HEBREWS

An amplified paraphrase

Chapter 1
At many different times in the past, and in many different ways, God revealed himself to our Jewish forefathers by breathing his truth into his prophets and speaking through them. But that age has come to an end, and in these days, the last days, God has spoken to us, not through intermediaries, but through his Son, Jesus. It was through Jesus also that God created the universe and set the ages rolling, and it is Jesus whom God has appointed as the inheritor of all things when this world comes to an end and a new heaven and a new earth are created. [3] Just as the rays of the sun beat upon the earth, so is Jesus the dazzling radiance, streaming down from heaven, of the God who is light; and just as a coin has stamped upon it the likeness of the king, so Jesus is the visible likeness of his Father's invisible being, sustaning the universe and keeping it in being simply by the power of his word. More amazing still, he offered himself in all his purity as a sacrifice to God to save us from the impurity of our sins; and then, his saving work accomplished, he took his seat on the throne prepared for him in heaven, at the right hand of God in all his glory. [4] This seat of honour shows that he is far greater than the angels, just as his name is far greater. They are God's faithful messengers, as their name implies; but upon Jesus God conferred a name that is above every name: 'Jesus', the Saviour of all mankind; 'Christ', the long-promised Messiah; and 'Lord', the Lord of all. The pre-eminence of Jesus is apparent in the prophetic scriptures. The Psalmist, seeing the king of his day as the forerunner of Jesus, the King of kings, said: "You are my Son; today I have begotten you"; and, through the prophet Nathan, God said of the Son of David: "I will be as a father to you, and you will be as a son". Did God ever address any of the angels like this, as 'a son'? No! Furthermore, looking forward to the time when he would bring into the world his firstborn and only-begotten Son - begotten, not created - God says: "Let all the angels of God fall at his feet and worship him"; whereas of the angels he says, through the Psalmist again: "He creates the angels as spiritual beings, flames of fire" to wait upon him and serve him. By contrast, of the Son he says: "Your throne, o God, will be for ever and ever, and the sceptre which is the emblem of your kingship is the straight sceptre of uprightness, for you loved righteousness and hated sin. For this reason, God, your God, anointed you as King and Messiah - the Christ, an anointing that showed that he delighted in you much more than in all the company of heaven". [10] Still speaking of the Son, another psalm says: "You, o Lord, at the very beginning of time laid down the foundations of the earth, and the heavens, too, are the work of your hands; heaven and earth, like all created things, will fade away and perish, but you remain unchanging for all eternity; as an old coat gets tattered and torn and ragged, so will earth and heaven grow old - yes, like winter overcoats in summer you will fold them up and put them away; like a coat they wll age and change from day to day, but you are unchangingly the same for ever, and for you the years will never cease to flow, but will roll on in an unending stream". [13] As for the angels, to which of them has God ever said, as he says to Jesus his Son: "Be seated at my right hand while I subdue your enemies and make them kneel before your throne so that you may rest your feet upon their prostrate backs"? No, the angels are all spirit beings waiting on God to do him service, and sent out by him into the world to help and guard those who are destined for salvation.

Chapter 2
Therefore, since Jesus is so much greater than the angels, we need to pay the utmost attention to all his teaching that we have heard; his word should be an anchor to stop us drifting from the truth, carried away by the tides of worldly unbelief. [2] When God spoke to his people at Sinai, he spoke through the medium of ministering angels, and his word became law, set in stone to establish its authority, prescribing for every transgression and disobedience the just punishment it deserved, and the sacrifice that would pay for it. What, then, of us, who live under the New Covenant? How shall we escape God's righteous judgement if we turn our backs on such a glorious salvation? This salvation was first proclaimed, not by angels, but by the Lord himself, God's Son, and the authority of his word, the gospel, was established by the testimony of those who heard him in the flesh. God himself bore witness to its truth by signs and wonders and all kinds of miracles, and by sharing out among his people the gifts of his Holy Spirit, according to his sovereign will. [5] For it is to his Son, enthroned at his right hand, and not to angels, that God has subjected the world that is to come when this world comes to an end - the world we have been talking about. One of the psalmists bore witness to this when he said: "What is man that you care for him, O Lord? Or what is the Son of Man that you provide for him? You have created him just a little lower than the angels, but have crowned him with glory and honour, and have subjected all creation beneath his feet". [8] When the psalmist says that God "subjected all creation" to man's authority, he implies that God left nothing unsubjected. But in this present age we do not yet see the whole of creation in subjection to him. But we do see this prophetic utterance fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of Man and representative of mankind: "for a little time" - his brief lifetime - he was made man, and so made lower then the angels - but then, because he was obedient to his Father's will in the death that he endured, he was "crowned with glory and honour". He tasted death in all its agony on behalf of all, so that, through the grace of God, we might never die. [10] For it was entirely right and proper for God, for whom and through whom the universe was created, to glorify his Son in this way, and so to consummate his perfect creation in the death that he died on the cross, for by his death he opened wide the door of salvation, and led out of darkness many sons and daughters into the glory of heaven and their long-planned reign, under him, over the earth. Those who are saved are indeed God's sons and daughters, because all who are holy and the one who makes them holy are all of the same spiritual family, so that Jesus himself is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. [12] For through the prophetic mouth of the psalmist he says: "I will proclaim your name, O Lord, and sing your praises in the middle of the assembly, the church of my brothers and sisters"; and through Isaiah he says: "I will be one who has put his trust in God" - just as his human brethren do - and, again, "here I am, and the children God has given me". [14] And since these "children", his "brothers and sisters", are human beings formed of flesh and blood, so Jesus himself, too, became fully human, formed, just like them, of flesh and blood - and so, like them, susceptible to death, so that by his death he might render powerless the one who has death in his power, that is, the Devil. By doing this, he freed all those in his family who lived their whole lives in fear of death from this slavery to which they were subjected. [16] For it was certainly not angels whom Jesus took by the hand and led out of this servitude to the fear of death, since angels neither die nor fear death. No! Just as God led the children of Israel, his chosen people, out of slavery in Egypt, so Jesus has freed all those who, by their faith, have become the true children of Abraham and the new people of God. This is why Jesus needed to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, fully human both in his physical nature and in his experience of the whole range of human life on earth. He was thus perfectly qualified to be our High Priest, the ideal mediator, representing man to God and God to man - a High Priest who is wonderfully merciful to us in our weakness, and utterly faithful to God, offering his own self as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of us, his people. [18] Because he himself experienced suffering, testing and temptation, he is well able to help us when we are tested and tempted.

