Lesson 31: "Here Have We No Contining City, But We Seek One To Come" (Hebrews 13:14)
The Book of Hebrews. This is lesson #31, welcome again. You have turned that tape over the last time. We are approaching the end of this series, one more chapter to go...(ch. 13). At the end of our last lesson, our writer reminded us of Moses and the children of Israel coming to Mt. Sinai and that frightful occasion at the giving of the law. In what we call Heb. 12:21, our writer went on to say, Moses conceded that he feared and quaked at the presence of God. We" said, our writer reasons from the lesser to the greater. In contrast, he said: "ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God." On the Sinai occasion, he says, God's "voice then shook the earth" (v.26). Then he quoted from Haggai 2:6 (sometimes pronounced Hagg-a-i), a short prophecy near the end of the O.T., followed only by Zechariah and Malachi. Haggai 2:6, it is recorded: "thus saith the Lord...it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land." On down that page, the prophecy continued: "the glory of this latter house hall be greater than the former." As you read that, it seems to be talking about rebuilding the second temple. But, the HEBREWS writer seems to give it duel meaning, and here applies it to the church, i.e. the glory of the church age shall be greater than the 10 commandment age. Then, our writer reminds us, Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant (here in v.24). In v.25, he said, "if they escaped not who refused him," i.e. God's voice at the time of Moses; then, his conclusion is: "much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven." Our writer compared the church age and the Mosaic age once before as two tabernacles, i.e. two tents or two houses. Do you remember back in Heb. 9:11? He said, "Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building." Comparing Moses and Christ is like trying to compare a house to the builder of that house (Heb. 3:3). The emphasis in this entire book has been on how much greater is Christ's covenant than the former covenant... listen to Jesus... hear the Lord. Christ's covenant is greater because the law of Moses was our school-master to bring us UNTO Christ (Gal. 3:24). Both came from God! It served its purpose. For those of you, my friends, who teach we are still under the 10 commandments, please notice the wording closely in Gal. 3:24... the law brought us UNTO Christ (that's U-N-T-0 Christ). It did not put us INTO Christ. "Salvation.. .is IN Christ" (II-Tim. 2:10). As part of Christ's covenant, we are baptized INTO Christ (that's I-N-T-0 Christ, Gal. 3:27).
Before we begin ch. 13, may I invite you to review the terminology used in ch. 12, just a minute. Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem... (this is v.22) these are one and the same thing. Please get these words programmed into your brain. It ties back to Abraham and the city he looked for. We are strangers and pilgrims here on this earth. Our conversation (or our citizenship, as some translations say), "is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). Now, what is a pilgrim?... as that term is used (in Heb. 11:13)? A sojourner, my dictionary says, i.e. one who wanders and explores a strange land...it's not their home. Our citizenship is in heaven, you see. If you are a Christian, a member of the Lord's church, you are a citizen of that kingdom that cannot be moved (v.28). You are a foreigner in this earthly land where we wander and wait. Do you remember Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan. ch. 2)? With God's help, Daniel explained this coming kingdom that would come in the days of the Roman kings (Dan. 2:44).. .after the Babylonian empire was gone... after the Meado-Persian empire fell...after the Greek empire was finished. Daniel prophesied: "In the days of these kings [i.e. the Roman kings, hundreds of years after Daniel, he said:] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed... it shall...consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44). A city, "whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). Now, look at 12:28 just a minute, "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved...' Sound familiar? That angel, named Gabriel, that spoke to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:33), before Jesus' birth, said: "of his kingdom there shall be no end." In v.23, here in Heb. ch. 12, it is referred to as the general assembly and the church of the firstborn, i.e. the kingdom of Christ. In this kingdom, we are to "serve God acceptably with reverence and fear" (that's at the end of v.28). Now, some of my friends are still looking for that kingdom to be established. They try to tell you that because most of the Jews didn't accept Christ back when Christ came the first time that God went to some plan "B", i.e. God backed off and the kingdom was not established at that time; but, God will do it at some future time... they say. Those who say that, simply need to learn: the kingdom and the church are one and the same thing. Have you got that? Jesus said: "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18) and in v.19 (next verse), Jesus used the word "kingdom" interchangeably with the word "church" in the previous verse. In talking about becoming Christians, Paul said to those at Colosse (Col. 1:13), "God hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Are you listening? Did you get that?... HATH already done it... (that's Col. 1:13)... past tense... if you are a Christian, you are in God's kingdom, the church, the Lord's church, Christ's kingdom... same thing. There's a lot of misunderstanding here in this big denominational world we live in...; but, my friend, please take the time to get it right. The HEBREWS writer said: "wherefore," i.e. here's the conclusion (v.28). "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom"... "LET US!" Do you see that? (middle of v.28)... "LET US." Our writer is still in the lettuce patch. Do you get it? And: "Our God is a consuming fire" (v.29).
O.K., now while our writer has us in the lettuce patch, let's read some of ch.13... are you ready? Here we go (it's a long reading, beginning in Heb. 13:1 and we'll read down through v.17). Are you ready? Let's read!
"Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covet-ousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you of the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines: for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
O.K. back to v.1, and let's discuss this block (v.1-17). Notice the word "let" (L-E-T). It occurs at the beginning of v.1, at the beginning of v.5, at the beginning of v.13 as "let us" and in v.3S as "let us." We're still in the lettuce patch. In other words, this is admonition (or encouragement) to the end* that we might live and serve God acceptably. Do you see that phrase "serve God acceptably" (back near the end of v.28 of ch. 12)? Now, this is in the kingdom, you see. That kingdom we receive (v.28). We can be naturalized into that kingdom; by that word NATURALIZE, I mean: to admit a foreigner to citizenship... similar to the way our immigration authorities of the USA admit foreigners that come to our shores. The steps for becoming a citizen of Christ's kingdom are: hear, believe, repent, confess Jesus and be baptized for the remission of sins. That puts you IN CHRIST, if you'll do it sincerely. We are baptized INTO Christ (Gal. 3:27). We have several examples of conversion... we covered these (I hope you have covered them) back in the book of Acts. All the examples of conversion in the N.T. are in the book of ACTS. Thus, when we become citizens of God's kingdom, our conversation or citizenship is in heaven, you see (Phil. 3:20). Now, in Christ's kingdom our writer says: let us continue with brotherly love (v.1). Now, of course, he is saying this to Christians in and around Jerusalem in the AD 60's; but, it applies to us just as much. We might read v.2 like this: let us not forget to entertain strangers. Then, v.3, let us remember them that are in bonds...i.e. those chained in prison, or we might say brothers and sisters in prison. And then the last part of v.3, let us remember them which suffer adversity. How do we remember them? By putting yourself into their shoes... i.e. empathizing with them... not just in word; but, in deed (i.e. assisting them) where we can and, of course, this includes remembering them always in every prayer.
Alright, let me ask you... what is our writer saying? What's his message? Now, please take the time to get this in focus. In what we call ch. 13, our writer is hitting a crescendo... this is review... this is admonition... this is a summary of Christian duty. This is the heart of our writer's message to his Christian brethren in and around Jerusalem (in the AD 60's). Those who had become lax and needed to be taught again the first principles (going back to ch. 5:V.6). There's a great lesson here for us. He's writing to those people that had once obeyed the gospel but had laxed-off on their Christian duties. These are the people who had started the Christian race; but, were no longer looking to Jesus, their Pacesetter... no longer running that spiritual race sacrificially and no longer swinging their spiritual arms for balance. Forsaking the assembling of themselves together (10:25). They were not holding fast the profession of their faith ..without wavering (10:23). They were no longer considering one another to provoke unto love and to good works (10:24). They were casting away their confidence in Jesus and losing sight of the reward (10:35). They were drawing back unto perdition (10:39). Some had lapsed into politics, saying, we need a high priest over us as our Jewish friends who worship at the temple. Some had apparently succumbed to the temptation to go back to temple worship and were dabbling in and insisting on observance of the Mosaic code... and I suppose circumcision. Paul said to the Galatian brethren on one occasion, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4). Do you know what "fallen from grace" means? That's another way of saying to backslide or to nullify the blood of Jesus, the only soul cleansing and sin cleansing power in our universe that can save and preserve your soul in eternity. He said, "Christ is become of no effect unto you..." Now, you tell me: what does that mean? To "become of no effect" means it won't do you any good. It's worthless to you! One of the most shocking things, I'm told, is for innocent people to discover they are holding counterfeit money. They think it's good, they can't bring themselves to recognize and to realize the very money they got in what they thought was a legitimate enterprise, they worked for it, they exchanged good produce for it AND it's simply worthless. It's a pathetic situation, YES! It should not be! NO! But somebody misled somebody, you see. They unknowingly accepted false money. Essentially the same thing was happening in a religious way in and around Jerusalem. With a thousand denominations, false churches, in the 20th century... must I spend time on bringing it down home? Our writer is pleading, LET US do it right. Are you getting his message? Brethren, are you among "them that believe to the saving of the soul?" (Heb. 10:39). Faith in Jesus is so important that our writer spent verses and verses and verses on it (ch. 11). Here in ch. 13, our writer is simply touching some of the obvious and conspicuous violations of Christ's law that his Hebrew speaking brethren in and around Jerusalem were neglecting... omitting ...disregarding ...and overlooking.
Now, we don't have time in this lesson to complete ch. 13; but, in the moments we have left: let's try to outline the high points that our writer covers... O.K.? Just get his outline in mind ...just recognize what was on his mind. Try to get a fence around it! Are you ready? Please put your eyes on the text. (#1) "Brotherly love..." That's v.1... Do you see it? (#2) "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers" (v.2) or we might say: Christian hospitality. Then (#3...v.3), have sympathy for the less fortunate... we are brothers and sisters in Christ. (#4...v.4) Honor marriage. Christ exalts marriage. Purity in marriage is so important. I hope we'll get back to it. (#5... v.5) Learn contentment, don't succumb to the clutches of covetousness. I want... I deserve... I'm gonna get! This has destroyed the soul of many people. The love of money is what? (I-Tim. 6:10, go back and read it). (#6...v.7 beginning) Remember and honor your elders...that watch for your soul... submit to the elders! (#7...v.9 beginning) Be careful NOT TO INDULGE in strange doctrines. Develop a stable faith as you run the Christian life. (#8...end v.15) Thanksgiving... "giving thanks to his name." (#9...v.l6) Don't forget to communicate! That word means to be benevolent... share... "with such sacrifices God is well pleased." (#10...v.l8) Pray for others. And there's a half dozen more verses we haven't read yet (v.20-25), we'll get to that in our next and final lesson. We'll try to cover these ten points with a little more depth in our final lesson. Please take a sheet of paper, hit that pause button, back up...list and outline these ten points. These things (our writer saw) as the downfall of his Hebrew speaking brethren (in the AD 60's). What about us English speaking brethren in the 20th century? Does this outline fit us? You better believe it! The times may have changed; but, the agenda is the same. Get this agenda in mind! Let's bring it down home. I hope to be with you in our final lesson (lesson #32), until then, have a good day.