking'  will be final.  No other is to follow.  All then that admits of being shaken must be for ever removed.

The removing as having been made
The removal of the things which are being shaken as of things that have been made
The convulsion is represented as an accomplishment.  It is not simply possible

The visible earth and heaven are treated as transitory forms,  which only represent in time the heavenly and eternal. As the material types of spiritual realities that are spoken of characteristically as  'made'  and so as being liable to perish.
The  'invisible'  archetypes are also,  as all things, 'made'  by God:  Isaiah 66:22.  They are not imperishable in themselves,  but they abide in virtue of the divine will,  which they are fitted peculiarly to express as being spiritual.

Isa 66:22
"As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure.    NIV

That they remain
The abiding of the eternal is naturally presented as the object of the removal of the temporal.  By this the eternal is shown as it is.  The veils in which it was shrouded are withdrawn.

The not shaken
All that stands undisturbed in the present trial.  The  'shaking'  is looked upon as already taking place.

The crisis to which the writer of the Epistle looks forward is,  the establishment of the  'heavenly,'  Christian,  order when the  'earthly'  order of the Law was removed.  He makes no distinction between the beginning and the consummation of the age then to be inaugurated,  between the catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem and the final return of Christ:  the whole course of the history of the Christian Church is included in the fact of its first establishment.

It is impossible to say how far the writer anticipated great physical changes to coincide with this event.  That which is essential to his view is the inauguration of a new order,  answering to the  'new heavens and the new earth'  (Isaiah 65:17;  Revelation 21:1).

Isa 65:17
Behold, I will create 
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.    NIV

Rev 21:1
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.    NIV

Signs in nature however did accompany the Birth and Death of Christ.

Matt 2:1-2
(1)  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  (2)  and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."     NIV

Matt 27:45
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.    NIV

Matt 27:51-53
(51)  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.  (52)  The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  (53)  They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.   NIV

The representation of great spiritual changes under physical imagery occurs elsewhere both in the Old and New Testaments:  Isa. 65;  Matt. 24;  2 Pet. 3;  Rev. 20; 21.


Wherefore a kingdom
Wherefore, seeing that the great catastrophe,  this revelation of the eternal, is imminent,  let us as receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…  The thought of the  'kingdom'  lies in the second part of Haggai's prophecy,  which the quotation naturally suggested to the readers.  The 'shaking'  of which the prophet spoke,  and which was now being fulfilled,  was designed to issue in an eternal sovereignty of the house of faith.

The mention of the Divine Kingdom is comparatively rare in the Epistles. 
In the Gospels and Acts the phrase is always definite,

'the kingdom,'
'the kingdom of heaven,'
'the kingdom of God,'
'the Father's kingdom',
and by implication 'the kingdom of the Son of man'
(compare Luke 22:29   appointed to me my father, a kingdom). 

The phrase  'the kingdom of God' occurs :  2 Thess. 1:5;  1 Cor. 4:20;  Rom. 14:17;  Col. 4:11: 
compare 1 Thess. 2:12.   Elsewhere we have:

(Eph. 5:5) 'the kingdom of Christ and God'
(2 Pet. 1:11) 'the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'  
(comp. 1 Cor. 15:24; Co. 1:13; 2 Tim. 4:1,18); 
(James 2:5) 'the kingdom which was promised'

Receiving from the hands of God as His gift.  Believers are already entering upon the kingdom  (Heb. 4:3);  and this kingdom is described as  'immovable'  and not simply as  'not moved'  in the crises which the Apostle pictures.  Compare Daniel 7:18.  After the four kingdoms of force had been removed;  Col. 4:17  Take heed to the service.

Dan 7:18
But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever-yes, for ever and ever.'     NIV

May we have grace
The New Testament is strongly in favor of the sense  'let us feel and show thankfulness to God':  Luke 17:9; 
1 Tim. 1:12;  2 Tim. 1:3.  And, though at first sight there is something strange in the idea that thankfulness is the means whereby we may serve God,  we are perhaps inclined to forget the weight which is attached in Scripture to gratitude and praise.

It is the perception and acknowledgment of the divine glory which is the strength of man. 
The sense of love is the motive for proclaiming love. Psalms 51:14.

Ps 51:14
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.    NIV

At the same time in 3 John 4,  not joy  is used in the sense of  'having a gracious favor.'  Thus there is nothing absolute in usage against giving to the words here the sense 'let us have (i.e. realize) grace.'  The gift of God is certain,  but we must make it our own. 


"Grace is what God may be free to do,  and indeed what he does,  accordingly,  for the lost after Christ has died on behalf of them" (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 7:178).

 It is thus apparent that God's grace is to be distinguished from His mercy and love (Eph 2:4-5),  "But God,  being rich in mercy,  because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ  (by grace you have been saved)." 

Mercy is therefore the compassion of God that moved Him to provide a Savior for the unsaved.  Had God been able to save even one soul on the ground of His sovereign mercy alone,  He could have saved every person on that basis,  as Lewis Sperry Chafer points out,  and the death of Christ would not have been a necessity.  

