John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The previous article looked at the opening verses of Hebrews 6. In the final section of the chapter, vv. 13-20, the writer builds upon those previous verses to present the evidence for the eternal security of the believer.
The Promise to Abraham
It would seem wholly appropriate for a letter addressed to Hebrews to deal with the life of Abraham as an example that the promises of God are sure. Abraham was the father of the nation and one revered by the Jews. The words of the Jews in John chapter 8 verse 33 made this clear, 'We be Abraham's seed'. But those Jews only had a natural link with Abraham whereas those who were truly the seed of Abraham by faith appreciated the fullness of the promises he received.
God's promises are trustworthy and those given to Abraham are examples. However, if there should be any doubt, God confirmed those promises with an oath, 'Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee', v. 14. There is a double affirmation of what God said He would do and this double affirmation is by way of an oath. When God chooses to say something twice it is worthy of our attention!
But what of the years that passed from the promise being made to any evidence of it being realized? Abraham lived for many years after the events and promise of Genesis 22. How much of what God had promised did Abraham see accomplished? At most he saw the birth of a few of the seed he had been promised - a son Isaac, and two grandsons, Esau and Jacob. Did this cast doubt upon the promises given? No! Abraham took God at His word and, in a measure, obtained the promise. Abraham looked beyond the immediate realization, seeing it only as the down payment of what God would accomplish in His own good time.
What is the lesson here? God has made a promise to the believer. We can rest with equal if not greater assurance that what God has promised He will bring to pass.
We could write over that early generation, as the writer of Hebrews does in chapter 11 verse 13, 'these all died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off'. We know of many believers who have died before the rapture that they lived for and hoped for. We might be the same. Yet, undaunted, we can be sure that the passage of time does not alter the purpose of God nor nullify the promise of God.
The Purpose of God
These verses are remarkable. First, we can note that, knowing human nature and its tendency to doubt, God would seek to give us the strongest possible confirmation that He could. What an indication of the grace of our God! He wanted to show us in a way that was more convincing, that would confirm in our hearts, that His promise to us was sure.
Second, God was willing to show us His counsel. God was, as it were, prepared to take us into His confidence. What a privilege of grace! He did not keep His counsels, His will and purpose for us, a secret but chose to reveal them to us in His promises.
Third, He would reveal the immutability (unchangeability) of His counsel. He has promised. God does not go back on His promises. What He says He will do. As He possesses all power nothing can thwart that purpose. But, not content with the promise alone, God confirms the promise with an oath. There is a double confirmation. God's promise was a contract that could not be set aside or annulled so His oath adds a guarantee to that which is already certain.
These two aspects of God's counsel are described as 'a strong consolation' to our hearts, v. 18. It is not just a consolation but also a strong consolation. The word consolation has the idea of encouragement and support. When the word 'strong' is added they give the idea of a fortress or stronghold against doubt and discouragement. We have no need to fear.
The Pictures and the Priest
The writer now concludes his teaching by the use of three pictures.
The first picture of the believer is seen at the close of verse 18; he says, 'we have fled for refuge'. The idea is that we fled for refuge to Christ, a past act, but one with abiding results, for our refuge is still in Christ. The picture is a reminder of the Old Testament city of refuge to which the manslayer could flee to escape the avenger. As the law declared him safe once within the city so the believer in Christ is freed from the penalty of sin, safe from the eternal consequences of his sin.
Within the city of refuge the manslayer was only safe until the death of the high priest. However, the truth of the believer's security is strengthened rather than weakened. Our High Priest will not die. He died once but now lives in the power of an endless life. He is the author of eternal salvation. He is a priest forever, v. 20.
The second picture, in verse 19, is that of the anchor. The mariner trusts his ship to the anchor whatever the weather. It is his only safeguard against the storms of the sea. He would seek to drop that anchor in the safest spot that he can. For the believer there can be no safer anchorage than that within the veil. Our anchorage is not down at the bottom of the sea but in the highest presence of God in heaven. The verse says, 'which entereth into that within the veil', v. 19. The verb indicates that our anchor has entered in and remains within the veil. It does not and cannot change its position because our High Priest remains, constantly, within the veil. Therefore, there can be no more steadfast a position than that which we enjoy in Christ. Our anchor will not and cannot break down under pressure.
The third picture is of the forerunner, 'The forerunner is for us entered', v. 20. The truth being emphasized here is the character of the priesthood of Christ. Aaron went into the presence of God on behalf of the people. Those on whose behalf he ministered could not follow. Here the writer tells us that our High Priest has gone in on our behalf but He remains there as our forerunner. He intends that we should follow Him into the divine presence. He has gone in. There is no doubt about that and neither should there be any doubt that one day we shall follow. In the meantime we are called upon to patiently endure.
There are three views in these pictures. The city of refuge looks at the past. We fled for refuge. Looking over the years that have lapsed since we found refuge in Christ, we can testify to His unfailing grip upon us. We have found security in Him. We have an anchor. The present is secure. As to the future, our Forerunner has entered in. There is a Man in the glory as an indication of God's purpose to bring us into that same sphere as His Son.
What are the lessons here? Our refuge, and the security of our refuge, is never in doubt for our High Priest lives forever. His priesthood is eternal. We are safely anchored in Christ. Our anchor is not out at sea but safely in the harbour of heaven. Our Forerunner has gone into glory as the assurance that one day we will follow Him there .