Hebrews 4:12-13 – Jesus – The Living Word of God

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Study Type - Adult Lesson

Fellowship - Acorns to Oaks

Series - Hebrews 2018-19

Book - Hebrews

Hebrews 4:12-13, living word of God

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Last time we finished our study of the Hebrews writer’s cautionary tale of the Israelites’ rebellion in the wilderness of Sinai and his admonition for us not to follow in their failure, but rather to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby enter into God’s promised rest.

Jesus – The Living Word of God

Now we come to one of the best known passages in the entire Bible.

12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:12-13 – NKJV]

We have spoken before about the reverence in which the Word of God is held in Jewish life and tradition. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Jewish scribes whose respect for God’s Word and devotion to the faithful replication of its texts enabled us receive it virtually unchanged since ancient times. Of course, since the four gospels had not yet been written, the first-century Jewish believers to whom Hebrews was written would have understood the written Word of God to be – The Torah תּוֹרָה (Law: Genesis – Deuteronomy), The Nevi’im נְבִיאִים (Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), and The Ketuvim כְּתוּבִים (Writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles). Possibly, the letters of Paul, Peter, and John which had been written up to that time may also have been considered holy writ by these Messianic Jewish congregations. We have no way of knowing. Certainly, they would not have been held in the same high regard as The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings – particularly the Torah. Moses had commanded that this Book of the Law was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle…

“Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; [Deuteronomy 31:26 – NKJV]

Furthermore, the LORD commanded Joshua that the Law was to be studied continually…

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. [Joshua 1:8 – NKJV]

The longest chapter in the Bible – Psalm 119 is devoted entirely to exaltation of God’s written Word…

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You. [Psalm 119:11 – NKJV]

This is my comfort in my affliction,
For Your word has given me life. [Psalm 119:50 – NKJV]

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. [Psalm 119:105 – NKJV]

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word. [Psalm 119:114 – NKJV]

Your word is very pure;
Therefore Your servant loves it. [Psalm 119:140 – NKJV]

The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. [Psalm 119:160 – NKJV]

Christians who study God’s Word day-by-day, know that God often reveals some new aspect, or insight into a passage of scripture with which we think we are thoroughly familiar.

For me, the instance of this supernatural quality of the Word of God that springs most quickly to my remembrance was the last morning of our church men’s retreat some years ago. At these retreats, the elders of the church, our pastor, and sometimes an invited guest would preach messages that all pertained to a specific theme. The theme that particular year was – Man Up!, based on…

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. [1 Corinthians 16:13 – ESV]

The main thrust of our pastor’s message was clear – Men who shirk their calling from God to be strong spiritual leaders within their families bear a part of the responsibility if their children are not saved. That message struck me to the very heart, since I failed miserably in training up my own sons in the fear of the LORD. Heartbroken over my lost sons, I struggled in prayer throughout that night. The next morning, I was desperately seeking reassurance in the Word of God. He impressed upon my heart Mark 16. As I started to read, I realized it was a passage with which I was already very familiar – the story of the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus and found His tomb empty after His resurrection. In my arrogance, I even told God that, although I am very grateful for the Gospel of His resurrection, this passage wasn’t the reassurance I was seeking from Him. Then I came to verse 7 where the angel said to the ladies…

“But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” [Mark 16:7 – NKJV]

Although I had read this passage many times before, I had always simply skipped over in my mind the particular reference to Peter. Recall that Peter had completely failed his LORD Jesus on the night of His betrayal. First, along with John, Peter fell asleep instead of watching and praying as Jesus requested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, when the Jews came to arrest Jesus, Peter tried to take matters into his own hands by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus with his sword.  But worst of all, Peter denied to those gathered outside the high priest’s house where Jesus had been taken that he even knew Jesus, just as Jesus had foretold during the Passover meal the previous evening. No doubt Peter was crestfallen and guilt ridden by his own weakness and failing of his LORD in a time of great crisis, especially since he had proudly boasted that he would be loyal to Jesus even to the death just a scant few hours earlier. Peter was surely crippled with guilt over so miserably failing his LORD, and so was I that night at the men’s retreat over my own failure to properly fulfill my God-ordained role as the spiritual leader of my children.

