Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The book of Hebrews is profound and rich. It is profound in the heavenly concepts and rich in the heavenly inheritance. In our Life-study of Hebrews, we shall be concerned with the profound concepts of this book and with its heavenly inheritance. We need to plunge into the depths of this book.
If we are to enter into the concepts and riches of the book of Hebrews, we must understand the background of its writing. This is crucial. It is difficult for anyone to gain information concerning Hebrews. We are not told the name of the author and it is not clearly mentioned to whom the book was written. Hebrews is absolutely different from all of the other Epistles. It has its own peculiar character. All of the other Epistles begin by telling us by whom and to whom they were written. However, Hebrews begins in this way: “In many portions and in many ways, God, having spoken of old to the fathers in the prophets, has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son” (1:1-2). Who wrote this book? The Bible does not tell us. To whom was it written? It is altogether a mystery, for the Bible does not tell us that either. This is the reason that very few Christians know this book well.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is not superficial. It is exceedingly deep. So, I say again that we need to plunge into this book. Do not stand on the surface and gaze at it. Dive into it and discover the treasures that are beneath the surface. Whenever you read one verse of this book, you must read its context. For one verse you probably will need to read a few chapters.
Although the book of Hebrews does not itself say to whom it was written, it was written to the Hebrew believers. The saints who collected the divine writings in the early days entitled this book “the Epistle to the Hebrews.” This is very interesting. Why does it say “to the Hebrews” and not to the Jews or Israelites?
For many years I was troubled by this word Hebrews. I studied much in the attempt to learn the meaning of this word. I became familiar with different schools of opinion. One school says that the word Hebrew denotes a descendant of Eber, a son of Shem (Gen. 10:21). Since Eber may be spelled Heber in Greek, some Bible students have thought that the Hebrews are descendants of Eber. Although I adopted this school for a while, I did so with a question mark. Later, after further study, I could no longer agree with this school because Eber had more than one son. Eber had two sons, Peleg and Joktan (Gen. 10:25), and Abraham was a descendant of Peleg. If you say that Abraham’s descendants should be called Hebrews because they are the descendants of Eber, the same should be true of the descendants of Joktan, Eber’s second son. Thus, this school of opinion is illogical. Furthermore, the Bible says that Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. If Abraham’s descendants are called Hebrews because they are the descendants of Eber, then all the Arabs, who are also descendants of Abraham, should be called Hebrews. But this is ridiculous! Therefore, this interpretation is illogical; it is neither believable nor trustworthy.
After further study, I learned that the word Hebrew was first used in Genesis 14:13, at the time when Abraham was about to fight for the rescue of his nephew Lot. Genesis 14:13 says, “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew.” Abraham was a Hebrew. As a result of considerable study, we discovered that the root of the word Hebrew means “to pass ” It especially means to pass over a river from one region to another and from one side to another. Therefore, the word Hebrew means a crosser, a river crosser, one who crosses a river. Abraham was a river crosser. He crossed that great flood (Josh. 24:2-3). Abraham crossed the Euphrates. The Euphrates is the modern name of that great river which in Hebrew is called Perath. That great river separated the old region out of which Abraham was called from the new land into which he entered.
Abraham was born in Chaldea, the site of ancient Babylon, Babel. Between Chaldea and the good land of Canaan was a great river flowing from north to south. This is very meaningful. All things, including the land, were created by God to fulfill His purpose. The land of Chaldea became satanic, devilish, and demonic. It was a land filled with idols, a land totally usurped by God’s enemy and possessed by the evil one. So God intervened to call Abraham out of that idolatrous land, out of that land which had been usurped, possessed, poisoned, corrupted, and ruined by Satan. God simply called Abraham out without telling him where he should go (11:8). Abraham had to look to the Lord step by step, saying to Him, “Lord, where should I go?” Abraham knew what he had to leave, but he did not know where he was to go. Eventually God led him to that great river, and Abraham crossed it. Joshua 24:2-3 says that Abraham “dwelt on the other side of the flood” and that the Lord took him from “the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan.” Therefore, a Hebrew is a person from the other side of the water.
Now we can understand the real meaning of baptism. Why must all repentant people be baptized? Because the world in which we are has been usurped, possessed, corrupted, and ruined by God’s enemy. It is no longer good for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. God’s salvation is not merely to rescue us from hell to heaven. God’s salvation is to bring us out of the land that has been possessed and ruined by Satan. How can we pass out of it? By being baptized. Every baptistery is a great river, a great flood. After you have been baptized, you come out on the other shore. Hallelujah! I am one who has crossed over from the other side. Are you still on the other side? You may be on the other side, but I am on this side. I have crossed the great river. I am a Hebrew, a river crosser. What are you—American, Chinese, British, German, New Zealander, Japanese, Filipino, Mexican? We must all declare, “We are Hebrews! We are typical Hebrews.” We are not Jews, but we are Hebrews. We are the true, genuine Hebrews because we have passed over the river. Everyone among us is a real river crosser.
