What I learned in Seminary This Quarter



Another quarter has come to end and again I sit, reflecting on all that I have learned over the last three months. I did a lot this quarter.  I wrote intensive papers on Absalom’s revolt against David and the Call of Elisha.  I studied the Sermon on the Mount more intensively than ever.  I learned about great men and women of the reformation and throughout Western Christian history.  People like Conrad Grebel, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anne Judson and Josephine Butler.  Each subject, each person more interesting and influential than I ever expected.

I could go on and on about the details of all the learned, but those kind of posts make for a long and boring blog.  However, I can reflect on the overarching things I learned this quarter.

1.  I learned that if you look for Jesus too hard in the Old Testament, you miss out on God. 

I took a class called “Former Prophets.” In it, we studied most of the books of the Old Testament after the Pentateuch (The first five books of the OT).  We studied the Kings of Israel like David and Solomon, then the Kings of the Divided Kingdom. But most importantly, we studied about God’s love and desire for his people and their rebellion against Him.

One specific story that is found in Isaiah 7 is what is known as “The Sign of Immanuel.”  Most Christians grew up, as I was, thinking that this passage is about Jesus. However, when read in context, one begins to realize that when Isaiah speaks to the King, they are in real trouble and a message about a messiah hundreds of years later would have been of little help.  God’s mercy and faithfulness shines through the Old Testament.  I won’t go into detail about this story here, but you can check it out Claude Mariottini’s blog starting here.

2.  I learned that when it comes to the ethics of Jesus, virtue ethics is just not enough.

Virtue ethics teaches that good habits produce a good person, and a good person does good acts.  I would think that most of us believe this, and nothing is really wrong with this way of thinking.  But I don’t believe this is what Jesus taught.  When one studies the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps the best place to go if studying Jesus’ ethics, one beings to realize that Jesus never makes the connection that habits produce a good person.  A good person it formed solely by his proximity to Christ.  For more on this, check out my discussion on the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus’ ethics are three fold: From below, which means some of his ethical teachings are based in reason and practicality. Many of the OT laws fall into this realm. They were also from Above, which means that at times God will direct his children and that is that.  It is a loving, merciful father telling his child “Because I said so.”  And finally, Jesus’ ethics are from beyond. That means, they have an eschatological impact.  The ethics of the Kingdom of God which will be fully realized someday are here in part.  This is a rather hard to understand. Here Jesus gives commands that seem impossible to follow because he is describing what the world will be in the end. For more on the ethics of Jesus, also check out Scot Mcknight’s, blog here.

3. I learned that the history of the Church is full of men and women who did great things, but in the end they were still human. 

When it comes to great men and women of faith, we have a tendency towards hero worship.  For instance, I grew up in the reformed church. My grandparents when to Calvin church, my friends when to Calvin college, and my pastors graduated from Calvin seminary.  And to be fair, Calvin did some amazing things for the reformed faith.  He challenged authority where few else would, and he stood firm in his beliefs no matter what.  However, he was also connected to an oppressive city/church council in Geneva and was at times very harsh (Rumors of him burning people at the stake are greatly exaggerated. One man was put to death in Geneva during the time of Calvin, and reports vary on his involvement in the instance).  David Livingstone, one of the most famous missionaries of all time, had only one convert during his time in Africa, and that man converted back later on in life.  But his work to fight the slave trade in Africa changed the world for the better. 

The men and women God chooses can be anyone, anywhere.  They are often unqualified for where he has called them and they would not be who you or I expect to be his agents.  But isn’t that a lesson we keep on learning? From Abraham and Moses to David and the disciples and eventually Paul, God is constantly reminding us that who he chooses to bring further his Kingdom will never be who we expect.  So we must treat all with love and respect.

And finally, as always, here at Northern Seminary weaving through all my classes and homework, internship and jobs, one thing remains:  That when it comes right down to it, the one thing I am constantly learning is how to love God with all my heart, strength, soul, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself.  Jesus said there is no greater commandment than these.  I just forget sometimes that they will take a lifetime to learn.

What Did Jesus Mean by Fulfillment?


file0001788588747            When Jesus talks about the Law, sometimes we are left feeling more confused than before he spoke.  Jesus seems to be enigmatic when he refers to the Laws followed by the first century Jews.  In many ways, we know Jesus followed the Law. He goes off and prays, he goes to Temple, etc.  We also can conclude this because when he chooses to deviate from the commonly practiced laws of the day, the Pharisees seem to make a big deal about it.

