The Letter to the Hebrews: Believe in Better 5
A better reality
Ready for something a little mind-bending this morning? This reality that each one of us finds ourselves in today is not the reality that God intended for the human race when He created the earth and everything in it. Yes, as omniscient God, He knew and knows everything and would have known what was going to happen before He created the world and yet He went ahead anyway, but this reality is not what God intended it to be. He created a perfect world, represented by the Garden of Eden, where everything and everyone lived in perfect harmony, in perfect relationship with each other and with God. And then humans decided to exert their own will and assert that they knew best and everything started unravelling and has been unravelling ever since. Alongside this unravelling, however, God has been always there, working to reconcile all things and all people to Himself, leading towards a vision of a new reality, a new heaven and a new earth, a time and space where everything will be as God intended again.
This perfect reality is the reality that bookends the reality of our human existence here on earth and when we pray ‘Your will be done, Your Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven’, what we are actually praying is that this reality will break through into the reality of our daily lives right here, right now. What we get now is only ever glimpses of this reality that is coming, but glimpses nevertheless.
Let’s wee what I wrote about this better reality as shown in the Letter to the Hebrews –
In Chapter 8, the writer introduces the concept of shadow and a better reality that he develops further throughout chapters 10 and 11 –
“”They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” Hebrews 8v5.
Thinking about the universe among the Greeks at that time was that there were two worlds. Somewhere there was a world of reality and everything in this world of time, space and material things was a copy, a pale reflection, a shadow of this ’ideal’ world. The Greek philosopher Plato believed in ’forms’ – perfect patterns, perfect forms.
Barclay believes that the writer to the Hebrews makes use of this idea to show that –
“The earthly Temple is a pale copy of the real Temple of God; earthly worship is a remote reflection of real worship; the earthly priesthood is an inadequate shadow of the real priesthood , which can really bring men to God.”
Margaret Barker points out Jesus is not opposed to the temple as could be surmised from this passage – indeed “the world of the temple was the world of the first Christians and they expressed their faith in terms drawn almost exclusively from the temple.” But the temple of his day had become an impure centre of priesthood and “Jesus and his followers opposed what the temple had become; they identified themselves as the true temple, with Jesus as the Great High Priest.”
Tom Wright argues another line. The Israelites believed that the Temple in Jerusalem really was the place where heaven and earth literally met and to enter the Holy of Holies really did mean entering the presence of God. The challenge for Jewish Christians then, for it must have felt like flagrant disloyalty, was to accept that the Temple was merely a copy of a heavenly reality and that anyone who comes to God through Christ is entering the true Temple. From The Letter to the Hebrews: an evaluative outline of the key themes and theological insights by Helen Redfern
Jesus is a new and living way, a better way to approach God. I’ll leave you with an incredible passage from the Letter to the Hebrews that sums this up. What a wonderful truth to hold in our hearts as we enter into this new day!
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. Hebrews 10:19-22