The first half of this message is a transcript, but unfortunately the recording ends part way through. However, the full message was published as an article in the AWAT magazine in January 1966, so the message has been completed using the article from the magazine.
Lord, we do now adjust ourselves to the deepest truth, that only Thou Thyself canst make us understand Thine own things. It is not possible for the natural man to understand the things of the Spirit of God. Only the Spirit of God can give that understanding. And unless Thou here in this very hour dost do that with every one of us, we have come in vain. Lord, do Thou the speaking, beyond all human instrumentality, may we be given to hear the Lord speaking in our hearts. That will be fruitful. We pray that it may be so in the Name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Will you turn again to that letter from which we have already read, the letter to the Hebrews in chapter 2: "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness to them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."
If you'll turn to the end of the letter, to chapter 12 at verse 25: "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not when they refused Him that warned them on earth, much more shall not we escape who turn away from Him that warneth from Heaven, whose voice then shook the earth. But now He hath promised saying, 'Yet once more will I make to tremble, not the earth only, but also the heavens.' This word 'yet once more' signifying the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God, with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire."
Those words, of course, sound very terrible. They're almost like holding a threat over people and you might feel that they are not too encouraging a beginning for a time like this. I have read them with one object and I think they constitute a very good starting point for such a consideration as is before us at this time.
No one will question the solemnity of those words. There is something almost terrible about them. When you hear them, you say, "Well, you cannot, you dare not fail to recognise that we are in the presence of something very serious". There's something very serious on hand when such words have to be spoken. We are not in the presence of some just light, superficial, pleasant matter and interest. We're evidently in the presence of something momentous, something which, if on the one side can be put into such a language of fear; fear! For it says, "let us fear." A fear. A warning. A solemn and terrible warning. The possibility of something awful happening. If, on the one side it's like that, you don't talk like that about anything unless it's something of tremendous value, something of very glorious possibility and consequence. To miss that something is said to be the most terrible thing that could happen. Therefore it must be something tremendously important.
Now, I'm not exaggerating. I'm not making that up, but there you are. I started at the beginning of the letter, "Let us fear lest..." I've gone right over to near the end of the letter, and the same words or similar words, occur again, a summing up. And in between the beginning and the end you just have any number of these earnest entreaties, these solemn warnings, examples taken out of the life of others who did not give heed and go through. And what happened in their case? You have all these exhortations, entreaties, admonitions, warnings, beseechings, and we shall come on to those in particular, probably before we're at the end of these gatherings.
What is it all about? Now therefore, friends, I suggest to you that this letter must be a very vital letter. If that's the nature of it, the realm of it, if that is the portent, it's something tremendous in view for Christians which can be missed. That's what it's all about.
I, this afternoon, will occupy my time mainly in talking about the letter. Later we will get into the letter itself probably, and talk about it.
Now you see, when you have language like that, when someone is speaking in this way and it's put on record and it turns out to be (allow me to put it in this way) not man writing or speaking, but God, you surely must be in the presence of a crisis. It must be a crisis that is on hand. That is, a terminal point on which and at which tremendous issues are at stake, one way or another. When you hear something has got to happen, it's the ultimate that is brought to bear upon this moment, this situation. Now, we know, of course, that this letter itself took its rise from a crisis, but it's impressive to realise that not only was it related to a historic crisis, but the Holy Spirit took hold of that and introduced the ultimate crisis - built upon that the ultimate issue.
Perhaps you need that explained. The historic crisis was this: this letter was written probably about, approximately two years before that full scattering for the whole of this age of the Jewish people; the destruction of Jerusalem, which the Lord Jesus had foretold. The words you noticed in our reading which were in the first place spoken by the Lord Himself, "Give the more earnest heed" and some of the things which were spoken by Him, were related to this crisis. He said, "The day is coming when they will cast up around you their siege. They will leave not one stone upon another." That whole terrible twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel spoken by the Lord was bearing upon the thing that was now within a year or two of actual fulfillment when the Roman legions besieged Jerusalem, brought it to starvation, destroyed its temple, so that literally, according to a Jewish historian, they did not leave one stone upon another.
It is on record that as they went about their work, they literally left the whole thing to the ground - to the ground. And the temple: finished, all the temple worship finished, the priesthood finished, the sacrifices finished, the people scattered to the ends of the earth, never to be recovered again in the dispensation. It's been like that according to the Lord's word, "your house is left unto you desolate." It's been like that these two thousand years. That's the historic crisis that is here, the shaking of the things of the earth that can be shaken.