However, Jesus also makes incredibly audacious claim about the Law. He tells his followers the he has fulfilled the Law.  What did he mean by this?  Does he abolish it? Nullify? Re-interpret? Intensify? Or some of those? Or none of those? We must look carefully at his teachings, specifically those found in the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew to help us understand this statement.

I think we can start off by negating any idea that Jesus nullifies or abolishes the Law, mainly because Jesus straight up tells us he doesn’t.  Early on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us he hasn’t come to abolish but rather fulfill (Matt. 5:17).  Obvious, but important. Often we read this statement, agree with it, and then go right on living our lives as if Jesus actually did abolish any sort of concept of moral law or rules.

Things get more interesting the further we go into the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21-37).  Jesus begins to seemingly clarify, or qualify, the Law.  He defines adultery, murder, and oaths in a new way.  He makes them not just outward or physical offenses, but also offenses of the mind and heart.  I believe that no one has read these passages and has been able, in good conscience, to convince themselves they have not committed the listed sins.  Yet, Jesus still chooses to challenge us with these statements.

But Jesus is not done. In Matthew 12:1-14 and 15:1-20 we see a different approach to the Law.  Here Jesus has let his disciples and himself off the hook when it comes to observance of the Law in matters of the Sabbath and defiled food.  Each time, when challenged, Jesus turns the tables on the accusers, pointing out the flaws in their logic when it comes to the Law.  Jesus is pointing out the ridiculousness of the laws, and how whether they are broken or not depend on a point of view more than anything else (Maybe Obi Wan was on to something?).

And then we have Matthew 17:24-27.  The riddle of the Temple tax.  Here Jesus tells Peter to pay the tax to the temple, something set down in the time of Leviticus, and commands him to follow the Law so as “not to cause offense (NIV).”  Here we see Jesus almost towing the line.  He seems to be following the law, even if he does not respect it.

So where do all of these stories get us? Jesus obeys the Laws most of the time.  But other times he seems to clarify, or one could even argue intensify, them.  Or he re-interprets them. Or he submits to them so as not to “cause offense.”  Which one of these approaches answers the question: What did Jesus mean by fulfill?

My conclusion: All of them.  Jesus’ act of fulfillment includes clarification when they are vague or being sidestepped. He re-interprets when they have been over-interpreted to help remind the people of the original intent of the specific law.  And he obeys the ones because he is not here to upset, overthrow, or claim any certain kind of earthly power.  All of these approaches are ways of fulfillment.

To help understand this, it is important to go back and remember the original purpose of the Law in Jewish world.  For the Israelites, the Law was not something that was followed so much, but rather something you were under. The Law was a physical manifestation of the covenant made by God to the Israelites.  Those who were circumcised and a part of the covenant followed the Law not because it determined their in or out-ness, but because following the Law kept them close to God.  They were a nation not just set apart from the world, but also to God. The Law was an integral part of that.

Paul helps us understand this in his letter to the Ephesians. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13 NIV).”  Here Paul is speaking to the Gentiles, who were originally not under the Law, but now, through Christ, have been “brought near.”  The purpose of the Law, originally, was about keeping the Jews close to God.

However, when Christ comes, that all changes. Suddenly, Christ is now on earth.  People shake his hand, hug him, kiss him, and even spit on him.  Suddenly, God is near no matter what. And with the coming of the Spirit, he stays near.  We use phrases like “Jesus lives in my heart” because now he is always near.  In the past, God existed in the temple and to enter the temple you had to be clean. No so now. The curtain has been torn and now nothing physical separates us from God.  (This is not an argument for penal substitution atonement, by the way.  However, one can’t deny that in Jewish temple practice, God was clearly given a physical location in the Temple and the Most Holy of Holies).

So if we are physically near God, what can set us apart? Our hearts and our minds.  That is why Jesus teaches the law through interpretation, clarification, and submission.  The purpose of the Law, to keep us close to God, hasn’t changed, but the landscape surely has.  Christ knows the things that will keep us from following him: Adulterous and murderous thoughts, blind submission to rules rather than remembering them for their original purposes, distractions of the earthly commitments and pleasures, or even rejection of the laws due to pride or self-righteousness.  All these things can keep us from a focused life on Christ.