Chapter 3
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you who have all been called by God in heaven himself to be his holy people, it is on Jesus that you need to focus your thoughts. For in the New Covenant faith which we profess Jesus is both our Apostle - 'sent out' by God to set us free, just as Moses was sent out to free his people from slavery in Egypt - and our High Priest, as Moses' brother Aaron was under the Old Covenant. Jesus was faithful to God his Father, who appointed him to this task, just as Moses "was faithful in every way in his service to God's household". But Jesus has shown himself to be worthy of greater glory than Moses, inasmuch as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house he builds; [4] for every house is built by someone's human hands, but the one who built the universe is God. And Moses was, certainly, as scripture attests, "faithful in every way as a servant in God's household" - and his service was to bear witness to the New Covenant which was to be revealed far in the future. But whereas Moses was a servant, Jesus is the Son in his own household - the Messiah. And now it is we who are his household, if, that is, we maintain unshaken the hope we have in him, a hope which gives us such confidence and joyful assurance. [7] So, as the Holy Spirit said through the psalmist, and is still saying now: "Today if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts as your forefathers did in the wilderness, in the day when they provoked me to anger, for they did not put their trust in me but put me to the test, challenging me to prove my love for them yet again, though for 40 years they had witnessed my saving works. So I was stirred to anger at this generation, and said 'they are always incnstant in their hearts, they have not learned to walk in my ways'. So in my anger I swore an oath that they would never enter into the land I had promised them, and find rest." [12] My brothers and sistes, examine yourselves, and make sure that there is never in any of you an inconstant heart like theirs, a heart full of sin and unbelief which leads you to turn away in apostasy from the living God. So encourage each other day by day, and urge each other on, while the window of opportunity called "today" is still open, so that none of you may become hardened in your hearts by the deceitfulness of sin, which promises such pleasure but leaves such a bitter taste in the mouth. For we have become part of Christ's people and members of his body - if indeed we keep secure to the end the firm foundation of faith we had at the beginning. [15] We need to heed God's warning in that psalm, when he says to his people: "Today if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts as your forefathers did when they provoked me to anger". Who was it who heard God's voice speaking to them on Mount Sinai, and yet still "provoked him to anger"? Was it not God's own people, all those who, through the ministry of Moses, made their exodus from Egypt? With whom was God "stirred to anger for 40 years"? Surely it was God's own people who sinned against him - and died in the desert? To whom did God swear that they would "never enter the land of promise and find his rest"? It was none other than his own disobedient people. So we can clearly see from this history of God's people that they were not able to enter the promised land because of their unbelief.

Chapter 4
God's promise that we should "enter into his rest" is still open, so we should be deeply concerned that none of you should be judged to have failed to respond. For we, too, have had the good news of this promise proclaimed to us, just as it was to our forefathers in the wilderness. But although they heard this promise proclaimed, it did not bring them any blessing, for they did not respond in faith to what they heard. But we are entering into God's rest because we have believed. [4] When God said: "I swore in my wrath that they should not enter my rest", what did he mean by "my rest"? Scripture provides the answer, for from the very beginning, from the foundation of the world, on the sixth day God's work of creation was completed, and about the seventh day it is written: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his work of creation". So when God said "they will not enter my rest", he was not just talking about entering the land of Canaan, but of entering into a relationship with God by faith and being at peace with him. Many years passed, and God's invitation for people to enter into his rest was still open, though those who had first heard this good news had not entered because of their unbelief. But then, a long time later, speaking through David the psalmist, God once again issued his invitation and dated it "today": "Today if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts". [8] For if Joshua had led the Israelites into God's rest when he led them across the Jordan, God would not have needed to speak of another "today" so long afterwards. From all this, therefore, we can clearly see that there still remains to this day a Sabbath rest for God's people - his New Covenant people. For just as God rested from his own work on the seventh day, the Sabbath, so have all those who have entered his rest found rest from their works - their hopeless attempts to be good enough for God by their works of righteousness. So we should be eager to enter that rest, so that no one should fall from grace and follow the example of unbelief set by our forefathers in the wilderness. [12] These references to scripture show that God's word is not a dead letter, but is still powerfully alive - "today"! It is sharper than a two-edged sword, or a surgeon's knife which can cut right through to the joints in our limbs and the marrow in our bones; in the same way, God's word can reach deep inside us, shining his light both on our human limitations and on our God-given spiritual longings. It sits in judgement over the innermost desires and the most secret thoughts of our hearts. To God, no human being he has created is a closed book. It is God to whom we will have to give an account of our lives, and before his all-seeing eyes everything is stripped naked and laid bare, like a specimen laid out on a slab for dissection. [14] In Jesus, then, the Son of God, but also a man like us, we have the perfect High Priest, now ascended to the highest heaven, where God is enthroned in majesty. So let us hold firmly in our hearts the faith we profess with our lips. Fot our High Priest is more than able to feel our pain and share our suffering in all our failures and afflictions, since he, too, was tempted and tested in every way just as we are - though he never fell into sin. So, then, with absolute confidence that Jesus has prepred the way for us, let us come day by day before the throne of God's grace, so that we may receive his merciful forgiveness for what is past, and find his grace to help us face the pressing needs of the moment.

