True Comfort Is Leaving The Familiar
The book of Hebrews is written to a group of Jewish-Christians in danger of apostasy. It could be called the "Come out of the comfort zone" book of the Bible. After accepting Christ as Messiah, they wanted to give up what they had committed to and go back to an inferior, more comfortable way. The author's point was to show them through a water-tight argument, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him (Jn. 14:6), reminding them again and again that shrinking back to their comfort zone of Judaism endangered their souls (Heb. 10:39).
Jewish identity had a deep-rooted history to support it. Every year hundreds of sacrifices were made at the temple for both the community and the individual. The sacrifices were fundamental to the way they expressed their faith. In the Jewish mind, sacrifices were as essential to Judaism as the Lord's Supper is to Christians.
If the sacrifices were important, then the temple where the sacrifices were offered was even more important. When Solomon's temple was destroyed in 586 BC, the Jews were sent off into exile, the Babylonian captivity. When they returned - though it would not compare with Solomon's - one of the first things they did was rebuild the temple. Years later King Herod remodeled it, attempting to surpass the grandeur of Solomon's temple.
Josephus describes the temple as it was in Christ's day. It was covered with great plates of gold and, "at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays" (Wars 5:5:6). There is no doubt the Jews had a sparkle in their eye, mesmerized as they gazed at it. Jews came to the temple from cities abroad to celebrate the Passover because it was central to Jewish thought, not only in the city of Jerusalem but throughout the whole world.
Judaism even had its effect upon the Jews who had accepted Christ as the Messiah. Many believed that converts to Christ needed to become a Jew before becoming a Christian. There were those who taught, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Cf. Acts 15:1-5). Many Jewish Christians struggled with the question, is atonement at the temple or is it in the death of Christ?
It is easy to see what made Judaism comfortable for the Jew. They knew the routine and all the people. The Jewish friends they left behind antagonized, sneered and laughed at them. Many were persecuted greatly for their faith in Christ. The book of Acts reports instance after instance of how the Jews persecuted Christians: Peter was put in jail; Stephen was stoned; and Paul was stoned and jailed. In their minds they were faced with a choice - Christ or Judaism? Judaism would have been more comfortable.
The Hebrew writer wrote to warn his readers that Christ is superior to Judaism, that to reject Christ after accepting Him endangered their souls. The Jewish Christians had to be willing to forego Judaism and press onward to the heavenly kingdom not made with hands. They had to trust in Jesus the Messiah and leave the comfort zone to get to their promised kingdom.
Like the Jews, Christians are often faced with tough decisions. Peer pressure can be intense. Though saved judicially, we often run to anything but Christ for salvation. What will it be when depression afflicts us? Christ or the bed? What will it be when stress takes its toll? Christ or television? Christ or anger? What do you run to for "salvation?" Let us not run to anything but Christ alone.
By Steve Quillian
From Expository Files 8.3; March 2001