There has been much controversy over who wrote the book of Hebrews. Some believe Barnabas wrote the book, but after studying, I personally believe that Paul wrote it. Many others believe Paul wrote the book because of common elements in the letter that appear to indicate Paul as the author.
One element of Paul’s style of writing is the way that he will suddenly insert a prayer within the letter being written. He will burst into prayer and apply what he has been saying to the people he is addressing. In the book of Ephesians, Paul begins talking about the wonderful things of God and suddenly, he begins to pray that their hearts would be enlightened, that they would know the full riches of God’s glory, and thanks God that they have been partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
In a similar way, Paul is ending the book of Hebrews when he suddenly bursts into prayer for the people.
vs. 20″ Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,”
vs. 21 “make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
These are two very powerful verses. If there was any group of people who understood covenants, it was the children of Israel, the Hebrews. Throughout the book, Paul talks about the differences between the Old and New Covenants. He talks about things that were very precious to the nation of Israel.
Jesus is Better
In chapters 1 and 2, Paul discusses angels. Angels were very important to the children of Israel. They knew about angels; the seraphim, the cherubim, and the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. Throughout chapter 1, it is brought out that angels are good but Jesus is better. In fact, the theme of the book of Hebrews is “Jesus is better.”
In chapter 3, one of the heroes of faith, Moses, is the topic. Paul brings out that the Law was given to Moses, but Jesus is better. Under the Old Covenant, believers were servants in the house of the Lord. Under the New Covenant, we are sons and daughters. It is much better to be in the family than to be a servant! A mansion is a whole lot better than a servant’s quarters! What believers had in the Old Testament was good, but what we have in the New Testament is better.
In chapter 5, types and shadows of the Old Testament are made. In chapter 11, we have the heroes of faith. Chapter 12 talks about the fact that the New Covenant is better and that we are to follow the One Whose name is Jesus.
An Everlasting Covenant
Verses 20 and 21 of Hebrews 13 is a prayer that actually pulls together the essence of the book, which is that we have an everlasting covenant. What was given in the Old Testament was a temporary covenant based on the blood of bulls and goats, and therefore, could not remove sin.
What we have in the New Testament is the blood of Jesus, and once the blood of Jesus was shed, and everlasting covenant was established.
Titles for God
The title “God of peace” was familiar to the Hebrew people because prayers in the Old Testament usually began with one of God’s titles. They were accustomed to using a title in addressing the Lord.
Some of the New Testament titles for God include:
“the God of mercy”
“the God of our Lord Jesus Christ”
“God our Father”
“the God of all grace”
“the God of love”
“God our Saviour”
“the God of the heavens”
“the God of peace”
The God of Peace
Paul is the only one that uses the phrase “God of Peace” in his writings. He uses this title more frequently than other titles for God.
Romans 15:33 “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
Romans 16:20 “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”
2 Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9 “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This title is used exclusively by Paul in the New Testament writings and it is a title of reconciliation. In the Old Testament, God was known as Jehovah Shalom; He was known as the One Who brought peace. But peace in the Old Testament had an entirely different meaning than it did in the New Testament. In the New Testament, peace is eternal reconciliation.
Until Jesus went to the cross, there was no peace; there was no reconciliation. Through the death of Jesus Christ, reconciliation has been made and the war is over.
The word “propitiation” means “to be satisfied”. In other words, God is now satisfied. He is satisfied by the work of Jesus on the cross. In the Old Testament, even with all of the sacrifices offered, God was never propitiated; He was never satisfied. Whatever peace was found in the Old Testament was temporary. But we have been given God’s eternal peace through the blood of the everlasting covenant.
Whether or not we actually have peace in our natural, physical life, there is always peace between God and us.
Another word for peace, especially in Paul’s writings, is “reconciliation”. We have been given the message of reconciliation.
Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Hebrews 13:20 “Now the God of peace…”
All who have joined into that covenant by faith in Jesus Christ, now have eternal peace with God. Just as “Jehovah Shalom” was a covenant title in the Old Testament, “God of peace” is a covenant title in the New Testament.
“…that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus”
Jesus being raised from the dead is a New Testament event. This verse is bringing out that our prayers are much more effective under the New Covenant than they were under the Old Covenant. The book of James tells us that if Elijah’s prayers were answered and he was a man of like passions as we are, so will ours be answered.