Thankfully though, God uses His Word to meet us where we’re at as my pastor at that men’s retreat is fond of saying. In leading me to that particular passage the next morning in the midst of my spiritual despair, God knew it would bring to my remembrance the reason the angel was careful to emphasize to the women that they should tell Peter about Jesus’ resurrection – It was Jesus’ intent to restore Peter to his proper place as a minister of the Gospel despite his own weakness and failure. With this reminder, God also intended to restore me and reassure me of my position in Him despite my weaknesses. It is such instances when God uses a specific passage with which we think we are thoroughly familiar to minister to us, that we usually think of when we ponder the statement in Hebrews 4:12 that God’s Word is alive.

But that’s only part of the picture. Certainly, any Christ follower must hold God’s Word in the highest regard just as the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews did. We do believe that the Bible is the written Word of God – utterly perfect, and spoken by the Spirit of God to those who committed it to writing for us. As Paul wrote to Timothy…

16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NKJV]

God’s Word – the Bible – is worthy of our honor because by His Word, God makes Himself known to us. We wholeheartedly agree with King David, when he writes…

1I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
2I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. [Psalm 138:1-2 – NKJV]

All these things are certainly worthy of our devotion, but the Hebrews writer is also making another very important point in this passage that we should not miss. Notice that in Hebrews 4:13 the writer continues the exaltation of the Word of God he began in Hebrews 4:12, referring to the Word of God using masculine pronouns – His and Him. It is clear, therefore that in speaking of the Word of God, the writer is referring to Jesus Himself –

  • Jesus is the Word of God.
  • It is He who is “…living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
  • It is Jesus who pierces “…even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow.”
  • Jesus is “…the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
  • Nothing is hidden from Jesus
  • He is the One “to whom we must give account.

Let’s consider these points one at a time.

Jesus is the Word of God

Despite the protestations of cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, John’s gospel makes it crystal clear that Jesus is the Word of God who created the world.

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:1-14 – NKJV]
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote…
9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:9-11 – NKJV]

What is this Name of Jesus which is above every name?

11Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean,  followed Him on white horses. 15Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. [Revelation 19:11-16 – NKJV]

It is He who is “…living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.

As we have just seen, Jesus is indeed the Word of God. The fact that Jesus is alive again through His miraculous resurrection from the dead is the central tenet of Christianity. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church…

12Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
20But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. [1 Corinthians 15:12-22 – NKJV]
And not only is Jesus alive from eternity past forevermore, He is also all powerful as He affirms through the apostle John in Revelation…
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” [Revelation 1:8 – NKJV]
The Greek word translated “the Lord” in this verse is κύριος kyrios meaning supreme in authority. As we learned in our study of Hebrews 1, Jesus Himself declared His supreme authority and eternal life to His disciples when He gave the Great Commission…
18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. [Matthew 28:18-20 – NKJV]
The Word of God is also called the “sword of the Spirit” in Paul’s well-known exhortation to the Ephesians to take up the full armor of God…
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; [Ephesians 6:10-17 – NKJV]

It is Jesus who pierces “even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow.”

On the last day of creation…

…God [אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym] said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;… [Genesis 1:26a – NKJV]

As we saw in our first study in Hebrews, the Hebrew word for God used in this verse – אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym – is a plural noun implying more than two, thus reflecting the triune nature of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit. Just so, human beings have been created in the image of God with a triune nature – body, soul, and spirit – an inferior trinity if you will. Having made man’s mortal body from the dust, and endowed him with his eternal self-awareness or soul, God then breathed man’s spirit into him – giving him life.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. [Genesis 2:7 – NKJV]

Since we know that it is Jesus who performed the work of Creation by the Word of His power, it makes sense that He is also able to penetrate into these fundamental components of our being to the very heart of our nature – the innermost thoughts and feelings that we don’t share with anyone, and are scarcely even aware of ourselves.

Jesus is “…the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Since God is our Creator, it stands to reason that He knows everything about us. One of the three “omni” characteristics of God is that He is all-knowing – omnisicient.

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power;
His understanding is infinite. [Psalm 147:5 – NKJV]

Indeed, God has the ultimate learning impairment. Since He already knows all things, it stands to reason that He cannot possibly learn anything new. Prideful mankind would like to think that we are able to keep our innermost thoughts and feelings to ourselves, but God who forms our hearts and breathes His life into us knows everything about us – even the things we deceive ourselves into thinking are our own secrets.