Now the Holy Spirit takes hold of the historic and superimposes upon that something bigger: the shaking of the heavens also. The heavenly things! This is, this is Jewish Christianity now, it's Christianity as a whole that will be shaken at the end. This is an end of one phase. Another phase is coming when everything in Christianity will be shaken - shaken to its foundation.
This tremendous two-fold crisis is the occasion of this letter. Why did the Lord cause this person, whoever he was and we won't debate who he was, to write this letter at that time? And this is where it comes to us with just as much force, it ought to come as it came to the Jews at that time, or was intended to do. The time will come - it is fixed in the counsels of God - when everything in this creation and in this universe is going to be subject to a tremendous shaking. It's going to happen! Going to happen.
Peter speaks about it in terms of the atomic age, as you'll know. "Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved..." the elements of fire, and so on. It's coming. Now the issue is this: when that comes, if that comes, what that we have, will abide the shaking? What will go through it all and survive unshaken? Unshaken! What have we got that, let the greatest shaking in this universe come, can never be moved, will never go, that will come out all right, unshaken. A kingdom which cannot be shaken. What have you got like that?
Now, this letter was written to these Hebrew Christians, to try... it was a great effort of the Lord, to get their feet established on ground that could never be shaken. You see, they were wavering. They were wavering. They were already being shaken. They were being moved from their steadfastness. Some of them were thinking of going back to the old associations and the old Jewish system. It was like this. And the Lord inspired this letter with the one object of getting them established, so established, that when this terrific storm broke, and these winds were let loose, they carried away, carried away so many and so much, there would be that which would stand the storm, and abide. And, as I have said, He used the historic as the occasion for bringing in the eternal. He leads onto this for all Christians.
Now, dear friends, there are two things about that that are important for our notice. One is this: that you cannot, you cannot settle that matter when the storm breaks. See? If you have ever been in a storm, a real good storm, you know very well that that's not the time to get things settled. If you haven't got them settled before then, you are just going to be all at sea indeed. Forces will be just too much to cope with, far too much to cope with. You'll just be thrown all over the place. An emergency is not the time to quietly get down to our foundations. We're caught up in things too much. It's like that. If it's not all settled beforehand, if you don't know where you are beforehand, when this thing breaks, you'll not be able to see to it then. That's important to recognise.
Therefore, therefore this letter would say: "in the light of testings which will come, in view of that which is bound to break upon us at some time, now's the time, now's the time to make sure that our position is an absolutely sound one, an absolutely true one, that there's nothing doubtful about our position at all, no question about it. We know where we are. We're not at the mercy of other people's judgments and ideas and what not. We know the Lord, we know the Lord for ourselves, we know where we are. Let everything go to pieces, we know where we are with the Lord". Now that is the thing that has got to be settled, and it cannot be settled when everything's going to pieces.
But the other thing that is important (and I sound very serious, don't I?) but it's very important that we should recognize that it may not be necessary for the great ultimate upheaval and chaos and cataclysm to take place in order to bring that issue out. Is not this the heart of every trial that comes into the Christian life? Every day, any day, a temptation or an adversity, some suffering, something that just is calculated to throw you all over the place. Now, in any such experience the question arises: what have I got of the Lord that's going to get me through this? What have I really got now of the Lord that will stand me in stead in this crisis? It may be something in everyday life - a family matter, a business matter, a church matter, a personal matter - something that is most testing, unsettling, and upsetting. It comes like a shock or a blow to knock you to pieces. What have you got of the Lord that's going to see you through it, that you'll not, you'll not go with the wind. You'll not be carried away in this hour of trial. It will stand. It will remain.
Now, that is the issue of this book, you see, whether it's a historic crisis in the life of Israel or Jewry, or in the ultimate experience of the church, and it's coming, and it's already come to multitudes of the Lord's people on this earth. That's the position today in a large part of this world, the test is: what have we got that will see us through this, this terrible time? It's the question for many today in the East. But it's the ever-present question, you see. And that is the message of this book.
