We’re exploring what the Bible has to say about hope in a series inspired by Hebrews 6:19, which talks about a hope that acts as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. In the first week we talked about why hope is important, and looked at some Scripture to begin to understand the hope Christians have. Then, last week we looked at some stories of hope in the Bible to help us further understand the difference between hope sourced in circumstances verses hope found in God. The later being the hope referenced in our theme verse. You can find the whole series, Hope as an Anchor: Creating a Season of Hope here.
Hebrews 6:19 – This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
But this week it’s finally time to go much deeper into Scripture, particularly the book of Hebrews, to really break down Hebrews 6:19. Our desire is to really understand the hope described there. It is a hope anchored in Jesus, and we want to be fully secured to it so that as the storms of life rage around us, we will be immovable! Safely affixed to our strong and trustworthy Rock!
The Context for Hebrews 6:19
Anytime we want to understand a specific portion of Scripture a good place to start is in the verses surrounding it. When we just take one sentence or one verse and try to make it stand on its own, it can be misused to make it appear the Bible says things it doesn’t actually say.
Trying to use each verse in Scripture as an island can lead us to great confusion. It can even start to seem like the Bible contradicts itself. But when the whole canon of Scripture is put together, using it to interpret itself, we find cohesive clarity and absolute infallible truth.
So let’s look at the verses surrounding Hebrews 6:19 to find our context. We want to know where the hope described there comes from. What is this strong and trustworthy hope to which we can anchor our souls?
Hebrews 6:13-20 – For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in His own name, saying:
“I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”
Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without question, that oath is binding. God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
These verses help us see that our God is a promise maker, but more importantly, He is a promise keeper. He took an oath, guaranteeing some specific things to Abraham and history affirms those commitments were fulfilled. Abraham received what God had promised.
The passage goes on to tell us the same God who kept His word to Abraham has made promises to us. He has given us both His promise, and His oath, the Bible tells us.
And since we know how trustworthy the One who made those promises is, we can affix our hope to them with absolute confidence. We can be anchored in Jesus who has already gone into God’s inner sanctuary ahead of us, which is where that hope we’re talking about will lead us.
So while we’ve found some context and some answers, we’ve also raised a few more questions. Mostly, what are these oaths and promises God has made to us which are referenced in the passage? I mean, if we’re going to anchor our hope to them we need to know what they are, right? Let’s see if we can expand our search out a little into the whole book of Hebrews to answer that.
The Oath that Secures the Hope in Hebrews 6:19
Hebrews 7: 20-25 – This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath, but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to Him,
“The Lord has taken an oath and will not break His vow: ‘You are a priest forever.’“
Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God.
There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on our behalf.
The book of Hebrews was written… well… to the Hebrews. The Jews. These were men and women who had grown up under the Old Covenant, a system of laws and sacrifices pointing to a time when Messiah would come and establish a better system. The problem was, Messiah came in the person of Jesus Christ, and they kinda missed it.
The book of Hebrews explains to those Jews how the time of the Old Covenant had come to an end, as prophecy had foretold, and the promised New Covenant between God and His church had been established. This passage from Hebrews 7 explains how this new system was established with an oath. I believe this is the oath we’re looking for. The one referenced in Hebrews 6.
“You are a priest forever”
We’re told this oath was made by God regarding Jesus, promising that He would be a priest forever.
Now those of us who have never lived under the Old Covenant are unlikely to understand the significance of this. We’ve always had direct access to God and never needed a priest to offer sacrifices on our behalf year after year in order to cover our sins.
But for the Hebrews this was extremely important. They needed to know there WAS a priest who made a way into the presence of God for them. They understood better than we do how necessary that step is. Thanks to the system under which they had lived, they were far more aware of how completely their sin separated them from God.
The Role of the Old Testament (Old Covenant) High Priest
Hebrews 5:1-4 – Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs.
And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.
If we wanted to make this explanation really short, we could just say that the role of the high priest under the Old Covenant was to be the mediator between the people and God. If you break down all of his responsibilities, that’s what it comes down to.
But there was A LOT that went into that mediation. People are sinners, and sin separates people from God (Isaiah 59:2). He is perfect and holy and can have nothing to do with sin (1 John 1:5, James 1:13). And so, to have an audience with the High King of Heaven, sacrifices had to be made that would cover the sin. Blood had to be spilled. Life had to be lost. Animals were killed following a precise ritual set down by God Himself (Leviticus 1-7).
It was the job of the priests to perform these ritual sacrifices. And it was specifically the job of the high priest (among other things) to perform the main ritual sacrifice each year on the Day of Atonement. He had to first go through a series of purification rituals to deal with his own sin and prepare himself to enter the presence of God. Then, he would go into the Holy of Holies – the inner sanctuary behind the curtain in the tabernacle (and later the temple) where the very presence of God resided between the cherubim on the atonement cover atop the Ark of the Covenant. Once inside he would perform ceremonies involving the burning of incense and the sprinkling of blood, interceding for himself and then for the people in order to keep in right standing with God for another year (Leviticus 16).
The unending need to offer more sacrifices and perform more cleansing ceremonies served as a constant reminder to the people, year after year, of their sinfulness and their inability to escape it. There wouldn’t have been a whole lot of hope in that system if it hadn’t been for the promise of Messiah. But they held to the promise of a day when a better system, a New Covenant, would be made. So just like us, their hope was really anchored in Jesus all along!