Chapter 5
Every High Priest is chosen from among men and appointed to act on behalf of men in our relationship with God, bringing him both grain offerings and animal sacrifices as sin offerings. He is able to relate with understanding and sympathy to those who have fallen into sin through ignorance or error since he himself too is beset by human weakness - and because of this weakness he is obliged to offer sacrifices for his own sin just as he does for the sins of the people. [4] And no one takes this honour to himself for his own benefit or by his own choice, but only as he is called to it by God - just as Aaron was. [5] So, too, Jesus the Messiah did not confer upon himself the glory of becoming High Priest; rather, it was God who called him to it. First, speaking through the prophetic words of the psalmist, he said, as he looked forward to the incarnation: "You are my Son: today I, your Father, have brought you into the world"; then, speaking now of his sacrificial death, he said in another psalm: "You are a priest for ever, not as Aaron was but in the order of Melchisedek". So, in the last days of his human life among us, Jesus was never more fully human than in Gethsemane. There, with agonised cries and bitter tears he offered prayers and supplications to his Father, who alone could save him; his Father heard him, and freed him, not from death, but from the very human fear of death. [8] Jesus accepted his Father's will, and though he was the Son of God himself, through his suffering and death under God's curse he learned to the full the meaning of 'obedience'. And having carried out his Father's will faithfully to the bitter end, by his sacrifice he became the one who made salvation and eternal life possible for all who obey him. It was in recognition of this that God conferred upon him the title of "High Priest after the order of Melchisedek". [11] On the subject of Melchisedek we have much to say, but it is going to be difficult to explain it to you in a way in which you can understand, for you have become spiritually complacent and reluctant to listen to anything 'difficult'. In fact, at a stage in your Christian lives when you ought to be teaching others you need to go back to school yourselves so that you can be taught the ABC of God's word, starting right from page 1: you are like children needing to be spoon-fed on simple milk when you ought to be getting your teeth into solid food. [13] Every one who is still on a diet of milk is just a spiritual infant with no real grasp of the gospel of righteousness - the righteousness which God requires of us and which Jesus can confer upon us. Solid food is the diet of those who are mature in their faith, and who, by regular exercise, have trained and sharpened their spiritual antennae to discern the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

Chapter 6
So, then, let us leave behind us our first steps in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and ride on to spiritual maturity. Don't keep relaying the foundations of the faith: the whole point of a foundation is to build on it. Move on, then, from the basics, for I am sure you are already well grounded in the need to repent of trying to earn your salvation by keeping the law, which can only lead to death, and the need to put our faith in God; you know all about the rituals of baptism and the laying-on of hands, and fundamental doctines like the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement. [3] Now you need to move on to maturity, for this we will attain, if God grants us the time to do so. For those who have once had their eyes opened to the light of the gospel and experienced the gift of God's grace coming down from heaven, and so have become part of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and have got a taste of the honey-sweet goodness of God's word on their lips, and glimpsed the wonders of the coming age by witnessing miracles here on earth - if people like this fall away and turn their backs on God, it is impossible for them to be brought to repentance all over again; for they are continuing to deny that Jesus is God's Son, and are crucifying him anew, joining the crowd of mockers at his crucifixion with their ridicule and scorn. [7] For land which thirstily drinks in the rain which regularly falls upon it, and so produces a crop which is valuable to the farmers who are cultivating it - that land is part of God's blessing to mankind; but if that land, despite all the rain that it has received, produces nothing but thorns and thistles, it fails the test, and God's curse will quickly follow - a harvest of fire. [9] But as for you, my beloved brothers and sisters, although we have been speaking so severely, we are confident that your lives are producing much better fruit than thorns and thistles, fruit which is evidence of your genuine salvation. God is just: he will not forget the love you have shown, clear for all to see, for him and for his name, love which has inspired you to work so hard in humble service to your fellow Christians - service which continues to this day. [11] What we long for now is that you should continue to show that same wholehearted eagerness to serve right through to the end of your lives, so that all may see, in all its fullness, the sure and certain hope you have in the glory that is to come; don't lapse into idleness as you get older, but rather follow in the footsteps of those who persevered to the end in their faith, and are now enjoying their inheritance in heaven which God has promised. [13] This was the promise God made to Abraham, as scripture records: "God swore by himself" (for he had no one and nothing greater to swear by) "'Indeed, in blessing you I will truly bless you, and in multiplying your descendants I will greatly multiply them.'" And so it was that, after long perseverance, he obtained this promise of a son, and through him a long line of descendants. [16] We humans swear by God, who is greater than we are, and in every legal dispute this oath establishes a firm basis for trust, and so brings closure; but God wanted to demonstrate even more emphatically to those who would inherit his promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he swore his oath as a sort of intermediary, God's promise in man's language. He wanted us to have the strongest assurance that his word was reliable, so he confirmed it both by a promise and by an oath, both unchangeable, for whether giving a promise or swearing an oath God cannot lie. So as we, like fugitives, seek refuge from our fear of death, we can take a firm hold of the hope we have for our future. [19] This hope we have is like an anchor for our souls to keep us on an even keel when our doubts and fears would carry us away from God; it is an anchor that is stroong and sure, for it leads beyond the curtain in the Temple into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of God himself. Here is the Rock to which our hope of life after death is anchored, the risen Jesus; he has gone on ahead of us into the Sanctuary in heaven and is acting as our High Priest - as we were saying earlier, "a High Priest after the order of Melchisedek".

Chapter 7
This Melchisedek, scripture records, was "King of Salem, a priest of the most high God; he met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings, and gave him his blessing, and Abraham gave him a tenth of all" the spoils of the defeated enemy. The first points to note are his name, Melchisedek, meaning 'King of Righteousness', and his title, 'King of Salem', meaning 'King of Peace'. Notice next what scripture does not record: there is no mention of his father or mother, or a genealogy of any kind, so that his priesthood is not inherited, but unique to him; nor is there any record of the beginning or ending of his life, so that his priesthood is timeless and endless. In this respect he is just like the Son of God - he is, in fact, a type of the Christ who was to come, for "he remains a priest for ever". [4] And notice in particular just how great Melchisedek was: Abraham, our great patriarch, gave him a tenth of the spoils as a token of his respect. Now, those who belong to the tribe of Levi and the household of Aaron, and so take upon themselves the priesthood, are commanded, according to the Law, to collect a tithe from the people of Israel, that is, from their own brothers, even though they, too, are descendants of Abraham. So their priesthood depends on their genealogy, and they tithe only the patriarch's descendants, whereas Melchisedek had no family connections with Levi or Aaron, and he received a tithe from Abraham himself; and what is more, he gave his blessing to Abraham when he had already