Divine love on the other hand is the motivating plan behind all that God does in saving a soul.  But since God is holy and righteous,  and sin is a complete offense to Him,  His love or His mercy cannot operate in grace until there is provided a sufficient satisfaction for sin.  This satisfaction makes possible the exercise of God's grace. 

Grace thus rules out all human merit.   It requires only faith in the Savior.  Any intermixture of human merit violates grace.

God's grace thus provides not only salvation
but safety and preservation for the one saved
despite his imperfections
Grace perfects forever the saved one
in the sight of God
because of the saved one's position  "in Christ." 
Grace bestows Christ's merit
and Christ's standing forever     (Rom 5:1-2; 8:1; Col 2:9-10)
"for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete." 

Grace thus obviates any obligation to gain merit,  and the law as a merit system is no longer applicable to a believer, since he is no longer  "under law, but under grace" (Rom 6:14).  

The problem of a holy life is met in the gospel of grace by the fact that

the saved one has an entirely new position
in grace instead of  in Adam  (Rom 5:12-20)
And being baptized  "into Christ"   (Rom 6:1-11)
dead to sin but alive to God

Knowledge of and faith in this glorious  in-Christ  position (Rom 6:11)  is the key that makes it actual in the believer's everyday experience.  Rewards for faithfulness and practical holiness of life are to be dispensed,  but this is a truth not to be confused with an unforfeitable and unmerited salvation.
(From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)


Our God
The significant addition of  our  extends the description of the God of the revelation from Sinai to the God of the new revelation.  In other respects there may be a wide chasm between the Law and the Gospel;  but the One God of both is in His very nature in relation to man as He is  'a consuming fire.' 
He purifies by burning up all that is base in those who serve Him,  and all that is unfit to abide in His Presence: 
Mal. 3:2 (Isa. 4:4);  Mal. 4:1.  Compare Matthew 3:12.

Mal 3:2
But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand when he appears?  For he will be like a refiner's fire or a laundress's soap.   NIV

Isa 4:4
The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion;  he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.   NIV

Mal 4:1
"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.  All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble,  and that day that is coming will set them on fire,"  says the LORD Almighty.  "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 

Matt 3:12
His winnowing fork is in his hand,  and he will clear his threshing floor,  gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."    NIV

The Christology of the Epistle

The breadth of the Christology
The view of the Person and Work of Christ which is given in the Epistle to the Hebrews is in many respects more comprehensive and far-reaching than that which is given in any other Book of the New Testament.

The writer does not indeed,  like John,  trace back the conception of the Personality of the Lord to immanent relations in the Being of a Living God.
He does not,  like Paul,  distinctly represent each believer as finding his life  'in Him'  and so disclose the divine foundation of the solidarity of the human race.

But both thoughts are implicitly included in his characteristic teaching on the High-priestly office of Christ through which humanity reaches the end of creation.

Christ is One Person in and beyond time (Heb 1 - 4).
This fundamental truth finds complete expression in the opening paragraph  (found in book one on Hebrews). 
From first to last,  through time to that eternity beyond time which we have no powers to realize,  One Person fulfils the will of God.
When we contemplate Christ in His Nature and His Work there is the same unbroken continuity through changes which to our eyes interrupt or limit His activity.

One Person is
the agent in creation
the medium of revelation
the heir of the world
One Person
makes God known to us in terms of human life
bears all things unceasingly to their proper goal
'having made purification of sins' waits for that issue which man's self-assertion has delayed

Heb 1:1-4
(1)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  (2)  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  (3)  The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  (4)  So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.    NIV

Other forms in which the truth is conveyed
The same thought is traced in the Old Testament where the Son is spoken of as King and Creator  (1:8-12). 
And it appears in its simplest form in the combination of the two contrasted Names  'Jesus' and 'the Son of God' (Heb. 4:14 note; compare Heb. 13:20 with 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9);  and again in the abrupt and unique phrase, Heb. 13:8  Jesus Christ yesterday and to-day the same, and to the ages.

The Divine Being (Nature and Personality) of the Son
In relation to God:
    The Divine Being of the Son in relation to God is presented
          By the use of the general titles 'Son' and 'Firstborn'

The use of the anarthrous title 'Son,' which emphasizes the essential nature of the relation which it expresses,  is characteristic of the Epistle 
(Heb. 1:2, 5 [comp. 5:5];  3:6;  5:8;  7:28). 
The form occurs elsewhere in the Epistles only in Romans 1:4  ' was marked out Son of God'  (compare John 19:7Son of God).

This title is defined by the personal titles:

'the Son'    (Heb. 1:8)
'the Son of God'    (Heb. 6:6; 7:3; 10:29)
' the Firstborn'    (Heb. 1:6)
'the Son of God' is identified with 'Jesus'    (Heb. 4:14)

The title 'Son' is used in the Epistle only in reference to the Incarnate Lord. 
The title expresses not merely a moral relation,  but a relation of being;  and defines in human language that which  'was'  beyond time immanent in the Godhead   (Heb. 10:5; 7:3). 