And so it has to be solemn. It has to be serious. It has to use words like these, "Let us give... we ought to give - we ought to give - more earnest heed to the things that were heard. Lest haply we drift from them." Now, that is a poor way of interpreting the original language. Our English language just so often fails to give us the real sense of the words which were originally used. Here it is, "Lest haply we drift away from them." And the picture there in the original language is the picture of a ship, a ship in rough water with strong currents and heavy winds. And that ship is having a very difficult time, and it is trying to make calm water. There are moorings there in the harbour, moorings there, if only she can make those moorings and lay hold on those moorings and get moored out, she's all right. But here she comes. And those responsible are a bit careless about it. And just as she comes up on the moorings, they're too careless to grasp them, to lay hold of them, and to fasten them and she drifts past and onto the rocks. She drifts past.
That's actually the picture behind the Greek words here, "We ought to give the more earnest heed lest...." You see? "On this strong, adverse current, these conditions of trials, do not be [swept away]. [Audio ends here.] We can drift past
through not being serious enough, not earnest enough, nor
meaning business sufficiently. The moment comes when all
might be well and we might be made fast and sure, but we
drift past, carried on to lose what was there for us.
Now, you know that this
whole letter is built up on that idea. Read it again in
that light. After its introduction, that wonderful
presentation of the Lord Jesus, it says: "We
ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that
were heard, lest haply we drift away", and
you see what the consequences of that are in this book.
"The more earnest heed to the things that were
heard." To me that is a key to this book. There are
many arguments in it which might be taken out and used as
the title, or key, to the whole book. A little further on
there is this wonderful fragment: "How shall we
escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
"So great salvation" might be a key to the
book. You can read and study it in the light of that. And
there are many other fragments like that which in
themselves open up the whole book. "We ought to give
the more earnest heed to the things that were
heard." What things?
Hath Spoken in His Son
You see how the book
begins: "God, having of old time spoken unto the
fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers
manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto
us in His Son." Not by His Son. That is
true, but it does not say that here. Yes, He spoke by His
Son, but the real point here is that He has spoken in His
Son. The Son is God's speech. It is not even what the Son
says, but it is what the Son Himself implies, signifies,
what His coming into this world, or being in eternity,
represents of God's thought. God has manifested Himself,
has made Himself known, revealed Himself, spoken for
Himself Son-wise. Not the words of the Son only, but the
Son Himself expresses God. If you or I could see the Lord
Jesus, really read Him as a person, we would have all
that God wants us to know, for it is all there. God has
spoken in a person. He has embodied Himself for
revelation in a person... 'hath spoken at the end of
these days Son-wise'. You notice that the words 'in His
Son' are in italics, which means that in the original
those words do not exist. What is really there is this:
'God hath spoken Son-wise.' That is difficult to grasp
and to understand, but, you see, it opens up everything.
The rest of the book is an opening up of what Christ is,
and all that has come from God in Him personally. We are
not going further with that at the moment, but God hath
spoken. In old times He spoke by angels, by leaders, by
prophets, by priests and by numerous means and methods,
signs and symbols and types, divers manners, a variety of
manners, in different times and fragments. He has
gathered the whole up now at the end. This is the last
speech of God, but it is complete and full,
comprehensive. It is the end - Christ.
"We ought to give
the more earnest heed." If it was so serious when He
spoke by or through angels, then it was tremendously
solemn when He spoke in His Son. The angels were great
beings, wonderful beings, but, as the letter goes on to
show, nothing in comparison with the Son. If when God
spoke through prophets, or priests, or kings, or leaders,
it was a solemn matter for the people - and it was a very
solemn matter, a crucial thing for those who heard - how
much more so when He spoke Son-wise! We ought therefore
to give the more earnest heed when God speaks like
this, and He has spoken to us like this. You see what it
says: "The word spoken through angels proved
stedfast". This so great salvation takes its
greatness, its dimensions, its supremacy from the fact
that Christ is so much greater than all. God has spoken
to us in Him, but, you see, it is "God bearing
witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by
manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit".
I think there is
something more to note about this for the moment. This
letter - so-called to the Hebrews - was written (if what
we think is true) just before the year A.D. 70, when the
destruction of Jerusalem finally took place. By the year
70 all the apostles, with the exception of John, had gone
to the Lord. They had done their work and had written
their letters. God had spoken concerning His Son through
them all. Only John remained at this time. God had been
speaking. Now it says here: "God... bearing them witness".
To whom did God bear witness? To the apostles - "by
signs and wonders... and gifts of the Holy Spirit".
God was speaking concerning His Son in and through the
apostles, so that by the time this letter was written
there existed the major part of the New Testament
literature. Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians,
Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians existed. You look
into all those and you see that it was God speaking
concerning His Son. The letter to the Romans opens almost
with that very phrase: "The gospel of God...
concerning His Son", and that is the message of
that big book.