Call Your Blue Cross Daily


Here is my story dealing with the ridiculousness that has been the Affordable Care Act and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s implementation: 

On December 20, 2013 I signed me and my wife up for healthcare coverage on the Marketplace website at healthcare.gov. After going through a questionnaire, I was brought to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois’ website to actually purchase my health coverage.  For several days after that, I started getting emails about my upcoming coverage as well as even a phone call to get more information about me and my medical needs.  So far, so good.

When January 1 rolled around, my coverage was supposed to go into effect. My wife and I received our health coverage cards and we assumed everything was processed. However, I noticed that the money was never actually withdrawn from my account. I first tried paying online, because the website would not let me make a payment. Every time it just said a generic error message when I hit submit for the payment. Finally, I called. The rep I spoke to was very polite, took my information, waived the fee normally processed for a phone call payment (Which is an absolutely ridiculous notion anyways) and gave me a confirmation number for the payment. Everything was resolved we thought.

Obviously, it wasn’t.  A day or two later my wife tried to use the card to pick up a prescription at Walgreens.  When they tried to process it, they were unable to access our coverage.  The people at Walgreens, who were very helpful, called up BCBSIL.  After arguing with them for a few minutes (Excerpt of which include: “They have a card. I am holding it right now!”), they finally turned back to my wife and explained that a lot of accounts that have been purchased through the Marketplace were not active. My wife went back several days later, went through the same steps and again, left empty handed.

I checked my personal bank account a saw that they had not ever withdrawn the money.  Frustrated, I emailed them January 3.  I also tried calling, but the wait times were over an hour long. One time I waited for an hour and half before I had to give up.  Days went by, and no money was withdrawn. I emailed again on Jan 6 and Jan 7. Finally, on Jan 9 I received an email back. This is what it said:

Dear Aaron,

I have forwarded your request to the appropriate department for further review. You will be notified once the outcome has been determined.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our customer service department at the toll-free number on the back of your Blue Cross Blue Shield identification card or via the Message Center on Blue Access.

Charlie S.

As you can tell, this wasn’t very helpful. But don’t worry, because a few days later, I received this email:

Dear Aaron,

While researching the information on your account we noticed that you have already reached us by phone. If we can offer you any additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us back. 

Our goal is to serve your health insurance needs through all of life’s changes. If you have any additional questions, our team stands ready to help.


Toni W.

My jaw pretty much dropped at the absolute lack of assistance that was being offered. So I called them and to my absolute amazement, I got through.  I talked to a very nice rep again and made another payment. She assured me that the other payment would be cancelled and this one would be processed in a matter of 48 hours. Again, I received a confirmation number. Feeling satisfied, I hung up.

Then, on Jan 15 I received the following email from BCBSIL:

Dear Aaron,

I have forwarded your request to the appropriate department for further review. You will be notified once the outcome has been determined.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our customer service department at the toll-free number on the back of your Blue Cross Blue Shield identification card or via the Message Center on Blue Access.

Kathy R.

I replied with my own email explaining that my issue has been going on way to long. I let my frustrating be known in my tone this time.  I was at the end of my rope. I wanted to scream. So what did I do? I did as all of us do when we want to complain to the whole world: I turned to Twitter. This was my post:

Five emails, multiple phone calls, confirmation numbers of payment and I still dont have health insurance. @BCBSIL is failing left and right

About an hour later, I got a message from the BCBSIL Twitter account asking me to send them a Direct Message for identity verification. I did and they told me they were looking into it.  For three days, I didn’t hear anything.  Finally, I Direct Messaged them again.  I summarized, again, my whole story and this was the response:

I’ve been in contact with our membership area- it doesn’t look as though your payment posted. I am following up again this morning.

Pretty much more of the same.  No answers, just dodging and offering no real advice or results. I sent another email on Jan 23.  I, again, explained my whole story, which included my reference numbers for the payments I made. The letter was longer than the others and ended with a request that they call me directly.

Despite the frustration, my wife tried going back to Walgreens.

Of course, I heard no response.  Calling the phone number was still no help due to the wait times. Also, the previous phone calls didn’t really fix anything.  So I turned back to Twitter because it was the only place I was able to contact anyone.  On Jan 27 I tweeted them again, and after going back and forth, this is how it ended:

You’ve done what you should. We can understand your frustration. We’re sorry it’s taking so long

Frustrated. Empty-Handed. Lost. What else could go wrong? How else could I seemingly not be helped? In what way could BCBSIL show its ineptitude?

