David Pawson - Hebrews Pt1

Thoughtful Thoughts 13.7.18 Hebrews part 1

Introduction and context...

Hebrews was written after Nero’s persecutions had started but not yet peaked.

What happened was, Nero had set fire to Rome in 64 AD and when the people saw what he had done, they were about to overthrow him. He looked around for someone else to blame and pointed at the Christians. And so the persecutions began. People believed him because they wanted to, and so Nero decreed that Christians be rounded up and executed. Nero had gone mad. He ended up pouring oil on any Christians he found and setting fire to them in his palace garden, for use as human torches. It was real life horror.

All that gives a baseline date for Hebrews of being at least after Nero’s fire, - but wait there’s more...

Nero’s reign ended in 68 AD, so that gives us an upper date line for Hebrews of 68 AD.

Further detective work led scholars to say Hebrews was written about 67AD-ish.

Paul was beheaded about 65 AD-ish but because scholars had once written into the King James Bible that Paul wrote Hebrews, we had believed that assumption. Hebrews is written by someone with a proficiency level in the Greek language which was higher than other New Testament authors. It is written in perfect Greek, as the Gospel of John is. 

That sets the scene, like a courtroom drama. Knowing Paul had been beheaded for his faith, shows us that the persecutions had reached martyrdom level. Because Christians were under this intense pressure, it explains so much of what we read. Although persecution had started, the writer knew that even worse was yet to come. All believers generally were in a real pickle now, as all were being rounded up. They were now more than likely to lose their lives. It was a matter of life and death.

Because of all this, many Jewish believers were running back to the Synagogue to escape martyrdom. They were able to escape in that way as Judaism was a legal religion.  However, the problem with all that was, that Jewish leaders required them to deny that Jesus was the Messiah before the whole congregation, before they were allowed to return to the synagogue as Jews.

The writer of Hebrews is writing to Jewish believers in Rome to say that if they run back to the synagogue denying Jesus, they could very well end up losing their salvation.

The first half of Hebrews says “Don’t go back”. The second half says, “Do go on”. This is a carrot and stick argument to counter the fear they had of a mad emperor. Nero didn’t live much longer after he rounded up believers for use as human torches, fortunately.

Hebrews 11 lists some of God’s faithful people who stayed the course. They were usually persecuted, but they passed on the “baton” anyway. Hebrews teaches believers facing persecution, “Don’t go back. Do go on”. God’s family are not lost by death, because we just go to be with the Lord.

Hebrews is still relevant today. Christians still need this message. They are still being murdered.

Early on in the reformation, the Hussites were murdered in what is now called the Czech Republic, by the RC church. In England during the reformation, the RC church burned Christians alive. (Foxe's Book of Martyrs.) In France the Huguenots were murdered, although some managed to flee to England. Later the Mennonites and Amish were killed by both Catholic and religious Protestants for having Believer’s Baptism, resulting eventually in many fleeing to America.

In more modern times, Fascists and then the Communists killed Christians. Currently, the country identified as persecuting Christians the most has been North Korea, but not too far behind nowadays have been Islamic countries. (See “The Voice of the Martyrs” website for more on that.)

Hebrews is still relevant because Christians continue having to make choices between obeying God or man. Either to go back, or to go on… Peter said, “We must obey God rather than man”, (and he ended up crucified upside down). Joshua said to Israel, “Choose this day whom you will serve...As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.

So now that Hebrews should actually make sense, read the first half of Hebrews, where the focus is on “Don’t go back”. Next week, we will do part 2, exhorting us to “go on”.

I’m John Dunning and that “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.

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