Hell and Destruction are before the LORD;
So how much more the hearts of the sons of men. [Proverbs 15:11 – NKJV]

Speaking to us by the prophet Jeremiah, God asks a rhetorical question about the heart of man, and then gives the answer…

9“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings. [Jeremiah 17:9-10 – NKJV]
One of the most mysterious aspects of the incarnation of Jesus as God in the flesh is that He was somehow able to limit His omniscience as needed during His earthly ministry. The occasion that most clearly demonstrates this is Jesus’ healing of the woman with the flow of blood…
43Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.
45And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”
When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'”
46But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” 47Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.
48And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” [Luke 8:43-48 – NKJV]

Yet even in His earthly flesh, Jesus – God with us – was clearly still able to discern the thoughts and intents of people’s hearts…

1And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
5When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
6And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7“Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” [Mark 2:1-12 – NKJV]
Aside – A good study is to go through the gospel accounts, and look at the miracles of Jesus. What we find is that Jesus almost never performed a healing, or calmed a storm, or cast out a demon, or even raised a person from death to life without also using the occasion to teach someone about Himself and the Gospel of salvation in Him alone. This case is a perfect example. Indeed the paralytic man was healed of his disability, and even forgiven of his sins by Jesus, but the real purpose of the miracle was to teach the scribes and the multitude who had gathered to hear Him preach the Word, and even the readers of the account thousands of years later that He has authority to forgive the sins of mankind and the power to perceive the innermost thoughts in our hearts.

Nothing is hidden from Jesus

Most of us have secret aspects of our lives that we would prefer to remain known to ourselves alone. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can attest that in my own life, I hid the besetting sin from which Jesus has rescued me from everyone – even my wife and family. Even now, having been forgiven by Jesus and washed clean by His blood, I prefer not to discuss it with anyone. There are also other episodes from my past, that I have not talked about, nor do I plan to reveal them.

My pastor in California was fond of saying, “Sin makes you stupid.” Even with the conviction of God’s Spirit whispering to our hearts, somehow we are able in our sinful pride to convince ourselves that our sins are somehow secret even from God. After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, when he heard she was pregnant by him, David had her husband – Uriah – murdered and then quickly married Bathsheba to cover up the adultery. When the dust settled, David thought he had gotten away with these heinous sins free and clear (2 Samuel 11). Yet even though David was a called a “man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) and God had chosen David in his youth to be anointed as king (1 Samuel 16), somehow he was able to believe that he had covered over his sins so well that they were hidden even from God. It was only many years later, after the painful lessons concerning his sins, and the suffering of his family because of them that David came to the realization that God knows all things. There is nowhere we can hide from God’s Spirit. Nothing is hidden from God…

For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
19Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.
20For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. [Psalm 139 – NKJV]

He is the One to whom we must give account.

Many false teachers in the world today either minimize or deny altogether the judgment of God for the sins of mankind, and many deny that God will punish the sins of those who have not called upon the name of Jesus for salvation from sin – casting into eternal torment all those whose names aren’t written in the Lamb’s book of life. But the Bible is clear that at the end of days, God will judge the world…

11Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. [Revelation 20:11-15 – NKJV]

It is Jesus – the Word of God – by whom we will all be judged. John the Baptist foretold this coming judgment…

15Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, 16John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” [Luke 3:15-17 – NKJV]

John’s allegory, using the agricultural process of separating grain from chaff – winnowing – to represent Christ’s separating those who are being saved from those who are not, would have struck a chord with the pastoral people who had come to hear John’s message of repentance. Jesus used a similar allegory in His parable of the sheep and goats…

31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [Matthew 25:31-46 – NKJV]