As we have seen, the first river crosser, the first Hebrew, was Abraham. Abraham was called by God and passed over the great river Euphrates, entering into the land where God eventually built His temple. The land which Abraham entered was a good land, a holy land, the land in which God’s house was built. God stayed there in His house. It was not His motel; it was His habitation on earth. On the other side were the idols, the devilish things, and all the works of Satan. On this side was God’s temple with His shekinah glory. What separated these two sides? A great river.
Even before the time of Abraham there was a man who was a flood crosser—Noah. Noah passed over the flood (1 Pet. 3:20-21). That flood separated him from the old, crooked, perverse, and evil generation. The flood separated him from the devilish world and ushered him into a new land where he built an altar and offered sacrifices. Noah passed over the flood, and Abraham crossed over the great river. The principle in each case is the same.
What about Abraham’s descendants? The children of Israel crossed the water of the Red Sea. The principle was the same. After they had crossed the sea and reached the other side, they sang and danced. They could say, “Egypt, you are on the other side. We are on this side!” What did they do after they reached the other side? They built God’s tabernacle. They did not engage in business, not even farming, for a period of forty years. There were no schools, sanctuaries, cathedrals, seminaries, or Bible institutes. There was nothing but the tabernacle. What was on the other side of the sea? All the Egyptian, worldly things.
We are people who have crossed over from the other side. What is for us on this side? Churching! We are the water crossers. We are Hebrews. The water has separated us. What are we doing here? We are building the tabernacle, today’s ark. The first of the ancient water crossers, Noah, built the ark. The Hebrews in Moses’ time built the tabernacle. Now we, today’s Hebrews, are building the church.
Our God is “the God of the Hebrews.” Have you ever heard this term—“the God of the Hebrews”? Although I have been a student of the Bible for years, I have only recently seen that our God is “the God of the Hebrews.” For years I have known that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He is the God of Israel. But the God of Abraham is also “the God of the Hebrews.” He is the God of the river crossers, the ones who have passed over. Exodus 3:6 says, “Moreover He said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” This word was not spoken to Pharaoh; it was spoken to God’s people, the children of Israel (Exo. 3:15-16). When God spoke to His people, He called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But notice the difference that occurs when the Lord speaks to Pharaoh. “Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me” (Exo. 9:1, 13; 7:16). When God spoke to Pharaoh, He called Himself “the God of the Hebrews.” It seems that the Lord was saying, “Pharaoh, don’t you know that I am the God of the Hebrews. I am the God of all the river crossers. Let My people go. Let them cross the Red Sea that they may serve Me in the wilderness. Pharaoh, you must realize that I am the God of the Hebrews.” Our God is “the God of the Hebrews.” We must proclaim to the world that our God is “the God of the Hebrews,” that we are Hebrews, and that we have passed over the water. We, like Noah, Abraham, and the children of Israel, have passed over the water.
When the children of Israel became old in the land of Egypt, God gave them a new start with the Passover (Exo. 12:1-2). God even changed their calendar, changing it from the civil calendar to the sacred calendar. According to the civil calendar, the Passover was in the seventh month, but God called it the first month. It was the beginning of the year, a new beginning. As a result, the people became new and fresh. They crossed the water and entered into the wilderness where they, as a new people, built God’s tabernacle in a new way. However, after forty years, they became old and needed to cross the river once again. Firstly, they crossed the Red Sea; secondly, they crossed the Jordan River and entered into the good land. The crossing of water is very meaningful. After the children of Israel came into the good land, they built God’s temple.
After many generations, the Israelites became old again. They were possessed by the enemy, and even the temple with all of its services was utilized, usurped, possessed, and ruined by the enemy of God. Suddenly, much to the surprise of the Israelites, John the Baptist appeared and told them to repent (Matt. 3:5-6). What did John the Baptist do? He helped them to cross the river. He helped them out of their oldness, out of the old, religious, Jewish land. He told them to cross the river and be a real Hebrew. That was the true meaning of baptism for those repentant Pharisees and Jews. They were baptized out of their old religious land and were baptized into a new region. That baptism was a separation. After they were baptized they could say, “Once we were on the other side of the river, but now we are on this side.”
