Why does the Lord Jesus (and the writers of the NT) express a variance in significance between the revelation to the OT saints and that to the NT saints? It is because the prior led to the latter and the contrast between them enhances the importance of each, with the Gospel revelation being superior in ministry (but same in Scriptural significance—2 Tim 3:16, 17) to that of the legal revelation, with the intent to move the believer on into things that have to do with “regeneration” (Mat 19:28; Titus 3:5).
Gill writes, “The intention of this epistle (Hebrews) being to demonstrate the superior excellency of the Gospel revelation to the legal one, the apostle begins with the divine author of it, in which they both (OT/NT) agree, and observes that in other things they differ. The revelation under the law was made in times past, the Gospel revelation in these last days; the former was made to the Jewish fathers that were of old, the latter to the then present Apostles; the one was made at sundry times, and in divers manners, the other was made at once, and in one way; the one was made by the prophets of the Lord, the other by His own son, Hebrews 1:1 and therefore the latter must be the more excellent.”
“Why the book of Hebrews? What had the Hebrews that others (rest of the world—NC) had not, and that rendered it necessary to address an epistle in particular to them?
God had revealed Himself to the people. Over 2,000 years before Christ, God, having called Abraham in Mesopotamia, brought him to the land of Canaan and covenanted with him to give it to him and his seed. His son Isaac followed, bestowing upon Jacob his son the blessing of Jehovah.
Twelve sons of Jacob (then Israel) headed the twelve tribes of Israel, whom Moses led forth from Egypt through the wilderness, Jehovah their God revealing Himself to the nation in a marvelous way at Mount Sinai, and there announcing a Law-Covenant with the nation. God gave Moses specific directions concerning the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness, in the Holy of Holies of which, when completed, Jehovah manifested His presence.
By a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night He led them on, Joshua, Moses, minister, bringing them into the Promised Land, Canaan. Their history under the judges and the kings has been clearly set forth in the Word of God. After their being captives for seventy years on account of disobedience, God restored them from Babylon, more than five hundred years before Christ, when they rebuilt, humbly, their temple.
Note this: To no other nation did God ever give a religion. Romans 9:4, 5 is literally true: “Israelites, whose is the adoption (as God’s earthly nation), and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the (religious) service, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, Who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Of course, God coming to them brought about the religion, with is sacrifices, laws, feasts, and directions for everyday life, as to worship, meats, and the many ordinances which ruled the Hebrew’s life.
Now we find the book of Hebrews taking these things away and setting before them the Melchizedek priesthood (not at all after Aaron’s order), which involved the disannulling of the Law and of the whole manner of life of the Hebrew, setting before them the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from among the dead, the great High Priest at the right hand of God, in whom all his hopes are. It is no longer religion, but simple faith in the accomplished work of Christ the Son of God.
One might ask, What about “Church truth” in this book of Hebrews? What about the glorious revelations of the believer’s position in Christ, member of His Body, seated with Him in the heavenlies, having died with Him and been raised in identification with Him: Also, what about the glorious privileges of the believer (sealed by and indwelt with the Spirit of God, as he is), the privileges of being filled with that Spirit and being able to say with Paul, “To me to live is Christ”?
Well, you will find in the book of Hebrews but one hint of the glorious truth God gave Paul to unfold concerning the Church of God. That hint is in chapter 3:1: “partakers of the heavenly calling.” But not a word as to union with Christ, unless indeed it be at the very end: “The God of peace, who brought again from the dead the Great Shepherd of the sheep with the Blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ” (13:20, 21)!
This is of course not because the Hebrew believers had no share in this glorious heavenly truth—by no means! They certainly had that share (in the types and shadows of the sacrificial ordinances, which were symbolic of Christ’s Cross-work—NC). But they had already a God-given religion. This would ever be coming between them and the blessed, glorious finished work of Christ. So the book of Hebrews takes that religion from the Hebrews, leaving them only the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Wm R Newell
L S Chafer comments that, “The Church does not appear in the OT. As something new in God’s provision for Jew and Gentile, the true Church and some of its unique characteristics are spoken of by Paul as mysteries. These mysteries were withheld from the OT saints, but are freely revealed to NT believers, hence the Church is not found in the OT. These mysteries include the Church itself, its Head, its message of grace, the body of Christ as an organism made up of saved Jews and Gentiles, indwelt by Christ as “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27), its ministry controlled by the Lord Himself, its ultimate removal from the earthly scene by resurrection and translation, and its approaching marriage as the Bride of the Lamb. Not a hint of these things appears in the OT. On the contrary, this is the ethnic group which the Lord spoke of when He said, “I will build My Church”; an accomplishment which was still future at the time of its announcement. Never does Scripture confuse it with Israel—past, present or future.”