Biblical Hope Part 2: An Anchor & a Priest
Certainty: The God who keeps His promises
To lay a foundation for our study of an anchor and a priest, the author of Hebrews points to God’s character. Hebrews 6:18 states, “so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”
The two unchangeable things are from the previous verse: God’s promise and God’s purpose. The promise is that we will be with Him forever; that is, His presence. This is the final outworking of our salvation – we will be with Him. The purpose, the boulḗ - the thing God is going to accomplish is that God is going to bring us home to be with Himself. And so we have His purpose and His promise, which is the point of these verses. We can trust God to do both.
And so, he points to God’s character – it is impossible for God to lie. That is, we can trust Him completely to do what He has said. And more than that, on the basis of God’s power, we know He can do what He wills. Thus, God is completely trustworthy.
Next, the author of Hebrews reminds us of his audience: we who have fled for refuge. This is who is writing to, this is who he is writing about. And this is “us”. Who are we? Those who have fled for refuge. There are two sides of our fleeing – fleeing from and fleeing to. We have fled from God’s judgment against sin. We have fled to God’s salvation in Christ.
With all this in mind, we are given one remarkable result: all of this is so that we might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. First, we should feel strong encouragement to hang on because God is trustworthy.
Second, we should hold fast. That means to hang on tightly. This is the opposite of the song lyrics ‘just hold on loosely’ by the group 38 Special. That might be good advice for how to drive a motorcycle, but not for our relationship with God. But the good news for us is that our salvation is not based on our ability to hang on to God, but God’s ability to hang on to us. Like a small child in their parent’s arms, hanging on is the right thing to do. But their safety, like ours with God, is found in their parent’s strength in holding on to them.
This hanging on to hope is summarized for us in Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” We have a hope confession – God will complete our salvation and bring us home, and we have an action – hang on to the promise without wavering. Finally, we have a rationale – God who promises is faithful.
Anchor: The God who Gives Hope
Finally, having laid this foundation of confident trust in God’s promises, we come to the description of our hope as an anchor:
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Hebrews 6:19).
First, notice that the “this” in verse 19 is the hope set before us from verse 18. Thus, the hope that is set before us – God’s promise of being united with Him in His presence forever (explained below) – it is this hope that is an anchor.
The picture of an anchor points to something that gives stability in times of shaking or trouble. To anchor the soul means that our souls – our heart, our minds, our emotions – have a source of stability. And that source of stability is the hope we have. And this is where we get into the content of that hope: it is a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.
In ancient Israel, every year, on the day of atonement, both in the tabernacle and later in the temple, the high priest would take blood from a sacrificial bull into the holy place, through the curtain, into the holiest place, and sprinkle it on the ark of the covenant. God’s presence dwelt in the holiest place, and so the symbolism is clear: sins are atoned for by blood sacrifice, and it is by this blood that we gain access to God’s presence.
Remember that this picture points to Christ: that is, Jesus accomplished for real what the priests symbolized on the day of atonement. The real inner place is heaven, the very presence of God. Jesus took his own blood, the blood he shed on the cross on our behalf. This act of opening access is described in Hebrews 10:20:
“… by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”
In the same way that the flesh of Jesus was "opened” by being pierced, the curtain that kept people from God’s presence was torn in two, demonstrating that through Jesus’s sacrifice, we have access to God.
Hebrews 6:20 continues with this description: “where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” The where is heaven – the very presence of God. To be a forerunner means to go before. That is, Jesus has blazed the trail; He has gone before so that where Jesus is, we’re going to be. This is our hope: God is going to bring us into his very presence through Jesus.
We can say it like this: Jesus has gone into the inner place behind the curtain as a forerunner and priest on our behalf. And this action leads on to the next keyword:
Priest: The God Who Gives Hope
Not only is Jesus a forerunner, but He is also our high priest: having become a high priest forever. That is, like the high priests in ancient Israel, but better, Jesus has accomplished atonement for us.
A priest is an intermediary, someone who represents people to God. As our priest, Jesus has opened AND guaranteed access to God through his blood. That is, Jesus has opened the door and has guaranteed the access.
Imagine that a friend invites you to a really exclusive club; the cover charge to get in is £100,000, and everyone there is wearing uber-expensive designer clothes. You think, “No way! I’ll never get in!” And your friend says, “I’ve got you covered." You go along, and you discover that not only has your friend paid the cover charge for you, but your friend has also given you a new set of clothes.
This is what Jesus has done for us: He paid the cover charge for our access to heaven through the blood He shed on the cross, and He clothes us with the gift of His righteousness. In other words, through Jesus, we have access to the very presence of God. It’s covered.
Confident Hope in God
God wants us to live in confident hope, the hope that He will keep his word, the hope that He will save us to the uttermost and eventually bring us home to be with Him forever in his presence. I’ve tried to make this as clear as possible, but in case you missed the point, here are the two key takeaways:
* We have hope because GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES.
* We have hope because JESUS GUARANTEES ACCESS TO GOD’S PRESENCE.
This is good news: live in your confident hope in Christ this week!