One Who Testifies: Letters to the Hebrews – the Revelation
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII
Hebrews 1:14 | Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
“Spirits” is not capitalized here in the NIV and it is plural. Why do I include it? I wonder if it points out that it’s not natural for a spirit to be separate from a body in this world. In heaven, angels are spirits. When on the earth, they seem to have bodies; forms. They can be wrestled with, and knock a hip out of joint by touching it. Maybe it’s not “natural” for the supernatural Holy Spirit to be in our world without a host – us – someone to dwell within and walk side-by-side with. I’m speculating. What do you think?
3:7 | So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, …” (Psalms 95:7-11)
The Holy Spirit says this through prophecy in the book of Psalms, and the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews quotes it – warning them not to “harden their hearts” or test/try God. Because it led Him to say “They shall never enter my rest.” What the Spirit spoke long before can carry the same truth – the same warning – now.
6:4-6 | It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who whave tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
This warning, also gravely serious, lets us know that the Spirit is shared; or at least shared in. Though one, He is in many. Sort of the reverse of “e pluribus, unum.”
Is it really impossible for a Christian who has renounced God to repent again? Can the Spirit return to such a person? Or has that house been permanently tainted, laid waste, defiled, desecrated beyond further habitation? One of the phrases that recurs in Hebrews as well as other epistles is that “Christ died once for all.” This writer says that apostasy followed by penitence is the same as re-crucifying and disgracing Christ.
It’s the mark of someone who is fatally wishy-washy; who can’t decide and stick to what he/she believes; who cannot serve as a faithful witness, having called their own credibility into question.
9:8 | The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.
The Holy Spirit was involved in the design of the tabernacle and temple (He filled Bezalel, the temple designer/contractor) … which may explain why He had Matthew, Mark and Luke include the detail that, at Jesus’ death, the temple veil was torn down the middle, exposing the Most Holy Place.
9:14 | How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Jesus offered Himself unspotted by sin to God through the Spirit. Is the implication that He renders us unblemished through His blood, dedicating us to a life of serving God through the Spirit as well?
10:15 | The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this … (Jeremiah 31:31-34 quoted here)
Again, the Spirit speaks from the past – and the message is that God will put His laws in our hearts; write them in our minds. Is the Spirit an agent of that putting and writing?
10:29 | How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Some are squeamish about God sending disobedient souls to hell for eternity, and are re-examining and deconstructing the scriptures that speak of it. That’s good! It’s good to try to get closer to understanding God’s nature, and even to want to see Him as love in person. But there are just folks who desperately deserve to be punished. They’ve had exposure to His goodness and have trampled it underfoot and have insulted Him as their response. Would they repent in hell? Sure! Who wouldn’t?
Here the writer uses the term “Spirit of grace.” As we’ve seen above, though – grace only goes so far. It’s not limited by God. It’s limited by the one who refuses it.
I Peter 1:10-11 | Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Peter has in common with Paul that spiritual curiosity and longing to peek into heavenly matters. The prophets shared it, too; yearning to know more than had been revealed to them by the “Spirit of Christ.” Who got to peek into heaven? We do; Christians do through that prophecy and its fulfillment, the gospel – also preached by the Holy Spirit.
3:18-20 | For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
If you’ve ever wanted to know how Jesus came back to life, now you know.
4:14 | If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Hmm … Peter must have been paying attention during the Sermon on the Mount! But he shares more, the full span of the blessing: the “Spirit of glory and of God” rests on us.
II Peter 1:21 | For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
If you’ve ever wondered how inspiration works, now you know. What’s it like to be “carried along” by the Holy Spirit? Maybe it’s when words fail us; when feelings go too deep for them; when He intercedes with groans that the Father can understand. Maybe that’s just the tiniest fraction of it.
I John 3:24 | Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
How does He live in them? Are there still “other spirits” to be tested? What’s the test question? (answers above).
4:6 | We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
(See also 4:13) Does that mean the Spirit is involved in the listening? That those who will not listen reject not only the speaker, but the One speaking through him/her?
5:6 | This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
Anybody have a clue what this means? I’m clear about the Spirit testifying truth, and it’s important for two or three witnesses to agree. Is it possible that John is speaking of Jesus’ own baptism, foreshadowing the spilling of His blood and His resurrection to life by means of the Spirit (see I Peter 3:18-20 above)? All three conspire to tell the truth – the gospel – in God’s grand scheme of redemption?
Jude 19-20 | These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
God’s Spirit is in close proximity to the theme of unity again, just as He is in John 17 and so many other scriptures. Jude encourages those who are pestered by dividers to pray in the Holy Spirit. Again … can we actually pray without Him?
Revelation 1:10 | On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, ….
What does John mean, that he was “in the Spirit”? Was he in a transcendental state? Was he praying, possibly fasting? Meditating on God’s word? Is there a heightened sense of the Spirit’s presence indicated? Can we be “in the Spirit” also (whether we are shown revelations of John’s magnitude or not)?
2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 3:13, 22 | He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Here, as in many other scriptures, the Spirit speaks directly. Not John. Not some scribe, teacher, emanuensis. The Spirit speaks. Time to listen up.
4:2 | I was in the Spirit …
It’s happening again! John is “in the Spirit.” Something extraordinary is about to happen.
1:5; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6 | the seven spirits of God (or the seven-fold Spirit of God)
Some have gone so far as to name all of the spirits separately, drawing names from scripture like “Spirit of Christ,” “Spirit of Grace,” etc. Go back through the scriptures in this study; you don’t have to trust me on this one. There’s a LOT more than just seven names or descriptors in the Bible’s phrasings. Maybe “seven-fold” Spirit of God is the better translation; using that mystic, numeric symbolism of the numeral “seven” to represent completeness or fullness.
17:3; 21:10 | … carried me away in the Spirit ….
Carried away like Ezekiel? Like Jesus? Like Stephen? (Or like I get carried away with question marks?)
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.”
(Not capitalized in the NIV) Okay, I think the NIV editors missed this one, too. Who else would be the Spirit of prophecy except the Holy Spirit who inspires it? Here’s the important point: reinforcing the fact that you can’t say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. It’s as simple as that.
Prophecy isn’t all about foretelling the future. It’s also about forthtelling the truth.
22:17 | The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Just as the Spirit is part of the unfolding of scripture in the opening verses of Genesis, He is crucial to the unfolding of it in the closing verses of Revelation. He begs, along with the bride – the church; the kingdom – of Christ for those outside to come in. And – sure enough – He’s right there in close proximity right at the close to water and life and order out of chaos; at the renewal of earth, at the renewal of all things, at the fulfillment of every one of God’s hopes and dreams and intentions for us, His children.
You can’t add much to that and enhance it. You can’t take away anything from it and leave it intact.
That’s probably why both are forbidden.
By no means is this an exhaustive study. I intended to raise more questions than I could possibly answer. Call me modern; call me Socratic; call me for lunch. It’s the dialog, the questioning and reading and meditation and prayer that help us grow closer to God and to each other in Christ. I can’t do that for you. I can’t even do that for me.
But I know Someone who can.
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