Hebrews 8 All                            “Main Point = ‘Now’”


            What a great message last week from Jared! It was like a gardening lesson and life’s lesson in one! It was just how Jesus spoke in the Bible, speaking right to the heart. We are all so happy that part three of the sermon series will be in a couple of weeks.


            However, today we are experiencing chapter eight of the Book of Hebrews. For many of us who have been struggling through this part of the Bible, the question has arisen, “Soooo, what is the main point of all of this?” If you were wondering, we get to see that the writer of Hebrews himself starts this chapter with the words: “Now the main point in what we are saying is this:”

            If you are following along in your Bible you see that there are a whole bunch of points that seem to be made before we get to the real main point that is in verse 6. The writer is recapitulating sub points that have been stated before in the previous chapters, and then we read in verse 6, “Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry. . . .” Wow, thank you for making that point so clear! We have in Jesus a better path to follow. In whatever way you have been living your life, Jesus is the more excellent way.

            I believe, we all knew this already. That is why we are here celebrating Jesus in worship this morning in the first place. Just the same, I invite you to be refreshed in that very knowledge. In choosing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have chosen the more excellent way for your life.


            Let us look at exactly how the author of Hebrews has made this point to the original audience of Roman Jews in the First Century AD. It is always good to consider the audience and the context. The Jews in Rome, the Hebrews for which this book is titled, have just heard about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem after the quelling of the Jewish Revolt in 69 AD. The entire priesthood of levitical priests have been slaughtered. Persecutions against the Jews have already started in Rome. In fact it was Emperor Claudius in that decreed already twenty years earlier in 49 AD that Jews should be expelled from the City of Rome. In Act 18, Luke writes that Aquila and Priscilla had come to Corinth to escape the persecutions in Rome.

            To be fair in the matter, most historians agree that the expulsion of Jews from Rome was not an organized paramilitary operation as was seen in Germany in World War II. The expulsion seems to have been more to the point that the punishment for a Jew that caused any trouble in Rome was expulsion from the city. Still, anybody could make up a crime against you, point a finger, and the result was that you would lose your home and business if you were a Jew.

            Yet, there were still Jews in Rome when this letter was written. Indeed historians agree that around 100,000 Jews were there, or roughly 10-12% of the population. Christians were still for the most part under the radar of the Roman authorities, but that would also change. Christian persecutions would be coming soon enough.


            Because of the precarious existence of the Jews in Rome, the writer of Hebrews appeals to them to make a decision for Christ right away. In verse one of Chapter 8 we see the word “now.” We see in our English text the word “now” repeated again in verse 4 and again in verse 6. If we back up through what we have just read in the previous chapters we keep bumping into that same adverbial of time. Look at Chapter 7 verse 11, “Now”! This urgency is throughout the entire Book of Hebrews. If you want to have some fun, your homework can be to scan the entire book of Hebrews for all the times the word “now” appears!

            Let us look at the first “now” in our reading. It is the word δεί in the original Greek. It is actually not an adverbial of time as it is in English but rather a subordinating conjunction. I believe a more correct translation would be “now then” in English as it is bringing two ideas together. It connects, conjoins, everything that has been spoken of before with what is now the main point “the more excellent ministry of Jesus.”

            “Now then” relates a consequence of condition. You never washed your car, now then the paint is peeling off because of rust. You ate all the candy in the cupboard, now then you have gained five pounds. You never completed the second grade, now then how should you read Shakespeare?

            I should mention that this idiom in English of “now then” is a most difficult concept for non-native speakers to grasp. After all, is it “now” or is it “then”? The strange answer is “Yes.” It is now, and it is then. Just take everything you have ever experienced in your life and apply the faith of Jesus Christ to it—now then? What is the result? Jesus is the more excellent life! Now then Jesus!


            That explains that first “now” well enough. The “now” we see in verse 4 is slightly different. It is the emphatic form of the conjunction we in verse 1. Yes, Greek has emphatic conjunctions. You see, in Greek, there is no exclamation point. If you want to make something emphatic, there is a different form of the word for it. So, go ahead and add an exclamation point  after this “now” in this verse. Still this is a statement of condition and not an adverbial of time.


            Let us jump to the “now” in verse 6. This gets quite interesting. This word in the Greek is νυνί (nuni). It is also emphatic but not as a conjunction but rather as a true adverbial of time. We do not have emphatic adverbs in English. In English we just double them up with another adverb, and this can be quite idiomatic—almost to the point of being idiotic.

            Let me give you some examples of how this works. “Fast” is an adverb that describes speed. How do we make it emphatic? “Very fast.” Yet, when we say, “He is not just broke, he is flat broke, not very broke.” She is not just cute, she is pretty cute. He is not just chic, but tres chic. In other words, we always seem to have other words.

            The adverb for time “now” could simply be made emphatic by adding an exclamation point in English. “Now!” (said emphatically). Yet, if we were to add an adverb to make “now” emphatic in English, what would it be? Anybody got it figured out? We do not say “very now.” We do not say “pretty now.” What do we say? Perhaps you witnessed an accident on the highway. The police come and ask you when it happened. “Now,” you respond. “Was that five minutes ago, or ten minutes ago?” “No, JUST now!” That is right, we make “now” emphatic by adding the word “just.” This again is really confusing to English language learners because the meaning of word “just” should mean to lessen in emphasis not to increase.

            Are you all confused now? Check out verse 6 with the emphatic adverb: “Jesus has JUST NOW obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.” 

            When did we last covenant or promise our lives to God? The answer is “Just Now!” When we came together to worship here this morning, we promised our lives to God again. The idea of the “new covenant” in Christ is that it is a “now covenant” in Christ. It is not about what happened to Abraham, Elijah or Moses, it is about our being in the present in the presence of God.

            Okay, let us say that you are driving home from church. When did you last promise your life to God? Just now when you turned the ignition on in the car and pulled out of the driveway. This is the now covenant with Christ.


            The prophet Jeremiah had this in mind when he foretold of that time when Jesus would just constantly be on all of our minds in this now covenant from God. Look at verse 11, taken from Jeremiah 31:31 and on: “And they shall not teach one another ‘Know the Lord’ for they shall all know me.”

            Now look at verse 13 of Hebrews 8. This is about the “new covenant” or “now covenant.” The old covenant of Moses is obsolete, growing old, and will disappear.” But, the now, no “Just Now!” covenant will never grow old because we promise our lives to God just now in all that we do.

            Let us look at this in a practical fashion. When was the last time you renewed your license to drive? Since the State can suspend your license at any time, you are in essence renewing your license to drive every time you drive. Since God has promised you life, you renew that life every time you take a breath. Yet, God can take your last breath from you at any moment. Everyone take a nice deep breath. Exhale. You promised your life to Christ again just now!   


            Honestly, this is what I believe the writer of Hebrews is really trying to convey to the Jews of Rome and to all of us still here today. We do not know what tomorrow brings, let us just know God in every breath we take and renew our promise to God just now.