The Book of Hebrews and Futurist Eschatology

April 10, 2013

Dr. Michael Vlach recently observed that there is “more futuristic eschatology in Hebrews than many realize.”  He mentioned particular references from his own study: Hebrews 2:8, 9:28, 12:26-27, and especially Hebrews 13:14.

Those are good verses for study, and here I also recall the Second Coming references in the verses cited in Hebrews 1.  In this previous post I noted several from S. Lewis Johnson’s Hebrews series, including Psalm 2, Psalm 89, and Deuteronomy 32, all of which in context refer to our Lord’s Second Coming.  The Greek translation of Hebrews 1:6 (and in some English versions – NKJV, NASB, HCSB, a few others) is also interesting:  “when He again brings His firstborn into the world” followed by a quotation from an OT text which is in the context of Christ’s ruling and reigning (Second Coming activities); see this previous post.

I remember when, in my daily genre readings, the Hebrews 9:28 verse suddenly jumped out at me. The local amillennial preterist church put considerable emphasis on the immediately preceding verses:  he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment – while ignoring the very next verse:

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Since the pastor at the same church picks one verse out of context (Hebrews 1:2) to justify the presupposition that all New Testament references to the last days are really talking about the Church Age (beginning in the first century), it really isn’t that surprising that the same attitude would emphasize the past work verses in Hebrews (such as Hebrews 9:26-27) while neglecting the next verse, one of several great references to our blessed hope of Christ’s appearing (see also Titus 2:13).  I have previously blogged about a Preterist distortion of another of the futurist texts, Hebrews 12:26-27: twisted reasoning that actually thinks the “great shaking” spoken of by Haggai the prophet, and referenced in Hebrews, happened at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  The time compression forced on the scriptures (see Alva McClain’s quote in this previous post), trying to “fit” all future eschatological events into what happened in the 1st century, is indeed deceitful handling of God’s word.

Since even the book of Hebrews includes futurist eschatology, it is not surprising to find that non-premillennial, non-futurist teachers have indeed given their own Preterist interpretations of the very texts which are futurist. Yet I still find it ironic that Hebrews, a book that does have so many references to events of the Second Coming, is made of such great emphasis among the very people who take a strong supersessionist (no future for Israel), Preterist, amillennial view of God’s word (the NCT community, referenced in this TMS audio lecture series).

As others have shared as well, it does happen (for me as well) that we sometimes experience such mishandling and misinterpretation of passages from God’s word, that whenever we read those passages, the wrong view is also remembered.  Yet we must go forward, focusing on right doctrine and teaching, recalling to mind the great positives in scripture as it actually is presented, as we continue looking forward to our blessed hope of Christ’s soon return.

  1. Neil Schoch
    April 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    That is a very valid and important point you make. Another failing I have found with some is to only quote a portion of a verse to suit one’s own viewpoint, when if the whole verse was discussed the meaning becomes clearly quite different.
    Of course, the context of any verse is vital for interpretation. Keep up the good work..

    • April 11, 2013 at 7:27 am

      Thanks, Neil. Yes, that’s a common one too, only quoting part of a verse to suit one’s own purposes, often done in topical type sermons and jumping quickly from one text to another.

  2. April 11, 2013 at 1:51 am

    I need to read Hebrews next time with more of an eye for eschatological truths. Thanks

    • April 11, 2013 at 7:31 am

      Thanks for commenting, Jim. Glad this was helpful.

  3. April 11, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Isn’t it fun to discover you have been believing Scripture says one thing only to revisit it and discover, in context, without the initial assumption, it may well be saying something quite different!
    Here is a piece from a post I recently put up about having a new perspective that seems to work very well:
    I recently encountered a teaching that part of the passage may be a quotation from a (lost) letter written from Corinth to Paul that occasioned what he wrote back… We have good reason from verses in the epistle itself to believe there was an exchange of letters where some were from those in Corinth and at least two, which we have saved as Scripture, were to Corinth. If you see an actual ancient Greek manuscript, you discover that there were virtually no punctuation marks either for sentences or for quotations, so the translator has to determine such things from the context. [A marvel of the modern Internet provides at least one site where photographs of actual ancient Greek manuscripts can be viewed. You see a big sheet with 4 or 5 columns of Greek letters with no sentences and no paragraphs as far as I can tell, and of course no verses or chapters marked out. I assure you it makes our modern translations look marvellously more understandable!] With no chapters or verses, and perhaps even some division into books possibly arbitrary, there is ground to revisit many aspects of how the manuscripts have been traditionally broken into sentences and paragraphs. Some textual critics even suggest 2 Corinthians should really be broken into 2 and 3 Corinthians.

    If you accept some of this, follow me as I repeat the above passage with non-traditional punctuation and paragraph divisions. Can you see how the italicized portion could be Paul repeating a quotation of what the church was saying in their first letter?

    1 Corinthians 14:31-40(NET) For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

    “The women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church”

    Did the word of God begin with you, or did it come to you alone? If anyone considers himself a prophet or spiritual person, he should acknowledge that what I write to you is the Lord’s command. If someone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

    So then, brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. And do everything in a decent and orderly manner.

    With this understanding, hopping over the response about women being forced to be quiet, the passage has a logical flow dealing consistently with prophets and freedom to prophesy. The a parenthetical portion where he rejects their question about whether women should be relegated to the Jewish synagogue pattern allegedly adopted from the law makes great sense in developing the freedom to prophesy. That Jewish synagogue pattern would run just contrary to the free exercise of the gifts!

  4. Neil Schoch
    April 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks Tom, There would be no doubt that many letters would have been written to Paul and the other Apostles, plus many replies. There are “other books” mentioned in the Bible but we can be sure that God has overseen that the Word of God which we have today is exactly as He ordained.1 Timothy 3:16-17- “All Scripture is given by inspiraton of God–.”
    It is literally, “God breathed.”
    Scripture sternly forbids the “adding to” or “taking away” anything to or from God’s Word.
    Of Jesus, the Bible says that if all the things that Jesus did were written, the world could not contain them. See John 21:25.
    It has been suggested that we will be told of them in Heaven, which would be wonderful, if true, but just to be in the presence of the Lord will be so wonderful and we simply can’t understand the greatness of it with our finite minds.

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