been marked out as special by receiving God's promises. [7] It goes without saying that the lesser is blessed by the greater, so that Melchisedek is greater than Abraham; and furthermore, his order of priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood, for the priests who now collect tithes are mortal men, whereas of Melchisedek scripture says that he is still alive. [9] One might even say that the Levi who now, through his priests, collects tithes was then, through Abraham, tithed himself, since the seed from which he sprung was already in Abraham's loins when he met Melchisedek. [11] If the Levitical priesthood, which was a central feature of the Law which God gave to his people at Sinai, had been a perfect and permanent solution to the problem of reconciling man to God, what need would there have been for a second priest to stand in the sanctuary, a priest not in the line of Aaron, but spoken of as "after the order of Melchisedek"? For if a change is made in the priesthood, there must inevitably be a change in the Law. [13] For it is Jesus of whom the prophet speaks; he belonged to a quite different tribe, no member of which had ever served at the altar as a priest. For it is clear that Jesus our Lord arose - like the sun at dawn - from the tribe of Judah, and Moses' instructions about the priesthood made no mention at all about the tribe of Judah. [15] And it is even clearer how different the New Covenant is when the new priest standing in the sanctuary is like Melchisedek, and has not become priest merely because his ancestry met the physical requirements of the Law, but rather because he has triumphantly overpowered death and is alive for evermore. [17] Scripture bears witness to this great truth when it says: "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek". This means that the former legal framework governing the priesthood has been set aside; it was ineffective and unavailing, for the Law of Moses brought no final solution to the problem of man's sinfulness. Instead, a much greater hope has now been introduced: through our great High Priest, we ourselves may now come near to God and enter his presence; no longer do we need to depend on a human priest to do so on our behalf. [20] And our hope is all the greater because it is guaranteed by an oath. For there is no oath involved in the appointment of Levitical priests, whereas Jesus' High Priesthood is affirmed with an oath by God his Father, who, through the psalmist, says to him : "The Lord has sworn, and will not change his purpose: 'You are a priest for ever'". [22] This is also an indication of how much better the New Covenant is, for Jesus, by his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, has become its guarantor. Under the Old Covenant, a great many priests were appointed, because, being human, they were prevented by death from remaining permanently in office. Jesus, by contrast, since "he remains a priest for ever", holds his priesthood in perpetuity. For this reason he is also able to save completely and for ever all those who come to God through him, since he is alive for evermore to intercede for them. [26] Such a High Priest is exactly what we need: on earth he lived a life of perfect holiness, untouched by evil, unstained by sin and uncorrupted by the sinful men among whom he lived; and now he has ascended into the highest heaven. So, unlike High Priests under the Old Covenant, he has no need at all first to offer sacrifice for his own sins, and only then for the sins of the people, for this sacrifice he made once for all when he offered up to God his own self on the cross. [28] For the Law of Moses appoints mortal men as High Priests, infected with all the flaws and frailties which are part of our human nature. But God's word, confirmed by the oath he swore long after the Law was given, has brought in a New Covenant and appointed as its Hgh Priest his own Son, who, triumphing over all his trials and temptations, lived a perfect life on earth so that now in heaven he can perfectly meet our needs for evermore.

Chapter 8
The key point in what we are saying is this: the High Priest we now have under the New Covenant is, like Melchisedek, both Priest and King; now that his sacrificial role is completed, he has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God in all his glory, and is a minister of his people, serving within the Sanctuary in the true Tabernacle - not the movable tent made by man, but the everlasting Tabernacle made by the Lord God. [3] For every High Priest is appointed to offer gifts and scrifices, which he must do before entering into the Sanctuary; so it was necessary that Jesus, too, should have a sacrifice to offer - the final and perfect sacrifice, himself. So if Jesus were now on earth, rather than in heaven, he would not be a priest, not just because he is of the royal tribe of Judah and not the priestly tribe of Levi, but because the sacrifices which the Levitical priests are now offering under the Mosaic Law are no longer necessary. [5] Moreover, the Tabernacle in which they serve is just a shadow and a model of the true Tabernacle in heaven, as we can see in scripture. Moses, when he was about to complete the construction of the Tabernacle, was told by God: "Make sure that you make everything exactly like the model which you were shown on Mount Sinai". So the ministry which Jesus is now exercising in the heavenly Sanctuary is much more excellent than the ministry of the priests here on earth, just as he is the mediator of a much better covenant, one based on better promises - promises reinforced by God's oath. [7] But if that first covenant had been perfect and faultless, there would have been no room for a second, and no reason to want one. But it was his people themselves that God found fault with, as he says through his prophet Jeremiah: "'Look, the days are coming', says the Lord, 'when I will conclude a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the House of Judah, so healing the rift between them and bringing them together as one people again. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their forefathers, at the time when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt, because it was they who did not abide by my covenant, so that I was not able to care for them as before', says the Lord. [10] ' This will be the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after those days', says the Lord; 'I will imprint my laws directly on their minds and write them in their hearts; I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will it be that each teaches his own neighbour and his own brother, saying 'know the Lord', because all will know me, from the greatest of them to the least. I will be merciful to their transgressions, and their sins I will surely remember no more.'" [13] By mentioning a "new covenant" it is clear that God has rendered the first one obsolete - and what has now become obsolete is so old that it is near extinction.

Chapter 9
The first covenant - the old covenant - gave instructions for the bulding of the earthly sanctuary, the Tabernacle, and for the worship and rituals that were to be performed in it. The one Tabernacle in fact consisted of two tents, the one leading into the other, but each quite distinct from the other. A curtained opening led into the first, or outer, tent; in this tent, called 'the Holy Place', were the lampstand and the table with the 'showbread' on it, 12 loaves, renewed every Sabbath, on permanent display. Then came the second curtain, and behind that was the inner tent, called the 'Holy of Holies', or the 'Sanctuary'. In here were the golden altar of incense and the Ark of the Covenant, completely overlaid with gold; this contained memorials from the exodus from Egypt and the wilderness years: a golden jar containing some of the manna which fed God's people, Aaron's rod which miraculously blossomed in the presence of Pharaoh, and, above all, the two tablets of the Law, the Old Covenant. Above the Ark was the Mercy Seat, with the two golden Cherubim spreading their wings to overshadow it with the glorious presence of God himself. All these details are significant, but we will not discuss them here. [6] This, then, was the two-tent pattern on which the Tabernacle was constructed. Into the first tent the priests (but not the people) entered regularly to carry out their various ministries; but into the second, or inner, tent only the High Priest could enter, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement; and he must take with him from the outer tent the blood of a sacrifice to offer both on his own behalf and for the sins which the people had committed unwittingly. [8] When God gave