A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews through an eternal versus temporal paradigm

Introduction – the link between commandments and love

At the outset of any work, it is important for the writer to define his terms. What is meant, for example, by the word eternal? What is meant by the word temporal? How can we use these definitions to examine the book of Hebrews? The first priority, therefore, will be to define our language.

Eternal: The things that will last forever. The realm of heaven, the throne and the heavenly dwelling place of God the Father (Daniel 7), the councils of heaven and the heavenly court (Job 1), the Kingdom of God (Luke 17:20-21), the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). This is what we mean when we say Eternal. Synonymous words that we will use for eternal will be: Heaven, The Kingdom and The Love of God.

Temporal: The physical realm. The earthly dwelling places of humans. The realm that is experienced by the five senses of men. This is a temporal dwelling, meaning that it will not last forever. In short, the world that we live in.

Paradigm: Noah Webster defines paradigm as: “An example or a model.”

We will examine the book of Hebrews through this model: Comparing the eternal with the temporal and drawing conclusions from these comparisons.

The writer of Hebrews had extensive knowledge of the law and the spiritual principles of Jesus’ teachings. He would have understood the link between the (temporal) commandments and the (eternal) love of God. As we will see, his writings are a commentary on both of these. Therefore, an understanding of this link between commandments and love is essential in order to understand the writer’s intention. To negate this would be to miss the point of all that is revealed in both the Old and the New Testament. We must examine the book of Hebrews with this in mind.

At the outset, we must understand some points that will be developed later. First, we must understand that the commandments have been given to us in order to point us toward heaven, which is permeated with love.

Jesus, and most new testament writers, sum up the law and the prophets with the concept of love (Matt 22:40, Gal 5:14, James 2:8). Why? The eternal realm is permeated with love. It is the very atmosphere, the air that is breathed. Every commandment that God has given us is designed to point us toward that love. It’s designed to point us toward heaven. When Moses went up to the mountain, he was shown the pattern of a heavenly temple and instructed to model the earthly tabernacle according to it. Moses made a temporal (earthly) representative of what was in the eternal. He constructed a temporary structure in the temporal realm that was designed to point the children of Israel to the eternal. Colossians 2:17 tells us that the commandments (temporal) are a “shadow of things to come” (eternal.) Every commandment God has given us serves to point us toward an eternal (heavenly) principle. The intention behind every commandment is the expression of love into this temporal realm.

The mere observation of rites, rules, and doctrines does not release love. The Pharisees and Sadducees observed the temporal rites, rules, and doctrines yet they missed the eternal premise behind the commandments they obeyed. Much of the dialogue between Jesus and these two parties centers on this theme. Mainly, they were missing the point. If they had known the Father, they would have recognized Jesus (John 8:19). Why? Because Jesus acted according to heavenly principles. He did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). He did only what He saw His Father doing because the actions of the eternal realm are united and of one purpose. So Jesus can say to the disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). He was the reflection of the eternal realm and responded as such (Hebrews 1:3). The observation of the law is the same. Much of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus expounding upon this principle. He says, “You have heard it said do not commit adultery. But I say to you…” the commandment touches something deeper than the physical act of adultery and lands squarely on the condition of our hearts in relation to the heart of God. Lust doesn’t exist in heaven so neither should it exist in the heart of the believer. The commandment to not murder is not solely about murder, it’s about a heavenly principle – love and the absence of love – a hateful heart. So, Messiah tells us “do not murder” and so on. Each commandment is designed to be a temporal representative of an eternal principle that reflects the heavenly realm.

This understanding also explains why there are times when God seems to set aside His own commandments. For example, David ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat (I Sam 21:6, Matt 12:4). Hezekiah is another example. While celebrating the Passover, many people came to keep the feast who were not clean according to the commandments. Yet, after Hezekiah prayed, they were allowed to keep the feast (2 Chronicles 30:18-20). We see this played out in the New Testament as well with Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). There are times when the expression of love (an eternal manifestation) in a situation is at odds with the temporal adherence to the principle, and requires the “setting aside” of the temporal representative. The eternal always wins out.

The commandments are a temporal reflection of the eternal principles of heaven and serve to point us toward God. This understanding is of paramount importance as we move into the book of Hebrews. The writer is basically giving us a commentary upon this principle to the Jewish believers of Messiah. May the Lord bless your reading of this and may the Spirit give you understanding and revelation.

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  1. […] is a temporary representation of something eternal.  (For more on this, see my husband’s recent blog post on the subject.)  Earlier today, while making faces with our newest addition, I found myself […]

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