From the Rector, Second Sunday of Advent, December 5, 2021

Introduction to Hebrews and Revelation

Adapted from notes by Dr. Steven Smith and Mark Giszczak

Lesson 13

A. Author:

             i. Traditional: St. Paul

             ii. Modern: Unknown Jewish disciple / colleague of Paul (Timothy, Apollos, Barnabas,


iii. * Dr. Smith’s suggestion: Pauline circle

B. Audience:

i. Unnamed “holy brethren” (3:1, 12, 10:19)

ii. Endured persecution and “hard sufferings” (10:32)

iii.* Dr. Smith’s suggestion:

1. Written primarily to a substantial group of Jewish priests—Levites—who

though living in Jerusalem and being faithful to the Temple cult, had

recently converted to Christianity

2. Strategic: Persuading/reinforcing the faith of this influential priestly group

would have a “domino effect” on the faith of many others.

C. Distinctions / Key Themes of the Letter

i. Priesthood of Jesus Christ. More emphasis on His “priesthood” than any NT book:

• Heb. 4:14 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession …”

• “Priest” (hierus) 27x in the letter.

• 15 of these occurrences concern Jesus the “high priest” (archierus).

ii. Superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.

1.“Covenant” (diatheke) = 19x.

2. Heb. 8:6-7 “… For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have

been no occasion for a second.”

iii. “Holy endurance” in communion with the saints

• Heb. 12:1 “… We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (martyrdom)…”

Revelation presents a God-centered vision of the world.  He reigns as king from his throne (4:2) and nothing takes place outside of his governance.  The book’s imaginative illustration of the Christian worldview places the truth of God above all else.  While acknowledging the tragic yet heroic deaths of first century martyrs, Revelation adopts the perspective of oppressed people struggling against human systems of power.  These systems, though strong, will all succumb to God’s judgment and be brought low under his universal kingship.  Revelation calls Christians not to hide until the end of the world, but to proclaim the victory of God’s kingdom, which is coming.  Just as Jesus was a faithful witness (1:5, martyr in Greek), all Christians are called to hold fast to the testimony of Jesus (12:17, 19:10, 20:4) even unto death.  Revelation’s expansive vision is inspiring, yet difficult to comprehend.

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