OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
1. AUTHOR, DATE, and RECIPIENTS
The author of Hebrews is unknown. He knew Timothy (Heb. 13:23). He was not an eyewitness of Jesus (see Heb. 2:1, 3). The letter was probably written before 70 A.D. Early manuscripts bear the title "To the Hebrews," which reflects the ancient assumption that it was written to Jewish Christians as well as Gentile Christians who previously had been drawn to the Jewish religion. The author knew his readers and wanted to see them again (Heb. 13:19).
2. PRIMARY THEME
Jesus Christ is greater than any angel, priest, or old covenant practice. Christians must not forsake the great salvation that Jesus has brought about. They must hold on by faith to the true rest found in Christ, and they must encourage others in the church to do the same.
3. PURPOSE, OCCASION, and BACKGROUND
Hebrews has two primary purposes: to encourage Christians to endure, and to warn them not to abandon their faith in Christ. These warning passages appear throughout the book (Heb. 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:1-29). The author encourages faithfulness, love, and sound doctrine. He does so by carefully teaching the OT in light of God's revelation in Jesus Christ.
The author shows the superiority of Christ and his new covenant over angels, Moses, the OT priesthood, and the OT sacrificial system. These are so inferior to Christ that it is futile to return to them-or to go anywhere else. Rather, believers should hold fast to their faith, because that faith is grounded in the most superior revelation.
The background of such exhortations must have been the readers' need to continue enduring amid persecution and the trials of life (e.g., ch. 12). They appear to have grown less attentive to Christian instruction (Heb. 5:11-14), and some apparently have ceased regular attendance at their meetings (Heb. 10:25). The author reminds them of their past faithfulness and love despite persecution (Heb. 10:32-34).
Ultimately, the author's words of encouragement and exhortation are rooted in his teaching about Jesus Christ. The Son of God became the heavenly high priest, who offered himself as a sacrifice once for all. Christ obtained salvation for all who approach him in faith (Heb. 6:1; 11:6; compare 4:2), and such faith perseveres until it receives the promised eternal reward (Heb. 6:12; 10:22, 38-39).