Then the phone rang. BCBSIL was calling me to remind me that my premium had yet to be paid because it was due by the end of the month.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Story


800px-HMCoSecondEdHobbitsI am a Tolkien addict. I love anything that starts with J.R.R. Ever since I first read The Hobbit in 7th grade, I fell in love with the world of Tolkien. Between reading and imagination, I probably spent more of my adolescent years in Middle Earth than I did in the real world. Something about Tolkien’s intense love for beauty and simplicity spoke to me a in a profound way.

So in high school, when I heard the books were finally becoming movies, I politely lost my mind. To be able to see Tolkien’s world portrayed on the big screen was something for which I could hardly wait. And to be honest, I was not disappointed. The look and feel of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Middle Earth was nothing short of breath-taking. Of course, like most big fans of Tolkien, I struggled with some of the story choices made by Jackson, but overall, I thought the films did enough to preserve the original story.

Then I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Okay, to be fair, my struggle began with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but it wasn’t until the second film that I realized how much Jackson had deviated from the original book. I was nothing short of mortified. Without going into much detail (spoilers!), the choices made my Jackson from plot line to character development had, in my opinion, old John Ronald Ruel turning over in his grave. This wasn’t a retelling of a classic story, it was a new story except the ONLY things that had not been changed were the names and places. Sort of a bizzaro world Dragnet.

This post is not about all the differences between the book and movie, so don’t’ worry. I am not going to go on a prolonged tirade as only the most avid fans can muster (not that I’m tempted, of course). What I am really interested here is the asking the question of what responsibility does a filmmaker have when retelling an existing story?

It happens all the time. We Americans love our movies and many of us would rather spend a couple of hours in a movie theater than read a book cover to cover. My own fingers weep as they typed the former sentence, but it is true. So that means a lot of books have been and will be made into movies. And, as in any case of going from one medium to another, changes need to be made to fit the medium. I think most of us can agree with that.

But how far does one go? Where is the line from massaging the story for the big screen to changing the purpose and meaning behind the story? Here are my thoughts. The line exists when the moral of the story changes. All stories have morals, or in other words, what is being taught by the story?  It may be that there is nothing to learn. That can be a moral in itself. Or it may be very overt. For instance, the story of King Midas teaches us about the dangers of greed. However, I believe every fictionalized story has some sort of moral and when one retells the same story, in all the massaging and changing from page to picture, that moral should translate, otherwise it is not the same story.

In my opinion, the retelling of  the Hobbit loses the intended moral. Tolkien’s original story is about a young Hobbit who doesn’t know his own potential and ends up finding it the most unlikely of places. First, it is found in the dangerous goblin caves. Then it is found in the eerie Mirkwood, fending off giant spiders. Finally, it is found deep in the dragon’s lair. This climaxes in a beautiful prose by Tolkien, in which he describes Bilbo, about to take the first step down into the unknown dark leading to Smaug’s residence, as being the most difficult he had ever done. Tolkien teaches us that courage is not about being a hardened warrior or brave champion. True courage is found in the simple, yet terrifying task of taking the first step into the unknown.

This moment, what I would  argue is the moral of whole story, is simply glossed over in the film. Jackson seems too excited to get to the “exciting” stuff: The dragon, the gold, the fighting, and the fire. But in doing so, the point is missed in my opinion. 

Movies are not books. Profound, I know. I get that changes need to be implemented when going from the written word to the silver screen. Sometimes these changes are subtle, other times they are huge. However, when the all the changes leave out the moral, I argue then the story’s identity has been changed. It is like switching out the engine of a muscle car. If you take the V8 out of a Mustang and replace with a 4 cylinder, is really still a mustang? 

Why I Don’t Support Phil Robertson


When I heard the news that A & E had suspended Duck Dynasty, my reaction was not one of shock, but rather I thought “So it finally happened!”  The men of Duck Dynasty have never been subtle about their beliefs, and I am really surprised it took this long for something like this to happen. In case you haven’t heard about this, you can read the story here.

What has surprised me is the response in support of Phil and his family. Recently, this picture has been popping up all over the internet:

After reading this, my initial thought was, “So do I! What does this have to do with suspending his show on A&E?” I am in full support of free speech and protecting that right. However, as far I understand it, free speech is a political right. In no way do I see A&E’s suspension as something that is restricting this right. A&E is not the government, and in no way is Robertson being restricted to express his beliefs.  A&E, as a company with a large LGBT viewing audience, wanted to protect their interests, so they suspended the show based on what Phil said in GQ.