The Great Shepherd and High Priest
“…that great shepherd of the sheep”
Although reference was made to “the Lord their shepherd”, the title “great shepherd of the sheep” was not found in the Old Testament. He is not the great shepherd of the sheep until He has risen from the dead. Through this prayer, Paul is relaying to the Hebrew believers the benefits of the New Covenant. Paul has been praying to the God of reconciliation. He is praying to the God Who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
“…through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”
Paul is referring to the blood that was shed one time to bring us into an everlasting covenant. We now have access to God any time we want. We do not have to knock on the door to make sure the High Priest is home!
In the Old Testament, the people would annually come to the high priest to make an atonement for the people. There were also specific times they would come to offer their sacrifices. We have the Great High Priest, sitting on the throne, waiting to hear our prayers. The power of prayer comes from the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead.
The Exceeding Greatness of His Power
vs. 18 “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,”
vs. 19 “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power“
vs. 20 “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,”
In this prayer, Paul prays three things:
1. That they would know the hope of their calling.
2. That they would know what is the riches of the glory of the inheritance in the saints.
3. That they would know "the exceeding greatness of his power to those who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead..."
Paul wants believers to understand the “exceeding greatness of God’s power," which was the power used to raise Jesus from the dead.
When we pray, the power of God goes into operation but it is not the “exceeding greatness of God’s power.” It was only when He raised Jesus from the dead; when all hell, every evil force, and Satan came against Jesus that it was necessary for God to use all of His power against the power of Satan, and God’s power was greater! Never again will God use that much power because Satan has been defeated!
What are these verses in Ephesians and Hebrews telling us as believers? They are telling us that when we come before God in prayer, we are reconciled ones; we have peace. The world does not and cannot have peace. Because we have been justified by faith, we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
There will never be a problem I will face in my life that would require more of God’s power than raising Jesus from the dead. If God was able to raise Jesus from the dead, then what is my financial problem? What is my family problem? What is my marriage problem? What is my health problem? It does not matter what I am facing, when I pray, God can use a little bit of His power to deliver me!
The Arm of the Lord
Isaiah 53:1 “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
When God raised Jesus from the dead, He used His arm. The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 deals with Jesus on the cross; Jesus bearing our sicknesses, Jesus taking our sins, and God raising Him from the dead, taking the spoils, and giving them to His mighty ones.
Isaiah 52:10 “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations: And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
Isaiah 59:16 “Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him,”
The arm of the Lord is made bare in salvation; it is made bare in deliverance. God simply rolled up His sleeves, bared His arm, went after Satan and conquered him!
In the New Testament, Jesus was casting out devils one day when the crowd said, “You’re casting out devils by the prince of the devils, Beelzebub himself.” Jesus was accused of being in league with Satan. Jesus responded, “First, if I was in league with Satan, his kingdom would be divided. I have come in God’s name, yet you’re saying I’ve come in Satan’s name. If I am representing Satan’s kingdom, his kingdom is divided against itself and it will fall!” Jesus went on to say, “If I really have come in the name of God, then the finger of God is come unto you to deliver demons” (Luke 11:20).
The finger of God is all that is necessary to get rid of demons. So often, Christians will pray for hours and hours before dealing with demons. Somehow we believe a demon will require more of the power of God when God said, “My finger will get rid of that demon.” Use the name of Jesus and watch demons flee. Use the name of Jesus and watch sickness go. Use the name of Jesus and watch your problems change, and be moved out of the way. Watch that mountain be removed! God is simply saying, “If I could raise Jesus from the dead, what is your problem in comparison?”
Approaching God in Prayer
In the prayer from Hebrews 13:20-21, Paul is praying for the people. Paul is demonstrating that the greatest way we can pray is for other people, not for ourselves. This is intercessory prayer.
Hebrews 13:20 “Now the God of peace…”
We approach God on the grounds of reconciliation; our sins are not imputed unto us, the blood of Jesus has covered them and we now stand at peace with God.
“…who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep,”
Shepherds know everything and sheep do not know much. In this passage, we are the sheep and Jesus is the Great Shepherd. Sheep do not have any way to provide for themselves. The shepherd must provide everything.
We first approach God on the grounds of reconciliation. Next, we approach Him based on the fact that He raised Jesus from the dead. And this person raised from the dead is someone Who can meet every need we will ever have because He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep. If David could say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23), just imagine all that he can do now that He is the Great Shepherd and has been raised from the dead!