these instructions for worship in the Tabernacle he was, in fact, giving us an acted parable, whose meaning, for a long time unclear, was intended for this present age, for now the Holy Spirit reveals its meaning to us. The inner tent, the 'Holy of Holies' , represents the very presence of God himself, and as long as the sacrificial system in the outer tent holds sway, the true pathway into God's presence - that is, the Christ who said "I am the way" - has not yet been revealed. All the gifts and sacrifices that are offered in the outer tent cannot cleanse the worshipper's conscience and make him sinless, and so fit for God's presence. [10] All the rituals of the Tabernacle required by God's Law under the Old Covenant concerned with dietary requirements and various kinds of ceremonial washings can only cleanse the body, and are only in force until the First Covenant is perfected in the Second. [11] This New Covenant, together with all the blessings that have come with it, has now been instituted by Christ, the long-promised Messiah: he has taken his place as our High Priest. He has passed through the greater and more perfect Tabernacle in heaven - not the physical, man-made Tabernacle on earth - and by virtue, not of the blood of goats and calves, but of his own blood he has entered once and for all into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of his Father, having purchased for us by his death our freedom from the guilt of sin, not just for a year but for ever. [13] For if the blood of goats and bulls offered by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, and if even the ashes of a sacrificial heifer sprinkled over them, can purify those who, through physical contact with death, have become ritually defiled, and make them outwardly and bodily clean again, how much more effective will be the sacrificial death of the Messiah, Jesus Christ? He, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice unblemished by sin, a sacrifice that will cleanse us inwardly, freeing our guilty consciences from the burden of all our sinful actions which deserve only death, so that, unashamed, we may enter the presence of the living God and offer him our worship. [15] For this reason Jesus, being both man and God, is the mediator of the New Covenant between God and man. All the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant could never, of themselves, set people free from the guilt of breaking God's law; their purpose was to look forward to the greater and final sacrifice of Jesus. Now that Jesus has made that sacrifice through his death, the price of freedom from all those sins has been fully paid, and all those called by God, his new 'chosen people', may confidently take hold of his promise of an eternal inheritance in heaven. [16] In human affairs, the assurance of an inheritance is based on a will: a will is a testament, and a testament is a covenant, so God's covenant promise makes that inheritance absolutely sure. Where a will is involved, the death of the testator is inevitably implied; for those who are dead their will becomes unalterable, since a will does not come into force while the testator is still alive. [18] For this rason the first covenant, too, was inaugurated by a blood sacrifice. For when Moses had read out to the people every commandment contained in the Law, he took the blood of the calves and goats which had been sacrificed, together with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and with them sprinkled the blood over the book in which he had written down the Law, and over all the people. [20] As he did so, he said: "This is the blood of the covenant which God, by this declaration, has made with you". The Tabernacle, too, and all the vessels and utensils used in its worship he sprinkled in the same way with the sacrificial blood. In fact, according to the Law of Moses virtually everything that is defiled is made clean by blood - if there is no shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. [23] If, then, such sacrifices were needed for the cleansing of sin in the earthly Tabernacle, and so for the opening of access into the earthly sanctuary, and if that is merely the model of the sanctuary in heaven, to make such cleansing effective in the true sanctuary in heaven, and so to open access into the very presence of God - this needed a much better sacrifice than calves or goats. [24] For Christ did not enter the man-made sanctuary, which is just a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, and now appears before the face of his Father, God, on our behalf, both as a sacrifice and as a High Priest. The earthly High Priest enters the sanctuary year after year and offers the blood of a victim other than himself; but Christ does not have to offer himself as a sacrifice repeatedly - if he did, he would have had to suffer over and over again ever since the very foundation of the world. As it is, he has appeared once for all time, at the key point in history when the Old Covenant found its completion in the New, and dealt for ever with the problem of our sin by the sacrifice of himself. [27] The terms of human life prescribe that all men must die once, and, after that, face God's judgement; so, too, Christ, in so far as he was human, could die only once, offering himself up to God once for all time as a sacrifice for the sins of many. But, being also the Son of God, he will appear on earth a second time, not to deal with sin, but to bring to those who are eargerly awaiting his coming a full and final salvation.

Chapter 10
For the Law of Moses was not God's final answer to the problem of human sin; it was not the real thing, but merely a shadow on the wall, showing a rough outline of what was to come - the glorious gospel of God's grace in Christ. Under the Law the same sacrifices are offered continually year after year, but they cannot make those who would come into God's presence spotlessly clean, as he requires. If sacrifices could achieve this, surely they would long ago have ceased to be offered? If worshippers had been made clean once and for all, they would not still have had a guilty conscience impelling them to find relief through further sacrifices. The Law of Moses, then, is not God's final solution, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away the burden of our sins; but these animal sacrifices do serve an important purpose, for year by year they remind us that we are sinners who need God's mercy. [5] This is why Jesus, speaking prophetically through the words of the Psalmist, says to his Father as he enters our world and becomes one of us: "'It was obedience that you really wanted, rather than the offering of animal sacrifices, and an obedient heart pleased you more than burnt offerings and sin-offerings; but you have given me a human body to offer as a sacrifice'. So then I said: 'Here am I, Oh God my Father, your obedient Son. Your will for me is written in the Book of Scripture, and I have come in obedience to carry it out.'" [8] The key word here is "then": first he says "you did not want and took no pleasure in animal sacrifices and burnt offerings" - these are the sacrifices offered under the Law of Moses. But "then" he says: "Look! I have come to do your will". So he is annulling the first - the Old Covenant - in order to establsh the second - the New Covenant. [10] For it was God's will all along - the will to which Jesus was obedient - that we should be fully cleansed of our sins and made perfectly holy, not through the sacrifice of dumb animals, but by the willing offering of his body in sacrifice by Jesus Christ, a sacrifice made once for all time. [11] Every Levitical priest stands day after day to perform his ministry - his work is never done - repeatedly offering up sacrifices which can never fully free us from the burden of our sins. [12] Jesus, by contrast, offered one single sacrifice for our sins, and then "sat down" for ever "at the right hand of God", his work accomplished. Now he waits for the final fulfilment of that prophecy, for the time when "his enemies are made a footstool beneath his feet". [14] But those who gladly submit to him he has made for ever perfectly sinless in God's eyes, and so fit for his presence, and is making them daily more holy as they walk with him. [15] The Holy Spirit also bears witness for us to this glorious truth. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, he first says, of the New Covenant: "'This is the covenant I will make with them after those days,' says the Lord: 'I will write my covenant, not on tablets of stone, but upon their hearts, and I will inscribe them on their minds'". And then he declares the great glory of the New Covenant: "Their sins and their transgressions I will not remember any more." The inference is obvious: when "sins and transgressions" have already been forgiven, there is no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them. [19] So, my brothers and sisters, because of these great truths we have the confidence to enter God's presence, the Holy of Holies, not because an animal has been sacrificed, but because Jesus has shed his blood for us. He has opened up for us a New- Covenant way through the veil to God, a way that is always open because he is alive for evermore. While he was on earth, his physical body was like that veil, concealingthe full glory of his Godhead. But now that veil is no longer a barrier to God's presence, but an open door, for it has been torn down, just as Jesus' earthly body was pierced and torn on the cross. [21] In him we now have a great High Priest, representing the whole family of God, so let us follow him through the veil to worship, in spirit and in truth, and with full-grown faith; for if we have put our faith in Jesus our sins have been washed away by the sprinkling of his blood, so that our consciences no longer convict us of their guilt, and our bodies have been washed clean in the waters of baptism. [23] Let us then hold unswervingly to the public declaration we then made of our sure and certain hope of the life to come, for the one who made that promise to us is utterly trustworthy. [24] Let us all take thoughtful care of each other, urging each other on to deeper love and greater service. And do not abandon the habit of meeting together regularly for fellowship and worship, as is the way of some, but continue to exhort and encourage each other all the more as you see the great day of Christ's return coming closer and closer. [26] Be warned: that day will be the Day of Judgement! If, after we have come to know and accept the truth of the gospel, we continue knowingly and deliberately in sin, for such sins there is no further sacrifice that can be offered. Such apostasy has only the terrifying prospect of God's judgement to look forward to - his fiery wrath which will surely consume all who rebel against his righteous rule. [28] Under the Old Covenant, someone who, on the evidence of two or three witnesses, was convicted of deliberately transgressing the Law of Moses and falling into idolatry was, without compunction, put to death. How much more terrible, do you think, will be the judgement God justly visits on someone who has despised and rejected his own Son, and regarded as offensive the blood he shed to seal the New Covenant, which made possible the cleansing he has rejected, and has arrogantly spurned the Spirit of God's grace? [30] For the God we know is the God who has revealed himself in scripture: "Judgement belongs to me alone", he has said; "I will give to each what he deserves"; and again, "the Lord will judge his people". It is indeed a terrifying fate to fall as an unrepentant sinner under the judgement of the eternal God. [32] You should call to mind those early days, when your lives had only recently been transformed by the light of the gospel: remember the great struggles and sufferings you endured, being both yourselves subjected publicly to abuse and afffliction, and by sharing the hardships of your fellow Christians who were being teated in the same way. [34] Indeed, you were treated no better than criminals in prison, and when your possessions were plundered, you accepted it with joy, for you knew you had much greater and more lasting possessions stored up for you in heaven. [35] So do not abandon your confidence in Christ, for it carries with it a great reward. It is this same endurance that you need now, so that you may do God's will and so gain for yourselves the glorious inheritance he has promised. [37] As scripture says: "Just a little time, and the one who is coming will come and not delay. The righteous man will live by faith, and if his faith falters and he turns back my soul takes no pleasure in him." But we are not among those who turn back and head straight for destruction; we are of the company of faith, and our lives are safely lodged in God's keeping.

Chapter 11
This faith is the conviction that what we hope to inherit in the future is actually ours already; it convinces us that it is real even though we cannot see it. It was because of their faith that the heroes of old were given an honourable mention in scripture. It is by faith that we come to believe that the world and all its wonders was framed and created by the word of God, and that the universe that we see around us was not made out of what was there already, but was a completely new creation. [4] It was by faith that Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice - an animal sacrifice - than his brother Cain; through this shedding of blood he was declared to be righteous, and it was God himself, on the basis of the gifts that he had offered, who bore witness to this. It is because of his faith that Abel, though dead - killed by his brother - still speaks to us today through the scriptures. [5] It was because of his faith that Enoch did not pass through "the valley of the shadow of death", but was taken straight to heaven to be with God, and was no longer to be found on earth, because God had taken him away; for during his lifetime, as scripture testifies of him, he had "walked with God", and God was well pleased with him - and one cannot please God without faith. For anyone who approaches God's sanctuary to worship him must have faith, and believe not only that God exists but also that he richly rewards those who seek his face. [7] Noah is another whose faith shines out from scripture. He was warned by God of the flood that would destroy the world, and though there were at the time no visible signs of such a flood he nevertheless took God at his word and, carefully following his instructions, built an ark and so saved his whole family from death. By this godly faith he showed up the faithlessness and godlessness of the world around him, and was credited with the righteousness that comes through faith, and so received his heavenly inheritance. [8] Abraham, too, showed his faith by his obedience. When God called him to leave the land of the Chaldeans where he was settled, and to go out to a place which he would, far in the future, receive as his inheritance, he obeyed and went out, even though he did not know where it was that he was going. [9] By faith he settled in the land God had promised him, though he did not yet possess it; he was just an immigrant living in a foreign land with no fixed abode, but dwelling in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who, like him, were heirs of the promise. For Abraham was looking forward in faith to the heavenly city with firm foundations, whose architect and creator is God himself. [11] Even Sarah, his wife, though barren and doubting of God's promise of a child, was able by faith to conceive a son from her husband's seed, though long past the normal age of childbearing; for she came to believe that God who had made the promise was trustworthy. And so it was that this one man, Abraham, though physically long past the age of fatherhood, became the father of descendants "as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the sea-shore". [13] All these died still believing, still faithful, although they had not received the inheritance God had promised them - they had just glimpsed it far ahead of them, and greeted it gladly. They openly professed, as scripture records, that on earth they were merely "aliens and strangers". Those who speak of themselves like this make it clear that they are seeking a homeland to settle in. [15] If they had had in mind the earthly home in the land of the Chaldeans from which they had set out, they would have had every opportunity to return there. But they were reaching out for a better homeland, a home in heaven. It is because of this determined faith of theirs that, for all their faults, God is not ashamed of them, but is pleased to be called their God - "the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob" - and has prepared a city for them as their home. [17] Abraham showed his faith again when God put him to the test: he offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, as God had told him to - he was willing to offer his only son even though , when he received God's covenant promises, he was told that "it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned" and your family line continued. By faith he reasoned that with God all things are possible, so that he was even able to raise Isaac from the dead; and he did indeed receive him back, as it were, from