In this connection it must be noticed that the writer represents the Father as the Source from which the Son derived all that He has  (Heb. 1:2; 5:5). Compare John 5:26.
It is remarkable that in Hebrews, God is spoken of as 'Father' only in Heb. 1:5. 
The title is used by Paul in all his Epistles.

John 5:26
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.     NIV

          By the definite description of His nature and work

The definite description of the Divine Personality given in Heb. 1:3  has been examined in detail in the notes upon the passage.  The use of the absolute,  timeless, term  'being'  guards against the thought that the Lord's  'Sonship'  was by adoption and not by nature. 
In Him the  'glory'  of God finds manifestation,  as its  'effulgence',  and the  'essence'  of God finds expression,  as its embodiment,  type. 
In Christ the essence of God is made distinct
In Christ the revelation of God's character is seen

(compare John 5:19,30; 14:9). See also John 17:5.

John 5:19
Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.   NIV

John 5:30
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.    NIV

John 14:9
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'?

John 17:5
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.     KJV

In relation to the World
    In relation to the World the Son is presented to us as

The Creator
The Creative work of the Son (Word  John 1:3) is affirmed both in the 
Writer's own words  (Heb. 1:2)
By an application of the language of the Psalm  (1:10)

At the same time the creation is finally referred to God (Heb. 11:3)

The Preserver
The thought of creation passes into that of the preservation,  government,  consummation of created things. 
The Son by  'the word of His power'  (Heb. 1:3 compare 11:3)  bears all things to their true end. 
He is over the whole house of God in virtue of what He is (Heb. 3:6) and of what He has done (Heb. 10:21).

This work was in no way interrupted by the Incarnation.  Paul also combines the creative and sustaining power of Christ: ( Col. 1:16,17).

The Heir of all things
The idea of the 'heirship' of Christ,  though in a limited sense,  finds a place in the Synoptic Gospels   (Matt. 21:3). 
It is connected by Paul with the work of creation: Co. 1:16. 
This conception is emphasized by the true order of the words in Heb. 1:2. 
The fact that He created suggests the fitness that He should inherit. Comp. Heb. 6:12.
The sovereignty of Christ over  'the order to come'  (Heb. 2:5)  presents His  'heirship'  under one special aspect;  and in part this Sovereignty is exercised even now  (Heb. 3:6; 10:21). 
In part however it awaits accomplishment  (Heb. 1:13; 10:13).

The Work of the Incarnate Christ
The Incarnation requires to be considered

In relation to His perfect human nature
The Lord's humanity is declared to be 
Real  (Heb. 2:14; compare v. 10; 7:14
Perfect (Heb. 2:17)
Representative (Heb. 2:9)

At the same time,  as has been seen,  the Divine Personality was unchanged by the assumption of manhood.  We must not however suppose that the body with its powers was simply an instrument which was directed by a divine 'principle.'

The body prepared for Him by God (Heb. 10:5) is not, any more than 'flesh' in John 1:14, to be interpreted in a partial sense. The use of the human name Jesus guards the fullness of His humanity (compare Heb. 2:6). 

At the same time His perfect humanity was in absolute harmony with His Divine Nature,  and so

He could work through it using all men's powers
But it did not limit His Divine Nature in any way in itself

It limited only its manifestation

Matt 17:1-3
(1)  After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  (2)  There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  (3)  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.     NIV

John 11:43
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.     NIV

In relation to human life
Thus the perfect human nature of Christ found expression in a perfect human life. 
By the discipline of suffering the Lord was  'made perfect,'  bearing without the least failure every temptation to which we are exposed (Heb. 4:15; 5:7; 7:26).
 His growth was
not only negatively sinless,
but a victorious development of every human power.

Nor can it be without deep interest to notice how the writer recognizes in Christ separate human virtues:

Trust in God (Heb. 2:13)
Faithfulness (Heb. 2:17;3:2)
Mercy and Sympathy (Heb. 2:17; 4:15)
Dependence on God (Heb. 5:7)
Faith (Heb. 12:2)

For the connection of the discipline of Christ with the discipline of men, compare Heb. 2:10 with 12:7.

Christ did not however cease at any time to be the Son of God. 
He lived through death, offering Himself through His eternal spirit (Heb. 9:14 note); 
and He exercises His priesthood in virtue of  'the power of an indissoluble life' (Heb. 7:16).

In this union of two Natures in the one Person of Christ,  Whose Personality is Divine,  to use the technical language of Theology,  we recognize the foundation-fact of a true fellowship of God and man.  There would be no true fellowship,  no sure hope for men,  if the Person of Christ were simply a manifestation of Deity,  or a divine principle working through human nature as its material.

As it is we can see how in virtue of His humanity and human life the Lord was able to fulfill His twofold office for men,  as 'Apostle and High-priest' (Heb. 3:1),  declaring the will of God and preparing men to appear before Him.


(End of Lesson Nine)


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