Not many have had this understanding of baptism. Baptism makes you a real Hebrew, for a Hebrew is a water crosser. Have you crossed the water? You may say, “Yes, I crossed the baptismal water twenty-five years ago.” How are you now? Are you still fresh and new? Doctrinally, I do not teach the matter of burial in water, but experientially I encourage you all to be buried in water. After you were saved and baptized, you wandered in the wilderness for years and became old. Although you have crossed the Red Sea, you now must cross the river Jordan. This water crossing is very meaningful. Consider the children of Israel once again. The first water crossing, that of the Red Sea, delivered them from Egypt. The second water crossing, that of the Jordan, delivered them from wandering in the wilderness and ushered them into the good land. Forget about the traditional teachings that claim that Christians should not be rebaptized and that according to the New Testament baptism should be only once. The number of times depends upon your actual situation. If you have never been in a land possessed by Satan, you do not even need to be baptized once. If you have always been in the heavens, you do not need to be baptized at all. However, since you fell into Egypt, you certainly need to cross the Red Sea. If, after crossing the Red Sea, you immediately enter into the good land, you do not need to cross the river Jordan. But you did not enter the good land immediately. You wandered in the wilderness for a definite period of time. After that wandering you became old. Now, because you have become so old, you must cross a river before entering into the good land. You need to cross the river. If as you read this message you are still old, you need to be renewed as a Hebrew. You need to cross the river.
In Revelation 15:2 we find a peculiar type of sea, a sea of glass mingled with fire. In this sea is not only water but also fire. When God executed His judgment upon the fallen and condemned creation, He first did it with water. Genesis 1:2 reveals that the pre-Adamic world was judged by water. The world of Noah’s time was also judged by water. Water was God’s judgment. After the judgment of the flood in Noah’s time, God changed His judgment from water to fire. Thus, Sodom and Gomorrah were burned, not flooded (Gen. 19:24). Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, were also judged by fire (Lev. 10:1-2). Eventually, all negative things will flow into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). God’s judgment upon the fallen creation, the fallen world, and fallen man is a mingling of water and fire. Hence, in Revelation 15 we have the vision of the sea of glass mingled with fire. Ultimately, this sea of glass mingled with fire will consummate in the lake of fire.
The sea of glass is in front of the throne of God (Rev. 4:6). In the vision of the sea of glass mingled with fire, the overcomers are shown as standing upon the sea. Those who have overcome God’s enemy will stand upon the sea of glass. This signifies that they have crossed the water. They all have crossed the sea. For eternity they will be the real water crossers, the real Hebrews. Where are you? I hope that you can say that you are upon the sea of glass. We are the Hebrews. We have crossed the sea. I have the full assurance that I have crossed the water. I am not on the other side. My forefather crossed over from the other side, and I have followed him. Now I am on the sea of glass, and all the negative things are under my feet. The overcomers will be upon the sea of glass just as the children of Israel were upon the seashore having passed through the Red Sea. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they looked back and saw that Pharaoh and all his forces had been drowned in the sea. We, like the Israelites that crossed the Red Sea and sang the song of Moses (Exo.15:1), will sing the song of the Lamb (Rev. 15:3). One day we will be upon the sea of glass and look down and see all the worldly things beneath the sea. Although I know that this will happen in the future, I still hope that it is happening now. We all are here on the sea of glass. We are the Hebrews, the water crossers.
Because we are the real Hebrews, the book of Hebrews is for us. Do not think that only the Jewish believers are Hebrews. We are Hebrews also. We are Hebrews, and this wonderful book of Hebrews is for us. As long as you remain worldly, you are disqualified from receiving this book. As long as you consider yourself as a world dweller, you are through with the book of Hebrews. This book is only for the Hebrews. Since we are the real Hebrews, we have at least one book in the Bible written to us. I am neither Timothy nor Titus, but I am a genuine Hebrew. We all are Hebrews. How we must thank the Lord that the most profound, rich, and deep book is for us! No other book is more profound than Hebrews. God loves His Hebrews. We have crossed the river and we are upon the sea of glass. Surely we can understand such a wonderful book because we have crossed the river. Our God has written such a book to us.
Today our good land is not Canaan; it is the holiest of all. We are now in the holiest of all. Our water crossing has ushered us into this holiest of all. This is our holy land. Where is this holy land, this holiest of all? It is both in the heavens and in our spirit. Between our spirit and the heavens there is the heavenly ladder—Christ, the Son of Man, who joins our spirit to heaven and brings heaven into our spirit. Here we have Bethel, the house of God (Gen. 28:10-22). Here is the habitation of our God (Eph. 2:22). This is the church life. This is our good land.
Look at the tabernacle. In front of it was a laver, a small sea (Exo. 30:18). In front of the temple there was a sea of brass with ten lavers (1 Kings 7:23, 27). Both the laver before the tabernacle and the brass sea with its ten lavers before the temple signified that all the people who entered into the holiest of all had to cross over the water. Eventually, Revelation 15 tells us that in the universe there is a sea of glass in front of God’s temple. Everyone who comes into the presence of God has passed through that sea. We are such a people. We are not in the world and we are not in religion. We are not in Judaism, Catholicism, or Protestantism. We are in the holiest of all. We are in God’s habitation, God’s house, which is both in the heavens and in our spirit, and Christ is the heavenly ladder that joins them. Hallelujah! Here heaven is open to us. Now not only is the book of Hebrews open to us, but we are open to the book of Hebrews. Now we are ready to probe the riches of this book.
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