the dead - a picture foreshadowing the resurrection of God's only Son. [20] Isaac, too, like his father, came to have the very same faith in the future God had promised, and so he gave his blessing to his two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, in turn, showed his faith that his descendants would one day return from Egypt to the Promised Land, so that, as he lay dying, he gave his blessing to each of Joseph's two sons, and "worhipped God, bowing reverently over the top of his staff". [22] Joseph, too, had the same faith in God's promises as his father: on his death-bed he reassured his brothers that one day God would lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and he told them to take his bones with them when this happened. [23] Moses was born in Egypt at a time when the Pharaoh had decreed that all the male babies of the Israelites should be killed; but his parents, when they saw that he was a beautiful baby, had the faith not to fear the king's command, and so hid him for three months. Moses himself was then taken into the royal family by the king's daughter, but when he had grown to manhood he too, like his parents, had faith in God's promises, and refused any longer to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to share the sufferings of God's people in their slavery rather than betraying them by continuing to enjoy his privileged position. He regarded the stigma of loyalty to his people and to Christ, the Messiah who was to come, as much more precious than all the treasure in Egypt. All the time he was looking forward in faith to the rich reward he would receive in heaven. [27] So, acting in this faith, he left Egypt, not afraid of the Pharaoh's vengeful anger; his strength came from looking in faith to the God who cannot be seen. [28] In faithful obedience to God's instructions, he instituted the Passover sacrifice and the sprinkling of its blood on the doorposts of a house so that the destroyer might not touch its firstborn. [29] As they fled from Egypt, the Children of Israel found their way barred by the Red Sea, but in faith they stepped out into it, and crossed over safely, as though on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to follow them, they were engulfed by the returning waters and drowned. [30] In faithful obedience to God's instructions, the Israelites marched round the walls of Jericho for seven days, and on the seventh day the walls fell flat. And becase of her faith the prostitute Rahab did not perish with all the unbelievers in Jericho; she believed in God, and made peace with Israel by receiving and protecting the two spies they had sent ahead. [32] What more can I say? My time would run out if I tell in full the stories of all the other heroes of faith recorded in scripture - the Judges like Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephtha, of King David and of Samuel and all the other prophets. Through the power of their faith in God they struggled against foreign kingdoms and subdued them, and as rulers in their own land they exercised righteousness; they received promises from God and found them faithful. Others, like Daniel and his friends, stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the destroying power of the fiery furnace. Others escaped destruction by the sword, or, when in sickness or weakness, were restored to health and strength, becoming mighty in battle, so that they turned back the armies of the invading enemy. [35] Women received back their children resurrected from the dead. Others were tortured on the rack, refusing to accept release by betraying their faith - rather than a few more years in this world they had their eyes fixed on God's promise of resurrection to a better world. [36] Still others had their faith tested by mockery and beatings, even by chains and imprisonment. Many died a martyr's death, by stoning, or sawn in two, or put to the sword. Those who lived could clothe themselves only in animal skins; they lived in abject poverty and under cruel persecution by the world - a world which did not deserve to have such heroes living in it. They wandered like nomads in desert places, or lived high up on mountains, or deep in caves or holes in the ground. [39] Both scripture and tradition bear witness to all these great men and women, but they did not receive the full glory of what God had promised: he had planned, and has provided, something even better for us who live under his New Covenant, and it was his purpose that they should not end their journey before we did, but that we should all enter into God's glory together.

Chapter 12
Wherever we look in scripture, then, we find, on every side, this great company of heroes bearing faithful witness to the hope that sustained them on their journey. We, too, have a battle to face and a race to run, so let us be inspired by their example and run with the same perseverance that they showed. Like committed athletes, we need to work off the flab of worldly self-indulgence which weighs us down and slows us up, and, even more, we need to throw off that besetting sin which we fondly cling to like a favourite coat. [2] To find the strength that we need, let us keep our eyes firmy fixed on Jesus: it is he who has called us to begin this journey of faith, and he who will bring us safely to its glorious end. He endured far more than we will ever have to, the agony of the cross and the shame and hell of being under God's curse; but he regarded his suffering as nothing compared with the joy that was waiting for him at the end of his journey - the joy of knowing that he had done his Father's will, and of taking his seat, once again and for evermore, at his right hand in heaven. [3] So if in this race you feel your strength failing, and are tempted to lose heart and give up, just meditate for a moment on Jesus, who endured right to the end of his race, despite the hostility and hatred of sinful men. [4] You, by contrast, although you have enlisted in God's army in the war against sin and the powers of evil, have not yet been called upon to shed your blood. Have you forgotten the encouragement God gives to you in his word, where he addresses you as his children? "My child, do not be resentful when you are disciplined by the Lord, nor lose heart when you are rebuked; for the Lord disciplines every one he loves, and chastises every child he adopts into his family". [7] The hardships you are enduring are God's way of disciplining you, and it is as his children that he is bringing this discipline into your lives. Are not all children disciplined by their fathers? So if you are not receiving the discipline which all have experienced, then you must be bastards and not legitimate sons and daughters. [9] In our childhood our earthly fathers were the ones who disciplined us, and we respected them for it; how much more, then, should we submit to our heavenly Father's discipline, and so grow to maturity in the life of the Spirit? Our earthly parents disciplined us during the brief period of our childhood, doing what they thought, in their human wisdom, was right; but God knows what is best for us, and disciplines us so that we may become holy, as he is holy. [11] All discipline at the time brings grief rather than joy; but in the longer term, just as for those training for physical fitness there is no gain without pain, so our heavenly Father's loving discipline brings a reward, the fruit of righteousness ripening within us day by day, that enables us to live at peace with God. [12] So you need to train for spiritual fitness: do not let your hands hang idly at your side, but lift them up in fervent prayer and active service; do not let your knees become stiff and arthritic, but keep them active so that your feet can walk steadily along the "strait and narrow" pathway of righteousness - do not limp along with creaking joints and turn aside into sin, but be healed by God's grace and restored to fitness. [14] Individually, then, make holiness your aim and do all that you can to achieve it, for without holiness no one can come into God's presence; and, as a church, make it your aim to live at peace with one another. You are a family, so watch out not just for yourselves but for each other, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Make sure there is no one amomg you who shows any less grace to others than God has shown to us all, so that no tiny seed of enmity or resentment grows into a "root of bitterness" which causes serious trouble within your fellowship, and marks all those involved with the stain of sin. [16] Watch out, too, and make sure that no one among you falls into sexual sin, or gets so entangled with the ambitions and preoccupations of this