Hebrews 1:14 in Realized Eschatology
By Charles Geisler
We shall subscribe some concepts to this passage in this writing which we believe are consistent with a realized fulfillment of Bible prophecies concerning salvation in the new heavens and new earth of God which we believe exists today as the eternal kingdom of God. We cannot go into depth in any of the areas we will suggest but will tempt the reader to further pursue the ideas as he sees fit. The soteriology and chronology of our passage for study are inherent in the verse and as we consider one salvation available for all (compare Ephesians 4:1-6; Jude 3; et al.) we can relate relevant sections so as to allow God to interpret His own Word.
The Date of the Hebrew Epistle
There were at one time those who support a post-70 AD writing of Hebrews for one reason or another (one can check such men as Harnack, Zahn, Moffatt, Goodspeed, Kummel and Perrin, just to name a few). As to a pre-70 AD date of Hebrews there have been those such as A.B Bruce (Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible), F.F. Bruce (Peake’s Commentary on the Bible), Guthrie and Harrison. More to our times have been T.W. Manson, W. Manson, Moule, Hering and Strobel in giving the epistle a date prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Several evidences appear to this writer to be conclusive that the epistle to the Hebrews was penned prior to 70 AD and personal preference from past studies on the subject suggests 63-64 AD. (1), The use of the Greek verb mello ten times in the epistle (in its various forms still means, in the infinitive, “to be about to” – see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman’s Greek Concordance under the term) must have an influence on our thinking concerning that which existed at the time of the writing of Hebrews and of that which was to come soon after that same writing was accomplished. We first here list the passages with mello in its various forms in the epistle for the reader to consider: 1:14; 2:5; 6:5; 8:5; 9:11; 10:27; 11:8,20; 13:14. Notice for a moment the last verse cited.
At the time of the writing of Hebrews, the author says “we have not here a continuing city, but the about to come one (ten mellousan) we seek” (translated from Greek literally, Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece, 21st Edition). Compare Revelation 21:2. This writer does not believe “taking God at His Word” involves making an indefinite future (“shall,” “will”) out of mello in Bible prophecy to satisfy personal interpretations. For example, the King James translators had no problem with mello being “about to” in Acts 20:3 when Paul then “was about to sail into Syria…” We believe they should have had no problem with the same term translated in the various Hebrew passages. Whether the context be prophecy or world travel, words do mean what they mean when they are used (compare baptism whether it be water, suffering, etc., it still means immersion etymologically).
(2) It appears that the Jewish temple of Jerusalem of old still existed at the time of the writing of Hebrews. The present tense is used consistently throughout the letter in regards to Jewish sacrifices, etc. (10:2ff.; 11, 18; see 13:11–“For the blood of what animals concerning sins IS BROUGHT (eispheretai) into the holies through the high priest, of these the bodies are burned (katakaietai) outside the camp,” Greek to English rendering). If the temple were gone at the time of the writing of Hebrews, one would also consider that no little mention of that fact would exist in the letter. Further, the first covenant (surely a part of the temple and its significance in Old Testament history) at the time of the writing of the Hebrew epistle, was a thing “being made old and growing aged” (palaioumenon kai geraskon) and at that time “near vanishing” (engus aphanismou). See Hebrews 8:1-13. We have not thought it scriptural to consider that the first covenant was ready to vanish away in the time of Domitian (95 AD) or some similar time.
The Verse in Our Study
“Are they not all ministering spirits being sent forth for service because of the ones being about (mello) to inherit salvation?” (Greek rendering). Our question is not presently about the ministering spirits in their work but concerning certain ones in the latter phrase in the verse who were about to inherit salvation at the time of the writing of Hebrews. Our inquiry does not mean to even delve into the “ones” involved, but we suggest this group included Old Testament saints (compare Hebrews 11:39,40) as well as those first-fruit saints of the thousand-year reign generation (James 1:18; Romans 8:23). But we are interested in understanding that these “ones” at the time of the writing of Hebrews were “about to inherit salvation.”
If they were to inherit salvation soon from the time of the Hebrews’ writing, this implies they had not inherited salvation prior to this time (again we suggest 63-64 AD). Thus, sometime in the not-too-distant future from 64 AD salvation was going to be inherited. This is not the only time the author of Hebrews discusses this theme, however. In 6:12 the Hebrew penman encourages to be “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (KJV). Salvation was only one of the promises God had made concerning the inheritance of the kingdom. As a matter of fact, further looking into 6:12 reveals the present participle “inheriting the promises” (kleronomounton tas epangelias) showing that it may have been a process in that first-century generation of “inheriting” the blessings of the kingdom until final inheritance of all things new was accomplished in the end time of Judaism at 70 AD (Revelation 21:5; see Hebrews 6:8). May we also add to this a look at Hebrews 9:15b where reference is made again to those “having been called” (keklemenoi) receiving “the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Greek).
If we may, we now would like to lead this to just a few other passages that we believe will help us tie some things together in closing this study. (1) If one reads Luke 21:5-38, he will notice that the context is the fall of Jerusalem (note verses 20-24, e.g.). Further, among other promises in this context, salvation/redemption was nigh at the viewing of given events and happenings then. Could the salvation/redemption of Luke 21:28 as a promise of God in the new earth be the same meaning as the promise of salvation in Hebrews 1:14? We believe so. In Mark 10:30b Jesus had promised “in the age to come eternal life.” This would mean that eternal life was at least one of several blessings that would be a part of the new age and its second covenant of grace following the vanishing of the first “world” or covenant (Revelation 21:1). Can we see salvation and eternal life as concomitants of the Christian age which is never to end? (Luke 1:33; Hebrews 1:8).
James spoke of God’s choosing the poor in the world rich in faith as heirs of the kingdom (2:5). We believe it has always been God and Christ’s kingdom and always will be, so it is possible that by synecdoche-in-reverse (whole in place of all the blessings of the whole) we can interpret that James’s readers would be inheritors of the blessings of God’s kingdom, one blessing of which was to be salvation, which can bring us back to our Hebrews 1:14.
Thus, we suggest the following in interpreting Hebrews 1:14 as a promise to saints of the first century.
(1) Ministering spirits had been sent forth to minister to certain ones about to inherit salvation. So we can see salvation tied directly to eschatology here as well as other verses (note Hebrews 9:28 where the second coming of Christ is directly related to His coming again without sin UNTO SALVATION.) The ones about to inherit salvation then at the time of the writing of Hebrews would be inheriting that salvation at the time of Christ’s second advent at the fall of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:3,27,30-34,37,39,42,44,et al.).
(2) The Hebrew epistle supports the view of 1:14 we have suggested, due to the several related statements made elsewhere. The end of Judaism as a viable system or world of forgiveness would perish and grow old as a garment, etc. (Hebrews 1:10-12). There was a new “about to come earth” (2:5). The sabbath rest remained to be inherited as the epistle was being penned (4:9). That age which bore thorns and briers was near to being cursed and ending (6:8), so they were to be diligent to the full assurance of hope unto the end of the ministration of death (6:11; II Corinthians 3). The priesthood was being changed as the Hebrew writer wrote (7:12), the first covenant was near to vanishing away (8:13), good things were about to come (9:22; 10:1) because Jesus was coming again soon, in a little while, and he would not delay (10:37). They were about to inherit salvation (1:14) because they were receiving the kingdom then (12:28). No wonder they sought the “about to come city,” the new Jerusalem (13:14), because that was where salvation was (1:14). Thus, Hebrews 1:14 is eschatological, soteriological, and offers us today a realization of one of the precious blessings of God–SALVATION.
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