The writer here returns to his point of departure inHeb. 3:1-5. There he had spoken of the great apostle and high priest of our profession, Jesus, who was faithful to him that appointed him, even God. After a most relevant digression in Heb. 3:7-4:13, he now picks up the thread of the argument, and repeats the exhortation which comes to the church as partakers of the heavenly calling. We do well to take notice, once more, of the exhortations which come to us with so much comfort, urgency and encouragement.
HOLDING FAST THE PROFESSION (Heb. 4:14)
The writer begins this paragraph with the inferential particle “wherefore,” which is translated “having then,” or “since we have.” The fact that we have a great high priest, namely, Jesus, has been established. Fact is, that this reality is exactly the confession of both the writer to the Hebrews and of the church. Hence, he writes in. the first person “let us hold fast our confession.” Once this had been their public confession of faith. They had been fully persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, who should come into the world. To Him we must hold fast, we must be faithful and not fall away from the living God by an evil heart of unbelief. Rather we must have a hearing mingled with faith as the gospel of Christ is preached to us. We must enter by faith into the final “Sabbatismos, the Sabbatic rest of the heavenly Canaan, which “rest” is not the type and shadow of something greater to come, but it is the final rest! And because the word of God is living, energetic, sharper than any two-edged sword, laying all things open and naked, let us give heed and hold fast!
The verb here to hold fast in the Greek is “kratein,” which means: to take hold of and hold fast, to never let go. Hence to cleave to with firm faith, lively hope and ardent love; to love the word of the Gospel, and to cling to the high-priest with all the power of faith and child-like trust. This means that the Hebrews must not be seduced by those of the synagogue of the unbelieving Jews, which is the congregation of the Devil, to let go of the confession concerning the Christ. Thus in the book of Revelation 2:13, we read “and thou hast hold fast my name, and hast not denied my faith in the days of Antipas my martyr.” Again in verse 25 of the same Chapter we read “Nevertheless, that which ye have hold fast till I come.” No, Jesus does not cast a great and heavy burden upon us. It is the light burden and the easy yoke which we must hold fast. Then we shall find rest for our souls, and no one shall ever be able to take our crown. Likewise we read in Revelation 3:11, “Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.” For this Christ, who speaks here, suffered, died and rose again, that he might bring many sons to glory! (Hebrews 2:10)
For this Christ, this high priest, is the great high priest of our confession. He is none less than theSon of God!! He is not a mere man as were both Moses and Aaron, and as were all the prophets. He is Immanuel, God-with-us! And he is glorified, he is “passed through the heavens.” The term in the Greek passed through the heavens is “dieleeluthota,” which is a perfect participle. The perfect tense here indicates that this Jesus, the Son of God, is in the abiding and completed state and condition of having passed through the heavens. He has gone up to the very throne of God, and sat down as the King-priest at the right hand of the majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3) He is the very effulgence of God’s glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, and, who, when he had made the purification of our sins by himself, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high! Indeed, all things have been placed under his feet. (I Corinthians 15:26, Psalm 8:7, Hebrews 2:6-8) He is great! Thus he was announced by the angel Gabriel to Mary in the little city of Nazareth before His birth. Says Gabriel to Mary,” He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:32, 33) In Him the hope of Israel is attained, the fulfillment of all the prophecies. In Him we see that great prophet foretold by Isaiah “. . .and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father (Father of eternity) Prince-of Peace!” He is the one seen by Daniel in the night visions! (Daniel 7:14)
Truly, we have a great high priest! He is the great priest over the house of God. (Hebrews 10:21)
He is such that ever we can see that he has begun in the deepest depth of hell and has passed through the heavens!
Him let us cling to in joyful and confident hope and confession.
DRAWING NIGH TO THE THRONE OF GRACE (Hebrews 4:16)
Unless we hold fast the confession in Jesus as the great high priest we shall never have the courage to draw nigh to the throne of God. O, do not underrate what it means to draw nigh to God! All things are naked and opened before the face of Him with Whom we have to do! Our God is a consuming fire! Devouring flame before him goes; and dark the tempest round him grows. And then we must draw near to this God? How is that possible?
Besides, the writer emphasizes that we must draw near with “boldness” unto the throne of grace. Again we ask: how is that possible? Boldness, what is it. The term in the Greek is “parreesias.” This does not refer to brutal boldness which defies respect and awe and humility before God. Rather it is a “boldness” rooted in the knowledge and confidence of childlike faith which takes God at his Word of promise, the Word of the gospel. Such faith takes the shoes from off the feet. It is the undoubtedconfidence of Christians relative to their fellowship with God. (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 3:6, 10:35) It is of this boldness and fearless courage that John speaks in I John 2:28 “. . .little children, abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may haveboldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” Again, we read in I John 4:17 “Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldnessin the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in the world.” What a godly boldness this is! It is deepest reverence and humility that believes that the Lord says “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)
Why can we have such confidence? Because we draw nigh to the throne, which is “the throne of grace.” A study of the Scriptures will show that God’s throne is his regal relationship to us. He is the Judge. He directs all things from his throne. This is evident from the vision of the throne inRevelation 4:2. All of the history of the world, the judgments and the great salvation of God’s people are directed from God’s throne. What makes this throne a throne of grace is that Jesus has ascended through the heavens and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Permit me to make an observation here. For many years the conviction has grown upon the writer of these lines that in the Old Testament temple the Ark of the Covenant was the symbolic throne of grace and mercy. It is the throne where God dwells with his people in the inner sanctuary; here we find the mercy-seat upon the. Ark of the testimony. Here the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the great day of atonement. And from this throne flowed symbolically “streams of mercy never ending.” The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth became through Jesus Christ. When Israel drew nigh to God in the Old Testament dispensation they went up to the temple, to the house of God. And here in the high priesthood of Aaron they can draw nigh in the full assurance of hope and faith. For imperfect as their worship was, God had provided for the believers a man upon whose head. had been placed the mitre on which was fastened the golden signet “Holy To Jehovah.” And we read “Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be upon their forehead, that they may be accepted before Jehovah.” (Exodus 28:36-38) Thus Israel can draw nigh to the throne. It is all of grace. For the throne is one of grace itself.
The very term in the Hebrew language for “to draw near” is the standing term for the act of worship in Israel. Thus we read in Psalm 73:28 “But it is good for me to draw near unto God, I have made the Lord Jehovah my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works.” This certainly indicates that one draws near to God to make God our “refuge.” He is our refuge from the load of guilt and sin, and in the midst of all our trials and temptations. This is very beautifully expressed in Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest toapproach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, thy holy temple.” Had not the writer to the Hebrews, in connection with entering into the rest, quoted from Psalm 95, and does this Psalm not speak of drawing near to the throne of grace, when it says “. . . Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. . . O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before Jehovah our maker: for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture. Today, oh that ye would hear his voice!”
Either we draw nigh unto God in this assurance of faith or we fall away from the living God. Faith is commitment to God. It is to believe him. (Believe is really a Holland term for to “belove” one). It is faith rooted in love, the will to love God. It is a basic attitude. To draw nigh to God is coming to bow down before God, to kneel before him, to adore his mercies with ardent love and thankfulness. Not to draw nigh to God in full assurance of faith indicates a basic fear, the being estranged from the life of God, to be without hope and without God in the world. It is unbelief!
It ought to be crystal clear from the meaning of drawing near that unless we “hold fast” to the profession which is ours concerning the great high priest Jesus, we shall never draw near to God at all. He is the way, the truth and the life, and no man can come unto the Father except through him. (John 14:6) Pure doctrine is of paramount importance for a healthy and vigorous life of faith and peace with God.