If I were to make comments about the restaurant that I worked that were bad for business, don’t they have a right to suspend or fire me? Whether people like it not, A&E made a perfectly fair choice and no one’s rights are being infringed in the slightest.

However, what should have surprised me, but didn’t, is how quickly Christians run to protect someone that does not need protection. Phil Robertson is a wealthy man with all the privileges most people around the world only dream about. Should he feel guilty about this? Not in my opinion. However, nor does he need to be painted as a victim. This is a disagreement with valid and legal arguments.

So why are Christians running so fast to protect someone that doesn’t need protection?

I wish I knew.

In the CBS article listed above, it says Robertson’s states his mission is to teach men and women to be together. The biggest issue here for me is that Phil Robertson’s statements do not sound like Jesus. Take the words of Phil Robertson and try and place them in the mouth of Jesus. For me, it’s a round peg and a square hole. There is no way that sounds like the mission of Christ. Christ’s mission is one of acceptance and love, not division and hate. Christ’s mission is one of speaking truth, living honestly, and acting humbly. Christ’s mission is about forgiveness and understanding, not condemnation and division. It is to the abandoned, the poor, the shunned, the marginalized, and the despised. Christ’s mission, as he states in the gospel, is about loving God and loving others. In my opinion, as Christ imitators, this is the only mission to which we are called.

Did You Hear What I Hear?



I was recently at work in my office. To get in the Christmas mood, I decided to start up the good ol’ Pandora Christmas station on my computer.  This station is about a bland as bland can be when it comes to Christmas songs, but at this time of year, I think it is okay to be a little cliché.

As I was busy working, humming along to the tunes about Old St. Nick, a baby in a manger, and Good King Whats-his-name, I suddenly hear a few lyrics that made me do the audible equivalent of a double take. The lyrics that made me pause were from the classic Gene Autry song, Here Comes Santa Claus. Most of the song is innocent enough when you sing the first few lines, but as the song continues one notices the rather strange mix of religious thoughts interwoven in a song about Santa Claus.

This confusing mix comes to a climax in the last verse:

“Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,

Right down Santa Claus lane

He’ll come around when the chimes ring out

That it’s Christmas morn again

Peace on earth will come to all

If we just follow the light

So let’s give thanks to the Lord above

That Santa Claus comes tonight!”

I have heard this song dozens of times over my years, but never once do I remember hearing these lyrics! When I mentioned this song to my wife, she decided to a little investigating. She informed me that when this song came it, it was an instant hit. Apparently, no one seemed to notice, or at least have issue with, those confusing lines at the end of what seemingly is a sweet little song about a fictional character (That is right, fictional. Don’t tell Megyn Kelly).

Why Was Hebrews Written?


When studying the book of Hebrews, there are a lot of questions concerning the details of the book: Who wrote it? Who is the audience? Where was it written? Many theologians have argued over these things through the years. Some of these issues matter more than others. However, I believe one question that needs to be answered to have a mature and useful understanding of the book is the question of why was it written. Only when we understand the purpose of the book can we read and interpret it correctly. Imagine reading the Declaration of Independence without knowing the story of the Boston Tea Party, King George’s taxes, and the English rule of the colonies. When read in context, the line “All men are created equal” jumps off the page when you think of the oppressive English rule that existed during that time.

The same goes for our reading of Scripture and the book of Hebrews. If we do not know what the author is responding to or writing about, it makes little sense to us. So, with that said, the question remains: Why was the book of Hebrews written?

The answer, I believe, lies in what is called the “warning passages.” Throughout the book, the author (of whom I will refer to as A for the continuation of this post) issues warnings to the readers. These warnings seem to summarize and finalize the issues he is talking about. For instance, in Hebrews 1, A quotes from the Psalms, 2 Samuel, Deuteronomy, and 1 Chronicles, suggesting that the audience has a strong familiarity with the Torah, which is referred to as the “message of the angels” in this passage. A claims that the Torah was binding and that Christ is superior to the angles, the delivers of the message. A then warns the readers in 2:1-4 of the danger of drifting away from the salvation of Christ. The argument goes this way: The Torah (message of the angels) was biding; Christ is superior to the angels; Therefore, if one does not follow the salvation of Christ, then punishment is due just as if one disobeyed the Torah.  This is the first warning.