Those who follow this study may have noticed that I refer to this parable frequently. There’s a good reason I do that. This parable is being used as a “proof text” by false teachers who promote a social gospel – among them those who teach so-called “Kingdom Now” theology, which claims that Christians must bring God’s Kingdom into being here on Earth through our good works, and that Heaven will actually be found right here on Earth once we have rung in the Kingdom here by the power of our ministries. Of course this is not only a false teaching, it is blasphemous in trampling under foot the blood of Jesus. Nevertheless, the parable of the sheep and the goats is being used to foist this apostate teaching upon unsuspecting hearers. At first glance, this parable of Jesus might lead us to conclude that our salvation is to be found in our good works. Nothing could be further from the Truth. We talked about this earlier in our study of Hebrews, but the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone is so critical, it bears repeating. Paul makes it crystal clear in his letter to the church at Ephesus that we are not saved by our good works.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:8-10 – NKJV]

Clearly then, our good works are the result – not the cause – of our salvation through faith in Jesus’ Gospel, as James declares…

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. [James 2:18 – NKJV]

As we saw in Revelation 20:11-15, when Jesus judges the works of mankind at His great white throne, only one criterion makes the difference between eternal life in glory with the LORD and eternal condemnation in the torment of the Lake of Fire – whether or not one’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. How are the names of those being saved written there? It is by our faith in the Gospel of Jesus alone. As Jesus told the Jewish leader Nicodemus (John 3), we must be born again. Two chapters earlier in his gospel, John stated the concept this way…

10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:10-13 – NKJV]

The apostle Paul gives a concise set of instructions on how we must be saved in his letter to the Romans…
4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”[Leviticus 18:5] 6But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'”[Deuteronomy 30:12]  (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'”[Deuteronomy 30:13] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”[Deuteronomy 30:14] (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9that 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. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”[Joel 2:32][Romans 10:4-13 – NKJV]

Notice that the context of this discussion in Romans is comparing and contrasting righteousness by obedience to the Law, and righteousness imputed to us through faith in Jesus’ Gospel. Let’s be careful, though. Indeed we are saved by faith alone, but the assurance of our salvation by the blood of Jesus alone is by no means a license to continue in sin. As Jesus Himself says…

9“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. [John 15:9-14 – NKJV]
Once again, we see that it is our love for Jesus that brings us to repentance and obedience, not our repentance and obedience that earns us the love of Jesus. Indeed, Paul affirms that Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners and His enemies…
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8 – NKJV]

In summing up our study of this discussion found in Hebrews 4:13 of Jesus – The Living Word of God – being the One to whom we must all give an account of our lives, Let’s take a closer look at the Lamb’s Book of Life in which are written the names of all of those who are being saved. The Book of Life is mentioned eight times in the Word of God – once in Philippians, and seven times in Revelation. In Philippians, Paul mentions almost in passing that his true companions and fellow workers for the Gospel have their names written in the Book of Life. We have already seen when we looked at Revelation 19 earlier that the Book will be opened at the great white throne judgment of all mankind.

In His message for the church at Sardis, which had a reputation for good works, but was for the most part a dead church, Jesus says…

4You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. [Revelation 3:4-5 – NKJV]

The other two instances in Revelation where the Book is mentioned (Revelation 13:8 and 17:8) speak of some of those whose names are not written in the Book of Life – particularly the large majority of people who will be alive during the coming great tribulation period, who will accept the mark of the beast on their hands or forehead, and will worship the dragon (satan), and the beast (antichrist).

But the Hebrews writer says that all people will give an account for their lives to Jesus – both those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book, and those whose are not. In addition to the great white throne judgment we have already looked at in Revelation 19, those who are being saved through faith will also be separately judged for their works – not for determining their salvation, but for allocation of their eternal rewards. This judgment will take place sometime before the great white throne judgment. Paul mentions this judgment twice – once in his letter to the Roman church, and once in his second letter to the Corinthians…

7For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11For it is written:
As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.” [Isaiah 45:23]
12So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. [Romans 14:7-13 – NKJV]
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. [2 Corinthians 5:10 – NKJV]
Aside – The reader has likely heard this judgment seat of Christ referred to by its Greek name – βῆμα bēma – meaning throne or judgment seat usually built on a raised platform. The associated judgment of which Paul rights is therefore often referred to as the “Bema Judgment.”

Looking Ahead

Now that we have thoroughly examined the concept of Jesus’ character as the Living Word of God, it’s time for us to move on to perhaps the main theme of the book of Hebrews – Jesus’ role as our Great High Priest. We will see that Jesus fulfills that role not due to inheritance as a member of a specific select group, but by his very nature since eternity past and forevermore.

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