Now these are the
things that were heard: God's speaking concerning His
Son. You and I have that. We have all that God has said
and is going to say in this dispensation concerning His
Son. All that I am saying is only getting into what God
has said. I am not adding anything to this revelation of
Jesus Christ. It would be impossible to do that, and it
would be a very terrible thing to attempt to do it. We
are only, as the Lord enables, getting into what God has
said about His Son in His Word. We have it all: all that
God has said concerning His Son. What a tremendous thing
it is that He has spoken to us by His Son! "We ought
to give the more earnest heed", because tremendous
things are bound up with this. I am not going further
into that just now, for I am only talking around and on
Sure of Our Calling
You see, it is a very
critical thing for the Christian life. Not to the
unsaved, for this letter is not written to the unsaved,
but to Christians. If you look into the letter you will
find that these Christians made a wonderful start.
Reference is made to what they suffered for Christ's sake
when they came to faith in Him. They suffered the
spoiling of their goods - they suffered terribly. They
made a tremendous start and there was no doubt about them
being Christians. I repudiate any suggestion that this
letter was written to professing Christians and not real
Christians. You don't talk to professing Christians in
this way! What have they to lose? They have not got it to
lose. The whole letter is on what Christians may lose,
and it is not a matter of losing their basic salvation.
Let us say that at once, but that will lead us further
into the letter. There is some tremendous thing that
Christians have got to make sure of. It is not just their
being basically saved, getting into heaven. The
Corinthians were there, but to them the apostle said:
'Look here, you Corinthians, the foundation is laid in
you and you are on the foundation, but you may be putting
up a tremendous superstructure which will go up in flames
and in smoke and you will just get into heaven so as
by fire.' Do you know what that means? Well, you may
get in, but everything you have got will be lost and go
up in smoke. You will get in naked. What kind of abundant
entrance into the everlasting kingdom is that?
Well, of course, if you
would be of this indifferent kind and say: 'Well, as long
as I get into heaven, that is all that matters' you are
completely out of tune with the New Testament. This
letter is saying: 'That is not enough. There is something
immensely more than that to which you were called in
Christ, and you have to make very sure about that...
"Give the more earnest heed... lest".' Lest!
How often that little word occurs in this letter!
Lest so-and-so be the result which God never meant for
His people. He meant something so much more than that.
Well, I think we are
going to leave it there now. We just stand on the
threshold and survey this, and conclude with this word.
Lord Wants Better Christians
Dear friends, the Lord
wants much better Christians than many of us are. He does
want a more solid type of Christian than is represented
by the majority. Oh, the poor shape that the majority of
Christians make of this matter! What a poor
representation and expression of Christ we are! Many know
it and are not satisfied. Inside they know that all is
not well. They know a lot of things, have a lot of
teaching and doctrine, and church work, but there is such
a poor measure of Christ. The Lord wants much better
Christians, a better type, a better calibre, and this
letter is the letter to make known what it is that the
Lord wants, and therefore what it is that is possible,
and to bring this tremendous emphasis: "Give the
more earnest heed". That attitude is essential to
being a better kind of Christian. It is not how it is put
here, but it is what it amounts to. There are Christians
and Christians, but the Lord would work hard with us to
make a better kind of Christian, I would sooner put it
this way - to have a far bigger expression of Christ in
us than there is. He would work hard for that. That is
probably why He allows us to have difficulties, trials
and adversities. We have to secure a position where,
without any kind of interference, of arguments and
circumstances, or what the consequences would be, we are
with the Lord, at any cost, for all that He ever meant
when He called us into fellowship with His Son. An
attitude like that will make tremendous things possible,
and that is really the upshot of this letter. Get right
into line with all the purpose of God concerning His Son
and you will be a different kind of Christian, and you
yourself will count for very much more. The Lord will be
with you and will commit Himself.
So we can see why the
letter opens up with putting the Lord Jesus in all His
greatness right there in front. What a revelation of
Christ is that first chapter! The Holy Spirit puts Him
there, right at the beginning, in the first, supreme
place, and then He says that everything else has to do
with that, relates to that, and all these entreaties,
exhortations and warnings relate to this: God has an
immense purpose concerning His Son, and you are called
May the Lord at least
impress us with this: that the salvation into which we
are called is a very much bigger thing than perhaps we
have realised. It is a "so great salvation".