Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Pioneers are fascinating, whether Gutenberg and the printing press, Jenner and vaccinations, or the Wright brothers and flying. Whether travel and exploration or inventions, people who went first or paved the way for us are people we may never think about but who we owe so much to. Even our highway systems, with paved roads that go through tall mountains, took people to make a way when there was no way.
Hebrews 6:20 uses a word only found in that verse–“forerunner.” The word had a diverse usage. It was used in athletics, of one who runs forward at top speed. It was used of one who went in advance of others, like horsemen or guides ahead of the army. In Alexandria, Roman ships heavily loaded with grain, were led out by a small guide ship. It was used in botany of the first green shoot, tree, or flower of Spring. Metaphorically, it was used of a “precursor” like the apostles or John the Baptist.
The idea in Hebrews 6:20 is that Jesus has gone behind the curtain before us into God’s presence. We can join Him there because His death made it possible for us (Heb. 5:8-9). But we also have unrestricted access to God’s presence now because He prepared the way. The writer tells us that this is our sure and stedfast anchor of hope that allows us to take refuge.
It is beautiful to think that Jesus has gone before us and paved a way for us. This is a theme the writer addresses throughout Hebrews. He shows us how Jesus has done that in the past, is doing it now, and will do it in the future.
He went before me in the creation (Hebrews 1). In the most elementary sense, Jesus went before me in that He brought me into being (Heb. 1:2). He made us knowing that He would someday become one of us, with a human body (Heb. 10:5). He made the circulatory system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the skeletal system, as well as every other system, cells, tissues & organs, knowing He’d experience them. He was here on earth before most, if not all, the recipients of Hebrews and certainly before all of us—but He paved the way for life on this earth for all of us. He provided for my material needs (Mat. 5:45; 6:25-32; 1 Tim. 6:17), my emotional needs, my social needs (Gen. 2:18; Prov. 17:17), and my spiritual needs–He created me with a desire for worship, fellowship, and discipleship and guides me in the proper expression of each of them.
He went before me in my salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Your version probably says author, captain, founder, or even pioneer. The original word was used of one who founded a city, gave it its name, and became its guardian. Or it was used of a head of a family, a founder of a school, or military commander. The context of Hebrews 2:10 is that Jesus came to earth to experience humanity firsthand, but He’s called the author of our salvation. He does the sanctifying and we’re the sanctified (11). His death freed us from the one who had the power of death (14-15). He made forgiveness for our sins (17).
Hebrews uses “salvation” seven times, but also speaks of sanctification, propitiation, purification, and the like. The letter is full of blessings He gives now because of our salvation–assistance when tempted (2:18), assurance (3:14), bold approach to the throne (4:16), hope (6:19), mercy and forgiveness (8:12), confidence (10:19), nearness (10:22), endurance (12:1), and an unshakable kingdom (12:28). I get a clear sense that He wants me to make it through this world spiritually alive!
He has gone before me in my eternal destination (Hebrews 12:1-2). The writer draws to his conclusion, pointing us to “the race that is set before us.” Everyone of us is still in the race, running toward some conclusion. The writer says to look away from all other things to look at Jesus. He took the lead and is setting the example at the front of the pack. In fact, He successfully finished this race and is waiting on us to finish and join Him in a victory celebration. The only way to lose this race is to stop running, but if we keep our eyes on Christ we won’t stop. Jesus is our leader, inspiration, and goal we are running toward in our race.
The Hebrews’ writer says judgment is coming, but Jesus has paved the way for us. Throughout Hebrews, he tells us we can have confidence (4 times), assurance (4 times), and hope (7 times). Jesus is the basis for all of that.
Jesus made the hard choice. He left heaven and came to take the punishment we deserve so we could receive the reward He died to give us. He could have chosen to save Himself and let us die lost and without hope, but He made the unselfish choice. What about us? Are we willing to sacrifice now, so that we can ultimately receive the prize? We can do it! Jesus showed us how!