Anchored in Jesus as Our Eternal High Priest
And that brings us back to our hope, and the oath God the Father made about the priesthood of Jesus. You see, Jesus was and is altogether different from those high priests under the old covenant. For one thing, He never sinned. So there will never be a need for Him to have to offer sacrifices and go through ceremonies to get Himself right before He can intercede for us. For another thing, He does not make ritual sacrifices year after year. Rather, He made one sacrifice that was sufficient to forever not just cover but completely conquer the sins of the world – Himself! He gave His own perfect life as payment for the sin debt of the world. Praise His holy name!
There are a few more differences to talk about here, but first let’s talk about a few things that are the same about Jesus as High Priest. Just like the Old Covenant high priests, Jesus lived a life as a human man. Just as they understood our struggles, as the passage from Hebrews 5 above points out, so did Jesus. He simply faced those struggles without sin. And just like those priests, Jesus has gone “behind the curtain” into the inner sanctuary to mediate between us and God. Only the curtain He has gone behind is in heaven and it is the eternal presence of God the Father into which He leads us!
Now back to those differences. You see, unlike the Old Covenant priests, Jesus did not inherit this role as a human descendant of Aaron. He was appointed to the job by His Father, who made the oath we’re talking about – “You are a priest forever.” And unlike those priests, Jesus has already died and been raised back again to an eternal life. He will never die, and so His priesthood will never end. What He has accomplished on our behalf, and what He continues to accomplish as our high priest will last forever.
All those reasons are why these verses from Hebrews 4 send chills down my spine and just fill me with that beautiful hope that is anchored in Jesus as my eternal High Priest!
Hebrews 6:14-16 – So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
The Promise that Keeps us Anchored in Jesus
So we’ve figured out the oath to which we’ve anchored our hope in Hebrews 6:19. It is the oath the Father has made that Jesus will be our priest forever and mediate for us eternally so that we can boldly go right into the presence of God and receive His grace and mercy! WOW! But what about the promise? There is a promise (or as we’ll find out promisES) that keeps our hope anchored in Jesus too! Let’s see what we can find.
Hebrews 8:6-13 – But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for He is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.
If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people He said:
“The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means He has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.
These promises speak of a time when God’s law will be written on the hearts of His people, a time when we won’t need priests to teach us about God’s Word because He will personally teach each of us Himself, and a time when we will know Him intimately because He will permanently forgive our sins once for all time. Friends, that time is now! We are living under this New Covenant. Let’s quickly look at a few Scriptures that show us why this is true.
God’s Law Written on our Hearts
Paul briefly talks about this new reality of God’s law being written on our hearts in his second letter to the Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 2:3 & 6 – Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved, not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts… He has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death, but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
So you see, it is the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the living God (that is the Spirit of Jesus Christ himself) who fulfills the promise of God’s law written on our hearts. Under the New Covenant, he indwells the heart of every believer, making it possible for the law of God to become a part of who we are! Wow!
I like even more the way Romans 5 says it, because it brings it back to that hope anchored in Jesus that we are talking about from Hebrews 6:19.
Romans 5:3-5 – We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.
Knowledge of God Taught by God
The Holy Spirit does more than write God’s law on our hearts though. He acts as a teacher. Along with the inspired Word of God, which we have been given in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is all we need to understand everything God wants us to know! Pastors and Bible teachers are fine, and can help us along the way, but the Bible teaches that we don’t NEED them to understand God’s Word. Not if we have the Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 & 16:13-15- But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is the Holy Spirit – He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you…
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; that is why I said, “The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from me.”
1 John 2:27 – But you have received the Holy Spirit and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true – it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.
1 Corinthians 2: 10 -12 – But it was to us that God revealed these things by His Spirit. For His Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
Forgiveness of Sins
Ephesians 1:6-7 – So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.
This one is easy. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, those of us who believe in Him have received the forgiveness of our sins. It is finished.
Acts 3:19 – Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away!
A Hope Anchored in Jesus will Never Fail
So I hope we can now see that in Hebrews 6:19 the oath God made was that Jesus would be our High Priest forever, and His promise was the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ which would indwell His people forever under the New Covenant. His promise and His oath act as a sure and steady anchor for our souls, bringing us hope. It is an immovable hope that is anchored in Jesus Christ!
Here is how Hebrews 10 puts it:
Hebrews 10:11-23 – Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the alter day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There He waits until His enemies are humbled and made a footstool under His feet. For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For He says,
“This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
Then He says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”
And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the HOPE we affirm, for GOD CAN BE TRUSTED TO KEEP HIS PROMISE!
The Hope that Lies Before Us
And finally, in the very next chapter, once the author of Hebrews is certain we understand the hope that is anchored in Jesus based on the promises and the oath of our trustworthy God, he goes on to talk about how that hope turns into reality in the form of our faith (Hebrews 11:1). The faith that pleases God is built on a solid foundation of hope, and we have a great cloud of witnesses, the Bible says, cheering us on in this life of faith. They are the men and women who have gone on from this life ahead of us, having devotedly lived out their faith. They are waiting, along with all creation, for us to finish our own race so that we can all receive the final promise together – eternity with God in heaven.
It is the final promise to which we are called to affix our hope. It is the hope that still lies before us. It is heaven: No more sin, no more death, and all of forever in the presence of Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-2 &28-29 – THEREFORE, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…
Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire!
*How about you? Is your hope anchored in Jesus? What have you learned about Hebrews 6:19? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!