1 Peter 5:4 “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
You may find the greatest of pastors and ministers in this earth, but they will never compare the Lord Jesus Christ. There have been sermons preached that may have turned your life around. The person delivering the sermon may have had such an impact on your life that you want to put them on a pedestal, but that person is nothing compared to the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When David says, in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul,” we could multiply many times over. We are a part of an everlasting covenant established when God raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus has been raised from the dead eternally. He was given a resurrection body and now He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep. The One Who was raised from the dead is the One Who can supply all of our need. It was the Jesus Who was already teaching, already healing, already saving, and already preaching. It was the same Jesus Who was already performing miracles; turning water into wine, walking on the water, raising people from the dead.
vs. 9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
vs. 10 “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith isalso empty.”
It is faith in the resurrection that saves us. The Bible says we believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
God raised Jesus from the dead by the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit dwells in us. I am so thankful the Holy Spirit did not stay in heaven! If God raised Jesus from the dead by the Holy Spirit, then all of God’s power was demonstrated through the Holy Spirit. All of that power dwells inside of us.
Sometimes we get upset because sickness has attacked our body or because we have a need. We think, “Oh man, no one has ever had a need like this”, and we concentrate on the problem forgetting that there is enough power resident in us to raise Jesus from the dead!
Philippians 3:10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,”
The resurrection is something meant to be understood and studied. Paul said he wanted us to know three things: 1) the hope of our calling 2) the inheritance of the saints 3) the great power of God that raised Jesus from the dead. Paul is simply saying, “I want to know Jesus more deeply, but I want to know Him in the power of His resurrection.”
The more we understand the resurrection, the more we understand there is not a need in life that God cannot meet or answer. It is the resurrection that makes a distinction between the Old and New Testaments. It is the resurrection that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion. Our founder and leader is the only One Who is still alive.
Followers of every other religion can go to the grave of their founders, but we can go to the grave, roll away the stone, and say, “The tomb is empty! He is alive!”
vs. 4 “And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.”
vs. 5 “Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
vs. 6 “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,”
Jesus is in heaven. Paul said, “I don’t want to just know Him personally, I want to know Him through the power of His resurrection.”
1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
Our future hope of heaven and the rewards that we will receive are all based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Corinthians, chapter 15 explains that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the future resurrection of the Church.
vs. 13 “In Him, you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,”
vs. 14 “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
The Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. The word “earnest” simply means “down payment.” The moment we were born again, the Holy Spirit came to live inside us, and as wonderful as that is, it is only the down payment of what we will have when we get to heaven!
The purpose of a down payment is to hold something we want. We may put ten or fifteen percent down on a car or house to hold it. The down payment is the guarantee that the rest will come.
If the Holy Spirit living in me, anointing me for service, and anointing me for power, is simply the down payment, heaven must be wonderful! The resurrection of Jesus is called the “firstfruits”.
During the Feast of the Firstfruits, the priest would go out in the morning, cut a stalk, and hold it up. If it was good, it was the guarantee that the rest of the crop would be fine. It was called the “firstfruits”. The priest would wave it before the Lord, representing Jesus coming out of the grave and rising in the air at His resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus is our guarantee that death is not the end of our lives. There will be a resurrection yet to come and we will receive our resurrection bodies that will live forever and ever, just like the resurrected body of Jesus Christ!
The Empty Tomb
The empty cross did not bring the answer; it got rid of the problem. The empty tomb brought the answer. When Jesus came down from the cross, it was still dark. He spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. His body lay in the tomb during those three days and nights.
The answer came in the resurrection. When a person receives salvation, they do not confess the cross. When we are born again, we confess the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul did not say, “That I may know Him in the power of cross”; he said, “That I may know Him in the power of the resurrection.” The tomb is empty!
One Sacrifice for All
Once Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He was no longer just a Shepherd, as they had known Him in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, He was known as the “Shepherd of Israel.” Jesus was never called the “Great Shepherd” until He arose from the dead. He is not the “Great Shepherd of Israel”; He is the “Great Shepherd of the Church”.
