Mark Rathel is professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Latest Articles by MARK A. RATHEL
Oct 21, 2014
The author of Hebrews described his work as a “word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22), in other words, a sermon. Psalm 110 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 function as the primary Scripture passages for this sermon. Psalm 110 affirms both the royalty of Jesus (Psalm 110:1-3) and the priesthood of Jesus (Psalm 110:4). The Old Testament prohibited the same person from serving in both offices as demonstrated by God’s judgment of kings Saul and Uzziah for usurping the role of the priest (1 Samuel 13:7-10; 2 Chronicles 26:11-15). Hebrews 7 combines the concepts of a change of priesthood (v. 12), change of law (7:13) and guarantor of a better covenant (v. 22). Building upon the idea of covenant, Hebrews 8 describes why the covenant is better. Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant serves as the foundational text for this section of the sermon. Notice how the author used the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 at the beginning and conclusion to this section of his sermon (Hebrews 8:6-10:16-17).
Oct 13, 2014
The major theme of Hebrews is the High Priesthood of Jesus. No other biblical book directly mentions this precious doctrinal truth. Apparently, Christian maturity is necessary to understand the implications of the priestly ministry of Christ. In Hebrews 5, the author began his emphasis on the high priesthood of Jesus (Heb. 5:1-10). Yet, the author interrupted his discussion of Christ’s priestly ministry because of the immaturity of the readers (Heb. 5:12). After encouraging believers to allow God to carry them on to Christian maturity, the author resumed his focus on the priestly ministry of Christ (Heb. 6:20).
Oct 7, 2014
Hebrews describes the Christian life as a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages have several key characteristics. First, pilgrims have a leader. For Christians, Jesus is our pilgrim guide. Second, pilgrims travel together, never alone. Third, pilgrimages have a goal. The author of Hebrews describes the goal of the Christian life as maturity (completeness) and the heavenly city (Heb. 11). The readers the author addressed ceased to make progress in the pilgrimage of the Christian life. At a time in their Christian experience when they should have been capable of teaching (feeding) others (Heb. 5:12), the readers required an infant diet of milk (Heb. 5:11). The author attributed the lack of Christian growth to spiritual laziness (Heb. 5:11).
Sep 29, 2014
In the ancient world, protocol was important. Failure to follow the correct procedures of approaching a king was dangerous. Likewise, sinful humans approach God only through the proper protocol established by God. Hebrews 9 describes the design of the tabernacle as an illustration of the seriousness of approaching God. What God the King requires for sinful humans to approach Him, He provided through Christ. The biblical revelation condemns the attitude that God is our “homeboy.”
Sep 23, 2014
Rest! Despite living in a culture with a major emphasis upon the leisure industry, our culture knows little about rest. Yet, rest is a major emphasis in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In the HCSB, “rest” occurs 392 times. The first reference to rest in the Bible occurs in Gen. 2:2 in reference to God’s rest on the seventh day. The last reference to rest in application to God’s people occurs in Rev. 14:13 as a description of the condition of dead believers. Jesus provided the most significant description of rest: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary an burdened, and I will give you rest.” True rest is found only in Christ. People experience rest as they come to Christ and grow in Christ.
Because of the arrested spiritual development of his readers, the author of Hebrews focused on a warning from Psalm 95. Psalm 95 highlighted themes of worship (vv. 1-7) and obedience (vv. 7b-11). Jews read Psalm 95 in the opening portion of every synagogue service on the Sabbath day of rest. Psalm 95 connects worship and obedience. In Hebrew thought, a disobedient person has not heard.
Sep 15, 2014
Medieval theologian Anselm wrote the first theology exploring the reason that Jesus became God incarnate—the God-Man. Anselm wrote that humans owed a debt to God that they were incapable of paying. The debt was so great only God could pay the debt, yet as the debtors, by necessity, humans must pay the debt. The Son of God became a man for two reasons. As God, He possessed the ability to pay the debt. As Man, He could rightfully pay the debt. Approximately 1,000 years before Anselm, the author of Hebrews set forth a biblical answer to the question, “Why did the Son of God become a human being?” Hebrews 2:9-18 details six answers to the question, “Why did the Son of God become a man?
Sep 9, 2014
My wife can attest to my problems related to hearing. I admit I have three hearing problems. First, I likely experience difficulty hearing because I listened to loud music earlier in my life. Second, I possess great skills at selective hearing. I hear what I choose to hear. Third, at times, I have difficulty remembering what I hear.
Sep 1, 2014
Other than the short letters of 2 Peter and 2-3 John, Hebrews likely is the most neglected New Testament book. The 21st century American church desperately needs to hear and obey the message of Hebrews. As one commentator wrote, “It is a tonic for the spiritually debilitated. … We neglect such a book to our own impoverishment.”
Aug 26, 2014
Church historians affirm that more Christians experienced martyrdom in the 20th century than the previous 19 centuries of the Christian faith. The 21st century evidences harsh persecution by many Christians throughout the world in places like China, Iraq and Sudan. An ancient church leader referred to bloody persecution as the “seed of the church.” As the Roman Empire increased persecution of Christians, the church grew. Recently, a major British newspaper —The Daily Telegraph—reported that China might become the world’s most Christian nation within 15 years. The blood of the martyrs is becoming the seed of the growth of the church throughout the world. American Christians, in contrast, consider mere ridicule persecution.
Aug 18, 2014
We live in tumultuous, albeit interesting, times. Daily news provides mind-boggling accounts of horrific evil, wars, atrocities and persecution. Daniel and his contemporaries lived in a transitional era of world history. In this confusing time, God revealed to Daniel the prophet that God, His Kingdom and His people win.