world that he forgets his heavenly calling. Let the story of Esau, which you know well, be a warning to you. At the price of just a single meal he sold to his younger brother Jacob the blessing which was his birthright as the first-born son, and with it his role in God's eternal purpose. Long afterwards, when he did now want to inherit this blessing, his father Isaac refused to give it to him - he had already given it to Jacob - and Esau could find no way of changing his mind, though he begged him with tears to do so. [18] For you do not belong to the Old Covenant; you are not standing in front of a visible, tangible mountain, Mount Sinai, as your forefathers did in the days of Moses. Scripture records what a terrifying experience that was, as God in all his holines descended onto the mountain in a consuming fire; the people could not see him, for he was surrounded by black clouds and thick darkness and a whirling tempest, but they could hear the blast of a trumpet and the sound of God's voice as he spoke to them. But when the people heard his voice, they stopped their ears and "begged that he would speak to them no more", for they were terrified by his command that none of them should set foot on the mountain: "If even a wild beast touches the mountain it shall be put to death by stoning". Indeed, the whole experience and all that they saw was so terrifying that even Moses said "I am trembling with fear". [22] No, your spiritual journey has brought you to a very different mountain, Mount Sion, so that you now belong to the city of the living God, citizens of the Jerusalem which is in heaven. There are gathered thousands upon thousands of angels celebrating the glory of the New Covenant; there, too, the whole church of God is assembled, the church of "the firstborn", all saved from death by the blood of Jesus their Paschal Lamb, the names of all of them recorded in the book of life in heaven. You have come before the throne of judgement, on which is seated the God of all the world, surrounded by the multitude of those he has declared righteous and perfectly sinless - because there, too, is Jesus in his risen glory, the mediator of the New Covenant. We read that the blood of Abel, killed by his brother Cain, "cried out to God for vengeance"; but, far better, the blood of Jesus pleads with his Father to show mercy to all who put their trust in his sacrifice. [25] Watch out that you do not "stop your ears" and refuse to listen to the God who continues to speak to you today; for if the Israelites at Sinai did not escape when they refused to listen to his warnings, how much more will we incur his wrath if we turn our backs on him when he speaks to us from heaven? [26] Then, at Sinai, his voice shook the earth; but now, through his prophet, he has made this promise: "Yet once more I will shake the earth, and not the earth only but heaven also ". By the words "yet once more" God is clearly showing us that this will be the ultimate shake-out at the end of the age: all that is shaken will be shaken out and taken away, since it all belongs to the created order; only what is unshaken will remain for ever. [28] The kingdom we are inheriting is unshakeable and so eternal; let us then have the grace to be truly thankful as we worship God in a way that pleases him, with pure hearts and in humble fear - for the God we worship is a blazing fire of holiness who purges all that is impure.

Chapter 13
How, then, can we live so as to please such a holy God? First, continue to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ - but do not forget also to offer loving hospitality to those outside your fellowship; by showing such hospitality some have invited strangers into their homes without realising that they were God's messengers. [3] Remember in your prayers, and by your support, those in prison for their faith, just as though you were in prison with them, and those being physically persecuted as though you, too, felt their pain. Everyone must honour the estate of marriage as God's special ordinance; the sanctity of the marriage-bed must not be defiled by fornication before marriage or adultery within it; those who commit such sins will surely face God's judgement. [5] Do not be constantly striving for worldly wealth, but be contented with what you already have. For God himself has promised: "I will not let you slip from my hand, I will never forsake you." So we may say with the psalmist, and with absolute assurance: "the Lord is my helper: what can man do to me?" [7] Remember your spiritual leaders, those who first spoke the word of God and his gospel to you and led you to faith: look carefully at the whole spectrum of their lives, the faith by which they lived and the faith in which they died; then make that faith of theirs your own. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever, so as he was with them so he will be with you. [9] Do not allow yourselves to be blown off course by all sorts of teachings about food regulations and dietary laws. The right way to be built up and strengthened in your Christian lives is by God's grace at work in your hearts, not by the food that goes into your stomachs. Those whose lives were governed by such food-laws were never brought by them any closer to God. [10] The one meal we are commanded to eat is the 'Lord's Supper'. As Christians, we, too, have "an altar of sacrifice", not in the Tabernacle or the Temple, but at Golgotha: the cross on which Jesus gave himself as a sin-offering for us all, on that last and greatest 'Day of Atonement', and each of us, as we eat and drink "in remembrance of him", may claim the benefits of that sacrifice for ourselves. But the Levitical priests who offer animal sacrifices in the Temple have no such right, for by continuing to officiate under the Old Covenant they are denying the New. This truth is foreshadowed in the Law itself, for, whereas the priests are normally allowed to eat the meat of the sacrifices, on the Day of Atonement they are not, for the bodies of the victims "must be taken outside the camp" and burnt. [12] So it was that Jesus, in order to sanctify his people through the shedding of his own blood, was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem. To come to Jesus, then, we need to leave behind us the Temple and its animal sacrifices - they are all now history - and go "outside the camp", even though this will mean enduring the shame and the pain of rejection by those still inside. For here on earth, in Jerusalem, we do not have a city that will last for ever, but we are eagerly looking ahead to the city in heaven which is to come and will remain. [15] Let us then, through our great High Priest, offer to God, not a grain offering, the fruit of our fields, but a continual sacrifice of praise, "the fruit of our lips", as we publicly profess the name of Jesus. [16] And do not forget to add deeds to your words, good deeds of kindness, helpfulness and thoughtfulness within the fellowship of the Christian family: this is the sort of "sacrifice" that really pleases God. [17] Obey the leaders of your church, and submit to their authority, for it is they who keep watch over your spiritual welfare, the under-shepherds of God's flock. They in turn will have to give an account of their ministry to the Chief Shepherd on his return, so your obedience and submission will enable them to give their account with joy and not with tears - tears for which you will be held responsible. [19] Do please pray for me; my conscience is clear, and it is my desire that my way of life in all things should be Christlike. I make this request of you with the greatest urgency, so that I may be with you again in person as soon as possible. [20] May the God of peace, who resurrected from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of his sheep, and so declared that by his death Jesus had sealed his covenant of grace for all eternity - may this God bring you to maturity, correcting you when you go wrong and, when you are weak, strengthening you for every good work, so that you may do his will by doing what is pleasing to him, through the power of Jesus Christ in you, to whom be glory for ever. Amen. [22] I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to take these words to heart; they are intended to encourge you in your faith, and, after all, the letter I have written you is only a brief one. [23] Finally, I have some good news for you: our brother Timothy has been released from prison. If he joins me soon, we will come to you together. Give my greetings to all your leaders and all the members of the church. All those also from Italy who are with me send you their greetings. [25] May the grace of the Lord be with you all.