The word “shepherd” means “provider”. Yes, Jesus is the pastor, but it is because He is the shepherd that any need we could have has been provided for. There are no sheep that find pasture for themselves, the shepherd finds it for them. The sheep do not provide for themselves, the shepherd does. Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
It took just one offering. In the Old Testament, many offerings were required daily, weekly, and yearly. On the day Solomon dedicated the temple, thousands and thousands of offerings were made. The blood must have been running continually. But, none of those sacrifices propitiated God. They did not satisfy God. One was coming Who would be sacrificed one time, Who would shed His blood one time, and once He had shed His blood, He would be raised from the dead never to be sacrificed again. Jesus was the culmination of all of the blood that had been offered prior to the cross.
I am so thankful we are on this side of the cross. I am so thankful we are the Church and no longer under Old Testament Law. I am so thankful that it is not necessary to bring an animal to be sacrificed every time we come to church! Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have been brought into an everlasting covenant. The blood of Jesus is what makes the difference between the Old and New Covenants. The blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. All sacrifices prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection were temporary and had to be offered continually. But unlike the previous covenant, this covenant is everlasting. Everlasting means that it is never coming to an end. The law was for a period of time. That time came to an end. The sacrifices came to an end. Jesus Christ set up an everlasting covenant and He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Sheep Turned Shepherd
Until Jesus went to the cross, He was a sheep. He is the only sheep that turned into a shepherd!
vs. 29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
vs. 36 “And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
When John saw Jesus in heaven, he saw Him as the Lamb that had been slain. While Jesus was on earth, He was the Lamb of God. As the Lamb of God, He would take our sins; He would take our sickness; He would take our curse. Why would God want a sheep to be changed to a shepherd?
Because a sheep that has been changed, completely understands the needs of the sheep!
The best people in any organization are those who have worked from the bottom to the top of the organization; they can identify with others who are doing the same jobs they have done. Jesus did even better. He walked through the earth as a human being. He experienced the same temptations, tests, trials, and troubles we have experienced yet never sinned. Jesus did not conquer sin because He was the Son of God. He conquered sin because He was a human being and depended on the Holy Spirit to help Him conquer.
The Bible does not say, “How God anointed God of heaven” or “How God anointed Jesus of heaven” or “How God anointed Christ of heaven”. He says “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power.” “Jesus” was His human name and “Nazareth” was where His human body was born. Jesus began as a human being, arose into heaven and became our Great High Priest and the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
vs. 14 “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,”
vs. 15 “and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
vs. 16 “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.”
Jesus became flesh and blood so He could identify with flesh and blood mankind. In the Old Testament, Jesus took on the nature of angels; He was the angel of the Lord. Jesus walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He is the One who met Joshua before the Battle of Jericho. He was the One Who was with the Hebrew children in the firey furnace. Jesus appeared many times in the Old Testament.
Jesus did not come as an angel because Satan would have been defeated by an equal. Jesus took on the seed of Abraham so Satan would be defeated by an inferior creature; man. When Jesus arose from the dead, there was no contest. A human being had soundly defeated Satan.
And that same authority has been turned over to human beings. Authority has not been turned over to angels; it has been turned over to people, and angels are now ministering spirits sent to minister for us.
By creation, we have been made lower than the angels. Angles are superior creatures. They are creatures of light and can travel the entire distance of the universe by just thinking it and being there. Angels can appear in this world, disappear, and reappear. Humans cannot do that until they receive their resurrection bodies. Until then, we have a body that is subject to sickness, disease, the storms of life, and the afflictions of life. We must walk by faith. Angels do not have to walk by faith. They cannot get sick. They cannot become poor. We are the one’s who are left in Satan’s world and Jesus began in the same place we are. He came and joined the human race.
“For verily he took not on him the nature of angels…”
Verse 16 in the Greek says, “He did not take hold tight on the nature of angels, but He did take hold tight the seed of Abraham.” In other words, in the Old Testament, Jesus would appear as the angel of the Lord, but He would let go; He never held tight. But when He became the seed of Abraham, He held on tight and never let go. He has been a human being and He is now in heaven as a human being.
There is a man seated in heaven; His name is Jesus!
vs. 17 “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
vs. 18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
The Great Shepherd of the sheep began as a sheep. That is why He can identify with the problems we experience in life. There is no problem we can bring to God where He will not remind us, “I was Jesus on earth and there is not problem that you have had that I have not also had. I came through victoriously by depending on the promises of God and upon the Holy Spirit. You have the same Holy Spirit, the very One Who raised Me from the dead and He lives inside of you!”