We see a couple things in this warning to help us understand why this book was written. First, we see evidence of a largely Jewish audience. To refer to the Torah as the “message of the angels” would speak strongly to the Jews.  Second, A is responding to some sort of sin or disobedience (2:2-3).  Third, we see that A is encouraging perseverance as a response.

Let us move on. The next warning is found in 3:7-4:16.  Leading up to this warning, A makes a strong argument for the humanity of the Messiah.  A, again, starts off by quoting from the Torah, this time Psalms (2:6-8) and later Isaiah (2:13). Then, we see a clear reasoning for the incarnation: humanity needed someone from its ranks to present them before God. Just as a High Priest was chosen from the people of Israel, so Jesus was from the people.  Then in 3:1-6, A argues that Jesus was greater than Moses. The Priesthood began under the leadership of Moses, whose own brother was the first High Priest. Jesus, being greater than Moses, establishes a superiority similar to one we saw in the previous warning.

Now we get into the warning itself.  Moses was faithful.  If Jesus is greater than Moses, so then Jesus must be faithful as well. Those who are in Christ must hold strong to this belief. Just as Moses was trusted, so can then the readers trust Jesus.  If they don’t, their hearts will be hardened by deceitfulness (3:13).  Just as those who didn’t trust Moses were not able to enter the Holy Land, so will be the fate of those who don’t have faith in Christ (3:16-19).  If they want to experience the rest represented by the Holy Land, they must persevere (4:11).

So what does this warning tell us about the purpose of Hebrews? First, again we see a Jewish audience because of the quoting of the Torah and the appeal to Jesus’ superiority over Moses.  Second, we get a bit clearer idea of the sin that was talked about in the first warning: turning away from the Living God (3:12).  Third, again we see a call of perseverance as a response to this sin (3:13, 4:11).  Fourth, we begin to see a clear consequence of turning away: being left out of the Eternal Rest (3:18).

The third warning comes in 5:11-6:20.  Again, we see a call to the priesthood of Jesus.  5:1-10 talks about how high priests are selected from among the people. The way they are selected is by being called by God, just as Aaron was called. If Jesus is the greatest of priests, then we was called by God as well (5:5).  We also see the first reference to Melchizedek here.  Melchizedek is a mysterious figure mentioned in Genesis. Abraham encounters him and submits to him, recognizing his authority from God.  This is important, for if Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek (5:6), then we see that Jesus is then superior to even Abraham himself, father of Israel.  This is basically the trump card.  Jesus is the highest of High priests.

Now we get into the warning.  Since Jesus is the High Priest in the most absolute sense, he empathizes since all high priests are selected from among the people.  Using beautiful language, A challenges the readers to follow in Christ’s footsteps.  We also see words of hope here, especially in 6:9-10.  A concludes the warning with a reminder of God’s reliability.

What can we gather form this warning about the purpose of Hebrews? First, again we see an audience familiar with Jewish ideas and beliefs.  Second, we can affirm that sin that is being approached is one of falling away. Although, here is seems to emphasize that this falling away is a gradual process (6:12).  Third, the response is one of perseverance. Fourth, the consequence of not is one of being “left out (6:4-6).

We then come to the fourth warning, which is found in 10:19-39. Again, we see a strong call for perseverance. From 7:1 through 10:18, A gives a very detailed agreement for Christ’s high priesthood status. Going back and forth, A offers examples from Jewish priesthood, then compares Christ to that aspect, demonstrating His superiority over the priesthood of Aaron and the old covenant.  Then the warning, which includes some of the most beautiful language found in Scripture. It is a warning laced with encouragement and hope.  Starting in 10:19, it states:

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It goes on in the same way.  This warning seems to be the culmination of the other warnings, laying out plainly what was less stated earlier.  We must persevere (10:19-25) for if we don’t, we will be “left out” and suffer the consequences (10:25-31.

What conclusions do we draw form this warning? Again, we see a Jewish-familiar audience with the references to the Most Holy Place (10:19). Next, we hear a clear call to perseverance to avoid the sin of falling away so that we don’t suffer the consequences of being left out. This warning seems to affirm the conclusions made in the other warnings.

So why was Hebrews written? Based on the presented evidence, It seems that it was written to a largely Jewish or Jewish-familiar audience, who were at risk of falling away from the faith.  The solution to this is perseverance in a moral and contrite life, focused on Christ. If not, the consequence is eternal expulsion from the Kingdom of God.